Nils Petter Gleditsch
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Michael Randle is a British peace activist who has also taught peace studies at Bradford University and written extensively about nonviolent defense, notably in the context of the Alternative Defence Commission in the 1980s. He has worked with scholar-activists like April Carter, Mary Kaldor, and Dan Smith. But it is as an activist that he has really made his mark. He was a co-founder of the Direct Action Committee, which organized the first Aldermaston march against nuclear weapons in 1958 (and commissioned Gerald Holton’s ‘nuclear disarmament’ sign, which has become a universal peace symbol) as well as the Committee of 100, which organized mass civil disobedience in the early 1960s. He was arrested on numerous occasions and served two long prison sentences. Most controversially, he helped to spring the spy George Blake from prison and to get him across the Iron Curtain to exile in Russia, an action that displeased many of his friends in research and in the peace movement. He was no Soviet sympathizer but justified the caper with the harsh sentence Blake had received (42 years). Curiously, when his role in the Blake escape was discovered twenty years later, he was charged, but acquitted by jury. He is presented through an interview with Martin Levy, a librarian at Bradford, based on extensive research in the files. Randle comes across as an extremely principled activist, who has been willing to make extensive personal sacrifices for his beliefs, which he now characterizes as ‘somewhere on the anarcho-syndicalist left’. The book also provides extensive information on organizations and individuals in the British peace movement over many decades.