J.R. Johnson

Nations Talk Disarmament But Prepare for New War

(11 November 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 45, 11 November 1946, pp. 3 & 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Once more the slogan of disarmament is being used to disguise the preparations for war. The debate at the Assembly of the United Nations is a cynical and shameful farce.

Said Mr. Molotov:

“The time has come to effect measures to carry out a general restriction of armaments ... Disarmament will, indeed, respond to the pacifist strivings of our peoples.”

Following after him Mr. Austin, representing the United States, says:

“The United States is prepared to cooperate fully with all other members of the United Nations in disarmament. It advocates effective safeguards by way of inspection and other means.”

We have called the debate a cynical, shameful farce. It is more than that. It is an imposition upon the good sense and patience of the people. For, here, as always, each politician is for disarmament in general. But the moment you get down to disarmament in particular, the lies and excuses begin and the result is always – more armament.

The Threat of the Atomic Bomb

Today humanity fears the atomic bomb as the greatest destructive force that the world has ever known. But the atomic bomb is the result of industrial processes. To disarm, to get rid of the atom bomb in warfare, would require the destruction of the mechanism by which atomic bombs are produced. That is ridiculous. For even if it were destroyed, it could always be rebuilt. Any fool knows that, and the capitalist politicians are not fools. The whole debate about the atomic bomb is one huge bluff, a transparent disguise of the struggle for power.

The United States has the bomb. Russia has not got it yet. Whereupon Bernard Baruch in the name of the U.S. proposes an international atomic authority, an international system of inspection, punishment for those who break the regulations, and the gradual release of America’s monopoly.

What Is Behind the Baruch Plan?

This plan is fakery from beginning to end. They talk about inspection. What they really want to inspect is the amount and location of raw material in Russia which can be used for the construction of atomic energy. There are conflicting reports. Nobody knows for certain. They want to find out. Then will come “gradual” release of the atomic secrets by the U. S. Who will decide how “gradual” will be the release? With its fat majority on all international bodies, U.S. imperialism will have the last word. And, in any case, in a few years, Russia may possibly have an atomic bomb, too.

But Russia? Russia’s proposal is for immediate destruction of all atomic stockpiles, that is to say, it aims at getting rid of America’s advantage. But it wants no international inspection or punishment. Thus the Russians hope to be able to catch up in secret, once they have got rid of America’s initial advantage.

Each one of these gangsters knows the aims and plans of the other. But each keeps up a deafening propaganda about its peace aims. It is the universal distrust and wrath of the people which they fear. They led us into World War I with talk of peace, disarmament, war to end war, democracy, and all the old lies. They led us into World War II with the same slogans doctored to fit new circumstances. Here they are again with the same old talk about peace and disarmament. Unless the peoples of the world rise and rid themselves of these greedy, monopolist cliques and install workers’ governments, nothing can save us from another World War.

Serious workers must also explain to their fellow workers the long and painful history of all this disarmament talk.

There can be no disarmament under imperialism. It was the imperialist struggle for colonies, spheres of influence and markets that caused World War I. It was the same rivalry that caused World War II. Never was the imperialist rivalry so sharp as it is today between the U.S. and Russia. How then can there be any disarmament?

Some History of the Struggle

As far back as 1907, to fool the people in preparation for World War I, the imperialist powers held a conference at the Hague about disarmament. Between 1907 and 1914 the armaments piled up and exploded in the War of 1914.

The Congress of the Second International at Copenhagen in 1910 was concerned with the drive to war. But all it could do was adopt a resolution for compulsory courts of arbitration, and general disarmament. In 1912 at Basle they adopted a resolution calling upon the workers to struggle against war. But as we know, in 1914 they betrayed the struggle. And the whole discussion at the Basle Congress showed how timid and afraid of revolutionary struggle were these leaders.

It was Lenin during the war who pointed out how hollow and deceptive was all this talk about disarmament under capitalism. Said this great leader of the workers:

“Only if peace is obtained through the pressure exerted by the masses – and not through a conspiracy of greedy diplomatists and reactionary cliques after general exhaustion – will socialism and democracy be able to assert their influence upon the conditions of peace and upon the future constitution of Europe.”

He denounced all ideas of the imperialists being able to disarm. The revolutionary workers must seize the power.

“Only in that case can our propaganda in favor of disarmament and the extensive application of arbitration and democratic organization of military forces have the sphere of a pitiful and unproductive illusion.”

That is what all imperialist talk about disarmament is – a pitiful and unproductive illusion.

Imperialist Bluffs Continue

The world struggle of the people did not conquer in 1918. But as soon as the war was over the imperialists founded the League of Nations and began the old bluff about courts of arbitration and universal disarmament. Lenin described the League as a “Thieves Kitchen” and warned the workers of the world. This age in which we live, said he, is an age of imperialist war or proletarian revolution. Organize, struggle, overthrow the imperialist governments, establish international socialism or a bigger, bloodier war will be the fate of humanity.

The imperialists knew this as well as Lenin. It was more than ever necessary to bluff the people. Therefore in 1928, with great fanfare of trumpets and a terrible outpouring of lies, they solemnly outlawed war by the Briand-Kellogg Pact. With all sorts of amendments and qualifications which hid the truth from the people, they pretended that a great step had been made forward toward peace and disarmament. Lies, all of it, as we today have every reason to know.

Every imperialist scoundrel plays this game. Hitler did. In 1933 he shouted to the world that he was ready to disarm. Yes, Adolf Hitler did. And ever afterwards he referred to it as a sign that he was forced to rearm.

Trotsky Warned the World

But Trotsky saw through the maneuver and as early as 1933 in his pamphlet What Hitler Wants he wrote:

“If Hitler has so eagerly accepted the English plan for armament reduction, it is only because he counted in advance and with, full certainty upon its failure ... For the same reason Hitler is not niggardly with his ‘warm thanks’ to the American President for his declaration in favor of armament reduction. The more broadly and extensively the program of disarmament is presented before the whole world, and the more inevitably it ends in collapse the more incontestable will be Germany’s right to rearmament.”

That is the game they play. That is what Molotov and the U.S. delegates and Bevin are doing today.

Trotsky and the Fourth International have never ceased, to point out the pitiful (and dangerous) illusions of any talk about disarmament by imperialist powers. In 1934 the Fourth International stated the elementary truth that “new and very rapid disarmament is inherent in modern industrial technique.” Look at what the U.S. did between 1939 and 1945. If even it were possible to disarm all the imperialist powers, the most powerful industrial organizations would still be ahead in the inevitable armaments race for war. Molotov knows that very well. He aims at the atomic stockpiles of the U.S., but above all he aims at bluffing the people and presenting Russia as the lamb of peace beset by the wolves of imperialism. We have seen how skilfully Hitler used this very maneuver.

No. Russia joins the chorus of deception, in fact now is the chief disarmament soloist, for the same reasons that have motivated the imperialists for the last fifty years. Not for one moment should one ounce of faith be placed in this pitiful, miserable, illusion.

In 1938, in the Transitional Program of the Fourth International, Trotsky made yet another of his unceasing attempts to carry on the tradition of Lenin and to warn the workers of the coming war and the only way to stop it.

“The entire question [of disarmament]” wrote Trotsky, “revolves around who will disarm whom. The only disarmament which can avert or end war is the disarmament of the bourgeoisie by the workers. But to disarm the bourgeoisie the workers must arm themselves.”

We failed to achieve it. The world has been flooded with the blood of workers. But today they are at it again, the same lust for power and profit, the same readiness to run the risk of annihilation and the death of civilization. They must either do this or abandon their power and privileges and abandon those they will not.

For fifty years we have endured their bluff, their lies, their bloody conflicts. It is time that we learnt the lesson. Let the workers disarm the imperialists. Let the workers in every country struggle without flinching until real freedom comes through the rule of of the workers and oppressed people. There is no other way. With their talk of disarmament they bluffed us into World War I. With their talk of disarmament they bluffed us into World War II. Now they are at it again. Nothing can save us from World War III but the merciless destruction of imperialism and its replacement by socialism.

Last updated on 8 July 2019