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Fourth International, April 1946


Review of the Month

The Atom Bomb and a “World Mood”


From Fourth International, April 1946, Vol.7 No.4, pp.101-102.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


Among the recent contributors to the discussion on the atomic bomb is Professor Sidney Hook (New Leader, February 23). This individual has long posed as a profound and enlightened thinker, although he never said anything new or original in his life, nor has ever cast a new light on familiar but important issues. Why then do we propose to acquaint our readers with his views? Because the topic itself is a rather serious one, and, furthermore, because Hook represents a type in the academic world. He epitomizes the older generation of intellectuals who began moving toward Marxism in the ’Twenties and early ’Thirties, halted midway and then scurried into the camp of “democratic” imperialism on the eve of World War II.

The atomic bomb has posed point blank the question of the survival of civilization and even of the physical survival of mankind. This proposition has been affirmed by the outstanding scientists directly connected with nuclear research. Without a single noteworthy exception, all those who are in position to really speak with authority have asserted that this danger is no myth. They are seeking to awaken public opinion before it is too late, that is, before the outbreak of World War III. This is the virtually unanimous opinion of the scientists, most of whom had no previous experience in dealing with social problems and many of whom are quite conservative – even reactionary – in their social outlook.


The reactionary character of Hook, in common with the rest of the Social-Democratic renegades from Marxism, can be gauged by the fact that he skirts around this issue, or more correctly, dismisses the actual danger. According to this oracle from New York University, there is far greater danger in the spread of a “new world mood” fin du mondisme – which is “slowly seeping through the membranes of our culture.” Everything is thus reduced to psychology, or rather, psychopathology; mankind is threatened not with physical annihilation but with a pandemic of a new mental disease.

Thereupon with a serious air this gentleman pretends to trace the alleged new malady to its alleged sources, examining its alleged effects (“unhealthy psychological consequences”) upon the various sections of the population, and proposing an alleged solution (“social therapy”). This elaborate construction is labelled by the New Leader editors as “provocative analysis.” Let us follow it through its contortions.

The origin of the “new world mood,” its discoverer reveals, is twofold: its “immediate cause” lies in “the spread of scientific knowledge”; the second, and major source is war, especially “war in the age of nuclear energy.”

Ordinary mortals have commonly accepted the spread of knowledge, including scientific knowledge, as a blessing and not an evil. Those who attribute social ills to science or its progress have up to now been generally classified among the obscurantists. Hook himself is as a rule fond of noisily parading as a champion of “science,” let alone a disseminator of scientific knowledge. However, as we see, when need arises, it is as easy for him to do just the opposite. And in the true tradition of all free spirits, he disdains to so much as offer an explanation for his 100 percent switch.


Let us pass on to the second source. Wars give rise to mass moods, even world moods. No one will dispute this. But no matter how learned one may be, given moods cannot be discussed separate and apart from the character of the given war. Supporters of the Second World War painted it up and exalted it as a “democratic” war, a “people’s” war, a war of “liberation,” a war “against fascism,” etc., etc. They swore it would lead of a “people’s” peace, unprecedented international harmony and prosperity, in short, the bravest of brave new worlds. How could such a “progressive” war suddenly produce so reactionary a “world mood?” Among the ardent supporters of the war was Hook who is now obviously displeased, if not upset, by its consequences. In these conditions the least one might expect is an explanation. None is forthcoming. How could there be? The professor would have to confess to betrayal of his trust as educator of the youth, confess to having helped send off the youth to the slaughter pens and contributing in his own small way to the present world “mood.”

Let us continue. We would be the last to deny the impact or importance of mass moods. Nonetheless, mass moods, progressive and reactionary alike, do not arise by chance. Nor have they an independent existence of their own. They have deep social roots; above all, they are rooted in classes and the material conditions of their existence, stemming from the latter and changing in correspondence with shifts in these conditions as well as in the reciprocal relations between the classes.

But Hook has long ago dispensed with social classes and the class struggle. Instead he divides mankind into three vast categories:

  1. those who are “coarse-grained”;
  2. those of “nobler stuff”; and finally
  3. certain nameless elements presumably those made of the subtlest “stuff” of all.

Approximately the same procedure is followed in grading meat in the packinghouses.

The “world mood” affects each category in a different way, but adversely. Thus the first category becomes the culture, medium for immoralism. The professor unhesitatingly predicts saturnalias “which will eclipse anything known in the past.” The second category, we are assured, becomes the medium for quietism, mysticism, fatalism. Isn’t it perhaps necessary to find a cure especially for these moods, infallible camp-followers of blackest reaction? But they, like those of the first category, are brushed aside as “superficial.”


It thus turns out that the discoverer of a new world mental affliction is least concerned with its most malignant manifestations. If moral and spiritual decomposition and prostration do not interest him, what then does? It is only toward the end of the article that we come to the solution of the whole mystery and mystifaction. There are, it appears certain nameless element – the third category – who threaten to become the medium for the surrender of “our belief in the validity of democratic life.”

All this pretentious and insolent rigmarole about “Fin du mondisme” turns out to be merely a cover for a political defense of American imperialism, its domestic and foreign policy.

Hook was and remains a tub-thumper for Wall Street and its “democracy.” But there is a process of disillusionment, ferment and reorientation taking place today among the intellectuals. Many are beginning to lose confidence in bourgeois democracy. This is indeed the “end of the world” so far as thinkers like Hook are concerned.

Along the intellectual front at the present time the “democratic” supporters of Washington are lining up on one side, while, on the other, are those who gravitate toward Moscow and Stalinism. The professor wants to keep the intellectuals tied to the chariot of imperialism. For this purpose was created the “world mood” with all its attending horrors.

Besides, in the absence of this “philosophic” facade, it would be impossible to tell the professorial mind apart from the mental baggage of any reactionary Senator or Representative. For example, Hook indignantly points to Moscow’s role in Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Balkans, the Baltic countries, but carefully refrains from mentioning Washington’s role in Italy, Germany, Japan, China, etc.; or, for that matter, England’s role in Egypt, India, Indonesia, etc.

He dangles the threat of a world, including the USA,. Dominated by Stalin, which is doubtless an evil. But no less evil and immediate is Wall Street’s march toward world domination, concerning which all the champions of “democracy” – whether in Congress or universities – keep mum, of course.


It is hardly surprising that under the guise of “social therapy” the professor then prefers a rounded domestic and foreign policy. At home he is in favor of preserving bourgeois democracy – “more and more force to democratic principles in all our institutions.”

The sum and substance of his foreign policy may be reduced to three propositions:

  1. Keep the atom bomb a secret (“iron-clad control of all work on nuclear physics”);
  2. adopt a “tough” policy toward the USSR;
  3. forge an anti-Soviet bloc (“alignment with other democratic powers”).

The “social therapy” of the “democratic” professor turns out almost identical with the proposals of – war-monger Winston Churchill, the faithful watchdog of the British empire.

This essay of Hook, so replete with the bombastic banalities of the academic world, is typical in one respect: it raises the common idea of petty bourgeois intellectualdom that there are only two choices in the world of today: Stalinism or American imperialism. And that one must choose one or the other. In this is expressed of course the worship of power on the part of the petty bourgeoisie and their prostration before it. If this was actually the only alternative, the fate of mankind would be sealed. For neither Stalinism nor “democratic” imperialism offer any way out.

Stalinism is reactionary through and through, and can only produce further tyranny, reaction and horrors.


The imperialist bourgeoisie – it should now be clear – has become consistently reactionary. The virulent nature of its rule has been fully laid bare by two world holocausts in the lifetime of a single generation; by the economic stagnation, depression and crises in the interval between the two world wars; by the decay of bourgeois democracy and the rise of totalitarian forms of bourgeois rule; by the spread of all forms of ideological reaction: anti-Semitism, race hatreds, obscurantism, etc., etc. The unregenerate nature of imperialist reaction is being laid bare by the cynical preparation for a new slaughter.

The choice is not Stalinism or “democratic” Imperialism, but socialism through the proletarian revolution. The decayed bourgeoisie and the no less decadent Stalinist clique in the Kremlin is capable only of draining civilization of all its vitality and dragging mankind down with it into the abyss. Those scientists and intellectuals who are looking for a progressive solution to the atom bomb threat, must turn to the scientific program of the working class, the only dynamic living progressive force in modern society.

They must turn to Marxism and ally themselves with the party of the socialist revolution.

The atom bomb is history’s blazing signal, illuminating the precipice on the brink of which civilization today totters. To save Europe and the whole world, the proletarian revolution is unconditionally necessary. For there is no class other than the proletariat viable enough to lead society away from the abyss and back to the highway of progress.

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