The recent government announcement of a huge increase in military spending, with little or no concession to the current cost-of-living crisis, low pay in the public sector and the under-funding of the NHS, understandably drew cries of condemnation from many sectors of the population, not least those campaigning for nuclear disarmament.
CND General Secretary, Kate Hudson said, “The government keeps telling us that there is no magic money tree, yet there is always money found for nuclear weapons; spending billions on the military whilst millions of public sector workers are desperately trying to deal with the cost-of-living crisis. The consequences of the government’s increasing militarism goes far beyond our borders. In supporting the US’s confrontational military strategy towards China through the AUKUS agreement, the UK government is putting millions of lives at risk. Such action can only lead to deepening global instability”.
CND has produced a comprehensive report “People not Trident”, detailing what the £205bn cost of Trident could be spent on instead. You can read the report on CND’s website https://cnduk.org, on the Wages not Weapons page. You can also add your name to an open letter to the Government, urging them to scrap Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system, and use the money instead to ensure fair wages and a decent standard of living for all.
It’s ironic that the phrase “May you live in interesting times” is mistakenly said to be the translation of an ancient Chinese curse on the authority of a 19th century UK Foreign Secretary and his son. Whatever the origin, it is indeed apt for our own times with the world’s top military power now having China as well as Russia in its sights.
The number of US bases around China and the Pacific has been increasing steadily in size and number. From 2012 the Pentagon has been developing a new generation of bases called Lily Pads: small, secretive, inaccessible facilities with limited numbers of troops, Spartan amenities, and pre-positioned weaponry and supplies.
On 13th March the development of further bases in Australia was announced on the lines described above. Faced with “China’s growing assertiveness” (Rishi Sunak’s phrase) America needs more well-armed allies to protect access to trade and passage in the Indo-Pacific. Beijing has supposedly been operating in a permissive security environment and needs to be persuaded otherwise.
The last shred of credibility for Japan’s Peace Constitution was destroyed this year when the new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last December doubled the nation’s military spending without consultation and his cabinet adopted a revised security policy. Though it was always a source of pride for the Japanese public, successive governments have been ‘elastic’ in their interpretation of the key Article 9 and content for their Okinawa bases to provide ‘an unsinkable aircraft carrier’ for the United States.
Unlike Japan, where peace activists have strictly limited freedom to demonstrate, here, in the US and Western Europe —“the West” in brief— we are still free to take to the streets in our thousands. We won’t necessarily get the policies changed (as witness the Iraq War) but we can raise public awareness of the scale of that opposition and encourage any wiser heads in our leadership.
Despite the cold wind blowing on the evening of Tuesday 21st March, there was a reasonable turnout for the demo outside the US Embassy, organised by London CND. Although we had been pushed round the back of the Embassy, away from the main entrance, we made our presence felt. We were there to publicise the fact the US nuclear weapons look set to return to RAF Lakenheath (a base run by the US). In 2008, 110 US/NATO nuclear bombs were removed from RAF Lakenheath following persistent public protest; a return of even more powerful nuclear weapons will only increase global tensions and put Britain on the frontline in a NATO/Russia war.
If we show enough public resistance we can press the UK government to reject these plans and prevent these weapons from making us a target. On 20th May CND has organised a protest at RAF Lakenheath: see https://www.londoncnd.org/events/2023/2/14/stop-us-nukes-coming-to-lakenheath-demonstration-at-raf-lakenheath-suffolk for transport details. You can raise the issue with our local MPs — Stephen Hammond and Fleur Anderson — via https://cnduk.org.
For Presidents as different as Trump and Biden the notion that America must be the world’s dominant power is axiomatic. Many in this country welcome the UK’s ‘special relationship’ with that power. As signatories of the UN Charter and permanent members of its Security Council, both the US and the UK are committed to “social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” for nations large and small, and armed force not being used “save in the common interest”.
Those aspirations came at the end of a world war which culminated in the detonation of two atomic bombs. The first resolution of the new UN’s General Assembly called for nuclear disarmament. But rather than focus on those aspirations our school curriculums and the mass media favour stories of Us versus Them and Who’s the Greatest? East and West we think of as politically divided, democracies versus autocracies. North and South we see as economic categories; the industrialised North and a forever poorer and indebted mostly post-colonial South.
Of course there is another story outside the mainstream of a truly remarkable growth in global awareness and mutual support. Thanks to the worldwide web, mobile phone technology and English as the current international language, information is shared and conversations happen. They happen among governments as always, but from the 1990s governments have engaged at the international level with organised groups of all sorts: CND, Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International and many more. The UN Global Compact, based on Human Rights and International Labour law, was launched in July 2000, the same month that the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues finally won official representation at the UN.
With the new millennium well under way the hopes of achieving better standards of life for everyone no doubt seem naively utopian. Certainly those global conversations are punctuated by frustration about a lack of political will and a failure to implement commitments. It was ever thus. The great campaigns, CND’s among them, have staying power and in our time increasingly work together. Global capitalism has its Compact; the Indigenous Peoples have their global voice, especially at the climate summits. If the UN’s member states and their peoples follow the existing rules, then our hopes may be achievable after all. But not if the “rules-based international order” is understood as a euphemism for US supremacy.
THE MISTAKE is a new play by Michael Mears, performed by him and English-speaking Japanese performer Emiko Ishii.
1942. On a squash court in Chicago a dazzling scientific experiment takes place, which three years later will destroy a city and change the world — forever. Through the lives of a brilliant Hungarian scientist, a daring American pilot and a devoted Japanese daughter, this fast-moving, compelling drama confronts the dangers that arise when humans dare to unlock the awesome power of nature.
The play is back at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL from 18–22 April, with performances at 7pm and a 3pm matinee on April 22nd. Bookings: 020 7503 1646 or https://www.arcolatheatre.com/whats-on/the-mistake/
The Nakba — or Catastrophe — is commemorated on or around 15th May every year. It is now 75 years since over 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly removed from over 500 villages and cities in historic Palestine, never to return. This year the anniversary will be marked on Saturday 13th May, when CND supporters will join a march and rally in Central London, assembling at 12 noon at BBC Portland Place.
The Nakba continues today. From Jerusalem to Gaza, via the Naqab, Israel continues its policy of human rights abuses, displacing and oppressing the indigenous Palestinian population. Meanwhile Palestinians are living in exile, uprooted by Israel and denied their right of return, a right enshrined in international law. The Palestinian people need our solidarity now more than ever. The British government remains silent on Israel’s semi-clandestine nuclear status in the same way it remains silent about Palestinian human rights.
For further details see https://www.palestinecampaign.org/events/nakba-75-national-protest/ or contact email@example.com
On 25th February, members of WDC/CND joined the march and rally to mark this first anniversary and make renewed calls for peace. The demonstration in London was just one of hundreds of commemorations taking place in towns, cities, and capitals across Europe, including Ukraine.
CND condemns the Russian military aggression against Ukraine. There is no justification for war and we must stand against the escalating threats of the conflict turning nuclear. Real global security means a commitment towards peace, dialogue and disarmament. It also means putting pressure on politicians to prioritise the real threats to the way we live — including economic hardship and the environmental catastrophe.
This week, in answer to a written question, Defence Minister Baroness Goldie confirmed that depleted uranium shells were included in the gift of Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. This has of course served to increase the tensions, with President Putin stating that this is an escalation. It is also an environmental and health disaster for those living through the conflict.
CND urges our government to get all parties to the negotiating table, to secure Russian troop withdrawal, to make the Minsk agreements work and call a halt to NATO expansion.
What about the Peace Plan for Ukraine put forward by China’s government? This has largely been dismissed by Western leaders who argue that Beijing does not have the international credibility to act as a mediator in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. While the visit of Xi Jinping to Russia is widely interpreted as a show of support for Putin, some experts say that he wants to demonstrate to the world that he can also be a restraining force on Putin, for example by preventing him from deploying nuclear weapons on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Xi is also reported to be planning a call with Volodymyr Zelenskiy. That call would partly be an effort to “balance the negative impact that his visit to Moscow will have” on Xi’s relations with the west, said Bonnie Glaser, the director of the Indo-Pacific Program at the German Marshall Fund, a thinktank.
However, despite Xi’s peace-making efforts, he has refused to condemn the invasion and, in tangible terms, China’s support for Russia since the start of the war has been unwavering.
On March 4th about 200 people gathered on the north side of the Finsbury Park athletics track to plant a walnut tree in memory of Bruce Kent. In the spirit of Bruce himself it was a joyful if somewhat chaotic event bringing together numerous strands of his most varied life.
Kate Hudson was there on behalf of CND head office, accompanied by Jeremy Corbyn. Bruce’s widow, Valerie Flessati, spoke on behalf of the Movement for Abolition of War along with a representative of the Friends of Finsbury Park. Like Bruce himself they all managed to bring humour into the serious topics they were addressing. Pax Christi, London Catholic Worker, the Gandhi Foundation, the London Peace Pagoda and the United Nations Association were but five organisations I recognised as being present after a quick survey of the crowd. The Diocese of Westminster Justice & Peace Commission was also represented. Everyone was chatting as friends and all were invited to add soil as a collective team effort to plant the tree.
Unfortunately, the hornbeam that Jeremy Corbyn had been growing for this occasion was damaged when pruning his olive tree! Once the hornbeam has recovered it will be planted elsewhere in Finsbury Park. It seems somewhat ironic that the tree being grown to commemorate such a consummate peace campaigner should be damaged by an olive branch.
On 25th May, 7·30–9·30pm, there will be a Musicians for Peace and Disarmament concert at St James’s Piccadilly, conducted by Jane Glover.
Tickets for this event can be booked from https://www.tickettailor.com/events/mpd/878211
On Sunday 11th June there will be a concert at St Mellitus Church, Tollington Park London N4 — full details to be included in the June/July newsletter.