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E.P. Thompson tells Toronto audience: Canada can be leader

Beth Richards — September 1983

“The Cold War is because it is because it is” explained E.P. Thompson on August 25 in Toronto. The British historian and co-founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) described the Cold War as self-perpetuating. If exterminism, this drive toward annihilation, can be halted at all, it will require genuine internationalism and frank dialogue, he said.

Thompson, touring Canada to meet with peace groups. addressed an audience at the University of Toronto. He called the Cold War a combination of technology- and security-creep. Citing the example of SS-20s and cruise missiles being developed independently of each other, Thompson said that technology has its own momentum.

“Security creep” arises when domestic pressure makes the militarists more concerned with policing and manipulating the minds of their own citizens than with tightening security from the ‘enemy.’ Thompson referred to such historic examples as Britain’s Official Secrets Act (mother of Canada’s O.S.A.)

“Increased security pressure,” he said, “is not for fighting the KGB, but to prevent the public from knowing what the militarists are doing… The game of deterrence means they exaggerate what the other side is up to.” He added that politicians need the Cold War, because they don’t know how else to operate. “This reasoning is drummed into the minds of the American and Soviet citizenry,” making the Cold War a permanent feature of our ideologies. “This is a terminal process for civilisation,” Thompson warned. “if we are defeated — if we cannot stop this process now — then we never will.”

It is easier for political and military leaders to let the arms race escalate than to reverse the trend. said Thompson. adding that it’s up to the peace movement to force the reversal through nonviolent protest.

In reference to Canada Thompson said “it’s not cruise missiles that are being tested here; it’s Canadians who are being tested. Your peace movement doesn’t realise how significant it is; Canada Is one of the very few nations that have the capacity to have nuclear weapons but have democratically decided not to do so. Canadians should be proud of that decision and follow its logical consequences through. You should not sell yourselves short.” Canada is greatly respected throughout the world, and if it reclaims its freedom of movement, it could play a mediating role between the blocs and between the superpowers and the Third World. That would help to transform not only thin crisis, but the bloc system itself.” he said.

In a subsequent interview with The Peace Calendar, Thompson reflected on the subject of nonalignment. an issue of increasing importance to Canadian peace activists.

As a strong advocate of independent, non-aligned peace movements, Thompson has the reputation of being uncompromising in dealings with pro-Soviet peace groups. Some peace activists have taken this to mean a total refusal of cooperation or even dialogue. At the peace movement addresses existing Cold War tensions, within itself and without. how important is it to lay blame or try to prove who started it?

In answer to a question about tactics, Thompson stressed the importance of dialogue and ‘utter tolerance.’ “The peace movement has to be both an effective and unified campaign internationally.” Equating peace work with a marketplace of ideas, he said that in Britain the CND coexists with other peace organisations and groups of varying political stripes. including liberals and Eurocommunists, as well as pro-Soviet communists.

Thompson stressed the importance of more open East/West exchanges between common civilians. But even if the only movement representatives we meet in the West are officials of the Soviet Peace Committee, that does not negate the value of talking with them.

Although he and many other peace activists shunned the recent peace conference in Prague because they considered it a stage show, unrepresentative of the international peace movement, Thompson declared in Toronto that dialogue with Soviet officials is very valuable and that “we must keep trying to talk with them.”

“There are doves and hawks within the Soviet Union, with internal power struggles that we don’t see. We’ve always said ‘talk to them, but talk to them honestly’,” he said, adding that straight-forward dialogue may “get the message through to the Soviet government that we (the peace movement) are strongly independent.” Thompson explained further that END’s founding document stressed the goal of breaking up the NATO/Warsaw Pact bloc system. as a requisite for the break-down of the Cold War.

Finally, he again urged Canada to act as a conflict mediator, perhaps developing a ‘semi-detached status’ in the process.

Thompson wound up his Canadian tour in Ottawa where he addressed campaign organisers for the Peace Petition Caravan, scheduled to get underway early next year.

Vancouver's E.A.R. steps up campaign

Anonymous — September 1983

Undaunted by the July signing of the United States-Canada cruise missile test treaty, a Vancouver peace group plans to escalate its anti-cruise activity in the coming months.

End the Arms Race (E.A.R.) is a coalition of 137 Vancouver groups dedicated So “abolishing nuclear weapons sod funding human needs.” It was established in January 1982, and now has approximately 250,000 members. The coalition includes professional, women’s and senior citizens’ groups, as well as labour unions, educational organizations and churches.

The signing of the cruise treaty has heightened public awareness of the coalition, said its Vice-president, Gary Marchant, and has prompted an outpouring of calls to its offices. “There has been an incredible response from people who were not involved in the peace movement before and now want to help.”

Marchant stressed the importance of the Canada-wide peace network. He said the organized effort, which resulted in thousands of people in several cities demonstrating against the cruise missile simultaneously last April, attracted immediate and effective media attention.

E.A.R. is currently planning a four-stage anti-Cruise campaign which Marchant hopes will draw new support from people angered by the recent signing of the test agreement. This campaign includes:

  • “Refuse the Cruise” booths which are collapsible and transportable and have already been set up at boat festivals, sporting events, in crowded parks and at Vancouver tourist spots. E.A.R. members also wear “Refuse the Cruise” sandwich boards, at these same events, or around town, where they give out pamphlets and information. The response to both strategies has been positive.
  • An advertisement in the Vancouver Sun during the first week of September. endorsed by a number of other groups, which will reach more than 249,000 people across British Columbia.
  • Door to door canvassing from September 8 to October 21 to obtain names on anti-cruise petitions. The canvassing will be organised on the basis of Federal ridings, and the wording of each petition will reflect the particular stand of the cruise taken by the riding’s MP. (A similar canvass during the same period is being organised for Toronto.)
  • A series of demonstrations, which start with one in Robson Square on July 23, will protest the signing of the test agreement. There is also a major demonstration planned for October 23, during UN Disarmament Week, and several United States/Canada solidarity marches are scheduled for December. Marchant said the latter plan came out of a meeting between groups in the two countries as a result of increased awareness of the cruise missile issue.

Although he is troubled by the process which allowed the recent test decision to essentially bypass the House of Commons, Merchant expressed optimism that “the agreement can be reversed and we think we can effect that (reversal) by political pressure.”

Children highlight of Hiroshima Day march

Mona Irwin — September 1983

Toronto’s Hiroshima Day peace demonstration, held on August 6 at Queen’s Park, drew approximately 5,000 people. According to Matthew Clark, chairman of the Coordinating Committee of the Toronto Disarmament Network (TDN), this was a much better turnout than organizers of the event had expected.

The demonstration, which commemorated the U.S. nuclear attack on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, attracted a cross-section of Torontonians: parents and students; bearded and clean-shaven; punk and new wave; young, middle-aged and elderly. In addition to the two main themes, “Hiroshima — Never Again” and “Refuse the Cruise,” the demonstration focussed on the vulnerability of children in today’s nuclear world,

Speakers included Professor Jinsaki, Professor of Literature at Hiroshima University; Matthew Clark of the TDN; Neil Young, NDP MP from the Beaches; Hilda Murray, from the International Children’s Day Committee; Paul McCran, Liberal MP from Thunder Bay; and Jay Mason of the American Indian Movement.

Plans for the future, according to Clark, include a major demonstration on October 22, International Disarmament Day. This demonstration will have three themes: No manufacturing cruise components in Toronto; no testing of the cruise in Canada; and no deployment of cruise or Pershing II missiles in Europe.

Group calls for referendum

Eudora Pendergrast — September 1983

A major Canadian group has called for a national referendum on the testing of the cruise missile in Canada.

At a press conference at Toronto’s City Hall, Jim Stark, President of Operation Dismantle, distributed calls for a binding referendum ballot with two questions on it, one concerning the testing of the cruise, the other concerning Canada’s membership in NATO. The proposal was drafted by Michael Mandel, a professor of law at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall.

The press conference was attended by Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton, who expressed his support for the referendum proposal. Eggleton has publicly expressed his opposition to cruise testing in Canada.

Trudeau has indicated that the government’s decision to permit cruise testing in Canada would be reconsidered only if it could be demonstrated that a majority of Canadians are against it. Trudeau asserts that this could be done only in a federal election fought mainly on the issue of Canada’s membership in NATO.

According to the Operation Dismantle proposal, a general election, “with its many regional issues and the governing of the country at stake,” is not a suitable mechanism for making a decision on the cruise. “We believe that, with world peace in the balance, it is the right and the duty of every Canadian to make up his or her mind on this issue and to take a stand… A national referendum would be the occasion for a nationwide debate which would enhance everyone’s understanding of all aspects of the issue, with the result that whatever decision was ultimately taken would be a fully conscious and mature decision.”

In a telephone interview in mid-August, Stark explained that the debate on the cruise issue has not been a normal political debate, with full and open discussion in the House of Commons. The government has disregarded the unprecedented strength of the Canadian protest, and has deliberately tried to mislead the public on the issue. “The government says that cruise testing is a NATO issue, when it isn’t. It says the missile is verifiable, when it isn’t. It says testing will not undermine arms reduction negotiations, when it will. At the very least, a national referendum would permit the facts of the matter to be brought out into the open.”

Stark is more optimistic about the court suit filed in July by Dismantle and 26 other labour and peace organisations. Although the federal government has filed a motion to dismiss the suit as “frivolous and vexatious,” Stark believes the Chief Justice will permit the hearing to proceed to the preliminary injunction stage. (The court suit requests a preliminary injunction to stop the cruise testing until a full hearing on a permanent injunction can be held. See the August 1983 issue of The Peace Calendar for details.)

It is not too late for other groups to participate in the court suit, said Stark, since supplementary affidavits can be submitted to show the support of groups not listed in the original application. Dismantle’s greatest needs at this time, however, are financial.

Operation Dismantle’s main office can be contacted at Box 3887, Station C, Ottawa KIY 4M5, telephone 613-xxx-xxxx.

Walkathon to support Toronto groups

— September 1983

A walkathon for peace is not just another demonstration. It’s a combination protest, fundraiser, consciousness-raiser — and a test of stamina.

On October 2, participants in the Refuse the Cruise Walkathon will cover 22 kilometres. Starting from City Hall at 12 noon, the walkers will cover an area bounded by Broadview Avenue in the east and High Park in the west.

The itinerary was chosen in order to demonstrate the area of damage caused by a nuclear warhead. If an armed cruise missile were to hit City Hall, the area covered by the walkathon would be vaporised or destroyed by firestorms and 200km/hr winds. It’s a devastating thought, but it may be a reality someday if cruise missiles are tested and deployed.

The funds generated by the walkers and their sponsors will be divided between several Toronto disarmament groups and coalitions. One third of the funds will be used to finance the October 22 march, and another third will be used for the November 11 Remembrance Day events. The remaining third will be given to various Toronto Disarmament Network groups, allocated by the choice of the participating walkers. Pledge sheets are available at CANDIS, the TDN, and the Cruise Missile Conversion Project offices. Call CANDIS at xxx-xxxx for addresses or general information.

Rest stations Serving up refreshments and plenty of encouragement will be scattered along the route at regular intervals. The walk will wind up at City Hall for a rally with music and entertainment. CANDIS is enlisting as many walkers as possible, so get out your sturdiest shoes and give us a call.

Teaching the non-violent method

Mary Vrantsidis — September 1983

Contrary to popular belief, civil disobedience is neither passive nor inactive. It has proven to be an effective means of changing laws and protecting liberties. It also requires that we take responsibility for our actions and accept our moral duty to disobey an unjust law. Acts of civil disobedience also require personal discipline and training. In fact, organisers of civil disobedience in southern Ontario insist that all participants must have nonviolence training, and, usually, that they mutt be part of a non-hierarchical, mutually supportive affinity group. This training goes far beyond simply learning how to go limp when being dragged off by the police. It has implications for one’s life which remain long after the particular action is over.

In 1981, the Cruise Missile Conversion Project (CMCP) began conducting civil disobedience and nonviolence training sessions in Toronto as part of its non-violent campaign against Litton Systems Industries’ participation in the development of the cruise missile. Recently, however. this training function has been taken over by the Alliance for Non-Violent Action (ANVA), a coalition of groups involved in disarmament, human rights, women’s and other issues, and whose purpose is to promote non-violent action techniques in its member groups.

Recently I attended an intense day-long training session conducted by Ruth McMurchy and Paul Murphy, members of CMCP who had been trained by ANVA. This particular session was in preparation for the July civil disobedience action at the Griffiss Air Force Base in New York state, the base from which B-52 bombers are scheduled to carry cruise missiles to the test site in Alberta. The object of the training session was to teach the fundamentals of non-violent action and to build group spirit for the affinity group participating in the Griffiss action.

Before our training session started, everyone took 5 minutes to say who they were and why they were there. Some people said they had felt a need for a more direct participation in the peace movement. Others had found that peace marches were not satisfying enough, and wanted to put themselves on the line more. Others simply wanted to learn what civil disobedience was about, because of the actions at Litton. The participants included a school teacher, some students, and a journalist.

Ruth began our session by saying that civil disobedience is only one technique of non-violent direct action. Non-violence is a theory based on the understanding and manipulation of power. Since the exercise of power depends on the consent of the ruled, they can, by simply withdrawing their consent, diminish end even destroy that power. In Gandhi’s words, “you must strive for a psychological shift away from passive submissiveness to one of self-respect and courage. The subject must recognise his part in making a regime possible, and you must build his determination to withdraw his obedience and co-operation. It will take a stout heart.”

What distinguishes civil disobedience from other non-violent tactics is that a person practising CD invites arrest and accepts the punishment he knows his actions may provoke.

However, while the decision to sit down and be arrested is a serious one, the role of jail support, or keeping track of someone who has been arrested, is also vital. Both Paul and Ruth emphasised that no star status is allowed to those who have chosen to be arrested rather than to give support. Both people are equally important members of the affinity group.

The affinity group is a non-hierarchical group of 10 to 15 people who have agreed to participate n an action together, and who work out together, by consensus, a plan of action which all agree to follow.

The next stage in the training was to role-play the “hassle-line” which puts what each person has learned about acting non-violently to the test. Because the training session I attended was in preparation for the Griffiss action, one group of us played the demonstrators, and another the air base soldiers, who taunted and dragged the ‘demonstrators’ away. At first people smiled awkwardly as they tried to yell and tug convincingly, but as the tension mounted, someone’s anger flared, and the demonstrators realised that this would really be happening to us.

After this aspect of the training concluded, Paul and Ruth asked the group to share their feelings, thoughts and fears.

It was at this point that three people decided to leave. One woman felt that she could not remain calm in the face of someone disagreeing with her, and someone else felt that the action simply did not go far enough.

Those who remained discussed the anger and emotion provoked by the role-playing, and wondered how they would react in the actual situation. The rest of the afternoon was spent role-playing the process of being arrested, again with the sharing of personal reactions.

The day was wrapped up with an evaluation of what went right and what could have been improved.

No one was pressured to commit him or herself to doing the action, and some expressed their concern about earning a criminal record and the ramifications for future jobs and entry into the U.S.

Non-violent action has been used throughout history. Civil disobedience actions, such as peace tax withdrawals and the Viet Nam war protests in the U.S., are frequently a means of resisting war and military preparation.

As Martin Luther King so effectively demonstrated, CD is a dramatic means of forcing those in authority to look at a problem they have tried to ignore. This thought is also expressed in Henry David Thoreau’s classic essay “The Duty of Civil Disobedience.” “When a person’s conscience and the laws clash, that person must follow his conscience.”

Non-violent civil disobedience also defines, often in a way which fundamentally affects one’s deepest reaction, a means of dealing with human conflict. Confronted with the potentially explosive situation of civil disobedience, one must maintain direct human contact with the antagonist. He must be seen as another human being, and not as some “other” if the anger and hostility in him (and inherent in the situation) are to be diffused. An act of non-violent civil disobedience thus can become a means of both insisting upon one’s humanity and of recognising the humanity of the antagonist.

For further information on the next civil disobedience training session to be offered in Toronto, contact ANVA at xxx-xxxx.

Churches protest arms race

Jon Spencer — September 1983

After much debate at its Sixth Assembly in Vancouver last month, the World Council of Churches adopted a statement strongly opposing the nuclear arms race.

Calling the deployment of nuclear weapons “a crime against humanity,” the statement was opposed by less than five of the 835 delegates.

“We urge the churches to press their governments, especially in those countries which have nuclear weapons capabilities, to elaborate and ratify an international legal instrument which would outlaw as a crime against humanity the possession as well as the use of nuclear arms, read the Statement, which became the official position of the world’s largest interfaith religious group.

The statement also requested that member churches explore the nonviolent protest methods, such as civil disobedience.

Much of the controversy over the document was raised by delegates from the Third World, who feared that the preoccupation of the developed nations with the danger of nuclear war would cause the issues of human rights and social justice to be ignored.

The WCC finally decided to focus on both issues in the coming seven-year period before the next assembly, citing the dramatic increase in starvation, military oppression and disease since the 1975 Nairobi assembly.

“We know how critical this moment is in the life of the world, like the turning of a page of history. We hear the cries of millions who face a daily struggle for survival, who are crushed by military power or the propaganda of the powerful … Our world, God’s world, has to choose between life and death, blessing and curse.”

NWFZ resolution needs support

Terri Hilborn — September 1983

More than 4,000 people from 60 Ontario communities have signed letters of support for a resolution which declares Ontario a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. Several labour unions representing thousands more Ontarians have also endorsed the resolution. But several thousand more signatures are needed to convince Ontario’s MPPs to vote for a Nuclear Weapon Free Ontario.

Thin campaign began when MPP Richard Johnston introduced Resolution No. 1 into the Ontario legislature. Resolution 1 would prohibit the deployment, testing, construction or transportation of nuclear weapons to Ontario.

Local peace groups, labour unions and church leaders have been collecting signatures of support throughout the summer, Organisers in towns and cities across the province have found that the most successful way to gather support hat been to collect signatures at peace rallies, parades and local fairs, More than 700 signatures were gathered at Hiroshima Day events alone.

Other groups are canvassing their neighbours and netting up shopping mall booths. A number of union locals are planning on-the-job canvassing. A major effort in now being planned to collect signatures at Labour Day events across the province. Strong support for NWFZ campaigns in important because ills one of the few peace issues that is debated and voted on in a public forum by our politicians, Resolution 1 will be debated at Queen’s Park in late October or early November. The success of the vote will depend on the public support shown for the resolution.

If you can help gather signatures of support for Resolution 1, signature sheets and Nuclear Weapon Free Zone posters are available at Johnston’s office: 416-xxx-xxxx.

ACT Speakouts

Anonymous — September 1983

Come and make your voice heard on disarmament and help to build for the October 22 demonstration. For further details contact Michael Rosenberg at xxx-xxxx.

Places, Dates and Times:

  • Wednesdays and Fridays at Noon: The Bay Centre, corner of Yonge and Bloor.
  • Fridays at 5 pm, The Eaton Centre, corner of Yonge and Dundas.
  • Saturdays at 9 am, St. Lawrence Market, south end at Jarvis and Front.

Peace Network News

Anonymous — September 1983
  • Early in 1983 E.P. Thompson wrote an article for The Nation entitled END and the Soviet Peace Offensive which received global attention by the peace movement. The most interesting response was published in a later edition of The Nation and was written by Norman Solomon, a staff worker with the People’s Test Ban, working out of Portland, Oregon. Solomon it the coauthor of Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experience With Atomic Radiation. What ensued was a debate in subsequent issue of The Nation, providing valuable insight into the question of the cold war and the involvement of both the East and West’s peace movements. Copies of this excellent exchange are available from CANDIS, 10 Trinity Square, Toronto. MSG 1B1. Please enclose $1.00 for copying and mailing costs.
  • Eryl Court and Metta Spencer are interested in organizing a series of Ground Zero’s Firebreaks games. This is a simulated nuclear-war crisis in which teams attempt to avert catastrophe.
    About 4 sessions are needed with about 15 people each and we understand that one learns a great deal from participating in the game. We plan to play on 4 consecutive Sunday evenings at CANDIS, starting about September 11. If interested please call xxx-xxxx.
  • Women Against Nuclear Technology and the Trident Action Group are holding an educational conference on disarmament and beyond. It is being held on the campus of Langara College at 111 W 49th Avenue in Vancouver. October 29 & 30. For more information contact Disarmament and Beyond, c/o Carol Bruce, 351 East 9th St, North Vancouver, BC, V7L 2B3. (604) xxx-xxxx.
  • Outremont, in Montréal has agreed to put a question on the November ballot regarding support for a global referendum on nuclear disarmament.
  • Peter Watkins, director of the brilliant and horrific film The War Game is preparing a repeat performance. He is currently raising $400,000 for The Nuclear War Film, a remake of The War Game set in today’s world situation.
    Watkins is planning a fundraising tour of North America this October and November. As well as asking for letters of support and endorsement for the film, any donation of US$150 or more to the project entitles the donor to a proportional share of the profits.
    Be the first peace group on your block to invest is a major motion picture!
    For information re. Watkins’ schedule is Canada. please contact Chris Burt, apt. 5 — 4299 Esplanade Avenue, Montréal, Québec H2W IT1. (514) xxx-xxxx. An 11 page film proposal is available for $1.00 prepaid at the above address.
  • The Peace Petition Caravan kicked off its national campaign to make Canada a NWFZ with its first strategy conference. held in Ottawa August 25. Workshops on organization and strategy invited broad participation from Canadian peace groups.
    A 3-phase campaign spread over 12 months, the Caravan will extend the anti-cruise protest to its logical conclusion — making Canada a NWFZ. For a detailed report on this campaign, see the next issue of The Peace Calendar.
  • Project Ploughshares has a set of cassette tapes titled “Preventing Nuclear War”. The set includes: “The Cruise: Canada & NATO”, “What About the Russians”. “Nuclear War: A New Ballgame”. “Militarism & the Economy” and “Peace Initiatives”. For more information contact: Conrad Grobel College, Waterloo, Ontario, N1L 3G1.
  • In just 8 months the CANDIS office has grown from a small desk with one telephone to a bustling centre of activity.
    The Peace Calendar grew from a mimeographed sheet with a circulation of 5,000 to a quality newspaper that is read by 30,000 people every month. This enormous growth could not happen without a lot of hard work and dedication on the part or staff and volunteers.
    Financially, we have managed to come this far — but just barely. CANDIS needs your support. To ensure that The Peace Calendar continues to serve your needs as a supporter and worker for peace, extend your support financially. Telephones, printing, typesetting and staff — all these cost money.
    CANDIS is not a one-shot campaign. It’s a continuing and growing — a permanent service to the community.
    You can donate once a week or once a month, and all donations over $10 are tax-deductible. We thank you for your continuing support.