By Liam Carroll
If ever there was one person in Norfolk who typified the values of this column, which she helped pioneer, it was the late Margaret Moss. Margaret was a person who worked persistently for solidarity with her fellow human beings the world over, never failing to pursue any course of action that might bring relief to the suffering and the oppressed. As secretary for Norwich and District Trades Union Council, an active UNISON member and participant in numerous peace and social solidarity movements, she was one of the most prolific campaigners in Norfolk, as well as being a mother of two. It is a great tragedy that she has been taken from us, not only because she was much loved, but also because she tirelessly demonstrated a way to work for a better world.
It is often easier to see the faults of other countries than it is to recognise those of our own. Elsewhere in the world we have no trouble identifying rogue states and corrupt regimes. Take China and the Darfur crisis in the Sudan for example. Here we can see a large and powerful country ignoring gross human rights violations in order to secure oil supplies for Chinese oil companies and also supplying the same country with armaments that exacerbate state sponsored crimes whilst also fanning the flames of more localised conflict. To add fuel to the fire one could accuse the Chinese of burning huge quantities of coal that help feeds the climate change that bears most heavily on fragile farming communities such as those in Sudan where scarce water resources are increasingly under threat.
It would be unfair though to single out the Chinese as sole perpetrators of such crimes, for the pattern is a familiar one throughout history. The Chinese might be the latest government to seek out new resource and commodity supplies for its rapidly expanding economy, but what advanced industrialised country has not done likewise? That is why it is down to the domestic population to promote humanitarian concerns both in government and in society at large.
Margaret Moss worked with an amazingly large number of organisations that sought to do just that. Her trade unionism went beyond simply protecting the membership and her work for Unison and the Trades Council never failed to incorporate aspects of international solidarity. Whether through financial, legal or political support the labour movement has always sought to support social organisation in other countries. Whether it is in Zimbabwe or the Sudan, people have to find ways to organise a functioning society outside of central government, which frequently has nothing to offer, or indeed simply takes from, the wider population. Margaret never failed to support this vital aspect of the labour movement, which also included her activities on the TUC's Women's Rights Committee and her work with the fair trade organisation Banana Link.
Britain, like China, does not have an impressive record when it comes to arms supply either. Amongst many other cases, selling weapons to Robert Mugabe during his 1999 invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in one of the worst-ever African conflicts, is hardly a source of national pride, and more recent exposures of our intimate ties with Saudi Arabia through the arms trade should also be a cause for concern. Margaret was an important member of Norwich Campaign Against the Arms Trade that sought to end such practices.
It is also a little known fact that the partly British owned Urenco allowed A Q Khan, the Pakistani scientist, to obtain the know how for uranium enrichment from the plant where he was working. Given Dr Khan’s role in nuclear weapons proliferation across Pakistan, North Korea and Iran, this ought to be another source of national shame. Margaret was an active member of CND that sought to prevent nuclear proliferation and went on to demonstrate her deep commitment to nuclear disarmament by physically blockading the UK nuclear missile base at Faslane in her final months.
Margaret vigorously opposed the invasion of Iraq, she joined the peace camp in Suffolk when some of the worst weapons were being flown out of RAF Mildenhall for use in the Israeli shelling of southern Lebanon, and she entered the US base in Lakenheath to prevent the deployment of cluster munitions in Iraq. The latest of these activities were all conducted as cancer grew in her shoulder and increasingly affected her mobility. She exemplified the humanity that exists within all of us and lived it on a daily basis, we can only hope that in her passing many more will step up to follow her example.