Review: Campaigning against Armageddon

Review by SELHuG committee member Helen Warner

At our November 4th meeting, the speakers were Gini Bevan and David Leal from CND National Council, both executive members of the London Region.

David gave a detailed overview of nuclear weapons’ development, from the 1930s-45 ‘road to the bomb’, (a scientist-led drive to ‘beat the Nazis to the bomb’), to US designed submarines and missiles of the 50s and 60s.  During the 1960s the Soviets also developed ‘triad’ capability (air, sea and land launched missiles) which the Chinese also now have.

After Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945), Robert Oppenheimer first called for nuclear bombs to be banned but political ‘competition’ continued. Treaties between the USA and Russia started in the 60s after the 1954 ‘Castle Bravo’ thermonuclear tests conducted at Bikini Atoll. The various treaties do not include China

Overview of nuclear Treaties:

The UK has not enriched any uranium since 1963, but our government still promotes (now 54 years) continuous at-sea ‘deterrent’ (Trident) and has announced they will be increasing the number (unspecified) of nuclear weapons. In actuality, the technology is from the US. Both the UK and France claim they would deploy (so called) ‘usable’ nuclear weapons. David emphasised that nuclear missiles are not ‘usable’ as asserted by governments and that anti-ballistic missile technology is still in its infancy. The arguments that having nuclear capability acts as a ‘deterrent’ and ‘keeps the peace’ still holds political sway. 

This year (Jan 22nd 2021) The Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was published. It says: 

“Each state party undertakes never to, under any circumstances develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices”.  

Although signed by the global south it has NOT been signed by any of the nuclear nations, i.e. NATO countries, USA, Russia, China etc. In fact, NATO have categorically stated they would ‘never sign’.

Signatory countries of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – in blue:

So, does this make the Treaty meaningless? David has some optimism that the fact weapons cannot be tested or deployed in such a wide area of the planet does constrain the nuclear nations.

CND continues to put pressure on the UK government to sign. He highlighted that most advanced countries have made a decision not to develop nuclear weapons, although most could probably do so in ‘about a year’, should they choose! There was concern from Gini that the impact of climate change with associated conflicts, tensions and displacement of peoples potentially ramps-up risks. 

There is growing political pressure to sign The Treaty in some quarters such as the global (including London) Mayors for Peace movement. 

Humanists may wish to personally sign The London Nuclear Ban Communities Pledge (see below for information; click on the link to sign) and there was a call for SELHuG to join the South East London Network for Peace, Justice and Solidarity

All infographics from David’s presentation; you can view the entire presentation here: