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New Left Review I/13-14, January-April 1962

Nicolas Walter

Damned Fools in Utopia

Advocates of unilateral nuclear disarmament labour under two contradictory but complementary disadvantages—what they want is almost unattainable, and what they fear is almost unimaginable.

The hopes of idealistic unilateralists and multilateralists are that the balance of terror will be lightened either by one side after the other or by both sides at once. But every realistic unilateralist or multilateralist knows the far more probable future—that the balance will become heavier and heavier until the scales break under the strain, and the present nuclear stalemate will suddenly become mutual checkmate. On the other hand, even the most bitterly realistic unilateralist cannot accept the approaching death of mankind as a fact to live with—like the corpse in Ionesco’s play, it would grow until there was no room for anything else. We talk glibly enough about the risk of a nuclear holocaust, but we get up each morning without expecting to find the mushroom cloud at the bottom of the garden. Perhaps we don’t really see how we can get rid of the Bomb, but we don’t really see how they could drop it either. So we try to avert the unimaginable by pursuing the unattainable.

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Nicholas Walter, ‘Damned Fools in Utopia’, NLR I/13-14: £3

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