CND - HYDE PARK '83
October 1983 saw CND's much vaunted national demonstration take place in London coinciding with other similar-sized demonstrations in West Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and France. 'Oct 22 Where will you be?' asked all the many CND posters distributed and published in newspapers and magazines throughout the land. Come the day, over 250,000 people answered by turning up for the start of the march at Victoria Embankment from where they would wend their way to the mass rally in Hyde Park.
There was no denying, it was an impressive turnout that sent a clear message to the Thatcher government. Not that they were ever going to listen, of course, but if nothing else it must have taken them by surprise to actually see the sheer amount of support that CND had garnered. If only those same numbers had turned up for Stop The City?
For the more clear-sighted, however, it wasn't so much about communicating any message to those in power but more about communicating with each other. Those out marching that day were communicating to the people next to them, letting them as well as themselves know that they weren't alone.
Peace and a world free from nuclear weapons wasn't some strange, naïve notion but something that thousands upon thousands of people from all walks of life both believed in and sought. The problem being that the communicating and the dialogue needed to be extended and moved up a gear because however loud the plea for peace was, it was falling on deaf ears and for all the marching, it was getting nowhere.
As the protesters poured into Hyde Park, the focal point was the stage from where various members of the CND leadership spoke, all giving each other a mutual pat on the back for the huge and successful turnout. The overriding message was that the nuclear madness had to end but there was no evidence the leaders of the Western world or their counterparts in the East would ever be swayed no matter how many people CND might gather under their banner. Whether it be 250,000 or 500,000 people marching on the streets, there was no tipping point in sight.
On that day it became apparent that the solution lay not in talking to politicians and leaders but in talking to each other; to family, to neighbours, to the people marching next to you. Power lay sideways not upwards. Change would come horizontally not vertically.
The keynote speaker at the rally should really have been the Hiroshima survivor who was there in attendance but was instead newly elected Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, whose proffered solution to the siting of Cruise missiles and the end of the arms race was the voting in of a Labour government. Put your faith in him as elected leader, he advised, and nuclear armageddon would be thwarted.
The very idea was not only preposterous but insulting and the gathered Punks and anarchists at the front of the stage – many of whom had been at Stop The City – let Kinnock know it by pelting him with clumps of mud, sticks, bottles and cans. Teams of police and CND stewards rushed forward to protect Kinnock from the missile throwers, resulting in a near-pitched battle between the two sides.
The missile throwers were predictably condemned by many of the peaceniks for attacking Kinnock though it wouldn't be too long before Kinnock not only stopped being a signed-up CND member but also changing his stance on nuclear weapons from outright ban to 'negotiated reductions', therefore proving the missile throwers perfectly correct in their appraisal of him and their hostility perfectly justified.
As first indicated by The Apostles on their Blow It Up, Burn It Down' EP earlier in the year and then evidenced at Stop The City, something was stirring in the Punk ranks, underlined on that day at Hyde Park not only by the bottling of Neil Kinnock but also by a fanzine-styled newspaper being sold there entitled Class War; its front cover depicting a field of crosses, emblazoned with the headline: 'We have found new homes for the rich.'....