The world cannot afford Trident

by New Worker correspondent

TENS of thousands of peace protesters packed London’s Trafalgar Square for what Kate Hudson, speaking for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), called “the biggest anti-Trident rally for a generation”.

And this time it was addressed by the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. He is the first anti-nuclear Labour leader since Michael Foot in 1983.

He received a tumultuous welcome as he came up to the microphone to give the final speech of the rally.

He said: “I don’t want us to replace Trident, everyone knows that, many of the British public don’t want to replace Trident.

“I think we should just consider for a moment what a nuclear weapon actually is. It is a weapon of mass destruction. If ever used, it can only kill large numbers of civilians.

“They’ve only once been used in war and that was in Japan in 1945 and we still see the consequences, the cancers, the destruction and the horror of very old people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“If a nuclear war took place there would be mass destruction on both sides of the conflict... Everyone should think about the humanitarian effects on people across this globe if they’re ever used.

“We live in a world where so many things are possible. Where peace is possible in so many places. You don’t achieve peace by planning for war, grabbing resources and not respecting each other’s human rights. Today’s demonstration is an expression of many people’s opinions and views. I’m here because I believe in a nuclear-free Britain and a nuclear-free future.

“Thank you for coming to this demonstration, thank you for showing that you care and thank you showing you want a peaceful future for this country and the rest of the world.”

Other speakers included retired actor and lifetime peace campaigner Vanessa Redgrave, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Tariq Ali and nursing campaigner Danielle Tiplady.

The waste of money spent on Trident was a recurring theme from the platform and from the marchers, with hundreds of calls for the money to be spent on the NHS, schools, libraries and flood defences.

The protest — organised by CND and supported by many other organisations including Stop the War, unions, community groups, anti-austerity campaigns and religious groups — began in Park Lane beside Hyde Park.

It included several jazz bands, hundreds of colourful banners and thousands of placards — many of them hand-written, witty and original — a long cardboard Trident missile, the peace cycle and many other large, fantastic carnival creations.

The Hari Krishna group were handing out cardboard plates of hot vegetable curry — welcome to many in the cold weather, and the mood was good.

The team carrying the front banner included Green MP Caroline Lucas, Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon and veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent. Just behind them was a new banner proclaiming “MPs Against Trident”, supported by a significant number of them.

And the march seemed to grow as it went along — there were a lot more people in Trafalgar Square than there were at the start.

But notable for their absence were the big unions Unite and GMB, who represent many of the workers on Trident.

These unions came in for a lot of criticism from the marchers and from speakers on the platform. “We need to defend jobs but not at the cost of endangering the whole human race,” said one marcher.

And Stop the War leader Lindsey German, speaking from the platform in Trafalgar Square, argued: “Surely it cannot be beyond the wit of our society to use these high engineering skills to create something that people actually want and need?”

She also said that that we cannot afford Trident — in any sense, pointing out that if it were ever used that would be the end of human society as we know it.

The truth is that British governments over the past few decades have invested heavily in weapons production whilst neglecting other high-tech industries. Rail, bus and car manufacturing have declined or disappeared — or what we have left of them is foreign owned.

Young people seeking a career in physics or engineering have had little choice but to go into weapons technology. This could be reversed by a progressive Labour government.