David McKenzie reports on the peace movement in the run up to September’s Faslane demo • “International”—a funny word. In one common parlance it’s about connections between and among states, as conducted by national leaders.
When John Maclean used it, he meant something very different—he was talking about the solidarity of working people across borders—the unrealised solidarity that gave WW1 such sharp obscenity.
Today we might add to that solidarity identification with other exploited and marginalised groups, be it women, folk with disabilities, indigenous peoples, persecuted minorities, migrants.
“Who are my brothers and sisters?” was a fair question from Jesus of Nazareth, in sharp contrast to to the right wing US reference to Mexican migrants —“These are not our people.”
It’s the solidarity of those worldwide who struggle to combat one of the two major threats facing humanity and the whole planet that will bring international visitors to Faslane on 22 September.
They will come with a simple message to us here in Scotland, a message that they have already shared with us in global disarmament and campaigning meetings:
‘We think your national rejection of nukes is fabulous; the eyes of the world are on you; you can cause a nuclear-armed state to disarm; you can start the global disarmament ball rolling; don’t let the bastards grind you down.’
Added to Scotland’s growing confidence in its autonomy is a hugely significant global event—the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Adopted last year by overwhelming vote it is well on track to achieve sufficient ratifications so as to to enter into force by 2019.
Clearly, none of the nine nuclear-armed states will sign it anytime soon but, like other treaties aimed at the elimination of a weapon type (landmines, chemical weapons etc.), the TPNW will categorise nukes as pariah weapons.
Indeed, even now it is having a noticeable effect, most obviously in the number of transnational investment companies which are reading the runes and getting out of the nuclear weapons business.
The US and UK have led a sneering chorus against the Treaty but they also know that it will bite hard on their activity. Before the UN vote the US wrote to all NATO states, warning them not to approve the Treaty as it would limit US ability to continue providing nuclear weapon cover to its client states.
The single most important factor in achieving the Treaty has been the straightforward focus on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.
While conventional discourse in the UK deals with strategic and fiscal arguments the civil society impetus behind the Treaty has been the simple recognition of what nuclear war and nuclear preparations do to human flesh.
Thus the real experts have been the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and those who have suffered from the effects of atmospheric testing of the weapons, as well as brutally careless mining of uranium.
The civil society input into the processes leading to the Treaty have been remarkable.
Top table disarmament discussion is traditionally a boy’s game but in the TPNW process the voices of women have been heard—an access facilitated by a number of far-seeing diplomats.
The TPNW is set fair to break open the global disarmament log-jam. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been rendered next to useless by the determination of the nuclear-armed states not to progress its Article V1—the obligation on them to go for elimination in good faith.
The Treaty is the voice of the majority world saying clearly that this is their urgent business.
About that urgency there can be little doubt. In his sobering “Doomsday Machine” Daniel Ellsberg makes it plain that we have been living on the sharp edge of nuclear catastrophe consistently since the early 1960s and that the present case is as dangerous as the Cuban missile crisis.
Nuclear war, even on a regional scale (as for instance on the Indian sub-continent), would cause millions of immediate deaths and many more to follow through starvation in the wider area.
Nuclear war can do climate change all on its own and the effects of the climate change we are already facing will increase the chances of conflict, and so increase the chances of nuclear weapons being used.
A terrifying tangle. They have to go, all of them.
The UK political establishment is a million miles away from grasping this. Happily, a majority of Scottish parliamentarians ( including the First Minister) appear to have got the message since they have signed the ICAN pledge in support of the Treaty.
But we Scots have still to really get how significant we are in this story. That’s why we should all be at Faslane on September 22nd to signal our intention to join the human race.
• Nae Nukes March and Rally at Faslane, 22 September. See nuclearban.scot/sep-rally/