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1 October 2021 Benjamin Zephaniah

A poem by Benjamin Zephaniah

‘The peace garden is opposite the War Memorial,’
Said the old soldier.

‘We had to fight to make the peace
Back in the good old days.’

‘No, the War Memorial is opposite the peace garden,’
Said the old pacifist.

‘You’ve had so many wars to end all wars,
Still millions are dying from the wars you left behind.’

‘Look,’ said the old soldier.
‘You chickens stuck your peace garden
In front of our War Memorial to cause non-violent…

1 October 2021 Penny Stone

Penny Stone looks at some of the ways in which music is being used to fight climate change

Here in Scotland, a year later than expected, COP26 is nearly upon us. As the global climate emergency worsens before our very eyes, world leaders will gather to discuss their collective priorities and plan for action (or inaction).

While the pandemic has amplified the unequal access to this forum for those communities who are most affected, there are many challenges to the COP structure that I’m sure will be addressed by others.

But for grassroots climate activists, it’s…

1 October 2021 Ambrose Musiyiwa

Ambrose Musiyiwa meets the poet Catherine Okoronkwo

Recently, I interviewed the poet Catherine Okoronkwo, who is the advisor on racial justice to the bishop of Bristol, Vivienne Faull, helping to deliver on commitments made following last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol.

Okoronkwo, who was born to Nigerian parents and grew up in the Middle East, is currently vicar of All Saints and St Barnabas in Swindon.

Okoronkwo sees her father, who passed away recently, as one of…

1 October 2021 Cath

Our Leeds cooperator finds herself enjoying a clash of consciousnesses

The Zapatistas are coming!

Oh no they’re not! Oh yes they are!

Activists around Europe have been planning since January to receive touring Zapatistas, on a ‘Journey of Life’, a field survey of Europe, trying to understand our social and political context and to find accomplices.

The news that they might arrive in a week is apparently surprising.

A chance conversation, being in the right place at the right time, means I’m suddenly involved in trying to find…

1 October 2021 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

A call for solidarity with ordinary Afghans

I don’t think I am in alone in watching in absolute horror as the rest of the world has abandoned Afghanistan to the Taliban. Our government, with many others, has betrayed their democracy, and abandoned them to a theocratic regime with a reputation for brutality, especially towards women and girls.

For the past 20 years our Afghan sisters have made great strides towards equality. They formed a national cricket team, competed in the Olympics and won awards for their scientific work.…

1 October 2021 Claire Poyner

Our columnist surveys some common statistical pitfalls

‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.’

We don’t know who originally came up with this. It wasn’t Benjamin Disraeli though some attribute it to him. Wasn’t Mark Twain, either, though he did popularise it.

When I was an undergraduate, we were recommended to read Darrell Huff’s How to Lie with Statistics, which I still have a copy of (indeed, I still have most of my degree textbooks). It’s worth a read, although it’s very old, written in the…

1 October 2021 Milan Rai

Milan Rai pieces together the story of a crucial moment in the Cuban Missile Crisis

Nine years ago, we wrote about a Russian naval officer named Vasili Arkhipov who saved the world.

We’ve learned since then that the story of Arkhipov’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis was a little more complicated than we thought. Even so, it is clear that Arkhipov played a key role in preventing a confrontation at sea turning into global nuclear war.

On 27 October 1962, 12 US warships surrounded a submerged Soviet submarine, the B-59, a began dropping hand grenades…

1 October 2021 PN staff

During COP26, protest in Glasgow or where you live

The COP26 Coalition has called a Global Day of Action for Climate Justice for Saturday 6 November, halfway through the COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow.

They are calling on people to either come to Glasgow for a national demonstration or to take action nearer to home.

There will be a People’s Summit for Climate Justice from 7 – 10 November.

The COP26 Coalition is a UK-based civil society coalition of groups and individuals mobilising around climate justice during…

1 August 2021 Milan Rai

Stop the spread of speedy, more lethal, vaccine-resistant variants

England is entering a dangerous period. British prime minister Boris Johnson is knowingly creating the perfect conditions to breed stronger variants of COVID-19 that can overcome the vaccine.

A group of experts warned in a letter to the medical journal, the Lancet on 7 July that the complete lifting of almost all COVID restrictions in England on 19 July was ‘dangerous and premature’.

One of the concerns of the expert group was the long-term health of the millions of…

1 August 2021 Penny Stone

Penny Stone goes in search of some English inspiration

Nearly everyone I talk to is feeling a bit weary just now. Weary with the pandemic and all that it means, weary with the chipping away of the welfare state and the lack of honest and compassionate human behaviour demonstrated in Westminster.

Weary with the upsurge of overt racism that Brexit has brought us and weary with fear and anger for the future of the planet and its people, flora and fauna.

It’s the same old stories: divide and conquer; keep the rich getting richer and…

1 August 2021 Ambrose Musiyiwa

Ambrose Musiyiwa reflects on the power of festivals

With some of my friends, for the past eight Decembers, I have been co-organising the week-long Leicester Human Rights Arts and Film Festival. We believe that festivals and the arts have an important role to play in creating, maintaining and defending a culture of human rights.

Through its seven days of poetry, music, performances, film, art, talks and discussion, the festival creates a forum for engaging with human rights issues at home and abroad.

With the support of local…

1 August 2021 Cath

Our Leeds co-operator celebrates some of the joyous, proactive, determined and curious actions she's experienced recently

Today was weird. On whatever untrained basis, I ‘mediated’ two people from another housing co-op for six hours. A really overwhelming sentiment was the disappointment, disillusion and disengagement created by other people’s apathy.

It’s hard to hold a neutral space and encourage creative, open thinking when you’re hearing your own cynical and depressed thoughts repeated back to you.

So what I need now is to celebrate all the joyous, proactive, connected, determined, adventurous…

1 August 2021 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Our children can't continue to pay the price for Tory austerity, argues Rebecca Elson-Watkins

As I write this, BBC News is reporting the fatal stabbings of a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old in different parts of South London, within hours of each other. Another 15-year-old child has been arrested for one of the murders.

So far, 21 teenagers have been murdered in London in 2021.

As we ease out of lockdown, our old social problems are resurfacing with a vengeance.

Personally, I think the blame falls…

1 August 2021 Claire Poyner

Our columnist develops an interest in football ...

I’m not much into football, though I do live with a football ‘fan’ and it’s sometimes on TV when I am in the room.

I’m usually reading or playing a game on my phone. Sometimes I get the headphones on and watch something on the iPad.

Same goes for the cycling: Tour de France, etc.

I’ve never been sporty and it’s not something I generally take much interest in.

This latest England team, though.

I’ve taken a bit more interest in the matches (in between reading…

1 August 2021 Kathryn Southworth

A poem by Kathryn Southworth

Find your way to the roof of Gloucestershire,
beyond the handsome stone of Painswick,
past mellow Sheepscombe, pretty Miserden,
through avenues of beech and larch
to the back-of-beyond,
and you may stumble on a onetime white road,
on either side shacks and bungalows
dumped anyhow. 

This was The Colony.
And so it is still. 

Gathering all conditions of folk,
from university to able seamen,
and many women too,

1 August 2021 Cath

Climate campaigner who left a legacy of over half a million trees

For climate campaigners, Penny was best known for supergluing – she glued herself to the revolving doors of lastminute.com’s HQ as part of a Plane Stupid action, she glued herself to a shelf in Boots because of their accounting practices, and she famously glued herself to the gates of the Heathrow Climate Camp to stop the police entering the site, earning enormous gratitude and respect.

But this was really the tiny cherry on the enormous cake of her life’s work to mitigate climate…

1 August 2021 Andrea Mbarushimana

Dedicated activist and co-founder of the Coventry Peace House.

Although she balked at any form of public recognition, Penny Walker had influence, power and the kind of respect that preceded her into meetings. The public grief and sadness there has been at her death is unsurprising, though Penny would’ve been embarrassed by all the fuss.

I met Penny at Coventry Peace House in 2004, a housing co-operative she set up with Becqke and John, fellow Alvis Peace Campers from the ’90s.

A founder member of the Coventry Refugee Centre, she and Alan…

1 August 2021 Milan Rai

If we want a safer country, we need a less violent foreign policy, argues Milan Rai

As the world reflects on the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks in Washington DC and New York, we face a choice. We can try to understand what motivates people to carry out jihadist attacks, which might give us a chance of preventing them from happening again. Alternatively, we can close our eyes and refuse to discuss possible causes, which rules out the possibility of effective preventive action – which means more people will die.

Here in Britain, there is a sort of secret…

1 August 2021 Milan Rai

Britain has sold £20bn of arms to Saudi Arabia since 2015

Yemen continues to suffer the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, with half the population going hungry and hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of famine. 

A dramatic fall in the value of Yemen’s currency, the riyal, has only worsened the situation, while peace negotiations drag on without an end in sight.

Britain’s response to Yemen’s suffering has been to worsen the crisis, not just by supporting but by joining in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.…

20 July 2021 Milan Rai

'If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.'

I’m writing this as we’re approaching the first anniversary of the killing of George Floyd, and I’m thinking about racism and anti-racism and solidarity.

There’s a thing that a lot of activists call ‘being an ally’ or ‘allyship’. What this means is that you’re not the target of a particular oppression, but you want to challenge that oppression and be actively on the side of people who are the direct targets of that oppression.

So, for example, there was a wave of solidarity…

20 July 2021 Ambrose Musiyiwa

Ambrose Musiyiwa reflects on the continuing journeys of 2015 poetry collection

Large parts of 2015 were dominated by images of people packed into wooden fishing boats and rubber dinghies trying to get to Europe by crossing the Mediterranean.

There were images of people, including unaccompanied children, making impossible journeys on foot.

There were images of people climbing over razor wire in Europe, and police forces in different countries using batons and teargas against people at the border.

Months before the image of Alan Kurdi’s body on a…

20 July 2021 Joan Michelson

A poem by Joan Michelson

i

After his success with mustard gas at Ypres,
Fritz Haber’s wife killed herself.

To be precise, she took his service pistol
and shot herself through the mouth.

Her husband had betrayed the ideals of science.
‘It makes no difference.’ he insisted, ‘It for

the fatherland.’ She was the first woman
in Germany to take a doctorate in chemistry,

her husband’s field. They had taken the same vow
to work for moral good. Now he was the…

20 July 2021 Penny Stone

What incredible strength it takes to stay where you are, to offer food and drink to strangers, and to sing together ...

‘Mawtini, Mawtini…’ ‘My homeland, my homeland / Glory and beauty, sublimity and splendour / Are in your hills, are in your hills’

I first visited the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem in 2009 when I was working as a human rights observer with EAPPI (the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel).

We visited the area because Palestinian residents had been evicted from their homes and Israeli settlers had moved in.

Israeli settlers,…

20 July 2021 Cath

Our Leeds-cooperator turns her attention to money

Money is power, money is message, money makes the world go round. Time is money. Every little counts. It’s all about money.

Credo: I want to see a world without money, where people give according their ability and receive according to their needs, where power is collective and resources are shared.

In the meantime though….

As I go to sleep thinking about money for this article, Liza Minelli and Joel Grey* are shimmying, pouting and grimacing across my mental…

20 July 2021 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

We need to talk more about death, argues Rebecca Elson-Watkins

We need to talk about death. Even as I write this sentence, I can almost hear PN readers groan ‘what, more?! Haven’t we talked about death enough in the past year?!’ But, yes, we must talk about death. We must talk about death on both micro and macro scales.

On the micro scale, the past year has painfully reminded many people, including myself, that the only two things we are assured of in life are death and taxes. I have come to the conclusion that we have absolutely nothing…

20 July 2021 Claire Poyner

Freedom of speech doesn't mean a right to insult, our columnist argues

Free speech and ‘cancel culture’.

Yes, it’s another of those current buzzwords/phrases, along with ‘woke’ (which appears to have replaced ‘PC gone mad’, ‘snowflake’ or ‘triggered’ (the latter always seems to require that quote from The Princess Bride: ‘You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means’)).

Universities in particular have also been accused of curtailing free speech by ‘no platforming’ resulting in ‘cancel culture’.

I cannot…

6 July 2021 Selina Nwulu

A poem by Selina Nwulu from a new collection

I found my body parts at the
bottom of an editor’s bin

loose rinds of the lips
my mother gave me
a yanked tooth
the bridge of my brow
wilted laugh lines
shredded coils of hair
the scrunched petals of my nose
fistfuls of plump
shades of my skin
seeping out of the sides
until there was light, so much light
and I think…

6 July 2021 Penny Stone

Every story we hear, every idea, has the chance to sow a seed of change, of learning, of divergence from the dominant narrative.

In ancient Greece, Plato warned of the danger to the state of 'musical innovation'.

More recently, Leopold I of Belgium wrote to queen Victoria: 'Beware of artists, they mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous.'

It’s no secret that countless governments have tried to suppress the voices of artists for fear of the power they might have to sow seeds of questions and different ideas in the minds of all people.

3 March was Music Freedom Day,…

6 July 2021 Paula Osorio

Paula Osorio reviews an award-winning documentary

Skateboarding is a global language, over the years it has reached unimaginable places. It has allowed new generations, cultures, and traditions to resignify the environment in which they find themselves and to see in the skateboard a place to excel and express themselves with the freedom of athletes.

Although it is true that Afghan culture has been exposed to an insurmountable war, the most affected have been its population who, without opportunity and in extreme poverty, have had to…

6 July 2021 Cath

Our Leeds co-operator indulges in a spot of house-clearing

Photograph: my parents’ registry-office wedding in 1971, drinks with my dad’s family.

Photograph: my mother with all my dad’s female relatives, glamorous hair and flowing dresses and cigarettes, all laughing.

Photographs: one-year-old, two-year-old, three-year-old me with various other small children in various large gardens.

Odd/not odd – all white faces, well I suppose they would be. Even though they were living in a country with a white population around 20 percent.…

6 July 2021 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Rebecca Elson-Watkins celebrates Russell T Davies' new TV series It's a Sin

It’s not often a work of televised fiction comes along that I would call important.

Watching Russell T Davis’ new five-part miniseries, It’s A Sin, for me, ‘important’ was the only word to describe it. 

The series focuses on the lives of a group of young, gay men and their friends, in London during the height of the AIDS crisis in Britain. It’s A Sin is, unsurprisingly given the topic, tough viewing; I am not ashamed to admit I wept.

I was born in…

6 July 2021 Claire Poyner

Our columnist identifies the 'most oppressed, side-lined, discriminated-against, group in society today'

Last year, I reviewed Men who Hate Women by Laura Bates. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the issues raised there more frequently than I would normally like.

Of course, I am aware that there are extreme misogynists, there probably always have been, but they’re more obvious these days and they have the opportunities to spout their opinions (to which they are entitled, I guess) where I can read them.

It’s unfortunate that I am unable to bypass the comments page, or…

6 July 2021 PN staff

How many Housmans Peace Diaries do you still have?

Image

 

CND vice-president Bruce Kent recently had this photo taken to show off his unbroken run of Housmans Peace Diaries from 1980 to 2020. Do you have a longer sequence? Do you own more than Bruce’s record-breaking collection of 41 one-year-after-the-other Housmans Peace Diaries? If so, claim your prize by sending a photo to: editorial@peacenews.info

4 July 2021 Milan Rai

How can white anti-racists stay motivated for the long struggle ahead?

I hope that you found the Whiteness issue useful. I have one more thing to say to white readers, to folk who want to prioritise anti-racism.

If you are a white person who aims to be in this for the long haul, then you may need to dig deep and find some ways that you personally can benefit from the rooting out of racism.

White US philosopher Shannon Sullivan ends her thought-provoking book on White Privilege by pointing out that there are problems with white people…

4 July 2021 Penny Stone

Penny Stone celebrates a historic moment in the struggle against nuclear weapons

22 January saw a landmark moment for the global peace movement – the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear weapons entered into force on 22 January 2021 after it reached its 50th ratification last October. 

When the treaty first came into being, thanks to the work of peace campaigners around the world (under the umbrella of ICAN), we were still able to gather together safely in large numbers. 

There was a great celebration at Faslane, the nuclear weapons base just outside of…

4 July 2021 Cath

Is living in desperately bad material circumstances a pre-requisite for a revolutionary society?, wonders our Leeds cooperator

Unlearning racism. Surely, Cath, you can’t be questioning such an obviously good thing to do? No, no, honest to god, I’m glad, I wanted to be part of a white caucus doing this stuff years ago, but, excuses, excuses, didn’t prioritise it. 

And the housing co-op is an excellent ready-made group of people who know each other well – it is clear that most of us want to be held accountable and want the skills to hold each other accountable. Fab!

But I do feel a bit defeated and glum…

4 July 2021 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Trump's trial should be used to put the truth about Trumpism before the US people

On 6 January, something happened in Washington DC that has not happened since the US-UK War of 1812. The Capitol building, that instantly-recognisable symbol of US democracy, was stormed by Donald Trump supporters. 

I watched, agog, as many of the same people who called peaceful BLM protesters ‘thugs’ donned assault rifles, gas masks and body armour, and attempted to reverse the results of a legitimate federal election. 

Rhetoric has consequences. 

Just like the ‘Stab in…

4 July 2021 Claire Poyner

Our columnist takes on the pandemic conspiracy theorists

How are you all? I hope everyone is well. I know there’s one or two subscribers who will be thinking ‘What does she mean? Is there a reason I won’t be well?’ because after all, this pandemic is a hoax. Isn’t it?

Well, no, it isn’t. Anyone who works in health care will tell you that’s nonsense. Anyone who’s had COVID-19 will tell you that’s nonsense, especially those suffering ‘long Covid’, which seems to be somewhat like ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

And as for ‘it’s just flu…

4 July 2021 Emily Johns

Emily Johns looks at the ideas behind the Artist Support Pledge

In March 2020, as the COVID pandemic started, artist Matthew Burrows launched the Artist Support Pledge online, on the image-sharing platform, Instagram. It was a forward-thinking response to the economic collapse that artists were about to experience – it works with the principle that generosity is infectious.

The idea is simple: artists post an image of their work on Instagram and tag it with #artistssupportpledge so that the pictures can all be found in the same place. They offer…

4 July 2021 El Jones

A black woman marks the election of another black woman as vice-president of the US

A woman’s going to send the drones
So ready the covers of your Vogues
The food bank lines are now miles long
But a woman’s the one who sends the bombs
Liberal feminism can’t be wrong
When a woman’s the one who sends the bombs.
Can’t get workers PPE
But you go girl Nancy Pelosi
All hail the bipartisan war parties
Now Trump is gone we all agree
George W Bush has been redeemed
The war criminals are on our team
And there’s a…

4 July 2021 Milan Rai

The US has regularly opposed democracy, overthrowing democratically elected leaders it doesn't like, Milan Rai reminds us

‘To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today: you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins.’ So said US vice-president Mike Pence. 

Incoming US president Joe Biden said: ‘The scenes of chaos do not reflect the true America, do…

4 July 2021 Milan Rai

Whiteness was invented to hold white people back as well as to give them advantages, argues Milan Rai

One time, back in the 1980s, when I was hitching at the bottom of the M1 motorway in North London, a car pulled over for me, late, as if the driver had not been intending to pick anyone up and had made the decision at the last minute. 

I ran up the slope with my rucksack and my sign, and I crouched down by the window. The driver, an East Asian man, peered out and asked me: ‘Are you Chinese?’ 

I had to say, reluctantly: ‘No, I’m Nepali.’

He hesitated a second, and then…

11 December 2020 PN staff

The PN staff's best books and films of 2020

The PN staff have each chosen their favourite books and films they read and saw this year. Here’s what we came up with!

The best book I’ve read this year? Difficult one. How do you compare different genres? The most enjoyable was Becky Chambers’s The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Hodder and Stoughton, 2015, £8.99) and A Closed and Common Orbit (Hodder and Stoughton, 2016, £8.99).

This is two-thirds of her ‘Wayfarer’ trilogy.

It’s feminist…

11 December 2020 Penny Stone

Penny Stone reminds us that we hear music and see human faces.

As global citizens, we want to change the reality on the ground for people in our immediate communities and those around the world.

We want to stop the pain, level the inequalities and stop the bombs from falling. And, so often, we can’t do that, or we can’t do it quickly enough. So often, we aren’t able to physically intervene to make things better on the ground for our neighbours.

Of course, there is a time for direct action. When we have energy, time and organisation to…

11 December 2020 Gabriel Carlyle

Gabriel Carlyle takes issue with Aaron Sorkin's new film The Trial of the Chicago 7

In 1969, the Nixon administration charged eight US activists with having conspired to cross state lines ‘with the intent to incite, organize, promote, encourage, participate in, and carry on a riot’ outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Infamously, the judge (Julius Hoffman) ordered the only Black defendant (Bobby Seale) to be bound and gagged, after he insisted on his right to represent himself.

Seale’s case was declared a mistrial but five of the…

11 December 2020 Paul Steele and Helen Martins

Peace campaigner and youngest known participant in Normandy landings who got arrested with Bertrand Russell

COVID-19 has robbed the world of a rare person. Still very much in his prime at a youthful 92 years old, Jim Radford passed away in Lewisham hospital before old age could catch up with him.

As a 15-year-old galley boy on the rescue tug, Empire Larch, Jim was the youngest known participant in the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

His song, ‘The Shores of Normandy’, recounting his experiences of that day, was brought to the attention of a wider public during two televised…

11 December 2020 Cath

Our Leeds-based cooperator fears we’re more worried than ever about disagreeing

‘I can’t speak openly’. This phrase has become a motif for me in the last fortnight. I’ve heard it from people involved in a messy social club conflict, from both sides in a housing co-op divided in two, and from people feeling bullied in their own co-op.

I’ve had it confided to me by friends and heard it in my own head.

It’s so frustrating, this (often justified) fear, which contributes to a vicious circle of lost trust, lack of communication, (sometimes wilful)…

11 December 2020 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

We must take COVID-19 just as seriously as our grandparents took polio

I’m going to say it – I love vaccinations. I was among the first generation of my maternal bloodline that did not have someone contract tuberculosis. The addition of the BCG vaccination to the British vaccination schedule in 1950, and the herd immunity it resulted in, is most likely the reason my peers and I were spared.

My grandmother, ‘Mam’ to me, suffered polio as a child. I grew up hearing stories of how her childhood was spent in calliper-style leg braces, her life a whirlwind of…

11 December 2020 Claire Poyner

Our columnist takes on the 'why should I pay'-ers

‘Parents are responsible for feeding their kids, not the government.’ ‘If they can’t afford to feed the kids they shouldn’t have them.’ ‘Trouble is, some parents prefer to buy fags and 50” TVs instead of feeding the children.’

All these comments I have read recently. The poorest children in society today have long been given free school meals during term time (including my own child for a couple of years) and the suggestion that they should also be fed outside of term time seems a…

11 December 2020 Milan Rai

It’s only by rooting out racism and establishing genuine equality and racial justice that we'll be able to bring about deep changes in our society, argues Milan Rai

‘I have quit a large organisation I’ve belonged to for many years, for various reasons, but their unthinking public support for the BLM slogan finally made up my mind.... If I was a member of the ruling class, I’d be very happy with the BLM movement from a “divide and conquer” perspective.’

‘I, personally, have not [taken part in any activities related to Black Lives Matter] because I think that George Soros has a sinister hand in B>L>M.’

‘True grassroots activists know…

11 December 2020 Lindsay Carpenter

Bringing down a 30-year dictator

GOALS:
(1) To legalise political parties, end single-party rule, and instate multiparty politics.
(2) To get political prisoners released, particularly Chikufwa Chihana.

SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC GOALS: 6 points / 6
SURVIVAL: 1 / 1
GROWTH: 3 / 3
TOTAL: 10 / 10

By the early 1990s, Hastings Kamuzu Banda of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) had been president of Malawi for 30 years, ever since the country transitioned from colonial rule. At the time…

11 December 2020 Robin Percival

Politician who played leadership role in Northern Ireland's civil rights movement and went on to help create, sustain and promote the Irish peace process

John Hume was one of four people associated with the recent conflict in Ireland to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Definitely he was the most deserving.

He secured the Peace Prize for his efforts in bringing the armed conflict to an end and the subsequent signing of the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed in an all-Ireland referendum.

Ten years ago, he was voted ‘Ireland’s Greatest’ in a poll conducted by RTÉ, the Irish public broadcaster.

And in death he has been…

11 December 2020 Penny Stone

Penny Stone explores the history of 'the Black National Anthem'

One hundred and twenty years ago, 500 African-American schoolchildren sang ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ for the first time in a segregated school in Florida.

In 2020, the song has been sung on countless Black Lives Matter (BLM) marches, on global stages such as the Coachella music festival (Beyoncé, 2018) and in sports stadiums and at graduations across the USA.

‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ began its life in 1899 when the school principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote a poem to…

11 December 2020 Albert Beale and Gabriel Carlyle

Pacifist, engineer and BWNIC defendant

Albert Beale writes:

I got to know my friend and comrade Chris Roper 45 years ago when we were amongst a group of 14 pacifists and anti-militarists who spent nearly 3 months in the Old Bailey facing notorious conspiracy charges relating to the distribution of leaflets to servicepeople encouraging - and helping - them to 'down tools' [sometimes referred to as the BWNIC (British Withdrawal from Northern Ireland Campaign) trial, see …

11 December 2020 Cath

Our Leeds-based cooperator feels the tension between inspiration and reality.

Initially there was disappointment, frequently blended with relief, over cancelled events and the slowing down of social life.

Then came the realisation that space and time no longer matter when the only place you are is your bedroom desk at whatever time of day or night you choose.

It suddenly seemed not only sensible, but important to attend webinars, training, forums and socials all over the English-speaking world.

You came across more and more and more people doing…

11 December 2020 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Birth partners aren't mere 'visitors' argues Rebecca Elson-Watkins

I was in the room when, at 12.33am on 7 September, my godson Nathaniel Thomas Riches was born.

It was one of the handful of moments in my life that I will never forget. Due to COVID-related restrictions on ‘visitors’, I wasn’t able to be there as his mother, my best friend of 25 years, Ellie’s labour was being induced.

It had felt entirely alien to leave her after I visited her in the hospital grounds when she was having relatively mild contractions four hours earlier.

I…

11 December 2020 Claire Poyner

Our columnist on those who believe that 'charity begins (and ends) at home'

When the phrase ‘charity begins at home’ was first coined, the definition of ‘charity’ was a little different.

From Roman times up until recently, ‘charity’ wasn’t necessarily about giving alms. It was more of a state of mind, a mentality of kindness and benevolence.

The word ‘charity’, and the more general ‘love’, are both translated from the Greek word agape.

The point being, when people first started saying ‘charity begins at home’, what they were trying to get across…

11 December 2020 Milan Rai

Racism and colonialism are at the heart of the peace movement's main issues, argues Milan Rai

Imagine that you’ve just packed a whole lot of people into a crowded hall for a public meeting you’ve organised.... And then you get the feeling that behind you is yet another person who wants to get in, who you’re somehow going to have to squeeze into standing at the back of the room.

Imagine a situation when you realise that, actually, this extra person who you sensed was there – an indigenous woman from Indonesia maybe, perhaps an Iraqi man from the southern marshes, someone of…

9 December 2020 Cath

Our Leeds-based co-operator savours the joys and frustrations of conducting 70 interviews in just 3 weeks

‘So… er… Rita, why do you want to live in our housing co-op?’. Eight down, three to go and I’m valiantly keeping hold of the differences between all the applicants.

The strange rituals of recruitment are pushing us to categorise, compare, assess this parade of complex, unique, incomparable, creative humans, whose hidden facets of darkness and lightness make a nonsense of the idea that we can judge who would best live with us.

It’s a process that requires us to acknowledge the…

9 December 2020 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

We need a National Care Service argues Rebecca Elson-Watkins

The UK is facing a health and social care emergency, and COVID-19 has made it painfully obvious that this government couldn’t care less for those who require full-time residential care.

It is estimated that, despite care home residents being only one percent of Britons, they account for approximately 40 percent of UK COVID-19 deaths.

Researchers at the LSE calculated at the end of June that you are 13 times more likely to die of COVID-19 in a care home here than in Germany.…

9 December 2020 Claire Poyner

Our columnist muses on UCL's ban on romantic and sexual relationships between lecturers and their students

A 2018 survey by the 1752 Group and the NUS found that four out of five university students said they were uncomfortable with staff having relationships with students, which they described as ‘predatory’. (The 1752 Group is a research and lobby organisation working to end sexual misconduct in higher education.)

When I was an undergraduate (in a London polytechnic), I remember one young woman in my year forming a relationship with a lecturer within weeks of starting there.

9 December 2020 Penny Stone

We have no place sharing songs from other cultures if we're not also actively seeking to work against racism, argues Penny Stone

In my singing and teaching community, there has been increased exploration of what cultural appropriation means in the current global context.

I’m delighted that so many of us are prioritising these conversations that have been ongoing for many years.

I have, of course, been reflecting on my own practice, my privileges and how I can use my voice to uplift and empower others most effectively. This is, as it should always be, an ongoing process.

A useful framing can be to…

9 December 2020 Milan Rai

The forgotten story of what happened after VJ-Day.

On 15 August, we will be marking VJ–Day. The end of the Second World War is part of a soothing national myth of the triumph of good over evil.

The British do not like to be reminded that we were party to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago. Churchill agreed to the attacks in principle in September 1944. A British general, Henry Wilson, gave Britain’s official consent to the bombings in Washington DC on 4 July 1945, a month before the bombs were dropped.

This…

9 December 2020 Nu'man Abd al-Wahid

British warmongering today is rooted in British history argues Nu'man Abd al-Wahid

Perennial warmonger and Rupert Murdoch hack, David Aaronovitch continues kicking away at the now-defeated Jeremy Corbyn’s attempt to take charge of the British state. The Johnson-Cummings duo routed Labour more than six months ago in an electoral landslide which on paper guarantees a Tory government for at least the next five years.

But old habits die hard and Aaronovitch not only wants Corbynistas defeated but well and truly buried to the extent that such an egalitarian threat never…

9 December 2020 Various

UK campaigners on the books, films and plays that inspire them with their visionary ideas.

For all its horrors, the coronavirus pandemic has created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a shift to a more equitable, socially just, climate-resilient and zero-carbon world – if we can grasp it. But to do this, we need to co-create and share inspiring and visionary ideas of what that better world might look like and how we might get there. In words of Raymond Williams, ‘to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing’.

PN approached activists and campaigners from…

9 December 2020 Milan Rai

We need to remember the real history of Britain's nuclear 'deterrent' argues Milan Rai

There is a powerful taboo in British culture around the connection between nuclear weapons and intervention in the Global South.

There is no official ban on discussing this link, but historians and journalists censor themselves, as predicted by the Chomsky–Herman Propaganda Model of the mass media and Western culture more generally.

Unfortunately, this taboo also affects the British peace movement.

I don’t think that the peace movement here has even begun to digest the…

9 December 2020 Claire Poyner

Our columnist vents on the Covidiot-shaming, statues and more.

If I read one more Facebook post complaining about #Covidiots and people ‘flocking to beaches’…

I’ve had the argument online. You cannot tell from a sideways-on photograph just how crowded that park is. An overhead shot might give you a better view.

I arrived at my local park a couple of weeks ago thinking it looked packed, but was pleasantly surprised to find everyone there behaving themselves and keeping their distance. But if you took a photo by the park gates, you could be…

8 December 2020 Justin Collicutt

Magellans roll back gas price rise 

GOALS: To create dialogue with government and stop the increase of natural gas prices in the region.

SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC GOALS: 5 points / 6
SURVIVAL: 1 / 1
GROWTH: 2 / 3
TOTAL: 8 / 10

For Chileans living in the southern Patagonia region, natural gas is crucial for heating their homes, most importantly during the frigid winter months.

The Chilean government had been subsidising natural gas up to 85 percent for all people in this region because…

8 December 2020 Penny Stone

It's too important not to sing just now, says Penny Stone

When the world is in such a turbulent state, it can seem hopeless to ‘just’ sing songs.

I am a great believer in music and action working together, but it is also true that simply singing songs can help to change ideas and perceptions (for better or for worse!).

Music is powerful – if singing songs wasn’t a powerful human act, then governments and dictators wouldn’t bother to ban them.

To give a few of examples, Edwin Starr’s ‘War – yeah, u-huh, what is it good for?!…

8 December 2020 Pat Gaffney

Pat Gaffney reviews the new biopic of Franz Jägerstätter

It is not often that we see our peace heroes on the big screen. It can be a source of great joy or a complete disaster. So it was with some anxiety that I watched A Hidden Life, written and directed by Terrence Malick, telling the story of Franz Jägerstätter and his wife Franziska (‘Frani’).

The name may be familiar to readers. Franz was an Austrian conscientious objector who refused to serve in Hitler’s army and who was executed in Brandenburg an der Havel in 1943.

8 December 2020 Cath

Our Leeds-based cooperator questions her grasp on reality

As I started writing this diary yesterday, I found myself unable to focus on any particular thing, but just spewing cynicism, resignation, frustration and despair onto the page.

These have been my baseline emotions for several years now and the mainstream narrative of a ‘climate emergency’ isn’t helping.

People are a bit more concerned, some people are getting really quite active, but the majority are carrying on as normal – which is to say generally increasing their levels of…

8 December 2020 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Where were the 'adults in the room' on 3 January?

There is one thing to be said for Donald Trump: he keeps international relations ‘interesting’.

That is not a compliment — I use the word ‘interesting’ in the supposed curse sense of the phrase ‘may you live in interesting times’.

We are living the chapter of the history books that the school children of 2100 will find both interesting and baffling.

For anyone who avoids traditional media, early January involved a drone strike, threats of war crimes against cultural…

8 December 2020 Claire Poyner

Our columnist turns her attention to racism and royalty

I’ve just had an interesting correspondence on Twitter. It’s about the royal family. No, bear with me.

I am not a supporter of royalty myself, I’d prefer a more democratic head of state.

So the latest buzz in social media is: ‘Harry and Meghan, is it all Meghan’s fault?’ Or is it racism? And that is why I have been following this story.

The Twitter feed compares and contrasts press stories reporting the actions of Kate (a white English duchess married to one of the queen…

28 September 2020 Michael Randle

What can Extinction Rebellion learn from the experience of the Committee of 100?

The spectacle of thousands of predominantly young people taking to streets in nonviolent protest against the threat of climate catastrophe is reminiscent of the mass demonstrations and sit-downs of the anti-nuclear Committee of 100 in the 1960s.

Like Extinction Rebellion (XR), the Committee – as indeed the broader anti-nuclear movement – was a response to an existential threat to civilisation, possibly even to human survival.

Like XR, the Committee was committed to using mass…

28 September 2020 Jonathon Pope and Bob Edwell and Lynette Edwell

WW2 conscientious objector who played important role in the campaign to remove US cruise missles from Greenham Common

Leslie Selwyn Pope was an extraordinary ordinary man whose work was instrumental in the campaign to remove US cruise missiles from Greenham Common, stop the further military development of the base, and return the common to the people of Newbury.

Leslie and his wife Wendy both registered as conscientious objectors during the Second World War and continued working, him as a civil servant and she as a teacher. They married in 1945.

After the war, they went on the Aldermaston…

18 September 2020 Milan Rai

Doing the right thing isn't always the same as doing the thing that makes you feel right, argues Milan Rai

The other day, a friend told me she was sick of being bombarded with evangelical veganism on Facebook.

Posts that feel like they’re saying: ‘If you don’t become vegan, you personally are destroying the climate!’ ‘You must become vegan! Or you are a bad person!’

‘I got a message like that,’ she said, ‘and I suddenly had a very strong urge to eat a bacon sandwich. I don’t even eat bacon! I’ve maybe eaten one bacon sandwich in my life!’

Having done a lot of urgent-…

1 June 2020 Gabriel Carlyle

Gabriel Carlyle examines the possibilities - for good and bad - opened up by the mother of all 'trigger events' 

For all its horrors, the coronavirus pandemic has created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a shift to a more equitable, socially just, climate-resilient and zero-carbon world – if we can grasp it. The current wave of protests in support of #BlackLivesMatter – and the groundwork that campaigners have laid for them over the past six years – provide crucial pointers as to how we might do this.

In …

1 June 2020 Penny Stone

Penny Stone suggests some ways in which white activists can show solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter 

Currrently one of the major challenges for those of us who sing as part of our social protest is that we can’t safely sing together.

Nothing can replace the feeling of singing in harmony together, it’s a physiological and emotional experience that often helps us to channel our anger at social injustices towards a positive outcome, to feel connected to each other in our outrage and if we’re lucky communicate with people who wouldn’t otherwise engage with issues we sing about.

1 December 2019 Catherine Bann

Cath Bann is caught up in the maelstrom

I never made an actual decision to join XR Peace; I was caught up in the maelstrom that is Angie Zelter. One minute I was in a meeting about blockading DSEi, the next we were discussing the finer details of using Yorkshire CND’s mock Trident missile to block the MoD on the Embankment on 7 October.

I hadn’t previously been involved in Extinction Rebellion as I had little time and some misgivings. These stemmed from the fact that I broadly share Peace News’ critique of XR,…

1 December 2019 Penny Stone

Penny Stone surveys some of the songs being sung at the mass protests in Chile, Hong Kong and Lebanon

As we watch (and hopefully join with!) the world rising in protest to topple unjust and unequal political systems, of course there are songs being sung.

In Chile and in the Chilean diaspora community in recent weeks there have been literally thousands of renditions of Victor Jara’s beautiful ‘El Derecho De Vivir En Paz’ (‘The Right to Live in Peace’).

Originally written in solidarity with the North Vietnamese in 1971 and dedicated to Ho Chi Minh, the final verse sings…

1 December 2019 Lotte Reimer

Feminist and peace activist who wrote books on

Photo: Lotte Reimer

Cynthia was born in rural Leicestershire. At the age of 19, she moved to London where she worked as a typist for the home office and became personal assistant to Anthony Eden (foreign secretary and later prime minister).

Cynthia’s interest in politics began when, aged 21 and working in the foreign office in Bangkok, Thailand, she learned about the Chinese revolution and decided to visit the country.

Informed by the UK chargé d’affaires that…

1 December 2019

Rubber tappers defend the rainforest

GOALS: Establish extractive reserves. Better marketing and price guarantees for rubber. Better living conditions for rubber tappers. Better marketing policies and working conditions for those who harvest nuts. Industrialisation and marketing of other ignored forest products. Research on plants and resources of the Amazon.

SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC GOALS: 3 points / 6
SURVIVAL: 1 / 1
GROWTH: 3 / 3

In the 1970s, ranchers from southern Brazil began to…

1 December 2019 Milan Rai

Yes, this is a climate election – there are real choices in front of us

Sunrise Movement activists occupy congress in Washington DC to press Democratic politicians to support a Green New Deal, 10 December 2018. Photo: Becker1999

The US climate campaigner Bill McKibben wrote recently about the climate crisis in the Guardian: ‘If we don’t solve it soon, we will never solve it, because we will pass a series of irrevocable tipping points – and we’re clearly now approaching those deadlines.’

Here in the UK, the issue of global heating has…

1 December 2019 Bruce Kent

A different kind of life is possible

Greetings to everyone. This, at least for a time, is my last ‘As I Please’. Don’t burst into tears. I’ve just passed 90. There must be a young 80- or 70-year-old with significant things to say about peace and our way forward. Better still, a 20- or 30-year-old with fresh eyes and ideas.

Before signing off, I would like to say how valuable Peace News is. It’s readable, international and interesting. Thanks to all on the team, especially our very modest editor.

Anyway, I’…

1 December 2019 Claire Poyner

'Making some statements out loud causes them to be true, did you know?'

Facts are facts! Or are they?

Maybe it’s just more noticeable in these days of the internet and social media.

Back in the day, I remember people (well, men mainly, but women did believe them) saying ‘feminists are all man-haters’ and the like.

Here’s another: ‘The socialists (meaning the Labour Party, more social democrats than socialist, but still) want to ban private property:…

1 December 2019 PN staff

Cartoonist and life-long anarchist who exposed a corrupt London police officer

Life-long anarchist cartoonist Donald Rooum will perhaps be remembered best for his Wildcat cartoons about anarchism and the anarchist movement – and for the quick-witted actions that led to the exposure of the corrupt London police officer, Harold Challenor, in 1963 (see our last issue for details).

Born and raised in a working-class family in Bradford, Donald came across anarchism during a day trip to London, at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, in the summer of 1944.

He bought…

1 December 2019 Milan Rai

A democratic and unifying way of sorting out the Brexit crisis

Tim Reckmann from Hamm, Deutschland [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Here is a proposal for dealing with Brexit that does something for Leavers and for Remainers – and does it democratically. It can be put into action either after we leave the EU or while we’re still stuck in this half-way-divorced phase.

This is a two-part plan. It would take time. It’s not simple, but it’s thorough.

1 October 2019 Sheila MacKay

A powerhouse of a woman whose activism spanned many decades

Ellen Moxley was a powerhouse of a woman whose profound belief in the sacredness of all life and all creatures was the driving force of her life. She was the beloved mother of Marian Beeby and deeply loved civil partner of Helen Steven, who died in 2016. She received both the Right Livelihood Award in 2001 and the Gandhi International Peace Prize (with Helen) in 2004.

Ellen's mother Marian left New York to go to China with her Mandarin teacher, Sun, to teach English. She married Sun…

1 October 2019 PN staff

PN surveys the winners and shortlists of two British radical book prizes

These are the winners and the shortlisted books for two British radical book prizes given by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers.

The Little Rebels’ Children’s Book Award is a radical fiction award for readers aged 0–12. This year the award has been administered by Letterbox Library and Housmans Bookshop.

The winner for 2019, announced on 10 July, is Freedom by Catherine Johnson (Scholastic): ‘There’s no escape – even when you escape. Where can a slave like Nat…

1 October 2019 Penny Stone

Penny Stone takes to the street to defend UK parliamentary democracy

This weekend, we found ourselves in the unexpected position of having to demonstrate in the streets to try and preserve parliamentary democracy in our own country.

As a system, it’s far from perfect, but I’m sure most of us agree it’s a lot better than a potential Brexit dictatorship with Johnson at the helm.

Thousands of people gathered in the streets all over the UK to witness their opposition to the closing down of the Westminster parliament.

In Edinburgh, I met a…

1 October 2019 Ploy Promrat

Students force Student Pride to drop BP

Photo: John Hill [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

GOALS: ‘No Pride in BP’ demanded that National Student Pride l immediately drop BP as a sponsor of National Student Pride 2015 events, l commit to not enter into future sponsorship or partnership agreements with fossil fuel companies, and l develop a set of ethical sponsorship guidelines that take into account the environmental and human rights record of companies.

SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC GOALS: 5 points / 6

1 October 2019 Claire Poyner

Our columnist turns her attention to hell, handcarts and young people's behaviour

We’re all going to hell in a handcart!

Well, no, we’re not really, at least not in the way most people who say this mean it. Other similar sayings: ‘standards are slipping’; ‘young people nowadays have no manners’ and ‘don’t know how to talk proper (like what I do)’.

But still, who here is concerned with runaway climate change when young people nowadays persist in saying ‘LOL’ and ‘bruv’ and ‘sick’ meaning ‘great’? Or worse, when the older folks are copying them. Yes, I have…

1 October 2019 Milan Rai

We need to work across the Leave-Remain divide, argues Milan Rai

ChiralJon [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

The Brexit process has passed from the farcical into the surreal. Things are happening which would have seemed unbelievable only weeks ago.

British parliamentary democracy seems to be discrediting itself. Is that a good thing or a bad thing, from a nonviolent anarchist point of view?

A lot of the chaos is the result of the government…

1 October 2019 Cath

Our Leeds-based cooperator steps outside her comfort zone

Last year, I travelled around Spain and North America, wanting to learn everything I could about the possibilities of creating an alternative economy outside capitalism.

I hung out in Love & Solidarity Housing Co-op and Riot Bayit Housing Co-op and Red Emma’s worker co-op anarchist bookshop.

I felt at home in Twin Oaks worker-owned egalitarian commune and now harbour plans for setting up a commune here.

I wondered what I would be doing when I got back – I…

1 October 2019 Bruce Kent

Bruce Kent reflects on prisons, peace and justice for all

I must have passed through Reading station dozens of times in recent years on my way to Wales or the West Country. It always gives me a twinge when the train comes into the station from London.

Once one could see clearly the large red brick lump of Reading Gaol. Why a twinge? Because I always remember that it was the place of Oscar Wilde’s incarceration. The Ballad of Reading Gaol goes on for many verses but the first is quite enough to move me:

I know not…

1 August 2019 Penny Stone

Using song to resist the dehumanisation of marginalised communities

This year has seen some of the most widespread actions against the demonisation and mistreatment of migrants in the USA. As institutional treatment of human beings gets worse, more and more people are singing out their opposition.

At the end of June, 36 people were arrested in New Jersey for blocking the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centre, crying out at the unacceptable conditions children are being held in.

The beginning of July saw another mass…

1 August 2019 Cath

Two recent deaths spur our Leeds-based cooperator to reflect on the importance of weaving the memories of lost friends and comrades into our movements

In the last three months, I have been to two funerals for Radical Routes activists, both in their early 50s.

Radical Routes (RR) is a network of co-operatives and for the last few years, Sean was a big presence at almost every quarterly gathering and a driving force in Catfish housing co-op, who just bought their first house in Huddersfield a few months ago.

Dave, on the other hand, a founding member of Zion Housing Co-op (aka Nutclough HC) in Hebden Bridge in 2001, hadn’t been…

1 August 2019 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Rebecca Elson-Watkins takes at look at Mic Dixon's new film War School

Militarism. The word means nothing to much of the population, but it's everywhere; almost every place in the UK has a war memorial,

During Remembrance, you can't avoid it: red poppies, cenotaphs, the 'Last Post', and cadets everywhere. These scenes open War School, a film by Mic Dixon about the battle for the hearts and minds of Britain's children, a battle that is fought with militarism.

'There is no remembrance. Opposite of remembrance. Concealment.…

1 August 2019 Bruce Kent

The role of persistence and reliability in our movements is often underrated.

I hope all readers had as good a time as I did on Saturday afternoon, 6 July. A trip to the Faringdon Peace Fête is not to be missed.

So, as soon as you get next year’s diary, make sure you put in ‘Faringdon, 4 July 2020’.

Why this enthusiasm? Faringdon can’t take the credit for the sunshine but it can for almost everything else that makes the day a success.

The peace group are old hands at this. It was the 38th such summer fête they have organised, which…

1 August 2019 Catherine Bann

Lifelong radical whose weekly CND stall became a Penzance fixture

Peter Le Mare playing parachute games at Peace News Summer Camp 2009. Photo: Emily Johns

When the tributes started to pour in for Peter Le Mare, who has died suddenly of an aggressive form of leukaemia, one in particular seemed to sum up the mood. It read: 'Penzance will miss him.' A resident of the area since the late 1980s, Peter was a well-known character in the town, with his colourful CND stall ensconced at the end of the main street every Saturday for the last 30 years.

1 August 2019 Claire Poyner

Our columnist vents on air pollution, 'migrants' & vaccines

I have a friend who used to write a column for an activist-led journal. If he didn’t have much in the way of ideas for the forthcoming column, he said he’d walk around his neighbourhood until something pissed him off enough to become the basis of the column. And that the tactic worked 100 percent of the time, as there was always something going on locally worth commenting on (and he’s the sort of person who does get pissed off easily, sorry if you’re reading this, mate, you know it’s true…

1 August 2019 Milan Rai

Preventing a hard border between Northern Ireland the Republic should be the peace movement's priority, argues Milan Rai

On 13 July, the new police chief in Northern Ireland, Simon Byrne, warned that a hard Brexit could 'create a vacuum which becomes a rally call and recruiting ground for dissident [Irish] republicans and clearly any rise in their popularity or their capability would be very serious'.

PN has been arguing for some time that the overriding priority for the peace movement in the Brexit debate is Ireland.

Preserving the rather shaky peace process in Ireland means preventing a…

1 August 2019 Meghan Kelly

Seattle teachers end standardised testing 

Examination, 1940, Australia via Wikimedia commons

GOALS:
1) To end mandatory administration of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test at Garfield High School.
2) To prevent Seattle public school district administrators from disciplining teachers who refused to administer the MAP test.

SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC DEMANDS / GOALS: 6 points out of 6
SURVIVAL: 1 point out of 1
GROWTH: 3 points out of 3
TOTAL: 10 / 10

In the 1970s…

1 August 2019 Milan Rai

How the US anti-war movement has helped to restrain Donald Trump

It was the strength of the US anti-war movement that helped us to avoid US military action against Iran on 20 June.

A lot has happened since Iran shot down a US surveillance drone that day (including the seizure of an Iranian tanker by British warships), but it's worth remembering that US president Donald Trump called off a retaliatory air strike that he had approved hours earlier.

Various reasons have been given for Trump's U-turn.

Journalist Alex Ward…

1 August 2019 Carol Turner

Organiser of first Aldermaston March who always spoke spoke truth to power

Walter Wolfgang speaks at a CND demo outside Aldermaston, 2008. Photo: CND

Walter Wolfgang died a few weeks shy of his 96th birthday, still campaigning for peace and justice. An organiser of the first Aldermaston march, Walter was vice president of both the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Stop the War Coalition at the time of his death.

Born in Frankfurt am Main, Walter had tasted anti-semitism first-hand by the time his parents sent him to Britain in 1937…

1 June 2019 Julia Mercer

Pre-dawn blockades and missing barristers

23 April. Trial day dawns in Reading. I’m hoping I’ll be convincing and not go blank. I’m nervous, wishing it was over and suddenly doubting the usefulness of the whole project.

In times of doubt like this, the solidarity of friends and fellow-activists is so necessary.

In court, we wait. Nothing happens.

When I think back to the morning of the action, what I remember most vividly is panic and a huge desire to get it right, to be part of an effective shutdown of that…

1 June 2019 Claire Poyner

How feminist is Star Trek?

I started re-watching (for the fourth? fifth? time – it’s certainly been three times since watching as a child) Star Trek: The Original Series (‘TOS’ to Trekkies) when I was recovering from a knee operation.

I knew that TOS broke new ground in the 1960s. There you have, on the bridge (the starship’s command centre): an alien (well, a half-alien anyway); a Russian (in the middle of the Cold War!); a Japanese man, barely 10 years after the Second World War; a regular hunk who…

1 June 2019 Milan Rai

Recent elections in Australia and Spain hold lessons for UK campaigners, argues Milan Rai


Climate strikers in Melbourne in March 2019. Takver from Australia [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Why should campaigners of any kind in Britain care about the May elections in Australia? Well, because there’s an important lesson for all activists in the defeat of the Labour party there, which had an ambitious climate agenda, and which everyone expected to win. These results showed again the…

1 June 2019 Penny Stone

Penny Stone celebrates the music of Pete Seeger

Over the May Day weekend in Edinburgh, I sang 200 Pete Seeger songs with friends old and new. I hosted a singathon to celebrate what would have been Pete’s 100th birthday. It was brilliant.

People came and went, sang along, played along, laughed and listened. We sang songs sharing over 100 years’ worth of stories of people’s everyday lives and political engagement in the United States and around the world.

In many ways, the most enjoyable element of the weekend was the sense of…

1 June 2019 Bruce Kent

Direct action comes in different shapes and sizes

What a pleasure it was to read about what one bold cardinal has been up to in Rome.

Apparently, in May, the electricity was cut off for a building occupied by 450 squatters – about 100 of them children. Many were refugees.

Cardinal Krajewski (Polish – you guessed) decided on a bit of very direct action. He lifted a lid set in the ground, climbed down to remove a seal, and switched on the electricity.

Light and hot water restored. If there’s a fine, the…

1 June 2019 Ameen Nemer

Ameen Nemer reports from this year's BAE Systems AGM

I attended the BAE Systems AGM because I wanted to provide a voice for Arabian people. The absolute monarch does not represent the people in Arabia. The house of Saud tries to kidnap our voices. BAE has fallen for the propaganda and presents the regime as a liberating force. I attended so that I could tell the board and shareholders about what is really happening to my people and land.

I am sure the BAE AGM will be happy not to have that voice which reminds them of the dirty job…

1 June 2019 Hanna King

LGBT direct action wins access to drugs

GOALS: (from Wall Street leaflet, 1987):
1) Immediate release by the Federal Food & Drug Administration of drugs that might help save our lives.
2) Immediate abolishment of cruel double-blind studies wherein some get the new drugs and some don’t.
3) Immediate release of these drugs to everyone with AIDS or ARC [‘AIDS-related complex’ – ed].
4) Immediate availability of these drugs at affordable prices. Curb your greed!
5) Immediate massive public education to…

1 April 2019 Milan Rai

Signs of the power of grassroots action is all around us, argues Milan Rai

A lot of encouraging things have happened recently. The vast wave of climate strikes by young people all around the world, the militancy shown by women in so many countries on International Women’s Day, the mass of voices of ordinary Indians and Pakistanis on social media that helped those two countries to avoid war at the end of February, the amazing power of the youth-led Sunrise movement pushing for a Green New Deal in the US, the Stansted 15 anti-deportation activists managing to avoid…

1 April 2019 Claire Poyner

Our columnist takes on the lack of abortion rights in Northern Ireland

Years ago, I would on occasion have this conversation with my mother. ‘I think British troops should not be in Northern Ireland, clearly the north of Ireland is part of the island of Ireland and it should be one country’.

She would answer: ‘Ah, but you see the UK are in Northern Ireland to protect the rights of the women there to obtain divorce and contraception.’ She honestly believed that, and I didn’t know enough about it to contradict her.

I remember thinking it wasn’t…

1 April 2019 Lekey Leidecker

Workers’ general strike wins eight-hour day

Photo: Auckland Museum [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]

GOAL: To have a legally enforced eight-hour workday for all workers, and, in the case of the textile workers, a 30–50 percent wage increase.
SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC DEMANDS: 2 out of 6 points
SURVIVAL: 1 / 1
GROWTH: 3 / 3

Male textile factory workers at El Inca factory in Lima, Peru, walked off the job in December…

1 April 2019 Andrew Papworth

Jane Buxton, a founder member of the Committee of 100, was deeply affected by the decision to manufacture atomic and nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s. She shared the alarm of many at the race between the United States, the Soviet Union and Britain to acquire the most threatening weapons. At that time, all three countries were testing their weapons in the atmosphere and the level of strontium-90 in the air caused much concern. She joined the growing body of people determined to stop…

1 April 2019 Penny Stone

'So comrades come rally, for this is the time and place'

If I asked you to think of a radical European song, there are any number of songs that might spring to mind. One of the top three would almost certainly be ‘The Internationale’. It is perhaps the most obvious place to start – translated into most European languages (with varying degrees of poetic success!) the song is an anthem for change and socialist possibility.

‘Arise ye workers from your slumbers, Arise ye prisoners of want… So comrades, come rally, And the last fight let us…

1 April 2019 Nuclear Free Local Authorities

'Thinking man's Dennis Skinner' was indefatigable peace campaigner

Campaigning Labour MP Paul Flynn died in February after a long illness. A sufferer from rheumatoid arthritis, Flynn campaigned for the medical use of cannabis. In July 2017, he called on users to come to London and ‘break the law’ by using cannabis at the houses of parliament.

The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) paid this tribute:

The MP for Newport West since 1987, after 15 years as a councillor, Paul Flynn was a strong advocate and supporter of the NFLA…

1 April 2019 Cath

'Is it an anarchist utopia? Of course not, don't be silly.'

In the last issue, I declared my intention to achieve the impossible and set up a commune – a living, working, playing, caring community of about 100 people. I don’t really believe it’s possible, but I am going to talk about it a lot and am full of good intentions to give it a go, just as soon as I have some time, maybe after the conference-organising is over, maybe once I’m in the swing of my new part-time job, maybe once we’ve dealt with the moths, updated the book, organised the house…

1 April 2019 Bruce Kent

'Weapons are supposed to bring security”

I still have a scar on my left hand. It is a reminder of a school fight that took place many long years ago. The street knife violence of today comes out of the same stable.

In my area of north London, criminal violence is far from unknown.

There was a row on a bus some years ago between older boys from two different schools. One boy got off the bus not far from his home. But another boy followed him up the street and stabbed him to death. His companion escaped…

1 February 2019 Milan Rai

We need to break the huge visions that we have into smaller, winnable struggles, argues PN editor Milan Rai

There is a farmworkers union in Oregon in the US called Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN). The union campaigned for a year to get Kraemer Farms to be the first growers in the area to accept collective bargaining.

After that failed, PCUN got student groups to put pressure on NORPAC, which purchased vegetables from Kraemer Farms.

After seven years of failure, PCUN changed focus again. They chose to pressure the veggie burger firm, Gardenburger,…

1 February 2019 Nick Palazzolo

Coffee farmers win a living wage

GOAL: To increase government subsidies on coffee in order to receive a minimum of $360 per 125kg sack of coffee beans.
SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC GOALS: 6 points / 6
SURVIVAL: 1 / 1
GROWTH: 2 / 3

In 2012, Colombian coffee prices fell 35 percent on the international market while the Colombian peso appreciated 10 percent. A combination of crop disease, bad weather, and unfavourable currency rates forced growers in Colombia to sell their coffee at a loss. Many…

1 February 2019 Penny Stone

‘But I dare, I want, can I? Yes, I dare, go and want!’

On 24 October 1975, 90 percent of Iceland’s female population participated in a full day strike. Paid and unpaid work was not done.

At the time, women who worked outside of the home earned less than 60 percent of what men earned.

Many industries shut down for the day as a result. There was no telephone service and newspapers were not printed since the typesetters were all women. Theatres shut down for the day as actresses refused to work.

The majority of teachers were…

1 February 2019

Squirrel catching, marmalade tea and more!

Giuseppe Conlon House in North London is home to the London Catholic Worker, a young Christian ecumenical community. Giuseppe Conlon House is a house of hospitality for asylum-seekers and migrants, as well as a base for nonviolent action against militarism and injustice. Community members and volunteers live and work full-time in the house, sometimes sharing rooms. The house, opened in 2010, is named after Patrick ‘Giuseppe’ Conlon, a Belfast man who was framed for two IRA bombings. Giuseppe…

1 February 2019 Cath

'I've been to utopia and seen it in action'

50th anniversary group photo, 16 June 2017, Twin Oaks community in Virginia, USA. Photo: Aaron Cohen

I used to love the slogan ‘Be realistic: demand the impossible’. It speaks to the necessity (at least for the last few decades) of fundamental change in order to survive the consequences of capitalism’s onslaught on the earth and its children.

But somewhere along the line, disillusion and burnout taught me that ‘the impossible’ was, well… impossible and I switched to working on…

1 February 2019 Bruce Kent

'I was a stranger and you welcomed me'

Just before the prime minister’s plans for leaving, or not leaving, the European Union were voted on in the Westminster parliament, there was a very large gathering, rather noisy but not violent, in London’s Parliament Square. Union Jacks and European Star flags were there in about equal numbers.

Only a few hundred yards away, outside the home office, there was a very much smaller and quieter gathering – only 10 of us. A vigil rather than a demonstration. We were there to call for…

1 February 2019 Claire Poyner

Our columnist takes on the anti-vaxxers

Experts – who needs ‘em? One of my favourite pastimes is reading Facebook posts on vaccinations. It’s always entertaining. For the record, these are posts that are pro-science not anti. Quite why ‘anti-vaxxers’ would want to be following a science FB page such as ‘Neuroscience News and Research’, I can’t imagine.

Now don’t get me wrong, a healthy scepticism is essential.

Part of the difficulty is the healthcare system in the US. It’s a real profit-making industry, healthcare in…

1 February 2019 Milan Rai

Milan Rai recaps the history of US nuclear threats against North Korea

President Truman signs a proclamation initiating US involvement in the Korean War. Photo: US National Archives

As we head towards another inconclusive summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US president Donald Trump, here is some inconvenient background that is unlikely to feature in mainstream coverage of the meeting. We recommend you take the time to forget each of these facts. The media already has.

Why is Korea divided?

Korea was a united nation-…

1 February 2019 Milan Rai

There should be no time limit on the open border in Ireland

Graphic: emily johns incorporating a public domain image of Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, from The Library of Congress, USA.

As PN goes to press, the British government is putting enormous pressure on the Republic of Ireland and on the European Union to weaken the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’. Peace News believes this pressure should be resisted, and the British peace movement should lend its weight to supporting the backstop.

Whether you are for leaving the EU or…

1 December 2018 Milan Rai

In the years ahead, British activists are going to have to become better at building cross-class, multi-racial movements for change.

GarciaLopezLuisGaspar [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

As I write, Britain is in the middle of the most extraordinary political uncertainty as it tries to leave the European Union (EU). As we pointed out before the referendum, Brexit…

1 December 2018 Lawrence Cheuk

Lawrence Cheuk reflects on a recent weeklong activist training workshop in Brussels

European Trainers’ Exchange Cleaners’ Collective, 12–17 November, Brussels, Belgium. Back row from left: Edith Wustefeld, Lawrence Cheuk, Mathias Balcaen, Annalies Schorpion. Front row from left: Sarah Reader, Milan Rai, Herman van Veelen. Photo: PN

This diary describes one person’s experience of an international trainers’ exchange in Brussels from 12–17 November. The workshop was organised by three training collectives: Tractie (Belgium), Stroomversnellers (Netherlands) and…

1 December 2018 Bruce Kent

'We've got to have the bloody Union Jack on top of it!'

We all have to thank, if that is the right word, the late Ernest Bevin for getting us into our nuclear weapons mess. He was late for a meeting called by the then British prime minister, Labour’s Clement Attlee, in October 1946. Attlee wanted to discuss whether to plan for a British nuclear weapon or not.

Bevin, the foreign secretary, went to Downing Street to discover that Attlee’s meeting had started and the general consensus was not to go for a British atomic bomb. Too expensive…

1 December 2018 Claire Poyner

Our columnist points the finger!

This morning I was prompted by a post on Facebook to listen to LBC talk radio. My friend Caroline was advising friends that she was invited on to talk about cycle lanes.

I never listen to talk radio and I’ve even given Radio 4’s Today programme a wide berth after finding myself shouting at the radio so many times. I mean, I do have hypertension and this is not doing the blood pressure any good. I’ve long since stopped watching Question Time for the same reason.

Anyway…

1 December 2018 Jeff Cloves

'I've never worn a red poppy in my life'

Maybe there are other PN readers who, like me, are throughly glad the inescapable 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War is finally over. I’ve had it up to the oxters with all that hand-wringing about The Sorrow and The Pity on TV programme after radio programme without, as far as I’m aware, anybody being allowed/invited to put the case for pacifism.

However, all this hoopla did make me consider my own family’s involvement in The Great War and also the part music…

1 December 2018 Penny Stone

There's something really interesting about behaving in an unexpected and creative way in an unusual public space ...

The first time I sang as part of a flashmob in Barclays bank was a couple of years ago in Edinburgh with Protest in Harmony choir.

Barclays had just opened a new branch on Princes Street with a great big high ceiling and hard walls, a church-like acoustic. Churches are great to sing in so, of course, we couldn’t resist!

There is currently a targeted campaign trying to get Barclays to divest from Israeli companies as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to end…

1 December 2018 Max Rennebohm and Aly Passanante

Malians defeat dictator, gain free election

GOALS: The resignation of Malian dictator general Moussa Traoré; free, multiparty elections
SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC GOALS: 6 points / 6
SURVIVAL: 1 / 1
GROWTH: 3 / 3

General Moussa Traoré obtained power in Mali in 1968 when he led a military coup d’état that overthrew the left-leaning nationalist government that had ruled since 1960. Opposition towards Traoré grew during the 1980s, but didn’t fully emerge until the 1990s. During this time, Traoré imposed…

1 October 2018 Claire Poyner

How will Brexit impact the rights of women in the UK?

Gender equality is one issue that doesn’t come up much when we’re talking Brexit. OK, fair enough, women’s equality is not nearly as important as trade deals and immigration, seeing as women are only 51 percent of the population.

OK, so how would, could, Brexit affect women? Well, for one, EU laws aim to protect maternity (and paternity) leave and seek to prevent discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace.

Also, rights for part-time, casual and agency workers (…

1 October 2018 Catherine Bann

A reader writes in as part of the trans rights debate

Image: Women’s Library, LSE

Last issue, we published a letter from Clare Bonetree explaining why she was ending her subscription to PN over our coverage of recent conflicts over trans rights. The last straw for her was our description of the conflict at the Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair (over an anti-trans leaflet) as a question of free speech. Clare’s letter prompted a response from another reader, Cath Bann, which is published below. We welcome responses to both Cath’s and Clare’s…

1 October 2018 Milan Rai

A review-editorial of three important new books on campaigning

Matthew Bolton, How to Resist: Turn Protest to Power, Bloomsbury, 2017, 178pp, £9.99
George Lakey, How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning, Melville House, December 2018, 224pp, £tba
Jonathan Matthew Smucker, Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals, AK Press, 2017, 284pp, £14

All three of these books contain inspiring stories of effective, successful campaigning. All three present challenging ideas that deserve chewing over. And all three have…

1 October 2018 Cath Muller

How can we create strong and resilient communities that can change society?

Is it possible to change society? To put an end to capitalism and create a sustainable, liberated future?

When I was young, I thought it would be pretty quick – just tell people how they’re doing it all wrong and they’ll change and everything will be fine.

As the scale of the problem became increasingly apparent to me and my historical knowledge improved, there was a corresponding increase in my own pessimism.

I started to recognise my own limits and…

1 October 2018 Penny Stone

Penny Stone profiles two extraordinary activist-singers, one from Scotland, the other Chile

Hamish Henderson (Scotland), and Victor Jara (Chile), were both singers, songwriters and traditional-song-collectors in the mid-20th Century. They were both social activists working towards a more just society for all people, recognising the marginalisation of the working people of their respective countries.

The collecting and sharing of traditional songs was a political act for both singers, taking the time to listen to songs that might otherwise have been lost in time, and…

1 October 2018 Michael Randle

Renowned peace campaigner who ran for President loved cats and relished controversy

David McReynolds, who died on 17 August in New York at the age of 88, played a leading role in the US and international peace movements. He was one of the main organisers of the US anti-Vietnam war mobilisation, which not only contributed to the ending of that war but had a profound impact on US politics and society.

David was also involved in the civil rights and anti-nuclear movements and, though not a gay rights campaigner, he declared himself a homosexual at a time when this…

1 October 2018 Jeff Cloves

'as one war ends, another one begins / look at the children, look at them'

Via my friend the pianist, composer and singer Bill Fay, I’ve learned of the US project, ‘1,000 Days, 1,000 Songs’* with which he’s become associated. In my last column, I mentioned that I’d been challenged by a friend (not Bill) to write a poem a week for a year and I self-published the result in a little book of 52 poems titled once weekly (Ourside, Stroud, 2018.)

Compared with 1,000 songs, it was a modest undertaking, but there is a serendipitous connection. The US project was…

1 October 2018 Bruce Kent

Nationalism's days are numbered, says Bruce Kent

It is now well over a hundred years since czar Nicholas II of Russia invited other states to come to The Hague, in the Netherlands, in 1899, to discuss possibilities for world peace. It is almost 20 years since thousands of individuals and peace groups came also to The Hague, in 1999, for an event to plan progress in the direction that the first Hague pointed to. I still have the booklet with ideas that came from that centenary meeting.

In 1999, we believed that we could challenge…

1 October 2018 Rebekah Grisim

Black women defeat pass laws

Goal: For non-white women in urban areas to no longer be required to carry documents proving formal employment.
SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC GOALS: 4 points / 6
SURVIVAL: 1 / 1
GROWTH: 1 / 3

The anti-pass campaign took place in the Orange Free State in South Africa to protest against non-white South African women being required to carry documentation of formal employment. ‘Non-white’ is a term that was often used in South Africa to classify non-European ethnicities…

1 August 2018 Penny Stone

Penny Stone celebrates an extraordinary Nigerian woman

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti on her 70th birthday. Photo: UNESCO

On International Women’s Day this year, I was singing: ‘Sister, my sister, she’s walking with me, walking for equality, she’s walking with me…’, a song that was sung in the 1970s women’s liberation movement in the USA.

This song is a zipper song – just a word or phrase is changed to create a new verse, making it really useful for singing on marches and enabling people to join in. We added our own verses, singing to…

1 August 2018

A poem by Peter Phillips

Photo: Arun Kulshreshtha via Wikimedia Commons

Sun hangs over London, as if she’s stalking me. The lawn
has burnt patches, like a blister which won’t heal. The weather
forecasters are excited. The weather forecasters are lying.

In the arctic, a mammoth iceberg hunches its shoulders, splits,
topples over. The cast-off, a small country, floats towards
the warmth, its watery cargo melting.…

1 August 2018 Susana Medeiros

Students force university reforms

Goals: University autonomy, the right of all university parties to elect university professors, modernisation of the curriculum, university education to be available and affordable for all, and secularisation of universities
SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC GOALS: 6 points out of 6
SURVIVAL: 1 / 1
GROWTH: 3 / 3

Increased prosperity and the expansion of electoral rights at the turn of the century in Argentina precipitated significant growth of the middle class and…

1 August 2018 Jeff Cloves

'If a cat and bird can co-exist / on such a day he thought / then why not us humans'

I’ve been writing songs and poems (often the same thing) since the mid-’60s but have never been prolific. Nearly two years ago, I told a friend that once I’d only written five or six in an entire year. The friend immediately set me a target: write a poem a week for a year.

I was apprehensive as I set to, but the first arrived on 15 November 2016 and I never missed in 52 weeks.

I found it challenging at first but as the year wore on I began to look forward to writing the next…

1 August 2018 Cath

Solidarity is a threat, so the powers-that-be divide and rule ...

I hadn’t slept much, maybe three hours, after talking until 4am in the hostel. I planned to sleep on the train, and that prospect helped me haul my luggage across the sauna that is New Orleans. It helped me stay upright and emotionally balanced even when there was no train or any information, 20 minutes after departure time. It’s Amtrak after all.

It turned out the train was going to be at least three hours late and I was suddenly exhausted and grumpy.

I moved to a discreet…

1 August 2018 Claire Poyner

Why is the Trump administration praising women's activism in Iran?

It’s hard to believe that a man who openly bragged about sexually assaulting women cares much about women’s rights (it’s even harder to believe that such a man should be elected president but there we are). So it comes as a bit of a surprise to hear of the Trump administration praising a growing women’s movement in Iran.

Women in Tehran have been protesting against the compulsory wearing of the hijab by publicly removing their headscarves and standing in a public place. Now…

1 August 2018 Milan Rai

The peace movement should welcome the cancellation of the "provocative" US war games in and around South Korea, argues Milan Rai

Threat Tactics Report - North Korea vs the United States (2018), U.S. Army TRADOC

The US-North Korea nuclear summit in Singapore on 12 June was met with a wave of criticism and ‘disappointment’ from Western commentators, including from sections of the peace movement.

On the day, there was criticism from Beatrice Fihn, director of ICAN, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for its role in securing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Fihn tweeted: ‘We…

1 August 2018 Bruce Kent

Bruce Kent draws the dots between NHS funding and Trident replacement

What I was doing on 5 July 1948 I can’t remember. Marching up and down on parade in Aldershot I imagine, as a national service conscript.

I certainly did not notice that on 5 July 1948 something remarkable happened. Health minister Aneurin Bevan, in a Manchester hospital, launched the National Health Service. A very progressive step forward for the country. Bevan’s announcement came only a few months before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, agreed in December 1948 by the…

1 June 2018 Bruce Kent

UN reform should be a priority for radicals, argues Bruce Kent

Something odd happened a few weeks ago. Britain, France and the United States sent their planes off to bomb targets in Syria. None of those countries had been directly attacked. It was a punishment raid for the use of chemical weapons, allegedly by Syria.

About 100 missiles were launched and at first the claim was that no one was killed. Then a single casualty was mentioned. No one else. I’ll believe that when I see pigs flying.

Where did these three get the authority…

1 June 2018 Cath

Our Leeds cooperator visits the founding member of the (US) Federation of Egalitarian Communities

I stare out of Amtrak windows three times in a week, first watching the Virginia countryside, then the Washington DC, and then the Maryland countryside go by. This train journey from rural Twin Oaks Community to Red Emma’s anarchist bookshop in Baltimore sums up the contrasts of my tour and the contrasts of the USA.

I’m visiting radical co-ops and communities, people working to create fair and ecologically-sustainable economies. And I’m poking around to find out what works and what…

1 June 2018 Milan Rai

Is the US president opening Pandora's box?

US president Donald Trump has taken steps towards war with China and Iran, even as he seeks peace with North Korea. But things may not be quite what they seem.

At the beginning of May, the Trump administration declared trade war on China.

The US gave China a punishing list of economic demands, including a reduction in the US-China trade imbalance by $200bn by June 2020. (This would require the Chinese government to effectively take over the economy, when the US has been…

1 June 2018 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves reflects on the work of a natural anarchist and pacifist

Dear readers, I’ve belatedly made the acquaintance of a remarkable US writer who died a month after I was born. I wish I’d encountered him years back but here’s a quote and you’ll see why he immediately endeared himself to me: ‘When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him: “Whose?”’

Don Marquis, novelist, poet, newspaper columnist, playwright and (I insist) philosopher, was born in 1878 and in 1916 he began a famous column in New York’s The Evening Sun…

1 June 2018 Penny Stone

Penny Stone revels in a musical midpoint between East and West

A couple of years ago, I went to an international peace gathering in Sarajevo. Because of the place, there was a much greater proportion of people able to attend from Eastern Europe and from further east than is often the case in gatherings held further west in Europe. This was a great learning opportunity for me because I am used to being in ‘international’ spaces that are still dominated by Western culture.

When I am choosing songs to help bring many voices together in concert or…

1 June 2018 Thomas Fortuna

Students and unions defeat jobs law

Goal: The repeal of the First Employment Contract (CPE) law.
SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC GOALS: 6 points of 6
SURVIVAL: 1 / 1
GROWTH: 3 / 3
TOTAL: 10 / 10

January 2006 in France was a tense time. Economic growth had been unexpectedly poor. National unemployment was at nearly 10 percent, totalling more than 2.5 million people. People under 26 suffered a joblessness rate of 22–23 percent nationwide and 40 or 50 percent in France’s poorest communities. Urban…

1 June 2018 Claire Poyner

Claire Poyner responds to the backlash

Inevitably there’s been a bit of a backlash against the #MeToo movement, and sadly not just from the mainstream media, or from ‘Men’s Rights Activists’ either.

Some women who identify as feminist have declared that some of the ‘minor’ abuse women get shouldn’t be conflated with more serious charges such as rape. So some man had demanded a view of your more intimate regions of your body? Get over it! Grow up! That’s life! Don’t be a victim! Give him what for back! (Just a quick…

1 April 2018 Penny Stone

Penny Stone finds protest songs alive and well on the college lecturers' picket lines in Edinburgh

In February and March, there was a strike for pension rights organised by the University and College Union (UCU). Put very simply, extortionately high wages are being paid to small numbers of people at the very top of the university tree, while it’s being proposed that pensions (delayed salary pay) for the majority of workers be significantly cut. The UCU voted for strike action to prevent this from happening.

The pickets have been extraordinarily strong in Edinburgh, and my…

1 April 2018 Milan Rai

To win the changes we want we need to shift from 'mobilising' to 'organising', argues Milan Rai


Organising: organisers invest in two-way relationships with, and give power to, people they recruit, who then go on to recruit other people in the same empowering way.

Are you a lone wolf, a mobiliser or an organiser? And does it make any difference to how much social change you make? I’ve been chewing over questions like this after attending two very different movement events in the last few weeks.

The first was ‘Can we unite for peace?’, a conference in London put on by ‘…

1 April 2018 Natalia Choi

Textile workers win economic justice

Goals: A wage increase of 35 percent to cover ‘dearness’ (cost of living) for textile labourers. Or to reach agreement with the Mill Agents’ Group to settle the dispute through arbitration.
Success in achieving specific demands: 6 out of 6 points
Survival: 1 / 1
Growth: 3 / 3

A heavy monsoon season in 1917 destroyed agricultural crops and led to a plague epidemic claiming nearly 10 percent of the population of the city of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat. During…

1 April 2018 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves looks in the window of his new local record shop

Is it some kind of sign of the times, or merely a candle in the wind, that a record shop has opened in Stroud selling nothing but vinyl? Sound Records opened in March and it stocks second-hand records and maybe new vinyl too for all I know. I wasn’t at its opening gala but James and David – front man and guitarist respectively of the poetic punkish political rockanroll band, ‘The Red Propellers’, which I’ve often mentioned here – performed in the neat and compact (well tiny) shop which I’m…

1 April 2018 Oluwafemi Hughes

How does one make sense of a self, or the world, when stories of one’s ancestors were of strange barbarians who early Europeans decided were ‘non human’?, asks Oluwafemi Hughes

Writing the legacy of my family history, based on my own experience, has been an illuminating and a painful journey of enquiry. For it is difficult to write about oneself when there’s an emotional turmoil, a disaster that turned upside down, a people, a history and a culture. For second-generation African/Asian/British kids, like our family, we were like branches without a trunk, with no roots, no reference point to the earth or to the four directions, no framework from which to begin a life…

1 April 2018 Bruce Kent

Blowing up the world in 'a graduated controlled way'

A few nights ago, I watched on TV the house of commons discussing the attempted murder of the ex-Russian spy and his daughter. I am not naïve and have no illusions about what states will get up to. We British helped to kill over 200,000 civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki because we insisted on Japan’s unconditional surrender. Even now we supply Saudi Arabia with the bombs which have enabled them to kill tens of thousands of people in Yemen.

But as I watched the debate I wondered…

1 February 2018 PN

On CND's 60th anniversary, PN recalls the origins of the campaign's commitment to unilateralism

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament nearly put itself out of business right at the beginning of its life.

CND started near St Paul’s cathedral, London, on 16 January 1958 at a meeting of the National Council for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapon Tests (NCANWT) and an invited group of national figures. NCANWT willingly handed over its office, its funds, its files, its paid organiser, and a public meeting it had organised for 17 February, to the new ‘Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament…

1 February 2018 Julio Alicea

Women struggle for the vote

Goal: Suffrage for women of Kuwait
Success in achieving specific demands: 6 out of 6 points
Survival: 1 / 1
Growth: 3 / 3

The country of Kuwait acquired independence from the UK in 1961. Women seized the moment to seek further liberation. As an act of defiance, many women burned their robes, rejected notions of female dress. A year later, the Kuwaiti parliament passed new election laws that limited the electorate to men over the age of 21, whose families lived in…

1 February 2018 Milan Rai

The history of the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS) holds valuable lessons and inspiration for those fighting for a Just Transition, rather than an 'arms-traders Brexit', argues Milan Rai


People's Climate March 2017 in Washington DC. Marchers with sign, "There are no jobs on a dead planet." Author: Dcpeopleandeventsof2017 c/o Wikimedia Commons.

There has rightly been a huge celebration of the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 and the first parliamentary election votes for some women in Britain (not counting landowners pre-1832).

This has stirred up again the valuable debate about how much this victory owed to…

1 February 2018 Claire Poyner

Claire Poyner calls for men to call-out men who call out (at women)

When I was a teenager, my schoolfriends and I would walk out from school past a timber merchants. Every time a lorry came in or out we’d get horns tooting and drivers leaning out and expressing their opinions on our bodies and what they’d like to do to them.

That’s the way it was in the mid-1970s. In my late 40s, I noticed that this was no longer happening. Great! Men had finally grown up and no longer felt the need to yell out invitations for a quickie in the car park.

Er, no…

1 February 2018 Bruce Kent

Bruce Kent celebrates three inspiring 'peace and justice women'

Since I am writing this piece in early February, between the hundredth anniversary of the granting of the first and partial voting rights for women in the UK (6 February 1918) and International Women’s Day (8 March), there is only one obvious subject. So here come a few words about three great and strong peace and justice women among so many who have inspired me.

The first is Olive Gibbs, commemorated in Oxford Town Hall on 6 February itself – which would have been her 100th…

1 February 2018 Penny Stone

Penny Stone surveys women's suffrage songs, past and present

What songs were women singing 100 years ago when they were campaigning for full access to our democratic system?

At the beginning of the 20th century, the folk songs that have always been sung were being sung all over the country. Women were still singing while labouring – milking, spinning, waulking (beating) the cloth and such like. They were singing lullabies to help soothe the babies and themselves, and singing ballads telling of love and loss.

Songs of war were everywhere…

1 February 2018 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves googles 'songs about peace', with disturbing results

1 February 2018 Lorna Vahey

Long-time peace activist and 'very nice human being' dies aged 97

Banner celebrating the life of Connie Mager as a peace activist and vegetable gardener.Lorna Vahey & Jen Painter

Connie Mager, peace activist, has died aged 97. Born in Lambeth in South London, Connie served in the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War. After the war, she became a teacher of the deaf and moved to Hastings in East Sussex. Connie was a supporter of CND, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the WEA and the Labour Party. She was active at Greenham Common in the 1980s…

1 December 2017 Max Rennebohm

General strike for power shift

Main goal: Prevent wage cuts
Secondary goal: Stop strikebreakers from working

Successes:
In achieving specific demands: 3 out of 6 points
Survival: 1 out of 1
Growth: 3 out of 3
Overall success: 7 out of 10

The campaign achieved its secondary goal of ending the use of strikebreakers. It also prevented further governmental and military intervention into labour conflicts in Sweden. However it is not clear if the strike prevented wage cuts. For…

1 December 2017 Milan Rai

Activists need to find better ways to struggle with each other and to fight with each other, argues Milan Rai

'People ask me how we would defend the bookfair from a fascist attack, but I’m not worried about them out there. I worry about what we might do to each other in here.’ – one of the organisers of the London Anarchist Bookfair, on 28 October.

A few hours later, a group of trans rights activists stopped some feminists handing out leaflets that they found oppressive to trans women. A nontrans woman, Helen Steel, objected to this censorship. About 30 trans rights activists then surrounded…

1 December 2017 Rebecca Johnson

Rebecca Johnson remembers an indefatigable

Helen John, midwife turned feminist peace campaigner, was best known as a founder of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, but her extraordinary life of commitment and peace activism went much further.

After joining a 10-day protest walk from Wales to US air force base Greenham Common in August 1981, Helen chained herself to the fence on 5 September, demanding a public debate about NATO’s deployment of cruise missiles. When that was ignored, she led the way in setting up the…

1 December 2017 Teresa Ecuador

A Spanish activist reflects on the aftermath of the recent referendum

I’m not finding it at all easy writing about what’s happening in Catalunya (Catalonia) right now. It feels very complex and complicated both at a social and a political level. And it’s also touching me emotionally in a very deep way.

The most worrying aspect is the fragmentation in the social fabric, this is a very exhausting and traumatic time for very many of us. Insults, threats, accusations in every direction. Catalan families divided over independence and families all over…

1 December 2017 Samra Mayanja

Samra Mayanja reflects on a Radical Routes recent ‘Re-imagining Gatherings’

I’ve moved on average every three years across the country and the globe (unfortunately not as a result of my jet-setting lifestyle but because of parental separation and subsequent divorce, family feuds, university, a study abroad year and so on). It would be fair to say that there were many times when the situation was precarious. Times when it was physically, mentally and emotionally paralysing. But also times of immense growth.

The last move was to Leeds into a Radical Routes…

1 December 2017 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves finds contemporary resonances in a recent stage adaptation of An American in Paris

When I was 15 or 16 I saw a film which has remained a favourite with me – and millions of others I suspect. An American in Paris (1951) starred Gene Kelly, the debuting Leslie Caron, and Hollywood’s fantasy version of Paris. A couple of years ago, I wrote a poem, ‘Confessions of a teenage narcissus’, and it contains these lines:

I wanted to look like Gene Kelly
I wanted to be
that American in Paree (Paris)
I wanted Gene Kelly’…

1 December 2017 PN

Community print-making courses in Bristol

Diversity is Beautiful (right) is just one of the rich posters and prints to come out of the new Cato Press in Easton, Bristol. The community-run studio puts on courses for all in printmaking. It makes huge, collectively-cut prints and places itself firmly in the political printmaking tradition of José Guadalupe Posada and the Mexican Taller de Gráfica Popular (and also the…

1 December 2017 Penny Stone

Penny Stone reflects on this year's White Poppy gathering in Edinburgh

As I write, it is Remembrance weekend; a difficult one for many of us. For anyone who has lost family and friends to war, whether soldiers or civilians, it is important to have space to remember those people as well as the circumstances of their loss. Unfortunately, the pomp and circumstance surrounding our annual remembrance ceremonies based around the ‘victory’ of the First World War can be troubling for peace activists such as myself.

Most years I am involved with alternative…

1 October 2017 Jeff Cloves

A chance encounter prompts Jeff Cloves to ruminate on Brexit, lithium-mining in Cornwall and the arms trade

Like many who work from home, I have the radio on for most of the day. So Radio 4 or 5 is a chattering background while I pretend to get on with it. Now and again I deliberately listen to something but mostly it just keeps me company – as do my cats. Thus it was recently that my attention was suddenly caught by a woman saying on air that she was one of many who regarded Cornwall ‘as a country not a county’.

My ears pricked up at this for I’d recently been to Cornwall for the Charles…

1 October 2017 Milan Rai

Violence and a lack of principle helped undermine the movements against German fascism in the 1930s - today's social movements should take heed, argues Milan Rai

Roter Frontkaempfer Bund Logo.
Image: Kille via Wikimedia Commons.

 

US radical Noam Chomsky recently warned against ‘self-destructive’ anti-fascist tactics such as disrupting right-wing meetings, something that is ‘wrong in principle’, he told the Washington Examiner.

Chomsky added: ‘When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it’s the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is. That’s quite apart from the opportunity…

1 October 2017 Emma Sangster

How the armed forces and arms companies influence our schools and colleges

While arms companies have been at the top of the peace agenda recently with the DSEI arms fair, their involvement in education in the UK is less well known. Many of the top names have a presence – BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Babcock, QinetiQ, Chemring. Some are big players, forging the way ahead, others have a smaller role.

A ForcesWatch report on military interests in education (out soon) will detail the extent to which this has developed and why. It looks at how the armed forces,…

1 October 2017 Bruce Kent

We owe the 'refuseniks' more than we know, says Bruce Kent

It is nearly 70 years since I began my two years of conscripted military service.

Having been to a boarding school, it was not much of a shock. Despite some class differences we were all in the same boat and got shouted at in the same way by various corporals and sergeants.

In 1947, the cold war was just starting, and it was to faraway places like Malaysia and Korea that some of my contemporaries were sent. At least one, my friend ‘Tubby’ Maycock, a year below me at…

1 October 2017 Esme Needham

Esme Needham reflects on a divestment bus tour of East Sussex

The Divest East Sussex bus hits Crowborough. PHOTO: Divest East Sussex

On 23 September, 18 of us went on a bus tour across East Sussex to collect signatures for a petition asking the county council to divest local people’s pensions from fossil fuels. I was a little hazy on the details at first, but by the end I had heard the explanation of what the petition was about so many times that I’m probably still saying it in my sleep.

Equipped with T-shirts (just enough of us were…

1 October 2017 Nick Palazzolo

General strike defeats austerity 

Goals:

A 21.5 percent wage increase to match the inflation rate An end to the austerity measures, including layoffs and spending cuts A stop to the privatisation of state-owned companies, including telephone, gas, oil, and electricity.

The union leaders achieved their main demand to increase wages. They were partially successful in pressuring the government to agree to delay and review their austerity measures and plans to privatise state companies, though they did not receive…

1 October 2017 Taninaka Yasunori

Surrealist art from pre-WW2 Japan

Ghost scene, woodcut, 1932, by Taninaka Yasunori.

Taninaka Yasunori was born in 1897, in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, Japan, spent his childhood in Seoul, Korea, and died in September 1946. He was a Japanese woodcut artist with often surrealistic content, a poet and a magazine editor. In 1930, Taninaka began publishing the magazine Black and White. He participated in exhibitions of the Japanese…

1 October 2017 Penny Stone

'Yes, we told them, we do know what it means'

’Biktub Ismak Ya Biladi, ‘al shams ilma bit(a)gheeb
La mali wala wlaadi, ‘Ala Hubik mafe Habib.

I will write your name oh my country, above the sun that never sets.
Not my children nor my wealth, above your love there is no love.

I first heard this song at a demonstration in Nabi Saleh in the West Bank, Palestine, in 2012. I was in the village to participate in a demonstration with my choir and, as is their tradition of…

1 August 2017 Penny Stone

'In such extreme realities what can we offer but solidarity and song?'

When my choir San Ghanny (‘We Shall Sing’ in Arabic) and I were in Palestine two months ago, we took part in a demonstration to call for the return of Palestinian bodies from the Israeli government.

The campaign is led by family members, often mothers, of Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli forces, or who have been involved in militarised resistance to the occupation resulting in their own deaths. This includes desperate actions such as suicide bombing.

For family…

1 August 2017 Bruce Kent

We need to get our priorities right, argues Bruce Kent

What an odd world of priorities we live in. Any more about Brexit – important though it is in so many ways – tends now to produce a yawn.

Yet the recent Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has not even started to be a priority. We must all make it one.

It was passed with the support of 122 countries at a UN conference a couple of weeks ago. Only the Netherlands voted ‘No’.

The nuclear weapon countries, including our own, took no part. In fact Michael…

1 August 2017 Nikki No-Nukes

Nikki No-Nukes on her recent trip to Coulport, where the nuclear warheads for Trident submarines are stored and loaded onto missiles.

Angie Zelter is cut out of a lock-on in front of Coulport nuclear weapon store in Scotland on 11 July. Photo: Trident Ploughshares

Thursday: We (a contingent from the south-west of England) arrived at the Trident Ploughshares Coulport Disarmament Camp late at night, having travelled straight from an action which was part of the July rolling blockade at the fracking front line: Preston New Road in Lancashire. We arrived tired but exhilarated having kept the drills at bay for nearly…

1 August 2017 Milan Rai

The most effective actions exert power and engage conscience, argues Milan Rai

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, a group against AIDS, protests in New York City against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. PHOTO: riekhavoc via Wikimedia Commons

Someone rang up the other day and asked what PN thought about ‘peace education’. I said that there was a range of things going on, from super-fluffy let’s-just-be-nice-to-each-other talk which does more harm than good, through activist history and analysis, to training that helps people to gain skills and to…

1 August 2017 Tom Gill

Poet, photographer and disability rights activist

Keith Armstrong being arrested in Parliament Square, London, probably at a Disabled People’s Direct Action Network action in March 1995 demanding the right to accessible public transport. Photo: estate of Keith Armstrong, photographer unknown

A baking summer day in the early 1960s. I’m in my pushchair, trundling along the road to Aldermaston with my CNDing parents, and somewhere on the fringe of my toddler’s consciousness, there’s a Cheshire cat smile, floating in the heat haze.…

1 August 2017 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves reflects on the intertwined histories of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and the US labour movement

In November 1962 – by chance and good fortune –

I heard the African-American singer/actress/songwriter/ civil-rights-activist, Odetta (1930–2008), and a new up-and-coming folk singer, Bob Dylan, sing live in London.

They appeared at the Singers Club – I was a member – which met at a Kings Cross pub, The Pindar of Wakefield. Also present was their somewhat controversial manager, Albert Grossman, and the event celebrated, I think, the club’s birthday.

It was an…

1 August 2017 Ryan Leitner and Andres Cordero

 Indigenous peoples stop open-cast coal mine  

Goal: To stop open-cast coal mining.

Phulbari is an important agricultural region in northwest Bangladesh that also contains a low-quality coal deposit. Several companies have proposed using open-cast (or open-pit) mining techniques in Phulbari, which would displace thousands of people (many of them indigenous people), destroy farmland and homes, and divert water sources to the mining process.

Australia-based mining company BHP Billiton, which discovered coal in…

1 June 2017 Bruce Kent

A bit of ecclesiastical direct action, anyone?

Three documents are sitting on my desk right now. Pope Francis’ message for this year’s 1 January World Day of Peace is one of them. The next, a lengthy message from him to the diplomatic corps for 9 January 2017. The last – a merciful mere three pages – is his representative’s message to the Vienna conference reviewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in May 2017.

One thing is quite obvious. Francis has been reading Peace News. It is all there. No to violence, war and…

1 June 2017 Milan Rai

We can't win radical change just by electing "the right people", argues Milan Rai

Peace News is here to encourage grassroots movements for justice and peace, and to champion revolutionary nonviolence. In the face of all the turmoil in the world, what does the title of PN Summer Camp 2017 really mean? ‘Surviving Politics – self-care, skill-sharing and community-building when nothing seems to make sense.’

Nuclear boundaries

British governments have always rejected unilateral disarmament in favour of multilateral disarmament. Now that…

1 June 2017 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves finds repose in Bill Evans' celebrated piano classic

Throughout a long association with Peace News I’ve known that PN readers are not necessarily pacifists – though I’d hazard most are. Maybe some are internally debating whether they are or not.

I’ve known gay men and women personally and also read their thoughts variously and they commonly assert that they knew as children that they were gay.
In my own life, there’s a parallel. I think age 7 – 8 I knew I was a pacifist and I’ve never had any doubts since.

1 June 2017 Milan Rai

Why did the Swiss Green Party vote No in a referendum on UBI last year? 

Universal Basic Income (UBI) or Citizens’ Income has been around a long time on the fringes of politics. It’s now become a hot topic among some of the richest and most powerful people on the planet.

UBI has an image as an ultra-left demand maybe associated with the Greens – give everyone an unconditional regular cash payment without means testing or any work requirement.

So why did the Swiss Green Party vote No in the referendum on UBI there last year? Why is the Ontario Public…

1 June 2017 Penny Stone

Penny Stone reflects on taking songs and solidarity to Palestine

I have just returned from a trip to Palestine with my solidarity choir, San Ghanny (‘We Shall Sing’ in Arabic) where we visited a farming community in the South Hebron hills called At Tuwani where we learned about their everyday lives and accompanied them in planting olive trees.

We planted olive trees on land owned by the community and immediately next to a fence marking off more land that used to be owned by the villagers, but has been stolen by the illegal Israeli settlement next…

1 June 2017 Ali Tamlit

Ali Tamlit gets up close and personal with the things that hurt the most

On 28 March, I was part of the ‘End Deportations – Stop Charter Flights’ action by Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and Plane Stupid at Stansted airport, which successfully prevented a mass deportation to Nigeria and Ghana.

We took this action in solidarity with the 57 people on board the flight who were being forcefully removed from the UK. We were in touch with some of these people and knew their stories and knew the potential fates that awaited them if they were deported.…

1 April 2017 Claire Poyner

Air pollution is personal and political, writes Claire Poyner

Green London Assembly member Caroline Russell fits a diffusion tube to a lamppost in London.

In 1972, the Staple Singers sang ‘Respect Yourself’, indicating that instead of (or as well as) complaining that ‘the president won’t stop air pollution’, we could, should, take personal responsibility.

It’s a song that always pops into my head whenever I read or hear the words ‘air pollution’. Of course, covering your mouth when you cough won’t lower the current high levels of…

1 April 2017 Milan Rai

Class, unions and social movements

A rally of the trade union UNISON in Oxford during a strike (industrial action), 2006-03-28. Copyright © 2006 Kaihsu Tai

In May 2007, just after I started editing PN, we ran a front-page opinion piece by Dan Clawson, a US union activist and academic, on what trade unions and grassroots movements could learn from each other. He’d written a wonderful book about this, called The Next Upsurge.

Clawson gave an example of the new unionism he favoured: the…

1 April 2017 Jeff Cloves

When it comes to militarism, language matters, says Jeff Cloves

There are a couple of vehicles regularly parked down our street which always raise my eyebrows. Firstly, because they park with their kerbside wheels wholly on the pavement and I have to walk in the road because I can’t squeeze past, and secondly, because of their names.

The Land Rover model is a ‘Defender’ and the camper-van is a ‘Trident’. There are other less offensive Land Rover model names such as ‘Discovery’ and ‘Freelander’ and even the mysterious ‘Evoque’ but these two…

1 April 2017 Bruce Kent

The point of peacemaking is to change minds, argues Bruce Kent

I’ve never before heard of a paper called The Weekly Dispatch but it was clearly doing well in 1917. In September that year it published a furious piece headed ‘Traitors in the Parks’.

It was all about the anti-war rallies being held in Finsbury Park and Hyde Park – ‘long haired strapping youths... using language about Cabinet ministers which horrified all decent people’.

It got much stronger in the next edition. ‘Sedition mongers and their dupes – insidious…

1 April 2017 Amy Smith

It's good to talk ...

Men talk in a cafe in Tigre, near Buenos Aires, Argentina. April 2003. Photo by Adam Jones adamjones.freeservers.com

After I shared a cartoon on Facebook recently, I had an angry response (several hundred words long) from ‘John’, someone I haven’t heard from in years. The cartoon, by New Zealand-based illustrator Toby Morris, shows two people, equally intelligent and hard-working, growing up in different circumstances, and ending up in very different situations in adult life. The…

1 February 2017 Marc Hudson and Dr Tanzil Chowdury

Marc Hudson and Dr Tanzil Chowdury remember a Pan-Africanist, poet and environmental campaigner

Deyika Nzeribe. Photo: Green Party

Marc Hudson: Born in Hulme, Manchester, Deyika Nzeribe was a poet and and the chair of Commonword, which supports new and aspiring writers. He was also a co-founder of the Northern Police Monitoring Project, which works against police harassment; a trustee of the Manchester Environmental Education Network; and an organiser of the Pan-African PAC45 Foundation conference. While always concerned about environmental matters, Deyika became involved…

1 February 2017 Gill Knight

A trip to Cuba inspires Gill Knight

Going to Cuba, for me, is a journey both in space and time. It’s 45-odd years since I wrote a thesis on Fidel Castro and the revolution as part of my certificate in education – the 1970s were definitely a more liberal age!

Over the decades, travel to Cuba has been on ‘my list’ and at last I go, prompted by the accounts of Unite the Community Union comrades.

Like them, I join a tour with ICAP, the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples, an organisation that…

1 February 2017 PN

Eggs, boredom and more!

Being a Muslim

We have the EDL [right-wing English Defence League] coming to a nearby town this weekend and I’m really torn about going to the counter-demonstration because we came very unstuck campaigning against the BNP [right-wing British National Party] in the elections. My young son and I managed to ‘intimidate’ the BNP candidate into not attending the hustings at the local town hall, which was great, and very thrilling.

Then we went home to our little council…

1 February 2017 Milan Rai

We need to develop empathy - and where appropriate solidarity - with those who voted to leave the EU, argues Milan Rai

Trump supporters react as Trump speaks at the Inauguration ceremony. Photo: Lorie Shaull

Class and classism are becoming more and more important issues for all sorts of movements, especially as we try to deal with the rise of racism, Islamophobia and authoritarianism at home and abroad. It’s important that these efforts don’t themselves become oppressive to working-class and poor people, and that we find class-inclusive ways to work on these issues.

Peace News

1 February 2017 Bruce Kent

An unlikely opponent of war provides a lesson for the peace movement

Robert Hinde would be surprised to find his obituary in Peace News. But he more than deserves a mention though I very much doubt if he, academic and ex-RAF coastal command wartime pilot, was a regular Peace News reader.

He died just before Christmas at the age of 93. Many of us have lost a very good friend, a wise advisor and one of the most modest men I have ever met. Professionally, Robert Hinde was a distinguished zoologist, a former master of St John’s…

1 February 2017 Penny Stone

A Pete Seeger parable keeps Penny Stone keeping on

Pete Seeger. Photo: Josef Schwarz via Wikimedia Commons

In common with most people seeking positive change in the world, I have been struggling these past few months to keep hopeful about humanity. It feels very overwhelming and disempowering to hear the news every day. But there are always small things that can help us to keep on keeping on.

As the New Year turned, I turned to Pete Seeger to help me re-find some of my optimism and hope. And he did not let me down. So I would…

1 February 2017 Jeff Cloves

Our global future is uncertain but also full of possibilities

It has slowly dawned on me – readers may have spotted it sooner – that this column has often been a diary of life in Stroud. But what else could/should it be? ‘Think global, act local.’

Turns out this phrase is attributed to several people, but it seems its earliest approximation appears, appropriately, in a 1905 treatise on town planning.

This set me thinking. The converse – ‘Act global, think local’ – should also be heeded.

The champions of global…

1 December 2016

'Not a big issue, then!

What comes to mind is everybody complaining that Donald Trump is the president of the United States and everything is over because one man has a minimum of four years in that office.

I think it’s funny that everyone is freaking out that the world will end because of Donald Trump not believing that climate change is real.

It may be true that he will undo a lot of climate agreeements and so on, but he has only got four years. He won’t destroy the world in four years.

There…

1 December 2016 Penny Stone

'A group of people cannot all speak at once, but they can sing together.'

When we sing, we vibrate – that’s how we make sound, it’s a bit like having two little guitar strings in our throats that are amplified by the whole of our bodies. So when we sing together, we vibrate together. There’s no avoiding it, if you’re in the room with a group of singers, you will feel the vibrations in your body in some way. And if you sing as well, you will feel your own vibrations mixed in with other people’s vibrations. There’s no way to vibrate collectively alone. It’s one of…

1 December 2016 Nicole Marin Baena

US activist and trainer Nicole Marin Baena on waking up on the day after the US election

I had the fortune of being far from home when the election results came in. I’d had a pretty lovely evening, getting shown by a friend around his neighbourhood in Brooklyn and then bussing over to meet my friend Daniel at the place we’d be staying for the next couple of days.

On the bus, a sweet black girl, maybe about six years old, sat next to me and talked about the new house she and her mommy were moving to, and showed me the ‘I Voted!’ sticker she’d gotten from her daddy. Two…

1 December 2016 Janet Fenton

Quiet, reserved minister who co-ordinated Scottish CND from 1991

Reverend John Ainslie, who died in October aged 62, was known to nearly everyone involved in nuclear disarmament campaigning in Scotland. He was co-ordinator of Scottish CND from 1991, a post he made uniquely his own.

John was the sixth child of reverend Duncan Ainslie and his wife Emily (née Peters). Born in Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire he attended school in Fife before enlisting in the Black Watch in 1971; training as an officer included a degree in international relations at Keele…

1 December 2016 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves celebrates the music of Mike Adcock

It’s a pleasure to write a column printed next to that of Penny Stone. Her commentary and recognition of the power of music, if not to effect change directly but to inspire and energise those working for change, is a welcome relief from bad-news stories.

Anyone who goes to a WOMAD festival cannot help but respond to the ability of its musicians to transcend cultural and national difference. Music really is an international language and so it is a means to achieve peace and…

1 December 2016 Milan Rai

What are Britain's corporate leader so worried about?

Lucas Aerospace workers proposed a bus that could run on rails as an product for their arms company. A model was built and tested, and toured the country to rally support for the Lucas Plan. PHOTO: Gillett’s Crossing [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

By the time this issue lands on your doorstep, it will probably have become clear just how much British prime minister Theresa May has been forced to back down from her signature policy of putting workers’ representatives on company…

1 December 2016 Milan Rai

Those threatened by Trump's regime - not the man himself - should be the focus for campaigners, argues Milan Rai

How should we respond here in the UK to the Trump presidency? For a number of reasons, we should not focus on Trump himself – on boycotts of outlets that carry Trump-branded goods, for example.

Following Erika Thorne’s wise words elsewhere in this issue, we can focus instead on those leadership can help us turn back the dangers that confront us, those who are most threatened by Trump’s rise.

There are some inspiring things happening in the US.

I was moved…

1 December 2016 Bruce Kent

If ever there was a time for action, this it it, says Bruce Kent

Well it couldn’t happen could it? So said 90 percent of the commentators – but it did.

Donald Trump, once only known here because of some row about a golf course in Scotland, is going to be president of the United States. He will soon be the key world figure with his finger on the nuclear button which, if pressed, could be the end of us and most of our lovely world.

We have been here before. Read Daniel Ellsberg’s Secrets: a Memoir of Vietnam.

How…

1 December 2016 Albert Beale

Long-time PN columnist Sybil Morrison restates some pacifist truths, including in the context of the then-recent Suez Crisis.

The large number of hypothetical questions addressed to pacifists is due to the fact that in the last resort the reliance upon muscular strength rather than argument, upon some kind of force rather than reason, upon military weapons rather than upon negotiation, is commonly accepted by almost all the people of the world – and that any moral stand against it immediately rouses fear and a corresponding resistance to the idea.

The fact that the use of force only settles who is the…

1 October 2016 Albert Beale

Two members of the Pacifist Youth Action Group, hitch-hiking to India to spend a period at a Gandhian project, stopped en route to join an international workcamp undertaking post-war reconstruction in Italy. Then, as now, such work both deals with some of the legacy of war and also – by its international co-operative nature – helps to undermine the causes of future wars. They sent back a report to Peace News.

Construction – not destruction – is the battle-cry in Affile.

Service Civil International has invaded Affile, 80km from Rome, but this is an invasion with a difference. Affile, which was once a battlefield, is now being assaulted with bricks and shovels, sledgehammers and barrows. Construction not destruction is the new battle-cry as young people from many nations set forth with heavy boots and light hearts.

The founder of SCI was Pierre Ceresole of Switzerland, who…

1 October 2016 Milan Rai

What lies behind the rise of the outsider politician?

By Gage Skidmore - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_5…, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48635435

What, if anything, links Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate in the US, and Jeremy Corbyn, just re-elected Labour party leader here in the UK?…

1 October 2016 Bruce Kent

Welcome to our new columnist!

When my brother, sister and I were young, many eons ago, Aunt Edith was a regular visitor. She always brought sweets which were most welcome. But she also had wise words not equally appreciated. ‘If I were you dear….’ was the start to many a long talk about what we should be and ought to be doing. The editor of Peace News has asked me to contribute a column a few times a year and this is the first. I will do my best to avoid Aunt Edith’s ‘If I were you dear...‘ old age syndrome.…

1 October 2016 Ali Tamlit

Ali Tamlit surveys some of the trials and tribulations of squatted sites

For the past two years I’ve been living in a well-known squatted site of resistance. While people usually ask me about the legal situation, the threat of eviction isn’t one of the main challenges for me. One of the biggest challenges for me is the constant flow of new people coming with the assumption that it’s an ‘open site’ because it’s a squat.

‘At the end of the day yeah, it’s just a squat, so you can’t tell me what to do’, is a phrase that I hear irritatingly often. Not that…

1 October 2016

Well there are various kinds of dirt, but I often think of something: when you’re planning to do some direct action, and when it’s going on, and then you’re arrested, you’re often very dirty because you can’t get washed.

There is another thing that’s occurred to me because that’s what you want! Twice I’ve been involved in digging a peace garden and that was good because you’re engaging with the dirt of the ground, the soil, and that makes you dirty. It’s a good kind of dirt.

1 October 2016 Penny Stone

Songs of resistance to the Dakota pipeline

We rise, for our brothers, for our sisters.
We rise, for water, for life.
We rise, for one nation.
Protect our water,
Protect our land,
Protect our people.

[Mass chanting at Standing Rock Spirit Camp, led by a young Sioux woman]

The Dakota pipeline is being planned and constructed to pipe oil from the Dakotas to Illinois, in the USA. The Standing Rock Sioux and other First Nations of the…

1 October 2016 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves reflects on Stroud's global peace party

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to see my local paper, the Stroud News and Journal, had run a decent feature headlined ‘Global peace party to be held in Stroud’s Bankside gardens.... to celebrate peace around the world and to collectively call for an end to war’. The party (held on Sunday 18 September) was followed by evening events and the paper gave a detailed listing.

World Peace Day followed on 21 September and I guess it was observed throughout the world during that…

1 August 2016 PN

A reader rages

As usual, we rang people up to talk anonymously about a topic. This time, something came up for one person that needed more space.

Can I caveat this right before I agree to do this? I feel I am poor on my feet. I don’t do social media partly because I can’t get my head round how people do that. I have a bit of anxiety around this.

The other context is, depending on your topic, really good for your piece or really bad.

I have just been through the most enraging experience…

1 August 2016 Milan Rai

What should progressive activists (whether Leave or Remain) be doing, post-Brexit? In every area, there are different needs, for sure. However, it seems to me there is a national urge to listen to people who feel ‘left behind’ by the system, an urge rising up like a wave across the country, an opportunity which should be seized on by people committed to peace and justice.

In Hastings in England, there is an attempt to set up a ‘listening project’ – for progressive people to go to…

1 August 2016 Matt Hawkins

150 nations are already laying the legal groundwork to ban nuclear weapons

Events in June left many with a sense of despair at the prospects for global peace. The killing of 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on 12 June was followed abruptly by the stabbing and shooting of the Labour MP Jo Cox at her constituency surgery in Yorkshire on Thursday 16 June. This in the midst of a hate-filled EU referendum campaign in the UK and the seemingly inevitable rise of the war-mongering Donald Trump in the US.

It’s enough to make anyone want to bury their…

1 August 2016 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves revels in the discomfort of the political class in the wake of the EU referendum

I’ve just been watching a TV programme (3 July) about trench photographs in the First World War, taken not by officers but by privates.

It showed the work of a 17-year-old German soldier and a 23-year-old English soldier; both volunteers and both initially thinking war – as Peter Pan said of death – ‘an awfully big adventure’.

The German boy’s early photos are posed poised and romantic – even excited: his comrades draped on their ugly big guns, relaxing with a pre-battle swim…

1 August 2016 Penny Stone

A trip to Palestine connects Penny Stone to Holly Near's famous activist anthem

Many of you will know this song, 'Singing For Our Lives', by Holly Near. It has been sung in many contexts since she wrote it, but it began life as a cry for and from members of the global LGBT community in response to the killing of councillor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone in San Francisco in 1978.

There are songs that we inherit as radical activists, songs that are part of our history. I cut my teeth singing this song outside Faslane submarine base, and on all sorts of…

1 August 2016 Julia Nicolaides

A french activist liiving in Britain reflects on the aftermath of the EU referendum

Some of the thousands of people who gathered in Trafalgar Square, London, on 22 June to mourn the death of Jo Cox MP, was shot and stabbed to death on 16 June. Photo: Philafrenzy CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia

‘So, are you going to get married now?’ This seems to be the question everyone is asking me nowadays. Who would have thought that Britain voting to leave the EU would bring so much romance to my life?

On 24 June, I woke up in France, in Burgundy. I was on holiday, visiting…

1 August 2016 PN

My personal earliest memory of Europe is, when I first moved to the UK, one of the reasons was actually to campaign and work against the [US] cruise missiles being stationed in Europe.

There was EP Thompson’s book Protest and Survive and as a result I became active. I went to Berlin in the ’80s and joined demonstrations about the cruise missiles.

I went down to Greenham Common which was also about cruise missiles in the UK. Back in those days, I considered the…

1 August 2016 Albert Beale

Attempts by pacifists to look back at the slaughter of war from an anti-militarist perspective – and official unhappiness at the puncturing of nationalist myths – have a long history.

Europe’s first International Nonviolent March for Demilitarisation took place in north-east France from August 4 to 10. People from 15 countries called for the conversion of military structures to civilian use, a nonviolent people’s defence rather than a suicidal military one, the abolition of military blocs, the liberation of objectors and total resisters to conscription, and civil rights for members of the forces.

The climax of the march was the afternoon of Sunday August 8, when –…

1 June 2016 Jill Gough

Dedicated peace maker and communist dies at 91

Photo: Jill Gough

Over his 91 years, George has been an extraordinary example of a human dedicated to making the world a better place.

He was until recently an active member and vice-chair of CND Cymru. Over many years, together with his late wife Jeanne, George was an absolutely reliable member of many other groups dedicated to change, including Cardiff Peace Shop, Cynefin y Werin, Ex-Services CND and Veterans for Peace, the Bridgend Bunker Campaign, the Snowball Campaign (…

1 June 2016 Albert Beale

From the outset, PN carried otherwise little-known information about pacifists and other peace campaigners in other countries. The second issue was no exception.

Though it goes by the formidable title of ‘An Appeal’, a pamphlet by the War Resisters’ International is in reality a valuable addition to the all too meagre information that is available concerning the heroic stand that is being made by pacifists in countries where the penalty for such views is exile, imprisonment, torture, or even death.

In French Guiana, France, Lithuania, Italy, Rumania, Germany, Yugoslavia, Poland, Switzerland and elsewhere it is the same story. ‘I may be…

1 June 2016 Milan Rai

How should the peace movement vote in the European Union referendum?

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: S. Solberg J.

It’s not clear that Britain leaving the EU would significantly increase – or decrease – the risk of war or violence anywhere; or anyone’s level of military spending; or nuclear weapons development in any country.

On the peace movement’s major concern at this moment, the replacement of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapon system, Brexit seems irrelevant – unless you want to play a long and cynical game, calculating that the…

1 June 2016 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves thrills to the EU referendum campaign

As I write this, the case for and against leaving the EU has raised the nauseating stench of this non-debate to hysterical levels. So far, it’s been a combat between dread and fear. Far from shedding light or sharpening a vision of what Europe could/should be, the exchanges have barely risen above the level of insult and derision.

The leavers’ Little Englanders bind is deeply unappealing and barely conceals a dread of immigrants and foreigners in general and refugees in particular…

1 June 2016 PN

It doesn’t feel like the right combination of words! Activism is not about running away, it’s about running towards.

I have often felt like running away, I suppose, like the nervousness before you’re about to enter a base or something.

- Woman, Leicester

I think what comes to me is ‘not taking responsibility’. Day to day, in my day-to-day living, with various aspects.

When you first said it, what came to mind was: Never!

- Woman,…

1 June 2016 Penny Stone

Connecting the threads of past to future through our lives and songs

If you don’t live in Scotland, you might not know the phrase, ‘the carrying stream’. It has come to mean being part of the passing on of tradition, particularly through music and culture, and comes from the words of Hamish Henderson. Hamish was, among many other things, a great Scottish songwriter, collector and passer on of traditional songs. His final words, taken from the elegy he wrote for himself, is where this phrase ‘the carrying stream’ comes from;

‘Maker, ye maun sing…

1 June 2016 Bruce Kent

Co-founder of Musicians Against Nuclear Arms who raised tens of thousands of pounds for CND

Photo: Laurie Bielby

Joan was a new arrival in the CND office sometime in the 1980s. This warm-hearted woman with the sunny disposition had a desk opposite mine and I therefore saw a lot of her. Her job was to sell advertising for our CND magazine Sanity.

I marvelled at her technique. If, on the phone, a possible client hesitated, Joan knew exactly what to do. ‘I quite understand, Mr X or Ms Y, that you are too busy at the moment. It might be better if I called you…

1 June 2016 Stephen Hancock

Stephen Hancock remembers one of the 20th century's most inspiring Christian peacemakers

Frida and Dan Berrigan. PHOTO: Thomas Good via wikicommons

The death of Dan Berrigan, a week short of his 95th birthday, marks the passing of one of the 20th century’s most influential and inspiring Christian peacemakers. Certainly, he was the major source of inspiration – through his writings, innovative actions and wise presence – for my transition into radical activism.

Co-founder of both the Catholic Peace Fellowship and Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam, in 1968,…

1 June 2016 Sama

Sometimes the journey can be as important as the destination ...

‘So will you now be organising a cycle ride to Ende Gelände, the mass action in Germany in May?’

Filled with emotions and exhaustion, 125 of us had just reached Paris for the climate negotiations in December after a five-day ride from London, and all I wanted to do was crash in a corner, and not think of any new project that involved ‘logistics’ or ‘meetings’.

After catching a little sleep and recovering some energy, we rethought that suggestion. We saw the need to…

1 April 2016 Albert Beale

For many years, PN played a central role in British opposition to nuclear power generation, especially because it combined a political with a technical critique of the nuclear industry. It also, as over many issues, provided ‘nuts and bolts’ advice for campaigners. Here, PN co-editor Linda Peirson gives some tips.

Every three months, I take direct action against nuclear power. It doesn't involve sitting in the road, cutting fences or trespassing. I simply withhold 11 percent of my electricity bill, like hundreds of others involved in the Consumer Campaign.

The campaign is based on the fact that, quite apart from all the other arguments against nuclear power, the nuclear generation of electricity is more costly than other methods. Most other Peace News readers, like myself, will…

1 April 2016 Penny Stone

We can't all speak at once, but we can all sing together

It was a South African musician, whose name I can’t remember, years ago, said that ‘a group of people cannot all speak at once, but they can sing together’. And I’ve always kept a strong hold of this. It is important to remember.

When we have activist meetings, I always try to encourage folks to sing at the beginning and end of them so we can start from this place of everyone’s voice being heard, encouraging those who don’t want to sing to drum along on their knees or on the table…

1 April 2016 Jeff Cloves

Free speech and speakers corner

When I was at grammar school in the 1950s, our High Tory economic history teacher poured scorn on the Chartists, the suffragettes, the co-operative movement, trade unionism, conscientious objection and, of course, nationalisation.

When some of us asked about the freedom to protest and freedom of speech, he offered Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park as proof positive that we lived in a free country and anybody could say what they liked about anything.

Some of us had heard of Speakers…

1 April 2016 Milan Rai

PN's editor reflects on the role of training in creating social change

Jiway Tung, Ayesha D’Souza, Jay Masika and Matthew Armstead (left–right, foreground) during ‘Creative Workshop Design’, part of Training for Change’s Super-T training, Philadelphia, 7 June 2014. Photo: Milan Rai

Let’s put two things next to each other. On the one hand, Peace News is committed to nonviolent revolution, to the nonviolent transformation of society including the replacement of capitalism by participatory democracy in the workplace and the reorganisation of the…

1 April 2016

'One or two won't hurt'

I think activism for me means acting in accordance with my own values and trying to live my own values.

For some years of my life I was vegan, and I’m not now, and eggs is still something I’m not sure around the ethics of.

I try to buy organic free range eggs or preferable from a local farm that I know.

Eggs also makes me think of Easter, a time of fertility and spring and hope.

- Woman, Colchester

Erm.... Well, I suppose eggs and Easter is about…

1 April 2016 Ali Tamlit

Ali Tamlit reflects on his experience as one of the Heathrow 13

It was quite easy to decide to do the action. We knew that the Davis commission was due to make an announcement that would recommend a new runway somewhere in the South East, we just didn't know whether it would be Heathrow or Gatwick. The Davis commission was flawed from the beginning, asking where we need airport expansion, not if we need it – and clearly we don't need it.

Airport expansion is being driven by 15 percent of the population taking 70 percent of flights; this isn't…

1 February 2016 Albert Beale

In line with its counter-cultural aims when moving its editorial office out of London for some years, PN gave regular space to ‘Woody’, who called for a commitment to alternative ways of living, rather than oppositional politics. He provoked much debate from correspondents.

Woody says, ‘the basic or primary condition of existing society is that we are all living against each other... mutual hostility’. But this hostility is often about something – like quarrels over the distribution of resources. Rather than backing the poor against the rich, for Woody, ‘a radical situation arises only when a section of the would-be stampeders holds back’. The poor must hold back!

Woody seems to be reacting... against Marxism and the…

1 February 2016

Baths, time and Nintendo

Oh wow. ‘Activism and luxury.’ Very good. No specific question for me, just whatever comes into my mind....

I feel the word raises great feelings of guilt! I suppose I feel I should never enjoy luxury. To be an activist, one rejects luxury: while so many people have so little, that you can have luxury is anathema. It undermines everything we’re trying to do.

Having said that, I do luxuriate in my sofa, and my TV, and my glass of wine.

I suppose one of the greatest…

1 February 2016 Penny Stone

Penny Stone remembers Geoffrey Carnall, singer, peace activist and mine of musical information

I would like to tell you about some help Geoffrey Carnall gave to me some years ago when I was researching songs and stories to celebrate 50 years since the founding of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (SCND).

I was volunteering at the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre at the time, where Geoffrey was on the management committee, and he was always interested in the treasure of songs and stories I was gathering. He always asked me to sing them and joined in softly but…

1 February 2016 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves reflects on Newspeak, ancient and modern

Anyone who writes a column for any publication whatever, will naturally try to write clearly and unambiguously – and fail in one way or another. Life itself is frequently – always some will argue – not clear and unambiguous and then there’s the problem of language. Here’s an example….

When I was growing up the word ‘progressive’ belonged to the Left. Now it’s frequently used by the Right in the UK to describe policies which Lefties regard as reactionary. I’ve also heard…

1 February 2016 Milan Rai

Taking some action makes it more possible to take more action, argues Milan Rai

Photo: Time to Cycle

On the five-day Time to Cycle bike ride to Paris in December, it turned out that one of our fellow riders was James Cracknell, who we’d published in the last issue writing very pessimistically about the climate talks.

James sat at our dinner table and explained how, if he was to re-write that article, it would be different because he felt more enthused after riding for two days with 125 other climate activists. His understanding of the facts would be…

1 December 2015 Virginia Moffatt

Hope, despair and reading

This is my final diary for Peace News, and looking back, I can see the prevailing theme of my columns has been the struggle to remain hopeful at a time when there is so much to make me despair.

Following a discussion on Facebook last night, I’ve been thinking about the power of literature to help us make sense of it all. I’ve been particularly reflecting on the poetry of WH Auden, who featured in my first column. I fell in love with his poetry when I was 17. Back then, I…

1 December 2015 Milan Rai

We can only win climate justice by breaking the rules

On 9 November, 1,000 young people marched in the streets of Washington, DC, for hours, demanding justice on race, climate, and immigration. Photo: 350.org

Like global climate change group 350.org, we all need to look beyond the Paris climate talks and whatever protests we manage to organise there to the building of mass civil disobedience for climate justice in 2016. 350.org is talking about an escalation in May 2016.

Whatever comes out of the COP21 negotiations in…

1 December 2015 Milan Rai

Why British foreign policy endangers us all.

Noam Chomsky once observed that the dirty little secret of ‘national security policy’ is that ‘security is at most a marginal concern of security planners’. He was speaking of the United States, but the lesson generalises, certainly to the UK.

We can see this in the reaction to the ‘Islamic State’ terror attacks in Paris in November, which killed 130 people.

Policymakers in Britain, France and elsewhere are knowingly increasing the power of IS recruiters and commanders…

1 December 2015 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves reflects on the BBC's little-known motto

I wonder how many BBC listeners and viewers are aware of the corporation’s motto and that this venerable and vulnerable institution has a coat of arms? This is not a pedantic and pointless question but one which, I insist, is important and relevant.

As a child of the Radio Age, and coming from a Old Labourite family, I grew up with inborn belief in mutualism and co-operativism and utter disdain for the reductionist view that the only worthwhile engine of human behaviour is profit…

1 December 2015 Attac

Three French campaign groups respond to the 13 November atrocities in Paris.


Graphic: Bryn

Attac released this statement on 18 November, just five days after the attacks in Paris:

In the aftermath of the massacres of Paris, members and supporters of Attac, in unison with the French society, feel horror and revulsion at the indiscriminate and murderous hatred.

Attac expresses its solidarity with the victims and their relatives. The people murdered Friday night were merely exercising their right to conviviality, to…

1 December 2015

Is it an effective form of protest?

Is it an effective form of protest? Is the effort worth the results? A lot of them seem to be online these days and I don’t have much to do with that. They might have more effect, I don’t know.
- Woman, London

Oh no, I think hopelessness and pessimism. Actually that isn’t quite true, I am torn between hopelessness and feeling that things can be changed by things like this. I sign a fair few. And the online things like Avaaz are proving to be effective becasuse of the…

1 December 2015 Albert Beale

PN produced an issue devoted to the verdicts and the aftermath of the Old Bailey trial in London of 14 pacifists and anti-militarists including PN staff involved in a campaign to give leaflets to soldiers about leaving the army; the conspiracy charges meant there was no upper limit to the prison sentences they faced.

‘Some Information for Discontented Soldiers’, a leaflet produced by the British Withdrawal from Northern Ireland Campaign, is not an incitement to disaffection; that’s official....

Someone in the Department of Public Prosecutions now has a very red face. Not only has the main attempt to stamp out communication with soldiers failed, but it has given an embarrassing amount of publicity to soldiers’ lack of rights and their ignorance of those they have, and also to the existence of…

1 December 2015 David Swanson

US activist David Swanson urges a return to thinking.

We are all France. Apparently. Though we are never all Lebanon or Syria or Iraq for some reason. Or a long, long list of additional places.

We are led to believe that US wars are not tolerated and cheered because of the colour or culture of the people being bombed and occupied. But let a relatively tiny number of people be murdered in a white, Christian, Western European land, with a pro-war government, and suddenly sympathy is the order of the day.

‘This is not just an…

1 December 2015 Penny Stone

Penny Stone surveys music's role - radical and otherwise - at the Paris climate summit

‘Take a stone in your hand and close your fist around it until it starts to beat, live, speak and move.’ Áillohaš (also known as Nils-Aslak Valkeapääs), Sami poet

As I’m sure most people are aware, the Paris climate talks are coming up and it is more crucial than ever before that we make bigger collective commitments to limit our impact on this earth that sustains us. But what has music got to do with that? Well, in my world, quite a lot. Music has the power to reach people…

1 October 2015

I have two words for you. ‘Jeremy Corbyn.’  Woman, Hastings

Well, everyone has to get through having movement messiahs. It’s a process of inspiration followed by disillusionment.

People always say about Evo Morales [president of Bolivia since 2005], he came from the movements, and the movements kept him in check, and he understood that role.

Obviously, Julian Assange had the best comment on this when he arrived at St Paul’s [Cathedral, London] on the first day of Occupy. We were in the middle of the first general assembly, and I was…

1 October 2015 Virginia Moffatt

'Who would have thought three months ago that an anti-war MP might become leader of the Labour party?'

Autumn is upon us, a time of year I associate it with change and loss. The holidays are over, the days are cooling, the leaves will soon fall. I love the warmth and joy of the summer and I often find myself a little mournful when the kids go back to school.

In the past week, l’ve been feeling a little more mournful than usual. In part, that’s due to having helped pack up my mother’s house before it passed on to its new owners. After 26 years, my very happy home-from-home is no more;…

1 October 2015 Penny Stone

Four kinds of radical music

Hello. My name is Penny Stone and this is the first of a new radical music column for Peace News.

So you’ll be hearing more from me in coming months. Sometimes I’ll round up bits and bobs that have been happening around the world, sometimes look at a particular radical music theme, and sometimes I’ll feature just one radical music event that has happened in the two months between issues.

About me: I am a radical musician based in Edinburgh. I write and sing topical…

1 October 2015 Albert Beale

PN reported on the Old Bailey conspiracy trial of 14 pacifists and anti-militarists – many with PN links – accused in connection with the leafleting of soldiers.

‘How do you plead?’

‘I plead for peace in a world of war, love in a world of hate, free speech for all, and an end to politically-motivated trials in this country.’

‘I shall have to have a medical report on you if you’re not careful.’

Exchange between judge and defendant at the opening of the trial.

The trial of the 14 people charged with conspiracy to incite disaffection began on September 29, with a valiant attempt to get the conspiracy charges…

1 October 2015 Milan Rai

The UK Defence Secretary appears to have created his own new legal principle

The British defence secretary has given up on ‘innocent until proven guilty by a jury of peers’, and introduced a new legal principle: ‘innocent until the government believes you are likely to commit a crime’.

In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme on 8 September 2015, Michael Fallon justified the killing by a British drone of two British citizens (Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin), and another unidentified man, by referring three times to the risk of a ‘likely’ terrorist…

1 October 2015 Milan Rai

On Saturday 12 September, we had a wonderful ideas day in London with 18 PN workers, readers and supporters, thinking about how Peace News can develop and grow and become more useful to the cause of nonviolence and to grassroots movements struggling for radical social change.



More power than we know

One of the interesting moments came at the beginning of the day, when we considered the question ‘When have I felt powerful?’ The answers to this were meant…

1 August 2015 Milan Rai

On our way to a peaceful, stable world, we need Just Transitions to bridge the gap

How can we create a genuinely common agenda for the climate movement and the disarmament movement? It’s easy – and still important – to say that the money we spend on nuclear weapons could be spent on preventing climate change, but there must be more than that.

For us in the peace movement, it can be hard sometimes to see that climate change is already a reality today, it’s not just about what might happen two generations from now. We’re already seeing the impact of climate change…

1 August 2015 Albert Beale

The letters pages in Peace News have long been a forum for debate on pacifist ideas: the August 1955 issues were no exception. Sid Parker, individualist anarchist, contributed to and edited political publications over many decades; pacifist Denis Barritt lived in Northern Ireland - including during “the troubles” - opposing all armies, ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’.

Anarchist position

There is one paragraph [of a Peace Pledge Union document in a previous PN] with which…

1 August 2015

What a lovely project! My head today is not responding. I’m about to talk to an estate agent about putting in an offer for our co-op to buy some land. My head space is definitely elsewhere! That quote [from the front of PN] is amazing. I’m a bit shy about things like this. If it was writing in an email....

- Woman

I’m not a vigorous activist, though I’ve been on a few marches. Except in the world of education, where I hope it has been…

1 August 2015 Matthew Armstead

Matthew Armstead reflects on the Charleston church massacre

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. Photo: Cal Sr from Newport, NC, USA.

I woke up this morning to nine people being killed: Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, the honorable reverend Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, reverend Daniel Simmons Sr, reverend Sharonda Singleton, and Myra Thompson.

I am dragged down and hurt, and I can barely feel the full pain that reading those names…

1 August 2015 Jeff Cloves

It will be hard for young readers of PN to comprehend what living under the threat of aptly-named MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction – was like, but believe me when I write that I didn’t expect to live to see my 21st birthday.

In 1961 (I think that was the year), the Labour Party conference voted in favour of CND’s policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament and on the strength of this commitment alone, I joined the Co-op Party which was affiliated – and still is as far as I…

1 August 2015 Virginia Moffatt

'I'm sick of protesting this shit'  

I’m suffering from end-of-termitis. Which is normal for July. Everyone in the family is tired and grumpy; everything feels a little too much. I thought I’d escaped it at the beginning of May when I still had my post-marathon bounce, but as the weeks have progressed exhaustion has been creeping up on me.

This year, it’s not just the usual juggle of work and family that’s tiring me. Part of my weariness stems from feeling a bit overwhelmed by the state of the world, thanks to May’s…

1 June 2015 Albert Beale

As the Second World War’s killing ended – in the European theatre at least – news emerged from recently-liberated concentration camps and extermination camps. Much of this PN report was based on a visit to Buchenwald a few weeks earlier by a London-based Swedish journalist.

The details of the treatment of German conscientious objectors which we print below give the first detailed factual reply to the oft-repeated war-time question – ‘What would happen to any conscientious objectors in…

1 June 2015

What keeps coming into my mind is ‘Red Ken, Red Ken’, but I’m not having him in here. He’s not allowed.

That chair is red. That top is red. Ketchup is red! There’s a lot of red things in the world.

I don’t know if I can talk about this for three minutes....

Okay, well, the obvious thing is, I guess: ‘Communism!’

For me, red is anger. Which can be destructive, but can also be a positive force, a driving force.

I guess what it’s making me think about is: the…

1 June 2015 Virginia Moffatt

Why anniversaries matter

The last few weeks have all been about significant anniversaries. Several have been personal: Chris and I have been remembering our wedding (18 years), our fathers (25 years since his Dad died, 20 years since mine) and my mother (who died a year ago). Two have been political: 100 years since the beginning of the Armenian genocide, 70 since VE Day. All of which has got me thinking about such occasions, why they matter, and how they are best marked.

Anniversaries matter because they…

1 June 2015 David McReynolds

A long-time activist recalls an example of different class cultures

Just after I sent a note to an email list about ‘class’, occasioned by friendly comments I had from a couple of conservatives about a cartoon I’d sent, I thought of an excellent example of the ‘class attitudes’ of those in the working class, which I should have mentioned.

Again, it isn’t a matter of virtue, right and wrong, etc, but simply a difference in class attitudes.

The year was probably 1951, the place was Ocean Park, California, and I was a student at UCLA.…

1 June 2015 Genny Bove

Tireless activist engaged in 'anarchic direct action'


Lib at the Brawdy blockade, 1982.

Elisabeth (Lib) Rowlands-Hughes of Llangollen, who died aged 96 in November 2014, was remembered by friends, including representatives of peace groups from Wales and beyond, at a celebration of her life held in April.

Born at the end of the First World War into a family that included influential preachers and pacifists, Lib recalled spending time with her older cousins, the Davies sisters of Gregynog, and conscientious objector George M Ll…

1 June 2015 Wendy Lewis

Welsh radical remembered


Marking the 30th anniversary of Côr Cochion Caerdydd
(Cardiff Reds Choir) in 2013.

Ray Davies, the indefatigable peace activist, socialist, local representative of his people in Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen, and lover of male voice choirs, died age 85 on 7 May, election day. He would have lamented the result.

Ray bore his pancreatic cancer with the same courage he had when he faced the dangers underground as a boy miner, the police on picket lines during the Miners’…

1 June 2015 Jeff Cloves

Our regular columnist recalls the big impact of a pacifist uncle

It’s a curious journey to become a pacifist. I wonder if other pacifists who read Peace NewsPN readers are not necessarily pacifists, incidentally – are like me, in that they ponder the whys and wherefores of their own journeys. If you’re born into a Quaker family or your parents are otherwise pacifists, then the journey may have a certain inevitability but how, otherwise, does pacifism take hold?

I’ve found as I’ve become older my pacifism has become more…

31 March 2015 Milan Rai and George Lakey

24 December 1924 – 15 March 2015

Narayan Desai Photo: Yann Forget

Milan Rai writes:

I met Narayan Desai, the Indian pacifist regarded by many as the last living link to Mohandas K Gandhi, at the War Resisters’ International Triennial in India in 2010 (PN 2518). That gathering was held at Gujarat University (Gujarat Vidyapith) in Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat in India; Narayan was chancellor of the university from 2007 until late last year. Narayan led us all in a huge swirling dance to close…

31 March 2015 Chris Booth

1 February 1927 – 20 February 2015

Geoffrey Carnall

Geoffrey Carnall began reading Peace News as a teenager in 1939. When mainstream distributors refused to handle PN during the Second World War, he cycled round Cambridge delivering bundles of the paper. He was still delivering PN to the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre until a few weeks before his death. He served on the PN board during Hugh Brock’s editorship, and his numerous letters and articles have added historical perspective and considered…

31 March 2015 Albert Beale

Peace News faced difficulties – both practical and political – whilst trying to continue as a pacifist publication during the Second World War. Although there have been threats to the existence of the paper occasionally since then, such problems have never been as frequent as during that era:

Messrs WH Smith & Sons distribute 10,250 copies of Peace News every week and other wholesalers, between them, 12,200.

Sir Arnold Wilson [a well-known…

31 March 2015

I will probably start ranting about This Changes Everything [conference] where in the workshop lots and lots of men had spoken and the facilitator said we have only time for one question and a man and a woman both put their hands up and the facilitator chose the man and I objected very strongly and said I wanted to hear what the woman had to say.

It made me think that we are talking about issues of inequality when we aren’t addressing it in our movements. But maybe that is self-…

31 March 2015 Cath Muller

26 May 1953 – 8 February 2015

Rosie Foster Photo: Tess McMahon

Rosie Foster, who died a couple of short months after being diagnosed with cancer, was an extraordinary human being who made a deep impression.

I can’t remember when I met Rosie – it seemed she’d always been around in Leeds and I knew she had lived in Tangram Housing Co-op in the ’90s and had some involvement in Horton Women’s Holiday Centre.

Our lives properly connected after she moved to Nutclough Housing Co-op in Hebden Bridge and joined…

31 March 2015 Virginia Moffatt

Virginia Moffatt looks to her running heroes for inspiration

This morning I woke to the news that Benjamin Netanyahu has won Israel’s general election. My heart sank, because, with such a military hawk in power, prospects for peace in Israel-Palestine look further away then ever. It is easy when faced with such news to fall into despair. To believe the vision of a just society for both Palestinians and Israeli citizens is impossible. Sometimes, it is feels easier to admit defeat.

When I’m feeling in this frame of mind, I’m always grateful for…

31 March 2015 Grace Crookall-Greening

Grace Crookall-Greening looks at a longstanding visionary economic project


Godric Bader with the Gandhi Foundation
peace prize Photo: Gandhi Foundation

The international peace prize of the Gandhi Foundation for 2014 was awarded jointly to Godric Bader, the last surviving founder, former managing director and chair of the Scott Bader Company Ltd, and to the Scott Bader Commonwealth, a charitable trust which holds the company assets.

The firm, founded by Godric’s father in 1921, was a private company until the family gave the shares to the…

31 March 2015 Jeff Cloves

Bill Fay, Patricia Highsmith and the sixth commandment

A couple of years ago I wrote a laudatory column here about my friend Bill Fay and his first commissioned album for 41 years. Life is People (Dead Oceans) received a five star review in The Independent as well as rave reviews elsewhere and deserved every word of praise it received.

I met Bill in 1970 and listened with admiration and wonder to his first LP, Bill Fay, which had just been released. His songs were both rooted in the natural world and committed…

1 February 2015 Albert Beale

Being open to issues, perspectives and debates largely ignored by other political papers has often been a distinguishing feature of Peace News. Sexual politics, including men’s reactions to women’s increasing commitment to feminism, has been an example of this. Here, Paul Seedhouse describes his own move towards change.

I think of an issue: the state of the world, for example. I expect myself, and I am expected, as a man, to analyse rationally and objectively, to present solid arguments, to take decisive steps, and above all not to get emotional. Actually I’m totally ignorant and confused and feel like crying about the mess the world is in. I can’t admit that I don’t know; I can’t cry because I’m a man.

Because I’m a man, I cannot admit when I’m sad, hurt or humiliated. I cannot be joyful, or give…

1 February 2015 Moyra Jean and Ian Dixon

David Lane, lifelong pacifist and peace activist, died in September at the age of 80 after a long, and latterly very sad, struggle with Parkinson’s.

David met his wife, Nancy, when they were both members of PYAG (Pacifist Youth Action Group) and where they were also to meet Ian Dixon, currently chair of Housmans Bookshop and Peace News Trustees. David and Ian were both conscientious objectors and served as porters at The Royal Free Hospital in London from 1952-1955.

1 February 2015 Virginia Moffatt

Our new diarist approaches a significant milestone

I’m going to be 50 this year. What once seemed an impossibility will become a reality in July. In the next 10 years, I will experience the menopause, watch our children leave home, begin to feel the impact of ageing on my body. This is the decade which will force me to admit I am no longer young. Such life events always put me in a ruminating mood, and this week I’ve been thinking a lot about what turning 50 means for my activism.

In some ways things have changed very little since…

1 February 2015 Mike Phipps

Mike Phipps looks back at the life and activism of a radical writer

I first worked with Mike on Labour Briefing in the late 1980s. For those who don’t know, Briefing was – and still is – a magazine for socialist activists in the Labour Party that began life in the early 1980s, when it played a key role in the election of Ken Livingstone as the left-wing leader of the Greater London Council. By the late 1980s, those heady days seemed far behind us, following the catastrophic defeats of the movement under Thatcher’s government. Many at this time…

1 February 2015 PN

What comes into my mind if you say ‘activism and Valentines’? Russell Brand! I dunno.

Man, 20s, London area

Whoa! That’s a tricky one. I’ve never associated the two. People do activism out of the goodness of their hearts for the love of people, maybe?

I think that’s what it’s generally done for, activism, for the love of the planet and love of the people. Oh, hang on, my friend has got a good one. (See below.)

Man, 20s, Glasgow area

25 November 2014 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves reflects on the life of Welsh poet Ellis Evans

As the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War draws to a close, I feel an undeniable sense of relief. The seemingly-endless grainy images of soldiers climbing out of their trenches and charging across no man’s land to be slaughtered in the name of king and country, have dominated the TV screens of the Dis-United Kingdom for long enough.

I suspect, however, that the urge to resist war has been strengthened by this prolonged assault on our human solidarity. There is…

25 November 2014

That just makes me think of... nearly everybody. You feel like activism isn’t something you choose to do, it’s somethig you have to do. You’re thinking of the outcome rather than clocking in and clocking out. So there’s no obvious place to stop or to end; so that’s when it can be easy to be overwhelmed. That happens quite often to people I know.

Where I live, it would be good to find ways to make it into a place where people can go to recover. I see that as one of the main reasons for…

25 November 2014 Albert Beale

The distinguished physicist, astronomer and mathematician, Arthur Eddington, was a First World War conscientious objector and life-long pacifist (and a keen cyclist, devising the Eddington Secondary Number which measures a cyclist’s achievements; his own E-number was 84). One of the pieces Peace News published to mark his death on 22 November 1944 looked at what he’d written to explain his continuing pacifism during the Second World War.

In 1940, the Ministry of Information published a leaflet containing extracts from articles or statements by Dr CEM Joad, Bertrand Russell, Dr Maude Royden, and AA Milne, under the title ‘It’s different now’. The leaflet suggested that pacifists should abandon views they held previously and join the war effort.

Sir Arthur Eddington was one of the four equally prominent pacifists who explained in Peace News on Nov 8 1940, under the heading ‘It’s still the same’, why they had not…

25 November 2014 Cornerstone Cath

Our Leeds-based cooperator mulls the politics of exclusion

Last year, my friend was thrown out of an eco-action gathering. I can still taste the anger I felt when I heard the news. The organisers were in their early 20s. My friend is retired and has been centrally involved in these gatherings (and in eco-defence) for nearly 20 years. My lips still set in a hard line and my jaw clenches as I think about it. I freely admit I jumped to several conclusions – I bet he behaved like an idiot. I bet they didn’t care who he was or what his history is. I bet…

25 November 2014 Ann Kramer

WW1 COs' resistance didn't end when they entered prison ...

Housed in the Quaker Library in London’s Euston Road, is a remarkable document. Measuring about five inches square, created from sheets of lavatory paper and bound in hessian taken from a mailbag, it consists of 100 pages of articles, jokes, poems, and even a spoof children’s page. Dated 18 December 1918, it is an edition of the Winchester Whisperer, one of the many tiny newspapers produced by imprisoned conscientious objectors, right under the noses of their prison warders.

25 November 2014 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

To halt the rise of UKIP, white anti-racists need to reach out to their white neighbours and communities – to break racist myths about immigration and Islam, and to organise white people against the real problems in society.

There is something hopeful about the rise of UKIP (UK Independence Party). Yes, it is a racist far-right party; yes, the mainstream parties have responded to its increasing strength by becoming more repressive and racist; and yes, it may win several seats in the general election in May 2015 – all frightening developments.

On the other hand, UKIP is part of a global anti-establishment phenomenon which in Europe is represented not only by far-right parties like Golden Dawn in Greece…

28 September 2014 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

The editors explain PN's upcoming internet tool

Have you ever been in this situation?

You’re in a grassroots, very-low budget campaigning group. You have a group website.

Then the person who set the website up – and who has been maintaining it – moves away, or they move onto another issue, or they withdraw from activism completely.

Suddenly, you find out no one knows what the passwords are, and you can’t actually use your own website. Or, if you do know what the passwords are, no one else in the group is…

28 September 2014 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves ponders extra-parliamentary measures ...

I’m writing this on the very eve of what a folkie of the ’60s, Nigel Denver, used to yearn for in song. He sang about the ‘Scottish Breakaway’ and maybe it’s come about or even came aboot.

During the Thatcher years, Westminster presided over what seemed an unstoppable diminution of the power of local authorities to control their own affairs. Instead central government took over to the extent that LAs seemed doomed to become collectively a powerless rump. How odd it is now to hear…

28 September 2014 Cornerstone Cath

Our Leeds-based cooperator is tipped over the edge at a Gaza demo

I don’t think I cry in public that often: just cinemas and theatres, weddings and funerals. Not demos – demos are for anger, for demonstrating coherent, rational opposition, for keeping your wits about you and being prepared for action. But when I saw the orthodox Jewish anti-Zionist bloc at the Gaza demo in Leeds, my throat tightened and the tears started running down my face. A friend appeared and I held on to them for about five minutes, sobbing. An unexpected reaction.

At the time…

28 September 2014 Bill Hetherington

Peace Tax Seven activist & Quaker dies, age 65

Roy Prockter, who died suddenly on 18 June, aged 64, from a heart attack, was a chartered accountant and an active Quaker, who made both his professional skills and his commitment to nonviolence available to a number of radical pacifist groups and organisations.

One of his main concerns was the compulsory deduction of taxes contributing towards maintaining armed forces and providing lethal weapons.

He became active in the Peace Tax Campaign (now Conscience – Taxes for…

28 September 2014

Failure? I don’t like thinking about my failures. I don’t like thinking about when groups fail either, or movements. If I’m honest, I do enjoy thinking about failures by people I don’t like. It’s important that some people fail in what they try to do – certain people!

I’ve failed at a lot of things in activism, and some of them it was right that I didn’t succeed because I was trying to do something stupid or counter-productive. Something that was actually bad for the cause.

I…

28 September 2014 Albert Beale

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…

28 September 2014 Ann Kramer

In which 50 COs are sentenced to death ...

About 8,000 conscientious objectors were forced into the British army during the First World War, either into the non-combatant corps (NCC) or into combatant regiments. Most adopted a strategy of nonviolent resistance, refusing to put on uniforms, drill or obey any military orders. The army’s reaction varied: some commanding officers tried to reason with objectors; others reacted with verbal and physical abuse, using any means, however brutal, to try and force objectors to become soldiers.…

21 July 2014 Ann Kramer

Ann Kramer examines the Tribunal system for WW1 COs

‘How does one feel when trying, in public, to convince people, who are trying to misconstrue anything one says, that because of one’s religious convictions — no matter what the consequences — no war service is possible?’ asked printer and conscientious objector (CO) Fred Murfin.

It was a fair question. Whether religious or not, First World War COs knew they were sincere. But self-knowledge was not enough: under the terms of the Military Service Act (1916), they were required to attend…

21 July 2014 Cornerstone Cath

How do you avoid the slippery slope of liberal excuses?

I lick my lips and my eyes flick to the ceiling before I answer: ‘£450 a day.’ I’ve been dreading this moment, of telling ‘a client’ that my daily rate is likely more than twice their weekly income. And here is ‘the client’, a group of new co-operators in a Bradford Community Centre that’s seen better days. I backtrack almost immediately – instead we agree a total figure for helping them to reach certain goals.

This daily rate is justifiable, indeed within my consortium of advisors we…

21 July 2014 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves confesses to extremism ...

When you read in the press, hear on the radio, see on the telly, or otherwise encounter someone banging on about ‘extremists’, you realise, don’t you, dear readers, that they are referring to the likes of you and me.

And what is my extremism? Like yours, it’s wide-ranging but at the mo my uppermost desires are: the removal of all nuclear weapons from the UK, the abolition of the monarchy, the house of lords and public schools, the disestablishment of the church of England…

21 July 2014 Michael Scott

Michael Scott on the Committee of 100

There are in this movement many different sorts of people some of them with a capital P: philosophers, poets, preachers, politicians, playwrights and just plain people. That is why we have called this the Committee of 100 because we are all in it and all equally important.

For each and all of us whether he is a so-called starry eyed idealist or a cynic there is one outstanding fact of life that confronts us all. It is a new fact of existence that has never existed before. It is now…

21 July 2014

I was injured at a blockade once. My affinity group was at one of the gates of the base; I was in the support group, I wasn’t sitting on the ground. I tried to put myself between them and the police, a policeman grabbed my arm and he swung me away. I twisted my ankle, I rolled around a bit in pain. The first aid person said it was a sprain, gave me a bandage and painkillers. I hobbled off.

I was shocked, I suppose. It took quite a long time to get over, it took over a year to get…

21 July 2014 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

The First World War was not a war for Belgium, it was a war for empire.

The British view of the world, even today, is fundamentally shaped by a 100-year-old lie, a powerful myth that contrasts German aggressiveness with the US-UK defence of small countries and high principles. In reality, it is a documented fact that the sovereignty of ‘plucky little Belgium’ was irrelevant to Britain’s decision to enter the First World War. In reality, it is a documented fact that the military alliances that Britain entered into were born of a desperate need to shore up…

9 June 2014 Albert Beale

Pacifists are now looking back 100 years to the start of the First World War, and at the lessons still to be learned by those who renounce war. Our predecessors, who were looking back from only 25 years’ distance, also digested the lessons of that earlier era, but with a greater sense of urgency.

To enable conscientious objectors to conscription to unite for mutual support and encouragement, a Fellowship of Conscientious Objectors was formed in London last week. Membership is confined to young men affected by the Military Training Bill.

This development recalls the formation during the early days of the Great War of the No Conscription Fellowship (NCF), which not only supported conscientious objectors in various ways but also carried on a great deal of propaganda work.

9 June 2014

Ah. (Laughs.) I’ve not had very good experiences with meetings. Well, I mean, on the whole they are quite important and useful ways of spending time. But you do get meetings which drag on. People taking the opportunity to quote Marx endlessly or other things they’ve read. They’re just taking the chance to make speeches. It can be quite a frustrating experience. If they could just stop doing that, it would be fantastic!

9 June 2014 Marc Hudson

Another staggering work of heart-breaking genius – about activists and academics

‘Run!!’ The activist yanked on the plasti-cuffs tying him to the academic. ‘Run THIS way NOW.’

They fled. They fled the tear gas and the screaming and the thud thud thud overhead. They ran through streets littered with abandoned placards, past puddles of blood and reefs of glass. Ducking into shops, out back exits, through alleys and over fences, leaving the terrifying kettle and the mass de-arrest behind them.

***

They walked along the pavement, holding hands as if they…

9 June 2014 Pryderi Llwyd Jones

The Quaker meeting at Pwllheli Community Centre on Saturday 3 May, following the sudden death of Arfon Rhys, was, in many ways, unusual. Never had the small local group of Friends seen so many people at a Welsh Quaker meeting. The silence was enriched when someone felt moved to speak quietly of Arfon: family, students, peace campaigners, Welsh language campaigners, colleagues and friends. By contrast, the buffet provided by allotment friends afterwards was far from quiet.

People had…

9 June 2014 Bill Hetherington

Arlo Tatum played significant roles in the US, British and international pacifist movements. Born into a Quaker family in Iowa, he politely wrote in 1941, aged 18, to the US attorney general announcing his refusal to register for the draft – US conscription – imposed in advance of US entry to the Second World War. He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in the Federal Correctional Institution, Sandstone, Minnesota, the youngest prisoner when he entered.

A natural baritone, Arlo, on…

9 June 2014 Cornerstone Cath

This has been a difficult email to write’. I can only see the first line of the email, but I know what it’s going to say. I slam the desk and swear loudly. Co-workers stare. I’m in a rush, I can’t deal with this now. I leave, cycle furiously into town and try to block it from my mind for the rest of the day.

In the majority world, we live in a strange social scene, where community is a fluid thing.

Unlike many other cultures, we make individual decisions about what’s best for…

9 June 2014 Ann Kramer

Every year on 15 May, pacifists and anti-war activists gather in London’s Tavistock Square in front of a massive slate memorial that was unveiled by composer and conscientious objector Michael Tippett in 1994. The stone commemorates ‘All those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill. Their foresight and courage give us hope.’

Those who first established that right were the conscientious objectors of the First World War. When war began in August 1914,…

9 June 2014 Jeff Cloves

Paging all poets

On 5 March 2007, a car bomb was detonated on Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. It killed more than 30 people, wounded more than 100 and destroyed many businesses in the heart of a quarter famous for its bookshops, outdoor bookstalls, literary cafés, publishing houses and free-thinking society. The street was extensively damaged but re-opened in December 2008. May it thrive and ferment again. It wasn’t…

27 May 2014 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

In Marge Piercy’s wonderful visionary work, Woman on the Edge of Time (1985), a young visitor from a future North American utopia wants to see a car. Dawn says: ‘I studied about them. I saw them on holi. How the whole society was built around them, they paved over the earth for them to run on and sit on right in the middle of where they lived! Everyone had to have one. And they all set out in their private autocar to go someplace at the same time and got stuck in jams and breathed…

14 April 2014 Milan Rai

Peace News co-editor Milan Rai analyses Ukraine, western hypocrisy, the role (not) played by nuclear weapons in the ongoing crisis, claims that the US organised a "fascist coup" in Ukraine, the "referendum" in Crimea, and the path away from war.

Nuclear promises

It is difficult to see the Crimea crisis clearly through the choking fog of western hypocrisy that surrounds it. Before trying to do so, there is one factor that we should deal with straightforwardly. When Ukraine became independent (after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991), it inherited 1,900 strategic nuclear warheads, more nuclear weapons than China, France and Britain held…

3 April 2014 Albert Beale

In the 1970s, Peace News carried frequent, and sometimes vitriolic, debates about the Middle East, often sparked by anger on the part of some readers at the uncompromisingly anti-Zionist line of its regular contributor – and sometime Middle East Editor – Uri Davis (himself a Jewish Palestinian). From time to time, as here, PN spelt out its own view.

Last week, Israel and Egypt signed a ‘peace treaty’. But the treaty isn’t between those who are actually fighting, and in fact intensifies the causes of the conflict.

Looking at it superficially, but with a nonviolent and anti-statist perspective, it has all the limitations of being merely a resolution of conflict over national territories.... The agreement is a further development of the Middle East wars, a continuation of Israel’s attempts to make Palestine a Jewish country and the…

3 April 2014

For a lot of people I know, spring is about planting seeds, growing, nurturing, green stuff. It’s very hopeful, there are lots of metaphors there for making a better world, starting the revolution, taking control of your own food, give us bread but give us roses, etc etc.

For me, spring means spring cleaning – the spring cleaning I ought to do, but don’t. The tottering piles of things-not-done and things-not-tidied-away shine more brightly in the sunshine.

Spring means getting…

3 April 2014 Marc Hudson

Activism and fiction

The absurdly handsome activist bit his lip. The Peace News crew were threatening military action if the final extended deadline for a 2,000 word essay on ‘Activism and Fiction’ was missed. The clock was most definitely two minutes to midnight.

He sighed, ran a hand through his thick shoulder-length blond hair, and thought quickly. His hands flew with perfect acuracy across the keyboard. ‘The four books under review, all by women, are useful and...’

3 April 2014 Cornerstone Cath

Two days after Protag’s funeral, Ben says: ‘Did you hear Callum Millard’s died?’ I’m knocked sideways. Another one? But different this time. I struggle to dredge up ancient memories – was he there when we occupied the Lloyds bank in Leeds? Did he come on the Garforth anti-opencast occupation? I haven’t seen him properly in years, memories are elusive – I don’t know him any more.

But then the funeral – many old friends, many memories shared. Yes, he was the lock-picker and lock-…

3 April 2014 Ann Kramer

The Women's Peace Congress

Some of the best-known images of women during the First World War show them engaged in work previously done mainly by men: driving buses, delivering post, toiling on the land and working long hours in the munitions factories and shipyards. The images reflect the reality, namely that thousands of women, despite not having the vote, felt it was their duty to help a nation at war.

However, these images do not tell the whole story. Not so well recorded is the fact that considerable…

3 April 2014 Dave King

Breaking the Frame, May 2014

Nowadays, technology takes the lion’s share of military budgets and it is technological superiority, far more than numbers of soldiers, that determines who has military superiority. Not content with nuclear MADness, the military in different countries are busy developing cyber-warfare, directed energy weapons, enhancement of soldiers’ capabilities with brain-computer interfaces, drones that take their own targeting decisions, and robot soldiers. They’re also discussing biological weapons…

3 April 2014 Milan Rai

There is a saying in the field of community development finance – providing credit to disadvantaged groups – that if you never have a bad loan (that isn’t re-paid), you aren’t doing it right. You ought to be going to the risky, hard-to-reach areas, where things don’t work out.

I think something like this happened to the Peace News Winter Gathering, which turned into the Peace News Spring Training, which has unfortunately been withdrawn by Seeds for Change, who were going to be…

3 April 2014 PN staff

As we announced back in December, Peace News want to try out a one-year experiment, expanding the paper to 24 pages and reducing frequency from 10 times to six times a year, starting with this issue. Peace News Trustees, the parent company for Peace News, have asked us to produce this issue, which shows off some of our new ideas for a longer PN, and get your responses to the new format and frequency to help us decide whether this is really the right way forward.

The 24-page format…

1 April 2014 Milan Rai

Labour party left-winger and committed peace activist Tony Benn was one of those dangerous figures who can start to make you believe that the system might work after all.

He was a hereditary peer who campaigned (successfully) to be allowed to go back to being a commoner – and a member of the house of commons (where he served for 50 years). He was a cabinet minister who supported workers…

19 March 2014

Well, most people would say that good parenting involves teaching children to be polite and respect others, especially those who might be involved in civic or governmental organisations that are meant to help people in a democratic society. However, there would be clear times that I know of in the past when the best way to help our neighbours, and others in society, would involve what would be clearly labelled as bad manners.

One event that comes to mind is a May Day rally in a small…

19 March 2014 Albert Beale

During the years when there were peace camps - and regular one-off actions - at military bases all over the country [partly, but not only, on account of the cruise missile sites being established], Peace News ran a fortnightly round-up of news of actions.

A fortnight ago two peace campers from Daws Hill [an RAF base at High Wycombe which housed a US nuclear control bunker] went on an excursion into the nearby Chiltern Hills and occupied the microwave radio mast at Christmas Common. This is…

18 March 2014 Valerie Flessati

Few colleagues would have known that Sheila Oakes’ father was lieutenant-general sir Robert Sturges of the royal marines, until Sheila strategically revealed the fact during a TV debate. Her opponent, general sir John Hackett, argued that peace activists were naïve. ‘I’ll have you know I’m the daughter of a general,’ Sheila retorted, and, to their great surprise, her team won the debate.

With her sharp mind, fluent powers…

18 March 2014 Clare Cochrane

The other night I went to see The Missing Picture, a film by Rithy Panh about growing up under the Khmer Rouge regime of Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia) in the 1970s. The film used handmade clay models of people and miniature sets, as well as historical film footage, video montage and a poetic narrative in voiceover, to portray the horror of those bleak years of forced labour and starvation.

The cuteness of the little models and sets, like a kind of DIY Legoland, was grotesque, and…

18 March 2014 Ann Kramer

In November 1914, a new war resisters’ organisation came into being in Britain – through a letter to the press (as the Peace Pledge Union did 20 years later).

Lilla Brockway prompted her husband Fenner Brockway to place a letter in the Labour Leader (which he edited) inviting responses from men of enlistment age who would refuse to be combatants. 300 replies arrived by return. According to Brockway, the response was ‘so immediate and the earnestness of the writers so moving that it at once became clear that there was a need for a fellowship in which the prospective resisters might unite.’

The No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF) was launched,…

18 March 2014 The Editors

We are shocked at the current US campaign to rob a future Palestinian state of viability and genuine independence (see the front page interview with Norman Finkelstein).

The best case scenario in the foreseeable future for both Palestine and Israel is an authentic two-state solution which allows a Palestinian state on the 1967 ‘green line’ borders, meaning the West Bank , East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. This means the evacuation of illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank (…

21 February 2014 Jeff Cloves

On the back of his precocious autobiography Sum Total, first published when he was 23, Ray is quoted: ‘I am for the working classes, for the underdog, for the seedy and the left behind… and the England that seemed and still seems an impossible dream.’

In a dim corner of Ray’s home from home, the Hard To Find Café in Nottingham, where I attended his wake, the photographs on display told their own story: young good-looking Ray, slight of build with attempted Tony…

21 February 2014

I think that the thing that jumps out from my memory of all of my activism was spending several hours on a sit-down blockade staring down the barrel of a water cannon. Potentially quite a disempowering situation, as the police have a lot of equipment which they are fairly free to use at their own discretion. When all you have is your strength of will, and your physical presence, to challenge that – you feel like the weaker party in that game.

But to come together…

21 February 2014 Albert Beale

Howard Clark, reviews a Bradford University report by Nick Lewer and Oliver Ramsbotham on ‘humanitarian intervention’, written during the break-up of Yugoslavia.

What gives people – citizens or intergovernmental bodies – the right to intervene in a situation, and what considerations should govern this intervention?

... The first half [of the Lewer-Rambotham report] deals with non-coercive humanitarian intervention. While forms of civilian intervention aren’t likely to have the enormous consequences of military intervention, they too need to be assessed according to clear criteria. Marko Hren, commenting on ‘war tourism’ in former-Yugoslavia, talks…

21 February 2014 Virginia Moffatt

Family television wrestles with the concept of redemptive violence


Image: Casey.B.Bassett CC-BY-SA-3.0
via Wikimedia Commons

As the longest running sci-fi show in the world, the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who was always going to be a big event. It could have easily fallen flat on its face, but luckily ‘The Day of the Doctor’ did not disappoint. Steven Moffat’s excellent story was brilliantly acted, had real heart and the right balance of comedy and seriousness, nods to the past and a marvellous set-up for the future…

21 February 2014 Clare Cochrane

Last September, when the biannual DSEi arms fair came to East London, I took part in a blockade of the ExCeL centre the day before the exhibition opened, hoping to stop the unloading of weaponry for display and sale.

Along with others in the blockade, I was arrested, and charged with obstruction of the highway. When my case came to court, I had to decide whether to plead guilty or not.

It might seem obvious that I would plead guilty. After all, I was lying…

21 February 2014 Jeff Cloves

‘Everybody in the whole cell block was dancing to the jailhouse rock’ Elvis Presley 1957

I went recently to a public meeting about the government’s proposed ‘gagging’ bill. It was packed and angry and Stroud’s Tory MP found himself trying to defend the indefensible. He’d been very badly briefed by his own party, couldn’t cope with the well-informed questioners, and was driven to a position whereby he feebly asked us to take his word for it that ‘this bill is well-intentioned’. Cue jeers of derision.

In fact, we all know the bill is a dangerous assault on freedom of speech…

21 February 2014 Emily Johns and Milan Rai

Howard's proposal for a network of nonviolence study and action groups

It’s still unbelievable that he has gone. Howard Clark has been a key figure in Peace News for several decades – as a co-editor, collaborator, contributor, (re-)organiser, trustee, director, defender. His 1971 essay Making Nonviolent Revolution, which we re-published as a pamphlet two years ago – over his modest objections – with a new, very valuable afterword by Howard, remains one of the most important explanations published of the liberatory politics that PN aims to…

31 December 2013 Emily Johns

Jonathan Cape, 2013, 56pp, £20

This is one segment of the outstanding 24-foot-long drawing by Joe Sacco of the first day of the battle of the Somme from his concertina book The Great War: July 1, 1916 (an illustrated panorama with an essay by Adam Hochschild. Jonathan Cape, 2013, 56pp, £20). At first, the mass of figures shuffling through trenches appear to be Where’s Wallys, then peering closer you see that they are all…

19 December 2013 Andrew Rigby and Michael Randle

Our dear friend and comrade Howard Clark was a mainstay of Peace News since the 1970s and of War Resisters' International (WRI) since the 1980s.

Howard's sudden death has left us shocked and bereaved, and with an irrational sense of outrage that he has left us so unexpectedly. He was only 63 and in the middle of helping organise next summer’s WRI conference in South Africa. He leaves a gap which others must strive to fill. It will be difficult, and the following overview and appreciation of his life as a peace activist, organiser and researcher will give some indication of the scale of the challenge.

But before reviewing his…

1 November 2013

I was taken from the court to the cells below, waving goodbye to friends and supporters at the back of the court. My pocket were emptied and everything in a bag. After several hours, I, with some male and female prisoners from other cells, was taken to a bus lined both side with small cells each capable of holding one person. I was able to see our progress through the tunnel and the streets of Liverpool, just an ordinary bus to the public gaze. Eventually, we arrive at Walton prison....…

1 November 2013 Clare Cochrane

Clare Cochrane ruminates on the emotional ups and downs of campaigning

A friend of mine posted on Facebook the other day that she was feeling a bit low. I know that a friend of hers is seriously ill, and I thought it might be because of that. But when I rang her a couple of days later, she said she had been down in Gloucester looking out for badgers at night, and that she always feels a bit blue for a couple of days when she gets home from being out on anti-badger cull duty. ‘I think it’s because I’ve been out in the dark and the cold, squinting through a night…

1 November 2013 Jeff Cloves

Growth doesn't stop because it's winter, argues Jeff Cloves

I have written here before about The Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds because, in darkest times, it gives me inspiration and hope. Life is pretty dark at the moment but it’s as well to remember that growth doesn’t stop because it’s winter time and the renewal of spring doesn’t come from nowhere:

 

Walls will come down
the prisons are burning
under cold ground
warm worms are turning

The unexpected destruction of the Berlin…

1 November 2013 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

PN co-editors Milan Rai and Emily Johns examine some of the precedents for the Campaign Nonviolence initiative

We remember the lunch counter sit-ins that electrified the civil rights movement in the US in 1960. We remember the dignity and persistence of the hundreds of young African-American who asserted their right to be served as equals, day after day, despite repeated beatings and arrests.

The direct action of these Black students achieved desegregation of many businesses within weeks, and dramatically escalated the confrontation with institutional white racism. Many of the students…

1 November 2013 Albert Beale

Peace News gave wide coverage and support to the campaigning at Greenham Common which aimed to stop the new cruise missiles being deployed there; but it then became apparent that that phase of the campaign was not going to succeed.

The recent leaks about the arrival date of American cruise missiles at Greenham Common were followed last week by a series of transport planes bringing related equipment – though not it seems, initially, the missiles themselves. But even before the first planes arrived, nuclear disarmers were stepping up their opposition.

October 29 saw 1,500 women taking direct action at Greenham Common, where parts of the perimeter fence were cut down. On Monday October 31, the day of the…

1 October 2013 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

We need a common agenda to tackle the twin threats of climate change and nuclear warfare.

We are of the generation who came of age in the 1980s, terrified that the world might end at any moment through nuclear holocaust. In the decades since then, the people of the world have grown less frightened of a nuclear war.

The risk is still there, as the number of nuclear weapon states increases, and conflicts continue around nuclear tinderboxes, but the fear has declined.

Recent studies suggest that even a ‘small’ nuclear war between India and Pakistan, with each…

1 October 2013 Hannah Lewis

I took part in an exercise recently. I was told to imagine that I had come from the future, in fact seven generations or 200 years into the future. All we knew about this future world is that the systems on Earth are life-sustaining enough to hold some amount of humanity.

I was to imagine that in the time I lived – the year 2213 – there was a lot of talk about what the world was like back in 2013. The future ones knew that there had been massive change on Earth at that time, and I…

1 October 2013 Di McDonald

Di McDonald remembers a 'tiny woman of towering strength'

Known by Greenham Women and Cruisewatch as Jean Witney, this tiny woman of towering strength brought love, determination and common sense to her work as another peace woman extraordinaire. In an Oxford Mail interview, Jean once said: ‘Going to Greenham was a seminal point in my life. I don’t know what it was about the place, but you got a great positive strength from being there and…

1 October 2013 Jenny Craigen

Jenny Craigen returns to Orange Gate

Everything looked so different, with trees and bushes grown taller, paths diverted and gates moved. I drove straight past Orange Gate where I had spent many weekends and holidays during the 1980s, sitting round the smoky camp fire, planning actions, cooking vegetable stews, singing songs, getting stoned.…

I finally found my way back to the gate, of which only a metal fence post…

1 October 2013

I am very unhappy that you have asked me this question. I used to believe that if you weren’t miserable, you weren’t politically conscious. So I used to make myself even more unhappy than I was in order to make myself more politically right-on.

Thankfully I can now just allow myself to be depressed.

Man

I don’t know. Perhaps activism is a way of keeping your unhappiness at bay. You can cultivate an image of being a great activist while actually being extremely…

1 October 2013 Albert Beale

Peace News played a key role in the upsurge of activism against nuclear power at the end of the 1970s, both by reporting events and by discussing strategies that could help different sorts of campaigners to work together effectively.

In the months since the Torness demonstration in May and the London anti-Windscale demo some kind of anti-nuclear movement has appeared. Discussion of how nuclear power can be opposed is shifting from isolated actions to the development of campaigns. The Torness Alliance is an attempt (experimental and perhaps inevitably frustrating) at developing mutual co-ordination of the efforts of local autonomous groups.

That development will be very difficult without a growth and…

1 September 2013

I do think swimming in the sea is remarkable. It’s the only time you’re inside an organism, but I don’t think that’s political. It may be spiritual.

Woman, St Leonards-on-Sea

Well, actually, when you say ‘activism and swimming’, the first thing that comes into my head is Jeju [island in South Korea, where villagers are resisting the building of a massive naval base] when I jumped into the water when I first arrived. When I saw the police were stopping the SOS kayaks, I…

1 September 2013 Emily Johns

PN co-editor Emily Johns reflects on difference and the difference it makes.

When I gave birth to my child, there he was, he was a boy! So different from me. If he had been a girl, I would have looked ahead at his childhood through the template of my own. I remember thinking: ‘Oh no, I don’t like football, I’ll need to get to grips with boys’ interests and needs’. I nevertheless gave him my dolls’ house furniture and found that he was his own person, didn’t like football anyway, and we did pretty well on gender, power and politics over the next 18 years.

But…

1 September 2013 Albert Beale

In this era, Peace News’s supportive coverage of feminist campaigns and of anti-sexist men’s groups was still sometimes controversial; it frequently led to continuing debate on the letters pages each fortnight. Here, Mark Ashmore joins in.

I read the letter from Mary Winter [who had accused men’s groups of being ‘the counter-attack on the Women’s Liberation Movement’] with anger, then amazement, and finally with sadness. It seems that not only do male readers not know much about the women’s movement but also some female readers not know much about ‘Men Against Sexism’.

‘Men Against Sexism’ (MAS) avoid the use of the term men’s liberation because it does sound arrogant and does not make clear the great…

1 September 2013 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves reflects on desertion's representation in popular music

Lately I have been thinking – once again – about desertion from the military. This time, I’ve been prompted by reading a review (not the book) of Deserter: The Last Untold Story of the Second World War by Charles Glass (HarperPress, 2013, £25). The review reveals that ‘as many as 100,000 British and 50,000 US Servicemen are believed to have deserted at some point’. I hope to return to this book about ‘the final taboo’ in a future PN.

But taboo? Well, that’s as maybe but…

1 September 2013 Hannah Lewis

No Dash for Gas spent months planning an action camp called ‘Reclaim the Power’ at the new West Burton gas power station near Nottingham, the power station we occupied for a week last autumn.

Then, just two weeks before the event, we made a momentous decision to change the venue and indeed the focus of our camp.

We realised that now is a crucial time for climate and fuel poverty campaigners to show solidarity with the people of Balcombe in West Sussex, and others around the…

5 July 2013 Milan Rai

It was a year ago that I came up with the idea that this issue only have content created by people of colour (photos, articles, cartoons). Why are we doing it this way?

Well, from a political point of view, this helps to counter (perhaps unconscious) racist preconceptions. It helps to celebrate what people with a global majority background are capable of. It also gives an opportunity for people of colour who might otherwise not have chosen or been chosen for the spotlight, but who…

5 July 2013 Albert Beale

The South African political exile Lewis Nkosi, writing in Peace News in the period before he became a well-known author, drew on his experience of the South African struggle to criticise the analysis of African-American writer Louis Lomax in the latter’s book The Negro Revolt. This was part of PN’s wide-ranging coverage – by those involved – of the Civil Rights movement in the US in the ’60s.

The struggle in America is not what it appears to be to most white people; nor is it comparable or similar in nature to the fight against apartheid. It is a curious struggle that is being waged both in the area of public amenities and in the Negro soul itself. The struggle for civil rights – which is also, in the main, the subject of Mr Lomax’s book – is moreover perplexing because of its diverse ramifications. While speaking to American Negros one soon gains the impression that the growing…

5 July 2013 Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Zephaniah chose these poems to contribute to this special issue of Peace News

My ears are battered and burned an I have just learnt 

I’ve been listening to the rong radio station
My mind has been brutalised now the pain can’t be disguised
I’ve been listening to the rong radio station,
I was beginning to believe that all black men were bad men
and white men would reign again
I was beginning to believe that i was a mindless drugs freak

That couldn’t control my sanity or my sexuality
I was beginning to believe that I…

5 July 2013 Benjamin Zephaniah

‘The peace garden is opposite the War Memorial,’
Said the old soldier.

‘We had to fight to make peace
Back in the good old days.’

‘No the War Memorial is opposite the peace garden,’
Said the old pacifist.

‘You’ve had so many wars to end all wars,
Still millions are dying from the wars you left behind.’

‘Look,’ said the old soldier.
‘You chickens stuck your peace garden

In front of our War Memorial to cause non-…

5 July 2013 Milan Rai

If I’ve ever met a personification of the word ‘staunch’, I think it must have been Pat Allen. Over many decades, Pat was a linchpin of London Region CND and an indispensable part of the national CND office. 

Pat was born at the beginning of the Great Depression, and his family lived on or near the bread line for most of the decade. His father had lost part of a lung due to a gas attack during the First World War. His mother, who often told him of her recollections of that war,…

1 July 2013 Milan Rai

'Western civilisation' is a mixed-race child

It is a famous, but apocryphal exchange: ‘Mr Gandhi, what do you think of western civilisation?’ ‘I think it would be a very good idea.’ Europeans like to see their culture as springing directly from the fountains of Greek creativity, being refined within the formality of the Roman empire, then surviving ‘the dark ages’ to flower in the Renaissance and all that has followed.

The Irish journalist and UN civil servant Erskine Barton Childers wrote a passionate corrective in 1966: ‘I…

1 July 2013 Aneaka Kallay

While sitting on a train bound for Manchester, I read over an article I’d drafted for Radical Rumours, a housing and workers co-operative zine. The piece encouraged the Radical Routes network to break out of guilt-based activism which permeated our communities. As I read the piece I had a lightbulb moment: I’d written the article for myself.

A few months earlier, I had been involved in the No Dash for Gas occupation of West Burton gas-fired power station. It was a very successful…

1 July 2013 Sareena Rai

The Personal Column

My father was a Gurkha and we lived in a British army camp in East Nepal where all the Nepalis lived on one side of the camp and all the British on the other. My father, a commissioned officer was given housing on the British side which made things kind of weird for me and my sister.

I would swim, ride horses, and attend the whites-only small, makeshift elementary school. At sleep-overs, I found myself wanting to eat the colonel’s daughter’s strawberry-flavoured imported Punch and…

24 June 2013 Albert Beale

London Greenpeace–established by people around Peace News, and separate from and pre-dating the bigger and more corporate Greenpeace organisation – had organised a walk from London to Paris in opposition to French nuclear tests. The PN staffer who was there reported...

At 4pm on Saturday, over 30 ‘tourists’ in Notre Dame cathedral quietly took loose ends of chains from under their clothing, each passed them to the nearest person, and within a few moments three pillars were surrounded by circles of people holding banners calling for an end to French nuclear tests. 

The Greenpeace walkers had arrived in Paris!

After these people were secure, the support actions started. At 4.05pm the press were informed, explanatory leaflets were…

24 June 2013

I don't like it when things get ascetic. Enjoying ourselves has potential for liberating us. My general philosophy is: pleasure is a good thing. In our affinity group we have made a commitment to enjoying ourselves. We realised that a lot of our motivational energy comes from guilt. That got us thinking what other motivations we could discover. Enjoying ourselves is a vehicle that will be more exciting and appeal to other people.

There is a lot about pleasure that is to with class…

24 June 2013 Hannah Lewis

I get a kick out of finding ways out of tricky situations, and usually small odds don’t discourage me. But there always comes a point where the odds are so tiny that it seems ridiculous to believe that a way out is possible. 

As with climate change.

Except with climate change there aren’t any odds. I think it’s pretty damn certain that we are starting to experience what will become a massive amount of suffering and loss of life on this planet.

How do I feel…

8 June 2013 Jeff Cloves

How powerfully songs can hit you in the heart and make the impact that politicians struggle to achieve with their leaden delivery and faux sincerity. Thus Margaret Thatcher and her protégé young master Blair spring to mind.

Songs, however, can almost leap from the radio such are their intensity.

Elvis Costello achieved this with ‘Oliver’s army’ – the best song to have emerged from Ireland’s modern troubles – and his heartbreaking response to the Falklands…

8 June 2013 The Editors

Nonviolent resistence in Palestine

The courageous Israeli Jewish journalist Amira Hass recently condemned the phrase ‘nonviolent resistance’ in relation to the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation. This caused some jubilation among activists concerned with Palestine who are hostile to nonviolence.

Their jubilation may have been premature.

Amira Hass said, in her interview with US radical news programme, Democracy Now!, ‘I don’t like the term “nonviolent resistance”…. because it puts the onus of being…

26 May 2013

For my parents, people who go to court are people who have done something wrong. Even when they know you, they are not going to change their mind. They may think “my daughter is not a bad person”, but they have stereotypes. And they will worry because I am in another country. Maybe they think I don’t know what I am doing, because my brother is police and they listen to him everyday.

But because I travel, then it changes my perspective. I realise that the law…

26 May 2013 Albert Beale

Whether to work more with peace campaigns with limited aims, at the expense of concentrating on the fundamental issue of the rejection of war itself, is a never-ending debate within pacifist organisations. Here, Harry Mister reports from the 1963 AGM of the Peace Pledge Union.

The deference which politicians, church leaders and the press pay to pacifism is at once encouraging and humiliating. It is a tribute to the success of [pacifist organisations] in keeping before the community the perennial relevance of the golden rule in personal and national affairs; it rubs in that although we leaven the lump in a variety of ways, nobody seriously believes we could take over from the baker.

In recent years, the pacifists in this country have…

22 May 2013 Hannah Lewis

In March I spent a week in the eco-cabins at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, at a workshop organised by trainers from three training collectives – Rhizome, Tripod and Seeds for Change.

The workshop focussed on naming and exploring many of the dynamics that so often go unspoken and unprocessed in groups.

I was part of the mainstream of the group – I come from a grassroots ‘activist’ culture, I’ve been to university, I’m from the UK, I’m white. Being part of the group’s mainstream meant I was one of the people who had the power to make the subtle decision of what behaviours and attitudes were acceptable in the space; essentially, I helped define…

22 May 2013 Howard Clark

A send-off to long-time PN volunteer, Martyn Lowe

Martyn Lowe photo: Ippy D

If you began subscribing to Peace News before 2005, it’s almost certain that you’ll have received copies packed by Martyn Lowe, the most regular of Peace News and War Resisters’ International packing volunteers. 5 Caledonian Road gave Martyn a liquid send-off in April, after his nearly 28 years of volunteering week in and week out (with a few months break once in Denmark). Proud Cockney Martyn is leaving London for Liverpool — although…

22 May 2013 The Editors

On Thatcher’s moments of vulnerability

The death of Margaret Thatcher has provoked a huge reaction. Amid all the tributes and eulogies, pop songs and death parties, one aspect of her reign has been neglected: Thatcher’s moments of vulnerability.

Almost from moment of her election as prime minister, Margaret Thatcher was one of the most divisive figures in modern British history. A YouGov poll after her death found that half of the public thought she had been a good prime minister, while exactly a third…

22 May 2013 Annette Bygott

“I was doing a self-portrait around the time when the firestorm on Iraq started. That was ten years ago. It was the beginning of the immoral and illegal onslaught on people like us. Thinking of their religion and ancient culture, I gave myself a kind of hijab to say where and with whom my heart was at that hour of unfolding horror.”

5 April 2013 Albert Beale

Anti-nuclear campaigners caused a furore in 1963 by publishing details of the government’s secret Third World War control bunkers, to coincide with CND’s Aldermaston March at Easter.  

On Thursday April 11, a pamphlet entitled ‘Danger Official Secret RSG 6’ was circulated to the national press, political parties, prominent personalities in the peace movement including Bertrand Russell, Albert Schweitzer and Linus Pauling, to a number of MPs and to MI5. The pamphlet gave details of the government’s plans for setting up 12 regional seats of government (RSGs) in secret underground offices, naming the sites of several of them and giving names and…

5 April 2013

I do find that quite a lot of people think that to ‘get back to nature’ we should spend our time wallowing in mud. The practical problems of that [anti-roads] camp in Combe Haven [East Sussex]…. I’m quite glad I only turned up the day before the evictions happened, otherwise I would have had to spend days living in all that mud.

The thing I enjoyed most about being in a tree for three days [during the evictions] was being out of the mud for three days.…

5 April 2013 Hannah Lewis

It’s 2am on a starry October night. Crows are cawing overhead. I am face down in the mud while two security guards with a torch scan the footpath. They’ve just spotted a group of 21 people with large rucksacks and a quantity of rope that might raise suspicion considering we’re within walking distance of several power stations. Oh dear.

After a couple of seconds wondering where our own security measures have gone wrong, I turn my thoughts to escape and survival. We…

5 April 2013 Jeff Cloves

How the media loves anniversaries and now I’m at it too; it hardly seems 10 months ago let alone 10 years that war was declared on Iraq. Saddam was the excuse, war was the result, and the number of Iraqis who’ve died in consequence will be forever disputed. What PN readers may agree upon is that one death was one too many.

What the peace group here in Stroud was, and is, agreed upon was that, from the…

5 April 2013 The Editors

On the approaching anniversary of 1914

As we approach the hundredth anniversary of the First World War, an uncomfortable question raises its head. Why did so many millions succumb to ‘war fever’ in 1914? While there was a lot of reluctance and a fair amount of resistance to the war, the actual declaration of war spawned huge, wildly-excited crowds in the major capital cities and the fever claimed many liberals and left-wingers.

The emotions that overwhelmed these Europeans had little to do with hate…

9 March 2013 Jennifer Verson

29 January Johan Galtung lecture

I walked in and there was a formula on the projection screen

peace=equity x harmony/trauma x conflict

and a handout that said:

There are two factors in the Numerator: the more the better. There are two factors in the denominator leading to direct and structural violence: the less the better.

Constructing Equity: cooperation for mutual and equal benefit

Constructing…

9 March 2013 The Editors

International Women’s Day has been celebrated in different ways in Iran. Last year, it was reported that meetings were held in people’s houses, and that it was proposed as a day of ‘solidarity and self-criticism’. The year before, there were street demonstrations in Tehran – and masked, baton-waving women police. In 2010, the Iranian government marked the day by banning the country’s greatest living poet, Simin Behbahani, from travelling to France where she had been invited by the mayor of…

9 March 2013 Emily Johns

A garden of paradise, Na’in Drawing: Emily Johns

8 February 2013

I guess the thing that comes into my mind is, the first thing that comes into my mind, is activism plus going on road trips equals junk food. Activism and an adrenalin rush. The excitement of going on recces in the middle of the night, going past petrol stations and getting junk food to keep our sugar levels up.

It’s sort of like junk food is sometimes quite a helpful comfort food but it’s not part of a long-term sustainableness.

Woman activist

8 February 2013 Albert Beale

At their height, there were a dozen simultaneous peace camps at military bases around Britain; PN ran a regular round-up each fortnight.

The Wethersfield US Air Force base, Essex, is the latest target for a peace camp. CND groups in Essex established a camp outside the base on February 6 during a rally of over 200 people. After being a stand-by base for about ten years, fresh developments have been taking place at Wethersfield for the last 18 months. Building work has been going on and 400 extra US personnel have moved in. Activists wonder if there is a secret plan to base the second batch of cruise missiles (after Greenham…

8 February 2013 Jennifer Verson

Thoughts from Rose Howey housing co-op

15 December
Edge Fund launch, London


Migrant Artists Mutual Aid had mixed emotions about applying for money from this new initiative, which is a new approach to grant-making that wants to assist groups working for systemic change.

The irony is that part of the systemic change that MaMa is working for is to create confidence in mutual aid and not in charity, to create an organisation that is not dependent on other people’s money. But I found myself at the…

8 February 2013 Jeff Cloves

In 1963, what was then London Transport transported me to The Theatre Royal Stratford East and there I saw its legendary production of Oh What a Lovely War! It is an evening I will never forget; not least because I sat behind an elderly man who began to weep as the mounting casualty figures of the First World War flashed up on the illuminated screen suspended over the set. 

This simple but heartrending device continued to the end of the evening and so did his weeping. His tears…

8 February 2013 The Editors

Heading off for our first joint peace delegation (one of us has been to Iraq, the other has been on a Fellowship of Reconciliation delegation to Iran before), we’ve been reflecting on the history and purpose of peace delegations.

In his monumental book about the anti-war movement in Britain during the First World War, Against All War, Adam Hochschild tells the story of Emily Hobhouse, who had exposed the horrors of the British concentration camps during the Boer war. In 1915, well…

8 February 2013 Rosa Gilbert

Leslie Gordon Harris, Christian pacifist and Second World War conscientious objector, died at West Middlesex Hospital in December, aged 96.

Born at 155 Hither Green Lane, Lewisham, in 1916, he was brought up in the Congregational Church, and in 1935 responded to the reverend Dick Sheppard’s invitation to declare that ‘I renounce war and will never support or sanction another’, joining the Peace Pledge Union. 

Having left Colfe’s Grammar School in 1932, Leslie started working at Barclay’s bank in 1935 after a brief spell working for stockbrokers in the City. He married Barbara Freeman – a shorthand typist at Barclay’s…

8 February 2013 Sian Jones and Ippy D

In December, our good friend Ian Thomas died, unexpectedly, aged 49. He had a heart attack while asleep at home in Southampton.

We got to know Ian in the early 1990s when starting Women’s Aid to Former Yugoslavia. Ian had co-founded Tantric Technologies in 1989 – a worker’s co-op providing IT services. He – and Clive Debenham, who died last year – helped us become early adopters of the then-new email technology to communicate with women’s and peace groups in the region via the ZaMir network. He also did time in our warehouses, packing and loading aid onto the trucks.

Over the following 20 years, we had…

8 February 2013 kennardphillips

A photomontage by Cat Picton-Philips and Peter Kennard

‘The series of prints in Award arose out of our need to find a way to express our disgust with the war against Iraq and attempt to revoke our impotence in the face of the raging terrorism committed in the name of democracy. We wanted to use digital technology to make visceral images that used everyday stuff as directly as we could in order to respond to the war’s full horror with thousands of Iraqis being killed.

‘As the occupation became filthier, our prints became denser and…

5 February 2013 Leonna O'Neill

On 15 April, hundreds (maybe thousands!) will descend on the Faslane naval base, home to Trident, in a mass display of nonviolent direct action.

On this day, the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, our intention is to use our bodies to peacefully halt the daily business of preparing for nuclear war. To shut down the UK’s most expensive military spending operation!

Our hope is that this will be the beginning of a new wave of anti-Trident activism in Scotland, a new wave that will see new faces hold hands and lay down on the road with those who’ve been doing this for decades. A new wave that we hope will bring…

5 February 2013 Ray Davies

I wish I could find the words to express my anger and frustration at this Tory government’s headlong rush to establish nuclear power stations. Now they are spending £300m on a study to build a new fleet of nuclear submarines which would eventually cost the taxpayer £10bn. They have declared their intention to build five new nuclear power stations which directly affect Wales: Wylfa poses a threat to North Wales and the Irish Sea, and Hinkley and Oldbury menace the South Wales coastline.…

1 December 2012 Jennifer Verson

Turkeys, progress & praxis

She said: What is history? And
he said History is an angel being
blown backwards into the future
He said: History is a pile of debris
And the angel wants to go back
and fix things To repair the things
that have been broken But there
is a storm blowing from Paradise
And the storm keeps blowing the
angel backwards into the future
And this storm, this storm is called
Progress

The Dream Before (for Walter Benjamin)…

1 December 2012 PN staff

A call for funds!

Dear friends,

Like many other radical organisations, Peace News runs on a shoe-string. Despite this scarcity of resources, we’re proud of the projects we’ve put on (one-offs like the mighty Rebellious Media Conference in 2011, and regular events like Peace News Summer Camp), and we’re proud of having kept the newspaper afloat.

You can help us keep going in a number of ways.  You could give a gift of a 12-month…

1 December 2012 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

PN's editors respond to criticism from a reader.

In the last issue of PN, a Jewish reader wrote that she was ‘often very surprised and saddened at the extent of the anti-Jewish feeling and writing in the political Left, and in Peace News particularly’. We promised to reply this issue.

Jen asked whether there was ‘a visible and vocal place for Jews (or Arabs and Gentiles) in the peace movements in general, and in Peace News in particular, who believe in a Jewish…

1 December 2012 Martin Smith

Documentary maker, author and activist

Born in Hull and raised in Hackney, Dai Vaughan was a teenage poet when in 1951 he attended the opening of Britain’s National Film Theatre in London. He recalled: ‘That you could see shots or images as a complex metaphor was a revelation.’

His breakthough as an editor came after working with fellow London Film School alumni Jane Wood and David Naden on Gala Day. Filmed in 1962, using mute hand-held 16mm cameras, Gala Day’s structure and use of unsynchronised sound…

1 December 2012 Albert Beale

Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi was reviewed at length for PN by Devi Prasad, a colleague of Gandhi who’d lived on Gandhi’s ashram both before and after the latter’s assassination in 1948.

In the concluding chapter of his autobiography, My Experiments With Truth, Gandhi wrote “The exercise has given me ineffable mental peace, because it has been my fond hope that it might bring faith in Truth and Ahimsa (total nonviolence) to waverers.”

I am certain that the film will convince some if not all of those waverers who doubt that a person without weapons can practise self-defence and fight against a powerful and ruthless opponent. Gandhi’s was not passive resistance, it was…

1 December 2012 Jeremy Kingston

Jeremy Kingston is inspired by Lt Gen Sir John Kiszley's frank admission

‘a tremendous networking opportunity’  – Lt General Sir John Kiszley’s comment on the Festival of Remembrance. He subsequently resigned as president of the British Legion.

How true it is, when each year, come November,
we gather here at Whitehall to remember
those gallant fellows we sent out to die,
whose sacrifice we’re here to glorify.
Other Ranks, yes, but subalterns as well
who, and the nation mourns their passing, fell.

Yet there’s…

1 December 2012

Is desperation a luxury?

Reading the October issue of PN, the pieces about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the people working on Peace News getting an issue out the door but not knowing whether they would live to put another issue together again, reminds me of the 1980s and that same sense of desperation I had then, lots of us had, that the end of the world could be coming any day, that nuclear weapons were about to obliterate us.

It is a very different feeling today. With climate change, it is almost certainly…

17 October 2012

Do these words go together? 'Activism' and 'partying'....

Activism and partying? I haven't really experienced linking these together. If you're talking about a 'regular party', it doesn't really link to my peace activism.

It sounds interesting having those two things linked together. What comes into my head is people with different views who feel strongly about something coming together in a party and discussing things in a casual way.

You have to have music at a party, but I feel it should not be a mainstream band. 

I haven't…

17 October 2012 Albert Beale

A PN editor, reporting from the committal hearing (where the prosecution demonstrates to a magistrate that there's a case to answer in a crown court) in the ABC official secrets case, took notes which led to a minor constitutional crisis – not to mention to all the PN staff appearing before the lord chief justice, and later the house of lords. See also the obituary of Crispin Aubrey.

There were certainly moments of humour – of the absurd variety that [the prosecutor] Michael Coombe, with his inability to comprehend the possibility of a different view of the world from his own, is so good at.... He explained that an expert witness was to be called, who would testify to the type of risk to the safety of the state that might ensue if the information of the sort [the three defendants talked about] were disclosed. The risk has been assessed, he intoned, as varying from grave…

17 October 2012 Jennifer Verson

Radio class with Fatoumata, and other incidents.

27 September

Liverpool Public Enquiry Office UK Border Agency

We are going to have dinner at Anne’s after Fatoumata’s interview at the Home Office. I am meeting Fatoumata, but get lost and can’t find the centre. I should have printed a map, then I see a flash of pink hair which I realise is Penny walking up the road with Fatoumata!

After I got my residency papers, Anne and I launched ‘Migrant Artists Mutual Aid’ to raise money for a specialist solicitor for Fatoumata and…

17 October 2012 Albert Beale

3 January 1946 – 28 September  2012

Peace News found itself involved – directly or indirectly – in several of the spate of political trials which were a feature of life in Britain during the 1970s. One of these was the ABC official secrets case; Crispin Aubrey, the 'A' of the trial's name, has died suddenly, aged 66.

Those of us editing PN at the time were hauled up before the lord chief justice for naming an anonymous witness due to give evidence in the ABC case, and both lots of defendants ended up…

17 October 2012 Jeff Cloves

The Personal Column

In 1970, I met, at peace activist Dennis Gould's home in Cornwall, an unassuming musician and writer of, it seemed to me, indisputable talent and originality. He'd just had his first LP Bill Fay released and I was so impressed, I wrote a piece about him in the rock magazine Zigzag.

This launched a valued friendship with Bill which was marked last month, by the release of his third commissioned studio album, Life is People, to a set of rave reviews unequalled in my…

17 October 2012 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

There are converging agendas for different movements - anti-cuts, climate, disarmament, labour movement...

It is not enough for the anti-cuts movement to be a defensive, responsive movement. It is not enough to point out the flaws in the arguments for austerity (as the False Economy website does so brilliantly).
If we are going to have a world worth living in, we are going to have to merge together the agendas of the anti-cuts movement, the green movement, the labour movement and the peace movement.

We are already arguing for…

26 September 2012 Albert Beale

Soon after PN first regularly added the subtitle 'for nonviolent revolution' to its masthead, Bob Overy (who'd worked on the paper not long before) wrote a two-part article analysing the many different takes on the subject. This is part of his setting the scene for the two pieces.

I've come to the conclusion that there are two basically different ways of looking at nonviolent revolution, and several different positions which might be accommodated to this label. This has not eased a sense I have that a great big rag-bag of a concept is being held out as a goal for pacifists, which will certainly be taken up because it sounds right and, as a slogan, has flair.

The danger, I fear, is that we'll begin to speak and act as if nonviolent revolution is the agreed…

26 September 2012

The early days...

Well the first I'd say is that when I started going to protests as such, I wouldn't have considered myself to be 'an activist'.
The first protest I went on was on the night of the student fees vote in parliament. I'd never been on a protest before and I thought it'd be quite peaceful and quite orderly.

It didn't turnout that way – we got kettled by the police. It was not a pleasant experience, but I met great people and I wanted to get more involved.

There was a moment…

26 September 2012 Jennifer Verson

Rose Howey Housing Co-op finally get to buy their house.

Sundown Monday

Blessed are all things that come from the grape.

We are having a dinner with all the people getting ready to move into Rose Howey House, the old bail hostel that my co-operative has been trying to buy for three and a half months, it's Rosh Hashanah and we are eating apples and honey and home made vegan challah before an important meeting. Rob brought a bottle of kosher wine, splashed out and got the expensive stuff. The cheap stuff is made in New York,…

26 September 2012 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

Back in June, a former US presidential advisor and Harvard University professor, Graham Allison, described the current confrontation with Iran as 'a Cuban missile crisis in slow motion': 'Events are moving, seemingly inexorably, toward a showdown in which the US president will be forced to choose between ordering a military attack and acquiescing to a nuclear-armed Iran'.

(In fact…

28 August 2012

There had been an ‘issue’ in our group, so I had to talk face-to-face with someone. We figured out the best chance of us meeting was when he came to Aldermaston for an action camp (against nuclear weapons).

I showed up; he’d volunteered to be a decoy, so we walked around the base, talking about who said what and who did what and why he felt the way he did.

At the main entrance, he said he was going to walk straight in –as a decoy. I joined him – we were both expecting to be…

28 August 2012 Jennifer Verson

Jennifer Verson reflects on the intersection between activism and everyday life

23 August: It was a good thing to think about our housing cooperative as an action. Tracy is in Chicago and she has just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I look it up on the internet: it could be exposure to radiation, nuclear testing in Utah. Tracy has to fill out financial aid forms otherwise the doctor won’t operate.

Starting a diary for Peace News is a bit scary. Over the last year, I have developed a love of writing populist political theory: punk rock princesses and…

28 August 2012

Selections from the Peace News archives

[The views of nonviolent revolutionaries towards more “traditional” revolutionary struggles have frequently been discussed in PN. Here, Nigel Young contributes to a then current debate within War Resisters’ International (WRI).]

I hope that we can examine the assumptions that we, as war resisters, have brought to bear when we have adopted positions in relationship to ‘military modes of liberation’...

The fact that a ‘new system of oppression exists in embryo in violent…

28 August 2012 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

Why the Olympics corrodes democracy

We’re guessing that PN readers divide roughly 50/50 on the Olympics. Half of us are blissfully ignorant of the whole thing. Half of us know varying amounts about what happened. (At a UK level, 90% of the population watched at least 15 minutes of coverage, according to the BBC.)

If you want to take the most positive, Colin Ward-ish perspective, you can cherish the fact that ‘the British nation’ has taken a black man (an immigrant from Somaliland) and a mixed-race woman to its heart, as…

28 August 2012 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves reflects on PN Summer Camp 2012

My headline’s a distortion; a Peace News Summer camp is nothing like Maplin’s television idyll; Maplin’s was entirely devoted to having a good time and didn’t fret about moral purpose.

Hang-on though, I’ve just come back from this summer’s PN tented rave-up and a good time is exactly what I had. Of course, there was a fair bit of fretting – and purposeful and well-aimed it was – but we all deserve a good time from time to time and it’s arguable whether shared angst is better…

2 July 2012 Albert Beale

PN columnist “Owlglass”, one of a number of powerful writers in the paper in the midst of the Second World War, takes a biting approach to both the war mentality in general and the war’s more extreme and barbaric methods.

Despite the abandonment of “Hate Training” by the military authorities, the nation is still confronted with the difficult problem - Exactly how much hate ought we to have?

There is a lamentable divergence of opinion on this matter. At one extreme we have the Archbishop advocating no hate at all and exhorting us to love the enemy while killing him. At the other extreme, the Marquis of Donegal advocates 100 per cent hatred and “German justice for 90 million German vermin”.

Both…

2 July 2012

I know someone who became a committed, full-on activist because of his experience of consensus decision-making. A demo was happening and he tagged along, and it wound its way into a student union or something, and everyone sat down and they had a decision-making meeting and he was completely blown away and thought: ‘This is it! This is how things should be!’

What’s attractive is the sense that everyone is being listened to, everyone’s opinion counts. After my experiences of school and…

2 July 2012 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

The pros and cons of 'rebel countercultures'

We’re still digesting the long interview we carried out with veteran US activist George Lakey earlier this year, the last part of which appears on p8. We’re bringing George to the UK for a two-week speaking tour (which culminates in a day-long whole-camp workshop at Peace News Summer Camp) and we’re very much looking forward to learning more about the multi-dimensional Movement for a New Society that he initiated, which, among other things, took a number of buildings into collective…

3 June 2012

   

‘My mother, Bridget Coffey, never analysed her paintings. She had very little ego; she got absorbed in beautiful things. She spent her childhood summers in Switzerland with her father’s colleague, Carl Jung. The essence of her was an artist. She was able to capture the joyful. She gave up a life of privilege for something more benign and good – connection, humanness.’

Agatha…

31 May 2012 Albert Beale

Arguments about nuclear power stations and nuclear waste were prevalent 30 years ago, as now – and PN played a key part. Ex-PN-staffer Paul Wesley tells of a campaign that succeeded.

The government’s abandonment of the nuclear waste burial programme is a fine victory for anti-nuclear campaigners generally and for Welsh groups in particular. For Madryn [Welsh anti-dumping group] it was the unexpectedly early culmination of two years’ campaigning which provides some valuable organisational lessons.

During the early public meetings it became clear that people felt it would be very wrong for any campaign to simply oppose dumping in this area alone, and so a policy of…

31 May 2012

I used to belong to an affinity group whose motto was ‘fun and effective’. Every action was supposed to be both effective in advancing our cause, and fun for those of us carrying it out.

We did do some very amusing things. The most bizarre of which was when we were campaigning about East Timor, which few people had ever heard of, and British arms sales to Indonesia, which was then occupying the tiny country. (I still find it hard to believe international pressure forced Indonesia out…

31 May 2012 Jeff Cloves

You act alone, and you don't tell....

Recently I was at a film show of pro-cycling films promoted by the excellent and innovative campaigning collective Bicycology.

The films were of variable quality and content and mostly strident in their opposition to car ownership and use.

Now whether such stridency is counter-productive is another debate but, as I’ve often mentioned in this column, PN’s embrace and promotion of cycling as a peaceful and healthy means of transport runs through its make-up like the…

31 May 2012 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

Is it revolutionary - or counter-revolutionary - to attack the police?

The police march in London on 10 May was ‘supported’ by some radical protesters, holding sardonic signs: ‘Without us, democracy would triumph’, ‘Kettling: a transitional demand’, and ‘Not all cops are bastards’. People joked that the police might be less conservative than usual in their estimates of how many marched (in the event, Scotland Yard refused to give a figure).

The protest was against plans to cut police numbers by 16,000 over four years, as part of a 20% cut to the policing…

27 April 2012 Albert Beale

PN was a leading voice in the radical opposition to the Falklands War; though there was plenty of reactionary opposition too – from both ends of the orthodox political spectrum.

The stated British policy to regain control of the islands by backing up diplomatic pressure with military might, in effect using the task force as a political weapon, is bound to lead to confusion.

When does a military engagement leave the political arena and become a political weapon? ... Military means subvert the political process, and then, with the weakening of non-military action, an increase in military action becomes…

27 April 2012

 

If you ask who I feel has mentored me, the one obvious figure for me is the poet Waldo Williams, whose poetry is... how can I say it... Well, someone once asked me: ‘Which of his poems are the pacifist ones?’ And I answered: ‘They all are!’

They are all inspired by this notion that, as people, we can and must live in peace, and that is our natural state.

Some of the images he has are so…

27 April 2012 Jeff Cloves

Sometimes I try – like many PN readers I guess – to imagine myself in the position of a bereaved family in a civil war and know that revenge would be uppermost in my mind.

The intention to make somebody pay and suffer the same terrible loss and pain as yourself is near-irresistible and, maybe, even human nature.

Throughout my life, state gangsterism and political perfidy have sent me…

27 April 2012 The Editors

Responding to the situation in Syria

The brutal pace of events in Syria has been hard to follow, let alone to comprehend and to critique. Large-scale nonviolent protests against the regime of president Bashar al-Assad began over a year ago, in March 2011, after 14 schoolchildren were arrested and tortured in the city of Deraa. Their crime was to have written a popular Arab Spring slogan on a wall: ‘The people want the downfall of the regime’. The shooting of demonstrators spread the protests around…

27 April 2012 Michael Randle

Michael Randle on the playwright and Peace News supporter John Arden who died aged 82 last month. 

John Arden at an 80th birthday tribute in 2010.

John Arden, who died on 28 March at the age of 81, was one of that generation of dramatists, novelists, film-makers and critics who transformed cultural life in Britain in the late 1950s and 1960s. They included, among others, fellow dramatists John Osborne, Shelagh Delaney, Harold Pinter, Arnold Wesker and Brendan Behan; the theatre directors Joan Littlewood and William Gaskill; poets such as Christopher Logue…

1 April 2012 Ros Meadow

A response to Operation Cast Lead

‘I created this image in response to Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009. It is part of a two-minute film Breakfast in Gaza. Sadly the bombing and killing still continues and the soil and water in Gaza is contaminated.’

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_kn6AqXx5w

31 March 2012 Albert Beale

PN was naturally a leading voice in the opposition to the Falklands War, both in terms of its own editorial line and in its promoting of the views of the main British pacifist organisations and the international networks to which they were affiliated.

The prospect of war over the Falkland Islands has been viewed with enthusiasm by headline writers, and politicians of all persuasions have been competing in jingoistic declarations that Britain should show it is still a great power. They entirely miss the essential point that the outbreak of violence can only lead to deaths and casualties among the Falklanders themselves as well as servicemen.

This is the central argument of the statement by British pacifists we reprint here. It…

31 March 2012

I was really frightened of going to prison. I’d had a really bad experience of being in a boys-only boarding school, and I thought prison would be like that except worse.

To be honest, I think quite a lot of it was classism. Being a middle-class person from a privileged background, the thing that I thought would be ‘worse’ was that it would be a working-class men-only environment.

I don’t know whether that meant I was frightened of it being violent (my upper-middle-…

31 March 2012 Joanna Bazley

My mother Raymonde ‘Ray’ Hainton, peace activist, Quaker and former teacher and medical social worker, died peacefully on 19 February 2012, aged 90.

As a result of her wartime evacuation to Cambridge, she met and married fellow-historian Godfrey Hainton. Ray’s wartime experiences left her with a strong commitment to working for a better world, and she was a campaigner throughout most of her long and active life. After many years of religious uncertainty, she became a Quaker in…

31 March 2012 The Editors

A PN perspective on the growing conflict

Iran is entering a dangerous period.

We know that there is a realistic way out of the crisis: transferring ownership and management of Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities to an international consortium, as advocated by retired US and British diplomats, and endorsed by a variety of Iranian officials and politicians.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if the west’s real concern is preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, the consortium is the way to go.…

1 March 2012 Dennis Gould

Dennis Gould surveys the life of the radical poet

One of the most important poems of the 20th century was Christopher Logue’s “To My Fellow Artists”, first printed in the New Statesman in 1958 and published by Logue as a posterpoem designed by Germano Facetti shortly afterwards. This was followed in the mid-’60s by half a dozen others including “Be Not So Hard”, “London”, “Crime One”, “Goodnight Ladies” and “I Shall Vote Labour”.

Logue took part in the famous International Poetry Incarnation gig at the Albert Hall in 1965 where 7,000…

1 March 2012 David MacKenzie

Where does the SNP really stand on Trident?

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has made a clear and repeated commitment to get rid of the Trident nuclear weapon system come independence. Rather than simply accepting that commitment and waiting for the happy day I believe we should be attempting to tease out what is intended.

The SNP has vigorously denied that they would engage in a ‘Dirty Trident Deal’ whereby the Trident bases on the Clyde remain operational in return for a smooth independence path and/or other goodies, such as…

1 March 2012 Albert Beale

PN had made brief mention of the death of King George VI, saying – amongst other things – “Peace News records its deep sympathy with the Royal Family so suddenly bereaved...”. The item generated a lot of correspondence on subsequent letters pages.

Peter Green: We expect this dope from the capitalist press, but not from a paper which is “international” and “pacifist”. It does not help the cause of pacifism or internationalism to salute the head of a military and imperialist state.

Ethel Mannin: The king was probably... a good father and husband, and, according to his lights, what is commonly called “decent”. However, those lights and that decency are not our pacifist conception of goodness... The most astonishing assertion in…

1 March 2012

It’s not really something I ever think about. I’ve never done a women-only action, but I’ve been involved in a few women-only spaces, and that’s been an interesting experience. They’ve generally involved women plus something else though, for example, spaces set up for migrant women.

I do quite a lot of work in very male-dominated groups, so I really feel the difference when I’m in a women-only space. That said, it’s not something I feel particularly strongly about, or that I need or…

1 March 2012 Milan Rai

Western powers wanted 'leadership change, regime stabilisation' in Libya

In a letter printed last issue, Martin S Gilbert questioned our earlier article about Libya (PN 2537), asking: ‘If it was a coup, how could western “spooks” have gained control?’ and ‘how could this popular revolution be turned into a coup?’ He suggested that: ‘This was the Spanish civil war of our time, an event that could have stopped Hitler.’ He criticised the approach of the Socialist Workers’ Party, which he characterised as: ‘if it’s American and NATO, it must be bad’, and he called…

1 March 2012 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

PN responds to Chris Hedges' attack on the "black bloc"

Progressive circles in the US have been furiously debating violence recently, after a forceful attack on the Black Bloc by radical journalist Chris Hedges. Hedges described ‘Black Bloc anarchists’ as ‘the cancer of the Occupy movement’: ‘obstructionist’ and ‘deeply intolerant but stupid’.

This brought an equally fierce riposte from radical anthropologist David Graeber, a long-time anarchist and Black Bloc participant, a co-founder of Occupy Wall Street and coauthor of what he…

24 January 2012 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

Is there a "universal human phobia" against killing?  

On 5 January, Peter Flanagan, 59, who killed a man who had broken into his house in Salford, Manchester, gave evidence at the trial of the other three burglars. In a witness statement, Flanagan described how the men threatened him with a machete while they ransacked his house. A member of the gang swung the machete at him, and a struggle ensued. In the course of the struggle, Flanagan jabbed John Bennell, 27, with the machete, before the four burglars ran from the house. Bennell collapsed…

24 January 2012 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves ponders the arms trade, the census, and the perils of not being on the electoral register

Small events in small towns happen everywhere in UK plc but they’re worth recounting nonetheless. At times it’s easy to believe that nobody cares about anything and nothing can be done anyway. Usually the arrival of PN is a corrective to such negative thinking on my part but occasionally there also occur what Tory prime minister Harold (Supermac) Macmillan once described as “events, dear boy, events”, and the world takes on a slightly rosier hue.

Events here in the People’s Republic…

24 January 2012 Di McDonald

Linguist, musician and mother of six


Frances at USAF Hythe, Southampton, 9 November 1983 when Greenham women set up peace camps at the 102 US bases around Britain, in support of their court case in the US against the siting of cruise missiles in the UK. PHOTO: Paul Carter

Frances MacKeith became a Quaker in the 1960s when she moved to Winchester with her husband Stephen. Here, as a lone ‘peacenik’, she was regarded with a mixture of respect and apprehension as the Peace Woman…

24 January 2012 PN staff

The new PN design: on paper and on-line.

Past issues of Peace News, stretching back over its 75 years of publication. The old masthead was used for a glossy magazine (top left), a less glossy magazine (bottom left) and the current newspaper format (bottom center). PHOTO: Erica Smith

A new design!

We’re beginning 2012 with a new look to Peace News. We hope you like it. The changes we are making (they will continue over the next couple of issues) are the product of a lot of…

24 January 2012 Marilyn Edwards

Silk screen by Marilyn Edwards. "This image expresses my feelings of despair about the many conflicts in the world. It was made in 2009: Gaza was neing bombed. The "pieta" emerges from it, an iconic symbol of "suffering."

24 January 2012

Well, I’ve had my bedroom used as an office, and I’ve used my bedroom as an office. I’ve also used an office as my bedroom. I’ve also had an office which was previously the archive room for another organisation before I used it. It was small and cramped. I was there six years, maybe. I look back on it and I feel... I’m glad I’m not still there! There were lots of good points about it, but it was quite isolating. It probably fed into my strain of messiness.

I proposed a definition of…

24 January 2012

A look-back at PN's (in)famous national gatherings.

National gatherings of PN readers have taken place in many guises over the years - for much of the 1970s the regular events (sometimes every few months) were called “potlatches”. (“A potlatch is a gift-giving festival and primary economic system practiced by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of Canada and United States” – Wikipedia.) Here, Dave Cunliffe, a poet and long-time friend of Peace News from Blackburn, reports on a winter meeting:

Friday night 9pm, tomatoes…

1 December 2011 PN

Powerful new Peace News photo exhibition on tour

Peace News was honoured to sponsor Guy Smallman ís stunning exhibition of photographs from Afghanistan for the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. "Afghanistan: Ten Years On", which was on display at the Amnesty International Human Rights Centre in London in October. It is now available for groups to host (it is appearing in Derry at the end of January).

Please note that while the exhibition is about Afghanistan, it does not feature soldiers or warfare, and it does not…

1 December 2011 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

What is it we are against and what is it that we are for? Questions that arise more sharply, perhaps, in the age of Occupy.

Someone selling Peace News at the St Paul’s Occupy site was taken to task for our (front page) description of the camp in the last issue as an “anti-capitalist occupation”. It turns out that there has been a vigorous debate at Occupy LSX over its attitude towards capitalism, resulting in a decision to move away from the “anti-capitalist” tag.

The site newspaper, The Occupied Times, published two views from the camp. One asked: “Is the best you can wish for yourself and your loved one…

1 December 2011 PN

Help displaced Afghans this winter

Please help an Afghan family survive this winter, by giving a donation to the Peace News Kabul Winter Appeal.

Please make your donation before Friday 23 December to enable us to send your contribution directly to the refugee camp, with nothing deducted for administration, on 1 January.

The camp

Three hundred families live on a derelict site in District 2 of Kabul. They have no access to electricity or clean water. Most of them returned to Afghanistan in early 2002 having…

1 December 2011 PN staff

Become a rebel clown!

The Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA) has reclaimed the art of Rebel Clowning: its combatants don't pretend to be clowns, they are clowns, real trained clowns. Clowns that have run away from the anaemic safety of the circus and escaped the banality of kids' parties.

CIRCA aims to make clowning dangerous again, to bring it back to the street, restore its disobedience and give it back the social function it once had: its ability to disrupt, critique and heal society.

1 December 2011 Maya Evans

Maya Evans prepares for her trip to Afghanistan

I sit with my Afghani friend in a coffee bar in St Leonards. Whenever we meet he is in a perpetual state of worry. Heís a few years younger than me though it's visibly obvious that in terms of life experience he is very much older. He expresses his ongoing concerns: will his mother die before he manages to return; will he get his citizenship in the UK; if he returns to Afghanistan will he be killed like his father and brother?

Life is a loaded die; it's more or less decided from the…

1 December 2011 Susan Clarkson

Drawing lessons from fiction, with plenty of spoilers if you haven't read the whole series.

I was inspired to look at the story of Harry Potter as a one of resistance and direct action by Shami Chakrabarti. In a BBC Radio 4 programme, the director of Liberty once talked about The Order of the Phoenix as a text which has many vivid examples of acts of resistance to dark forces and the abuse of power. Taking this observation as a starting point, I have looked at the whole Harry Potter story and discovered that it teaches us a great deal about what is needed to form an effective…

1 December 2011 Albert Beale

Churches, schools and peace

Fasting not feasting

[Activists over a range of issues can find themselves less than welcome at famous churches.]

RI Jeffrey reports: "Pacifism is a political attitude and it is not our job to support it." Thus said the Dean of York in refusing his permission for the York Pacifist Group to hold a fasting vigil inside York Minster, from 7pm on Christmas Eve until midnight on Christmas Day, as a protest against war and the use of violence.

Not to worry - and…

1 December 2011

I suppose for me as a Christian activist Christmas is a particularly important time of the year. After all, the Christmas story focuses on the birth of a baby who was born into poverty, and whose parents were fleeing a repressive regime - lots of resonance there with stuff I'm concerned with.

When I first began to connect my activism with my faith, it gave Advent and Christmas a new meaning. Itís now a time when I take stock and really think about the meaning of the season.

I…

1 December 2011 Medi James

Veteran Welsh peace activist dies at 87

Olwen, one of Wales's most committed and colourful peace campaigners, has died in Aberystwyth aged 87.

She was vice-chair of CND Cymru for 20 years, a representative for Wales on the UK CND council, a member of the International Advisory Group, a founder member of Aberystwyth Peace Network, and the powerhouse for the Chernobyl Childrenís Project in mid-Wales.

Olwen thrived on company and she spread cheer. It was this that attracted…

1 November 2011 Maya Evans

As Maya Evans prepares to leave for Afghanistan, PN tracks her progress.

Surprisingly we were left for around 40 minutes to blockade the gates of Downing Street, red paint daubed around the six of us, kneeling, heads bent in silence. I held up a large sign saying “End the Afghan War” while others in the group announced to passerbys that we were protesting about the 10 years of war with Afghanistan and that everyone should join us.

Our support team hung around across the road clutching large banners while reading the names of all those killed in the Afghan…

1 November 2011

This morning I was sacked... again. Not because of anything I had done, or not done, in my job; I had been a model worker in my work as a trainee (unpaid and therefore without rights) teaching assistant.

The problem was, as the head teacher explained in his letter, that I had convictions for criminal damage and therefore was not a suitable person to be working in a school. The details of the matter – that I had told the school about my criminal record months ago and that my most recent conviction was over twelve years ago – were of no interest to him. The fact that I’m a governor at another school also left him unimpressed.

He had never met me but had formed this impression of me as…

1 November 2011

The painter, Lorna Vahey, on how a veteran from the First World War influenced her father's pacifism.

Gillie Woodiwis was an odd, nervy man, usually wearing a hairy suit. I have painted him sitting in my parents’ house where he spent a lot of time in the 1950s. Peace News is on his lap. I am beside him. I was often sat on his lap which I didn’t like much. He handed out highly religious tracts (which at the time, I wondered why my parents tolerated, as religion was usually banned), and was generally strange. He volunteered for the First World War, although he had already had a nervous…

1 November 2011

Peace News 55 years ago

[While conscription continued in the years after the Second World War, PN had regular coverage of the treatment of those refusing to join the military.]

The London local tribunal for conscientious objectors has frequently stated that it cannot exempt a man who does not object to all war, at all times, in all circumstances. But it did so last Friday.

Max Neufeld, an architect, who came to England in his childhood as a refugee, argued that the military defence strategy…

1 November 2011 Jeff Cloves

For the whole of my life so far, civil war has raged somewhere in the world and there seems no end in sight. In Spain, 75 years ago, the army led by general Franco staged a military coup against the legally-elected Republican government and the resulting civil war lasted for nearly three years. Franco’s army – boosted by the support of Hitler and Mussolini – eventually triumphed, and his dictatorship survived from 1939 until 1975. The political,social and cultural fall-out from this bitter…

1 November 2011 The Editors

A perspective on events in Libya.

As PN goes to press, the airwaves are filled with slightly-troubled self-congratulation at the death of Muammar Gaddafi, former ruler of Libya. As the retrospectives begin, there is one fact that is undeniable. While it is commonly said that this NATO military action was authorised by the UN, security council resolution 1973 only actually authorised military action (a) to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya (paragraph 8) and (b) “to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of…

1 October 2011 Michael Randle and Milan Rai and Emily Johns

Life-long activist and "guerilla anarchist" who helped expose plans for a paramilitary coup and stood trial for "incitement to disaffect" British troops in Northern Ireland.

John Hyatt, a member of the Peace News staff collective 1973-75 gave us the slogan “Don't Vote – it only encourages them”.

I first met him as a young man representing the Youth Section of the Peace Pledge Union at the WRI Council meeting in Vienna in August 1968.

Nearby Czechoslovakia was experiencing what turned out to be the last days of the Prague Spring. On the last day of the council meeting a WRI delegation, which I think included John, travelled to Bratislava at the…

1 October 2011

The inability of the Labour Party to come together round a genuinely progressive vision of the world, especially over issues of peace and war, has a long pedigree.  

In listening to ... the Chairman of the Labour Party, one gets the impression that there is no more important goal in politics today than achieving unity in the Labour Party. The answers to the questions that are dividing members of the party are really of secondary importance so long as they can agree to give the same answer...

There is a great deal more discussion around the kind of policies that must be adopted to ensure electoral victory than there is about the most suitable way…

1 October 2011

Being evicted from your home leaves deep scars and although there may be much support, sometimes you can get done-over by so-called supporters.

I’m not sayng that is happening at Dale Farm, but beware of being taken advantage of by people with their own agendas. People who haven’t got an investment in, and a long attachment to, the disputed territory probably don’t realise the effect on the besiged residents. It makes one wary and shaken, lose confidence.

Then there was our…

1 October 2011 Maya Evans

Maya Evans gets ready to travel to Afghanistan later this year.

Going to Afghanistan on a delegation with the US peace group Voices for Creative Nonviolence feels like the right thing to do, the natural next step following the last few years of my activity: a high court judicial review into British complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees, various actions, arrests, meetings, campaigns. I mentioned my intentions to a good friend, she immediately commented: “That’s a very brave thing to do.” I thought about it for a second and replied: “Either brave…

1 October 2011 Emily Johns and Milan Rai

So, it’s finally here. The Rebellious Media Conference (RMC, née the Radical Media Conference) is finally taking place, nearly two years after the first brainstorming in the Peace News office about how to mark our 75th anniversary.

The very first version of the event was PN promotions worker Gabriel Carlyle’s suggestion that we could call together 40-50 people connected to or sympathetic with Media Lens, to try to improve how we all put pressure on the mainstream media. (Given this origin, we very much regret that Media Lens were not able to make the dates to be part of the RMC.) The scale of the event ballooned as we quickly realised that we would really like a radical media conference to do three things that we didn’…

1 September 2011 Michael Randle and Milan Rai and Emily Johns

Historian, novelist, anti-war activist and author of "The Making of a Counter Culture".

Theodore Roszack, historian, novelist, social critic and anti-war activist, was born in Chicago and had an academic career at universities across America.

Of 1964, Roszack wrote: “For those who were part of it, the American peace scene for the years 1963-64, during that paralytic lull following the partial test-ban treaty and preceding the recent, turbulent rise of the ‘New Left’, was rapidly suffocating in pessimism and dismal introspection”. In the summer of ’64 he became editor of…

1 September 2011

In an article looking back at the riots of 1985, Steve Platt considers not just the thoughts and feelings of the participants on all sides, but those of PN readers too.

Riots bring out a confusion of responses and a whole parade of paradoxes on the left and from the proponents of radical, but peaceful, political change. Much of what is said is thought but not felt, while much of what is felt remains unsaid...

The first undiscussed difficulty is the fact that the gut reaction of much of the left to news of a riot is one of support for the rioters. This is more than the “I understand but cannot condone their actions” stance of the after-riot opinion…

1 September 2011 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

This issue we carry a report from a participant in this year’s Uncivilisation festival, inspired by the Dark Mountain project and manifesto (see p3). This is a very intriguing initiative, self-consciously metaphorical. There are two faces to the Dark Mountain manifesto, it seems to us. On the one hand, it is refreshing to hear despair honestly spoken: “our sense that civilisation as we have known it is coming to an end; brought down by a rapidly changing climate, a cancerous economic system…

1 September 2011 Jeff Cloves

Jeff Cloves examines some recent poetry books.

It may surprise you to learn, dear readers, that I try to avoid writing too often about books here. Trouble is, kind people keep sending me them because they think they’ll interest me. Invariably they do. Take, for example, the collection of poems by John Lucas published in 2010 by the estimable Five Leaves Publications whose books often get a mention here.

Things to Say (£7.99) is a wide-ranging substantial body of work by an established poet of reputation and clout and is divided…

1 September 2011 Milan Rai

Milan Rai looks back at PN Summer Camp 2011.

The third Peace News Summer Camp in late July (not long after PN’s 75th birthday party) was the best yet. Over 120 people came together at the lovely Crabapple Community near Shrewsbury for five days of discussion, debate, tripod-climbing, singing, compost-toilet-making, marquee-erecting, collective childcare and brilliant entertainment from some of the most talented and committed performers on the circuit.

Of course, the core of the camp was the workshops. There was a joint workshop…

1 September 2011

I was about 24 at the time, and I was there with my small son. The diversity of the women was incredible. For some women Greenham gave them an alternative to our society, it gave a community. Many women came back to Greenham because of the benefits of women living together in co-operation. Despite the hardships that life was preferable. There was concern for each other and support. People got together on an open piece of land, not designed for living on. How they improved their lives,…

13 August 2011 Ippy D

In November, two events re-ignited the debate on the numbers and conditions of those imprisoned in British jails and detention centres. Both - in their different ways - revealed the level of desperation and despair at impractical and immoral criminal justice and immigration policies.

Unrest at Harmondsworth detention centre on 28 November - reportedly sparked after detainees were denied access to a TV news item on a damning new report on the centre - saw desperate detainees…

1 July 2011 Emily Johns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 July 2011

Reagan's 1986 attack on Libya and the UK peace movement's response.

On the night of Monday/Tuesday 14/15 April 1986, US aircraft bombed Libya as a response to alleged Libyan support for terrorism. The 18 April issue of (the then fortnightly) PN was already on its way to the printers when news came through; but a Stop Press supplement written on the Tuesday carried news as it came in – of the attack, and of some reactions in just the first few hours.

Peace groups respond to attack on Libya

At Upper Heyford airbase, one of the bases where the F1-…

1 July 2011

I went to Egypt the other week, which was activism and a holiday combined. I went to the Cairo Conference, a post-revolution event organised by the Socialist Renewal current, with various leftist groups in Egypt. So there was activism and building links with people involved in the revolution, and also a holiday!

Last summer, I went to Palestine and travelled around the West Bank. We made the decision not to stay anywhere in Israel. Unfortunately, we did have to fly into Tel Aviv. We…

1 July 2011 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

“If it’s not revolutionary, it’s not our kind of nonviolence.”

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…

1 June 2011

In Charing Cross Road in London in the 1950s, there used to be an elderly woman selling Peace News who stood on the pavement saying: [uses frail voice] “Pacifist paper. Pacifist paper.” And it put me off! Although I was interested in the peace movement and remember going to a big anti-bomb meeting in Hornsey town hall addressed by Alex Comfort among others, before CND was formed, to buy the paper seemed uncool, although I wouldn’t have used the term then. Of course I regret it now!

1 June 2011 Jeff Cloves

H G Wells and the anti-cuts demo


PHOTO: Fred Chance

I was going to belatedly write about the London demo against cuts but have been waylaid by a novel written by HG Wells in 1913. The World Set Free is one of his prophetic screeds in which – by the 1970s – everything is produced, manufactured, and propelled by nuclear power. In his preface to the 1921 edition, he claimed, with uncharacteristic modesty, “the misses in the story far outnumber the hits”. I found his novel unreadable but his preface had this to say about…

1 June 2011 The Editors

75 years on, what is the future for Peace News? One thing is clear. As activism, and life in general, become more and more digital, Peace News will have to develop its presence online, and find new ways to be useful to new generations of activists. The new website we’re launching this summer is just the start of a broad range of major digital PN projects.

Having said that, and despite our reliance on phone conferences for organising PN activities, we remain firmly committed to old-…

1 June 2011 Maya Evans

A week in the life of...

Monday: I was just about to leave the house for work. I turned off my record player which had been blasting some early B52s. I reached for the front door when I noticed a letter stuck in the letterbox. Strange, it looked like junk mail, Michael Parkinson selling insurance again? NO, it was hand-delivered by (my friends) Marsden Bailiffs. “Cough up or we’re gonna come round and take ya stuff type thing.”

I immediately dived behind the sofa, pulled myself across the floor on my belly…

1 May 2011 Milan Rai and Emily Johns

Reflections on the deaths of two war photographers.

The deaths of Western war photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros in Misrata in Libya on 20 April sparked considerable reflection in the British press. Many voices were raised saluting the courage – and recognising the social importance – of front-line photo-journalists, who take extraordinary risks in order to connect the global public with the reality of war.

Few have done more in this regard than Tim Hetherington, the videographer and co-director of Restrepo (2010) a worm’…

1 May 2011 Virginia Moffatt

In February, “Unite for Peace”, a group of (mainly) Christian peace activists affiliated with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, gathered in Derbyshire for our twice-yearly meeting. This weekend was particularly special as it was our tenth anniversary – an opportunity to step back and think about previous gatherings and what it is that keeps us together.

We all live in different parts of the country and have busy jobs, and some of us have families too. It’s an effort to take time out…

1 May 2011

We have the EDL [right-wing English Defence League] coming to a nearby town this weekend and I’m really torn about going to the counter-demonstration because we came very unstuck campaigning against the BNP in the elections. My young son and I managed to “intimidate” the BNP candidate into not attending the hustings at the local town hall, which was great, and very thrilling. Then we went home to our little council house on our own, and they got their own back. Stuff thrown at the door,…

3 April 2011 Jeff Cloves

A bit of autobiography. Bear with me, there’s reason.

While recuperating from a bicycle accident, I’ve been reading Simone de Beauvoir’s Letters to Sartre – in particular those written during the immediate run-up to the German occupation of France in 1940. My mum told me of her dread when, on 3 September 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Libyan mothers must be in even more dread now their country has declared war on itself.

My dad, a sheet metal…

3 April 2011 Emily Johns and Milan Rai

How quickly wars happen. One month, we see grassroots nonviolence toppling dictators. The next month, we see a civil war. The month after that, we see cruise missiles and war planes in the air. Former Respect MP George Galloway pointed out on 4 March that no one proposed a no-fly zone over Gaza during Israel’s assault in 2009, when 1,400 Palestinians were killed.

If British, French and US governments genuinely based their foreign policy on humanitarian need, these countries might have…

3 April 2011

This topic of having to define yourself is something that’s not just worth exploring but something necessary for us to explore. In a way the census is a blessing because it forces us to have conversations that otherwise get pushed to the back of the cupboard.
Conversations around: “What is this thing called identity?” Personally, this is something I’ve found extremely debilitating, the fact that you have to choose between identities. It’s debilitating in activist movements, even in…