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International Socialism, Spring 1960


Editorial Note

Aldermarch III


From International Socialism (1st series), No. 1, Spring 1960, p. 1.
Transcribed by Christian Høgsbjerg, with thanks to Paul Blackledge.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Campaign has been successful in two ways. It has been outstanding in that, year by year, it has brought more people into the anti-Bomb protest, doing today what the slump did between the two World Wars in the matter of baptising a new generation with political realities. Less successfully but of at least equal importance, it has edged, be it ever so cautiously and suspiciously, towards the centre of alternative power in our Bomb-ridden society.

Neither success was intended in precisely the form it took. The initiators and central personalities of CND are respectable citizens, horrified at one particular, culminating lunacy, not at the system which makes it both possible and inevitable. [1]

The wider critique was not their responsibility but an uncontrolled chain reaction. Equally they are not to blame if, starting with Cousins’ symbolic participation in Aldermarch II, the traditional labour movement has shown growing interest in the Campaign. Their firm opposition to political slogans on that occasion, their repudiation since not only of the activities of Direct Action but even of its simple basic assumption that we can’t stop the Bomb unless we stop working on it, show up their attitude better than reams of quotations.

Despite its leadership then, in ways unintended, the Campaign has been successful. The simple protest has spread and now looks to embrace some of the strata that hold the levers of potential power in their hands. It looks as if it could go on, claiming greater and greater adherence until the Powers that Be are confronted by a united mass chant: u-ni-lat-e-ral dis-arm-a-ment. Can it?

We think not. The road from Aldermarch I to Aldermarch III has not been uneventful. Questions implicit in the protest have become explicit: what value is there in unilateral British disarmament if United States’ bomb carriers and missiles are the major deterrent in this country? How then contract out of the nuclear race without withdrawing from the military alliances, especially NATO? How cut away from NATO without a political battle against Establishment foreign policy as a whole (both Tory and right-wing Labour brands)? How differentiate foreign from domestic policy? and how deal with domestic policy except in terms of social and political power? and, finally, what does this mean if not a conscious choice between potential working class power and the actual power of capital?

The first foot to stir the dust on the road from London to Aldermaston three years ago kicked these questions into the arena. The greater the number of vintage Aldermarchers, the more new recruits from the traditional labour movement with its commitment to political and industrial action, the more insistent will the demand be to pose these questions openly, to make the Bomb the cardinal stake in the contest for political power between the classes. The Campaign directors are not oblivious to this logic. They see it and fear it – more it seems than they fear the Bomb. That is why the decision to hold Aldermarch III this year was taken in the teeth of strong opposition from the platform and with the narrowest of majorities. Left to themselves the leadership will certainly not march on.

Campaigners should be very clear on one thing: the road from Aldermarch III to Aldermarch IV is the toughest stretch we’ve faced. To complete it will require the emergence within the Campaign of a socialist direction in every sense of the phrase. If we succeed, Aldermarch IV will be the first of a new series in which the initial, untutored moral protest which brings new people on to the roads will be used consciously to fire a political understanding and activity which might change the character of our labour movement, if nothing else besides.


1. See Peter Sedgwick’s NATO, the Bomb and Socialism in Universities and Left Review 7 for an appreciation of their calibre as ‘fighters for peace’.

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