Category Archives: Peace
Common Wealth was formed when the 1941 Committee, launched by J.B. Priestley, merged with Forward March (formerly Our Struggle) formed in 1940 and named after the book of that name by Sir Richard Acland. Our Struggle proclaimed:
We are fighting to get a better world, and we will NOT go back to the old world we knew after the last war . . . to the world of unemployment queues . . . the world in which from birth to death “the rich” and “the poor” lead utterly different lives. The little group of men who happen to have got to the top shall not be allowed to keep things all in their own hands, to shut us out of any control over our own lives, and to preserve scarcity in their own interests when we could produce plenty in the interests of all.
Common Wealth’s membership ranged from soldiers fighting in the trenches to many well-known academics, politicians and writers (listed in this document which also published its fine Declaration of aims)
Their slogan was “Common Wealth asks not WILL IT PAY but IS IT RIGHT?”
Many events and combinations included interaction with Fenner Brockway, the National Peace Council, the international Congress of Peoples against Imperialism, the Netherlands Third Way peace movement: De Derde Weg, CND and the Committee of 100. The text records
- strong links with some Chinese groups,
- effective opposition and frequent silencing of Oswald Mosley’s fascists and
- picketing of the Savoy Hotel which was then making very low-paid people work in squalid conditions.
Though Common Wealth confined itself in later years to political education, for several years it was involved with electoral politics.
Members of Parliament
Richard Acland (Barnstaple 1942-1945)
Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater 1942-1945)
John Loverseed (Eddisbury 1943-1945)
Hugh Lawson (Skipton 1944-1945)
Ernest Millington (Chelmsford 1945-1946)
In 1945 it polled the highest number of votes of all the minority parties. At this time there were 160 active branches. A year after celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1992, many of its members having died, it disbanded.
Although the party no longer stood candidates at parliamentary level, a number of individual members stood for the Labour and Ecology/Green Parties, whilst others became local councillors.
Common Wealth later became associated with the burgeoning ecology movement and, later, regional organisations, including the Campaign for the North, based in Hebden Bridge, Wessex regionalists, the SNP, an Orkney and Shetland group, Plaid Cymru, Mebyon Kernow and the Movement for Middle England.
A Moseley resident draws attention to an article by Peter Oborne (left), recalling that Jeremy Corbyn’s policies struck a chord with some voters as he cut the Tories’ Commons majority in the 2017 General Election. These included the intention to impose tougher wealth taxes, to renationalise great swathes of the country’s public utilities, to cancel our Trident nuclear defence system and to introduce rent controls.
He added: “Above all, they saw a man who stuck to his principles, unlike David Cameron and Tony Blair who they regarded as snake-oil salesmen . . . I believe that voters were right to admire Jeremy Corbyn back then”.
Oborne expressed later disappointment: “He’s sat on the fence for so long that the iron has entered his soul, as early 20th-century PM David Lloyd George once said of an opponent. . . Rather than being too Left-wing, I’m convinced Corbyn is not radical enough. Very occasionally we get a reminder of his old passionate commitment to Left-wing politics”:
- He has been outspoken in his opposition to U.S. warmongering in the Persian Gulf against Iran
- He is the only frontline British politician to condemn India’s illegal clampdown in Kashmir
Has Corbyn been “spineless and far too willing to change his mind?”
Oborne notes that in 2013 Corbyn (right) was one of a dozen Labour MPs who voted in the Commons against spending seed money on HS2 high-speed rail project. But then he changed his mind and voted for its construction. The following year, Labour’s election manifesto supported the new link.
Less cogent is his criticism of Corbyn because in the 1975 referendum, he voted for Britain to leave the EU’s predecessor, the Common Market and in the 2016 referendum, he changed his mind and campaigned for the UK to stay. The writer believes that this is a perfectly reasonable attitude, shared by many, because:
- the EU has seen peace between its member states, despite their history,
- poorer regions have received funding,
- many of the EU’s environmental policies have been beneficial
- and the economies of member states have become so closely interwoven that a break would cause serious and prolonged disruption to the British economy.
Oborne continues: “But U-turn Jeremy then supported a Commons amendment in January demanding that we stay in the EU for longer and then called for a permanent customs union and close alignment to the single market . . . and now his Labour party wants a second referendum”
Towards the end he writes: “Next month will mark (Corbyn’s) fourth year in the job and it looks more and more as if he has flunked that chance. His influence is waning by the day. On October 31, with Brexit, this country faces one of the most important peacetime decisions for generations. It will be the last proper chance for Corbyn to show leadership”.
Statement: “The NEC has today adopted all of the IHRA examples of antisemitism, in addition to the IHRA definition which Labour adopted in 2016, alongside a statement which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.
Jeremy Corbyn said the adoption of the full IHRA text and examples was part of the process of “rebuilding trust and as an act of solidarity with Jewish communities”.
The NEC welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s statement to the meeting about action against antisemitism, solidarity with the Jewish community and protection of Palestinian rights, as an important contribution to the consultation on Labour’s code of conduct.
A binding vote was not taken and organisations have been ‘reinvited’ to engage in consultation on the code of conduct. The issue will be re-visited by the newly elected NEC after Labour’s party conference in Liverpool.
Jeremy Corbyn’s statement read out to those demonstrating at the Right of Return for the Palestinian people
Thousands demonstrated yesterday (June 5th) in Parliament Square, London, to support the Palestinian Right of Return. Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, sent the following message of solidarity:
I have asked for this statement to be read out at this evening’s Right of Return demonstration in London for justice for the Palestinian people:
In recent weeks, scores of unarmed Palestinian civilians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli forces. Hundreds have been wounded. Most are refugees or the families of refugees from what is now Israel, and they have been demonstrating for their right to return, week after week.
The killing of Razzan Najjar, the 22 year old medical volunteer shot by an Israeli sniper in Gaza on Friday, is the latest tragic reminder of the outrageous and indiscriminate brutality being meted out, under orders from the Netanyahu government.
The silence, or worse support, for this flagrant illegality, from many western governments, including our own, has been shameful.
Instead of standing by while these shocking killings and abuses take place, they should take a lead from Israeli peace and justice campaigners: to demand an end to the multiple abuses of human and political rights Palestinians face on a daily basis, the 11-year siege of Gaza, the continuing 50-year occupation of Palestinian territory and the ongoing expansion of illegal settlements.
President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, and move the US embassy there, in violation of international agreements, has demonstrated that the US has no claim to be any kind of honest broker for a political settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
A sustainable, just peace between Israelis and Palestinians, that recognises the rights and security of all, and puts an end to the continuing dispossession of the Palestinian people, is an interest we all share, in the Middle East and far beyond.
We cannot turn a blind eye to these repeated and dangerous breaches of international law. The security of one will never be achieved at the expense of the other. And that is why we are committed to reviewing UK arms sales to Israel while these violations continue.
The UK Government’s decision not to support either a UN Commission of Inquiry into the shocking scale of killings of civilian protesters in Gaza, or the more recent UN resolution condemning indiscriminate Israeli use of force – and calling for the protection of Palestinians – is morally indefensible.
Britain, which is a permanent UN security council member and has a particular responsibility for a peaceful and just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, should ensure there is a credible independent investigation, genuine accountability and effective international action to halt the killings – and bring Gaza’s ever-deepening humanitarian crisis to an end.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180606-jeremy-corbyns-solidarity-message-to-right-of-return-demonstration/, with thanks to Felicity Arbuthnot.
The full text may be read here. Some points made follow:
Twenty years ago, this week, the people of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland voted in a referendum to accept the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. That vote changed the course of history on this island and represented the clearing of the final hurdle of a long and difficult process that opened the door to two decades of sustained peace.
Many young people across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain do not remember a time when the bloody hand of conflict held a grip on our respective lands. Communities from Derry to Omagh to Warrington were afflicted by the plague of violence for a generation, leaving deep and long-lasting scars for all those who lived through those troubled times.
All too often in that period, the willingness to use force and reach for weapons instead of dialogue and diplomacy inflicted unnecessary suffering on innocent people.
So as we rightly celebrate the anniversary of the end to those years of violence, it’s important we remember the effort and determination it took on all sides to get where we are today.
I stand here as leader of the British Labour Party, a party that is proud of the part it played in helping to bring peace and stability to this region. Something many believed could never be achieved.
The transformation we have seen in Belfast alone since 1998 is remarkable. I visited this city long before today’s peace became a reality and have witnessed the very visible and cultural transformation that has taken place here.
After paying tribute to Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, men who led the Republican movement from conflict to negotiation and diplomacy, arts they both mastered in the cause of peace, Corbyn added: “I can’t think of a greater sign of the progress made over the last two decades, when at Martin’s funeral last year, not only were there people in attendance from republican and nationalist communities, but also representatives of the loyalist and unionist side, including First Minister Arlene Foster. It is also right to recognise the work of the British and Irish government leaders of the time, whose determination made the impossible possible. For that, both Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair should both be given credit for their work.”
He also extolled the work of Mo Mowlam in negotiating the peace process, continuing: “I have always believed that to bring about real change, to end conflict, to bring communities together, you have to talk to people with whom you don’t agree. In 1998 we were fortunate to have leaders who were prepared to put that principle into practice . . .
“It was essential we recognised the traditions of each community and recognised and respected the identity of people on either side of the divide. This was and still is important for strong and healthy long-term relationships here, across communities and across borders. Perhaps where the agreement was at it boldest was in its radical reform of Northern Ireland’s political and institutional structures, as well as in creating a framework for North-South relations, and the relationship between Britain and the Republic of Ireland. That gave all parties a basis to find a route out of a generation of conflict together.
“For all the current problems and deadlock, there can be no doubt that devolution and power-sharing have given every community a voice and helped maintain the peace process.
He added that the move to establish the Northern Ireland Victims Commission helped both to promote reconciliation and preserve the memory of victims, bringing a new beginning and laying the ground for the vital work of decommissioning of arms and the removal of military infrastructure.
Looking at Stormont’s achievements, Corbyn noted that it had resisted many of the worst aspects of the government’s punitive social security policies using the powers provided by devolution.
His message to the people of this island: “Labour is as committed to the Good Friday Agreement as we have ever been. It has served us well for twenty years and, with commitment and determination, will provide us with the framework for the next 20. And with that in mind I want to make a plea to all parties and all sides. We must do all we can to make power sharing work again in Stormont. We need all sides to come together and make devolution work again. That means tough choices. It means compromise and give and take. But we owe it to the people of these islands not to allow political disagreements to open the way for any return to the grim days of the past”.
Stormont must be an example throughout the world of how dialogue, negotiation and diplomacy can defeat conflict. Now let’s show we can continue to build on that peace through democracy.
He called on the UK government to reconvene the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference if the current stalemate in Stormont cannot be sorted out in Belfast and to find a creative solution in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement that avoids a return to direct Westminster rule, and lays the ground for further progress for all communities.
Peace can and must be extended through real social and economic advances for all communities, with the state at regional and national level prepared to act to bring about a full-scale upgrade of the economy.
A Labour government in Westminster would make sure that Northern Ireland has more money to invest in its people and its public services, though many economic decisions for Northern Ireland would rightly be decided in Stormont,
He gave a commitment to supporting manufacturing in Northern Ireland and to reverse the decision to put the £1 billion contract to build the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships out to international tender, in order to keep jobs and prosperity in Britain’s shipyards and benefit Belfast. Northern Ireland can have a high tech, high skilled and exciting future.
Brexit, and the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland must be discussed, in particular the securing of future prosperity and peace on these islands:
“Labour will not support any Brexit deal that includes the return of a hard border to this island . . . By negotiating a new and comprehensive customs union with the EU, which includes a British say in future trade deals, we can ensure trade on this island stays frictionless and free flowing and prevent communities being divided . . . Opposition to the idea of bringing back a hard border to this land isn’t just about avoiding paperwork or tariffs, important though that is. It’s about deep rooted cultural and community ties. An open border is a symbol of peace, two communities living and working together after years of conflict, communities who no longer feel that their traditions are under threat”.
He emphasised that, as we leave the European Union, it is essential to ensure our manufacturers have access to markets and on-time supply chains and the communities of Northern Ireland continue to have access to vital funding for energy, research, agriculture and cultural projects.
Powers returned from Brussels to intervene, upgrade and reshape our economy for the 21st century may be used to deliver real social and economic advances for all our communities.
I’m proud to be here in Belfast as leader of the Labour party, a party with a strong record in helping to deliver peace and greater prosperity. I hope to use this visit to talk to people from different communities and listen to their concerns and hopes for the future. We are here to celebrate twenty years of peace, twenty years as an example to the rest of the world of how communities can turn conflict into co-operation.
Let’s work together in the spirit of friendship, co-operation and hope for another twenty and beyond.
ANDREW MARR SHOW, 15TH APRIL 2018 (starts 24 mins into the programme)
Extracts from BBC transcript
Marr: Would you like to see a proper debate and a vote at the end of that?
Corbyn: I would. Because I think parliament should have a say in this, and the Prime Minister could quite easily have done that. She took a decision sometime last week that she was going to work with Macron and Trump in order to have an attack on the chemical weapons establishments in Syria. She could have recalled parliament last week. It’s only the Prime Minister can recall parliament. Or she could have delayed until tomorrow when parliament returns itself.
I think what we need in this country is something more robust, like a War Powers Act, so that governments do get held to account by parliament for what they do in our name.
I would like a vote which outlines the process that could now happen. That is giving the Organisation for Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) the chance to go in and fully investigate everything, including the debris from the bombing attack. But also a very strong steer to our government to go back to the UN and promote a resolution and work with might and main to bring Russia and the United States together on this so that we do get a political process in Syria, as well, of course, as the removal of chemical weapons – which was done after 2013 when Lavrov and Kerry reached an agreement which had a big effect. Several hundred tons of chemical weapons were destroyed as a result of that process.
It can be done, it’s hard work and it takes patience, but surely that is better than the danger of escalation of this conflict into a proxy war between the US and Russia over the skies of Syria.
I’ve no problem with investigation by the OPCW, or the quality of it, but they must be given the chance to do it now. There is evidence of course, very strong evidence about the use of chlorine, which is not itself a banned substance because it’s so easy to make, but clearly as a weapon it is illegal. That has been used by a number of parties in the conflict, but there is quite clear evidence there. The OPCW must be given the chance to report on it.
The OPCW’s job is to identify what the agent was, and they’ve done that. Sadly, it’s not their job to identify who made it, or necessarily where it was made. I want to see incontrovertible evidence of it. And I do think we need to strengthen the role of the OPCW in the future. I think it’s very clear that the nerve agent itself is very similar to those that have been made in Russia. Novichok is what we call it, and obviously there has to be some challenge to Russia on this, and that is what is going on, and I would obviously want to challenge the Russians on the production of this, as indeed I would any other country that’s producing something which is wholly and totally illegal.
If we’re going to make a very, very clear assertion like that we’ve got to have the absolute evidence to do it. Because, listen, we believe in rules-based diplomacy, we believe in a rules-based international relationship. Therefore you’ve got to have absolutely incontrovertible evidence.
Assertions and probabilities are not the same as certainty. I’m very clear of where the origins of this nerve agent came from, I’m very clear that there has been this nerve agent produced in Russia. What I’m saying is the OPCW – a very important organisation – must have the chance and the opportunity to identify and also it should have the powers, and I think we should give them the powers, to identify the source and the culpability of it. At the moment they don’t have that.
I would then say confront Assad with that evidence, confront any other group that may be fingered because of that, And then say they must now come in and remove and destroy those weapons, as they did in 2013 and 2015. But the wider context has to be promotion of a political solution and a ceasefire. We cannot go on – 400,000 people have died in Syria, two million are external refugees.
As a member of the Security Council, as a country with a long tradition of international involvement, we have to abide by international law. And I say to the Foreign Secretary, I say to the Prime Minister, where is the legal basis for this? If we could get to the process in the UN where you get to a ceasefire, you get to a political solution, you then may well get to a situation where there could be a UN force established to enforce that ceasefire. That surely would save a lot of lives. At the moment everybody’s pouring arms into Syria, there are 12 countries involved in the war in Syria and there are, as I say, 400,000 dead already
And the UN Secretary general., António Guterres, is alarmed by what’s going on. What he said on Friday I think was very prescient. He said we’re in danger of recreating the Cold War between Russia and the United States in Syria. He asked for an appeal to all powers to do something and come together. Surely the killing has to stop, a ceasefire has to come into place, and is in the hands partly of us, but particularly of Russia and the United States at the UN.
I hope that President Trump will listen to wise counsels, listen also to wise counsels outside the USA and pick up the phone to Putin and talk.
We’ve got to think through what we promote as policy is a process that involves cutting off arms and money that can be used to kill wholly innocent people has got to be there. Because the arms and the money are still flowing into the region, albeit now to probably slightly different groups.
The Labour Party has repeatedly said go for the political answer now rather than allow the war to get worse and so many more die as a result of it. Surely we are an experienced nation, we have great skills and abilities, can’t we use those abilities to save life?
There has to be a process where the objective is to bring about peace, to bring about a resolution to conflict, to bring about a political solution., there’s going to be no military winner in Syria. The war could go on and get worse. The hatred and the desperation of many people in Syria who are not supporters of Assad, maybe not even supporters of other groups, is going to be there for a long time. The Kurdish people need to have their identity, other groups in this diverse country need to have their identity. Surely there has to be a role for the United Nations. That’s why the UN was founded.
Jeremy Corbyn – right on internationally related crises over 20 years – advises PM to seek evidence and proceed in accordance with international law
Mr Corbyn condemned the “appalling act of violence” on 4 March which left ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in a serious condition.
Mr Corbyn asked: “Has the Prime Minister taken necessary steps under the chemical weapon convention to make a formal request for evidence from Russian government under article 9.2? Has high-resolution trace analysis been run on a sample of the nerve agent that revealed any evidence as to the location of its production or identity of its perpetrators?” and then urged continued “robust dialogue” with Moscow. See video here.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the UK is bound to provide a sample of the nerve agent used in the attack to Russian investigators under international treaties, something Ms May has withheld.
Russia’s destruction of its chemical weapons
The New York Times reported last year that President Putin of Russia presided over the destruction of his country’s last declared chemical weapons. The deputy director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an intergovernmental organization based in the Hague that polices adherence to the 1993 convention, declared the event “a truly momentous occasion.” Putin said that it “signals the full elimination of all chemical weapon stockpiles declared by the Russian Federation.” The OPCW’s inspection teams verified the destruction at seven chemical weapons destruction facilities in the Russian Federation. On 27 September 2017, the last of these facilities, located in Kizner, officially concluded its operations.
An FT report records that Mr Corbyn told the House of Commons it would be a mistake to rush to judgment on the Salisbury attack. He asked Theresa May, prime minister, why the UK had not met Russia’s request for a sample of the chemical used, adding later on Facebook that the “Russian authorities must be held to account on the basis of the evidence”.
Mr Corbyn’s spokesman suggested that the nerve agent could have fallen into the hands of a country other than Russia after the break-up of the USSR: “The right approach is to seek the evidence, to follow international treaties, particularly in relation to chemical weapons attacks carried out on British soil”. He continued:
“However, also, there’s a history in relation to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which is problematic to put it mildly. If you remember back to the WMD saga, there was both what was actually produced by the intelligence services, which in the end we had access to and then there was how that was used in the public domain in politics. So there is a history of problems in relation to interpreting that evidence (the FT adds: in a reference to the false assumption that Saddam Hussein had a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction ahead of the Iraq war.)
Seumas Milne. “I think Jeremy’s record in relation to judgement on internationally related crises is probably better than anyone else in the House of Commons, he has proved to make the right call time and again over the last 15 to 20 years, in particular when many others made the wrong call, and those calls have disastrous consequences.”