Working Class Movement Library

A blog from the Working Class Movement Library in Salford

Book review – ‘Labouring for peace’

Posted by wcmlibrary on October 23, 2012

Labouring for Peace: a history of the campaign inside the Labour Party for international peace by Grace Crookall–Greening & Rosalie Huzzard.

CAM Yorkshire: Penistone (2011)

This work records the substantial contribution of the peace movement in the Labour Party over the past 70 years. In the foreword Tony Benn refers to the Labour Party as ‘an organisation which does not want to be disturbed by radical thoughts.’ In many respects that serves as a summary of the work of Labour Action for Peace and other groups working inside the Party – engaging in a relentless struggle to influence a Party which seemed eager to serve other interests. A typical example is the 1982 Conference Resolution which re-affirmed support for Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament with a decisive majority but is then disowned by Denis Healey and Roy Hattersley.

There are many such betrayals and concerted attempts by the Labour Party hierarchy to sideline the cause of peace, to refuse to stop arms sales or to consider a reconfiguration of the arms industry. A notable example was the 1994 Conference which ‘ended up facing both ways’ by voting to scrap Trident and for a supply of more Military Aircraft. The Trident Resolution is then dismissed as a ‘zany idea from the past’.

Throughout the book such rejections come along with monotonous regularity but the Labour Party is valued because it offers up opportunities to explain ideas and engage in comradely discussions. It is only with the accession of Tony Blair that the relentless struggle for peace seems to encounter too many obstacles. The authors write of ‘sharp shouldered black suits and briefcases, lobbyists and corporate exhibition stands’ urging the Party to keep a place at the ‘top table’ through the manufacture and sales of arms.

Founder member, long time newsletter editor and secretary, Ron Huzzard wrote an appreciation of the life of Fenner Brockway in 1988 in which he commented that ‘we will always remember his infectious optimism.’ It is that phrase which sums up all of those involved with Labour Action for Peace in that every setback is greeted with even more determination to carry on.

The book ends with the hope that recording the history of Labour Action for Peace ‘will inspire new, younger socialists to carry the work for peace and justice forward into a sustainable and peaceful future.’ A detailed reading of the campaigns over the years will make one wonder whether the Labour Party will play any role in that future, but it is clear that for as long as there is a Labour Party there will be people attempting to ‘keep peace and disarmament to the forefront of Labour’s policies.’

This is a well presented work, put together from archival sources and laid out in readable fashion. It records the efforts of good and determined people ‘making demands for justice from the people at the top’.

 

David Hargreaves, October 2012

 

 

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