Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Banning the Bomb

Most people have heard of the Greenham Common peace camp. I spent most of 1983 living at two peace-camps in Scotland. At the height of the movement in the mid-1980s, there were about ten peace camps around the UK, including three in Scotland, and all but two of them were mixed sex. However, Greenham Common got most of the attention, not least of all because it was in leafy Berkshire near London. Unfortunately, Greenham Common - and therefore the movement - became dominated by radical lesbian feminists of a very mystical mindset.

I spent most of my time at Faslane, and it was a strange social experiment. Psychologists could have had a field day studying that place. Even though it officially had no leaders and no rules, it was a deeply authoritarian atmosphere at the camp. You could not begin to be taken seriously unless you were vegetarian, preferably vegan, and had been arrested, and preferably gone to prison. And women had more inherent authority than men. Those who had never been arrested were regarded as somewhat lacking in commitment, and there was certainly peer pressure on newer members to get arrested as a kind of rite of passage. People who were only lacto-vegetarians were looked on with tolerance, but they were regarded as slightly lacking in commitment. Meat eaters were generally beneath contempt, and it was pretty well impossible to consume meat on the camp. One or two individuals even toyed with fruitarianism, but they were regarded as rather extreme. It was good enough just to be a radical vegan. Ideally, you should think of something to boycott that no-one else had previously thought of. Examples included honey, on the grounds that it exploited bees, and sheep's wool, except that which had been collected by hand from twigs but not from barbed wire fences. The only acceptable form of transport was hitch-hiking. If you revealed that you had taken the bus you would be derided as a ‘plastic’.

We were a bunch of holier-than-thou, unctuous little Puritans, and I, I'm embarrassed to say, was as guilty as anybody.

Accommodation was in caravans, and they all had names. There was one called the ‘Women’s caravan’ which men were forbidden to enter. There was another one inhabited solely by men, and this was universally referred to as the ‘Wimps’ caravan’, and women were not banned from entering it, although they generally chose not to.

I remember spending my time promoting ‘Women’s Peace Actions’, demonstrations in which only women were allowed to take part. Men would occupy supporting roles like catering. I recall overhearing a woman saying “It’s good to see men cleaning up our shit for a change”.

After one of these I was hitch-hiking back to Glasgow with my then-girlfriend. A van stopped belonging to a group called ‘Flamin Women’ who were also on their way home. They offered to take my girlfriend, but refused to take me, because I was a man. She, the cow, accepted and left me standing there. What kind of ideology would produce this kind of behaviour? To leave a 17 year old boy standing on a road in the middle of nowhere?

I remember inviting some of my female SWP friends to attend these things and they always refused. “We don’t like these all-women events because they divide the working-class”. I always had some grudging respect for that view. Now I have a lot of respect for it. The whole point of these things was to divide men and women against each other.

The standard pattern of protest was to lie down on the road to block the traffic, get arrested for breach of the peace, refuse to pay the fine and go to prison. Those who did this liked to make martyrs of themselves. The court would be packed with supporters, and a constant presence would be maintained outside the prison while the martyr was inside. On one occasion, a woman was due to be released. The gates opened, and out she walked, to a cheering group of supporters. This was a Scottish winter, and she had been in a nice warm cell, while we were standing outside in the cold. Her first words were “Why are there men here?” I learned then that you cannot even support feminists. They regard men as the enemy, and this belief is intractable.

Fairly early on, I got arrested myself, only once. I was promised that I would have a lawyer, the court would be packed with supporters, there would be a large group of defendants, and all my fines would be paid for me. I had myself sat in the public gallery during several such trials and seen police officers lying in the witness box with my own eyes. In the event, the trial was put back months, I was refused legal aid on the grounds that I had no stateable defence, and I appeared alone in a court, empty but for one of my female friends, to defend myself against six police officers called as witnesses. I was fined forty pounds, which I paid in instalments from my benefits. At that point I abandoned the peace movement, largely because it had abandoned me. A lot of the young men I was with were doing the same.

The peace camp movement was a product of the economic and political climate in Britain at that time. It could not have happened without mass unemployment, a housing shortage and a benefits system. People lived there often because they had nothing better to do. I went there out of idealism, but a proportion of people there were newly-released prisoners looking for a cheap place to live, or those who might otherwise be homeless. It was a period of my life which only lasted about a year, but it taught me a few lessons.

It was only years later that I found out that Greenham Common had started life as a mixed camp. This BBC news story is the usual biased, fawning crap. It casually states that "In 1982 the camp became women only", but it doesn't tell us why. In fact, there was an internal coup by radical lesbian feminists, and all the men were expelled. Not a lot of people know that.

3 comments:

jw said...

In 1983 I was a young lone father to two kids; the mother wasn't involved.

In 1983 I started going to college. I worked fulltime, went to college fulltime, shared in the babysitting co-op, was part time directer of the local suicide prevention center and of course, parented fulltime. Obviously I received none of the single parent benefits as they were all female ONLY.

You know? I have never, never once in my life, seen any of the peace and/or justice groups take a stand against such vile treatment of men & children. Never! Not once ...

In March of 1981 a woman nearly killed me. She wanted to teach me how terrible women had it ... I have never, not once in my life, heard one of the peace and justice people take a stand against her or for men hurt by women's violence.

Peace & Justice groups stand for hatred and violence: NOT for peace or justice.

When I see a peace and/or justice group for the very first time take a stand agaisnt vile & violent treatment of males, then I may soften my stance.

Richard said...

I visited Greenham Common as a 'peace' activist during this period. In fact the camp was never entirely women only. There were originally two camps- the women's peace camp and the rainbow camp which was mixed. The population of the rainbow camp was about twice that of the women's camp because it was so much more fun! Nevertheless there was a strong ethic that we were there only to support the women's camp and never publicly admit our own existence. The camp disbanded when two of the men living there were charged with rape- which the police were more than happy to play along with. Other men were continually accused of rape either verbally or to third parties so gradually the camp wound down- leaving the woman's camp which was also mixed sex most of the time.

The important thing was not the sex of the participants but a war between two of the women- Fran D'ath who was a normal human being despite believing the feminist codswhallop verses Helen Johns (a bit like Dworkin but minus the charm). Fran continued to live in her caravan with her boyfriend until the end of the camp.

You are quite right about the mystical bent- it was known as 'women's magic' and aimed to deny objective reality by levitating the base of the earth and placing it on the moon. The failure of these actions were always blamed on the negative influence of men. The magic was justified on the basis that it frightened men. It did in fact frighten me a great deal because it was so irrational and because the women openly claimed that rationality was a male invention that must be destroyed. To here this was to confront pure insanity and have no arguments against it (because they would only be 'rational male' arguments.)

heretic commenter said...

Hey, Heretic, how do we contact you?