Felix Morrow

Brass Hats Scheme to Keep Control of Atomic Energy

(30 March 1946)

Source: The Militant, Vol. X No. 13, 30 March 1946, pp. 1 & 6.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2018 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Felix Morrow Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2018. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

>Continued control of atomic energy by the military clique was endorsed last week by the Senate Atomic Energy Committee by a vote of 10–1.

Ostensibly the vote merely gave a Military Liaison Board authority to appeal to President Truman against any decision of a Civilian Control Board. But Senator McMahon, the sole opponent, warned that under the “liaison” formula the military can “check every phone call, every memorandum written and the hiring of all personnel” on atomic projects. Even more important, once it is conceded that the military have a voice on policy, it is well-nigh certain that its appeals to the President would not be rejected.

The military clique has obvious special interests of its own in insisting on, military control of atomic energy. It would elevate the brass hats to a position of policy-making scarcely ever before reached in history by any military clique.

Stifle Science

The extent to which it would dominate science was indicated by two incidents last week. On March 11, addressing the Association of Cancer Research of which he is president, Capt. Shields Warren, chief medical officer of the Naval Technical Mission to Japan, regretfully stated, “For security reasons the type and quantity of atomic bomb radiation cannot be discussed.”

In plain English, he could not tell his fellow-scientists, to whom he was describing the deaths and injuries resulting from radiation of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, what kind and how much radiation had caused these casualties.

Capt. Warren also stated that “vital biological data essential to close in the gaps in our knowledge” of the effects of such radiation would be secured in the Bikini test of atom bombs on warships. But he made plain that this “vital biological data” would not become available to the medical world at large.

The other incident was a military veto of a scheduled reading of a paper by a scientist, on the effect of slow neutrons on the human body, to a scientific meeting at Atlantic City. Ironically enough, it turned out that a summary of that paper had already been published in the meeting program – a perfect commentary on the futility of trying to suppress such data.

Ostensible justification of military control is to speed development of mllltarily important aspects of atomic energy and to prevent “leaks” to other controls. It is already clear, however, that neither one of these goals is reached by military control.

One of the most authoritative atomic scientists, Harold C. Urey, said what should be the final word on the effects of military control. Asked by a Senate committee how much Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves, head of the project, had contributed to advancing the atomic bomb, Urey made the devastating reply: “He didn’t retard it more than 18 months.”

Urey was particularly referring to the compartmentalization whereby scientists working on one aspect were not permitted to learn what other scientists were achieving on another subdivision of the project. This compartmentalization, Gen. Groves has boasted, enabled him to prevent such people as Alan Nunn May, British physicist how arrested for giving atomic information to the Russians, from learning all aspects of the bomb.

However, Gen. Groves himself admitted, in a letter read on the Senate floor March 19, that the physicist had managed to learn a great deal about the construction of the bomb. Others in a position to know, such as Walter Lippman, Chancellor Robert M. Hutchins of the University of Chicago, and most of the atomic scientists, testify to the futility of attempts to guard the secrets of the atomic bomb.

So the main justifications for military control are untenable.

Indeed there is a growing awareness of this fact and, as a result, more and more opposition to military control. Last week’s denunciation of it as “military fascism” by Secretary of Commerce Wallace expressed this fact. The CIO is strongly on record against it.

The CIO News of March 18 storms against military control. Very good. But what alternative does it propose?

The civilian board it proposes would provide “full public information in the U.S. immediately on all aspects of atomic energy, subject to the retention of military secrets ...” This is simply another version of military control all over again.

For the rest the CIO program for atomic energy would depend on the “United Nations,” which would “outlaw the use of atomic energy for military purposes, and all production of atomic bombs.” This is pacifist claptrap.

A civilian board under President Truman is no solution of the menace of the atom bomb. For the CIO to limit itself to demanding a civilian board as against a military board is, in reality, simply to line up with one capitalist faction as against another capitalist faction. The CIO’s proposal does not contain one ounce of independent labor politics.

What class shall control the atom bomb? That is the key question of our epoch.

The way to convert atomic energy into the savior of mankind instead of its executioner is to take it away from the war-makers – the defenders of privilege against the working people.

The CIO’s answer should be the immediate launching of an Independent Labor Party.

Only when Labor is the governmental leader of the nation and the world – only then will atomic energy serve humanity instead of threatening it with extinction.


Last updated on: 18 October 2018