Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

The Militant, 6 April 1946

Eugene Varlin

Disease Germs – A New War Weapon

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 14, 6 April 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


This is the third of a series of articles on the death-dealing weapons in the hands of the imperialist warmongers who in their lust for world-domination, threaten the destruction of modern civilization. The first article showed how the destructive powers of warfare have multiplied. The second described the impossibility of protecting any city from the new air weapons.

* * *

Among the most horrible weapons that are being stored up in preparation for World War III are the weapons of biological and chemical warfare.

Biological warfare is the use of bacteria, viruses and poisons made from living organisms to infect and kill men, animals and plants. Among the known diseases that can be spread by biological warfare are influenza, infantile paralysis, cholera, typhoid and leprosy.

Modern laboratory techniques make production of biological weapons quite simple. In a War Department report, George W. Merck, special United States government consultant on biological warfare, stated:

“The development of agents for biological warfare is possible in many countries, large and small, without vast expenditures of money or the construction of huge production facilities.”

On January 14, Newsweek described the weapons of biological warfare as “more devilish than rockets and bombs” – and with good reason. During World War II, the United States had already perfected a plague serum, known as toxin botulinus, so deadly that an invisible speck of this serum could kill a man.

One of the most insidious features of biological warfare is the ease with which these deadly agents can be spread. On October 24, 1945, Gen. Chisholm, Deputy Health Minister of Canada, declared: “What of an invasion of a country by a few thousand immunized tourists loaded with anthrax or the toxin of boculinus or typhoid or influenza or perhaps some new bacteria or filterable virus especially developed for the purpose, or the spreading of such materials by planes without warning? Any country could be paralyzed and destroyed at leisure by a well-organized attack of this type and without any development of heavy industry” by the attacker.

All the major warring powers of World War II stored up huge quantities of poison gases. Some of these are very deadly. Hydrocyanic gas, for example, causes unconsciousness and convulsions in 10 to 20 seconds: in 45 seconds, the victim stops breathing: in a few minutes, he is dead. There are other gases equally potent.

Why weren’t these gases used? Had the imperialists become soft-hearted? They were anxious to create that impression. In 1943, when it was rumored that the Axis imperialists intended to use poison gas, Roosevelt’s sensibilities were apparently aroused.

“Use of such weapons,” he declaimed indignantly, “has been outlawed by the general opinion of civilized mankind. This country has not used them ... We shall under no circumstances resort to the use of such weapons unless they are first used by our enemies.”

These hypocritical mouthings had nothing to do with the real reasons. On January 3, 1944, Time magazine let the cat out of the bag when it said:

“The real reason for not,using poison gas is not that it is inhumane or immoral, but that it is ineffective.”

In World War I, while only one out of thirteen gas casualties died, one out of every four injuries by explosives resulted in death. A United States Chemical Warfare officer interviewed by Time stated: “Gas is not a good weapon without air supremacy, and with air supremacy there is no need for gas.” An airplane loaded with explosive bombs could kill and destroy more people and property than an airplane loaded with gas weapons.

New and deadlier weapons than gas or bombs were perfected by the United States after Roosevelt made his plea for humane slaughter. And neither Roosevelt nor his successor, Truman, hesitated to use them – first!

The United States developed incendiary bombs that could not be extinguished by any existing fire-fighting apparatus. These incendiaries burnt people to a crisp. They were deadlier in their effects than any known blister gas. Their fumes choked people to death in the air-raid shelters as relentlessly as any choking gas. And while there were defense measures that could be taken against these gases, there was no protection against the incendiaries. Commander-in-Chief Roosevelt used these incendiaries – first.

Finally came the crowning glory of “humane warfare” – the atom bomb. The two atom bombs which destroyed 600,000 men, women and children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were used by the United States – first!

If World War III comes, will poison gas be used? Only on condition that gases have been developed so deadly in character as to make the imperialists forget “humane considerations” in their desire to strike a decisive blow.

(To Be Continued)

Top of page

Main Militant Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 22 June 2021