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1 February 2024 Milan Rai

In the run-up to this year's general election, the UK peace movement must challenge the deep-seated militarism of the entire British political class

Noam Chomsky once wrote that activists had two options in relation to changing government policies (in the US): ‘One way is to try to influence the choice that will be offered by the two major political parties and to exercise this choice on Election Day. Another, very different approach is to try to modify the objective conditions that any elected official must consider when he [or she] selects a course of action.’

You can either work within the system, trying to persuade a party to…

1 February 2024 PN staff

Alcoholism and Messiahs

Here are two examples from what was a long-running column on this page. Oldies but goodies.

From PN 2502 (October 2008): Activism & alcohol

On 17 September, the department of health announced that it had identified nine personality types of heavy drinkers who are at risk of liver damage and other alcohol-related illnesses. By pure chance, on that same day, Peace News announced that it had identified nine…

1 February 2024 Penny Stone

'Make us live as brothers and forget that we were foes'

Some years ago, I recorded my best friend’s grandad, Stuart Gilbert, talking about his experiences as a conscientious objector and of doing voluntary work at home and overseas with Service Civil International (SCI).*

I asked Stuart why he refused to participate in national service in 1948. The most common reasons for conscientious objection to military service were either religious or connected with a specific political ideology.

For Stuart, it was something different. ‘You…

1 February 2024 Virginia Moffatt

Our new arts columnist takes a look at The Crown

I’ve decided to begin this arts column by talking about the Netflix series, The Crown, which has recently ended. Though I’m an ardent republican and had to be persuaded to watch it by my husband, Chris, this is such compelling drama, I quickly overcame my loathing for the Windsors and became hooked.

It begins in 1947, with king George VI (Jared Harris) coughing up blood in the bathroom, as he prepares for the wedding of his daughter Elizabeth (Claire Foy) to Philip (Matt…

1 February 2024 Cath

'The power of personal capital has moved [us] onto step three of our journey of a thousand miles'

It’s late and I’m sitting in a lovely big bedroom, in a (mostly) old farmhouse. As I write I can hear the sound of young communards and commune visitors training in the shed across the yard – the rhythmic sounds of the punchbag getting hit and then the whoops and laughs at the end of the exercise.

My new partner-in-crime is reading in bed: Black Against Empire, an analysis of the Black Panthers. And although the church bells mysteriously stopped ringing the hours some days…

1 February 2024 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Which tier of society you experience comes down to one thing in modern Britain, argues Rebecca Elson-Watkins

The phrase ‘two-tier society’ has become a fairly commonplace one. We hear it in reference to healthcare, housing, education, and the North/South divide. But the phrase is wrong. British society has at least five tiers. Which tier of society you experience comes down to one thing in modern Britain. The same thing it has always come down to: social class.

We have the Ruling Class, the monarchies, the elite of the Conservative Party, we all know the sort. Unaccountable and untouchable;…

1 February 2024 Claire Poyner

Does nanny actually know best?

Recently, a politician moaned about something or other, calling it ‘the nanny state’. It got me wondering. When does a particular policy get to be called (some might say ‘dismissed as’) the nanny state? Who gets to decide? Is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? Does nanny actually know best?

‘The nanny state’ suggests that a government or its policies are overprotective, like a nanny towards their charges.

NB: by ‘nanny’, I mean a person employed to look after children, and not a…

1 December 2023 Penny Stone

'The children are always ours, every single one'

Sometimes the song is silence.

In the context of radical singing, I’ve only felt this once before, during the wave of Black Lives Matter protests that erupted in 2020. At that time I felt that sharing my voice in song wasn’t the right element to bring to some of these protests and gatherings; that as a white person my job in that moment was to shut up and listen, and then to amplify the voices of black people at home and internationally, alongside participating in conversations within…

1 December 2023 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

The way propaganda uses language is both insidious and dangerous, says Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Language is important. It’s one of the things, particularly written language, that sets us, as a species, apart from the animals. Having done a little wordsmithing in my time, of course I’m going to think that. But the science backs me up.

When I Google ‘the importance of language’ there are 3.6 billion results. When I narrow my search to ‘the importance of language in propaganda’ I get 61 million results.

The way propaganda uses language is both insidious and dangerous. It can…

1 December 2023 Penny Stone

'I couldn't contain my empathy, my anger, or my amazement'

I have spent most of my adult life engaged in solidarity and justice work with and for Palestine, and alongside the small yet vital Israeli peace movement. I have mostly lived and travelled around the West Bank, but the last time I saw Gaza, I was standing beside the border with hundreds of Israeli and international peace activists protesting a heavy Israeli bombardment of that small place and the people in it.

I don’t have the words to even begin to understand how it must feel to be…

1 December 2023 Claire Poyner

Why are we all working so much?

Readers may have noticed that I am no longer PN administrator. So, how’s retirement? Thanks for asking! OK so far, not bored yet.

I now have plenty of spare time to indulge in a little art appreciation, organised by the Mary Ward Centre in London. A little group of us go round small art galleries; from tiny ones in posh places like Mayfair (which I would never have thought of visiting because, frankly, they do look a bit intimidating) to the community- or charity-run…

1 December 2023 Peace Pledge Union

Pacifist imprisoned for 'incitement to disaffection', renowned for his knowledge of peace movement history

Bill Hetherington, who was at the centre of pacifist activism in the UK for more than half a century, has died at the age of 89, after playing key roles in the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) and in War Resisters’ International, of which the PPU is the British section.

Bill took part in many nonviolent direct actions from the 1960s onwards, at military bases and events.

He spent time in prison in 1975 as one of the BWNIC 14, people tried for ‘incitement to disaffection’ for handing…

1 December 2023 Peace Museum and PN

'Force of nature' peace campaigner who served eleven prison sentences

Pat Arrowsmith was a force of nature. Among her many contributions to peace and justice, Pat took part in a nonviolent ‘interposition’ delegation to Indochina during the Vietnam War. The group tried to enter North Vietnam to share the dangers of bombing (they got to Cambodia and also protested at a US base in Thailand). This experience later inspired her to call together the Gulf Peace Team (GPT) in 1990, following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The GPT brought 73 peace activists from 15…

1 December 2023 Milan Rai

Our long-standing news editor hangs up his (PN) keyboard

Our long-serving and long-suffering news editor, David Polden, has decided to hang up his PN keyboard. He’s been writing news items for PN regularly since 2007!

David, thank you so much for your dedication and your hard work over the years. You have contributed so much to the paper, with your keen sense of what was happening around the peace movement.

David will continue to produce the CND Non-Violent Resistance Network (NRVN) newsletter.

1 December 2023 Milan Rai

Expulsions are not the answer, argues Milan Rai

Radicals excluding radicals because they have the ‘wrong’ ideas on trans rights is nothing new.

I was surprised, however – surprised, saddened and shocked – when I learned at the Anarchist Bookfair in London that the organisers of the bookfair had excluded a group not because it had the wrong ideas about trans rights, but because it had not expelled members who had expressed the ‘wrong’ ideas about trans rights in an internal discussion. (See p5 for the story.)

I don’t see how…

1 December 2023 Milan Rai

Don't let the US and Britain wreck the Yemeni-Saudi peace process

The world’s attention is fastened on Gaza at the moment. This issue of PN is almost completely taken up with Palestine.

At the same time, there is an important opportunity right now for British peace activists to help bring an end to another devastating war, and another horrifying humanitarian catastrophe.

As I write, the internationally-recognised Yemeni government has just called on the US, Britain and other Western governments to designate the Yemeni rebel movement…

1 December 2023 Henrietta Cullinan

'It is indeed a feeling that ‘something just ain’t right.’'

‘“Peace, peace,” they cry’ – Jeremiah

‘The greatest challenge of the day is how to bring about a revolution of the heart’
– Dorothy Day

On Armistice Day, I joined the march for Palestine as it snaked round Victoria. I sighed, I sat down on some steps, looked at the last yellow leaves left on the trees and on the ground and renewed my conviction that at heart I am an anarchist.

Given all that’s written on the subject, how am I qualified to count myself in that…

1 October 2023

A classic piece by Dennis Gould

After many decades of selling Peace News (and a few books) on his street stall in Stroud, Gloucestershire, notorious poet-activist-letterpress-printer-footballer Dennis Gould is hanging up his boots/books. To mark the occasion, we’re reprinting most of an article Dennis wrote for PN in December 1973 (PN 1953) based on his experience of running ‘Books and Things’, a bookshop in Cornwall.

George Orwell wrote a classic article on ‘Bookshop Memories’. Descriptions of…

1 October 2023 Penny Stone

'I walked home in tears after the first two rehearsals because it felt so pertinent'

Last month, I sang Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time as part of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus. It is a large choral and orchestral work that was sparked by Tippett’s reaction to the Nazi pogrom of 1938 called Kristallnacht, and which he described ‘as an impassioned protest against the conditions that make persecution possible’. It was informed by Tippett’s complex personal history, exploring deeply at different times Communism, Socialism and pacifism.

One of…

1 October 2023 PN staff

Should campaigners block OpenAI from scraping their websites?

The Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes are currently at the centre of the fight over artificial intelligence (AI), where US-based writers and actors are trying to stop their work from being replaced by AI systems.

Here at PN, we’re wondering about our own resistance to the new digital overlords.

You may be surprised to hear that AI played a big role at the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) conference that was taking place in Gothenburg, Sweden, as we…