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Weakness of Nuclear Disarmament Campaign

Many rank and file adherents of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, associated with which are Cannon Collins, Donald Soper, Michael Foot and others, believe that they are opposed on principle to nuclear weapons. They might be interested to know the reply which was made to a reader of the SOCIALIST STANDARD who was seeking an "official and authorative" reply to the undernoted question, from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The question was: —

"Is it the policy of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at the next general election to advise their supporters to vote only for a completely anti-nuclear weapon candidate no matter to which party he or she belongs and to abstain in the absence of such a candidate?"

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament replied in a letter dated June 27th. 1958, signed by Peggy Duff, the C.N.D. Organising Secretary: —

"It is not the policy of the Campaign to advise supporters to vote only for a completely anti-nuclear weapon candidate because we feel each individual must make their decision alone, according to the circumstances in the area in which they live. To do as suggested in many areas would result in the return of a candidate much more opposed to the Campaign than the alternative."

To put it very charitably, this attitude is certainly not one of principled opposition to nuclear weapons. It is a far cry from A. J. P. Taylor's wildly acclaimed suggestion at the inaugural meeting of the Campaign on February 17th this year in Central Hall, Westminster, that politicians who supported the nuclear "deterrent" policy should be branded as "Murderers!"

It is said by a number of people in the movement itself that some Labour Party politicians are discreetly attempting to use for their own ends the indignation of those who are appalled at the prospects of nuclear warfare and the insidious dangers of fall-out from weapon tests. Here we see the difference between the approach of the S.P.G.B. to the problem of war and the approach of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The Socialist Party of Great Britain sees that war happens because of the way the civilian life of the world is carried on, the capitalist system of production and distribution, with its rivalries between the nations for markets, sources of raw materials and the control of trade routes and strategic points.

We hold, therefore, that the only road to peace is through altering the structure of society from capitalism to Socialism. This requires that a majority shall become convinced of the need for Socialism and democratically take organised political action to abolish capitalism and establish Socialism in its place.

It follows that the Socialist Party is opposed on principle and completely to all who help to keep capitalism going (which includes helping to keep war going). Therefore, the S.P.G.B. opposes the candidates of capitalism, Tory, Liberal, Labour, Communist, or whatever label they may be.

On the other hand there are those who say they are opposed on principle to nuclear weapons, but who do not recognise that capitalism is bound to go on producing wars, large or small.

They think that by concentrating on this particular kind of weapon (regardless of bacteriological, chemical or any other known or secret weapons) they can gain time for more rational political policies to be instituted before the radio-active poisoning of plant and animal life or the destruction -of civilisation makes politics redundant.

But when it comes to applying their principle in a practical way they find themselves involved in giving support to electoral candidates who do not share their principle. In face of past experience of such attitude what can they really hope to achieve by this?

We hope that this short article will simulate those in the Campaign to write to us so that fruitful discussion of the whole problem of war and nuclear tests may ensue.