COMMENT by Rhiannon Rees

DSEi Arms Fair

Rhiannon Rees (a colleague from the South London CND Umbrella Group) has written this excellent letter to her local paper:

Do your readers know that one of the world’s largest arms fairs, Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi), is to be held in our city at the Excel Centre in Docklands from 8 to 11 September? And that our government is promoting it, through UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO)?

This event, run by Clarion Events, brings together governments from all over the world, including many that are involved in conflicts, that have a record of human rights abuse, or whose people live in extreme poverty, with arms dealers and manufacturers, so that they can do deals.

Among the 53 countries invited this year, at least 15 have serious conflict and human rights concerns or urgent development needs. These include Algeria, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam.

Is this really something our government should be involved in? The government subsidises arms exports by between £500 million and a billion a year. Surely this money could be used more productively and ethically? For example on creating ‘green’ jobs, to put this country in the forefront of the transition to a low-carbon economy, or on eliminating child poverty?

A number of organisations, including the Campaign against Arms Trade, East London against the Arms Fair and local faith groups will be holding vigils and other protests. Let us make it clear to the government that we never want such an evil event to be held in our city again.

A Peace Map of Britain

The Movement for the Abolition of War is continuing to collect the information needed for its ‘Peace Map of Britain’ and asks for details of as many ‘peace related’ sites as possible. We have told them about the weekly vigil near Wimbledon Library, the annual candle floating on Rushmere and the Hiroshima cherry tree in Cannizaro Park. If you have further ideas for contributions, download a form from or write to 11 Venetia Rd, London N4 1EJ for a printed copy.

Peace Week

The week beginning September 21st will be celebrated in Merton as Peace Week. We are pleased that Merton now regularly takes part in this London-wide event, which was originally a response by a few Boroughs to 9/11. but has now been moved towards the end of the month to encompass the International Day of Peace, September 21st, and to fit more conveniently into the school autumn term.

We are delighted that a local Pugwash† member has been lobbying on her own initiative for the inclusion in the official programme of the brilliant Canadian film “Strangest Dream” which celebrates the centenary of Professor Sir Joseph Rotblat, founder of the Pugwash Conferences and lifelong anti-nuclear campaigner. Merton’s council officials have previously been very cautious about straying into political territory when they set the Peace Week agenda, being reluctant to concede that far from being a dirty word, politics offers a civilised vehicle for debate and discussion of those thorny issues which might otherwise erupt into the very aggression and violence they are so keen to prevent.

We have agreed that if “Strangest Dream” fails to make it into the official proceedings we shall include it in our peace films evening (Mansel Road Centre, September 22nd 8pm). Other items of interest include the Merton UNA AGM with a speaker on climate change (Sept 23rd) and a talk on religion and culture at Morden Library by Alison Williams (Sept 24th), and as last year CND has been invited to contribute a reading to the concluding Peace Event in the Civic Centre (Sunday afternoon). See Diary for details.

† The international group of senior scientists concerned with the threat of massive nuclear weapons proliferation

AGM July 14th

A pleasant tea party in the garden of 43 Wilton Grove was followed by a formal AGM with all officers being re-elected as follows

Chair:Maisie Carter
Secretary & Newsletter Editor:Joanna Bazley
Treasurer:Julie Higgins

We are still in urgent need of a Press Officer and if you feel that communication is your forte then please put yourself forward for this vital role. (Joanna does her best but it is an additional burden to her existing duties which she could do without.)

Hiroshima Day on Wimbledon Common

The evening of August 6th 2009 will be long remembered as one of the wettest in living memory. In all the years that we have been holding our candle-floating ceremony we have never yet had a wash out but we came pretty close to it this year. Despite the grim weather forecast a brave band of eleven of us gathered on the shores of Rushmere in the rain and we did succeed in lighting a symbolic raft of six candles (the Umbrella Group umbrellas once again coming into their own). It was pleasing to welcome several members of the local Japanese community who had heard about the event from leaflets distributed during the previous week, and we hope that they will keep in touch. (See the WDC/CND web site for some evocative photos: )

Note: A picture gallery from around the world August 6th 2009 can be viewed at — it is immensely encouraging to know that we are not alone.

Children’s Mystery Walk

Starting at Friends House and finishing at the Imperial War Museum, the Children’s Mystery Walk along the London Peace Trail takes place on Sunday 20th September. Children find clues and decode messages to get their ‘passports’ stamped at sites of special peace interest through central London. Registration is between 11am and 12 noon at Friends House, Euston Rd on the day, or in advance via

Merton Peace Groups

Two new local groups have been launched over the summer:

We have invited James to attend our next Steering Group meeting, and we look forward to close cooperation with both groups in the future.

CND conference

This takes place on 10th/11th October at Mary Ward House, Tavistock Place, WC1 and incorporates an International Day (on the Saturday) with workshops and speakers from around the world, exploring and coordinating strategies for the 2010 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference to be held in New York in May. Last date for individual registration (fee £10) is October 2nd but if you would like to be one of our delegates please get in touch as soon as possible because delegates must be CND ‘company members’ to have voting rights and the deadline for this is September 14th.

Note: At present we do not have sufficient ‘company members’ to entitle us to our full number of conference votes. All that is required is current membership of National CND plus a pledge to pay a nominal £1 to creditors in the event of CND going bankrupt. Please consider signing up.

Stalls and Fairs

The first joint effort of the new South London CND Umbrella Group took place in Croydon’s LLoyd Park on August 1st and four WDC/CND members made the journey down the tram line. There was no stall as such, but the aim was just to have a CND ‘presence’ at this environmental event and this was triumphally achieved with the aid of the large new bright orange umbrellas and lots of Trident leaflets. (Pooling human resources like this enables us to be a lot more ambitious in our campaigning.)

The next Umbrella Group event will be at Ecolocal on August Bank Holiday at Ruskin Park, Carshalton. We have a stall to sell plants and display literature and we shall also be trying out a questionnaire devised by Noel Hamel of Kingston (What do the letters CND stand for? What is Trident? How many people were killed by the Hiroshima bomb? etc).

On the same day WDC/CND will have a traditional plant/bric-à-brac stall in Morden Park where Merton Council has made a last-minute decision to substitute for the cancelled Lions Club event. (Reports in the next Newsletter.)

Campaigning Materials and the Internet

Bertrand Russell on ‘the Enemy’

“In order to support this belief in the peculiar wickedness of the enemy, a whole mythology of falsehood grows up... through the inherent myth-making tendencies of strong collective emotions.”

“The Collapse of the War System” by John Jacob English

The author of this interesting new book (ISBN 978-1-905451-53-1) teaches the Study of Peace course at the Free University of Ireland and organises the Visions of Peace project (established in 2000 as part of UNESCO’s Decade for the Culture of Peace Programme —

It is a scholarly work, but well-written and readable. The philosophies of Tolstoy, Russell, Einstein and Gandhi in relation to war and violence are summarised and examined in the context of modern reality: “the ferocity of the wars of the twentieth century and in particular the development of weapons of an omnicidal nature bear witness to how primitive and dangerous some of the foundations [of modernity] are”. From their different perspectives, the four great philosophers all rejected the culture of violence, critically undermining its “childish absurdities” so that it is “now self-evident that the collapse of the war system is a vital precondition for the enormous cultural effort that will be necessary to address the critical environmental and social problems of our time”.

The author does not pretend that it will be easy to effect such a fundamental transformation in societal thinking, given the huge and deep-seated vested interests that are involved, and predicts that the “collapse [of the war system] will be finely balanced between disaster and survival”.

For those who have time and inclination to read, this is a highly recommended book and I should be happy to lend a copy.

Joanna Bazley

Government U-turn

On July 16th the news slipped out that the design contract for a new generation of Trident nuclear missile submarines (“Initial Gate”) has been put off, any contract now being delayed until after the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) conference in New York next May. This decision followed hard on the heels of the recommendations of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee summarised in the July/August Newsletter and must also reflect the pressure of public opinion. A small victory, in other words!

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