From the December 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard
In mid-October, the executive of US capitalism made a timely gesture to the people of the world. With the 20th century drawing to a close, when people the world over are preparing to celebrate the dawn of a new millennium and all the “hope” it entails, the US Senate voted not to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, thus consigning an intrinsic defence against the proliferation of nuclear weapons—the greatest threat to world peace—to the dustbin of history.
Since negotiations were completed in 1996, some 150 countries have signed up to the CTBT. Twenty-six of the world’s 44 nuclear capable countries have refused to sign, including India, Pakistan and North Korea. The chance now is that, the US apart¸ the remaining 17 hold-out countries will follow the US example with the world witnessing a new orgy of nuclear proliferation, forcing other states to rethink their position in the new world pecking order.
Celebrating the vote in the US Senate, Republican hawks, led by George Bush junior, son of the former President Bush, announced their intention to scupper the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which outlawed “Star Wars” missile systems that were capable of shooting down an enemy’s warheads.
The anticipated Russian response came at the end of October with Moscow warning that if the ABM treaty was amended by the US, it would be forced to deploy more nuclear weapons with more warheads and capable of overwhelming any US anti-ballistic missile system.
Russian Defence Minister, Nikolai Mikalov calculated that it would be easier and far cheaper for Russia to deploy a greater number of nuclear weapons than for the US to build the necessary defences against them. Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, at the same time announced plans to massively increase military spending next year by 57 percent to £4 billion, to counter the rising internal and external threats.
Suddenly, the 21st century doesn’t seem all that inviting. The recent Senate vote hovers above it like a black pregnostic cloud, warning us that the US, as in the preceding century, will strut the globe with all the arrogance of the schoolyard bully.
Indeed, we are entering the 21st century with a US ruling elite promising the same contempt for human rights, peace and stability as we have grown used to in the past 50 or more years. The US refused to ratify the land mines treaty and have now refused to ratify the CTBT and promised to bury the ABM treaty. Just as they declined targets aimed at reducing toxic emissions at two Earth Summits, they openly boasted of destroying any attempts to set up an International Criminal Court.
At the United Nations, the US has consistently voted (almost always alone) against measures aimed at promoting goodwill and prosperity, i.e. against negotiations on the prohibition of biological and chemical weapons (9 December 1991. For 109, against 1); against protection from products harmful to health and the environment (17 December 1982. For 146, against 1); against proper nourishment being a human right (16 December 1983. For 132, against 1). The list of such US-scuppered votes at the UN is endless.
Since 1945 the US has spent 18 trillion dollars on defence, bombing four continents and overtly or covertly orchestrating and helping out in 300 conflicts, whilst supporting every dictator you can think of.
So long as there is a global capitalist system there will be a profit-crazed US elite prepared to go to any lengths to ensure the 21st century is another “American Century”. The end of the 20 century is, therefore, not a time for complacency and celebration, but of increased vigilance for the class conscious. The US may be the most visible villain of world peace, but where markets are to be monopolised, trade routes secured and mineral wealth coveted, the executive of any nation’s capitalist class is to be mistrusted. And so we, the workers, take our battle against exploitation into another century, determined this will be the last in which one class exploits another. We have witnessed a century of complacency and its consequences as it draws to an end—800 million dying of starvation, 600 million homeless, 1.1 billion unemployed and 220 million lost in wars. It is up to us, the workers of the world, to make sure the next century is ours.