COMMENT by Ruth Crabb

I went with a friend to the anti-austerity march on Saturday which was an enormous and very good-natured affair bringing together many disparate groups who despair of the new government’s plans to cut public spending to the bone. The march was organised by the People’s Assembly, an umbrella organisation uniting a wide range of campaigning groups. As well as CND and many unions such as the NUT there was an enormous range of pressure groups represented, e.g. Save Our NHS, the Green Party, anti-fracking campaigners, a library campaign group and even an anti-hunt group. The size of the demonstration was variously estimated at between 50,000 and 250,000 and there were also big demonstrations in Glasgow, Cardiff and Bristol. It was very encouraging to be among such a large demonstration of like-minded people from all walks of life.

Earlier in the year I read an inspiring article by Srdja Popovic in the Guardian and heard him speak on Radio 4 about how he and a group of friends helped to overthrow Slobodan Milosevic in 1998. He was a student in 1992, and in part inspired by a rock band he and his friends formed a non-violent group called Otpor! (which translates as Resistance). Over the course of the next few years the group worked out five ways of mobilising people and formed an NGO called The Centre for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). They are now in demand around the world to speak about non-violent political and social change. The five rules are as follows:

  1. It can happen anywhere
  2. Activism doesn’t have to be boring — in fact, the more creative and amusing the better
  3. Pick your battles — try to match your strong points against the opponent’s weak ones
  4. Hobbits can save the world — people assume that you need to be hero material in order to effect change but many unassuming people have brought about profound change e.g. Harvey Milk and Malala Yousafzai
  5. Remember that violence doesn’t work — in an analysis of every conflict between 1900 and 2006 US academics discovered that non-violent resistance campaigns were nearly twice as likely to succeed as violent ones.

So come on all you armchair activists, we need to think of some amusing ways of getting our message across!

Fête of the Earth

Our annual fête on June 6th, held in the garden of St Mark’s Church, was blessed by glorious sunshine (if a bit windy!) and although no records were broken we cleared a very respectable total of £1000 after the payment of all expenses. Bric à brac (£327), books (£127·40), cakes/jams (£149) and refreshments (£155) all exceeded last year’s totals. The plant stall (£435) undoubtedly suffered from a June rather than May date — people had already stocked up on bedding and tomato plants — but as always we were pleased to welcome back some very enthusiastic regular customers.

Impressive teamwork on the day ensured the event ran very smoothly and an especial debt of gratitude goes to the two drivers (Mick and Bob) who made many repeat journeys (this year including the transport of a set of borrowed tables) and all those involved in the unglamorous task of loading and unloading the lorries (Nicholas, Martin, Helen, Dave, John). There were many competing political events on June 6th, including a big Stop the War conference, preventing some of our own members from attending the fête, but we benefited from a family activity day at neighbouring Wimbledon Library which brought in more young families than usual, increasing sales of the children’s books and toys.

Thank you to everybody who donated goods and helped in whatever capacity, and a personal thanks to the ‘anonymous donor’ who supplied me with ten sacks of potting compost early in the season.

Report by Joanna

Candle floating on Rushmere

On the evening of August 6th (Hiroshima Day) we shall hold our traditional candle-floating ceremony on the shores of Rushmere pond on Wimbledon Common (near the War Memorial). We shall remember those who died 70 years ago and renew our personal commitment to working for a world where weapons of mass destruction have no place.

The ceremony itself is a very beautiful and moving spectacle as the lighted ‘boats’ move gently over the water in the gathering dusk, always attracting the attention of a few passers-by. Do come.

Musicians for Peace and Disarmament

MANA has a new name, adopted at their recent AGM after much debate. “The dangers of nuclear weapons have not diminished [since MANA was formed in 1983] but in recent years there has been a big shift in public opinion regarding the most serious threats to world peace and security. While our close ties with CND will continue we must do everything possible to put pressure on MPs not to renew Trident, yet at the same time we have the opportunity to support and be identified with a wider range of peace initiatives” writes Chair Tony Lamb (Principal Clarinet at English National Opera 1976–2012). Judith Weir CBE, the recently-appointed Master of the Queen’s Music, has accepted an invitation to join MPD’s impressive list of patrons, which also includes her predecessor in the rôle Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies, Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Neville Marriner and many other musical luminaries.

The first concert under the new name took place on June 17th at Hinde Street Methodist Church and was a scintillating performance by five top professional wind players, all individually brilliant but supporting each other in ensemble with enviable precision and ease. There is a limited repertoire for wind quintet compared with strings and we heard some of the best — culminating in Malcom Arnold’s light-hearted (and virtuosic) Three Shanties of 1943.

MPD committee member and former Chair Jane Faulkner opened the evening with a short speech explaining how the money raised by these concerts (all the musicians donating their services) goes to support other peace and disarmament groups. Music can be portrayed as the antithesis of war: music representing humanity at its highest level — “at its best” — and war representing abject failure. Music has a wonderful power to bring people together.

The next MPD concert will be the Vertavo String Quartet at Hinde Street on October 2nd, and on December 2nd there will be an orchestral concert at St James Piccadilly conducted by Howard Williams. For MPD membership details or to be added to the mailing list for future Concerts for Peace contact 71 Greenfield Gardens, London NW2 1HU. All performing musicians (professional, semi-professional and amateur) are welcome to join, and orchestras, bands, choral groups etc. are invited to affiliate. (How about suggesting affiliation to your local choir?)

AGM and Garden Party: Sun July 19th

The Annual General Meeting/Garden Party allows us both to review the year and have an enjoyable social get-together in very pleasant surroundings. (If it rains we retreat indoors and admire the garden through the french windows!) We formally elect our Officers and recruit new volunteers for the Steering Group. The Steering Group meets once a month and membership is not an onerous task, so please give it some thought.

Nominations are invited for the officers: Chair, Secretary, Treasurer.

There is one Resolution: “That the annual minimum rate of subscription to Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition/CND be increased to £5.” This increase is recommended by the Steering Group to reflect increased postal rates but we are very aware that many of you already add very generous donations to your annual affiliations. The intention is to cover Newsletter costs through subscriptions so that all other fund-raising can be used for campaigning. We have considered distributing the Newsletter via e-mail, but have decided to continue with the print version on the grounds that a printed copy is more likely to be read (and the information retained for reference) now that many of us are swamped with electronic material, but this is something we can further discuss at the AGM.

Garden Party from 12 noon (bring and share food), AGM starts at 2pm. 43 Wilton Grove, London SW19 3QU. Family and friends welcome to the garden party.

The Strategic Defence and Security Review

The somewhat overdue Strategic Defence and Security Review will assess the international security situation and current threats to the UK. As the military budget is not unlimited (and the armed forces are sustaining their share of austerity) it seems sensible that the £100 billion earmarked for the renewal of British nuclear weapons should be reassessed in this context.

It is not however clear that this will be so, and we have written to Wimbledon M.P. Stephen Hammond asking him to consider signing an Early Day Motion (EDM 73) which calls for Trident to be included in the review. All members should take this up with their local M.P.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

August 6th 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the bomb which destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima, instantly killing more than 150,000 people and condemning thousands of others to a slow and painful death from radiation sickness. This was the world’s first atomic bomb, developed by the Manhattan Project in America and popularly supposed to be responsible for ending the war in Japan, although there is much evidence that as the Japanese were already suing for peace its primary intent was to impress Soviet Russia, plus an element of ‘seeing whether it worked’ — the only possible explanation for the decision to explode a second bomb (of different design) upon Nagasaki two days later.

That was war-time, and after five years’ brutality it is understandable that inhumanity should have prevailed; but the fact remains that in 1945 these were the only atomic weapons in the world, and that deliberate decisions were made first by the Soviet Union and then by the governments of the UK, France and China to participate in a nuclear arms race in a misguided attempt to secure increased ‘status’ in the eyes of the rest of the world. Seventy years later the combined world total of nuclear weapons is now in the region of 17,000, any one of which has many times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb, and despite attempts to limit the further proliferation of nuclear weapons (the NPT treaty of 1968), the nuclear weapons states are still no closer to agreeing to give up (or even significantly reduce) their arsenals.

Every year, on the anniversary of Hiroshima, we have the opportunity to remind both politicians and the general public of the realities of nuclear weapons: of the fact that a whole city was brutally destroyed without warning as its innocent inhabitants went about their everyday lives, and that the effects of radiation persisted for many years afterwards. Politicians refer glibly to ‘the deterrent’, forgetting what they are really talking about. They talk about ‘a dangerous world’ without attempting to explain how weapons of mass destruction can possibly make it any less dangerous. They ignore the ever-present risk of nuclear accident or the possibility of these weapons getting into the wrong hands. Hiroshima Day is their annual reality check. Eric Schlosser’s brilliant but truly alarming book “Command & Control” should be required reading.

Special Hiroshima Vigil for Peace and The Ribbon

On Friday August 7th we shall hold a special Vigil for Peace outside Wimbledon Library featuring a decorated cherry tree and a display of a section of the ‘Ribbon around the Earth’, an international work of art each panel of which represents ‘what I cannot bear to think of as lost forever in a nuclear war’. The winter-flowering Hiroshima cherry tree which was planted many years ago in Cannizaro Park by Brigadier Sir Michael Harbottle has now died, and we are planning to replace it in the autumn (the best time to plant trees): a planting ceremony around the time of Armistice Day/Remembrance Sunday would be very appropriate. Our ‘temporary’ Hiroshima cherry tree outside Wimbledon Library will be a pot-grown tree decorated with pink ‘flowers’ made from wool left over from the great Aldermaston–Burghfield seven mile peace scarf of last summer.

We have been loaned several ‘Ribbon around the Earth’ pieces and it would be nice if we could create some more before August 6th. “The strength of The Ribbon comes from people using this international art project to promote local awareness and action. The beauty of The Ribbon enhances each event.” Justine Merrit (a teacher from Colorado) began the Ribbon with friends in 1982, with the idea gradually spreading in the USA until 15 miles of Ribbon encircled the Pentagon, Capitol and other buildings in Washington D.C. to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima in August 1985.

Panels have now been produced around the world with displays in Geneva (during the NPT conference) and at the UN in New York. Panels have been made jointly by Arab and Jewish children in Israel and by Iraqi and American children working together. Ribbons are used every year at the Atom Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. Individual panels measure 36×16 inches and are decorated with appliqué or embroidery and neatly lined on the reverse, each panel with a personal message from its creator on the back. Ribbons are sewn into the four corners so that panels can be tied together or displayed by a line of people.

Please join us outside Wimbledon Library (St Mark’s Place) 6–7pm on August 7th. For further details of The Ribbon see

CND Return to Newsletter index