Conference this year was held in the imposing surroundings of City Hall, at the invitation of the Mayor Ken Livingstone, and it was a positive and constructive occasion. All the officer posts were uncontested: Kate Hudson (Chair), Linda Hugl (Treasurer), Sophie Bolt, Jeremy Corbyn and Dave Webb (Vice Chairs). Former Vice Chair Rae Street (retiring on health grounds) was warmly thanked by Kate Hudson as a "wise guide and great inspiration" who had achieved respect and reputation at both local and global level with her great talent for making big issues accessible. (Fortunately Rae continues to serve on CND National Council and she topped the poll in the Council elections.)
Kate's review of the year covered the No Trident Replacement campaign, where we had "temporarily lost the vote but won the legal, moral and security arguments" and stimulated a 10% increase in membership. The demonstration on 24th February jointly with the Stop the War Coalition had been the largest anti-nuclear demonstration for 20 years. Media interest had been higher than for very many years and links had been forged with the 'arts and cultural sector' (Vivienne Westwood, Annie Lennox, Bianca Jagger, Katie Clarke etc.) Des Browne had debated with Kate Hudson at the Imperial War Museum before a youth audience (where an initial anti-Trident majority became even larger by the end of the debate!)
Future campaigning will centre around the return to Parliament in 2009 when there will be a Report Back (debate and vote) on the first stage ('Concept Phase') of the Trident Replacement programme and on the International Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, launched at the NPT PrepCom+ in Vienna in May. A new parliamentary alliance has been forged with Jon Trickett M.P. and the issue of Trident is "definitely not going to go away".
Bruce Kent in his fundraising appeal was of the opinion that CND had "never been so well organised nor in such good hands" as at present under the leadership of Kate Hudson; we were now a major force with great opportunities in front of us. We should raise our sights -- aim to brief all delegates at the next NPT conference, become part of a trans-European movement against the militarisation of Europe, support the struggling peace groups in the USA (e.g. by organising a CND speaking tour), sponsor a video (to rival Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth") on militarism and its human and environmental cost. CND is the world's biggest campaigning force for peace and has the potential to change the world. It was a reminder that money is a very practical way of contributing to our work for peace -- not everybody is able or willing to get arrested at Faslane!
Kate Hudson, Marion Birch (of Medact) and Jeremy Corbyn M.P. led this conference workshop which served to introduce the new ICAN campaign launched in Vienna in May and now central to CND campaigning. ICAN stands for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons which was initiated by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a federation of medical professionals in sixty countries which received the Nobel Peace prize in 1985 and is represented in the UK by Medact.
A Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) will be an international treaty to ban development, possession and use of nuclear weapons, signed by governments and similar to other such treaties banning entire categories of weapons such as the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention and the Landmine Treaty. The UN General Assembly has consistently voted overwhelmingly for such a treaty and in 2006 those voting in favour included three nuclear weapons states -- India, China and Pakistan.
Kate Hudson stressed the importance of presenting a positive alternative to M.P.s (i.e. not just "knocking down what we don't want"). The campaign against Trident (the national campaign) and the campaign for an NWC (global) were two sides of the same coin and both issues were core to CND's work.
Marion Birch spoke of politicians' corruption of medical language (with their talk of 'surgical strikes' etc.) and the pressure exerted on health workers to disseminate misleading civil defence information that was totally inadequate. "Securing our Survival" is a draft NWC that covers all stages of the nuclear industrial cycle (even down to consideration of whether medical isotopes should be phased out). Nuclear weapons should be treated as "the most lethal pathogen ever" and the reasons given by politicians for inaction are totally spurious. Politicians like to delude themselves that there is such a thing as a 'safe pair of hands' where nuclear weapons are concerned, but really they are attempting to justify a two-tier world where George W. Bush (as leader of the nuclear weapons states) "shares body language with the head of a street gang" when arriving to address the United Nations General Assembly ("no respect, no diplomacy").
A four-page summary of "Securing our Survival" will shortly be available and Medact is preparing an update of the medical consequences to bring these basic facts back into public awareness. For details: http://www.ICANw.org.
Jeremy Corbyn stressed the importance of briefing and lobbying M.P.s to show that there are alternatives to current policy. He deplored the "military way of thinking" that tends to dominate the Houses of Parliament (a preponderance of public school and retired military) which generated a very narrow view of security. Indiscriminate mass destruction as defence policy should be the preserve of a "tiny minority of nutcases"!
Dr Alan Mackinnon, Chair of Scottish CND, was Guest Speaker at CND Conference on 13th October. He described 2007 as a "momentous year" where the political landscape had changed radically and perhaps permanently: there was a growing consensus against Trident in Scotland.
The Scottish vote on June 14th was not widely reported south of the border. By 71 votes to 16 the Scottish Parliament endorsed a Green Party resolution which "calls on the UK government not to go ahead at this time with the proposals in the White Paper The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent", and significantly not one Labour MSP voted in favour of Trident (5 voting with the motion and 39 abstaining).
On Monday 22nd October a Trident summit was convened by the Scottish Government to discuss the way forward for the anti-Trident campaign, concentrating on issues such as the environment, planning constraints, alternative employment strategy, and the movement and transport of nuclear weapons -- all areas where the Scottish Government does have jurisdiction, despite foreign policy's being a "reserved issue" (where all key decisions are taken at Westminster). There is a forthcoming conference on "Trident, Trade Unions and Scotland's Economy" organised by Scottish CND and the Scottish TUC and a march and rally ("People and Parliament against Trident") to be addressed by speakers from the Church of Scotland, Muslim Association of Britain, the trade unions and MSPs.
A new movement "Scotland's for Peace" has been launched to gather signatures for their Covenant: "we desire that Scotland should be known for its contribution to peace and justice rather than for waging war". This Covenant for Peace is presented as a series of beautifully bound books with the illustrated declaration facing each page laid out for signatures, and the First Minister will sign at an official ceremony in November.
It all amounts to a political sea change which will be difficult if not impossible to reverse. And in a potentially ground-breaking recent development Lord Murray led a delegation including the Moderator of the Church of Scotland and leading Scottish Catholics to ask the Scottish Lord Advocate for a legal Opinion about Trident, suggesting that Scotland approaches the UK government for answers to questions under international law which have not yet received satisfactory answers.
An imaginative new publication is "The Axis of Evil Cookbook" by Gill Partington (published by Saqi Books, £9·99). Recipes from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Syria and Cuba are clearly presented and practical for the western kitchen (i.e. quantities do not involve whole sheep). The serious thinking behind this cookbook-with-a-difference is that the more we can relate to the people of these lands at a purely human level the less acceptable we shall find it for our politicians to demonise distant nations as 'the enemy'. It is only by de-humanising whole populations that the bloody horrors of warfare become a political option. The people to people contacts between East and West did much to bring about the end of the Cold War and this book sets out to do something similar. It deserves to be widely read and used.
CND Peace Education needs speakers to visit schools and colleges in this area. Volunteers will receive expenses and full training -- contact Anna Liddle on email@example.com or 01274 730908.
We are indebted to Frank Jackson of the World Disarmament Campaign for the following suggestions:
Sharmila has very kindly offered to host a showing of this famous film for us and has sent the following introduction:
'The Making of the Mahatma' is about Gandhi's early experiments with truth which gave humankind a new weapon of liberty, the most civilised and humane. The process of transformation from Gandhi the man to Gandhi the Mahatma is as exciting as it is soul-searching.
The film will be shown at 3 Fairlawn Road SW19 at 4pm on Sunday 25th November.
The World Disarmament Campaign was founded in 1979 by Lords Fenner Brockway and Philip Noel-Baker to promote the implementation of the Final Document of the 1978 First Special Session on Disarmament of the UN General Assembly (http://www.world-disarm.org.uk)
The World Court project -- the international citizens' network for nuclear disarmament working through the International Court of Justice -- has joined forces with several other international citizens' groups to prepare a resolution for the UN General Assembly. The ICJ Advisory Opinion of 1996 unanimously concluded that: "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control". The new request to the ICJ will be for a definition of what in practice this legal obligation requires, and whether the nuclear weapons states are in fact acting in 'good faith'.
World Court Project UK has prepared a briefing and a statement of support for the World Court Coalition's campaign. As with the original approach to the ICJ in 1996, the support of civil society is an important factor both for the vote at the UN and as part of the evidence laid before the ICJ judges.
Please consider if there are any organisations which you might be able to approach: churches, trade unions, political groups, women's groups... we shall of course sign on behalf of WDC/CND but it is important that support comes from as wide a variety of civil society organisations as possible to demonstrate a universal loathing of the values represented by nuclear weapons. (Get in touch with Joanna on 020 8543 0362 if your organisation would find it helpful to have a speaker.)
Please complete and return the enclosed subscription form as soon as possible, noting that Muriel Wood has now retired from her job as membership secretary after many years' loyal service and that subs should be sent directly to Treasurer Julie Higgins.
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White poppies for peace first made their appearance on Armistice Day 1933 as a symbol of hope and commitment to work for a world where conflicts will be resolved without violence. Contact Joanna 8543 0362 for yours -- 50p each.