COMMENT by Noel Hamel

Jim McCluskey writes quite correctly about the illegality of mass killing of civilians by nuclear weapons which are effectively several weapons rolled into one. They are devastating explosives and chemical weapons which kill and maim. Survivors suffer physical and internal damage that causes lifetime disabilities as well as genetic damage that cascades down generations. The fallout and radiation contamination endures and continues to poison the atmosphere and environment for an unforeseeable time.

The military are fond of claiming nuclear weapons aren’t a weapon of war but a ‘political’ weapon with states claiming influence and superiority through possession, as well as security and defence. Actually they are only a weapon of aggression and the element of defence lies only in a deferred threat of use. The military aren’t inclined to use nuclear weapons since use would only precipitate total devastation and unwinnable war. Possession of them would, in the event of nuclear war, only ensure you would be among the first to be erased; in competition with nuclear superpowers with 7,000 apiece there would be no contest. So much for keeping the UK secure and defended.

But whilst we justifiably condemn nuclear weapons for the threat to civilians (they really have no other purpose) we may overlook the many and varied ‘conventional’ weapons. Many more Japanese civilians were killed by carpet bombing and fire bombing than died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in the 21st century the ‘smart’ weapons, claimed to enable pin-point accuracy ‘avoiding collateral damage’, have been used by various militaries to target civilian infrastructure, schools, hospitals, wedding parties and children’s buses.

As some bright spark once said in defence of US gun ownership: it isn’t the weapons that kill, it’s the human hands behind them.

The Architecture of Occupation

Merton Palestine Solidarity Campaign are hosting a talk by Abe Hayeem on 3rd October, discussing how architecture is used to alter and define the geography of East Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories, making civilian habitation suit a nationalistic military agenda. He is a founder member of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine. William Morris Halls, 7·30pm.

Louise Alder song recital

Louise Alder is a very lovely young lyric soprano, born and brought up in Merton Park. She won Best Young Singer and the International Opera Awards 2017 and also picked up prizes at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. On 11th October Louise will appear in aid of Musicians for Peace and Disarmament at St Peter’s Church in Earl’s Court. She will be accompanied on piano by the world-renowned Roger Vignoles in a programme covering Schumann, R. Strauss and Britten as well as songs by Fauré, Bizet and Liszt. This promises to be a fantastic concert and in aid of a cause I am sure we should all wish to support.

Programme: Thursday 11th October, 7·30pm at St Philip’s Church, Earl’s Court Road, London W8 6QH. Tickets £15/£10. All seats are unreserved. Book online at or pay cash on the door.

Helen Jones

It is with much sadness that we report the death of Helen Jones, a lifelong, dedicated activist for peace and social justice. Helen was a member of CND since its formation and was one of the founders of Wimbledon Disarmament Campaign/CND in the cruise missile crisis of the 1980s, which saw a revival of CND activity everywhere.

Remembrance Day 2018

2018 marks the hundredth anniversary of the end of WW1, the war which was supposed to end all wars, and Caroline Lucas is going to be giving the annual Remembrance Day Lecture organised by the Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW). Her talk, “Active Remembrance and Waging Peace Together”, will take place at 2pm Saturday, 3rd November at St John’s Waterloo, Waterloo Rd, London, SE1 8TY (note change of venue from previous years).

Caroline Lucas has been the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion since 2010. She is well known as a campaigner and writer on green issues including economics, trade justice, animal welfare and food. She is a wonderful speaker and this should be an inspiring talk and well worth attending.

Previous speakers have included Sir Joseph Rotblat, physicist and peace campaigner, Professor Paul Rogers, and Philippe Sands QC.

Ruth Crabb

The Nuclear Ban Treaty and NATO

In 2017 two member states of the European Union, Ireland and Austria, were prominent in the initiative to negotiate a landmark treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons under international law (the ‘Ban Treaty’), and Sweden, Malta and Cyprus voted in favour at the UN. However, the European NATO states (with the exception of the Netherlands) were not only against the introduction of the Ban Treaty but chose to boycott the negotiations altogether. Since the Ban Treaty undermines and delegitimises the principle of nuclear deterrence, states which either possess nuclear weapons or rely on the protection of a nuclear-armed ally are understandably hostile towards it.

However, since the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons has now been signed by sixty states worldwide, there is no further point in arguing against its existence. Talking down the treaty and attempting to pressurise other states not to ratify it will not make it go away, but will only serve to increase the existing faultlines at the 2020 Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference. The adoption of the Ban Treaty constitutes a good-faith effort towards finally implementing the terms of the NPT; those who are currently decrying it as a threat to the very foundations of multilateral nuclear disarmament are forgetting that the NPT they now hold so sacred was condemned equally as “irresponsible” when first proposed.

NATO’s founding treaty makes no mention of nuclear weapons, and its central Strategic Concept commits members to “create the conditions for a nuclear-free world”, so there is no reason why individual NATO states should not be able to join the Ban Treaty. Precedent exists in the case of bans on landmines and cluster bombs, adopted much sooner by some countries than others; after initial opposition, NATO accommodated the individual wishes of its members. It is possible that the Trump administration may openly go ahead with the development of a more ‘usable’ nuclear warhead, and likely that not all NATO members will want to support this doctrine. It would be possible to permit opt-outs for individual members without challenging NATO’s existing status as a nuclear alliance. Blanket opposition to the Ban Treaty risks making nuclear weapons a divisive issue within NATO.

Original article by Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm:

The Nuclear Ban Treaty: progress so far

It’s over a year now since 122 nations agreed the text of a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. It was opened for signature in September 2017 and will come into force when 50 nations have ratified it.

So far only 60 nations have signed and just 14 have ratified. Those of us who rejoiced at the July 2017 agreed text and do our best to inform the public of its existence cannot but be disappointed at the snail’s pace of this movement.

Our impatience is natural but we can take heart from the fact that all but three of the 14 ratifications have come during this year.  It seems to take at least this long for states to get their acts together on such matters. The three exceptions were Guyana, the Holy See and Thailand who all signed and ratified on the same day, 20 September 2017.

Among the states which have ratified we find Austria, host and chair of the Humanitarian Impact Conference in 2014, Costa Rica, which has been demilitarised since 1948, and New Zealand, which has been nuclear-free since 1984 when the government — as its Deputy Prime Minister explained — had been forced to choose between a defence treaty with America “and a policy strongly supported by the New Zealand public”.

Our own country, like the other nuclear-armed states and most of those sheltering under their umbrella, refused to attend the Humanitarian Impact conferences in addition to those which negotiated the 2017 text. They cling to the theory, against all manner of rational argument, that possession of nuclear weapons keeps them safe. And they shamelessly defend the status quo established by the Non-Proliferation Treaty/NPT which allowed states already in possession of nuclear weapons to keep them on a temporary basis.

Effective diplomacy achieved agreement between Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the EU that Iran should comply with the NPT.  The United States has chosen to withdraw from that agreement against the wishes of the other parties, and in 2016 urged its partners to oppose the negotiation of the Ban Treaty.

I dream of a world where a British government will be proud to say the United Kingdom chooses the Nuclear Ban Treaty in spite of American objections because it is “strongly supported by the public”.

Alison Williams

The Plan that Came from the Bottom Up

Forty years ago, workers at Lucas Aerospace who were facing the sack came up with an ambitious strategy to redeploy their skills to meet the needs of the country instead of chasing military contracts. Now the story of those ground-breaking proposals and their relevance to our present crisis is retold in a new documentary, “The Plan that Came from the Bottom Up”, to be shown at this year’s London Film Festival.

The original Lucas Plan was drawn up as an Alternative Corporate Plan for Lucas Aerospace as a response to the management’s decision to ‘restructure’. The workforce were asked to come up with suggestions for making products which answered a social need and could be produced using existing skills and plant technology. The response was impressive to say the least and resulted in detailed plans being drawn up to produce medical equipment, including kidney dialysis machines, transport vehicles, improved braking systems and energy conservation.

The Lucas Plan in the 1970s was ultimately undermined by the government and corporate interests. Today in the changed atmosphere arising from the danger of climate change, the sheer wastefulness of nuclear weapons, the horror of wars being waged with weapons made in Britain and the new initiatives for peace coming from the Labour Party, the idea of arms conversion is now being taken more seriously. Trades unions who were quite understandably concerned about job losses have realised that producing for the needs of society will employ more people than producing for war.

There is now much wider support for an arms conversion policy, one that will use the creativity and skills of the workforce to produce goods and equipment that will benefit society in addition to safeguarding the jobs of those at present involved in arms production, and it is time to revisit the lessons of the past. The Lucas Aerospace documentary is billed as “an incisive account of our current and future economic situation” that draws the story into the present, reflecting on the consequences of capitalism on society.

Screenings: Sunday October 14th, 11·30am at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, SW1Y 5AH, and Wednesday October 17th, 1·45pm at BFI Southbank, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XT.

Maisie Carter and Harriet Bazley

A Bold Peace: Costa Rica’s Path of Demilitarisation

“In a country with no military, another way to live beckons to the world.” This film will be shown on Friday 26th October at 7·30pm at Wilberforce House, 119 Worple Road, London SW20 8ED.  It tells a true and inspiring story which is very little known.

“A Bold Peace” was directed by an American Professor of Sociology, Matthew Eddy, who was determined the story should be told. Costa Rica is a small country in the conflict-prone area of Central America whose government chose to demobilise its army and commit its resources to the welfare of its people.

Oscar Arias, former President of Costa Rica and winner of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize, sums up the simple basic message: “The money other countries spend on arms, here it’s spent on roads, on running water, on electricity, on hospitals and schools.”

The film tells the story of Costa Rica’s history from getting rid of its army in 1948 to surviving without one ever since despite great pressure from the Americans (during the Reagan/Nicaragua period in particular).  Clips of interviews with Oscar Arias appear throughout, and with Christiana Figueres whose father — José Figueres Ferrer — decided on the policy of demilitarisation and carried it through.

On 1 December 1948, following victory in a civil war that year, he introduced the abolition of the military in Article 12 of the country’s constitution.  A law-enforcement body is maintained for internal security.  There have been no more civil wars in Costa Rica and unlike some of its neighbours it does not have a defence agreement with any other country such as the United States.

It is an inspiring story because for many years the outcome was positive but the film does not omit the difficulties and challenges. The baleful impact of the Iraq War is there, and of globalisation. The inequalities of free-market capitalism are playing havoc with what was for years a successful welfare state in Costa Rica.

The story has great contemporary relevance, with lessons to be learned.  Do RSVP if you intend to come: admission is free and all are welcome but the venue is small.

Alison Williams

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