ISSUE 59 SPRING 2009

Peace Matters Index

george lansbury anniversary

ONLINE contents


- militarisation of Britain
- more than a t-shirt
- the role of scientific community
- absolutely pacifist
- can the greens stay nonviolent ?
- afghanistan: a misread war
- george lansbury anniversary
- work to do – adrian mitchell






- complete issue pdf




George Lansbury’s grandson and other members of the family at memorial walk in Bow.


|more about George Lansbury


George Lansbury’s involvement with the Peace Pledge Union as President until his death in 1940 came at the end of a long life as a pacifist, Christian and socialist politician, and sympathiser with the rights of women, dedicated to seeking a better, more equal and fairer world for all. His family recently organised a series of meetings to commemorate his life on the 150th anniversary of his birth in 1859. About 150 people joined a walk in Bow Road to see the memorial to him where he used to live (ironically his house was destroyed by a flying bomb), a rather beautiful clock on the wall nearby to commemorate his daughter-in-law who died shortly after a spell in Holloway as one of the Poplar councillors imprisoned for a political demonstration about the rates, and an exhibition in the old church he used to worship in. They also held a memorial service, and two political meetings, one in the House of Lords, the other in Bow.

The House of Lords meeting, organised by the Labour History Society, was very well attended, with many Lansbury relatives in the audience. The panel spoke largely of his political work both as a Poplar councillor, and as leader of the Labour Party. They couldn’t quite avoid mentioning his pacifism, much as they would have liked to. His biographer admitted it had been the hardest part of George’s biography to write as he himself isn’t a pacifist (and he felt the need to tell us his own family’s patriotic history of fighting for their country). He did have great respect for George’s work for peace nonetheless.

Luckily the PPU’s archivist spoke from the floor about George’s work for the PPU and the War Resisters International, and his help for German Jewish children, to applause from the assembled Lansburys. Roy Hattersley on the panel became almost apoplectic at the idea that anyone could be a pacifist in the 1930s, completely contradicting his earlier statement that George Lansbury had taken the easy path by being a pacifist then. It was disconcerting to see that the passionate dislike of pacifists because of that pre-Second World War era could still be felt so strongly.
The PPU was fortunate to have George Lansbury as our first President and it is good that his memory can still challenge the Labour party he used to lead. Those of us who were able to attend were privileged to share in the commemoration of his life with his family.


Lucy Beck


Peace Pledge Union, 1 Peace Passage, London N7 0BT. Tel +44 (0)20 7424 9444  contact   |  where to find us