Flow of Ideas

Stanley and Mabel Turney and the Peace Pledge Union: experiences of being bought up in a family advocating peace
by Ruth Rikowski

I had quite an unusual upbringing. My father was a pacifist and my mother was a Christian. They met at a Peace Pledge Union meeting, at the Friends Meeting House in Bush Road, Wanstead, London, E11. It was a meeting of the E10/E11 PPU Group. My father had been a member of the PPU for many years, and he had been a Conscientious Objector in the Second World War. He was also the Treasurer of the E10/E11 Group – a role in which he always took great pride, and which he fulfilled for many, many years. My mother, Mabel Vickery, as she then was, was not a person to go out very much. When she was approaching her mid-30s her mother (my grandmother) tried to encourage her to go out more. My grandmother was Victorian in approach, a Conservative and very much against the idea of pacifism. But age ‘softened her up’ and she seemed quite agreeable to the idea of my mother going to a PPU meeting. When my aunt, my mother’s elder sister Irene, had married a pacifist and CO several years previously, my grandmother was totally opposed to her daughter marrying a CO - so much so that she did not even go the wedding. So, in this respect, my mother was fortunate.

My mother went to the PPU meeting in 1954, and there she met my dad. My mother was 34 years old, and my father was 42. They were both rather shy and had rather sheltered upbringings. Nevertheless, everything happened quickly. They were married within a year, and I was born a year later, in 1956. My mother had her mother’s support throughout all this.

So, in this article, I would like to think about my memories of being bought up in a pacifist home and how this has affected my way of thinking and behaving. It will also give me a chance to think back about my parents, who have both now sadly passed away. They were a very powerful influence on my life. Yet they did not write anything themselves, in terms of published material, although they left behind lots of letters and cards, which I will always treasure. It now strikes me as being rather sad – that they did not get any of their ideas out into the public domain. I do not even have a tape-recording of them, talking about some of their ideas and their beliefs. Still, it was not to be. I am very pleased to have been given this opportunity by the PPU to write this piece, thus ensuring that there will be something on record about them. I have just started publishing material myself over the last couple of years, and now have about a dozen or so published articles (see references below, which provide a couple of examples of my publications). Perhaps, in due course, I will write a book. Thus, my ideas are now getting out into the public domain, and, in this way, some of the influences and ideas of my parents will also undoubtedly penetrate through.

1. My pacifist upbringing

To return to my pacifist upbringing. My home had a very distinctive atmosphere. My mum and dad spent many hours discussing philosophical, religious and moral issues. I remember being brought up in an atmosphere where there was much debate. People would come and visit mum and dad, and there would be many lively discussions. By my teens I was very interested in religious and social issues, and would join in these discussions enthusiastically. Interestingly, my mother was a Christian but my father was not. My mother would often ask him why he did not join the FoR (Fellowship of Reconciliation), a similar organisation to the PPU but based on Christian principles. However, my father remained an agnostic throughout his life. He was also very interested in politics, read The Guardian every day, and was very much a supporter of ‘Old Labour’. He held socialist-type beliefs – but from a non-violent perspective, although he was also quite interested in anarchist ideas. I remember, in particular, my dad reading a little book called The ABC of Anarchism. However, my mother did not really approve of this. So, I had these two strands influencing me. I went to my father’s PPU meetings, which my mother also sometimes attended, and I went to the local church, St. Mark’s, with my mother. I went to plenty of meetings in my childhood! I enjoyed both. Although the spiritual side was missing at the PPU meetings, I felt a tremendous warmth there – in a sense, I felt that the members were very much part of my family; more so than the local church in many ways. My father was so loyal to the PPU – he went to virtually every meeting and everyone knew him. He was very much ‘part of the furniture’. He would go round tinkling his little tin box, collecting donations – this was essential in order to ensure the survival of the E10/E11 Group financially. He had a little stoop; in fact, he looked old before his time, really, but this did mean that as he aged he did not look as old as he might otherwise have done – the change was not so rapid. This also meant that everyone knew ‘Stan’ – he stood out from the crowd. He was not charismatic in any way, and yet he was well-known and respected for his loyalty to the Group until the day he died – which must have been about 60 years in total. I have a photo of my dad selling Peace News in Trafalgar Square in his youth, for example.

2. My memories of the E10/E11 PPU Group

What perceptions do I have, then, of the E10/E11 Group? What memories do I have? It must be remembered that these are very much childhood memories, as I left home for university when I was just 18 years old. I remember the overwhelming sense of calm and peace that pervaded the Friends Meeting House in Bush Road – the atmosphere could really be felt as one entered. Then, there was always Marie Hutchins sitting by the door. She was always there to welcome you. She was such a loyal and devoted member of the PPU. As far as I can recall, Marie was present at every single meeting that I ever went to.

2.1 Thursday evening meetings

There were the weekly Thursday evening meetings, to which my dad always went, but as a child I did not go to many of those. They had various speakers at these meetings. However, I do remember one particular meeting very clearly – the meeting where my mother spoke. Now, my mother was not one to speak out much at all - both my parents were quite shy, retiring people. My mother decided to speak on the subject of ‘Truth’ (which fitted in well with her religious beliefs). She was very nervous about it all, and spent a long time planning it, and she discussed it with me. Yet, when she gave her talk, it went well.

2.2 Annual summer meetings

There was the annual summer meeting – this was a real event: speakers; tea, sandwiches and cakes; discussion; and children playing in the wonderful gardens. I loved playing in the garden - ‘What’s the time, Mr Wolf’ was an old favourite. I well remember a tall, extrovert man with a loud voice playing this game with us. His name was Les Coppin, and he was a friend of my parents. He came to our house on several occasions. He was quite eccentric in many ways, and was certainly rather full of himself – not a typical pacifist-type (whatever that is). He had a larger than life character. Once you had met him, you would never forget him. And he provided entertainment for us children. The speakers, on the other hand, all seemed quite dull to me, at the time, I must confess! Quite a few children used to go to the Garden meetings, though, so I had a good time. I also enjoyed talking to people after the formal meeting, when we had the tea.

2.3 PPU Musical concerts

Then there were the PPU musical concerts. These were another regular event. I am not sure how frequent they were – probably a couple of times a year. Mainly classical music was played. There were quite a lot of talented people in the group, who could play different instruments. The Bartrams were a particularly talented musical family, and nearly always played at the concerts. I can remember them playing the violin very well. I became a little friendly with Susan Godsave, the daughter of Connie Godsave. I was learning the piano, and we decided to play a duet together, which we performed at one of the PPU concerts. I remember being nervous, but everything went off well.

2.4 Other information about the E10/E11 PPU meetings

People were always made welcome to all these events. Various leaflets were handed out, there were often a couple of stalls, where books and other memorabilia were sold. When I was an adult, I used to go to the Thursday evening meetings with my dad sometimes, by which time I was interested in the speakers and the debates. I remember hearing Carol Tongue (who is a Quaker and later became a member of the European Parliament) speaking at one of the PPU meetings. I remember being very impressed by her. My parents also used regularly to receive various peace journals and newspapers, such as Peace News, War Resistance and Amnesty, and they would donate money to these various causes. There were also lots of pacifist books in my parents’ home – a great source of inspiration for me. Just having these types of books around gives a home a completely different feel and atmosphere, I think. I love having lots of books around, anyway. Well, I am a librarian, so I guess that is hardly surprising!

Who else was at these PPU meetings? There were many loyal and dedicated people. They included: Marie Hutchins; George Bush; John and Muriel Barnard (they were very good at helping to organise things, and Muriel was very good with the catering); Les Coppin; the Godsaves; Bob and Lil Miller (Bob was Marie’s brother); Harry Birkett (who was a Christian); the Bartrams; Bill and Dorie Gotch; Frank Muddiman; John Bond; Olive Spicer; Matt and Val Innes and daughter Lucy (who was younger than me – I can remember that very clearly); Cyril Honor (a kind, religious man who lived on his own); Joan and Laurie Hackwell (very devoted and reliable PPU members) and Elizabeth Minaur. They were an interesting group of people – some inclined to religion, others more inclined to politics. Olive Spicer, for example, was a Communist, whereas Harry Birkett and Cyril Honor were Christians. There were usually a few people from the Quakers there as well – which is where the PPU held its meetings. The Quakers were certainly very sympathetic to the PPU, and Marie joined the Quakers later on. There were many more, but these are the people whom I remember particularly well; the people that stand out in my mind.

3. Continuation of the E10/E11 PPU Group

Unfortunately, as time went on, the people in the group started to get older, but they did not seem to be able to encourage many new young people. I think the feeling was that the PPU was very relevant and important to people around the period of the Second World War, but now that threat was over, the need for having a PPU was not nearly so powerful. Also, there were other groups, such as CND, who were taking up the anti-violent cause. This was how it seemed to me, anyway.

Then, the older people started to retire and move away. Marie started to become very worried, because she would often describe the PPU as ‘her life’. Her husband, Howard, had been to prison for his beliefs as a CO. My father greatly admired Howard, and I think my dad often wished that he had had the courage to go to prison for his beliefs. I often thought he felt that he had taken the ‘easy way out’. He gave a testimony, saying that he was a pacifist, and against war, so he did not go to the War, but worked in the ARP instead. But my father had the courage of his convictions, as all the other COs did, which is surely the most important thing. After Howard died, I really got the impression that Marie partly wanted to keep the E10/E11 Group alive for the sake of her poor dead husband’s memory, and in order to be able to continue his good work. Sadly, Howard died when he was only in his 60s. So, Marie became very worried about whether the Group could survive.

The Group did survive, though, for quite a few more years – with George Bush as Chairman, my dad as Treasurer, as always, and Marie at the helm in her own sort of way. (I cannot remember the Secretary – if, indeed, there was one). Les Coppin stayed around for a while, but he and George did not seem to get on too well. Les moved up to Northampton in the end. George was a quiet person, whereas Les was really ‘larger than life’ – very different characters. Marie and my dad used to speak on the telephone quite often. Meetings were organised, and they always had a few people who attended regularly. Marie seemed somewhat cross that some people had retired and moved away and ‘abandoned’ the Group - but that is life, I guess.

Anyway, the Group continued until sadly George died, but not before he had served a period as PPU Treasurer at HQ, compensating in his own quiet way for the simultaneous notoriety of another George Bush in the USA! He had been epileptic. Then it was no longer possible to keep the Group going. Sadly, my father died in 1995, from old age, really - he seemed to lose his ‘spark’. There was quite a big funeral. Sarah Hipperson, one of the women who protested against nuclear weapons at Greenham Common for many years, was there. My father knew her quite well. My mother died in 1998, after a period of being very confused and suffering from dementia.

Marie, meanwhile, attended Quaker meetings regularly instead of the PPU. Then, after being in and out of hospital for some years, she passed away in 2000. I attended the interment of her ashes in the garden of the Quaker Meeting House, and met a few of the old familiar faces, such as Harry Birkett, Joan and Laurie Hackwell and Marie’s niece. I had never been to a Quaker funeral before – it was quite unusual. People sat in the room, and got up and spoke when they felt ‘moved’. One person spoke about Marie’s loyalty to the PPU Group, and noted that she always said she was not a ‘Gody’ person. She was not religious in that way. She was a practical sort of person.

4. Social aspects arising from the E10/E11 PPU Group

There were other social aspects of the E10/E11 PPU Group that remain vivid in my mind. One was the big party that Bob and Lil Miller had. It was for a special wedding anniversary – their silver one, I think, although I cannot be sure. It was a lovely occasion – many people were there, with lots to eat, in quite a big house (from what I can recall). Another memory relates to Bill and Dorie Gotch. They were a very devoted couple, who were dedicated members of the PPU, and they lived in a dear little cottage in Chingford. As a child, I went to see them a few times with my parents, and we all used to listen to classical music together. Bill Gotch was Chair of the Group at the time. We had this lovely little bulldog, called Penny, and I thought the world of her. But my dad loved his holidays, so the question became – what can we do with Penny, if we want to go on holiday? We did not like the idea of putting her in kennels. Bill and Dorie Gotch provided the answer. They looked after her. They used to really enjoy it, and were full of praise for her, and took quite a few photographs of her. It was a wonderful solution. Also, Howard Hutchins always used to come to my parents’ house to watch the FA Cup Final. This was a real yearly ritual event, which my dad and Howard both very much enjoyed. I also remember going to see one or two of the PPU members who had retired and moved away. I remember, in particular, going to see John and Muriel Barnard, who had moved to a big house in Norfolk. I remember thinking that it looked like a great place to explore. They were very kind to us and made us very welcome.

Les Coppin came to see my parents many times. They had a number of days out together in different places. They particularly enjoyed going to Hampstead Heath and Kenwood House. This happened more, though, after I had gone to University, so I was not so involved in it. They also joined a choir in the London Borough of Redbridge – Les, my mum, my dad and my Auntie Irene, which they all went to weekly. It was called The Aldborough Singers. They really enjoyed that. I went to some of the concerts, which were very good indeed. This brought a real joy into my parents’ life. My mother was particularly fond of music, and loved singing and listening to music. She had also learnt to play the piano as a child and would play our own piano occasionally. I had also learnt to play this as a child – my mother insisted that I should have lessons. It seemed rather a chore at the time, but looking back on it now, I am very grateful that I learnt.

My Aunt Irene added another dimension to the pacifism in our family. She was my mother’s elder sister - eight years older than my mother, and married a CO, my Uncle Bill, several years before my mother married my father. My mother and she were very close - they would phone each other frequently, nearly every day, in fact. My aunt always looked on my mother as her younger sister, and thought that she should look after her and protect her in some way. My uncle was a quiet, peace loving man, but he did not attend peace meetings regularly, or take an active interest in the peace movement in the same way that my father did (although both my aunt and my uncle did come to the occasional PPU meeting). The general ‘forgiving’ attitude that both my parents and my aunt and uncle had, though, affected me profoundly. If someone did something hurtful, something wrong, then we should forgive them - ‘turn the other cheek’, as my mother would say. Now, I do not really agree with this simple philosophy - I think life is more complex than that, and I think it sometimes meant that I suffered unnecessarily, particularly at school, where I was sometimes bullied. But this was the environment I was bought up in, with its emphasis on peace, and the intentions were good, I am sure. My aunt was certainly very kind to me, and my father thought very highly of her. We used to have some lovely meals with my aunt and uncle, particularly at Christmas, and they took me on holiday with them to Norfolk a couple of times. My Aunt Irene is still alive (she had her 90th birthday recently), and she told me not long ago that marrying a CO was not easy for her. When she worked in the Civil Service, for example, she did not talk about her husband’s convictions very much, because she knew that many people would have disapproved.

The PPU person who has had the most powerful and lasting impact on me personally, though, is John Bond. John is in his mid-80s, and I now see him as an Uncle. He is a very kind, gentle man, and I have kept in contact with him all down the years. He has been to our house many times, had meals with us, and has spent several Christmases with us - that is, with my husband and my three children. He has been on many walks with me and my children, in the local parks, and we have had several days out together. John is a very unusual, special person. He has a very positive outlook on life, and always tries to think well of people. He was also a CO in the War. He likes people to be peaceful and happy. He is spiritual, but not in terms of conventional Christian religion. He is a great believer in yoga and meditation, and has practised both for many years. He is very keen on healthy living, and has been a vegetarian for a long time. For the last few years he has been living at the Friary, 42 Balaam Street, Plaistow, London, E13. This is a place run by Brothers, the ‘Franciscans’, in order to help the people in the local community. They have an organisation called ‘Helping Hands’: people can telephone a particular number if they need help, or ‘drop-in’ to the Friary. The Brothers also go out and work in the community, such as helping elderly people with their gardens. They do some wonderful, worthwhile work. They live in a very old special, listed building. A book has been published about some of the people who live in the Friary, and there is a chapter about John Bond, which covers much of his life. It is very moving, and illustrates the poverty that John was born into, how he learnt to deal with this and overcome some of the negative influences, and his philosophical outlook on life. There are also pictures of John in the book. I was very touched by it, and thought how nice it was, that there is something on record about John’s life. Hopefully, this article will mean that there is now also something on record about my parents’ life. The book is called Hidden lives: stories from the East End by the people of 42 Balaam Street, compiled and edited by Deborah Padfield, 1999, ISBN 1 900259 04 4, published by Eastside Community Heritage, Stratford, London, and Curlew Productions, Kelso, Scotland. Sadly, John can now no longer get out as he used to.

5. Ethical issues arising from pacifism

There are various ethical issues arising from pacifism, and these were discussed in depth in my home.

5.1 ‘Thou shalt not kill’?/Vegetarian debate

One important debate about pacifism, which we discussed a great deal in my family home, concerns how far one takes the notion of pacifism. ‘Thou shalt not kill’ - one of the Ten Commandments in the Bible: does this just concern the killing of humans, though, or does it extend to the animal kingdom? There were quite a few vegetarians in the E10/E11 PPU Group, including Marie Hutchins and John Bond. Marie was a very strict vegetarian. Such people are very much against the idea of killing animals for food, particularly the factory farming methods that are practised today. My father was not a vegetarian, but my mother ‘flirted’ with it. She did not eat much meat, but some people would tell her that she needed to eat meat (as she was thought not to be physically strong), so she would occasionally eat a little. But if you are a sincere pacifist, does this mean that you should not eat meat? This was what my mother seemed to believe, but my father obviously did not agree with this. Then, again, you could argue that even being a vegetarian was not good enough - that this could still involve hurting animals, and killing them sometimes (for example, the cruel method of factory farming for obtaining eggs). So then what - become a vegan, where no dairy products are eaten? But even vegans have to eat something. Killing plants for food - is this wrong? Yet, one has to eat something. This debate seems to be leading into the realms of absurdity, but they were the sort of debates we had at home. For many years I have not eaten meat - so, all this obviously affected me, in some way. I came to my decision because of the cruelty of today’s factory farming - the way in which animals are fattened and killed for profits. To me, this seems to be a more sensible angle than in-depth philosophical considerations about who or what should or should not be killed according to a pacifist philosophy. But it leads one to think meaningfully about these different issues, which is good in itself.

5.2 Violent toys – e.g. guns

There are other debates around pacifism. One is whether children bought up in a pacifist household should be allowed to have toy guns. I did not have any brothers, and was not interested in toy guns or violent activities myself, so it did not really bother me, or pose a problem for my parents. I used to love reading - and would just bury my head in lots of children’s stories, especially ones involving adventure. But I remember, in particular, the Innes, who were very dedicated pacifists. They had difficulties in having a child, I believe, and when Lucy was born they thought the world of her. She wanted a toy gun - so they bought her one. My mother thought that was wrong, and spoke about this on several occasions. I have three boys, and they used to enjoy playing fighting games a lot - well, two of them still do sometimes! They have some toy guns, but even if they did not, they would just make pretend guns and/or swords out of anything they could lay their hands on. Many a stick has been turned into a sword! It seems to be a natural part of growing up - but this is only my opinion. I do think, though, that excessive violence on the television and on films is more concerning. I do not see how it can be good for children (or even adults, come to that) to soak up an environment where many people are killed or injured, where it all, somehow, seems to be quite acceptable. This cannot possibly be conveying the right message. Far better for people to meet together and discuss issues in somewhere like a community centre - in fact, have less television, in general! Perhaps, if the standard of television continues to decline, we might see a resurgence of such activities - but on the other hand, people might just spend more time buying consumer goods, and engaging in other similar pro-capitalist activities!

5.3 Is violence between humans ever acceptable?

Another issue is whether there are circumstances where a pacifist may justifiably become violent. An obvious occasion is when a pacifist’s wife is being beaten up by a stranger in the street. Should the pacifist hit the stranger - i.e. become violent, in order to protect his wife, or should he let the stranger just carry on hurting his wife? This is not an easy matter. My mother often asked my father this question, and he could not really answer it very satisfactorily. It is an area that needs to be given a lot of consideration, I guess.

5.4 Broader considerations about pacifism

It is difficult to know what is the best thing to do with regard to these ethical questions. I think it was good that I grew up in this type of environment, where I was bought up to question these things. In the end, though, I think it has to be left to peoples’ individual consciences. For my father, the most important thing in regard to pacifism was not to go to war against Germans, not to kill innocent people, and then afterwards to keep the E10/E11 PPU Group going for as long as he was able to, and to try to spread the general message of pacifism. Strangely enough, I married a man who is half-German. My father-in-law is German, and was compelled to join the Hitler Youth when he was just 16 years old. As a youth organisation, the Hitler Youth were used as the last line of defence as Germany was invaded. He was captured more or less straightaway, and then was a prisoner of war for the remainder of the War. He is not a bad man, so in that way my dad was right. If my dad had gone to war, he could have ended up killing my father-in-law - who knows? The fact that my dad was a pacifist must have endeared him to my father-in-law to some extent, I think. They had many political discussions together. My father was always keen to watch programmes about the Second World War. I think he always found it hard to believe, really, how we arrived at such a dreadful situation - where we seemed to think that war was the only option. The fear of Hitler invading Britain was certainly real. I do not know what I would have done in the same situation. However, since then I have witnessed many wars which I think are atrocious, and seen many innocent people die. This happened in the Kosovo war, for example, and in the recent bombing of Afghanistan - one of the poorest countries on the earth, and we were bombing them. It is obscene to me. No attempt was made to talk to them, to try and find other solutions. I have also seen how many lies are told in times of war, such as when the Chinese Embassy was bombed in Serbia, and we were told that the US Air Force was using an old map, and did not know where the Chinese Embassy was. We were told, subsequently, that this had simply been a lie. So, I find myself very much behind CND and a general non-violent solution to these issues. The problem, I think, though, lies within the capitalist system itself. Capitalism is based on making money, making profits, finding new markets, consumer goods etc, and not based on providing for humans’ basic wants and needs, and endeavouring to create a caring community spirit, with a sense of fairness and equality. Whilst we live in a capitalist system that, basically, cares nothing for humankind, then wars will be inevitable. Our only hope lies in getting rid of capitalism altogether - and forming a different type of social system - socialism. I am convinced of this.

6. Positive and negatives aspects about being brought up in a family advocating Peace

6.1 Positive aspects
Many pacifists have been criticised, and this was particularly so around the period of the two World Wars, but I must say, that personally I did not witness or have many bad experiences in this way. I did not hear many people say that my parents were foolish, for example, or that my father was a coward. Thus, the experiences I had of being brought up in a family advocating peace were good and positive. The discussions we had were also very useful in terms of helping me to think and develop ideas of my own, and to be able to have a good conversation and present a convincing argument. It was no coincidence, I am sure, that I subsequently chose to study Sociology at university. As well as advocating peace, my parents also valued books, education and music, for example, and loved animals and the countryside. These were all very positive influences on me.

6.2 Negative aspects

However, there were also negative aspects to all of this. One negative factor was the seeming impossibility of solving some of the ethical problems to which I have already referred. In order for humans to survive something has to be killed - if it is only a plant (we have to eat something). Where does pacifism fit in with this, my mother would sometimes ask? I think this is looking at things the wrong way round, and it is largely a waste of time, and could easily be counter-productive. In terms of my childhood, this meant that we spent a lot of time, trying to answer questions that were basically impossible to answer. I feel that this was unfortunate. My parents could have been writing some worthwhile material instead, or been involved in some more useful activities. Even so, I learnt from this. Personally, I am now very keen to write and develop my ideas further.

Another point is that we all have a violent, aggressive side to us. This does seem to be part of human nature, part of what it is to be a human. Maybe this can be changed in the future - as science experiments with our genes etc. Perhaps it will be possible to extract the ‘violent genes’, or something, but this would then raise many different ethical questions (see, for example, a recent book by Francis Fukuyama, entitled Our posthuman future, London: Profile Books, 2002). However, as things currently are, there does seem to be a violent side to human beings – which has probably derived from our need to survive (a further exploration of this would involve moving into Darwinism, but that must wait for another occasion). If we try to suppress this violent side of us completely, maybe it will come out in other undesirable and negative ways, and/or we might lose our motivation. Indeed, I feel that my father lost his motivation in the end, having lived to be 83 years old. So, careful thought needs to be given to these areas, to ensure that our emotions are channelled in positive directions. This is how I intend to progress myself, and, indeed, it is how I am progressing: to build on the positive parts of my upbringing, but to then move way beyond it, into writing and thinking in various other directions. Basically, my hope is the same as the one that I had when I was 18 years old - to work towards a socialist society. When I was 18, though, I thought it could be achieved in my lifetime, but now I realise that I was naive. Indeed, at that age I thought that a revolution involving death and bloodshed would be acceptable, if it meant that we could overthrow capitalism. In this way, I disagreed with my parents, particularly with my father, who somehow thought that the ‘Old Labour’ ideals could be achieved without bloodshed - although he never really spelt out ‘how’. Perhaps this is where more drive was needed. My mother, on the other hand, was not very politically-minded - she preferred to put her faith in God.

7. Looking towards the future, and the influences that my pacifist upbringing has had on my thinking today

I am now certain that there will not be a bloody revolution in my lifetime, and even if there were one, it would not bring about the wonderful socialist society I want to see. There would be too much bitterness and heartache as a result of the death and violence. No, what is necessary is to raise peoples’ consciousness - to make them more aware of the awful horrors of the capitalist system in which we are all immersed. This, I am convinced, can be done, firstly by writing and research, secondly by holding meetings and discussions, and lastly by political action. Without my pacifist upbringing, perhaps I would not have come to these conclusions. For me, though, pacifism on its own is not adequate. Capitalism can cope fine with pacifism - in fact, sometimes it can be used to capitalism’s advantage. For example, it may inhibit us from questioning the actions of large corporations and powerful leaders too much, because this might lead to us not feeling charitable and peaceful towards them; criticism can lead to aggression, and so on. I am not expecting the peace movement to agree with my sentiments, but I am just demonstrating how my pacifist upbringing has been a source of good for me, whilst I have also moved on from this. We have to realise the full horror of capitalism - which is not easy. It is too unpleasant. But, hopefully, once this is more fully realised, we can then look towards a better, a kinder and a fairer social system – socialism. I think this needs to be achieved through using our intellect, though – writing, reading, discussion - as well as holding demonstrations etc. The answer is not through violence. The capitalist press, for example, seems able to cope with violence far more easily than with reasoned argument. Look at its response to the May Day riots of 2001. Reasoned argument is more of a problem for the press – their response tends to be to marginalise it. However, if more of us start to write in this way, and we become more powerful, then marginalisation will become more difficult. Let us, then, look towards the future. Let us look towards a better world.


Fukuyama, Francis (2002): Our posthuman future: consequences of the biotechnology revolution. London: Profile Books

Padfield, Deborah (compiled and edited by) (1999): Hidden lives: stories from the East End by the people of 42 Balaam Street. Stratford, London: Eastside Community Heritage, and Kelso, Scotland: Curlew Productions

Rikowski, Ruth (2000): ‘Socialism, love, hope and solidarity’: a review of Peter McLaren’s Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the pedagogy of revolution, Current Issues in Education, Vol 3, 2000 (online, refereed journal)

Rikowski, Ruth (2001a) GATS: ‘Private affluence and public squalor? Implications for libraries and information’, Managing Information, Dec, Vol. 8, No.10. Article summarises some of the main points that were discussed on the GATS on You and Yours, a BBC Radio 4 programme on 17th October 2001, in which Ruth participated. She also provided some additional analysis.

Rikowski, Ruth (2001b): ‘The corporate takeover of libraries’, Information for Social Change, Special issue on ‘Globalisation and Information’ – edited by Ruth Rikowski. No.14, winter 2001/2002. Available at: http://libr.org/ISC/TOC.html

Ruth Rikowski, London, 30th May 2002, revised 24th July 2002

This piece was originally written for, and lodged with the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) Archives in London, by courtesy of Bill Hetherington, the PPU Archivist.

Piece inserted on this website in May 2007

© Copyright Ruth Rikowski, May 2007

© Copyright, Flow of Ideas, Ruth Rikowski and Glenn Rikowski. Website by [whiteLayer]
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