COMMENT by Eric Bramsted

Ann Strauss 31.3.1931–4.12.2013

Anne and Kurt Strauss lived for a long time in Raynes Park but were unable to come to Wimbledon Quaker Meeting because it had no Children’s Class until recently. They went to Sutton Meeting and both played a very active part there. This involvement and commitment was transferred to Wimbledon in 1996 where they added greatly to its spiritual and community life for 10 years. In 2006 they retired to Hartrigg Oaks, a retirement community (40% Quaker and 60% non-Quaker) in New Earswick, a bungalow village on the outskirts of York created by Joseph Rowntree for the workers in his nearby chocolate factory. Two years ago Ann suffered a debilitating stroke and then very sadly died after major surgery last December.

For them the Quaker Peace Testimony mattered greatly and they actively supported the Wimbledon CND group, Ann serving on the committee for 10 years. After 9/11 they came week in, week out, to the Peace Vigil set up in October 2001 jointly founded by CND, the local UN Association and Wimbledon and Wandsworth Meetings. Of all the Quakers their attendance was the most regular and set an example to us all. The recently organised 3rd Friday Quaker boost is inspired by their example.

At the memorial meeting for Ann on 8 March, the New Earswick Folk Hall was packed with 200 people, not all Quakers. When tributes poured in from all sides about Ann’s many gifts Joanna Bazley spoke eloquently about Ann’s large contribution to our CND group. She was an excellent Minutes secretary who with quiet efficiency gave this important support to Joanna, the mainspring of the group and its secretary. Ann was a keen gardener who had an allotment, and she together with Joanna ran the very successful plant stall every May for the Fête of the Earth which raised money for the CND group. They raised most of the plants themselves and Ann was able to answer the numerous flower and shrub questions very knowledgeably. The stall acquired a reputation over the years and the queue which formed for the opening of the sale were mainly plant lovers who wanted to be first in to get the best plants on offer at very reasonable prices. Yet the stall was the biggest money spinner of the Fete.

For 10 years Ann and Kurt actively supported Merton Asylum Welcome every Wednesday in the Queens Road Baptist Church which helped asylum seekers and refugees come to terms with all they had lost. It supported people with professional advice for their different needs, material goods to create a home and emotional support to see them through the many challenges of adjustments to living somewhere very different. At the centre of the welcome was the offer of lunch and refreshments which was dependably shopped for and quietly coordinated by Ann and Kurt. There could be a hundred or more people lining up at the counter where Ann smilingly gestured a welcome to eat and enjoy doing so. When she could draw breath it was to tackle the massive amount of washing up or to magically produce more food for late arrivals.

She also befriended individuals who were quite alone and vulnerable. Their lives were touched by her encouragement. One of her fellow volunteers wrote in a tribute on display with many others and 120 cards of condolence at the tea following the memorial service: “there was something that I felt was part of Ann’s essence. She had what I can only describe as a ‘moral strength’, a deeply felt and known sense of injustice and wrong, and of compassion. She did it with a quiet, stillness and dignity, yet spoke out so cogently when it was necessary. She had a gift of marrying silence with action.” This last paragraph expresses so well the qualities of Ann Strauss which those of us who met her in CND activities also experienced. She was a remarkable person. May her memory be a blessing.

Eric Bramsted

More memories of Ann

Ann Strauss was a quiet and undemonstrative person whose life touched very many others. Ann was a loyal correspondent, continuing to subscribe to this Newsletter until the end of her life and thanking me meticulously for each issue. We used to exchange gardening news and I am glad that it was possible for Ann to carry on growing things even in the restricted space available at New Earswick. My own garden still contains some of Ann’s plants which I cherish, and I remember her especially vividly every spring when I start raising seedlings for the Fête. She was a dear friend as well as a colleague and I miss her a lot.


Nukes over Wind Turbines?

Scientists for Global Responsibility executive director Stuart Parkinson had a hard-hitting article published in the popular New Scientist magazine on 10th February. Headlined “UK R&D [research and development] policies are warped”, it goes on to say that “Weapons of Mass Destruction get five times as much public research cash in the UK as does renewable energy: time for a rethink”.

The article (based on analysis of Freedom of Information data) reports that annual R&D spending on all aspects of UK nuclear weapons systems, averaged over the three years 2008–11, amounts to over £320 million per annum (against a general background of cuts in publicly funded R&D). Dr Parkinson suggests that the differential between nuclear weapons-related recent research and research on renewables is set to become even wider with the government’s pursuit of its Trident replacement programme. “The UK’s huge R&D spend on nuclear weapons is particularly bizarre. The plan is for the new system to operate well into the 2040s. Against a backdrop of growing political instability driven by climate change the imperative should be global abolition of nuclear weapons as soon as possible.”

Fête of the Earth May 17th

Planning is well under way for this year’s Fête of the Earth, our big annual fund-raiser and social event. St Mark’s Church Hall and garden are booked and we shall need lots of volunteers to load the van from 8am, set up from 9am, sell from 11am–2pm, and clear everything by 3pm. Please start looking out donations of bric-à-brac and books, and prizes for the raffle and tombola. Sow seeds and split plants for the plant stall and get in touch if you need to arrange for your donations to be collected in advance.

Van hire: any suggestions?

We plan to hire a van for the day on May 17th to simplify the transport of goods to and from the Fête. We did this experimentally last year and it worked well, but time-wasting technical problems with the early morning pick-up meant that we shall not be using this particular firm again. Can anybody recommend a more reliable self-drive hire company?

Wool Against Weapons

Our ‘pink knitting’ is coming along nicely. We are delighted that LUSH of Wimbledon Bridge has agreed to allow us to stage a small display in the shop on March 15th and we need a rota of volunteer knitters for the day. was the brainchild of Jaine Rose in Stroud and we met pink-haired Jaine with her first few metres of pink scarf at Aldermaston last Easter. Jaine’s idea is to symbolically link the two UK nuclear weapons establishments, Aldermaston and Burghfield, with seven miles of creativity. She chose pink (“any glorious shade of pink”) as the most non-militaristic colour she could think of, and it has become a very effective shorthand and Unique Selling Point for the project.

As a device for raising awareness of the UK nuclear bomb factories the project has already proved its worth. (All knitters have had the same experience. People always ask what you are knitting: cue to produce a leaflet from your handbag!) Knitting has spread far beyond the core group of political activists and has revealed a deep groundswell of support for our campaign.

As it became clear that 7 miles of knitting was an achievable goal, the logistics of the scheme have become more important. Very sensibly Jaine’s one-woman inspiration has been transformed into a national CND campaign. Sections of scarf are being stitched together at local assembly points around the country. We have undertaken to host South London contributions and we already have two ‘join up’ afternoons arranged, March 22nd and 29th 2–6pm [see Diary]. The date for final roll out is now Nagasaki Day (August 9th) when we shall be looking for car drivers to volunteer to transport our scarf section to Berkshire.

Nayarit Conference, Feb 13–14th

The Second Conference on Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, hosted by the government of Mexico, received little media attention in this country and was studiously ignored by the UK government who declined to send a representative, as with Oslo last year, but it really does look as if the non-nuclear majority in the UN General Assembly has the nuclear-armed minority seriously worried. “Nayarit is a point of no return,” concluded the Conference Chair, summing up two days of expert evidence on the likely impact of a nuclear detonation on economic and social infrastructure, public health, the climate and agriculture. Due to “...proliferation, the vulnerability of nuclear command and control networks to cyber-attacks and to human error and potential access to nuclear weapons by non-state actors... the risks are growing globally.... in the past weapons have been eliminated after they have been outlawed... we believe that this is the path to achieve a world without nuclear weapons... the time has come to initiate diplomatic process conducive to this goal.” More governments were represented in Nayarit than in Oslo and the vast majority of these 146 governments demanded concrete political and legal action against nuclear weapons with more than ever before calling specifically for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

The mere existence of nuclear weapons generates risk: some of the studies presented at the conference explored numerous instances where the world has escaped an accidental nuclear detonation only by luck and chance. The nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) was signed in 1968 and despite all their promises of action (“negotiations in good faith...” Article VI) it is becoming increasingly improbable that the nuclear-armed states will support any measures that look likely to undermine their privileged status.

Under the terms of the NPT the onus is on the nuclear weapons states to lead the process of nuclear disarmament, but with the 5-yearly NPT Review Conferences becoming increasingly ritualistic and the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva having reached stalemate, more and more governments are interested in trying something new. Non-governmental organisations (mostl importantly the Red Cross and Red Crescent) are throwing the weight of civil society behind the new initiatives and the nuclear armed states are beginning to look like an isolated minority in the face of international opinion.

Land mines and cluster bombs, biological and chemical weapons are examples where legal prohibitions have facilitated elimination: weapons that have been outlawed are increasingly seen as illegitimate. Far from being seen as a military asset, they lose all political status.

The conference heard from a few of those states whose military doctrines rely on nuclear weapons: Pakistan, Finland, Australia, Spain, Turkey, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, India, the Czech Republic and Hungary all expressed scepticism about the possibility of a ban, with Germany claiming that nuclear weapons had greatly contributed to keeping the peace during the Cold War and also expressing concern about ‘antagonising’ those with nuclear weapons. Nevertheless the fact remains that there are only 9 nuclear states and the non-nuclear majority has decided to take the lead. The Third Conference will be held in Austria later this year.

Jim McCluskey, in a powerful essay published by Global Research, sums up well: “With these and other major forces at work there is an unstoppable movement.... the nuclear states have become a sorry sight. Frozen in the realm of outdated thinking which was always inhuman: their leaders frightened and paranoid and prepared to put the survival of humanity in jeopardy simply in order to feel important and powerful... their brief and nightmarish ascendancy is over. The world has moved on.”

He suggests writing to the embassies of the non-nuclear states to let them know that people appreciate and support what they are doing: Norway, Mexico and Austria would be a good start. New Zealand is taking a powerful lead among the nations of the Southern Hemisphere and the Vatican (the Holy See has a UN seat) spoke out clearly at Nayarit on behalf of the world’s Roman Catholics: “it is high time to take the next steps and use the momentum of the Nayarit conference to launch a plan of action towards the development of an international norm and legal ban on nuclear weapons for the benefit of humanity.”

Based on material from WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom)

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