No gods, no masters

Letter by Oliver Mahler

I have decided not to renew my subscription for two reasons:

1) There is a fair amount of theoretical discussion and underlying principles are usually clear in reports. This is excellent. But it is 'old hat': it is a 're-hash' of what we (ie my generation) were saying and doing in the 1950s and 1960s.

Does each generation have to re-learn from the beginning what its parents and grandparents taught it? (I expect we were repeating the ideas of those who lived through the First World War.)

2) Every now and then, the peace movement acquires a 'god'. In the 1940s, it was Gandhi; in the '60s, Russell; etc. Now PN has taken up the latest god, George Lakey.

Well, I don't worship gods, I believe in equality of respect. Not only are there no 'goodies' and 'baddies', but also no 'heroes' and 'followers'.

So I'm not renewing my subscription. I will, however, send some money because PN is actually doing very good work.

Editor response:

Thank you, Oliver, for saying that we're doing good work. We appreciate your support.

It would be really helpful to know what new things you would like to see in Peace News.

When we look back over the five years we've been editing PN, we can definitely think of a number of things that revived valuable work or ideas from the past: re-publishing some of the evergreen writings of Barbara Deming (PN 2487-88); more recently, recovering the history of the US 'Movement for a New Society' (PN 2544, 2545).

We can also think of things that we've published that we considered new and fresh. To take two examples from our first issue: Dan Clawson on activism and labour movement organising, and Chris Crass on oppression within 'non-hierarchical' groups (PN 2485).

Turning to your second point, you believe PN is now 'worshipping a god', the US activist, trainer and author George Lakey.

Rather than worshipping George, we think activists here in Britain can learn from his 50 years of experiences, skills and ideas.

The Movement for a New Society (MNS), which he founded, was an inspiring 17-year experiment in radical nonviolence. The forms of activist training that began in MNS and were developed further in Training for Change are extraordinary tools for liberation and empowerment. The ideas and stories that George has brought together in his writings over the decades enrich and advance our discussions about how to move towards a decent, sustainable society.

That's why PN has re-published George's Toward a Living Revolution, and why we've published a long essay by George in this issue, rounding off his visit to the UK with some reflections sparked off by his time at PN Summer Camp in July.

Toward a Living Revolution hasn't got all the answers we need to build nonviolent revolution, but we do think that if every activist in the country read the book, our discussions about radical social change would start and finish at a higher level of sophistication and effectiveness.

We believe this is all part of the richness of our movement, and is worth celebrating and exploring. We hope you will rejoin us as a PN Sustainer soon!