From International Socialism (1st series), No. 3, Winter 1960/61, pp. 6–11.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Raymond Challinor is a Councillor on the Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council. He is a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s Labour Advisory Committee, an Executive member of the Newcastle Constituency Labour Party. He writes for Tribune and, frequently, for Socialist Review.
In May 1960, the Communist Party’s Executive Committee called upon all party members to join the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Five months later, at the Labour Party conference, Hugh Gaitskell described supporters of unilateral nuclear disarmament as ‘neutralists, pacifist, and fellow travellers’.
An analysis of the Communist Party’s attitude to the Bomb is imperative. Gaitskell’s smear must not go unanswered. Nor must members of CND, who are now more likely to meet members of the Communist Party and their arguments, be left ill prepared; that party’s twists, turns, and the implications of its policy must be thoroughly exposed. For since 1945, the Communist Party has reeled to and fro, like a drunken man. But the poison has not been alcohol – it has been Stalinism. The one constant factor throughout has been the undeviating way the Communist Party has meekly carried out the commands of His Master’s voice in the Kremlin. It has been the interest of the Russian rulers, not the British people, that has overridden all other considerations.
In 1945, before the East-West conflict had developed, the Russian leaders hbped for friendly co-operation with the United States and Britain to divide the spoils of war; to exact forced labour from the German people; and to carve up German industry between the victors. Generally speaking, this plan was agreed to by the British and American Governments at the Yalta conference. It was natural, therefore, for the Russian rulers to place great emphasis on the Yalta agreement and, as a token of goodwill, make their English underlings pledge support for any government which said it would uphold these decisions. The London District Committee of the Communist Party called for a coalition government, headed by Winston Churchill, which would help to implement the agreement. While in 1945 the Communists favoured a coalition government, the Labour Party stood firmly for a government completely independent of the Tories. ‘The Communist Party are not a Party of the Left so far as I can see,’ declared Herbert Morrison, quite correctly, to the 1946 Labour Party conference. ‘They are not here, they are not abroad. In the United States, in 1944, the leader of the American Communist Party, its secretary, Mr Earl Browder, advocated a policy of full co-operation with capitalism and a complete desertion of socialist principles.’ It might seem ironic to hear Morrison who, like all right-wingers, now supports NATO, opposing Communist affiliation to the Labour Party on the grounds that they favour ‘co-operation with capitalism’. However, his analysis was basically sound. Morrison continued ‘They have, it is true, at times, insisted on giving us support, largely to our embarrassment, and even in connection with the General Election, when they were seeking to give us support, they advocated a line of policy which was inconsistent with the principles of either Karl Marx, the doctrines of class consciousness, or the doctrines of class struggle. Mr Pollitt said in a booklet they would fight in the General Election “to secure the end of a Tory majority, and after that election the continuation of national unity, but national unity based upon a new government having behind it a majority of Labour and progressive Members of Parliament ... This new national government should include representatives of all Parties supporting the decisions of the Crimea conference.”
The Communist position on the Bomb was a continuaiton of this attitude. In 1945, after the dropping of the Bomb on Hiroshima, they supported the use of this weapon of mass destruction. The Daily Worker has the dubious ‘honour’ of being the only British newspaper editorially to call for the employment of the new weapon on a substantial scale. They thought, ‘It will enormously increase the strength of the three great powers in relation to all other countries.’  Probably, this statement was the first exposition of atomic diplomacy. On August 14, 1945, their front page headline read: Japs still trying to haggle. In the article they denounced the Japanese for their delay in accepting the Allied armistice terms and criticized the Allied Powers for allowing the Japanese to procrastinate: ‘There was no official hint of the length of delay that the Japanese are to be allowed before the full force of Allied power – including the atom bomb – is loosed against them, in a blow intended to be final’.
Other Communist papers abroad took a similar line. L’Humanité, the organ of the French CP, said,
‘The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima seems to have caused considerable destruction, American reports suggest nothing less than the disappearance from the face of the earth of a town of 300,000 inhabitants. The effects of the discovery is considerable. Nevertheless, the Vatican has been pleased to disapprove of it! May we be permitted to express our surprise, because when the Nazis had the privilege of waging total war with total cruelty, the Holy See was not equally indignant.’ 
The Italian Communist paper, L’Unità observed.
‘The news that an atomic bomb was dropped by the American Air Force has made an enormous impression throughout the whole world, and has been received on all sides with a sense of panic and condemnation. This shows, it seems to us, a curious psychological perversion and a doctrinaire obedience to a form of abstract humanitarianism.’ 
Among those guilty of what L’Unità calls ‘an abstract humanitarianism’ was Albert Einstein, the scientist, whose pioneer work in nuclear physics made nuclear energy – and the Bomb – a possibility. He was heart-broken, at the news. He had repeatedly pleaded with the American Government not to drop the atomic bomb on a city. When Einstein saw the fruit of his life-times work in the ruins of Hiroshima, he said, ‘If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith.’
A few years later, the Communists changed their tune. Instead of the joyous shouts that greeted the dropping of the Bomb on Hiroshima – L’Unità ’s article was headed In the Service of Civilisation – an entirely different attitude was adopted. On August 7, 1952, for example, the Daily Worker contained an article entitled A Date to Remember. Speaking of Hiroshima, it said, ‘The excuse that, in the long run, this bestial action saved lives is worthless. There has never been a crime committed in war which this excuse has not been used to justify. It is a rotten excuse which is used to cover up every relapse into barbarism. As such, it was always a favourite with Hitler and the Nazi sadists.’ Conveniently, the Communists forgot that, seven years before it was exactly this argument – ‘the favourite with Hitler and the Nazi sadists’ – that the Daily Worker used: ‘The employment of the new weapon on a substantial scale should expedite the surrender of Japan. Valuable lives in the Allied nations will have been saved by the new discovery.’  Actually, this was an arrant lie. The dropping of the Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the murder of more than a quarter of a million people, was not justified. At the time Japan was suing for peace. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, an official American Government Commission, admitted: ‘By employing the methods of the Wehrmacht over Coventry of indiscriminate incendiary bombing, such a condition of general paralysis has been wrought that the economy was grinding to a standstill. The responsible leaders in power correctly read the situation and embraced surrender well before the invasion was expected.’
“The Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs did not defeat Japan, nor by the testimony of the enemy leaders who ended the war did they persuade Japan to accept unconditional surrender. The Emperor, the Lord Privy Seal, the Prime Minister, and the Navy Minister had decided as early as May of 1945 that the war should be ended, even if it meant the acceptance of defeat on Allied terms ... Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” 
In Herbert Feis’ book, The China Tangle, there is an account of how the Japanese Government tried to keep Russia out of the war and to get Russia to mediate to end the war. Peace overtures, made in late May and early June 1945, were turned down: Stalin said he would pay no attention to them.
Then, on July 12th, four days before the opening of the Potsdam conference, the Japanese Government had asked Sato, its Ambassador in Moscow, to inform Molotov that the Emperor wished peace and was prepared to send a special envoy to Moscow to arrange it. Prince Konaye, who had been Prime Minister when Japan flung herself into the war in 1941, was the person in mind for this mission. The radio message containing this instruction to Sato was intercepted by the Americans ... Sato was told that Molotov was too busy to see him because he and Stalin were getting ready to go to Potsdam. The answer, therefore, would be delayed, explained Lozovsky, Vice-Commissar for Foreign Affairs. 
Then, three weeks later, with the full knowledge that Japan wanted peace, the United States Government ordered the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Why? What prompted the American Government to commit this act of wanton destruction? The reasons were, I think, three-fold. First, the atomic bomb was an important bargaining counter. Scientists throughout the world knew the Bomb was theoretically possible, but nobody was sure that the practical difficulties could be surmounted. The fact that the United States had done this, with devastating success, meant that she had a powerful weapon not yet in the hands of other nations. It enhanced her position in a world of naked power politics, where might was the only criteria. Churchill had referred to the Big Three as a ‘very exclusive club’, with an entrance fee of ‘at least five million soldiers or the equivalent’. The atom bomb was an important counter, a valuable thing for America to use in order to get its own way. For the so-called peace conferences between capitalist countries are usually conducted in a hostile atmosphere, amid threats and counter-threats, and 1945 was no exception.
Second, America could not be sure when a situation might arise that directly led to war. In such a situation, possession of a monopoly of nuclear weapons was like having all the trumps. And America was not too modest to use her advantage: as early as autumn 1945 she was seriously considering using the Bomb to enforce the ‘peace’ agreement’s call for the evacuation of troops in Northern Persia.
Third, was the astronomic cost. As a senior officer of the Manhattan Atom Bomb project said, ‘So much money had been spent on it. Had we failed how could we have explained the huge expenditure? Think of the public outcry there would have been.’ When the war with Germany ended, work at the atom plants was speeded up. They thought the Pacific war would finish before they had an opportunity to ‘justify’ their expenditure. ‘It was a relief to everybody concerned,’ he said, ‘when the Bomb was finished and dropped.’ 
Despite the more recent declaration of humanitarian principles, the Communists are equally as guilty as the American leaders. They knew Hiroshima was wanton destruction because they knew of Japanese peace proposals. Yet, far from denouncing the dropping of the Bombs, they were a party to the crime. Not merely did they enthusiastically welcome the murder of these two cities, they also spread the completely false story, first used by President Truman, that the atom bombs saved the lives of Allied troops.
By 1947, however, the tune of the British Communist Party had entirely changed. The Cold War had begun; Russia was faced by a hostile America, having a monopoly of nuclear weapons; some Western officials, including George Kennan, advocated a ‘preventive war’, that is to say, using the American superiority in atomic weapons while it still lasted. Faced with this situation, the Communist Party’s task was to conduct an intensive campaign to outlaw nuclear weapons. If successful, this would, from a Russian standpoint, have been highly advantageous. It would have ended American superiority in the one military field in which America had a marked advantage. At the same time the Red Army, with more troops under colours, would have been left virtually as strong as before. Communist Parties throughout the world launched the Stockholm ‘Peace’ appeal. It claimed more than 500 million signatures, including one million in Britain. The appeal’s two main points were: first, the banning of nuclear weapons through international agreement of the big powers; and, second, that any country which used the Bomb first should be branded a war criminal.
In view of Gaitskell’s smear about ‘fellow travellers’, it is interesting to note that the Communist ‘Peace’ petition stood for multilateral, not unilateral disarmament. Like Gaitskell himself, the Communists favoured international agreement on nuclear weapons. They also placed great emphasis in the Stockholm ‘Peace’ appeal, just as the Labour right-wing did at the Scarborough conference, on the pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.
While this pledge is almost meaningless – in a nuclear war events would move so fast that it would be impossible to hold a judical enquiry into who actually struck the first blow – it is nevertheless significant that the Russian Government have withdrawn it. When asked by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Khrushchev refused to forego the luxury of pressing the button first. Indeed, there is nothing to choose between American and Russian leaders. Both assert their intention, if possible, of being the quickest off the ground with their bombers and missiles. Neither side have the least doubt but that a Third World War would be waged with nuclear weapons. Speaking of Russian dependency on such weapons, Marshal Zhukov said, ‘in the event of a great military conflict, atomic weapons would inevitably be put into use as the basic means of destruction.’  For the Americans, General Gruenther, former head of NATO, said as long ago as 1945 that the West had already ‘passed the point of no return’ so far as conventional weapons were concerned and, as commander, he had no choice except to use atomic weapons whether the enemy does or not.’  It is only Gaitskell and his right-wing colleagues, who purport to be in favour of making NATO less dependent on nuclear weapons, that do not realise – or pretend not to realise – that NATO must be pre-eminently a nuclear alliance. Window-dressing the sinister assumptions of his policy, Gaitskell seeks to conceal the harsh military realities of NATO, and involvement in the Cold War. As both sides think that, right from the start, any Third World War would be fought with H-bombs, it inevitably affects their plans. To adapt the old proverb, they realise, Twice armed is he who hath his quarrel just But thrice armed be he who gets his blow in fust. The colossal devastation, effecting the enemy’s powers of reprisal, which would come from striking the first blow has led to a new military concept – that of the ‘pre-emptive strike’ – being evolved. When tension increases, and war seems imminent, then the thing to do is to try and strike a knock out blow, destroying the enemy’s bombs and rockets while they are still on the ground. This concept is fraught with danger: it places the button firmly in the militarists’ hands and attempts to give them a justification for starting a nuclear war because the other side may – I repeat, may – be considering making an attack.
Yet, despite the extreme hazards, military leaders in both Russia and the West accept the idea of the ‘pre-emptive strike’. George H. Manon, Chairman of the US Appropriations Sub-Committee on Defence, said that America must be able ‘to launch an attack before a would-be aggressor has hit either us or our allies. This is an element of the deterrent which the US should not deny itself.  While the Russian opinion On the Role of Surprise in Contemporary War is put by Marshal Rotmistrov:
‘The duty of the Soviet armed forces is not to permit an enemy surprise attack on our country and, in the event of an attempt to accomplish one, not only to repel the attack successfully, but also to deal the enemy counter blows, or even pre-emptive surprise blows, of terrible destructive force. For this the Soviet army and navy possess everything necessary.’ 
This view endorsed by an editorial in Voennaia Mysl of March, 1955: ‘We cannot ignore the lessons of history, and we must always be ready for pre-emptive actions against the perfidy of the aggressors.’
Such Russian statements, one would have imagined, would have led to some serious thinking. But not a bit of it, at least not in the Communist Party. They have heralded each development of weapons of mass destruction in America as steps towards war while similar developments in Russia have been contributions to peace. In fact, as Russian strength has grown, the Communists have strutted about like jingoists, no doubt proud of the efficient way Khrushchev could blow them – and everybody else – skyhigh.
In 1953, when the Russians first succesfully tested a hydrogen bomb, the Communist journal, World News joyfully mentioned, ‘the signs of real disturbance about the strength of Soviet technical and scientific advance. It is obvious that the hydrogen bomb explosion in the Soviet Union caused the Americans great concern. A recent article by the American commentator, Walter Lippmann points out that while America is worried about its vulnerability, Britain and Europe are in fact far more vulnerable than the US.  Swallowing the reactionary ‘negotiate from strength’ argument hook, line and sickle, World News continues: ‘It is clear that in this situation there is a powerful basis for widening and extending the peace movement.’ Palme Dutt, vice-chairman of the Communist Party, summed up the position:
‘There is no Western nuclear superiority. Once that fact is recognised, the entire strategy of the White Paper, of the so-called “Great Deterrent” collapses. It is the Soviet hydrogen bomb that is the true “Great Deterrent”, because its existence compels the Western strategists to hesitate before embarking on the hazard of a hydrogen bomb war, to which they know their countries would be the more vulnerable. 
The fact that the Communist Party accepts such reactionary ideas as ‘the great deterrent’, ‘negotiation from strength’, makes it hardly surprising that it adopted a hostile attitude to the aims of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament right from its inception. At trade union conferences Communists have opposed, quite consistently, all resolutions favouring unilateral nuclear disarmament. For instance, at the 1959 conference of the National Union of Mineworkers, Abe Moffat, Communist Party leader of the Scottish National Union of Mineworkers, spoke in favour of the official right-wing TUC-Labour Partv statement and opposed a CND resolution, moved by Bert Wynn, of the Derbyshire Miners. On September 12, 1958, Tribune explained the situation at the TUC:
‘Some delegates at last week’s Trade Union Congress were puzzled over the size of the opposition to the Fire Brigades’ Union motion urging unilateral disarmament. Many of the unions, traditionally supporters of nuclear disarmament, either voted against it or abstained. Some of them even failed to support the later Public Employees’ resolution urging “the drastic curtailment of military expenditure”. What happened within these union delegations? The answer is simple: the Communist Party members within them urged this course of action in line with the policy line plugged by the Daily Worker. This alleged that to call for unilateral abandonment of the H-bomb destroys unity and splits the “peace forces” because it is a “maximalist demand”. The Communist Party is urging this action because it believes that the cessation of the manufacture of the Made-in-Britain Bomb would place the Soviet Union in an embarrassing position.’
This position was re-affirmed by the Communist Party at its 26th Congress last year, when it clearly demonstrated its opposition to the aims of CND:
‘Congress cleared up some mistaken ideas about our attitude to the demand for unilateral banning of the H-bomb. John Gollan pointed out that the Communist Party had always been against the bomb. We were the only political party in the last General Election to oppose its manufacture and we still do. The question is what policy will unite the greatest number of people to get rid of the bomb. Experience has shown that unilateralism only divides the movement, and diverts attention from the real issue, namely, international agreement to ban nuclear weapons. This is the only way to banish the menace of nuclear war and also the issue on which the greatest number of people agree.’ 
Support for nuclear disarmament by international agreement, rather than Britain giving a lead by opting out of the Cold War, is exactly the position of the Labour right-wing. Gaitskell and Gollan agreed in their attitude to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Had supporters of CND wished to be indelicate, they could have pointed out who were ‘fellow travelling’ with Gaitskell and backing his resolutions of the Bomb. However, the Campaign, wisely, has not stooped to smear tactics, whatever our opponents may do. The Communist Party’s change of line in May, 1960, is just a further example of its unprincipled policy on the Bomb. Completely disregarding the decision of its own Congress, which is supposed to be the body that formulates party policy, they have now come out in favour of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and advocated all their members joining it. This is not because the Communist Party has changed its position fundamentally on the H-bomb. It merely means that they saw the mounting support throughout the country for CND and thought, for opportunist reasons, it would be a good thing to get on the fast-moving bandwagon.
Faced with this new tactic, CND supporters must thoroughly expose the Communist Party’s dishonest line and make completely sure they don’t achieve their objective, to inveigle members of CND into the Communist Party. We must, as well, rebut the false accusations of being fellow travellers made against the Campaign by hard-pressed Gaitskellites and the Tory Press.
However, it is true, in a sense, the strength and vigour of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament owes much to Comrade Khrushchev. But Eisenhower and MacMillan, also, have helped to swell the ranks of CND. This may sound paradoxical but without their activities – or rather antics – the feeling against the Bomb would not have reached such intensity. Their desire to pile bomb upon bomb, even after military experts have agreed that existing stocks are sufficient to exterminate one’s opponent, is just one symptom of mental derangement. The rulers of the world have brought us to the present impasse, where the production of nuclear weapons imperils Mankind’s very existence. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is a product of, and a protest against, this fact. As such, it is a protest against the policies of both Camps, the H-bombs of both Camps, and the bases of both Camps.
But this is not true of the Communist Party: they oppose missile bases in East Anglia, not in East Germany. They do not believe in any form of independence, and argue that countries must take sides, for or against the Russian bloc. Indeed, Kadar, the Hungarian Prime Minister, claims Imre Nagy was guilty of this fault – and grievously he paid for it. Neutralism, according to Jacques Duclos, the French Communist Party leader, is ‘a refuge of defeated imperialists seeking to escape their own confusion.  Arnold Kettle, writing in Marxism Today said, ‘For the Socialists of one particular country to adopt such a position is in the long run unrealistic and in the short run simply opportunistic.’  The Communist Party thus opposes the basic trend, the underlying aim of CND, to create some tangible alternative to the senseless piling up of arms on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Moreover, and more important, the Communist Party does not accept the basic principle the bedrock principle that unites all disparate supporters of the Campaign. It is this: we would never be prepared, as individuals, to press a button launching a bomb that murders three million men, women and children. And, not being prepared to do it ourselves, we are not prepared to see others doing our dirty work. Further, we are not prepared to consent to the pressing of a button that could easily lead to a chain reaction that wipes out Mankind. Humanitarian principles decree that it would be wrong, hideously wrong, to drop an H-bomb, whether it be on Leningrad or London. However, Communists cannot accept this principle. It would be quite pointless for Russia to manufacture H-bombs unless there were circumstances under which she was prepared to use them. And we know, as my quotes from Russian military strategists show, that they would not only be prepared to use it, but to use it first. Therefore, the British Communist Party, which has never uttered a squeak of protest against the Russian H-bomb policy, must tacitly admit there are circumstances in which they think it right and proper for London to be blown up.
It would not be so bad if some Communist leaders did not contemplate the thoughts of a Third World War with such equanimity. Disregarding Professor Bernal’s statement that existing nuclear stockpiles are sufficient to kill all Mankind ten times over. Mao Tse-tung has said,
‘If the imperialists should insist on launching a Third World War, it is certain that several hundred million more will turn to Socialism; then there will be not much room in the world left for the imperialists, while it is quite likely that the whole structure of imperialism will utterly collapse.’ 
This statement clearly shows how far the Chinese Communist leaders, themselves a rigid ruling class, are from socialist principles. For Socialism, as all its pioneers accepted, must be achieved through the working class – that is the progressive element in society. But H-bombs, weapons of mass destruction, would inevitably, whatever the country they dropped on, have the masses as their main victims. That is why nuclear weapons are thoroughly anti-socialist, irrespective of whose hands they are in. They can never be used to help the transformation of society, only the destruction of society. Further, socialists consider ideas reflect material conditions, that the development of the means of production leads to developments in society. However, if large tracts of the world are devastated in a nuclear war, the material prerequisites for Socialism – a highly developed industrial society and working class – would not exist. Consequently, nuclear war and nuclear weapons are intrinsically, inevitably anti-socialist.
The arms program, all over the world, helps to buttress the existing social order. The immense arms expenditure in Western countries acts as a pep pill, preventing their economies plunging into a slump. Capitalist statesmen realise wars and preparations for wars are not only terrible – they are terribly profitable. In China, too, they help to overcome, at least temporarily, the economic contradictions. With the Chinese propaganda machine continually saying the enemy is at the gates, likely to attack at any time, it becomes easier for the rulers to get the Chinese peasants and workers to make sacrifices. They pull in the belt, consume less – and the Communist state takes a greater surplus. The Cold War, though, creates its opposite, a yearning for peace, which is universal and transcends the barriers of the Iron Curtain. All over the world people realise that the arms-race does, as even Eisenhower admitted, ‘signify, in a final sense, theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.’ Arms expenditure has rocketed from £500 million in 1918 to £40,000 million to-day – an eightyfold increase – while, at the same time, the last 25 years have seen a rapid rise in the proportion of the world’s population suffering from malnutrition. But it is not only people in the backward countries who bow under this oppressive burden; people both sides of the Iron Curtain feel it acutely as well. That is why, in both East and West, people are beginning to question, to think for themselves – and not for their rulers. The East German rising of 1953, Poznan and Hungary in 1956 are signs of discontent in the Russian bloc. And each time, in rumble the tanks belonging to the Russian led Warsaw Treaty organization, to quell the uprising. While the West has its Algerias, where napalm bombs, supplied through NATO, are dropped in an attempt to burn out the colonial people’s desire for freedom, and its Angolas where naked slavery flourishes. Both alliances – the Warsaw Treaty powers and NATO – have their hands besmirched with the blood of massacre, with tortures, and oppression.
So, to the Gaitskells and Gollans, who wish to pull us into one or other armed camp, we of the British Labour Movement must say, No! We must say this not because we want to retreat into our shell, to become Little Englanders, but because we want to realise the full potentialities of the Big-World. We know both sides are arming for nuclear war and neither side can bring peace. Yet, the overwhelming majority of people throughout the world fervently desire peace. It is up to us to give the lead.
1. Daily Worker, 8 August 1945.
2. 8 August 1945.
3. 10 August 1945.
4. 7 August 1945.
5. pages 12-13.
6. pages 323-4.
7. Kelly and Ryan, Star Spangled Mikado.
8. Red Star, 3 March 1957.
9. Manchester Guardian, 1 March 1955.
10. Time Magazine, 9 May 1960.
11. Voennaia Mysl, February 1955, p.14.
12. 24 October 1953.
13. Labour Monthly, April 1955.
14. Marxism Today, May 1959.
15. France Nouvelle, 13 January 1951.
16. October 1960.
17. On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People.
Last updated: 25.9.2013