WITH THE RE-ELECTION OF Ronald Reagan, the world now enters a new era in the nuclear arms race and the disarmament movement throughout the world is at an impasse. The deployment of first-strike weapons in substantial numbers will dramatically and dangerously destabilize the "nuclear peace." the freeze was for many of us the order of the day as it would have halted the arms race before major first-strike deployment.
But with Reagan in the White House there will be no freeze, and by 1988 a freeze will have been seriously undermined by MX, Midgetman, Pershing II, Trident II and cruise deployment along with their emerging Soviet counterparts. Canada's recent United Nations vote against the freeze was not simply adding insult to injury but was also a clear indication of the unwillingness of the Canadian government to stand up to Washington.
There is, of course, much work for us to do. Sustained disarmament education, agitation and political lobbying are absolutely necessary as we must firm up our base. Issues such as the militarization of space, the connection between the arms race and global poverty and industrial conversion will probably become more central to our activities. In short, there will be plenty to keep us busy. But what is less apparent is whether there is a central project which will give both a national focus and urgency to our work. Without such a unifying strategy we risk many of us falling prey to cynicism and despair. Our movement needs to give both hope and direction.
There is no obvious strategy which immediately presents itself as filling this need. Nevertheless, we must make the most of what is available to us. In that light I propose we prepare a national educational and agitational campaign calling upon the Federal Government to hold a national referendum on cancelling the cruise testing agreement with the United States. It might be said that the cruise is yesterday's issue but given the ongoing modernization of the cruise-to develop stealth characteristics and supersonic capabilities - it becomes extremely important to place the cruise squarely back onto the political agenda. Such a campaign will force us to maintain majority support and as I have argued previously, that is really the only trump card the disarmament movement possesses. The call for a national cruise referendum can, of course, be complemented by similar municipal referenda. A sustained cruise campaign will also allow us to broaden the public's international horizons by addressing the growing nuclearization of US foreign policy and the options for European stability.
The cruise missile was the catalyst that gave shape to the resurgence of our movement and the cruise continues to be the central link between Canada and the global arms race. The Canadian public is at least familiar with the cruise issue and not altogether unfriendly to our arguments. A national cruise campaign will not likely work wonders for us and is not meant to replace other aspects of our work. However, I do submit this proposal as a central focus of a national strategy and look forward to criticisms and alternative proposals.
Rather than limiting a referendum to only cruise testing, we might instead consider a more general referendum calling upon Canada to commit itself to no production and testing of nuclear weapon systems or their components. This is, of course, a narrowly defined nuclear weapons free zone proposal but one that is limited in scope to those areas in which we can (in the next few years) hopefully develop and sustain majority public support.
LETS FACE IT: THE PEACE movement in Canada is not what it should be. Yet, more than ever before, it is necessary to press political and government leaders to foster peace. To achieve this aim, several changes are required:
Such a proposal may have been completely unrealistic ten or twenty years ago, but the installation of more and more powerful and precise weapons, paralleled by the decline of the credibility of deterrence and the rise in political tensions, make it impossible to believe that the world can go on without being destroyed. Only when citizens stand up and oppose this situation can we expect that politicians and governments will listen. Only if a renewed peace movement succeeds in a mass appeal to all citizens-whatever political persuasion they may have-can we hope that our voice will be heard and the risk of open conflict with all its consequences reduced.
We must tell people that more strength will not raise security and the fact that we have had no war in the forty years we have had the "bomb" is no proof that this will be so forever, The destructive power of the military forces have grown out of control, and the economic and political world conditions have worsened, Consequently we can not rely on void rhetoric.
In the sixties we were told that we have enough weapons in our arsenals to destroy our adversary. We have now a thousand times more weapons. How many times can we destroy our enemy and how many times can we be destroyed? And we have learned in the last two years that wherever the explosions occur, everybody in the northern hemisphere would be destroyed. How long do we have to wait until rational discussions between the nations achieve peace and security or at least improve conditions so that the risk of war will be reduced?
There is no reason that Canada could not play an important role in this quest for peace.
A revitalized broad based and educated peace movement has become an imperative of our time, We must put all our energy together, so that we can exert the political pressure and achieve disarmament and security. We can have both, but we need the will to achieve it.