Whose nuclear obsession?
So many countries around the world could be accused of a nuclear obsession, either now or in the past. America saw its nukes as the breakthrough against Russia, who saw their nukes as vital to their continuing existence. Tehran is being accused of being obsessed with creating the ‘Islamic Bomb’, the difference between that and an American nuke being somewhat unclear. In this sense, Bush is building quite a nuclear obsession, what with the WMD talk before the Iraq war and the current round of diplomatic pressure on Iran. Nukes make one very addictive topic.
The Left is no different it seems. Somehow, Nukes have become a very traditional thing to get obsessed about. And once again, that obsession has resurfaced. But having made my pilgrimage to Faslane, and gone to the march in London, I’m now starting to a get a little wary of how much time and effort this one issue is taking up.
Getting obsessed with single issues isn’t unique to the anti-nuclear lobby but its definitely one of the worst offenders. When I went to the World Social Forum in Brazil a couple of years ago, there were people present who identified with around 10,000 different specific aims. Some of these were general, some were specific. Some were very pushy, others quite humble in their approach.
The joy of Forum is seeing people link up the issues they are passionate about to those others want to focus on. However, certain groups of people just don’t like this situation, fearing, it would appear, that they might lose popularity to other issues. How self-obsessed can people get?
I would say that Nuclear Weapons is one of the top 50 issues facing humanity today. Its a key issue, it could potentially affect everyone on this planet, and it must be given the time of day it deserves. But there are other issues which are equally important, either because they threaten people’s lives more imminently or because they too could bring the world to an end. What good would disarming the planet do if all we did was fry ourselves anyway?
One of the most alarming people I encountered during the WSF was Chris Nineham, one of the most revolting faces of the SWP, the man responsible for Globalise Resistance, that went a long way to crushing what resistance to capitalism there was at the turn of the millennium.
He wanted me to know that the Iraq war was the key issue for the whole planet. I asked him, very directly, if he felt that Iraq was the key issue for indigenous Brazilian farmers. It must have been all those MST flags I could see around us, because otherwise I’d have gone for African HIV sufferers or Asian Sweatshop workers. Do they even have the time of day to consider what is going on in Iraq, other than that the west is complicit in all their suffering? His response was very clear: yes, of course its the key issue.
I was fuming. What the f*ck was he on about? This man claimed that people who’s very lives were at risk all around the world were equally obsessed with a war in a far off land as western folk like him or me. How much more self-centred could he have gotten? Everyone else has their own problems to sort out; the purpose of the WSF is to unite behind all our struggles, to link them horizontally, not to one single struggle, if there’s a meta-struggle, its for the whole world, not just the bit America is bombing today. Iraq may have killed 650,000 in 4 years, but hunger kills 30,000 a day; 43.8 million in the same period. Get some perspective please!
I’ve been spending some time working on some easily forgettable issues lately, and still found time to campaign, and even get arrested, over the issue of Nuclear Weapons. But lets put nuclear weapons into context. The two bombs over Japan killed over 200,000 people; in the Rwandan genocide, some 800,000 or more people were killed with little more than bush knives. So called ‘conventional’ weapons cause thousands of deaths every day, and yet the number of people who will join organisations like the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) is a fraction the number involved in Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). The obsession doesn’t add up.
My involvement in Faslane 365 should be read within the context of all the work I’ve done on the Arms Trade. Thousands may march against Nuclear Weapons, but in reality, shouldn’t it be millions marching against all weapons? To think that somehow the Nuclear issue is more winnable is stupid, as there is no evidence that reducing expenditure on nuclear weapons would actually reduce the number of weapons bought overall.
Bradford Samba has lost members and drained its energy over a single protest, and York FreeSoc seem to be at risk of doing the same thing. Surely we need to question whether its good that people get this burnt out over one round of action. Very specific issues are important, but lets not lose sight of the bigger picture or the experienced reality of the lives of millions who suffer right now. We’re grown up enough to understand that the world is more complex than one single issue aren’t we?