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E. Garrett

Truman, Attlee Meet in Diplomatic Secrecy

(26 November 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 48, 26 November 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

We think it would be unkind to say that it took all of five days to produce the atomic bomb statement that issued from the conference of Messrs. Truman, Attlee and King. We are sure that the delegated heads of the governments of the United States, England and Canada were occupied with genuinely weighty matters that are onny inferentially included in the public statement. We are further so highly convinced of their seriousness that we should like to spike the complaints of those who perhaps thought it mere capriciousness on the part of the conferees to meet in the closest secrecy.

Secret diplomacy did not end with the war. Newspapermen may protest all they will at being excluded from the conference, at being compelled to draft daily dispatches on the basis of rumor, back-door handouts or public ceremonies. The diplomats of imperialism do not propose to let the people in on their agreements or their real discussions – be they at Potsdam, at Washington, or any place.

Suppose the working class of this country, of England, of Canada and of other countries had before it a stenographic record of the conference. It would find, we think, the following items: (1) Given the continued rule of world capitalism (and of Stalinist Russia) a Third World War is inevitable: (2) the United Nations Organization is a dead duck in every vital sense, and that as an instrument of world peace as much can be expected from it as from the League of Nations (remember?); (3) the atomic bomb is the mightiest military weapon yet conceived, and there “can be no adequate defense against it”; (4) other nations, notably Russia, are a cinch to discover the industrial know-how of the atomic bomb, but the United States means to keep a jump ahead of them pending the day, five, ten or fifteen years from now, when the Third World War gets started; (5) the only type of world organization conceivable under imperialism is that achieved through the conquest of nations by a world power.

Working in the Dark

Possibly much more was discussed, It is possible that the conferees went into detail with respect to each imperialist rival. In that sense the secrecy of the conference was designed not only to keep the great mass of people in the dark, but the other imperialisms as well. However, the five points we have listed above are all of them implicit in the public gibberish solemnly handed a waiting world by the conference. To be sure it presumably says the contrary. It talks of preventing the “use of atomic energy for destructive purposes.” But it doesn’t say. how. It promises to “promote the use of recent and future advances in scientific knowledge, particularly in the utilization of atomic energy, for peaceful and humanitarian ends.” Again, how? It seeks “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.” We’ve heard that before. And it proposes “effective safeguards by way of inspection and other means to protect complying states against the hazards of violations and evasions.” Violations, already?

How much all this means is evident in the wails of the commentators who lull each other to sleep with the delusion that peaceful world organization is possible under capitalism. In the Stalinist and pro-Russian periphery there is real anguish. PM’s Max Lerner virtually froths at the mouth in criticism of the statement and the same newspaper’s Blair Bolles sheds bitter tears because the statement rang down the curtain on “the era of hope that sovereign states could settle their differences in international organization.”

It is true that United States imperialism hasn’t yet devised a clear-cut general policy. There are within the general framework of United States imperialism different views, some conflict of interest – as in the uncertainty over occupation policy in Germany. On the whole, however, it is based on the recognition that the end of the Second World War left the world with two great imperialist powers, the United States and Russia. It recognizes also that the issue of world mastery will sometime have to be settled between these two giant powers. And, in a cold sweat, it further recognizes that outside the interests of either of these two, or of any imperialism or combination of imperialisms, lies the interest of the peoples of the world who are in ferment and may not again wait for the issue to be decided between the imperialisms but may decide their own issue with all the imperialisms through insurrectionary decision.

Guarding the “Secret”

England’s role is necessarily more modest. It is a beaten, weak, hard-pressed imperialism that would like to hold on to what it has and perhaps build itself up again to its former magnificence. It is, for the present, it has to be, content with its continued role of junior partner in the Anglo-American firm, snatching a concession here and there. Thus a columnist in the New York Post, discussing the statement on the bomb, writes that Truman wanted a stipulation that “other powers participating in the secret” – meaning Russia, of course – [would] “put forth a frank statement of their territorial and other aspirations.” Attlee thought it wasn’t wise, so Truman conceded.

In net effect, no one is, going to “participate in the secret.” The statement provides for “effective safeguards” before any exchange of secrets. Since any “safeguard” against war in an imperialist world is an absurdity, the United States will continue to produce the bomb, and the Russians, if they do not already know how to produce it, will continue their research and learn how to produce it a year or two from now.

Other powers will share the secret according to how alignments shape up. And, while research and production continue, the United Nations Organization may outlaw the bomb. This will make a big splash in the press, but not produce so much as a ripple of delay in actual work on the atomic bomb.

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