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I was there

ImageIt’s great news that PN is bringing George Lakey back to Britain, and I’m looking forward to meeting him again at the PN Summer Camp.

Also I have really enjoyed the two recent interviews with him. However, I do have one historical correction. If George tried to persuade PN in 1969 to adopt the slogan ‘for nonviolent revolution’, he didn’t succeed.

PN was discussing ideas about nonviolent revolution then (and even earlier), including George’s proposal for NRGs (nonviolent revolutionary groups – ‘energies’), but the subtitle ‘for nonviolent revolution’ wasn’t used until December 1971. It was introduced with hardly any discussion, let alone consultation outside the office, and yet stayed until 1988.

What happened was that we had reintroduced a masthead that left space for a subtitle. So I proposed filling it with ‘for nonviolent revolution’. We only discussed this informally – one colleague being quite happy with the suggestion, another preferring ‘the theory and practice of nonviolent revolution’ (which would have required tyre levers to make it fit the space) – and bingo, there it was.

Our new pose later provoked an excellent and thoughtful two-part article by former co-editor Bob Overy challenging us to come up with a more coherent nonviolent revolutionary theory, but by then the subtitle had become part of the paper’s identity.

Ardently pro-Arden

ImageJohn Arden well deserved Michael Randle’s excellent obituary (PN 2544). I have a particularly soft spot for JA as I inherited his Personal Comment column for PN when he left for Ireland in the early ’70s.

His comments on his difficulties with absolute pacifism are illuminated in his challenging and contrary play Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance (1959). I’ve seen several performances and if the director and actors are not sympathetic to its politics and don’t understand its tortured contradictions, its denouement can seem a bit of dramatic flop.

Even the last professional staging at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham four or five years ago was unsatisfactory, I thought, although it had a good review in the Guardian. For all its flaws it is a very important play because it confronts the contradictions of pacifism that I suspect most readers of PN will find uncomfortably familiar and difficult to argue against.

But we need to and this play sharpens our wits.

Again: whither CND?

ImageAs a national member of CND [the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament] since before 1970, and a member of CND national council, I am very interested to know in which direction CND is going. John Hemsley of Kent Area CND brought a motion to CND conference in 2011, asking if CND should concentrate more on core objectives. After a brief discussion, it was decided not to debate this, as it would mean conference finishing late, with all the problems of missing trains, etc.

As it was not debated supporters of the motion like myself were not allowed to speak to it. So Pat Allen (letters, PN 2543) was being economical with the truth when he wrote that it ‘found support from no-one except the mover’.

John Cox pointed out that this motion could be discussed at CND national council. After conference, the next mailing of papers for CND national council contained two items about the motion. In one, John Hemsley explained how this motion could have changed things, had it been passed and followed through.
Some of these changes could have been executed by council without a conference motion.

Subsequently, this issue has been raised in letters in PN by John Taylor and others.

Over 25 years ago, CND added opposing nuclear power to its core mission at a national conference. Our core mission also includes opposing NATO, depleted uranium weapons, and nuclear submarines without nuclear weapons.

Richard Norman and Kate Hudson both wrote about making links with other causes in CND’s spring Campaign magazine, which also contained articles about the census and Menwith Hill spy base, which may cause John Taylor concern. He seems unaware that there are other groups, including Greenpeace and the Quakers, campaigning against nuclear weapons.

There are dangers in getting national CND to support or oppose an issue it may not know much about. For one instance, the issue may turn out in a few days’ time to have unforeseen properties making it different to what CND thought it was. A group may persuade a CND conference to support a non-core issue or use a method some CND members may find unacceptable, resulting in resignations.

Also, if a person brings a request for support for a non-core issue to CND national council, who agree to support it, CND will probably send a letter from the office, the Morning Star may carry a brief mention, and that’s all. It would be far more effective if the promoter of the issue got individuals present at national council to take action themselves, using a petition, letters, demonstrations, etc. Thus CND members could support it, and CND would not be seen to support it.

CND must concentrate on what it does best – its core mission – and embrace other causes only with great care.