The vigorous campaign against the DSEi Arms Fair held at the ExCel Centre in Docklands last month received more media publicity than usual, but the Arms Fair still managed to go about its deadly business with the majority of the population of this country unaware that the UK government is actively promoting the sale of military equipment to the Middle East while wringing its hands over the refugee crisis. (Arms manufacturers like being able to boast that their goods are ‘battle-tested’.) Several of us went down to Docklands to join the protests and Edwin’s mountain/molehill placard (well-known from the Wimbledon Vigil) features prominently in the current edition of Peace News [see http://peacenews.info/node/8133].
After attending the silent, candle-lit vigil held outside ExCel on the evening of September 14th I wrote to Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond. His reply is an extraordinary piece of self-justification claiming that “each application [for exports] is considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the precise nature of the equipment and the identity and track record of the recipient. The Government has consistently said that it does not... issue licences where it judges that the proposed export would provoke or prolong internal conflicts, or where there is a clear risk that it might be used to facilitate internal repression or be used aggressively against another country.”
Why does the government think that arms trade clients want to make purchases in the first place if not to use them? And what control does the government expect to exert over the eventual destination of this equipment, especially in areas of profound instability? (It is already proven that military equipment originally delivered to Libya is fuelling conflict in sub-Saharan Africa.)
Mr Hammond then goes on to make the breathtakingly self-deluding claim that “close political and security relationships can help enhance our scope to positively influence governments helping to promote democratic reform and raise human rights standards in places such as China and the Gulf States”. Has he forgotten that Saudi Arabia is one of the UK’s biggest military customers?
As we stood in the gathering dusk on a chilly evening and the circle of candles gleamed brighter and brighter, the nose of a small military aircraft (possibly a drone) became visible behind the ExCel Centre glass — grotesquely festooned with lights like a shop window display. ‘Toys for the boys’ indeed.
Social media play a vital rôle in 21st-century campaigning. Harriet has already introduced several members of WDC/CND to Twitter and Facebook and will be running another workshop at 43 Wilton Grove on Sunday October 25th, 2·30pm onwards. Bring your laptop if you have one.
As part of his leadership campaign, Jeremy Corbyn published a detailed policy document on Defence Diversification, setting out how the jobs associated with Trident could be redeployed to other areas of the economy. Not replacing Trident “gives our country an opportunity to invest in industry, innovation and infrastructure that will rebalance our economy and transform it into a high-skilled, high-tech world-leading economy”.
Although the initial ‘concept and design’ phase of the work on Trident replacement has already taken place and the final decision on replacing the submarines is likely to be taken well before the next general election, an incoming Labour Government would still have the power to cancel the project and would need a clear plan to maintain the high-skilled jobs involved. Jeremy Corbyn’s planned Defence Diversification Agenda would then come into its own as part of his government’s overall economic strategy.
[From CND’s Labour Party Conference Briefing, http://www.cnduk.org/about/item/2269-labour-party-conference-briefing]
Paris, December 12th
Bruce Kent writes: “Are you interested in going to Paris for the December 12th Climate Change rally, raising issues such as ‘Climate Not Trident’? A group-booked day trip on Eurostar costs about £80pp return. The price goes up with time!”
Contact Bruce Kent a.s.a.p. on firstname.lastname@example.org
The September Newsletter carried an article about CND’s beautiful and moving A5 cards which feature photos of items from the Hiroshima Peace Museum. September 26th was the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (“a day for public awareness and education”) and I marked the occasion by sending Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond a picture of 13-year-old Akio Tsukuda’s school uniform jacket (found by his father searching for his son on August 8th 1945, hanging from a branch of a tree). I asked Mr Hammond to face up to the realities of nuclear weapons and to engage in informed debate with his colleagues about the relevance of weapons of mass destruction to a modern UK defence system. We must do all we can to stop such momentous decisions becoming matters of political expediency.
Cards available from Joanna: 020 8543 0362 or email@example.com.
Norman Barford died on September 19th and his funeral will be held at 2pm on Thursday October 1st at Putney Vale Crematorium, Stag Lane, SW15 3DZ. His family has invited donations in his memory to Amnesty, Oxfam or Greenpeace. Norman and his wife Enid (whom he nursed devotedly for many years) were founder members of WDC/CND and we remember them both with respect and affection.
We have also heard of the recent death of Margaret Eley, responsible for the ‘toiletries’ stall at the Fête for many years. Margaret’s funeral is at 1·20pm on Wednesday 14th October at the North-East Surrey Crematorium.
Subs are due this month. As agreed at the AGM, the minimum subscription rate has been increased to £5 which covers the cost of production and distribution of this Newsletter, leaving our other funds free for campaigning activities. Please pay promptly — all cheques to be sent to 43 Wilton Grove, London SW19 3QU (note change of address)
Jeremy Corbyn’s friend and colleague John McDonnell has been the object of sustained media abuse. Even Corbyn’s well-wishers have suggested that perhaps the appointment of an “extreme left-winger” to such an important post was a tactical mistake, to which the standard defence has been that it is essential for party leader and shadow Chancellor to form a team that operates instinctively together.
John McDonnell’s long experience in budget management at the GLC arguably gives him greater qualification for the job of Chancellor than George Osborne in his early years in post, and it must be remembered that it was John McDonnell who advocated a ministry for the promotion of peace in all areas of life from “the playground to the Government” (“a united government approach to reduce conflict in society and specifically to promote conflict resolution”).
In 2003 he introduced a Ten Minute Bill to set up such a Ministry, which passed unopposed on 14th October but (as is almost always the case with Private Members’ Bills) was unable to go through all its parliamentary stages before the end of the session in November. The other cross-party sponsors of the bill were Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru), Alex Salmond (SNP), John Randall (Conservative) plus three Labour colleagues: Jeremy Corbyn, Rudi Vis and Alan Simpson.
Simon Hughes (Lib Dem) and Gary Streeter (Conservative) were also moved to work with John McDonnell to set up the All-Party Parlimentary Group on Conflict Issues in September 2006. This provides a forum for dialogue between Parliamentarians, the Government and civil society on alternative methods of preventing and resolving violent conflict on the basis on expert information and opinion from across the political spectrum.
The sort of politician we need in high office in fact.
We have now finished sewing together into blankets (a pile of which can be seen on our website: http://www.wdc-cnd.org.uk/Photos/photo15.html) all the pieces of the great pink peace scarf which we brought back from the demonstrations at Aldermaston and the MoD. With the aid of the group Calais Action they have now been sent off to help warm the refugees stranded at Calais: a job well done!
We in Wimbledon made a contribution to a global series of vigils on the eve of the opening of the UN’s General Assembly session on Thursday 24th September. The 193 member governments are expected to approve the new set of Sustainable Development Goals, drawn up by an international panel co-chaired by David Cameron. The first speech this year was given by Pope Francis and our Vigil placards highlighted what are known to be his priorities: “May world leaders at the UN General Assembly put those living in poverty and the good of creation at the heart of their decisions”. Our photos will be added to those circulating the world on Twitter, starting with New Zealand, and can be viewed on http://twitrpix.com/dd5ya. The organisation behind these vigils (http://www.ourvoices.net) “brings faith to the climate talks” — faith in human capacity to make a better world, given the will to work together whatever our differences.
Ai Wei Wei, whose exhibition opened at the Royal Academy on 19th September, isn’t the only artist who is equally an activist. Carl McCrow’s exhibition at the South Bank’s Oxo Gallery drew crowds from 20th August to 6th September, with free admission but an opportunity to support his charity. For a £5 donation, another gun — probably an AK47 rifle — is removed from military service and transformed into a work of art.
As a younger man, McCrow was fascinated by guns and weaponry. A catastrophic injury to a friend serving in Afghanistan raised questions about morality and the ability of one person to make a difference. The object inspired by that incident is a zebra-striped AK47 mounted upright and barcoded Fragile. The accompanying text says it juxtaposes the fragility of Man and Weapons: the soldier lost both legs and an arm in the explosion, the weapon was barely scratched. But his message is not that humanity is fragile — Commando Matt Webb is standing again, and inspiration to those who hear his story. The weapon has been decommissioned and destroyed. Other exhibits express McCrow’s anger about the waste of military spending, the use of children as soldiers and the illegal trade in endangered animals.
His materials are taken directly from fields of conflict and decommissioned in this country. Along with the many AK47 rifles are thousands of spent bullets used to create images as unlikely as the Mona Lisa. This juxtaposes Renaissance art and the military-industrial complex, $1·8 trillion on military spending. The Mona Lisa asks “How will this society be remembered 500 years from now?”
Take a look at his website for some examples of his work and details of his charity: http://www.mccrowart.com/
That was the title of Clare Short’s Erskine Childers Lecture to a packed hall on 23 September, organised by Uniting for Peace. Her main message — communicated in terms that left no doubt of her awareness of crises and obstacles — was optimistic. The foundation document, the UN Charter, has the same basic values, aims and objectives we would choose today: peace, social justice including gender equality, tolerance and freedom. The task for our generation is to implement them.
There is still massive support for the UN worldwide, even in the United States where the media is so hostile. When polled, most people agree it is “a good thing”. Where the UN is criticised, above all, is for the failure of its Security Council to prevent conflicts and to end those that occur. And the fundamental reason for that failure, as everyone is aware, is the Veto Power given to the five unrepresentative states regarded as the key allies in winning World War II.
There are, as Clare Short said repeatedly in question time, many proposed reforms for the Security Council contributed over many years. The “Catch 22” is that they require a unanimous vote of those five permanent members and they prefer the status quo to a lesser status for themselves.
Clare Short says we should love and strengthen the UN, reinforcing the parts that work: development, humanitarian relief and support for democratisation. We cannot achieve our ends by military power and violence. Previous generations have achieved progress and so can we. Her lecture should be up on the Uniting for Peace website before long: http://www.unitingforpeace.com/.