17 February 1958: CND – the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament – is launched

On this day in 1958, as the nuclear arms race hotted up, 5,000 people crammed in to Westminster’s Central Hall to witness the launch of CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

With the end of the Second World War, and the terrifying demonstration of the power of atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world's great powers fell over themselves to ensure they wouldn't be left bringing up the rear in the nuclear arms race. The Soviet Union tested its first bomb in August of 1949. The UK came next in 1952. With the advent of the H-bomb later the same year, weapons were getting bigger and dirtier. The world was fast becoming a very dangerous place.

The Cold War was developing; the US and USSR were engaged in a game of macho posturing, each backed by a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying life on Earth many times over on the whim of a few overfed, pampered, Alpha-idiots. Understandably, people started to get nervous.

In January 1958, prompted by a letter to the New Statesman by the writer JB Priestly, calling for unilateral nuclear disarmament, the magazine's editor, Kingsley Martin, convened a meeting, where the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was conceived. And on this day in 1958, CND was publicly launched at Westminster's Central Hall. Although there had been little advance publicity, 5,000 people turned up to support the campaign.

That same month, graphic designer Gerald Holtom presented preliminary sketches of a symbol to represent the campaign a circle bearing a symbol formed from the semaphore signs for N and D. On Good Friday, CND held its first march on the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, proudly displaying the symbol that would be adopted by peaceniks and protesters around the world.

Membership boomed as more countries joined the arms race and the counterculture of peace and love encircled the word in the 1960s. The campaign faded away somewhat in the 1970s, but returned with a vengeance in the 1980s as the Cold War hotted up again. The US deployed cruise missiles to its bases in Europe; the UK government embarked on its farcical campaign of “Protect and Survive”, printing booklets exhorting citizens to paint the windows white and, effectively, hide under the bed to escape a horrible, lingering death from radiation poisoning (for more, see Raymond Briggs’ When the Wind Blows).

Recommended

The charts that matter: more pain for goldbugs
Economy

The charts that matter: more pain for goldbugs

Gold investors saw more disappointment this week as the yellow metal took a tumble. Here’s what’s happened to the charts that matter most to the globa…
18 Sep 2021
The new social-care levy: an unfair tax that protects the “assetocracy”
National Insurance

The new social-care levy: an unfair tax that protects the “assetocracy”

The government’s regressive social-care levy will make Britain’s tax system even more complex. Root-and-branch reform is long overdue.
18 Sep 2021
Kieran Heinemann: the history of shareholder capitalism
Investment strategy

Kieran Heinemann: the history of shareholder capitalism

Merryn talks to Kieran Heinemann, author of Playing the Market: Retail Investment and Speculation in Twentieth-Century Britain, about the history of t…
17 Sep 2021
Cryptocurrency roundup: litecoin blunder, cardano update and bitcoin mining in Laos
Bitcoin & crypto

Cryptocurrency roundup: litecoin blunder, cardano update and bitcoin mining in Laos

Saloni Sardana looks at the week’s biggest stories in the world of cryptocurrencies.
17 Sep 2021

Most Popular

The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest
Small cap stocks

The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest

We are living in strange times. But the basics of investing remain the same: buy fairly-priced stocks that can provide an income. And there are few be…
13 Sep 2021
Two shipping funds to buy for steady income
Investment trusts

Two shipping funds to buy for steady income

Returns from owning ships are volatile, but these two investment trusts are trying to make the sector less risky.
7 Sep 2021
Should investors be worried about stagflation?
US Economy

Should investors be worried about stagflation?

The latest US employment data has raised the ugly spectre of “stagflation” – weak growth and high inflation. John Stepek looks at what’s going on and …
6 Sep 2021