A Tribute to Bruce Kent

WDC/CND members were devastated to learn of the sudden death of Bruce Kent, for many years the leader of the peace movement in Britain. Bruce became General Secretary of the newly resuscitated CND in the early 1980s. Since then, he has been in the leadership of the peace movement not only in Britain but also across the world. He was also a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Bruce was well-known to many WDC/CND members and he never turned down an invitation to support our activities. Among the events he attended was a fundraising auction in 2016, where he was the main speaker and auctioneer, raising £2,400. This was donated by the local group to national CND.

The last event that Bruce spoke at was the sad occasion of Joanna Bazley’s memorial in 2018, at which he honoured and enthusiastically praised our indefatigable secretary and leader of Wimbledon’s CND branch.

Nothing was ever too much trouble for Bruce; he would attend smaller meetings with members of the local group, including Muriel Wood’s funeral. He was always inclusive, not blinking an eye when she was described as having had a lifelong scientific outlook on the world and adamantly refused to have any religious beliefs!

I can also remember when, during the 1980s, two members of our local CND group, Jenny Dewane and Helen Jones, organised a public meeting in Wimbledon Town Hall (long before it became Tesco’s!) Bruce spoke to a full house on behalf of CND and made a passionate speech about the need to ban nuclear weapons.

Many of us have fond memories of meeting Bruce, and will never forget his charisma, sparkling wit, sense of humour, and the great warmth with which he embraced everyone he met. I feel honoured to have chaired two of the events that Bruce spoke at recently in Wimbledon, continuing his dedicated mission even into his late 80s. I will not forget him, and he will be forever remembered in Wimbledon as a charismatic leader, and passionate advocate of nuclear disarmament and peace. We send heartfelt condolences to his wife Valerie, and pledge to continue his work for peace. He has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to all of us.

Maisie Carter and long-time supporter Dr Bob Murphy

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Day 2022

This year is the 77th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Please join us on Saturday 6 August 2022 at 8·30pm at Rushmere pond on Wimbledon Common (near the War Memorial) for a ceremony of poetry and quiet reflection. This year, due to the tinder-dry grass on the common and the risk of an accidental fire, we have a change to our usual procedure of launching symbolic lighted boats in the Japanese tradition. Please bring a torch or use the torch on your mobile phone, and we will then form a solemn procession around the pond.

For those who have time and opportunity, this year, London CND’s annual commemoration will happen in-person in Tavistock Square: see https://www.londoncnd.org/

And at the Sidmouth Folk Festival, the traditional Remember Hiroshima event will take place on 5th August. This was instigated by our members Maisie Carter and Helen Jones over forty years ago, and it’s heartening to see that it continues to be included as part of the official Folk Week programme.

Peace Table at the Carshalton EcoFair

Bank Holiday Monday 29th August 10am– 6pm. Join us to leaflet, talk peace with a predicted 10,000 visitors, sell t-shirts etc. We need lots of willing helpers, throughout the day, from setting up at 9am for opening at 10am, to clearing up at 6pm. A chance to make new friends and share ideas. You can stay for as long as you choose, but please contact Sue Jones by email suejones.putney@gmail.com, or by text message 07963 729682, so we have an idea of who we can expect.

Sheila Knight Memorial Event

A reminder that this will be on Friday 14th October, 7·15–9·30pm at William Morris House, 267 The Broadway, SW19 1SD. Thanks to Alison and Christine arrangements are well and truly underway, and some positive replies have already been received from those outside the CND circle. Reminders will be sent to others. As a WDC/CND member, we very much hope that you will be able to attend. So that we have an idea of numbers, please let Sue Jones know if you can come, either at suejones.putney@gmail.com or by phoning 020 8870 8874. Thank you.

AGM Report

On one of the hottest days of the year, six members were present at the Group’s Annual General Meeting on Sunday 17th July, at Wilberforce House, courtesy of Alison Williams. Sue Jones chaired the meeting, as conditions had prevented Maisie Carter from attending. We were grateful that Maisie is willing to continue as contact. We do appreciate her expertise and coordination.

Alison reported that 34 members were paid up. Ruth presented a written Treasurer’s Report with a spreadsheet showing income and expenditure: unfortunately, expenditure was exceeding income. The balance was £3193·44 as of 30 June 2022. The meeting thanked Ruth for taking on the role, and John Martin for checking accounts and helping with the spreadsheet.

Sue had continued to deal with the newsletter, with invaluable help from Harriet Bazley with production and editing. More contributors were always needed. Edwin Cluer pointed out that it was a very useful item to hand to potential members when campaigning.

The meeting thanked Gill for her work with the Peace Table, which she enjoys, but would like to get an understudy. There would be a Peace Table on Saturday 30th July at Centre Court, to publicise the Hiroshima Day commemoration, and another at the Carshalton EcoFair on 29th August.

During the year, we worked locally, via the Newsletter, Peace Table, and via Facebook, to promote and participate in the big events organised by London Region CND, National CND, Stop the War etc. These serious issues, not least the war in Ukraine, and the heightened risk of nuclear attack, plus, at home, the Government policies on policing and restricting the right to protest, showed our efforts are still needed. We need to exploit the Newsletter, website and Facebook page to invite more readers to engage with us.

The following officers were re-elected nem. con: Chair: Maisie Carter, Vice-Chair: Sue Jones, Membership: Alison Williams, Treasurer: Ruth Crabb, Newsletter Editor: Sue Jones, Minutes secretary and Delegate to London Region CND: William Rhind.

The date of the 2023 AGM was set as Sunday 16th July, 12·30–15·00.

Christine Bickerstaff

Crisis & Opportunity

World War II ended a long time ago, and with it the political will which got 51 countries, large and small, to agree terms of the Charter which established the United Nations. That treaty is the basis of the rules-based international order currently being violated in Ukraine and elsewhere. The history of arms control and disarmament is one of hard-won agreements following years of argument, and in 2022 we’re presented with an extraordinary crisis matched by an equally extraordinary opportunity.

As well as the existential crisis of climate change we face the possibility of nuclear war between NATO and Russia, the closest we have come since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. And with the first Review Conference of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (the Ban Treaty) behind us (21–23 June), we face the 10th Review Conference of the NPT (1–26 August). Several NATO states attended, along with representatives of the 65 states now party to the Ban Treaty, and Civil Society organisations; CND-UK was one of 91 such organisations which endorsed a joint statement.

ICAN has produced a very useful summary of its outcome Declaration and accompanying Action Plan: https://www.icanw.org/vienna_ declaration_action_plan_overview. There is a strong but realistic focus on achieving implementation; nuclear-armed states have 10 years within which to get rid of their nuclear weapons with a possible extension of 5 years, while states hosting such weapons have 90 days to get rid of them. The Chair of the Review Conference addressed a meeting of All Party Parliamentary Groups on 20th July and said the credibility of Nuclear Deterrence Policy is now “very much in doubt”.

In January 2022 there was reason to hope the world was on the brink of a major disarmament breakthrough. Russia and the United States had resumed their New Start talks and the five original nuclear-armed states reaffirmed their commitment to the Reagan-Gorbachev statement: “a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought” (Geneva 1985).

The texts of the agreements are inspiring, like the UN Charter & its preamble. Let’s honour Bruce Kent’s memory by getting them all better known!

Alison Williams

Prospects for Disarmament through the NPT

While CND’s hopes for disarmament now focus strongly on the new Ban Treaty, those of our government — dim as those hopes may be — look to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It entered into force in 1970 and would have marked its 50th anniversary in 2020 had the pandemic not led to a series of delays in holding its regular Review Conference. That will now be held 1–26 August.

If we are ever to persuade a Westminster government to take disarmament seriously we do need to understand how the believers in the need for a nuclear deterrent see things. Of course superficially it’s obvious: in a world of potential adversaries, where lethal weapons exist you’d better have some and convince the others that you would use them if necessary. At the same time you would genuinely like to be rid of those weapons if convinced it were safe to do so.

As one of the five nuclear-armed states which in the NPT “declared their intention to achieve at the earliest possible date” an end to the nuclear arms race and “measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament”, the UK has updated its relatively small arsenal of warheads down the years and recently raised the ceiling for them, perceiving increased threats. The UK’s Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Aidan Liddle, said that does not mean warheads will actually be increased, it just sends a signal.

At a recent meeting of two All Party Parliamentary Groups, he said the NPT offers the only credible framework for disarmament and thinks the Ban Treaty “undermines negative security assurances” and “feeds a false narrative around nuclear weapons”, i.e. that if Ukraine had not given up its own in return for a guarantee of territorial sovereignty Russia would not have invaded. In response to a question asking how the UK justifies retaining nuclear weapons given the NPT promise to disarm, Ambassador Liddle said the treaty “doesn’t have a time frame but the trend has to be down” adding that “not all states have honoured that”.

Dialogue at the forthcoming Review Conference in New York should be of particular interest in current circumstances.

Alison Williams

CND’s private view at the Victoria & Albert Museum

On Friday 10th June London Region CND organised a viewing of some of the many anti-nuclear posters in the Museum’s possession. About 20 of us booked to be taken by the archivist to a seminar room where the posters were laid out on tables for us to look at. Many of them were by British artists but there were some from Europe as well.

Peter Kennard, a photomontage artist, was there to talk us through his work. He is now Professor of Political Art at the Royal College of Art and has work displayed in public collections of several major London museums.

He created many iconic posters for CND during the 1970s and 1980s. He started as an artist but took up photomontage to better reflect his anti-Vietnam War views and continued to use this style producing posters for CND. He was not often paid for this work but when Ken Livingstone was Mayor of London Kennard produced a box set of posters that was paid for by the GLC. This included many of his best-known works including a detournement of John Constable’s The Haywain. This shows the haywain carrying nuclear missiles. Another well-known poster shows the CND symbol with a broken Cruise missile through it. All these posters were done in the days before Photoshop and involved physically making the items and putting them together.

This was a unique chance to see some of the early anti-nuclear posters held by the V&A in the company of one of their creators. Now that many of the left-wing organisations that Peter Kennard worked for are defunct, he has turned to exhibitions, books and the internet to display his work.

Ruth Crabb

Dave Lofthouse

Members of WDC/CND will be saddened to learn of the death of Dave Lofthouse, Arboricultural Manager at Merton Council, and a long-standing member of WDC/CND.

Dave was dedicated to peace, loyal, reliable and would always respond to appeals for help when he could. He will be best remembered for planting the cherry tree to Hiroshima victims in Cannizaro Park, caring for it and replacing it when it finally died. We shall miss him.

Maisie Carter

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