75 Years Since Hiroshima: Nuclear Sword of Damocles Hangs Over Humanity

“Some fell to the ground and their stomachs already expanded full, burst and organs fell out. Others had skin falling off them and others still were carrying limbs. And one in particular was carrying their eyeballs in their hand.”

The above is an account by a Hiroshima survivor talking about the fate of her schoolmates. It was read out in the British parliament in 2016 by Scottish National Party MP Chris Law during a debate about Britain’s nuclear arsenal.

In response to a question from another Scottish National Party MP, George Kereven, the then British PM Theresa May said without hesitation that, if necessary, she would authorise the use of a nuclear weapon that would kill hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. Previous PMs had been unwilling to give a direct answer to such a question.

But let’s be clear: a single modern nuclear weapon would most likely end up killing many millions, whether immediately or slowly, and is designed to be much more devastating than those dropped by the US on Japan.

In 2016, the then opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn stated that he would not make a decision that would take the lives of millions. He said, “I do not believe the threat of mass murder is a legitimate way to go about international relations.”

It says much about the type of society we have when someone like Corbyn or Green Party MP Caroline Lucas were attacked by the mainstream and depicted as some kind of hare-brained extremists who would place ‘the nation’ in danger because they did not want Britain to renew its submarine-based Trident nuclear missile system (at the cost of at least £100 billion in ‘cash-strapped’ austerity Britain).

Chiming in with gutter tactics, May suggested that those wishing to scrap Britain’s nuclear weapons were siding with the nation’s ‘enemies’.

Reading from the script

Politicians like May read from a script devised by elite interests. These interests are from the highest levels of finance capital and transnational corporations and dictate global economic policies. They have imposed a form of globalisation that has resulted in devastating destruction and war for those who attempt to remain independent or structural violence via privatisation and economic neo-liberalism for millions in countries that have acquiesced.

Nuclear weapons hang over humanity like the sword of Damocles – not to protect the masses from the wicked bogeyman, but to protect the power and wealth of this US-led capitalist elite from competing elites in other major nations or to bully and coerce with the aim of expanding influence.

For those who are aware of the ruthlessness of imperialist intent and the death and destruction it brings, Theresa May’s comments may come as no surprise at all.

But what about the wider population? Those who believe the sanctimonious dross pumped into their heads by Hollywood and the corporate media about the US-led West being a civilising force for good in a barbaric world.

What civilised ‘values’ was May basing her threat of mass murder on when she spoke of unleashing a nuclear weapon?

The US is now committed to making its nuclear arsenal more ‘tactical’ – by manufacturing more ‘usable’ nuclear weapons. At the same time, it continues to ramp up pressure on nuclear armed China. Aside from the very real threat of nuclear war being sparked by ‘accident’, nuclear conflict is no longer ‘unthinkable’.

The media and much of the public seem to shrug their shoulders and accept that nuclear weapons are essential and the mass murder of sections of humanity is perfectly acceptable in the face of some fabricated, whipped-up paranoia about ‘Russian aggression’ (or Chinese, Iranian or North Korean – take your pick).

Many believe nuclear weapons are a necessary evil and fall into line with hegemonic thinking about humanity being inherently conflictual, competitive and war-like. Such tendencies do, of course, exist, but they do not exist in a vacuum. They are fuelled by capitalism and imperialism and played upon by politicians, the media and elite interests who seek to scare the population into accepting a ‘necessary’ status quo.

Co-operation and equality are as much a part of any arbitrary aspect of ‘human nature’ as any other defined characteristic. These values are, however, sidelined by a capitalism that is inherently conflict-ridden and entangled in its own contradictions and which fuels wealth accumulation for the few, exploitation (of labour, peoples and the environment), war and a zero-sum class-based system of power.

Much of humanity has been convinced to accept the potential for instant nuclear Armageddon hanging over its collective head as a given, as a ‘deterrent’. If the 20th century has shown us anything, it is that elites are adept at gathering the masses under notions of the flag, ‘the bomb’ and king or god (or whatever) and country to justify their terror.

There is an alternative

Instead of accepting it as ‘normal’ when someone like May advocates mass murder in the name of peace or she and others accuse those who refuse to comply as being a danger to the nation, it is time to move beyond rhetoric and for ordinary people to take responsibility and act.

Writing on the Countercurrents website, Robert J Burrowes says this about responsibility:

Many people evade responsibility, of course, simply by believing and acting as if someone else, perhaps even ‘the government’, is ‘properly’ responsible. Undoubtedly, however, the most widespread ways of evading responsibility are to deny any responsibility for military violence while paying the taxes to finance it, denying any responsibility for adverse environmental and climate impacts while making no effort to reduce consumption, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of other people while buying the cheap products produced by their exploited (and sometimes slave) labour, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of animals despite eating and/or otherwise consuming a range of animal products, and denying any part in inflicting violence, especially on children, without understanding the many forms this violence can take.

Burrowes concludes by saying that ultimately, we evade responsibility by ignoring the existence of a problem.

Of course, not everything can or should be laid at the door of capitalism. Human suffering, misery and conflict have been a feature throughout history and have taken place under various economic and political systems. Indeed, in his various articles, Burrowes goes deep into the psychology and causes of violence.

He is correct to argue that we should take responsibility and act because there is potentially a different path for humanity. In 1990, the late British MP Tony Benn gave a speech in parliament that indicated the kind of values that such a route might be based on.

Benn spoke about having been on a crowded train, where people had been tapping away on calculators and not interacting or making eye contact with one another. It represented what Britain had become under Thatcherism: excessively individualistic, materialistic, narcissistic and atomised.

The train broke down. As time went by, people began to talk with one another, offer snacks and share stories. Benn said it wasn’t too long before that train had been turned into a socialist train of self-help, communality and comradeship. Despite the damaging policies and ideology of Thatcherism, these features had survived her tenure, were deeply embedded and never too far from the surface.

For Tony Benn, what had been witnessed aboard that train was an aspect of ‘human nature’ that is too often suppressed, devalued and, when used as a basis for political change, regarded as a threat to ruling interests. It is an aspect that draws on notions of unity, solidarity, common purpose, self-help and finds its ultimate expression in the vibrancy of community, the collective ownership of common resources and co-operation.

The type of values far removed from the destructive, divisive ones which mainstream politicians and their backers seek to protect and promote.

Colin Todhunter was named in August 2018 by Transcend Media Services as one of 400 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models in recognition of his journalism. Join him on Twitter. Read other articles by Colin, or visit Colin's website.