Peter Sedgwick

Russia’s bomb

(March 1961)

Peter Sedgwick, Russia’s bomb, Socialist Review, March 1961. (letter)
Originally printed in Tribune.
Taken from the collection A Socialist Review (1965), p.184.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Considerable damage is done to Labour’s unilateralist cause by the policy of the Communist Party on neutralism and nuclear weapons. It has been true, of course, for some time now that CP and YCL contingents have paraded in CND demonstrations as if the Daily Worker had never accused the first Aldermaston march of “dividing the broad movement.”

We should, of course, welcome sinners come even late to repentance. It would have been the height of irony if that CP-influenced union vote had lined up with Gaitskell this year as it has done previously. But is this repentance particularly sincere?

Any unilateralist who tries arguing with CPers over the Russian bomb will soon find that they are quite capable of eloquent exposures of the Western “deterrent” theory, while arguing that Russia must have the bomb to defend herself against the capitalists.

Dr. Arnold Kettle argues in the October issue of Marxism Today that a Socialist Government should have “not only principles” but also “as long as is necessary, H-bombs.”

Presumably this right would apply also to a Government pursuing the Communist Party’s British Road to Socialism.

Dr. Kettle states in the same article that neutralism is all right for a capitalist Government but that Socialist neutralism is “opportunist” and “unrealistic.” This can only mean that the Left is supposed to advocate a nuclear alliance within the Warsaw Pact rather than NATO.

Amazing as it may seem, this double-think is even found outside the Communist Party, among self-styled Marxists in the Socialist Labour League and the Labour Party.

They will argue that a Socialist Britain will use “every means” including the bomb to defend itself against intervention. How they propose to undertake “defence” with this weapon is never explained (any more than it is by the Tories).

The cynical advocates of a working-class H-bomb should have the good grace to stay away from CND demonstrations and to stop making pseudo-attacks on Gaitskell whom they fundamentally support.

When Mr. Gaitskell was asked not long ago “can you reconcile the brotherhood of man with the threatened annihilation of mankind,” he replied, “Interpreted in the right way, yes.” The “Marxist” friends of the Hydrogen Bomb would have no different answer.

In the remote event of their ever achieving power, they would not abolish the Nuclear Weapons Research Establishment but sanctify it with the Red Flag. The rest of us would still have to march from or to Aldermaston, that is if we were allowed to do so, which is doubtful. The antics of this unscrupulous minority cannot justify any Right-wing smears against CND or official Conference policy. The crowd in Trafalgar Square last Easter and the unilateralist mass of delegates at Scarborough would have howled down any speaker who offered them such blatent sophistry.

Peter Sedgwick


Last updated on 12.11.2004