Peter Sedgwick, The Unilateralist State

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[first published as anon, ‘Say no to Nato’, Rebel, September 1960]

After nuclear disarmament, then what? it would be good to think that we were anywhere near asking that question. Most of us in CND are too busy asking, “Before nuclear disarmament, what?” to bother about very long-term crystal-gazing. However, it is very necessary to have a general picture in one’s mind of the kind of Britain that could pursue a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament, and the kind of foreign politics that such a Britain would follow.

If we limit our vision to what a single anti-nuclear government could do in NATO to influence its “partners” towards abandoning the Bomb we are not trying to see nearly enough possibilities. Of course Adenauer, De Gaulle and the American government won’t listen. But a British government which had abandoned nuclear arms would also, if it was consistent, have to abandon the use of the Bomb by other governments on her behalf; that is, simply to refuse to stay in an alliance dominated by an atomic strategy. This does not mean isolationism. On the contrary, Britain would have to appeal to the peoples, and particularly the working-class movements, of other NATO countries, to follow our lead.

A year or two ago there was a vast anti-Bomb movement in West Germany, an Aldermaston in every major town, which petered out largely because it didn’t seem to be acheiving any real change. But if the working people of the world were faced with an actual government which had given up the Bomb, the international consequences would be tremendous.

After all, the reason why the Stalinist brand of Marxism has had so much influence in the world over the last thirty years, as opposed to other, less influential varieties like Trotskyism or Austrian Marxism, is that there has always been at least one important Stalinist government actually existing in the word. An anti-nuclear Britain would have at least as shattering an influence, by-passing governments and disarmament conferences, as October 1917.

I would certainly agree that there is a risk, if we were to break out of the Cold War, of being squeezed between the rival politics of Russia, or China, and the USA. But we run that risk anyway by being in the Cold War. The Deterrent theory is in any cause the maddest gamble in the world, beside which even the most risky alternative of breakthrough seems as sure as a fixed roulette-wheel.

It is difficult to understand how members of CND can have any doubts about NATO. NATO and the Bomb are inseparable for Britain and if you reject one you must reject the other. General Gruenther stated as long ago as 1954 that the Western Powers had already “passed the point of no return” in the use of conventional weapons, and that he had “no choice except to use atomic weapons whether the enemy does so or not” (quotes from Alistair Cooke, Guardian, 1/3/55). It is quite unprincipled for people like Crossman and Wigg to talk of Britain giving up her own Bomb and contributing conventional forces to NATO. This only means that we will start or engage in the “limited” wars, a new Korea or Suez perhaps, that may develop into an “unlimited”, “unconventional” H-Bomb blitz.

The policy advocated here is probably best called “subversive neutrality”. A government which was seriously neutral and anti-Bomb would have to be subversive too about its domestic capitalism. It is inconceivable that the vested interests of British imperial capitalism would stand by quietly and watch their overseas alliances and nice fat arms-shares fade away into nothing.

A Britain which gave up the Bomb and the arms-race and stayed capitalist would in any case find itself in a serious economic crisis, since static military spending provides an essential boost to a private-enterprise economy.

That means the only sort of government that is capable of implementing CND policy is one which is revolutionary -Socialist and internationalist. A tall order you might say; but no taller than the facts of power demand.

[Thanks to John Rudge, for finding the article and confirming the attribution. More on Sedgwick here]

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