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Henry Judd

Russia Has the Bomb – What’s Next
as Second Stage of Cold War Opens?

(3 October 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 40, 3 October 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Two atomic worlds have been created by the announcement of President Truman and the Russian confirmation of the existence of atomic warfare power in the hands of the Stalinist state. Behind all the talk and assurance that this event has “long since been anticipated” and therefore there is nothing to be agitated about, it is not too difficult to detect a note of amazement, consternation and even hysteria. The reason is obvious and has little to do with the surprising speed at which Russian industrialists apparently mastered the problems of A-bomb construction.

The fact is that a widespread illusion existed up until this very moment that the American military monopoly of the atom bomb would remain, perhaps indefinitely. That illusion, along with many others, has been burst and the simple conception that American “defense” could rest surely and securely on possession of such a monopoly has burst with it.

The panicky congressmen and senators who shout about “keeping cool” are the same ignoramuses who actually believed that the problem of peace and war could be solved by the existence of a particular scientific knowledge and industrial technology required for building a given weapon. These narrow-minded gentlemen lived in the fool’s-paradise hope that science and technology can be kept within the bounds of one country and monopolized in the imperialist interests of one government.

This “A-bomb paradise” has now been smashed to smithereens, and along with this should have gone any remaining illusions regarding the political leaders of the country, from President Truman down, insofar as matters of “war and peace” are concerned.

Can’t Solve Problems

Was it not Winston Churchill who, at Boston, said that the A-bomb alone stood between the West and Russian conquest? But this is now gone, it would seem, and the two worlds of atomic power confront each other. From every standpoint, this is a highly significant event that concerns us far more deeply than a matter of “revising military strategy.”

Every thinking person knows what atomic warfare would mean, yet those responsible for government policy can only attempt to conceal their own nervousness by inane talk about “keeping one’s head.” Such is the pass to which American capitalism and imperialism has now come – a total inability to solve a single one of its major difficulties. The Marshall Plan is failing badly, as is testified by the current monetary devaluation; world economic recovery has slowed to a snail’s pace, as is testified by remaining or increasing unemployment, together with a large slump in international trade; no progress, has been made in bridging Russo-American relations and the new key problem of atomic-energy control ’is unresolved.

These are the first general reflections that come to one’s mind upon learning of the news now known to all. This capitalist world and all its institutions (UN, World Court, etc.) are simply bankrupt when it comes to handling any major issue. Confronted with a whole series of new problems, now that Russian imperialism is on an equal footing with American imperialism so far as atomic power is concerned, we can safely predict that nothing will be done. Nothing, that is, to bring atomic power under control for the general use of mankind and prevent its utilization for war aims.

The UN atomic-energy committee has failed for three years and its gatherings have bogged down to nil. What reason is there to believe it can now succeed? Because the need is more compelling? We know of no international committee in history, made up of existing governments, which has successfully controlled or prevented use of a particular weapon. Poison gas, it may be said. But atomic bombing is on such an entirely different order as a war weapon, since it is primarily a weapon against civilians and cities, a weapon of total warfare, that it can stand no comparison with such a relatively insignificant weapon as gas. To depend upon any UN coinmission to solve this matter would be madness.

Arms Race Ahead

What may we expect from these gentlemen instead? The answer is all tod clear, and we have already heard it in part: We are in for the most frightening and terrifying war-preparations race in history. Some of the Washington responses are indicative. B-50 atomic-bomb-bearing planes are to replace all E-29 bombers (those “old fashioned” crates which can only carry a few thousand tons of “old fashioned” bombs) now stationed in Britain. Britain and Canada will be supplied with more information, and probably the storage of A-bombs in those countries will begin. Our own atomic-bomb stockpile will be added to, although the fantasy that mere numbers of A-bombs guarantees victory in war has been exposed by many military men.

In an immediate sense, the whole matter of the Atlantic Pact is thrown open to serious doubts. This is a verification of the idea which I have advanced in Labor Action that, even in a military sense, the whole system of the Atlantic Pact was an antiquated concept and would prove useless. It is likely that the whole matter will be soon discarded and replaced by a super-atomic-weapon concept of war to defend Western Europe, without involving the organization of large masses of armed forces.

In other words, when the American ruling spokesmen have recovered from their first surprise and shock, they will react in a purely MILITARIST way since such is the only conception they are capable of; more armaments, more powerful bombs, better strategy and preparation. Just as they conceive of defending America. against attack by surrounding the country with a 24-hour, radar-detection wall, so their political and social thought is exclusively dominated by military conceptions. These people mean war; their way leads surely to the first international atomic war.

And what of the Russian criminal leaders, who now possess this mighty weapon? How may we expect them to react?

Here too the answer is all too clear. Just as American imperialism held its former monopoly of the A-bomb as a club over the head of Russia and the world, so now Stalin will hold his A-bombs as a weapon for strategic terror against all of Europe in particular and the world in general. The division of the world between two great forces of reaction – American imperialism and Russian Stalinism – can hardly be more complete than it is today, with a fearful Europe crushed between.

“Peace” Offensive?

Stalin, of course, will employ his weapon in a fashion different from the United States. Nothing has been changed in the immediate sense; it would be wrong to think that Stalin will now crush Tito by threatening his atomic extinction, or proceed to the devouring of what remains of independent Europe.

There are indications that a Russian-style “peace” offensive, conducted in the best demagogic fashion, will start once more. Russian diplomacy, recently forced to withdraw on many fronts, will undoubtedly feel itself capable of resuming the offensive again. (We note, for example, the adamant attitude of the Russians on the still-pending treaty with Austria.) All this will become clear soon enough.

At the same time, of course, Stalinism will bend all its strength and energy to A-bomb production and expansion. Masses of slave laborers, plundering of Eastern European resources, kidnaping of more skilled technicians, etc. – the now familiar technique of Stalinism – will be expanded. Russia will try to answer the American armaments race ruble for ruble and dollar for dollar. A fuel pile of hatred, explosives and means of mass murder will be accumulated until the inevitable day of chain-reaction comes, and everything explodes in our faces.

This is the perspective today, given no basic change in the situation. It would be self-delusion to think otherwise. Between themselves, American capitalism and Russian bureaucratic collectivism can destroy the world.

What can be done about this? Just as the mere discovery of the A-bomb by Russia makes no fundamental change in the general picture of our world. it does not alter the “fundamental task of socialists and anti-war fighters everywhere.

These problems still remain that of having not a single drop of confidence or trust in any government or group of rulers; of seeking to inspire the labor movement everywhere with its role as leader in the struggle against war; of attempting to bring about the democratic reorganization of all existing states under popular control, in the hands of those who will use atomic energy for constructive purposes.

In this sense, the Russian discovery of the A-bomb has sharply underscored the critical nature of matters today, the urgency of the time factor and the need for the socialist movement to find the way out of its present isolation. The time is indeed growing short!

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