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Buried Treasure: selections from the Peace News archives

35 years ago: Nukes

Peace News played a key role in the upsurge of activism against nuclear power at the end of the 1970s, both by reporting events and by discussing strategies that could help different sorts of campaigners to work together effectively.

In the months since the Torness demonstration in May and the London anti-Windscale demo some kind of anti-nuclear movement has appeared. Discussion of how nuclear power can be opposed is shifting from isolated actions to the development of campaigns. The Torness Alliance is an attempt (experimental and perhaps inevitably frustrating) at developing mutual co-ordination of the efforts of local autonomous groups.

That development will be very difficult without a growth and strengthening of local groups – both to be able to make more concrete inputs, through representatives, to decision-making as an alliance, and to act independently in an awareness of the repercussions of an action for the wider movement. Many anti-nuclear groups sprang up after Torness in May with the idea of preparing for (still unspecified) nonviolent direct action. Some have found it difficult to combine that with local campaigning – or, more generally, to balance building trust in groups and developing new forms of action with getting on with the more ‘traditional’ activities of informing people and contacting possible supporters.

A national symbolic action like Torness is most effective if it’s used as a focus. As far as we’ve heard, just four local groups (Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham and York) have used the Torness action as an occasion to spread the fact that there is opposition to nuclear power thorough leafletting and local press and radio. Leeds people held their own leafletting/mini-theatre outside the electricity showrooms, since these are people’s commonest contact with the electricity authorities....

It is in the community that our energy problems will be solved, not in the power stations.... This means taking the anti-nuclear issue to meetings of trade union branches and trades councils, ‘liberal’ conservation groups, schools, constituency parties... to form broad ‘safe energy groups’ within which affinity groups, alternative energy groups, and so on, could operate.

From an editorial comment in the 20 October 1978 issue of Peace News. Compiled by Albert Beale, author of Against All War: Fifty Years of Peace News.