March 15, 2022
From Red Pepper
Bruce Kent and Kate Hudson outside the Russian Embassy, Spring 2022. Photo by Pádraig McCarrick

This is Part Two in a two-part interview between Hilary Wainwright and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) activists Kate Hudson and Bruce Kent, which took place as they were delivering a letter to the Russian Embassy. Read Part One here.

Hilary Wainwright: Kate, how can we, in the UK peace movement, materially support and strengthen the brave peace movement in Russia? Can peace movements form links at a grassroots level?

Kate Hudson: We know, from the war in Iraq, how important the international peace movement was to people who were experiencing that onslaught. Similarly for the Palestinian people today, to know when they are under attack, that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people globally on their side and rooting for them – that’s incredibly important.

Social media makes it easier [to form international links]. It is still possible in Russia to engage with people via social media; so any kind of tweets, online support, messages of support are vital. We’ve been sharing a lot of videos from Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities, and involving activists from Russia and also from Ukraine in international Zoom meetings — whether they are public meetings or  planning meetings on how we can work together strategically. All that is much easier than it’s been in the past, and much more instantaneous.

CND is involved with Europe-wide organisations or international networks — like the International Peace Bureau and the European No to NATO Network — who have Russian, Ukrainian and much more eastern European involvement – so we’re able to find out how we can concretely support them and what are the organisations that, for example, people can send donations to?

Another example, last night we received a long statement from the Ukrainian pacifist movement. You can imagine how difficult it is for a pacifist organisation at this time — we’re helping them to get their message out as well, so there’s a counter to all the militarisation going on.

HW: In the description of the peace movement in Russia, there are quite a lot of councillors involved in supporting it, against the war. Could we organise people from the Western peace movement to be observers at the protests in Russian cities, with the support of local councillors and municipalities, to perhaps deter some of the repression?

KH: We’re certainly looking at a peace delegation. Obviously, that will take some kind of planning. ’Twinning’ is something we are looking into with our local groups, and it’s something we’ve done in the past — trying to make people-to-people links across borders, to try and break down the idea that people over here are good, and people over there are bad. We’re just all ordinary people who want to live our lives in peace.

In some cases, cities or towns here may be looking at un-twinning from their Russian twin towns. But actually that’s not a good idea, because there will be many people in those towns and cities who are against the war.

HW: So could the official twinning be turned to support the grassroots peace movement, rather than the municipality?

KH: Exactly. There is a huge groundswell of public opinion against the war there. We need to be in solidarity with them, not seeing them all as the enemy. That would be a disaster and completely counter to everything that the peace movement stands for.

Our first strategic objective is the prevention and cessation of wars in which nuclear weapons may be used. We’ve tried to prevent this war by arguing for diplomatic solutions, for negotiations — writing to the government and urging them to use diplomatic means. That has failed and now we’re in the stage of working for cessation. This is our priority, because we’re an anti-nuclear campaign.

BK: We need to highlight charitable legislation in this country. It is a problem for the peace movement. Major organisations like Oxfam and other groups will not get engaged in anything that threatens their charitable status, which is very lucrative through special concessions, grants and so on. We tried to harness some of these organisations over the ‘No TRIDENT replacement’ campaign, particularly on the basis of spending – on development and poverty alleviation and so on rather than nuclear weapons. All these charities said that they weren’t able to get involved.

Why are they silent? I talked to a bishop not long ago and said: ‘Why, in your publicity, are you not connecting the military?’ He said: ‘I didn’t know that was an issue.’ I believe him, but how could that not be an issue in terms of CO2 production, if you’re ignoring the military? There’s a financial disincentive from challenging the military.

HW: What is your message to Red Pepper readers? Would you say to people reading this: ‘Join CND now, it’s more necessary than ever’?

BK: I wouldn’t just say join CND. But I would say get off your bottom and start being active. Get hold of the Housmans peace directory where at least 500 different peace organisations are listed, and start working, whether it’s with CAAT [Campaign against the Arms Trade] or Pax Christi or especially CND.

HW: So, unity between the different parts of the peace movement is crucial.

BK: Absolutely crucial, and it’s what we’re missing. There are at least four or five major international organisations that don’t really refer to each other. It’s really pathetic. They should come together.

HW: Are there any signs of them coming together in response to this crisis?

KH: On Saturday 26 February, CND, Code Pink (a very prominent US peace organisation), Stop the War, and the No to NATO network came together to hold an emergency online rally against the war. There were thousands on that call. As a result, we had a global call for a day of action on Sunday 6 March with many different organisations involved from Australia, Europe, North America.

HW: What about the Russians? Will they be part of it?

KH: We’re very much hoping they will be.

Find out more about CND on their website and follow them on Twitter.