last month’s aphorism was that when the Government’s Defence policy collapsed, it was the Opposition which was thrown into confusion. This is not as funny or as paradoxical as it sounds. From the rearmament of West Germany through to “Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent”, official Labour Party orthodoxy has been wedded to the Government’s line. When, at last, the pressure of economic events drove Britain into the divorce court over Blue Streak, it was therefore a simple manoeuvre for the Government to induce the Press to name Mr. Gaitskell as co-respondent.
The point has been driven home more firmly by the new Draft Foreign and Defence Policy which the leadership has been “hammering through”. This latest Appeal to Western Solidarity (. . . “we must remain loyal supporters of NATO”) is done in the best Grand Manner: indeed, the leadership insists upon reaffirming the line of continuity down the years, by reminding us that “in the creation of it (NATO) under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, the Labour Government played a leading role.” This is the same paragraph in which the UN is quietly laid to rest (as being “divided and so unable to guarantee security”, and NATO commended in its place—“not only a military bulwark but a basis from which peaceful co-existence must be negotiated”. The lesson drawn from the break-up of the Summit, the disastrous probing flights, the Japanese enthusiasm at the thought of receiving President Eisenhower and the collapse of the Disarmament Conference, is that we are doing all-right and must goon as before.
The Draft Policy is not the basis for a new course in Labour’s foreign policy: it is a document accommodated to the existing myths, and designed to protect the leadership. Where policy has changed—over the question of Britain’s capacity to be “an independent nuclear power”—it has moved towards unilateralism. Thus Mr. Gaitskell, who argued in March that, “The real case for our having our own independent nuclear weapons is fear of excessive dependence upon the United States”, must have set his seal to that sentence which recognises that “a country of our size cannot remain in any real sense of the word an ‘independent nuclear power’”. At the same time, the Labour Movement is invited to continue to place its trust in the corporate strategy of nuclear deterrence.
Elsewhere, the Draft drifts into a radical tone, at the same time placing itself a million light-years away from the existing realities of military build-up and “preparedness”. Thus, on the question of Thor missiles, we have a complacent proposal—“We therefore continue to be opposed to the establishment of these missile bases in Britain”: which we need only contrast with the report in the News Chronicle of December 18, 1959, which stated that “Britain’s force of 60 Thor rockets is ready for use. . . . Part of this force of American-built missiles will from now on be kept on permanent 15-minute alert, with H-bomb warheads fitted. . . . Two officers—one British, one American—sit at every firing site, with two identical firing keys in front of them. Only when both have turned their keys. . . .”
The Draft Policy shows no understanding at all of the degree to which foreign policy in the last decade has been dictated by military and strategic considerations. On several questions, it remains vague, leaving room for precisely those policies which have driven us forward from one flash-point to the next. Thus the Draft is opposed to the manufacture of nuclear weapons by West Germany: it does not say that, since the Americans are now to be left to provide the deterrent, West Germany does not have to manufacture the weapons in order to become a nuclear power. It fails to remark that Britain, by pursuing the independent search for nuclear grandeur, provided a positive incitement to Germany and France to have weapons of their own. It seeks to prevent nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the West German army—but it does not say how we are to press our case against the military establishment which has always argued that, if there is to be a German army, it must be properly equipped. And it gives no sign of ever having heard the argument, deployed by NATO strategists themselves, that the only distinction between “tactical” nuclear weapons (which the West Germans already have) and “strategic” weapons is the use to which they are put. The Draft, in the same manner, gestures towards “a nuclear free zone”: it does not say whether it is prepared to offer a de-nuclearised, NATOfree West Germany in exchange for a disengaged zone in Central Europe, or—more crucially—how it proposes to force this policy through an alliance in which the West Germans, with a vested interest in a nuclear army, have the preponderant voice. In short, the Draft Statement accepts the argument that we can still defend ourselves by nuclear means—a statement which, in the literal meaning of the word, is military nonsense: and while it is full of “policy”, it contains no politics at all.
Finally, where the Draft is “realistic” it is also, in Mr. Gaitskell’s own words, “immoral”: and where it is “positive”, it is also dishonest. Thus, after denouncing CND for three years as “immoral” because it was prepared to “shelter” behind the American nuclear shield, Mr. Gaitskell turns out to be the biggest shelterer of them all. And when it urges NATO to move forward to a “new” strategy based on conventional weapons, it
This is not a Policy: it is an Apologia. The document holds out the same bleak prospects of broken conferences and dark nuclear crises. What Labour needs, however, is to disinter its foreign policy, which was buried at the time of the German Rearmament vote. We can only hope that it is this task which will occupy the Conference in October, and that only such time will be spent on this Draft to Revise it out of existence.