NEW JERSEY ABOLITION 2000 PROPOSAL
Prepared by the South Jersey Campaign for Peace and Justice Third draft - 10/15/95
THE ABOLITION 2000 CAMPAIGN -- THE TIME IS RIGHT
From the first time we heard about the Abolition 2000 campaign, we thought it made a lot of sense. It immediately makes a connection with an important historical movement dedicated to end another destructive force in our society, and provides the "vision" which every movement needs.
The time seems right to advance toward nuclear disarmament because:
New Jersey may be a particularly good place to build support for Abolition 2000 because the administration in Trenton mirrors Congress in Washington, and because NJ's people have a strong history of involvement and support for the nuclear freeze and non-proliferation campaigns of the early 1980s. 76% of NJ's voters (1.8 million yes votes cast) supported a freeze In 1982 - more than any other of the nine states with the freeze referendum on the ballot.
THE REFERENDUM -- AN EXCELLENT ORGANIZING TOOL
The challenge in building any grassroots movement for social change is to reach people who are not already part of it, sway their opinion, and provide them with an opportunity to do something meaningful. Too often our organizing "preaches to the choir."
To reach new people, effective use of print and visual media is critical. A referendum campaign, because it becomes part of the electoral process, facilitates media attention. Candidates and issues on the ballot always get coverage -- automatically. Add to that the unique qualities of grassroots referendum -- they're relatively uncommon, they represent democracy in its purest form, and they are usually initiated because elected officials are way out of synch with public opinion -- and you have media interest that goes way beyond the usual educational forum, speaker or rally. It is a way to legitimize our issue in the eyes of the media and the general public.
Referenda also provide a way to shape the terms of debate, rather than reacting to the plans and policies of government. It allows a grassroots initiative to assert very clearly that the goal is total abolition of nuclear weapons on a global scale, and nothing less.
The Freeze campaign in the early 1980s jelled after the successful referenda campaigns in western Massachusetts. California activists responded next, collecting enough signatures to get the question on the ballot. Other States soon followed, but even before election day -- the Administration in Washington and Congress started to respond by taking a softer stand on nuclear weapons. Freeze legislation started to appear in Congress, and from this point forward the impact of this grassroots movement was profound and undeniable. In all of the referendum campaigns together, almost 11 million Americans voted for the nuclear weapons freeze.
We propose that the NJ Abolition 2000 campaign be structured around an effort to place an appropriate statement on the ballot in the November 1996 general election. We further suggest that this be the organization's primary priority in 1996, with efforts to advance the Comprehensive Test Ban and redirect military spending for social needs built into the referendum campaign. We need a catchy motto, perhaps a variation of the Freeze slogan: "Only one person can prevent a nuclear war. You."
STATE-WIDE REFERENDA IN THE GLOBAL CONTEXT
The process to attain global abolition of nuclear weapons would be negotiated through the United Nations, like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has been. The UN has a special Conference on Disarmament which includes representatives from 40 nations. This group could ask the UN General Assembly for a negotiation mandate for a global abolition treaty. The U.S. is critical because the Security Council would have to approve this mandate before the UN General Assembly could act on it.
Referenda in the US would encourage our government to support Security Council and General Assembly action to negotiate a global abolition treaty which would be in place by the year 2000. Referenda organized by peace movements in other nations, particularly Security Council member nations, would be especially important.
With the mandate, the UN could build on existing treaties like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty. Bi-lateral agreements negotiated outside the UN would also be built into the process, like the START treaties between the US and Russia. Perhaps the most complicated part of a global abolition treaty would be the verification methods/process which would be used to verify scheduled nuclear weapons reductions.
A FOCUSED CAMPAIGN IS THE BEST WAY TO BUILD MEMBERSHIP
The Summer 1995 issue of Peace Action reported that Peace Action's National Congress adopted two organization-building goals: 1) doubling Peace Action's membership by 2000; and 2) and fundraising training programs for affiliates.
Membership grows most effectively during highly focused and visible organizing campaigns. Fundraising also improves in this context because the organization's work takes on a much higher profile and has a tangible impact. Education campaigns are not enough. Education must be part of a campaign that has a clear objective(s), identifiable targets, and a logical strategy. A referendum ballot campaign focused on a timeline for abolishing nuclear weapons has those elements.
We realize that getting the referendum on the ballot in 1996 is a challenge. There are some strong arguments for this time frame. First, the 1996 election will be a national, including a presidential election. Voter interest is always higher for a national election, and higher yet in a presidential election year. The 1997 election will not include national office.
Second, the Nuclear Freeze campaign took off after the campaigns in western Massachusetts in 1980. Two years later, nine states and numerous localities had referendums on the ballot. If we are serious about the year 2000 goal, some momentum must be generated now. Perhaps our efforts will motivate campaigns in other states, campaigns which necessarily would have to be spread over 1996-98.
Finally, our goal is a global one, so grassroots groups all over the world will need to initiate similar campaigns (some may already be underway; we need to find out) to pressure their governments to endorse the abolition of nuclear weapons. Perhaps we will have US referenda in 1996-98, followed by provincial and national referenda in other countries continuing into the next century. For a global Abolition 2000, we are already behind schedule.
Phase I -GETTING THE QUESTION ON THE BALLOT January through May 1996
The first step requires drafting the ballot statement and the resolution that backs it up. This is not a trivial task, and we propose that a team of "experts" who are extremely well-informed about nuclear disarmament issues be called together to do this.
The Abolition 2000 goal is a realistic one -- that a global abolition treaty under the auspices of the UN be in place by the year 2000 which would describe a process and schedule for achieving total abolition of nuclear weapons within ten to fifteen years. The mandate for abolition already exists in Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (signed 1968; effective March 1970; see Attachment 1), but this document provides no timeline or clear process to attain it.
The ballot question and supporting resolution must be clear, concise and firm in presenting our vision as a concrete and attainable goal.
Unfortunately, in New Jersey, there is no provision in state law for a citizen initiative. We can only get the question on the ballot, even as a non-binding referendum, with a two-thirds majority vote in both the NJ Assembly and the NJ Senate. This information has been provided by attorney Alan Karcher, a former member of the NJ Assembly and an anti-nuclear activist.
We propose to write to Peace Action affiliates and other progressive groups around the State asking them to approach the State legislators in their area to support the ballot question. Peace Action could prepare an initial mailing to all members of the NJ Assembly and Senate, asking them to indicate whether they would support putting the question on the ballot. This would allow us to target legislators who are either ambivalent or negative to the idea. Formal petitions might be used to help sway the legislators. The Assembly and Senate votes should take place no later than May of 1996.
As soon as groups agree to work on the campaign, they will be provided with organizing packets that will include:
- the Cold War has been over for five years, yet the promise of reduced military spending has not been realized, and the arms race continues;
several recent polls indicate 55% support for abolition of nuclear weapons;
the present Congress is especially insensitive to this indication of public opinion, and presses for reduced social spending on the backs of the poor instead of the military;
- the 1945 nuclear holocaust came to the forefront (much too briefly) as a result of the 50th anniversary remembrances in the US and around the world;
- France has resumed nuclear testing, and China has been actively testing nuclear weapons; and
disarmament was almost achieved at Reykjavik in 1986;
- a provision of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty calls for the eventual abolition of all nuclear weapons (Article VI of the Treaty);
- the Non-Proliferation Treaty comes up for international review in 2000, with annual meetings beginning in 1997.
Following the lead of the Nuclear Freeze movement, local groups will be given a great deal of latitude to plan how they will advance their campaign locally, and how they will win support of State legislators. They will be expected to raise funds to implement their strategy, although NJ Peace Action may consider applying for grants not only for state-wide coordination, but also to provide a pool of funds to support local organizing efforts.
NJ Peace Action's primary role will be as a clearinghouse and a resource for information and literature, and perhaps some money.
JUNE 1996 REGIONAL RALLIES
Once the signatures have- been submitted and the question is on the ballot, groups in each region of the State will be encouraged to hold regional rallies to:
- a description of the campaign strategy and schedule from Jan through Nov. 1996;
- a petition form with the ballot statement at the top and instructions about filling it out, copying it and returning it to NJ Peace Action;
- instructions to guide meetings with Assembly people and State Senators;
- a simple brochure and a one-page fact sheet about why people should support this campaign;
- a longer, but less than 10-page NJ Peace Action position paper which will frame the most convincing arguments, provide back-up information, and include a list of other resources -- in short, everything any organizer might possibly need to win support for abolition of
- Creating a Common Agenda (summary and 72-page report), and other clear and concise information emphasizing peace conversion and explaining haw "corporate welfare" and the 1 military rob social programs;
- large posters which will include, in big letters, a copy of the ballot question;
- information about how to obtain a listing of all registered voters in any election district; and
- use of electronic mail and the internets as organizing tools;
- latest information about the preferred way to get print and visual media coverage for events, including electronic mail and group meetings with editorial staff.
We propose that three rallies be planned: South Jersey and Trenton area; New Brunswick area; and North Jersey.
Either before or after the actual rally event, regional activists and organizers could meet to prepare their work for the next 5 months. In its resource role, NJ Peace Action would provide information to assist local groups in doing the following:
- celebrate success with the first phase of the campaign; and
- get organizers prepared for the work of reaching out to voters and getting out the vote on election day.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER STATEWIDE MEGA-EVENT
We propose that NJ Peace Action coordinate, with assistance from local groups in the campaign, a mega-event designed to bring out 10,000 people to be entertained, but also to hear a message about the Abolition 2000 campaign.
The Nuclear Freeze efforts successfully involved a number of name entertainers and performers, including Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, James, Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel, Jill Clayburgh, Joan Baez and the Philadelphia Orchestra. MANA -Musicians Against Nuclear Arms -- existed at that time and it or a similar group may be a resource today.
The event would serve as a fundraiser (assuming a supportive entertainer) as well as a press event and rally.
asking local elected bodies (city and township councils, county freeholders) to pass resolutions endorsing the Abolition 2000 campaign (it probably would be important to, at a minimum, get resolutions passed in a few large cities geographically distributed around the State, e.g. Camden, Trenton, New Brunswick, Newark and Jersey City);
approaching other peace groups, student organizations, churches, labor unions, and community groups to win their endorsement and commitment to reach out to their memberships; and
planning for election day with phone banks, mailings, transportation, poll coverage and the like.
Common Agenda Coalition and the National Priorities Project. Creating a Common Agenda, Northampton: National Priorities Project, Inc., 1995.
Cortright, David. Peace Works: The Citizen's Role in Ending the Cold War. Boulder: Westview Press, 1993.
Cortright, David, "Assessing Peace Movement Effectiveness in the 1980s," Peace and Change, Vol. 16, No.l, January 1991.
Laszlo and Yoo (eds.) World Encyclopedia of Peace, Vol 3: Treaties; Chronology of the Peace Movement; and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, pp. 91-94.
Meyer, David, "Protest Cycles and Political Process: American Peace Movements in the Nuclear Age," Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 3, September 1993.
Peace Action, Vol. 34, No. 2, Summer 1995.
Solo, Pam. From Protest to Policy. Cambridge: Ballinger Publishing Co., 1988.
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