1980s >> 1988 >> no-1004-april-1988

Running Commentary: Ask the general

After the intoxication of the INF Treaty comes the hangover of reality. The record has recently been put straight by NATO’s Supreme Commander (and you can’t get much higher than that in the business of managing a mass murder machine) General John Galvin, who advises against any misconceptions about the effect of the Treaty which, he says, will remove only about three or four per cent of the nuclear inventory. Whatever gap this may leave, the General is engaged in trying to plug by bringing NATO’s battlefield nuclear weapons up do date. At the same time the British government is planning a £2 to £3 billion long-term costing for a new nuclear stand-off missile for the Tornado bomber, as another way of plugging the gaps left by the INF.

These facts indicate that, in spite of the blast of publicity which came with its signing, the INF Treaty will leave the world anything but nuclear-free. After all, nuclear arms did not happen by accident, out of an unconnected nothing. They were in the direct line of succession of capitalism’s state organised means of murder and destruction (what, we wonder, will be next in the line?). The bomber aircraft which emerged from World War One were succeeded at the end of 1939-45 by the guided missile and the rocket. then in their infancy but holding the awful prospect of refinement and fitment with nuclear warheads.

This doleful state of affairs, in which a substantial amount of human energy, knowledge and resources is poured into manufacturing devices with the sole use of blowing us all up, is the inevitable consequence of a social system based on the class monopoly of the means of life. Capitalism produces its wealth for profitable sale; its relentless drive is for the accumulation of capital. This means that it is a society of competition, which at its fullest involves a massive, world-wide clash between the super powers armed with the most destructive weapons available.

The case that capitalism causes war and that war gives rise to the means of destruction. which must inexorably get more and more powerful, seems too straightforward for the anti-nuclear campaigners, who prefer to think that the weapons can be eliminated without doing anything about their cause. So imperfect an understanding of this social system must cause a vulnerability to misconceptions, of the sort which CND constantly offer as viable policy. That is why they celebrated the INF Treaty as the harbinger of a new age of peace and freedom from fear.

In reality, the powers of capitalism will not surrender their capacities to damage, perhaps destroy, each other at so casual a wriggle of pens on pieces of paper. They will not so easily dismantle the arsenals they have so painstakingly, so expensively, accumulated. They remain deadly rivals; the world is still a place of tension, under threat of the ultimate holocaust.

After the false euphoria of the INF Treaty, that is the reality. Ask General Galvin.