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The Direction Action Committee against nuclear war (DAC) was formed in 1958 with the aim of assisting "the conducting of non-violent direct action to obtain the total renunciation of nuclear war and its weapons by Britain and all other countries as a first step in disarmament”.[1]

Contents

Origins

The DAC was a forerunner of the Committee of 100 and was born from the supporters and sympathisers that Harold Steele gained from his protest against British H-Bomb testing on Christmas Island.[2] In the end he never got to Christmas Island but successfully represented the anti-nuclear cause in Japan instead.[3]

This group of people decided to organise one of the first marches to Aldermaston and the committee for organising this march became the Direct Action Committee. The original committee comprised:

They were soon joined by:

Aims and Methods

The Committee decided that in order to achieve their eventual aim of disarmament there should be two aims of their direct action. Firstly to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear weapons at their own personal cost.[5] This was partly because the campaign was a largely middle class campaign and as they were asking workers in the nuclear weapons industry to leave their jobs, or vote themselves out of their jobs, they felt that they should show that they are prepared to go to jail and lose their own jobs for the cause.[6]

The second aim of their direct action was to raise public awareness of the issues[7]

Their methods to achieve these aims were marches and vigils. Pickets and trades union campaigns, to convince workers to stop working in nuclear weapons associated industries[8]. They campaigned at elections for their causes and participated in civil disobedience.[9]

The Committee was prepared to go to jail for their cause and so set up reserve committees so that it could continue if they went to jail.

Actions

The first action planned by the Committee was the 1958 Easter weekend march from London to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston, followed by a weeklong vigil. In the end the march was jointly organised by other groups including the CND. Some months after the original march the DAC continued the campaign with an eight week picket to raise awareness of the facility in the local area and get trade unions to black work on the facility. To achieve this the Committee visited trade unions, distributed leaflets, held factory gate meetings, and canvassed in the surrounding villages.[10]

The action was widely regarded as a success with claims of some workers leaving the facility and lorry drivers not delivering their cargo.[11] The event also helped the CND campaign get off the ground by generating many new activists.[12] The CND then turned the march into a annual event but reversed the direction of the march.[13]

The DAC's second action was against the PGM-17 Thor nuclear missiles based at RAF North Pickenham. After the success of targeting their campaign at the workers of Aldermaston they increased these tactics at North Pickenham with a month’s campaign lobbying trade unions to support them. Again the campaign was declared a success with claims that one worker left the base and others saying they would if they could find other jobs. This campaign was followed by a civil disobedience project.[14]

The next action was a "no votes for the H-bomb" campaign in the South-West Norfolk by-election campaign at the beginning of 1959

After this the DAC continued their campaign against nuclear missile industries with actions in Stevenage against De Havilland and English Electric factories, which made guided missiles. Again they employed many of the same tactics as before.[15]

Their final action was a direct action against Polaris in sping 1961

International Connections

The Committee had strong international connections shown by their participiation in action against Saharan nuclear testing and the San Francisco to Moscow peace march which was organised but the American pacifist organisation the Committee for Non-Violent Action in the early 60s.[16]

Demise

With the formation of the Committee of 100 in 1960, which organised civil disobedience against nuclear weapons on a larger scale, and as the Direct Action Committee also had financial difficulties they decided in June 1961 to disband. Most of its members were active in the Committee of 100 anyway.[17]

References

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