CNDís Inaugural Public Meeting

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CNDís Inaugural Public Meeting

Westminster, London The 17th of March 1958 AD

For the impartial observer it is hard to know whether to look on CND as a wonderful example of altruism and hope; or a misguided refusal to recognize the realities of global politics. Perhaps both.
CND came into being in late November 1957, though at that stage it was composed of a few elite figures Ė Bertrand Russell selected to be chairman for example, with a committee that featured the great journalist James Cameron , writer J.B. Priestley , and Labour politician Michael Foot . On February 17 1958, however, some 5,000 attended its inaugural public meeting held at Central Hall in Westminster.
This was a time when the shadow of the bomb loomed large; the first (and so far only) nuclear conflict had ended only 13 years previously; and the Cold War was at its chilliest.
CND wished Britain to renounce nuclear weapons, hoping this would lead to the other nuclear states following our example. Naive but at the same time heartening. People were convinced the genie could be put back in the bottle.
Members at this dawn of the organisation as a popular movement included Compton Mackenzie , Doris Lessing, John Arlott , Benjamin Britten , Edith Evans , A.J.P. Taylor , and E.M. Forster ; but it attracted thousands of those whose names strike no such chord, desperate for a world of peace, and even just for world survival Ė their fears not without foundation, as just a few years later the Cuban Missile Crisis would bring the world close to nuclear war.

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