New Internationalist

Among friends: the Counterpower tour begins

My 23 date tour in connection with my book Counterpower began this week.
Over the next two months I’ll be speaking in Brighton, Hastings, London, Edinburgh,
Leeds, St Albans, Liverpool and Manchester. Rather than feeling nervous,
it feels like a relief.

Writing a book is a lonely experience. Whole days from waking to
sleeping are entirely spent staring into a computer as piles of real
live finished books stack up all around. A trip to the shop across the
road feels like a social outing. A phone call takes up valuable minutes
which could be spent fine-tuning that last paragraph. At least that was
my experience. And I’m glad it is over.

Speaking about a book is much more enjoyable. You present your ideas and
your anecdotes, and people respond using the concepts you have so
carefully constructed. You see old friends and meet whole swathes of new
people at a time. At least that was my experience on day one, speaking
at London’s Friends House.

Many in the audience were Quakers involved in local campaigns. Some were
also involved in nonviolent direct action. Almost all seemed to have
been part of the movement against the Iraq War. A strong theme in the
questioning was what campaigners could do after such a large movement
has been so conclusively ignored by government.

The penultimate chapter of Counterpower looks at the more recent
manifestations of the anti-war movement, in the context of what we can
learn from some of the most prominent campaigns of the past. It argues
that in the case of the Iraq War we won the argument but not the
campaign and points to the need to go beyond protest to resistance by
actively challenging the power of elites.

Tim Gee Stands Up
Credit Bond/Tallis

Many Quakers do this – indeed Quakerism was born of opposition to
authority. Many of the people who worked on successful campaigns who
feature in the book are Quakers, and still more were influenced by
Quaker thought. The challenge is to learn from those successes and to
disregard those mis-readings of history that would promote passive-ism
by only turning the other cheek. Pacifism is more uncomfortable, and
more complex. It implies not only refusing to engage in violence, but
building the foundations of a society where nonviolent resistance is
always a viable alternative. Nobody said it would be easy. But
understanding the power of elites, and our ability to counter it, is a
good start.

Counterpower: Making Change Happen is available from the New
Internationalist shop


Counterpower tour dates

3 October, Friends House, Euston, London, 6pm-8pm,
8 October, Rebellious Media Conference, London, 2.15pm
10 October, Big Green Bookshop, Haringey, 7pm
15 October, Peace and Environment Centre, Brighton, 1pm
15 October, Quaker Meeting House, Brighton, 3pm
16 October, Quaker Meeting House, Hastings, 2pm
20 October, Stoke Newington Bookshop, London, 8pm
22 October, Anarchist Bookfair, Queen Mary’s University of London, 4pm
26 October, Housmans Bookshop, London, 7pm
29 October, CAAT Conference, London, 2pm
30 October, Radical Bookfair, Edinburgh, 4pm
31 October, University Chaplaincy, Edinburgh, 7pm
12 November, Shared Planet, Oxford Town Hall, 3pm
16 November, Working Class Movement Library, Salford, 2pm
21 November, Leeds University Activism and Social Change MA, time TBC
22 November, Bradford University Peace Studies Lecture, 2pm
24 November, Chapel Allerton Library/Radish Bookshop, 7pm
26 November, Leeds Summat, Leeds University Union, 11am – 5pm
29 November, People’s Bookshop, Durham, 7pm
30 November, News from Nowhere, Liverpool, 7pm
4 December, St Albans Quaker Meeting House, 12 noon
5 December, Pogo Café, Hackney, London, 7pm
7 December, Westminster Quaker Meeting House, 7pm

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