Now’s the time to take action against Trident replacement
Trident is one of those campaigning issues that can sometimes feel just a bit too big; our politicians seem intent on holding onto their WMD’s, and there doesn’t seem to be very much we can do to stop them. However, I’m convinced, in the few years I’ve been involved in anti-nuclear activism, we’ve definitely seen the odds move in our favour. We’ve got a long way to go, but Trident replacement isn’t quite so much a foregone conclusion as it looked a few years ago and the next few months will be a critical time to really pile the pressure on.
It was quite clear that the Scottish referendum had Whitehall in a flap over where they’d park their nuclear armed submarines if Faslane stopped being an option – had the Scots voted for independence, Trident would have looked a bit less like the ultimate insurance policy and a bit more like a massive floating headache.
Remember too, that if the 2010 general election had returned a majority parliament (either Labour of Conservative), we may well have already had a final decision on Trident replacement; it was a part of the negotiation package brought in by the Lib Dems that any decision on Trident replacement should be pushed into the next parliament. Similarly, just this weekend, Nicola Sturgeon declared that, with possibility that they hold the balance of power in a minority-Labour government next year increasing, Trident would be non-negotiable; Miliband would get the SNP’s support or would get to keep his nuclear bombs, but not both. The Scottish labour leader has also recently backed scrapping Trident. Politics is changing, the monopoly that Labour and Conservatives shared over Westminster is weakening, and – in regards to Trident replacement – that could be very helpful.
On the international level, the 97% of countries that continue to not see a use for nuclear weapons are starting to change the nature of the debate. In December, diplomats will gather from across the world to discuss the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, part of a process that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons hopes will move us towards “negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons” – what that would mean if we went and built a whole new load of submarines and warheads (which, if built, would see the UK remaining nuclear armed until the 2060’s) is anyone’s guess.
To try and plug some of these gaps, the government has tried to make any future decision on Trident replacement a foregone conclusion by signing some contracts, amending the bilateral agreement between the UK and the USA that governs sharing of nuclear weapon research and technology, and starting massive renovations at Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment – and it’s here we’ll focus our attention now.
Burghfield AWE is a nuclear bomb factory. It’s just seven miles down the road from Aldermaston, and both have been the focus of decades of campaigning and direct action; most recently in the form of the Action AWE campaign. From disruption to the building work caused by blockades of the gates, to a seven-mile long pink knitted peace scarf that got thousands involved in anti-nuclear activism, Action AWE have been making it clear that it is behind those gates and fences that Trident replacement is already taking place. Billions of pounds are being spent on new buildings and machinery, ready to produce the next generation of weapons of mass destruction, and it is distressing to know that whole communities are economically dependent on the production of weapons of mass destruction, like Barrow. However, we’re at one of those exciting points in our history, where we could choose to do things differently; do we need nuclear weapons? Of course not. But it is quite clear that we do need massive investment in the renewable energy sector. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade have recently produced a report, which demonstrates how a ‘move towards offshore wind and marine energy could produce more jobs than the entire arms industry’. We need to start to be much more creative to respond to the challenges we’re facing in the world, and we need to empower our politicians to act, to change the status quo, to start moving our economy and future towards real, sustainable security.
In March 2015, just a few months before the general election, we’re going to make the message that Trident replacement will not be tolerated absolutely loud and clear, by taking action at the base every day for a month – and we want you to join us. Called ‘Act Speak Vote > Disarm!’ the month will start with ‘Burghfield Lockdown’, a mass public blockade of all the entrances to Burghfield AWE on Monday 2nd March. After that, groups across the country are volunteering to take on days, and already preparing for vigils, street theatre, and disruptive nonviolent action. After taking action, we’re encouraging everyone who participates to go back to their constituencies and make it clear to all of their candidates that they won’t get their vote if they support Trident replacement.
Action AWE can support actions by giving talks at meetings, running nonviolent direct action training days, and suggesting ideas for what type of action you might want to do. At the blockade on the 2nd March we will host a convergence centre in Reading, and there will be time to form affinity groups and find different ways of contributing to the action. There are still plenty of days in March that need vouching for, too, so if you or your group want to get involved, then do! For more information on any of that, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.actionawe.org/pledge
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A thought from Radiation Free Lakeland on The Connections>>>
….it aint to keep the lights on – it is to snuff them out.