The peace movement and other people working against nuclear weapons are FAR TOO TIMID in how we work on nuclear weapons. In order to make progress we must demand the ABOLITION of nuclear weapons, not merely seek reforms and limitations.
We have identified and worked for many reforms and limitations, such as:
- A “No First Use” policy to prevent the U.S. from starting a nuclear war
- Taking away the president’s sole authority to launch without a congressional declaration of war (except in retaliation)
- Preventing the total rebuild of all nuclear weapons, which Obama authorized and Trump is pursuing too
- Preventing “low-yield” nuclear weapons that will be more “usable”
These are worth pushing for, but they are tinkering around the edges and ignoring the giant “elephant in the room.” We must DEMAND that the government ABOLISH nuclear weapons altogether! When we fail to organize a campaign SPECIFICALLY for their TOTAL ABOLITION, we are implicitly allowing them to persist and failing to be pro-active enough. We have given up what should be our main point.
Think back to 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. Suppose Rosa Parks and the NAACP asked the city bus company to do a better job of sweeping the floor at the back of the bus, so the African Americans who were forced to sit in the back of the bus would have a cleaner floor. This would NOT have inspired people to energize a Civil Rights Movement because it would failed to challenge racial segregation itself.
To a large extent, we are failing to inspire the public to create a Nuclear Abolition Movement because we bog down in technical aspects of nuclear weaponry rather than focus specifically on the need to ABOLISH nuclear weapons altogether. The brilliant Nuclear Weapons Freeze campaign made HUGE PROGRESS because it refused to bog down in debates about how many nukes were enough, how much megatonnage each side had, etc. The Freeze said JUST STOP NOW!!! The public easily understood that and mobilized to pass local Freeze ballot issues and governmental resolutions nationwide.
We must put NUCLEAR ABOLITION directly ON THE TABLE as our PRIMARY DEMAND.
The Olympia Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons holds a giant banner proclaiming “ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS” on a freeway overpass over I-5 for one hour every week. We get a tremendous response of support from people on the freeway and from people on the street that passes over it.
THE PUBLIC WOULD SUPPORT US IF WE WOULD MAKE THIS CLEAR DEMAND: ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS!
I’m not saying we should stop working for reforms and limitations, such as the 4 I listed above, but I am saying that WE WILL NOT MAKE MUCH PROGRESS WITHOUT PUTTING THE STRONG DEMAND FOR TOTAL ABOLITION directly “on the table” and organizing to make the public, the media and the government deal with that PRIMARY DEMAND.
When ICAN persuaded the United Nations General Assembly to pass a treaty abolishing nuclear weapons, the world rallied in support. This is the kind of boldness — TOTAL ABOLITION — that we must be promoting if we are to win even the modest reforms and limitations that we are seeking. WITHOUT THAT BOLD CONTEXT, we’ll continue to be relatively powerless. We must PUT OUR DEMAND for TOTAL ABOLITION “on the table.”