Socialist Action is sad to learn of the death of Helen John on 5 November 2017 and sends condolences to her family, friends and comrades.
Helen was an outstanding internationalist who dedicated her life to fighting imperialism’s military assaults across the globe. She campaigned for nuclear disarmament and opposed the US and Britain’s frequent resort to war. The British authorities on many occasions arrested and imprisoned her in an effort to halt the protests she organised.
Helen was one of the small group of peace activists who marched from Wales to Greenham Common in 1981 to establish the peace camp there in protest at the plan to site cruise missiles there. The women’s protest at Greenham proved inspirational to many thousands of women, who gathered there in ‘embrace the base’ and other protests against cruise and the madness of the idea of nuclear war.
At its height the Greenham movement was part of a mass movement of women for peace, with a network of women’s peace groups in cities and towns around Britain, and feeding into protests such as that at Faslane in Scotland. Greenham was central to the revival of the anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s. Through Greenham and subsequently the protest camp she established at Menwith Hill and the political actions she engaged in at Fylingdales and many other military installations, Helen made an invaluable contribution to the anti-war and peace movements over decades.
Helen was a feminist, a socialist, an internationalist and someone of great empathy, warmth and kindness. Modest to a fault, she was loved by a wide network of women whose lives she had entered. Helen was a powerful example of the potential any individual to use their life for progressive change, in whatever small or larger way is open to them. Helen simply said no to a mad and deadly system and insisted it was within the power of each of us to do something to bring about fundamental change.
Some of Helen’s campaigning is documented in these three videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VIMh6hDs4U , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzuH6AjwwJU and https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=b15INIVCs5Q (about 27 minutes in).
Helen was 80 years old and had been living with dementia and was resident in a nursing home in Bradford, chosen for its proximity to some of her children and to the women peace activists who had become friends and comrades in the years she lived in Yorkshire.