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Raymond Challinor

H Bomb Front – Now Black the Bomb!

(May 1958)

From Socialist Review, 8th Year No. 9, May Day 1958.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg, with thanks to Ian Birchall.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE BLISTERS, sore feet and even colds have now gone – so what remains of the 50 mile march to Aldermaston? Not merely those, like myself, who marched all the way, but also the thousands of people who sympathized with the aims of the march must ask themselves: has it made a lasting impact upon the British public? What is the next step?

Undoubtedly, one of the most encouraging signs was the number taking part. Never below 600, the ranks swelled to well over 4,000 on the first and final days.

That so many people are prepared to sacrifice their Easter holidays and to rough it, shows there is a definite, determined Opposition, to the H-bomb in Britain. A strong and vocal nucleus exists to carry the struggle into every crevice of British life – until the bomb is ultimately banned. Another encouraging sign was that four-fifths of the marchers were under 30, just the age group politicians accuse of being politically apathetic. But surely this march proves that apathy is manufactured by the politicians themselves. Youth are not prepared to take an active part in political parties because, being without microscopes, they find it difficult to detect the differences between the two major parties. They regard the parliamentary parlour game, where heat is generated over trivialities, as of little consequence to themselves or anybody else. But when an issue of life-and-death importance arises, it is youth that gives the lead. Their infectious enthusiasm, confidence and boisterous energy was in evidence throughout the march.

Public support

Even uncommitted members of the general public were impressed. The march clearly showed that the cause of nuclear disarmament was not the proud possession of cranks, but the fervently-held opinion of many ordinary men and women like themselves. The banners, songs and chants illustrated the dangers of the current Government – and official Opposition – policy of placing faith in the amassing in larger and larger stocks of nuclear weapons.

Many spectators clapped, made the thumbs-up sign, and offered to help. Others gave food, chocolate and drinks to the Marchers.

All these indications of public support show that the march was a success, an important blow in the war against war, and a danger signal to bomb-crazy Macmillan. There is a need for other marches and demonstrations up and down the country to mobilize public opinion against the Bomb.

But, by themselves, these demonstrations will not be enough. It is necessary to wed the movement for nuclear disarmament with the organized Labour Movement and the struggle for Socialism. Without this the campaign will flounder to defeat.

Unfortunately, many of the Aldermaston March Committee would not accept this analysis. Underlying their objection is an entirely different attitude to the causes of, and struggle against war. They attribute war to people’s wickedness, fear or misunderstanding. Consequently, they point to the dangers of nuclear war, promote goodwill and understanding, and everything will be all right. Peace can be achieved without even breaking a vase in the Establishment’s grand mansion. Tranquility and Capitalism can snuggle close together.

The Socialist view

The socialist view, on the other hand, is that war is a function of capitalism and inextricably bound up with that system. Hence, to fight against war, you must fight against capitalism. An analysis of the economy of this country or the United States shows the most profitable sectors are those producing arms. With the growing danger of an American slump – not because of any increased threat from the East – Eisenhower has decided to give a further boost to arms expenditure.

To expect the governments of these, countries to pull away the props that are keeping their wobbly economies standing is like expecting Ind Coope, Bass and other brewers to lead a campaign for temperance. It’s just not in their interests.

Being opposed to socialist ideas, the Nuclear Disarmament Committee sought to confine the protest march to purely bourgeois limits. Speakers advocating trade union action were not allowed. Banners, such as the Socialist Review’s and the Newsletter’s “BLACK THE BOMB! BLACK THE BASES!” were discouraged. Indeed, an attempt was even made, at the behest of the Chief Marshall to take our banner down by force. So much for pacifist consistency!

While the Socialist Review considers the decisive factor will be workers’ action, we can see nothing against – in fact, everything in favour of – a broad movement, embracing many differing views but all agreed on the urgent necessity of arousing the public to the danger, and need to oppose, nuclear warfare. However, such a movement can only exist if there is respect and tolerance for the other person’s point of view.

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Last updated: 18 February 2017