Dellums Calls for New
by John Cameron
The year's Thomas - Debs Dinner was
held on the even of the "Mothers Day Walk for Peace".
Appropriately, the keynote speaker for the dinner was Congressman
Ron Dellums, a DSA Vice-Chair and national spokesman for the
peace and disarmament movement. What the 500 dinner attendees
heard, though, was more than a well-timed after dinner talk.
Rather, Dellums delivered a powerful speech that dramatized the
critical issues of the nuclear arms race while demonstrating
the necessity for socialism's broader critique of U.S. foreign
Dellums is serving his sixth term as
Congressional representative of California's East Bay area. Elected
as an anti-war candidate at the height of the Vietnam crisis,
Dellums has again emerged as a leader for peace in the nation's
capitol. He recently introduced a comprehensive alternative military
budget that rejects Reagan's huge military build-up while providing
for the adequate defense of legitimate U.S. interests.
Dellums began with a call for a new
and massive peace movement to respond to the nuclear weapons
policy of the Reagan administration. He argued that the policy
behind current U.S. nuclear strategy has fundamentally shifted
from the intent of deterrence to the threat of a nuclear first-strike.
As evidence, he cited the administration's dogged commitment
to the MX missile, a weapon with no deterrence capability since
it is "not survivable" but symbolically important as
the first of a series of new first-strike weapons. At the same
time, the U.S. has consistently refused to sign a "no first-strike"
pledge as the Soviet Union has done. These new weapon systems
also put the U.S. beyond a position of verification, the bedrock
of any mutual arms control treaty. Weapons such as the ground-launched
cruise missile are so small they can be hidden on a fishing trawler,
making detection impossible. Without the ability to verify the
number and size of nuclear weapons, any negotiated effort to
reduce or limit them will be impossible.
Further, the very existence of these
new weapon systems threaten war. The deployment of Pershing II
missiles in Western Europe will put them just 4 to 6 minutes
away from their Soviet targets. That is so close as to leave
almost no time to verify computer errors (a not infrequent occurrence)
and invites retaliation such as Soviet missiles in Cuba. In short,
the simple existence of such weapons heightens the tensions that
bring us closer to nuclear war.
Given these new developments, Dellums
declared that there needs to be a massive new peace movement
with a two-fold agenda. It must go beyond the ambiguity of a
"nuclear freeze" to stopping funding, production and
deployment of first-strike weapons. It must also support a clear
alternative to the present military budget and the strategy it
Dellums went on to argue that questions
of nuclear weapons and disarmament must be approached in the
context of overall U.S. foreign policy. We must go beyond the
1950s Cold War view of the globe and realize that the world of
the 1980s is radically different. With two-thirds of the world's
population living in hunger, the world's problems are economic,
social and political. They cannot be solved by military means.
The U.S. must develop a sophisticated
foreign policy that can grapple with the complexities of international
problems. We need to respect other nations and stop "destabilizing"
them as we are attempting in Nicaragua. We most have a non-interventionist
policy and remove ourselves from El Salvador. And we have to
have an international commitment to peace and justice - in Central
America, in South Africa and elsewhere.
Lastly, Dellums pointed out that peace
is a matter of domestic priorities as well. We cannot rebuild
the U.S. economy while spending $300 billion a year on the military.
At the present rate, by 1990 we will have spent 3 to 4 times
the entire cost of the Vietnam war on our "peacetime"
military. Those billions of dollars are billions not spent on
human services, education, job training or retooling industry.
Nor can those dollars help the rest
of the world combat hunger or economic underdevelopment. Without
such a program to redress the international imbalance of wealth,
there can be no material basis for peace or stability. Such a
program of assistance to other nations would be the cornerstone
of a truly humane and democratic foreign policy - the goal for
which we as socialists must struggle.
From the June - July, 1983, issue of
The Chicago Socialist