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CND slippage

John Taylor

ImageI have been struck lately by what seems to me mission creep within CND. For example, the conference that followed the London region AGM in January included a session entitled “Why are we war-mongering in the Middle East?” The public forum held after the region’s quarterly meeting on 2 November was a talk with an identical title.

The two presentations were admittedly very different. At the AGM, Greg Muttitt, author of Fuel on the Fire, while not answering the question posed, gave a lucid and well-informed account of the oil interests behind the invasion of Iraq and subsequent developments.

The speaker in November was so incoherent she had better stay nameless; she appeared to be claiming that all the uprisings in the Arab spring, and certainly that in Syria, were the work of the CIA.

Similarly, the autumn issue of national CND’s quarterly Campaign contained an article headed “Liberal interventionism: an excuse for yet another war.” No mention in the text that intervention in Libya followed a UN resolution, or that it arose from a popular uprising against a crazed dictator. As a member of CND, I supported intervention there, and have not changed my mind.

I imagine most Peace News readers will take a different view. However my point is a different one. It is that this sort of issue lies outside CND’s core mission, which is to campaign against nuclear weapons. As such, it’s a distraction and an irrelevance that should be left to bodies like the Stop the War Coalition.

The shifty phrase in the Campaign article that covers this slippage is “peace movement”.

The movement exists, of course, but it’s a very broad alliance extending from utopian and religious pacifists, through campaigners against the arms trade and CND, to the Stop the War Coalition on the hard Left; with overlap between them and many independent floaters like myself.

My point is that CND should stick to its own nuclear remit and not stray into into the territory of others, or allow itself to be used to promote other issues and agendas.

This seems to me absolutely vital since no-one else is doing what CND does so well – but needs to do more effectively still. That’s what I give my money and support for.

Incidentally, it’s remarkable that the Arab League and the UN have done more to stand up for the brutalised people of Syria than the Stop the War Coalition and other protesters on the Left. They have not uttered a word, as far as I’m aware, let alone demonstrated. (No peace convoys either.) Is that perhaps because Assad is anti-American and defined, in some perverse way, as “a socialist”?

 

 

Editor Response: 

Thanks for your letter, John.
We will invite CND to respond
in our next issue. – Eds

More war?

Diana Francis, Bath

ImageThanks for a depressingly informative article re: Iran and the wind up to potential attacks there (PN 2540-41).

 

Topics: Iran

Two wings bad

Tony Augarde, Oxford

ImageRoy St Pierre (PN 2540-41) suggests that there is a simple solution to many of our woes: banning cars completely.

This is not simple but simplistic. He overlooks (as he shouldn’t) the millions of disabled and elderly people who need a car to get around. For example, as a semi-disabled person, I cannot get to the Post Office without a car.

And is he really proposing to do away with ambulances, fire engines, and other forms of transport which meet social needs and help community life?

More fitting for his condemnation would be those environmental “activists” who travel hundreds of miles by air to give lectures or seminars. In fact, I’m a bit fed up with so many self-righteous environmentalists telling us what we should be doing to “save the planet”.

By the way, parts of Roy’s website describe him travelling several times on trains, which I hope he checked were non-polluting!

Topics: Transport

John Hyatt

Jim Huggon, Suffolk

ImageI was extremely saddened to hear of the death of John Hyatt. We first met when John (then living in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, I think) was a teenager in the 1960s on the Coast to Coast Peace March from Hull to Liverpool. Later we got to know each other when we were both working at Housmans – where I worked from 1969-1982 – John also working down the road at the PPU and upstairs at both Peace News and WRI as well – at different times.

He was a lovely guy and the easiest person to work with.

Lastly a brickbat – if the cartoon on p13 of the October issue of PN was supposed to be funny, IT WAS NOT! It was a very sad reflection of the movement’s enslavement to computers and rejection of books. Doubly ironic considering that you have Housmans Bookshop downstairs.

If I have somehow missed the point of the cartoon, then all I can say is that the irony was lost on me and maybe others too!

 

Editor Response: 

For those who can’t remember it, Tony Telford’s cartoon showed six people, five of whom were using laptop computers and appeared to be in some sense respectable (they were labelled “CEO”, “teacher”, “activist”, and so on). The final person was apparently a tramp, reading a 1908 book by WH Davies: The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp.  This book ends with a few poems by WH Davies, including his famous poem “Leisure”, which begins: “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?” We hope this is the key to understanding that the label “Loser” attached to the sole bookreader was ironic, and that Tony Telford and Jim Huggon share very similar views. – Eds

 

Occupy PN!

Lucy Lant, Bristol

ImageI was really confused by your latest editorial on the Occupy movement. Has PN become victim of Occupy’s growing contagion of ambivalence about capitalism? (Has the movement been infiltrated by the London Stock Exchange?)

In the second half of paragraph seven, the paper for nonviolent revolution expresses the expediency of reform over revolution: “we can only hope to modify dominant institutions. For the foreseeable future, immediate modification rather than immediate revolution must be the focus of our efforts – to ensure the survival of the species if nothing else”.

The rest of the editorial then seems to support the idea of revolution through the lenses of GDH Cole and Noam Chomsky, which makes the above statement even more bizarre.

But I would take it all a step further than this and point to the enormous blindspot of the Occupy movement (and maybe PN). We MUST overthrow global capitalism. It is irredeemable, because it is inherently flawed. It is a system of infinite economic growth on a finite planet. It takes living communities and, through labour exploitation, turns them into dead zones for profit. It’s like a cancer, no matter how much you ameliorate it; it will grow back unless it is eradicated entirely. If we put all our efforts on reforming it, we are wasting a historic opportunity for change. This would be a terrible mistake that, far from ensuring our survival, would wipe us out along with millions of other species on this planet.

In other words, capitalism is the social and economic system “industrial civilisation”, the most powerful and destructive civilisation ever to have existed since the rise of civilisations about 10,000 years ago.

We are currently losing life on earth at a rate of 200 species a day; the populations of fish, large mammals, amphibians, song birds and molluscs are collapsing; there is 10 times as much plastic in the oceans as there is phytoplankton (who generate oxygen for us to breathe and are a vital part of the food chain); 97% of the world’s native forests are gone; so are 98% of grasslands; and on and on.

We are witnessing a human generated sixth mass extinction. We are facing runaway climate change and we are losing our only home. We need to get a grip of what really matters and act accordingly! We need to stop global capitalism from turning what’s left of this amazing planet into a desolate wasteland.

Derek Jensen, the great environmental writer and activist has this to say about the Occupy Movement: “Our protest should not be about wanting a bigger slice of the current economic pie. It should be about dismantling the institutions of injustice that are destroying the Planet. No economic system is more important than the Planet”

In other words, if we destroy the planet, we destroy ourselves, and every social gain we have struggled for will have been made in vain.

Editor Response: 

Thanks for your letter, Lucy. We entirely share your belief that capitalism must be replaced as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, an honest look at the movements that exist today in the west shows that we are far from being able to replace capitalism (which we do not see as identical with “industrial civilisation”). We are not even able to reverse the cuts and create, for example, a more humane benefits system, or return to the top tax rate we had under Thatcher (60%). Industrial democracy, or workers’ control of industry (which we believe to be critical to replacing capitalism) barely registers as an idea even in radical circles. Preparation for democratic control of the workplace is far from being a mass activity anywhere in the west.

What is “the foreseeable future”? Maybe the next five to ten years. In that period, we could roll back the worst excesses, and perhaps institute major reforms that could educate, empower and embolden our movements.

For example, if we were able somehow to force corporations to allow working people to elect their managers, instead of having them imposed from above, that would be a massive step forward. However, it would still only be a modification of capitalism. (Incidentally, the idea of workers electing managers was proposed 100 years ago by the South Wales Miners’ Federation.)
As for survival, we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions within the next few years. If we were on the brink of revolution, then the most realistic strategy would be to push for revolution. Unfortunately, currently-existing capitalism, while in a period of self-doubt, is robust and is highly unlikely to be toppled in the next few years. So our anti-climate change strategies must involve using the state to curb corporate carbon criminals. – Eds

 

Topics: Strategy

Libya

Martin S Gilbert

ImageI question your article “Coup against Gaddafi” (PN 2537). It shows how politicians could have betrayed the rebellion. But chaotically, it moved too quickly for that outcome. If it was a coup how could Western “spooks” have gained control? Consistently, the rebels refused any form of negotiation that kept Gaddafi in power. Their stance was against oil-interests which only wanted a return to oppressive “stability”.

I avoid the question of how many lives could have been spared if Gaddafi had been assassinated, to ask how could this popular revolution be turned into a coup? This was the Spanish civil war of our time, an event that could have stopped Hitler.
PN needs some dialogue between pacifists and anti-militarists. Such discussion occurs in groups in many places.

The Socialist Workers Party was also against the military interventions that toppled Gaddafi. They were following their usual set formula: “if it’s American and NATO, it must be bad”. In the chaos and confusion of a highly complex fast-moving situation our thinking needs to be flexible and not tied to formulas.

 

Editor Response: 

Thank you for your letter. We don’t have space to answer properly here. We will try to explain our position more clearly next issue. – Eds

Topics: Libya

Census COs

Shirley Farlinger

ImageThank you for the article on the fate of those who refused to fill in the 2011 census forms. (PN 2540-41).

The statements they will make in their own defence will be very interesting and helpful. I hope you can print some of them in an issue of Peace News.

Topics: Trials | Arms trade

Pacifist poppy

Tony Simpson, Honiton

ImageAs a member of the British Legion, I made no secret of my pacifist convictions and found a sympathetic hearing among many older ex-service personnel.

I come from a military family but I decided to break the mould when I realised the true costs of war, including increasing civilian casualties. Our Legion social club was forced to close recently, one of dozens of failing clubs. These property assets are realising a huge income stream for the work of the British Legion. They need it – since they seem to me to be increasingly doing the government’s job.

Having once worked for the military, I am not unsympathetic to the sacrifices made. But is it right for the British Legion to raise £50 million for the army recovery capability programme for wounded, injured and sick service personnel?

Isn’t this the government’s responsibility? And why has the Legion given £5 million to fund reseach into blast injuries? The Legion does not make war, the government does.

The red poppy is not about “heroes”; it is supposed to remind us of the human costs of war. I have told the Legion the best way to prevent this is to oppose war and promote peace (as symbolised by the white poppy).

As for the Red Poppy Appeal, the Legion magazine (July-August 2010) quotes the director general of the Legion as saying: “Of the £115.2 million income achieved by the Legion in the last financial year – £35 million of which was raised therough the Poppy Appeal – £29.7 million was spent on the salaries of both head office and regional staff.’

A £2.27m rise is attributed to the appointment of 80 extra staff across the organisation. At a time when many charities are in difficulty, it is a huge bill for staff salaries.

I wonder how much of it is related to recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc?

 

Topics: Anti-militarism