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Anonymous — September 1984

Release P.C. report

Hey, everybody, let’s force the PCs to release Joe Clark’s report on disarmament. Call Mulroney’s office and insist that they disclose the recommendations of that investigation Clark carried out. I hear he favours a semi-freeze. The time to deal with that is during the election (campaign).

Carol Wells

A legitimate issue

This letter is in response to the Forum article written by AI Rycroft in the July 1984 issue of The Peace Calendar. It is not being written as a criticism of the positions on the disarmament movement taken by Mr. Rycroft, but should be viewed as another perspective on the health and development of the nuclear disarmament movement in Canada.

It is my impression that Mr. Rycroft views the movement of the peace issue into the mainstream of political debate in Canada in a negative light. Indeed, it would seem that he attributes the motive of co-optation to those who have developed a recent interest in peace. In Mr. Rycroft’s article, these agents of cooptation would seem to include Joe Clark, Pierre Trudeau, the new Peace Institute, Mayor Harcourt, Conrad Black, John Lamb’s Institute in Ottawa, and Bill Bennett. Mr. Rycroft seems to be saying that these people have adopted their newly found interest in peace because it has become fashionable and has been registering in the polls as an issue of concern to the Canadian public. That is one way of viewing this matter. However, there is another.

These people mentioned by Mr. Rycroft, have indeed identified the peace issue as one of great concern to the Canadian public and have responded to this concern with attention and different levels of symbolic or tangible activity.

~What this development clearly demonstrates is that peace is a legitimate issue, worthy of extensive debate in the House of Commons, and of appropriations that reflecf the level of concern of this nation’s politicians.

That. is not to say that there is not some level of political expediency in these developments, but to focus upon this negative element is essentially a sterile and unproductive exercise. What must be seized is the initiative. The issue of nuclear disarmament has been legitimized, not co-opted.

It is time to use the very legitimacy of the issue which has been bestowed by mainstream Canada to bring about real change. Acts that are clearly illegal will not aid the cause. Nothing would push the peace issue back into the fringe of agitation politics more than civil disobedience and tax refusals. Political legitimation would evaporate under such circumstances and the nuclear disarmament movement would suffer as a whole.

We should never let frustration engendered by the slow progress of change push the nuclear disarmament issue into activity that would clearly de-legitimize it from the mainstream of Canadian mass political activity.

Don Boswell
Research Assistant, Former aide to Paul McRae M.P.

ACT responds

I feel forced to respond to the letter “The Smartest Move” in The Peace Calendar’s August issue. The letter may have caused considerable confusion for some readers due to the obvious confusion of the writer. Moreover, although I strongly favour open political debate within the peace movement, anonymous slander clearly does not fall into this category.

Upon appraisal, the “criticisms” directed against ACT boil down to only three items: I – we have held a die-in; 2 – we have engaged in street theatre; and 3 – we allow teenagers in our demonstration (who of course dress as they please).

The first two points I will deal with as briefly as possible. ACT is a very active organization. In fact, we have either sponsored or co-sponsored every major peace denonstration which has taken place in Toronto for the last 20 months (with the exception of the August 6 Litton action). This means nine demonstrations, the smallest of which attracted xxx-xxxx people and the largest two of which were both in the 25-30,000 range.

In addition, we have organized countless symbolic actions – street theatre, die-ins, nemorial services at the cenotaph, pickets, etc. We also run a peace coffeehouse every Friday night and our educational activities nclude weekly forums, high-school assemblies, the recently finished candidate survey, film showings, etc. In other words, our activities reflect the diversity of the component.s within ACT itself. Both die-ins and street .heatre are time-honoured traditions and I see no indication that we have turned any of the public “off.”

As to the third criticism, ACT is proud of its large youth component and of the two youth and high school groups within the coalition. Young people are very concerned about their future and I am glad to see them In demonstrations. I would never presume to tell them how to dress.

To the writer of the letter I would like to say just this: If you are too ashamed for what you are saying to attach your name to it, perhaps you would be better off not saying it at all. But please, if you have any sincere criticisms or suggestions, I speak for ACT in saying we would love to discuss them. I will sign my name without embarrassment and with peaceful intentions.

Angela Browning, Chairperson
Against Cruise Testing coalition

I’d like to respond to some of the points raised in the letter “The Smartest Move” (TPC, August 1984).

In a city where, to be public about expressing a commitment to peace, one traditionally had the choice of either periodic marches or civil disobedience, the Against Cruise Testing coalition has shown that weekly speakouts, death marches and die-ins allow an increase in militancy for those individuals who are no longer satisfied with parades, but who do not wish to risk a criminal record. These symbolic forms of protest increase the profile of the peace movement as a whole yet show a unique form of commitment which should not be dismissed.

I am surprised at the criticism of the fact that some parade marshalls and participants do not dress in semi-formal apparel. ACT’s ability to attract to the peace movement those who are alienated by the political process should be applauded, not condemned. Changing society from one of intolerance to one that encourages individuals and diversity is essential in the building of a less violent society.

All methods of increasing the size and effectiveness of the peace movement should be encouraged. If ACT is to be attacked for alienating some segments of society, people that are unlikely to become active in peace work, someone will soon find similar reasons to attack civil disobedience campaigns as alienating, boycotts as alienating, even demonstrations as alienating. All forms of social protest alienate some and attract others. Let us accept the tactics of others and concentrate on working with tactics we find comfortable.

Brian Burch
Toronto, On.

Official or not?

Re: The Need to Clarify the Status of the Soviet Peace Committee: Government run or not?

Although I realize that The Peace Calendar wishes to retain an independent editorial position and to provide a forum for views, I think it is only right to differentiate between unbiased news items and opinions.

I refer particularly to the article “Youth learn about Soviet peace work” (July 84). That article appears to maintain that the Soviet Peace Committee and other officially supported peace organizations are organized and run independently from the government and the communist party. There is some question as to whether this is true. In The Soviet Union Today (Ed. James Cracraft, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1983) Joshua Rubenstein of Amnesty International states:

“The double issue of peace and nuclear war has been revived in recent years as a prominent aspect of Soviet foreign policy. The official campaign is designed, it would seem, to improve the Soviet Union’s image abroad, particularly in Western Europe. The authorities have organized rallies and set up a nationwide peace organization using them as vehicles to oppose Western deployment of nuclear weapons and to applaud the peaceful intentions of the Kremlin. “

Is this true or not?

Someone or some information organization in Canada must research this without ideological bias so that when we speak with the Soviet Peace Committee we’ll know whether we are speaking with representatives of Soviet government or with some independent organization.

I believe Science for Peace was going to attempt this project at one time. Did it ever get off the ground?

Anyone can reply to me at the address below.

Peter M. Wade
Box 783, Fort Qu’ Appelle