nuclear disarmament

Greenham Common: A Postscript

London CND member Jill Truman returned to Greenham Common in February 2019 for a photo exhibition highlighting life in the women's peace camp, where she met up with sisters from her former home town of Bristol. Below she records her recollections for London CND.

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THERE ARE NO FENCES, topped with razor wire, at Greenham Common now; no ugly, squat concrete buildings; no runways or silos; no convoys of lorries loaded with missiles.... No soldiers or MOD police or bailiffs or dogs. All those locked gates, named by women after the colours of the rainbow, have gone as well.. It was outside each of those gates, that groups of warmly-wrapped and often dishevelled women set up camps. The sites were makeshift: a few “benders” made of plastic sheeting and a fire to provide warmth and cooking facilities.

Those fires were the soul of each camp, symbols of hope and determination. Again and again, the bailiffs would stamp then out and throw the blackened kettles and pans into their “munchers” - together with the women’s possessions. Time after time after time, the women would re-light the fires and start over. Some stayed for days, some for weeks, months, years. They did put them out and leave the camps until the Cruise missiles had been taken away and the American base, closed.

Now, trees and ponds and thickets extend in every direction. Birds and rabbits and deer have reclaimed their common. Even on a greyish, coldish day in February it is beautiful. The only remnant of the American army base is the Control Tower, looking harmless, even friendly – its door wide open. No longer do you have to smash a window and break in. Nobody arrests you, tries you in Newbury Crown Court or sends you to prison. We just walked in!

THERE WAS SOMETHING VERY FAMILIAR about the people crowded round two large tables in the café: thirty years older, and remarkedly clean and tidy, but recognisably these were Greenham women, some accompanied by friends and relatives. The atmosphere was joyful, affectionate, celebratory. We had come to see an exhibition of black-and-white photographs taken by Wendy Carrig while she lived at Blue Gate in 1985. Whoever could have predicted that it could ever be possible to hold such an event in the forbidden, the hostile, Control Tower? The photos are graphic, recording conditions and situations which might otherwise be forgotten and are backed up by informative written records, including one by Rebecca Johnson, who spent five years there. I was accompanied by a grand-daughter, who had never heard of the Greenham Common peace camps until breakfast-time that morning. Like it or not, we are history now.

There are other interesting exhibitions in this newly-friendly Control Tower. Along a passageway, extends a time-line which narrates events which have happened there over the centuries. Upstairs,

is a room with aeroplanes and bombs and such things (numerous little boys and dads were in there). At the top, is a glazed viewing area, with wonderful views in all directions.

AFTERWARDS, we went outside, lit a fire and sat round it, sharing food and talking. There was a lot of laughter. Easy to forget, for a short time, that nuclear weapons may have left Greenham Common but there are more of them than ever, spread around the world. And plenty of warlike presidents prepared to press the nuclear button.

❍ Jill Truman is a former Greenham woman and playwright. Her work includes Common Women, a play about the peace camp which is still performed from time to time today.

❍ A short report of the photo exhibition and some of the photos that were displayed can be accessed at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-46468386



A new nuclear arms race? The INF treaty explained

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What is the INF treaty - and why does it matter?

This morning, we woke up to the news that Donald Trump is pulling the US out of the INF treaty. So what?

Read our explainer to find out why it’s actually a big deal.

What is it?

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF for short) was signed in Washington in 1987 between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, then General Secretary of the USSR. The treaty put an end to an arms race in which both the US and the USSR had deployed nuclear missiles all across Europe.

The INF outlawed all missiles with ranges of 500–1,000 kilometers (short-range) and 1,000–5,500 km (intermediate-range), and by May 1991, 2,692 such missiles were eliminated.

Why does Donald Trump want the US to pull out?

In October last year, Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the treaty on the grounds that Russia is not complying with it. The Trump administration claims that Russia is developing a new Cruise missile, which violates the treaty.


What happens next?

Today Trump confirmed that the US will be leaving the treaty. The US will suspending its compliance on Saturday, and will serve formal notice that it will withdraw altogether in six months.

If Russia does not destroy its new missiles within that six-month window, the US will start to develop its own intermediate-range missiles. This is likely to lead to a dangerous nuclear arms race.

Use CND’s tool to call on the foreign secretary to save the treaty.


Trump's finger on the nuclear button: Report from London CND 2019 conference

Photo: Henry Kenyon

Photo: Henry Kenyon

Last Saturday, CND supporters from across London gathered for our annual conference - this year taking the theme ‘Trump’s finger on the Nuclear Button.’

We were honoured to be joined by Ambassador Husam Zumlot, head of the Palestinian mission in Washington until President Trump closed it down. The Ambassador gave fascinating insights into the challenges facing those who seek a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and what the Trump administration’s policies mean for the region. We also heard from Catherine West on the UK Parliament’s response to the Trump administration, and from Ann Feltham from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade on the importance of ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

After the first session we crossed the Atlantic, with a video interview with Medea Benjamin from Code Pink USA, a women-led organisation opposing war and militarism. She told us about the varied tactics Code Pink uses - from traditional protest marches to inventive publicity stunts and educational programmes - and said she hoped to work more closely with the UK peace movement in the months and years ahead.

You can watch the video interview  here

You can watch the video interview here

Our second plenary featured Dr Rebecca Johnson from the Acronym Institute, London CND Chair Carol Turner, and Rae Street, Vice-Chair of CND UK. The guests discussed the trashing of international treaties - such as Trump’s intention to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, first signed in 1987 between the US and Russia. We heard about the importance of international agreements like the in building towards a nuclear-free world.

SOAS CND chair Nobu Ono speaking at the conference. Photo: Henry Kenyon

SOAS CND chair Nobu Ono speaking at the conference. Photo: Henry Kenyon

In the final plenary - ‘Think Global, Act Local’ - our speakers tackled the challenge of how to take concrete action as campaigners and communities to build this world. Sara Medi Jones, acting CND General Secretary, spoke about CND’s current campaigns; Nobu Ono told us about the work he’s been doing running SOAS CND, and the challenges and opportunities in youth and student activism. Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley left us with a message of hope: that we are living through times of intense change, in which the old political order is breaking apart - and we have the opportunity to build something new.

London CND vice-chair Hannah Kemp-Welch chairs the final panel of the day. Photo: Henry Kenyon

London CND vice-chair Hannah Kemp-Welch chairs the final panel of the day. Photo: Henry Kenyon

You can see all the photos from the conference here.