Heady with success from November's elections in raising American voters' consciousness about the threat of atomic war, nuclear freeze activists convened here today to decide what to do next.
Among the resolutions before the conference will be one calling for public demonstrations next autumn. A Washington rally is planned for March 7-8.
Leaders of the movement to get the Soviet Union and the United States to halt nuclear weapons development won endorsements from voters in nine states and the District of Columbia, and they say they believe they have the votes in the House of Representatives to pass a resolution next month calling for a freeze.
But then what?
"Our very success in 1981 and 1982 may itself be an obstacle," notes the movement's draft strategy for 1983. "If our momentum slows down or we actually suffer political setbacks, freeze supporters may become discouraged and political leaders indifferent."
In a move to prevent that, the draft proposes two main courses: a nationwide educational and fund-raising drive to "bring overwhelming citizen pressure to bear on the Congress" and a grass-roots political effort toward making the freeze issue "a decisive factor" in the 1984 elections.
A consensus is expected here on that general strategy, but its tactics will be debated this weekend by the estimated 500 representatives of local freeze groups. Some want emphasis on lobbying in Congress against funding for particular weapons systems, while others prefer to keep the campaign in the streets.
They argue that the goal of a mutual U.S.-Soviet freeze would get lost in the details of battle over individual weapons and say strong citizen pressure for a freeze cannot help but bring results on specific legislative targets.
The draft strategy, entitled, "From Popular Mandate to Public Policy," proposes working for a cutoff of new weapons testing if a promise to do the same can be wrung from the Soviets. This could affect development of the MX intercontinental ballistics missile, Trident and cruise missiles and the B1 and "Stealth" bombers on the U.S. side, and the SSX, SS20 and new strategic bombers on the Soviet side, according to the document.
To start its political effort, the freeze movement would initiate what the document calls "ambitious fund-raising programs, locally and nationally" to help friendly politicians.
"We won't back specific candidates at this point, but we want to be sure that if we don't have an administration that will propose a freeze before 1984, that we get one afterward," said national freeze campaign coordinator Randy Kehler. " This won't be accomplished without major expansion of local organizing, especially in the South, the Southwest and parts of the upper Midwest.
"We have to raise a lot more money. We've been running on a shoestring," he added. "The opposition is much better funded than we are."
The opposition, in the view of the freeze movement, is vulnerable. Several workshops here will discuss bridge-building to business groups, conservatives and organizations traditionally hawkish on the need for a continued arms buildup. A film on the arms race from the conservative American Security Foundation will be shown to try to educate delegates in the arguments they will face.
Sessions will be devoted to teaching delegates how to show that "the arms race is integrally related to the increasing economic hardships being visited upon local communities," the proposal says.