Tag: Peace Movement

Banner Tales Workshop: Women For Peace (Glasgow)

In December 1982, approximately 200 women from Glasgow made their way south for a mass demonstration at the U.S air force base near Greenham Common. There they joined 30,000 more women who had encircled the 9mile perimeter fence of the base. This large-scale protest by women peace campaigners followed a period of direct actions orchestrated by Greenham women that year, which began with a die-in outside the London Stock Exchange on June 7th. Coinciding with the presidential visit of Ronald Reagan the aim of the protest was to “lie down and ‘die’ across five roads around the Stock Exchange, thus effectively blocking all traffic going through the city” (Cook and Kirk 1983: 40). The leaflets handed out by activists supporting the ‘dead’ read:

“In front of you are the dead bodies of women. Inside this building men are controlling the money, which make this a reality, by investing our money in the arms industries, who in turn manipulate governments all over the world and create markets for the weapons of mass destruction to be purchased again with our money. President Reagan’s presence here today is to ensure American Nuclear missiles will be placed on our soil. This will lead to you lying dead …”.

The courage, creativity and organisational skills displayed in the above actions and others carried out that year by the Greenham women made a lasting impression on those Scottish women who joined them. One group of women, on their return from the December actions at Greenham Common, set up Women for Peace (Glasgow). Their first activity was to organise, in conjunction with Faslane Peace Camp, a women’s day of action to celebrate International Women’s Day at the Faslane nuclear submarine base. 2000 women from all over Scotland and England attended.

Faslane Peace Camp is the longest running continuous peace cam in the world. For over 30 years activists at the camp have participated in non-violent direct action, civil disobedience and monitoring of submarine movements. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) website states that monitoring activities by Faslane activists “have discovered that both of the new Astute class submarines, Ambush, and Astute are having serious reactor problems. In the past it has been the observations of the peace campers that have forced the M.O.D to admit reactor troubles on submarines” (CND 2013).

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A 'die-in' by Faslane Peace Campaigners at the entrance to the submarine base. © indymedia

Another key action organised by Women for Peace (Glasgow) was a widespread call to encourage women to withdraw their labour for all or part of the day as part of the May 24th 1983 International Women’s Day for Disarmament. This ambitious action received support from the TUC and the STUC, from the Labour Party NEC, from CND nationally, from the People’s March for Jobs, student unions, trade unions and from workers at the Timex and Plesseys occupation and Wills factory in Glasgow. The actions briefly described above and others developed and delivered by Women for Peace (Glasgow) and their partners in protest established a place for an autonomous women’s peace campaign in Scotland.

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One of the banners on display at the workshop © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums

Two of the banners made and carried by these women during this period will be at the Glasgow Women’s Library on Saturday June 18th from 12-3pm. There will also be discussion led by present day anti-war activist Rose Gentle, who will speak about her experiences of campaigning against the Iraq War and Paul Griffin, who will speak about the peace activism of Red Clydesider Helen Crawfurd. In addition this Banner Tales workshop will feature a performance by the Govan Allsorts Choir, who will sing a selection of songs from the Scottish Peace Movement.

You are invited to join us to learn about some of the key moments and figures in the Scottish Peace Movement. As with all past Banner Tales workshops we want to stress the open and inclusive nature of the event. We are keen to hear your stories and thoughts about the Peace Movement in Scotland.

Johnnie Crossan, University of Glasgow

Young Socialists, Hugh Gaitskell and Polaris Missiles

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© CSG CIC Glasgow Museums

There were twelve branches of the Young Socialists in Glasgow throughout the 1960s. Members included Maria Fyfe, who became the Member of Parliament for Glasgow Maryhill from 1987- 2001, Gus MacDonald, a journalist who became a Labour Life Peer and Stuart Christie, who later wrote 'My Granny made me an Anarchist' (2002), which recounts his time as a Young Socialist and a political prisoner of General Franco. The Springburn Young Socialists were established sometime in the early 1960s.

Wilma Gillespie, pictured below, made the banner. Bob Gillespie was both the Treasurer of the Springburn Young Socialists and Secretary of the Glasgow Federation of Young Socialists. He recounts some of his memories of the banner and the group:

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“We sat in a very small hall, which was across from the Springburn Halls, at the bus stop on Keppochhill Road, just where the fire station was. It was a wee hall, it must have been a shoemaker’s shop or something and they had some cinema seats, a row of four or five. That is where we all met with the likes of Maria Fyfe. Each of us would write down a subject, put it in a hat and rumble them up. You pick out something – you have to give us a two minute speech. “So what is this? Housing” – and you would just launch in to that subject. That got the subject discussed and it got everybody speaking and arguing his or her beliefs. Between that and street corner meetings you were becoming an established debater, discusser and so on.

The banner was on all the demonstrations. I think on one occasion it was carried in Aldermaston at a demonstration. I think it has been to the Holy Loch. The poles were made of thick heavy wood and they had fitments. They were solid brass. I think they might have come out of the Caley [Caledonian Rail] Works. So whoever got the job of carrying the banner, they carried it for about a mile, and then they’d had enough and wanted to give someone else the banner. That was all part of our youth.

It was at the demonstration on May Day 1962 with the Glasgow Federation of Young Socialists, of which I was secretary. The Young Socialists walked out on Hugh Gaitskell during his speech. He was talking about nuclear weapons and he started haranguing the Young Socialists as ‘agents of Moscow’”.

Stuart Christie in 'My Granny made me an anarchist' shares his memories of the episode mentioned by Bob:

After being heckled by the Young Socialists present at the event “he [Gaitskell] paused for effect, surveyed the crowd of hostile Glaswegians, and then leaned forward to deliver his memorable punch line. ‘You’re nothing; Your just peanuts!’ he shouted hysterically at the crowd of thousands […].

Gaitskell went beserk. He ranted and raved that we were all secret members of the communist party, tools of Russia and that we should go back to Mosco and demonstrate under the Russian tanks. A Hamden-like roar of derision greeted his words and the jeers went on and on, rolling up the green slopes of Queens Park" (Christie 2002: 136).

Morris Blythman, songwriter and activist, captured the event in his song 'Peanuts', sung to the tune 'Bless 'em all: the long, the short and the tall':

‘Ye a’ ken how Gaitskell got shelled in Queen’s Park
Roasted and salted as well
He cried the folk peanuts but a’ body kens
The only nut there was himself

For he said that Polaris should stay in the loch
An Scotland should bow tae the yanks,
An’ back Adenauer and the hail NATO shower,
Wi’ sodgers, bazookas and tanks.’