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Andy Walker

Student Question: Nuclear Disarmament

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A student in my College asks:

"Why in the 70's and 80's were those who opposed nuclear weapons portrayed as naive rather than those who believed having lots of them would make the world safer?"

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Individuals fighting for their conviction can be sometimes seen as odd. They have to be prepared to debate and defend their positions all the time. Was Martin Luther attacking the Catholic Church completely wrong? Was Christopher Columbus talking about the west bound way to India wrong? You see, I’m using examples that are easy to take a position at.

Were the people opposing the nuclear armament in fifties and later on right or wrong?

It was a fight between two ideologies. One monolithic, with answers to all questions human being could possibly ask, guided by the philosophy of Marx and Lenin. The counterpart society was much more diversified and searching for answers and goals. The Marxist Leninist society was at this time of bitter fight actively searching for the weaknesses of the diversified society in order to destroy it. The Marxists believed that this way was a scientific proved development of social movement throughout the history of mankind.

From this point of view it was questionable tactic to help the monolithic society of communism when acting as “fellow travellers” and by this way weaken the democratic diversified societies in their ( as it was perceived by many) uneven fight.

At the other hand not many people in the West perceived that many A-bombs would guarantee the liberty.

The history, when moving forward will give us maybe better answer in let say 50 or next 100 years. You know, as with Columbus and Martin Luther, we are bound to receive better answers after a while.......

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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I was one of those who protested against nuclear weapons (1964 to the present). We have been called naïve but were more likely to be described as communists before the end of the Cold War. Now we are just romantic idealists.

My opposition to nuclear weapons was based on several different factors. First of all, I believed the use of nuclear weapons against another country is immoral. I took this view because the very nature of nuclear weapons means that they target the civilian population. Therefore it is impossible to use the “Just War” argument to defend their use.

The main argument for having nuclear weapons is that it protects you from being invaded. This is of course true. However, it is also an argument that could be used by any non-nuclear country. If it is acceptable to have nuclear weapons to protect your country, how can you justify opposition to other countries having these nuclear weapons. It is of course the reason why countries like India, Pakistan and Israel now have nuclear weapons. No doubt Iraq would not have been invaded if it really had Weapons of Mass Destruction. This is not lost on other countries like Iran and North Korea who are being threatened by the United States.

Unless we get rid of our nuclear weapons it is only a matter of time before a country uses them. This might be contained or it might lead to the end of the world.

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:ice Dear friends,

We never been one monolistic society even during socialist society.One party -yes others had been destroyed by new leaders (educated and financially supported by west countries like Lenin and his company;from our archives we got an information through TV that Lenin got a lot of money to do revolution in former Russia Imperia). According to Marx your countries should be the first in this field -to change social system and extablish new rules , parties and orders but Lenin decided to be first and situation had been quite good for that at the moment.

But it is another topic.Going back to the point i have to say that we thought that if we have newclear weapons nobody will attack us because they should be destroyed immediatelly(you remember that USA was every time ahead and created new and new weapons just to destroy socialist economy by these weapons race).Because of brainwashing of socialism system we were ready to die but should to help and support our brothers(only poor people ) abroad to fight rich people and capitalists and deliver them paradize.Now it is funny but i believed as well and was prepared to fight capitalists anywhere in the world.I never seen them or any foreigners (it was not possible during socialist period for military personnel to do and easy to teach who is your enemy) but later i realised that they are the same people and want to live in peace and dignity ,they are different because of their civilisation and way of life and it is better to try to find common language for cooperation and friendship that look at each other through eys of newclear weapons .But our politicians were thinking in a different way.

Still now i think that capitalism system is very brutal and our former system was full of false ideas and rules and now we have what we have-dreaming about better system ...

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I was one of those who protested against nuclear weapons (1964 to the present). We have been called naïve but were more likely to be described as communists before the end of the Cold War. Now we are just romantic idealists.

My opposition to nuclear weapons was based on several different factors. First of all, I believed the use of nuclear weapons against another country is  immoral. I took this view because the very nature of nuclear weapons means that they target the civilian population. Therefore it is impossible to use the “Just War” argument to defend their use.

The main argument for having nuclear weapons is that it protects you from being invaded. This is of course true. However, it is also an argument that could be used by any non-nuclear country. If it is acceptable to have nuclear weapons to protect your country, how can you justify opposition to other countries having these nuclear weapons. It is of course the reason why countries like India, Pakistan and Israel now have nuclear weapons. No doubt Iraq would not have been invaded if it really had Weapons of Mass Destruction. This is not lost on other countries like Iran and North Korea who are being threatened by the United States.

Unless we get rid of our nuclear weapons it is only a matter of time before a country uses them. This might be contained or it might lead to the end of the world.

You try to explain your disdain for nuclear weapons and the reasons behind to demonstrate against them. Nevertheless your posting feels disturbing and disappointing.

To my knowledge you never demonstrated against nuclear weapons of Eastern Europe countries. Why?

Did you thought that the communist nuclear weapons were an instrument of peace and understanding (so were they always described by the press of Eastern Europeans countries), while the nuclear weapons western democracies possessed were a devilish imperialistic invention threatening the humanity and worthy to demonstrate against at will?

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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You try to explain your disdain for nuclear weapons and the reasons behind to demonstrate against them. Nevertheless your posting feels disturbing and disappointing.

To my knowledge you never demonstrated against nuclear weapons of Eastern Europe countries. Why?

Did you thought that the communist nuclear weapons were an instrument of peace and understanding (so were they always described by the press of Eastern Europeans countries), while the nuclear weapons western democracies  possessed were a devilish imperialistic invention threatening the humanity and worthy to demonstrate against at will?

What a lot of propagandistic nonsense Dalibor!

I cannot speak for John, but I of course demonstrated against all nuclear weapons and had no sympathy for the foul state capitalist dictatorships of Eastern Europe. Neither did the vast majority of fellow CND members and supporters at the time.

It was a classic cheap 'debating' trick of the extreme right at the time to suggest that opposition to total madness governing one's own country's affairs meant that you were in favour of exactly the same mad policy from one's "enemies".

I am surprised and disppointed to see you repeat it here.

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What a lot of propagandistic nonsense Dalibor!

I cannot speak for John, but I of course demonstrated against all nuclear weapons and had no sympathy for the foul state capitalist dictatorships of Eastern Europe. Neither did the vast majority of fellow CND members and supporters at the time.

It was a classic cheap 'debating' trick of the extreme right at the time to suggest that opposition to total madness governing one's own country's affairs meant that you were in favour of exactly the same mad policy from one's "enemies".

I am surprised and disppointed to see you repeat it here.

I do not know very much about any propagandistic nonsense.

I do not know anything about any “CND members” (who are they? What were they fighting for or against ……?)

Furthermore what is actually “a classic cheap 'debating' trick of the extreme right” when one is asking questions which disturbed me and my Eastern European friends (when debating these issues) for decades?

Is it so that you in this posting continue a debate you probably have during 70th or 80 th in your country? Do you think that you should bring that debate right into this forum where the core of the debate is:

A student in my College asks:

"Why in the 70's and 80's were those who opposed nuclear weapons portrayed as naive rather than those who believed having lots of them would make the world safer?"

To my knowledge I never saw you ("western demonstrators for peace and freedom") fight for any of our (peoples of Eastern Europe) rights and against any of our evils. Never!

Therefore I asked my question.

Was it so disturbing?

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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To my knowledge I never saw you ("western demonstrators for peace and freedom")  fight for any of our (peoples of Eastern Europe) rights and against any of our evils. Never!

Therefore I asked my question.

Was it so disturbing?

More depressing than disturbing I am afraid.

The peace demonstrators in the West were of course standing up for all humanity by opposing nuclear weapons everywhere.

I believe the student in my College was incredulous of the criticism she read of peace campaigners being portrayed as "naive" because of their belief that an absence of weapons might lead to peace when compared to the warmonger's view that being 'armed to the teeth' and assuring mutual destruction might lead to peace.

Perhaps she is right given the last awful century of war which continues without abatement in this century.

We should perhaps be at least open to the possibility that war doesn't infact "work" for anyone other than the arms dealers?

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I was also a member of CND all those years ago. In answer to Dalibor, I also helped organize street demonstrations in Manchester against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to criticize the anti-nuclear demonstrators of the 60s and 70s. Certainly, a lot of us were naive. We did tend to swallow Soviet propaganda a little too uncritically -- or, to avoid speaking for others, at least I and the people I associated with did. We labeled everyone who disagreed with us as "warmongers" whether they were or not.

Looking back on it, we were really a bit supercilious in dismissing the sincerely held worries about Soviet intentions held by supporters of the nuclear deterrent. I agree with John that, in the end, the immorality of weapons of mass destruction must be the deciding factor, but I certainly don't think the material that's emerged from Soviet archives since 1989 provides much support for our contention back then that all that was needed to ensure world peace was to love our enemies!

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To my knowledge you never demonstrated against nuclear weapons of Eastern Europe countries. Why?

Did you thought that the communist nuclear weapons were an instrument of peace and understanding (so were they always described by the press of Eastern Europeans countries), while the nuclear weapons western democracies  possessed were a devilish imperialistic invention threatening the humanity and worthy to demonstrate against at will?

You obviously don’t know very much about me. If you had asked me, I would have told you. Yes I did protest about the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. Yes I did protest against the Soviets having nuclear weapons? Yes, I did protest against Soviet crimes in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

I did more than that. I wrote about it. At the age of 19 I established a magazine called Target where I published a large number of articles on this subject. The magazine did not have a large circulation (it was mainly read by members of Romford Labour Party) but it did create a great deal of hostility from some left-wingers who thought it was wrong to criticize the Soviet Union (they also did not like my attacks on Trotsky).

I have spent my adult life writing against the activities of Soviet Communism. Have you read my book, Stalin (1986)? Have you read my website pages on the Cold War?

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/ColdWar.htm

Do that and then come back to me about my political views on the Soviet Union?

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You obviously don’t know very much about me. If you had asked me, I would have told you. Yes I did protest about the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. Yes I did protest against the Soviets having nuclear weapons? Yes, I did protest against Soviet crimes in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

Do you really feel that it is right and normal when debating your postings, that one have to go to your web page in order to obtain more specific information about your thinking in these questions since let us say 1960 ….?

I asked you, in a careful way, about the demonstrations against nuclear weapons and you suddenly answer me that I do not know very much about your fight against evil ideologies and therefore I should not criticise you.

Read the URL pages of mine you advice me …… Do you think that it’s the answer to my questions?

It happens very often in ordinary life that people mix facts and dreams, expectations and convictions. Are you one of them?

My posting was not about you personally ….. I was just wondering about the peace movement of the West during the cold war …….!

How was they thinking, the people, who were part of it?? Why did they take all these decisions they actually took? After all we are now sitting with answers to the period of the late 50 years which was so devastating to my country and to Czech people. And also to all other peoples from Eastern European hemispheres. …. Don’t you agree about that?

Did you contributed to their misery with your demonstrations?

Do you believe that you were fighting for humanity? (Why than, not fighting for a simple decent living for us, Eastern European people, too?) Or were you fighting for some other goals?

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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Dalibor, I obviously can't speak for John, but I think I know why I supported anti-nuclear demonstrations in the 1970s...

It's really difficult, 30+ years on, to underdstand the "spirit of the age" back then. That's one of the things that makes the task of the historian so hard. You have to remember that this was the time of the 1968 "student movement" which swept much of Western Europe, and of the anti-Vietnam War movement in the US. Many of us back then really thought we were on the cusp of a totally new "third way" which rejected both the rapacious neo-imperialist capitalism of the West and the State Capitalism of the East.

Thus, we threw ourselves into campaigns against the Bomb, against Apartheid, and, yes, against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia -- I remember attending a meeting in Manchester at which the Stalinist Old Communist head of the local engineering union agreed that his members would support the march we were organizing against the invasion and then went on to make a 30-minute speech explaining to us the ideological differences between the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the invasion of Hungary in 1956. We sat down in the streets and were dragged off by policemen who demonstrated varying degrees of tolerance. We sang Bob Dylan or Joan Baez protest songs, we called ourselves Anarcho-syndicalists or Libertarian Socialists. We called for the "radical realignment of the Left" which would abandon both the totalitarianism of the Communist Party and the trade union conservatism of the Labour Party.

Of course, after a few years, it all came to nothing... We discovered that the times were not a'changing and that the old order was stubbornly refusing to fade away... The idealism of the 1970s transformed itself into the Thatcherite realism of the 80s and 90s. Student radicals became respectable lawyers, accountants and businessmen. Many of those who didn't abandon their dreams and illusions drifted into education, which is why you meet quite a few of them on forums like this where they either became cynical -- like me -- or continued to hope for real change -- like John, I suspect.

Do I think I was naive back in the 1970s to think anything I did could make a real difference? With the benefit of hindsight and through glasses which now tend to tint everything with cynicism, I would say that I was. But I'm rather glad that I was, that I and my generation did try to look beyond material self-interest and hedonism. For all that we failed, were, perhaps, doomed to fail, it was worth trying, and who knows, one day...

I do think you're wrong, though, to say that we were unconcerned about the sufferings of the people of Eastern Europe. Your political analysis somehow seems to equate opposition to nuclear armaments with support for the Soviet Union. Now, it is true that a small minority of the anti-nuclear movement was avowedly pro-Soviet and saw State Capitalism as a panacea, but the vast majority were highly critical of Soviet repression, either from a Trotsky-ite (or similar) perspective or from a more JS Mill-liberal stance.

Again, I don't think it's necessary to read through all of John's output on various websites or in his numerous publications to see where he's coming from politically, and I think you misjudge him seriously in stating that his idealism is somehow a sell-out to Communist repression...

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Not sure if I can contribute to this debate, but it's certainly interesting.

First, a little background. My dad worked on the A-bomb in WWII at Los Alamos. He was one of a very small number of people who asked that control of nuclear weapons be turned over to the United Nations after the war ended. He did feel that use of the A-bomb was necessary to end the war (and I think he's probably right - read Richard Rhodes "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" to get a sense of how far the militarists in Japan were willing to go).

I joined the US Marine Corps and went to Vietnam because I felt it was my duty to fight the communists "wherever they reared their ugly heads". I really thought we could make a positive difference for the South Vietnamese. So, I was definitely naive.

So were the peace demonstrators - they really thought that demonstrations would show the politicians the error of their ways and "everything would be beautiful". So there was a lot of naivete going around in those days - which I think was a good thing. Nowadays seem much more cynical (or maybe it's just me...) and it's not as stimulating.

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I was not really an idealist back in the 1960s and early 1970s. I have always been cynical. I could see a lot wrong both with the Capitalist systems of the West and with the Socialist/Communist systems of the East. I suppose that my view at the time can be summarised by "a plague on both your houses".

My view changed radically when I went on a one-month refresher course for teachers of German at Karl-Marx University, Leipzig, in 1976 and experienced at first hand what living in a Communist (or Socialist, as they called it) state really meant: secret police everywhere (I am convinced that I was closely watched), shortages of fruit and vegetables and fresh meat, censorship, and the general drabness of life. I returned from the GDR firmly believing that, although the Capitalist West had got a lot of things wrong, on balance it had got fewer things wrong than the Socialist/Communist East. I a felt lot of sympathy for people who had to live under such repressive regimes but at the same time felt helpless to do anything to change their lives.

We were all a bit naive at the time. The information flow East-West and West-East was coloured heavily by propaganda and we were all fooled by our respective governments to a lesser or greater degree.

I was delighted when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. I was in Berlin at the time and can never forget the sheer joy that was evident on the faces of East and West Berliners alike. It went a bit sour, of course, and there are many, many problems that still need to be resolved.

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...... mike tribe this is a short letter I could not let to be unwritten.

Since you posted your contribution two more posting were added. I just hope it won’t be confusing to address a few words to you ……….

Thank you for your last posting. I quite often read your viewpoints on different matters at this forum. They make me to feel stimulated, I do not feel that by reading them I did thrown away my time.

You seem to be profoundly humble and human in them. And your words deliver quite often a kind of nice distance to the subject you write about. All this makes your postings worth to read.

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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