Aldermaston marches and the Cuban missile crisis | Letters

Aldermaston marchers arrive at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) on Easter Monday 1958. The marches have ‘still not had noticeable policy effects after 60 years’, writes Nigel Young. Photograph: PA

Zoe Williams is absolutely right (10 April) about the progressive role of public protest in political life. But one of the most iconic of modern marches – Aldermaston – has still not had noticeable policy effects after 60 years, even though its goal is still a no-brainer. The UK is not at the current, non-proliferation talks – and for almost six decades it has refused to become a nuclear-free zone.

I was London CND organiser from 1961 to 1963 and the person mainly responsible for the largest London contingents, perhaps over 100,000 marchers on three of the largest four-day Aldermaston marches – 1960 was huge too by any standards. The prudent cause was not simply renunciation of the British bomb, but an end to testing, manufacture and the insane threat to use UK-based weapons of mass destruction. What could be more sane then and now, than to put a partial brake on nuclear proliferation?

In 2015, I rejoined the Labour party (after a 50-year absence). It was mainly because the issue seemed to be coming alive again, given Corbyn’s commitment. But nuclear disarmament remains the big issue that so far got away. A week ago, I gave my grandson a DVD of Dr Strangelove for his 15th birthday and I remarked how little had changed since Kubrick made his 1964 cold war masterpiece. Russia and the US still confronting each other (over a missile strike), and the UK absenting itself from talks on nuclear non-proliferation; but yes, keep on marching anyway.
Nigel Young
Editor-in-Chief, Oxford International Encyclopedia of Peace; Colgate University, Hamilton, New York, USA

• President Trump considers US–Russia relations to be at a nadir (Report, 13 April), apparently forgetting that when he was 16, the Cuban missile crisis took the world to the very brink of nuclear war. I was 17 and will never forget the terror of living through those October 1962 days. Aggressive brinkmanship may suit him in his negotiations over real estate development. The world expects a lot better from a US president.
Henry Fryer
Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire

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