1 February 2022 Marc Morgan

Writer and thinker on nonviolence who influenced Solidarity

It is not an exaggeration to say that there is a ‘before Jean-Marie Muller’ and an ‘after Jean-Marie Muller’ in the study and practice of nonviolence in France. Jean-Marie was also a committed internationalist who worked with thinkers on and practitioners of nonviolence in a wide range of countries, from Lebanon to the United States.

Jean-Marie Muller was working as a philosophy teacher when he staged his first major (and much-publicised) protest in 1967. Defying the authorities, he…

1 February 2022 Milan Rai

Why abolishing the monarchy matters for the peace movement

On 6 February, Elizabeth Windsor marks 70 years of ruling the UK as queen. The major celebrations of her ‘platinum jubilee’ will come in June, as will the peak of the ‘Not Another 70 Years’ campaign by the British anti-monarchy group, Republic.

The abolition of the monarchy is important for the peace movement. It’s important at a fundamental level – to do with what militarism is.

At a more surface level, the queen is officially the head of the armed forces and the royals are…

1 February 2022 Milan Rai

International sanctions are starving ordinary Afghans

Some 23 million people in extreme hunger. A million children under five in immediate danger of starvation.

This is not a natural disaster. It is a horrifying case of the United States taking an entire nation hostage and torturing an entire people.

Dominik Stillhart, director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Agence France-Presse last November that the economic sanctions ‘meant to punish those in power in Kabul are instead freezing millions of…

1 February 2022 Andrea Needham

Starting a new series: how a brilliant activist has held a secretive quango to account.  

Nine years ago, I was part of a big campaign to stop the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road, a monstrosity of a road that threatened fragile habitats in the service of ‘opening up’ land for development. We were also promised, of course, that it would reduce congestion on the coast road between the two towns – a promise that would be greeted with a hollow laugh by anyone with the slightest knowledge of road-building and ‘induced demand’ (more roads create more traffic).

It was a hard-fought…

1 February 2022 Penny Stone

What point is there in the struggle if not to experience joy together?

Desmond Tutu planned his own funeral, including the music.

It was a simple affair, with a choir singing some of his favourite hymns, some in his home tongue, Setswana.

One of his favourite hymns, ‘Thato ya hao’ includes the line: ‘Give us the joy of all the things you love’.

Joy in the struggle, and the struggle to truly live freely, whoever we are, is a big part of the legacy he leaves us.

What point is there in the struggle if not to experience joy…

1 February 2022 Ambrose Musiyiwa

Ambrose Musiyiwa takes a look at a recent compilation from Jesuit Refugee Services

To give a flavour of some of the work in Home is a feeling not a place, Laila Sumpton reads me ‘What is peace?’ by Enirayetan, one of the workshop participants who is also featured in the book. Sumpton says: ‘I can’t ever do this justice, because the lady who wrote it sings halfway through. She bursts into song. It was just fantastic to see someone performing and really, like, almost preaching it with a lot of power.’

Enirayetan’s bursting-into-song happened during one of…

1 February 2022 Claire Poyner

Our columnist says: stop blaming the victims of male violence

Ashling Murphy. Say her name. Don’t forget it. When it’s confirmed that her killer has been caught, remember her name and not his.

A 23-year-old teacher went out for a jog and never came home. Another young woman murdered while going about her business in public.

She will likely (‘likely’ because we don’t know the full details yet) join the list of young women killed because some men cannot control their impulses. Because they believe they are owed women’s attention, a date,…

1 February 2022 Joy Lawson

Christian and socialist whose passion was nuclear disarmament

Joy Mitchell, veteran peace activist, was a Christian and a socialist, a teacher and the wife of a Presbyterian/United Reform Church (URC) minister. In retirement, she moved with her husband, George, to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Sadly, he died soon after, but Joy continued to set up St Aidan’s Peace Church in Berwick, providing a venue for discussion and social action.

Joy was active in Trident Ploughshares and other campaigns for many years and was arrested several times at Faslane nuclear…

1 February 2022 Cath

 Our Leeds-based co-operator takes her first step to becoming a communard

Today I moved a small load of my belongings to a former shed (now ‘therapy room’) at a community garden in South Yorkshire.

This is the first physical step to becoming a communard – to creating a large, egalitarian commune, fully income-sharing, collectively generating income and producing our own food, with a shared political agenda and commitment.

Am I happy? Excited? Actually... more scared, unsure, frankly a bit blank emotionally.

It must be said, that leaving a…

1 February 2022 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Rebecca Elson-Watkins puts her rage into words

I’m getting to the point where my thoughts on Boris Johnson’s government are usually expressed in a series of unintelligible, exasperated groans. But for you, PN readers, I will attempt to put my rage, my contempt and my disgust into words.

On 20 May 2020, as the country was in the depths of the first kockdown, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his cohort, including his wife and his newborn son, were ‘making the most of the lovely weather’ with cheese and wine in the…

1 December 2021 Penny Stone

Penny Stone meets the Minga Indigena delegation to COP26

We’ve been privileged in Glasgow during COP26 to have the Minga Indígena delegation of Indigenous leaders from across the American continent.

They have eloquently shared their experiences, fears and hopes alongside a clarion call for global unity and action. And woven through their sharing, like writing through seaside rock, has been song and dance as well as the holding of reflective and connective spaces.

They have called on us in the Western world to recognise that we are…

1 December 2021 Ambrose Musiyiwa

Ambrose Musiyiwa interviews the author of a ground-breaking oral history

'I Was Content and Not Content': The Story of Linda Lord and the Closing of Penobscot Poultry (Southern Illinois University Press, 2000) explores the impact of industrial decline in the US through oral history.

Central to the story is Linda Lord, a veteran of Penobscot Poultry, a factory in Belfast, Maine, who was one of the 400 people who lost their jobs when the plant closed in 1998. Lord worked at the plant for more than 20 years and lost the sight of one eye on the job.…

1 December 2021 Pauline Sewards

A poem by Pauline Sewards

Isobel is invisible
the skill of her job is to be discreet 
as she cleans
She sweeps the stairs with a hand-brush
because the hoover lead would trip us up
and the noise disturb us

Isobel is invisible
she leaves a trail of cleanliness after us
she changes light bulbs and toilet rolls
and washes our coffee cups
even though that is not her job
She is closer than our shadows
with her footfall
soft as tissue

1 December 2021 Gabriel Carlyle

Gentle activist with a passion for Dr Who

Maker, dancer and lifelong activist Jon Lockwood has died aged 54.

Unfailingly kind in his personal life, Jon took part in a wide range of struggles to change the world for the better: from anti-nuclear activism and Reclaim the Streets, to squatting and the Occupy movement (of which he was an early, and vigorous, promoter on social media).

‘Evil Jon’ (though he was anything but evil) was a familiar figure to anyone who attended the various PN Summer Camps of the early 2010s.…

1 December 2021 Cath

Our Leeds co-operator senses history repeating itself

Does anyone else feel an increasing amount of history repeating?

A few months ago, in Brighton, I saw a gig poster for a triple bill of Eat Static, Banco de Gaia and Zion Train – had I fallen down a wormhole into 1995? I pinched myself.

But it is a fitting soundtrack for the year: just like 1995, there’s a Kill the Bill campaign to really bring back memories of the Freedom Network – past attempts to defend our freedoms against legislation increasing police powers, restricting…

1 December 2021 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

A letter to Fibromyalgia

Dear Fibromyalgia,

You woke me up three times last night. When sleep finally came, my careful, conscious positioning of my body went out the window. And so, you woke me with pain. When I finally woke at an appropriate hour, you greeted me instantly; my constant, demanding companion. Over the night, carefully-maintained joints and muscles have stiffened, the previous day’s physiotherapy undone.

I feel like I haven’t slept – non-restorative sleep is typical with fibromyalgia.…

1 December 2021 Claire Poyner

Our columnist urges you to check your facts

You may be familiar with the children’s, or parlour, game where participants line up, or sit in a circle, and pass a message along. Somewhere along the line, the message becomes garbled and the amusement is in comparing the result with the original message.

The typical result was along the lines of: ‘send reinforcements, we’re going to advance’. This became ‘send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance’. That’s obviously more than 50 years old.

The name ‘Chinese Whispers’…

1 December 2021 Milan Rai

You may not know this, but there was a whole 14-paragraph section of the Glasgow agreement dealing with climate-related ‘loss and damage’.

The Guardian reported that this was ‘perhaps the most bitterly fought section of all’.

The phrase ‘loss and damage’ first appeared when the original UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was being drawn up in 1991.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) asked for an international insurance pool to be created to ‘…

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…