CND: The Story of a Peace Movement: Sue Donnelly Introduces the Archives of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 50 Years Old This Spring, and a Project Make Them Accessible to a Wider Audience

Article excerpt

We shall seek to persuade British People that Britain must:

a) Renounce unconditionally the use or production of nuclear weapons and refuse to allow their use by others in her defence.

b) Use her utmost endeavour to bring about negotiations at all levels for agreement to end the armaments race and to lead to a general disarmament convention.

c) Invite the co-operation of other nations, particularly non-nuclear powers, in her renunciation of nuclear weapons.

CND policy statement, February 1958

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On February 17th, 1958, some 5,000 people packed into Central Hall, Westminster, filling the main hall along with four overflow rooms. The scale of the meeting indicated the high level of public interest in nuclear issues and as the evening proceeded it was clear that the audience was determined to be radical in its antinuclear stance, demanding that Britain act unilaterally in renouncing nuclear weapons as well as encouraging other nations to disarm. Shortly after, CND's first policy statement was issued.

However it was the first Aldermaston march of Easter 1958 that put CND firmly in the public eye. The Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire was the main location for British development and production of nuclear war heads. The initial impetus for the march came from the Direct Action Committee who had begun preparations in December 1957. The Committee included Labour MPs Hugh Jenkins (a later CND chair), and Frank Allaun and the march organizer, Pat Arrowsmith. The leadership of the newly formed CND gave the march its support, but had little involvement in the planning. Despite this many members joined the march enthusiastically and its regular appearance in the campaigning calendar made the Aldermaston march a defining part of CND's image.

The 1958 march saw the launch of CND's distinctive logo. It was produced by Gerald Holtom, a graduate of the Royal College of Art who had been a conscientious objector during the Second World War. The logo was unveiled at the offices of Peace News in February 1958. Holtom explained that the symbol incorporated the semaphore letters N(uclear) and D(isarmament), though he later explained the design also had a more personal origin.

'I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palms outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya's peasant before the firing squad. I formalized the drawing into a line and put a circle round it.'

Five hundred cardboard lollipop-stick placards were produced for the march, half using black on white and half using white on green so that throughout the weekend the colours on display would change from 'Winter to Spring, from Death to Life'.

Holtom's simple image has proved extremely versatile and has been adapted to represent numerous campaigns and special-interest groups, from Christian CND to CND Cymru.

Over the decades CND has been a diverse and pluralistic organization with a wide-ranging membership and myriad campaigning methods. …