My first Aldermaston March was in 1962, and I hope to attend the 50th anniversary demo there on Easter Monday 2008, to mark the first Aldermaston March back in 1958, the year CND was also founded.
Some may think that CND and similar movements around the world achieved nothing, since nuclear weapons have not been given up by any country except South Africa (which was going to develop them at one time) and have spread to ever more countries.
However, we have achieved much. The first big victory was the 1963 Test Ban Treaty which halted all nuclear bomb tests in the atmosphere. Later Cruise Missiles were removed from Britain and their bases closed down, there has been a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which bans underground nuclear tests by the big nuclear powers, and since the ending of the Cold War nuclear stockpiles have been reduced.
Also, public shock and horror at the terrible war crimes committed when the USA ‘tested’ the first two atomic bombs on innocent men, women and children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki back in August 1945 have meant nobody dare use nuclear weapons again in any of the many conflicts since 1945. Nuclear weapons are totally illegal and morally indefensible, since they indiscriminately target and affect innocent civilian populations.
And after 9/11 who seriously thinks nuclear missiles can deter anybody? Rather, just having these nuclear stockpiles and producing more nuclear warheads makes the danger a terrorist will get hold of the materials and carry a nuclear device into the heart of New York or some other big city in a suitcase in the ultimate suicide bomb attack much more likely. And if that happens, where do the Americans propose to target their senseless counter-attack — vaguely on the Middle East/Pakistan in case it catches Bin Laden, along with killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people?
Nuclear weapons did not stop the USA losing the Vietnam war, they did not help the Soviet Union to control Afghanistan, they did not deter Argentina from reclaiming the Malvinas/Falklands, they do not deter Palestinian terrorists attacks on Israel, they did not deter 9/11 or smaller-scale terrorist attacks in the UK, they did not prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc, and they are not helping the Americans/British win in Afghanistan and Iraq. They have just become a status symbol, and in the case of the 5 big nuclear powers a permanent entry ticket to the UN Security Council.
So the need to pressurize the UK government to scrap plans for replacement of the Trident missiles/nuclear submarines and our whole nuclear weapons programme is as great as ever. That’s why I will be at Aldermaston 46 years after I first marched from that base in protest at the most fiendish and evil plan human beings have ever devised to destroy other human beings and the planet itself.
We shall meet outside Wimbledon Station at 8am and travel up by District Line to join the coaches departing from Embankment on Monday March 24th. This marks the 50th anniversary of the first Aldermaston March and both celebrates the past and publicises the continued production of UK nuclear warheads.
Everyone should see Aldermaston for themselves and experience the reality of this nuclear bomb factory, massive and hideous behind its wire perimeter fence set amidst the gentle Berkshire countryside. The village of Aldermaston itself is a cluster of ancient red-brick cottages beside the Kennet and Avon canal, and by next month the woods will be full of primroses: the contrast could not be more grotesque.
Visitors to Aldermaston will also be able to see something of the new developments (on the scale of Heathrow Terminal 5) which are almost certainly being built to facilitate a whole new generation of nuclear weapons.
It will take 5000 people to surround Aldermaston AWE, and coaches are coming from all over the country. Wimbledon has a block booking with London Region and tickets cost £12/£7 (cheques payable to WDC/CND). Please join us!
A “Bikes against Bombs!” cycle ride from London to Aldermaston AWE and back will take place from March 22nd to March 26th as part of the demonstration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Aldermaston March. Further information can be obtained by e-mail from email@example.com.
We took advantage of the invitation to question Cabinet members at the Council meeting held on February 6th. Written questions of no more than fifty words had to be submitted in advance and one supplementary question was permitted at the meeting.
To: Leader of the Council
“Would Merton Council consider responding to the invitation of the Mayors of Coventry (Conservative), London (Labour) and Oxford (Liberal Democrat) to support the international ‘Mayors for Peace’ initiative, to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons by international agreement and to establish a timetable for multilateral disarmament by 2020?”
“Whilst this would be a matter for the Council to decide, this is not a matter over which the Council has a legal power or otherwise has a responsibility for and, therefore it is not recommended to colleagues that they stray from our Constitutional duty to comment and act on matters within our powers or which affect our Borough directly.”
WDC/CND Chair Maisie Carter rejected this legalistic cop-out and reminded councillors that working for peace was the responsibility of all of us: the appeal by Mayor Akiba of Hiroshima was addressed to Mayors and Council Leaders of all local authorities in England and Wales. Other local authorities have no problem with joining Mayors for Peace, so why not a resolution of support from Merton? You may like to take this up with your local councillors and further information can be found at http://www.2020visioncampaign.org (or get in touch with Joanna).
The highly-acclaimed feature-length documentary “The Guernica Children” is being shown (admission free) at the Imperial War Museum on Saturday 8th March at 11am. The bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War led directly to the arrival of 4,000 refugee children on Britain — the largest single influx of refugees ever to come to this country. Seventy years on, we hear their extraordinary story and the conflict between humanitarian need and perceived political expediency that ensued.
10 December 2007: I am one of about 18 people working to create a second CD of music for the Movement for the Abolition of War, doing some guitar and percussion. So it was breakfast about three hours earlier than usual, leaving home about ¼ hour later than I hoped, through London in the rush hour, and reaching Ruth’s home in Archway only about five minutes late! She drove us to the recording studio in Buckingham through much rain and traffic, arriving about 11·15. Within seconds I liked Jamie, the sound engineer who is brilliant at making us feel welcome.
It’s been a new experience recording in a studio. Very deeply satisfying, exciting, fascinating and tiring. One small unexpected difficulty was that the parts I was playing with (especially Sue Gilmurray’s vocals) sounded so good that it wasn’t easy to concentrate on my guitar work. The percussion has made use of 4 packets of sugar and a spoonful of molasses, really sweet music!
We are now getting near to completing the recording and the CD should be produced and available soon. An enormous amount of hard work but worth it to create some great tracks.
MAW aims “to create a world where war is no longer seen as a way to solve a problem; where it has ceased to be an option; where conflict resolution means resolution, not more conflict.”
The original MAW CD “Sing the Music of healing” is still available — price £8. Movement for the Abolition of War, 11 Venetia Rd, London N4 1EJ or http://www.abolishwar.org.uk
The Movement for the Abolition of War and the International Peace Bureau have organised a two-day conference (March 28–29) at the Imperial War Museum on “Peace History: People, Politics and Culture”. The aim is to highlight overlooked or even forgotten aspects of peacebuilding history: the conference opens with a talk about Desiderius Erasmus, 16th-century advocate of Peace Education and a culture of peace. On Friday evening there will be a showing of the film The First Aldermaston March narrated by Richard Burton.
Registration fees are £30 or £25 for one day only (£15/£10 for students) — send an SAE to MAW History Conference, 11 Venetia Rd, London N4 1EJ or visit http://www.abolishwar.org.uk
This was the rather grandiose-sounding title of CND’s 50th anniversary conference at London’s City Hall 16–17 February (at which Joanna was Wimbledon delegate). But all expectations were surpassed: it was a stunning occasion with speaker after speaker emphasising how much the global peace movement owes to CND — and not least the CND badge!
International diplomats and experts from all over the world had accepted CND’s invitation to be present. ‘Experts Sessions’ were run as round table workshops in parallel with ‘Campaigning Sessions’ in the main conference hall and all papers presented at the conference will eventually be published in book form.
Ambassador Sergio Duarte (UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs) gave the keynote address. This was the man who had presided over the 7th Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and here he was praising us (“civil society”) and telling us we had an “enormously important rôle to play” in nuclear disarmament. The peace movement is a “great global community that shares the same perspectives”. “Ordinary people have a stake in the success of disarmament”, and not just an “élite of politicians and diplomats”. He quoted UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who has warned of the threat posed to all of humanity, both by the destructive power lodged in the thousands of nuclear weapons stockpiled around the world and by the misdirection of resources which are so urgently needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
The nuclear weapons states bear the greatest responsibility for the future of the NPT. The NPT requires commitments to be fulfilled: being “consistent” with the NPT is not enough. Long term nuclear defence plans (such as the replacement of Trident) and the publication of nuclear military doctrines (First Strike) are “contrary to the cause of disarmament”. The repeated reaffirmation that nuclear defence is vital for national security and claims that stockpiles are at minimal levels offer a clear model for other countries to emulate. Claims that nuclear weapons are necessary against “possible threats in the future” could be made by any would-be nuclear weapons state.
The prospect of a perpetual freezing of global numbers of nuclear weapons is unacceptable: “weapons stewardship” does not equal disarmament. Mindsets need to change. Any small steps in the right direction are worth taking. Transparency measures and de-alerting are examples of the way states could show the all-important “political will”. Throughout history it is mistrust that has inspired disastrous arms races. Nuclear disarmament will increase global human security and we cannot await the “dawn of world peace” before taking the first steps. “The greatest incentive for the spread of nuclear weapons is the conviction that nuclear disarmament is unachievable.”
Other impressive speakers were Bianca Jagger (Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador), Ambassador Abdul Minty (South African representative to the IAEA† and formerly a Vice Chair of CND) and Felicity Hill (Vice President of WILPF‡). Activists from the USA, Russia, China, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Malta, France, India, Pakistan and Israel contributed their national perspectives. Abdul Minty contrasted the position of South Africa (which gave up its nuclear weapons) with that of Britain and France, which he said were “locked up” when it came to international negotiations. Giving up nuclear weapons “frees you” he said.
The point was made repeatedly that the necessary technical preconditions for nuclear disarmament already exist and that the real stumbling block is the misguided value placed on their nuclear weapons by a very small number of states. Governments get bogged down in “bean counting” said Rebecca Johnson. Nuclear weapons have to be taken out of military policies and taken out of all security planning.
Anti-nuclear campaigners have been accused of being well-meaning but naive idealists, said Professor Ken Booth of Aberystwyth University. But it is our ‘business as usual’ politicians (who think that their policies will not lead to nuclear proliferation) who are being naive!
Kate Hudson summed up by saying that the simple core aims of our movement (nuclear disarmament, global abolition) attracted different people for different reasons. Alliances (personal, local, national and international) give us “collective wisdom”, and links with other issues (environmental, anti-poverty, anti-globalisation), far from diluting the “core aim”, can only strengthen us. We need to reach out to the public, create the political conditions and force the political will.