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Amid all the gung-ho jingoism of mid-November, few seem to have noticed the irony that 11 November is the feast of St Martin of Tours. St Martin was a fourth-century bishop, most famous for sharing his cloak with a beggar.
Of greater interest, however, to readers of Peace News is that St Martin was one of the first conscientious objectors. He resigned his commission in the Roman army with the immortal words: ‘I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight.’
Further irony is added to the date when one remembers how our medieval forebears celebrated the feast of St Martin.
This was the day of the annual slaughter of surplus livestock. How poignant that we should use the same day to commemorate the pointless slaughter of ‘surplus’ young men....
With the help of St Martin, let us all work towards a more peaceful world.
Reports of different forms of action around the world give ideas about replicating them at home.
Also, they can remind us about fairly similar action in our own areas. Rev Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping (PN 2598–2599) gives an example of well-planned, effective NVDA [nonviolent direct action].
In 2000, during the year-long care workers’ strike, in Ashton, Greater Manchester, we performed a nonviolent ‘invasion’. Tameside Care Group were forcing new contracts: a second pay cut, reduced service conditions and no sick pay.
A local solicitor who had financial interests in those care homes was refusing to negotiate with the union. Also, that gentleman was showing interest in child-fostering businesses.
Supporters of Earth First! and Northern Anarchist Network assembled close to that solicitors office. On my own, dressed in a business suit and with a shiny brief case, I told the receptionist about my ‘appointment’. She looked at various papers for a record of such a meeting.
While she was thus distracted, it was enough time for our nonviolent invaders to swarm over the building. They emptied filing cabinets and tossed stuff out of windows before leaving as quickly as they came.
It raised morale among the strikers and made the solicitor negotiate with them. Sadly, this strike, the longest-ever in that area, failed to win its objectives.
Some readers will be critical of the above account, claiming it was dishonest of me to put on a business suit to confuse the receptionist. Others might claim that we all should have stayed to get arrested and should not have destroyed any office records. But those records were ‘caring’ for the 1%.
Also, there is the idea that always getting arrested at actions is ‘putting oneself on the sacrificial plate of the state’. On balance, I think that Rev Billy would have approved.