Honour The Many Brave Conscientious Objectors Of WW1.

1916 – 2016

Military Service Act came in to force on March 2nd 1916. As a result many brave conscientious objectors ended up in Jail.

Next Wednesday [ March 2nd at 11.00. ] there will be an event to honour these men outside of Walton Jail in Liverpool.

That is where many of those brave men were incarcerated.

This includes people such as Fenner Brockway.

The event will involve a reading of the names of COs who were held in Walton jail, and some of the many WW1 COs from the Merseyside area.

After that there will be a brief name reading of just a few of the many COs who are currently held in prison throughout the world 

This will be a unique event.

Please lets others know about it and come to it if you can.

The Sharpness Action – July 1979.

For many years I have told the story about going up a dock
yard crane.

This is the first time that I have ever written about just what
went wrong upon the action, and just how it effected me.

Of necessity this is very much a personal account.

To my knowledge there has never been any academic account
of the action.

Summary.

July 4th 1979.

This was a direct action that took place in a dock yard where
low level nukiller waste was being loaded on to a ship to be
dumped at sea.

It was one of those actions upon where every part of the
planning went wrong.

Some of us on the action had never meet before, and there was
no attempt to do any NVDA training before we set out for the
action.

Most of us on the action were stopped and held by the police
on the way to the docks.
& thus no one landed up in the place they were supposed to be.

It also involved going up a dock yard crane,
and the unplanned action of various people sitting in front of
a dock side train.

Needless to say,
& whatever the intention ,
the whole concept of support people and affinity groups did
not come in to play.

Various people who had never intended to climb up the cranes
were on them when the police started to carry away everyone
else who was in the area,
and then the real fun bit kicked in to place….

What Went Wrong.

The action was part of a campaign by the Seven Side Alliance
to stop drums of low Level nukiller waste being loaded upon a
ship at Sharpness Docks and then dumped at sea.

The Seven Side alliance was made up of Anti-nukiller groups.
The largest of which were from Stroud & Bristol.

A small demonstration had taken place at docks during the
loading of the boat during 1978,
but only by people from Stroud and the immediate area.

I had meet some of the people who were going to take place on
the action before, but many of us on the action had only meet
for the first time the night before.

Of necessity the group in Stroud undertook a coordinating
roll on the action,
and so most of the planning for the meeting was as much of a
briefing about what had been done so far in preparation for
the action as anything else.

Thus we had to rely very heavily upon the local knowledge of
those who lived within the Stroud area.

There was no Nonviolent training for the action,
and no thoughts were given about any contingency planning.

As an aside:
It might also noted that such NVDA (Nonviolent Direct Action)
training which had taken place in the UK during the 1970s,
was aimed towards running demonstrations,
rather than this kind of more dramatic action.

It was the people who were supposed to be doing some of the
support rolls that could not get away from Stroud:
because the vehicle they were in started to malfunction.

None of us from outside of the area were provided with a maps
of the area,
though I do recall been shown a sketch map of the docks.

We only ever managed to get something like an hour & half
sleep upon the floor before setting out for the action.

Being stopped by the police and held for 1hour & 40 minutes
on the way to the docks was something that had never built in
to the planning scenario.

Neither had we ever dreamed that we would have to push a
police vehicle along the road after we were released.
This was due to the police vehicle having run down its
batteries while we being held in the middle of a very narrow
country lane.

Once released and overlooking the docks we expected the
place to be full of the police,
but the first of them only turned up some 20 minutes after we
entered the docks.

It had also been decided that a press release would be put out
at the time we were scheduled to arrive at the docks, but no
one had thought about what would happen if this action was
delayed.

Thus one of the group had to make a phone call to make sure
that this call was not made until we had entered the docks.

It was at that stage that things seemed to take on their own
momentum.

No one had though about checking out if anyone who planned
to go on the action might just happen to suffer from vertigo.

When we entered the docks it was still early dawn,
and everyone who was with me just wanted to go run for a
crane and climb up it.

At that stage I just froze.

It must of been some sort of self preservation instinct that
kicked in. Though in retrospect that seems like it being very
sensible indeed.

No one had any hard hats, slip proof footwear, life jackets, or
any kind of safety harnesses with them.

These were the days before anyone ever really gave much
consideration to health and safety issues.

Later on others arrived everyone at the docks and went up on
to the cranes, and then down to the dockside again:
– Myself included.

Thus when the docks was cleared by the police: –
No one was in the position that they had planned to at.

The dockyard train turning up hauling the drums of nukiller
waste was an unexpected occurrence.

No one had given any thought as to what might be done if this
might happen, and thus the sit down in front of the dockside
railway train was a totally spontaneous action.

After this happened those on the sit down were carried on by
the police & dumped down the road.

At this stage there was one on the action who had any list
names of who was were still in the docks,
or any contact addresses for them if things went wrong.

We had all left our bags in a house in Stroud, as a just in case,
and the only really useful phone number I had was that of a
lawyer.

This being in the era before mobile phones, it was only the
public phone near to the docks that was available for us to
use.

There was also no local contacts that we could call upon for
help within the Sharpness village.

When the police cleared the docks and carried away those
who did the sit down there was only one guy from Stroud and
myself to do any contact work with others.

When the guy from Stroud went off to chase the police car
that had driven off with those who had sat in front of the
dockyard train, it left me as the only person to observe what
was going on at the dock yard gate.

It might also be noted that no real thought had been given
about how we might record the action. I had the only camera
on the dockside, and thus I took the only photos which exist of
this event.
( The photos are now with my archive at the IISH in Amsterdam. )

Within the next couple of hours a lot of local supporters
turned up, as did some of the press.

While the docks were closed to us outsiders,
and people were on the cranes,
there was a lot of people milling in front of the dock gates.

As vehicle went in or out of the dock gates people were sitting
down in the road,
but the police would just pick them up and dump them on to the
grass verge.

It happened so many times that those of us who were by the
gate became very blase about the whole thing.

Yet again this was an unplanned for action.

Something else which had not been planned for,
was a small boat which got in docks and was apprehended.

As luck would have it no one was arrested that day,
but those on the cranes were held by the police before being
released.

Getting back from the action.

How we might all get back from the action to pick up our bags
was something else which had been overlooked,
Thus it was just a matter of luck who was around and able to
give us a lift back to Stroud.

To this day I have no idea just how one would make the Journey
from Sharpness to Stroud by bus.

In the evening I went back on the bus with the group who were
from Bristol.

I was staying at Bristol at the time.

You can imagine just how tired we all were by that stage.

What happened on the Friday.

The demonstration on the Friday involved just a small number
of people.

While one group of people held a symbolic protest at one side
of the docks,
another small group went in to the docks from the other end.

The intention was that the group who got in to the docks
would chain themselves on to the lock gate which gave the
ships access to the River Seven.

If the idea of people chaining them selves to the dockyard lock
gate had taken place, then we may of had some of the same kind
of logistical problems to face as a few days earlier.

Yet again no one who had volunteer to undertake this action
was wearing a hard hat, life jacket, life jacket, or safety
harness.

I didn’t volunteer to take part in this action as I’m not a
swimmer.

After that week there was no follow up meetings for those of
us who were upon the action,
&
No follow on support too .

With just 3 exceptions,
I never meet any one else who was on the action from that
week on.

When I got back to London on the weekend there was no real
immediate emotional support awaiting me,
and no one who was near me with whom I should share this as a
common experience with.

What I did find that helped me was to write a long account of
the action which appeared in the Anarchist Periodical
Freedom – July 28th 1979 .

1980

The next year there was another action just outside of
Sharpness.

A scaffolding tower was placed upon the small railway line
just outside of the docks. This held up the transportation of
the nukiller waste drums to the ship.

In 1981 the dumping of nukiller waste was suspended,
and has never been resumed.

My own take upon being involved within any NVDA as a result
of being on the Sharpness Action.

While this account might be a good one to show just was might
go wrong on an action,
and thus show the need for some proper contingency
planning:
there is also something else which needs to be said.

It is not just the need for proper planning,
and NVDA training for an action which needs to be considered.

It is the follow up,
and follow up support for those who take part in actions
which really needs to be worked upon by those who engage
upon NVDA.

Things Can Change, But Not By Me Living In the Past.

Things can change,
but it might take some time for radical social changes to
become really noticeable.

I was thinking about this the other day as I reflected upon just
how few people smoke these days.

One of the things that I have always noted about politics is
that a lot of what goes on is very much based in terms of
debating the struggles the past.

Now it might all be very fascinating to a debate what we ( I ) did
in the past, but you just can’t keep doing this and expect to
maintain a clear view upon just what the current issues or
political problems might be.

Having been involved within the peace movement for over 40
years I recognise this danger within myself, but the question is
just how do I get rid of the kind of historical baggage which
comes with a long history of activism?

One of the reasons that I gave my own archive to IISH in
Amsterdam, was so that it might free me from this kind of
looking back on the past,
and thus free myself up in order to get on with some new
projects.

By and large this seems to of worked for me,
but it would still be worth while if I could do a couple of oral
history recordings within the next year or so.

That way I wouldn’t be tempted to start playing the grand old
veteran in about 20 years time,
but still get to record what I’ve done in the past.

What I don’t want to do is write up my own autobiography.

Now I might like us to note various dates in my own history,
but I would not like to write them all up.

Writing up ones own history is very much like trying to proof
read ones own work:
It’s best left for someone else to do it for one.

So now I’m looking for someone to sit down for a few hours
with me in front of a microphone.

After that it will be time for me to really concentrate upon
something new.

I’ve seen too many activists surrounded by their old paper
documents, which can hold them to thinking about the past.

I’ve also noted just how nice it is to live in a place which is not
ones own political archive.

I know just which of these two lifestyles I want to enjoy in my
old age.

Just FYI :-
What sparked me to write this has been some of the recent
work I have been doing in terms of changes with some of the
projects in which I am currently involved,
but more on them at some other stage.

Pensions & Library Workers.

Here is The Deal.

Library & Information workers get below average incomes,
but most will get a pension after years of service.

Such pensions are based upon years of hard work on low pay,
and the below average wage which they may be receiving at
the point of retirement.

The deal being that one will put up with such low pay in
exchange for a pension that will lift one above the penury
which is the state pension.

Now some clever investors are claiming that this is an
unreasonable deal for the tax-payer.

Well you can’t have it both ways!

Either you start to pay the real economic worth of library
workers during a working life,
or
you pay what is not an unreasonable pension.

Though it might also be remembered that:

– All pensions are paid for over a working life time by those
who receive these pensions.

&

– A pension is a form of savings during ones working life, which is withdrawn in stages after one retires.

So it is not the tax-payer who is funding these pensions,
but the workers themselves.

If anything does need to be done in terms of pension reform,
then it should be the ending the spouse or partners
allowance.

Such an allowance is a form of Discrimination against single
people.

This would also release a lot of money which could be better
used to make sure that everyone who has a pension might
continue to do so,
and increase the level of pension pay-outs for all.

Enough said …….. We are not all overpaid bankers.

What’s the Colour of Your Shirt?

The recent political struggles between the Yellow & Red Shirt
movements in Thailand reminds me of an earlier era.

During the 1930s we had the Communist Reds, Nazi Brown
shirts, and Fascist Black shirts.

In 1931 Paul Poirt came up with the idea of a Green Shirt to
sybloblise peace. The use of this colour was based upon the
fact that olive branches are green.
This idea was backed by the New York based New History
Society which sold these shirts, as did the War Resisters
International.

In 1934 the music hall Lupino Lane recorded a satitical song entitled Shirts. This was a very partriotic song which stated that Britains would never wear shirts.

During the 1970s the Green Movement came in to being.

It was during this era that I used to be in correspondence with
Petra Kelly.

Petra was a founder of the Green Party in Germany.
We both had a concern about the various dangers posed by the
Nukiller Power Industry

Since that time anything which is ecologically sound has
become known as green.

With growing concerns upon the use of fossil fuels as a
major cause of global warming ,
we are now starting to get many politicians,
and the Nukiller Power industry,
referring to Nukes as being:
‘A Green alternative to fossil fuels’.

Well the major objections to the use of nukiller power have
not changed that much since the 1970s.

Just stating that one has changed ones colour does not
change the facts.

Nukiller power is major environmental polluter,
and nothing is ever going to change that fact.

There is an old expression about being broke, or loosing the
shirt off ones back.

Any development of Nukiller power will really be going for
broke,
and we will all then be without a shirt to put on.

Nonviolent Resistance to the Falkland War.

The overriding mood in Britain the during spring of 1982 was
that of Jingoism, nationalism, & militarism.

The Falkland Islands had been invaded by the Argentina
military,
& Britain was at War.

In between the Jingoism, nationalism, & militarism: –
There were a few of us who were engaged in
Anti Falkland War Activities.

Over the few months of the war there were a lot of small
scale demonstrations,
and three national marches against the war.

Upon one of these demonstrations I was photographed in the
company of my comrades from Greenpeace ( London ).
This photo appeared on the front page of the Morning Star –
Monday May 10th 1982.

During the period between may day 1982 & the ‘victory parade’
on oct 12 of that year:
Some circa 118 people were arrested for Anti-Falkland war
activities.

Most of these arrests were for small scale,
or symbolic actions against the war.

Some £515 was raised in donations to cover their fines &
other legal costs.

These figures come from bulletin no 6 of the anti-Falklands
war support network (March 1983 ), in which I was involved.

This support network was founded on may 24th 1982,
and held its last meeting on February 28th 1983.

The Peace Pledge Union ( P.P.U. ) was engaged in activities
against the war,
as was London Peace Action,
&
Greenpeace ( London ).

Peace News published various news stories and back ground
articles upon the situation during the time of the war.

Since then very little has been published about this small
grass root opposition to the Falkland War.

The archives of the anti-Falklands war support network are
now held by the P.P.U.

A statement marking the 25th anniversary of the war was
published in Information for Social Change 2007.

What I would like to happen is an oral history project upon
the resistance to the Falkland War.

Would anyone be interested in undertaking such a project?

Some Notes Upon Pacifist Activities in Bulgaria During the 1920s & 1930s.

On July 3rd 1924 a young man was beaten up in the Bulgarian
village of Bujinci-Vasil. His ‘crime’ was that of refusing to be
conscripted.

This was in contravention of the provisions of the peace
treaty which came in to effect at the end of world war one.

The reporter upon this incident had no idea upon what had
subsequently happened to the young man.

Thus we have the 1st of a number of reports upon the pacifist
movement in Bulgaria which were published in the various
newsletters of War Resisters International ( WRI ).

In September 1924 it was reported that a group of Bulgarian
Tolstoyans had formed a new section of WRI.

At the same time it was reported that their situation had
become much more difficult. Continue reading Some Notes Upon Pacifist Activities in Bulgaria During the 1920s & 1930s.

40 Years of Peace Activism.

On November 3rd it will be exactly 40 years since I first
become involved in the peace movement.

I remember this exact date as I was on a sitdown outside of a
company which made military plane equipment that was
being used in Vietnam.

It was my 19th birthday when I joined a demonstration
outside of a company called Elliott Automation.

Elliott Automation made navigation equipment which was
used upon American Military Aircraft in Vietnam.

I knew no one upon the demonstration, but felt that it was
important to show my opposition to the war

What happened on the demonstration,
& information upon Elliott Automation,
appeared within Peace News: –
November 1st & 8th 1968.

If you look very carefully:
you can see me in a photo of the demonstration that was
published within Peace News.

The first copy of Peace News I ever purchased was sold to
me by a street seller outside of Holborn Tube station.

It was dated November 8th 1968.

While upon the demonstration I picked up a leaflet about
the Peace Pledge Union ( PPU ).

I joined the PPU,
started to read Peace News,
and the rest is history.

Simon Dee and French Nukiller Bomb Tests.

Simon Dee ( Carl Henty-Dodd ) was the first pirate radio
disc jockey upon radio Caroline.

Radio Caroline being one of the various off-shore radio
stations which broadcast pop music to Britain during the
period 1964 to 1967.

Before working for Radio Caroline he had done a string of
jobs. At one time been vacuum cleaner salesman, and had
run a coffee bar.

After his days on Radio Caroline he worked for Radio
Luxembourg, and then hosting some kind of television show .

His meteoric rise towards,
and fall from stardom,
should be a lesson to us all.

I meet Simon Dee during the summer of 1974 when he just
turned up at a meeting of Greenpeace ( London ).

During that period the focus of the group was French
atmospheric nukiller bomb tests at Mururoa Atoll in the
pacific.

Continue reading Simon Dee and French Nukiller Bomb Tests.