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Book Review Without fear or favour

ROGER McKENZIE recommends a book that charts the history of the peace movement in Britain

The Peace Protesters — A History of Modern Day War Resistance
by Symon Hill
Pen & Sword £25.00

THE title of this book is a little misleading. It’s very much about war resistance in Britain and not elsewhere in the world.

That said the book does weave in key events taking place across the world such as the Black Lives Matter uprising following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and Britain’s reaction — or overreaction to important world events.

Reading this otherwise excellent book made me realise that there is a book waiting to be written about the almost completely invisible peace movements across the African and Asian continents.

Those comments aside I think this is an important book by an activist central to the peace movement over a number of years who works for the Peace Pledge Union.

Being an insider gives Symon Hill a view that could tempt him into being overly cautious in his criticisms of individuals or organisations within the movement. I am pleased that he resisted any such temptation.

Hill is not afraid to expose the sometimes disruptive behaviour of the ultra-left and the attempts by some in their cadre to, at times, seemingly prioritise party building over the cause they are involved in.

This can be an unpopular thing to talk about but it is important to say that not everything in the peace movement was a bed of roses.

Much more significant than the sometimes aggressive and disruptive behaviour of a few is the description of the small acts which move ordinary individuals into spontaneous acts of protests which can then develop into into meaningful movements.

The unparalleled Greenham Common protests is one of a number such examples. Hill tells not only of movement’s origins and how it grew but also how organisations such as CND, both locally and nationally, developed their response.

This reminded me of how African-American scholar and activist Robin DG Kelley describes in a number of his works the way black workers engaged in small acts of resistance to racism they experienced at work and in their communities.

Both Hill and Kelley land on the importance of turning small acts of resistance or protests into mass mobilisations that have clear campaigning and political objectives.

Foregrounding by Hill of the role of women and black activists in the peace movement in Britain makes this highly readable book more unusual and, because of it, even more important.


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