Against the Bomb: The British Peace Movement, 1958-1965

By Richard Taylor | Go to book overview

2
FORMATION AND ADVANCE
The Early Years of CND, 1958--1960

THE ORIGINS OF CND

THE organizational groundwork undertaken by the NCANWT (and the inherited resources) certainly eased the process of bringing CND into existence; and the continuing concern over the hazards of nuclear testing remained a powerful mobilizing factor through CND's early years. But CND's genesis had other components also: there were several specific events in the autumn of 19571 which acted as the final precipitants.

October saw the launching of the Russian sputnik, an undeniable challenge to American missile supremacy and a further tightening of the screw in the nuclear arms race. In November, Professor George F. Kennan, the former US Ambassador in Moscow, delivered the Reith Lectures on the theme of ' Russia, the Atom and the West', in which he argued against the cold war orientation of American foreign policy, and outlined the real dangers of nuclear confrontation between East and West. Both these events took place in the wider context of the shift in political consciousness and the growing unease with the conservative status quo, both nationally and internationally, occasioned by the twin political crises of Suez and Hungary in 1956. It was in this unsettled climate that the Labour Party conference of 1957 took place. Aneurin Bevan profoundly shocked the left of the Party by his powerful and

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1
There had been other events of some importance earlier in the year. Most notable of these was Duncan Sandys's 1957 Defence White Paper, which for the first time made explicit Britain's reliance upon nuclear weapons and committed the Government to the use of such weapons in response to a conventional attack. Moreover, the White Paper admitted quite openly that there was no adequate protection against nuclear attack and that widespread devastation would occur in the event of nuclear war.

Another event of importance in the spring of 1957 was the attempt by Harold Steele to journey into a nuclear testing area in the Pacific. It was to support this project that the Emergency Committee for Direct Action was originally formed. This is discussed further in ch. 4.

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