COMMENT by Rodney Kay-Kreizman

Greenham Common Peace Fighters

These courageous women carried out an important fight against the UK’s being de facto an offshore Nuclear Bomb Base and a target for Russian nuclear MISSILES as a result. UK Foreign policy was so mistaken and directly against the real interests of the UK people generally.

The women publicised the fact that the USAF had nuclear bombers loaded and armed in the air 24 hrs a day and accidents were bound to happen... and that this was a very dangerous situation for a population ignorant of their own government’s policy that endangered us all so directly.

The Greenham Common women won the long term battles making the purpose and real roles of these bases very public... the bases were mostly closed. The women also made the question of a Nuclear Defence policy an issue... and in spite of the problem now being offshore in Submarines, it’s still the case that without the Greenham Common battles public knowledge and debate over Nuclear arms in general would not have taken place.

Finally they made the whole question of Nuclear fissile material a public issue. Subsequent accidents like the Chernobyl explosion and contamination and of course the Fukushima Nuclear accident have also endorsed these prescient fears.

Well done all the brave courageous women fighters for peace and the environment! You showed tenacity and fought and won a hard struggle for both the people and the planet earth. Venceremos! Viva Viva Viva...

Common Women: March 9th

For some time now Alison Williams has been putting together a cast to read through the original play “Common Women” by Jill Truman (herself a former Greenham Woman) and on March 9th it is all happening — 7·30pm at William Morris House (the Labour Halls), 267 The Broadway SW19 1SD. We have some very talented volunteers but the cast is huge and there are plenty of smaller roles, and parts for men too (police, soldiers etc.)

This is a read-through, not a rehearsed performance, but non-actors are welcome just to come and listen. It is a good script and many of us still have vivid memories of the era, so it should be fun.

Alison would find it very helpful if anyone planning to take part could contact her in advance. Downloadable scripts are available and limited numbers in hard copy can be obtained from 020 8944 0574.

Public meeting on Ban Treaty

I went to a hastily arranged public meeting in Friends House on January 4th, timed to coincide with a brief visit to the UK by Tim Wallis (author of “Truth about Trident”) now relocated to the USA. The meeting was chaired by Bruce Kent and discussion was led by Kate Hudson, Tim Wallis, Janet Fenton (Scottish CND), Rebecca Johnson (ICAN) and new Christian CND Development Manager Russell Whiting: how to bring nuclear weapons states into the Ban Treaty?

Both Kate and Tim felt that it was becoming difficult to get parliamentarians to focus on nuclear weapons in domestic climates dominated respectively by Brexit (UK) and Trump (USA), but Fabian Hamilton (Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament) was present for the Nobel ceremony in Oslo. Jeremy Corbyn says he “backs the principles” of the Ban Treaty (although he is probably not going to challenge the status quo) and the Lib Dems show signs of supporting the Ban Treaty. “Popular mobilisation is the only way of achieving political change” and the Ban Treaty is inseparable from the question of Trident. Tim Wallis said that while no politician has come out in support in the USA (or even congratulated ICAN on winning the Nobel Prize) there are beginnings of grass roots efforts to campaign, centred on consumer boycotts, enabling Americans to comply with the Treaty as individuals.

Rebecca Johnson (ICAN) conveyed something of the excitement of winning the Nobel Prize — a never-expected bonus after the tremendous achievement of the UN Treaty in July. There she was in Oslo, sitting with the Crown Prince at the Nobel Prize banquet — while the UK ambassador was forced by the UK government to boycott the proceedings. Those of us who remember Rebecca as a teenager at Greenham can pardon her understandable triumphalism. Now it is a matter of how we can use the new Ban Treaty to “reframe the debate”, and in practical terms the Nobel Prize means that ICAN will not have to cut staff. They have two years of core funding and want to “hit the ground running in 2018” giving themselves “1000 days to bring the Treaty into force”.

Report by Joanna

When the Wind Blows

Many of us still cherish our original copies of Raymond Briggs’ superb graphic novel, the touching story of James and Hilda Bloggs, the elderly couple who stoically follow the advice in the government’s “Protect and Survive” leaflet of the 1970s — although it becomes clear that all is not going according to plan.... On January 29th the BFI launched a new dual-format (Blu-ray and DVD) edition of the 1986 animation with the voices of Sir John Mills and Dame Peggy Ashcroft, an original soundtrack by Roger Waters, a title song by David Bowie and dialogue adapted by Raymond Briggs himself.

The price of £14·99 also includes

According to BFI publicity, “this beautiful, at times comically touching, film persuasively makes the case against nuclear arms”. We laugh as Jim and Hilda paint their windows white, build a fortress of doors and pillows, take the washing in and put away two packets of ginger nuts, one tin of pineapple chunks and a good supply of tea. But only recently there was a false early warning of a nuclear attack against Hawaii which sent the population scurrying for shelter in basements and large public buildings, a reaction which was reminiscent of the infamous “duck and cover” US civil defence drills of the Cold War.

Nuclear reality needs to be spelled out. The smallest modern nuclear warhead has the explosive power of six Hiroshima bombs. A single modern 100-kiloton nuclear warhead can produce temperatures of tens of millions of degrees Centigrade. At a distance of 2km the blast is still sufficient to bring down buildings and at 4km the heat generated is still intense enough to cause paper to catch fire spontaneously. But above all, it is the horrible and long-lasting effects of ionising radiation that set nuclear weapons apart. They are not just big bombs.

The biggest danger of our failure to disarm is the danger of technical accident or human stupidity, and the Hawaii incident was a much-needed sobering reminder of our fallibility.

Peace Sunday

January 14th is Peace Sunday in the Catholic Church when an annual collection is held in aid of the Catholic Movement for Peace, Pax Christi: “their vision is a world where people can live in peace without fear of violence in all its forms”. Although the theme this year was “Migrants and Refugees — Seekers of Peace”, Alison managed to get permission to set up a table after Mass, distribute copies of the Pope’s very strong anti-nuclear statement and collect signatures on the Nuclear Ban petition (“Citizens’ Treaty against nuclear weapons”).

Alison and I went up and down Edge Hill like yo-yos all day, collecting only about 40 signatures in total but making our point quietly and persistently, and being received with friendly sympathy by the clergy and other members of the parish pastoral team.

Report by Joanna

Groups Challenge

Last year we signed up to national CND’s “Groups Challenge” and we are pleased to be told that we fulfilled all the criteria before the deadline at the start of December, collecting more than 600 signatures on the Trident petition, holding various public events, engaging with other organisations and speaking to our M.P. (Most of these things we would have been doing anyway, but we did work extra hard at the petition.)

Our reward is for CND to arrange a “high profile event” in our area with “well-known speakers and media support”, and we await news of what form this will take. In addition, we are offered a free workshop for our members on a subject of our own choice, so we shall need to give this some thought. Our Steering Group will be discussing possibilities in committee but it would be interesting to hear what some of the rest of you would find most interesting, or helpful.

Suggestions so far include:

Any other ideas? Please get in touch with what would interest you and we will fix a date for after the Fête of the Earth.

Living in Interesting Times

London Region CND’s Annual Meeting on January 13th was followed by a stimulating conference hosted by the SOAS Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and it was very heartening to see a goodly proportion of students among the packed audience. A live link with Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the “Answer Coalition”† was unfortunately so beset with technical problems that it was not possible to grasp more than a fraction of what he had to say about campaigning in the USA. Nevertheless it is encouraging to hear that there is lively and informed internal opposition to President Trump. America remains very divided but Donald Trump’s “base has narrowed”.

† set up three days after the bombing of the World Trade Center, now with more than 30 branches across the USA

The Costa Rican Ambassador spoke of his country’s “vital leadership rôle” in steering the Ban Treaty through the UN, but warned that “our struggles are just beginning” when it comes to the implementation of the treaty; there is a “powerful minority against the treaty” and this will be a “long-term fight”. Labour M.P. Catherine West revealed that she has a SOAS Masters in Chinese Studies and is a speaker of Mandarin. She spoke about the All-Party groups on North and South Korea, regretting the general “dearth of knowledge and information” in the current world, and the “new problems and challenges presented by the election of Donald Trump” — “the world stands at a crossroads”, and a war in the Korean peninsula is not winnable.

The afternoon sessions were led by Sami Ramadini of the Iraqi Democrats, who steered us through some of the complexities of the situation in the Middle East. The defeat of Daesh and increase in democracy gives “scope for hope” but also presents dangers because of US reluctance to accept realities on the ground. Defeating the various warring factions is all tied up in the US mind with control of oil. Kim Sharif (Human Rights for Yemen) passionately denounced Saudi Arabia’s “war of aggression” against Yemen.

The final plenary (“Action for Change”) focused on campaigning priorities. Molly Scott Cato (Green MEP for the Southwest) quoted from her own recently commissioned “Devon Ploughshares” report which examines how engineering jobs at Devonport could be converted into something much more socially useful, in particular into renewables; unions are “stuck in the past with the old industries”.

“Why waste billions on international suicide?” said Bruce Kent, reminding us that “attitudes change” and encouraging us to wear a badge, put a poster in the window etc. (“Identify who you are and what you stand for.”) The July 7th treaty was an amazing step forward and this is a very positive moment for nuclear disarmament: “the opportunity is there in front of us”.

Report by Joanna

Fête of the Earth

This year the Fête of the Earth coincides with the Royal Wedding: May 19th is the date and it is at least easy to remember! If you are not planning to swell the crowds in Windsor, please make a point of being in St Mark’s Hall, Compton Road (behind Wimbledon Library), for our big annual fundraiser and social event. We have applied for a Temporary Entertainment Notice (licence) so that we are able to freely advertise live music and any other entertainment/sideshows that we can muster, and we shall be on the lookout for talent. Please get in touch if your environmental/humanitarian organisation would like a (free) stall or if you have contacts with entertainment skills.

Above all, start collecting goods for the stalls — plants, books, bric-à-brac, home produce, fancy goods, jewellery, tombola and raffle prizes — which can be delivered to 43 Wilton Grove in advance (020 8543 0362 to arrange a time). We shall need help with transport, as always, so even if you cannot make it on the day, perhaps you could volunteer to collect and deliver contributions in advance? We shall be contacting stall-holders in the next few weeks, and publicity starts now!

Dorothy Toohill

Long-standing members will remember Dorothy Toohill who died following complications after a fall just after Christmas; several of us attended her funeral at Sacred Heart on February 2nd. Dorothy was a shadow of her former self when she died (although still retaining her very sweet smile) but we like to remember the enthusiasm and zest for life that she brought to our campaigning in the 1980s and 90s.