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Letters

anon — August 1984

Send your letters to the Editorial Board, CANDIS, 736 Bathurst St., Toronto ON, M5S 2R4.

Tacit relationship

Regarding the article on the Moscow ‘Trust Group,’ TPC, June 1984:

The fact that all of the group’s public statements are immediately read, without comment by Radio Liberty, is not, I think, testimony to the “impact” of Sergei Batovrin and his colleagues on the Soviet people.

It is an indication, rather, of the close, if tacit relationship between the Trust Group and those same forces – such as U.S. information services, Western governments, and much of the mass media which are unceasingly hostile to disarmament activism.

The article is incorrect in stating that Batovrin was exiled from the U.S.S.R.; he requested to leave, presumably as part of his group’s vague attempt to “humanize” relations between the East and the West.

In fact, according to co-founder Mikhail Ostrovsky, the Trust Groups was formed as the result of a meeting between Batovrin and Ostrovsky at the Office of Visas and Registration in Moscow in 1979. Like most members of their group, both had requested exit visas long before the Western media started covering the group’s ‘activities,’ which to date have consisted almost exclusively of regular news conferences in Moscow for an eager Cold War press.

Batovrin urged Canadians to make contact with ordinary Soviet citizens. To this I would add that Canadians should also make contact with ordinary Soviet peace activists — those who march under the same banners as we do (‘No First Strike Weapons’; ‘Disarmament East and West’), and who address their appeals to the people, not to CIA radio stations.

Jim Stanford
Calgary

Support is important

I am writing on behalf of SWIEEPM (Solidarity With the Independent Eastern European Peace Movements). As organizers of the Toronto public meeting with Sergei Batovrin, exiled member of the Moscow Group to Establish Trust, we would like to respond to the letter from Isobel Hill (TPC, July 1984) and to explain our reasons for supporting the Group.

Ms. Hill contends that concern and support for the Group “distracts and divides the western peace movement.” Quite the opposite is true. For the peace movement to be successful, it has to be world-wide, and support for the Group to Establish Trust helps to build a world-wide movement for peace. One of the Group’s main proposals is to increase communication between the people of the Soviet Union and of the western countries. They feel that this will strengthen the peace movement, not hurt it.

The Moscow Trust Group is growing. It now has 2000 members in nine Soviet cities. Similar groups are also gaining popularity in the other nations of the Eastern bloc – in 1982 there was an independent demonstration of over 5,000 people in East Germany.

Support in the West for the independent East European peace groups (including the Moscow Group) is important for two reasons.

Our public support for the group has helped it to cintunue its work. When Olga Medvedkova was arrrested for demonstrating outside the trial of another member, we in Toronto held a demonstration in her support on December 17, 1983. Even though the demonstration was quite small (70 people) it was partly responisible for getting her sentence suspended. Similarly, the publicity that the Group receives because of Batovrin’s tour through Ontario (and because of contact with westerners travelling in Moscow) helps to put pressure on the Soviet government to allow th Group to hoild meeetings and, when wester peace activists are present, to distribute leaflets to the Soviet people. Our support is especially effective because the Soviet Union is sensitive to any indication that it does not support the cause of peace.

It is crucial that we continue to oppose repression in the Soviet Union, and Isobel Hill’s characterisation of Sakharov as a “traitor”. does nothing to help the emerging peace groups in that country.

There is another reason that the Canadian peace movement should support the Group. In many ways, Canada is just a part of the United States. People’s attitudes toward the Soviet Union are very different in North America from those found in Europe. In Western Europe it is taken for granted that the peace movement supports independent East European peace groups, and there is less outright hatred of the Soviet Union among the public. It is only by setting the peace movement apart from the governments of both superpowers that we can hope to build an effective neutralist movement such as that which exists in Europe today.

Michael Rosenberg
SWEEPM
Toronto

Bridging divisions

RE: Isobel Hill’s self-styled “clarification” of the tour by Sergei Batovrin and his two speaking engagements in Toronto co-sponsored by the Against Cruise Testing coalition (TPC, July 1984).

Far from “dividing” the peace movement, information and general support for independent, grassroots peace initiatives in Eastern Europe and the USSR serve to bridge the EAST-WEST divisions that the militarists of both sides are fomenting.

The nuclear arms of both superpowers threaten all the world’s people. While the predominant responsibility for the “new cold war” certainly lies with the Reagan regime, the ruling clique of the USSR has done much to fuel the Reagan propaganda drive. Continued Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the shooting down of aircraft in peacetime are but two examples.

The very idea that it should be necessary to “smuggle” information on Sakharov’s political ideas and the condition of his ailing wife constitutes an injustice that should be abhorrent to any thinking person. Hill’s allegations of “treason” are a chilling reminder of the kind of hysteria which sent two Communists to the electric chair in the U.S. many years ago.

Until we stop producing documents like last year’s October 22 broadsheet which preach “no intervention” but mention Central America and the Middle East while ignoring Afghanistan and Eastern Europe, the peace movement will fail.

Bert Keser
Against Cruise Testing Coalition
Toronto

Practice what you preach

I was appalled by Bob Penner’s article on the Green Party. Apparently, the idea that organizations working for social change should attempt to practice the principles they would one day like to see enshrined throughout the whole society is for him a closed book. Better to sacrifice creating a vision of the new world for the sake of presumed gains around single issues. (Presumably, in the socialist utopia Penner pines for, the struggle against hierarchy will also be declared “premature” on grounds that it will get in the way of “getting things done”.)

As if a Green-SDP coalition is going to end militarism in Europe! Such pie-in-thesky b.s. beggars the imagination. It reminds me of those who argued that voting for McGovern was the “radical” thing to do back in ’72. War will not be ended through electoral politics. Indeed, the only thing the segment of the peace movement represented by Penner is likely to accomplish is breathing life into an already discredited political system.

Donald Alexander
Toronto

The smartest move

As a member of a small peace group outside Toronto, I have only recently heard of the de facto rift that has occurred between TDN and ACT. While disunity within the peace movement is a sorry example to set for the world, I cannot but think that TON has made perhaps the smartest move in its history.

If I didn’t know better, the manner in which ACT organizes its demonstrations would convince me that ACT’s sole purpose was to discredit the peace movement.

ACT seems to go out of its way to alienate members of the public, by staging “die-ins” at Queen’s Park on Canada’s Birthday; by allowing their large demonstrations to be led by scruffy teenagers who seem to think that rebelling against society is more important than preserving civilization; and by marching up and down Yonge Street wearing death masks.

What’s the point of holding demonstrations on Yonge St. if the high public profile we create is used, not to show the diversity of the peace movement, but to alienate the public? The movement needs to grow, not shrink.

In personal conversations with some members of ACT, I have been impressed with their earnestness and conviction, but as a group, they act like a mob.

A group of people with the amount of energy ACT has, and presumably the amount of intelligence (they are, after all, working for truth and justice), should be channelling that energy into more positive and constructive action.

Name withheld by request

Vancouver responds

The article in the June 1984 issue of The Peace Calendar (“What stimulated high Vancouver turnout?”) is a good starting point for a discussion about how we in the peace movement across Canada work. Unfortunately, the article missed some important points raised by Claire Perry in the three pages of comments submitted by her, and from which her quotes in the article are drawn.

To begin with, a few corrections:

  1. the Provincial Government did not “assist” in the Walk for Peace – they endorsed the Walk, which was much appreciated, but they did not provide any assistance;
  2. the Walk for Peace was endorsed by 12 municipalities across B.c. this year. The City of Vancouver did much more than that, however: they co-sponsored the event along with End the Arms Race, a fact that deserves full recognition;
  3. the peace movement is not strictly located in Vancouver’s middle class. EAR has endorsation from groups throughout the Lower Mainland (about 11 municipalities), up the Fraser Valley, across Howe Sound to the Sunshine Coast and up to Squamish. There is a high participation from among the middle class, but working people participate in the peace movement through their unions, their churches, community groups, co-ops, etc.;
  4. the majority of those who came out on April 28th were happy to see Mayor Michael Harcourt there too, but they certainly were not “follow(ing) him through the streets,” nor were they there supporting his commitment to disarmament – they were there on the strength of their own commitments.

Aside from these errors, there is one grievous oversight in the article, which says that other cities across Canada focussed more sharply on “Canadian government policy,” while Vancouver’s “broader focus on peace. may have been partly responsible for the larger crowd.” This was referred to by Bert Keser as a “water(ing) down (of) the demands of the march.” In light of such comments, it seems important to explain exactly what the peace movement in this corner of the world is all about.

We in B.C. have become adept at “coalition organizing.” End the Arms Race is a coalition, but it is not, itself, “the peace movement.” EAR is a vehicle through which the 200 groups involved in peace activities can pool their energies and efforts for events which would otherwise be impossible to organize.

The Walk for Peace is just such an event. It is too large for anyone group to organize alone, but together it can be (and has been) done. As the number of groups who join it and contribute to the organizing effort grows, not surprisingly so does the number of people who walk for peace.

Each of those 200 endorsing organizations spends varying degrees of time educating, leafleting, speaking, writing, talking. Without EAR, this kind of activity would still go on. It is this fact, more than any other, which characterizes the peace movement in B.C. — it is highly decentralized, and directed at the grassroots level in trade unions, churches, community groups, professional organizations, peace groups, student groups, etc. EAR is made up of delegates from all of those groups, who come together to organize big events.

Each group has different ideas and different priorities in regard to peace and disarmament. It is not EAR’s job to set the agendas for each of its endorsing members. Among those groups it has been decided that EAR will address certain points upon which there is general agreement – a major achievement. However, each organization pursues its own objectives independently, and is certainly not limited to the broad policies and strategies of the whole.

This may be seen as a “watering down” of demands, and perhaps that might be right if the peace movement in all its constituent parts adopted EAR’s policies as a whole and did not go further than organizing a Walk for Peace each year. But, as was said above, EAR is not the peace movement, and before an accurate assessment can be made, or comparisons drawn, people across Canada must look beyond End the Arms race to the hundreds of groups involved day-in and day-out among their own constituencies.

Frank Kennedy
President,
End the Arms Race

Editors’ note: Thanks are due to Mr. Kennedy for his clarification. However, the photo caption to which he refers (in correction number four) was, we felt, clearly intended as a humourous comment on the truly inspiring photo above it. For those readers who missed it, the caption read: In a remarkable display of support for their Mayor’s commitment to disarmament, 114,999 Vancouver residents followed him through the streets on his solitary “Walk for Peace” on April 28.

We know this is not side-splitting humour, but we thought it mildly amusing. We hope the subtle humour did not confuse our readers.

Part IV of Ken Hancock’s series Nuclearism, Militarism and Third World Intervention missed our deadline and will appear in the next issue of The Peace Calendar.

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