The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Great Britain: Symbol of a Militant Spirit

Category: Politics

The peace camp pitched near theUSmilitary base at Greenham Common has become a symbol of the determination of the British peace fighters to block the road to US first-strike weapons. By its example this camp is inspiring peace movements in other West European countries. Of immense significance, which has repercussions far beyond theBritish Isles, is the fact that the camp consists entirely of women, young, middle-aged, and the elderly repre­senting all sections of society and a wide variety of political and philosophical views.

The British authorities are doing all in their power to demoralise the peace campers. But the British government and the ruling circles inWashingtonunderestimate the spirit of the peace activists, who are determined to immobilise the cruise missiles by preventing the dry runs of the mobile launchers deployed in combat positions, and by calling for joint actions with women and men from other parts of the country. The efficacy of these actions is self-evident. Immediately after the first cruise convoy was moved out of the Greenham Common base for an exercise run, rallies and demonstrations were held spontaneously in many British towns. InLondona group of women blocked a street leading to the City for 20 minutes. InLancasterparticipants in anti-missile actions blocked a transport by making a live chain across the centre of the town.

In the face of this determination of the peace camp, the government stepped up the per­secutions. The Minister for Defence made the unprecedented and hysterical statement in the House of Commons to the effect that any women penetrating the base would be at risk of being shot at by the American and British guards at the base. The police harass the peace camp, sending provocateurs. The mass media keep up a flow of slander. Bulldozers have been used against the tented camp, with ‘guardians of the law’ burning the tents and vandal­ising or confiscating the personal possessions of the women. In 1983 there were over 1,200 arrests at Greenham Common. The arrests are continuing.

But this has not broken the peace fighters. They do not leave the gates of the base, sleeping under the open sky. As on previous occasions, new tents arrived to replace those that were destroyed. ‘We will be here no matter how often they destroy our camp,’ the women say. Their actions have won them nation-wide admiration. From different parts of the country tenting, sleeping bags, and other accessories are pouring in to replace the equip­ment confiscated or vandalised by the police.

A constant stream of delegations of women visit Greenham Common from all over the country and from abroad. These not only pledge solidarity with the courageous women on constant duty at Greenham Common but develop their own forms of protest. Recently a large group of elderly ladies gave the base administration a huge album, saying: ‘Look who you are threatening with nuclear death!’ In the album were the photographs of hundreds of children-their grandsons and granddaughters.

A large delegation of striking British miners visited Greenham Common. They declared their support for the camp participants in their struggle. They made the point that together they were fighting two different but interrelated political aims: the arms race and the assault on the people’s basic rights, the right to work in the first place.

The anti-war struggle continues to gain momentum inBritain, and Greenham Com­mon is only one of many of its epicentres. Tens of thousands of Britons took part in the tra­ditional Peace Week. Big protest rallies were held at theUSsubmarine base at Holy Loch and at the Pentagon-controlled electronic surveillance centre at Edzell (East Scotland). A demonstration was held at the gates of the Bentley-Priory air base nearLondon. More than two and a half thousand persons marched to one of Europe’s largestUSbomber aircraft bases at Lakenhealth,countySuffolk. More than 200,000 people demonstrated inLondonlast June in protest against Reagan’s visit to the British capital. All these are heralds of a mounting struggle against nuclear disaster.

From: World Marxist Review, 1984

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