People power

1 June 2024Comment

Looking back at the 15 June 1945 issue of PN, we discovered this little gem on p3

In May 1944, the little Central American country of El Salvador electrified all students of Latin American affairs when it staged a revolutionary strike by nonviolent means and won a great popular victory.

For five months, the press and people enjoyed freedom and were apparently on the road to democratic politics. But, as observers (myself included) pointed out at the time, nonviolent methods require deep understanding and firm experience for consistent victories and cannot be…

1 April 2024Review

Wildfire, 2023; 352pp; £25    

Between 2010 and 2019, more people took part in protests than at any other point in human history. Across the world, movements formed that looked revolutionary. But, after the heady successes of the Arab Spring and elsewhere, in most of the countries rocked by the waves of democratic movements, things were soon no better, and may now be worse, than before the protests started. Vincent Bevins calls this ‘the missing revolution’.

The risings in the Arab world, in Brazil and Chile, Hong…

1 December 2023News in Brief

There was a major victory for rail unions, disabled people and other train passengers on 31 October when the government suddenly ordered train operators to scrap their plan to close railway ticket offices in England.

‘There is quiet fury in the rail industry about where we’ve got to. The plan was signed off by civil servants and ministers. They’ve U-turned,’ a train operator source told the PA Media news agency.

Katie Pennick, campaigns manager at disabled-led group Transport…

1 April 2023Comment

Mass non-cooperation alone is not enough

This note is addressed to the many people who are gathering in London in April, brought together by Extinction Rebellion (XR), hoping to contribute to positive action to tackle climate change.

In promoting this event, XR suggested that: ‘Gathering peacefully in such large numbers at the nation’s seat of power will create a positive, irreversible, societal tipping point.’ They referred to ‘the power of people power’, as shown by the success of nonviolent mass demonstrations in the…

1 February 2023Feature

What Stop the War and the direct actionists missed in 2003

Could the anti-war movement have prevented the US-UK invasion of Iraq in March 2003? I think there was a real possibility, slim though it was.

In my view, the British anti-war movement came very close to halting British participation in the invasion – and derailing the war entirely.

Well, that’s not only my view. Just days before the war began, the British government told the US government that it might be forced to pull out of the invasion force. Britain’s ministry of defence…

1 February 2022Review

OUP, 2021; 256pp; £12.99

Nonviolent resistance campaigns have been twice as successful as violent campaigns in achieving their objectives. That was the conclusion of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, making it a seminal book in the study and practice of nonviolent struggle (see PN 2547 – 2548…

1 June 2016Feature

How the Scandinavians got it right – and how we can, too

A woman demonstrates over the ‘Icesave’ failure, part of the Icelandic financial crisis, Reykjavik, 6 March 2010.Photo: Ane Cecilie Blichfeldt CC BY-SA 2.5 via wikicommons

When the Icelanders heard that their leader socked away money in an off-shore account in the Virgin Islands, 10,000 of them packed Parliament Square in Reykjavik on 4 April to demand his resignation. That’s partly because prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson had been urging his people for years to show…

9 June 2014Feature

Peace News brings together environmental activists for a transatlantic round table

‘We have little mini-successes and we celebrate them because we need to; otherwise we’ll go stark raving mad,’ New York activist Maura Stephens said during a Peace News round-table discussion via video chat on 17 April.

During the conversation, two US and two British anti-fracking activists compared how their movements have organised, and brainstormed tactics for fighting ‘hydraulic fracturing’ for oil and gas in the future.

Stephens thinks organisers need to reflect on what is…

3 April 2014Feature

Manchesters’ new front line in the struggle against extreme energy

An industrial truck creeps down the road towards the gate, held up by 35 slowly-walking individuals. It could take up to two hours for the driver to arrive with equipment necessary to keep operations moving at IGas Energy’s Barton Moss fracking site just to the west of Manchester.

‘That happens every day. That’s happening right now, as we speak,’ Robbie Gillet of Frack Free Greater Manchester said in an interview, with sounds of a…

1 November 2013Comment

PN co-editors Milan Rai and Emily Johns examine some of the precedents for the Campaign Nonviolence initiative

We remember the lunch counter sit-ins that electrified the civil rights movement in the US in 1960. We remember the dignity and persistence of the hundreds of young African-American who asserted their right to be served as equals, day after day, despite repeated beatings and arrests.

The direct action of these Black students achieved desegregation of many businesses within weeks, and dramatically escalated the confrontation with institutional white racism. Many of the students…

1 November 2013News

Preparing ourselves to do extraordinary things ...

Effective nonviolence at the Reclaim the Power camp in Balcombe, West Sussex, part of a summer of action against fracking exploration by Caudrilla. PHOTO: Reclaim the Power

Nonviolence study groups underpinned much of the success of the US civil rights movement in the 1960s (see editorial, p12). Campaign Nonviolence, a new year-long project initiated by California-based peace group, Pace e Bene,  aims to promote the formation of such study and action groups. Campaign Nonviolence has been…

5 July 2013Feature

The International Organisation for Participatory Society is a new  revolutionary network connecting independent radicals worldwide

As I write, individuals and families are taking to the streets in Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia. Governments globally pursue policies that lead to further inequalities and push more and more families into poverty, experiencing hunger, unemployment and illness without hope that things will get better. 

In the UK, the government’s own lawyers warn of a new ‘underclass’ unable to defend themselves and insist on their rights. Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi youth in England face…

5 July 2013News

Turkey, Brazil and Indonesia

Taksim Gezi Park, Istanbul, 4 June 2013, before the park was cleared. Photo: James Cem Yapicioglu

In Turkey, plans to ‘develop’ Gezi Park next to Taksim Square in Istanbul sparked a two-week occupation of the square, and protests on a range of issues throughout the country. Clashes led to the deaths of three protesters and one police officer.

In Brazil, demonstrations began in reaction to planned rises in public transport fares. Even after these were cancelled, protests…

8 June 2013Feature

Morning-after reflections on a Quaker action against mountaintop removal

We had decided to break the rules. Not a big thing for people whose temperament or life experience leads them to a defiant attitude toward authority. But we happened to be mostly middle-class people, heavily-conditioned to fit in, to obey the rules. Our socialisation had led to professional and, for the students, academic success.

And here we were, with a priority that required breaking the rules. For us, a big thing.

Twice before, Earth Quaker Action Team…

5 April 2013Feature

British trainers were invited by Kenyan Quakers  to share skills for social struggles against injustice

Nonviolence training run by Turning the Tide Photo : Turning th e Tide

‘Our colonial masters were brutal in their governance. The independence leaders saw that as their role model, so they too used oppression and brutality to rule. It became generational. We have not been taught alternative ways of making our point.’ These are the words of Malesi Kinaro, executive director of Friends Peace and Community Development, a Kenyan Quaker organisation that in…