This play, my first experience of ‘verbatim theatre’ which takes the actual words of people interviewed and puts them into a dialogue on the stage, was a great illustration of the power of forgiveness in many situations, although it did not shy away from the fact that, in some cases, forgiveness has not yet been achieved. Local author Tom Underwood of Raynes Park Methodist Church over two years interviewed people in Britain and in South Africa who had been the victims of violence. In South Africa, he found many people had untold stories of pain and having the opportunity to relate them to someone interested to listen seemed to be helping the healing process. In “After Violence” the individual stories included that of Kemal Pervanic, a Bosnian who had been tortured during the Balkans War. He was actually there at the performance and spoke of the change which forgiveness has brought about in his life. The charity known as The Forgiveness Project had brought for the evening its exhibition The F Word, illustrating some moving real-life stories. The charity’s website http://theforgivenessproject.com/ contains lots of other stories of forgiveness. I look forward to the Raynes Park Festival next summer in the hope that it will provide an equally thought-provoking and positive event.
(”After Violence” was showing at the Raynes Park Methodist Church on July 17th as part of the Raynes Park Festival, http://www.myraynespark.co.uk)
All are invited to the AGM of Merton UNA when UNA’s new Director Philip Mulligan will speak about prospects for the next major Climate Summit in Cancun.
Quaker Meeting House, 40 Spencer Hill Road, SW19 4EL 7·30pm.
Visit http://www.cnduk.org/shop or phone 020 7700 2393 to order CND-themed cards, books, badges, flags, posters, mugs and t-shirts.
The annual Remembrance Day Lecture at the Imperial War Museum (sponsored by Movement for the Abolition of War) is not to be missed. Philippe Sands QC, Professor of Law at UCL, will address the legal issues and lessons learned in relation to the Iraq War, including the rôles of Tony Blair and former Attorney General Lord Goldmsith. The event is free, but to guarantee a seat register in advance by phoning 01908 511948 or use the Contact button at http://www.abolishwar.org.uk heading your e-mail “Remembrance Lecture”.
Imperial War Museum, Sunday November 14th at 2pm.
The Wonderful Beast Theatre Group will celebrate in words and music poet Adrian Mitchell, who was a founder member of Stop the War Coalition and remained an active supporter until his death on 20th September 2008. Tickets cost £12/£10 and are already on sale. Contact Maisie Carter (020 8286 8503) if you want to make up a party from Wimbledon.
Friday December 10th 7·30pm, St Giles in the Fields, 60 St Giles Street WC2.
British Pugwash is hosting a lecture by Ward Wilson (Senior Fellow of the James Martin Center for non-proliferation studies, Monterey Institute, California), “Rethinking Nuclear Weapons: six mistakes that change everything”. False beliefs such as that the bombing of Hiroshima “won the war” and that nuclear weapons “keep the peace” interact with a mistaken understanding of the science behind nuclear weapons (equating nuclear war with apocalypse, for example). Such muddled thinking has exaggerated the pragmatic usefulness of nuclear weapons, and by clarifying the historical and scientific facts Ward Wilson suggests that “there are serious reasons to doubt that nuclear weapons make sense either militarily or diplomatically”.
Thursday November 4th 5·30pm, Wilkins Garden Room, Wilkins Building, UCL, Gower St WC1. Admission free.
“A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty”, published on October 18th, outlined the threats that the government considers Britain faces over the next 20 years. Top threats include acts of terrorism, attacks on UK cyberspace, major accidents or natural disasters, an influenza pandemic and an international military crisis between states “drawing in the UK and allies”. The risks posed by the global proliferation of nuclear weapons are discussed, but there is total silence about the possible impact of Trident replacement. There is a rather woolly statement that “our aim is to deter direct threats, including through our membership of NATO, and ultimately our nuclear deterrent” but in fact UK nuclear weapons seem to bear little if any relation to UK defence needs as identified in the report.
The following day, the Prime Minister announced in Parliament that over the next four years the defence budget will fall by 8%, but that this will be a far lower cut than faced by most other government departments with the UK’s military spending remaining above the NATO target of 2% GDP: the UK will still have the fourth largest military budget in the world. (Why does this state of affairs remain unchallenged by the vast majority of the population?)
Although Trident was specifically excluded from the scope of the Defence review, a number of ‘value for money’ measures were announced which will have the effect of reducing the rôle of nuclear weapons in defence policy and “represent a modest show of support to President Obama’s global disarmament agenda”, according to the Nuclear Information Service [NIS] update (firstname.lastname@example.org):
The ‘Main Gate’ go-ahead for the construction of the new Trident submarines will not now be made until 2016 (i.e. after the next General Election) and the decision on whether three or four submarines will be ordered has been deferred. The importance of this delay is underlined by the fiasco over the two aircraft carriers (an unbreakable contract signed in the dying days of the Labour Government) — there is still all to play for as far as our campaign is concerned.
The latest NIS video blog is now online and shows an interview with NIS Director Peter Burt http://bit.ly/a8u2Qa
The Peace Pledge Union has been distributing white poppies since 1934, a response to the rising international tensions and the renewed threat of war, inspired by a generation of women bereaved in the Great War (that “war to end all wars”). White poppies commemorate the victims of all wars and are also a symbol of hope and commitment to work for a world where conflicts will be resolved without violence and with justice. Wear your white poppy and red poppy intertwined if you are anxious not to offend elderly members of the British Legion, but do take this annual opportunity to challenge the beliefs, values and institutions that make war seem an inevitable part of the human condition. (Poppies available from Joanna, 50p each: 020 8543 0362.)
Merton Palestinian Solidarity Campaign still continues to meet on the third Monday of the month. One of our members, Nicci Enchmarch, has just successfully led the Viva Palestina 5 convoy which arrived in Gaza on 20th October carrying cement and medical aid. Two of our members are helping to protect the farmers in the West Bank so that they can collect the olive harvest.
The next meeting will be on Monday 15th November at 7pm in the South London Irish Centre, 140–142 Hartfield Rd, SW19 3TG. There will be a presentation by the Israeli peace activist and writer Rotem Mar, who was jailed for seven years in 2002 aged 19 for refusing to do military service. He is now a music student in Jerusalem where he is also an ‘alternative’ tour guide.
The weather was good (if chilly) and we had lots of books but not many customers, so total takings only amounted to £46. Many thanks to Julie, Kathleen, Alison, Maisie, George, Harriet and Martin for their support.
CND’s annual conference (9–10 October) followed the same format as last year, with a well attended International Conference on the first day and all CND business confined to the second day. It is always interesting to see our campaigning in a global context and speakers from the USA, France, Germany and Japan each provided a different perspective. Plenary sessions covered ‘Scrapping Trident’, ‘NATO and Afghanistan’, and ‘Prospects and Plans’, with a choice of workshops on Missile Defence or nuclear power (I chose the latter).
Kate Hudson was very upbeat in her opening summary of the current situation: following the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the UN, a Nuclear Weapons Convention is now firmly on the international agenda. Major problems continue to be posed by a nuclear-armed NATO, new developments in Missile Defence and NPT-backed nuclear power proliferation (with the ever-present scope for the dual use of nuclear technologies — civil and military). Meanwhile in the UK, under the new Coalition government and new Labour leadership “Trident is in question as never before”. The domestic nuclear debate has changed, with the concept of ‘deterrence’ still being used, but without any clear indication of against whom this might be, and pro-Trident politicians are increasingly resorting to the rather weaker claim that “we might need it in the future”.
Rebecca Johnson was just back from the UN in New York. The Final Document from the 2010 NPT Review contained an important shift of emphasis from a culture where nuclear disarmament was seen purely as the responsibility of the nuclear weapons states (with the non-nuclear weapons states imploring them to “do something”) towards a humanitarian emphasis with world and human security at its centre. The use of nuclear weapons must be declared a crime against humanity and all peoples must put pressure on their governments for multilateral negotiations that can create ‘new norms’ and put a stop to nuclear weapons for ever. The landmines and cluster munitions campaigns must be our inspiration.
Jeremy Corbyn (Chair of Parliamentary CND) felt that debates in the House of Commons “disconnect from reality” and that the huge debate about public expenditure has provided an opportunity to challenge a political climate where ‘defence’ is immune from cuts: “There has never been a time when the ears of people are better attuned to the need to invest in social infrastructure rather than weapons”. It is also essential to engage the public in the issues of arms conversion: skilled workers need to be doing something useful, not destructive, and there are huge industrial opportunities in the new technology of renewable energy, for example.
The workshop on nuclear power led by Caroline Lucas was extremely interesting, with discussion of the international politics of ‘civil’ nuclear technology, the hidden subsidies given to the industry, the corruption and lack of ethics. The idea that nuclear power is the only way to counter global warming is nothing but a convenient fiction for governments all over the world.
The big constitutional change for CND was the decision by Kate Hudson to resign her University post and take up full-time paid employment as CND’s new General Secretary. The new officers are as follows: Dave Webb (Chair); Daniel Blaney, Sarah Cartin, Jeremy Corbyn (Vice Chairs); and Linda Hugl (Treasurer).
The only resolutions to cause any controversy were about CND and the UN (a minority arguing that the UN was an extension of NATO power) and about the Middle East (centring on whether CND support should be given to specific pro-Palestinian campaigns). There was also an unfortunate issue about locally prepared publicity for an East London demonstration in July which in my view should never have reached Conference at all. The most important decision was the resolution submitted on behalf of CND National Council proposing that there should be a “positive shift in our campaigning” from “no Trident replacement” towards scrapping Trident unconditionally. “Keep it simple, keep it clear and have total confidence in it,” said Kate Hudson. This resolution was passed unanimously.
Report by Joanna Bazley
Review of the year and plans for the future, plus talks by author Nicholas Gilby (“The No Nonsense Guide to the Arms Trade”), a representative from War on Want and star guest, comedian Mark Thomas.
9·45am–4·30pm, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square. £5/£3 including lunch. Book via the CAAT office 020 7281 0297 or http://www.caat.org.uk/nationalgathering.