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International Socialism, Summer 1965


Tony Young

Where’s the Crowd?


From International Socialism, No.21, Summer 1965, pp.29-30.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Disarmers
Christopher Driver
Hodder & Stoughton, 25s.

Voices from the Crowd Against the H-Bomb
Peter Owen, 25s.

Christopher Driver has obviously set out to write a fair-minded examination of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, perhaps even one that observes it from a standpoint of sympathy for its supporters’ motives, if not for very many of their actions. In this respect it is to an altogether different category from Herb Greer’s stupid book Mud Pie, the only other purported history of the Campaign.

If The Disarmers fails to give a picture of the movement which any active campaigner could easily recognise, this is not primarily because of a certain disrespect for facts – well documented by Nicolas Walter in his review in Solidarity – but more because the Campaign’s political and spiritual ancestry, its language and its habits of thought are quite novel and foreign to Driver, and a kindly disposition is no substitute for the knowledge and imaginative awareness needed to make himself at home with them.

In the result, not only does the book fail as an attempt at adequate and perceptive reportage, but it leaves unexplored important questions which must exercise informed sympathisers or critics of the Campaign. How far was it a continuation of the politics of the Old Left, the Popular Front, and traditional radical dissent, and how far the beginning of a new politics? How important and successful was Communist Party participation in the later years? Was the relatively large-scale involvement of the youth who marched and sat in 1960 and 1961 a passing fashion?

A non-socialist commentator could perhaps hardly be expected to offer any very useful insights on the problem which above all remains for Marxists – how to overcome the deep-going division between the two equally misconceived attitudes to the Labour movement which inhabit CND; the one which sees only the Parliamentary and bureaucratic machine and concludes that agreement with it must be secured; and the other which also sees only this machine and concludes that all connexion with it must be shunned.

But if only for the want of a better, The Disarmers is a book of some importance for the movement. The same cannot be said of Voices from the Crowd. The voices in question are not from the crowd at all but from the platform or from the Entertainers. It became a custom of the Aldermaston marches that if you had walked the whole distance you did not feel called on to stay for the speeches, and anyone can see from this book how sensible that was.

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