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Issue # 1412      27 May 2009

But is that enough?

The following article was published on May 24, 1979, by Gus Hall who was the national leader of the Communist Party USA for 40 years before his death in 2000. Gus Hall takes up issues raised in a poem written by a most unlikely source for a leading communist. The author was the then Pope of the Catholic Church, and one of the most reactionary Popes in recent times. Thirty years on almost to the day, the questions raised in the poem and Gus Hall’s response to them just as relevant. The largest area of new spending in the May budget is on military procurements, some of which will result in job creation in the military industry in Australia.

Gus Hall writes:

While not pretending to be literary critic, ad certainly not a critic of poetry, I became interested n a poem about workers in the war production industries. This particular poem, “The Armaments-Factory Worker”, was written by Karol Wojtyla, who is now Pope John Pall II. This poem is from his collection, “Eater Vigil & Other Poems”.

I cannot influence the fate of the globe.
Do I start wars? How can I know
whether I’m for or against?
No. I don’t sin.
It worries me not to have influence,
that it is not I who sin.
I only turn screws, weld together
parts of destruction,
never grasping the whole,
or the human lot.
I could do otherwise (would parts be left out?)
contributing then to sanctified toil
which no one would blot out in action or
belie in speech.
Though what I create is all wrong,
the world’s evil is none of my doing..
But is that enough?

These lines have a sense of beauty and sensibility. They show a deep sensitivity to the real dilemma of tens of millions who work, or have worked, in factories producing instruments of war. This sensitivity obviously comes from personal experience.

The poem probes the contradiction these workers face – a contradiction between having to make a living and a sense of guilt about producing instruments of mass destruction.

I don’t know when the poem was written, but in the context of today’s world the words seem somewhat hopeless and unnecessarily pessimistic. It is possible that Pope John Paul would agree with me.

The worker in the poem says, “I cannot influence the fate of the globe,” and again, “It worries me not to have influence.”

When applied to individual workers that assessment is totally true, but it is not at all true of workers as a class. It has not been true in the past, and increasingly it is less and less true of the present and the future. Workers, as a class, not only influence events, but in today’s world they are the determining factor on questions of war and peace. In fact, they are the main force that has kept the world from slipping into a nuclear disaster.

As a class, workers are the leading force in the socialist countries. And the socialist countries are the main force in the struggle for world peace. As a class, workers in the capitalist countries are also the main force in the struggle against policies of imperialist aggression that lead to war. So workers are not without influence.

The poem ends with a very correct conclusion: “the world’s evil is none of my doing,” and asks a very pertinent question: “But is that enough?”

It does not, however, answer the question – if the “world’s evil” is not the “doing” of the armaments-factory workers, then whose “doing” is it? To be a force against war and imperialist aggression it is necessary to pinpoint and answer the question of who is “doing” the evil.

Of course any objective study will come to the conclusion that war and aggression are the “doing” of those who profit from wars of aggression. In the present day world, more than anything else the policies of aggression are the “doing” of the US military-industrial complex.

It is also true that the “evil” is a built-in feature of capitalism. The drive for corporate profits is a constant pressure for policies of war and aggression.

In pursuing their evil goal of maximum profits the corporate coupon-clippers squeeze worker on the home front and pursue policies of aggression and domination over other lands and peoples. I am sure this did not escape the attention of Pope Paul on his recent visit to Mexico.

The poverty in Mexico, as is the case with most of the poorer capitalist countries, is largely the product of foreign imperialist exploitation. The foreign corporations get fat on low wage scales and the cheap raw materials in these countries. In our time this exploitation has been taken over by the huge worldwide corporate-banking galaxies.

Socialism, because it is a working-class state, eliminates such pressures by transferring the corporate properties into people’s properties. And instead of being motivated by the drive for private profits, they are motivated by doing whatever is possible for the good of all.

The poem asks: “How can I know whether I’m for or against?” Each worker, as is the case with all of us, has to answer that question, both as an individual and as a member of society.

The yardstick of fairness and justice, and how one’s actions affect the train of social progress, is the only basis for such a judgement. Such an assessment leads workers to reject the racist and chauvinist concept that the corporations of a country that militarily and economically dominate have a right to exploit and dominate workers of another country. In ever greater numbers, workers and peoples throughout the world are “deciding” they are against the evils of capitalism and are doing something about it.

Armaments workers today are answering the question of whether “it is enough”. There are important trends among US workers in the war production industries in the direction of “doing” more about the question of war or peace. The big unions that represent the workers in the aerospace and war production industries are becoming a powerful force in the struggle for conversion from the production of instruments of war to peace time production – the transfer of wasted billions from the war budget to human welfare budgets.

For each season and time in history the answer to the question, “But is that enough?” is different. In our time, if we do not work for policies of détente, and if we don not work to get the SALT II* agreements ratified by the US Senate – then we are “not doing enough.”

This yardstick applies to workers in the armaments factories, to workers and people everywhere, to liberals, to Communists and non-Communists. And, needless to say, to such influential public figures as Pope John Paul II.

If the poem serves to stimulate people to think about the answer to the question: “But is that enough?” then this humane an sensitive poem by the Pope will have served a most important purpose. It will have made a contribution to the betterment of “the human lot”.

* The first Strategic Arms Limitations Talks agreement s(SALT I) were signed in 1972 between the former the former Soviet Union and the USA. SALT I sought to limit the expansion of anti-ballistic missile systems and freeze the number of strategic ballistic missiles at 1972 levels. SALT II, was the first nuclear arms treaty to lay the basis for real reductions in strategic forces and anti-ballistic missiles and curbs on the development of new weapons. It was eventually signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 but never ratified by the US Congress.

The above article is one of a number of pieces by Gus Hall published in Basics: For Peace, Democracy & Social Progress, International Publishers, NY, 1980. The book is available for the CPA for $12 plus p&h. CPA, 74 Buckingham St, Surry Hills, NSW 2010.
or phone 02 9699 8844.

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