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Janet Ganguli, 'Time for Peace'

Small World Publications, 2nd edition 2004; ISBN 0 9536235 0 5; £6

If ever there was a time for peace, it must surely be our troubled, traumatised own. And yet, if it were instigated, the fundamental question remains: who might benefit from this dreamt-of peace, and would any agreement resolve the underlying causes of conflict or merely satisfy the current global managers of economic and political power?

Given that this review is being written the day after 125 Iraqis were killed by US strikes in the Iraqi city of Samarra, while dozens died in shootings and bombings in India, the search for what we might call a “deep peace” (to echo the established concept of “deep ecology”) remains far from academic.

As a longstanding activist and campaigner, especially around Palestine, Vanunu and global development issues, Janet Ganguli is profoundly committed to such a peace.

In this timely 2004 update to her 1999 original, she writes again ostensibly for children but with an insight and empathy any of us could benefit from.

Opening with the big questions (what is peace?; why do wars happen?), she builds her argument in a clear prose and with straightforwardly produced graphics and illustration. And she puts an active citizenship at the centre of her argument, offering examples, of both movements and individuals, to support her belief in nonviolent direct action (in all its forms) as a profoundly creative and effective response to conflict situations.

Whether it's the work of Gandhi, the Czech resistance in 1968 or Peaceful Tomorrows in our post911 present, there is plenty to counter an understandable pessimism about the efficacy of acting in such a way against hostilities.

Crucially, peace as a workable framework is never divorced from a historical awareness of colonial legacies and the workings of international capital, so that readers are networked straightaway into an understanding of peace as an ongoing process, of opposition and promotion, rather than a product signed for by authorities isolated from their populations.

Indeed, as Martin Luther King himself observed, “true peace is not merely the absence of war, but it is the presence of justice.”

Topics: War and peace