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International Socialism, Spring 1961


Notes of the Quarter

Aldermarch Four


From International Socialism (1st series), No.4, Spring 1961, pp.1-2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has shown remarkable staying power. This is scarcely the result of inspiring national leadership and even organizationally CND is not strong. What the Campaign has done is to secure and keep the allegiance of many more thousands of people than any other movement since the war. Moreover political consciousness in the Campaign has increased. It is only in Mr Gaitskell’s speeches, those cemeteries of dead ideas, that ambiguities appear as to whether the Campaign’s policy entails breaking with NATO or not. The Campaign itself decided that its policy entailed a break with NATO quite a long time ago. But having got so far the Campaign must now ask itself new questions. How are we to avoid the CND becoming a permanent minority protest with little or no effect upon policy? One answer in the past was that the Campaign must first convert the Labour Party and then work for a Labour government. But in fact even the success that the Campaign has had inside the Labour Party has resulted from its existence as an independent organization. It is with its nature and future as an independent organization that we have to be concerned, if we are realistic. Can the CND develop its own political consciousness so that it may not only absorb the energies of the Left, but also contribute to the Left’s growth?

Some of the reasons for hope here may be strong ones. Ever since the Communist Party’s oscillations on the subject of the H-bomb ended, at least temporarily, in support for CND, there has been some danger of distortion of the Campaign’s activities. Communist participants tend to stress the American bomb rather than the British and to emphasize the dangers of bases and testing rather than of nuclear strategy as such. This is because they, or at least the men in King Street who write their slogans, believe that we ought to be against the British, but not against, the Russian bomb. The need to resist this kind of folly (to put it mildly) may educate the CND politically. The whole case for unilateralism and nothing but unilateralism will have to be spelt out again. It will be the more necessary to do this because Mr Gaitskell’s faction have, in founding the Campaign for Multilateral Disarmament, distracted some supporters of CND. For the Campaign too is clearly in favour of multilateral disarmament, but sees unilateral nuclear disarmament as the only possible first step. Some CND supporters, however, in order to vie with Gaitskell want us to stress our multilateralism, at the cost of subduing our call for unilateralism. Against them also unilateralism will have to be stressed more strongly than ever. And this could be a new start in political education. But it could also be the point at which the CND reacted into moral-itsic pacifism. When the politically minded behave as absurdly as those do who want to outbid Gaitskell on multilateralism, or as the CP do, they play into the hands of the would-be non-political.

For the H-bomb is at once a human issue and a class issue, a moral issue and a political issue. The politics of the H-bomb gives content to the moral protest. Unless we show the mass of ordinary working-people in this and other countries that they are the victims of the H-bomb we shall not move governments. Unless we see that the H-bomb is the supreme symbol of a social system in which vast technological power serves a competitive, aggressive and uncontrolled social order, we shall not move governments in the right direction. Unless we transform the political institutions of the working-class, especially the Trade Unions, we shall not have the means of creating a new responsible government. Sometimes the connexion between the H-bomb and capitalism is stated in such a way that the overthrow of capitalism is made to appear a precondition of renouncing the H-bomb. This is a mistake which renders political action sterile by making anything that we can actually do now appear useless. In fact the reverse is the case. To understand the connexion between capitalism, the working-class and the bomb is to provide an immediate agenda for action.

It is on the trade union votes that progress in the Labour movement will turn in 1961. Every Aldermaston marcher must make sure that he is as active a trade unionist as possible. Every CND member must make sure that resolutions .for union conferences are sent in in time. Every device and distraction which is offered by the Right must be exposed. In the AEU, for example, there will be plenty to expose. The struggle inside the trade unions, like the struggle in the Labour Party, might then begin to break through the limitations of the labour movement as it now is.

One of the limitations is the lack of internationalism. Here socialists in CND have a large responsibility both to the Campaign and to the labour movement. The fight against the H-bomb must itself be internationalized. In must be made more than a matter of occasional liaison committees and fraternal delegations. We welcome in the warmest terms the large contingent from abroad who are marching with us at Aldermaston 1961. We hope that our contacts with them may forge permanent links. In Europe what matters is that the anti-nuclear forces should try to work out a common strategy of protest. Revolutionary socialists have their own tasks here. The opportunities for industrial action against war are not numerous at the moment anywhere in Western Europe; but that we should work to make such opportunities is of the first importance. If we could find opportunities for such action at international level their importance would be enormously magnified. Token stoppages of work are rarely of political significance. But if, for example, the TGWU’s unilateralism were to find expression in a call to dockers on both sides of the North Sea and the Channel to stop work for twenty four hours in protest against NATO strategy, the impact on social consciousness might mark a new point of break-through for the Campaign.

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