Radio Prague versus Ronald Reagan

Photo: United States Government / public domain

The last years of the Brezhnev era were a period of deep mistrust between the Soviet Union and the United States. As disarmament talks stumbled and both countries expanded their nuclear arsenals, the popularity of the peace movement in the West grew. The governments of communist countries saw this as an opportunity to try to influence Western public opinion and Radio Prague’s English-language broadcasts were part of this process.

“Why the anti-war movement?” were the opening words of a special Radio Prague documentary in 1983. In June of that year Prague had hosted the biggest international anti-nuclear weapons conference to date, with the rather cumbersome title: “The World Assembly for Peace and Life, Against Nuclear War”. Many Western peace organizations, including Britain’s influential Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, shunned the event, seeing it as a Soviet political platform, but over 3,500 delegates did take part. Radio Prague’s report on the event made it clear who Czechoslovakia thought was to blame for the arms race.

“Washington is bent on spending trillions on MX, Midgetman, Trident II and other missiles, on laser-beam weapons, nerve gas and other means of mass annihilation… The Reagan administration’s visceral and primitive anti-communism and visions of an American-dominated world, translated into its policy of confrontation with the Soviet Union and the world’s national liberation movements are dangerously steering the world’s two socio-economic systems onto a collision course…. All of this has aroused concern among peace-loving people everywhere and has generated an unprecedented and ever-rising tide of the peace and anti-war movement, even in Mr Reagan’s own land.”

The report then continued with interviews with some of the delegates, introducing each by name and where they came from:

[Dr Alan Brash, National Council of Churches, New Zealand:] “The important thing for me is that these people from all their separate countries are speaking and being together, getting to know one another and showing the world that all over the world there are people of significance, representing movements of significance, who really want to see an end to this nuclear threat.”

Photo: United States Government / public domain
[Amarjit Singh Saini, a lawyer from Karnal, Haryana State, India:] “‘It’s not the government who’s going to die if there’s a war. It’s everybody. It’s the concern of the common man. So the common man has to be part of the organization, a part of the peace movement, and it should be made universal.”

[Karen Talbot, an American member of the international secretariat of the assembly:] “There has been a tremendous explosion of action for peace in the United States, especially the Freeze movement - the movement calling for a freeze of nuclear weapons bilaterally, and there’s been action on every level in the United States, from the smallest communities to the largest cities.”

Radio Prague’s broadcast concluded by looking at the peace movement as represented in different groups in society, starting with politicians and educators and then moving on to…

“…artists: Today, we need to think of art, intelligent, seeable, readable, likeable, entertaining and purposeful art as a militant expression in the struggle for peace…”

and finally…

“…women: We have so much in common that we are truly sisters. Our love for all children, our instinctive capacity to nurture and protect, our inexhaustible determination to guarantee the survival of life.”

And then, to the sound of a rather cheesy rendering of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, Radio Prague’s report on the 1983 World Assembly for Peace and Life, Against Nuclear War came to a close.