EDITORS NOTE: I am not a member of CND however I welcome all initiatives by Sydenham groups bringing noteworthy speakers to local public meetings. This can only be good for the community if they can spare the time to attend. Pictures courtesy of Owen Liddle.
Lewisham Civic Suite was the venue for this joint meeting sponsored by Forest Hill & Sydenham CND together with Lewisham & Grenwich CND on Friday 11th April 2014. It formed part of Bruce Kent’s national ‘No Faith In Trident’ tour. Bruce was, of course, the face of CND for many a year back in the cold war days when a nuclear exchange was a real everyday threat. Bruce left his post in the Roman Catholic Church to free himself of political constraints in his eloguent campaigning.
Now a spriteful 84 he matched not a few of the eighty or so souls in the audience. Neverthless the meeting was unusual in combining two speeches with poetry and opening with vigorous singing from the Strawberry Thieves Choir led by John Hamilton of People Before Poverty.
Speech one was by Dr Rebecca Johnston another veteran campaigner and currently Vice-President of CND. Rebecca’s major theme was the work being done by 146 nations under the United Nations ambit to make nuclear weapons illegal under international law. However it is being boycotted by most of the existing nuclear powers who also may be able to veto anything that comes to the Security Council. This was a point not taken.
Rebecca’s other theme was to drum up support for a 50,000 demonstration to link Aldermaston and Burghfield this August.
An interlude of her own poetry by Ann Garrett, local activist and member of the Green Party, demonstrated another aspect of the anti-nuclear message.
And so to the main act. Bruce took a very different line. Surprisingly, for an ex-clergyman, he did not touch on the morality of nuclear weapons per se but instead focused on the relevance of Trident in today’s world. In particular how it both distorted military spend restricting how other parts of our defence forces could protect us and others and also how it could be justified with cuts in our medical and other civilian programmes. It was clear Bruce was trying to move the appeal of CND away from the anti-nukes in a time when full scale nuclear war is not an active issue amongst most of the young. Instead to appeal to the taxpayer in the street as just a collossal waste at a time we increasingly can not afford it.
The floor was opened for questions and statements. I’m not sure his message landed home. There was rather a lot of fighting the last (anti-nuke) war rather than the next.
But an exhilarating evening and a chance to discover that CND is still a very active if ageing organisation. The one person who never seems to age is Bruce and just listening to him reminds one of how he became such a troublesome force in the politics of the last century. Let’s hope he inspires some troublemakers for this century!