Det danske Fredsakademi
Kronologi over fredssagen og international politik 4. August
2008 / Timeline August 4, 2008
3. August 2008, 5. August 2008
Britain's Campaign for
After 50 Years, Alive and Kicking
By Lawrence S.
Wittner, August 2008
How is Britain's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) doing these
The answer is that it is doing very well, indeed.
In July 2008, at the invitation of CND, I traveled to London to
address the national council of this venerable peace and
disarmament group. The assumption in CND circles was that, thanks
to my authorship of a scholarly trilogy on the history of the
worldwide antinuclear movement (i.e. The Struggle Against the Bomb,
published by Stanford University Press), I might be able to provide
activists with some useful information. While meeting in London
with CND leaders, however, I decided to gather some information
myself about CND's recent ventures.
CND was founded in
February 1958 by Bertrand Russell, A.J.P. Taylor, J.B.
Priestley, Michael Foot, and other British luminaries who were
appalled by the nuclear arms race and the drift toward nuclear war.
Determined to "ban the Bomb," CND organized annual antinuclear
marches from Aldermaston (the site of the British government's
nuclear weapons research facility) to London, where thousands of
antinuclear activists rallied in Trafalgar Square.
The emblem designed
for these first Aldermaston marches—a circle encompassing a
stick figure with arms outstretched in the semaphore signals for N
and D (i.e. nuclear disarmament)—grew immensely popular and
soon became a worldwide peace symbol. Meanwhile, CND churned out
vast quantities of antinuclear literature, held public meetings
throughout the British Isles, converted politicians to its
position, and emerged as Britain's largest, most influential peace
and disarmament organization.
Of course, CND activists did not succeed in banning the Bomb. But
they did have the satisfaction of turning British public opinion
against the nuclear arms race, thereby pushing Britain and other
nuclear-armed nations toward nuclear arms control and disarmament
measures and helping to prevent nuclear war.
Today, although CND's membership is far from the heights that it
reached during the heady 1980s, it is also well above the depths to
which it sank during past periods of decline. Indeed, having grown
by roughly 10 percent in the last three years, CND now has a very
respectable 35,000 members, with branches all over the country. It
draws on older, long-time stalwarts like Bruce Kent, as well as on
younger, newer activists, such as its current chair, Kate
As in past decades, CND's primary goal is abolition of nuclear
weapons. Last year, it led a tumultuous campaign against the
British government's plan to replace the country's aging Trident
nuclear missile-carrying submarines with an upgraded nuclear
weapons force. The largest of the numerous demonstrations organized
against Trident replacement drew up to 100,000 participants, and
polls found that 72 percent of the British public opposed the
nation's acquisition of new nuclear weapons. Although the
government managed to carry a key Trident replacement vote in
parliament, it was shaken by the extraordinary level of opposition.
As a result, officials promised to bring the issue back to
parliament for further consideration.
This concession to antinuclear sentiment might actually mean
something, for there is growing pressure to move Britain's defense
policy away from its decades-old reliance upon nuclear weapons.
Recently, for example, a number of former top British government
officials spoke out in favor of the Shultz-Kissinger-Perry-Nunn
call for nuclear abolition. Furthermore, the European parliament
has voted to make Europe a nuclear weapons-free zone. In addition,
Obama—who might well become the next U.S.
President—has pledged to make the building of a nuclear-free
world a top priority. In these circumstances, CND's efforts to
block the development of a new British nuclear striking force might
yet bear fruit.
Despite the centrality of nuclear issues to CND, it does grapple
with other foreign and defense policy issues. As a participant in
Britain's Stop the War Coalition, it works to end the war in Iraq.
Also, like its U.S. counterparts, CND is attempting to head off the
possibility of a U.S. military attack upon Iran. Moreover, CND
seeks to block the deployment of a controversial U.S. missile
defense system in Eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic,
Poland, and Lithuania. There is substantial resistance to this
revised "Star Wars" system in the host countries, and especially in
the Czech Republic. In addition, the Russian
government—which, despite its decline in the international
power hierarchy, possesses more nuclear weapons than any
other—views the deployment of this system as a highly
CND also faces some significant problems at home, including a
largely hostile press, an escapist television and mass culture, and
a poverty of public discussion and debate on defense issues.
Perhaps most worrisome are the rising political fortunes of the
Tories, who seem poised to sweep into power in the next nationwide
elections. Conservative-dominated local governments have begun
denying tabling rights to CND, while the newly-elected Conservative
mayor of London has pulled his city out of the Mayors for Peace
campaign, a nuclear abolition venture comprised of 2,317 member
cities in 130 countries, headed by the mayor of Hiroshima.
Even so, CND has managed to emerge from fifty years of antinuclear
agitation as a sprightly and effective force on the British
political landscape. It might even live to see that bright day
when, thanks in part to its efforts, nuclear weapons are banned
eller søg i Fredsakademiet.dk