A timely editorial in the Morning Star on Hiroshima Day

TO DATE, the US bombings of Hiroshima on August 6 1945 and of Nagasaki three days later — war crimes that between them killed more than 200,000 civilians — remain the only occasions on which these terrible weapons, capable of destroying entire cities and of poisoning the Earth for decades afterwards, have been used.

The fact that the original cold war between the United States and Soviet Union did not erupt into nuclear Armageddon is sometimes used as evidence that “nuclear deterrence” works.

Aside from resting on myths about the supposedly aggressive designs of the Soviets — it was Britain and the US, not the USSR, which drew up multiple plans for unprovoked war between 1945 and the Soviet development of nuclear weapons in 1949 — this convenient theory ignores how close the world did come to nuclear armageddon at various points of the cold war.

More than once it was merely the courage and level-headedness of individuals, like Soviet commodore Vasily Arkhipov during the Cuban Missile Crisis or lieutenant-colonel Stanislav Petrov after a false alarm during Nato’s anti-Soviet war games in 1983, that prevented the outbreak of global thermonuclear catastrophe and the end of the world as we know it.

As the world plunges into a new cold war, these near-misses should haunt our political class. There is little sign of that.

A year ago we noted that the Donald Trump administration was tearing up the arms reduction and limitation agreements negotiated over decades between Washington and Moscow, with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) and Open Skies treaties shredded.

The election of Joe Biden provided an opportunity to row back from the brink. New Start, the last remaining nuclear agreement between the world’s biggest nuclear powers, was indeed salvaged at the last minute.

But the INF and Open Skies treaties have not been restored. Worse, the most ominous military development of the Trump years — the deployment of lower-yield “tactical” nuclear warheads, each with around a third the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb, to US nuclear submarines — has been maintained.

The rationale for developing these “mini-nukes” has been expounded by US military strategists for years. The existence of a “battlefield” nuclear weapon is designed to appear more usable and therefore more frightening. But the consequent normalisation of nuclear arms makes their actual use more likely.

And far from backtracking on Trump’s aggressive foreign policy, Biden has intensified it. This spring saw three months of US-led army manoeuvres involving 28,000 troops from 35 countries from the Baltic to the Black Sea; a government official in Ukraine, one of the participating countries, described this openly as preparation for “the war with Russia.”

The new cold war on China has only worsened. Britain’s government falls over itself to demonstrate its loyalty to Washington with dangerous provocations — sailing a warship through disputed Black Sea waters, dispatching an aircraft carrier flotilla to the China seas to aggravate Beijing. All the while, our so-called Labour opposition eggs the government on to ever more reckless brinkmanship in a bid to look macho.

And, in brazen breach of our Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations and of international law, the very government which is denying workers a pay rise on cost grounds plans to spend billions on increasing the size of our nuclear arsenal by 40 per cent, the first increase since the cold war and one likely to fuel a new global arms race.

These developments cannot be set aside while the left focuses on “bread-and-butter issues” or agrees to tolerate Labour’s renewed support for imperialism because Keir Starmer is now also talking about a new deal for workers.

The international situation is getting darker and unless the warmongers dominating British politics meet resistance, the chances of a catastrophic conflagration will keep growing. The peace movement in this country needs the support of every socialist and trade unionist.