Annual Remembrance Lecture 2nd November 2019

The annual Remembrance Day lecture, organized by the Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW) and held at Bloomsbury Baptist Church, was given by Richard Reeve on the subject “Rethinking Security: How Britain can think Globally and Act Peacefully”.

He pointed out that our current ideas about security are predicated on, among other things, our special relationship with the USA, a desire to have the ability to strike anywhere in the world first and to ensure an uninterrupted supply of oil. Security is a common right and a shared responsibility.

Britain continues to have global influence. It is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it has the 5th biggest economy in the world, the 4th largest volume of international trade, 6th largest spender on arms, the 5th biggest exporter of arms and the 5th largest number of nuclear weapons. We still have overseas territories in each ocean which are mostly military bases.

Britain’s National Security Strategy (NSS) is reviewed every 5 years. The last National Security Review (NSR) was in 2015 and was summed up under the words Protect (the British population), Project (global influence via alliances) and Promote (prosperity through industry including the arms industry). In 2015 public responses to the document were limited to a tweet of 150 characters!

The main aim of the NSS is to be able to respond militarily and it is very short term. However, Reeves believes that there has been a change in thinking about security both in Parliament and the political parties since the last election. In his view, these are the ten ways that Britain could begin to work towards a more peaceful world:

  1. The NSS should rethink what our national interests really are and there should be proper consultation.
  2. The UK sees itself as an upholder of international law but it must uphold all international laws not just those that suit it.
  3. The government needs to be serious about climate change and take action.
  4. Enhance aid and development spending.
  5. The Foreign Office can use diplomacy for peace but has been run down.
  6. The military should be involved in more peace-keeping operations.
  7. The arms export policy should be reset: the revolving door between arms companies and the government should stop.
  8. Military spending should be cut. We spend 50% more than the European average.
  9. Nuclear weapons should be disarmed. Even small steps like not having them locked and loaded would help.
  10. A big change is needed in migration policy: it should stop being securitized.

Ruth Crabb

Remembrance Sunday in Wimbledon

Edwin Cluer and Alison Williams laid the wreath of red and white poppies at the Wimbledon memorial this year. Seeing all the boys in the various uniformed groups was uncomfortable for some of us though not all the organisations are military. We are glad that Merton Council and the Wimbledon Branch of the British Legion can accommodate our mix of poppies to remember the past and commit to working for a future without war.

After the official ceremony Kiloran Cavendish placed an additional card beside our wreath to remember all the animals killed in war. Numbers for our own service were depleted by illness but preamble to the United Nations Charter was read as usual: “We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war....” On that bright November Sunday we remembered those who could not be with us and re-dedicated ourselves to making the hopeful vision of 1945 a reality in our own time.

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Victoria Brittain On CND’s Global Danger Tour

The well-known journalist and author Victoria Brittain shared her analysis and experience of today’s Global Dangers at a meeting co-sponsored by WDC/CND and the Kingston Peace Council on October 29th. She placed nuclear weapons and climate change together at the top, then mass migration, resource scarcity and the use of information warfare to undermine democracy round the world. The new prevalence of fake news, complacent mass media and social media amplifying dangerous populism were also highlighted.

She put the nuclear issue in its historical context: 74 years ago, we feared we might be facing the end of the world. Now we’re used to it. For the peace movement today, that is the main challenge as we confront the nuclear danger — the older generations think it belongs to the past and the younger ones have other things to worry about. The 2019 doomsday clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is still at two minutes to midnight; it has never been closer. Their statement refers to “two simultaneous existential threats” — nuclear weapons and climate change — constituting “the new abnormal”.

She spoke of the “deep hypocrisy” of our government’s decision to renew Trident, spending billions of pounds, while our homeless die on the streets and deluded young men carry knives with fatal consequences.

We know, don’t we, that “most people want peace”? That is the message of Edwin Cluer’s board which we used on the leaflet of our Art for Peace exhibition on 16th November. Those of us who actively support organisations working for peace represent the tip of the iceberg. Victoria Brittain’s main message was that — younger and older — we need to be more audible and more visible to change the direction of our time.

Alison Williams

The Art Of Peace Exhibition

Thanks to great teamwork, our Art of Peace exhbition at Wimbledon Library on November 16th was a tremendous success. Particular thanks are due to Gill, Dave, Pat, Isabelle and Edwin for all the preparation they did in advance to ensure all the work could be displayed in the short time available before the opening. Many group members assisted with hanging exhibits, preparing tea and cakes, selling cards and jewellery and talking to visitors to the exhibition. Many, many thanks to you all — we couldn’t have done it without you.

Edwin Cluer’s placards were on display. Of particular interest was the one kicked into several pieces by a passer-by who did not agree with the message “Global Peace is Possible and Necessary for Long-term World Security”! There were several wonderful hand-sewn banners, loaned or donated by supporters, and a section of pink knitted scarf forming a reminder of our contribution to the Wool Against Weapons Campaign of 2014. A bonus was that Edwin and Gill were interviewed by a presenter from local radio station Riverside which is streamed from 11pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays:

If you were unable to get to the Exhibition, you can see some photos online at

Make Trident Impossible to Ignore in the General Election

The message from National CND is that Trident and nuclear weapons must not be swept under the carpet during this General Election campaign. This is a key moment for CND groups, members and supporters to raise the question of nuclear disarmament with their potential MPs, to make sure all candidates know that their views on nuclear disarmament can and will affect voter choices, and that stopping Trident is a vote winner!

Let candidates know that it’s time for the UK to play a positive role in the international community. Instead of clinging onto our weapons of mass destruction we should join the global majority that chooses not to have nuclear weapons. We need to sign up to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and end successive government policies that put us all at risk.

Please contact your local candidates in whatever way you can — email, letter, phone, in person — to establish where they stand on nuclear weapons. In Wimbledon, in alphabetical order, these are: Paul Campbell (Brexit Party), Stephen Hammond (Conservative), Paul Kohler (Liberal Democrat) and Jackie Schneider (Labour).

If you have access to the Internet, please visit CND’s website for a link to their Lobby Tool,, which will allow you to easily send an email to the candidates.

No to Trump — No to Nato

On the 3rd and 4th of December, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) will mark its 70th anniversary with a Heads of State Summit in London. This will be a crucial opportunity for our movement to oppose Trump’s nuclear warmongering and highlight the dangerous role NATO, as a nuclear alliance, plays in raising international tensions.

CND is working with British and international partners to co-ordinate protests in London. We assemble on Tuesday, December 3rd at 5pm in Trafalgar Square for music and speeches before marching to Buckingham Palace, where the Queen is hosting a reception for the heads of state.

“This Evil Thing”

A large group of us recently went to see “This Evil Thing”, a one man show written and performed by Michael Mears about the conscientious objectors of WW1 using verbatim testimonies from the period.

Mears very ably skipped between characters using a minimum of stage props and costumes. Wooden boxes stood in for towers, prisons and trenches amongst other things and a change of jacket and accent indicated another character. He told the story of both the common man, in this case Bert Brocklesby, and of those like Bertrand Russell who were too old to fight but believed it wrong to kill another human being and worked hard to support those men who refused to join up.

Mears paid tribute to Brocklesby, who was an absolutist, which meant that not only did he refuse to fight, but he also refused to do any work that supported the war effort in any way e.g. peel potatoes for officers. Absolutists were particularly harshly dealt with and Brocklesbury was starved, tortured and almost shot for being true to his conscience. Altogether there were some 16,000 conchies, some of whom died or lost their sanity due to the appalling treatment that they received.

Throughout the play Mears interspersed the historical re-enactment with his own self questioning, even asking what he would have done if he’d been born at that time. Both his father and grandfather served in the World Wars and he does not know where his own conscientious objection came from. The show played to a packed theatre, and it was good to see this moving and important part of our common history reaching a wider audience.

Ruth Crabb

What Hope For Palestine?

As well as hosting monthly meetings with speakers who have first-hand knowledge of conditions in Palestine, the Merton branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign helps raise funds to support people and projects to keep hope alive there.

On 6th November Jonathan Chadwick spoke about Az Theatre London’s collaboration with the Theatre of Everything in Gaza. The primary aim of the London group is to raise funds to allow the group in Gaza to keep going, and teenagers from both groups skype one another. Jonathan’s impression is that Israel and the world are changing and the young especially offer grounds for hope.

On 18th November the film “Balls, Barriers and Bulldozers” was shown, telling the story of women football teams from Leeds and Bristol playing Palestinian girls’ teams in Hebron, Ramallah and Bethlehem. The visitors had a taste of life under military occupation, and funds have now been raised to bring a team of Palestinian girls to the UK. They will come to the William Morris rooms for a reception at 4·30 on 24th November. Merton PSC also support Medical Aid for Palestine/MAP, which trains surgeons and assists with rehabilitation of the many young men severely injured in the Friday March of Return demonstrations.

I think the most hopeful of the meetings on Palestine in recent weeks was when Rosemary Hollis spoke at the Kingston Quaker Centre on her recent book based on work with groups of young Israeli and Palestinian graduates, some studying in London and others who had never left their homeland. The lessons learned were encouraging — through dialogue minds changed from black/white thinking to an appreciation of complexity. In this era of Patriot v. Globalist, to have growing numbers of the latter is good news.

Alison Williams

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