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International Socialism, Autumn 1963


Tony Young

Cold War Debate


From International Socialism, No.14, Autumn 1963, p.33.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


From Yalta to Disarmament
Joseph P. Morray
Merlin Press.

In his preface the author states that in this book he seeks to lay bare ‘the inexorable logic in the events of the Cold War’ by presenting the essentials of the arguments of both sides from the most important of their speeches and documents. However doubtful we may be that the development of the Cold War could be made much clearer by the most exhaustive reading of the claims of Washington and Moscow, it is certainly of value to have access to them, and to help us, Morray tells us that he adds ‘my own analysis of the issues and my own judgements on the merits’.

The book is in three sections, treating respectively of the origins of the Cold War, the first arguments over the international control of atomic energy (both very shortly), and at length of the subsequent negotiations up to 1960. Rather more than half the text consists of Morray’s commentary and judgements, which last may fairly be summarised by these excerpts: ‘The Soviet Union wants our divided planet to be disarmed, the NATO governments do not’ (p. 328) and ‘... in the propaganda battle of words over “Who wants to disarm?” the Soviet Union enjoys the freedom of simplicity. Its spokesmen can say “Yes” and prove it because they speak the truth’. (pp.251-2) It is doubtful whether many readers of this journal are inclined to sympathise with the NATO governments or to give credence to their protestations of desire for freedom, peace and disarmament. For any such, or those whose ideas of the dispute are vague, there is plenty of material here to prove the cynicism and unscrupulousness of the champions of the ‘free world’, from their own statements. The fixing of governments for Eastern Europe (as today for Cambodia or Laos), the impudent Baruch plan for controlling atomic energy by vesting world supplies in US nominees, the haste of the Western Powers to snatch back their 1954 proposals for reduction of armed forces to fixed levels when the Russian government tripped them up by accepting, are but a few of the instances that go to show, not that our rulers constantly plan war for its own sake, but that as a Marxist would expect, everything is subordinated to the long-term advancement of their class rule.

One would not get from this book any real clue to the effect on military thinking of the advent of the hydrogen bomb from 1952 onwards as the main strategic weapon of the contenders, and hence (in a situation of relative internal stability in both camps) the emergence of a common interest in the avoidance of global war and pressure for limited rational compromises, as exemplified in the ‘hot line’ and the partial test ban treaty. Welcome as such concessions are, they give no reason to think that more of the same will be gained by lining up with either the Russian or Western governments. But Morray and his champions – Stalin, Vishinsky, Malik – share the antidemocratic assumptions of their opponents. This is perfectly apparent from the squabbling after Yalta about the distribution of spheres of influence, reported here. It is equally clear that the basic approaches to disarmament after the Second World War sprang from the US monopoly of the atom-bomb and the Russian maintenance of vast conventional forces into the peace – as demonstrated by Peter Sedgwick in his correspondence with Andrew Rothstein in Peace News last year, on the basis of Khrushchev’s much-boasted 1955 and 1957 reductions in conventional forces.

How can any thinking socialist praise the Russian government’s honesty and sincerity in the terms quoted above, in the light of the August 1961 resumption of nuclear tests (after much talk about such action constituting a ‘war crime’) or the withdrawal of the offers of on-site inspection when it seemed they might be taken up?

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