Arming All Sides: profiteering and corruption in World War I

On 20th November, two speakers from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade/ CAAT gave us a most informative and entertaining briefing on the Arms Trade a century ago. Using a well-researched website,, they showed how global the arms trade was, how totally profit-centred, and how intimately connected to politicians and press barons in high places. The industry was dominated by a few large companies, one of which was Vickers Ltd., a direct ancestor of today’s British Aerospace. Throughout the presentation we were frequently shown how little has changed over the decades, with the present government using the WW1 centenary to glorify the role of the military and justify current policies.

Then as now, embarrassing features of the arms trade were concealed: then, manufacturers kept quiet about the fact they were selling weapons to enemies and potential enemies; now, the government pays huge subsidies to arms manufacturers, totally unjustified by economic criteria or the common good. How many people know that?

Helen Toomey (CND’s representative on CAAT) put the situation before, during and after the First World War in context with reference to the Royal Commission on the Private Manufacture of and Trading in Arms which “put the Arms Trade on Trial” (1935-36). Volunteers from the floor took parts in dialogues for the Prosecution and the Defence, then Helen reported how the malign influence of one Civil Servant, Sir Maurice Hankey, had severely weakened the report of the Commission and finally buried it with a Defence White Paper (1937) which omitted any mention of recommendations that contradicted existing government policy.

Kat Hobbs (CAAT’s Local Outreach Coordinator) chose three Case Studies from the website to illustrate how shareholders in arms companies made huge profits from the mass slaughter (The Ig-Nobel Trust); how companies ensured governments/taxpayers covered their costs (Vickers v. Krupp); and how a Coventry businessman, Herbert Mulliner, spread lies which intensified an atmosphere of paranoia leading to a deadly arms race.

The Mulliner story showed how public opinion could be whipped to a frenzy by baseless allegations. Much less familiar is the passionate campaigning for Disarmament from the 1899 Hague Peace Conference through to the Disarmament Conference of 1932-33. Public opinion had been disgusted by revelations of the profiteering and corruption of the “merchants of death” during WWI but governments decisively chose “national security” through rearmament.

The recommendations of the Royal Commission were ignored. So were the results of a nationwide Peace Ballot organised by the League of Nations Union, in cooperation with other peace organisations, to test public opinion on support for collective security through the Covenant of the League. Nearly 12 million people voted on five questions, with overwhelming majorities favouring the peace agenda and only one close to the margin: to the question “Do you consider that, if a nation insists on attacking another, the other nations should combine to compel it to stop, if necessary, by military measures?” the affirmative answer was just 58%. To the question, “ Should the manufacture and sale of armaments for private profit be prohibited by international agreement?” the Yes vote was 90.1%.

Failure to implement a just settlement in the post-war years and choosing national security over collective security was hugely disappointing but hardly surprising. How much has really changed? Still, it is in the nature of campaigners to believe that lessons can be learned and a better world created. Majority public opinion now as then wants “peace on earth and good will to everyone”. The CAAT website has a list of ways you can help:

Alison Williams

White Poppies in Wimbledon

Remembrance Sunday, November 9th, was a first: the CND/UNA mixed red and white wreath joined all the other wreaths on the Wimbledon Village War Memorial as part of the official civic ceremony, commemorating all victims of war and affirming our determination to work for a peaceful future.

The Rev. Mary Bide spoke sensitively and movingly about the tragedy of war for all involved, challenging unquestioned nationalism and pointing out that all who embarked on war did so in the conviction that they were in the right. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

‘Love and Fallout’ by Kathryn Simmonds

I was ten in 1982 when pictures of the anti-nuclear demonstrations at Greenham Common came on TV, and fascinated by them. Twenty-five years later, while working on a short story about a woman called Tessa whose history includes a few weeks spent at the common, I revisited the era and became fascinated all over again. Looking at footage of 30,000 women joining hands around the American airbase on a December afternoon, I wondered who they all were and what they might be doing now. Gradually, my story began to grow and a novel featuring Greenham emerged.

But though I was committed to the project, I was also nervous – after all, I hadn’t been involved and so everything was gleaned from research. My previous books were poetry collections and sonnets seemed a lot safer: how do you fictionalise such a diverse campaign? At the end of my first draft, I took a deep breath and sent the manuscript to Ann Pettitt, co-organiser of the original peace march from Wales, and author of a memoir about the protest, ‘Walking to Greenham’. I told her about my misgivings, my worries about getting it wrong, causing offence, the problems of turning fact into fiction. “Oh never mind that,” she replied bluntly, and urged me to get a thicker skin.

The finished book, ‘Love and Fallout’, isn’t so much a story about Greenham and its politics as a story about friendship, motherhood and the accidents that shape our lives. Nevertheless, the writing process made me question who makes history, who decides what’s noteworthy and what isn’t. And along the way I met an awful lot of interesting women from all walks of life who said, “I was there”.

Kathryn Simmonds

Published by Seren Books, £8·99: “A perceptive and well researched exploration of an often neglected period of women’s history” according to the Wales Art Review:

Note from Joanna:

Kathryn Simmonds contacted me recently and asked if there was any way she could reach members of CND who might be interested in reading her novel — so I suggested she write a piece for our Newsletter.

Influence of the military in UK schools

As always, it was disconcerting to see the mass parade of adolescents in uniform on Remembrance Sunday, a reminder of the continued (and perhaps increased) militarisation of society. In its Youth Engagement Review of 2011 the MoD states: “The three Services each run and part-fund very comprehensive external engagement operations with children and young people in schools and communities. This external engagement should meet two clear Defence outcomes: an awareness of the Armed Forces’ rôle in the world and the quality of its work and people, in order to ensure the continued support of the population; and the recruitment of the young men and women who are key to future sustainment and success.”

Warfare is being promoted as glamorous and exciting and military outreach to the young is described as serving their personal growth and education. ForcesWatch is challenging this military encroachment into schools and for more about their work contact

Conflict and Climate Change

A reminder about this excellent DVD produced by the Movement for the Abolition of War. We are inviting people to borrow a copy to show at church/green/environmental/trade union meetings in order to get discussion started as widely as possible. The DVD comes with notes or else WDC/CND would be happy to provide a speaker.

From the horse’s mouth

Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, who served in the Royal Navy for 27 years, recently said that “climate change will require more deployment of British military in conflict prevention, resolution or responding to increased humanitarian requirements due to extreme weather impacts.... It is posing a risk to geopolitical security which is a prerequisite for economic growth, good health and well-being of us all.” Global warming was a “threat multiplier”.

The admiral was speaking at a public briefing for MPs (reported in the Guardian 11/11/2014). If the military are worried about climate change maybe our politicians should be taking it more seriously!

Wrap up Trident: London Demo

Saturday January 24th should already be in everybody’s diaries. This is our chance to get some national publicity for the Great Pink Peace Scarf and to raise the profile of our campaign in the run-up to the General Election. Not all the knitting will be on display (much has already been made into blankets) but there will be more than enough to link government and parliament buildings in an eye-catching mass action — provided enough people make the effort to turn out. We shall be contributing our 200 metres or so and we shall need six sturdy volunteers to help get it all up to London for the day.

2014 will long be remembered as the year of pink knitting, a remarkable project to link the two UK atomic weapons establishments with seven miles of pink scarf created by thousands of knitters from all over the country and all over the world. It captured the imagination in a way that few other campaigning initiatives have done and involved people who have never been involved before, winning lots of local press coverage.

The roll-out on Nagasaki Day was a remarkable achievement. Seven miles is a very long way — in local terms, roughly the distance from Tooting into central London — and we DID IT. Now we need to tell the story all over again in the heart of government and remind the world that the UK still has these two huge nuclear bomb factories.

Please get in touch if you can help.

Trident: the Quiz

We shall be using a new quiz sheet produced by National CND in our street campaigning next year, and you may like to test your own knowledge. (Answers at the foot of the page.)

(1a, 2c, 3b, 4b)

Unveiling of Dr and Ada Salter’s statues, Bermondsey Wall East

A large crowd gathered on the banks of the Thames today, happily with the sun shining, for the unveiling of the statues of Alfred and Ada Salter. Metal thieves stole the original statue of Alfred Salter in November 2011 and such was the outcry locally that a committee was set up to raise money for a replacement. This was so successful that not only was it possible to replace the statue of Alfred Salter but to make a new statue of his wife Ada.

Alfred and Ada Salter dedicated their lives to the people of Bermondsey at a time when it was a poverty stricken overcrowded slum. He worked as a GP setting up virtually a miniature NHS twenty years before the NHS was created, pushed through a slum clearance programme and became the MP for the area. Ada was a pioneer in her own right. She was the first female mayor, not only in London but the UK, was instrumental in the greening of open spaces in Bermondsey and then London and worked in the trade union and international humanitarian movements. They were both Quakers and committed pacifists.

There were a number of speakers who spoke about the legacy of the Salters, and unveiled the statues. These included Simon Hughes, the local MP, members of the Salter family and the deputy mayor of Southwark. The final speaker was our very own Maisie Carter, a seasoned campaigner, ably assisted by her grandson Archie who unveiled the statue of the Salters’ cat. Maisie was brought up in Bermondsey and remembers campaigning for Alfred Salter’s re-election to Parliament as a very small child (she started young!) Unlike the other speakers who mentioned the Salters’ pacifism and social conscience during their lifetime Maisie linked this with the current fight for the health service and the fight against Trident. Afterwards countless members of the crowd came up to congratulate her on her speech including Bruce Kent.

Ruth Crabb

New Year Party

All WDC/CND members, friends and families are warmly invited to our post-Christmas party, held as usual at 43 Wilton Grove, January 4th 12 noon–3pm.

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