Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The Rising Danger of Nuclear War

Statement of the National Coordinating Committee of the Progressive Labor Movement on the Cuban Missile Crisis and Its Aftermath

First Published: Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, no volume, no number, no date [1963]
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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United States imperialism, under the leadership of Kennedy and McNamara, is implementing a many-sided program to reverse the world relationship of forces, which are increasingly favorable to socialism. The October-November 1962 crisis over the Cuban missile bases marks a dangerous turn in the Cold War and exposes the character of imperialism’s current program. It is the intention of the National Coordinating Committee of the Progressive Labor Movement to prepare, in time for the second issue of its theoretical organ, Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, a full analysis of the new situation, but certain essentials are already apparent:

The Main Features of the Nuclear Confrontation

1. The decision of the Kennedy Administration to confront the USSR with the threat of all-out nuclear war over the Cuban missile bases represents the beginning of a policy of “counter-force” and nuclear blackmail. The recent speeches by Kennedy, McNamara, and Rostow, and especially the action itself, ought to remove all doubt that the Administration is determined to roll back the socialist and national liberation forces, primarily by the use of the threat of direct nuclear attack on the USSR and China if specific demands are not met.

2. This new and dangerous tactic is being combined with the more familiar tactics of waging local wars and exporting counterrevolutions and of supporting fascist and semi-fascist forces on a world scale.

3. The domestic counterpart of this imperialist offensive is growing Administration pressure for austerity for the working class to support the sagging profit position of American capitalism. This pressure is being accompanied by a renewed purge of dissenters. The small gains made for civil liberties during the post-McCarthy period are rapidly being wiped out. The new attack on the Communist Party, Women’s Strike for Peace, and other groups and the shameless efforts of the Administration to censor and distort for Cold War purposes what little news we do get and to institute a campaign of massive brainwashing must not be underestimated or thought to be a temporary or accidental occurrence.

4. A particularly dangerous feature of Kennedy’s nuclear confrontation was its go-it-alone nature. The Kennedy Administration has made it clear – as Dean Acheson so cynically demonstrated in his recent infamous speech – that it will tolerate no interference from its allies and that all imperialist powers will now be expected to fall in line, automatically and without prior consultation, behind a policy of repeated escalations and direct confrontations.

5. The Soviet retreat in the face of Kennedy’s outrageous ultimatum cannot be evaluated fully as yet, and no one can tell the USSR when and where to make a military stand. Several negative results of that retreat are nonetheless clear:

a) The reckless “get-tough” policy of the Administration, which is receiving the support of most liberals as well as the Ultra Right has been strengthened and its advocates emboldened. The notion of many political and military leaders, liberal and rightist alike, has long been that the USSR will retreat if confronted by the threat of all-out war. They are now in a position to say “I told you so!”

b) It would be extremely difficult for Kennedy or any successor, even if he wished to, to avoid using the same tactic in a similar crisis, for it is – on the surface at least – a proven winner.

c) Khrushchev’s failure to consult the Cuban’s in the early stages of the crisis and to get their approval for the negotiations has weakened the principles of proletarian internationalism.

6. The Soviet retreat did not “save the peace” except in the sense that it bought time. The next crisis will be of an analogous type. Retreats in the face of nuclear blackmail can only encourage the warmongers, who must be disabused of the idea that they can impose their will by threatening to unleash a holocaust. Only a clear willingness to stare the threat of all-out war in the face, coupled with the rallying of the world’s peoples to anti-imperialist struggle, can prevent war and force imperialism into coexistence.

The Main Features of the Cuban Crisis

1. The recent Cuban crisis was basically over socialism, not over missiles. Revolutionary Cuba is, by its very existence, a threat of immense proportions to imperialism, and recent events merely presented Kennedy with a thin excuse to accelerate his war on the Cuban people.

2. The Kennedy Administration is determined to wipe out the revolutionary regime. Its victory in the recent confrontation has strengthened its hand by revealing that most of the so-called neutralist leaders will do little or nothing to aid Cuba. Imperialism will try to use the next period to undermine the revolutionary regime. It will fail. Sooner or later the contingency invasion plans will again have to be the order of the day, unless the world revolutionary movement rallies the peoples of the world and/or unless the American people demand that a halt be called.

3. The Cuban people have displayed incredible revolutionary discipline and courage. They are indomitable. The most positive result of the recent events has been the exhibition of revolutionary will, determination, and flexibility by the Cuban people and their remarkable government, headed by the great Fidel Castro.

4. The main obstacle to an imperialist invasion of Cuba is the determination of the Cuban people, armed with Soviet and Czech weapons of every conventional type, to fight for their fatherland. This determination is supported by the peoples of the socialist world, the newly liberated countries, and Latin America; another blow at Cuba will trigger a revolutionary upsurge everywhere, especially across Latin America. An invasion, according to Pentagon estimates, which are probably low as usual, will cost 50,000 American lives. Such a price could finish Kennedy politically. The Cuban people are defending Cuba by their willingness to die. That lesson, in all its implications, must be learned by all.

5. A vigorous socialist movement, capable of organizing the working class against imperialism, must be built, for only it can expose the nature of imperialism and guarantee that a peace movement does not lose its moorings.

6. American socialists must oppose a policy of retreat before nuclear blackmail. A principled fight must be made for an understanding of one simple, vital fact: The fate of the peoples of the world depends on demonstrating to the imperialists that every aggressive action will be met on whatever level the imperialists choose to fight; that blow will be dealt for blow. Only the knowledge that opting for war means committing suicide can force the imperialists into coexistence.

The First Lessons for the American Left

1. United States imperialism is preparing to go, repeatedly, to the brink of nuclear war. All illusions about “sober” and “sane” bourgeois elements around Kennedy or anywhere else must be abandoned.

2. Imperialism can be expected to carry itself into nuclear war, or be carried into one by events that it unleashes but cannot control, unless a powerful socialist nuclear deterrent and the uncompromising anti-imperialist struggle of the world’s peoples disabuse it of the idea that it can survive its present policies.

3. The American people must be told, in detail, how Kennedy is preparing to sacrifice at least half the population – according to the Administration’s own ridiculously sanguine estimate – in a series of desperate gambits.

4. A redoubled effort must be made to build a peace movement capable of staying the hand of the warmongers.