Britain and the Bomb:
What Price Coexistence?
“As something of a connoisseur of political demonstrations, I have no doubt that the last stages of this year’s Aldermaston march provided the greatest turn-out for any cause that London has seen since the war. When I travelled along it from head to tail, the head was entering Trafalgar Square, and the column proceeded virtually unbroken down Whitehall, round Parliament Square, along Victoria Street . . . and well into Kensington. There were curious sights to be seen: the editor of Tribune and the music critic of the Spectator in the column, and the assistant editor of the New Statesman, with a pram on the pavement…. But the sight of 15,000 people walking across London was undeniably impressive….“-The Spectator, April 3, 1959.
AMONG the minor irritants inseparable from living (if one can call it living) in the second half of this century, protest demonstrations against the danger of nuclear fall-out must occupy a considerable place. What good they can do the inhabitants of a middle-sized country such as England is not clear, since it must be obvious that in the event of global catastrophe it will make no difference what kind of policy the British government has been pursuing; while anything short of total disaster is not likely to involve this country in the sort of conflict that opponents of the H-bomb regard as immoral. But motives are no less effective for being mixed: it is easy to discredit the all-out pacifists; it is more difficult to counter the plea that Britain should renounce a “deterrent” whose possession seems to many either useless or suicidal. The protest marchers in fact have a political case, though wrapped up in traditional moralizing phraseology, and this circumstance accounts for the fact that this year’s demonstration drew out-in addition to the personages mentioned above-the chairman of the Trades Union Congress (who addressed the Trafalgar Square rally) and the leader of the biggest single union in the TUC. Neither Mr. Robert Willis nor Mr. Frank Cousins are in the slightest danger of being mistaken for fellow-travelers (though Mr. Cousins has long been a supporter of Mr. Bevan), but they have now become fellow-marchers. The annual protest demonstration against Britain’s manufacture of nuclear weapons can therefore no longer be written off as a pacifist stunt. It may even compel Mr. Bevan to revise the qualified support he gave the official platform on this issue at the last Labor party conference.
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