In Pursuit of Alternatives to War:

Peace campaigning in the Eighties.  A chronicle from Wrexham


Owen Hardwicke has served as a Catholic priest in Wales since 1954 and has combined this with being actively involved in the peace movement –at times a difficult combination when the church was less than positive concerning the Bomb.  A wartime conscientious objector, he has been involved in much work with CND’s international committee and also served for two years in Pax Christi’s U.K. office as General Secretary.  Locally, he helped to establish a vigorous peace group at Wrexham, and from his wide reading and personal experiences provided a regular ‘Comments and Quotes’ broadsheet alongside the group’s regular newsletter. His book is a valuable record of peace campaigning in the 80s, and contains extensive quotes from his C&Q articles. 

Though the topic could hardly be more serious, the writing is in a good-humoured, accessible style, and is leavened further by many excellent cartoons.

Many of the subjects will of course be familiar to KPN readers, but it is good to see the topics analysed so clearly.  History will no doubt decide that the problem posed by the Bomb has been badly and dangerously handled by our generation (our very survival has owed more to good luck than good judgement), and this careful account of the blunders and missed opportunities may anger or depress the reader at times, but on the other hand, the sub-text of so many campaigners dedicated to finding another way to security rather than the blind confrontation of the arms race is both reassuring and comforting.

I would recommend the book heartily to KPN readers.  I would recommend it even more strongly to the general, unconvinced public.  Today’s world, it is said, is different from that of the 80s, but the basic problem of how to abolish war remains unsolved.  In addition to being an absorbing document of peace protest in the dangerous 80s, Owen Hardwicke’s book remains relevant to the problem of war.  Though the Cold War is generally considered as over, submarines armed with nuclear missiles still patrol the seas, and land-based ICBMs remain on hair-trigger alert in both the remaining ‘superpower’ and its former adversary, demonstrating that the underlying cause of war has not been addressed.  In our own unstable and dangerous times, instead of the Cold War we have the war on terror, which threatens to become permanent, and humanitarian wars, and pre-emptive wars.  Moreover, the method of security via mutual understanding, genuine cooperation rather than military confrontation, so well described in Hardwicke’s book, remains virtually untried.  History has amply shown that militarism is no promoter of security – the time to give peaceful methods a chance is long overdue.

You can order the book direct from Owen Hardwicke, Wrexham Peace and Justice, PO Box 661, Wrexham LL11 1QU, for £9, which includes £1.50 post and packing, or from any bookshop, ISBN 1-84494-024-1, for £9.50.

(By the way, our member Lib Rowlands-Hughes gets a mention in the section devoted to non-violent direct action.  Her interesting pre-sentencing statement after a ‘snowball’ wire-cutting action is quoted at length.)