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Einstein Warns on H-Bomb:
‘General Annihilation Beckons’

(20 February 1950)

From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 8, 20 February 1950, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The U.S. government has announced that it will produce the hydrogen bomb. Once again the peoples of the world are brought face to face with the fact that modern civilization is rushing to its own destruction.

As the A-bomb differed in quality and magnitude from the conventional, old-fashioned TNT bombs – those pitifully inadequate “blockbusters” – so the H-bomb differs in quality and magnitude from the A-bomb. Albert Einstein, the physicist whose theoretical works laid the foundation for modern atomic development, wrote in the November 1945 Atlantic Monthly, speaking of an atomic war (with A-bombs only): “Perhaps two-thirds of the world’s population will be killed, but enough persons capable of thought and with enough books will survive to begin anew and civilization will re-establish itself.”

But Einstein’s statement this week on February 12 warns:

If successful, radioactive poisoning of the atmosphere and hence annihilation of any life on earth has been brought within range of technical possibilities. The ghostlike character of this development lies in its apparently compulsory trend. Every step appears as the unavoidable consequence of the preceding one. In the end, there beckons more and more clearly general annihilation.”

Sees Police State Ahead

Einstein goes on in this statement to describe the inevitable and already visible consequences of the administration’s policy and the theory of security through superior military power:

Within the country – concentration of tremendous financial power in the hands of the military, militarization of the youth, close supervision of the loyalty of the citizens, in particular of the civil servants by a police force growing more conspicuous every day. Intimidation of people of independent political thinking. Indoctrination of the public by radio, press, school. Growing restriction of the range of public information under the pressure of military secrecy.

“The armament race between the USA and the USSR, originally supposed to be a preventive measure, assumes hysterical character. On both sides, the means to mass destruction are perfected with feverish haste – behind the respective walls of secrecy. The H-bomb appears on the public horizon as a probably attainable goal. Its accelerated development has been solemnly proclaimed by the president ...

“Solemn renunciation of violence (not only with respect to means of mass destruction) is undoubtedly necessary.

“Such renunciation, however, can only be effective if at the same time a supra-national judicial and executive body is set up empowered to decide questions of immediate concern to the security of the nations. Even a declaration of the nations to collaborate loyally in the realization of such a ‘restricted government’ would considerably reduce the imminent danger of war.” – (N.Y. Times, Feb. 13.)

Socialists have proclaimed the need of world government for over a hundred years. But we consider it futile for people to think that this need can be fulfilled by precisely those ruling classes whose governments are responsible for the H-bomb race to destruction.

We think world government is possible and necessary. But the movement toward it will come from those who have no vested interest in the present governments or in the private ownership of industry, and hence have a vested interest in peace and security above all else. These forces are most concentrated within the labor movements of all countries and their strength must and will be felt in an independent movement against H-bomb destruction.

The horror of the H-bomb diplomacy has forced politicians and government leaders to look for some way out of this madness.

On February 2, Truman’s decision to make the H-bomb shocked Senator Brien McMahon, Connecticut Democrat, into making a speech before the Senate where he pleaded that at “almost any cost” the United States must seek some international arrangement to neutralize the atomic and hydrogen weapons. He proposed a five-year fifty-billion-dollar plan for world recovery in exchange for an agreement on atomic control.

On February 6, Senator Millard Tydings, Maryland Democrat, called for a world conference for disarmament in conventional as well as atomic weapons, to “end the world’s nightmare of fear.” Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, Tydings said it was “essential to strip the world down to the rifle. I am advocating an agreed disarmament gradually over a period of years with constant worldwide inspection.”

On February 8, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, made a special reply to the speeches of Senators Tydings and McMahon. While lauding the goal of world peace, he deplored their proposals. He said, in effect, that Russia will recognize nothing but force and that the United States plans to act accordingly. He cited as examples of effective blocking of Russian policy the United States efforts in Greece (where it gave monetary and military assistance to the reactionary dictatorship of King George; Turkey (where it also gave loans to a reactionary regime); China (where the U.S. experienced its most dismal failure in sponsoring the corrupt Nationalist regime); and Germany (where denazification and democratization are nowhere near realization).

A few days later, in response to a tremendous world reaction on the Truman-Acheson H-bomb policy, which has by now also become an issue in British politics for both the Tories and Labor, the administration line underwent a slight change. On February 11, Senator Connally, a Democratic spokesman, said that the United States might renew its efforts in the United Nations for an attempt at an international agreement on atomic weapons. And Assistant Secretary of State Hickerson also made public a statement that Truman’s speech did not “close the door” to new approaches in the UN on the question of international control.

But just as old-fashioned “blockbuster” diplomacy was all that followed in the wake of the A-bomb (which could kill only 100.000 at one stroke) on the basis of past performances and economic interests we cannot expect more from the above gentlemen! with the development and production of the super-weapon. The super-bomb is being used in peacetime more as pressure against Russia than as a plea for peace.

Thus Thomas J. Hamilton suggests in a N.Y. Times dispatch from Lake Success on February 6, “... It might be worthwhile for Mr. Acheson to point out that we have an undeniable present advantage over the Soviet Union. We have more atomic bombs now, and can certainly make them at a faster rate than the Soviet Union.” But this diplomacy is futile. For one day Vishinsky will announce the Russian H-bomb, and the old race of stockpiling will go on to its inevitable end.

This race for world-destructive weapons is growing in its nightmarish proportions. It is the responsibility and inevitable doom of both Stalinism and capitalism, two social orders which can find no solution to their internal problems, no path out of their ruin. The conflict is not one of principle, but of seeking to hang on to life through conquests of colonies, markets, spheres of influence and (above all) of complete world military power.

The American labor movement has not yet spoken independently on Washington’s foreign policy, which is daily revealing its primary dependence on atomic armament. Yet the only road out is a mass struggle of the peoples of all lands against these governments of death and destruction. There is no other way. The question of our times grows clearer with each lap in the atomic race: the struggle for socialism, or world destruction.

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