70 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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Seventy years ago in Hiorshima,on August 6 1945, more than a hundred thousand of its inhabitants were atrociously pulverised, being used as a target in a grand demonstration of the new US nuclear force.  According to official figures, close to 70,000 perished in the initial explosion and thousands of others suffered the same fate in the days that followed[1]. Three days later on August 9, a second bomb exploded above Nagasaki killing a similarly terrifying number of victims. The barbarity and suffering inflicted on so many people is hardly conceivable.

Thus, as we wrote in 2005, on the 50th anniversary of this event: “In order to justify such a crime, and to answer the legitimate shock provoked by the bomb’s awful effects, Truman - the US president who ordered the nuclear holocaust - and his accomplice Winston Churchill put about a cynical lie: that the use of the atomic bomb had saved about a million lives, which would have been lost had American troops been forced to invade Japan. In short, and despite appearances, the bombs which destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and which are still killing fifty years later, were pacifist bombs! But this peculiarly revolting tale is given the lie by numerous historical studies published by the bourgeoisie itself”.

When one looks at the military situation of Japan at the time when Germany capitulated, we can see that the former was already virtually beaten. Its aviation, an essential arm of the Second World War, was almost finished, reduced to a small number of machines generally piloted by a handful of adolescents who were as fanatical as they were inexperienced. The navy, merchant as well as military, was practically destroyed. Anti-aircraft defences covered only a small area of the sky, which explains why the B29’s were able to carry out thousands of attacks throughout spring 1945 with practically no losses. And Churchill himself admitted as much in volume 12 of his memoirs!

A study by the American secret services of 1945, published by the New York Times in 1989, revealed that: “Conscious of defeat, the Emperor of Japan decided on June 20 1945 to cease all hostilities and open up talks on July 11 with a view to the cessation of hostilities”[2]. And since in capitalist society cynicism and contempt have neither limits nor frontiers, we can only recall that the survivors of these explosions, the “hibakusha”, have only been recognised as victims by the state from the year 2000[3].

Concerning the real objective of these bombardments, here’s what we wrote in 2005:

Contrary to all the lies that have been peddled since 1945, about the supposed victory of a democracy synonymous with peace, World War II was barely over than the new front line of imperialist confrontation was being drawn. Just as the Treaty of Versailles contained inevitably within it the seeds of another war, so Yalta already contained the split between the main victor of 1945, the USA, and its Russian challenger. Thanks to World War II, Russia had risen from being a minor economic power to world ranking imperialism, which could not but threaten the American superpower. In spring 1945, the USSR was already using its military strength to carve out a bloc in Eastern Europe. Yalta did nothing but caution the existing balance of forces between the main imperialist sharks. What one balance of forces could set up, another could undo. In the summer of 1945, the real problem facing the American state was thus not, as the schoolbooks tell us, how to make Japan capitulate as soon as possible, but how to confront and contain the imperialist drive of its ‘great Russian ally’”.

In reality it was on the basis of aggravated imperialist tensions that the nuclear arms race began before 1945. A great capitalist power worthy of the name could only maintain its ranking on the imperialist scene and be taken seriously by its rivals by showing them that it possessed, or better still showed that it could make use of nuclear arms. This is particularly true for countries that were “bloc leaders” which by then were made up of the United   States and the USSR. Ranged behind one or the other, the other great powers could only fall into line. From 1949, the Russians started tests for their own bomb. In 1952, it was the turn of the British. In 1960, the very French “Gerboise bleue” showed in its turn its nuclear power at Reggane, in the Algerian Sahara. During this whole time one could say without exaggeration that there were hundreds of nuclear tests with consequences on the environment (and sometimes on surrounding populations) that the states have kept quiet about. Beyond this crazy race between the USA and the USSR to deploy a still-greater quantity of these types of arms, unrelenting research was undertaken in order to maximise their power of destruction. If the bombs of 1945 were a moment of intense cruelty in the history of capitalist barbarism, they are far from the culminating point of the destructive potential of existing arms.

Capitalist barbarism has no limits! As if the hundreds of thousands of deaths of Hiroshima and Nagasaki wasn’t just a foretaste of what decadent capitalism is capable of producing, the Americans went to another level in 1952 with the explosion of “Ivy Mike”, the famous H-Bomb with a power of 10.4 megatons, six times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb! And who can forget the “Tsar Bomba” that the Russians exploded over the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya (Arctic Russia) in 1961. With a power of more than 50 megatons it literally vitrified the soil over a radius of 25 km and destroyed wooden buildings hundreds of kilometres away. The army was satisfied with the idea that the heat of the radiation produced caused third degree burns over a radius of more than 100km.  From a formal point of view the big nuclear powers of the United States, Russia, the UK and France, signed a non-proliferation pact (NPT) in 1968. This agreement, which was supposed to halt the proliferation of nuclear arms, had only a very limited impact. It is just as hypocritical as the Kyoto Accords against global warming! Since the NPT came into effect in 1970 several countries have to be added to the list: India, China, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. Further there’s a list of countries whose possession of nuclear weapons is a matter of discussion between bourgeois factions: Iran of course, but also Brazil which is suspected of developing a nuclear programme[4], Saudi Arabia and Syria whose nuclear reactor in Damascus was much talked about. In short, it is clear that “non-proliferation” is only a pious wish essentially aimed at masking the sordid reality of the trafficking of nuclear materials. In a system based on competition and relations of force, the idea of a return to reason can only be a pure mystification. Since the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the blocs in 1990, military instability has progressively gained ground in all zones of the planet. The international situation shows us this on a daily basis. It’s a real process of decomposition which generates still more barbarity and irrationality. It is within this framework that we should put the announcement by Putin on June 16, according to which: “Russia is going to strengthen its nuclear arsenal with the deployment of more than forty new inter-continental missiles from here to the end of the year (...). This announcement was made on the basis of the aggravation of tensions between Russia and the United States, whose plans to deploy heavy weapons in Europe revealed by the New York Times have provoked anger in Moscow”[5]. On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the nuclear holocaust, such a declaration is a significant marker of the putrefaction into which capitalist society is sinking[6].

The working class, the sole class bearing a perspective for the future of humanity, is thus also the only class capable of putting an end to the barbaric wars of the imperialist powers. The proletariat cannot let itself be panicked by the horror of which the capitalist class is capable and it cannot remain paralysed faced with the attacks from the latter. It’s true that the atrocity of August 1945 and of war in general generates fear. And for good reason! In the troubled game of capitalist competition, the bourgeoisie always wants to wipe out its rivals. The only real brake on this barbarity is the level of consciousness of the revolutionary class and its capacity for outrage at the horror of a decomposing society.

Finally, let’s remember that summer 2015 is also the 110th anniversary (June 27 1905) of the mutiny on the battleship Potemkin, though the media is much more discreet about this. Here the Russian sailors, scandalised by the contempt shown to them by their officers and worn out by the war with Japan, turned their guns against them and stood up in one of the heroic moments of the history of the workers’ movement[7]. It’s not tears of despair, but rather outrage and the will to fight which bear the promise of the construction of a communist society.

Tim, July 2 2015

[1] In Japan, the “peace memorial” gives the number of victims of Hiroshima as 140,000.

[2] Le Monde Diplomatique, August 1990. For more ample developments of the denunciation of this cynical fable, we invite our readers to look at the article “50 years after: Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the lies of the bourgeoisie” in International Review no. 83.

[3] Previously these victims benefited from no help by the state. “In May 2005, there were 266,598 hibakusha recognised by the Japanese government” (according to an article of the Japan Times, March 15 2006, reprinted on Wikipedia).

[4] Lula signed an agreement in 2008 with Argentina for the joint development of a nuclear programme which could not be devoid of a military aspect.

[5] Le Monde, 16.06.2015.

[6] In a recent “breakthrough”, amid rising Sino-US tensions, China has announced that it has developed a multiple nuclear warhead delivery system capable of breaching US defences.  http://uk.businessinsider.com/china-developed-multiple-warhead-missiles-2015-5?r=US&IR=T

[7] It’s also important to remember that it was the workers’ movement, with the revolutionary wave of 1917, that put an end to the First World War at the beginning of the 20th century.


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