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Albert Gates

Atomic Bomb Shows
Why Socialism Is Necessary

(13 August 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 33, 13 August 1945, pp. 1& 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“The impact of the bomb was so terrific that practically all living things, human and animal, were literally seared to death by the tremendous heat and pressure engendered by the blast.” This is the way one Tokyo broadcast described the havoc created by one atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima by a Superfortress.

In a split second the Wellsian world became a reality. Years of research and the investment of billions of dollars, finally brought to one stage of development the harnessing of the atom and control of the enormous energy created by splitting it.

The most carefully guarded secret of the war was released when the announcement came over the wires that the one atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima had destroyed the city for a radius of four and a tenth miles, with an explosive power equal to 20,000 tons of TNT.

The crew which flew the plane reported that they could feel the concussion miles away and that the light of the explosion was brighter than the sun. The whole city of over 300,000 people was covered by smoke to the height of 40,000 feet and for some time afterward reconnaissance planes were unable to survey the damage. But the Japanese authorities have already announced that almost everything was destroyed, that Hiroshima was practically wiped off the face of the earth.

There is no doubt that the war in the Far East will be shortened by the use of the atomic bomb. The Administration is already preparing another demand on the Japanese for unconditional surrender. In the event of refusal the plan is to destroy the whole nation, for that is what continued atomic bombing will mean.

We can now very plainly see the meaning of modern war. Revolutionary socialists have warned long ago, that the continuation of imperialist-capitalist society and its recurrent wars which harness science will produce weapons of destruction of incalculable proportions.

While the war of 1914–18 was the first in the era of world wars, the loss of life was great and the destruction enormous, it did not compare to the power of destruction in this war. The Second World War was organized along mechanized lines, employing tanks, airplanes, robot bombs, magnetic mines, and hundreds of other instruments of death and chaos.

The military casualties for the European war alone is estimated at 60,000,000 persons. The destruction of wealth and property runs into the hundreds of billions. And when the war ends in the Far East and the calculations of casualties and wealth destruction are made, it will stagger the imagination.

Toward the end of the European war new and deadlier instruments of warfare were developed. It is now acknowledged that the Germans were working on their own atomic bomb. Had they succeeded, the employmentof atomic bombing by both sides in the war would have devastated a good part of the world and its population.

Capitalist Barbarism

It is also clear that the description of the destruction power of the atomic bomb is no idle talk. Capitalist society is rushing headlong into a form of barbarism. So long as the mad struggle for profit in this private property economy exists, and it must exist as long as capitalism exists, war is forever the prospect of life. Chaos and destruction are forever the reward of the overwhelming majority of the peoples of all countries.

While all the capitalist nations are incapable and unwilling to produce in the interests of the common good of the people, while production is organized solely in the interests of profit, invention in the interests of society as a whole remains stagnant. Invention, which could lighten the lives of the people and produce enough to have plenty for all, is impossible in an economy where the main aim of those who own the industries, mines, transportation and utilities is production for profit.

Everyone agrees, however, that the power of destruction is only one of the uses to which the control of the atom can be put. Of far greater importance is that the harnessing of atomic energy can permit such a tremendous rise in the production of the necessities of life as to increase the standard of living of all the people in the world far easier than all the mechanical and technical advances that have been made by society up to now.

Future for All Possible

The story of how research was carried on in the production of the atomic bomb as a joint enterprise, a collective effort, is interesting and instructive. But the fact to be borne in mind is that all the time, money and human energy expended was for the purposes of destruction. It emphasized again that for the purposes of destruction capitalism will go to any length.

But it is just as obvious, that had all this time, energy and money been expanded in the same experiments for the purpose of harnessing power for peaceful purposes, for the purposes of improving the life of all humanity, the same progress could have been made.

We do not know all the possibilities inherent in the control of the atom. But all of science agrees that its possibilities are infinite and that we have just witnessed a revolution in science equivalent to previous revolutionary discoveries, which in turn revolutionize the whole of society.

The most important question is this: is it possible for capitalism, a society organized in the interests of profits for a handful of people who live off the exploitation of the overwhelming majority of the people of the world to use this discovery for constructive purposes in the interests of mankind? The answer is, of course, no.

Already, the government in Washington, which is a capitalist government, makes ready to turn over this revolutionary development to private business, those vultures who gorge themselves on profit in war, as in peace, whose main occupation is to exploit workers for their own class benefit.

Socialism Necessary

The scientists who directed the experiments are commonly known as capitalist-minded servants of the big corporations. In past years they have been associated with the big monopolistic corporations, all of them giving testimony in their behalf. Science, which can be of such benefit to society, is, under capitalism, the servant of the financial and industrial bandits who rule society.

Right now, the rulers of society speak of the atomic bomb in terms of controlling it so that they might control the world. The real sham of their arguments is that they point to the possibility that it may be used by “a Hitler” or “a Germany,” both destroyed and defeated in the war, at some future time. As a matter of fact, what they are trying to say, what they are actually saying, is that “we,” the capitalist rulers, must control the atomic bomb not for the purpose of improving society and the life of all the people but to dominate the world, control its riches, in their own private class interests.

The most important thing about this revolutionary discovery is that it cannot and must not be controlled by private capitalism. Society is doomed to destruction if this happens. Only a socialist society, a society without classes, without war, without competition, without unemployment, and poverty can properly utilize the harnessing of the energy power of the atom.

A class society which lives by exploitation can only subordinate such discoveries to the interest of private profit. Yet the atomic bomb invention, and the progress made in atomic researchdemand that it shall be used for constructive purposes.

Let the people ponder this fact. Let them understand that when the press and the radio orators talk about the destruction of the world, they are not joking at all. The destruction of the world is a grim reality unless the social order of capitalism is abolished and replaced by socialism, the society of all the people.

(Next week we will carry detailed stories on the development of atomic research and its social implications.)

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