Editorial: Keep going

IssueDecember 2009 - January 2010
Comment by Milan Rai , Emily Johns

The climate conference in Copenhagen is a turning point in world history. The protests in Denmark and around the world before and during the conference are therefore of enormous importance.

As a species, we are now fully conscious of the effects of our actions on the world’s climate and therefore on all the interlocking ecosystems on which human and other forms of life depend. At Copenhagen, the world’s governments could give their informed consent either to a scientifically-grounded restriction in the emission of greenhouses gases, or to large-scale death and destruction by unstoppable climate chaos. The outcome in Copenhagen has already been foretold.

The battle for the future of the world is not over, however, and the weight of all our protests now will affect the next stages in our species’ faltering attempts to deal with its most significant global problem, its most devastating crime.

Sloggers and co

Many years ago, one of the historians of Peace News, Andrew Rigby (still on the board of Peace News Ltd), pointed to a provocative piece published on 8 August 1958.

Reginald Reynolds distinguished between three main currents in the nonviolent movements of the time. The pacifist “old guard” were “good old sloggers who cling bravely to the belief that the slogans and activities which have been proved and tested by decades of dismal failure deserve our allegiance and will at any moment lead on to victory”.

Then there were the “perfectionists”: “having proved that there can be no peace without a complete social, political, economic, psychological and spiritual revolution, they nevertheless leave me with an awkward feeling that they are talking very good sense about town planning when the immediate and urgent necessity is for a fire engine, which they reject as a palliative.”

The final group were the “firefighters”, driven by a desperate sense of urgency and a passion for action, but who (in his view) lacked “any real understanding of what they are up against”.

Peace News stands for the sloggers, who have staying power, for the perfectionists, who see the need for revolution, and for the firefighters, who throw themselves into the struggle.

Peace News needs the best qualities of every generation of activists, and it needs the ferment of debate across generations and across movements – and across ideological divides.

Debates over strategy have gone on in these pages for over 70 years. Over and over, in and out of these pages, nonviolence has been questioned, and, over and over, people committed to nonviolence have mounted defences of their bedrock principles.

Nonviolence is robust. It will last.

See more of: Editorial