John Desmond Bernal



Publisher: British Peace Committee, 81 City Road, London. Later editions also published by the World Peace Council;
Published: 1953;
Printer: Haynor Publications, London;
HTML Markup: Pierre Marshall.


THE world has had enough and far more than enough of war. Even if we could forget the senseless slaughter of Korea, we would be reminded every day of the inroads that war is making on our lives—less food, dearer clothes, curtailment of every kind of useful expenditure, on scientific research, on schools, on hospitals, even on houses. Worst of all is the loss of the hope of a better world that did [something to compensate for the destruction and suffering of the last war. Unless we break with present policies what we have to look forward to is, at best, an indefinite period of rearmament taking up more and more of natural and human resources and filling the world with suspicion and hatred; at worst, the horrors of an atomic war. We are in the middle of an economic crisis, a coal crisis, a power crisis, a labour crisis. The standard of living, we are told, must go down and we are exhorted to work harder and longer into the bargain.

Everybody'knows by now that all this misery and disappointment, this fear of the future, is not due to any fault or weakness of the peoples but simply and solely to the policy of rearmament. But, they are told, rearmament, however unpleasant, is necessary, for without it they would be defenceless and in danger of losing everything they value. Rearmament is held up as a basis fox-negotiation from strength, as the only safe road to Peace. Yet experience of two major wars in this century would seem to show that rearmament does, in fact, lead to war and has never yet led to Peace. Nor does it guarantee security. All the countries taking part in the last war suffered cruelly in the killing of men, women and children, in the burning of shops, homes and factories. That was done with old-fashioned weapons: we know that there are now hundreds of atomic bombs that can kill people by the hundreds of thousands at a time.

People are now, in spite of everything governments tell them, refusing to accept unquestioningly this way of danger and despair and are demanding that some other way be found: that before we are committed beyond turning back, every effort should be made to find real security without the risks and sacrifices that are getting beyond bearing.

It was this popular demand expressing itself in many ways - through the organised peace movements, through trades unions and co-operatives, in that general wave of feeling that politicians recognise as public opinion-Aha made itself felt throughout the world and forced the United States, and with it Britain and France, for the first time to put forward their own plans for disarmament.

It was the pressure of public opinion, appalled by the headlong drive to war, that succeeded in impelling President Truman to propose discussions to find “another way.” But, before we are securely on it, before words are matched by deeds, that pressure will have to be intensified and its supporters must be well informed. It will not just be sufficient to feel a horror of war in its new and most barbarous guise of atomic warfare. Before a real turn for the better can be made, enough people must learn and understand what are the essential features of a genuine and workable disarmament scheme. They must find a way to it so fair, quick and practical that, if necessary, Governments can be forced to advocate it.

been so ringed round with complications and misunderstandings, some honest but mostly deliberate, that many people have never seen it in its true light, while others are just simply confused and inclined to leave it all to the high-ups who know best. It is the object of this pamphlet to attempt to - clear up this confusion. It aims at bringing out what the military and political problems of disarmament really are and how they can be solved. In this it follows the work of the Disarmament Commission of the World Council of Peace, which has examined these problems in the light of the tense and unstable condition of the world today and has attempted to indicate the general lines along which a solution might be found.


It would, however, be a tragic error to discuss disarmament as an issue by itself. Up till now, for all the talk about it, it remains an unrealised idea. The reality is accelerated rearmament. The very same conditions of strain and fear that have given rise to the desire for disarmament, have been and are being used in an attempt to gain support for precisely the opposite policy—to advocate rearmament and even preventive war. We cannot hope to achieve disarmament unless we understand the real factors that have blocked it and are still blocking it, that is, until we understand the roots of the policy of rearmament.

This policy to which the Governments of the Atlantic Powers are firmly committed, is one of accelerated building up of armies and munitions in order to gain the position of “negotiation from strength.” It is the policy carried out under “the sure shield of the Atom Bomb,” to quote Mr. Churchill’s phrase. It is a policy which aims at undoing what it can of the results of World War II by rearming Germany and Japan under some of the same Nazi and militarist leaders in preparation for World War III.

Though the actual fact of the rearmament of the Atlantic Powers is plain enough — the weapons are being made, the troops trained, the bases laid out, the atom bombs stocked—it is being undertaken and supported for a variety of motives and the reasons given for it by its promoters are often very different according to whom they are addressed. The men who urge rearmament range from those who would like to start a war next year, if not sooner, to those whose ideal is a kind of indefinite cold war with both sides armed to the teeth but afraid to strike.

The self-avowed warmongers are few but they are powerful and noisy; they include such men as General MacArthur, US Secretary of Navy Matthews, the US. President’s adviser on foreign affairs, Mr. J. Foster Dulles, and, unfortunately, only too many people of wealth and authority in the United States. Their attitude can best be expressed in their own words:

“It is our implacable purpose to retain undisputed control of the seas, to secure undisputed control of the air, to vigorously implement our atomic programme with a full .commitment to the use as needed of the atomic weapon, and while maintaining a well—balanced and highly developed ground force, to charge to our allies the main responsibility for ground operations in defence of their own spheres of territorial interest.”
(General MacArthur at the American Legion Convention, Florida, 17th October, 1951.)

“The initiation of a war of aggression would win for us a proud and popular title — we would become the first aggressors for peace.”
(US. Navy Secretary, Kenneth Matthews, Boston, 26th August, 1950.)

“Let the free nations combine to create a striking force of great power and then rely more and more on the deterrent of that punishing power and less and less on a series of many local defence areas.”
(J. Foster Dulles, Detroit, 27th November, 1951.)

Nor is this school of violence confined to the United States. Responsible politicians have echoed it, for example in Britain more and more frequently within the last few years:

“Russia has the ordinary arms of war, and we have the atomic bomb... I imagine that we may be rather stronger at present than we shall be in four years’ time...
"The threat of an atomic bomb on Baku, after giving due notice for the evacuation of the people, would be most unpleasant; it would mean no loss of life, but it would mean almost starvation in future years.”
(Lord Brabazon, House of Lords, 28th February, 1951.)

“We are told that to take a strong line means to risk a world war. Sir, we have got to risk it.”
(Sir A. Duff-Cooper, Letter on Persia to Daily Telegraph, 2nd July, 1951.)

“In view of the very grave situation, if the North Korean Government refuse to consider this resolution will the Prime Minister advise his representative in the United Nations to ask for the use of the atomic bomb — (Hon. Members: “Oh!”) — certainly upon — the capital of North Korea?”
(Mr. 'Peter Roberts, MP, in the House of Commons, Hansard, 26th June, 1950.)

The acme of this “war tomorrow” school has been reached by the notorious issue of Colliers’ Magazine, where such a war is described in gloating and horrific detail and to which a British author, Mr. J. B. Priestley, has to his everlasting shame contributed his quota of approval. The poisonous effect of this propaganda is that it accustoms people to the idea of war and makes it seem inevitable—something to get Over and done with. There is, moreover, a real danger of starting a war by the provocative action of an irresponsible local commander, who may well be a German or a Japanese, with the backing of some reactionary politicians in America. Even greater perhaps is the danger of a Government action which, though it does not start a war in one step, releases a train of moves and counter-moves which lead fatally to the outbreak of a new war. This nearly happened last year in Korea and again in Persia.


Great as these dangers are, they are small in comparison with what is implied by the high sounding policy of “negotiation from strength.” This policy, while not openly asking for war, can only lead to a situation in which war becomes absolutely inevitable. It has also far greater and more serious backing than the policy of “war now.” Supporters of this policy are — in the words General Omar Bradley used’in reproving General MacArthur — guilty of wanting to start “the wrong war, at the wrong time, in the wrong place, against the wrong enemy.”

Those who are working for the “right war,” or at least for the fruits of that war, are high in the councils of the Atlantic powers. They are to be found everywhere, in the governments, in the high command, in important business circles. They are the more dangerous as they repudiate the charge of warmongering and claim that rearmament is necessary only as a basis for negotiation. This sounds reasonable enough as long as we do not look too closely into what it really means. The advocates of this policy do not seem particularly anxious to tell the general public their plans, but they do from time to time enlighten their own supporters through respectable and expensive journals, sufficiently — clearly to show what they are driving at.

The first statement of the policy was that of Mr. Churchill in his famous Fulton speech on March 4th, 1946, which gave the keynote to the Truman doctrine and to the waging of the cold war:

“What we have to consider here today while time remains is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries. Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them, nor by mere waiting to see what happens, nor by a policy of appeasement. What is needed is a settlement, and the longer this is delayed the more difficult it will be and the greater our dangers will become. From what I have seen of our Russian friends and allies during the war I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and nothing for which they have less respect than for military weakness. For that reason the old doctrine of a balance of power is unsound. We cannot afford, if we can help it, to work on narrow margins offering temptations to a trial of strength.”

The operative phrase here is “the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy” which as Mr. Churchill has made amply clear elsewhere means restoring the condition of Eastern Europe to what it was before 1939, that is by a demand backed by force for the dissolution of the People’s Democracies. The state this doctrine of strength has reached today is suavely set out in an article by Mr. Sebastian Haffner in the British Sunday newspaper The Observer of November 11th, 1951:

“If one side is clearly and immeasurably superior, then the weaker side will not dare to make war, and the stronger side has no need to make war. The factors of fear and uncertainty will be eliminated, and peace may become possible—at least for a generation or so—on the basis of resignation on one side and tolerance on the other.
“The idea of “Peace through strength”—through overwhelming strength—is the basis of present Western policy, and it holds out the most realistic hope of peace we have had for the last six years.
“... To achieve this demands the permanent mobilisation of Western power and the equally permanent integration of all the developed countries of the world — except Russia herself — into one political, military, and economic system, which must in time acquire the attributes of a super-state. Such a super-state will be powerful enough to enjoy security despite Russian hostility, to deter Russian aggression, to enforce a territorial settlement in Europe and Asia, and to tolerate Russian independence. These are the minimum requirements of peace."

A similar settlement in Asia would involve the winning back of China for Chiang Kai-Shek and the restoration by force of French rule in Indo-China. The fatal illusion of this policy is to think it could be achieved peacefully. The peoples of Eastern Europe and of China are now engaged in building a new life and economy, free for the first time from the rule of the feudal landlord and the foreign capitalist. There may be many who do not like what they are told of the way those countries are developing, but they should be under no illusion that their people will not fight, and fight all together if anyone attempts to “liberate” them from outside.

Any demand that they should turn back the clock, whatever the force that backs it, will either fail ignominiously or lead straight to war. The reason is that “overwhelming strength,” as Hitler found, does not lie in guns and soldiers, nor even nowadays in dollars or atom bombs. No such strength can overwhelm men and women who have found a new way of life in which they believe and for which they are prepared to die rather than go back to a past without hope or dignity. The Chinese and Soviet peoples have shown this already against worse odds. They are far less likely to yield now.

The hope of containing or crushing Communism is not the only motive for rearmament. It is strongly reinforced by the economic interests of big business, especially in America. Indeed, the whole US economy is only kept out of a slump by the annual 70 billion dollar Government orders. In other countries such as France and Britain, though rearmament means hardship to millions and threatens national bankruptcy, it is nevertheless a most welcome source of profit to firms engaged on defence orders. For the few who stand to gain by rearmament there are many who have to suffer and their support has to be gained by presenting rearmament as an absolute necessity.


Most of the people who have, till now, honestly supported rearmament, have not done it because they hoped to establish through it an American domination of the world. They have been told, and they sincerely believe, that rearmament is purely and solely for defence. They have been frightened by accounts, put out impressively and officially, of the strength of Soviet Armies poised to attack them. Believing this, without any possibility of checking its truth, they have, up till now, been willing to sacrifice first their hopes of a better life,‘ and then their standard of life itself. They believe that in some way rearmament will bring safety even if it is at the cost of heavy sacrifice.

Now the hopes of a successful settlement by negotiation and disarmament must be based on showing to just such reasonable people that it offers far greater security than rearmament. There can be little hope of influencing directly those whose hearts and interests are set on a new war of intervention and on the destruction of the Soviet Union and all that it stands for. As James Burnham, calling for just such a war, put it bluntly in his book “The Coming Defeat of Communism”: “If I want war and you want Peace what is there to confer about?"

What can and must be done, however, is to warn those who are willing to risk war or even to wage war in order to restore the rule of capitalism in Europe and‘ Asia to think twice, to weigh carefully the quality of their own forces and those of the enemy they hope to intimidate, and to remember what happened the last time. Some of them may well come to see that the game is not worth the candle. They may themselves consider, and certainly most of their supporters outside the United States would agree with them, that a Europe including Britain devastated as Korea has been, even for the highest motives, is too heavy a price to pay for a foredoomed venture to crush Communism by force. After all, the last two world wars both led to an extension of the influence of Communism.

Once it is recognised that no material or political gains can be expected without risking such a war, the policy of negotiation from strength becomes a futile one. On the other hand to those who sincerely want rearmament only for defence it can be shown that all the advantages that could be hoped for from a policy of a balance of power resulting from rearmament could be achieved by negotiation between equals on a fair basis of give and take. This could lead to far greater security at much less expense through disarmament, which is a necessary condition for a settlement that can be lasting without bitterness and will not contain the seeds of future wars.

The fear of attack by a stronger enemy, though it may be exploited to support rearmament, can only be set at rest by disarmament. The basis of that fear is uncertainty as to the military strength and the intentions of the presumed enemy. Rearmament inevitably increases this fear by multiplying mistrust and hatred. Only disarmament, which must necessarily be coupled with inspection to ensure that its terms are honestly carried out, and some form of peaceful settlement, can give concrete assurances of safety. It is only disarmament that can lift the economic burdens — the high prices, the cuts in building and social services. It is to the advantage of all except those who make profits from the manufacture of arms.

Although every effort has been made to conceal the true character and motives of rearmament from the people, its direct effects on people’s lives is rapidly breaking down the barrier of silence and misrepresentation. The idea of rearmament is becoming increasingly difficult to sell and the alternative of disarmament is beginning to look more and more attractive.


Any serious approach to the problem of disarmament must begin by being clear about the objects which it is designed to serve. The immediate and most important object is to stop the outbreak of war. A disarmament plan must accordingly be so framed as to make large-scale aggressive war by any nations or group of nations impracticable. If no country or group of countries possesses at any time either the forces or the war potential for a large-scale offensive war and if the armaments permitted to all the major nations stand at roughly the same strength, there is so little chance of achieving decisive victory that the likelihood of an outbreak of war would become very slight indeed. Land forces are far less important than strategic bases, bombers, or atomic bombs in creating a risk of war starting merely through fear of attack. Even such a conservative strategist as Liddell Hart recognises that the creation of a striking force of great punishing power such as that advocated by J. Foster Dulles would be suicidal:

“It is evident that Soviet Russia does not want to venture on war, for if she did she would have struck before the West began to re-arm, when the going would have been easy. So the biggest risk now is that the Western Powers may say or do things likely to make the Russian Government feel that the Western Powers will take the offensive once their rearmament is completed... An adequate covering force on the ground is a better safeguard than to depend purely on the retaliatory threat of atom-bombing. An atom—bomber is a bad policeman or frontier guard. It is uncertain of stopping an invader, while liable to be mutually fatal in ultimate effects.” From — “Need for Grand Strategy,” a talk on the BBC. European Service given by B. H. Liddell Hart. Reproduced in The Listener, 15th November, 1951.

Now it may be claimed that wars can be stepped more effectively by common action against an aggressor, which was the object of the “Collective Security” provisions of the old League of Nations. It is still believed by many that the same principles should be operated by the United Nations. But this is to mistake the whole purpose of that organisation. In San Francisco, the framers of the United Nations Charter, recognising the failure of the old method, tried to find one that no longer relied on force. The whole of the Charter rests on the assumption that all important actions of the United Nations would have the agreement of the five Great Powers. If they failed to agree it was clear that no preponderance of power could achieve a settlement short of war. Failing five — power agreement the United Nations becomes merely the agency for the policy of the strongest or richest Power; its decrees have no moral value and are only enforceable by a general war.

By far the best solution would still be a return to the principles of the Charter, which implies the admission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations, the abandonment of all devices (such as the “Little Assembly") to dodge the unanimity rule at the Security Council—the famous veto—and a cessation of the hardly concealed attempt to turn the United Nations into a cover for the American State Department. If the Powers could agree to act in concert, the veto would never be called for, but if they cannot, it is still better to agree to differ than to go to war.

A return to the Charter, however, is no alternative to disarmament but an act which should accompany it. Once the nations find a more reasonable way to settle their differences they will no longer need the swollen and unbearable armaments of the cold war. And disarmament can be useful even before the conciliation machinery of the United Nations is fully restored. It is not true to say that all differences must be settled before nations can consent to disarm, for the major cause of those differences is the very existence of the armed forces themselves. It is these that generate mistrust and justify, or can be claimed to justify, interference in other countries in the name of national security. Once armaments were reduced and regulated, the other questions would be far easier to settle in an atmosphere free from fear.

To attempt to solve the easy problems first is an invitation to waste time while rearmament goes on and the serious problems become more serious. The Austrian question is difficult to solve without the German one. The German problem is first and foremost one of demilitarisation, and is bound up with general disarmament.

Every sensible consideration on ways of removing international tensions must start with disarmament. There can be no rational justification for rearmament on the basis of security. Where armaments are being rapidly increased and where disarmament is opposed there is a strong indication that the real object of Government policy is either attack or the threat of attack. All Governments, since Hitler, have claimed that their armaments are purely defensive. Their own peoples who want Peace themselves may well believe them; but what looks defensive on one side may look very offensive to the other. The real test of the intentions of a Government is not what it tells its people about the purpose of its armaments, but whether it supports or opposes plans for substantial general disarmament.

The first requirement of any disarmament proposal is that it should be genuine, that is that it should bear witness to an intention to disarm, if other countries also do so, by an amount large enough and quickly enough to make a real difference in a year’s time. This implies, as has been shown above, the abandonment of any open or covert intention to use large armaments to impose settlements on other countries.

From that also follows the second requirement of a disarmament scheme, that it should be fair. It should not, under cover of disarmament, lead to a situation of weakness on one side and strength on the other, that could allow a settlement to be imposed by force or threat of force, during disarmament or when it was" complete.

Thirdly, the disarmament proposals should be practicable. They must be sufficiently simple to be applied rapidly without the endless haggling that held up disarmament between the wars. They must also contain in themselves sufficient guarantees that, once entered into, they will be completely fulfilled.

Of these three requirements of disarmament proposals — that they be genuine, fair and practicable — the first is the essential and far most important one. Given the will to disarm, the means to do so can be found quickly enough. Without that will arguments can always be found to prove that a disarmament scheme is unfair or impracticable.

The technical aspects of disarmament, though the most detailed and complicated, are less difficult to settle given good will. Indeed, even without it some of their main lines are already generally agreed on. The proposal of a census of armaments to be checked by inspection on the spot is now common ground. The Atlantic Powers have even conceded in their recent proposals to the United Nations what they had hitherto most opposed, that atom bombs and other secret weapons should come into the scope of disarmament discussions.

What is not agreed on, however, still remains a most serious obstacle to any actual moves to disarm. This includes the vital question of the prohibition of the atom bomb and of all other weapons of mass destruction. It also includes the order of stages in disarmament, particularly whether an arms census should come before rather than after a declaration of intention to disarm. In the first case the revelation of forces held by other countries might result in further rearmament rather than disarmament. This would be especially so if, as was proposed in the first draft of the Three Power proposals, the process of census would be very gradual and by stages, keeping atomic weapons to the last. In such a case the arms census itself might merely help military intelligence to find targets for atom bombs. It is considerations like these that give rise to doubts about the genuineness of the Three Power proposals. The Manchester Guardian admits (17th November, 1951):

“Obviously Russia cannot be expected to declare all her conventional arms, and allow them to be inspected, so long as American atomic weapons are deferred to a later stage in control. That would be greatly to the advantage of the United States, since she has a long lead in atomic armament.”

On the other hand, it has been argued that it is unfair to ask nations to agree to disarm in advance of any sure knowledge of the strength of possible enemies. They might find themselves in an inferior position and be debarred from redressing it by rearmament.

If both these arguments were granted at the same time it might appear that any disarmament was intrinsically impossible, the demand of “No disclosure without an agreement to disarm” being met squarely by the counter of “No agreement to disarm without disclosure.” This dilemma, in so far as it is genuine and not a cover for putting off disarmament for ever, is not inescapable.

Indeed, it would not be impossible to agree in advance what disarmament should take place to correspond to any combination of strength that might be revealed by a later arms’ census. Thus it might be decided in advance that if country A were found to have 400 divisions they should be reduced to 200, if 180 only to 120, while if country B had 100 groups of heavy bombers they should be reduced to 50 if 60 only to 40. In this way especially dangerous concentrations of power could be heavily reduced while leaving weaker ones unaffected. In general, disarmament could be so planned as to reduce in every case the relative superiority of any force over the corresponding force opposed to it. This would remove the charge that disarmament favoured the stronger side. Indeed, the only ground for refusing to disarm on such terms would be an intention of achieving overwhelming strength.”


Disarmament since 1945 is, however, no longer only a matter of the numbers of soldiers, guns, tanks and aeroplanes. It is now no use even talking of a disarmament scheme that does not settle the question of the atom bomb. Indeed, the major obstacle to any disarmament is and remains the obstinate refusal of the United States Government to limit in any way its use of the atom bomb and the equally obstinate demand of the Soviet Union to have it prohibited absolutely. Now here again there is the familiar difference between the acceptance in principle of the prohibition of the bomb, which has been expressed officially by the Atlantic Pact Governments, and the refusal in practice to do anything to effect it.

On November 15th, 1945, we find, in the atomic energy proposals of the Governments of the United States, Britain and Canada, the clear statements:

“In order to attain the most effective means of entirely eliminating the use of atomic energy for destructive purposes and promoting its widest use for industrial and humanitarian purposes, we are of the opinion that at the earliest practicable date a Commission should be set up under the United Nations Organisation to prepare recommendations for submission to the organisation.”
“In particular the Commission should make specific proposals:
... (c) For the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.”

The same principle was repeated again as recently as 18th November, 1951, in the resolution of the United States, British and French Governments at the United Nations Assembly:

“It is a primary objective of the United Nations to bring about the limitation and balanced reduction of all armed forces and all armaments to levels adequate for defence but not for aggression, and to achieve effective international control to ensure the prohibition of atomic weapons.”

In direct contradiction to this, responsible statesmen in those countries have, during the whole of this period, treated the atomic bomb as a weapon that might be used at any moment. Thus President Truman, at a critical juncture of the Korean war, admitted, somewhat prematurely, that the use of the atom bomb was “under consideration,” thus revealing incautiously that it depended only on himself, on the advice of the commander in the field, whether or when it should be dropped. Public outcry throughout the world stopped any possibility of his doing so at the time, but the threat remains.

Bombardment by atomic bombs has, in fact, been treated throughout as a legitimate instrument of international policy in a way that was expounded most unwaveringly by Mr. Churchill in 1948:

“We ought to bring matters to a head and make a final settlement... The Western Nations will be far more likely to reach a lasting settlement, without bloodshed, if they formulate their just demands while they have the atomic power and before the Russian Communists have got it too.”

and maintained till the other day, as his Mansion House (London) speech of 9th November, 1951, bears witness:

“What is the world scene as presented to us today? Mighty forces, armed with fearful weapons, are baying at each other across a gulf which... neither wishes and both fear to cross, but into which they may tumble and drag each other to their common ruin. On the one side stand all the armies and air forces of Soviet Russia and all their Communist satellites, agents, and devotees in so many countries. On the other are what are called the western democracies with their for superior resources, at present only partly organised, gathering themselves together around the United States with its possession of the mastery of the atom bomb.”

That this is not only a Conservative view is shown by the statement made by the Labour Party MP, Mr. Woodrow Wyatt, in the House of Commons on 26th July, 1950. "We must stop this talk about banning the atom bomb, it is our only point of superiority over the Russians today.”

To cover this glaring difference between pious resolutions and real intentions, the official line has always been that the Atlantic Pact Powers were only too willing to abolish the atom bomb but that the Soviet Union would not agree on any effective plan to do so.

What the public has not been told and what it is only beginning to realise is, that the Atlantic Powers have, up till now, always coupled the abolition of the bomb with the full acceptance of the Lilienthal-Baruch plan — miscalled the United Nations’ Plan. This plan requires that abolition of the bomb should proceed in stages. first the setting-up of an Atomic Development Authority (ADA) controlled by majority vote and therefore always under US control; secondly, the taking over of all atom supplies and plant by ADA, which would decide where and how much atomic production should be undertaken. Only when the US Congress was satisfied that all this had been satisfactorily carried out, would the US Government consider revealing and neutralising its atomic stockpile. In this scheme the US would be able to take over the key industry of the future throughout the whole world while reserving the use of its own bombs if there should be any hitches in the programme.

Such a plan is inherently unacceptable to any genuinely independent nation which counts on using its own natural resources in its own way for the benefit of its own people. It has accordingly always been rejected by the Soviet Government. But they in turn put forward to the United Nations plan of their own in 1946 and then in a revised and more conciliatory form in 1947. This plan envisages the signing at the same time of a pledge to abolish atomic weapons and the setting-up of an inspection and control organisation to see that this is effectively carried out.

It has long been recognised that the Baruch plan is unworkable. In The Times leading article of November 19th, 1949, we find:

“Since, however, the western plan is clearly unattainable at present, the choice is really between the Russian plan and no plan at all. There can be no doubt that the Western Powers are right in saying that in that case they must prefer no control...”

Again on November 2nd, 1951, The Times leading article said:

“It is unfair to suggest, as is too often done, that only the Soviet rejection of the American plan prevents an agreement on control of atomic energy. The truth is that the necessary conditions of trust do not exist; but if ever a system of international control could be established, it might be nearer to the Russian plan than to the arrangement proposed by Mr. Baruch.”

while on December 1st, 1951, we find the even more definite condemnation:

“This Utopian proposal would in practice be as difficult for the United States to accept as for the Soviet Union.”

It is the obstinate insistence on the Baruch plan that has so far wrecked the possibility of the prohibition of the atom bomb. Although the Atlantic Powers have got as far as declaring that they would accept a better plan if it were proposed, they have not as yet shown the slightest disposition to accept any plan that would deprive them of the use of the bomb from the start.

This dispute on plans for controlling atomic energy arises from the existence of a deep, underlying disagreement as to its use. The United States Government, supported by the British and French, want to preserve as long as possible the stockpile of atom bombs and the right to drop them when they deem necessary, meanwhile using their existence to exert political pressure. The Soviet Government wants the use of atom bombs stopped as soon as possible.

It is often argued here that this would be most unfair as the “American mastery of the atom bomb,” to use Churchill’s phrase, is necessary as a counterweight to the possession by the Soviet Union of far greater land forces. This argument was always immoral, considering that the atom bomb can only be used effectively — as it was used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki — against large civilian targets. The talk of a tactical atom bomb is partly wishful thinking that military concentrations would ever be dense enough to knock out by an atom bomb, and partly propaganda to offset the popular horror at another Hiroshima.

The idea of American mastery is also one which is becoming, as time goes on, increasingly illusory. It has been known for a long time that atom bombs can be and are being made in the Soviet Union. Even if it be granted that the amounts are smaller than those in American hands, it should not be forgotten that Western Europe, and especially England, offers far better targets for atom bombs than does the Soviet Union. And since England has become, to quote Mr. Churchill again, “America’s principal atom bomb base,” English people could hardly be surprised if they were atom bombed in retaliation. Once it is recognised by responsible military opinion that there is nothing to be gained and everything to be lost on both sides by the use of'atom bombs, there is some real hope that they will be abolished and a great burden of fear lifted from the world.

This hope is strengthened by the fact that, after a long resistance, the Atlantic powers have at last recognised what has always been the contention of the Soviet Union, that atomic and “conventional” disarmament must be taken together. By doing so they remove the last argument for the retention of the bomb because any serious disarmament plan would, by disclosure and reduction, dispel the artificially concocted fear of attack by overwhelming forces from the East — a fear which must have led millions of honest and otherwise Peace-loving men and women to wish to shelter behind the atom bomb, against their better feelings.

The real force which will end the atom bomb has been and remains the universal popular detestation of this horror weapon. There can be no doubt about this. The atom bomb that burned up a hundred thousand men, women and children in a few instants and doomed thousands of others to months of torture, is absolutely hateful to the vast majority of decent people in the world. They do not want to hear detailed arguments about its strategic justification,>they just want it stopped. This was shown in the response of over five hundred million people who signed the Stockholm Appeal (see Appendix), a response which would have been far greater in countries like America and Britain if so many of the people had not been dissuaded by misrepresentation or claims of party loyalty from showing what they felt.

The opposition of the vast World Peace Movement to the atom bomb and all other scientific forms of mass destruction of human beings is absolute and unshakable. The Governments of the United States and of Britain have opposed, while the Governments of the Soviet Union and China have supported, the declaration that the first Government to use the atom bomb is a war criminal. Nevertheless, though they want to preserve their sovereign right to large-scale massacre, the Government of the United States, after the Prime Minister of Britain had crossed the Atlantic to warn President Truman of popular feeling here, did hesitate to use the bomb and still hesitates to use it. This is so far the greatest victory of the Peace Movement. The abolition of the atom bomb must now be made the beginning of the abolition of all warfare.


After the prohibition of the atom bomb, the stages by which disarmament can be effected remains the most difficult point to settle. Given good faith and mutual trust this should afford no difficulty. The real problem, however, is how to achieve it in an era of deep antagonisms and widespread distrust. In the end, it is only the will of the people for Peace that will force Governments first to negotiate, then to disarm and lastly to frame a permanent settlement.

The negotiations going on in Paris at the time of writing can only be considered as a very partial preliminary step. What is really needed is high level negotiation between all of the Great Powers, United States, USSR, Britain, France and the People’s Republic of China. If this cannot be done within the framework of the United Nations because of the obstinate and illegal determination of the United States Government to exclude the People’s Republic of China, it must be done outside it. The demand for such five-Power negotiations has already been expressed by nearly 600 million people who have signed the Peace Pact appeal, and certainly corresponds to the desire of the overwhelming majority of the peoples of the world. In any case it is nonsensical to imagine any worthwhile disarmament proposals without the concurrence of China which possesses the largest manpower reserves of the world. The fact that the three Atlantic Powers have not found it necessary in their own interest to make proposals involving China is one other indication that they have no serious intention of disarming at all.

One of the most powerful propaganda weapons which has been used to keep up the cold war, is the belief that it is impossible to work out a fair and practicable scheme for disarmament. For that reason the framing of any such scheme is a blow for Peace. This was the purpose that inspired the World Council of Peace to work out its disarmament scheme (which is shown in the Appendix).

Almost before it was published, events had caught up with it. Disarmament has in fact become the main subject of the United Nations Assembly at Paris. Definite proposals have been put . forward by the three main Atlantic Powers as also ,by the Soviet Union. Speeches have been made, amendments and modifications proposed; a special Four Power meeting has been held and has reported. All that could be agreed on was the convening of a new disarmament commission, “The Atomic Energy and Conventional Armaments Commission,” but the basic divergences on the prohibition of the atom bomb and the stages of disclosure remained. The net result has been that the Atlantic Powers only demonstrated that they were never seriously thinking of disarmament, as even The Observer admitted:

"The Western representatives agreed to the meetings mainly in deference to the war fears of the small Powers. Neither before nor during the talks has there been any doubt in their minds that in the present state of international tension there were no chances of getting the Russians to implement {in acceptable and practical disarmament programme.”
(Observer, 9th December, 1951.)

Indeed the very solution of technical difficulties spotlighted even more clearly that the real objective of the Atlantic Powers is rearmament. Even the Press, quite rightly, gave its real attention to the Rome discussions of NATO. on the building up of powerful armed forces in Western Europe and the re-creation of an army in Western Germany. The discussions on disarmament are, however, bringing out who is for and who is against. any serious disarmament. Whatever the outcome and however complicated the procedure that it may lead to, the main principles of any genuine disarmament proposals cannot be altered or evaded.

The World Peace Council’s proposals, straightforward and simple as they are, furnish a test which should enable anyone to tell for themselves whether any disarmament proposal was genuine or merely window dressing and time wasting. This comes out clearly in the proposed order of procedure:

  1. The adoption by the Great Powers of a convention pledging Governments to the prohibition of atomic weapons and a substantial and rapid reduction of arms on an agreed basis.
  2. A general census of armaments, including atom bombs.
  3. The carrying out of these terms through an inspection and control system.

The most searching test is furnished by whether the first condition is accepted or not. Without such a definite declaration that they mean business, the other provisions become either means to use the census and inspection as military intelligence in preparation for further rearmament and war,or at best,a way of spinning out discussions indefinitely without getting on with the job. Atlantic statesmen protest against such interpretation, but how else is anyone to read their refusal so far to engage their Governments? If the Governments of the United States, Britain and France mean to disarm substantially and to prohibit the atom bomb, provided the Soviet Union does the same, let them say so publicly in any form they choose. Once they do so the real business of disarmament can begin. It is claimed that such public declarations are useless, but the very fact that some Governments refuse to make them, shows that they know very well how important they are and how difficult it would be for them, in the face of their peoples, to go back on them.

It will naturally still be difficult, once this first hurdle is passed, to decide precisely on the size of armed forces that would be left to each country at the end of the first stage of disarmament. This is a technical and military question which the Peace Movement itself is not called on to discuss in detail. They can only say that the over-riding principle here should be that the cut in armaments should be substantial. The best security against invasion or mass bombing is a heavy reduction of the striking force anywhere available, not the retention of forces allegedly for defence, which are most suited as bases for attack. Thus, MacArthur declared that Taiwan (Formosa) forms part of the United States’ defence perimeter though it is more than 4,000 miles from the continent of America and only 100 from the coast of China.

It has been agreed, in principle, in the World Peace Council’s proposals, that defence needs have to bear some relation to the conditions of the country needing defence, such as population and length of frontiers. The additional proposal to take into account also the protection of communications must be guarded against abuse, for a navy permitted for the purpose of protecting trade routes could equally be used to put pressure on small or undeveloped countries.

This raises the whole issue of what armaments should be allowed to nations with colonies and how far the protection of national territory, or even colonial territory, from outside attack can be stretched into permitting the use of armed forces to resist the legitimate demands of colonial peoples to self-government. This right was not allowed to the Dutch in Indonesia, but it is still being exercised in a cruel and futile way by the French in Indo-China and by the British in Malaya.

The need for arms is also invoked, as it was in the Atlantic Treaty, as a guarantee against internal aggression, To demand forces for this purpose is tantamount to admitting that Governments needing such protection are maintained in office only by force, or by the threat of force, as is undoubtedly the case today in Greece and Spain. In the long run it is impossible to keep people down by these means and the fears that they are needed in other countries are a sign of bad conscience. Decent people do not really believe that their system is so unstable that it needs a large army to defend them from themselves or that, if change must come, it cannot be peaceful and democratic. These questions are admittedly important, but disarmament cannot be allowed to be put off indefinitely because of them. Some compromise must be reached pending a general settlement.

Where it is impossible to compromise, is on the proposal put forward in the Three Power document that armaments retained should be proportional to the productive capacity of each country. This would mean, in fact, United States domination of the entire world. For today, as a result of a number of historic causes — not the least of which was the fact that it had light losses and made great profits in two world wars — the United States produces about two-thirds of the capitalist world’s industrial goods. If it was armed and could arm its associated Powers in proportion to this, and was still permitted to retain bases all over the world, no resistance to its power would be possible. This is certainly the aim of much influential opinion in the States, which talks about the American Century, or, more hypocritically, about America’s responsibility for Peace and security throughout the world. Anything called disarmament which has this situation in view, is a hollow fraud. And yet, can it be doubted that this is the idea behind all the talk of negotiation from strength and the complaint that the “free world” has not yet been able to realise its potential productive capacity in arms?

The central question here, as in every other aspect of disarmament, is to ensure that disarmament is a means of reaching a stable world settlement. Such a settlement can only be one which really renounces the idea of changing the present state of the world through military force or threat of force. On the other hand, disarmament cannot be made to mean the freezing of the world in its present state. Neither the power of wealth nor of science can do this. The world-wide movement towards national independence and the rights of peoples to use their own resources and build up their own industries for their own benefit, will go on and at an accelerated pace. What disarmament seeks to secure is that this should not be done at the price of unlimited suffering and destruction as in Korea today, but that it should come about peacefully and with the material help of the billions of dollars that have been and are being wantonly wasted on rearmament.

It is not claimed that disarmament will in itself settle all the world’s troubles. The Korean war must be ended and so must the wars in Indo-China and Malaya. Germany and Japan must not be allowed again to become the centres of aggressive war. It is essential that the People’s Republic of China be allowed to take its rightful place in the Security Council and that the United Nations should return to the letter and the spirit of the Charter. The Cold War must stop and the atmosphere of suspicion that it breeds must be dissipated. But none of these things are possible under the terrific strain of rearmament. Disarmament is a necessary and urgent step to a permanent Peace.

The case for disarmament is indeed overwhelming; the popular demand for it has forced it into the foreground of international debate. Yet we will never get either disarmament or Peace as long as the practical reality is intensive rearmament and disarmament remains only talk. Here time is not on our side. The rearmament of Japan and Germany, the throttling of East-West trade, the increasingly threatening moves in Spain and Africa, Eisenhower’s demand for a speed-up of rearmament and recruitment for NATO forces, all point to an acute danger of war next year or the year after. If the people let this go on and can be lulled into inactivity by disarmament proposals which, while they give the impression of reasonableness, do not check the arms’ race for a moment, then disaster will certainly follow. But those that count on this passivity are, fortunately for the world, likely to be rudely surprised. In every country in the world the people are becoming aware through the experience of their everyday lives, of what rearmament means, and where it is leading to. Already they have forced their statesmen to talk Peace; they can in good time force them to act it. This is no longer the concern alone of political groups or pacifist organisations. Every channel of enlightenment and expression must be used, and used effectively, to demand and to secure before it is too late, disarmament and world settlement.