Article published: Monday, November 24th 2014
In the run-up to the Campaigns Bazaar on Thursday, MULE portrays groups taking part to learn more their work. For the first interview, Kathrin Ohlmann spoke to Jacqui Burke from the Greater Manchester & District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), founded in 1957, campaigns against nuclear weapons, particularly the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system, the use of other weapons of mass destruction and the nuclear power industry. Founded in the early 1980s, the regional Greater Manchester & District CND (GM&D CND) is made up of one regional office and eight town & city groups.
What does GM&D CND do?
We organise and mobilise for direct actions at nuclear bases in the UK, including the nuclear submarine base at Faslane in Scotland and the nuclear weapons factory at Aldermaston in Berkshire. We lobby parliament, organise protests locally and nationally, and give talks to schools and universities.
How do you relate to the national campaign?
We’re organised autonomously from the national office. While the national office oversees everything to do with banning nuclear weapons and nuclear power, regional offices have specialities. As well as all doing the general anti-nuclear work and campaigning against Trident in Greater Manchester, we also focus on NATO and nuclear power and Europe for Peace.
Who are the campaigners?
It’s a real mix, the activists are out on the frontline blockading and we’ve got retired teachers who go out and give talks to schools. We’ve got a new CND society at the University of Manchester, a group of young students who are just becoming very active.
We’ve also just formed North West Labour CND with volunteers to plan strategies for working with MPs and MEPs in the run-up to the general election. If anybody in the country wants to lobby their MPs, the North West Labour CND group will provide them with the material. They’d know, for example, how the MP voted on any particular anti-nuclear issues and would be able to give them that information immediately or help them with the best way to approach their MP.
Do you cooperate with other campaign groups?
Yes, it’s important to work together and we are closely linked with the Stop the War Coalition, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) because certain aspects of our campaigns overlap. When we’re talking to people who want to be involved in our campaign, we explain to them that we’re not just campaigning for a single issue, but that our work is more complex than that. The arms trade, for example, is a big issue across lots of peace and social justice campaigns.
I had a meeting today with Manchester PSC, because one of their campaigns is calling for a nuclear free Middle East. Israel is the only country in that region with nuclear weapons, so we’re working together on that aspect.
We’re also trying to form a loose alliance with groups who campaign against the global arms trade. We had our first meeting today for an alliance in the North West, with the Campaign against the Arms Trade, Stop the War Coalition, PSC, and Manchester Palestine Action. We’ll soon start inviting other groups in the region to a day school of information gathering and skill sharing.
Is campaigning against the arms trade one of the most pressing issues for CND at the moment?
The most pressing issue is Trident, because whichever government is voted in next year will decide whether the replacement of the UK’s nuclear weapons system goes ahead, with the final decision taken in 2016. But Trident is, of course, all part of the arms trade and is linked into NATO, so all of those threads come together in our work.
What do you think about the state of local activism?
At this meeting today, we were all saying how suddenly, in the last few months, things seem to have really taken off. From the CND point of view, we’ve had these new student groups springing up. Universities used to be real hotbeds of activism and then it seemed to go very quiet. But now there are new CND groups springing up in Leeds, Bradford and Manchester. The Stop the War Coalition have said they had a really good turnout for public meetings. It feels a bit more positive as long as we can sustain it and make sure we keep people’s interest.
Is there more of an appetite again for political activism, do people feel the need to become active and stand up to the government’s cuts?
Absolutely, I think especially among a lot of younger people with the student fees and the banking crisis. People are struggling with austerity and are being expected to suffer for it, while it’s blatantly obvious that people in power are not struggling. It’s been a drip feed of cuts, one thing after the other that ordinary people have got to put up with and I think there’s a bit of a sea change. A lot of younger people are starting to realise that they perhaps need to do something, get themselves informed and become more active.
For more information, visit www.gmdcnd.org.uk.
GM&D CND is one of more than 30 local groups taking part in the Greater Manchester Campaigns Bazaar on Thursday 27 November 2014 at Academy 2 from 7.00pm. The entry is free, everyone is welcome and the bar will be open. Find out more here.
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