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     Scottish CND      Magazine

BOOK REVIEWS

also in this issue a review of one step forward - One step forward, two steps back: Ray Newton

The Gift of Time: Jonathan Schell

Many people will remember Jonathan Schell’s bestselling The Fate of the Earth. Published in the early 1980s, described by Helen Caldicott as “The new Bible of our time,” through its scope, detailed analysis and the urgency of the writing, it alerted many people to the immediacy and the scale of the nuclear threat.

Now, in The Gift of Time, he drives the argument forward. Note the emphasis in the sub-title: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Now. Nuclear disarmament is not only to be desired, it is, post cold war, both practical and necessary. Everything is in a state of flux. Ideas, and carefully thought through plans are being promoted, often by the very people - generals and politicians - who have had command and control over the nuclear machine.

Much of the book consists of a series of extended interviews with such people: Mikhail Gorbachev, former US Secretary of State Robert McNamara, General Lee Butler, ex-commander of the US Strategic Command, Admiral (and one time head of the CIA) Stansfield Turner as well as longer term friends of the peace movement like Joseph Rotblat.

Not all the interviewees advocate complete nuclear disarmament. Some are less than sanguine about the possibilities of getting rid of all the weapons.

This idea of maybe 90% disarmament can be dangerously enticing when we talk to previously pro-nuclear people. “After all, it’s a start and the process of reducing down to a couple of hundred in the hands of the US and Russia would be a lengthy one .. Or even a couple of hundred in the hands of the UN as some sort of international guarantee against the future rogue state ... Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it ... People will get used to the idea of cutting back ...”

Can sound persuasive until you stop and think: any country that possesses even one nuclear weapon has to retain the ability to build, test, deploy and service more, must have some sort of military doctrine that determines how and when it would be used, will inevitably provoke other countries into keeping their own Just One in response.

The heart of the argument against nuclear weapons is a moral one. An absolute position.

But with that caveat, The Gift of Time is immensely valuable. It brings together a series of thoughtful and experienced people from around the world. It presents their reasoning and their plans in a convenient form. Some - for instance Stansfield Turner - have already published their ideas in an extended form. But unless you want to acquire half a shelf of books and learned reports, this is the one to buy.

If moral outrage is the bedrock of our campaigning, we have to avoid the temptation of settling back, smugly self-indulgent, knowing we are right. The intellectual process is necessary. Here it is. Well presented and encouraging.

Lionel Trippett

[Jonathan Schell visited Scotland in November and met anti-nuclear campaigners in Edinburgh and Glasgow. He sat in on one of the trials in Helensburgh and was very impressed by the commitment of those he met.]

One step forward, two steps back: Ray Newton

The significance of the title is explained on the first page. Our thinking has moved beyond the simplistic view that progress is inevitable and that some kind of ideal world is attainable even if we had differing views as to how it could be achieved. Now, political instability and pollution of our environment cause us to stop and think again. We should look at what constitutes “progress” in different terms. The sub-title to this book is: “The Social History of a Left-Wing Activist - A Case Study”, and this is exactly what it is.

It is a down-to-earth, nuts and bolts story of Ray Newton’s life from boyhood, through maturity into what is called, “old age” but this description does not fit a man who continues to be active and plough new furrows of thought into his seventies. His philosophy is sophisticated but expressed clearly without resorting to the kind of dense, academic language which conceals meaning.

The book has three strands: the development of his own life in terms of careers, relationships and philosophy; his observation and pertinent recording of world events and his efforts to contribute positively to a great variety of both local and national movements towards a better and more peaceful world. Most of us in his age-bracket will have lived through the same world events but few will have consistently taken so many active steps towards trying to improve matters.

Concern about nuclear weapons and the environment permeated his life. It is extremely interesting to compare one’s own reactions to world historical events with his. His mother was politically active and influenced him so that he became politically aware at a quite young age. He never concealed his left-wing opinions and hostility towards the “Establishment” even when those views were contrary to those held by his employers and colleagues and might have jeopardised his job.

He writes articulately and cogently and tells his story in chronological order, matching his personal experience with what was happening at the time. His involvement with Ex-services CND makes it a particularly important book for all of us but it has much to interest people who are not necessarily in sympathy with the CND viewpoint. Anyone trying to understand recent history and contemporary problems will find an abundance of thought-provoking food in its pages.

Rita Stanleigh, Ex-Services CND

Ray Newton has arranged for a contribution to be made to Scottish CND for every copy sold through this magazine. If you wish to order a copy please use this form and return to: Radical Books, 10 Buckstone Way, Edinburgh, EH10 6PN, tel 0131 445 2967. Price £8.99, post & packing free. (Refer to order reference AB then a contribution will be made to Scottish CND)

Scottish CND      Magazine