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A trip to the Working Class Movement Library

 

A trip to the Working Class Movement Library in Salford gave a real insight into the long-standing activities of CND and related anti-nuclear campaigns in the Greater Manchester and District region. With material dating back as far as the 1950s, the collections highlight just how important Manchester and the North West have been as a centre of peace activism in the UK.

 

Particularly notable from a Mancunian perspective is 1982’s ‘Hard Luck’ campaign. Launched in response to the Conservative government’s ‘Hard Rock’ civil defence exercise, it was a flashpoint in the relationship between the national government and local authorities – particularly those who had declared themselves to be Nuclear Free Zones, following the lead of theĀ  Greater Manchester Council.

 

For the ‘Hard Rock’ exercise, scheduled for September/October 1982, local authorities would have been obliged to prepare plans for civil defence in the case of a nuclear strike. It was eventually called off in July of that year, after a lack of cooperation from local authorities – particularly, but not only, Nuclear Free Zones – which felt the exercise was a waste of scant resources that could be better used elsewhere. Even more pointedly, opponents of ‘Hard Rock’ argued that it was an attempt to fool people into thinking that they could be defended against nuclear attack. As councillor William Risby wrote in an article found in the collection, ‘the fact is that 2 medium-size nuclear weapons would kill almost everyone in Manchester, many of them instantly and the rest within a few days.’ ‘Operation Hard Luck’ was an exercise designed by CND to publicise the true horrors of nuclear war and the futility of civil defence programmes, by showing just what would happen in the case of an attack on military and economic targets. Pictured is a booklet from this time about what to do in the event of a nuclear strike, produced for Manchester residents by the GMC.

 

Visiting the WCML has given me a real insight into the role of the Greater Manchester and District CND in the nationwide campaigns against nuclear weapons, and the incredible history of local activism which continues to this day.

 

 

 

November 6th, 2014 - 14:54pm

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