This short piece is partly a legacy of my mother’s thoughts. In our discussions of peace issues she emphasised and reminded me of the great and primary importance of psychology. I do a lot of thinking about the issues and I think it’s important to reach to the deepest centre of the ‘deterrence’ issue. A proportion of the public keep raising the question.
So, imagine yourself as a visitor to Planet Earth, from space. Take time to think of humankind as a whole, as one species of life.
How likely do you think it is that the psychological characteristics of Leaders will be completely different in some areas of the Planet from those in other areas?
If we agree that these psychological characteristics are the same in all areas of the planet, either deterrence is not needed because all leaders are rational, cautious and pose no threat, or deterrence is impossible because all leaders are reckless and unaffected by threats or risks of any kind.
The theory of deterrence relies on leaders being rational, but not all world leaders have been rational. It also takes extraordinary, unrealistic optimism to think that no irrational leader will ever arise in the future. So don’t we need something better than deterrence?
Edwin, our champion leafletter, excelled himself in the weeks before the February 27th demonstration, travelling several times up to CND head office to collect as many boxes of leaflets as he could carry. He reckons that in all he must have distributed over eight thousand of the colourful cards which publicised the demo. He not only took part in all the local leafletting sessions which WDC/CND had organised but took himself and his striking yellow placard (“Let’s work for world peace”) to leaflet the crowds of Central London; Westminster Bridge proved to be fertile campaigning ground and he put in the hours at Notting Hill Gate, Euston, Knightsbridge, Piccadilly, Marble Arch and Hampton Court. Who knows what percentage of the ‘takers’ actually went on the march? But we can reasonably hope the there are several thousand people now thinking about Trident a little differently.
Edwin says “It’s enjoyable meeting most of the public but cold, wet and windy weather, station staff or police can be challenging at times...” Well done Edwin!
It was inspiring to see the line-up of politicians at the front of the march with their new banner “MPs against Trident” showing the logo of the Palace of Westminster. Nicola Sturgeon (Scots Nat), Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) and Caroline Lucas (Green) all marched with CND’s Kate Hudson, supported by their colleagues. Speakers on the platform in Trafalgar Square included Vanessa Redgrave, Giles Fraser, trade union leaders, the Bishop of Chelmsford, a student nurse and (most memorably) the Israeli peace activist Sharon Dolev who said that in her country it would be an achievement to get 300 anti-nuclear protesters on the street. But most people had come to hear the politicians, all of whom gave barnstorming speeches — and finally Jeremy Corbyn, who did not arrive from Yorkshire until the very end of the rally and was greeted with the most rapturous reception by a crowd which had by then waited in the cold for several hours. A link to a video of this speech can be viewed on http://www.wdc-cnd.org.uk/Photos/photo16.html along with photos of the march.
This new play by Sarah Woods is the result of a year of interviews with people who were alive in Britain at the time the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, depicting the response in the UK and the rise of the anti-nuclear movement. Pairs of empty shoes on stage represent protest marches and the script was developed from the words of the participants themselves. The London Bubble Community Company presents performances from 4–13 March at ticket prices of £10/£12/£14, at the venue of Dilston Grove in Southwark Park (entrance inside the park).
Visit http://www.londonbubble.org.uk/page/after-hiroshima-performances to book, or ring 020 7237 4434.
You wouldn’t know it from the British media, but important UN multilateral talks on nuclear disarmament opened in Geneva on February 22nd: the first meeting of the new ‘Open Ended Working Group’ established by the UN General Assembly last October to explore the legal gaps governing nuclear weapons under international law and to come up with proposals to fill those gaps. Membership is open to all 193 UN member states, and its decision-making is intended to take account of the views of all who choose to participate but does not give a veto to any of them.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the proceedings by declaring that the status quo of disarmament inaction is unacceptable and unsustainable. “The [working group] should aim to galvanise international public opinion and, I sincerely hope, break through the paralysis which has characterised and stymied the debate on nuclear disarmament in recent decades,” he said.
“As thousands gather to demonstrate in London against Trident,” writes ICAN’s† Rebecca Johnson, “the Conservative Government insists that it supports nuclear disarmament — with the proviso that it has to be multilateral not unilateral. So why has it refused to participate?”
† International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
The Chair of the multilateral talks made sure that the UK — along with all UN member states — was invited and kept informed. Hilary Benn, the Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary, asked in January whether the UK was at the organisational meeting for this UN Working Group. According to Hansard, the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, replied that the UK did not attend because it believed that “productive results can only be ensured through a consensus-based approach that takes into account the wider global security environment.”
As Rebecca explains: “consensus-based approach” is “diplomatic code for talks under rules of procedure that give some or all of the participating states a veto on anything they don’t like, from the agenda onwards.... This has proved to be the kiss of death on disarmament issues, as it leads to decades of deadlock.... Hammond’s argument... is especially hypocritical since the UK has been vocal in its criticisms of Pakistan and others for blocking the consensus-based Conference on Disarmament for the past twenty years. Moreover the UK was at the forefront of advocating a UN-based ‘open to all and blockable by none’ forum to achieve the 2014 Arms Trade Treaty... but when it comes to nuclear weapons the UK still wants to have its veto.”
There are many legal and diplomatic ways of approaching the problem of nuclear disarmament and Rebecca Johnson’s paper summarises some of them.
The Ambassador of the Republic of Ireland put it best: “We live in a world where everything is interlinked and we are all part of a global village. In such a world multilateralism comes to the fore... in such a world, questions of security impact us all. In such a world the safety, security and existence of all humanity are at stake. And in such a world there is no place for nuclear weapons.”
On Sunday evening March 13th, Dr David Cotton, who spoke at the Sustainable Merton AGM, is coming to speak at Wimbledon Congregational Church SW19 3QH. This will be one of our Sunday evening sessions. We begin at 6pm with a short reading and a prayer and then we will interview Dr Cotton and hopefully give him a chance to speak a bit more about the research that went into his book.
Columnist Zoe Williams published a brilliant article in the wake of the Trident demo entitled “The real dinosaurs? Those still lobbying to keep Trident” (Guardian 29/2/2016).
“While new blood revives the anti-nuclear campaign, its opponents’ arguments have become obsolete,” she writes. “There were disturbing new elements to the demonstration [i.e. disturbing to those who like to portray the anti-nuclear campaign as nostalgic and irrelevant]. First, the presence of a stack of people who weren’t born in the 1980s, making arguments that didn’t exist at that time.... Second, the sight of Nicola Sturgeon, a walking, talking contradiction of the maxim that Trident is electorally essential”. And “Finally there is the fact that the demonstration happened at all: we gave up protesting nuclear proliferation because the norm was too well-defended.... concentrate on the fights you might win. Have a climate march instead....
“Some of the new energy comes from the injection of new blood... [and] there is also the fact that the marginalisation of this issue relied on the deliberate misrepresentation of the implications of opposing Trident. This was, and continues to be, portrayed as a value of the hard-left... in reality of course it is a legitimate moral and philosophical position to say that the threat to life contained within this weaponry is too great to be justified by the interests of any nation or any ideology.
“Fundamental changes are driving the revival of this movement... the context that built the pro-nuclear argument no longer exists... our enemies — at least if we believe the rhetoric of our own head of state — are death cults, to whom the possibility of a nuclear attack would be not so much a deterrent as an incentive.
“We have a different understanding of the planet now... as soon as you start to consider the global consequences [of a nuclear attack] any hostile nuclear event — anywhere — is a tragedy for all of us.
“The current economic climate exposes the expense of Trident to ridicule.... Does a nation really need international status as a potential bringer of Armageddon more than it needs to educate its citizens?
“The Trident lobbyists may get new arguments — ‘what about the jobs?’ — as though this awesomely expensive build-up of destructive power were really just a useful labour market lever. But their old lines have stopped working.
“The world changed and they didn’t... they are the dreamers, living with yesterday’s truths.”
The Wimbledon & Merton Amnesty Group held its first meeting on 29th February, now one of over 200 local groups in the UK. The programme will be varied, with work on individual cases and thematic campaigns. Amnesty International UK is about to start a new campaign on migration and refugees, for example. There will also be opportunities for members of the public to sign letters or postcards, or to write their own letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience. For further information contact the group Secretary, Sarah Lambert: email email@example.com
Please book the date for this important fund-raiser and social event — and note that it is in the afternoon this year. We rely on the Fête for the majority of our annual income and it is always a happy and inclusive occasion: hard work but enjoyed by all (especially when the sun shines).
We need as many helpers as we can get. There are jobs for all and tasks suited to all abilities and fitness levels. For heavy lifting and transport we rely on a few stalwarts, but people with artistic flair can help arrange goods on stalls, people with natural charm can interact with the general public, people who are clear-headed with money can assist those stall holders who struggle with loose change, more retiring types can make themselves useful in the kitchen... Please volunteer when you get that phone call!
And even if you can’t make the date on May 21st, we need your donations of plants, books, bric-à-brac, toiletries, jewellery, cakes, jams: anything saleable as long as it is not too big. Remember the Fête when you do your spring cleaning.
Not doing spring cleaning? No clutter in your house? Perhaps you could give us something for the raffle or tombola? Bring all donations to 43 Wilton Grove SW19 3QU. (Phone 020 8543 0362 to make sure I am in.)
As well as raising funds for our campaign, the Fête provides WDC/CND with valuable local publicity, generating much goodwill amongst the wider community. Spread the word!