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Labor Action, 10 December 1945


Atomic Energy:

For Barbarism or Socialism?

A Series by the Editors of Labor Action


From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 50, 10 December 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Part III

The atomic bomb has frightened the entire world, the little people and statesmen; every nation, whatever its strength; military men whose business is war, and the very scientists who created the Frankenstein weapon. What greater testimony to the awful power of the atomic bomb than that it blasted the scientists from the seclusion of their laboratories into the political arena in a manner without precedent in history? No one knows better than the men who produced the bomb what its powers are. Men of science accustomed to the precise, exact formulae of mathematics, chemistry and physics, are not inclined to exaggerate or romanticize. But their realization of what lies in store for the world if it engages in an atomic war impels them to the halls of Congress, the public platform, the radio and the newspaper columns to admonish the world about the crisis which faces it.

What is the message of the scientists?

Dr. Arthur H. Compton wrote in the New York Post October 25:

“World government is now inevitable. The choice we have is whether this government will be one agreed on by the peoples of the world, or whether the great nations will elect to fight the catastrophic third war that will settle who is master.” (Or, that could make nobody master of nothing!)

This theme of “world government” runs through all the statements of all the scientific bodies.

The Scientists Speak Out

The Oak Ridge project scientists dismiss the unrealizable alternative of the “abandonment of our cities and a reconstruction of our industries in small units widely dispersed, or, perhaps placed deeply underground,” and then propose their serious solution:

“We believe that there is only one way open to us. Every attempt must be made immediately to arrange for the control of this weapon by a world authority. This means an effective international control of the production of the vital materials and of their use in all countries. Only the world authority may manufacture atomic weapons and, by the fact that they alone are in possession of these weapons, enforce international law and peace. To be able to use this weapon the world authority must have a military establishment of its own, responsible to it and not to the individual nations ... These steps ... involve the loss of a large degree of sovereignty on the part of all nations, including our own.”

The Chicago group of atomic scientists echoes the opinion of the other scientific groups:

“Since the world government is unlikely to be achieved within the short time available before the atomic armament race will lead to an acute danger of armed conflict, the establishment of international controls must be considered as a problem of immediate urgency.”

Some legislators and most of the liberal journalists reflect the sentiments of the scientists. Senator Glen H. Taylor (Democrat from Idaho) urged President Truman to request the United Nations Organization to form a “world republic,” or, he predicted in the solemn tones of a preacher, we would experience “a ghastly orgy of death and destruction as a result of the atomic bomb” (New York Times, October 24)

Or listen to the PM liberal, Alexander H. Uhl:

“As a weapon, the atom bomb must be controlled by a world state with sovereignty to do the job.”

And ponder the conservative Life editorial of October 29, which states the dilemma of society:

“A world in which atomic weapons will be owned by sovereign nations and security against aggression will rest on fear of retaliation will be a world of fear, suspicion and almost inevitable catastrophe.”

Alternatives Before Us

A world government or inevitable final catastrophe! That is the sum of the sober opinions on the fate that lies ahead for mankind. We socialists say the alternatives are world socialism or inevitable, final catastrophe. We believe that the sentiments for world government will come to naught and that world barbarism will prevail unless a socialist reorganization of society takes place. In an age of the highest technology – now the Atomic Age – half the world has already been barbarized – first by fascism and totalitarianism, and now by subjugation to the victorious imperialist powers. The imperialist world has learned how to harness the energy of the atom, but not how to eliminate war. It knows how to destroy mankind, but not how to live in peace. Therefore, there can be no world government without a socialist reorganization of society, and no socialist reorganization without a world goal.

The truth of our contention is borne out in the behavior of the world’s rulers toward the atomic bomb. Let us take first the United States, sole possessor (for the time being) of the production “know-how” of the atomic bomb. After every scientist has told Congress and the President of the country whose proud product the atomic bomb is that there are no undiscoverable secrets in its manufacture and that world government and world peace are made mandatory by the bomb, what do these political representatives of capitalism do? They propose that the United States shall keep the secret-that-is-no-secret! When President Truman stated that the United States considered the bomb a “sacred trust” and asked other nations to place faith in our promise to “outlaw” the bomb, he was announcing to the world that the atomic armaments race is on!

Vyacheslav Molotov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, understood what Truman meant. Speaking for the country whose secret police have already moved in on Czech uranium deposits, he replied: “Russia will have the atomic bomb and more, too.”

Prime Minister of England, Clement Attlee, was quick to rush into the breach. He proposed giving the formula to Russia “if she defines her territorial interests.” This from the leader of the Labor Government, whose troops are presently engaged in shooting down Indo-Chinese in French Indo-China and Indonesians in Java in the name of – “territorial interests.”

One can come to no other conclusion than that the atomic bomb formula is being used as a bludgeon in the peace negotiations. And if nothing else proved the fact that the war was not fought between “peace-loving democracies” and “totalitarian aggressors” it is precisely the peace negotiations, where the former Allies, the Big Three, are fighting nakedly for the spoils of war – the markets of Europe, Africa and the Far East – over the bodies of the sixty million dead and half-living, the casualties of the war. This is the finale of the Second World War, which they told us was fought to free the world of the sources of war and aggression, which was to culminate in “one world,” and “the century of the common man” and which was to bring freedom and security to all the peoples of the globe.

There Is No Real Peace

We socialists said that this was an imperialist war, fought between rival nations for a new redivision of the world, a new redivision of the sources of wealth and profits. We are witnessing that new redivision of the spoils today. We also predicted that unless the working class set up its own government and eliminated the system of profits and plunder, the capitalist world would go to war a third time. We are witnessing those preparations. We could not predict the horrendousness of the weapons that would be devised for the new war. But even that does not stop the pell-mell rush of world imperialism toward the third and perhaps final – slaughter.

But suppose, you say, the United Nations Organizations formed at San Francisco decided to outlaw or share the atomic bomb after the big powers had composed their differences? Is it not possible that all disagreements might be settled peaceably ? This, of course, was what the predecessor of the UNO, the League of Nations, was supposed to do. If the UNO were what it purports to be, the United States would have rushed the bomb secret to this body immediately, so that the bomb could be outlawed peacefully, as all world disputes are supposed to be settled under the United Nations charter of the “peace-loving” victors. But the U.S. disdained its own child.

That the United States was trying to use atomic discoveries for industrial monopoly was charged by Raymond Blackburn, Laborite in the House of Commons, who said, according to a UP dispatch October 16, that American interests rejected suggestions of British scientists in 1943 that Anglo-American progress on the atom bomb be made known to Russia. He complained that even at present British scientists are not informed on what has happened at U.S. factories in Washington where plutonium, a new element used in fission, is being produced.

Rulers Think in Terms of War

The formal outlawing of the atomic bomb by the big powers could have no more significance than previous international agreements to outlaw mustard gas or the attempts at limitation of fleets. These agreements were broken. Prime Minister Attlee has said that the only reason mustard gas was not used was that each nation was prepared to use it. In addition, it is doubtful if mustard gas would have been as effective as many newer weapons. But any nation was prepared to use it at any time. Given capitalism, the fate of atomic armaments can be no different.

If the ruling classes of the victor countries expected a world without war to issue from the second war fought to end all wars, they would not be embarking upon peacetime military training of their young men. Peacetime training already exists in England and Russia. President Truman, certain segments of Congress and the military above all are now urging the adoption of peacetime military training legislation in the United States. It surely looks as though the UNO is outlawing war! (But let us pluck the flower of hope from the thistles of despair. Perhaps the UNO will arrive at a gentlemen’s agreement among themselves to outlaw the bomb so that our youth will murder each other only with the old-fashioned V-2’s – currently being demonstrated to U.S. military authorities by their defeated German counterparts – and super-bombers and improved Sherman tanks.)

While the big powers may arrive at some other agreement, a look at the May-Johnson bill, a product of our own august Senate, is instructive as to the type of “international thinking” characteristic of capitalist legislators.

The bill provides for (a) the control of atomic energy “secrets”; (b) control of the scientists and (c) a general totalitarianization of human thought and progress. Violations of the secrecy demanded in the bill would bring thirty years in jail and a $300,000 fine as penalties. The Senate, with an alert eye to the fitness of things, provided the proper committee on atomic power to handle its legislation, a committee which, although headed by a liberal, is composed of reactionaries, isolationists and poll-taxers.

(Part IV)

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