Bruce Kent

CND Now More Than Ever

The Story of a Peace Movement

Kate Hudson

2005, Vision Paperbacks, 278 pp, illus. £10.99

This is a doubly impressive book. Not only has the author a demanding academic day job, but she is also the elected chair of CND, a time-consuming and demanding responsibility. That she has found time to write it is in itself a minor miracle. It is a valuable addition to the previous histories of CND. Written in a straightforward and understandable style, it recounts the history of CND and indeed back to 1945 with the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An index and a series of reference notes are especially helpful.

The deliberate killing of civilians is what we now call terrorism but was in 1945 an act of government. The decision to use the bomb on undefended cities led to the resignation of Joseph Rotblat from the atom bomb's research team. He is now a Nobel Prizewinner. Admiral Leahy, President Truman's Chief of Staff, said later: "It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon… was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. In being the first to use it we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the dark ages."

Even today our media persists in claiming that the use of the atomic bombs was the only way to bring World War Two to an end. Kate Hudson clearly sets out the reasons why this is quite untrue.

The book's seven chapters cover all the major figures and features of CND history: the Aldermaston marches, Russell-Collins tribal warfare, the consequences of the Vietnam war, the hot Cold War of the 1980s, Greenham, Edward Thompson and END, and eventually Gorbachev. It is good to be reminded that Macmillan even offered to remove Thor missiles from Britain if that would help to defuse the crisis over Cuba in 1962.

Kate Hudson's account includes the International Court of Justice ruling of 1996 on the illegality of nuclear weapons, the centenary Hague peace conference of 1999, largely ignored by the media, and takes us up to the Iraq war and its consequences. She does not have to justify CND's involvement in the massive public opposition to that war. After all, the excuse for waging it was supposed to be Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, though they still await discovery.

We also still await a response from the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to the evidence submitted to him in support of the claim that Blair and his colleagues were guilty of criminal activity. He has at least already said that the allegations are being given “deserved weight” by his investigators.

This is a humbling book. Over the years there has been so much effective and imaginative campaigning, often undertaken at personal sacrifice by thousands of people involved in CND and related organisations, who have never hit the headlines. This is their history. The author concludes by saying that today we must work with many organisations to bring about "a sea change" in popular attitudes in favour of "a world of peace and social justice free from the fear of nuclear annihilation".

With Blair, ignoring his legal obligations to negotiate the elimination of all nuclear weapons everywhere, but anxious for a new generation of British nuclear weapons in perhaps 20 years time, and the United States developing its nuclear bunker-busters and promoting pre-emptive war, there is much yet to be done. This book will encourage and enthuse new generations who will learn from the successes and failures of those who went before.

Vice-President of CND