Members of the Committee of 100 engaging in civil disobedience in Westminster, 1961.
In September 1960, a CND march took place from Edinburgh to London. Russell wrote to inform Canon Collins that when he spoke at the final rally when the march arrived in Trafalgar Square, he planned ‘to say something in support of those who practice direct action.’ Russell was dissuaded from doing so, as it might have a negative impact on the decision on unilateralism at the Labour Party Conference the following month. But eventually it leaked out that Russell was planning a new movement – the Committee of 100 for Civil Disobedience against Nuclear Warfare. Russell’s idea was that the new Committee would be launched – hopefully- after a unilateralist victory at the Labour Party Conference. The role of the Committee would then be to win wider public support through publicising the issue via mass civil disobedience. The composition of the Committee was designed to widen the movement’s appeal. The Committee was widely drawn, including ‘celebrities’ from the cutting edge of the artistic and cultural world: John Arden, Shelagh Delaney, Lindsay Anderson, John Braine, Augustus John, Robin Hall, George Melly, John Neville, John Osborne, Herbert Read and Arnold Wesker.
Canon Collins had not been informed by Russell of this development and was reportedly very annoyed when he found out about it from Victor Gollancz, the renowned left-wing publisher, who had been invited to join the Committee. Russell resigned as President of CND before the Committee was officially launched in October 1960. Russell was president of CND but he had also been a supporter of the DAC and its forerunners since the mid-1950s. He simultaneously considered direct action to be a dangerous doctrine leading to anarchy, and believed that ‘almost all great advances have involved illegality.’ Above all, though, he considered it to be a means of getting publicity for the movement:
‘All the major organs of publicity are against us. It was extremely difficult to get any attention at all until we resorted to [direct action]… I have no views in principle either for or against civil disobedience. It has always been practiced at different times and places. With me it is purely a practical question of whether to do it or not, a method of propaganda.’
To celebrate six decades of vibrant and powerful activity, this online exhibition displays photos and memories provided by our members and supporters. They selected the photos that best symbolised a significant memory from the past 60 years. The exhibition shows photos from demonstrations, vigils and blockades; significant sites, like Greenham, Molesworth, as well as photos of artefacts, like favourite badges, banners, and knitting.