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Thursday, February 09, 2006


From ‘Ban The Bomb’ to ‘Stop The War’: The History of CND
The highs and lows of the peace movement is the subject of a fascinating book

Book Review: CND: Now More Than Ever: The Story of A Peace Movement (Vision Paperbacks, 2005), 277 pages.

The full horrors of using nuclear weapons was demonstrated when the US Air Force dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with 340,000 people said to have died as a result. The human and environmental impact of using nuclear weapons is now known – a nuclear war would kill the human race many times over. There would be nowhere to hide – the poison of the radiation will destroy, bringing sickness, cancers, deformities and deaths. The atomic bomb was developed because scientists thought the Nazis would develop the bomb first. Historians argue that it was necessary to drop the bomb on Japan in order to end the war quickly and save lives. But others argue that the Japanese readiness to surrender was ignored because the desire for the US to dominate the Pacific, without a strong Japan; it is claimed that the US did not want to see the Soviet Union entering the war and force a Japanese surrender. The US justified their use of the bomb by claiming that leaflets were dropped to warn people – but critics say this happened after the bombings. The US viewed the two cities as legitimate military targets and wanted to test the use of nuclear weapons on human beings. The nuclear arms then ensued – with the USSR testing its first atom bomb in 1949 and Britain doing so in 1953. The US tested the more powerful Hydrogen bomb in 1952.
People’s concerns after the war was to never go through that destruction again, and the UN was seen as an alternative to war where people saw it as a form of world government. The news announced in 1948 that Britain would go nuclear was met with a muted response. But with the creation of NATO in 1949, the nuclear arms race and the Cold War, thinking began to shift. Pacifist and religious groups began to oppose nuclear weapons and the prospect of a nuclear war in Korea, campaigning against the bomb intensified. The Stockholm Peace Appeal (later the World Peace Council) called for the ‘unconditional prohibition of the atomic weapon’; the Peace Pledge Union used Gandhian methods of non-violent civil disobedience in their campaigns. Anti-nuclear campaigners looked to the Labour Party, but resolutions at Party Conferences calling for Britain never to test, manufacture or use nuclear weapons were defeated. CND was formed against a backdrop of disillusionment with the Labour Party, and Bertrand Russell caught the mood of anti-nuclear feeling at the time, with calls for unilateral disarmament. A mass movement against nuclear weapons was formed on 16th January 1958, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, or CND. Its demands in its policy statement for renouncing nuclear weapons, an end to the arms race, banning nuclear testing and refusing to provide nuclear weapons for any other country – survive to this day.
The world that CND emerged was changing fast, with empires crumbling, countries gaining independence, Britain withdrawing from India, revolutions in Cuba and China and major social changes. In Britain, the Labour Government created the welfare state, and education was improving social mobility for all social classes. Britain was economically weak after the war, was humiliated at Suez, was reliant on the US and the empire was on its way out. A new popular culture was developing. CND was key to this social radicalism – the early Aldermaston were seen as a symbol of the Britain at that time: socially rebellious youth with no political allegiances wanting to work for a better society.


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