cnd

East London CND Peace Network Launch: Report

Tower Hamlets CND, which will be celebrating its 60th anniversary next year, held a meeting at Whitechapel Library on 8th November.  The main focus was to discuss the aim of reaching out to other organisations* with similar aims, both inside and outside the borough, with a view to the reciprocal dissemination of information about campaigns, events and matters of general interest.

This forum was described as a ‘Network for Peace’ with the primary strands being social justice, sustainability and peace.

The Chair of THCND, Phil Sedler, explained that he had contacted several organisations about the meeting and that some had expressed interest in the project, whilst not being in a position to send a representative to this initial brainstorming.

It was emphasised that this focus for other groups within the borough would have an informal structure which it was agreed is preferable to many, in particular the young.  Carol Turner from London CND and Georgia Elander, staff member, hope to enthuse people to participate and will lend administrative support until the end of February, by which time the group should have found its feet.  

The importance of social media was highlighted, and LCND are offering to organise and run a workshop on using technology, including how to set up a Facebook page, using Twitter, advertising events, etc.

The Chair explained that some thought had been given to data protection issues and it was important that each organisation be approached by one of their own members - a cascade of information was a useful analogy.  

Having discussed various ways of organising the coalition, two immediate aims were identified:

  1. Individuals within groups need to be contacted, so any personal contacts would be helpful

  2. It was agreed that a social before Christmas would provide an opportunity for further sharing of ideas and insights


GE will send out the initial email inviting organisations to join and a second with details of the social.

THCND’s next meeting will be on 10th January 2019 at Kingsley Hall and the AGM will be on Thursday 2nd March.


Report by Kate Cryan, London CND member

CND conference - last chance to register!

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Registration for CND UK’s AGM and conference closes this Friday, 12 October. It takes place in Bristol this year, on the weekend of Sat 20 and Sun 21 October. The AGM is Saturday – your chance to vote on policy for the coming year, including London’s motions, and elect CND’s national representatives for the coming year.

Full details here, including registration for individuals and organisations.


The Man Who Saved The World: Film Screening

Welcome to this blog entry from Lydia!

You might have heard about my time here with London CND from my previous blog. Last Monday, I had the opportunity to help out with London CND’s screening of The Man Who Saved The World, part of our  annual ceremony to commemorate the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With 50 people attending, many of whom have been members for decades, it was truly inspiring to see everyone come together for the purpose of remembering those who were lost to violence, and maintaining the endeavor for peace.

Catherine West MP speaking at the start of our film screening

Catherine West MP speaking at the start of our film screening

The evening started with a warm welcome and talk from Catherine West MP; a woman admirably passionate about the fight against nuclear weapons. She gave a heartfelt speech followed by a  reading of an extract from Fallout, by Fred Pearce, a book which explored the detrimental effects of nuclear energy since dropping the first atomic bomb.

The movie began afterwards. Before our eyes played the story of Stanislav Petrov, the man who on 26 September 1983 - a time when the US-Soviet relations were severely strained -  prevented not only the start of a nuclear holocaust, but also the end of the world as we know it. Throughout the movie flashed images that reveal the real impacts of nuclear weapons. It stressed that these  are not merely a hypothetical issue, but an issue that threatens human extinction by the minute. They are the ingredients to a war which can never be won. The documentary included a mention of a US nuclear missile that really solidified the room’s perception of nuclear weapons. The soldier introducing the missile to Stanislav Petrov described the damage: if all the bombs dropped on both sides of WW2 were combined into a single missile, it would only cause 60% of the damage caused by this one. These were the kinds of missiles that threatened human existence in 1983, and still do to this day. Stanislav Petrov’s actions demonstrate the importance of always choosing to do what is right, despite being alone in believing it is the right thing to do. He demonstrates the reality of the power of the individual in preserving humanity, and in the fight for peace. Most importantly, he personifies the extent to which saving the world - or destroying it - can be truly momentary.

In stressing this, he left us with a crucial reality-check:

“We must learn to coexist like brothers, or perish like dinosaurs”.

Until next time,

Lydia.

The obsession to renew Trident – a misguided allegiance

London Region CND’s evening event on 2 May – “A conversation on social justice: where does nuclear disarmament fit in” – was introduced by Georgia Elander, London CND’s staff member. A platform shared by one of CND’s Vice Presidents, and campaigners from two different political spectrums ensured a lively debate.

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Georgia touched on the interesting times that we are currently living in at home and abroad. There’s the possible denuclearisation of North Korea plus progress with the UN global ban treaty. We have a lifelong CND member as leader of the Labour Party, yet there is deadlock on the issue on much of the left.

The idealistic position taken by young people on the early Aldermaston marches is not really seen nowadays, and we need to find ways to engage young people to be active in the nuclear disarmament movement.

Amelia Womack, Deputy Leader of the Green Party, argued that ‘the nuclear deterrent’ makes it sound like something it isn’t. Other countries – non-nuclear countries – have enjoyed the same level of peace and security that we have. Government austerity has decimated our public services. Trade unions talk about jobs in the nuclear industry, but these are not the best jobs in the world, and it is perfectly feasible to transfer skills into other sectors, such as renewables.

Amelia talked about the obsession to renew Trident, describing it as a misguided allegiance. Is it really strong to press a button to kill thousands of people? Decades upon decades of people defending nuclear weapons has somehow seeped into people’s consciousness so that it is considered the norm, and we need a cross-party approach to tackle the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear energy. “It’s not just about political parties, it’s about political movements.” The government needs to come clean about its defence policy – for example, is the Hinkley power station going to pay for Trident or will we all pay for Trident through our electricity bills?

Young people seem very distanced from the nuclear atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which did not even happen in their parents’ lifetimes. Amelia concluded by saying that we are living in an age of quite violent nationalism, with moral judgements being made that affect all our lives.

Ian Chamberlain, anti-nuclear campaigner, started by talking about President Trump’s tweets over the past year and the way he has been ratcheting up tension and asked whether we felt safer by having Trident.

As a Labour Party member, Ian wants the movement to promote trust, cooperation and solidarity across the world; yet nuclear weapons are antithetical to that. We can’t advocate social justice while holding onto nuclear weapons: the people who advocate war and nuclear weapons are the same people who are responsible for growing levels of inequality, such as advocating privatisation of the NHS.

Although 53 per cent of Labour Party members oppose Trident, there are deeply entrenched sections of the Party who remain in favour, even with Jeremy Corbyn as leader. We also have the challenge of government hypocrisy: while it claims to support multilateral nuclear disarmament in theory, it has actually in practice done absolutely nothing to engage with the UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons multilaterally. Yet even Jeremy Corbyn cannot say in public that the Labour Party would sign up to the treaty. Ian argued that we must not accept this logic. Millions of people voted for Jeremy, who had made his position on nuclear weapons crystal clear.

We also need to question the so-called special relationship between the UK and the USA. Trump wants to tear up the Iran deal, but we cannot accept the establishment view on this. When the Labour Party gets into government it needs to be much more ambitious. We want a government of social justice, and this has to start by abolishing nuclear weapons. Ian said that when a Prime Minister goes to war, it is the most heinous thing and it is at that point (as with Blair and May) that they lose their humanity.

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Bruce Kent, Vice President of London Region CND, started off with a history lesson about how we got nuclear weapons in the first place. He made the connection between war, nuclear weapons and social justice - comparing the world’s total defence budget with the amount it would cost to eradicate world hunger. Trident only feeds national vanity, and people don’t make the connection between this obscene military expenditure and the money we need for our public services.

Bruce quoted from the preamble to the 1945 Charter of the United Nations: “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and[…] to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom…”

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 Moulsecoomb, 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.

 

Walter Wolfgang wins Ron Todd Peace Prize

Walter Wolfgang receiving his award at the Marx Memorial Library

Walter Wolfgang receiving his award at the Marx Memorial Library

London CND executive committee member Walter Wolfgang was awarded the 2018 Ron Todd Peace Prize at a ceremony on 10 March. A life-long campaigner for nuclear disarmament and an organiser of the first Aldermaston march, Walter would whole-heartedly approve of the Ron Todd Foundation’s motto: you don’t have power if you surrender your principles – you have office.

Ron Todd was a London lad who left school at 14. He joined the Transport and General Workers Union, the predecessor of today’s Unite union, when he worked at the Walthamstow Ford factory and became the union’s general secretary in 1985 until he retired in1992.

The TGWU was one of the earliest affiliate of CND, and continued to promote nuclear disarmament under his leadership.  Ron became a Vice President of CND until his death in 2005.