Written By: - Date published: 8:04 am, July 20th, 2016 - 80 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, International, Left, Politics, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, uk politics, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: david lange, jeremy corbyn, nuclear deterrence, theresa may
Back in the 1970s and 1980s Nuclear War used to be the biggest threat to the future of humanity. I remember as a young person realising that I lived in a world that had 60,000 nuclear weapons and if a smallish number of them were let off it would be all over.
I can recall very strongly in 1980 when Ronald Regan was elected to the Presidency of the United States and put in charge of the big red button. Margaret Thatcher was already in power. I wondered not if but when the button would be pushed.
Then there was the election of the fourth Labour Government in New Zealand. David Lange captured the hearts of progressive New Zealand when he declared New Zealand to be nuclear free, talked to a conservative Oxbridge student and mentioned how he could smell the Uranium on his breath and perfectly described the absurdity of the nuclear deterrent by talking about refining an existing ability to make the rubble bounce and bounce.
Sure Lange then failed because he could not control Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble and the other rogernomes but I am convinced that Lange’s intentions were good, but he was not up to the job of managing the Rogernomes’ thirst for neoliberal change.
Then the Soviet Union imploded because, amongst other things, the nuclear missile race destroyed its financial base and just in time the Americans claimed victory and then quickly wound back its own nuclear program before it also crashed and burned.
There are now 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, still more than enough to destroy the world many times over. But at least the trend is in the right direction.
The issue was and still is a left right issue. On the left is the insistence that the world’s resources are not poured into weapons of global destruction. And diverting these huge resources into alleviating poverty or addressing environmental devastation could achieve great things.
On the right is the big swinging dick insistence that the most powerful should always win. Considerations of poverty, environmental devastation and the mass killing of many humans are secondary.
This is one of those defining left right issues. Supposed left wingers voting for nuclear weapons should immediately hand in their left wing membership cards.
This is why it is so clear that UK Labour has so many problems right now. A recent Parliamentary vote on whether to spend an estimated £167 billion has just passed with a majority of Labour MPs including “unity” candidates Angela Eagle and Owen Smith voting in favour. Corbyn and a minority of Labour MPs voted against it. All strength to them. The SNP also voted against it. I continue to be impressed by their bravery and their commitment to principle.
Theresa May continues in her attempts to emulate Margaret Thatcher. The death of a hundred thousand innocent civilians to her is not something of concern. From the Guardian:
However, May attracted gasps during the debate when she made clear she would be willing to authorise a nuclear strike killing 100,000 people, when challenged by the SNP about whether she would ever approve a nuclear hit causing mass loss of life.
Intervening in her opening speech, the SNP MP George Kerevan, asked: “Is she personally prepared to authorise a nuclear strike that can kill a hundred thousand innocent men, women and children?”
May responded: “Yes. And I have to say to the honourable gentleman the whole point of a deterrent is that our enemies need to know that we would be prepared to use it, unlike some suggestions that we could have a deterrent but not actually be willing to use it, which seem to come from the Labour party frontbench.”
Labour’s disfunction is clear to see. Only a minority voted against the issue.
Corbyn himself provided very cogent reasons to oppose the deployment. Again from the Guardian:
Speaking in the Commons, Corbyn said there were currently 40 warheads, which are each eight times as powerful at the atomic bomb that killed 140,000 people at Hiroshima in Japan in 1945.
“What is the threat we are facing that one million people’s deaths would actually deter?” he said, adding it did not stop Islamic State, Saddam Hussein’s atrocities, war crimes in the Balkans or genocide in Rwanda.
“I make it clear today I would not take a decision that kills millions of innocent people,” Corbyn told MPs. “I do not believe the threat of mass murder is a legitimate way to deal with international relations.”
On a related note Allie Eagle has withdrawn from the Labour leadership contest. Her stalking horse role has been completed.
For those Labour MPs who voted for Trident they should hang their heads in shame. Spending such huge amounts of public money on refining an existing capacity to make the rubble bounce and bounce in a very British way should be something that no left wing politician should do. Ever.