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2023 month by month - a year of peace campaigning amidst growing militarism

PPU protests in 2023

2023 month by month - a year of peace campaigning amidst growing militarism

Spiralling military spending. Peace campaigners under attack in Russia and Ukraine. The devastating violence in Israel and Gaza. In 2023 there has been no shortage of war and militarism for peace campaigners to resist.

Throughout the year PPU members and supporters have never stopped challenging militarism and making the case for pacifism. Thank you for showing that wherever there is militarism, there will be resistance!

We have worked alongside many other groups and activists, both in the UK and around the world through War Resisters' International, of which the Peace Pledge Union is the British section.

Much of our work continues throughout the year, including our peace education work and our support for members and local groups. But as we reach the end of 2023, here's a month-by-month account of the campaigns we've played a part in.


With Germany sending more military aid to Ukraine, including tanks, the UK govenment faced growing pressure to follow suit. The PPU joined other groups in condemning the supply of weapons and military equipment to Ukrainian forces, pointing out that this will only prolong the conflict and carries the serious risk of global and even nuclear escalation. The PPU has consistently condemned the Russian, whilst also criticising attempts by Western governments and arms companies to misuse the suffering of Ukrainian people for their own strategic and commercial interests.


We need #WagesNotWeapons! Amidst growing signs that the UK government planned to increase the military budget, we stepped up our campaign against military spending. The UK's military budget is already the sixth highest in the world. PPU activists pointed out that the rumoured £10bn extra military spending would be an insult to all those suffering under a cost of living crisis.


In March the predicted rise in military spending was announced in Jeremy Hunt's budget. It was even worse than feared: an additional £11bn over five years. Meanwhile the so-called Defence Review failed to acknowledge the climate crisis and poured fuel on the fire of global security threats, further inflaming tensions with Russia and China. There is clearly much work for peace campaigners to do here, but we were glad to make a pacifist voice heard.


In April we backed teachers who were challenging a rise in military spending against the backdrop of a desperately underfunded education system. We ran a stand at the conference of the National Education Union (NEU) conference in Harrogate, building our peace education network.


On International Conscientious Objectors' Day on May 15th, we called on Rishi Sunak to offer asylum to Russians who refuse to fight in the war against Ukraine. Events to mark the day took place in at least ten towns and cities around the UK. At the National Ceremony in London we heard a statement from peace activists from Belarus on the worsening situation faced by COs there.


The PPU joined other peace groups and local activists to protest the Armed Forces Day celebrations in Falmouth. The event included cadets as young as 12 in military uniforms and younger children being invited to sit at the controls of weapons and military aircraft. The PPU highlighted concerns raised by parents about these 'family' activities and supported local residents to challenge the event.


Young women in the PPU expressed their disgust at new revelations about the staggering levels of sexual abuse of teenage recruits to the British army. We have been supporting PPU members to raise awareness of this issue with new materials to distribute, highlighting systemic abuse within the armed forces.


In August the Ukrainian conscientious objector and peace campaigner Yurii Sheliazhenko was placed under partial house arrest in Kyiv, accused of ‘justifying the Russian aggression’ - an absurd claim given his consistent condemnation of all militarism. The PPU campaigned for all charges against him to be dropped and wrote to the Ukrainian Embassy in the UK to protest against his treatment.


The PPU was one of many groups belonging to the Stop the Arms Fair coalition who resisted the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) in London - one of the world's biggest arms fairs. PPU members staged an action at the entrance to the arms fair, as arms dealers were queueing, reading out the names of 100 recent victims of war from around the world and laying a wreath of white poppies.


In the wake of October 7th, the PPU joined other voices from the peace movement in condemning the horrific attacks by Hamas, as well as the brutal Israeli response. We highlighted the UK government's complicity in the unfolding violence, as it provided diplomatic and military support for Israeli war crimes, and backed calls for an immediate ceasefire. We launched the White Poppy Campaign at the end of the month with a call to remember all victims of was, past and present, and to stand up for peace in the face of escalating violence.


There has rarely been a busier month at the PPU. White poppy orders were flooding in, PPU members were joining the protests calling for a ceasefire in Israel and Palestine - and then Rishi Sunak criticised the demonstrations planned for Remembrance Day, calling them 'disrespectful' and prompting calls to ban them. The PPU made the links between these issues: the best way to respect the victims of wars, past and present, is to campaign for a peaceful future. On Remembrance Day, many PPU members joined the huge peaceful demonstration in London, distributing nearly two thousand white poppies. The day after, on Remembrance Sunday, a record number of remembrance ceremonies featuring white poppies took place around the UK. At the National Ceremony in London, we heard a message from families in both Israel and Palestine who have lost loved ones to the ongoing conflict.


As the year draws to a close, we continue to support PPU members across the UK to join protests calling for a ceasefire in Israel and Palestine, building up to the next national demonstration in London on the 13th January. Along with the Quakers, Fellowship of Reconciliation and War Resisters International, the PPU signed a letter demanding an end to the persecution of conscientious objectors in Russia and Ukraine, which was delivered to the embassies of both countries.


The Peace Pledge Union is  is a collection of people who have pledged to resist war and to tackle the causes of war. Join us here!