MAW AGM 12/11/22
For me, and I am sure, many other MAW members, two events have cast a particular shadow over the year – war in Ukraine, and the death of our dear friend and founder, Bruce Kent – I’ll return to them later on. I usually follow a more or less chronological approach in this report, so I’ll start with our on-line Remembrance Lecture on 14th November, “‘Walls, Fences and Guns’ – How militarised and racialised capitalism is destroying the world”. It was just after COP26 when we welcomed Asad Rehman, Executive Director, War on Want; his excellent talk, available on the website, is highly relevant now as COP27 is finishing.
In January, MAW members were part of a local network of protesters objecting to the hosting of the annual International Armoured Vehicle Conference at Twickenham Rugby Stadium.
In February, Russia’s threats turned into war, and the so called ‘special military operation’ began. The situation continues to be awful, but would undoubtedly be worse if Ukraine had kept the thousands of nuclear arms left on Ukrainian soil by Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In the Remembrance Lecture this afternoon, Kate Hudson will be exploring “Nuclear Risks in the Light of the Ukraine War”. Our President Paul Rogers has given a number of talks analysing the situation (see here.) MAW members have displayed the MAW banner outside the Russian embassy for three months, with the message ‘respect international law’.
In April, MAW member Alison Lochhead staged an exhibition “The Glorious Art of Peace” at the Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot. It featured words, images, sculpture and music to illustrate the impacts and devastation of war across the world. MAW Creatives also produced a second cartoon video, “Climate Impact of the Arms Industry”, to go along with “Extinguish War and Save the Earth!” on MAW’s YouTube channel.
May saw the annual ceremony to mark Conscientious Objectors’ Day take place in Tavistock Square, London, with MAW Executive member Sue Gilmurray leading the music.
Bruce passed away on 7th June – his funeral service was packed, and he had not just one but two priests officiating at the cemetery. His obituary is on the MAW website here. It was a privilege for me to speak about MAW, & Bruce’s life at Yorkshire CND’s Menwith Hill event on 2nd July, and at Bradford CND’s “Making Peace” afternoon later in the month.
The Executive’s had a fruitful weekend staying in Clun (- thank you Sue Dowell!) – it proved valuable opportunity to discuss business in greater depth. We considered MAW’s campaigning priorities such as
climate change/military emissions – we have campaigned to get military emissions on to the agenda for the UN climate conferences; this is not possible in COP27 but there are plans for pushing this for COP28. We’ve been working throughout the year too to promote the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, alongside ICAN UK Partners. Members were asked to write to their MPs. We have worked alongside with GCOMS to reduce military spending, and MAW signed up to the Global Peace Dividend petition. MAW has supported Rethinking Security, and Executive member Helen Horton represents us on the Peace Education Network.
At the end of August, I took part in a five day, 222 mile “Bike for Peace” ride with blind* peace campaigner Tore Naerland, and two other Norwegians, Åse Simonsen and Tordis Landvik. We met Mayors of whichever Yorkshire or Lancashire town we were in, and spread an anti-nuclear weapon message. (* Tore & I were on a tandem.)
On 21st September, the UN International Day of Peace, MAW held an event ‘On Peace’ in central London, in-person at The Brockway Room, Conway Hall, London and on-line. Our Vice-President Martin Bell, known to millions as a distinguished former war correspondent, exchanged ideas with Ben Griffin, a former SAS soldier. Satirist Darren Cullen was in the chair. The two men talked about their experiences, shared insights and discussed how to stimulate a public debate on peace before taking questions. The audio recording on MAW’s Mixcloud is here.
Our excellent editor of Abolish War, Helen Riley, has produced four editions of the Newsletter and as usual, I have felt well supported by my hard working colleagues on the Executive – it is perhaps invidious to single out any one individual, but I have been particularly impressed with David Collin’s quiet persistence with the conflict/climate change issue. I also would like to thank our President and Vice-Presidents – their support is a great encouragement! It is good to report that our membership is increasing – 384 of whom 26 are new since last AGM. Particular thanks to Membership Secretary Gill Hurle.
As I write this, I have been thinking about what first made me want to campaign against war – I think it was probably A. J. P. Taylor’s book “The First World War: An Illustrated History” which I read as a sixth former. Bruce wrote that his visit to Biafra in 1969 at the height of the Nigerian Civil War was his Damascus moment. He saw the mass starvation of civilians employed as a weapon of war while the British government supplied arms to the Nigerian government. “No other event in my life has ever sharpened my ideas more rapidly… I began to understand how ruthlessly those with power can behave if major interests like oil and trade are at stake. I also began to realise that to talk seriously about relieving poverty without facing up to the issues of militarization is to delude oneself and others.”
I hope we can all honour his memory by continuing to campaign relentlessly for peace.