CND Conference

WDC/CND was well represented at this year’s conference (October 18th/19th) with Joanna, Anna, Maxi, Chris and Helen all attending. The format was as last year with the business sessions and debates interspersed with fringe meetings and workshops. There were no contested elections.

Although conference resolutions were largely uncontroversial they generated interesting discussion on Trident and global nuclear disarmament, missile defence, military research funding in UK universities and the dangers inherent in the ‘high alert’ status of current nuclear arsenals. A resolution on “Social care not nuclear weapons” from Rochdale and Littleborough Peace Group was a reminder that people need to understand the connection between lack of money for social care and money spent on weapons.

The international tensions resulting from the US Missile Defence system and the dangers of the weaponisation of space were linked with the threats posed by NATO (and its expansion) to global security. NATO as a nuclear-armed alliance is a “block to nuclear disarmament”, its policies are outmoded in a post-Cold-War world and there is rarely any public discussion about its rôle and future.

Next year NATO will celebrate its 60th anniversary with large-scale events and meetings of heads of state. CND has been working with other European peace groups in preparation for a big demo and ‘counter conference’ planned for April 2009 in Strasbourg. There is a big problem of public perception to be overcome. NATO is perceived as benign among the non politically active while Missile Defence sounds a wholly desirable concept. CND will be producing new literature and local groups were urged to work on raising awareness at grass-roots level.

Judith Le Blanc of the US United for Peace and Justice movement spoke with passion and optimism about the US presidential election as a “historic moment” and potentially huge political transition with people’s lives “hanging in the balance” both at home and abroad. The electorate in the USA was full of a sense of “urgency and hope” with people beginning to make the connection between the human and economic costs of wars: “the mortgage crisis and the war that shouldn’t have been fought”. The Obama candidacy has set free a “reservoir of hope and excitement” and the “tide is turning” as a new debate begins to unfold about investment in infrastructure, jobs etc. instead of the endless “war against terror”.

United for Peace and Justice was founded only six years ago, inspired by both CND and the Stop the War Coalition, and in recent months has been devoting all its energies towards defeating the McCain bid for the presidency. An Obama win would create a “new and better context” for their work but there is still a long way to go — educating the majority of the population who are shown by opinion polls to be “confused” about US foreign policy, building on divisions among foreign policy experts, stimulating open discussion about the rôle of the US presence in Afghanistan etc. etc. This will be a new stage in US foreign policy and the US anti-war movement will have to adjust from outright opposition to the establishment to the politics of “creative political pressure” — not an easy move.

Dr Amrit Wilson (writer and political activist, speaking on behalf of the South Asia Solidarity Group) spoke about the US/India nuclear deal (overturning the ban on nuclear trade with India) and the implications for the Non-Proliferation Treaty. There is a strong intellectual opposition inside India and there have been demonstrations and arrests in protest at what are perceived as the ‘imperialist policies” of the ruling class (large amounts of fertile land being sold off to US interests for example) but this receives very little publicity.

The nuclear deal is promoted as the “end of nuclear apartheid” with India and the US ‘standing tall’ in the face of threats to the global economy, climate change etc. [‘shoulder to shoulder’, no doubt!] The environmental hazards, crippling costs and dependency on the USA (or subservience, as Amrit sees it) are never mentioned and neither is the boost to Indian nuclear weapons development which is taking place under the cover of nuclear power issues. In Amrit’s view the US needs a “pawn” in the region and India is being developed as a counterweight to China. India wants to show that it can ‘outdo’ Pakistan in friendship with the US, and the BJP government is ideologically committed to nuclear weapons. This is not about nuclear power (which India does not need) but what is happening under the cover of nuclear power.

Report by Joanna Bazley

Merton UNA workshops: Mondays in November

“Business and the Millennium Development Goals” is the subject of Alison Williams’ next series of lunchtime workshops (repeated in the evening on each occasion). Each session will focus on one or more of the social and economic goals agreed by all UN member states in 2000.

Mon 3rd Nov:
Goal 1 — end extreme poverty
Mon 10th Nov:
Goals 2 & 4 — achieve universal primary education; reduce child mortality
Mon 17th Nov:
Goals 6 & 7 — combat HIV/AIDS and malaria, ensure environmental sustainability
Mon 24th Nov:
Goal 8 — global partnership for development

Examples discussed will be drawn from the UN Global Compact (the international business community) and from the UK Department for International Development: things most of us don’t know, like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (“does gold have to be the curse of the Congo?”) and the Kimberley Process Scheme on ‘conflict diamonds’.

Alison is a former UN guide and provides us with an invaluable opportunity to extend our knowledge and understanding of UN processes. All workshops take place at 11 Wilberforce House, 119 Worple Road SW19 from 1–2·30pm (bring lunch from 12·30), with repeat sessions 8–10pm. RSVP 8944 0574 or{"Body" off}

Film Season

Now that the clocks have gone back we are planning to resume the Sunday film showings that we successfully introduced last year. The first film of the new ‘season’ will be a recording of the very moving docu-drama about the death of Tom Hurndall, the humanitarian volunteer shot in Palestine, which was shown on Channel 4 on 13th October; the venue is 34 Meadow Close, SW20 (163 bus route: ‘Greenway’ bus stop) at 4pm.

Please let us know if you would be willing to be the host on a future occasion and if you have any interesting suggestions for videos or DVDs that you would like to share.

Concepts of Peace

Please make every effort to attend our meeting on November 11th (7·30pm Community Centre, downstairs room). Marianne Zeck is an experienced youth worker and offers a fascinating new perspective on the problems of anger and violence with which we in the peace movement are grappling at international level all the time. She makes the link between the control of aggression at personal, family and community level and the wider world into which the young people of today are growing up. Perhaps young people are rejecting an ‘adult’ world where the heavy-handed policy of military invasion and the use of torture are seen as acceptable in the context of a ‘war against terror’?

Unless one is a complete pacifist there is a conundrum here. How do we square an absolute ban on physical violence at domestic level with a willingness to support the use of aggressive military force? And how do we explain the difference (if there is one) to our young people?

Marianne was the inspiration behind the Rainbow Bird of Peace project [see May Newsletter for details] where she worked with some very troubled teenagers, and she is currently employed at Merton’s SMART Centre where she offers help with anger management to adolescents, most of whom have been excluded from mainstream school. She has been a volunteer for many years at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in the City of London and will shortly be joining their staff in the education department. She therefore brings a wealth of practical down-to-earth ‘grassroots’ experience and we can look forward to very interesting discussion.


Thank you to those of you who have paid so promptly, and we are especially grateful for the many generous additional donations received. Subscriptions pay for the production and distribution costs of this Newsletter. We don’t want to subsidise the Newsletter from our campaigning funds so please make the effort to fill in that form!

[£5/£2 payable to WDC/CND and posted to the Treasurer at 129 Chestnut Grove SW12 8JH]


Essays on a Life by Eileen Daffern

Now in her 90s Eileen Daffern, peace activist extraordinary, reflects on a long and politically active life: “the great challenge is to make people realise the power they have to change the world” she says. Born in 1914 in a Yorkshire Pennine mill village, she had a strict and religious upbringing but attended the local grammar school and studied French at London University. Her horizons further broadened and political awareness developed during three years of travelling and working in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Returning to England immediately before the outbreak of war, she became a trade unionist, communist and feminist, teaching courses on elementary Marxism to dockers and organising meetings for women factory workers between shifts in a Royal Ordnance factory!

She campaigned against the atomic bomb from the earliest days, going on the original Aldermaston marches, and with the upsurge in the peace movement in the early 1980s she retired from her paid work and became active full-time in local, national and international anti-nuclear campaigning. The essays in this book cover the big subjects of war, peace and politics and her own contribution to history, but also include a fascinating account of her personal ancestry and early years in Yorkshire (where social life revolved around the Baptist church and Sunday school and the shops were the front rooms of the houses lining the village street), and the book ends with moving reflections on age and death.

Essays on a Life was published last year, but I have only just caught up with it. It is a book which inspires and delights on many different levels and is highly recommended. Available from: City Books, 23 Western Road, Hove BN3 1AF, at a cost of £12 + £2·50 p&p.

Thank you Greenham by Kate Evans

“One woman’s memories of Greenham Common” is the subtitle of this very readable slim volume, described by Bruce Kent as being an “honest, brave and funny account of how Greenham made Kate Evans aware of her potential and of her power to make positive things happen”. It is good to be reminded of Rebecca Johnson’s words in her own defence in court: “We stand at the crossroads of two legal systems — the national and the international. We belong both to our small country with its own laws and the wider world which has begun to evolve a legal system by which nations can attempt to live in harmony”.

“If you can’t put a perspective on human history and look outside your country, outside our alliance’s defence system,” she told the Magistrate, “then we are all that much nearer to death from this insane game we are playing with nuclear weapons.... I am appealing to you as a human being to make your decision as a member of the human race.”

The women were found guilty (of obstructing traffic) but police and government have since conspicuously lost enthusiasm for the trial and imprisonment of non-violent activists — witness the relatively small number of arrests and failure to prosecute during Faslane 365 and the recent acquittal of the Kingsnorth climate change protesters.

Thank you Greenham is available from Housman’s Bookshop for £7 + £1 p&p — ring 020 7837 4473 or e-mail

The Palace of Crystal by Harry Davis

This new publication is the work of the former Newsletter editor of our neighbouring Kingston Peace Council/CND and is “about the potential of democracy to save the world from war”, exploring the possibility that modern wars are being started because modern democracies are “not democratic enough”. Harry invites us to compare Tom Paine’s vision (in Rights of Man) of a representative government, where MPs were regarded simply as public servants, with today’s democracies where the shift of power to the very top has resulted in the election of a virtual dictator every four or five years.

“We do not appear to notice how far power has slipped away from us the people; we consider it justified that leaders take grand decisions of foreign policy....” What is the reason for our drift towards today’s acceptance of autocratic leadership? “We long for a superman leader: Superman does not exist but those who think they are supermen are everywhere to be found”.

To obtain this book contact KPC/CND secretary Hilary Evans on 020 8898 4850 or — copies will also be available at our meeting on 11th November.

Reviews by Joanna Bazley

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