Papers of Michael Randle
Archive reference: Cwl MR
One of the group of Commonweal Archives which give an incredibly rich and detailed picture of non-violent direct action movements in the early 1960s, this illustrates the career of an academic and activist who has played an important part in non-violent direct action in Britain and internationally.
Michael Randle registered as a conscientious objector to military service in 1951. He became involved in Operation Gandhi (later re-named the Non Violent Resistance Group) in 1952. Michael was a member of the Aldermaston March Committee which organised the Aldermaston March against British nuclear weapons at Easter 1958; chairman of the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War, 1958-1961; secretary of the Committee of 100, 1960-1961; and a council and executive member of War Resisters’ International, 1960-1987. In 1956 he attempted to march from Vienna to Budapest with leaflets expressing support for Hungarian passive resistance to the Soviet occupation. In 1959-1960, he spent a year in Ghana, participating in the Sahara protest team against French atomic bomb tests and helping to organise a pan-African conference in Accra.
In 1962 he was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for his part in organising non violent direct action at Wethersfield base in Essex. In Wormwood Scrubs prison, he met George Blake, the British MI6 agent imprisoned for 42 years for passing information to the Soviet Union. Believing the length of the sentence was inhuman, Michael assisted Sean Bourke in planning Blake’s escape from prison in 1966, and, with his wife Anne and Pat Pottle, drove Blake to East Germany concealed in a camper van. In 1991 he and Pat Pottle stood trial at the Old Bailey for their part in the escape. Despite a virtual direction from the judge to convict, the jury found them not guilty on all counts.
In October 1967 Michael was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for participating in an occupation of the Greek Embassy in London following the military coup in April that year. In the 1970s and 1980s he collaborated with the Czech dissident Jan Kavan, then living in London, smuggling literature and equipment to the democratic opposition in Czechoslovakia.
He has a degree in English from London University (1966), and an MPhil and a PhD in Peace Studies (Bradford, 1981 and 1994). His thesis studied "Civil resistance: the origins and development of unarmed civilian resistance and its future potential". He has written several books on this theme. He was co-ordinator of the Alternative Defence Commission 1980-1987; visiting research fellow at the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, 1991-2007; co-ordinated the Nonviolent Action Research Project 1994-1999, and acted as secretary of the Committee for Conflict Transformation and Support 1994-2009. He is a trustee of the Commonweal Collection, an independent peace library.
This collection is dominated by files on the George Blake case and the prosecution of Michael Randle and Pat Pottle for their role in his escape from prison, 1989-1995 . It also includes material on non violent direct action groups and activities during the 1950s and 1960s, mainly the Direct Action Committee and the Committee of 100, and research projects and writings including the Non Violent Action Research Project.
The Archive was catalogued as part of the PaxCat Project, with support from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives.