Truman claimed Hiroshima was a military base. This was a lie. The city had a population of some 300,000 civilians, dwarfing the 43,000 soldiers stationed there. Nagasaki was home to more than 250,000 civilians and only 9,000 soldiers.
Ever since, the Socialist Workers Party has fought to take nuclear weapons out of the hands of U.S. imperialism and for Washington’s unilateral nuclear disarmament.
Some 110,000 people were killed almost instantly in the two bombings. As a result of radiation poisoning and other horrifying injuries, within five years the toll had risen to 340,000 — two-thirds of the population of Hiroshima and half of Nagasaki.
The decision to drop the bombs was a cold-blooded decision by the U.S. rulers. Looking to strengthen Washington’s grip on markets and resources worldwide, they wanted to make sure that Tokyo surrendered to Washington and not to Moscow. Russian troops were about to launch a major offensive against Japanese forces in Manchuria.
More importantly the U.S. rulers wanted to send a message to the workers of the world that U.S. imperialism stands ready to wipe out entire cities and annihilate hundreds of thousands of men, women and children to maintain their empire.
The slaughter in Hiroshima and Nagasaki sparked working-class fighters in the U.S. to put the demand for Washington’s unilateral disarmament on their banner ever since.
The U.S. rulers justified their attacks as necessary to defeat fascism, win peace and “save American lives.”
The Militant told the truth in its Aug. 18, 1945, banner headline: “There Is No Peace!”
Mutually Assured Destruction
“What a commentary on the real nature of capitalism in its decadent phase is this,” Socialist Workers Party leader James P. Cannon said in a speech two weeks after Washington’s obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “That the scientific conquest of the marvelous secret of atomic energy, which might rationally be used to lighten the burdens of all mankind, is employed first for the wholesale destruction of half a million people.”
In the aftermath of the second world imperialist slaughter, Moscow worked overtime to develop nuclear weapons, claiming they were necessary for protection against the U.S. rulers’ growing arsenal. Their race — increasingly joined by more governments — to amass nuclear weapons stockpiles has been a feature of world politics since.
Over the decades the rulers in Washington and their Stalinist counterparts in Moscow negotiated some “limits” on the quantity of nuclear warheads they each possess, but they have made sure they maintained many times more bombs than needed to eliminate all life on the planet. Their framework has been to ensure that each side has sufficient nuclear weapons to maintain “deterrence” — which some called Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD — to avoid nuclear war.
As a result, today there are over 15,000 nuclear warheads, the vast majority in the hands of Washington and Moscow. The governments of Britain, France, China, India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan are also now part of the nuclear “club.”
Fidel: We don’t need nukes
Revolutionary Cuba is one nation in the world that could claim the need for deterrence in the face of threats from U.S. imperialism. From the training and financing of counterrevolutionary guerrillas after the Jan. 1, 1959, overthrow of the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista to the Bay of Pigs invasion and the so-called October Missile Crisis today, the U.S. rulers have never stopped for one second their attempts to overturn the Cuban Revolution. And they have debated the use of their nuclear arsenal to do so.
But the communist leadership there, starting with Fidel Castro, has never sought to develop nuclear weapons. Instead, Cuba’s revolutionary government has consistently called for the destruction of all nuclear weapons.
“We have never considered the idea of fabricating nuclear weapons, because we don’t need them,” Fidel Castro said in 2005. “What sense would it make producing a nuclear weapon in the face of an enemy who has thousands of nuclear weapons? It would mean joining the game of nuclear confrontation.
“We possess a weapon as powerful as nuclear ones and it is the magnitude of the justice we are fighting for,” he said. “Our nuclear weapon is the invincible power of moral weapons.”
This stance is inextricably intertwined with the way the July 26 Movement and Rebel Army led by Castro won the revolutionary war against the Batista dictatorship. They never attacked civilians, never took hostages and treated captured and wounded enemy soldiers with respect. They took power — and have held it against everything Washington could throw against them to this day — by waging a political battle to increase the consciousness, discipline, self-worth and fighting capacity of the island’s workers and farmers. Their moral standing and international solidarity has won support and inspired workers worldwide.
Does North Korea need ‘deterrence’?
Some defenders of the sovereignty of the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea say the government needs nuclear weapons to deter nuclear assault by Washington.
Putting forward similar arguments, many middle-class left groups have abandoned any perspective of fighting to eliminate nuclear weapons.
For class-conscious workers the key question is how to advance the interests of the working class worldwide. How to organize a revolutionary movement that can take power out of the hands of the capitalist warmakers.
North Korea has suffered tremendous destruction at the hands of U.S. imperialism, including millions killed and the almost total destruction of homes and factories during the U.S.-led war against the Korean people from 1950 to 1953. Gen. Douglas MacArthur urged Washington to use nuclear weapons when China entered the war on the side of the North Korean forces.
It wasn’t nuclear “deterrence” that stayed U.S. imperialism’s hand — neither China nor North Korea had nuclear weapons at the time. The U.S. rulers feared the reaction of working people around the world and the spur it would give to independence and revolutionary struggles sweeping the colonial world.
Despite signing a cease-fire in 1953, Washington to this day refuses to sign a peace treaty with North Korea and organizes massive war “games” off their shore every year, including this year the deployment of one of their nuclear submarines.
Possessing nuclear weapons does not strengthen the defense of North Korea. It makes it harder to win working people around the world to oppose U.S. sanctions and threats.
No more Hiroshimas!
On July 7 the United Nations General Assembly passed a draft treaty calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. But neither Washington nor any other government that possesses nukes deigned to even vote on the resolution.
The Japanese government also refused to vote for the treaty, sparking a controversy at this year’s 72nd annual commemoration of the bombing on Hiroshima, attended by 50,000 people. Kazumi Matsui, mayor of Hiroshima, saluted the governments that backed the treaty and said that now is the time “to advance further toward a nuclear weapon-free world.” But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe defended his decision to not cast a vote on the treaty, arguing it was a “realistic approach.”
The Socialist Workers Party calls for total unilateral U.S. nuclear disarmament. Like Cuba’s revolutionary government, the SWP urges every government worldwide to do the same. The only way to ensure there are no more Hiroshimas is for the working class here to take political power out of the hands of the capitalist warmakers and join the fight for a socialist world.
US rulers’ 72-year-long drive against the people of Korea
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