Posted by: helenrobertsbradford | November 25, 2009

The prehistory of the Aldermaston March

One of the richest collections in this phase of the project is the archive of Hugh Brock, journalist and peace campaigner.  His role in the emergence of an organised non violent direct action movement in Britain in the 1950s was fundamental.  As editor of Peace News, he steered the pacifist journal towards coverage of non violent protest and nuclear disarmament, leading to a break with the Peace Pledge Union in 1961.  He was a leading member of the PPU’s Non Violence Commission and of the first groups to grow out of this, Operation Gandhi and the Non Violent Resistance Group.

Aldermaston march, 1952

The signpost points left to Aldermaston station

Aldermaston march, 1952

Still carrying the PPU slogan, 'Wars will cease when men refuse to fight'

A small-scale march to Aldermaston AWRE was carried out by Operation Gandhi members on 19 April 1952, as shown in these tiny black and white photographs.

Brock’s files read like a key to the network of British and American peace campaigners active during this period.  Many of these groups were transient and experimental, lasting a few years at best.  Protests by individual pacifists, such as Harold Steele’s attempt to reach the Christmas Island nuclear test site in 1957, fed into the creation of an organised movement.  International links with Japan, India, Europe and Africa weave through the collection.  Overlapping concerns with apartheid in South Africa, civil rights in the United States, the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 make clear that something new was emerging from the traditional pacifist stance of renouncing war.  This was a much broader view of peace based on social justice and equal rights.  This is the perspective by which the Commonweal Collection is guided.

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