|Cover art by George Meddemmen.|
From the April 1984 issue of the World Socialist
When the late President Yuri V. Andropov of the Soviet Union invited an 11-year-old American schoolgirl to visit the USSR after she had written to him in the spring of 1983 asking if he would “vote to have a war or not", even the most gullible might suspect a propaganda ploy, this one somewhat reminiscent of former President Carter's publicized encounters with the perplexed youth of America, including on one occasion his own daughter.
Andropov's guest claimed that if they were to ever meet, she would ask him: “Do you promise me the Soviet Union will never start a war?"
"The Americans are not going to start a war, either. So why are we still making all these bombs and pointing them at each other?"
Certainly there is nothing wrong with children confronting the supporters of American and Russian capitalism with such probing, pertinent questions—but where are the answers? Also, it might be construed as indicative of a somewhat strained, parlous political relationship existing between the two major powers when such publicity tactics are used, which inveigle the innocent into the quagmire of deception and international intrigue, related to matters of war.
The socialist position regarding war holds that, (1) Capitalism is the cause of war in the modem world. (2) Wars are inevitable under capitalism and the conditions that give rise to them are inherent within the system, and (3) All wars are fought over the interests of the capitalist class and we are unutterably opposed to ail of them without reservations of any kind.
While politicians throughout the world all claim to seek peace, abhor war and lament their occurrence, their reformist policies fail abysmally in securing their professed objective. War is rampant on a global scale. According to a survey conducted by the US News & World Report, July 11, 1983, 40 countries are presently involved in hostilities that have claimed as many as 5 million lives.
These conflicts are prosecuted with so-called conventional weapons forming an inescapable continuous pattern of human destruction. True, wars preceded capitalism, but war in the current era is the result of the private property relationships of the existing order of society and the causes of war are tied to the economics of capitalism. These forces are beyond the control of parties leaders and “United Nations", otherwise wars would not materialize—virtually on a day-to-day basis.
Policies and negotiations between the various capitalist states attempt, in most instances to avoid war if this is at all possible and to only regard them as a last resort should all else fail. The continuous proliferation of war proves beyond reasonable doubt that all efforts to prevent war within capitalism are doomed to fail.
Since the advent of the atomic bomb, towards the end of World War Two, the major powers have indulged in a massive and unceasing arms build-up that has stockpiled nuclear weapons, based upon the philosophy of either mutual deterrence or a potential first strike capability. I suggest these two alternatives because the actual intentions of governments, and the specifics of their negotiations, are always shrouded in secrecy—we are by no means living in an open society. Therefore, it is quite conceivable that governments have under consideration, from time to time, the practicality of exercising a nuclear "first strike" should they evaluate the overall circumstances to assure them a "victory" that would offset contemplated losses. This occurred when the US made their pre-emptive, atomic attack against Japan.
Preparations for war therefore, or for speculative avoidance of war, have been divided between the two arsenals of so-called conventional weaponry and those of the thermo-nuclear variety. To date, conventional warfare has prevailed and the dreaded holocaust avoided, although Hiroshima and Nagasaki could be regarded as full-dress rehearsals in miniscule form of what the future might have to hold. War, consequently, has not been avoided only total human annihilation — so far, that is!
There is, most unfortunately, an ominous fallacy in the approach to the problems of war in general and the potential nuclear horror in particular, that is pervasive in the thinking of all those who support the continuation of the present system, especially among the politicians and reformist parties that strive for viable solutions. Their energies are directed along technological, strategical and militaristic lines whereas the problem is one deep-rooted within the economics of capitalism. Wars originate from social factors that are the outcome of the manner in which a given society conducts its affairs and they require a social solution not a technological one.
Preparation for war, or armament build-ups claiming lo be "defense" measures that will preclude war, or negotiations between powers on specific nuclear devices and their geographic placements or curtailments, or "freeze" programmes, or the unending debates on various types of nuclear devices, or the pros and cons of conventional weaponry as compared to nuclear, germ and chemical monstrosities, or so-called super-weapons, or satellites in space, or a lawful mutual “spy" system, are all measures that do not in any way come to grips with the core of the situation. They are primarily technological approaches to war. but what is needed is a social solution to a social problem—all else is futility, fraught with terrible danger lo mankind and unnecessary procrastination particularly when a practical solution awaits recognition.
Governments can never be expected to research solutions that will in any way threaten either their status or the system that they are appointed to protect and upheld. They therefore have no real alternative but to proceed along the technological courses that produce the bottomless pits of a never-ending arms build-up.
President Reagan in his "Star Wars" speech of March 23.1983. proposed the development of space-based missile-defense systems that would have the capability of destroying enemy missiles in flight. With euphoric rhetoric he urged: “Let us turn to the very strengths n technology that spawned our great industrial base, and that have given us the quality ol life we enjoy today". This "quality of life" it should be remembered embraces the wars, not to mention the numerous other social problems.
Herein lies the terrible danger of the duly elected leaders' seemingly, but not in actuality. oblivious to the real economic causes of war, offering their impotent remedies and receiving political acquiescence from their supporters, allowing the madness of the present system to continue.
The late Russian leader, Ardropov, whose alma mater was the notorious KGB, responded to Reagan's anti-missile plans as an “insane" and "extremely perilous" strategy aimed at rendering the Soviet Union helpless to US nuclear attack. Simon Ramo, one of the developers of the inter-continental ballistic missile, asked: Who says that this technique will be used only to knock out missiles in the sky? If it's such a good technique, why not use it to knock out things on the ground?” (Quoted in Los Angeles Times, supplement on the Military-Industrial Complex, July 10, 1983.)
In other words, just because a government describes its weaponry as "defensive" it invariably is regarded as quite the opposite by its opponents. Reagan’s proposal, in fact, was just another rehash of the old delusion that a supreme weapon can be discovered that will intimidate, subdue or conquer the enemy. However, "supreme weapons” in due course have a way of being duplicated, circumvented or eventually surpassed.
Reformist attitudes to war have not prevented stockpiles of nuclear and allied weapons of gigantic proportions that continue to grow incessantly. In addition to the major countries that already possess nuclear arms, Argentina, Brazil. Pakistan. Israel and South Africa top the list of potential new nuclear powers— perhaps already having the actual capability. The United States in May 1983 was reported to have 2,011 intercontinental missiles and bombers with 9,681 warheads; the Soviet Union 2,480 of these “strategic launchers", with 8,781 warheads. [Arizona Daily Star, May 13, 1983) The same Associated Press report staled that the United Slates plans to deploy 464 ground-launched cruise missiles and 108 Pershing 2 ballistic missiles in Western Europe. The Soviets have a similar number of SS-20s and other medium-range missiles, all but 100 or so within striking distance of Western Europe.
The US News & World Report in an article dated December 6, 1982 stated that six nations have nearly 43.000 atomic weapons—the US, Russia, Britain, France, China and India. The Report further states that “Scientists estimate that if all the nuclear weapons in the world were detonated, the force would equal 10 trillion tons of nuclear explosive power."
Has saturation point been reached? By no means, for on July 13, 1983 the US Senate authorized $130 million for the production o' a new generation of nerve-gas bombs and artillery shells. At the same time the Senate was working on a bill that would authorize $4.5 billion for development and production of the MX which is the latest intercontinental ballistic missile proposed for the US arsenal. Another provision of the bill is for the construction of the B-1 bomber at a cost of $6.2 billion. And so it goes on.
The Los Angeles Times on July 10. 1983 published a 16 page supplement entitled “Servants or Masters? Revisiting the Military-Industrial Complex", on which a team of reporters and editors had worked for four months. The report refers to President Reagan's plans for an unprecedented five-year, $1.8 trillion expansion of defense spending. It states that more than 30 per cent of the country’s mathematicians work somewhere in the military-industrial complex, along with 25 per cent of the country’s physicists, 47 per cent of aero-astronautic engineers and 11 per cent of the computer programmers. Referring to California the report claims that one of every eight Californians with a job works, directly or indirectly for the military-industrial complex.
If one takes into consideration the millions of men and women employed in the production of armaments and allied occupations, it would be reasonable to suppose that n order to protect their jobs workers would be sorely tempted to rationalise political support for the arms build-up, until of course such times as they acquire a genuine, socialist opposition to a system that not only economically enslaves them but subtly entraps them into producing instruments of human destruction.
The dreadful tragedy of current wars, together with the awesome possibility of worse things to come, will not be removed by reformism, vacuous protests or dependence upon armed might, governments or leaders. The working class have a formidable task confronting them of self-education towards the scientific grasp of their problems. They alone hold the key to the future and each ore of us has a part to play in the process
When artificial borders between countries no longer exist, when the sole purpose of production and distribution is to satisfy the needs of humanity with no concern for profit, trade or barter, when classes have vanished because each person owns in common with their fellows the means for producing and distributing wealth with free unfettered access to ail goods and services, all of the conditions that cause war will have been finally and irrevocably removed.
Furnaces throughout the world will become the recipients of a colossal amount of scrap metal—a fitting tribute to the long-awaited commencement of social sanity.