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Labour voices oppose pro-nukes stance – Call for continued anti-war internationalism

“The big issues facing us now are the global pandemic & climate. Nuclear weapons aren’t the answer to either of those.”

Diane Abbott MP

By the Labour Outlook Team

The recent development of John Healey saying Labour’s leadership position is now that backing nuclear weapons is ‘non-negotiable,’ has led to growing anger across the movement against this position and what seems to be a broader rightwards shift to a more traditional Atlanticist foreign policy orientation, despite Keir Starmer standing on an anti-war platform for leader last year.

On the issue of nuclear weapons, speaking exclusively to Labour Outlook Diane Abbott MP said she was shocked, as ”there has been no debate or discussion with party members, party activists or even MPs,” adding that “The big issues facing us now are the global pandemic & climate [and] nuclear weapons aren’t the answer to either of those,” and that “It is quite extraordinary [and] maybe Kier will think better of it, because it’s not going to help us build the party, unite the party [or]attract young people to the party.”

Also speaking to Labour Outlook, Vice-President of London CND and former MP Emma Dent Coad said “There can be no excuse for this kind of spending on a fantasy weapon that we can’t use,” especially when “people are starving & we’re facing a climate emergency” and that we should take the lead in backing unilateral nuclear disarmament and supporting the UK signing the Global Ban Treaty.

Campaigning is picking up pace in the movement in favour of a policy for peace, with the Stop the War Coalition promoting and touring a pamphlet on why there must be no return to Blair’s Wars (download here.)

Jeremy Corbyn also spoke at their recent AGM (read report here), saying that “from coronavirus to environmental destruction to economic inequality, we face threats that the war machine cannot fix, and can only worsen.”

Additionally, Labour CND has recently held well attended and lively annual meetings with speakers including Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon, NEC member Gemma Bolton and a range of activists,

Nuclear Disarmament in a Changing World, Labour CND’s 2021 annual conference focused on some of the big and sometimes contradictory shifts in international politics, from the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which became international law on 22 January, to the growing confrontation between the US and China.

US academic and peace activist Phyllis Bennis talked about what we might expect from the Biden presidency, warning that none of the positives – from reengagement with climate change to a return to the Iran nuclear agreement – would be realised without strong and continued pressure from mass movements on the ground. ‘There’s no military solution in Afghanistan or the Middle East,’ she warned. Pulling ground troops out of Afghanistan wasn’t enough, US airstrikes also had to end.

Jeremy Corbyn focussed on the importance of an anti-war movement and the need to maintain peace and conflict resolution as the primary focus of Labour’s foreign policy. This sentiment was echoed by NEC rep Gemma Bolton who highlighted the need to educate and develop a new generation of young activists. Calling out Tory hypocrisy, she contrasted the Tories commitment of £205 billion on Trident replacement with their inadequate financial support for those struggling to get by in the Covid crisis.

Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament Fabian Hamilton emphasised how important a role Labour could play in international negotiations on multilateral nuclear disarmament, whilst Emma Dent-Coad described how CND’s Nuclear Ban Communities initiative could be used to put pressure on the UK government to sign and ratify the TPNW.

A few days later, Richard Burgon MP repeated the no more war, no more military spending message in an address to Labour CND’s AGM, recalling Corbyn’s commitment not to press the nuclear button. Burgon asked for backing for Labour CND’s online lobby against the £16.5 billion increase in the MoD’s budget for projects such as space weapons and the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier – part of Boris Johnson’s ‘make global Great Britain a reality’ project which ties the UK into the US confrontation with China.

Coming up, Arise – A Festival of Labour’s Left Ideas are hosting a major event entitled 10 Years on From the War on Libya – Why Labour Must Be Anti-War.

We must make our voices heard on why we back anti-war internationalism. As Gemma Bolton from the NEC put it so well, policy should be developed by members not over our heads in bid after bid to please the establishment.

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