IN Britain, but not only in Britain, there I has been within the last eighteen months a profound new interest in the risks, costs and pace of the arms race which militarists of many persuasions are now so energetically pursuing. `Great armaments lead inevitably to war. The increase of armaments produces . . . a sense of fear. Every government regards the precautions of every other government as evidence of hostile intent.' Sentiments with as much relevance today as when they were uttered about the First World War by Sir Edward Grey. That arms race led to a pointless war which killed millions. The present nuclear one will lead to a war which, without exaggeration, will end the civilized world as we know it. The survivors will envy the dead. `Mankind is faced with a choice,' said the Final Document of the UN Special Session of 1978, `we must halt the arms race and proceed to disarmament or face annihilation,'
That sense of urgency has been reinforced by threats of Cruise missiles, Trident submarines at vast cost, American nuclear weapon accidents and childish `civil defence' preparation. Does the rest of the world know that in Britain we have seriously been told to protect ourselves by hiding under the stairs?
All over the country new people are joining disarmament movements and writing for information and advice. One of the best letters of 1980 came from two little girls in a north of England primary school to the office of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. They were, they said, very worried about all these nuclear weapons and please `how can we join NATO?' Right spirit -wrong organisation.
A first question at innumerable meetings is `What can we do?' Our first task is to awaken our fellow citizens to the perils which they are being made to face and to the expensive insanity of calling `defence' what is in fact a policy of mutual suicide. An ex-Prime Minister of this country said, when in office, that the British people `are prepared to be blown to atomic dust'. This is exactly what will happen unless, in the now classic phrase of E. P, Thompson, we `protest and survive'. This is the way forward. Protestors in the Netherlands have succeeded in making disarmament a political issue capable of bringing down governments. If they can do it so can we. The ideal of a Europe free from nuclear weapons is a practical and possible one.
How to start? With your own friends, in your own area, with nothing too complicated or overambitious. One successful project will soon sprout a dozen more ideas. For many people a letter in the local paper has sparked off interest and has been followed up with a film show in a neighbourhood hall. `The War Game', banned from television by the British Broadcasting Corporation, is still the best but not the only film available for hire. It has to be followed by a discussion: the theme of that film is that there is still hope. Some have started, not with a film, but with a debate where invited pro- and anti-nuclear disarmers put their case. A warning here. It is difficult to get those in political authority to take part in debates if they happen to support existing policy. There case is too transparently, embarrassingly, inadequate.
Build yourself a nuclear shelter in some church forecourt and hand out leaflets to passers-by. They soon get the message. Leaflets and locally produced handouts soon become a high priority. Likewise with door-to-door petitions and canvassing in shopping areas. Once begun there seems to be no limit apart from the time available. One group has built a mobile Cruise missile, others are arranging visits to the countries which are supposed to be our enemies. On demonstrations and marches there is one golden rule: make sure they persuade and involve those who see them and do not put there off by insensitivity or unnecessary obstruction. Talk to the police - they know well enough that their role in so-called civil defence is an impossible one and they too can become allies rather than enemies.
My own conviction is that we must aim to win friends amongst a whole series of organised and humanitarian bodies as well as pressing home the point through our political parties. The medical profession is now on the move and the international aid agencies are ripe for conversion. Who can deny, especially after the Brandt Report, that the arms race is one of the major causes of world poverty and that it kills before ever a bullet is fired? Such agencies, at national and local level, must be convinced that it is right to include education about the arms race in all their programmes. If this leads to collisions with Charity Commissioners then perhaps the price of charity status is too high.
The churches, the Red Cross, womens' organisations, trade unions, schools, universities, local government associations - these and many more must be part of our target. So should be the military itself. Many soldiers know well enough that nuclear weapons are not only immoral (and even illegal in international law) but also that they are no defence. Provoking thought about a rational defence policy is an important t task for disarmers.
The aim of all this is quite clear. We have to build a movement so strong, across class, party, denomination and racial divisions, that the political militarists will have to think again or lose their jobs. The time may well come when our refusal to run with the other lemmings to the edge of the cliff will cost us more than midnight oil and nervous energy. Certainly we have to have our eyes not only on disarmament but on a very different world of the future. I have not lost all hope for parliamentary change but the time remaining for a massive mobilisation of public opinion in every country is fast running out. Don't waste what's left!
World Military and Social Expenditures 1980 - Ruth Leger Sivard, World Priorities, Box 1003, Leesburg, Virginia, USA. $3.50/£2.00 plus postage. A superb background reference work for every peace campaigner. Full of well presented statistics on arms spending, nuclear proliferation, military exports, recent wars etc; together with figures on socio-economic trends like inflation, unemployment, increasing inequalities. The price makes it attractive too.
Overkill: The Story of Modern Weapons - John Cox, Penguin 1977. Knowledgeable, clear writing with'useful diagrams, cartoons and photographs. A good read and highly recommended as the starting place for exploring the subject.
The Defence of the Realm in the 1980s - Dan Smith Croom Helm 1980. Academic and thorough research survey of US defence strategy and British defence policy. Combines analytical muscle with empirical fact.' Beat with the early dull chapters, it's an important book.
The War Machine: The Case Against the Arms Race - James Avery Joyce, Quartet Books 1980. `Controversial, compassionate and much needed guide', well, perhaps. Lively writing which is strong on sentiment but weak on analysis. Rather disorganised and not too much depth,
Not With Our Lives, You Dont! Issue 24, Dec. 1980. Research and Resource in Social Issues, Division of Mission in Canada, 85 St. Clair Ave. E., Toronto M4T 1M8. 25cts plus postage. A splendidly thorough newspaper guide to the subject, combining a meaty and knowledgeable overview with an appeal to Christian activism. It should be required reading for all Canadians, well worth the effort of sending for.
Protest and Survive - (eds.) E.P. Thompson & D. Smith, Penguin 1980. Besides a fine Thompson essay, contains a very patchy collection of contributions. Dip into with discrimination.
The Price of Defence: A New Strategy for Military Spending - Boston Study Group, Times Books 1979. Questions the need for the current level of US defence expenditure, and size of military forces. Obviously timely given the Reagan pronouncements on the subject.
Australian Peace Liaison Committee, PO Box A243, Sydney South, NSW 2000. Both will provide information about their affiliates.
In January 1981, a Uranium Moratorium national conference laid the groundwork for an organisation involving peace, environment, church, trade union and other group-ings to be called Coalition for a Nuclear Free Australia.
Pacific Concerns Resource Center, PO Box 27692, Honolulu, Hawaii 96827, USA. Following a 1980 conference in Hawaii dedicated to a 'nuclear free Pacific' there has been an upsurge in anti-nuclear activity in Australia. Contaet point for a 'nuclear fee Pacific' is Hawaiian organisation above.
Christian Movement for Peace, 427 Bloor St., W., Toronto, Ontario. M5S 1 X7. Part of international ecumenical movement concerned with disarmament and militarism.
Canadian Peace Research Institute, 119 Thomas Street, Oakville, Ontario. L6J 3A7. Headed by Norman Alcock, long-tune peace researcher. Produces books, articles, and research papers on arms trade and militarism.
Voice of Women, 175 Carlton Street, Toronto, Ontario. M5A 2K3. Women's group involved in peace concerns. Local groups in many provinces.
Churches and trades unions Often have activities on disarmament. For more information contact Project Plough-shares and your local provincial federation of labour.
Pax Christi, Blackfriars Hall, Southampton Road, London N.W.5. Established in a number of countries, the organization has a wide Christian ecumenical membership. Special interest in British reconciliation in Ireland, peace education in schools and colleges, problems of conscientious objectors, parish peace activities and promoting East/West dialogue.
Campaign Against the Arms Trade, 5 Caledonian Road, London N.1. CAA T is a single issue carnpaign aimed at ending transfer of weapons to the Third World and the abolition of the national Defence Sales organisation.
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 11 Goodwin Street, London, N.4. Aimed primarily at the unilateral abandonment by Britain ofall nuclear weapons and the removal of nuclear bases. Experiencing great expansion with hundreds of new groups springing up.
Armament & Disarmament Information Unit, Mantell Building, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, Sussex. Recently established information unit ofgreat importance for peace movement. Publishes regular Report. Also able to answer direct individual queries about disarmament issues.
Center for Study of Armament and Disarmament, California State College, 5151 State University Dr., LosAngeles, Calif. 90032.
National Action/Research on the Military/Industrial Complex, American Friends Service Committee, 1515 Cherry Street, Philadephia, Pa 19102.
Division of World Peace, United Methodist Church, 100 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington DC 20002.
Unitarian Universalist Association, Dept. of Education and Social Concern, 25 Beacon Street, Boston, Mass. 021088.
This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7