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40 years ago: six anti-militarists busted

Peace News had recently moved its main office out of London, as part of a strategy of changing the balance between its alternativist and ‘constructivist’ coverage on the one hand, and its involvement in more mainstream politics, on the other. Nevertheless, the paper found itself sucked into the defence of a group of activists – some closely connected with PN – who were facing the possibility of years in prison.

Six anti-militarists busted

Six pacifists were arrested in London last week and charged under the Incitement to Disaffection Act, and yet another leaflet published by the British Withdrawal from Northern Ireland Campaign (BWNIC) has been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The six arrested... had all been raided on September 10 (see Peace News, September 20) and were charged with possession of the BWNIC leaflet “Some information for discontented soldiers”. They were remanded until October 21 and 22 when they expect the hearing to be deferred again.

Some of those arrested were also asked about meetings with soldiers absent without leave, as were others who have not been raided. There are yet others whom the police want to question.

The prosecution will have to prove that ‘Some information for discontented soldiers’ is an incitement. It is markedly different from the leaflet Pat Arrowsmith gave out, and for which she’s serving an 18-month sentence, as its title makes clear that the leaflet is addressed to soldiers who are already discontented, and each item of useful information is prefixed with ‘If you are a conscientious objector’, ‘If you have decided to go absent without leave’, and ‘If you intend to apply for discharge on other grounds’.

The other leaflet forwarded to the DPP is addressed to civilians. It was given to Julian Critchley, MP for Aldershot, by a former alderwoman who found it ‘a bit saucy’. Protesting that ‘we’ve always been proud of the army, never more so than today’, Critchley sent it to War Minister Roy Mason who in turn passed it to the DPP to see if it was actionable.

The leaflet asks, ‘What peace can there be while armed men and tanks patrol the streets?’ and concludes, ‘Will you help soldiers to leave this war in which you and they are entangled?’


From the news pages of the 18 October 1974 issue of Peace News. Buried Treasure is compiled by Albert Beale, author of Against All War: Fifty Years of Peace News 1936-1986.