Left-wing manners?

ImageI have been a member of CND and supported Peace News since the 1950s. However, I no longer wish to receive Peace News as I am becoming increasingly disappointed at the left-wing manner in which it has developed.

The final straw for me is the article in the copy received today, ‘Here are your choices’ (PN 2582-83), advocating ‘We must make ourselves ungovernable, that is a strategy accessible to all’.

What an appalling idea – what depth have you sunk to?

I shall be cancelling my standing order. Please do not send me any more copies of your paper.

RD Thompson

Editor's response:

Thank you for your letter and for your kind permission to print it. I’m very grateful for all the support that you’ve given Peace News over the decades, and I’m sorry to hear that you want to cancel your subscription.

It would be good to know more about why you think it is appalling for peace activists to set themselves the goal of becoming ‘ungovernable’. Was this not Gandhi’s goal in British India? I’m not saying that I think this should be the immediate goal of the peace movement, or any other movement in Britain, but I’d be grateful to hear more on why you think it’s such an objectionable aim.

Coming to the larger point that you are making, I would really like to know more about what about PN you have found more left-wing, and disappointing, recently.

It is probably worth saying again that, as editor, I don’t necessarily endorse any particular article printed in Peace News. I choose material to go in if I think it will be useful to people working for change, or if it seems to be making an important contribution to the discussion that is going on among people working for change.

There are plenty of things that have appeared in Peace News over the last eight years I’ve been editing it that I’ve disagreed with!

Faringdon Peace Festival

ImageWe an had excellent afternoon promoting peace on a sunny afternoon around The Clockhouse in Coleshill, Wiltshire. Our delicious home-made savoury dishes were so popular people were forced to turn to the gateaux, drizzle cakes and scones washed down with copious cups of tea, juices and cordials.

Our colourful fête was opened by the Green Party candidate for the Wantage area, Kate Prendergast, who reminded us of our role in keeping the planet safe.

We were then blessed with beautiful music performed by local musicians. There was circle dancing led by a small group, children’s games, clay pot-making, face-painting, and donkey rides, all interspersed with the roaming theatre group leading to a performance by The Bicyclettes.

Our stalls made an impact with vibrant displays – tombola, bottles, books, bric-a-brac, plants.

With visiting stallholders and their crafts and charities there was a great variety of goods to choose from. And all this was supported by an abundance of raffle prizes donated so generously by 18 local traders.

We would like to thank all those who volunteered to help out – and thanks to everyone who attended – you made it all worthwhile.

Sandra Cooper, Faringdon Peace Group

False advertising

ImageI was intrigued by the title of the lead article last issue (PN 2482-2483): ‘Why “why Labour lost” matters to anarchists, anti-cuts activists and climate campaigners’, but dismayed to find this was just an advertising ploy to sell the paper, as there was little related to anarchism.

I have two points about that article. Firstly I think that people are moved not by ‘concrete plans for radical change’ but by seeing actions where people take control of their lives and self-organise.

Secondly, in the analysis of relations between state and corporate business, while it’s true that states constrain some of the excesses of capitalism, business also relies on the existence of the state: both in money, by state subsidy of infrastructure, and in power, by state protection of business interests through police and military.

The right wing are not against the state per se, only against any truly democratic and welfare aspects. Parliament is a corrupt and corrupting system and one day’s voting matters little compared to what we do all the other days between elections. Do you imagine that a Labour government would not pursue ‘austerity’, workfare, privatisation, Trident?

Dee Milner

Climate sanity

ImageI applaud the coverage of climate action in the last issue (PN 2582-83), in particular COIN’s plea for the climate movement to reach out and embrace the political centre-right. Our ecology needs emission reductions now and cannot afford human beings to indulge any tribal instincts.

In the UK, the 2008 climate act was achieved with cross-party consensus. Many Conservative politicians such as lord Deben (formerly environment secretary John Selwyn Gummer) have both insight and influence, and frankly if conservatives are by definition averse to change, they should be naturally averse to climate change. Regardless of ideology, we want to future generations to be able to enjoy nature in the same way as we can.

The World Bank and the International Energy Agency project a 4°C temperature rise by 2100, which the intergovernmental panel on climate change suggests would result in 40–70 percent of species becoming extinct. I largely agree with Naomi Klein’s recruitment of existing progressive movements in a positive vision of a low-carbon world, but worry that she may be unnecessarily circumscribing her audience, having succumbed to the political polarisation that exists in North America.

So I agree with Kelvin Mason’s suggestion that we should engage in dialogue about ethics as well as about facts.

Connectedness to nature may be a shared value, but I doubt that ‘openness to change’ is going to be a value we can all agree on. Psychologists see openness as a relatively fixed personality trait, and Jonathan Haight observes it as more common among the liberal-left, suggesting that while those on the right share notions of mercy and fair rules applying to all, they also value authority and sanctity or purity.

Therefore I would guess (with less evidence than COIN) that the pollution and despoliation of fracking will engage the right, as well as still appealing to a universal agreement to avoid the tragedy of the climate commons.

Back in 2008, I wrote in PN that climate action should involve everyone ‘except economists’ (review, PN 2496). Unfortunately, economists are the ones making ethical choices for most of us, in a technocratic way inaccessible to those of us who aren’t conversant with the latest government policies of contracts for difference, levy control frameworks and carbon floor prices.

I would recommend former World Bank economist Nicholas Stern’s latest book Why Are We Waiting? as providing insight into the Paris negotiations and a way forward with ‘equitable access to sustainable development’.

Cedric Knight, London