The Ploughshares Movement

What is Ploughshares?

Ploughshares actions are made by people committed to peace and disarmament and who nonviolently, safely, openly and accountably disable a war machine or system so that it can no longer harm people.

Ploughshares activists are given training in safety and nonviolence and form groups for long-term support. Ploughshares is an enactment of the Biblical prophecies to ’beat swords into ploughshares’ but is now no longer a Christian movement but one which embraces people from many different faiths or from none at all. The underlying appeal is the universal call to peace, to abolish all war and to find peaceful ways to resolve our conflicts. It recognises the abuse of power that war always is, and the deep immorality of threats to kill.

Ploughshares actions started in 1980 in the USA and have taken place in many different countries with weapons as diverse as rifles, warships, missiles, submarines and aircraft being dismantled or damaged. In Britain a successful ’Seeds of Hope’ Ploughshares action was one carried out by 4 women who did £1.5 million worth of damage to a British Aerospace Hawk jet. The plane was prevented from being exported to Indonesia where it may have been used to continue the genocide being committed in East Timor. The women were acquitted in a landmark case at Liverpool Crown Court in July 1996 having argued that their act was justified in law as they were preventing British complicity in genocide.


Trident Ploughshares

Trident Ploughshares (initially called Trident Ploughshares 2000 or TP2000) was publicly launched in Hiroshima, Gothenburg, Gent, Edinburgh and London on May 2nd 1998. Trident Ploughshares aims to train and enable hundreds of international global citizens to dismantle the British Trident nuclear weapon system. Our justification and mandates for our disarmament actions are:-

  •  The Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of 8th July 1996 that confirmed the general illegality of nuclear weapons and concluded that States are under an obligation to bring to a conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.
  • The very clear mandate the British population have given in recent polls showing a majority of people in favour of nuclear disarmament.
  • The British Labour Party’s own election promises to achieve global nuclear disarmament.
  • The failure of the British Government to implement Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which promised nuclear disarmament by the nuclear powers.
  • The long-term opposition of the vast majority of the world’s Peoples and States who have called for global nuclear disarmament ever since the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.

Words are not enough. With the ending of the Cold War and into a new millennium, the time is ready for a concerted attempt to disarm these terrible weapons of mass destruction.

People’s Disarmament

Trident Ploughshares are engaging in direct communication with the British Government and asking for dialogue. They wrote an Open Letter to the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair on 18th March 1998 that outlined their project and their nine requests for the controlled disarmament of British nuclear forces. These requests are:

  • British Trident submarine system must immediately be taken off 24-hour patrols.
  • No new Trident missiles are to be purchased from the United States.
  • All British nuclear warheads must be removed from their delivery systems and stored separately.
  •  No further deployment of US nuclear weapons in Britain. Britain should work with its NATO allies for withdrawal of all tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and for establishment of a policy not to use nuclear weapons first or against non-nuclear-armed adversaries in any circumstances.
  • Trident missiles are to be returned to the United States and the warheads to be returned to AWE Aldermaston/Burghfield by an agreed date.
  •  Commitment to a timetable for the decommissioning of British nuclear weapons as fast as is feasible and safe, with a target date for completion of 2010 at the latest.
  • Pledge not to replace Trident or seek to acquire nuclear weapons again.
  • Conversion of Britain’s nuclear weapon facilities from research and development in the maintenance and production of the nuclear arsenal, towards the decommissioning of nuclear weapons and facilities.
  • To providing safe management and disposal of nuclear materials under strict and effective national and international safeguards and controls, and the enhanced verification of international agreements on weapons of mass destruction.
  • Active and constructive British involvement in the determined pursuit by the nuclear-weapon states of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the goal of negotiating interim agreements leading to a nuclear weapons convention as early as possible. The genuineness and constructiveness of this commitment will be gauged from the positions taken by Britain in United Nations General Assembly resolutions, the Non-Proliferation Treaty review process, the Conference on Disarmament, five-power talks, NATO, and other related forums.

If a substantial portion of the requests are met then Trident Ploughshares will stop its disarmament actions.

Track-record of Ploughshares

Ploughshares point out that their capacity to carry out disarmament actions is a proven one. On many occassions protesters have entered, undetected, into nuclear submarines, into naval bases and damaged Trident-related equipment. In April 1998 security at the Trident bases, near Glasgow, was tightened after protesters ’borrowed’ a police boat from inside the high security area by the Explosives Handling Jetty at Coulport and drove it 40 minutes round the Lochs into another High Security Area in Faslane, where they landed a woman only yards away from two Trident submarines.

“We were putting it to its right and proper use – taxpayers expect police equipment to be used to uphold the law”, said Angie Zelter, “That is what we did, we used the boat to investigate the ongoing British conspiracy to commit war crimes and grave breaches of international humanitarian law with weapons of mass destruction.”