Radical Lives

1 October 2021Review

Luath Press, 2021; 224pp; £12.99

For me, the most interesting chapter in Activism for Life was ‘Answering questions from a young activist’, in which Angie Zelter reflects on what makes for effective action and on her support for the direct action tactics used by current movements.

Most of the book, though, is storytelling along with an archive collection. Zelter covers 50 years of nonviolent direct action campaigns – from Greenham Common to the founding of XR Peace.

As she recounts her own experiences…

28 September 2020Comment

WW2 conscientious objector who played important role in the campaign to remove US cruise missles from Greenham Common

Leslie Selwyn Pope was an extraordinary ordinary man whose work was instrumental in the campaign to remove US cruise missiles from Greenham Common, stop the further military development of the base, and return the common to the people of Newbury.

Leslie and his wife Wendy both registered as conscientious objectors during the Second World War and continued working, him as a civil servant and she as a teacher. They married in 1945.

After the war, they went on the Aldermaston…

1 December 2019Comment

Cartoonist and life-long anarchist who exposed a corrupt London police officer

Life-long anarchist cartoonist Donald Rooum will perhaps be remembered best for his Wildcat cartoons about anarchism and the anarchist movement – and for the quick-witted actions that led to the exposure of the corrupt London police officer, Harold Challenor, in 1963 (see our last issue for details).

Born and raised in a working-class family in Bradford, Donald came across anarchism during a day trip to London, at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, in the summer of 1944.

He bought…

1 December 2019Comment

Feminist and peace activist who wrote books on

Photo: Lotte Reimer

Cynthia was born in rural Leicestershire. At the age of 19, she moved to London where she worked as a typist for the home office and became personal assistant to Anthony Eden (foreign secretary and later prime minister).

Cynthia’s interest in politics began when, aged 21 and working in the foreign office in Bangkok, Thailand, she learned about the Chinese revolution and decided to visit the country.

Informed by the UK chargé d’affaires that…

1 December 2019Review

Matador, 2017; 210pp; £13.99

The sub-title of this book condenses a complex life into a compact haiku.

The author was born in London in 1965 to a Colombian mother and a father with Hungarian heritage. Charlie Kiss is his real name, but when he was born, his birth certificate identified him as female. He lived as a lesbian until his early 30s when he realised that he was transgender. It took until 2007 for him to complete his transition.

The early part of Charlie’s life saw him growing up playing…

1 October 2019Feature

The final part of our interview with long-time Catholic peace activist Pat Gaffney

Pope Francis meets Pat Gaffney. Photo: The Vatican

Pat Gaffney is a much-loved figure within the British peace movement and has served the movement in a variety of ways since the 1980s. One of the key organisers of the Ash Wednesday actions at the ministry of defence in London (calling for nuclear disarmament), Pat has been arrested 11 times for nonviolent civil disobedience, and has been imprisoned three times. This second part of our interview with Pat covers her three decades…

1 October 2019Comment

A powerhouse of a woman whose activism spanned many decades

Ellen Moxley was a powerhouse of a woman whose profound belief in the sacredness of all life and all creatures was the driving force of her life. She was the beloved mother of Marian Beeby and deeply loved civil partner of Helen Steven, who died in 2016. She received both the Right Livelihood Award in 2001 and the Gandhi International Peace Prize (with Helen) in 2004.

Ellen's mother Marian left New York to go to China with her Mandarin teacher, Sun, to teach English. She married Sun…

1 August 2019Feature

The first part of our interview with long-time Christian peace activist Pat Gaffney

Pat Gaffney (second from left) on a march against the 1991 Iraq War. Photo: Giovanni Scudiero

After 29 years of being the general secretary of the Catholic peace organisation, Pax Christi UK, Pat Gaffney stepped down in April. This first part of our interview with Pat covers the years before Pax Christi – liberation theology, death squads, direct action and new models of education.

The first time I took part in direct action was amazingly powerful, at every level…

1 August 2019Comment

Lifelong radical whose weekly CND stall became a Penzance fixture

Peter Le Mare playing parachute games at Peace News Summer Camp 2009. Photo: Emily Johns

When the tributes started to pour in for Peter Le Mare, who has died suddenly of an aggressive form of leukaemia, one in particular seemed to sum up the mood. It read: 'Penzance will miss him.' A resident of the area since the late 1980s, Peter was a well-known character in the town, with his colourful CND stall ensconced at the end of the main street every Saturday for the last 30 years.

1 June 2019Feature

A lawyer traces her roots back to 15 months in a peace camp

I was a pupil at Manchester High School for Girls which, when I started at 11, was a selective, girls’ ‘direct grant’ school. About half the pupils were funded either by central government or by their local education authority (LEA).

In my family, it was considered a great achievement to have passed the exam and to have been awarded a means-tested grant from the LEA to cover fees.

There were great expectations of me, but I was not a model pupil. I did not engage with my…

1 June 2019Comment

Pre-dawn blockades and missing barristers

23 April. Trial day dawns in Reading. I’m hoping I’ll be convincing and not go blank. I’m nervous, wishing it was over and suddenly doubting the usefulness of the whole project.

In times of doubt like this, the solidarity of friends and fellow-activists is so necessary.

In court, we wait. Nothing happens.

When I think back to the morning of the action, what I remember most vividly is panic and a huge desire to get it right, to be part of an effective shutdown of that…

1 April 2019Comment

'Thinking man's Dennis Skinner' was indefatigable peace campaigner

Campaigning Labour MP Paul Flynn died in February after a long illness. A sufferer from rheumatoid arthritis, Flynn campaigned for the medical use of cannabis. In July 2017, he called on users to come to London and ‘break the law’ by using cannabis at the houses of parliament.

The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) paid this tribute:

The MP for Newport West since 1987, after 15 years as a councillor, Paul Flynn was a strong advocate and supporter of the NFLA…

1 April 2019Comment

Jane Buxton, a founder member of the Committee of 100, was deeply affected by the decision to manufacture atomic and nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s. She shared the alarm of many at the race between the United States, the Soviet Union and Britain to acquire the most threatening weapons. At that time, all three countries were testing their weapons in the atmosphere and the level of strontium-90 in the air caused much concern. She joined the growing body of people determined to stop…

1 April 2019Review

OR Books; 2018; 226pp; £16 (purchase online here)

How can we hold dictators to account? The list of those who have enjoyed complete impunity is long. Lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck has spent his whole life fighting to reverse this state of affairs: using the law to challenge Latin American ex-dictators, representing the families of US drone-attack victims in Yemen, and filing criminal complaints against the likes of ex-US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld.

Kaleck’s latest book is a manifesto for international law and how it can be…

1 December 2018Comment

Lawrence Cheuk reflects on a recent weeklong activist training workshop in Brussels

European Trainers’ Exchange Cleaners’ Collective, 12–17 November, Brussels, Belgium. Back row from left: Edith Wustefeld, Lawrence Cheuk, Mathias Balcaen, Annalies Schorpion. Front row from left: Sarah Reader, Milan Rai, Herman van Veelen. Photo: PN

This diary describes one person’s experience of an international trainers’ exchange in Brussels from 12–17 November. The workshop was organised by three training collectives: Tractie (Belgium), Stroomversnellers (Netherlands) and…