This took place on 17th January at Conway Hall and was a valuable opportunity to get a campaigning update and network with delegates from other London CND groups: two of us went from Wimbledon. The election of officers and committee members was uncontested, and Sophie Bolt remains Chair. Resolutions on Aldermaston, nuclear trains, Mordechai Vanunu and Gaza were debated and passed. The main interest was the two speakers (Ken Livingstone on “Building the movement against climate change, resource wars and nuclear weapons” and Bruce Kent on “Prospects for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference”) and the afternoon workshops.
Ken Livingstone spoke about the forthcoming “Progressive London” conference (Jan. 30th) and his conviction that there is a “layer of politics at city level inherently more progressive than national governments”. (This certainly chimes in with the Mayors for Peace movement and the environmental legislation taking place at local level in the US while federal legislation is stalemated in the Senate). He became rather philosophical as he mused that the only thing that has changed over the last 2,000 years so far as human society is concerned is technology. Moral perspective and understanding have progressed not at all. We still have remarkably similar and lengthy theological debates, but 2,000 years ago you could only kill people if you could see them. Now we have ‘progressed’ to the capacity for long-distance and remote-controlled mass destruction.
He touched upon the Iraq enquiry (set up to “do a whitewash” but evidence is nevertheless emerging which will enable people to make up their own minds), arrest for war crimes, the story (perhaps planted?) in the Daily Telegraph that the Conservatives might abandon Trident on monetary grounds alone, the US Peace Movement and Barack Obama (“Where are the strong progressive voices in America?”) and drew parallels between Britain in the 1950s and the current gradual realisation in the US that it can no longer “throw its weight around” either diplomatically or economically.
Many outside the US feel that a genuinely multi-polar world is more desirable, but within the US this realisation is leading to anger — and the inherent danger of backlash. Somehow the US has to develop a progressive movement that can get across the message that life would be transformed if the US wasn’t spending so much on its military. The invasion of Iraq resulted in 650,000 dead at a conservative estimate (‘Lancet’ figures), yet we are still propping up evil dictatorships in the Middle East. The climate change consensus has collapsed in the wake of Copenhagen.
We have to change course, otherwise we are facing the collapse of civilisation itself by the end of the century. The Peace Movement and the Green Movement have a huge common agenda.
Bruce Kent (who was wearing a very fetching jumper with CND symbols around the hem — presented to him by an admirer in Hull) was more upbeat. Much has happened since the impasse at the 2005 NPT Review Conference and the 2010 NPT Review in May presents “a massive opportunity” for CND. We must not underestimate the significance of the four recent opinion polls (see below) all showing majorities opposing the replacement of Trident. “Ordinary people are well ahead of the politicians” but the cancellation of Trident “won’t just happen”. We need to work to get beyond the foothills. We must link poverty with militarisation (the development agencies have their hands tied here because their charitable status is threatened if they openly campaign along these lines — we must do it for them). We must stress the ongoing risk of accident (Jim McCluskey’s excellent booklet was commended here — copies obtainable from 43 Wilton Grove SW19 3QU). People remember the collision between the French and British nuclear-armed submarines and understand that the arsenals on each side multiply WWII several times.
Our job is to explain that nuclear disarmament can happen. There are steps which each country can take. The Nuclear Weapons Convention is the “road between the ideal and the practice of disarmament”. The three major political parties in the UK are “wobbling” over these issues, but none is as yet committed. “This is a winnable campaign — we should just get on with it!”
Report by Joanna
YouGov poll July 2009: the money spent on Trident replacement should be spent on other things (65%). ICM poll July 2009: Britain should no longer have a nuclear deterrent (54% — or 63% of those aged 18–24). YouGov poll Sept 2009: the Government should not replace Trident (63%). ComRes poll Sept 2009: scrap Trident on financial grounds (58%).
The Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, which costs £1bn a year to run, is a blot on the Berkshire countryside and the scale of it has to be seen to be believed. A planning application has just been submitted for a new Enriched Uranium Facility, “Project Pegasus”, (a bigger development than Heathrow’s Terminal 5) providing the facilities for building the components of nuclear warheads. More than 600 objections have already been received and you can follow the campaign on http://nuclearinfo.org or Twitter http://twitter.com/stoppegasus for news and more information.
A small group will leave Wimbledon very early in the morning on Monday 15th February to join in protests organised by Trident Ploughshares and supported by National CND. Get in touch if you would like to come with us (Joanna: 8543 0362).
Tickets are now on sale for our Barn Dance, price £8 including a baked potato supper and soft drinks (bring your own bottle if you want anything stronger). The Knock-kneed Bumblebees is a long-established band with a caller to steer us through the moves, and it will be an evening of good music and good company, not to be missed. Dundonald School is easily accessible on foot from central Wimbledon (via Hartfield Crescent and Dundonald Road) or from the Kingston Road (via Wilton Crescent and Fairlawn Road). The tram stop at Dundonald Road is only a few minutes’ walk away from the school.
N.B. The number of tickets we can sell is limited by the capacity of the school hall, so we cannot guarantee that tickets will be available on the door: 8543 0362 for advance sales.
Thank you to all who have paid for 2009/10: your membership card should be enclosed with this Newsletter. Special thanks go to those who added a donation to their subscription. If you have not yet paid we should be grateful if you could do so as soon as possible. Please send cheques for £4 (waged)/£2 (unwaged) to Treasurer Julie Higgins, 129 Chestnut Grove SW12 8JH.
It is excellent news that UNA-UK has been awarded a major five-year ‘Special Peace Grant’ (Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust) to work on furthering multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. To quote from the UNA-UK house journal “New World” (winter 2009):
“The growing consensus on the urgency of multilateral nuclear disarmament has breathed new life into efforts to secure a world free from nuclear weapons, a vision put forward by the UN General Assembly in its first-ever resolution. A set of new, forceful champions has driven this consensus. In the US, four leading statesmen from across the political spectrum — Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn — are spearheading the Nuclear Security Project, an initiative calling for a fresh drive towards multilateral nuclear disarmament. A cross-party group of British Parliamentarians has followed suit, urging the UK to support the steps outlined by their US counterparts. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has launched his ‘five-point plan’ containing ‘practical and realistic’ steps towards a nuclear-weapon-free world. And to raise global awareness of this goal, 100 world leaders from across the political and cultural spectrum have launched the Global Zero campaign.“
UNA’s ‘five-year plan for a safer world: charting a path to a world without nuclear weapons’ emphasises that governments cannot be relied on to do it all themselves (“without popular pressure, the need for action on this issue will drop down governments’ agendas”), and stresses the importance of educating the next generation (“we will work with our Youth Council and university groups to re-establish nuclear disarmament as a central issue for young people.”)
UNYSA (the student wing of UNA) has developed a campaigning pack Stop the Spread which was awarded a certificate of merit presented by Dr Hans Blix at the recent World Federation of UNAs conference in South Korea. The pack is available online at http://www.una.org.uk/youth and UNA-UK plans to develop teaching materials and Model UN resources on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament for use in schools.
It is all very encouraging.
In December, Alison Williams (Branch Secretary of Merton UNA) and I wrote to Councillor Henry Nelless (Cabinet Member for Community, Safety and Engagement) as follows:
Dear Councillor Nelless,
Members of the United Nations Association (Merton Branch) and the Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition/CND recently attended a series of seminars on Disarmament.
We were powerfully impressed by the role that civil society organisations have played in achieving the international disarmament treaties to date. The ultimate aim is, as it has been since the days of the League of Nations, general and complete disarmament under effective international control.
The immediate and achievable objective is a positive outcome from the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the United Nations in New York next May (3rd–28th).
You publicly claimed in the Merton Council Chamber (Question Time, 16th September) that “there is nothing we can do in Merton to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”. We are writing in the hope of persuading you otherwise.
Specifically, we are asking Merton Council to consider joining over 50 cities/councils in this country (over 3,000 worldwide) in Mayors for Peace. This initiative was founded by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1982 to bring Mayors together across borders for the abolition of nuclear weapons. It has Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council: see their website, www.mayorsforpeace.org.
To quote Councillor Alison Firth, Lord Mayor of Manchester, “We believe that promoting peace should be a key value for local councils in the same way that caring for the most vulnerable and protecting the environment are” (June 2009). Three London boroughs have already signed up to Mayors for Peace, and we hope that Merton will feel able to join them. It would be a very appropriate follow-up to this year’s Peace Week, which both of us feel was the best so far.
We enclosed the schedule for Alison’s series of workshops on Monday evenings in November.
The reply that we received in January was somewhat puzzling, as it places great emphasis on money: “with resources as limited as they are in the current climate I do not believe that it would be an effective use of local Council taxpayers’ money to participate in the scheme, however worthy its aspirations”. The Mayors for Peace website makes it clear that no joining fee, annual dues or other financial obligation is involved (the Council would just have to pass a Resolution of support) so we shall be pursuing the matter further with the Councillor and his colleagues.
Shaker Aamer’s wife and family are all British nationals living in Battersea and he himself has been granted “indefinite leave to remain in the UK”. These people are neighbours of ours, using the same shops, schools and public transport that we do. Because Shaker was in the wrong place at the wrong time (with an Islamic charity in Kabul in 2001) he was picked up by bounty hunters, sold to the Americans and transported to Guantanamo Bay, where he has now been held for over eight years.
Shaker was “cleared for release” by the US authorities two years ago and the British government has formally requested his return to the UK — but nothing has happened. His lawyers say they are powerless and the Foreign Office is refusing to reply to letters from his local M.P. Martin Linton. (There is a plausible suggestion that the only reason why Shaker is still detained is that both governments are embarrassed by potential revelations about torture.)
There is something incredibly mediæval about indefinite detention without charge. Such treatment should have no place in the 21st century. Public opinion is the only weapon that Shaker has left and we can help by publicising his case (further details from London Guantanamo Campaign http://www.guantanamo.org.uk) and by writing letters to local M.P.s (House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA), the Foreign Secretary David Miliband (King Charles St, SW1A 2AA) and the Prime Minister (10 Downing Street, SW1A 2AG). Please help!
This ‘No Nonsense’ guide is a New Internationalist publication and aims to bring people who are new to the arms trade quickly into the picture. Aspects addressed include human rights, development, corporate power, development, small arms, the Arms Trade Treaty etc. Campaigning in all these areas is summarised. Complex issues are clearly and carefully analysed, enabling “a normal member of the public to get an informed understanding” of contentious issues such as Israel/Palestine.
“No Nonsense Guide to the Arms Trade” by Nicholas Gilby is available at £8·75 (inc. p&p) from CAAT, 11 Goodwin St, London N4 3HQ.