Remembering CND and the anti-nuclear movement

Remembering CND and the anti-nuclear movement

Socialists argued about nuclear wars in the 1950’s and concluded that, on numerous grounds, nuclear wars would be a total disaster for millions of innocent people, poisoned and maimed, and the planet itself would suffer irreparable damage to its environs – hence, that to support human life, the air, eco-system and the soil, we should avoid these at all costs and call for abolition and nuclear disarmament on a European scale.  We were also aware that the USA developed these weapons, they said, to end the Japanese war which their experts attempted to justify with the argument that the Japanese would fight on for 50 years on the terrain of Asia which had helped them fight a guerrilla-type war.

C.N.D. (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) was formed in 1957. It involved religious leaders such as Cannon John Collins; it had strong support in the Quaker movement, and in the Labour Party youth sections; young students who saw their future life threatened, and quite large sections of the Liberal party, the Trade Unions, and of course much opposition was orchestrated by the Communist Party of Great Britain which at that time had considerable influence in the trade unions and in the left of the Labour Party. A rump of around 60 MP’s were all opposed to nuclear weapons. Fenner Brockway and Koni Zillacious and a whole rump of old ILP (Independent Labour Party) Labour Party MPs were all totally opposed.  The Easter  CND Marches were a start to the Flower Power movements, to a Folk and Skifle band revival, that then led to Rock and the swinging 1960’s culturally. It was all mixed up. The Music Festivals grew in a way out of those marches that were colourful and full of a wide range of characters and dress. The hippy movement and drugs revival certainly was another indirect offspring of the Aldermaston Marches.

We worked out that really the weapons were developed as a form of “Blackmail against the real target –  The Soviet Union and their satellite states in Eastern Europe, and the emerging post-war Chinese Maoist regime, that knew no boundaries and was unresponsive to diplomatic pressure, hence a series of proxy wars were fought on their borders like Korea and Malaya and later Vietnam, Indo-China etc. all of which were designed to put limits on the expansion of the Chinese revolution.

The eco-arguments were made for us by our own government, as well as by early mistakes by the Russians. In 1960 the year my daughter Fiona, (Dec 1960) the most beautiful thing in the world to me, was born, a Russian hydrogen bomb was exploded and the experiment went quite wrong as the radioactive fallout from the explosion was reversed as winds changed and, instead of dissipating over Siberia and the Arctic Tundra, with no people and no really significant eco-systems, it turned tail and came into Western Europe. The hills of Wales where sheep had grazed for millenniums were suddenly poisonous and we couldn’t eat the meat or drink the milk.  As milk was fundamental to infants diets….that was quite a propaganda coup for the British and Western capitalist governments and a way of turning people’s minds against those wicked commie poisoners.

By this time, then, the arguments had all been made by events. Given also that trains loaded with nuclear weapons were in constant transportation between the bases and the nuclear research institutes like Aldermaston, people were worried about nuclear accidents all the time and there were plenty where the USA had to dig nuclear bombs out of planes that had had accidents and gone down in seas and needed to be rescued before deterioration of casings and exposure of radioactive materials in the bombs occurred.

Hence, there were both strands to the arguments…the war has no winners…but huge losses for all people, death destruction of civilisation that’s taken 10K thousand years… to establish. It’s back to the Stone Age if there are any survivors, who maybe just could possibly make it long term, and reproduce, which was not certain at all. As the whole eco-system of food management preparation storage and growth development was also threatened, there was real doubt about how far back – if life was possible – the remainder would be flung (like a time capsule). Maybe 50,000 years back with no guarantees that any soil anywhere would grow meaningful non- radiated crops.

CND and the struggles that emerged from participation against ruling class interests and  conservative forces,  undoubtedly radicalised whole generations of youngsters and led to a form of political education through struggle, which fed into the wider liberal and socialist left where both the Labour Party Young Socialists and many hard-left groups that had emerged from the post war period. I was arrested and charged with assault for fighting the police assault on the anti-Vietnam war demo in Grosvenor Square demo in 1968. I got a three-months suspended prison sentence.

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