Features

10 December 2020 David Edwards and David Cromwell

The Media Lens team survey recent reporting on claims that UK special forces executed unarmed Afghan civilians

On 1 August, a rare in-depth investigative piece appeared on the BBC News website based on credible and serious allegations that UK special forces had executed unarmed civilians in Afghanistan.

The BBC article was produced in tandem with a report, ‘“Rogue SAS Afghanistan execution squad” exposed by email trail’,…

10 December 2020 Milan Rai

PN surveyed over 100 peace activists on the impact of Black Lives Matter

Since George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man, was killed by a white police officer in Minnesota in the US on 25 May, there has been a vast, intense wave of anti-racist protests that has shaken the world.

In the first half of September, we held an anonymous online survey to see what impact, if any, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has had on the British peace movement. 117 people completed it in the fortnight it was open. We were surprised and grateful for how honest people…

9 December 2020 George Lakey

The power of activist training in times of rapid change

One of the gifts of the Black Lives Matter movement is that it doesn’t pretend that a quick fix will solve the problem. The many signs of change – from NASCAR [the US car racing organisation] giving up the Confederate flag to the majority of Minneapolis city council members resolving to dismantle their police department – are welcome, but not nearly enough.

Decades of failed reforms plus research into racism have come to the same conclusion: only radical change will deliver what we…

9 December 2020 Milan Rai

The Bomb was not ‘a last resort’ argues Milan Rai

Right-wing historian Max Hastings justified the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2005, writing: ‘Truman’s Hiroshima judgment may seem wrong in the eyes of posterity, but it is easy to understand why it seemed right to most of his contemporaries.’

That’s a lie.

In the eyes of Truman’s best-informed contemporaries, there were at least two options that could and should have been tried before the Bomb – and they each had a good chance of ending the…

9 December 2020 Chris Savory

A 1980s direct actionist gives us a blast from the past

In the summer of 1981, the young Chris Savory left his place studying economics at Oxford University to join the peace movement and the UK’s counterculture. His recently-published memoir of this time, Confessions of a Non-Violent Revolutionary, is by turns moving and humorous. This extract takes up the story in 1982:

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, most disarmament-related civil disobedience was in the form of sit-down protests in central London.

The focus had now…

9 December 2020 Indra Donfrancesco

Four months of anti-HS2 eco-activism during the pandemic

High Speed 2 (HS2) is a carbon-intensive, environmentally-destructive high-speed rail line planned to run from London to Birmingham (then, eventually, to Manchester and Leeds in ‘Phase 2’). Communities all along the Phase 1 line have been protesting against HS2, and environmental campaigners have set up ‘protection camps’ with local support. Emily Johns of PN caught up with experienced activist Indra Donfrancesco in mid-July:

HS2 is very simple, because it’s all wrong. It’s a…

9 December 2020 PN and Noam Chomsky

A powerful Democracy Now! interview on the risk of a coup in the US, the climate crisis and the nuclear arms race

We’re glad to be able to present the transcript of an interview of respected US social critic Noam Chomsky on the radical US TV/radio programme, Democracy Now! The interview was carried out on 23 July by hosts Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! democracynow.org The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Barely 100 days before the presidential election in November, this week president Trump announced he is sending a surge…

9 December 2020

An extract from the new edition of George Lakey's book Facilitating Group Learning

The United Mine Workers called all their field staff east of the Mississippi to West Virginia to help lead the part of the Pittston Coal Company campaign that took place in the coalfields in 1989–90. Although this was one battlefront among several, West Virginia would be the site of the mass participation by workers, their families and their communities.

I was learning their history as rapidly as I could and discovered that just after the First World War there had been an open war…

9 December 2020 PN staff

Let’s support people who’re trying to change the United States for the better!

For those of us outside the US, it’s hard to know what we can do to be useful to folk in the US who’re being attacked by state forces, who’re trying to bring down an appalling president, and who’re trying to build a more just society.

We have decided to try to raise £1,948 to send to the Poor People’s Campaign, an enormously impressive multi-racial, multi-issue coalition whose civil disobedience led to 2,500 arrests in mid-2018. (…

9 December 2020 Ian Sinclair

It’s time to celebrate how the peace movement has managed to limit British inverventions from Afghanistan to Syria

After interviewing more than 36 senior officials in the Johnson and Nixon administrations for The War Within, his 1994 book about the movement against the Vietnam War, US historian Tom Wells concluded that ‘the movement played a major role in constraining, de-escalating, and ending the war.’

Admiral Thomas Moorer, the chair of the joint chiefs of staff during Nixon’s presidency, told Wells the movement ‘had a major impact… both in the executive and legislative branches of…

8 December 2020 Rakesh Prashara and PN and David MacKenzie

PN and friends reflect on the UK's December 2019 general election

On 12 December, the Conservative party won a landslide victory in the general election in Britain, turning Boris Johnson’s minority government into one enjoying an 80-seat majority. It is widely believed that two of the biggest factors were the public’s desire to ‘Get Brexit done’ (the Conservative slogan) and its distrust of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (after years of lies and smears directed at him).

The parties most in favour of nuclear disarmament did quite well.

The…

8 December 2020 Milan Rai

Another 3 January victim: Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis

In the past few weeks, there has been much outrage in the British media at Iranian ‘meddling’ in Iraq over the past 17 years. Iran’s interference in Iraq was directed for most of that time by Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, probably the most powerful non-Iraqi in Iraq until he was assassinated in Baghdad by the US on 3 January.

There has not been much attention paid to the fact that Iran could only intervene because of the disintegration of Iraq because of the US-UK invasion of 2003…

8 December 2020 Milan Rai

Censoring the destruction of Iran Air Flight 655

Even after an Iranian air defence unit mistakenly shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 on 8 January, killing 176 passengers and crew, the British press failed to remind readers of a relevant incident involving Iran.

On 5 January, Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, compared the US assassination of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani to the CIA-organised coup of 1953 that overthrew parliamentary democracy in Iran, and to the shooting down of an Iranian…

19 November 2020 PN

Pre-war art by Emily Johns

On 3 July 1988, Iran Air Flight 655, a commercial flight inside a commercial air corridor, was shot down by one of the US navy’s most technologically-advanced cruisers, the USS Vincennes. All 290 passengers and crew aboard were killed, including 66 children. Few of the bodies recovered were complete. The US government never admitted wrongdoing and never apologised for the destruction of Flight 655.

This image is from Drawing Paradise on the ‘Axis of Evil’ an exhibition by…

28 September 2020 Milan Rai

Before the US murdered him, it formed an alliance with the Iranian general – twice

Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, who developed the Propaganda Model for understanding the western mass media, once explained: ‘That a careful reader looking for a fact can sometimes find it, with diligence and a skeptical eye, tells us nothing about whether that fact received the attention and context it deserved, whether it was intelligible to most readers, or whether it was effectively distorted or suppressed.’

In the case of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, there were a lot of…

28 September 2020 PN and misc activists

In January, we asked activists and groups around the country what they thought campaigners should be doing – this year and over the next 10 years. These are the responses we received.

Ali Tamlit (pictured right)

I’m interested in questions of: What does care look like? How can we support one another as whole people and communities – rather than seeing each other’s value in ‘productive’ activist times and then disappearing in times of burnout. And also how to balance accountability within this care?

Beyond this, as we go into the 2020s, although many positives will also happen, I think it’s important to acknowledge some trends which are likely to get worse: the…

1 August 2020 Kelvin Mason

The pandemic has broken down barriers for some activists

Doing politics outside of our ideological bubbles was never going to be easy. Between excluding people and/or leaving in an over-dramatic way, on the one hand, and staying silent in the face of irrational, immoral or even malicious views, on the other, lies the thorny territory of discussing, questioning and challenging.

Radical academic Paul Chatterton has a name for interactions between dedicated activists and non-activist communities: encounters on ‘uncommon ground’, recognising…

1 August 2020 Catherine Barter

How our much-loved sister project downstairs has been handling the pandemic

Activists, radical authors, publishers, zine-makers, book-lovers and all friends of Housmans Bookshop: we are still here, and as long as we are able we will continue to do everything we can to support you.

We’re conscious that, whatever happens in the next few months, the way that people shop and buy books, especially in central London, might not go back to ‘normal’ for a very long time. So we are working to re-imagine the ways the shop can operate, find new ways to engage with people…

1 August 2020 Veruschka Selbach

How one independent radical publisher is coping

It’s now four months since we closed the Pluto office. We’re all still working at home and we’re not sure when we’ll be able to return. We’ve come through the worst of the crisis, but there is a long road to full recovery ahead.

It all happened so fast. Everything changed in the course of just a few weeks. Things that we never expected were possible – happened.

When I look back on those weeks, one word fills my memory. Unprecedented. It dominated the media and our conversations…

1 August 2020 Helena Silvestre and and others

Extracts from Pluto's new book surveying mutual aid across the globe

While much of the media has focused on selfish individualism (empty supermarket shelves and con artists) in the time of COVID-19, a new book from Pluto Press, Pandemic Solidarity, has collected stories of community and self-sacrifice from 18 countries and regions around the world, including India, Rojava and Iraq. Here are a few extracts, chosen by PN.

Brazil

Pandemic Solidarity carries several stories from Brazil, including that of the Abya Yala…