The date for this event is now very close: Friday 14th October, 7·15–9·30pm at William Morris House, 267 The Broadway, SW19 1SD. A reminder: we will be showing the Raymond Briggs film ‘When the Wind Blows’. Light refreshments will be provided. If you have not yet replied to the invitation, please do so as soon as possible. You can, of course, turn up on the night and be very welcome, but it would help us to know in advance how many people to expect, so please let Sue Jones know that you are coming, either at email@example.com or by phoning 020 8870 8874. Thank you.
On BBC Sounds there are four 30-minute programmes broadcast by Radio 4 this summer on the topic of “The Nuclear Reckoning”, presented by Matthew Syed (writer and Times columnist). Alongside climate change we are living with the existential threat of nuclear weapons, many of us “in a state of comfortable amnesia”.
The first programme, “Nuclear Awakening”, covers the period from the Manhattan Project through the Marshall Islands tests (1946–1958) to a survivor’s testimony at the International Court of Justice in 1996. We hear of the Baruch Plan which could have resulted in Nuclear Disarmament in 1946, why it was rejected, the devastating effects of the Castle Bravo tests in particular and how policy debates shifted from disarmament to deterrence.
In “War Games in the Pink Tower” we learn how a diverse group of experts with backgrounds including mathematics, economics and physics tested theories on how to achieve credible deterrence. Bernard Brodie, Thomas Schelling and Herman Kahn made the crucial contributions. The outcomes of two games surprised the players: neither threats of Massive Retaliation nor Mutually Assured Destruction offered a sense of security. On the contrary, the more credible the threat presented, the less safe anyone could feel.
“A Blip in the Radar” tells us how lucky we have been, time and again, to avoid nuclear catastrophe through accident or human error. A few instances are well known; most we’ve never heard of. But Arms Control treaties — a list including Non-Proliferation (1970) and Intermediate Nuclear Force (1981) — had by the 1990s reduced the global stockpile of nuclear weapons from 70,000 down to 15,000. In 1999 Angie Zelter and companions got a positive judgement from a Scottish court for Nonviolent Direct Action against a Trident facility based on the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in 1996. That judgement was overturned on appeal but continues to encourage resistance to government policies which exacerbate the threats we face, military and environmental.
“Exiting the Bunker” describes in detail the Burlington Bunker eventually bought by an American businessman who sells units to wealthy people anticipating life after nuclear war. This series suggests a Minimal Deterrent as the realistic best option. We would of course promote complete disarmament using the Ban Treaty with its verification procedures. The post-Cold War successes show it could be done.
Having endured blistering temperatures and deluges at previous Ecofairs it was a great relief for our return to the event to be marked with cool and cloudy weather. (The recent break in the drought also meant Carshalton Park was no longer mimicking a dustbowl.)
The weather outlined above seemed to encourage more people than I have ever seen attend the event. From a CND perspective it was great opportunity to distribute virtually all our supply of literature and make the hordes aware that despite the current geopolitical situation there are alternatives to war, weapons proliferation, and conflict. A few nostalgic wags felt obliged to be sarcastic about us being stuck in the past, but at least our presence brought home to them our need to exist.
Whilst we may not have obtained many, if any, new members, in terms of making people aware of our continuing existence it can be said — to use a militaristic slogan — that our mission was accomplished. Also, by selling a few books and T-shirts we raised a few pounds to further our work.
If one must look to the future, perhaps we could consider working with the Kingston Peace Council in sharing a stall and encourage members beyond the usual suspects to volunteer to staff the stall, as it was a very long day for this author and the other helpers.
Earlier this year, I put in a short article “‘Bread and circuses’ the modern way”, critical of the enormous investments in Artificial Intelligence technology — combined with information gained from use of the internet and especially social media — to feed the people ‘what they want’ in the way of consumerism and prejudices. I was worried that people would not think too much about reality and they would not bother to distinguish fact from fiction, truth from falsehood.
Recently Alison Williams mentioned the conversations US President Reagan had had with Mikhail Gorbachev and the hopes ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’ had raised. Gorbachev did even more than he intended: bit by bit the Soviet Bloc was dismantled. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, satellite states staggered towards democracy, Germany was reunified. In Russia itself there was the embrace of western ideas, even the more unsavoury aspects of capitalism.
I wonder whether Donald Trump had read Umberto Eco’s lecture “Inventing the Enemy” given at Bologna University in 2008. A Pakistani taxi driver in New York asked Eco who were Italy’s historic enemies. Eco said that there were none; their last war was more than half-a-century before. (Later, Eco realised Italians were now unable to agree on outside enemies, because they were continually at war with each other).
But Eco had real insight in 2008 when he said: “See what happened in the United States when the Evil Empire vanished and the great Soviet enemy faded away. The United States was in danger of losing its identity, until bin Laden… gave Bush the opportunity to create new enemies”. Nearly three decades later, after a succession of US failures in the Middle East, in order to “make America great again”, Trump also needed to make enemies — this time China and Russia (again).
So, there is war in 2022, as Putin horrifyingly tries by force to regain control of large parts of Ukraine and the Black Sea. He even hints at nuclear weapons being used against the US and the UK with London a distinctly easy target. Please do join us and help encourage more people to recognise the urgent need for dialogue and cooperation with all and any who may be able to help avoid global catastrophe rather than stupidly aligning ourselves for a protracted (or, even worse, not protracted, but apocalyptic) struggle.
Does it make sense in a very dangerous world to be armed to the teeth? Americans seem to think so, from the individual to the national level, with exceptions of course. In Britain it’s the gun enthusiasts who are exceptional individuals while nationally we are deeply divided.
The new Prime Minister clearly believes security is founded on high defence spending; she has pledged to raise ours from 2% of the budget to 3% by 2030. We in the Peace Movement have the challenge, as in the late years of the Cold War, to shift the general public’s acceptance of the political status quo on defence to a radically different one which offers the best hope for the future.
Back in 1945 the global plan, which our leaders contributed to significantly, was to achieve peace through the common efforts of the world’s most heavily armed states committed to using force only as a last resort. Those states were given a veto on the UN’s Security Council as a “realistic” requirement.
Reform proposals have been discussed for decades with the UN General Assembly making promising initiatives along the way. In September 2022, with the world closer than ever to a nuclear conflict between major powers, headlines from the annual UNGA session have more to say about Russia and Ukraine than progress on implementing the Paris Climate agreements or the Sustainable Development goals.
It often seems the media and the public have given up on the United Nations, but it is through their good offices, with the cooperation of states, that conditions for refugees and others in extreme poverty or situations of conflict and disaster aren’t even worse than they are. With more support — political, financial and public — the UN could do more.
In June 1978 the General Assembly called a Special Session on Disarmament/SSOD1 whose outcome document raised hopes of a major and lasting breakthrough. There were follow-ups in 1981 and 1988. A conference at SOAS in September, organised by Dan Plesch, Professor of International Relations, called for an SSOD4, and WDC/CND signed a petition to support that call.
We are safer at home without guns and safer in this world without nuclear weapons. The TPNW/Ban Treaty is open for signature.
CND’s annual Conference this year, “Nuclear Disarmament not Nuclear War!” will take place over two weekends. The AGM and Policy conference is to be held on Zoom on Saturday 8th October: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cnd-agm-policy-conference-2022-nuclear-disarmament-not-nuclear-war-tickets-386853277567 Sunday 16th October will be a Day of Action at Menwith Hill, Yorkshire, with workshops, a visit to the base and transport back to Leeds railway station. To register: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cnd-conference-2022-menwith-hill-day-of-action-tickets-416031480357
The AGM and Policy Conference is a crucial part of CND’s democratic structure, and the discussions and decisions made will shape the work of the campaign over the next year. Our group will be represented, but you can attend as an individual member, provided you are a member of National CND. If you’re unsure, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The first Saturday in August saw us return to a seriously depleted Rushmere Pond on Wimbledon Common for our annual Hiroshima and Nagasaki Commemorative event. The drought may have reduced the water level and ensured that we did not use naked flames, but it did not reduce the crowd (numbers seemed similar to previous years) nor extinguish our commitment to a more peaceful world. It was great to see Maisie Carter make it up the hill to inspire us. Likewise, we were very pleased to welcome the Rev Deacon Simon Asquith who led us in quiet contemplation at the end. Once again, Gill McCall worked tirelessly at the Peace Table, making origami boats with members of the public.
The usual collection of readings and songs, helped along by Dave Carrier on guitar, brought joy to a sombre occasion and it was great to meet up with members I had not seen for several months. As mentioned, naked flames were not considered appropriate, so we used various other means of illumination as twilight drew on. In fact, the variety of other light sources arguably generated greater conversations amongst participants than in previous years, the only negative being that on such a calm night, even the lightest of boats struggled to cross the pond...
Once again, we will be taking part in Merton’s civic ceremony of remembrance at the Wimbledon War Memorial on the common. Alison and one other member of the group will lay our unique white and red poppy wreath (red poppies for remembrance, and white poppies for “never again”), after which we will hold our own short ceremony of readings (including from the Preamble to the UN Charter), and renewed dedication for peace. Please join us if you can, at Wimbledon War Memorial from 10·40 am on Sunday 13th November. White poppies will be available at the October Peace Table and the Vigil on 11th November (see Diary).
The annual Remembrance Day lecture organised by the Movement for the Abolition of War will, this year, be given by Kate Hudson, CND’s General Secretary: “Nuclear Risks in the light of the Ukraine War”, 2pm, Welsh Church of Central London, 30 Eastcastle St, W1W 8DS, near Oxford Circus station.
Peace Table, outside Centre Court: Saturday 8th October, 11am–1·30pm. Our theme will be ‘No US Nukes in Britain’. The proposed CND demonstration at RAF Lakenheath has been postponed due to a rail strike, but our Peace Table will highlight the issue. Please come along and help us with leafleting and engaging with the public.
Vigil: Friday 11th November, 6–7 pm outside Wimbledon Library. We thought that it would be appropriate to have this one-off event, as it falls on Armistice Day and would be a precursor to Remembrance Sunday on the 13th. The message will be alternatives to war, and white poppies will be available.
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson has called on the government to abandon plans to massively increase military spending, and to focus on meeting the needs of our communities struggling with rising inflation, hunger and fuel poverty.
CND is urging members to get involved in their Wages not Warfare campaign. Download a copy of the poster from https://cnduk.org or request a hard copy from 162 Holloway Road, N7 8DQ. Join the CND bloc at the “Britain is Broken” national demonstration on 5th November, assembling 12 noon at Embankment Place WC2.