On 6th August 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, causing massive loss of life, hideous injuries, huge destruction of buildings and genetic damage which lasts to this day.
Every year this atrocity is commemorated around the world, and we commit ourselves to ensure that this is never done again. It is worth remembering that the size and power of one of today's bombs is many times that of this first prototype weapon.
3 days later on 9th August a different type of nuclear bomb was exploded over the city of Nagasaki, so this we also commemorate.
Our own event here in Kingston takes place at 8.30pm on Monday 6th August 2018 on the riverbank near the bandstand in Canbury Gardens, where we gather for a short ceremony. We are pleased to say that this year we will be joined by the Deputy Mayor of Kingston on Thames, Cllr Olivia Boult. All are welcome to attend. Please bring white flowers to cast into the river in memory of those who died that day and those who continue to die in wars around the world. Also please bring a candle in a jar to illuminate the river bank.
On 5th July I visited Kingston Grammar School----a private mixed school in the middle of Kingston---with Katia Chornik. Katia has a daughter at the school and has been concerned for some time about the Cadet programme in the school, which she says is heavily promoted.
We met with the deputy Headmaster and the Commander of the Cadets. Our main aim was to try to persuade the school to adopt a more balanced approach and to include peace activities, non-violent means of solving conflict, negotiation skills etc. in their programme.
Katia had researched a lot of possibilities and we left details of these with the school----info from Forces Watch, Veterans for Peace etc. Katia also suggested that information should be given to students pointing out the possible dangers of joining the army, as opposed to presenting it as a win-win decision. We pointed out that although the school claims that it does not do any army recruiting, the recruitment is subliminal and advanced by the heavy promotion. Children are invited to join the Cadets in the second year and they are encouraged to join for at least one year. No other clubs or societies are promoted in the same way. There was some discussion about the decision of the school to include live arms training in the Cadet programme. The school claimed that health and safety concerns were paramount, but we pointed out that accidents can happen.
In spite of the school's heavy promotion of the Cadet programme there are in fact only 50 Cadets in the school---850 students in total.
The deputy headmaster agreed to look at all the materials provided and to discuss these with other members of staff. Katia and I will try to arrange a follow up meeting sometime during the autumn term.
In addition to the Cadet programmes in private schools there are a lot of programmes in state schools and these are apparently becoming even more prevalent——-please contact KPC if you have any concerns about any such programme at any school in the Kingston area.
From Carol Clisby
In view of the above, readers will be interested in the recent experiences of Veterans for Peace members during the recent "Armed Forces Day".
Here is an extract. (To read the full story look at http://vfpuk.org/reports/armed-forces-day-2018-2/)
"For Armed Forces Day 2018 VFP UK decided that Blackpool would be an appropriate place to assist in the ‘celebrations’. With many members based in the North West and a private camp site for us to set up a temporary HQ, it was the perfect place.
Initially we registered to have an official presence at the event. The MOD registered us as a partner and we set about liaising with Blackpool Council about a stand on the promenade, which is a focus for the day in Blackpool each year. Their insistence that we had public liability insurance meant we made the decision not to have a stand but instead wander around the promenade with leaflets and our own personal testimony.
The aim was to discuss militarism with the public, engage with military personnel, and challenge the concept of war. To enable this, we all had a number of different leaflets and, most importantly, our own personal testimonies. We all have supplied proof of military service. Our personal testimony is what gives our arguments power and gets us noticed.
Our members engaged with many people on the promenade, discussing militarism and war. We engaged with the public, and people in various uniforms. We also looked at what stands the military were running. Most were aimed at recruitment into a branch of the military, with various exhibits. Most disturbingly was a Royal Marine sponsored stand that had a number of weapons on display, including what looked like a Sterling Sub Machine Gun and a variant of the AK 47. What was disturbing about this stand was that the personnel in military fatigues (combat trousers, some sort of unit polo shirt, and a Royal Marines green beret) were allowing children to handle these weapons and encouraging their families and friends to take photos of them handling weapons. This included children aiming weapons at people. Something that I was taught in my basic training was that one NEVER points a weapon at a person unless you are aiming at them to kill them.
After we had been engaging with the public for about two hours a Blackpool Council representative approached one of our members, Michael, and asked us to stop our action. Apparently a member of the military staff had complained about Veterans engaging with members of the public. The rep said we did not have a permit and that should we continue to hand out leaflets on the promenade or even engage people wearing our tee shirts then they would ask the police to intervene. The rep explained that we could carry on our action off the promenade on the public highways but not private property."
You can probably see where this is going, a lot of confusion concerning Blackpool Council, what Veterans for Peace were and were not allowed to do, whether or not they had been threatened with arrest, etc. If you want to read the rest of the report look at the website given above.
But to me what is so shocking is the Royal Marine-sponsored stand and the children given weapons as toys to play with - yet it is "an offence" of some sort to give out a leaflet! Ed
Inside the Playhouse theatre you will find yourself sitting in a make-shift Afghan restaurant, one of the more cheerful features of the Calais Jungle recreated here in a series of vivid snapshots in the camp.
The Play is written by Joe Murphy and has already had a sold-out run at the Young Vic.
Quoting from Henry Hitchings in his five-star Evening Standard review of 6th July, The Jungle " is tense, moving and courageous. A tribute to hope and resourcefulness, it's also a sobering reminder of political issues that remain tragically unsolved".
This play continues until 3 November, so we should have plenty of time to arrange a group visit. Please email or phone me as soon as possible (as it did have a five-star review) - phone 0208-399-2547 if you are interested, and we could then set up a doodle-poll to try and find a mutually convenient date to visit.
This exhibition has also received a five-star review in the Evening Standard, by Matthew Collings, and this resume is taken from his article of 5th June.
He writes "This is a show about how war is processed by art. It is timely because we are jolted every day by images of war-torn Syria, persecution in Gaza and frightening stories about out-of-control world leaders with their fingers on the button....As well as the horrible results of the conflict, the exhibition also shows more subtle aspects, such as culture transforming itself to describe and understand a transformed world. The artists are British, French and German, and they include heavy-hitters of modern art such as Max Beckmann and Picasso, but also many less well-known names.
CRW Nevison's painting "Paths of Glory" shows the bodies of two young soldiers slumped face down in the mud. (Nevinson was an army ambulance driver until invalided out due to rheumatoid fever. He was then commissioned as a war artist in 1917, but was forbidden to exhibit this picture. He did it anyway, with a strip of paper over the corpses saying "censored". Predictably he got into trouble for this too!)
Other well-known works by Jacob Epstein (The Rock Drill) and Stanley Spencer are there, also works by Kurt Schwitters, Fernand Leger and Harold Gillies which may be less familiar.
NB - This exhibition ends on 16 September, so not so much time to get to it.
4 to 14 September our member Louis Sheldon-Williams is staging an exhibition of his father's paintings in All Saints' Church Kingston on the subject of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Entry is free, and most paintings will be for sale.
Noel Hamel has talked to Louis about his father's work and has written the following preview of the exhibition. (edited)
OSCAR, ABSTRACT ART and the CHERNOBYL DISASTER
To me much modern art is incomprehensible. It began to lose me at the transition from figurative to abstract. Oscar’s work after the Chernobyl accident challenges my assumptions. Abstract art is not all the same. Certain abstract artists deliberately created art which was unrelated to anything – it referenced only itself. This artist and this exhibition is very different.
Oscar was always open to the new and unconventional, having great interest in avant-garde movements and art of diverse cultures. His successful career spanned almost 60 years during which he embraced many different influences. His oeuvre was never wholly abstract but his abstract work reflected the realities of personal experiences and interests. He was interested in politics, felt that British attitudes were generally too conservative, and believed artists had a responsibility to contribute for the good in the socio-political sphere. Deeply affected by the rise of militarism and fascism he declared himself a pacifist and internationalist and concerned himself with political and cultural issues worldwide. He became a conscientious objector in WWII.
Oscar was also a long-time campaigner against the dangers of radioactivity and believed nuclear power generation was pursued in the interests of producing military grade plutonium irrespective of the risks. He and many others foresaw the potential for accidents and for him particularly this concern, followed by the reality, were extremely painful. How to paint concern and pain? Abstract work can be a means of expressing deeply felt emotions and this is typically the case with this series prompted by the catastrophic Chernobyl explosion of 1986. Despite health issues caused by a road accident in 1969 he threw himself into creating 100 paintings and 100 drawings in five years. He worked frenetically and had a ground-breaking exhibition in the Ecology Gallery in London in 1989.
His paintings reflect feelings of profound disharmony with stark colour clashes and occasionally a sinister fractured and disintegrating aura. His ‘abstract’ paintings are created with calculated precision to reflect the dramatic intensity of the ferocity of the blast and its aftermath. Preoccupation with the subject led to exhaustive working and reworking, which, coupled with the illness and death of his wife in 1991 precipitated his own death from heart attack in 1994.
The paintings on show are a small part of a collection of works which in many respects are Oscar’s epitaph.
Thanks to Noel. We hope many of our members will be able to come along to see these works.
Several years ago a programme was started by Kingston Peace Council/CND to conduct assemblies in local schools on the theme of Peace in the two weeks around the UN International Day of Peace.
We were lucky at that time to have several contacts within schools, especially primary, as one of our members was a supply teacher in Kingston and Richmond.
This has continued and grown as many schools request us to go back each year, and most years some new schools also contact us.
As I write this at the end of July we already have 14 firm primary school bookings and 2 more possible, and 3 possible secondary school bookings to be confirmed at the start of the Autumn term.
We would like to ask any parent or governor of a local school who is interested in arranging an assembly for their school, to please contact our Organiser, Mary Holmes, to discuss this, 020 8892 3271, as we can still accommodate a few more assemblies this year.
Other activities will be taking place all around the world organised by Peace One Day, please look at their website internationaldayofpeace.org
From education to the arts, social justice to sports, health to the environment, neighbourhood issues, service for others, there are many ways to participate in Peace Day!
This year's theme is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70.
It's always a pleasure to hear from Harry Davis, and to know that he continues to write to his local paper, the Canberra Times. (For new readers, Harry was our regular newsletter editor for over 10 years, until he retired back to his native Australia.)
Yesterday the Canberra times printed my letter on military spending, and here it is.
Donald Trump wants to persuade European countries to increase their spending on defence from 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) to 4% of GDP. Surely an extra couple of percentage points is not much? But hold on, shouldn’t spending be related not to GDP, but to what governments have available to spend? Shouldn’t it be related to a percentage of the budget, rather than the irrelevant figure for total worth of goods and services produced annually?
Looking at the US budget for 2015, we find that taking into account both discretionary and mandatory spending, spending on the military took 16% of all spending. This year, President Trump has persuaded Congress to further increase military spending to $700 billion.
In Australia defence spending is less, but it still took up 7% of the 2016/17 budget.
Relating defence spending to GDP is misleading, making it look more affordable, and reduces the incentive to find other ways to improve security rather than the economically barren field of the military.
PS - I could have added that the huge US debt, which takes a further percentage of the budget just to service, exists solely because of the costs of wars.
Harry also tells us:-
I went to an interesting exhibition in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, which focussed on the British nuclear tests that were held on Montebello island off the west coast, and on the mainland, at Maralinga. People were slow to realise that the radioactive clouds resulting from the explosions drifting across Australia might be bad for health..... he hopes to write more about this for us soon.
Victims of war are suffering on our doorstep. Governments are doing nothing to help, but you can.
There are currently around 1,000 refugees sleeping rough in Calais and Dunkirk; another 500 refugees in Brussels; and over 1,500 in Paris. These migrants have no access to even basic sanitation and may not have changed their clothes in weeks, leading to skin disease and similar problems. Since the closure of the Calais migrant camps (Calais Jungle), these refugees have no shelter at night or regular food supply, and their health is in shocking decline. The refugee crisis in Europe is the biggest challenge of our generation. Governments do not recognise this as a humanitarian crisis, but your charity can.
Please look at care4calais.org There is a short video telling you what they need most, (including money of course). Recently a friend of Maggie' Rees donated some tents, and a volunteer in Banstead came to collect them. So if you have anything suitable let me know and I will organise collection. (Rosemary)
Of course if you could help as a volunteer that would be wonderful - two of our members Mary Holmes and Carol Clisby have been there to help for a few days a while ago, so they could give you some guidance. Again let me know and I will put you in touch.
(we can refuse to kill, but must still pay for the killing)
Conscience commissioned Dr Tim Street to write a report, “The Minister for Peace and Disarmament: An Assessment”, which assesses the Labour party’s proposal to create a Minister for Peace and Disarmament (MPD). The idea of an MPD, initially put forward by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2016, led to Fabian Hamilton (MP for Leeds North East) being appointed the Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament. The proposal was then discussed in Labour’s 2017 Election Manifesto. Since his appointment, Hamilton has been developing the role, working on a ‘peace doctrine’ to outline the post’s underlying principles and remit. So far there has been a lack of public discussion concerning what a MPD would entail and the different areas of work it could include—a gap that this report aims to help fill. This means both considering the overall value of the MPD as well as highlighting the obstacles to and opportunities for the post being a success given the many challenges involved.
Part One considers Britain's current role in the world and the different directions it may take in future, touching on the key debates and issues facing decision-makers today, including Brexit, the idea of Global Britain, the UK’s relations with Russia and the US and climate change. The state of domestic politics is next discussed in relation to these issues, focusing on public opinion and the positions of the main political parties on international policy in order to ascertain the potential for progressive and more radical change in areas relating to the MPD.
Part Two examines the arguments for and against a MPD more closely, principally by drawing on interviews with a range of people with policy experience and knowledge in this field. From talking to academics, policy experts, campaigners and political figures, it became apparent that there are a variety of views on and interpretations of what an MPD would mean in practice. The views of these respondents are discussed as a means of examining what obstacles will need to be overcome and what opportunities taken advantage of if the MPD post is to be a success.
Another key issue is how the MPD will operate in terms of the machinery of government and relate to other departments with pre-existing aims and interests. Part Two therefore also includes an examination of possible institutional arrangements for the MPD, including resources and funding. Having reviewed the political and institutional issues involved, the report then provides several different options for how a MPD might be configured, in addition to considering how these options may interact with political choices and developments in future.
You can read this report on www.ConscienceOnline.org.uk OR I have a hard copy if you would like to borrow it. Ed
Last Friday’s demonstration was a remarkable upsurge of popular feeling against the policies of Donald Trump. It was a powerful rejection of the extraordinary human, social and economic damage being inflicted across the USA – and the consequences of these developments elsewhere in the world. His presence in the White House means open season for racism, homophobia and misogyny. The support and succour that he brings to the far right internationally is enormously dangerous; this is a political development that must be challenged at every level.
For peace and anti-nuclear campaigners, the threats are very marked and we need to ensure that they are widely understood. There are many reasons to oppose Trump, but his nuclear policies present dangers that no one can avoid. When he builds his wall, we can tear it down. When he puts children in cages, we can break them open. But when he presses the nuclear button, there will be no second chance. We are all confronted with annihilation.
Trump is an existential threat to humanity and the planet. He has trashed the Iran nuclear deal, and speaks of destroying North Korea when he isn’t being Chairman Kim’s best friend. But whatever rhetorical flourishes he may occasionally adopt, the reality is that his new nuclear posture review commits to building ‘usable’ nuclear weapons, and outlines more scenarios in which they could be used. He is making $1.2 trillion available for nuclear weapons development and modernisation.
This is why we must act.
Friday’s Together against Trump demonstration gave me real hope that people will take action to stop this terrible turn in politics: to reject the brutality, hatred and sheer immorality that underpin these far right policies wherever they are found. There was a sense of coming together as a renewed movement, united, embracing all of us, to stand up for peace, justice and basic human decency.
There was a sense of that people power which we felt on 15th February 2003 as we came together against the war on Iraq. We must rise again, and this time we must win. For this is not a war against a country, it is a war against humanity, and we will not be defeated.
Several KPC/CND members were on this demonstration, but it was so very crowded and noisy we failed to meet up. There were large contingents from Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War and CND.
It was also good to know that protests took place in many other towns and cities across Britain and also outside Chequers where President Trump was meeting Theresa May.
There were many very imaginative hand-made posters to keep us entertained, several too rude to print here I'm afraid. As you can imagine, many featured pussies of the feline variety.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Rosemary Addington
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND