(From AAWE Newsletter)
The very idea of a nuclear weapons-owning democracy is terrible in the extreme – a mass consent to commit mass murder (or how else would deterrence work?)
It is of course not so conscious a consent. The Government is trapped in ‘political necessities’ and the people are unaware, unconsciously or wilfully. What is there to see? Destructive potential so vast that it can only be understood by numbers is impossible to visualise. It’s just a big weapon isn’t it? We need it for security don’t we?
So, for those who have chosen to be aware, where do we start? We need to tell the Government, tell the people, make them see what is happening and what really can be done about it, give them hope that could overcome their universally suppressed fears. Anti-nuclear weapons campaigners know how hard this is. Governments and public opinion are something we chip away at. These are quite elusive things and neither is based at Aldermaston or Burghfield. So why do we go there?
We go because there is an instinctive and real need to confront the evil where it lies. No amount of writing and talking elsewhere can substitute for facing these five miles of wire, behind which five thousand highly technical creative people work to engineer a new Armageddon. We go there to be seen and sometimes even when there is nobody there to see us.
The CND event on Easter Monday, observed by minimal media and a few kindly police, was hugely successful – an affirmation, a rally, a physical prayer, an outpouring of the human spirit confronting a mindless capability for destruction.
And what about the people who put themselves behind this wire every day? Certainly we have a message for them. We ask them to think, to think outside the conventional oversimplified deterrence wisdom. To think it through in a historical, global and moral context. We would like to create for them the intellectual and moral climate where they are free to do this and to act on their conclusions.
It is quite hard to think rationally if it might cost you your job. And we know from experience that what is even harder than putting your job on the line is to be different. It takes intellectual and moral courage to openly ‘question the mission’. But, in principle, AWE staff should be free to do the same as we do. They have colleagues and family to talk it over with. They have MPs and newspapers to write to. They have a right, like anyone else, to protest against government policy.
Unless their management see fit to deny them these rights, it should not even jeopardise their jobs, because we have come to a point where the global dismantling of the nuclear threat to the world will require a huge investment of equivalent skills and engineering facilities. If the UK takes a lead on this, grasping the necessary outcomes of a nuclear weapons treaty, there will be work for many years.
The idea for the current Early Morning Aldermaston pickets probably started three years ago on 15th February 2010 when we blockaded all the gates at Aldermaston starting at 7.00 a.m. That is the time to be there if you want to meet staff arriving. On that occasion we were there all night for a Christian CND vigil at Tadley Gate. We were quite happy to stand there with our lanterns and symbols of all faiths, defended by the police against local hooligans (though not against the cold); but around 5.30 a.m., when it should have been really quiet, things began to happen.
One car, then another, then hundreds, pouring through the gate to get to work ahead of our blockade. You have to admire this, but it was so frustrating. I did not even have my usual “WMD” placard, as thousands of people drove past in the morning darkness. However, I resolved to come back.
Now I find there are many people coming back, at all sorts of times. Several of us, with the benefit of similar experiences, come back about once a month for this early shift. It still seems like the most appropriate time because the workers are at that moment placing themselves ‘inside the wire’, where they will help to maintain and enhance our genocidal weapons.
They will not stop to take a leaflet – you get a bit of eye contact if you are lucky – but they cannot help but read the simple, polite, strong messages on our placards. And they come in their thousands. To get 600 cars an hour through Home Office Gate without clogging up the local country roads is quite an achievement in traffic management. And this happens every morning. We intend to continue to play our occasional part in this drama. Our next appearance will be around 7.00 a.m. on 21st May. If we are well organised then one car-load of demonstrators can get the message to about a thousand staff. We must never let these people forget what they are doing.