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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

From Torness May 1978 to Greenham February 1982

I could move, move, move any mountain. Song by the Shamen

You can't kill the Spirit
She is like a mountain
Old and strong
She goes on an on and on
She is like a mountain...

Modern pagan song sung at Greenham and many other places. And here is another:

The river is flowing, flowing and growing
The river is flowing down to the sea
Mother earth carry me
Your child I will always be
Mother earth carry me
Down to the sea
The river is flowing, flowing and growing
The river is flowing down to the sea
Mother moon watch over me
Your child I will always be
Mother moon watch over me
Until I am free

Remember singing these as we walked from Sizewell nuclear power station to Molesworth (evicted in Feb) Peace Camp in 1985.

Found a book I had been looking for today. It has a photo of Pinki at Greenham in it. It is called Greenham Common: Women at the Wire by Barbara Harford and Sarah Hopkins, published in 1984 by The Women's Press.

I also found a few more Undercurrents magazines from the seventies.

Living at Greenham seems like a challenge, an adventure. It makes few compromises with mainstream society, it is an alternative, an outdoor community of women, Living up against the fence means there is no switching off- the terror is on our doorstep. We experience autumn, winter, spring, summer as we've never experienced them before ... we survived because we had to - what we are doing makes sense and what we have created at Greenham feels good and right.

From our alternative reality, the world from which we come looks pale and comfortless. We have to transform it. Not by reforms, but by revolution. The tide is turning because women are making sure it does.
But the form of the revolution is crucial. We believe that the means must be consistent with the ends and this has promoted continuous discussion and self-examination about non-violence. Is it merely a tactic or does it have a more far reaching analysis and application?

At Greenham a womanly culture is evolving. We have looked into women's lives long ago and far away and gained some insight into women's powers and their suppression. Our political awareness has been enriched by these influences. They are not distractions, they fill the gaps and connect us with other women's struggles in different times and places. Beyond Greenham these connections are becoming tangible... on 9th November 1983, 102 peace camps were set up in the UK... [Women at the Wire: 1984: page 5]

102 peace camps? That was a peace camp at every military base in the UK. Impressive.
Greenham and the eighties peace movement grew in response to a decision taken by NATO on 12 December 1979 that USA nuclear Cruise missiles would be based in the UK. This was part of the game of genocidal chess played out during the Cold War - as a counter- move to USSR / Warsaw Pact deployment of SS20 nuclear missiles.

In the seventies, the big issue was the expansion of nuclear power stations. (But don't forget the close links between nuclear power stations and nuclear weapons - my local nuclear power station at Chapelcross was built in late fifties to provide tritium for the UK's nuclear weapons programme). There was a lengthy public inquiry into the development of Windscale (now Sellafield) and a major campgain against the construction of Torness nuclear power station in south-east Scotland.

In May 1978, 10 000 people occupied the Torness site and this prompted an article in the 'Special Issue on Women and Energy' of Undercurrents, No. 29 (Aug.Sept 78) by Sue Smith and Sheryl Crown.

Feminists Against Nukes

Being against nuclear power does not automatically mean a similar concern for oppressed groups such as women, children and old people. In working towards a society based upon soft energy and cooperation we must not forget to look at our attitudes.

Many women don't see nuclear power as something which concerns them very directly. We are better at organising around issues closes to us.

It was good to see 60 women at the workshop on the Sunday of the Torness Occupation. We began to workl out how we felt affected by nuclear power and what action we as women working togetehr could take. We also talked about the organization of the Torness project and agreed that while we appreciated teh hard work and organizing of SCRAM [Scottish Campaign to Resist the Atomic Menace] we did have some criticism. These centred on: -

-The Rock concert- sexist lyrics and attitudes and noise. We feel acoustic, folk music would have been more appropriate.

- The creche, which we would have liked to see as a whole area roped off for children and more men working in the creche.

- The sexist attitudes of some people on site . One tent was painted with the slogan "Free sleeping for free chicks. Apply within"

- The fact that the women's meeting was considered slightly strange and not taken for granted by some at Torness.

- The pace of the march onto the site reflected a lack of concern for the children and the adults, mainly women, pushing prams.

From these criticisms then followed a list of suggestions, including

- That there always be a Women's caucus at the beginning of any anti-nuclear demo, march or occupation so that we immediately feel our strength and present it to others.

- That women familiarize themselves with Nonviolence, and participate in Nonviolence training workshops.
- That the Women's Festival planned for Edinburgh be moved to Torness instead....

We hope by working out how Nuclear power affects us, and by refusing to accept the way in which events like Torness ( and most other political demonstrations) accept and incorporate sexist values, women will take back the power which is rightfully ours, in all areas of political change. We are going to show that women do have something to say and that we are going to say it whilst confronting Nuclear power and its corollary evils.

So the 1978 occupation of the Torness site by anti- nuclear power protesters evoked a feminist response which anticipated the creation by anti-nuclear weapons protesters of a "Women's" Peace Camp at Greenham in 1982.

Unfortunately/ infuriatingly, and despite the existence of Greenham, the criticisms of the 'sexism' of activist protesters expressed by Sue Smith and Sheryl Crown 27 years ago remain valid. Their criticism of the Torness creche could be repeated word for word for any alternative/ activist 'creche' over the past 30 years... Young, fit, healthy and child-free remains a description of the alternative scene's centre of social gravity.

But even more worryingly, apart from a few wind-turbine farms, the whole 'radical -alternative technology' - solar, bio, hydro energy alternative to nuclear and hydro-carbon power sources, advocated, explored and explained by Undercurrents magazine thirty years ago- remains marginal and controversial.
That nuclear power can be seriously suggested as the solution to global climate change and that the UK must commit to a replacement for Trident nuclear weapons is an indictment of our actions.


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