1960s >> 1961 >> no-688-december-1961

Letter: CND and SPGB

I note the news item on page 96 of the June issue and am glad, but not surprised, that CND members figured prominently at the St Pancras Town Hall meeting earlier this year. Many CND members are sincere Socialists. Some are Labour Party members, others belong to the Communist Party and I suspect that there are a few members who carry a Liberal card. However, Mr. Gaitskell and Mr. George Brown have yet to apply for membership.

Parties have been playing at politics for a long time, but now the sands of time are running out. The threat of an universal nuclear war grows daily. CND members are always trying to persuade people that a nuclear war would be the final chapter in the world’s history. We are trying to restore sanity to a divided world in which even the USSR finds it necessary to stockpile nuclear weapons. So, of course, does America. Before long, many smaller nations, regardless of their political systems, will possess the secret of thermo-nuclear mass destruction.

All sensible people realise that an international Socialist society, democratically elected in the true sense, is the main political hope for the future, but in order to allow and encourage the forces of the Left, we must ensure that there is a world left in which to preach our propaganda, create a Socialist society; to fulfil basic human rights and thereby do the countless things that are still ignored by various political systems. Moreover, sensible people realise that a capitalist system is a complete contradiction of our aims.

Much more could be said and written about the anomalies of modern society but the contention on page 103 of the July Socialist Standard is disappointingly reactionary in its opposition and condemnation of CND. I would have expected certain elements in the staid Labour Party to believe in patchwork social democracy based on existing values of society, but for the SPGB to adopt an anti-CND stand, can hardly do your cause any good, but will have the effect of ensuring its insularity. If the SPGB succeeds in becoming a museum piece, such as the Labour Party seems destined to become, it will be because of this sort of confused, short-sighted policy.

No organisation which concerns itself with putting right the problems now confronting us, could be justified in maintaining this sort of opposition. I must assume, therefore, that the author of a “Lesson In Futility” (page 103) is not representative of his fellow members. However, the last sentence of his article is obviously faultless.

R. F. G. Radford.
Bristol CND.

 

Reply:
Let us dear up one point straight away. There arc no Socialists in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. A Socialist wants a new social system based upon the common owncrehip of the means of wealth production and distribution. He is not in favour of capitalism of any sort because be knows that, whatever efforts are made to reform the system, it will continue to produce problems like war with its fearsome weapons.

How do the members of CND line up with this? Mr. Radford, when he writes that he suspects the organisation contains some Liberals, confirms that a member of CND may hold any sort of political views provided he is agreed that wars should not be fought with nuclear weapons. Because of this, CND can only be another organisation which stands for a reformed capitalism; in its case, capitalism in which wars are conducted with what have come to be called “conventional” weapons. No Socialist could belong to such an organisation. There may be many CND members who sincerely think that they are Socialists, but they are not the first to get themselves involved in that particular bit of muddle-headedness.

It is rather late in the day for CND, with its Labour and Liberal members, to tell us that time is getting short. For nearly sixty years the Socialist Party of Great Britain has been explaining the cause of modern war and pointing out that the means of waging war could be expected to become more fearsome as the years went by. But in this we have always been opposed by the very parties which, as Mr. Radford says, have supplied many members of CND. Whilst we have been explaining and opposing capitalism’s wars our opponents have been busily fighting them and working to make them more destructive. Who is to blame, if we are now on the brink of ” . . . the final chapter in the world s history.”?

But our correspondent has to offer only the old plea that we should drop our work for Socialism until we have sorted out one more of capitalism’s problems. We have heard this plea many times before, from organisations which were worried about unemployment, or Fascism or some other side-effect of capitalism. Indeed, some of these organisations have had the chance to apply their reformist ideas. How have they turned out? Both Labour and Communist governments have built op massive armed forces for their capitalist class and they have made sure that those forces were equipped with enormous stocks of powerful weapons. They have also played their part in keeping the divisions of the capitalist world which Mr. Radford mentions by their export drives, patriotic propaganda and so on. Here is evidence enough to support the Socialist claim that reformist policies are futile.

 

And why does Mr. Radford say that even “. . . the USSR finds it necessary to stockpile nuclear weapons”? Russia is as much a capitalist nation as any other and cannot be expected to react any differently in face of international competition. Does Mr. Radford think that there is Socialism in Russia? And if he does, do the other “Socialists” in CND agree with him?

 

It is the reformist organisations which, in their support of capitalism, uphold what our correspondent calls “. . . the existing values of society.” For any social system is inseparable from its values; to support one is to uphold the other. The SPGB hat always stood for the social revolution which will sweep away capitalism and all its false social values.

 

This will be the complete, only and once-for-all cure for the problems of capitalism. To stand for anything less could mean that we would end up by supporting the very thing which we originally professed to oppose. That is why a one-time pacifist could serve as a Minister of War and why old opponents of the peerage system sometimes end their days in the Home of Lords. It is why people who are now members of CND will, if capitalism requires them to, fight in a nuclear war just as the pacifists of the nineteen thirties took part in the last war.

 

As far as the last paragraph of Mr. Radford’s letter is concerned, we need hardly add that the anti-CND attitude expressed in the article “Lesson In Futility” is representative of the viewpoint of all members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

 

Editorial Committee