Category Archives: UK

Progress towards Disarmament in 2017

As another politically divisive year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the progress we’ve made towards nuclear disarmament. In a year that saw President Trump threatening to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea at the UN General Assembly, Corbyn’s Labour manifesto accepting the continuation of t

he Trident programme, and Kim Jong-un testing both a successful hydrogen bomb and an ICBM, it can be difficult to see the positives. However, there is much to be hopeful for.

The most striking development, a product of the combined efforts of hundreds of nuclear campaigning institutions, is the United Nations’ Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The UN treaty is the first international treaty to explicitly prohibit the development of nuclear weapons. Voted in by nearly two-thirds of all UN member states (122), and signed so far by 53 of them, it offers a major challenge to the global acceptance of nuclear weapons. While it has not yet been recognised by the nine nuclear-armed states, the treaty presents an unambiguous condemnation of the continued existence of nuclear weapons – something that the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty failed to do. The global nuclear ban therefore offers a different kind of progress – normative progress.

The great success of the nuclear ban brought about another accomplishment – the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). As with the treaty itself, ICAN’s achievement might be imagined by some to have little influence on the overall disarmament process. Yet the award, as with the ban, demonstrates a significant transformation of the accepted narrative on nuclear weapons: nuclear disarmament is not a fringe idea but a majority consensus position that cannot be ignored. This was further demonstrated by Pope Francis’ declaration in November that nuclear weapons are ‘senseless, even from a tactical standpoint’ and that ‘their very possession is to be firmly condemned’. Compare this statement to Pope John Paul II’s argument that nuclear deterrence could be judged as ‘morally acceptable’ in the eyes of God, and it is clear that the global narrative is evolving.

Yet the formally established nuclear powers of the world continue to argue that these weapons offer a ‘strategic peace’. The governments of the US, UK, France, Russia, and China claim that through the promise of mutually assured destruction, world war is no longer an option. These states (who also make up the permanent members of the UN Security Council) are not the only states with nuclear weapons, but they are the only states that are both signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and who argue that nuclear weapons bring peace. The price of this ‘strategic peace’ is a total global expenditure of US$12 million per hour, or $105 billion every year [1]. The reality of this nuclear-armed peace is a world not free from hostilities but locked in a perpetual state of war – from the Gulf War in 1991, Somalia in 1992, Bosnia in 1995, Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011, to the still-ongoing 2001 War in Afghanistan, the ‘strategic peace’ staggers onwards. Now a nuclear-armed North Korea demonstrates yet again that unless the major powers take meaningful steps towards disarmament, global insecurity will thrive.

Once, the legitimacy of this ‘strategic peace’ and international nuclear orthodoxy appeared unchallengeable. But campaigners, backed by the Nobel Peace Prize committee, the 53 state signatories of the ban treaty, the Pope, the Catholic Church, and millions of anti-nuclear activists around the world now have an opportunity to challenge and delegitimize it. For the first time, the majority of the world is clearly united behind the cause of total nuclear disarmament. A new form of peace is not just imaginable but tangible; a peace based not on millions of civilian lives being held hostage by the threat of atomic evisceration, but on transnational collaboration, UN treaties, trade agreements and global disarmament.

It is often very hard to see the light of progress through the shadow cast by inter-state conflict and the threat of nuclear war. It can often feel nearly impossible to imagine a world in which nuclear weapons no longer exist. But the progress made in 2017 has created cracks in what appeared to be an unbreakable orthodoxy. Our job now is to widen those cracks, and never lose faith in the strength of collective agency to bring about change. It may not happen in 2018, but global nuclear disarmament is in sight.

 

[1] http://www.icanw.org/the-facts/catastrophic-harm/a-diversion-of-public-resources/

 

By Laurie Gerhardt, CND Campaigns Assistant

**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***

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With a ‘lefty’ at the helm, why isn’t Labour supporting the peace movement?

Jeremy Corbyn is a ‘lefty.’ Love him or loathe him, it is difficult to argue that the Islington North MP and Leader of the Opposition is a traditional politician. His shock election and the Labour Party’s subsequent shift to the left has led to electoral success and a rejuvenation of the Party. However, it has not led to a total rejuvenation in his party’s policy; Labour continue to support the wasting of £205 billion on Trident replacement. So why isn’t the peace movement, a cause very close to Corbyn’s heart, getting a look-in? How can we ensure that such an important cause receives the recognition it deserves?

With Corbyn, an uneasy – but necessary – tension has arisen in the Labour Party. There was bound to be tensions when a man like Jeremy Corbyn became leader in a shock result. Having joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament as a schoolboy in 1966, Corbyn became both Vice-Chair of the CND and Chair of the Stop the War Coalition during his time as a backbencher. Gaining a reputation for his activism, he became Labour’s most rebellious Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2010, defying the party whip a staggering 428 times. Meanwhile, the establishment Labour Party did not share his passion for peace. Former Shadow Cabinet Minister Tristram Hunt called the Stop the War Coalition “a really disreputable organisation,” whilst MP Caroline Flint said that the organisation were “not Labour’s friends.” With New Labour not wanting to rock the boat, the party decided to take the same side as their Conservative opponents and support the destruction of lives through support of the Iraq War and nuclear weapons.

With such a difference in opinion fracturing the party, you would not be blamed for assuming that a massive overhaul would take place after Corbyn’s meteoric rise to power. Bogged down by internal conflicts and lacking support, Corbyn was unable to tackle such a huge problem. In their 2017 General Election manifesto, Labour supported the renewal of the Trident fleet, under the apparent constraints of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Appearing on Question Time in May, it was pretty clear that Jeremy Corbyn did not agree with establishment Labour’s belief in nuclear weapons. He said on the programme that he would never approve of ‘first use’ of Britain’s nuclear arsenal. To some, it seemed like the Leader of the Opposition had blown his chance to take his lifelong anti-war politics to the mainstream.

However, the cause remains alive and kicking. Rather than an issue of public opinion, the question of Labour’s support for the peace movement is one for Labour’s establishment. It is likely that the Labour Party have chosen to support Trident renewal on the basis of its perceived popularity rather than any sort of conviction. This appears ill-founded. In 2016, an ORB poll of UK adults found that 49% of those surveyed did not support the full renewal of Trident. In Scotland, where the fleets are actually located, opposition was at 64%. Being anti-nuclear weapons is hardly an unpopular opinion.

So, how do we change Labour’s peace policies? Simply put, we could just wait. Support for nuclear weapons is lowest amongst young people. A 2014 poll by ComRes showed that just 19% of 18-35 year olds polled believed that Trident should be renewed at equal size and capacity. Hannah Cornford, of WMD Awareness, said of the poll: “it is clear that young potential voters are not being engaged by the government on this issue.” Last month, the Young Labour Conference passed a motion saying that the United Kingdom should leave NATO, an idea that is in direct contradiction with the party line. Young people dislike nuclear weapons and are not afraid to disagree with establishment opinion; this is a recipe for progress in the peace movement in the coming years.

Another, less delayed possibility for progress comes from the Labour Party itself. The Party is currently undergoing a self-imposed Democracy Review. A leaked document, apparently concerning this review, shows that they are keen to strengthen the involvement and participation of members in constituencies. If this is true, Labour should be keen to involve their pro-peace members by allowing them to affect party policy. The party also wants to focus on the recruitment of more members. In order to strengthen support and attract members, the Party must listen to its supporters. The issue of nuclear weapons is pressing and potentially a matter of life and death; unlike these internal divisions in the Labour Party, it cannot be brushed aside.

 

By Lily Sheehan, Manchester CND volunteer

**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***

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Anti-nuclear weapons campaigners win Nobel Peace Prize!

Exciting news last month as the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), of which CND is a partner organisation, for their continuing efforts to help rid the world of nuclear weapons. Such a prestigious award is reassuring for the global movement against nuclear weapons: our campaign isn’t going unnoticed. With the state of current affairs, it’s finally nice to hear positive news rather than the toddler tantrums thrown by Tweedledum and Tweedledee (formally known as Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un).

Following decades of tireless campaigning for a nuclear-free world by ICAN and all of its organisations, a treaty to ban nuclear weapons was adopted at the United Nations in July 2017. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will enter into legal force once 50 nations sign and ratify it. This treaty will prohibit nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, as well as prohibiting nations from encouraging anyone to engage in any of these activities. This landmark treating will not only advance nuclear disarmament but will also prevent further proliferation. With almost 15,000 nuclear weapons now on our planet, this is a powerful step in the right direction.

But the treaty doesn’t seem to be stopping Prime Minister Theresa May from committing to spending billions of pounds on replacing Trident. Theresa May even failed to show up at the treaty negotiations, instead choosing to boycott the landmark event – who knew she was such an activist? By ensuring that the UK was not even represented at the talks, Theresa May has quite clearly undermined the hard work that CND and many other organisations have done over the years. Of course the Prime Minister instead joined hands (yet again) with our nuclear buddies in turning a blind eye to this historic development.

The UK government continually say that they are committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Yet, if that were really the case, why would they refuse to take part in negotiating this multilateral treaty? One rule for the UK, another rule for the rest of the world.

Instead of signing this treaty, the government is proposing that we ‘strengthen’ the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT), which prohibits other countries from getting nuclear weapons, whilst allowing us to spend £205 billion replacing ours- hypocrisy at its finest. Whilst the NPT was great for setting a foundation for a nuclear-free world, it was adopted nearly 50 years ago, when the global political landscape was completely different. Unfortunately, the NPT ultimately hasn’t prevented countries such as India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons either. Not only this, but several countries have modernised and increased their nuclear arsenal since signing. It’s no wonder so many countries support an outright ban instead!

53 countries have signed the treaty so far. The Nobel Peace Prize has put a much-needed spotlight on the continuing global efforts to achieve a nuclear-free world and should help to push states into doing the right thing.

But now is not the time for us as campaigners to become complacent. We’re the closest we’ve ever been to global disarmament, but there’s still a while to go. The risk of nuclear weapons being used now is greater than it has been since the height of the Cold War. Not to mention, nuclear weapons have come a long way since then and just one of the thousands of warheads can cause unimaginable destruction. Yet still, Theresa May is sitting on her hands and failing to address the problem diplomatically.

The government must support the global ban to prevent any possibility of nuclear war. As activists, we must continue our campaign and put pressure on Theresa May to set an example to other nuclear states and respect the majority of the world’s decision.

The choice is clear; choose to be on the side of Nobel Peace Prize winners as well as 122 countries or choose to be on the side of Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

By Jessica Muckleston, CND Office Assistant

**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***

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LITTLE BOY AND FAT MAN

In 1945, two nuclear bombs named ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’ were dropped on Japanese cities. Now, 72 years later, nuclear-armed Kim Jong-Un claims that Trump’s comments at the UN were ‘a declaration of war’. The volatile relationship between this modern ‘Fat Man’ and ‘Little Boy’ (I’ll let you decide who is who) continues to pick up pace, dragging the world towards yet another war. Before Trump got elected, lots of people said that one positive that could come from it might be that the US became less invested in major interventionist wars. Unfortunately it’s turned out that Trump is simply more interested in a different kind of war – one with bigger bangs, and in his deranged mind, probably more applause.

Instead of goading Kim to launch a strike towards the US, Trump should be engaging in diplomacy. He says he has ‘the best words’, but I’ve yet to see them being used for anything beyond inflating his own ego.

However, it’s obviously far too simplistic to place all of the blame for the US-North Korea nuclear situation at Trump’s feet – indeed, it has much to do with the totalitarian dictatorship of the Kim family as well as the failure of historic US policies – yet Trump has done nothing but exacerbate it. Clearly his rhetoric is more about gaining domestic support by appearing to face down the scary foreign threat, but when you consider all of the facts, the threat from North Korea to the US is wildly unlikely and insignificant.

In reality, the situation is that a small but aggressive rogue state appears to have successfully tested two single long-range missiles without explosives, and is using this as a bargaining chip to gain a seat at the table of the international community. Kim wants security, trade, money, and influence – not an irradiated peninsula.

Instead of seeing this as a potential opportunity to test out the most devastating weapons humans have ever created, how about we take a minute to consider a few other aspects of the situation.

First, a blank test of a long-range missile does not mean North Korea is now a threat to the United States. Imagine you’re a child and you’ve built a slingshot from sticks and rubber bands (I know it’s not the 1950s but bear with me for a second here) and you use it to shoot a rock across your garden. It works the first time, but you use it again and the stick starts to bend a bit from the strain of the rubber band being pulled back. The next time you use it, the stick bends just a little more. Finally you see your next-door neighbour and take aim at him with your trusty slingshot – when it snaps apart and a Hwasong-14 nuclear blast goes off in your hands. This is the situation facing North Korea: one successful long-range test is useful to scare the world, but in no way a sign that they are technologically ready for war. They are a deeply impoverished and isolated nation just struggling to develop anything close to the military technology that the US has.

Second, let’s just think about North Korea’s perspective here: Kim Jong-Un is a madman, but he’s unlikely to be suicidal. As a young leader in the shadow of his late father, Kim is doing his best to prove his worth – and he seems to think the best way to do that is through a nuclear deterrent. Having put in years of effort to secure nuclear materials, he’s probably not going to fire them off at random – he did it because he wanted to secure his position, not see himself and his home be immediately eviscerated.

Third, and finally, what happens if Trump decides that Kim has pushed it too far and we better ‘show him a lesson’? Considering Kim is desperate to be the bigger man, and has to demonstrate that to his people, what’s he likely to do if he’s attacked? In this sense, Trump’s sensitive ego and hair-trigger buffoonery look like the most likely thing to push Kim into attacking South Korea or Japan, leading to a global war and an enormous refugee crisis.

My point is not that North Korea should have nuclear weapons – far from it, I think every nuke on earth should be launched into the sun and forgotten about forever. Instead, my point is merely that right now Trump’s fragile ego is what stands in the way of a global catastrophe, and that leaves me feeling extremely uncomfortable.

If this worries you just as much, you should come along to our event on the 21st October to learn how to challenge the narrative that nuclear weapons provide international security. It’s from 10am – 4pm at the Waterloo Action Centre, it’s free, and there will be some food and beer! We’ve organised it to try to give students and young people the right activist and direct action skills needed to challenge the f**ked up society that tells us we need genocidal weapons to stay safe.

Details here:

(Click on the image to go to the facebook event page)

By Laurie Gerhardt, CND Campaigns Assistant

**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***

Fancy writing a blog for YSCND? Send us an email at yscnd@riseup.net or a Facebook message at facebook.com/yscnd

 

Where is Theresa May?

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for CND. Unsurprisingly, when the President of the US threatens nuclear war, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has something to say. Resisting the urge to lock up the office, buy supplies, and start to dig bunkers, instead CND have been organising letters and protests to challenge this dangerous rhetoric. However, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom seems to have chosen the former option. After a long stint in the Alps (far away from any nuclear fallout) Theresa May has supposedly returned from her holiday, but she seems to have now chosen to hide underground and hope no one comes looking for her. There is still a deafening silence coming from Number 10 on the growing tensions between the US and North Korea.

This is the closest we’ve been to nuclear war in my lifetime. I don’t remember the constant state of crisis of the Cold War, I’ve only ever had to imagine it. But the last few weeks feel to me like the re-emergence of what I’d pictured – a permanent state of urgency which is exhausting. A sense that nuclear war is 5 minutes away, it’s just no one knows when to start counting from. We could easily get used to this permanent state of terror, and become accustomed to our Prime Ministers silence. Instead, we must refuse to go away; she has to face up to her responsibility to protect her citizens.

Silence from the UK is not a neutral position either, it is a tacit support for both the US and North Korea’s ongoing sabre rattling. There is, of course, an element of hypocrisy to a leader calling for calm when they themselves have said they’d be willing to push the nuclear button. Consensus used to be that Britain would not accept a Prime Minister who was anti-nuclear weapons. However, Jeremy Corbyn’s rising approval ratings shows that being willing to kill thousands of innocent civilians via nuclear attack is not a prerequisite for political popularity. That’s why the first step of Theresa May should be to re-engage with the UN’s Global Nuclear Ban Treaty, which would be a commitment to scrap Trident, taking the lead among nuclear powers in the process of disarmament. The treaty opens for signatures on the 20th of September and support from the UK would signal that this country is not willing to participate in a nuclear war. The events of the last weeks should be a wakeup call; now is the time for the government to reverse its decision to ignore the talks and the treaty. If what drives her is power, and the need for political influence, then there would be no better way to make a real global impact. What is necessary in this situation is for one leader of a nuclear state to have the bravery to take the lead in disarmament. If May were to do so, there’s no doubt it would make the world a safer place.

Since Theresa seems unsure as to how to stand up to the US and North Korea, CND have written her a letter with some advice. The letter reminds her of the Ban Treaty, and gives two other demands. Firstly, she must rule out sending British armed forces to the Korean Peninsula. The UK sent four Typhoon fighter jets to take part in military exercises in the East and South China seas last year, jointly with Japan, a gesture which only aggravated tensions there. To do the same during this crisis would be an act of provocation. If May cares about the safety of Korean civilians, from both North and South, she could instead back South Korean leader Moon Jae-In’s calls for negotiation. While Trump and Kim Jong-Un have been threatening each other, and Theresa May has been hiding in her nuclear bunker, he has promised to send a special envoy to North Korea for talks if they stops their missile and nuclear testing. Indeed, CND’s third demand is that the UK support efforts to resume Six Party Talks. This would mean diplomatic talks with South Korea, North Korea, the US, China, Japan and Russia, as Jae-In has asked for. It should be a no brainer that Theresa May stands with him.

These demands cannot just come from CND, but must come from us all. It is the first duty of a Prime Minister to protect her citizens, and yet she is sitting back while the world is in a state of emergency. Sign our letter to tell Theresa May her that you’ve noticed her silence, and won’t be letting her sleepwalk the country into nuclear war.

http://act.cnduk.org/petition/StopNuclearWar

Katie Clark, CND Campaigns Assistant

**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***

Fancy writing a blog for YSCND? Send us an email at yscnd@riseup.net or a Facebook message at facebook.com/yscnd

Foreign policy by alliteration

‘Fire and fury’ is something the people of Nagasaki are all too familiar with. Last Tuesday marked 72 years since the United States, Donald Trump, dropped a nuclear bomb on the city, killing up to 100,000 people, and setting a quarter of the buildings aflame. On the eve of the anniversary, the President of the United State threatened ‘fire and fury like the world has never seen’ on North Korea, further escalating a war of words between the countries’ two leaders. And he is right; if the US’s current nuclear arsenal were to be deployed, the destructive blast of a bomb used would be unprecedented. However, the grim irony of the timing of his comments deserves reflection; we already know the consequences of nuclear weapons, and the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still living with them.

So, just 3 days after groups across the country held ceremonies to remember the victims of Nagasaki, CND organised a protest delegation, to hand a letter to the US embassy calling for a de-escalation of the crisis. The letter was handed in by Giles Fraser, Victoria Britain, Jan Woolf, and representatives from CND and other civil society organisations. It asked that the US ‘engage in diplomatic talks with the aim of defusing the situation.’ The embassy refused to accept the letter.

Giles Fraser reads our letter outside the US Embassy.

While we were there, at lunchtime on Friday, President Trump was telling the media that the US military was ‘locked and loaded’ in anticipation for an escalation of the crisis. Here, an unnerving pattern is emerging. US foreign policy is not just being made up on the spot, it is being driven by what sounds snappy. Trump is devising his foreign policy based on alliteration. This would be one thing, if Trump were a stand-alone figure, but on the contrary, his whole entire administration is willing to play with fire when it comes to North Korea, and not just metaphorically. On Wednesday, US Defence Secretary, James Mattis, warned that ‘The DPNK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.’ This is an open threat of genocide. What is scariest about this situation is the clear lack of respect that Trump and his colleagues have for lives that are not American. The administration believes that all North Korean civilians are implicated in Kim Jung-Un’s regime and that their lives are disposable, so it is okay to ‘destroy’ them. It is this same belief that led to the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 72 years ago. It shows a deep held belief that human beings, if they live far away, don’t speak English, or look different, are somehow worth less. This racism, dressed up as patriotism, could all too quickly lead to the loss of thousands of lives.

Indeed, his words are symptomatic of a wider problem; the continued existence of nuclear weapons. These bombs are not just dangerous in the hands of a dangerous President, they are dangerous in anyones hands. While there is human error, inflated egos, and red buttons, we are always close to nuclear weapons being deployed. Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system isn’t keeping us safe, it’s implicating us in this escalating conflict by association. While Theresa May has decided this crisis doesn’t merit a comment or condemnation, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in true Trump-style, decided to simply tweet that ‘The North Korean regime is the cause of this problem and they must fix it.’ Boris’ comments have been echoed on the CND and YSCND’s social media accounts over the weekend. Why not go the North Korean embassy? people ask. Of course, Kim Jong-Un should stop his threats of mass genocide. The regime’s reported acquisition of nuclear weapons is a threat to world peace, and we should all be concerned, but this misses the core of what Britain’s role in this crisis should and could be, and what is realistically likely to end the cycle of brinkmanship. The US is a democracy, its President should be accountable to its citizens and it is an ally of the UK.  While North Korea has been threatening the US for years, Trump’s comments are a departure from previous more measured rhetoric, and could easily provoke the highly unstable North Korean leader. It is precisely because Kim Jung-Un is a threat to the UK that our Foreign Secretary should not be dealing with this crisis by blaming him on twitter. Instead, the UK should be using diplomatic means to pressure the US – our allies – to preserve peace, as the CND letter was asking for.

When Trump followed up his comments on the power of the US nuclear system, he remarked that ‘hopefully we’ll never have to use this power.’ Yes Donald, hopefully. But when it comes to weapons with the capability of killing thousands of civilians, hope doesn’t feel like enough at the moment. At YSCND, we’re taking action in campaigning for a nuclear free world, and specifically a reversal of the decision to the replace the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system, which makes us a target. We’re holding a workshop day on the 21st of October, to unite the youth and student movement in campaigning against Trident. If this week has worried you too, join us to take action!  As the events of the last week have proved, our future is at stake.

Katie Clark, CND Campaigns Assistant

Find our event on Facebook, and register for free on Eventbrite!

**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***

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No to Nuclear! No to the Arms Trade!

The terms of political debate around nuclear weapons have long been fixed around a few issues. The morality of possessing weapons capable of killing millions of people, and irrevocably damaging the earth, rightly comes up in discussion. The huge cost of replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system, at a time when essential public services are being cut, is a flagship campaigning issue at CND. Increasingly, more and more people are also accepting the argument that these weapons don’t meet Britain’s defence needs; it is clear that the real threats to our security are related to terrorism and cyber-security. However, what is often forgotten is that there is also a profit motive behind the upkeep and replacement of Britain’s nuclear weapons systems. Powerful people are making millions of pounds from Trident, and they are often unidentified.

The British government props up the UKs thriving arms dealers. It’s ‘Defence and Security Organisation’ (DSO), which promotes British-based weapons manufacturers around the world, operates within the Department for International Trade, the same department that is responsible for issuing licences for overseas exports. The idea that arms sales can be properly regulated by a department that is also actively promoting British weapons around the world is a total farce. It means that in the last few months, the UK has been sending representatives around the world to encourage the purchases of arms manufacturers in the UK. While this was happening, they did not manage to send a single representative to the UN negotiations on the recently agreed Nuclear Ban Treaty. The government’s refusal to engage in treaty negotiations, let alone sign the treaty, doesn’t only confirm that the Conservative Party’s commitment to multilateral disarmament was only ever false rhetoric. It also clearly exposes where their priorities are; they are not pushing for peace, but pushing to further profit from war.

In fact, while treaty negotiations were going ahead without the UK, public funds were being used to defend the Department for International Trade’s decision to allow weapons sales to the Saudi Arabian dictatorship. Despite clear evidence that British weapons had been used on bombing campaign against Yemeni civilians, contrary to humanitarian law, courts ruled that these export licenses were legal. This is a shame to the UK. It is no coincidence that arms dealers have sold £3 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia in the last 2 years and that the government is seeking to defend their right to do so. This is such a blatant conflict of interest, undoubtedly pushed by a UK department – the DSO – which shouldn’t even exist.

Yet, less than two weeks before the UN’s Nuclear Ban Treaty opens to signatories, the DSO are hosting the world’s largest arms fair in London. Starting on the 4th of September, and lasting a full week, 34,000 attendees from arms manufacturers, governments and militaries will gather at the Excel centre, hidden away in London’s docklands, to trade in weapons of war. Key figures behind multiple nuclear weapons systems will be exhibiting all week, offering to sell their technologies to countries around the world. The promotion of these technologies has nothing to do with the security of the UK. It is about protecting the profits of those producing nuclear weapons systems.

The fair will be operating behind barbed-wire fences, protected by armed security. However, the arms fair will not be able to run smoothly if faced with significant opposition. Two years ago, when protestors were arrested for blocking military vehicles from entering the arms fair, they were later cleared of all charges, as they had been acting to prevent further human rights abuses by those attending. This year, Stop the Arms Fair are coordinating a week of actions against DSEI, and CND are working with Trident Ploughshares to organise the No Nuclear Day on Wednesday, September 6th. CND groups will be travelling from across the country and we want the biggest possible presence from YSCND. This is the perfect time for young members and supporters to get more involved with Youth and Student CND, and to show your opposition to the British government’s promotion of nuclear weapon technologies. We want to send a signal to the Tories that they haven’t got away with ignoring the Nuclear Ban Treaty, and that we don’t consent to their propping up of the arms trade. We want a nuclear free future, not a country run for profit rather than morality.

Please join us in protesting against the DSEI Arms Fair.

For more information go to the Yorkshire CND website,  who are coordinating the action.

Katie Clark, CND Campaigns Assistant

**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***

Fancy writing a blog for YSCND? Send us an email at yscnd@riseup.net or a Facebook message at facebook.com/yscnd

Reacting to the Global Ban

On 7th July 2017, a powerful step toward a nuclear free world was taken at the UN headquarters in New York. The first legally binding international agreement in nearly 50 years, to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons was passed by 122 countries. It will open for signatures on September 20th and hopes to begin the process of moving multilateral disarmament talks after the frustrating slow pace of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT has seen very little progress since its signing in 1968. The ‘grand bargain’ that promised that nuclear states would take steps to disarm as long as non-nuclear states would not proliferate the weapons themselves, has given way to a farcical back and forth between the two sides. All the NPT really did was confirm suspicions about the disregard the nuclear states have for those that are on the outside looking in on their exclusive club.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (henceforth Global Ban), marks a shift in this rhetoric. It is a defiant, but frankly necessary move by those that are outside of the club to change the rules of engagement. The UN hopes it will provide an “unambiguous political commitment” toward achieving global disarmament and developing a dialogue about nuclear weapons. This coincides with the mounting tensions in the East Asian peninsula. North Korea has continued to postulate aggressively that its nuclear weapons can creep closer and closer to US borders where the infamous unpredictable Twitter-warrior (and President) Donald Trump, sits in sole command of the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet. It seems that for the first time in my lifetime, nuclear war is beginning to be talked about in not so hushed tones.

However amongst all the meaningful discussion of the Global Ban, something has come awry. Why, when 122 countries have come together in the UN, is the default conclusion of the North Korean dispute, hushed tones of nuclear war? Hope in the UN should have been inspired, the recognition of the alternative, disarmament should have made it back into the news. Alas, the UK did not fail to disappoint with abysmal mainstream coverage of the Global Ban. Apart from a few newspapers, the Global Ban flew quietly under the radar of the everyday British citizen who were instead greeted by sensationalized analysis of the end of days visa vie North Korea. Unfortunately, news outlets usually reflect the government bias, failing to keep the public informed of the full picture. Hopelessly reliant on these sources, large swathes of the public will remain unenlightened to the great lengths other countries are going to achieve a nuclear free world.

The Global Ban highlights the false claims made by the United Kingdom that state its commitment to multilateral disarmament. While the majority of countries constructively engaged in meaningful discussion about what could be done, the UK ambassador to the UN, Dr. Matthew Rowland, seemed to only attend to scoff at the apparent ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘deliberate attempt to undermine the global quest for security’. He was spotted afterwards fist-bumping the US ambassador, Nikki Haley, in what is another great example of lapdog diplomacy between the UK and USA. The failure of any of the Nuclear Armed States to sit at the treaty, is a reminder of the stubborn nuclear order these nations wish to continue. Earnest in their claims for a multilateral disarmament process, until the perfect opportunity lands in front of them. It is dismissed as illegitimate and laughed off as an attempt by the small countries to interfere in grown up decisions. The behaviour, we have seen, begins at the UN and ends at home, resulting in poor coverage of the talks which could have been conducive to honest debate about the future of nuclear weapons in the UK. Instead we continue nonchalant discussions about the potentially imminent nuclear war while we wait in trepidation for the latest episode of Love Island.

On the 18th July 2017, CND handed in 7,000 letters to 10 Downing Street. The letters, addressed to Theresa May and Boris Johnson, call attention to the attempts by the UK to undermine the Global Ban talks and the failure to engage in the process. These letters highlight the opportunity the UK has squandered to leading the international community by being the first nuclear state to participate in the proceedings, and the hypocrisy it now represents, in failing to commit to the multilateral disarmament it says it champions. The signees represent the fraction of those that heard about the Global Ban and were ready to make it known to the government, their disappointment at the UK’s failure to engage with on such an important forum.

CND deplores the government’s handling of the Global Ban and calls on it to recognise its mistake in choosing to remain idle. It seems self-evident that if the government deems it necessary to stifle news coverage of the achievement of a Global Ban, it has something to fear. We must move to a more open discussion of all nuclear weapons, especially the ones we can actually do something about, our own. Only then can the hopes of the Global Ban be realised.

By George Rutledge, CND Research Assistant

**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***

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#BooksnotBombs: Student Tuition vs. Trident Replacement

When many of my peers and I left 6th Form we had aspirations to further our education. This is a decision that is no longer as simple as it once was. We were told stories of our parent’s generations who were the odd ones out going to university, and gasped with shock as they reminisced of a time where you could be paid to go to these places. Surely not! We are frequently reminded to dash our hopes of such fantasies for ourselves. Chastised for setting ourselves unrealistic goals and for asking too much from student protest. The media reports false truths about the modern student position, making smarmy comments about us being able to pay back our loans if we stopped eating avocados, and saved like all those wise generations that came before us.

University has swung from a privilege to commonplace pursuit for those leaving school and in many respects that is a great thing. However, it appears to me that the university push that I felt behind me at school had ulterior motives. Sadly, like so many things in life, the motive is money. A friend of mine who graduated last year, recently shared with me her first student loan repayment letter. She, like the hundreds of thousands that have graduated in recent years, is looking at repayments in the ballpark of £50,000, a staggering debt for a 21 year old to begin their adult life with. Furthermore, we noticed she had been slapped with a further £5,000 or so, in interest repayments which had culminated across the time she was getting her degree. Wonderful. Sad as it is to say though, it was not a surprise to any of us that winced as she read the letter aloud for us in our dingy student house.

Student debt is becoming normalised and frankly it is infuriating. In the four years I have been at university, I have watched dismayed as the government laid honey traps for naïve 18 years olds, who like myself, were sold on the necessity of a higher education degree in an increasingly competitive workplace. I was the first year to despair at a full university degree under the £9,000 tuition fee rise and jump at the government’s hospitality in offering student loans that would not only cover my degree, but an extra £3,000 and something in the form of a maintenance loan too. Phew. Thank god for David Cameron, what a thoughtful bloke. Knowing no better, and pressured by schools, parents and government rhetoric, we entered the university machine.

I watched over my four years as a student as my campus fell victim to privatisation and students were disciplined for protesting against the changes. Behind the scenes, my loans were being privatised too, without my knowledge, and suddenly it was too late. Students were lied to. On the basis of their eagerness to learn, we continue to be exploited. Have you heard of The Sale of Student Loans Act 2008? I hadn’t. These underhand changes to how we learn have made the entire experience bittersweet. The government has offloaded its education costs onto the individual in a spectacular fashion, and sold it to the youth as an opportunity. Universities has become a market, where students are customers first, and foremost. Over 80% of universities hiked their prices up to the £9,000 cap in 2012, which demonstrates the profit driven culture that has permeated education, without any regard for the quality of the service being provided.

The discussion continues sorely today, highlighted by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto promise of cutting the fees all together this year. Student protest continues to expose the lies that were sold to us at the beginning of our degrees that see the Student Loans Company rake in upward of £12 billion from the age group statistically in the lowest paying jobs. The government’s go-to rebuttal to the criticism is that they cannot afford to subsidise the increased university uptake. Budget is stretched, and education is a money-pit, like the NHS and other social services. All these excuses ignore the elephant in the room.

The government can always find money to invest in things that it deems priority. Trident’s renewal is set to spend £205 billion of the UK budget towards the sustaining of the nuclear deterrent by the 2030’s. This is enough money to pay for over 8 million students tuition fees, and yet it will remain tucked firmly away out of reach of those things that are open for discussion in the budget. If anything is a waste of money, surely developing nuclear weapons in what is quite clearly the safest corner of the planet, is ahead of providing healthcare for the sick, and educating the future of the nation. The continued assurance that these weapons are ‘essential’ bringing into scope bizarre priorities of those who make decisions on behalf of the rest of us.

We urge the UK government to listen to the generation that is set to inherit the country and realise the damage it is doing to the longevity of its labour force. We can see a clear solution to the tuitions problem right in front of us; cut Trident, not education. Education surely, is the key to resolving the geopolitical disputes for which nuclear weapons are reserved, renewal only entrenches the behaviour that enable nuclear proliferation to continue in other countries. If the United Kingdom wants to continue to count itself as a world leader, it needs to recognise what is worth nurturing. Our nuclear arsenal makes up less than 2% of the nuclear stockpile globally, a mere drop in the water in the grand picture but considerably more in the scale of the UK. It is unsustainable to make excuses about nuclear weapons, education is essential, health is essential, nuclear weapons are not. Without either of the first two, society would collapse, can the UK government really claim that the same is said for Trident?

Latest figures claim that three quarters of students will not be able to repay the full debt by the time it is written off after 30 years. Despite this the pay cap is now ready to be pegged against inflation, should, god forbid, the student value-for-money statistics start to creep up from their all-time low of 35%. Trident however, remains impervious to austerity. The government has failed to guarantee to its younger population that it values their contribution, and instead plows ahead of with an outdated nuclear programme that fails to address the needs of modern society.

By George Rutledge, CND Research Assistant

**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***

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What you missed at the #NoNeedforNuclear Conference

Support for the UN Disarmament talks at the #NoNeedforNuclear Conference this Saturday 17th June

On the Saturday just gone, 17th June, while the rest of London sweltered at the mercy of the hottest weekend so far this year, enthusiasts, activists, and journalists alike, descended from across the world to Conway Hall, Holborn,to take part in the first nuclear power conference in 30 years, No Need for Nuclear: The Renewables are Here hosted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

With over 150 attendees of all ages, and 17 speakers comprised of distinguished academics, MPs and industry representatives, the conference was deemed a great success. The conference was graced with a keynote address from Caroline Lucas MP, all the way from New York where the UN disarmament meetings are taking place. The conference was broken into 4 sections: What’s wrong with Nuclear power? and The Politics of Nuclear Power followed by UK Energy Demand, Energy Supply, and The Renewables after lunch.

Despite the morning focusing primarily on the problems associated with nuclear power, and the afternoon discussing the benefits of renewable energy, trends began to emerge from the talks quickly. It soon became apparent how renewables were not only a quicker, more versatile alternative but their cost has nose-dived in the past 20 years despite the technology having improved leaps and bounds. So much power has been produced, for example, by wind farms that prices have fallen to 1/10th of their normal level. We heard how only a few weeks ago, the National Grid reported that renewables supplied 50.7% of power to the UK, a huge milestone towards a world free from nuclear power/fossil fuels.

On the other hand, projected costs for new nuclear programmes in the UK, like the one at Hinkley Point C, are estimated at €39 billion but likely to run higher. This, teamed with bankruptcies at Areva and Westinghouse/Toshiba and the indebtedness of EDF, questions have already been raised as to whether these programmes will go ahead or simply be footnoted within public expenditure. What many at the conference pointed to was how nuclear was definitely on the retreat, and the argument for renewable energy only gets stronger and stronger.

We were shocked by the opening talks which discussed the damage that nuclear power poses to the general population, even when the plants themselves do not malfunction. Talks shed light on government sponsored investigations into the radiation related illness and cancers experienced by those that lived close to power plants. Despite the investigation known as KiKK being intended to illustrate how living near nuclear power plants was harmless, the results backfired, seeing rising incidents of child leukaemia and other forms of cancer solids rising by as much as 120% within 5km of power plants.

This was when a plant is performing as expected. When it malfunctions, like in Chernobyl, the impacts were seen to be as far reaching at the UK, even further. Locally, flora and fauna in Chernobyl have been under duress for 30 years, mutations leaving them victim to cancers and cataracts while economic costs are estimated to have been as high as $700 billion. Costs for Fukushima are expected to surpass this figure, taking into account the losses faced in shutting down the 50 power plants in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake/tsunami.

These statistics were stuck in our minds as we listened on to how the new Conservative government remained silent on nuclear power in their latest manifesto, and Labour continues to bicker internally on its position on the subject despite the very public views aired by their leadership. Speakers also called attention to the trade unions failure to recognise just how many jobs renewables provide for the industry over nuclear, 16 times as many according to official data.

A common theme was talking about planned phasing-out of the UKs remaining 8 nuclear power stations as has been happening across Europe in Switzerland and Germany. One speaker demonstrated how between 300 and 4000 local energy schemes had been organised by co-ops up and down the country, erecting wind turbines and solar panels in an effort to pick up the slack in the government’s position. With over 10,000 members and 500 local authorities these programmes are bringing democracy to the people, uniting communities and providing independence from energy corporations.

The presence of MPs at the conference was also an essential part of the dialogue. Three Green Party representatives and one from Labour, facilitated a cross party debate which engaged directly with the concerns of the audience. Their component demonstrated the need to engage with these issues on a political level if we are see changes occur in the future.

A conference highlight was the photograph taken in Red Lion Square at the lunch break to contribute to the worldwide Day of Action in support of the UN Conference on Nuclear Disarmament in New York. Over 100 of the attendees gathered in solidarity, and it lifted everyone’s spirits to see this show of force on such a decisive day. The success of the conference, begs the question, what happens next? CND have already began considering the possibility of a similar conference in the years to come. Let’s hope it won’t be another 30 years!

By George Rutledge, CND Research Assistant

**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***

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