Recent weeks have seen nuclear weapons and nuclear power once again in the headlines — the troubles at Sellafield, the planned anti-ballistic missile developments at Fylingdales, the election of Vladimir Putin and the treaty ratifications in the Duma, the Non-Proliferation Review in New York. Today (24th April) the Guardian newspaper carries a full page feature on the prospects for the NPT Review conference in New York quoting William Peden of Greenpeace (and ex-CND Parliamentary worker), Dan Plesch of BASIC and Rebecca Johnson of ACRONYM. It is difficult not to feel exasperated that ‘the media’ have such short attention spans — tinged by the feeling that we could have given them any of this information at any time if they had shown the slightest interest.... (Long-standing WDC/CND members will remember Dan Plesch as facilitator of a campaigning workshop in South Wimbledon and Rebecca Johnson as an inspirational visiting speaker in her Greenham Common days.)
We must make the most of this opportunity to press our case and make the most of the fact that people are once again listening. Write to the newspapers, write to your M.P., talk to your friends and colleagues. Above all remember that it is the existence of our campaign that generates these stories. The information which appears in the Guardian and the Independent and the Times is researched by staff at CND and fed to sympathetic journalists. The editorial decision to publish can also be seen as a response to public opinion — is this a ‘live’ issue or not? CND needs its members more than ever before, so even if you do nothing else make sure that you keep your national membership up to date.
Dorothy and Joanna went to see Wimbledon M.P. Roger Casale at his surgery on March 31st and raised several issues. We tried to focus on two main areas of topical interest — the proposals for the expansion of the anti-missile ‘Star Wars’ monitoring facilities at Fylingdales in Yorkshire reportedly requested by the Americans, and the forthcoming NPT review conference in New York.
After the meeting I wrote to Roger thanking him and reinforcing the principal reason why we in WDC/CND would be so adamantly opposed to U.K. Government support for a U.S. anti-missile facility at Fylingdales, i.e. that any such development would contravene the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty.
I wrote “the Government should be making it quite clear that it expects the U.S. to show a proper respect for international treaty and law: there are all too few international agreements regulating the spread of nuclear weapons”. Roger has promised to verify the facts in this matter [see Guardian article 30/3/2000] which will no doubt mean forwarding an obfuscatory response from a Junior Minister.
We urged the importance of the NPT conference as strongly as we could, and suggested that it was inappropriate for the British delegation to be led by the relatively unimportant Peter Hain (although there is a certain wry amusement to be derived from the knowledge that this particular Junior Minister is a CND member....) Roger writes “I found our discussion about a nuclear weapons convention very informative and useful. As promised, I have written to Mr Peter Hain M.P., Minister of State at the Foreign Office... I have asked him to confirm his familiarity with the book ‘Security and Survival — the Case for a Nuclear Weapons Convention’† and in particular the model convention contained in the book.”
The only area where we drew a total blank was our attempt to raise the question of a ‘sub-strategic Trident’. The 1998 U.K. Strategic Defence Review states “The credibility of deterrence also depends on retaining an option for a limited strike that would not automatically lead to a full-scale nuclear exchange... Trident must be capable of performing this ‘sub-strategic rôle”. Roger made it very clear that he felt that investigating this type of highly specific question was outside his remit. He suggested that we should approach the ‘CND M.P.s’!
Nevertheless our discussion remained amicable and we felt that we had more than fulfilled the main propose of our visit, which was to make sure that our local M.P. remains fully informed about developments in the nuclear disarmament debate.
We only knew WDC/CND members Anthony and Maggie Barker in their retirement, and it was only after their deaths in a cycling accident that most of us became aware of their other interests and of their careers as mission doctors in South Africa.
This book has been posthumously edited and privately published, but Anthony was writing for eventual publication, and even though the result is more fragmented and less polished than it might otherwise have been, it contains much material of inestimable value to all those interested in the past, present and future of South Africa — and in the careers of two remarkable people.
Maggie and Anthony first went to South Africa at the close of the Second World War when both were newly qualified. They remained at the mission hospital at Nqutu, Natal, for the next thirty years, passionately identifying with the Zulu people but at the same time bringing a remarkable degree of objectivity to their equivocal position as ‘whites’ under the increasingly oppressive apartheid régime.
It is this clarity of vision which impresses throughout the book, and the honesty with which Anthony charts his own intellectual development. He came to realise that the root cause of black poverty and inter-tribal tension in South Africa lay in the expropriation of land and the destruction of black society and culture, and that this had been in most cases carried out by the English well before the introduction of apartheid.
This book is non-judgemental of individuals, however devastatingly it reveals the causes of so much misery, and it glows with a deep love for the whole of South Africa and its people: “A horrible society in which nice people lived. A deeply divided society in which people were quite irreversibly bound together.”
As the publishers put it — Anthony wanted so much to talk to young Africa... it will be hard work to resolve all the problems. Maybe his vision will shed a little light? From beyond the grave Anthony is saying ‘Nqonqotha’, ‘I was passing and I thought I’d knock on your door.’
Archbishop Tutu and Chief Buthelezi have each contributed introductory messages. When printing costs have been paid any profits from the book will be divided between the Helwell Conservation Trust and the Alexandra Clinic in the Johannesburg black township where the Barkers ended their South African medical careers.
Copies are available from Fielders in Wimbledon Hill Road, at £8·50.
Maisie and Helen spent the day at the Merton PSHE & Citizenship Conference on April 6th with a stall displaying peace education materials and CND information. They sold £175 worth of books (supplied to us by Quaker Peace & Service on sale or return) and talked to many of the 60 teachers present.
A thank-you letter from the organisers says “several delegates commented that they very much appreciated the opportunity to learn about the work of some of the local organisations which can support them in developing this new area of the curriculum. I hope that you also found the conference useful and that it gave you some understanding of how you might be able to work with schools... if you have any ideas for projects which might be of interest to schools, please contact us.” We must build on this.
PLEASE COME — to purchase, to eat and to help. Please bring your friends and neighbours. Please display our poster in your window.
This is an annual opportunity for everybody to contribute, and it is always a happy and sociable occasion. The plant stall will once again be offering a spectacular range of bedding and herbaceous plants and shrubs, and this year, thanks to a generous donation, we shall have an especially well-stocked book stall. The home-made food will be the best value in Wimbledon.