Introducing London CND’s Vice Presidents

We pleased to announce that three well-known Londoners – Bruce Kent, Jenny Jones and Catherine West – have agreed to take up honorary positions as our Vice Presidents. They will be helping attract support and increase interest in nuclear disarmament among Londoners in the months ahead.

Bruce Kent needs little introduction. Ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1958, Bruce became a monsignor before he left the priesthood in 1987 to take a more active role campaigning on some of the issues closest to his heart. Our ‘meddlesome priest’ was already a prominent opponent of nuclear weapons, as CND’s General Secretary from 1980 to 1985, then Chair for three years, and nowadays Honorary Vice President of CND UK. In his spare time you’ll find him speaking at public meetings big and small across the capital and beyond.

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Jenny Jones settled in London in 1991. By way of contrast, Jenny had a wide range of jobs before rising to political prominence – from mucking out horse stables, through crafts teacher and office manager, to qualified archaeologist. A former Chair of the Green Party, she’s best known in London for her role as an elected member of the Greater London Assembly and as Deputy Mayor of London in 2003-4. Nowadays Jenny is Baroness Jones of Mouslecoomb, the first Green Party representative in the House of Lords from where she continues to campaign on the dangers of climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse emissions. Jenny took her title from the Brighton council estate she grew up on, she tells us, and despite becoming a peer of the realm has no car and still grows her own vegetables.

Catherine West is MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, a former leader of Islington Council – and proof positive of London’s cosmopolitan character. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Catherine took her master's degree in Chinese politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies and worked for a time in Nanjing. As a China expert and Mandarin speaker, she’s served on Labour’s front bench as Shadow Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for Asia Pacific. Catherine is a Quaker, which perhaps helps explain her trenchant opposition to Trident and frequent appearances on CND platforms. She also keeps a wary eye on UK arms sales from the benches of the Select Committee on Arms Export Controls.

 

‘Plenty of time to recall parliament’ before Syria attack

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Speaking about in the emergency debate on Syria, Catherine West MP argued there had been plenty of time for the Prime Minister to recall parliament to debate a military attack on Syria. Reminding the government that the ‘dodgy dossier’ on Iraq has haunted political debates for years, she said:

The role of parliament is important because there is an element of having to persuade not only one another but the country of our views, our principles and our ideas. That is an important principle that came out of the very lengthy Chilcot inquiry.…Today, we have to reflect on what we have learned from the report, not just about the importance of parliament and our role in scrutinising the Executive, but about two other key elements.

One of those involves the need for a plan. My hon Friend the Member for Wirral South [Alison McGovern MP, co-chair All Party Friends of Syria group – ed] made a fantastic speech yesterday in which she mentioned the cross-party group on Syria and its steadfast commitment to the Syrian people. She spoke about the importance of having a plan, and one of the sticking points over the past week has been the lack of a sense of what we should do next. There has been a sense of ‘this feels fine for this weekend, but what happens next?’

The second element is the need for high-quality intelligence and evidence. This goes back to what was crudely referred to as the ‘dodgy dossier’, which has haunted us in our political debates from many years. We still need to ask those questions. Many of us will make no apology for asking questions. That is our job as back-bench members, whatever role we might have…. there was plenty of time last week to recall parliament, and I wish that we had had yesterday’s debate—perhaps not with every single security detail—at that point.

Many of us could have taken losing a vote—or, indeed, winning a vote. Whatever might have happened with that vote, at least we would have done what we always do, which is to debate, to contend, to get cross, to get sad, or to get happy. We would have done what we do in this place and gone through the lobby to produce a result for the people we represent.

Syria shows the need for a War Powers Act

Following Theresa May’s decision that Britain would participate on an attack on Syria, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for a Wars Powers Act so that governments are held to account by parliament for what they do in our name. He called for the UK government, through the UN, to take a diplomatic lead to negotiate a ceasefire in the Syrian conflict

Jeremy Corbyn: Diplomacy, and not bombing, is the way to end Syria’s agony

Writing in today's Guardian, Jeremy Corbyn said: 

"The military action at the weekend was legally questionable. The government’s own justification, which relies heavily on the strongly contested doctrine of humanitarian intervention, does not even meet its own tests. Without UN authority it was again a matter of the US and British governments arrogating to themselves an authority to act unilaterally which they do not possess.

"The fact that the prime minister ordered the attacks without seeking authorisation from parliament only underlines the weakness of a government that was in reality simply waiting for authorisation from a bellicose and unstable US president. That’s why we are pressing for parliament to have the final say on planned military action in future in a new war powers act.

"Now is the moment for moral and political leadership, not kneejerk military responses."

You can read the full article here

CND condemns bombing of Syria

Peace campaigners have responded to airstrikes conducted by the US, UK and France early this morning.

Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary, said:

"We strongly condemn these air strikes on Syria, which are in defiance of international law. They will only increase the likelihood of this terrible conflict spilling over into the wider Middle East and potentially beyond that. 

"We also condemn Theresa May's decision to bypass parliament which demonstrates a contempt for the necessary democratic process. She has also disregarded public opinion in launching these strikes; polls indicate that only 22% of the population support this bombing campaign.

"CND works for the prevention and cessation of wars in which nuclear weapons may be used and there can be no clearer example of such a situation than that which we are currently facing. Diplomatic and political solutions must be sought. Nuclear escalation poses consequences too terrible to contemplate."

London CND's 'event in a box' guide

Holding regular, exciting events is the best way to get started and make an impact as a local group or university society. But organising events can seem like a huge task! 

So we've put together a resource called 'event in a box' to help out. It's designed to give you everything you need to run an event effortlessly: a step-by-step how to, key tips, and three template events complete with suggested speakers and ready-made graphics to promote them. 

Click here to download the guide - and get in touch at info@londoncnd.org if you need any further help or advice! 

Easter at Aldermaston with London CND

Two London CND coaches made their way to Aldermaston on Easter Sunday to celebrate CND’s 60th anniversary in traditional style, with old friends and new, including a Samba band who kept our toes tapping. HELEN MARTINS (pictured) was on board. You can read her report below, and check out our photo album here.

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Looking at the overcast sky, CND General Secretary Kate Hudson reminded us that the first Aldermaston march held in 1958 was the wettest Easter on record since 1900! Kate opened the 2018 rally at Aldermaston on 1 April and attended by several hundred people. And how much there was to commemorate and celebrate, and how the goal of global nuclear disarmament is now within reach.

Kate later paid tribute to two lifelong and much-missed activists, who died in recent weeks – Marg Behrman and Phillip Wearne – who both worked so hard for a world free of war and weapons.

Veteran campaigner Walter Wolfgang, CND Vice-President, was organiser of the first Aldermaston march. Sixty years on, he said that civilisation has not kept up with technological progress. He remembered the last leg of that march, and arriving at Aldermaston – “a place of barbarism, which remains a place of barbarism.” He talked about a current political establishment that has become frightened and is hitting out against anyone who wants to abolish nuclear weapons, but that in Jeremy Corbyn we now have the best possible Labour leader anywhere. “We now need to succeed wholly, not just half-way.”

May Chatham travelled to the rally from Manchester. Her parents took her on the first Aldermaston march: aged 16 at the time, she joined them very reluctantly. But by 1959 she had joined a direct action group and been arrested. May said she is still active. And she is still angry. She said she was at the rally in 2018 to register her protest, in particular about the ‘toddler’ international leaders who keep on saying “my toy is bigger than yours.”

Poet and patron of CND Peace Education, Antony Owen, read from his book of very moving poems The Nagasaki Elder. Anthony argued for the need to start proliferating peace, because millions of pounds are spent on nuclear weapons but peanuts on peace education.

Officiating at four weddings one afternoon in Kensington, Bruce Kent, CND Vice-President, was perplexed why bride after bride was arriving late. It turned out they had all been held up because the streets were filled with people on the first Aldermaston march. The same year, an Archbishop asked Bruce whether he thought it was OK to murder hundreds of thousands of people. Bruce thought not. The Archbishop then asked him “Isn’t it a sin then just to have the intention to do so?” Bruce agreed. Talking about deterrence, Bruce asked “Deter who? You can’t deter accidents.”

The Nuclear Information Service is a non-governmental organisation in Reading. David Cullen talked about warheads being assembled in Burghfield and the research and development work on uranium and plutonium being done at Aldermaston. Aldermaston has the 197th most powerful computer in the world and uses it to carry out virtual nuclear testing. And the Aldermaston site is continually being upgraded and expanded, with massive building plans that stretch into 2030s, creating “a footprint to keep nuclear weapons in perpetuity.”

Carol Turner, London CND Chair, then paid tribute to Helen John, who also died recently. Most famous for the women’s peace camp at Greenham, Helen was a lifelong and passionate campaigner against nuclear weapons.

Rebecca Johnson, CND Vice-President, urged people to join the regular Aldermaston peace camp, and to turn up in thousands at the demo at Faslane on 22 September. She reminded us that the original CND slogan was ‘Ban the bomb’ and that, with the UN Global Nuclear Ban Treaty, we have now – in effect and in the real world – banned the bomb! [Loud cheers at this point!] The task ahead is to get countries to sign the treaty, so it can be ratified: the vision to achieve this is to get the treaty into force in 1,000 days.

CND Chair, Dave Webb, talked about the world hanging on a thread, and that we mustn’t give up and we can’t give up. “You can’t kill the spirit”, so we need to hope, and believe – and achieve. Dave talked about a transformation of industry, with the need to work with trade unions and politicians and move towards a more caring society, and to convert Aldermaston from a war-like machine into a job diversification strategy that will benefit everyone.

After that rallying call, there was an interfaith service and the opportunity for everyone to write their personal messages of peace and tie them onto the fence.

CND… now more than ever.

 

Six decades of radical protest: Victoria Brittain reviews 'CND at 60' by Kate Hudson

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Special price for a limited time only from London CND

The backdrop of CND’s 60 years of history is in the story of its relations with the Labour Party and with the left in Britain, both full of contradictions.

Kate Hudson has long been steeped in CND history, as its general secretary for a decade and for seven years before that as its chair. In this book she has done a great job with the archives to give a vivid feel for the years in the shadow of the cold war and Britain’s umbilical link to US foreign policy.

The compromises, splits, betrayals and principles heroically upheld within CND and its splinter movements were intertwined with intellectual and personal power struggles in the Labour Party. In the world of social media today, such political fights are mostly on public view, but this book tells a story known in detail to relatively few beyond the participants, most of whom are no longer with us.

Here is the campaign’s start in 1958 behind the eloquent intellectual and moral leadership of Bertrand Russell, JB Priestley, Donald Soper, Kingsley Martin, Rose Macaulay, Julian Huxley, Canon John Collins and Michael Foot. A mass movement for Britain’s unilateral nuclear disarmament, speaking to the public’s outrage after the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and huge anxiety at nuclear testing and the effect of Strontium-90, was born from their writing.

CND’s story is one of waxing and waning tides of public opinion’s engagement with the urgency of the threat of nuclear weapons. Its strength through the decades has depended partly on resistance to the extent of successive British governments’ commitment to spending on nuclear weapons and acceptance of US nuclear warplanes and bombs being based in Britain.

But also crucial has been its evolving links to general anti-war campaigns, notably in the years of Vietnam in the 1960s and then in the 1990s and thereafter, against the devastating Western wars of choice in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

The book records the ebullience of the four-day Aldermaston Easter marches, where 8,000 people in 1958 had become 100,000 by 1960. By 1962, with the acute cold war nuclear crises over Berlin and then the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, there were 1 million US soldiers in 200 foreign bases threatening the USSR. The Partial Test Ban Treaty of the following year seemed for a moment to mark a breathing space from tension although, in fact, only the US, Britain and the USSR signed it.

CND was impossible to ignore, with public events like the iconic Trafalgar Square Easter rally of 1966 under the wing of a ‘Punch and Judas’ extravaganza. There were 20-foot puppets designed by great satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe and a ‘bold, shameless, satirical script’ featuring Britain’s prime minister Harold Wilson, Ian Smith, of white Rhodesia’s independence movement, US president Lyndon Johnson and the Bank of England.

Thousands of helium balloons carried silver-foil missiles and bombs and, to the sound of missiles, buckets of blood-red paint were thrown in the faces of the rogues’ gallery of war criminals, while Harold Wilson’s head split open and a crying baby emerged. It was then set on fire as the roar of B-52 bombers filled the air. Those were the years of the Vietnam war and these protests linked the US war in Asia with Polaris nuclear missiles in Britain and the wider Labour Party leadership's failure of principle.

In 1968, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT) was passed at the UN with 95 votes for and 21 abstentions, but disarmament was soon an evident failure. Polaris was replaced by Trident and the US planned to deploy neutron bombs with their advanced potential to damage people more than buildings in Europe.

There was pressure on the continent in which END (European Nuclear Disarmament), an ally of CND, had a key role, as did the outstanding brave and determined Greenham Common women’s peace camp. The neutron bomb initiative was pushed back.

But today there are still 200 US nuclear weapons in Western Europe and Turkey — illegal under the 1968 NNPT — and in Britain we have a government determined to press ahead with the upgrade of Trident against all logic and overwhelming public opposition.

But Britain, like the other nuclear states, is going against the curve of history. Last year, the 2017 Nobel Peace prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a coalition of hundreds of organisations, including CND, which was among its founders. And last summer 122 countries at the UN endorsed a global treaty to ban nuclear bombs, despite strong opposition from nuclear-armed states and their allies.

The US and North Korea terrorising the world with their nuclear threats earlier this year will no doubt be another moment when CND has a surge of new support to mobilise against the grotesque global threat which our leaders still refuse to recognise all these decades after the US war crimes at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • This review first appeared in the Morning Star on Wednesday 7 March

  • CND at 60: Britain’s most enduring mass movement, price £12.95 is available from London CND at the special price of £12 including p&p here

CND rally: ‘Paul Robeson sang and the busses stopped’

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How’s this for a blinder of a memory for CND at 60? Paul Robeson, pictured here in June 1959, at a CND rally in Trafalgar Square. In a recent letter to the New York Review of Books an American recalled attending a meeting at the School of Oriental and African Studies to mark the 30th anniversary of Robeson’s death in 2006: ‘Most memorably, a speaker from the audience described a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament rally in Trafalgar Square in 1959… As London traffic rumbled around the square, the speaker recalled, a succession of notables addressed the crowd from the steps of Nelson’s Column. Then, he concluded, Paul Robeson sang – and the buses stopped.

Robeson was internationally acclaimed as an actor and civil rights campaigner. He admonished President Truman, telling him that ‘Negroes will defend themselves’ if he didn’t enact anti-lynching legislation.  And in 1951 Robeson presented an anti-lynching petition to the UN, which asserted that the US was guilty of genocide by its failure to act against lynching.

He was also a socialist and an advocate of trade union rights during the McCarthy era. Robeson was denounced as a communist sympathiser and blacklisted by J Edgar Hoover’s House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951, after a speech at the 1949 Paris Peace Congress, in which Robeson said: ‘We in America do not forget that it was on the backs of the white workers from Europe and on the backs of millions of Blacks that the wealth of America was built. And we are resolved to share it equally. We reject any hysterical raving that urges us to make war on anyone. Our will to fight for peace is strong.’

  • Visit 60 Faces of CND, the Campaign’s online exhibition here

  • Read the New York Review of Books correspondence here

"This is a first strike weapon": report from our March public meeting

On Tuesday evening 60 London CND members crowded into a meeting room at SOAS for a talk on the explosive theme ‘are we heading for nuclear war?’

 Ted Seay addressing the meeting on Tuesday

Ted Seay addressing the meeting on Tuesday

We had two excellent speakers. The first was Ted Seay, tactical nuclear weapons expert and former arms control advisor with the US Mission to NATO.

Ted talked us through the recent US Nuclear Posture Review, which you can read about on our website here. The key problem with the review, he explained, is the move away from reducing nuclear stockpiles towards developing smaller nuclear weapons - or even fitting non-nuclear warheads onto Trident missiles. As he pointed out, this is not the greatest idea in a world of heightened global tensions, where the slightest provocation - let alone the firing of a Trident missile! - risks provoking nuclear war.

Ted also spoke about NATO, giving us the benefit of his many years’ experience working with the organisation. All NATO states are signed up to eradicate nuclear weapons - “but don’t hold your breath!” Under the Obama administration, there was an opportunity for the US to withdraw its nuclear weapons from European soil - a key first step towards denuclearisation. But that chance was missed and it’s unlikely to happen under Trump. Not only this but the development of new nuclear weapons like the B61-12 (more on that later!) explicitly violates the commitment not to develop new nuclear capabilities.

As Ted pointed out, NATO’s raison d’etre - the USSR - was dissolved in 1991. The US has a responsibility to lead the way in de-nuclearising the alliance. So far it’s failing miserably.

Our second speaker was Professor Dave Webb, CND chair. He took us in more detail through the new nuclear weapons currently being developed - including the B61-12. The B61-12 is designed to be more ‘precise’ than the current generation of nuclear missiles, increasing accuracy to within 10 metres - which, as our speakers pointed out, is patently absurd when you’re talking about a weapon with such far-reaching and devastating effects as a nuclear bomb. These developments are already being seen as dangerous and provocative both inside and outside the US.

 Professor Dave Webb talking us through the new "super-fuze" 

Professor Dave Webb talking us through the new "super-fuze" 

Professor Webb left us with a chilling final question. “If these weapons are for deterrence, why do they need to be precise? This is a first strike weapon.”

You can read our live Twitter updates from the meeting here.