The 2011 Movement Against War Remembrance Sunday lecture at the Imperial War Museum, given by Sir Richard Jolly, was entitled "Disarmament: the kindest cut for development" and the speaker's main points were that the world is vastly over-spending on arms while vastly under-spending on human security, and that a budgetary shift away from military spending would increase employment opportunities, reduce inflation and greatly contribute to human well-being. He quoted a familiar truth expressed by Barbara Ward: "One of the greatest difficulties facing those who wish to see disarmament accepted as a primary goal of policy is that the average citizen simply does not believe it is possible...."
To inspire a conviction that radical change is possible we should learn and pass on instances of past success. Sir Richard told the story of Costa Rica choosing to disband its army in 1948 and holding to that decision despite occasional threats down the years. In 1990 Panama did the same. Japan, Germany and Iceland have clearly benefited from having low levels of military spending, with the latter making a remarkable recovery from the financial collapse of 2008.
Points he repeated with emphasis were firstly that progress comes country by country and step by step, and secondly that we need "structures of integration" to achieve peace and stability so that competitive re-armament is no longer possible: he cited the European Union. In conclusion, we should make human security the new touchstone for government policy, and make reductions in military spending part of a national economic and social recovery programme.
Thank you to all who have paid: you should have by now received a membership card, which also serves as receipt, so please complain if we have slipped up. We have also received some generous donations for which we are very grateful. The committee has decided that as a general rule Newsletters will only be sent to paid-up subscribers, so that in a few cases this issue will be the last to be sent out.
Next month we shall be holding a book sale in the Community Centre, St George's Road (10am-2pm). We are hoping that as a specialised event this will attract a different public from that drawn to the Fête of the Earth bookstall, and of course it will give us an opportunity to advertise the Fête a few weeks later in the same building.
We have a store of books but we can always do with fresh stock, so please have a look at your shelves with the sale in mind. Books can be brought to 43 Wilton Grove in advance or (preferably) brought to the Community Centre on the day from 8am onwards.
Books are heavy to transport and this sale can only be a success if plenty of volunteer car drivers share the load (literally). People who ticked the 'transport' box when returning their subscription forms can expect a phone call in the next few weeks, and perhaps helpful friends and neighbours could be approached also? (People who are not prepared to stand in the street with placards or sit down in front of Aldermaston might be happy to drive a few boxes of books to the Community Centre). Flyers will go out next month.
There will be 50 buses driving around central London for the last two weeks of March with a large CND slogan along the side. The aim is to publicise the absurdity of wasting £100 billion on Trident when essential services are being cut, and to stimulate public debate about Trident at the time of the budget on March 21st. The trial run on Liverpool buses at the Labour Party Conference was very successful in getting local people talking even if it made little impact on the conference hall itself, and that is what we need to do -- to appeal directly to the public over the heads of politicians of all parties who are trying to ignore the subject.
The precise wording of the ad has yet to be decided but it will be a message about the economic cost of nuclear weapons. Please donate online at http://www.cnduk.org/doubledecker, by phone to the CND office (020 7700 2393) or send a cheque to 162 Holloway Road, N7 8DQ. We shall of course be sending a group donation.
"A Thorn in their Side: the Hilda Murrell Murder" by Robert Green. Rata Books ISBN 978-0-473-19685-1 (£20 incl. P&P from CND: http://www.cnduk.org/shop or 020 7700 2393)
This is a must-read book from retired RN commander Rob Green, known to many of us as Chair of the World Court Project campaign which led to the International Court of Justice ruling in 1996 that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be illegal. Rob was the only nephew of Hilda Murrell, Cambridge graduate, rose-grower and anti-nuclear campaigner who was murdered in 1984 on the eve of presenting evidence to the Sizewell B enquiry. Having sat through the trial of Andrew George (convicted for the murder in 2005) he became convinced that George's conviction was thoroughly unsafe, and "A Thorn in their Side" documents his subsequent endeavours to uncover the truth. Rob believes that he now has enough evidence (including facts known to both prosecution and defence but not put to the jury or Appeal Court) to reopen the Coroner's inquest into Hilda's death.
As always Rob writes brilliantly, and because he was close to his aunt he writes very personally and movingly. At one level the book is a 'whodunnit' but also a 'why?' The implausibility of the official police theory and evidence that key witnesses were leaned on to change statements, sweeping police dismissal of any information that suggested political motives and Rob's own experience of harassment even after moving to New Zealand: it all adds up to a compelling case for what might in other hands be dismissed as 'conspiracy theory'.
Rob served for twenty years in the Royal Navy and worked in the MoD before his final appointment as Staff Officer (Intelligence) to the Commander of the Fleet. After the Falklands War he took voluntary redundancy and escaped the pressures of modern life by training as a roof thatcher. At this stage careers of aunt and nephew could not have been more different: "she an anti-nuclear campaigner who voted Liberal, myself an apolitical but typically conservative naval commander with nuclear weapons experience and a top security clearance". When Rob began revising Hilda Murrell's paper to the Sizewell B (prototype pressurised water reactor on the Suffolk coast) enquiry, which he was to deliver on her behalf, he started to think deeply about all the wider implications of the nuclear industry and gradually he too became a committed anti-nuclear campaigner.
Hilda Murrell's arguments in 1984 have even greater resonance now, as the British government presses for a new generation of nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons. A few months before her murder Hilda recalled her reaction to finding out about plutonium (artificially created by the nuclear industry, hideously poisonous and impossible to dispose of): "I decided on the spot that such an element should have been banned as soon as its nature and its forever-ness were realised, that we had no right to inflict such a thing on the planet and posterity. That seems to me all that needs to be said. The nuclear thing is totally evil and must be abolished, root and branch."
The postscript on Hilda's last letter to Rob reads "I am now seriously thinking of going to London on Sat. Just in case of 'anything happening' as they say, could you see that the paper (just as it is) goes to Gerard Morgan-Grenville†.... some time in Nov? I don't want to be melodramatic, but I have put in a lot of work on this thing and I want it to get to the target."
†ex-Etonian, former Guards officer and founder of the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth
Rob Green doesn't want to be melodramatic either. He writes clearly, researching with care and presenting his evidence methodically, and comes to some inescapable conclusions. At the very least there are many unanswered questions.
We were deeply saddened to learn of the death at Christmas of Sarah Marcus, a longstanding peace activist and founder member of Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition. As a member of the African National Congress she campaigned against apartheid in South Africa and eventually had to leave for her own safety. Once in England, Sarah immersed herself in the work of the Anti-Apartheid movement and was an active member of the Wimbledon group which campaigned vigorously to implement the boycott of South African goods and win support for the liberation struggle. She was a trade unionist who served on Merton Trades Union Council for several years; she took part in all the peace activities until failing health forced her to give up. We mourn her passing and offer sincere condolences to Clive, Gail and the rest of her family.
"Fuel on the Fire: oil and politics in occupied Iraq" by Greg Muttitt. Bodley Head £14·99 ISBN 978-1-847-92111-6
This is another powerful and topical book. "Iraq is the big oil prospect," began the minutes of a meeting at the Foreign Office on 6 November 2002, "BP are desperate to get in there".
Greg has used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain this and much other clear evidence that the invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein was all about oil. There is a big difference between widely held suspicion and proof, and this is very convincing proof. The book goes on to chart the post-invasion history of the Iraq oil industry and shows how the occupying powers attempted to give outright control to the multinational companies. "But America and Britain failed to take into account the determination of the Iraqis themselves -- of civil society groups as well as senior oil experts -- to keep production in the public sector. The attempts to impose a Western oil agenda, regardless, have dragged the country into ever deeper violence and continue to shape not just Iraq but the future of energy supplies and Anglo-American military strategy."
"A secret history of the war," says Naomi Klein.
We have purchased a copy of "Fuel on the Fire" for WDC/CND use and members are welcome to borrow it (020 8543 0362 to arrange to collect). Greg Muttitt will be speaking in Kingston on Thursday 23rd February (6·30pm, C-SCAIPE Debating Chamber, Kingston University, Penrhyn Road). He made a powerful impression at London Region Conference in January and all are urged to support this KPC/CND event.
This festival of plays, films, talks and exhibitions at the Tricycle Theatre in North London, starting on February 9th, deserves the widest support.
There are two parts to "THE BOMB -- a partial history". First Blast: Proliferation covers origins in World War II, the history of the Labour party "wrestling with the decision to build the Atomic Bomb", China's war with India, the subsequent development of the Indian bomb, the breakup of the Soviet Union and the unilateral disarmament of Ukraine. Second Blast: Present Dangers covers Israel and Iran, North Korea and Trident renewal.
There are five plays in each 'part'. For full details, including the complete schedule of events, see the Tricycle website http://www.tricycle.co.uk
We made a block booking before Christmas at Early Bird prices to see both parts on Saturday February 18th (matinee 3·30pm, evening 8pm). All these cheap seats are now taken but any WDC/CND members booking directly with the Box Office will be welcome to join us. We shall have a meal together between the two shows.
At Christmas we were delighted to receive news of Maxi Alexander from her son Daniel (Maxi moved a few years ago to live near Daniel and his family in North London). Maxi is now nearly 92 and still physically active despite short-term memory loss. She has a full-time carer ("Nana, a marvellous Ghanian singer") and in the summer enjoyed a visit from her 90-year-old sister Ulli. Maxi enjoys her small garden (planted by her grandchildren for her 90th birthday) and regular walks in the local park. Sunday morning is story time when Daniel reads aloud to Maxi and the children. She welcomes visitors but Daniel advises phoning in advance (020 7704 1295).
Maxi and her grandchildren
About twenty of us enjoyed a convivial afternoon with delicious food and drink in the luxury of Brigitte's beautiful house on 8th January. Thank you !