Garden Party

All are invited to a fund-raising garden party at 43 Wilton Grove on September 8th (1–6pm) with guests of honour Bruce Kent (who needs no introduction) and George Farebrother (of the World Court Project and the 1996 Judicial Opinion that so greatly strengthened the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty). The money raised will go to Abolition 2000 UK, part of a global coalition working for an international convention against nuclear weapons through the United Nations; the group was founded in 1996 as a response to the realisation that nuclear abolition was not even on the agenda of the 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

The founding document of the Abolition 2000 Network declares that “a secure and livable world for our children and grandchildren and all future generations requires that we achieve a world free of nuclear weapons and redress the environmental degradation and human suffering that is the legacy of fifty years of nuclear weapons testing and production”. All states are called upon to take eleven clear steps to achieve a Nuclear Weapons Convention (“phased elimination of nuclear weapons within a time-bound framework”) which would eventually replace the flawed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Abolition 2000 document now has the signatures of over 1200 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) worldwide, representing international civil society.

Bruce Kent has kindly agreed to run an auction of donated items at 3 o’clock, and so far these include artwork by Jim McCluskey (letter-writer extraordinaire), organic raspberry jam from Joanna’s garden, fine French wine from Pat Allen (a Francophile who knows his stuff) and a first US edition of John Hersey’s 1946 “Hiroshima”. We are also offering a school atlas of 1898, in excellent condition apart from a few ink blots on the map of Africa for added authenticity. Steamer routes and major railways are shown on all the beautifully coloured maps (the British Empire in pink naturally) and one can also admire the Austro-Hungarian, Turkish, German and Russian Empires. A very empty-looking USA is given rather less space than Australia and New Zealand. Those were the days.

Admission to the garden party is £5 and please also bring a contribution of food or drink to share. If it rains we move indoors and carry on!

‘Unmanned ærial vehicles’ — Drones

On 4th August the Guardian carried a well researched and well written special report on UAVs (unmanned ærial vehicles). Owen Bowcott and Nick Hopkins make it clear that this is viewed by the aviation industry as a valuable and expanding market, at present worth £4bn a year and expected to double within ten years, “leading to anxieties among scientific critics and human rights groups that downgrading the ‘man in the loop’ means devolving life and death decisions to airborne robots”.

Drone technology is spreading around the world with “the military still driving innovation”, but unsurprisingly manufacturers prefer to focus on civilian uses of the technology “to try to stop it being demonised”. Since losing aircraft to Syrian missile batteries in the Yom Kippur War Israel has been a leading developer and now sells to the US and European armies. US attacks on al-Qaida supporters (“and bystanders”) directed by the CIA are well documented and it can only be a matter of time before other countries adopt the technology: “automated killing is the final step in the industrial revolution of war — a clean factory of slaughter with no physical blood on our hands and none of our own side killed”.

The Chinese are already working on a supersonic unmanned fighter, designed for ærial dogfights, and “hypersonic drones are also on the wishlist”. In the US, Sandia National Laboratories explored the possibility of nuclear-powered drones, “but suspended work because of public antipathy towards what would amount to a dirty bomb if the device crashed”. Intriguingly, amongst the civilian uses envisaged for drones is a small device being developed for Sellafield: “the hope is that an unmanned ærial vehicle could use laser profiling to map the inside of the chambers and make work easier for experts who are trying to make them safe”.

The company responsible for Sellafield asked the University of Warwick to develop a UAV for the task and is funding the programme. “We were told not to expect it to come back out,” said the university’s business development manager. “Sellafield doesn’t have a huge amount of confidence about what they have inside some of these buildings.” Sellafield Ltd. blamed “poor record keeping during the 1950s for the fact that the contents of some buildings remained a mystery”.

‘Olympic Celebration’ 28th July

We were invited to have a (free) stall at a community event organised by MP Siobhain McDonagh at the Hub, Bishopsford Road, and we decided that we should not turn down an excellent opportunity to raise our profile locally despite the short notice. It proved to be a very happy occasion with a wide variety of participating charities, community, religious and commercial organisations as well as musical entertainment and sporting activities. We took as many goods as we could stuff into the two small cars we had available and raised £105 while giving out hundreds of leaflets. Our display of “Cut Trident” posters looked impressive and we got a really friendly reception from the people of Mitcham.

(Photo from Siobhain McDonagh’s Facebook pages)

Hiroshima Day

We held our usual commemorative ceremony at dusk on August 6th, a group of about twenty gathering on the shores of Rushmere. We were lucky that the rain held off as I read from John Hersey’s contemporary account of the experiences of six individual Hiroshima residents in 1945, followed by a two minutes’ silence and a heartfelt rendering of “We shall overcome”. Edwin managed to launch a beautiful illuminated butterfly, but a sharp downpour at 9 o’clock put paid to any more candle floating and we dispersed earlier than normal. It was pleasing that some members of the public joined us as a result of our advance leafletting. Are balmy summer evenings a thing of the past?

Joanna Bazley

Holy Trinity Lunchtime Talks

Friday September 21st, the International Day of Peace, 1–2pm — this is the inaugural event of a monthly series, and the subject under discussion will be the controversial Christian concept of a morally and legally ‘just war’.

Brian Wicker is a Trustee of Pax Christi and Chair of the Council on Christian Approaches to Defence and Disarmament, for which he co-edited “Just War on Terror?”

Jim McCluskey, author of the pamphlet “The Nuclear Threat — intolerable and avoidable”, is now becoming well known as a writer of letters to the national press, frequently being published in the Guardian, Independent and Observer.

Both are excellent speakers, but the format of the meeting will allow plenty of time for contributions from everybody present and for stimulating discussion: this is not a subject where there are easy answers.

We are grateful to the Rev. Chris Palmer who has offered us the hospitality of his beautiful church, centrally located at 248 Wimbledon Broadway, SW19 1SB near the Polka Theatre (on the 57, 93, 131 and 219 bus routes, or a 10-minute walk from Wimbledon Station). The church will be open from 12·30pm so that members of the audience can bring a sandwich lunch. Tea and coffee will be provided and people are invited to stay for as long or short a time as they have available.

We feel that all the weighty subjects that we have chosen for discussion this autumn are much too important to be left to politicians, and that everybody’s opinion counts. So please do come and be part of something exciting and worthwhile — and tell your friends and colleagues about it too. (020 8543 0362 or for more leaflets.)

Next talks: October 26th (1–2pm) with Stephen Hammond MP and Rev. Andrew Wakefield speaking on the subject “Is Global Equality an Impossible Dream?” during One World Week, and November 15th (1·30–2·30pm) with Bruce Kent and Sam Walton on “The Militarisation of Society — is it happening — is it inevitable?” following Remembrance Sunday.

Tales of the Unexpected

The August 11th edition of the new upmarket children’s comic Phoenix carried a double-page strip on Albert Einstein as the week’s ‘corpse raised from the dead’. The Einstein corpse is interviewed in mock-serious fashion, describing his unsatisfactory schooldays and the solitary walks that were the cradle of his creativity, with a thumbnail of E=mc2. It then all becomes more overtly political with the origins of the Manhattan Project (the fear of Nazi Germany getting the A-bomb) and Einstein’s plea to the US to abandon the research once it was clear there was no longer a Nazi atomic threat, but “They just couldn’t resist trying it out”. No holds are barred in the description of the aftermath of Hiroshima: “120,000 people were vaporized instantly and another 65,000 people died of burns and radiation sickness”. “I understood the beautiful profound secrets of the universe and their first application was the most horrific killing machine ever devised” mourns Einstein.

Not what one would expect in a children’s comic, to put it mildly, and CND might do worse than explore copyright issues with the aim of giving this strip publicity.

National Membership and CND Conference

Arrangements are well in hand for CND’s annual conference (13th/14th October, UCL, Guilford Street WC1). Day 1 will take the form of an open public international conference (“Towards a Nuclear-free Middle East”) with policy debates and AGM on Day 2.

As an affiliated group we are invited to send delegates, but the number of delegates eligible to attend (and the number of votes to which we are entitled) is determined by the number of “company members” in our group, and at present we have very few registered CND company members — a legal obligation for voting because CND is a company limited by guarantee. We have received a note from the conference organisers questioning this small number of company members which seems to them disproportionate to our level of activity as a group.

So please, can we do something about it? Company membership forms can be found on the CND website and Monday 17th September is the cut-off date for maximising our voting entitlement at Conference. (If you want to receive a form by post contact 020 8543 0362 and ask for one.)

Company membership is open to all who are paid-up members of National CND and the only extra commitment is an undertaking to pay one pound if CND were to go bankrupt. This is tedious bureaucracy but it is time we put the record straight.

WDC/CND Annual General Meeting

Our AGM was held on July 8th 2012 at The Studio, Kingston Road, the beautiful premises of Brigitte’s London Pottery Company, and Brigitte entertained twelve of us to a delicious meal. A review of the past year’s activities was a useful reminder of just how much campaigning, networking and fundraising we do: everything from staging the UK premiere of Bob Frye’s powerful film “In My Lifetime” in the presence of CND General Secretary Kate Hudson and the Leader of Merton Council to carrying our banner in national anti-cuts and anti-nuclear power marches, taking in a financially successful Fête of the Earth and Barn Dance along the way — not forgetting the weekly Peace Vigil, monthly Peace Table and of course this widely distributed Newsletter.

Because of the success of our fundraising activities our financial position remains healthy, enabling us to make donations to affiliated organisations working with us in the cause of justice and peace. Thanks to the efficiency of the Newsletter distribution network minimising the need for expensive postage, it is possible to hold subscriptions at current rates (£5/£3), although many people do add extra donations to their subscriptions which are much appreciated.

The officers of the 2011/12 committee were unanimously re-elected as follows:

ChairMaisie Carter
SecretaryJoanna Bazley
TreasurerJulie Higgins
These three together with fellow steering group members Sheila Knight, Christine Bickerstaff and Daphne Hussein have been responsible for all the planning and administration that makes our activities possible and they received a vote of thanks. Thanks also go to Brigitte for her generous hospitality.
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