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ACT to broaden approach

John Pendergrast — March 1984

TORONTO – On February 11th and 12th, the Toronto-based Against Cruise Testing coalition held a Strategies for 1984 Conference in Toronto’s City Hall. Delegates at the conference voted to continue to focus their efforts on cruise missile testing at least until April 28, but to broaden their concern somewhat to include general opposition to nuclear war as well as support for the Independent East European Peace Movements. Delegates also voted to educate the public on the impact of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact on the arms buildup, but did not take a definite position on Canada’s participation in NATO.

In addition, ACT’s ongoing effort to establish an informal national network of groups opposed to cruise testing was endorsed. An ACT women’s caucus was formed prior to the conference, to promote greater appreciation of women’s contributions to the movement and to encourage participation.

As its name suggests, Against Cruise Testing has always been a single-issue organisation. As such it has enjoyed considerable success in mobilizing public opinion, but with the first test of the cruise imminent, it has clearly become necessary for ACT to reconsider its strategy. This was the main reason for organising the conference.

In his opening remarks, Dan Heap, NDP MP from the Spadina riding, advised the assembled delegates not to abandon the cruise testing as a central concern. Mr. Heap observed that the battle against the cruise does not end with the first test, and that the commitment of the government to future tests was not likely to be as great as to this first one. Opposition to testing. he concluded, was thus still relevant.

Although no one disputed Mr. Heap’s advice, the fact that the government is proceeding to test the cruise in spite of all ACT’s efforts to prevent it cannot be ignored. This situation is of concern to ACT members. As indicated by the resolutions passed at the conference, their response will be to broaden their scope somewhat. They are doing this cautiously, however, because there are real advantages to having a clear focus, one of the most obvious being that people with widely differing political orientations can all agree to oppose the cruise but may not agree’ on the advisability, for instance, of withdrawing from NATO.

If the concerns of ACT have been mainly to oppose cruise testing, the tactics have been to rely mainly on demonstrations. The conference did not explicitly address the question of whether or not these tactics should be altered. The possibility of civil disobedience, for example, was not discussed. Whatever tactics ACT may eventually adopt, it does intend to demonstrate at least twice more in the near future, once in March, when the first cruise test takes place, and again on April 28 to commemorate the anniversary of last year’s highly successful nationwide demonstrations on April 23rd. After that there will probably be another conference.

The February conference thus did not represent a substantial shift in either policy or tactics, but it did open the door to such shifts if they become appropriate in the future.