Category Archives: UK

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***

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

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***

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

#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***

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

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***

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

What to do with your June 8th election vote

Prime Minister Theresa May’s first order of business as she ascended to power last year was to vote through the £205 billion replacement of Trident. The legislation passed through parliament, dividing Corbyn’s Labour party and presenting Theresa May as a decisive, patriotic leader. It acted perfectly to illustrate the Britain that means no nonsense as it departs from the EU with a strong and stable leadership.

One year on and this phrase has become the tired and parodied soundbite of a country that is anything but. With the snap election in a few days on June 8th, our strong and stable ship is without a captain heading straight towards a Brexit which remains mysterious despite the various hard or soft prefixes that are being thrown its way. Such a country should not be making such heavy-handed decisions about the Trident replacement process when it is in the midst of austerity. This election however, provides an opportunity for us to confront the government on their commitment to nuclear l and make a difference.

Trident remains a hotly debated topic. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon openly committed the UK to a first strike policy in April this year under ‘extreme circumstances’. This is an alarming and flippant decision which provides conveniently vague terms of usage for such a horrific weapon. Replacing Trident will cost at least £205 billion, money which is in dire need elsewhere, in the NHS and education sectors. The Times has also exposed the failure of a missile test launch last June, which was covered up in the lead up to the Commons vote.

The government is committing more resources to nuclear power as well, despite the large costs involved and the doubts cast as to its safety and longevity as an energy resource.

Outside of the UK, wheels are in motion at the UN to finalise a nuclear ban treaty in July, a historic move supported by over a hundred countries. The UK is not engaging with the initiative, choosing instead to remain on the wrong side of history. However, this can change.

The June 8th vote gives us a chance to elect more anti-nuclear MPs to stand with CND. Disregarded for being notoriously unreliable in the election process, young people have an opportunity to craft a future that they want, is it this country that we are going to inherit. Regardless of your position on the issue, we have the chance to choose what Britain will look like post-Brexit, a country that maintains archaic notions of nuclear superiority or one that leads nuclear non-proliferation debates by taking active steps to join the UN majority.

A previous survey of young people by WMD Awareness uncovered how 69% believed that replacing Trident would only encourage other countries to invest in their own nuclear programmes. Less than 20% thought we should build a new nuclear weapons system. The average age of an MP is 50 years old, which suggests a disconnect with the younger population’s views and opinions. It is up to us to let them know what we think.

CND needs our supporters to get in touch with their local candidates and remind them what is at stake. We need you to #VoteOutNukes in your constituency by engaging with your candidates on three key issues:

  1. The UK signing of the UN nuclear ban treaty
  2. The replacement of Trident
  3. The construction of new nuclear power stations

This can be done via CND’s website at www.cnduk.org/Election2017, which guides you through how to easily contact the candidates for your constituency. We will be posting their responses in an effort to provide you with the tools to make an informed decision when casting your ballot. You can always keep in contact with CND’s updates via Facebook or Twitter. This election, let’s vote out nukes!

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***

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

 

Hypocrisy

noun /hɪˈpɒkrɪsi/

 “the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case”

When I read the news as I do every day, undoubtedly an article will appear, usually in the politics section where the word ‘hypocrisy’ will pop into my mind. Recently, this has been the news regarding the vote between the United Nations to start negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

On the 26th of October 2016, 177 countries came together at the UN General Assembly to vote on this very issue. A ban on the use of all categories of nuclear weapons. 38 countries voted against the proposal, including the UK and US. Whereas 123 countries voted in favour, including maybe surprisingly, North Korea.

how-is-your-government-doing

North Korea is a country mentioned in the media frequently concerning the use of nuclear weapons. Only in June of this year, were the Guardian and other news outlets reporting that “Kim Jong-un has boasted of North Korea’s ‘sure capability’ to strike US targets on the Pacific”. Yet, a country perceived as such warmongers in the media, voted for the proposed ban. Why did the US and UK vote against the ban? Well that’s a complicated question that I suspect many people differ on opinion.

Security? I doubt it. Nuclear weapons are systematically useless. Mhairi Black MP, put it brilliantly when addressing commons, she said: “We have already established the fact that we would not fire this weapon first, we would not launch this weapon. So the only time we are saying that we will ever use this weapon is if somebody has a nuclear strike against us, and to be quite frank that means we’re all dead anyway. And if I’m dying, I don’t care if we’re sending one back or not, I’m more worried about the one that’s coming towards me”.

They do not defend us against the real threats of today, those being terrorism, epidemics and climate change.  It’s hugely disappointing when your own government won’t support a ban on nuclear weapons, yet one of the supposed enemies of the west is voting in favour of it. However, I don’t hold North Korea to be in anyway innocent and their proposed ban could be for more sinister purposes, but of course this is just speculation.

It appears to be unequivocally unjust that there are the funds for Trident, which will cost the government in excess of £205 billion, yet there isn’t enough money to properly fund our public services, our welfare system and our higher education system. This can be seen by the growing waiting lists for operations in hospitals, more people than ever using foodbanks at over one million uses per year, and larger than ever class sizes with most children not getting their first choice of school.

Hospital operation waiting lists in the UK are at a record high of 3.9 million (as of Sept. 2016) and this year has been the worst for referral-to-treatment waiting lists in more than 5 years. These figures show that our NHS is underfunded and understaffed. I have many close family members and friends who work in the NHS and they have a first-hand experience of the service on a daily basis.

They tell me that in some job roles, if someone leaves or retires, in many instances those roles don’t get filled again. Other members of that team are then expected to take the outstanding workload between them on top of their already highly demanding workload.

More people than ever are using food banks, and between April 2015-16, the Trussell Trust say that over one million three- day emergency food supplies were given to people In crisis. The latest Trussell Trust figures show a 2% increase in foodbank use on the previous year, with the most popular reason for needing to use a food bank were ‘delays to benefits’. The primary reason people used foodbanks last year was because of a faulty system. A system that could be amended or changed, yet nothing is done.

And finally, class sizes. 100,000 pupils in the UK now face being in an oversized class (over 30 pupils per teacher), with increases expected. In fact only 6 years ago, in 2010 there were 31,000 students in oversized classes, now there are 69,000 extra, more than a double in 6 years.

It is also worth adding that this year alone, 1 in 6 children did not get their first choice of high school, and in London only 63% got their first choice. With a growing population, an increasing demand on school places and not enough investment in schools, a disaster is beginning to unfold.

Clearly, the current approach to these services is not sustainable. As CND themselves have said, instead of spending even £100 million on nuclear weapons, “we could employ 150,000 new nurses, build 1.5 million affordable homes or pay the tuition fees for 4 million students. 2 million jobs could be created, rather than 7,000 currently sustained”.

I began this piece with the word ‘hypocrisy’. Hypocrisy is when you care to spend £205 billion on an arguably redundant set of nuclear weapons, and then say that there is no money for more important things.

Glaring hypocrisy has been the underlying theme of this piece, because for me, our government’s stance on Trident compared to its stance on the NHS, social care, education, welfare, housing, poverty and other important issues, absolutely screams of hypocrisy. To me, our government are hypocrites.

So, let’s rally our government, let’s email and write to our MPs and let’s campaign to make a difference. Because, without our members and activists, change couldn’t happen!!

By Connor French
@ConnorFrench96

**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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How to set up your own CND Society at University

We currently have 4 university societies set up across the UK; Stirling, Goldsmiths, York and SOAS – and we want CND to become a staple society at most universities with your help! The example below is by no means the only way in which you can run your society, but is simply a starting point for those of you who are passionate about the campaign but are about overwhelmed by where to start.

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Being a recognised Student Union Society

Each university will have their own individual way in which you can start up a society. It will most likely involve a little bit of paperwork and an initial overview of what your society’s activities will entail. Although a little time-consuming, these are normally relatively straight forward if you have an initial idea of the day-to-day running of your society.

For example; Southampton University Student Union (US) has an online form which you fill out to create an affiliated group. Whereas London Metropolitan Student Union (Met SU) has a 13-page “New Society Pack” which you fill out and send to them to get started. Go online or speak to your Student Union directly to find out the most effective way to get started.

Please do not hesitate to contact us directly if you have any queries that you think we might be able to help you with whilst in this initial phase of setting up.

 

Basic things to organise

Students are incredibly flexible, and almost everyone that is a part of your society will have a completely different timetable – so the first thing would be to decide a meeting time where you think that most people will be able to attend.

Once you have agreed on a meeting time which is good for your members, it is good to book a room within your Student Union. If it’s on campus, all of the students at your university will have access to it and are likely to know where to go.

This would normally be done in the preliminary stages of getting an affiliated group with your Student Union – however this may not be automatic and you may need to get in contact with them again to book a room separately.

You should consider a membership fee for your Society. To begin with, it is likely that your society will be low on money and this would be a good way to get some initial funds. Have a look to see what other societies with similar aims/outcomes to yours are charging their members. If you mirror the standard price, you won’t make the mistake of overcharging people and it being so high that people won’t join, but also it won’t be too low that it won’t really benefit you in the long run.

Once you have permission to be a society, an agreed time and meeting place – now is the time to promote!! The most effective way to do this is flyering (outside the library, Student Union building or the busiest places on campus are the best places to start) and via your Facebook or Twitter.

 

Fresher’s fayre / stall check-list

If you are lucky enough to be starting your society up at the beginning of term/semester and you have the opportunity to have a stall at a fayre to promote – do so! This is the most convenient way to get your society seen, and by people who are open-minded and willing to join a new society.

Ensure that your stall has a table cover (to make it look more professional), you have leaflets and information about CND as a whole, or your society-specific information. Have badges, tattoos, resources. Students come to student fayres for FREE STUFF. So if you have peace stickers or badges, anything to give away for free with the CND symbol on it would be great.

Bring a laptop / tablet, so people can sign up to your mailing list or join your Facebook group directly. Many students at fresher’s fayres will seem interested in your society… but once they walk away from you onto the next stall they are likely to forget! Don’t take it personally, but make sure that you captivate the student’s attention – and grab their e-mail addresses so you can keep in contact with them afterwards.

One good example of something to do at a fresher’s fayre is to have a photo campaign. Have a placard or something of interest for the students to have a photo with and get them actively involved by taking a picture of them. This is a really great way to show your creativity, but also ensuring that the students go out of their way to find the photo of themselves on your Facebook account. This way, if the students manage to avoid giving you their e-mail address for your mail list – you have an increased chance of finding them on your Facebook group and keeping them in touch with your society that way.

Before the fair, draw up a rota for the stall – you’ll want at least two people on it at a time, and you won’t want to be sitting there all day! Make sure there are enough of you at the beginning and end of the day to set up and take down the stall.

Also, make a list of everything you need and are going to take to make sure you’ve got it all ready. Be sure to bring scissors, sellotape and blue-tack because they always come in handy in some way that you never realised.  Make sure everyone knows where they need to be, and when.

 

At the fayre

Make sure you get there with plenty of time to set up before all the students arrive! Ensure your stall is eye-catching – if you don’t have a big banner or backdrop, maybe wear CND t-shirts to make it immediately obvious who you are. When it comes to attracting visitors, freebies are always a winner! Bring a bucket-load of penny sweets, a tub of chocolates – or if you have time, bake a batch of personalised cupcakes or cookies.

Engage with everyone – say hello, ask them questions, offer them a leaflet, ask them to sign up for your emails.  If possible, don’t sit behind the stall and wait for people to come and talk to you; they’re much more likely to respond if you approach them first.  When talking to people, be as open and accessible as possible.

Many may never have been involved in activism before, so avoid using acronyms or jargon, or talking in too much detail about subjects many people may not be familiar with. Some may be intimidated by the idea of activism and protest, so explain that there are loads of different ways of campaigning – from meetings to leafleting to direct action.

Furthermore, CND is general quite a serious topic – so try not to come across as too intense! Not only is the point of a society to make a real, grassroots change and have a tangible impact with our aims, but it is also to mingle and meet like-minded people – and especially as a uni society, everyone is there to have fun!

Ellie Kinney, from Goldsmiths CND, said that the best way to engage and start a discussion with new students who don’t know anything about CND is starting with…

‘we’re a society that campaigns to stop the Government spending £205 billion on nuclear weapons, and tell them spend it on education or the NHS instead’, that way it doesn’t sound too intimidating to anyone not involved in campaigning before.

As you are highlighting the clear link between the replacement of Trident and student cuts, you are showing the student the real impact that the government policy will have upon their individual lives – if we didn’t have this ridiculous cost for Trident, the government may have supported students with better grants and loans. This will be a great way of encouraging people to partake in our campaign, as it is something that affects them directly.

 

Your first meeting

Make sure your first meeting is as open, accessible, and social as possible. The week after Freshers Week is the best time for a first meeting, because it’s soon enough that people won’t forget, but it’s not happening during the time when people want to be out having fun with their new flatmates.

Keep it informal – a good start would be an introduction to CND’s aims and campaigns, or an introduction to the UK’s nuclear weapons.  PowerPoints and short films are always a good way to help introduce the massive topic that is Nuclear Disarmament.

Remember to send an email reminder the day before using the mailing list from the fresher’s fair. Most universities have their own bulk mailing system – however if yours does not, or you are unsure of how to use it, Mail Chimp is a fantastic and free alternative.

Free food is always a draw! Advertising the meeting as a ‘Welcome social with tea and cake’ is likely to attract far more people than just a ‘CND society meeting.’

At the meeting, give a brief talk about your chosen topic. You should be able to find all the information you need in our briefings and info sheets. You could structure the talk around the history of CND, its original aims, some of its most notable campaigns, and where we are now – or you could give an outline of the main arguments against nuclear weapons.

As you know, CND is a serious topic – and you don’t want to put people off by introducing it as a big, impossible and daunting task! Simply give them the foundations of CND, but make it as light-hearted as you can.

At the meeting, get people enthusiastic about being involved. Make it clear what your aims are for the next few months, and how you plan to get there. Talk about any events you have planned, and give examples of what other CND societies have achieved – give your members something to aspire to!

Give students the opportunity to take on a committee role within the society. (see below for more a more detailed list of potential committee roles). After the meeting, you might want to go off to a nearby pub or the Union bar so people can get to know each other a bit more.  You’re much more likely to get people to keep coming back to meetings when they know a few of the other people there, and know that there’ll be a drink at the end of it.

Make sure you follow up the meeting with an email thanking everyone for coming and reminders about your next event. Keep your social media accounts active, so it’s easy for anyone to see what you’re up to and get involved.

 

Your first month as a society

By now you will be in the full swing of things with your society. As a new society, things will constantly change to suit different people’s needs and wants, and this is to be expected! Good communication between the committee and members is the best way to ensure that everyone is happy with the direction that the society is going.

Josh Foskett, from University of York CND (UoY CND) said,

“We make sure to have weekly meetings, which usually have a specific draw to them: i.e. one week we might be bringing in our local MP, the next we might be watching Threads. I think it works really well for engagement when you can try to consistently put on “an event” as such, rather than just a standard meeting (although these can work really well in lower amounts to fill the gaps)”

It would probably be best to have a semester long campaign (either two or three campaigns a year max!). This way, you and your members can really get your teeth stuck into a campaign. Get prominent people involved, invite local MPs, have speakers to come in and hold a debate within your society.

The great thing about having a university society is the sheer volume of different things you are allowed to try. You can get as creative as you want to with your campaigns, protests, meetings and fundraisers.

Ideally, you would meet weekly – this way you are more likely to keep people engaged with your society as a whole and are more likely to keep members engaged. If you decide one week not to have a meeting, do encourage the group to get together, even if it’s for a social night or a coffee afternoon.

 

In addition, it would be good in the first several weeks to arrange a fundraiser. This will achieve two things; firstly, it will show that you are a pro-active society that is worth remaining a member for, and secondly, you will increase your funds that you have to play with in the future for other events. Funds are important to get more resources, subsidising member’s travel of going to National CND events or to see how much money you can raise and give to CND at the end of the year!

 

An overview of your society

Generally speaking the overview of your society will be whatever you think is best for you and the members of the group! Whether you have two or three campaigns, or decide its best to stick to a yearlong campaign is completely your choice – it will be whatever suits your society’s needs.

With regards to the committee members, here is an example of the six potential committee roles you may decide you would like, and also general expectations of the other members. You may not have the need for 6 committee members, as most university’s require you to only have three (generally President, Secretary and Treasurer) but this will give you an idea of the roles you need to fill between yourselves.

 

President

As the title suggests, this is the person in charge. This person’s duties include:

  • Organising/running the weekly meetings and any additional events.
  • Making sure that all events conform to any health and safety regulations and are cost/time effective.
  • Dealing with any problems the society has.
  • When doing group or collaborative events, meeting with the president of the other society and making sure everything works.
  • Just in general be awesome, relatively relaxed if there is a problem and being good at dealing with anything that happens.

 

Vice President

Similar to the President as said above, however you don’t get blamed if it all goes wrong. This person’s duties include:

  • Most of the above and is mainly there to help take some of the pressure of the President/fill in for them if they are ill, have work or any other reason.
  • Sometimes if the society has many commitments, and need to be in two places at once, the Vice President acts as second in command

 

Treasurer

The person with all the money!!!! … Sort of. This person’s duties include:

  • Looking after the society’s bank account (all of the information and expectations of this role will likely be a part of the application/affiliation process at the beginning of this!! Again, all uni’s will be different so it is important to adhere to any specific requirements)
  • If any resources are going to be brought/any event or trip is going to be subsidised, then it is the role of the treasurer to make sure that it fits into the budget given to by your Student Union

 

Secretary

Good for anyone who likes list and organisation. This person’s duties include:

  • Taking the minutes of a meeting (Writing down everything that has been going on and making sure that anyone who wasn’t at the meeting knows what’s going on – it is good to post these on Facebook for either all the committee to see/or all your members – depending on how transparent you’d like to the society to be).
  • Contacting other people/groups/societies such as the societies
  • Supplying the snacks/biscuits for general and committee meetings (this is an optional task and can be applicable to anyone of the committee members you decide!)

 

Publicity officer / Web Wizard

For anyone with an artistic flair and a creative mind. This person’s duties include:

  • Making posters/leaflets for the weekly meetings as well as for any special event such as showing films and any stalls outside Student Union.
  • Writing/sending the weekly emails to everyone.
  • Running the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram page.
  • Keep in contact with YSCND – keep them updated about everything that you get up to, and they will publish it on their main website

 

Social Secretary

For people who like to party! This person’s duties include:

  • Organising social gatherings for the society. This can be from going to clubs, pubs, to Laser tag or to meals out. Anything that involves getting the CND society (and possibly other societies) getting together for fun.

 

General things expected of all members

  • To be able to attend most meetings (obviously there will be times with essays, deadlines and illness when you can’t to this).
  • To behave in a responsible way and take the society seriously.
  • To keep an eye on what is going on with National CND and YSCND. We don’t expect everyone to be completely up to date on every issue, but to have some general knowledge.
  • Most importantly to want to work with a team of people to help change the world by fighting towards non-proliferation and disarmament!

 

If you are successful in setting up a society at your university, please get in contact with Youth and Student CND and let us know! We can offer you support and guidance throughout your time at university with regards to the CND society; giving you some ideas, sending resources or simply promoting your events on our Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Good luck!

No War! No Austerity! YSCND welcomes John McDonnell

As the academic year begins, the excitement of moving to new place, living independently and meeting new people is sadly met with financial worry for many students. September welcomes in the first year of new students starting university since George Osborne announced he was scrapping the maintenance grant, a vital lifeline given to help students from low income backgrounds cover rent, food and bills. Instead, students from low income backgrounds will find themselves leaving university with around £3000 more debt that those from a privileged background. According to the Chancellor, there was a ‘basic unfairness’ in the taxpayer aiding less privileged students to thrive at university.CORRECTED YouthCND NoWar NoAusterity 24Nov

Youth and Student CND believes there’s a basic unfairness in charging £9000 a year for education, slashing funding of schools and colleges, and forcing students from low income backgrounds to take out larger loans while committing to spend over £200billion on nuclear weapons. Our nuclear weapons system remains outdated and unnecessary, not protecting us from the main security threats facing us and certainly doesn’t invest in our future. Free education is a valuable investment and is far from an unachievable goal- whilst our university fees are the highest in Europe, Germany, Sweden and Norway are just some of the countries offering a successful system of free university education.

But before you up sticks and move to Norway, join Youth and Student CND in sending out the message to our Government that we won’t accept their austerity education! We’re holding a rally on November 24th to declare ‘No War! No Austerity!’ and unite student activists from across anti-war and anti-austerity campaigns. We think it’s refreshing to hear Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal of a National Education Service, investing money into education to enable people of all ages and backgrounds to access education and training at any stage in their life- this is why we’re excited to welcome John McDonnell to join us for our rally. A far cry from ex-Chancellor Osborne who waged war on education, McDonnell believes education is a right, not a privilege, and we couldn’t agree more.

Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1788763484693004/