Faslane 365 - sustained pressure at the nuclear chain's weakest link

IssueJuly to August 2006
Feature by Rebecca Johnson

Faslane 365 is a grass -roots campaign to mobilise public opinion and action to oppose Trident and prevent any commitment to further nuclear weapons.

The strategy is to influence the future decision by raising the political and financial costs of deploying the current Trident system. As we did with cruise missiles in the 1980s, Faslane 365 plans to combine persistent,nonviolent opposition at the site of deployment with creative actions, political pressure and wide networking.

It is no accident that Faslane365 will be kicked off on 1 October by a women' s blockade linking with the persistence, determination and--ultimately--success of the Greenham women's peace camp, which started 25 years ago. This is no time for nostalgia,however. We have to finish the job and make Britain take its legal obligations seriously and disarm instead of wasting our resources on a new generation of nuclear weapons. If Britain can be made to see sense, France will find it much harder to renew its submarines when it faces a similar decision in a few years' time. But if these small islands off the W est Coast of Europe decide that we need a new generation of nuclear weapons to take us into the second half of the century , then we will signal to the rest of the world that we think nuclear weapons are indispensable--at least for “deterrence”, however slippery and unverifiable, and a seat at the top table. If the UK advertises this view of nuclear indispensability to the world, then small wonder that further countries, starting with North Korea and Iran,should seek the same. Make no mistake. We are at a nuclear crossroads even more significant than the 1980s --and look at what civil society achieved then!

Statements of intent

Though we don't underestimate the challenges we face in mobilising such numbers, especially in view of the scepticism expressed by some sections of the peace movement, this initiative could help us get out of the nuclear arms race for good. Britain faces a pivotal decision: to accelerate nuclear proliferation for the rest of this century by spending upwards of #25 bil -lion on a follow-on to Trident; or to pursue nuclear disarmament, in accordance with our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. With public opposition to the Iraq war still high, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have tried to pre-empt debate and responsible consideration of the nuclear decisions. They have already committed taxpayers' money to fund upgraded facilities at Aldermaston, including a new laser and supercomputer.

First Blair and then Brown have subsequently chosen to declare their own personal preferences for carrying on nuclear business as usual. These premature statements of intent are now provoking a wider debate on the rationality of replacing Trident, with even some conservative voices underscoring the expensive uselessness of weapons that increase nuclear dangers while failing to address the major security challenges identified by the European Union and United Nations, not to mention the MoD's overstretch in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stretching the movement?

Concerted, persistent direct action is necessary to turn these debates into action. Britain's decision is part of a push by the nuclear addicts to re value nuclear weapons and find new , more “usable” roles for them in military doctrines, bringing the threat of nuclear use and war ever closer.

Faslane 365 builds on years of great anti-Faslane campaigning, notably by Trident Ploughshares,the peace camp and Scottish CND, but responds to the need to go further . Inspiring people from all walks of life to impede the operations of the submarine base and highlight the political choices will intensify the political pressure on both the Scottish and UK parliaments.

Imagine the impact of hundreds of different groups taking action at the gates of Faslane over a two-day period each, making links and calling for a redirection of resources from the weapons of war to deal with our real security challenges, such as climate change, environmental degradation, and poverty , injustice and inequality around the world. Some campaigners worry that Faslane 365 will stretch the movement and detract from other essential campaigns. Experience suggests the opposite: the energy generated by inspiring and successful actions always helps to reinforce other areas of peace and justice campaigning, If we can work together on Faslane365 and make it a success, it will revitalise all our work, whether at Aldermaston or defending the health service. Maybe we won't manage to cover a whole year , but it is vitally important that we try. Campaigners that come to Faslane are likely to get more involved in other related actions, such as the Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp(aign) and Block the Builders. The weakest link To break a chain, it is necessary to apply maximum pressure at the weakest link. Britain' s decision on whether to get another nuclear weapon system to give us nuclear “status” beyond 2025 is the weakest link in the worldwide nuclear chain. If we can get one nuclear weapon state to start the process towards real disarmament, it will have far reaching impact.

Scotland's role as the site for berthing the submarines weakens the chain even further . Time and again, Scottish and Welsh people and politicians have proved much less supportive of Britain's nuclear weapons and imperial aspirations than the English. As things currently stand, the Scottish Parliament will not be consulted about whether a new generation of nuclear weapons will be deployed on the Gare Loch close to Glasgow, but they will be expected to find the money to support the Faslane base in all sorts of ways. Though the base provides some jobs, they are limited, as attested by the depressed state of towns nearby. Because of the base's activities and need for security, the area cannot be significantly developed for other purposes, and a number of Scottish MSPs believe this beautiful area could be revitalised if the base were closed and the local authorities were free to develop other options including leisure and water sports. A big, sustained push at Faslane over the next year will undermine the feasibility of a submarine-based follow-on to Trident. The MoD doesn't like any of the other options. Wouldn't it be better for the peace and justice communities to work together on this and cause divisions among the government,rather than the other way around?

Join one of the blocks and participate--or better still, organise your own block!