Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Nu - Nz   —

NUCLEAR WAR — Close Calls
Because of the outrageous preparations by imperialist powers for yet another world war, next time almost certainly involving nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and because of the arrogance and recklessness with which these imperialist powers operate, there have already been a number of very close calls where all-out nuclear war could have easily begun. The most famous of these was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 in which the U.S. was determined to start such a war if Khrushchev did not back down about stationing nuclear-armed ballistic missiles in Cuba (in the same way that the U.S. had already done in Turkey and aimed at the USSR). There were other very tense political periods during the Cold War as well, and serious considerations by the U.S. about using nuclear weapons in Vietnam and against China in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
        In addition to these periodic political tensions and threats there were also a number of occasions when the outbreak of nuclear war through accident came close to happening. (See quote below.)
        Although the old Cold War ended with the collapse of the state-capitalist Soviet Union in 1991, a new Cold War is now gradually building up, this time between the U.S. again and China (or a possible alliance of China with Russia). The world will be very lucky indeed if an inter-imperialist world war involving the extensive use of nuclear weapons does not occur in the 21st century. Capitalist-imperialism continues to be a very dangerous threat to the continued existence of humanity.

“On November 9, 1979, a computer problem led NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) to make a false report of an incoming full-scale Soviet attack on the United States. The USA made emergency retaliation preparations before data from early-warning radar systems showed that no attack had been launched. On September 26, 1983, the malfunctioning Soviet Oko nuclear early-warning system reported an incoming US missile strike. The report was correctly identified as a false alarm by the duty officer at the command center, Stanislav Petrov: a decision that has been credited with preventing thermonuclear war. It appears that a war would probably have fallen short of causing human extinction, even if it had been fought with the combined arsenals held by all the nuclear powers at the height of the Cold War, though it would have ruined civilization and caused unimaginable death and suffering. But bigger stockpiles might be accumulated in future arms races, or even deadlier weapons might be invented, or our models of the impacts of a nuclear Armageddon (particularly of the severity of the consequent nuclear winter) might be wrong.” —Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence (2014), p. 357 note 12.

“The ‘button’ can also morph into a perverse temptation for an unstable leader. In 1974, during his impeachment proceedings, President Richard M. Nixon said to reporters: ‘I can go into my office and pick up the telephone and in 25 minutes, 70 million people will be dead.’ Worried about Nixon’s state of mind at the time, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger asked to be notified before any nuclear launch order from Nixon was executed.” —Editors, “Take Nukes Off a Short Fuse”, Scientific American, March 2017, p. 10.

Atom bombs (based on nuclear fission) and thermonuclear bombs (based on nuclear fusion), the most terrible weapons of mass destruction of our era.

“The complete banning and destruction of nuclear weapons is an important task in the struggle to defend world peace. We must do our utmost to this end.
         “Nuclear weapons are unprecidentedly destructive, which is why for more than a decade now the U.S. imperialists have been pursuing their policy of nuclear blackmail in order to realize their ambition of enslaving the people of all countries and dominating the world.
         “But when the imperialists threaten other countries with nuclear weapons, they subject the people in their own country to the same threat, thus arousing them against nuclear weapons and against the imperialist policies of aggression and war. At the same time, in their vain hope of destroying their opponents with nuclear weapons, the imperialists are in fact subjecting themselves to the danger of being destroyed.
         “The possibility of banning nuclear weapons does indeed exist. However, if the imperialists are forced to accept an agreement to ban nuclear weapons, it decidedly will not be because of their ‘love for humanity’ but because of the pressure of the people of all countries and for the sake of their own vital interests.” —A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement: The letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in reply to the letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of March 30, 1963 (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1963), p. 32.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS — America’s Use of in World War II

“Japan was already defeated... It was’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower, speaking of the U.S. atomic attack on Japan at the close of the war. Quoted in the San Francisco Examiner, Aug 5, 1990, p. D-15.

“Truman listened carefully to [Secretary of State James F.] Byrnes’s advice. At about the date of Byrnes’s appointment, the new secretary told Truman that (these are Truman’s words) ‘in his belief the atomic bomb might well put us in a position to dictate our own terms at the end of the war.’ Later, in May 1945, during a White House meeting at which the nuclear physicist Leo Szilard was present, Byrnes, according to Szilard, ‘did not argue that it was necessary to use the bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war. Mr. Byrnes’ view [was] that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable in Europe.’” —Robert Smith Thompson, The Eagle Triumphant: How America Took Over the British Empire (2004), p. 311.

“Particularly important is the light shed on the American decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945. At the time, the justifications were murky: some hoped the terrifying display would avoid what they feared would have been a bloody invasion. Others wanted to test the bombs on which so many billions of dollars had been spent. Still others had their eye on post-war diplomacy, seeking to intimidate the Soviet Union and secure American dominance. Newly declassified files show unambiguously that America was aware of Japanese attempts to sue for peace before the bombs were dropped, undermining the military reasoning for using the weapons.” —The Economist, “A Rush of Energy”, Aug. 27, 2009. [Even a reactionary publication like The Economist now implicitly agrees that this episode of imperialist mass murder and genocide must have been done primarily as a warning to the Soviet Union that U.S. imperialism would be the top dog in the post-World War II world. —S.H.]

NUCLEAR WEAPONS — Current Arsenals
As of 2016 nine countries in the world possess a total of over 15,000 nuclear warheads. The United States and Russia have 93 percent of them. Although this is down from the vast numbers possessed by the two powers in the late 1980s—around 60,000 in total at that time—there are still more than enough such weapons to destroy human civilization if not wipe out humanity entirely. And of course many more such weapons can be quickly made during any developing political crisis. The chart at the right from the NBC News website at
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/fact-sheet-who-has-nuclear-weapons-how-many-do-they-n548481 shows the number of warheads for 8 of the countries. North Korea also has a small number of nuclear weapons, perhaps as many as 15, though it has not yet demonstrated the ability to mount them on reliable missile delivery systems. Many other countries, including Japan and Germany, could very quickly produce nuclear weapons if they should choose to do so.


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