COMMENT by Joanna Bazley

CND logo

What does this mean to you?

The logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has morphed over the past 50 years from Gerald Holtom’s original creation for the Easter 1958 Aldermaston march into an international symbol of peace, hope and freedom, cheerfully incorporated into their creations by designers completely divorced from any political intent.

On the whole it gives me pleasure to see the CND logo adopted so widely. Although specifically designed for the anti-nuclear movement it has quite deliberately never been copyrighted: as a symbol of freedom it is available to all (although CND does sometimes ask commercial users if they would like to make a donation). However, I have recently discovered that the origins of the symbol are in danger of being forgotten even amongst CND members, so it seems a good time to re-tell the story.

The logo was designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a professional designer and artist and a graduate of the Royal College of Arts. He showed his preliminary sketches (now on display in Bradford Peace Museum) to a small group of people in the Peace News office and to the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (one of the several smaller organisations that came together to set up CND). The Direct Action Committee had already planned what was to be the the first major anti-nuclear march, from London to Aldermaston where Britain’s nuclear weapons were (and still are) manufactured, and it was on that march, over the 1958 Easter weekend, that the symbol first appeared in public. Early black on white ceramic badges were followed by the white on black tin badges that we still wear today, often coloured and elaborated in various ways.

Gerald Holtom was a conscientious objector who had worked on a farm in Norfolk during the Second World War. He explained the genesis of his design as two-fold: most simply it represents the semaphore letters N[uclear] and D[isarmament] in stylistic form, but he later wrote that it also represented “an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched upwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad”.

Despite all this clear documentary evidence there have been ridiculous claims that the symbol has older occult or anti-Christian associations. I was shocked to be directed to a right-wing website in the US which claims that the CND symbol is the “Teutonic rune of death” and that Gerald Holtom was commissioned by “communist sympathiser” Bertrand Russell!

This same website condemns Churchill’s V-sign as “A symbol of Satanic benediction” (“Remember that Churchill was one of the insider ‘elite’ and a Mason. He most likely knew the evil significance of this symbol but tried to give it a facelift”). It could be funny, except that there are many people in the US who are paranoid enough actually to believe this rubbish, and that is not funny at all.

A CND information sheet giving further details is available:

Holy Trinity Lunchtime Talks

We are pleased to be able to announce the full programme of talks for the autumn, and we can look forward to a really stimulating series of lunchtime discussions led by some distinguished speakers, thanks to the support and hospitality of Holy Trinity & St. Peter’s vicar Rev. Chris Palmer.

Flyers will be distributed in early September but please put the three dates in your diary NOW and try to keep these lunchtimes free.

  1. Friday September 21st 1–2·00pm (International Day of Peace): Can War be Just in the 21st Century?
    Speakers: Brian Wicker and Jim McCluskey
  2. Friday October 26th 1–2·00pm (One World Week): Sharing Destiny — Moving towards One World: is global equality an impossible dream?
    Speakers: Stephen Hammond MP and Rev. Andrew Wakefield
  3. Thursday November 15th 1·30–2·30pm (thoughts following Remembrance Sunday): The Militarisation of Society — is it happening? Is it necessary? Is it inevitable? What does it mean for us and our community?
    Speakers: Bruce Kent and Sam Walton

The venue will be Holy Trinity Church, 248 Wimbledon Broadway SW19 1SB. Times vary to fit in with existing church services, but on each occasion Holy Trinity will be open half an hour before the start of the meeting and members of the audience are invited to bring a sandwich lunch. (Tea and coffee will be provided.) Please start spreading the word as widely as possible.

Farnborough Air Show

The real aim of this biennial five-day trade show is to bring buyers and sellers of aerospace and military products together to do business but in the public mind “Farnborough” has come to signify a family day out at the weekend “Airshow” — a brilliant piece of PR.

The 37 buyer countries invited by the UK government include unstable or authoritarian régimes such as Algeria, Bahrain, Indonesia, Libya and Saudi Arabia. Rosoboronexport, the main arms supplier to the Assad régime in Syria, is a major exhibitor. Although Farnborough is primarily an aviation event, a range of other military equipment is promoted: for example, in 2010 BAE displayed armoured vehicles and artillery.

‘Futures Day’ is an event aimed at recruiting young people to the arms industry. This event is sponsored by Raytheon and Chemring Defence and among the “thrilling exhibits” on offer to 11–21 year olds is the Autonomy Zone where young people can see “remote-controlled vehicles for Aerospace, Defence and Security” (Farnborough International website).

An official welcome reception will be held at the Natural History Museum on 9th July (“an unparalleled networking opportunity” for delegates and exhibitors). Protests have elicited an offer from the Museum to “consider the feedback it has received from the public” when reviewing its venue hiring policies and procedures, so please write a personal letter to the Director of the Natural History Museum and point out that this reception is not just another trade show: the Natural History Museum is hiring out its good name to those profiting from human rights abuses and conflict.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade will be staging a protest outside the Museum at 4pm on Monday 9th July — with dinosaurs — to tell visitors about the arms trade dinosaurs that the Museum will be hosting that evening.

Amnesty Report on the Arms Trade

Amnesty International’s 2012 report on the state of human rights praises the popular movements of the Middle East and North Africa but says that the hard work of the people was not matched by strong leadership at international level. “Alliances and financial interests have driven policy at the international level, rather than human rights,” said Widney Brown, Amnesty’s senior director of International Law and Policy. “Governments are willing to promote [human rights] when the country they are being critical of either has no power or has no strategic importance to them.”

The report goes on to criticise the UN Security Council which has repeatedly failed to act when civilians are clearly being targeted, as in Sri Lanka and Syria. The P5 (permanent members of the Security Council) are all major arms exporters and this creates a potential conflict of financial interest.

“Of the top six arms dealers in the world, five of those top six are permanent members of the Security Council. And there is a certain irony in the fact that the governments charged with international peace and security in fact are major arms dealers.”

Amnesty calls for a strong global arms-trade treaty, and says that if there is a risk that arms exported to another country could contribute to human rights abuses then those supplies should be stopped.

Hiroshima Day

August 6th falls on a Monday and we shall as usual float candles on Rushmere, weather permitting. We shall try making paper lanterns this year to shield the candles from the wind and if the weather is again very poor we suggest bringing flowers as well.

Rushmere is the pond on the corner of Wimbledon Common nearest Wimbledon Village (behind the War Memorial) and we shall meet at 8·30pm. Let us hope for a fine evening as the beauty of the lights on the water can be magical and this is our annual opportunity to remember the 200,000 dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and vow “never again”.

AGM: Important Notice

This year the WDC/CND AGM will be held on Sunday July 8th at the Studio of Brigitte Birch. Brigitte has invited us all to lunch at 1pm, to be followed by a review of the year and election of officers and committee.

Please tell Brigitte if you plan to be present in order to help her plan the catering (020 8946 3265). The London Pottery Company, 96–98 Kingston Road SW19 1LX (corner of Kirkley Rd), nearest tube South Wimbledon, 152 bus.

Alison on Iranian TV!

On Friday 4th May WDC/CND was contacted by telephone (presumably obtained via our website) and invited to send a spokesman to appear on a news analysis programme broadcast by the Iranian equivalent of the BBC World Service — the English language news programme for Iran ( Alison Williams accepted the challenge at very short notice, not knowing at all what she had let herself in for, and was greatly reassured to find that views sought included those of a former director of the UN information centre in London who had recently been acting as Kofi Annan’s spokesman in Syria.

Discussion centred on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, examining how the reality of the NPT differs from the claims of the nuclear weapons states, and questioning the motivation of the nuclear weapons states (is their goal really disarmament?) The upgrading of nuclear arsenals by the nuclear weapons states (and parallel increases in military budget) was “overt nuclear non-disarmament”. The Israeli stockpiling of nuclear weapons was firmly laid at the door of their western backers. The START agreements between Russia and the US were held to have some value but the agreed cap on nuclear weapons is still very high and maintains the status of the two nuclear weapons states as part of an exclusive club.

The two male panellists were both of Middle Eastern origin (although speaking from the USA) and were severely condemnatory of western hypocrisy and double standards in relation to the NPT and Iran. Alison took a much more balanced line, attempting to look at the complex politics of the situation in the US, saying firmly that there are many US citizens who do genuinely want nuclear disarmament, including probably the President himself. In regard to the Middle East, any hope for peace will lie with all the peoples of the region and the forthcoming Nuclear-Free Middle East Summit. The double standards of the West are indeed deplorable but it would take a much longer discussion to unravel the history of the current international situation. Ultimately, no country should have nuclear weapons.

Alison is to be congratulated. She has a DVD of the discussion which she will be happy to lend to anyone who is interested. It is useful to be reminded that broadcasters outside our own country also cover these international issues.

WDC/CND events in June

Last month was busy. Mitcham Carnival on June 2nd saw a WDC/CND stall (selling ‘leftovers’ from the Fête of the Earth) where all remaining tomato plants vanished like hot cakes. We were visited by the local MP and by the Leader of the Council, distributed a lot of literature and raised £165·20. Peace flags, CND symbols and the bold message “No New Nuclear Weapons” across the front of the gazebo made our presence difficult to miss, and member Jill Beauchamp modelled the ‘Jubilee Peace Crown’ and costume she had designed for the Aldermaston Peace Picnic on June 3rd (see for pictures). Another year it would be nice to enter a peace float into the parade, but this would take a lot of organising and a lot more people. Many thanks to all who helped this year so soon after the Fête.

Our Drones meeting on June 11th was held jointly with Merton Palestine Solidarity Campaign and was a lively evening with excellent speakers Chris Cole (Drones UK) and John Hilary (War on Want). The last-minute absence of Mary Dobbing allowed time for the spine-chilling film about US drones which Chris Cole first showed at London Region CND in January 2011. Since Chris founded Drones UK the subject has hit the mainstream media and is now a matter of public debate with widespread criticism. So we can congratulate ourselves on a very timely meeting.

The WDC/CND Barn Dance on June 22nd was a lovely evening, enjoyed by everybody thanks to the wonderful musician and M.C. Chris Turner, lovely singer Lizzie Shirley, abundant and delicious food (Christine’s puddings were the talk of the evening) and the magical transformation of the shabby hall at the Community Centre into a party venue festooned with balloons. banners, streamers and peace flags. About 50 people attended and because Chris and Lizzie very generously donated their services we made a profit of about £300.

WDC Facebook page

In addition to a Twitter account — — Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition/CND now has an official Facebook page which we hope will increase our public visibility. Please come and ‘like’ us on Facebook if you are a member of this networking site!

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