Raya Dunayevskaya 1961

If This Isn’t Madness, What Is It?

Source: News & Letters, November 1961. This piece appeared as Dunayevskaya’s column, “Two Worlds."
Transcribed: by Kevin Michaels.

On October 23, Swedish Danish, and French observatories recorded a violent explosion and speculated that Russia might have set off the monster bomb. A few hours later the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission announced that the Russian explosion was of a bomb “probably only” in the 30 megaton range. This still made it the biggest ever exploded to that date and one that would contaminate the air dangerously for those living and those not yet born.

The explosion of the 30 megaton bomb was such senseless power exhibitionism, such atomic horror, such colossal gall in the face of world protest that it remained unbelievable. With the inference that Russia probably would not do so, even those who put nothing past Khrushchev’s terror tactics kept hanging on the word “probably” in the Khrushchev statement that Russia would “probably” explode the 50 megaton bomb by October 31. It seemed senseless from a military point of view as well as from the human point of view since no one can die more than once and the smaller bombs are just as devastating. It obviously would do irreparable damage to the image of Russia as the “world’s peace fighter” while it undermined Khrushchev’s own theory of “peaceful co-existence.”

On October 30 the 50 megaton bomb was exploded. If this isn’t madness what is it?

Weigh the explosion of the monster bomb presently against the decision to resume nuclear testing on the eve of the convocation of the Belgrade Conference of “neutrals” and it is easy to see that the world “neutralist” or otherwise, is of less concern to Khrushchev that the Communist orbit in general and Russia in particular. And yet the Russian people will of necessity finally lean that the contaminated air cannot be left only to “other lands,” not their own.

No doubt none of the Russian leaders, least of all Khrushchev, will rush to quote Dr. Pauling [1] who says that a 50 megaton nuclear blast would cause 40,000 babies to be born with physical defects in the next few generations, produce bone cancer and leukemia among persons now alive, and pollute the atmosphere for 6,000 years. Nevertheless the Russian masses will learn the truth. On what scale will they now weigh the 22nd Russian Communist Party program promising utopia in 1980?

The Speeches vs. the Program

It is true the Russian masses never considered the Draft Program anything but “pie-in-the-sky” promises for it was obvious, when it was first published, that the preconditions for the fulfillment of the promises were an impossible rise in labor productivity, and the absence of war. That is why the resumption of nuclear testing, which blasted these promises sky-high, was kept from them. But now that the Russian Communist Party has convened and the speeches are being published, news of the military buildup and the nuclear blasts are seeping through.

There is, of course, a sideshow – the attack on tiny Albania’s “deviationism” and the Russian party “degenerates” [2] who formed the anti-party group in 1957, and Chou En-lai’s “dogmatism.” But, compared to the gory trials in Stalin’s heyday, these cannot deflect from the fact that there has been a continuous retreat from the utopian promises of the Draft program. Whether you take Khrushchev’s marathon speeches for two solid days, lasting a total of 12 hours and 20 minutes, or the shorter speeches of the minor delegates, the shift from “building communism in our lifetime” to the realities of the bad harvest in the virgin lands, the perennial crisis in housing, the proposal to have no new capital investment projects for a year, and the extolling of the tastiness of horse meat, all add up to hard times “for the present.”

“Peaceful Co-Existence”

Nevertheless there has been an improvement in living conditions as well as the conquest of outer space since Khrushchev first pronounced that war “was not inevitable” and elaborated the theory of “peaceful co-existence” at the famous “De-Stalinization” Congress of 1956. It is true the Khrushchevite theory has had a checkered career for it was soon confronted with the Hungarian Revolution which it crushed bloodily. But he saved his power internally by putting down the “anti-party” group’s challenge and the British imperialist adventure in Suez soon also brought him new growth abroad. Again, United States, U-2 spy flight put an end to “the spirit of Camp David” while the Congo crisis and the Cuban invasion produced a double-barreled attack on the UN and the open challenge to the U.S. and its Monroe Doctrine. But all remained short of war even in Laos.

The “comradely relations” in the Communist orbit, on the other hand, have been anything but peaceful. Their co-existence has erupted into open disagreement at Khrushchev’s initiative. It is obvious that Chou didn’t have foreknowledge of the attack on tiny Albania which is, in fact, an attack on her mighty protector, China. If not only the “revisionists” (Yugoslavia), and the “anti-party” group in Russia, but also the “deviationists” (Albania) and “dogmatists” (China) must be attacked, isn’t it clear that the explosion of the bomb is not only to terrorize the outside world, but that part right inside the Communist orbit?

So sure does Khrushchev feel of his home ground that the published Chou’s criticism. It means also: “You haven’t heard the last of this yet. Wait till I sum up. Until I do, just listen to these nuclear blasts.”

If It Isn’t Madness: View from the United States

In his secret “De-Stalinization” speech in 1956 Khrushchev called Stalin in his last years a “madman.” But what are “individual” murders compared to annihilation of the human race which a nuclear holocaust might spell out? If the protestations of “peaceful co-existence” are cited to contest this, and “proof” is further given about easing of the war of nerves through removal of the deadline over the signing of a separate peace treaty with East Germany by December 31, the continued pollution of the air at the Congress by speeches and in the world by the utterly irresponsible nuclear explosions still defy description. If it isn’t madness, it is only because we live in the kind of world where the madmen in power are the ones who decide what is rational.

Take our military and you will see what I mean. The U.S. Air Fore has been boasting just how good we are at delivering the “smaller bomb” which is just as effective. Furthermore, another Atlas missile base has become operational at Topeka, Kan., and the nine giants set on their underground pads are “improved” E models and carry heavy payloads and carry them as far as 9,000 miles. And just to pinpoint it so that “Khrushchev gets the message.” Lt. Gen John D. Ryan of the Strategic Air Command stresses that each of the Atlas weapons at the new base has a specific target behind the Iron Curtain! And of course the President feels it incumbent upon him to heighten the tension by bringing it back home and creating hysteria about “bomb shelters.”

The Sanity of the Average Man

Just as the Russian worker goes about his own business of working, but not breaking his neck and raising labor productivity for Khrushchev “100%,” so the American worker is disregarding the hullaballo about underground shelters and asking instead some crucial questions about his conditions of labor. An African from Southern Rhodesia I heard recently, speaking on the image the U.S. is creating of itself in Asia through Mississippi jungle justice against Freedom Riders, said: “You Americans see Communists behind every bush, and when we fight for our freedom, you ask us what we think about the space race with Russia. To us Africans that space race is really for the outer reaches of space – way out! We want freedom right here and right now on this earth.”

1. Linus Pauling (1901-1994) was a scientist and an early critic of the nuclear arms race. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism in 1962. [Transcriber]

2. Khrushchev defeated Georgy Malenkov and Vyacheslav Molotov in a power struggle in 1957. [Transcriber]