Kingston Peace News - October/November 2019

The newsletter of Kingston Peace Council / Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Global Dangers Tour

“Darkening Clouds of Global Dangers – our fight back”

Tuesday 29 October 2019, 7.30pm at Kingston Quaker Centre

smiling lady with a necklace

Victoria Brittain

We live in increasingly unstable times, where nuclear dangers are growing alarmingly.

Trump has ushered in a new era of militarism and is preparing for high-tech, massively violent wars against Russia and China, as well as launching a Space Force. Artificial Intelligence, with its dual use and military capacities, is on the rise, as is cyber-hacking. This is all happening against a background of dangerous climate change, resource wars and mass migration.

Instead of wasting billions on new nuclear weapons, Britain could scrap Trident and support a global ban on these weapons of mass destruction.

CND has been highlighting these dangers in a national tour this year, and as part of this tour, Kingston Peace Council has invited celebrated writer Victoria Brittain to explore global dangers and people’s actions to prevent nuclear and climate catastrophe. Victoria has been a journalist living and working in Vietnam, the US, Africa, and the Middle East for many years, including twenty years at The Guardian. Most recently she has worked from London, mainly on the so-called ‘war on terror’.

Come and hear Victoria speak, and bring your friends.

The Grass Roots of Protest

Part two of the essay on the history of protest against nuclear weapons by our Australian correspondent and life member Harry Davis

The formation of CND

protestors marching with a  banner reading March from London to AldermastonIn Britain on 2nd November, 1957, the New Statesman published an article by J. B. Priestley entitled Russia, the Atom and the West. In the article Priestley attacked the decision by Labour Minister Aneurin Bevan to abandon his policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament. The article resulted in a large number of people writing letters to the journal supporting Priestley's views. As Canon John Collins pointed out: ‘Whether other events may have contributed to the emergence of CND [the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament], J. B. Priestley's article exposing the utter folly and wickedness of the whole nuclear strategy was the real catalyst.’

Priestly had said that ‘sensible men and women were seeing through the arguments for a nuclear deterrent’.

Our bargaining power is slight; the force of our example might be great.  The catastrophic antics of our time have behind them men hag-ridden by fear . . . If we openly challenge this fear, then we might break the wicked spell that all but a few uncertified lunatics desperately wish to see broken, we could begin to restore the world to sanity and lift this nation from its recent ignominy to its former grandeur. Alone, we defied Hitler; and alone we can defy this nuclear madness into which the spirit of Hitler seems to have passed, to poison the world.

This first of the grass root anti-nuclear movements grew quickly.  Kingsley Martin, the editor of the New Statesman, organised a meeting of people inspired by Priestley and as result the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was formed. Early members of this group included J. B. Priestley, Bertrand Russell, Fenner Brockway, Wilfred Wellock, Ernest Bader, Frank Allaun, Donald Soper, Vera Brittain, E. P. Thompson, Sydney Silverman, James Cameron, Jennie Lee, Victor Gollancz, Konni Zilliacus, Richard Acland, Stuart Hall, Ralph Miliband, Frank Cousins, A. J. P. Taylor, Canon John Collins and Michael Foot.

A committee was set up, and it was decided to organise a march to Aldermaston, where the atomic weapons factory making the British warheads was situated.  The first Aldermaston protest march took place the following Easter (in 1958) when 4,000 people left Trafalgar Square on the four-day 55-mile journey.

The following Easter the march went the other way, starting outside the razor-wired fence at the Aldermaston weapons factory and finishing four days later in London’s Trafalgar Square.  This time the participants more than filled the Square, numbering over 20,000 people.  The Aldermaston marches were subsequently held every Easter until 1965.  By then the anti-nuclear campaign had broadened activities to include local marches and demonstrations organized by local groups – anti-nuclear protest had become not an annual event for campaigners but a full-time activity.

The central plank of CND policy, in line with Priestley’s original proposal, was unilateral nuclear disarmament for Britain, plus a campaign to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide.  Membership of CND waxed and waned according to the perceived degree of international tension.  Membership declined from the mid 1960s, as nuclear issues were replaced as the subject of mass protest by the US war in Vietnam. 

Many Labour and some Conservative MPs were CND members, and at one time the unilateralist line gained majority support within the Labour Party, but once elected, Harold Wilson’s 1964 Labour government retained a nuclear policy that did not differ from that of the Conservatives.

Harry Davis

To be continued in next edition of Kingston Peace News

a green CND symbol and a black Extinction Rebellion hourglass symbol intertwined above the caption 'XR Peace October Rebellion'

Extinction Rebellion and XR Peace

7th to 20th October 2019

Urgent action to tackle climate change is needed but our government prioritises war and weapons of mass destruction like Trident over the future of our planet.

The Extinction Rebellion movement has inspired millions with its attention-grabbing protests which have succeeded in setting a new agenda in the media and have put governments under growing pressure to respond. The next action will take place between the 7th and 20th October.

This time a new coalition of peace organisations has come together as XR Peace and is planning to shut down part of the Embankment close to the Ministry of Defence in London.

Nuclear abolition has to be part of the agenda, which is why CND will join the October blockade, to bring attention to the growing threat of nuclear war.

But it is important also to publicise the connection between military-related activity and climate change.  Increasingly the major charities and others are recognising that climate change can so easily lead to war (via soil degradation, competition for ever scarcer resources, resulting migration and political instability).  What is less commonly acknowledged though is that this is only one half of the vicious circle: the other half being that all the processes connected with war contribute to climate change.  Scientists for Global Responsibility estimates that possibly 5% of the global carbon footprint results from activities of the military-industrial complex, not including war impacts which may account for a further 1%.  Yet these figures are never taken into account when reduction targets are set for greenhouse gas emissions.

Can you join in on one of the days between 7th and 20th October, or commit to a couple of hours? There are a variety of things to engage in - there’s plenty to do without risking arrest, such as supporting the blockaders, singing, dancing, talking — all are essential and good fun.

As we block the road we will have workshops, teach-ins and exhibitions, choirs, musicians, comedians, academics, story tellers and speakers, making the links between nuclear weapons, militarism and the climate emergency. Rebel for peace and the planet.

CND is encouraging members to participate see:

Some KPC/CND members will meet at the Embankment site on Monday 7th at 12 noon.  Come and join us!  Look out for the KPC banner or for the 'War causes climate change. Climate change causes war' banner.  Let us know if you can visit on other days too - if there are enough of us, we can take the banner again.

Victims’ Voices

I have often noticed that human rights abuses, conflict, war, torture, and other events leaving a trail of injured and severely disadvantaged victims in their wake tend to be debated and argued over, often at great length, with reams of reports and books produced by academics, NGOs and the United Nations; but too often the interests of those bereaved, injured, tortured and subject to hardships and injustices get far less public attention.

The purpose of humanitarian law is to prevent the excesses and abuses which became all too familiar with the development of advanced arms technology, and to protect the rights of every human on the planet, preventing them from being treated in ways society decides is unacceptable and cruel.

The United States has covert programmes for torture and abuse and even gives training to others wishing to abuse their own citizens. The military are responsible for unforgivable treatment of prisoners. The army manual offers some restraint but the CIA is uninhibited. In the ‘War on Terror’ torture was routine. Lawyers redesignated torture and argued it was ok. The CIA contracted out torture to Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and Syria where medieval practices are routine – a case of “not me guv’, I never laid a finger on ’im.”

A report by Westminster & Sheffield Universities very carefully unredacted the notorious CIA report, describing some of the torture used, the mechanics of the organisation of torture and admissions of the torture of captives. A substantial proportion of the 40 remaining in Guantanamo are amongst those victims. The effects of the CIA abuses can only be guessed at as we don’t hear or know enough. It is rumoured that many now in Guantanamo are so badly injured by ill-treatment that releasing them and exposing the truth would be ‘too embarrassing’. A CIA memo reproduced on page 74 of the report cites Israeli claims ‘justifying’ torture, if it prevents an incident of devastating harm – the ‘ticking bomb’ argument. Despite exaggerated claims by torturers, no such scenario has been demonstrated. Torture is neither legal nor justifiable. The perpetrators’ voices are heard. Will we ever hear the victims?

What about the families of Gaza? There have been two major Israeli ‘blitzkriegs’ this century, with bombardments and invasion, and innumerable less-headline-grabbing events. Gaza was laid siege to, in ‘retaliation’ for the election of Hamas-Political-Wing representation. In 1920 the British were supposed to create a Palestinian state; now Hamas wants a Palestinian state (based within the 1967 green line). Hamas is popular in Gaza because of its social and charitable work, its integrity and lack of corruption. The siege is illegal despite being supported by western governments. Health is suffering and suicide rates increasing. Children are especially traumatised but many thousands of families are affected by the thousands of civilian deaths deliberately caused. Every death or injury is a personal tragedy. Endless pages of reports talk of illegality, human rights breaches and war crimes. Israeli denials are loudly broadcast. The voices of the families of Gaza, our fellow humans, are scarcely audible.

Shooting unarmed Palestinians has been practised for 100 years. Rocket firing is a desperate and largely futile protest, but Israel uses it to justify wholesale bombardment of Gaza’s families with thousands of tons of bombs. Could the continuing slaughter be explained by other than that old-fashioned bigoted colonialist attitude; which led to horrendous slaughter and injustice in World War II? What do families in Gaza think? Are their voices heard?


Noel, August 2019

Armageddon meets Ealing comedy

Winds of Change: Britain in the Early Sixties by Peter Hennessy

Roshan Pedder found this review by Kathryn Hughes in the Guardian on 28 August.  She was particularly astonished by the following paragraph:

In 1962, Whitehall’s war planners spotted a fatal flaw in their defensive preparations against a surprise nuclear attack. What if the prime minister happened to be on the road when the four-minute warning came? The solution, decided the men from the ministry, was to issue the PM’s driver with a radio link, borrowed from the technology that the AA used to communicate with their mechanics on motorbikes. On receiving the alert, the driver would divert to the nearest public call box, whereupon the PM would phone Whitehall, pass on the nuclear codes, and escalate Armageddon. But what if neither the PM nor his driver had the requisite coins to make a call from a phone box? After some back-and-forthing between various departments, Tim Bligh, the principal private secretary, came up with a ruling: if the PM found himself caught short, he should simply reverse the charges. By which time, you can’t help thinking, the four minutes would have passed, and Downing Street would be a handful of radioactive dust.

[The Wind of Change was the name given to the speech that Conservative prime minister Harold Macmillan made in Cape Town when he acknowledged in 1960 that Britain could no longer stand in the way of its African colonies’ self-determination.]

five paper dovessix paper doves

United Nations International Day of Peace 2019

School visits

Amongst the continuous depressing news, there is a glimmer of hope. Mary, Hilary and Maggie have once more been visiting schools, to conduct assemblies, in the boroughs of Richmond and Kingston around the International Day of Peace on 21 September.

This year our schools programme coincided with Greta Thunberg’s address to the United Nations in New York and a worldwide climate strike. It’s increasingly recognised that climate change causing environmental degradation and food shortages can lead to forced migration, conflict and even war. Importantly, though less often talked about, the manufacture of weapons, their use in war and the rebuilding of infrastructure after wartime destruction all contribute to climate change. It has been estimated that weapons and military-related activity, as well as war impacts, are responsible for at least 6% of global carbon emissions. War is not only a humanitarian catastrophe, it is also an environmental one.  The link between peace and climate change was a theme in both primary and secondary schools.

We were made aware - and impressed - that children as young as five years old are very conscious of climate change, global warming and what they can do to "save our planet". Some quite small children as well as many teenagers have attended climate change demonstrations with the support of school staff.

Mary began primary assemblies by talking about the need for us to recycle and care for our planet if we want to have a world that’s good for everyone. Maggie continued with stories about respecting each other and co-operating to make our world - our homes and schools - much more peaceful places. In secondary schools Hilary explained how climate change can lead to conflict and war which in turn can contribute to climate change.

Twelve primary schools were visited this year (fourteen assemblies) and two secondary schools (four assemblies) with one more booked.  This has been our twelfth year of school visits and we have been more aware this year of the greater pressures on teachers and of the increase in size of local schools. Two primary schools we visited have almost eight hundred pupils.  All children have responded well and made us very welcome.

Peace Day stall

At assemblies before Saturday 21 September, we mentioned that we would be having a stall in Kingston on Peace Day.  Children from some of the primary and secondary schools we had visited came to join many others writing messages on doves to put on our peace tree. 

The weather was brilliant for the stall and because it looked busy with parents and children, more adults took Peace Day leaflets.  Hopefully everyone took away the message that a peaceful world is a better world.

Stop DSEI 2019

There were protests outside the Excel Centre in London Docklands in the week running up to the opening of the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), when protestors tried (often with considerable success) to block the road as the equipment was being delivered.

dancers with Palestinian flag while policemen look on

Day 1: Stop Arming Israel

people sitting in the road

Day 2: No Faith in War (Photo Sam Walton)
Quakers Meeting for Worship, blocking the road

man in wheelchair with policemen

Day 3: No Nuclear

three people locked together in the road

Day 3: No Nuclear

two women smiling in the sunshine with a placard with a knitted rainbow and the slogan 'Give Hope Stop Arms Fairs'

Day 4: Conference at the Gates

a posse of cyclists

Day 5: Climate Justice

Arming Saudi Arabia

On 26 September the Government admitted in Parliament further breaches of a Court ruling that should have stopped arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.

UK arms are playing a central role in the Saudi-led war on Yemen. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and there is overwhelming evidence that attacks have breached international humanitarian law.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has been doing all it can to stop the arms sales, from action on the streets to action in the courts and, in June, the Court of Appeal found in CAAT's favour. It agreed that the Government acted unlawfully when it licensed the sale of UK-made arms to Saudi forces for use in Yemen. The Government was ordered to retake its previous decisions on a lawful basis and it agreed not to issue further licences to Saudi Arabia and its Coalition partners in Yemen. Yet, in the past few weeks the Government has admitted it has approved four licences for military equipment for use in Yemen, and said it is possible that even “more cases will come to light”.

Under fire from MPs responding to the revelations in the House of Commons, Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss MP, continued to insist that the UK’s arms export controls are “rigorous and robust”.

You are urged to write to your MP demanding an immediate arms embargo on Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies.

Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND