A plutonium economy vs. a free democracy

[From "The Russian Threat, Its Myths and Realities" (c) 1983,
Gateway Books, London, by Jim Garrison and Pyrae Shivpuri, pp 231-236.]

   The growing erosion of civil liberties in Western Europe and the
United States is closely linked with the nuclear energy-nuclear
weapons complex, which mandates a psyche all its own.  This complex
creates the necessity for secrecy on the one hand and greater
protection of investment on the other.  Not only are there high
financial and environmental risks but also potential ramifications
beyond national boundaries.  Because of the `plutonium culture'
generated by the nuclear complex, the age old dilemma of striking a
balance between state authority and the rights of the individual is
being forced to opt for increasing state control, and diminishing
individual freedom.  The plutonium culture allows for no other
   Each operating nuclear reactor produces between 400 to 600 pounds
of plutonium waste each year.  Less than one millionth of a gram, if
ingested, can cause cancer and/or genetic mutation.  Twenty pounds,
if properly fashioned, can be made into a nuclear bomb.  Because of
this, *the different aspects of the plutonium economy must be as
tightly guarded as nuclear weapons themselves*.  Nuclear weapons are
kept at military facilities generally away from population centres
and specifically under guard in a military system predicated upon
discipline, hierarchy and authoritarian leadership.  Similar
protection for the `atoms for peace' programme will have a
devastating impact upon the democratic freedoms and civil liberties
of the citizens.
   The potential problem with the plutonium economy and its relation
to human freedom has been succinctly expressed by a statement made by
Dr. Bernard Feld, Chairperson of the Atomic and High Energy Physics
Department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

   Let me tell you about a nightmare I have.  The Mayor of
   Boston sends for me for an urgent consultation.  He has
   received a note from a terrorist group telling him that they
   have planted a nuclear bomb somewhere in central Boston.  The
   Mayor has confirmed that 20 pounds of plutonium is missing
   from Government stocks.  He shows me the crude diagram and a
   set of the terrorists outrageous demands.  I know--as one of
   those who participated in the assembly of the first atomic
   bomb--that the device would work.  Not efficiently, but
   nevertheless with devastating effect.  What should I do?
   Surrender to blackmail or risk destroying my home town?[9]

   The dangers are real, so real that government planners in every
country with nuclear programmes have undertaken steps to be prepared
for Dr. Feld's scenario.  In 1975, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
(NRC) commissioned a specific study of the problem.  One of the
participants, Professor John Barton, Professor of Jurisprudence at
Stanford University Law School, prepared a paper entitled
`Intensified Nuclear Safeguards and Civil Liberties.'  The document
began by stating that:

   Increased public concern with nuclear terrorism, coupled with
   the possibility of greatly increased use of plutonium in
   civilian power reactors, are leading the US Nuclear
   Regulatory Commission (NRC) to consider various forms of
   intensified safeguards against theft or loss of nuclear
   materials and against *sabotage*.  The intensified safeguards
   could include expansion of personnel clearance programs, a
   nationwide guard force, *greater surveillance of dissenting
   political groups,* area searches in the event of a loss of
   materials, and creation of *new barriers of secrecy* around
   parts of the nuclear program.[10]

   It is important to be clear what the above statement implies.  The
governments supporting nuclear power are attempting to protect the
plutonium economy from two perceived enemies:  first, those who would
use the nuclear materials to terrorise the country through some type
of nuclear sabotage;  and second, those who seek to stop nuclear
power, meaning anti-nuclear `dissenting political groups'.  This
requires a nationwide guard force to be created specifically to deal
with any terrorism and the erection of new barriers of secrecy around
the nuclear programmes to keep public knowledge and participation at
a minimum.  Both sets of enemies would be subject to greater
surveillance through electronic listening devices such as phone taps.
   In Britain, for instance, it is accepted as a matter of course
that anyone working for the Atomic Energy Authority be `positively
vetted' before being appointed.  The Official Secrets Act, moreover,
allows the government and the atomic industry to keep the nuclear
installations cloaked in secrecy and the employees forbidden to
communicate anything about their work.  In 1976, Britain also became
the first country to establish by law a nationwide guard force of
constables under the direct control of the atomic authorities in
order to guard nuclear facilities and specifically the plutonium
stores.  This guard force has privileges in relation to carrying
weapons not granted to any other British police unit.  Indeed, so
sensitive are these privileges that under the Official Secrets Act,
information about them has not been made available to the public.
This force is mandated not only to guard against possible terrorism
but to keep tabs on `dissenting political groups.'
   Jonathan Rosenhead, of the London School of Economics, points out
that this type of political control is very easily overlooked by the
general populace because it is specifically designed and intended to
be used as inconspicuously as possible.  In America, political
scientists refer to this technique as the "politics of the iron fist
in the velvet glove."  "What the ruling groups prefer", he says,

   is to produce a situation in which no one dares oppose their
   plans.  Their favourite methods are therefore to exploit
   people's dependence on consumer goods and on their jobs and
   exercising prevention controls by means of intensive
   surveillance.  In the event of open conflict breaking out in
   spite of that, they would hope at least to contain it by
   `limited operations.'[11]

   What needs to be remembered in assessing this state of affairs is
that plutonium, if it is to be used, must be protected by police
state methods.  We just cannot have something that can be used for
nuclear bombs and can damage and mutate human life with the
lethalness of millions of cancer doses per pound floating about in a
free society.  *A plutonium economy and a free democracy are a
contradiction in terms.*  This is a fact that has been recognised by
leading legal experts and politicians alike.  Writing in the "Harvard
Law Review," Russell Ayres states flatly that `plutonium provides the
first rational justification for widespread intelligence gathering
against the civilian population.'[12]  The reason for this is that
the threat of nuclear terrorism justifies such encroachments on civil
liberties for `national security' reasons.  It is inevitable,
therefore, says Ayres, that "plutonium use would create pressures for
infiltration into civic, political, environmental and professional
groups to a far greater extent than previously encountered and with a
greater impact on speech and associated rights".  Sir Brian Flowers,
in Britain, has come to similar conclusions.  At the end of his
environmental impact statement for the plutonium economy in the
United Kingdom, known as the Flowers Report, he made it quite clear
that Britain could not have both plutonium and civil liberties.
Rather, he said, to adopt the plutonium economy would make
`inevitable' the erosion of the freedoms that British people had
fought for over the centuries and have come to assume and accept as
inalienable rights.
   What is happening to Western Europe and the US should not be seen
as an abnormal occurrence;  rather, it should be viewed as the
*logical progression* of what the adoption of the plutonium economy
in any country implies.  There are certain psychological implications
inherent in the use and development of nuclear weapons.  There are
direct physical results on both workers and public alike from the
nuclear fuel cycle.  So, too, the plutonium economy makes inevitable
the erosion of human rights.
   Observers in the Netherlands and West Germany refer to the decline
of the "Rechtsstadt" (meaning a state guided by laws which are both
just and accepted) and the rise of the "Machtstadt," where state
authority is based on power equations.  In the US, it is sometimes
referred to as a `national security state'.  We prefer the term
"totalitarian democracy" to characterise the governments of the US
and Western Europe.  It denotes a governmental system of
parliamentary democracy within which the official bureaucracy, the
police, and the legal authorities are vested with almost total power
over the individual.
   It has been apparent for some time that the drive in the West for
all-out growth, dictated by the need for capital accumulation and
profits, has been creating problems that existing institutions, be
they national or international, are simply not equipped to handle.
These include:

    * the alienation through and ruthlessness of the
      multinational corporations;

    * the frustrations of an economy where automation and
      machinery are replacing human skills and ingenuity;

    * the gnawing fears and anxieties aroused by the `diseases
      of affluence,' notably cancer, heart disease and stress;

    * and the looming threat of environmental destruction, be
      it at the local or planetary level, from chemical
      pollution, or the plutonium economy.

   As long as the boom lasted, and Western affluence was sustained
these pressures could be ignored.  But that `boom-balloon' has burst.
The energy crisis is deepening.  The economic reality of increased
unemployment and inflation is becoming more and more depressing.  The
pressures of burgeoning populations, as also the youth demanding
employment and a piece of the good life, are becoming unbearable.
   In order to survive this `crisis of capitalism', the dominant
forces in industry and government are forcing through a ruthless
restructuring and re-grouping of the economic system.  In Western
Europe this is reflected in the wholesale writing-off of vast sectors
of traditional industry such as steel and textiles and the resultant
social decline of whole areas.  The trend is to form blocs such as
the EEC but this in turn places increased strain on the member states
and does little more than paper over the fundamental problems with
another layer of bureaucracy.  Under this weight, the welfare state
that grew up in the decades after World War II is being dismantled,
to squeeze just a bit more money to spend, as often as not, on more
weapon systems.  In the process, yet another safety net is removed
for the individual who is the victim of the capitalist system.  If it
is any consolation, Marxism hasn't come up with any answers either.
   Those in power know they have no way to solve the problems or meet
the demands of their youth, of the millions of unemployed, of the
anti-nuclear movement, of the populations in economically depressed
areas, of the victims of industrial disasters, or of any other
discontented groups.  The only valid answers are ones which involve
fundamental changes in our thinking and in our system itself, and
these are ones which those in power are not in a position to offer.
So they placate their constituencies with promises which they know
they cannot fulfil.
   This only adds to the frustration of those who can no longer wait.
The next stage after fruitless protest cannot fail to be a challenge
to that part of the system of which the individual has become the
victim.  If this challenge is met with either refusal or with
repression, the frustration of those in protest can lead to violent
action.  Protest by violence against the system which cannot meet
their demands when peacefully presented is labelled by those in power
as `terrorism.'
   Foreseeing this scenario, the reaction of the dominant groups is
to proclaim the necessity to prepare in time to deal effectively with
those who are discontented.  When there are violations that cannot be
put right, then freedom to criticise and, in the end, democracy
itself become hostage to `effective governance.'  It is an axiom of
history that when the people begin to question the right of their
leaders to govern, the leaders question the right of the people to
   The irony of this situation within the conflict of East-West
relations is that although the starting point of their analyses are
different, the conclusions drawn by the Soviet leaders and the
governing groups in the West are the same:  both regard effective
governance as being hindered by a genuine democratic government.  The
result in the East has been the `dictatorship of the proletariat';
in the West, `totalitarian democracy.'
   While it is true that the system of repression in the West is not
as extensive or as brutal as in the East, except in isolated cases,
what is necessary to remember is that the *mentality* of the
oppressor, whether in the Kremlin or in 10 Downing Street or in the
White House, is the same.  What is different are the *mechanisms*
which oppress the people below.  In both cases what is achieved is
the setting up of a *standard of behaviour* which, because there are
no alternatives allowed, becomes the *pattern of behaviour.*  This
creates a dangerous person-into-machine social norm.  In the Soviet
Union this has been done with a ruthlessness that needed only the
unity and discipline of the Party;  in the West mass control has been
achieved by subtle manipulation that needs either public ignorance or
public apathy to be effective.  Social control is justified,
particularly as far as the plutonium economy is concerned, by the
over-riding necessity to avoid the catastrophe which might occur
either through carelessness, disobedience, or `terrorism.' This
cultivated attitude enables the Western technocrats to represent
themselves to the public as the guardians of the society in the
emergency situation they themselves inspired and engineered.
   The tragedy of the Russian people is the suffering of individuals
endowed with a passion for personal freedom so profound as to verge
on the anarchic, and yet who have been forced to live under a
despotism resolutely intent upon the suppression of that freedom.
   The tragedy unfolding in the West is of a people who achieved
liberty at great cost, but who now, faced with the despotism inherent
in the plutonium economy, are abnegating it.  They are rendering
themselves subservient to those few who wish to build a national
security state supplied with nuclear energy and armed with nuclear
weapons.  Our leaders are depriving us of the very liberties they
have been entrusted to defend.  Moreover, they are manipulating the
`Russian threat' to justify such actions, all the while claiming that
they are protecting democracy.  Never before have so few asked so
many for so much for the sake of so little.

 [9] In Robert Jungk, "The Nuclear State," trans. Eric Mosbacher,
     London, 1979, pp. 118, 19.

[10] "Intensified Nuclear Safeguards and Civil Liberties," Nuclear Reg.
     Comm. Cont. No. AT(49-24)-0190, Washington, DC, 31 Oct. 1975, p. 1.

[11] In Jungk, "Nuclear State, op. cit., p. 132.

[12] In Ibid., p. 142