The Western Socialist
Vol. 29 - No. 225
No. 1, 1962
pages 14-15


If we are to prevent war, goes the typical reasoning, we must build more and more powerful weapons. We must create an arsenal so potentially destructive that any possible aggressor would shrink from touching off a war. This has been the thinking on the question down through the years by the most reasonable people in the world. It made sense that no "reasonable" person really wanted war, especially when the potential destruction from military weapons reached the point it did prior to World War II. And despite the fact that World War II and a number of smaller but vastly destructive wars are but recently behind us, the reasoning on armament build-ups remains the same. Certainly, today, it can be stated with the utmost vehemence, no reasonable person would want war. When it is common knowledge that the United States and Russia both possess weapons that are capable, at the press of a button, of wiping each other and possibly the rest of mankind, off the face of the earth, who would be unreasonable enough to want to press the button?

And yet, today, the situation is just a bit different from what it was. Today there is more than the fear among these "reasonable" defenders-of-capitalism-at-any-cost that some "madman" or group of "madmen" in the enemy country will deliberately set off a war. Today there is the added fear that the next and, conceivably the last, holocaust could be touched off by accident, or by error. That the complexities inherent in the already existing ICBMs and in the fantastic new weapons on the planning boards will make accident-caused war difficult to avoid. This possibility is dealt with in a Washington despatch to the Toronto Star of Oct. 20, 1961, by Arthur T. Hadley. Mr. Hadley tells us:

In the Spring of 1960 a group of Air Force officers were sitting down to dinner at an Atlantic seaboard Bomarc missile base. Suddenly, they saw in horror out of the mess-hall window that one of the nuclear Bomarc missiles had set itself for firing. Its nose was pointing into the air ready for take-off, and fumes were coming from its tail pipe. Interestingly, the response of the officers was not that war had begun and a surprise attack was under way, but that there must have been an accident. Rushing from the mess hall. they yanked wires and threw switches and succeeded in calming down the missile."

And Hadley elaborates on this horrifying incident:

"Even the future Minuteman, engineers are concerned about the possibility that a squirrel or other small rodent may chew through the cable that connects the Minuteman firing centre with the Minuteman missile itself. The Minuteman is pre-set on course, and when it gets the proper signal to go, it fires instantaneously. If the Minuteman blasts off and deposits two megatons on Leningrad 25 minutes later, America is going to have to do more for the Russians than respectfully submit for their inspection an electrocuted squirrel with shreds of charred cable dangling from his incisors."

And so, something new has been added to the "causes" of war, and "reasonable" men have something new to shudder over — a war caused by accidental firings of already existing types of ICBMs not to mention the fantastic space weapons on the planning boards. Yet somehow, the "reasonable" men who are making themselves heard today seem not terrorized enough to take a more critical look at the real cause of war — the commodity society in which we live.

For while war might very well be touched off by accident, it is no accident that the ICBMs in both power blocs stand poised and ready for firing either by human command or, unwittingly, by the gnawing of rodents. In both power blocs a great deal of shouting goes on by the governments and their supporters about "our" freedoms and "their" slavery. "Communist" slavery vs capitalist "freedom" or vice versa, goes the story. But neither the U.S.A. nor the U.S.S.R. really fear each other's ideology. Neither found it difficult to fight as allies in World War II. The Russians discovered at the time that "communism" (their label for state-capitalism) and American style "free-enterprise" capitalism could very well cooperate and warned good-naturedly — as they still do, but with "we'll bury you" threats — that they would soon overtake America in living standards. And many prominent Americans, on the other hand, found Russian production methods (especially the speed-up techniques) rather fascinating and wished that American labor unions would be as cooperative on such matters as were the Russian.

No, the real cause of war cannot be found either in accident or in ideology. There is a much more basic reason both for war and for the weapons necessary to wage it and this reason can be summed up in two words, economic rivalry. It is the clash in the markets of the world, the mad scramble for cheaper sources of raw materials, the attempt to oust each other from spheres of influence, that is responsible for the mounted missiles of destruction. Only by getting rid of capitalism in all of its forms, with its need for markets and exploitation of labor can war be eliminated from the world. Whether "accidental" or not, the sole responsibility for the next war, as for all modern wars, is capitalism.

S. CATT, Canada