issue 163 - September 1986
ACTION ON PEACE AND JUSTICE
The peace movement needs to be more internationalist - that's one
message of this issue. To help our process along, we invited one activist
from each of our readers' countries to sum up the state of their
movement in 1986 and to offer some campaigns to contact.
Sometimes I feel the peace movement's taking a breather. The upward momentum of the early 1980s which helped bring about the election in July 1984 of a Labour Government on a nuclear-free platform has slowed. In part it's been dispersed to other movements for peace and justice - from opposing racism and pornography. Through working for homosexual law reform, to the abolition of corporal punishment and the promotion of peace education in schools...
Labour's a mixed bag. It has supported a weak South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty which does not ban transit of nuclear-capable/nuclear-powered vessels. It has increased 'defence' spending and made equipment decisions which I feel pre-empt the defence review process. It has backed right-wing economic policies. It has also stuck to its nuclear-free policy - despite strong-arm tactics to undermine it. I hope to see a stronger nuclear-free bill passed. But to guarantee our stance, we need to ensure the re-election in 1987 of a nuclear-free party. Despite mixed feelings, I hope Labour will be re-elected.
The International Year of Peace has brought various rewards, not the least of which is the generation of a new legitimacy for the whole peace movement In Australia, therefore, as elsewhere, the movement is entering a new phase - a widening of the traditional base to include more church and community groups as well as trade union and environmentalists. The movement has been successful in getting the nuclear debate onto the agenda of all major political parties.
Recent years have been ones of consolidation. At the annual Palm Sunday peace marches, for example. Numbers have been falling, but those that remain seem firmly committed and are more able to articulate their concerns. Part of the decrease in numbers can be attributed to the increasing recognition that nuclear disarmament is no longer understood as a single (or isolated) issue. Parts of the peace movement in Australia are therefore also involved with such issues as Aboriginal self-determination, land rights and economic justice.
The focus is now on Australia's role in the arms race; and armed neutrality, or defence independent of the nuclear alliance. Also to be considered at this level is the still-large public support for the outdated ANZUS alliance and the feeling of geographic vulnerability.
Many groups within the peace movement are turning their attentions to the wider Pacific region. Australia owes a great deal to the courage of Aotearoa's nuclear-free stand, and building on this with other Pacific neighbours may provide an encouraging model for other regions
The Canadian peace movement is currently going through a period of reorganization and rethinking. The past years have seen peace activities expand dramatically with large-scale demonstrations against the testing of the Cruise missile in Alberta and for a Canadian policy more independent of the US. Big demos have given way to a more grassroots and constituency-based (nurses, engineers, scientists, municipalities) organizing. The idea is to tackle militarism at its roots in the mainstream of Canadian society.
The hot issues of debate in the Canadian movement are: national versus local organizing; slow reform of military policy versus peace as part of an overall strategy for social change; and whether or not to support independent peace movements in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Efforts to stop the deployment of USAF Cruise missiles at Greenham Common between 1980 and 1983, as well as opposition to the purchase of the Trident submarine missile system, boosted support for CND to some 100.000 national members with some quarter of a million supporters belonging to 1.000 plus local groups. The American use of Britain to attack Libya this April has renewed concern about British defence and foreign policy dependence on the US Chernobyl has alerted people to the international risks inherent in the nuclear industry and to the connection between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.
Defence and nuclear energy are now high on the British political agenda, with controversy between the political parties over the future of Britain's 'independent' nuclear deterrent, its nuclear industry and Star Wars. CND has launched countrywide public information campaigning on the case against 'Britain's Bomb' and the need for independent nuclear disarmament by Britain.
The US peace movement has grown over the past ten years to include 6.000 national and local organizations. Activist are now developing common long-range political goals and strategies toward a nuclear test ban, the abolition of nuclear weapons, common security, an end to military intervention, and economic and social justice.
The peace movement challenges our Government in Central America, the Middle East and South Africa: it challenges it over Star Wars, first-strike nuclear missiles. and the abrogation of the SALT and ABM treaties. Through public education, lobbying and non-violent direct action, we oppose these policies and urge negotiations, peace initiatives and respect for other countries.
The Million Minutes of Peace, International Co-ordinating Office, No. 4,95 Avenue Rd. London NW8 6HY, UK Tel: (01) 586-6677. This global project in celebration of the International Year of Peace will take place in over 40 countriea between September 16 and October 16. It appeals to people not for money but for minutea of their time, asking them to stop everything and give time to positive thoughts of peace, to meditation orto prayer. The launch will tie in with the one-minute silence at the opening of the UN General Assembly on September 16.
Beyond War, 222 High St PaloAlto, California 94301, US. A new movement asking people to take a pledge against war.
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Offices in all countries above.
War Resisters International. Offices in all countries above.
Pax Christi, International Secretariat Plantin en moretuslei 174, 8-2018
Antwerpen, Belgium. The international Catholic movement for peace and justice. National offices in all above countries except Aotearoa.
Greenpeace. Offices in all countries above.
This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7