Helen John

Mick Hall recalls Helen John, a tenacious campaigner for peace.

Photo: the Guardian
Looking back from today's perspective it's hard to believe just what a massive campaign against the stationing of US cruise missiles at the former RAF base at Greenham Common was. Helen John one of the founders of the protesters camp that grew up there around the military base was at the fore of this campaign. She was hardly off our TV news screens.

The camp became well-known when on 1 April 1983, about 70,000 protesters formed a 14-mile (23 km) human chain from Greenham to Aldermaston and the ordnance factory at Burghfield. The media attention surrounding the camp "prompted the creation of other peace camps at more than a dozen sites in Britain and elsewhere in Europe" Another encircling of the base occurred in December 1983, with 50,000 women attending. Sections of the fence were cut and there were hundreds of arrests.*

I traveled down that day with someone from the Chinese embassy, she was impressed by the number of protesters there but felt if there were five million the British government would not change their minds about allowing the USA to station cruise missiles in the UK. I have to admit I shared her cynicism and no matter how much I admired the Greenham Common women's tenacity I saw CND as a diversion into single issue and identity politics.

My Chinese friend was also incredulous the British government would allow a foreign power to place their nuclear weapons on British soil. So it proved because as she predicted no nation can be truly free if it doesn’t control its own defense, as we have witnessed when Bush made Blair his pet poodle on Iraq and now Donald Trump regards us as little more than his personal caddy.

Mick Hall blogs @ Organized Rage.

Follow Mick Hall on Twitter @organizedrage

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

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