A comprehensive Trotskyist response to the new age which opened with the American atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. It was published in Labor Action, New York, at the end of 1945.
"The impact of the bomb was so terrific that practically all living things, human and animal, were literally seared to death by the tremendous heat and pressure engendered by the blast." - From a Tokyo broadcast describing the result of the atomic bomb dropped by a Superfortress on Hiroshima.
The explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki of the missiles that were produced by the United States for the "democratic" camp and dropped on what we were told was an "ape-like, bestial and inhuman" people are still reverberating throughout the entire capitalist world and shaking the very foundations of the system that produced them. The development of the atomic bomb has posed in a new and dramatic fashion the question; Capitalist barbarism or socialism?
The use of the first atomic bomb - and we are told that this one was a "baby" (!) and the weakest that could be devised - has given humanity a preview of the Third World War. It will be a war in which no one will be immune, in which everyone might perish and which could be concluded in minutes. Read the tragi-comic attempt at consolation by Lord Cherwell of the British Parliament:
"There is no fear of the world blowing up, but civilization as we know it may be destroyed." - -United Press dispatch.
And that of William L. Laurence, writer of the New York Times' series on atomic power:
"Atomic energy is here to stay; the question is whether we are."
Or if you think that these lay spokesmen are alarmists, listen to Albert Einstein, whose mathematical theories were turned to practical use in the control of atomic energy. Einstein writes in an essay in the November, 1945, Atlantic Monthly, also with that air of absurd consolation :
"Atomic power is no more unnatural than when I sail my boat on Saranac Lake.... I do not believe civilization would be wiped out in a war fought with the atomic bomb. Perhaps two-thirds of the people of the earth might be killed, but enough men capable of thinking and enough books would be left to start again and civilization could be restored."
The Chicago group of scientists who worked on the production of the bomb are not so complacent as Einstein. They say in a resolution of their body:
"The development and use of the atomic bomb has radically changed world politics, and has created a situation fraught with grave danger for our nation and for-the world. Only a full realization of the new situation will enable the citizens of this country to solve intelligently the problems created by the unleashing off atomic power. If a wrong course is taken, it may mean the destruction of our cities, death for millions of our people, and the possible end of our nation.
It is not melodrama to say that today humanity truly stands at a crossroads: one sign pointing to the destruction of mankind and civilization and the other to everlasting peace, freedom and security.
The bombs dropped in Japan struck a blow against capitalism and a blow for socialism. This may seem paradoxical, since they helped to establish the victory of one capitalist nation over another. But the very magnitude of the death-dealing weapons that capitalism spawned brought a revulsion against war and against the system which breeds war to millions of people. The very weapon which wrought such tremendous destruction is of and in itself an argument against the system which produced it and an argument for a new social system which will put an end to war for all time - socialism.
In order to examine how the release of atomic energy is an argument for the new society of socialism and an argument against the old society of capitalism, let us first of all summarize the facts about atomic energy.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE BOMB
The development of the atom bomb was not the result of a single scientific discovery. It represented the totality of knowledge of nuclear physics derived from decades of study, experimentation and the fusion of ideas of scientists from all over the world. The trail of atomic energy leads from the French Becquerrel's discovery of uranium radioactivity, through the German Roentgen's discovery of the relation between rays and chemical salts, through the Curies' isolation of radium, to the English Chadwick's theory of neutrons and the Jewish Einstein's mathematical calculations which gave science a theory later proved experimentally in the fission of uranium.
In addition to using the theories of many scientists from many nations and many periods of history the U. S. project picked the scientific brains of the world and employed them on this job. Thus the "American" atomic bomb was the product of the labor of Italian, Danish, English and American scientists, who had for many years engaged in "atom-smashing," i.e., at efforts to control and use the enormous energy in the atom.
Obviously the United States can lay no special claim to the discovery of how to use atomic energy in its present explosive and disintegrative form. The government, for the purpose of creating the greatest destructive instrument known to man, spent $2,000,0000,000 on what Dr. Lewis Balamuth, writing in "Ammunition," educational organ of the United Automobile Workers - CIO, calls "the greatest single planned scientific and engineering project in the history of the world."
But if the United States can lay no special claim to the discovery of how to use atomic energy, neither can she claim any special knowledge on how to produce the bomb, since it was only her immediate financial and technological superiority, plus peculiar circumstances created by the war, i.e., time and the reservoir of scientific knowledge of her allies, which gave her a head start over her competitors. The other powers were already at work on the same project. Great Britain and Canada, for example, worked jointly with this country on the plan. Germany was very close to developing the bomb before her defeat. The decisive scientific fact in the production of the bomb, the fission of uranium, was discovered first in that country late in 1938. (It is one of the ironies of history that the Jewish scientist who made this discovery fled Hitler's realm to Sweden and reported her findings to the Swedish scientist Nils Bohrs, who then communicated this information, to the U. S. and Great Britain.)
"Private initiative" and "private enterprise" contributed little or nothing to the discovery and production of the atom bomb. The various projects which were created in the hope of making the bomb were government organized, planned and financed. This fact is important to remember in relation to our later discussions on the social, political and economic consequences of the epochal discovery.
WHAT ABOUT THE "SECRET"?
While the politicians in Washington and the professional military men prattle nonsensically about "keeping the atomic bomb secret," the scientists who worked on the bomb are all agreed that the secret atom bomb ceased to be a secret once it had been used in Japan. The universality of scientific knowledge makes secrecy impossible. The Oak Ridge group, for example, declares:
"We can claim no enduring monopoly in the possession of the atomic bomb. Other scientists can apply , the fundamental principles, perhaps even more successfully than we have done."
In testifying before the Kilgore sub-committee of the Senate Military Affairs Committee, Dr. J. R. Oppenheimer, referred to as the leading atomic scientist in the country, corroborated this opinion by saying:
"Discussion of the secret of the bomb is academic. It is only possible to keep our policy (foreign policy) secret.... There never will be a counter-measure against the atomic bomb, although there may be a way to intercept the bomb carriers."
The Chicago group writes in Life, October 29, 1945:
"Let us realize the fact, however disagreeable, that in the near future - perhaps two to five years - several nations will be able to produce atomic bombs."
Even the great productive strength of a country like the United States does not make her secure. The power of the bomb is so great - and recall that the present power may be magnified a thousand times - that it takes only a few, strategically planted, for a small country to wipe out a large country.
As a matter of fact, what it took the United States six years to produce, will take any other country much less. Whatever "kinks" the scientists of other countries have to overcome are relatively simple now, since it has been demonstrated that the experiments in nuclear fission can be translated from the laboratory to the factory.
The attainment of leadership in the development of the atomic bomb also means little or nothing. All nations have the secret. All nations are capable of producing the atom bomb. A nation does not have to produce atomic bombs in abundance to match, let us say, the great productive capacity of the United States. It needs only to produce enough atom bombs, even if the enemy has many more bombs and even if they are capable of superior destruction. And, atomic bomb destruction is on so vast a scale that it becomes a little ludicrous to match the degree of destructibility of various atom bombs.
The magnitude of destruction caused by the new bomb will usher in tremendous changes in the "science of warfare." Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only a preview of the next world war. The disintegration of these two cities merely indicated the destructive possibilities of the bomb. We have the opinions of the scientists to support this view.
Dr. Arthur H. Compton, Nobel Prize physicist and one of those who worked on the bomb, wrote in the New York Mirror that "science sees no reason to doubt atomic weapons will be made that, related to the present atomic bomb, will be as the blockbuster to the blunderbuss." In an interview printed in the New York Times of October 13, 400 Los Alamos scientists who worked on the bomb project declared:
"Before many years they (other countries than the U. S., Britain and Canada) may also be manufacturing bombs - bombs which may be tens, hundreds or even thousands of times more powerful than those which caused such devastation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
What would such bombs mean concretely? The scientists have testified before the U. S. Senate that with robot atomic bombing, forty cities the size of New York and tens of millions of lives can be wiped out in a few minutes!
Some scientists put it this way: if another war takes place, atomic warfare will mean the death of one out of every four persons in the country.
THE NEW TYPE OF WARFARE
This type of warfare will not even require pilots. All the new devices in the technique of mass slaughter developed in this war - rocket planes, rocket bombs, radar, radio-directed weapons - can be applied to the queen of them all, the atomic bomb. The "science of warfare" has become so elevated that every city in the world can be razed. Capitalist civilization has at last produced a weapon that can truly destroy itself.
The bomb has antiquated the present concepts off warfare by mass armies, air fleets and navies. It has revolutionised warfare in a more fundamental way than did the invention of gunpowder. The mass army in the next war, if it miraculously succeeded in surviving an atomic war, could only be used to occupy wastelands, devastated areas with millions of dead, so great is the disintegrating force of the atom bomb.
Even more significant than this is the fact that there is no defense to the atom bomb. The new weapon has destroyed the military cliche, "To every offense a corresponding defense."
"We might surpass by far the defensive achievements of this war," writes the Oak Ridge group of atomic scientists, "but even if we could keep nine of these missiles from their goal, dare we hope that we could stop the tenth as "well ?"
IS THERE A DEFENSE AGAINST IT?
Only the House of Representatives' Naval Affairs Committee insinuated that "an effective counter-measure to atomic bombs had been developed." What that might be, they have not indicated. The atomic scientists of Chicago. however, stated October 13 that:
"...Expert scientific opinion contradicted a report issued Thursday by the House Naval Affairs Committee." They-called the report "highly misleading" and said that its "attempt to minimize its (the atom bomb's) importance and convey the impression that the armed forces will soon bring the situation under control can do incalculable harm."
Another direct refutation came from Dr. H. J. Curtis, one of the leading scientists on the Oak Ridge project:
"We scientists can offer no hope of a specific defense against the atomic bomb. Counter-offensive warfare will not restore the ruins of our cities nor revive the millions of our dead."
This opinion is supported by Drs. David L. Hill, Eugene Rabinowitch and John A. Simpson, Jr., of the Chicago group, who say:
"No specific defense against the bomb itself - i.e., a device which would explode them before they reach their targets - is in sight. Irresponsible claims that such a device has been invented only stimulate wishful thinking. ...The conclusion cannot be avoided that in the atomic age it will be difficult if not impossible for any one nation, big or small, to make itself secure against a crippling attack."
The Chicago group was even more graphic in its description of a future atomic war. It stated: "In the not too distant future, many nations might possess the several hundred atomic bombs which would be sufficient to annihilate in a few minutes sixty per cent of our industrial resources, paralyze ninety per cent of our productive capacity and destroy one-third of our entire population. (These figures represent the part of our population and national economy concentrated in thirty metropolitan centers.)"
Just think, the present atomic bomb devastates an area of four square miles and damages a surrounding area of a hundred. No city of a population of 100,000 would remain an effective operating center after the first hour of an atomic war. Twenty-five per cent or more of a nation's population could be wiped out in an initial blow.
What, then, should one think of a scientist like Einstein, who writes that "no new problem has been created" by the atomic bomb?
Up to now we have dealt solely with the military consequences of the creation of the atom bomb. The question naturally arises: What are the industrial, or non-military, potentialities in the control of atomic energy?
In answer to this question, the opinions of the scientists are not uniform nor so sure as on the other aspects. The reason for their equivocation may be found in the fact that our capitalist government developed the bomb at great expense for destructive purposes, but has never contemplated any peacetime industrial project similar in scope or expenditure which might compete with existing private enterprise. However, there is much evidence and testimony available to indicate that atomic energy has just as great significance for the revolutionizing of industrial production as for the "science of warfare."
According to Professor Compton, there is no indication as yet that atomic energy may be used in automobiles or airplanes, because the radioactive waves produced by nuclear fission make it impossible to use safely in such relatively small machines. However, he says with certainty that "at this moment the obviously great field open to atomic energy is that of the production of useful heat and power"
Dr. Enrico Fermi, one of the foremost of the atomic scientists, communicated his opinion to the Kilgore Sub Committee that "The industrial potentialities can be exploited.”
In his testimony before the Senate Military Affairs Committee, reported in PM on October 15, Dr. Oppenheimer asserted that "... a million kilowatts of electric energy is not far off, possible five years or less. But to fit this into our economy may take a long time.”
Other than military use of atomic power also concerned the Chicago group. In its Life (October 29) report, it states:
"The scientists are often asked: What about the peacetime applications of atomic power? These, too, will depend on how successfully the specter of atomic warfare is banished from the earth. We may look confidently to benefits which the production of new radioactive elements will bring to science, industry and medicine, since small-scale atomic plants will be sufficient to provide an abundance of these invaluable tools for scientists, doctors and engineers. On the other hand, only in a world free from fear of war will it be possible to give full freedom to the development of large-scale atomic-power prospects"
Thus we see that the future and complete answer to this question lies in the field of economics and politics.
PART III The atomic bomb has frightened the entire world, the little people and statesmen; every nation, whatever its strength; military men whose business is war, and the very scientists who created the Frankenstein weapon. What greater testimony to the awful power of the atomic bomb than that it blasted the scientists from the seclusion of their laboratories into the political arena in a manner without precedent in history? No one knows better than the men who produced the bomb what its powers are! Men of science accustomed to the precise, exact formulae of mathematics, chemistry and physics, are not inclined to exaggerate or romanticize. But their realization of what lies in store for the world if it engages in an atomic war impels them to the halls of Congress, the public platform, the radio and the newspaper columns to admonish the world about the crisis which faces it.
What is the message of the scientists?
Dr. Arthur H. Compton wrote in the New York Post October 25:
'"World government is now inevitable. The choice we have is whether this government will be one agreed on by the peoples of the world, or whether the great nations will elect to fight the catastrophic third war that will settle who is master" (Or, that could make nobody master of nothing!) This theme of "world government" runs through all the statements of all the scientific bodies.
THE SCIENTISTS SPEAK OUT
The Oak Ridge project scientists dismiss the unrealizable alternative of the "abandonment of our cities and a reconstruction of our industries in small units widely dispersed, or, perhaps placed deeply underground," and then propose their serious solution:
"We believe that there is only one way open to us. Every attempt must be made immediately to arrange for the control of this weapon by a world authority. This means an effective international control of the production of the vital materials and of their use in all countries. Only the world authority may manufacture atomic weapons and, by the fact that they alone are in possession of these weapons, enforce_ international law and peace. To be able to use this weapon the world authority must have a military establishment of its own, responsible to it and not to the individual nations.... These steps... involve the loss of a large degree of sovereignty on the part of all nations, including our own."
The Chicago group of atomic scientists echoes the opinion of the other scientific groups:
"Since the world government is unlikely to be achieved within the short time available before the atomic armament race will lead to an acute danger of armed conflict, the establishment of international controls must be considered as a problem of immediate urgency."
Some legislators and most of the liberal journalists reflect the sentiments of the scientists. Senator Glen H. Taylor (Democrat from Idaho) urged President Truman to request the United Nations Organization to form a "world republic," or, he predicted in the solemn tones of a preacher, we would experience "a ghastly orgy of death and destruction as a result of the atomic bomb.'*' (New York Times, October 24.)
Or listen to the PM liberal, Alexander H. Uhl:
"As a weapon, the atom bomb must be controlled by a world state with sovereignty to do the job."
And ponder the conservative Life editorial of October 29, which states the dilemma of society:
“A world in which atomic weapons will be owned by sovereign nations and security against aggression will rest on fear of retaliation, will be a world of fear, suspicion and almost inevitable catastrophe"
ALTERNATIVES BEFORE US
A world government or inevitable final catastrophe! That is the sum of the sober opinions on the fate that lies ahead for mankind. We socialists say the alternatives are world socialism or inevitable, final catastrophe. We believe that the sentiments for world government will come to naught and that world barbarism will prevail unless a socialist reorganization of society takes place. In an age of the highest technology - now the Atomic Age - half the world has already been barbarized - first by fascism and totalitarianism, and now by subjugation to the victorious imperialist powers. The imperialist world has learned how to harness the energy of the atom, but not how to eliminate war. It knows how to destroy mankind, but not how to live in peace. Therefore, there can be no world government without a socialist reorganization of society, and no socialist reorganization without a world goal.
The truth of our contention is borne out in the behavior of the world's rulers toward the atomic bomb. Let us take first the United States, sole possessor (for the time being) of the production "know-how" of the atomic bomb. After every scientist has told Congress and the President of the country whose proud product the atomic bomb is, that there are no undiscoverable secrets in its manufacture and that world government and world peace are made mandatory by the bomb, what do these political representatives of capitalism do? They propose that the United States shall keep the secret-that-is-no-secret! When President Truman stated that the United States considered the bomb a "sacred trust" and asked other nations to place faith in our promise to "outlaw” the bomb, he was announcing to the world that the atomic armaments race is on!
Vyacheslav Molotov, Russia's Foreign Minister, understood what Truman meant. Speaking for the country whose secret police have already moved in on Czech uranium deposits, he replied: "Russia will have the atomic bomb and more, too"
Prime Minister of England, Clement Attlee, was quick to rush into the. breach. He proposed giving the formula to Russia "if she defines her territorial interests". This from the leader of the Labor Government, whose troops are presently engaged in shooting down Indo-Chinese in French Indo-China and Indonesians in Java in the name of - "territorial interests." One can come to no other conclusion than that the atomic bomb formula is being used as a bludgeon in the peace negotiations. And if nothing else proved the fact that the war was not fought between "peace-loving democracies" and "totalitarian aggressors" it is precisely the peace negotiations, where the former Allies, the Big Three, are fighting nakedly for the spoils of war - the markets of Europe, Africa and the Far East - over the bodies of the sixty million dead and half-living, the casualties of the war. This is the finale of the Second World War, which they told us was fought to free the world of the sources of war and aggression, which was to culminate in "one world," and "the century of the common man" and which was to bring freedom and security to all the peoples of the globe.
THERE IS NO REAL PEACE
We socialists said that this was an imperialist war, fought between rival nations for a new re-division of the world, a new re-division of the sources of wealth and profits. We are witnessing that new re-division of the spoils today. We also predicted that unless the working class set up its own government and eliminated the system of profits and plunder, the capitalist world would go to war a third time. We are witnessing those preparations. We could not predict the horrendousness of the weapons that would be devised for the new war. But even that does not stop the pell-mell rush of world imperialism toward the third and perhaps final - slaughter.
But suppose, you say, the United Nations Organizations formed at San Francisco decided to outlaw or share the atomic bomb after the big powers had composed their differences? Is it not possible that all disagreements might be settled peaceably? This, of course, was what the predecessor of the UNO, the League of Nations, was supposed to do. If the UNO were what it purports to be, the United States would have rushed the bomb secret to this body immediately, so that the bomb could be outlawed peacefully, as all world disputes are supposed to be settled under the United Nations charter of the "peace-loving" victors. But the U. S. disdained its own child. That the United States was trying to use atomic discoveries for industrial monopoly was charged by Raymond Blackburn, Laborite, in the House of Commons, who said, according to a UP dispatch October 16, that American interests rejected suggestions of British scientists in 1943 that Anglo-American progress on the atom bomb be made known to Russia. He complained that even at present British scientists are not informed on what has happened at U. S. factories in Washington where plutonium, a new element used in fission, is being produced.
RULERS THINK IN TERMS OF WAR
The formal outlawing of the atomic bomb by the big powers could have no more significance than previous international agreements to outlaw mustard gas or the attempts at limitation of fleets. These agreements were broken. Prime Minister Attlee has said that the only reason mustard gas was not used was that each nation was prepared to use it. In addition, it is doubtful if mustard gas would have been as effective as many newer weapons. But any nation was prepared to use it at any time. Given capitalism, the fate of atomic armaments can be no different.
If the ruling classes of the victor countries expected a world without war to issue from the second war fought to end all wars, they would not be embarking upon peacetime military training of their young men. Peacetime training already exists in England and Russia. President Truman, certain segments of Congress and the military above all are now urging the adoption of peacetime military training legislation in the United States. It surely looks as though the UNO is outlawing war! (But let us pluck the flower of hope from the thistles of despair. Perhaps the UNO will arrive at a gentlemen's agreement among themselves to outlaw the bomb so that our youth will murder each other only with the old-fashioned V-2's - currently being demonstrated to U. S. military authorities by their defeated German counterparts - and super-bombers and improved Sherman tanks.) While the big powers may arrive at some other agreement, a look at the May-Johnson bill, a product of our own august Senate, is instructive as to the type of "international thinking" characteristic of capitalist legislators. The bill provides for (a) the control of atomic energy "secrets"; (b) control of the scientists and (c) a general totalitarianization of human thought and progress. Violations of the secrecy demanded in the bill would bring thirty years in jail and a $300,000 fine as penalties. The Senate, with an alert eye to the fitness of things, provided the proper committee on atomic power to handle its legislation, a committee which, although headed by a liberal, is composed of reactionaries, isolationists and poll-taxers.
The Administration has outraged the entire scientific world. Dr. Harold C. Urey said that passage of the bill, which so far has the support of the Truman Administration, "will lead to an atomic armament race."
Referring to the section of the bill forbidding the teaching of nuclear energy theories, Oppenheimer said: "It could stop science in its tracks."
Lowell Mellett, writing in the New York Post of October 23 said that "Many of the scientists who worked on the development of the atom bomb feel that science, as far as America is concerned, will be placed in a straitjacket if the present Administration bill for control of atomic energy becomes law. They think, further, that passage of the bill will start other nations off in a mad, secret race with us that can end only in some nation putting the bomb to use."
Dr. T. R. Hogness, of the Atomic Scientists of Chicago, called for defeat of the May-Johnson bill, stating that there was a "clear-cut and strongly-backed effort in Washington'' to prevent them from "fully presenting to the public their ideas on the implications and future control of the terrible weapon they have placed in the hands of mankind." This statement was signed also by Dr. Harlow Shapley, Harvard astronomer, and Dr. Karl T. Compton, MIT president.
The Chicago group stated further: "A danger of a policy of secrecy is that while we would be spurring on other nations to develop atomic bombs, we might sterilize our further development of nuclear physics and chemistry in our own country by withholding information from the majority of our own scientists----"The maintenance of secrecy in the field of atomic developments will mean that vital political decisions also will have to be made in secret without consultation with the people!”
The scientists, whatever their illusions about an international agreement by the nations of the world today; have no illusions about the May-Johnson bill produced in the Senate of the country whose "sacred trust" the atomic bomb is!
THE MILITARY MINDS AT WORK
And what of our military leaders - what effect does the atomic weapon create on their thinking? They don't, naturally, advocate the outlawing of war, That would be asking them to commit hara-kiri. They don't call for the outlawing of the bomb, either. The stepped-up destruction of the atomic bomb leaves little impress on these specialists in destruction. Some say, like Major de Seversky: "I don't believe the bomb is any more destructive than twenty thousand tons of ordinary incendiary bombs" (!) Otherwise, besides recognizing a very slight difference in magnitude of destruction, the military goes about with a war-as-usual attitude. The former U. S. Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, stated this viewpoint in his report to the nation;
"So far as they can see world conditions a decade from now, War Department planners, who have taken every conceivable factor into consideration, believe that our position will be sound if we set up machinery which will permit the mobilization of an army of 4,000,000 men within a period of one year following any international crisis resulting in a national emergency for the United States." What an atomic-powered rival nation could do to the United Slates, given a year following an international emergency, the general does not indicate. He must conceive that we, too, would have our atomic weapons ready at a moment's notice.
Nor does the cataclysmic explosion that wipes out over 100,000 people at one stroke seem to have produced much of a dent in the thinking of the New York Times' military specialist, Hanson W. Baldwin. He readily admits the “possibility of an atomic Pearl Harbor," but advocates as preventatives the development of air power, pilotless planes, rockets and an enlarged and highly skilled intelligence service! Our spies would keep us informed of atomic developments abroad; other agents would keep other countries informed on us.
As a novel response to meet a novel situation the Navy advocates more ships. The Army, with true brass hat courage, argues you still need an army, the infantry, to seize, occupy and hold territory in order to clinch the atomic victory. They do not say that with atomic warfare the action of an infantry, which may be the last patrol of the last nation left on the globe, may be a macabre job of seizing, occupying and holding a no man's land - all that will be left of civilization.
WHAT WILL CAPITALISM DO WITH IT?
Given the continued existence of capitalism, the prospects for the use of atomic energy in peacetime productive channels are no happier than its military use. This is true whether capitalism develops atomic energy on a wide scale to revolutionize the power sources of industry or whether capitalism doesn't develop atomic power for peace at all... In his testimony before the Senate Military Affairs Committee, reported in PM, October 15, Dr. Oppenheimer asserted that "...a million kilowatts of electric energy is not far off, possibly five years or less. But to fit this into our economy may take a long time." Why? Because whether atomic energy has industrial application and when "is a matter pf economic policy." Atomic energy could be manipulated so that "industrial development would never occur."
What Dr. Oppenheimer fears is that the fate of atomic energy will be identical with that of technological improvements under capitalism. Because production for profit is the mainspring of our capitalist society, and as a tendency to increasing monopolization continues, the determining factor in the use of any new discovery is: is it profitable? While the industrial use of atomic energy might be of enormous benefit to society as a whole, its use by present-day society might be unprofitable to the industrialists and financial overlords; the two per cent who own seventy-five per cent of the wealth of the United States. Many inventors today, whose discoveries, if put to use, would aid mankind, play the role of blackmailers of the trusts, because to put their inventions to use would entail the scrapping of already existing machinery, increased costs to the owners of industry and reduced profits.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN
Suppose capitalism did find it profitable to use atomic energy industrially? Willem de Voorter, writing in The New International, September, 1945, expresses what would likely happen if atomic energy were developed under private ownership:
"Let us assume, however, that U-235 can be made cheaply enough so as to become a serious threat to present power sources. While as yet the stuff cannot have any useful part in our technical processes and is no immediate threat to coal and oil interests, it then might be. Then we would see an immediate change in imperialist policies, directed toward uranium deposits as well as to oil lands. The entire imperialist game will have to be reshuffled and again the people wilt have to pay for the game with blood and life.
"If we assume that U-235 or another new element or isotope is tamed and becomes the power source we are being promised, the consequences will be, as far as the workers are concerned, disastrous under a capitalist system. A single airplane could serve for fuel transportation over the entire world, delivering an ounce here, an ounce there. One has only to visualize the unemployment resulting from its use in power plants. Truly, the burden of labor would be lifted from the shoulders of mankind, to make place for the burdens of unemployment and hunger on an ever-increasing scale. Technological unemployment would reach staggering figures; and the capitalist would invent the slogan: a fair day's work for a fair day's wage, when dictating conditions to those he will employ. This might be interesting for the membership of the AFL: Capitalism will feel perfectly healthy again: there will be a well supplied pool of unemployed, and a college degree may be necessary to become an atomic spittoon cleaner, as in the good old days such a degree was demanded from gas station attendants."
Atomic energy, like every other labor-saving device under the "free enterprise" capitalist system, is a potentiality for the good or evil of society. Under capitalism, profitability in the long and short term sense, determines the use or lack of use of any technological, scientific or inventive advances. The present stage of capitalist monopoly results in stagnation. The big monopolists dominate economic life and determine, in a general way, the progress or stagnation of economic development. This is what Oppenheimer means when he says industrial use of atomic energy "is a matter of economic policy."
As de Voorter indicates, the result of a huge saving of human labor by the capitalist application of atomic energy would result in a huge army pf unemployed. For when capitalism cannot make profits, it shuts down. Of, worse still, it goes to war against competitor capitalist nations suffering from the same disease of production for profit - not for human needs.
The fact that we live under a social order which periodically goes to war, and the relation of this to the peacetime use of atomic energy, greatly concerned the Chicago group of atomic scientists. In the questions and answers it wrote up for Life on October 29, it stated: "The scientists are often asked: What about the peacetime application of atomic power? These, too, will depend on how successfully the spectre of atomic warfare is banished from the earth. We may look confidently to benefits which the production of new radioactive elements will bring to science, industry and medicine, since small-scale plants will be sufficient to provide an abundance of these invaluable tools for scientists, doctors and engineers. On the other hand, only in a world free from fear of war wivill it be possible to give full freedom to the development of large-scale atomic-power prospects"
British Prime Minister Attlee stated, on the occasion of his visit with President Truman to discuss the bomb, that ninety per cent of United States efforts on atomic energy were now concerned with the production of atomic bombs, not its peacetime use. Under capitalism, whether atomic energy is controlled by the government or handed over to a monopoly (du Pont has already been suggested) we are certain that the bomb will not be abolished and that industrial application, if it takes place, will benefit only capital and lead to bigger depressions.
"Modern bourgeois [capitalist, Ed] society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells."
-- Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 1848. Socialism was a necessity long before the creation of the atomic bomb and the promise of a vast improvement in technology that is inherent in atomic energy. In the Atomic Age, socialism is incalculably more necessary because the only alternative under capitalism is death or barbarism for the entire population of our planet.
While capitalism has provided the trained workers and the technology, i.e., the machines, plants and techniques which are necessary for a socialist reorganization of society, it long ago ceased to provide for the simple wants and needs of the plain people.
We want peace, instead of bloodshed and destruction. We want security and jobs, instead of insecurity and joblessness. We want decent homes for our families and good and plentiful schools for our children. We want comfort and prosperity, instead of slums, child labor, low wages, unemployment and starvation. We want democracy and freedom instead of totalitarianism, bureaucracy and racial and religious conflict.
But in our modern civilization, with its huge industries, intricate machines and abundant natural resources, capitalism is unable to provide us with these elementary wants. It is unable to avoid periodic world wars. It is unable to give independence and freedom to the colonial areas of the world, but dooms them to serfdom and poverty.
Under this system of capitalism, or "free enterprise," a handful of monopolists control the wealth and power of the country. They own industry, banking, mining, transportation. They own our jobs. They own the Congress and the President because they finance the big business parties which put these men into office. They send our young men to war to protect their vested interests. They have the power of life and death over all of us.
THE INSANITY OP CAPITALISM
The insanity of this system of monopoly capitalism is that it creates inequality, poverty and unemployment and all the crises of society because it produces too much! Not, to be sure, in relation to human needs, but in relation to the market. While the monopoly capitalists are united against the workers and their political and economic organizations, they are in competition against each other and against their capitalist counterparts abroad. They all try to outproduce and outsell each other on the market because the mainspring of capitalist production is profit, not human needs.
Consequently, a clothing manufacturer, instead of taking a poll of the number of people who need clothes, produces as much as he thinks he can sell at a profit. So does his rival. The market becomes glutted, because there are more clothes produced than the consumers can buy - not, of course, more than they need.
In addition, the producer takes his profit on his clothes out of the hides of his employees; the workers are not able to buy back what they have produced in the clothing factories. This is one of the important aspects of the capitalist crises of over-production. The clothing manufacturers also compete with each other. Their motives are not the needs of the harassed housewife or the struggling worker but: how much profit can we make?
What happened in 1929 is the direct result of this capitalist method of production. The "free enterprise" system broke down. The "enterprisers" sat back and rested on their accumulated profits since they were unable to make any more and the majority of the population was left "free" to starve or sell apples to each other.
Under Roosevelt's New Deal, the government stepped in to bail out the capitalists who could not get industry going. Industrialists were paid by the government for not producing. People were hungry while big and little farmers were paid to plow under wheat and corn, and to destroy steers, hogs, sheep, etc. People needed clothing while manufacturers were paid to destroy cotton and wool. Yet in January, 1939, there were still 12 million unemployed workers in the United States.
INTERNATIONAL CAPITALISM AND WAR
In our present-day United States capitalism, monopoly in finance, industry and agriculture controls economic life. The bigger, stronger and richer enterprises have swallowed up the weaker and smaller. The monopolists decide on production, profits, prices and wages, just as they dominate the economy of the country and decide the fate of tens of millions. While this monopolization of economy reduces competition at home,, it intensifies competition on an international scale where giant trusts and combines engage in fierce struggle on the world market. Since all of the world is divided up into national states with national barriers or colonial countries subject to their imperialist masters, the inevitable result of this great competitive struggle among the nations is war. It was this competition among nations which led to both world wars with a couple dozen minor wars between them. This fact alone indicts capitalism as the great obstacle to human progress.
After the second world war began, capitalism performed a "miracle." Unemployment came to an end. Everybody was put to work. Every factory was going full blast. The government spent twenty billion dollars in four years to enlarge old plants and build new ones. But all of this was done not for homes for the people to live in, decent clothes to wear, schools for our children or medical facilities. It was done to produce bullets, bombs, tanks, planes, battleships, artillery, and finally the atomic bomb. And what are the results of this war we were told was fought for freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of speech and freedom of religion; for the Atlantic Charter with its declaration of self-government for every country; for the "One World" envisaged by Wendell Willkie, and for the "Century of the Common Man" promised by Henry Wallace?
There are 60 million military casualties, a figure equal to the combined populations of Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, Greece, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden! There are over $1,000,000,000,000 (yes, one trillion dollars) in war costs, that is, an expenditure of resources, machinery and human science used to maim, kill, torture and destroy - which equals a $5,000 home for almost every family on the entire globe, including the multi-million populations of the Orient which have not yet in their majority risen to the level of city slum-dwellers.
These bald figures do not take into account the cost of the war in terms of the destruction of formerly existing wealth and living standards which has taken place in Europe because these costs cannot be reckoned. You cannot chart the physical and spiritual waste of Europeans living in latter-day barbarism. They dwell in caves, dugouts or without shelter. They starve or they pillage. They are wracked by disease. They have exchanged the concentration camp for the slave labor camp. This is the end of World War II.
TOWARD A COMPLETE CHAOS
All this was done without the atomic bomb. That is why we say socialism was a necessity long before the development of atomic energy. Now that we are in the Atomic Age, as long as capitalism endures, the crises of capitalism will only be accentuated. There will be bigger and "better" weapons of destruction.
During the decline of capitalism, with every new discovery which improved the productive technique of capitalism and made possible a saving of human labor and a refinement of the product, the benefits have not been distributed to mankind. The more advanced become the tools of our society, the more wealth becomes polarized at one end, and poverty at the other. We see the phenomenon of poverty in the midst of plenty. It is a little more difficult for American workers to understand this than workers in other countries, because we live in the capitalist colossus of the world. But on a world scale capitalism has reduced the standard of living and decreased the freedom of mankind. It has produced privation and totalitarianism in most of the world. The industrial application of atomic energy can only accelerate this worldwide process of decline. It will continue to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer. It will continue to divert more and more production into armaments production, to protect the monopoly of wealth by the few. How can we trust this system of capitalism which has produced two world wars in a single generation and which has been unable to solve the simple problem of security for the masses of the people, to develop atomic industrial power for the benefit of mankind? It has been suggested that the formulae be turned over to the Du Ponts in this country for industrial application. - To the Du Ponts, monopolists who determined the corporation's policy in the current General Motors' strike, who have avowed they can't afford to pay 300,000 workers a living wage! But, then, say some, the United Nations Organization may take over atomic power, since it is so destructive of even capitalist interests, and "outlaw" or "control" atomic energy. The UNO, however, is composed merely of the governmental representatives of the capitalist nations, plus the equally exploitive, although not capitalist, representatives of Russia. The UNO is not even a democratic organization of the nations represented. It is dominated by the Big Three - England, the United States and Russia - who are themselves locked in fierce struggle on who shall dominate the world. These victor powers are now engaged in the enslavement of the defeated and small powers. Witness the British in Indonesia and Indo-China. (It is not merely the Czechs who had their Lidice at the hands of German conquerors.) Witness the Russians in Iran and most of eastern Europe. Witness the United States in Germany in concert with her allies, or the way she blinks at the atrocities of her partners.
Capitalism produces more and more for destruction. It has not been able to use its vast technical and material resources for constructive purposes. It is truly the sorcerer in our quotation from Marx and Engels at the beginning of this section, unable to control the powers it has conjured up. If Marx and Engels saw this in 1848, it is all the more true in a period of the production of atomic energy. It is too much for capitalism to handle. Socialism only becomes doubly necessary as we observe how capitalism may destroy the whole of civilization in its efforts to control and utilize atomic energy.
The way in which the atomic project was developed gives us a clue as to how socialism can organize atomic and all other production for the benefit of humanity. The government furnished two billion dollars for its secret project. It corralled scientists born all over the world. With this "internationalized" science, cooperative labor, unlimited resources, and without the object of profits as the central aim of the project, it produced the atomic bomb. This was done through government planning.
Even prior to the bomb development, the government stepped in to organize production for war. It told business what to produce and how much. It furnished the orders. It guaranteed the profits. It made the labor available. It afforded a priority system to make materials available. War production was government-planned.
The capitalist government did all of this planning for bloody and violent war, for the taking of human lives, for destruction.
If planning of production and full employment is possible in war, why is it not possible in peace?
It is, but only by socialist planning. We have seen how the capitalist government has already released its wartime plans and controls with the end of the war. We know it was unwilling to organize and plan production to assure full employment during the depression.
The scientists recommended a world society as an alternative to world destruction by atomic weapons. In proposing this, they recognized, although incompletely, the socialist solution to capitalist insecurity and barbarism.
Socialism, and only socialism, will create a true world state, a world without national barriers, without international rivalries, without master and slave nations and, hence, a world without war.
This world government will not be a government of a dominant economic class but will be a government of all the peoples that inhabit the globe. Its primary duty will be to conduct the affairs of the world with the aim of eliminating poverty, joblessness, hunger and general insecurity. Its sole criterion would be the needs of the people.
This development is imperative because the world [aces: socialism or death!
But why will socialism guarantee peace, security and freedom and prevent the destruction of mankind?
Socialism will destroy the root evil of modern society, i.e., the private ownership of the means of production, the factories, mines, mills, machinery and land, which, produce the necessities of life.
Under socialism, these instruments of production will become the property of society, owned in common, producing for use, for the general welfare of the people as a whole. With the abolition of the private ownership of the means of life and with it the factor of profit as the prime mover of production, the sharp divisions of society between nations and classes will disappear. Then, and only then, will society be in a position to become a social order of abundance and plenty for all, for socialism will create a new world of genuine cooperation and collaboration between the peoples of the earth.
In abolishing classes in society, socialism will change the form and type of governments which exist today. Governments will become administrative bodies regulating production and consumption. They will not be the instruments of the capitalist class, i.e., capitalist governments whose main reason for existence is to guarantee the political as well as the economic rule of big business, their profits, their private ownership of the instruments of production, and the conduct of war in the economic and political interests of this class.
FOR THE INTERESTS OF MANKIND
The preoccupation of government under socialism will be to assist in the elevation of society, to improve continually the living standards of the people, to extend their leisure time and thus make it possible to heighten the cultural level of the whole world.
In abolishing classes, class government and war, social ism will at the same time destroy all forms of dictatorship, political as well as economic. The socialist world state will be the freest, most democratic society the world has ever known, with the world government truly representing the majority of the population and subject to its recall. A citizen of a socialist society will look back upon the capitalist era with its wars, destruction and bloody and cruel dictatorships as we now look back upon the dawn of written history.
The socialist world state will assess the industrial potential of the world, determine its resources, the needs of the people and plan production with the aim of increasing the standards of living of a free people, creating' abundance, increasing leisure and opportunity for cultural enjoyment. Socialism will not concern itself with profits and war, but with providing decent housing for all the people.
Socialism will provide for a multitude of schools for all the people. Socialism will eliminate illiteracy, which is one of the hallmarks of capitalism, and cease to regard schools primarily as institutions to produce skilled labor to help operate the profit economy.
Socialism will create a system of health preservation and insurance in which the needs of the people and the improvement of the human race would be the paramount consideration
Above all, socialism will provide jobs for all. But this will be work without exploitation, for the aim of socialism is not the increased exploitation and intensification of labor, but the utilization of machinery, technology, science and invention to diminish toil, to create time in which to permit all the people to enjoy the benefits of social progress.
TOWARD THE NEW FREEDOM
The modern world contains all the pre-conditions necessary for socialism. All about us we observe gigantic industrial establishments containing machinery which could produce the goods of life in abundance. Man has developed a marvelous technology. The discovery and control of atomic energy has not only made it more possible for man to control his natural and social environment to create a fruitful life of abundance, but has made it imperative.
Socialism will place at the disposal of science and the scientists all the material means to help create an ever-improving social life for mankind.
Under capitalism, scientists are mere wage workers hiring out their skills to private industry. The fruits of their intelligence, learning and research become the exclusive property of the capitalists who profit from the labors of these scientists. Thus, science has become subordinated to profits rather than to the common good of all mankind. Yet the future society depends in large measure on changing this relation of science to society.
Only socialism can place science where it properly belongs: in the service of the people
Man is at a crossroads. He can travel the road of capitalism, i.e., he can travel the road of chaos, war, poverty and barbarism, or he can take the socialist road toward true freedom, peace and security, the road toward a society of plenty for all which would end the exploitation of man by man for all time.
As Leon Trotsky, the great socialist leader of the international working class, once wrote:
"It is difficult to predict the extent of self-government which the man of the future may reach or the heights to which he may carry his technique..... The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.”
Socialism or death!
[Articles published in the last six weeks of 1945, beginning on November 26 and ending on December 31.]