A few years ago, we both took part in a “radical peace movement” gathering. Two of the main issues at the gathering were the thorny question of whether there was such a thing as a “peace movement”, and, alongside that, what it meant to be a “radical” peace activist.
It’s clear that there is a traditional strand of peace organisations and activities, which has persisted for decades. Quaker activities (the Religious Society of Friends began in the 1640s), the pacifist Peace Pledge Union (founded in 1934, two years before Peace News), and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (founded in 1958) are all cornerstones of this mainstream of the peace movement.
It’s also clear that there has been an upsurge of anti-militarist organisations and activities since the 11 September attacks, which probably be more comfortable being described as part of an “anti-war” movement rather than a “peace” movement. In one corner we have the Stop The War Coalition, in another we have Smash EDO and similar groups which relate through the Anti-Militarist Network, and in yet another sector we have groups like the International Solidarity Movement, founded the month before 9/11, which funnels activists from around the world into constructive nonviolent action in the Israeli-occupied territories.
To what extent do people in these different streams feel they are part of a larger whole? To what extent is there a radical strain in all of these circles with a common set of attitudes, analyses and perhaps even activities?
These are open questions. The purpose of Peace News is to be useful to all who work for peace, and to champion the cause of revolution – through peaceful means. As US activist AJ Muste once said: “In a world built on violence, one must be a revolutionary before one can be a pacifist.”
We would add, mangling Emma Goldman: “If it’s not revolutionary, it’s not our kind of nonviolence.” That means challenging ourselves and challenging others. One question that perplexes us is why there is so little resistance to the wars Britain is currently fighting. Do we in Britain find it somehow easier to struggle against other people’s crimes (such as Israel’s brutality towards the Palestinians) than against our own crimes in Afghanistan and in Libya?
We are not at all suggesting that there is too much solidarity with people in Palestine, there is far too little. What puzzles us is why there seems to be so little energy for opposing Britain’s wars.
We’re sorry but we’re still working on our piece on the Global Civilians for Peace in Libya, and we are really sorry for not having covered the Peace History conference yet. We will make good!