By June 1961, the New England Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA) had accomplished quite a lot in its first year of operation: several submarine launch disruptions and other protest actions, the establishment of public offices and a staff, countless hours of leafleting and discussing issues, and more. But in that time, the US national media had been steadily intensifying rhetoric in the other direction: in favor of renewing nuclear weapons testing. Many in the peace movement rightly predicted that renewing weapons testing would lead to greater tensions (and thus, greater chances of nuclear war) between the United States and the Soviet Union — a prediction borne out the next year during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Over the course of this period, the New England CNVA also realized that, after the many actions and activities they had conducted over their first year of operation, it was now time to reflect on their work, assess the results, and then strategize about their next steps moving forward. The shape of the New England CNVA 1961 Summer Program was becoming clearer.
While the Summer Program would continue to carry on many of the activities of the past months, perhaps the most interesting part of the Program is the planned discussion topics. The topics can roughly be divided into “practical” and “theoretical” discussions, but many have aspects of both. The ones more on the practical side include titles like “Legal Aspects of Civil Disobedience” and “Relations with Mass Media” — relevant information for organizers and protest participants alike to evaluate personal risks and to be more effective. The more theoretical topics include the huge political philosophy question: “Can World Government Police Power Be Nonviolent?” — illustrating the scope at which the New England CNVA imagined that the peace movement could develop. Whether or not a nonviolent world police force would be possible (or right) is somewhat beside the point — through their work leafleting, protesting, and discussing, the members of the New England CNVA were building a reality in which such questions could be asked at all.
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Swann, Bob. “Summer Program.” Polaris Action Bulletin. 29 June 1961 (Bulletin #24), page 2.
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