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Peace News log archive: June 2011

Articles from the Peace News log.
For archive articles from the whole site, look here

PN invited activists from around the movement to record what they were doing when Peace News turned 75.  Our birthday was on 6 June 2011.

ImageOn 5 June 2011, the day after a Peace News 75th anniversary celebration was held nearby in North London, I attended a panel discussion at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival. It was 90 minutes on “The Age of Dissent”, featuring Laurie Penny, Dan Hind and Dan Hancox. Despite the overarching title of the festival, the panel had practically no literary content (other than that the panel were writers and journalists), and only the most tenuous of connections to Stoke Newington.

In the seventeenth century, Stoke Newington was a village sufficiently beyond the bounds of the city of London so that nonconformists could legally worship (under the Five Mile Act, 1665), and thus later a home of Defoe and Quakerism. There is currently a quarter-of-a-million-pound campaign to erect a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft there. So I wondered: is it only in Stoke Newington you would get 150 random locals turn up on a wet Sunday afternoon to listen to a talk about the state of activism?

But the “age” it focussed on was very much the present, in particular the anti-cuts march of 26 March. The first Dan (Hancox) spoke about “kettling” [holding demonstrators in a pen for hours], and the effect of police tactics in stopping many people with families (or weak bladders) from demonstrating, but radicalising those who could afford to be less cautious.

I wasn’t convinced by his idea of turning kettles into “autonomous spaces”, feeling it could ignore the illegality of disproportionate detention and deprivation. (He also mentioned an attempt to start a local group via megaphone.)

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PN invited activists from around the movement to record what they were doing when Peace News turned 75.  Our birthday was on 6 June 2011.

The week of 6 June 2011

It’s mostly been a week of paper. Those who try and marginalise us as only interested in “action” have no idea just how much paper NVDA (nonviolent direct action) can generate!

I start the week helping Brian with preparing his international law defence for his court case for blockading the Trident refit area of Devonport in November last year. So it’s copying, collating, stapling and labelling new information found on the internet, while out of the cupboard come piles of documents used in past cases. And with them the memories of many days in court supporting people attempting to use the very strange process we have for judging what is right from wrong to explain that if murder is considered wrong then threatening mass murder must surely be very wrong. It’s amazing how many bits of paper that takes.

While Brian is off in Plymouth, I haul out more boxes of paper. The revived Faslane Peace Camp are having a week-end gathering to celebrate their  29th birthday and I have promised to bring some old photos etc as some of them weren’t even born when the camp started!

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Chuck out the bombs and the bankers.
Prepare to turn the world upside down …


28 July – 1 August 2011
near Shrewsbury, Shropshire

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Emily Johns and Gabriel Carlyle talk about Peace News, the birthday party, the Egyptian revolution, Peace News Summer Camp, and the point of doing pointless things.

Roger Stephenson on Picasso’s anti-war art

ImageIn Paris, Dora Maar was in tears and Picasso had found the subject for the painting he had been commissioned to do by the Spanish republican government for the Spanish pavilion at the international exhibition that was due to open in the French capital in May. With time running out, the exhibition finally opened on the 1900 exhibition site between the Champs de Mars and the Trocadero in June. The Spanish pavilion was not ready until July.

Picasso worked quickly with an intense fury of creativity, trying out ideas on the huge (11 feet by 25 feet)  canvas that he head crammed into his studio in the Rue des Grands Augustins. The final painting confronted the viewer, as it has confronted viewers ever since, with a graphic depiction of the horror of the bombing of a civilian population.

In an interview he gave in May 1937, Picasso said: “The war in Spain is the battle of reaction against the people, against liberty. My whole career has been one continual struggle against reaction and the death of art. In the painting on which I am now at work, which I shall call Guernica - and in all my recent works – I am very clearly expressing my horror at the military caste which has plunged Spain into a sea of suffering and death.” (Pierre Daix, Picasso, Thames and Hudson 1965, p166).

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Maya Evans reviews the latest play from the Tricycle Theatre

"The morning after seeing Tactical Questioning – scenes from the Baha Mousa Inquiry, I woke up in a cold sweat. Harrowing images of people being tortured were still in my head.

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The site of the PN75 party
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Angie Zelter on what she was doing (and thinking) on 6 June 2011 - the day Peace News turned 75.

I was 60 on world environment day – 5th June 2011 and a few days later took a 2-day hike along the Offa’s Dyke path, with panoramic views of the welsh borders, a contested area for so many centuries, I had time to reflect on years of campaigning for peace and environmental justice.

I often feel despair, and wonder what’s the point of all our protests when Britain is still threatening mass destruction by renewing its nuclear arsenal[1], still sells weapons to repressive regimes, still supports Israel despite its criminal occupation of Palestine[2], and is embroiled in wars in Afghanistan and Libya that are killing in the name of democracy and human rights. I think how our foreign policy has not changed in hundreds of years[3] and how little human beings have progressed in their relations to each other over the millennia.

We have still not learnt to truly respect all peoples and treat others as we would like to be treated, we have not learnt how to prevent the abuse of power, nor prevent vast disparities of wealth building up. We have no idea how to implement true democracy.[4] Our technological progress has been at the expense of wisdom and compassion.

I go and tend my allotment because at least I can see the tangible results of my labour in the fruit and vegetables there. But I wonder how long it will be before private enterprise takes away even these little patches of soil, when it will try privatising the rain and the sun. Yes I have been “down” some of these days. I look around and I see such wonderful potential in people and our beautiful planet but despair at the various capitalist, hierarchical, patriarchal, fundamentalist, ideological structures that distort and prevent its fruition.

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