Eight members attended the AGM on 16th July, at 20 Midmoor Road, courtesy of Christine Bickerstaff. Many thanks to Christine for her generous hospitality.
Sue Jones had announced her intention to step down as Vice-Chair/Acting Chair and Newsletter Editor, and Ruth Crabb also wished to step down as Treasurer. It was clear from the discussion that members wanted the group to continue, and the various posts that became vacant were filled by other members, who were elected unopposed as follows:
Ruth Crabb presented the accounts, which had been audited by Christine Bickerstaff, and these were adopted, with thanks to Ruth for having taken on the Treasurer role a couple of years ago.
Those not taking on Officer roles agreed to continue to be involved in the Steering Committee, and it was stressed that the Steering Committee was not a finite number of people — all members are welcome to attend meetings. It was agreed that the Secretary should have access to all our members’ contact details so that members can be kept informed of our activities and those of associated groups.
We were all saddened by the death of our stalwart Chair, Maisie Carter, in March, but equally uplifted by the joyous party to celebrate her life, organised by her family and friends in June. Thanks were extended to everyone who had contributed to our activities during the year: we did manage to do a surprising amount, locally and also more widely, by supporting national CND London CND, Stop the War, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and XR Peace activities, Nakba 75, Remembrance Sunday, joining the LR demo at RAF Lakenheath, writing to the Rugby Football Union to protest the arms fair at Twickenham stadium, the ‘Big One’…. to name but a few.
Locally, we were very pleased to finally be able to organise, in October, the memorial event for our long-standing member Sheila Knight, with a showing of “When the Wind Blows” to a packed room at William Morris House.
We managed to produce a Newsletter every two months, though it was sometimes touch and go whether we would have enough copy to make a viable edition and some discussion took place about whether we should consider publishing it quarterly. Thanks to everyone who contributed, but especially to Harriet Bazley for production, and to Gill McCall and Helen McAuley for the distribution of the printed copies.
How much good and how much bad is now here with the accelerating advances in computing and Artificial Intelligence — we don’t even call it so-called anymore!
On social media the systems are geared to show you what it is calculated you want to hear, so you get fed fake news or even real news distorted.
But propaganda can be far more subtle. The big US computing corporations are feeding you what seems to be plausible information on most topics based on huge datasets. Being an ordinary human, but especially a young student or researcher, requires thinking about what you are doing, bringing together certain established ideas and developing at least one or two new ideas. Not all of these ideas need to be right, but the person has hopefully advanced in the process. If people do not think for themselves, not only have they not developed themselves, but also the world has just gained a few more information-regurgitating zombies instead of new contributing thinkers.
Sometime in the Autumn we will be having a ceremony of re-dedication of the Hiroshima tree in Cannizaro Park. Our two previous flowering cherries did not survive in the open and sandy location in the full sun. We had considered planting an olive tree, but then realised that planting any non-native species was now considered poor agricultural practice. A more robust native species, a birch, will be planted.
It will be in the same spot, on the edge of the grass area, just before the big trees and somewhat behind the aviary. We will re-install the original plaque, or maybe a new one, with a little ceremony after the tree is planted. We hope you will be able to come. More information in next newsletter.
We tend to think of big issues like War and Peace or the Environment in terms of governmental decisions and actions: are ‘they’ doing the right or wrong thing? The film “Oppenheimer”, released in July amid considerable publicity, focuses on one man’s agonising over a uniquely consequential decision he had made: to create nuclear weapons. It wasn’t his decision alone, of course, but he felt keenly the responsibility of his rôle, and through his conversations with the President and others his profile moved from Heroic Scientist to Suspect of Un-American Activity.
His isn’t a classic whistleblower story like those of Daniel Ellsberg, Julian Assange or Edward Snowden, who have become household names for their impact on world events, but he suffered as they did for challenging his government’s narrative.
Daniel Ellsberg didn’t go to jail for copying the Pentagon Papers which exposed the American government’s lies about the Vietnam War; other illegal government activity spared him that. But they were not the only papers he had copied: of equal concern to him was evidence of nuclear policy. He told a New York Times journalist in April this year he had felt that Vietnam was where the bombs were falling right then. “And if I put out the nuclear stuff, no one will pay any attention to this history on Vietnam. It won’t have any effect. So I’m going to do that after I put out the Pentagon Papers and we’ve run through whatever effect they have.”
Fate in the form of a hurricane and flooding destroyed those nuclear policy copies and the man Kissinger had described as “the most dangerous man in America” spent the rest of his life warning of the danger of nuclear war with the result we are all too familiar with.
His book The Doomsday Machine was published in 2017 and says that the doctrine that has shaped the build-up of the US nuclear weapon forces over the past seven decades has not been about deterring a nuclear attack on the United States. It has in fact been about improving a first-strike capability: of ‘limiting damage’ to the United States in the event of a US pre-emptive strike against Russia.
Ellsberg died in June, knowing that his friends in the American peace movement and the wider world would carry on campaigning. Why should a handful of states hold this threat over an unwilling world? The Oppenheimer film might help.
If ‘We the Peoples’ worldwide are ever to see a nuclear-free world with all states signed up to the Ban Treaty and conscientiously implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals, a clear and comprehensive Big Picture could help.
In 1945 the United States, which had refused to join the League of Nations, became the dominant power in the new UN with its HQ in New York. The Security Council was given five permanent members, the main allies of World War II, and the idea was that these more-and-less-powerful states would cooperate responsibly to keep the peace and achieve the aims of the Charter. But from the start the P5 were divided and we denote the years to the late 1980s as a period of Cold War.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union the Americans anticipated a New World Order in which they had no rival. The years when many of us hoped for a Peace Dividend introduced us to four decades of ‘forever wars’ as Britain’s most powerful friend and ally sought to create a world in its image and ensure its own hegemony.
In the summer of 2023 the Americans are the chief providers of weapons to Ukraine, together with NATO members including Britain. So far the threats to use nuclear weapons are veiled. A strong section of American opinion wants an end to that war so that China, perceived as the ‘real enemy’, can be kept down. ‘North Atlantic’ NATO is now supplemented by AUKUS and the militarisation of Australia.
But there is a good chance that the Ukraine war will end with terms set by China and the Global South. China’s 12-point peace plan is on the table with initiatives from South Africa, Turkey and Brazil. Despite President Modi being given the state dinner treatment in Washington recently, India buys its oil from Russia.
As Greta Thunberg often says, we know what to do about climate change. We know what’s needed to make a peaceful and just world too: hundreds of treaties say it all. What we need is the political leadership with the will to get on with it.
Specifically, Maisie Carter’s books! More than a hundred people came to the Celebration of Maisie Carter’s life on Saturday 10th June at Wimbledon Village Lecture Hall and a joyous occasion it was too.
Maisie read very widely. At the Celebration we had a bookstall with just a sample of her books for people to take. They could also request their favourite authors/topics, which we have generally been able to supply. Another tranche went at the AGM on Sunday 16th July. Most of the political books and all the Shelley have gone!
Many remain, and after a sojourn in Shosh Foster’s garage, they are now with Bob Murphy, who is determined to find good homes for many more. Subjects you might be interested in are: poetry and biographies of poets, novels, Shakespeare’s works and studies on several individual plays, art, ballet, and opera.
If you want a memento of Maisie or even favour particular authors/poets, contact Bob (email@example.com or 07825004486) and it is likely he would find much to please you. The rest will go to the Amnesty bookshop in Hammersmith later on.
On the 10th of June, the Wimbledon Village Lecture Hall was a riot of yellow — sunflowers and freesias — for a party to celebrate Maisie Carter’s life. I’m sure many of you were there. It had been her express wish that her family and friends should have a party, not a funeral, after she died, and they pulled out all the stops to comply with her wishes. It was a wonderful celebration. Her sons related anecdotes about their childhood, amongst them being taken along with Maisie when she was delivering the Daily Worker (now the Morning Star). One of her grandchildren spoke about Maisie’s influence on her, quoting “always be kind, and never vote Tory”! Sue and Christine from the group also spoke briefly — about Maisie’s lifelong activism in the Peace and Trade Union movements. The speeches were kept short so that the emphasis could be on people enjoying the occasion. Maisie would have approved, I’m sure.
On 25th May 2023 Musicians for Peace and Disarmament (MPD) held a concert jointly with CND, Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW) and Pax Christi at St James Piccadilly in memory of Bruce Kent who died in June 2022. The MPD chamber orchestra was conducted with panache by Dame Jane Glover CBE, who makes time in her amazingly busy schedule to be involved in these concerts which raise money for the peace movement. Not only is she the Music Director of Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, she has also worked with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and many others. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Glover
The MPD performed three pieces, the Symphony Nº 1 in D by Prokofiev, Concerto in D for flute by Mozart and Symphony Nº 103 in Eb by Haydn. The standout piece for me was the flute concerto by Mozart. Wissam Boustany gave a virtuoso performance that received a standing ovation.
He is an internationally renowned flautist, teacher, conductor and peace campaigner who was born in Beirut. He has had a long association with the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Palestine, and in 1995, he founded Towards Humanity, a non-political initiative using music as a catalyst to support humanitarian projects: https://www.wissamboustany.com/humanitarian-work
After the interval Pat Gaffney, past general secretary of Pax Christi who knew Bruce well, gave a moving tribute to him. She spoke of his complete lack of knowledge of music as a young man, cloistered as he was in a seminary, and how he grew to love music. He was a great supporter of MPD and attended many of their concerts, speaking at many of them.
If you have not yet been to an MPD concert they are well worth attending. The musicians, who give their time freely, are second to none and it is a very enjoyable way to raise money for the peace movement. Since MPD was formed in 1983 they have donated over £75,000 to organisations within the peace movement http://www.mpdconcerts.org/