Features

20 July 2021 David MacKenzie

Opposition to nuclear weapons is even greater than support for independence, writes David Mackenzie

Twenty years ago, during a crowded first minister’s question time in the very young Scottish parliament, a group of Trident Ploughshares members dramatically interrupted normal business by dropping a banner and demanding that the parliament face up to the question of the UK’s nuclear weapons and debate it.

They held up business for about 15 minutes before they were removed by police.

The deputy first minister, Jim Wallace, was apoplectic.

The presiding officer, David…

6 July 2021 Paul Rogers

The latest military review decoded

The UK government’s security review, published back in mid-March, was touted as the first wide-ranging analysis of defence challenges facing the country which, unlike earlier straightforward defence reviews, would bring in many other issues from climate change to pandemics.

As it turned out, most of these issues received little more than lip-service, with the core of the review being focused on a traditional assessment, mainly from a military perspective.

In many ways, it is…

6 July 2021 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Climate action around the UK

The United Nations will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow from 1–12 November, COVID-19 permitting. Climate emergency activists and campaigners up and down the UK are planning actions to take advantage of the fact that the biggest climate summit since the 2015 Paris Agreement is happening on their doorsteps.

Greenpeace UK told us that they were going to be …

6 July 2021 Kathy Kelly

Kathy Kelly reflects on the 1991 Gulf War and its legacy

March 1:

When the US Desert Storm air war against Iraq began, 30 years ago, I was a member of the Gulf Peace Team. We were 73 people from 15 different countries, aged 22 to 76, living in a tent camp close to Iraq’s border with Saudi Arabia, along the road to Mecca.

We aimed to nonviolently interpose ourselves between the warring parties.

Soldiers are called upon to risk their lives for a cause they may…

6 July 2021 Penny Stone and Lotte Reimer and Kelvin Mason

How have activist choirs risen to the challenge of COVID-19?

In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing.
About the dark times.
– Bertolt Brecht

Dark times

When COVID-19 hit the world, one of the first cultural casualties was choral singing. As expert opinion about the main risk has shifted from ‘fomites’ (contaminated surfaces) to focus on airborne droplets and aerosol transmission, the case against choirs gathering has hardened.

For street or…

6 July 2021 Sharon Rudahl and Gabriel Carlyle

Pages from Sharon Rudahl’s Ballad of an American: A Graphic Biography of Paul Robeson (Rutgers University Press, 2020; 124pp; £15.95)

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Gabriel Carlyle writes:

Feminist underground comix veteran Sharon Rudahl’s latest work takes on the life of Paul Robeson: actor, world-class athlete and electrifying singer.

The most famous African-American of his time, Robeson fell victim to the Red Scare after the Second World War. This saw him shunned by stage and studio and denied his passport.…

5 July 2021 Cameron Boyle

Has the pandemic changed the media’s approach to immigration?

The British press is notoriously hostile in its coverage of immigration. It is a deeply-ingrained campaign, one that rears its head in inflammatory language, unjust and unfounded associations, and a startling lack of empathy for the harrowing situations that immigrants often face.

But at the height of the first lockdown, a notable softening in attitudes occurred.

Immigrants were universally lauded for their immense contributions on the pandemic’s frontline, with even the…

5 July 2021

The US has accelerated funding of its warhead plans

It is just over a year since the UK government notified parliament of its plan to develop a new nuclear warhead. The surprise renationalisation of the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) last summer was obviously made in the context of the plan, but probably had more to do with AWE’s repeated failures on safety matters.

Beyond this we’ve learned very few specifics about the warhead plan, but various events provide some clues.

The Bomb we have

There is no officially-…

5 July 2021 PN staff

It’s being processed by an arms company... again!

The contract for processing UK census forms has been put in the hands of Leidos, one of the world’s biggest military companies. We invite you to take action through the census form itself, to suggest to others that they do the same – and, crucially, (a) tell your local paper about what you’re doing and (b) tell us what you’re doing!

In 2011, the contract for processing the census in the UK was awarded to the US arms company Lockheed Martin, leading to quite a lot of protest, including…

5 July 2021 Adam Eliott-Cooper and Milan Rai

An interview with Adam Elliott-Cooper, a co-founder of one of Britain’s leading anti-racist groups

Coming to the end of a long and fascinating conversation about Black Lives Matter UK, I asked Adam Elliott-Cooper what parts of the history of UKBLM he was most proud of, as a co-founder.

Adam answered: ‘One of the things I’m really proud of is that one of the things that the movement has done is the mainstreaming of questions of abolition and defunding the police.

‘Whilst previous generations demanded enquiries and inquests, or democratic control over the police, or community…

5 July 2021 Andrew Simms and Peter Newell

Creating a new level of climate activism

On 22 January, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force. This marks an incredible achievement for activists and movements committed to ridding the world of these abhorrent and destructive weapons.

What this shows is the power of a moral ideal to ignite public imagination and mobilise action.

There are lessons here for climate activists.

The TPNW came after decades of trying to get the nuclear powers to fulfil their commitments under the…

5 July 2021 Milan Rai

Let’s stop more lethal, vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variants developing anywhere

There is a powerful case, both on moral grounds and out of pure self-interest, for the rich nations of the Global North to ensure that everyone on the planet receives publicly-funded tests, treatments, and effective vaccines, free at the point of delivery: the People’s Vaccine.

Otherwise, the global population will continue to breed dangerous variants of the virus that might threaten even people who’ve been vaccinated, for reasons explained below.

On 17 February, the UN…

4 July 2021 Nick Dearden

Corporations want trade deals that deregulate and marketise society

A part of Britain’s Establishment has always looked to the United States for leadership. They view the US as a model economy in which the market rules, big business can behave as it sees fit, and rich individuals are free from irritating ‘burdens’ – such as taxes which are ‘redistributive’ (they take more from the rich and less from the poor, as a percentage of their income).

We have more than a few such figures in our government, including the trade secretary, Liz Truss. That is…

4 July 2021 Ann Kramer

Ann Kramer reflects on International Women's Days past, present and future

International Women’s Day (IWD) falls on 8 March and has done so for well over 100 years. Women worldwide still experience discrimination and exploitation. The gender inequalities that prompted the first International Women’s Day are still very much alive and kicking. 

International Women’s Day exists to celebrate women and women’s achievements and there have been fantastic achievements: the vote, access to education, employment and health, the arrival of successful women in all…

4 July 2021 Richard Barnard and Huda Ammori and Henrietta Cullinan

An interview with two founder members of Palestine Action

Recently, Henrietta Cullinan sat down with Richard Barnard (RB), 47, and Huda Ammori (HA), 26, who helped start a new direct action campaign last year. Palestine Action focuses on Elbit Systems, an Israeli military drone manufacturer with UK factories.

PN: Tell us about the founding of Palestine Action. 

HA: Last summer, a few of us who had already done one-off direct actions against Elbit Systems – maybe once a year we would have a blockade – realised that, to be…

4 July 2021 Lisa Fithian

Veteran activist Lisa Fithian reflects on what really threatens the powers that be

From the Central America peace movement of the 1980s to the movements resisting Trump, US activist Lisa Fithian has been on the frontlines of social change for decades. This is an extract from her recent book Shut It Down: Stories from a Fierce, Loving Resistance (Chelsea Green, 2019) – reviewed next issue – in which Lisa reflects on the power of nonviolence.

When people ask about my approach to nonviolence, I like to say that I’m committed to strategic nonviolence,…

4 July 2021 Emily Johns

A PN staffer struggles with an anti-racist book

I am white.

My earliest memories of being conscious of race and racism are from when I was 10 years old. 

I remember standing in the school hall and some boys taunting Stephen, calling him a ‘black and white minstrel’. I didn’t know Stephen well and I had never heard of a minstrel show but from the words I worked out that one his parents was black and the other was white and because of this he was being teased. [The Black and White Minstrel Show was a musical variety…

4 July 2021 Betsy Leondar-Wright

Middle-class activists often don’t see that their version of anti-racism can be classist

The recent surge of anti-racist activism and consciousness-raising in the US has been thrilling to see and to participate in. I feel hope that racism will diminish in the near future.

But I found in my research that the way most social justice organisations have done diversity work and advocated for anti-racism is infused with professional middle-class culture. And that’s alienating a lot of potential working-class and poor supporters of all races. 

At the 2016 White Privilege…

4 July 2021 Shelley Tochluk

If you don’t want white nationalists to recruit clueless young white people, you need to create a movement that welcomes clueless young white people

Speaking to a public meeting on white nationalism in Los Angeles in August 2019, white anti-racist educator Shelly Tochluk said: ‘I have to be honest and tell you that I don’t think white anti-racist people have been paying enough attention to how savvy and effective white nationalists are at taking advantage of the shame that continues to be a foundation for many white anti-racists’ approach to conversations about our racial identity.’

Shelly pointed out that white…

4 July 2021 Shelley Tochluk and Christine Saxman

Two white anti-racist educators argue for a different approach to working with white folk 

On 18 November, Shelly Tochluk and Christine Saxman appeared on Eyes on Whiteness, a US anti-racism, anti-patriarchy podcast hosted by Maureen Benson (also a white woman). Here are some edited excerpts from their conversation.  

Christine Saxman: As you both know, I have always struggled with being kind of righteous in my anti-racism work as a white person. I name that as whiteness! The competitiveness that comes up in me.... 

I think about how intentional I have to be, myself…