Nuke Ban Treaty welcome but extremely limited


photo from The Guardian

The International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) welcomes the ratification on October 24 of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the first global treaty since the invention of the atomic bomb to explicitly and officially prohibit the creation or procurement, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, the ILPS vehemently condemns US imperialism and the four other original nuclear weapons states (NWS) — Russia, the UK, China, and France — for making the treaty ineffective in immediately setting into motion a process that could lead to significant and total nuclear disarmament. We condemn these global powers for opposing the process that led to the treaty’s ratification and refusing to heed the demand of the peoples and governments of the world for nuclear disarmament.

We condemn US imperialism, the NWS and the US’ NATO allies for boycotting the process that led to the approval of the TPNW and for urging other countries to do the same. US imperialism, the world’s top nuclear and geopolitical power which has set the global nuclear agenda, opposed this advance in the struggle for nuclear disarmament. Its interest is maintaining and increasing the still staggering 14,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, 90 per cent of which it shares with Russia.

Before the TPNW was adopted by the UN General Assembly, the administration of former US president Barack Obama ordered NATO member countries to oppose the negotiations that led to the crafting of the treaty. Before the TPNW was ratified, the administration of US president Donald Trump urged countries who have signed to rescind their ratification, calling their move “a strategic error.” After the TPNW’s ratification, the US State Department spokesperson said that it “will not result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon,” implying that the agreement will not compel any NWS to de-nuclearize.

The ILPS nonetheless recognizes that this addition to international law is an advance, however meager, in the struggle for nuclear disarmament directed primarily at the imperialist powers of the world. It is the strongest diplomatic statement in decades by governments and people of the world against these catastrophic weapons of mass destruction, and against the powerful NWS who wish to maintain and beef up their nuclear arsenal and who fought the treaty’s ratification.
The ILPS salutes the 50 countries that ratified the agreement that will enter into force on January 22, 2021. The TPNW was passed amidst important anniversaries in the struggle against nuclear weapons: 75 years after the US detonated two atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan which killed 200,000 people in two split seconds, killed more afterwards, injured so many others, and triggered the nuclear arms race. It is also the 75th anniversary of the UN, the first resolution of whose General Assembly is the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The ratification of the TPNW is a small step in the right direction. It makes it unlawful for the treaty’s state parties to possess, manufacture, develop, deploy, test, use and threaten to use nuclear weapons. It seeks to establish as a universal norm the belief that no state should possess nuclear weapons, and places nuclear weapons on the same level as biological weapons (banned in 1972) and chemical weapons (banned in 1925) in International Humanitarian Law. It stigmatizes nuclear weapons and weakens the NWS’ justifications for harboring them. The treaty also has provisions for positive obligations to the victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons, and environmental remediation for affected areas.

The ILPS recognizes the admission by the treaty’s champions that it will not cause immediate and significant changes. Their hopes — that the TPNW will change the behavior of both signatory and non-signatory countries with regard to nuclear weapons, that it would influence the behavior even of non-signatory countries as in previous similar agreements, that it will discourage governments and financial institutions from investing in corporations that make nuclear weapons, and that corporations will stop producing these weapons — remain to be realized.

We condemn US imperialism and the four NWS for continuing to force upon the people of the world the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1970 or the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and their doctrine of nuclear deterrence. The US pits the NPT against the TPNW and rejects the latter to insist that the former should continue to serve as the fundamental framework for nuclear weapons policy in the world.

The NPT has only meant the legalization of imperialist states’ monopoly over nuclear weapons and the demonization of countries opposing imperialism who have acquired such weapons. It has clearly been a failure in moving closer to its stated goal of attaining nuclear disarmament and even general and complete disarmament. The doctrine of nuclear deterrence bases the national security of the US and other NWS on the threat of destroying large areas of human communities, killing millions of peoples and further destroying the environment. It is therefore highly immoral and unjust and is a brutal ruse for global domination.

The ILPS condemns the US for consistently citing the nuclear programs of countries that refuse to heed its dictates — such as North Korea and Iran — as reasons for its refusal to reduce and eliminate its nuclear weapons. What it considers as cause is actually the consequence: these countries are forced to develop their own nuclear weapons in response to and as self-defense against the immense nuclear weapons owned by the US. The reason why they develop a nuclear weapons program is the US’ near-monopoly of nuclear weapons; it is in the latter that nuclear disarmament should therefore start.

The people of the world demand nuclear disarmament. Nuclear weapons are an essential part of domination of the world by US and other imperialists, used historically to try to scare off countries that are socialist and assertive of national sovereignty. They have, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, caused immense destruction of lives, properties and the environment. They pose a mortal and indiscriminate threat to millions of people, combatants and civilians alike, humanity as a whole, and the environment — and as such violates the fundamental principles of international law.

Having and keeping them constitute a drain in the world’s precious resources — resources that are better used for addressing the real problems faced by the people of the world from lack of jobs and healthcare to pandemics and climate change. They pose many dangers: proliferation to other nations, exploitation by terrorists, accidental use and war, among others. They put the lives of millions of people, the fate of humanity, and survival of the the environment in the hands of a few select people and is therefore most authoritarian.

The TPNW’s ratification is a timely response to the worsening security situation in the world today. In January, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists claimed that the world is now at the closest point to a nuclear catastrophe after World War II. Declaring a state of emergency, the group cites the following factors: a retreat from arms control led by the US and other superpowers, insufficient response to climate change, and the threat of information warfare and other new technologies. It also cites powerful leaders who “denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats — international agreements with strong verification regimes — in favor of their own narrow interests and domestic political gain” and who undermine “cooperative, science- and law-based approaches to managing the most urgent threats to humanity.”

The TPNW’s ratification alerts us to the fact that the people of the world still have a long way to go to attain this objective. It mandates its signatories to encourage other states, especially NWS, to ratify the treaty. To this end, TPNW state parties can use tactics that are recognized as legitimate with regard to human rights issues and war crimes: raising issues in meetings with state leaders, sending delegations to other countries, naming and shaming, shuning and divestment, sanctions and boycotts. They can work with civil society groups in their countries and in NWS and constitute themselves as a force in the UN. They can even work to include the use of nuclear weapons as a war crime in the International Criminal Court.

While the people of the world should push party states to fulfill these obligations, it is important to learn from the lesson of the TPNW’s ratification. The treaty was ratified because of the non-stop struggles and protests waged by the peoples of the world against huge military spending, military bases, wars of aggression, government leaders of NWS, nuclear weapons, and imperialism in general. It was ratified because of the struggles of the people of the world, in which a prominent role was played by the Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of the peoples of the Pacific, who have witnessed their countries serve as testing grounds for 315 nuclear weapons since the second half of the 20th century. The ILPS calls on the people of the world to persevere to intensify our struggles in these fronts.

Ultimately, it is unthinkable for imperialists to surrender their nuclear weapons without a fight. Their security rests on these weapons so much so that they want the world to believe that the world’s security no less also rests on these weapons of mass destruction. Wanting a better and nuclear-free tomorrow, the people of the world have no option but to wage, strengthen, and make victorious their struggles against imperialism and for freedom, democracy and social liberation. It is these struggles that are decisive in causing the total elimination of nuclear weapons and ushering in genuine peace based on justice in the world.###


Len Cooper

ILPS Chairperson

01 December 2020

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