protest

Protest NATO: 70 years too many

This April, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) celebrates its 70th birthday.

As CND General Secretary Kate Hudson writes, ‘in the 30 years since the Cold War and the removal of its political and military rival, the Soviet Union, NATO has massively expanded territorially, changed its mission statement from a defensive to an aggressive posture and embarked on a series of wars, of which their intervention in Afghanistan is getting on for two decades long. ‘

CND has long opposed NATO, and on the 2nd April will protest to challenge this aggressive alliance which makes all of us less safe. Linking with anti-NATO protests internationally, CND will be at NATO’s Allied Maritime Command in Northwood.

Join us on the 2nd April to say No to Nato and No to Trump!

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



45 Peace campaigners locked to railings at Parliament: video

45  peace campaigners locked on to the railings outside Parliament on Wednesday, with 40-50 supporters nearby.

The activists were highlighting the fact that the UK is refusing to enter into multi-lateral talks to begin the urgent process of eliminating nuclear weapons.

They support the current talks on the United Nations Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 122 countries have supported this Treaty. 58 countries have signed the Treaty intending to ratify it later. Only 50 states need to ratify the Treaty for it to become law.

So far the UK, which could play a leading role, has refused to be present at the many preparatory round of negotiations.

For too long the British government has claimed that it would support multi-lateral moves for a nuclear free world. Now is the ideal opportunity for this.

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

CND at 60 book launch

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson launched her new book, CND at 60: Britain’s most enduring mass movement, at Friends House in London. In conversation with Victoria Brittain, she discussed what prompted her to update CND’s history and read passages from her book before answering audience questions.

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The launch date – 8 March, International Women’s Day – was well chosen. Women have played an important role in CND and the wider peace movement from the very beginning. This includes London CND’s own Pat Arrowsmith, nowadays a CND UK Vice Chair, an organiser of the first march to Aldermaston and prominent in the Committee of 100.

You can purchase a copy of the book here

London CND joins Saudi visit protest

LRCND committee members Helen and Hannah

LRCND committee members Helen and Hannah

London CND was out in force on 7 March to protest Mohammad bin Salman’s state visit at the invitation of Theresa May, including London CND Vice Chair Hannah Kemp-Welch and EC Member Helen Toomey pictured here. Hundreds of protesters gathered at Downing Street to say ‘Crown Prince Not Welcome’.

Shadow International Development Secretary Kate Osamor spoke at the rally, as did MPs Andy Slaughter, Chris Williamson, and others. The Green Party was represented by Deputy Leader Amelia Womack, and Sinn Fein by Joe Dwyer. Earlier in the day Jeremy Corbyn made a strong statement in parliament denouncing Saudi’s abysmal human rights record.

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The arms that Britain sells to Saudi Arabia have been used in its war on Yemen, a war that’s sparked what the UN describes as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. As Defence Minister, the Crown Prince has led that war. When the Prime Minister Theresa May invited him over, an ad hoc committee got together, including London CND Chair, Carol Turner, to organise a series of activities in opposition to the visit.

These included a parliamentary petition calling for the invitation to be withdrawn which attracted 11,863 signatures. Under parliamentary rules the government is required to respond if a petition is supported by 10,000 people. In response, the Foreign Office issued a statement claiming, among other things:

  • ‘Regular engagement is a vital part of our strong relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is important for mutual security and prosperity and includes meaningful discussion on reform and human rights’;

  • ‘The longstanding partnership between Saudi Arabia and the UK has helped make both of our countries safer and more prosperous’;

  • ‘The Crown Prince has embarked on a series of reforms to modernise society and the economy’; and

  • ‘Our starting point for engagement on human rights with all countries is based on what is practical, realistic and achievable…’

The ad hoc committee issued a repudiation. You can read both on the Stop the War website.

Green Party Deputy Leader Amelia Womack

Green Party Deputy Leader Amelia Womack

The success of the committee shows what can be achieved when peace organisations come together with progressive Arab organisations.

The committee included Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Global Justice, Peace Pledge Union, Stop the War and War on Want, as well Arab Organisation for Human Rights UK, the Bahrain Opposition Bloc, BIRD, Human Rights for Yemen, Iraqi Democrats, Sheba for Democracy and Human Rights, Stop the War. Its success in part lies in the collaboration between UK peace organisations and progressive groups from the region. Watch this space for news of futher action.

London celebrates CND at 60

Bruce Kent (front row, right) was the guest speaker at London CND's March to Aldermaston - CND at 60 event

Bruce Kent (front row, right) was the guest speaker at London CND's March to Aldermaston - CND at 60 event

London CND celebrated the Campaign’s 60th anniversary on Saturday 17 February, with a film show hosted by Sands Film Club, Rotherhithe. Forty to fifty people attended the March to Aldermaston: CND at 60 event. Referring to the Lindsey Anderson documentary of the 1958 Easter march to the Aldermaston bomb-making factory, guest speaker Bruce Kent (front row, right) explained: ‘I was a humble London curate at the time. It wasn’t until later that I became convinced about the issue of nuclear weapons.’ Olivier Stockman who runs Sands Studios with colleague Christine Edzard, noted that the two short films he also showed – Genie in a bottle unleashed and Embrace! a world free of nuclear weapons – were chosen from the UN library of films which advocate a nuclear free world.

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Lindsey Anderson’s short documentary of the three-day Ban the Bomb march of Easter 1958, narrated by Richard Burton, enjoys landmark status as a campaigning documentary. It was a milestone too for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which emerged onto the political stage as an organisation capable of uniting disparate political currents and concerned citizens from across the country.

The volunteers responsible for the film organised the Film and Television Committee for Nuclear Disarmament, brought together a range of skills across the film industry to make an impressive and professional piece of documentary footage. Lindsey Anderson was the dominant influence, who became the acknowledged leader of Free Cinema, a British documentary revival of the 1950s which prefigured the British New Wave movement. March to Aldermaston is included in the British Film Institute’s box set, Free Cinema, available from http://shop.bfi.org.uk/

You can watch a clip from March to Aldermaston here.