Pacifist Who

I remember when Mat Coward in the New Statesman described the character of the Doctor as “explicitly a vegetarian pacifist”, back in the early 1990s. Sylvester McCoy I think is a pacifist and CAAT supporter, and in the book of “Human Nature”, the Doctor actually picks up a white poppy to give to Tim, but then that shows the fickleness of writers and the tendency of readers like me to concentrate on meaningless emblems. In fact, possibly what Virginia shows [PN 3535] is only that family entertainment in general ha become somewhat more violent and less morally thoughtful since 1963. Anyway, nice to have the occasional light article. Steve Wright is planning an activism and humour conference for September.

Cedric Knight, London 

Friends and foes

On of the most recent of his Radio Four series on Russia (“The Wild East”) Martin Sixsmith quite casually mentioned that in May 1945, Churchill had floated plans for invading Russia. I must confess I had not previously heard of this, presumably it was revealed under a war-sensitive extension to the 30-year act (hiding some of its significance under the impact of the collapse of the Soviet Union); it certainly has not sparked off the sort of discussion it merits. It is an interesting insight into the double-dealing of so-called democratic politicians. The people of Britain were after all still being told that good old Uncle Joe [Stalin] was our firm ally. In the general election then going on, the Tories used (in working class areas) a book claiming that the alliance with Uncle Joe was essential for the future and accusing all other parties – including the CP [Communist Party] – of having Trotskyist tendencies. Also: one wonders how the Cairo mutiny [of the land, sea and air forces of the Greek government-in-exile] would have spread if this had been known at the time.

Laurens Otter, Wellington 

Sir or saint

I was very sorry to read in PN of the death of Brian Haw. If I had my way, he would have been knighted or given the OBE or something (maybe posthumously?). Anyway, I hope some sort of memorial can be erected for him. I would gladly contribute to the cost. We must never forget him!

Anna Bee, Windsor 

Not in my name

By the way, have you had much feedback from the census form campaign to make it difficult for Lockheed Martin [arms manufacturer and census processor]? We received a visit from a census “chaser-upper” who said our form hadn’t been received. We wondered if this was a genuine “lost in the post” or our form had been discarded due to prominent “No Trident” etc messages on all that lovely blank white space on the back of the envelope! We love you, PN, but hope you won’t have to be around for another 75 years!

Ann and Pete Goodwin, Bristol 

Or mine

In a recent issue of Peace News I read about some protesters refusing to make out the census as it was run by Lockheed Martin, the same company that does the census in Canada. I am trying to resist this here and wonder what happened to the protesters in the UK. I very much appreciate your paper and have so much admiration for the continual actions of so many dedicated people. We need to do more of that sort of thing in Canada.

Shirley Farlinger, Canada

Editor's response:

Count Me Out campaign (www.countmeout.me.uk/) is doing great work on conscientious objection to Lockheed’s census – eds

That dreadful film?

The feature on Summerhill in your July/August edition contained a reference to “a scurrilous film” transmitted by Channel 4 in 1996. Actually it was 1992. It was called Summerhill at Seventy, and was shot and directed by a man-and-wife team whose six-year-old attended the school throughout the filming. I was the editor.

Was it a scurrilous film? Possibly. Certainly it provided the worst experience of my 40-year career in documentary: worst, that is, in terms of the imposition of a malign ideology by the broadcaster upon material shot with a different purpose in mind. The most blatant example concerned an episode, present in our first cut, where the children were required to adjudicate upon a situation where two of them had quarrelled and one had broken the other’s leg. They ruled that the former should act as full-time helper to the latter during the time he was on crutches; the two ended up good friends. But we were required to remove this and replace it with a more “dramatic” scene showing the children’s failure to resolve the problems caused by a boy who was clearly psychologically damaged and ought never to have been at Summerhill in the first place. (Unfortunately the commissioning editor had insisted upon viewing the rushes, and therefore knew what we’d got.)

When the film was finished, the three of us debated whether or not to remove our names from the credits. We arranged to run the final version for Zoë Redhead (AS Neill’s daughter) and another member of staff; they seemed reasonably happy with the result. We began to wonder whether perhaps we had been over-reacting to a purely personal sense of slight, and whether, in spite of everything, there wasn’t still enough in the film to do justice to Summerhill. So we hung on to our credits. I don’t know to this day whether that was the right decision.

As for killing the rabbit – not, incidentally, instigated by the film-makers – this would have kept its place in “our” version. What is so terrible about a boy dispatching a diseased animal? One wonders whether all the people who huffed and puffed about this in the media were themselves strict vegetarians or protestors against fox-hunting or badger-culling. I mention this only to stress that the factors which prompted the knee-jerk outrage of the tabloids were not those which led to our own dissatisfaction.

Dai Vaughan, London 

Slovene surprise

I really enjoyed Michael Pooler's article on the Metelkova social centre in the most recent issue [PN 2535]. I had no idea there were projects of this kind in Slovenia, and it reminded me why I subscribe to PN.

Russ McPherson