Undercurrents was a radical 'alternative' magazine based in Brighton.



By Duncan Campbell

Undercurrents 9, 25 February, 1975

Offensive Missiles Stockholm paper 5. By Professor Kosta Tsipsis for SIPRI. (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) Sveavagen 166. 8113 - 46 Stockholm Sweden. pp. 33.

We Shall Not Be Mirved By Maurice Herson and Dan Smith of CND, 14 Grays Inn Road, London WC1. 15 separate Fact-sheets. 25 + postage.


THE SIPRI pamphlet, Offensive Missiles (i. e. Inter-Continental Nuclear Missiles) aims at exposing the deception of recent US proposals. Written in August 1974, it reveals the real intentions behind US Defence Secretary Schlesinger's war-call in February. Schlesinger wanted greater accuracy for the existing US missiles and revealed the new US strategy, which involves re-targeting away from Soviet cities and to missile silos - implying the possibility of the US making a 'first strike' as it is termed in jargon.

If the US planners really believe in this possibility, it may be the most dangerous arms race development yet.

Missile accuracy is the crucial point in such a strategy, as the pamphlet precisely explain A central section on missile physics shows bow the probability of destruction of an enemy silo goes up as (accuracy) 2 but only as (warhead size) 2/3 and the Americans are utterly in the lead in accuracy. This crucial measure may soon revolutionise the world nuclear 'balance' - yet the SALT agreement never mentioned it.

The best thing about nuclear weapons, in one way, is the chance that they'll never work. One reason is the disruptive effects of a previous nuclear explosion - on the same target, which prevent a second attack for some time after - while the attacker may himself be attacked, or the enemy missile launched. A high probability of success in one shot is absolutely vital, and, as yet, neither side's missiles have this property. SIPRI claims the deterrence concept to be valid while this situation lasts. But Schlesinger's new plans could provide the US with sufficient 'lethality' to be over 96% certain of destroying the Soviet land-based missile force, by about 1976-78.

But SIPRI points out, 'such staggering lethality does not offer any practical superiority.’ It is foolish, delusory. Enough submarine launched ICBMs would remain to 'reduce either country to rubble' -the basic deterrence concept of 'Mutually Assured Destruction' (MAD!) would still hold.

The recent SALT talks have been a fallacious deception, providing scope for as much increase in numerical strength as both sides wish - while making no restriction on accuracy. Ultimately, the Soviets will reach equality with the US in numbers of MIRV (independently targeted warheads), and maybe in the 1990s will reach the final limits of accuracy together with the US. What the SIPRI analysis shows is how the new programmes will in fact avoid the conclusion on any substantive arms limitation agreements for the next twenty years.'

I dispute, however, SIPRl's assumption of 'invulnerability' for Soviet submarines. Long range acoustic detectors span the oceans listening for the nuclear subs passing over. These, and the many 'hunter-killer' submarines, could enable destruction of many missile subs.

Were it not for the 'rogue' submarines which escape detection, the US might well feel able to destroy the Soviet Forces completely. The aggressive political posture adopted by the US in the wake of such thinking could generate a stream of 'Cuba' incidents - and an end to deterrence - forever.

A permanent end to nuclear weapons has of course been CND's cause for 16 years. The title of this pamphlet misleads a little for the sake of the pun, since the leaflet provides a factual background to and history of nuclear weapons, and of the CND's own campaigns. It is designed to satisfy 'a constant stream of requests for information on the campaign and on nuclear weapons. 'Various different sheets describe the construction and physics of Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, and their effects on houses and people. Sections on Polaris, NATO, and British Defence expenditure lead to a consideration of the concepts of deterrence, and the string of worthless treaties. A hideous quotation from Britain's 1961 Foreign Secretary, Douglas\Home; "The British people are prepared if necessary to be blown to Atomic dust" introduces a very brief criticism of popular arguments on British Nuclear Policy.

A serious and successful attempt is made to avoid the use of the mystifying jargon of the nuclear strategists, although the odd phrase does creep through. Unfortunately, a couple of contradictions have crept in; blast waves crash through successive pages at 100 mph and 2000 mph, for instance. On the whole, however, it does a good job of setting out in a clear and concise way the important points of information needed for a successful nuclear disarmament campaign. A list of films, with distributors, as well as lists of books and pamphlets, provides useful information for meeting organisers.

A flexible format has been used, perhaps to allow easy continuous revision and updating. A larger version, with details of SA L T and Schlesinger proposals, and the implications of the Indian * and Israeli stockpiles, could be a useful first revision.

It might also be informative to include some analysis of the social structures, the US military-industrial system, for example, which have brought this situation about. But then, CND has faced dilemma over the extent of appropriate radicalism, from its inception.

* CND do publish a separate pamphlet After the Indian Bomb', also by Dan Smith. lOp.


ABERFELDY: the Third World begins at home

UNDERCURRENTS' person-on-the-spot-in-the-glens recently took a trip, along­side the media hordes, to a small highland community - Strathtay, the upper area of the Tay valley centred on the town of Aberfeldy. The Elysium sought at Aberfeldy is a familiar one to Undercurrents readers, the goal of a self-sufficient community. Out despite the recent accumulation of articles about self sufficiency at Aberfeldy, what the group there is talking about is rather different. ....

By Duncan Campbell,

Undercurrents 11,

The Strathtay region is fertile; much of the farming is concentrated on sheep and beef cattle - some 30,000 head, mostly sheep. Oats, barley and wheat are produc­ed, milled and used locally. Aberfeldy's mill, run by a local merchant, stone grinds, driven by a ten foot water wheel. Two staples - porridge and flour - are produced by the mill. Potatoes and eggs com­plete the picture, a very different one from 100 years ago, when a larger population produced all their food directly from the land (and not a little for the lairds).

The changes of the last century are felt very keenly by many of the farmers. Their farming roots in an isolated area of Scotland have generated social attitudes very different from those of the entrepreneurial farmers of more southern parts. They feel, with varying degrees of articulation that the external market system imposed on them by industrial capitalism has subverted their roles and lifestyles. Agriculture has shifted from small scale self-sufficient diversity to stultifying monoculture. As the regional monoculture has developed, demand for industrial products has been. As the regional monoculture has developed, demand for industrial products has been forced on the community - typically, the demand for artificial fertilisers to support high-yield strains of crops. Another exam­ple of this process at Aberfeldy is the absence of dairy farming, and the consequent transport of milk 33 miles from Perth. No fresh local vegetables are available.

And, all-too-typically for a community with abundant wind and water, Aberfeldy draws its energy from outside, via the Hydro-Electric Boards grid centre - ironically just a few miles away at Pitlochry.

But it is more than just the distortion of agriculture that has motivated the Aberfeldy group. One of the, a doctor, is an active campaigner for naturally grown and fresh food. He sees the pattern of modern diseases - ulcers, dental caries, cancer - as a direct result of the change in nutrition and consumption - again imposed by outside industrial forces. Increasingly, processed and tinned food has re­placed traditional produce in the community's diet.

It is in this context, and that of the re­cent dramatic price inflation, that the group's suggestions must be seen. It is not self-sufficiency as an ideal, or the need to 'survive' against some threat that has mot­ivated them. Rather, they are reacting to oppression by the cities, the wealthy and industrialised regions of Britain. They refer to themselves as the "primary producers", and wonder at the economic system which

has so devalued them and their work - especially recently. They are suspicious of government and its activities; run from and mandated by the city and industrial majority, they see it as "run by industrial­ists for industrialists".

The group, which has a core of about a dozen including several farmers, a doctor, and the merchant/miller, first met and spoke in September 1974. They made sug­gestions to the community around and in Aberfeldy about impending shortages of food, and urged the cultivation of back gardens in the town, walled gardens at the larger country houses, and of spare areas of land. Dairy produce should once again be available from local farms. Local game should no longer be exported. There has been some response; the group has contin­ued to meet informally and have had dis­cussions with local councils, the Farmers Union and the people of Aberfeldy. Some of the town's fallow land is now raising vegetables.

AT (?) has even crept in, through a visit from the area's solitary solar heater owner, from some miles down the river Tay. His main hope, however, is to obtain electricity from a stream beside his house, and he suggests that eventually electric power might be obtained for the community from turbines in culverts beside the fast­flowing Tay.

But the greater response has come from the media. A steady stream has tripped along to discover Aberfeldy's plans for self-sufficiency and survival. Says John Campbell-Smith, a cattle farmer from Glen Lyon, "Newspapers have perpetuated the idea that we'd come up with a plan for survival. The initiative has slipped away from our grasp. One or two of us now are almost professional interviewees."

Self-sufficiency, survival, is a growing business. New Scientist organises conferences about it; North Sea oil preoccupies the pundits. And the media snap it up - which hasn't helped the ideas from Aberfeldy. Self-sufficiency and survival have roots in the authoritarian 'private armies' of the right just as much as in lib­ertarian socialism. The stories from Aberfeldy now are about the balance of payments - or worse. 'Doom Valley' blared the Scottish Daily Mail in its contribution to the bandwagon. A recent Scotsman article demonstrated a characteristic obsession with the water wheel, while saying nothing, of the original ideas. Oppression and ex­ploitation from outside are no strangers to Scotland - from the highland clearances to the class struggle on Clydeside'.

[That] My view of Aberfeldy is rather different matters not to farmers here [concerned] about industrial class struggles (doesn’t seem to make sense); their lives and work have been dominated by external change - in economics, in technology, and only eventually in social patterns (indeed the 'change point' of the area might well be the arrival of the railway technology of the 1860s). The nearest parallel to their attitudes is not among the communes movement, but among those third-world countries who see clearly their exploitation by the rich industrial countries. The gross imbalance between producers and consumers - the cities contain most of the people but produce virtually no food - is seen as an instability, leading eventually to food price inflation and eventually shortage, and the downfall of the cities. We've seen this future before. But it’s worth listening to one particular view, again from John Campbell-Smith, who believes that "industrial and financial society will collapse .. People will return to the land". He sees this happening not with relish or despair, but with a prophetic neutral acceptance  of the inevitable. He expects trekkers from the city, coming back to the land, indeed squatting and homesteading on the farming land on his farm just as others. His timescale, in months rather than years, we might disagree with. But it does show how remote this community is from the media which have so eagerly approached them, and from industrial society. The farmers’ national lobby today speaks in a very different language. Their members are entrepreneur who have industrialised their farms, and whose command of economics is turned to the service of their profits. The initiative from Aberfeldy, mainly from farmers also, has a very different form, and one which may grow; they represent the 'Third World' of rural Britain.


Scotland oppressed: watch or read 'The Cheviot. The Stag. and The Black Black Oil', stirring and near revolutionary street theatre by John McGrath. Somehow, Its been on the BBC, twice! (copies available from West High­land Free Press, Kyleakin, Isle of Skye, or Better Books, Edinburgh. Also the Red Book on Scotland to be reviewed In the next Issue of Undercurrents. (from EUSPB, Buccleugh Gardens, Edinburgh).


The Heathrow Manoeuvres

Was there an atomic threat?

By Duncan Campbell

Undercurrents 11


When troops and tanks were sent into Heathrow Airport in the second week of January 1974, it was quickly clear that, whatever the truth was, the government wasn't telling it.

The official line was that "terrorists may try to mount an anti-aircraft attack with missiles. Troops and police are attempting to cover areas over which aircraft pass low as they take off and land (Times, Jan 7th). The threat was almost universally assumed to come from Arab terrorists, such as the group arrested in Rome in September 1973. The terrorists possessed the SAM-7 Russian, surface-to-air missile, it was said. And according to the same Times report and others, the SAM-7 had a height range of 3000 feet and a radius of 3 miles, homing on a source of heat, such as an aircraft exhaust".

That any newspaper could publish these two facts simultaneously without comment is astonishing. Commercial airliners frequently pass over central London at heights lower than 3000 feet, and on westbound approaches to Heathrow will almost certainly fly over West London at less than 2500 feet. Indeed, airliners on short haul routes or hops such as Heathrow /Orly, frequently do not rise above 5000 feet at all. An Arab terrorist armed with a shoulder-fired missile needs only to sit on his patio in Richmond and listen to Air Traffic Control on his VHF radio in order to pick off, say, the EI A flight incoming from Tel Aviv. But the 400 troops and police confined themselves to setting up checkpoints for one mile round Heathrow, plus "patrols as far as Windsor and Eton in the West, and as far as “Chiswick in the East" (Daily Telegraph, Jan 7th). An occasional salty up the A4 to the Chiswick flyover is unlikely to have deterred the hypothetical terrorist, who might have been anywhere in the neighbouring 50 square miles. Whatever the troops went in for, it wasn't to protect airliners against SAM attack.

A further discrepancy in the official story was the use of Scorpion light tanks and Saracen, Saladin, and Ferret armoured cars by the troops. The use of a tank gun in a built up area is inconceivable; it could not have been fired without causing immense damage even to a deserted airport. Even the light guns on some armoured cars would be unusable. There was an official explanation for the tanks: the Army had to use "whatever vehicles were available for transport and communications at short notice" (Daily Telegraph, Jan 8th).

This explanation was nonsense. There are five infantry battalions (of 400 men) stationed in and around London, anyone of which could have been posted to Heathrow. In fact, the government sent in the Blues and Royals, an armoured regiment who are equipped with tanks and armoured cars. They had come from Windsor Barracks, where at least 400 troops of the Grenadier Guards were available, together with some 30 to 40 trucks and land-rovers. Both the units sent (the Blues and Royals and the Irish Guards) also have sufficient normal transport available (again about 30 trucks and land-rovers) for 'transport and communication’ purposes. As a last resort, the Cavalry Headquarters, Hounslow would have had plenty of transport, just 6 miles away from Heathrow. So the use of tanks and armoured cars was a deliberate part of the Government strategy.

As the siege of Heathrow continued, some details leaked out. Reports on January 10th, both here and in Europe, said that "it was triggered by the discovery, over Christmas, that a number of NATO missiles and other weapons had been stolen from a Belgian Army base, apparently the one at Duren, near Cologne. II (Guardian, Jan loth)

"There was no evidence,” the report continued, "that SAM-7s had been smuggled into Europe, as a number of reports have suggested." This somewhat open-ended story from Richard Norton-Taylor and David Fairhall went on to point out the discrepancies in Home Secretary Robert Carr's statement on January 7th.

The reports, which came from both NATO and Belgian sources, were unclear as to exactly what weapons had been stolen. Although they Belgian Army itself possesses no nuclear weapons, it administers the Duren depot (which is in fact inside the German border) on behalf of NATO. This depot is one of a network west of the River Rhine, which" includes Machrihanish and Glen Douglas in Scotland, and Alconbury, Chepstow, and Burtonwood in England. The depots are administered by different armies on behalf of NATO. Like the British depots maintained by the UK and the US. Duren is likely to hold nuclear munitions for use by tactical forces. And these could include Honest John atomic shells.

Meanwhile, the official line changed, to become the threat of an American Redeye antiaircraft missile in the hands of an unspecified terrorist group. This, once again, was nonsense - an attempt to cover up whatever the truth of the leak was. The Redeye missile is an exact equivalent of the SAM-7, heat-seeking, and with a range of 3000 feet or so. Like its Soviet brother it is portable and is fired from the shoulder.

There is little doubt that whatever did go on at Duren that Christmas night led directly to the Heathrow manoeuvres eleven days later. Precautions began immediately: “most major European Airports were put under heavy guard on Boxing Day," (Sunday Times, Jan 13th), and more than airports were involved: according to various reports, military guards were immediately deployed along the Belgian/Dutch and Belgian/ German frontier. The French Anti-Commando Brigade (CRS) was mobilised and on alert.

A report in Canada (see Times, Jan 7th) said that Britain's Air Defence system was alerted on January 4th, due to fears of an (airborne) rocket attack.

For some reason, the alert was stepped up during and after the first week in January. Troops moved into Heathrow airport on January 5th. On January 13th, the Sunday Times reported that armoured cars were patrolling all major German airports, and that heavy military guard had been placed on refineries, petrol barges, and depots. The Dutch Army patrolled its Belgian border from January 9th. Brussels airport was heavily guarded, as were major airports in Denmark, the N Netherlands, France and Italy. Whoever took the NATO weapons was still around and active two weeks later.

It also seems likely that a careful plot to infiltrate NATO had been worked out. A report from SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe) spoke of a Duren employee who "revealed the theft [and] refused to talk anymore and to give details which could help investigators." (Daily Telegraph, Jan 10th). Nothing more was ever heard of this person, whom another report implied to be a conscripted Belgian Officer.


Certainly, the official line on the Heathrow manoeuvres was greeted with derision, if not in the national press, at least in many other magazines. The story didn't, couldn't fit. A popular alternative was to view it as a rehearsal for the British Army 'coming back home' to practice counter-insurgency on the mainland - or as a preparation for the military coup on which Lord Chalfont and others were luridly speculating at the time. This story just doesn't fit either; far too many things were going on, extending far out of the reach of any British Military control, for the coup rehearsal theory to be plausible. There is some evidence, indeed, that this line of thought may have been encouraged as a cover-up by the Home Office. In mid January, Army Ferret scout cars and others followed a Workers Revolutionary Party demonstration through central London, apparently by coincidence. With the blitz of Private Army stories hitting Britain during the summer, these and all such events have - to the Left especially - become part of preparations for a 'fascist takeover.” But could the take-over story have been planted on the Left? - it was certainly unlikely as far as those Heathrow manoeuvres were concerned. (Although the 'continuing exercises' may be a different story - once you're on to a good thing!)

With the little information that has leaked out of Belgium and NATO, it is possible to reconstruct the events and lay a whole new interpretation on them, however.

A terrorist group infiltrated the Belgian Army, culminating in the theft of some weapon or weapons from the Duren base early on Boxing Day. The theft was discovered some five hours later, by which time the group would have had time to travel to parts of Germany, Belgium, the~ Netherlands, or possibly France. By the time a watch was put on ports and borders, they might well have had time to get rather further afield. The weapon or weapons stolen could have been the atomic shells used in the Honest John gun, which is standard NATO equipment.


If it became known that a terrorist group possessed an atomic weapon, the group would have unique power. Even if they had stolen it and then just buried it in a field, or merely sent an envelope of weapons-grade plutonium to the UN, they would have to be taken very seriously.

The political tactics of a 'People's bomb' have been considered elsewhere. (See "Towards a People's Bomb" by Pat Coyne in Undercurrents No.2). The more practical aspects of revolutionary atomic warfare might work like this.

It is necessary to select a target which is vital to the 'enemy' country's economy and will therefore be a real threat. It would also seem inappropriate to attack a city, however easy, since the urban population may well be that which you wish to win over. But an airport is an ideal target on two grounds:-

(1) It represents an immense amount of capital accumulation, both in terms of hardware and in terms of trading importance. (2) The entire transport system around a major airport is geared: to very fast movement of large numbers of people. It follows, therefore, that an airport's hinterland is the largest area of most-easily-evacuated population.

The intensification of activity around mid-January suggests that the group had surfaced with a threat to a major European airport. Although threats from the usual Arab terrorist/European anarchist/IRA groups are normally published, in order to win so-called 'moderates' to the government's side, on this occasion nothing was heard except vague references. Yet manifestly, a serious threat had been made to Western Europe, in harder terms than "intelligence reports".

Of course we don't mow what weapons they took, or where they took them. But one guide is the extraordinary deployment of tanks a short distance from Heathrow. It might well be that, given a group determined to get within a mile of Heathrow in a heavy truck, tanks alone could have stopped them. It would have been safe to shoot, as the population would have been evacuated. It would be almost impossible to set off the nuclear warhead as the result of a conventional explosion by a tank shell: each sub-critical mass has to come together at the right place at the right time and speech Also, the neutron reflector around it must be intact. The Heathrow military deployment would be appropriate to the small but definite possibility of an atomic attack by terrorists.

But nothing happened. The precautions all over Europe petered out a few weeks later, while Britain was in the throes of a three day week, the miners’ strike, general election and other Heath-mania. Since no bomb went off, no airliner was attacked, and no radical demands were quietly met by any European Government (to our knowledge) we must assume that they failed. Since the terrorists' accomplice inside the Duren base was caught it is possible that he broke down under psychological torture by NATO, and may have assisted in their capture a few weeks later - though no-one, apparently, was brought to trial. But then it would have been impossible to try them without exposing the truth about the atom bomb theft; and to do so would be politically inexpedient. Very inexpedient.

Ephemeral figures, quietly shot, their bodies burned they never existed. Was this the end of the European Freedom Fighters, and their Peoples' Bomb?