I really enjoyed reading Laura Rogers’ presentation on Trident (Solidarity 412) which powerfully and evocatively set out the class based case against nuclear weapons.
Despite or perhaps because growing up in the Cold War, I was never an instinctive unilateralist or a moral disarmer. Probably I was naïve, but I never felt I was living in constant fear of a nuclear holocaust. I never believed the Russians ever had any intention of invading Western Europe. My argument against nuclear weapons was and is more objective.
The most common scenario was the initial limited use of nuclear by NATO in response to their conventional forces being overwhelmed by Warsaw Pact tank divisions. That would inevitably be seen as a major escalation by the Warsaw Pact, requiring a nuclear retaliation, even if limited. NATO would have felt duty bound to retaliate even harder, and we would inevitably escalate into a total strategic nuclear exchange, leaving the majority of us dead, badly injured or living in a dying world.
The second main scenario was of a massive strategic nuclear attack by the Warsaw Pact. For me, ordering an equally massive nuclear retaliation would seem to be the most pointless and anti-human act of history. Whilst the domestic population would be faced with nuclear annihilation, just what would be the point of taking down tens of millions of Russians and East Europeans with us?
The knowledge that almost any military clash directly involving NATO and Warsaw Treaty forces could well have led to nuclear Armageddon did result in some sort of “peace” in Europe and between the two super powers, although as Laura said “a very precarious peace, involving a huge amount of war (elsewhere), and built on the threat of unimaginable destruction.”
Trident renewal means the UK explicitly ruling out nuclear disarmament by the UK for at least the next 50 years. Laura was spot on to argue this is a question which can only really be settled by the labour and working class movement taking state, political and economic power out of the hands of the minority, decadent, useless but dangerous capitalist class. We have a million times more in common with our working sisters and brothers around the globe than we have with our own capitalist class.
Andrew Northall, Northamptonshire
Not a cunning calibration
Todd Hamer (Solidarity 411, replying to my letter in 409) construes Brexiters’ agitation against immigration as a cunning capitalist plan to "micro-manage" labour supply. Yet most capitalists want looser immigration, or at least no more restrictions than now. The advocacy of the Norway model for Brexit by the Adam Smith Institute and TheCityUk shows that.
The push to block migrants comes more from the plebeian base of the Brexit campaign. Many Brexit Tories are happy to go along with it, because they are confident of a big-enough "reserve army of labour" even with reduced immigration, or because they share the plebeian prejudices. But I see no evidence of a finely-tuned plan to micro-manage labour supply via calibrated immigration controls.
Sadly, the history of White Australia, which I mentioned in Solidarity 409, is an extreme example of a common pattern. On most democratic and "liberal" issues, most of the time, even staid labour movements tend to be to the left of bourgeois opinion. On immigration controls, that isn’t true. Even militant labour movements which thought of themselves as socialist have often been anti-immigration — seeing migrant workers as undercutting competitors, not as an enriching addition — while capitalists have been happy to range wide for their labour supply.
The best revolutionary socialists have always seen the working class as an international class, and so supported open-border policies. But generally labour-movement majorities can be won to solidarity, not just with migrant workers already arrived, but with those yet to arrive, only at high points. Illogically, but in fact, it is much easier to get mass working-class support against deportations than to get it for general opposition to immigration controls. It is one of our hardest arguments.
The argument cannot be finessed by claiming that "immigration controls necessarily involve overwhelming state violence", and therefore, whatever the merits of those controls, their overhead costs are so great that they must be opposed. In eras where long-distance travel was more difficult, those controls usually required no such great violence. Even today, restrictions on immigration from Bangladesh to Britain are imposed not by barbed-wire fences or detention camps, but by legal formulas and administrative obstruction.
What if immigrants are not an "economic and cultural boon"? If they generally are a boon, then plainly it is better to have individual freedom than to have the bourgeois state "test" each migrant individually. If you have a whole group of migrants which is not a boon — white racists fleeing South Africa on the fall of apartheid, Nazis fleeing Germany at the end of World War Two, Russian oligarchs wanting a base safe from Putin’s caprice — then I see no socialist obligation specially to champion that group. We might reckon that any move to block that group would in reality only help those who want to block migrants more generally, but that’s all.
Martin Thomas, north London