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Committee of 100

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The Committe of 100 was a British ant-war group formed in 1960 by former CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) president Bertrand Russell, and Reverend Michael Scott.

Bertrand Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS (May 18, 1872 February 2, 1970) was an English philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, socialist, pacifist and social critic, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950, "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought. He was imprisoned for his pacifist activism during World War I, campaigned against Adolf Hitler, for nuclear disarmament, criticised Soviet totalitarianism and the United States of America's involvement in the Vietnam War.

Reverend Michael Scott (July 30, 1907 1983) was a British anti-Apartheid activist and leading international promoter of Namibian independence. He was the first white priest to fight racial oppression in South Africa, shortly before it was formalised as apartheid. He was jailed four times and deported from three countries, including post-colonial India. The white settlers in British-ruled Kenya sang hopefully of killing him on safari.

History

Russell had left CND because its leadership would not sanction any form of unlawful protest (although many within CND did), and drew the line at marches and demonstrations, while he wanted to pursue a more militant course of direct action employing civil disobedience, as pioneered by Mahatma Ghandi, which demanded a policy of non-aggression and non-retaliation by protesters. Those involved would seek to occupy an area, defend their position, refuse to obey any order given during their protest, and allow themselves to be arrested without offering any form of resistance or making any retaliation.

The group produced its own bulletin, Resistance, which kept members informed of any current actions, and was also made available to related groups such as CND.

On February 18, 1961, the first action called by the Committee saw 5,000 protesters attend a sit-down protest at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. This was followed by a protest against nuclear testing, with marches and sit-down protests at both the US and Soviet embassies, and at the Holy Loch, where a US submarine refit facility had opened in 1961, to service American Polaris submarines.

On September 17, 1961, protesters blocked roads at both the Holy Loch and Trafalgar Square. A week before this action, 36 supporters had been summoned to appear in court for "inciting members of the public to commit breaches of the peace" and were considered likely to continue to do so. Asked by the court to bind themselves to a promise of good behaviour for a period of 12 months, 32 of those present, including the 89-year-old Bertrand Russell, chose the alternative of a one month prison sentence.

On December 9, 1961, some 5,000 demonstrators attempted to blockade the American Air Force bases at Wethersfield and Ruislip. The groups continuing activities led to an escalation in the official response, and prosecutions were been raised from a simple charge of incitement to commit a breach of the peace to one of the considerably more serious offence of conspiracy under the Official Secrets Act. Six organisers of the blockade were charged with this offence and later sent to prison.

Diversification

The Committee of 100 was not only opposed to Western nuclear weapons, but also opposed Soviet nuclear weapons. In 1962, its Industrial Subcommittee organised a demonstration in Red Square, Moscow, handing out leaflets entitles Workers of the World Unite, calling for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

1962 also saw the Committee's campaigns expand into areas other than nuclear weapons, taking on issues such as civil liberties in Greece, London's third airport at Stanstead, and the Wilson government's failure to provide a promised Vietnam peace initiative. The group expanded, and soon had a network of regional committees and working groups, all reporting to a National Office based in London. However, the group also became increasingly radical, with some members perceiving it to be part of a revolution against the state, leading Russell to resign from the London Committee of 100 and transfer his support to the Welsh Committee of 100. The public image of the Committee fell after this move, and by 1963 most of the original Committee member had resigned. Although the group had insisted that its demonstration were non-violent and peaceful, protesters had been surprised by the level of force used by the police, and this, together with the use pre-emptive arrests, would contribute to a dwindling level of support for the Committee.

In 1966, Committee members were responsible for the escape of convicted Soviet spy George Blake from Wormwood Scrubs Prison.

The Committee of 100 was finally wound up in October 1968.

Spies for Peace

Members of the Committee of 100 were involved with Spies for Peace, a group which believed in direct action using methods such as infiltration, and was responsible for revealing details of the Regional Seats of Government (RSGs) in 1963, a secret network of government bunkers intended for use in the event of nuclear war.

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