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Book Reviews

“The Demilitarized Society: Disarmament and Conversion”, by Seymour Melman. Harvest House, Montréal, 1988, 132 pp.

In preparation for a recent talk I gave on the effects of military research on research, I examined recent levels of funding supplied by DND to various Canadian sectors (these statistics are available in a pamphlet from CanStats). A surprising feature of the information derived was that the level of funding to the NRC labs decreased dramatically. At the same time funding to private industry labs increased dramatically. This reflects a program described in the government’s White Paper on Defense which indicated a major effort would be applied to “help domestic industry establish a technology base from which to meet the Canadian Forces requirements for new equipment, resupply and life-cycle support” (page 78).

These developments towards militarization of Canadian industry are certainly to be viewed with alarm. Anyone needing an insightful, lively basis for condemning these developments should read Dr. Melman’s latest work, a short book consisting of a series of papers delivered in 1987 and 1988.

In the first two chapters of the book Melman documents the decay in US industrial capacity. This is old news, however the key link to military development is not generally made (the US government transfers to the military budget between 1947 and 1987- $7,620 billion — were slightly more than the total value of man-made items in the US — termed the Fixed Reproducible Wealth). While this information is of interest to Canadians, it is less relevant to us than the remainder of the book which, although it deals with US politics, is clearly transferable across national boundaries. In Chapter 3, Melman examines how to build the anti-nuclear war movement into a “politically competent winning peace movement”. His key point is embodied in the question of what is peace and he elaborates his view that in the present “permanent war economy” we cannot call ourselves at peace, even in the absence of overt conflict.

A hallmark of Melman’s work is that he is willing to attempt solutions to the problems he has so clearly described and the rest of this book deals with these problems. The central feature of the solution is to make the economic link and to engage in long term planning. Furthermore Melman points out that there exists a rather large body of work which can form the basis for long term plans for disarmament and for economic conversion. This work should form the basis of the peace movement’s long term goals.

Later chapters deal with the set of laws which would be required for economic conversion to take place and to remain in place and with strategic factors for designing a disarmament process.

— George Spiegelman

Analysis vs. Action: Reviews of “Out of Weakness”, by A.B. Schmookler, and of “INFACT Brings GE to Light.”

These reviews have been paired for the very purpose of exaggerating a fundamental dichotomy in peace activism, between inward, analytical approaches and outward, action approaches. Andrew Schmookler’s (1988) Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds that Drive Us to War (New York, Bantam Books) represents the first, and INFACT Brings GE to Light (INFACT, 256 Hanover St., Boston, 02113) represents the second.

Out of Weakness presents a social evolutionary theory that the biological drive behind war is not instincts but cultural ecology. Knowledge and technology drive us into stratified social institutions and induce in us psychologies,of power. Natural selection processes then evolve cultures that enhance and perpetuate intergroup conflict. We can achieve peace by understanding, overcoming and changing the enculturation of conflict in our own personalities and in human societies generally.

On the critical side, it is not hopeful to argue that our cultures and personalities are prone to war and that we only have to change these to achieve peace. Also, it is disheartening to see a revival of “social evolution,” which was the scientific rationalization for the Nazi extermination of Jews, Gypsies, and others in the 1930’s and 1940’s and which is held to justify racism in South Africa, Brazil, Australia, Canada, and many other parts of the world where “civilized” peoples are dispossessing and displacing aboriginal peoples. On the positive side, Out of Weakness is captivating reading as a personal essay, a statement of growth, an exploration of a difficult theme. It is well-crafted. Its discussions of honour and boundaries, of dualistic thinking and the dynamics of child rearing, of struggle and revelation, are provocative to say the least.

In contrast, INFACT Brings GE to Light was conceived, researched, written, published, and distributed by a collective of peace groups and peace activists. It presumes and appeals to our existing values of right and wrong. And it is unequivocally dualistic: As the first and foremost of the corporate perpetrators and profiteers of the military-industrial complex, GE is bad. The book does have revelation and it does propose struggle, but as matters of fact rather than mysticism. The goal is to change GE, not human nature, and to allow people to secure their beliefs through the concrete actions of boycott.

The power of INFACT Brings GE to Light is its facts. The names, dates, and documents are all there. Our peace and our very existence are threatened, our economy is undermined, and our politics are corrupted, all as a matter of GE corporate policy and corporate profits. For example, did you know that two of the GE Board of Directors wrote the 1968 Republican platform plank that the Soviet threat requires the development of the B-1 bomber, for which GE was to get a $1,580,000,000 contract? Did you know that a head of NASA, a Pentagon Director of Research and Development, a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a U.S. Attorney General, and President of the United States were or became GE employees? Did you know that GE has the largest number of corporate lobbyists in Washington and the largest number of illegal toxic waste sites in U.S.? Did you know that GE’s corporate empire began when J.P. Morgan made $100,000 during the Civil War through the sale of defective rifles? Did you know that GE was convicted for price fixing with the Nazi Krupp weapons industries during World War II? Did you know that it was GE in 1944 which first conceived and proposed the plan for a permanent peace-time war economy? Did you know that GE owns RCA, Kidder-Peabody, and NBC? Did you know that GE is an entire nuclear industry all by itself, from mines and refining, to reactors, neutron triggers, and nuclear bomb testing? Would you be interested in knowing how GE manipulates policy and public opinion through interlocking boards of directors, government advisory committees, revolving door employment, business and policy groups, PACS and honoraria, lobbyists, and private club social networks? It all appears in INFACT Brings GE to Light.

F. W. Rudman


Babst, D. & Schulter, M. (1989). “Suicidal Defenses: Radioactive Weapons”. Global Security Study No.5, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Santa Barbara, Cal.

The authors use the results (so far) of the Chernobyl power plant nuclear disaster as a unit for extrapolative illustrations of “the amount of radioactive fallout that could be released by different types of nuclear strikes … (assuming) … no retaliation (which could) of course mean far greater destruction.” The hard facts of Chernobyl’s aftermath are: at least 27 nearby towns too contaminated for human habitation; 31 dead, 135,000 evacuated; beef, mutton and dairy produce in Great Britain, Ireland,

Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands still contaminated; destruction of 100,000 reindeer carcases as unfit to eat in Sweden; expectant mothers in the most contaminated areas warned to adhere to strict diets. Chernobyl showed the unpredictability of radioactivity fallout patterns and “raises doubts about the ability of evacuation plans and modern medicine to cope.” With this dreadful record in mind — to which is added the even more ominous predictions of increase in European deaths from cancer ranging from several thousands to a million — Babst and Schulter consider the probable general effects of nuclear strikes in terms of comparable releases of radiation and fallout. Two examples will suffice here: If one of Britain’s Trident submarines were to launch its missiles (by intention or in error) the fallout would be of the order of 71-225 Chernobyls; if either the US or USSR were to launch a major strike (5,000 megatons), fallout would equal that from 18,500 Chernobyls.

One can hardly be thankful for Chernobyl. But as an illustration of the enormity that some appear able to contemplate, it must be insistently pointed to as the most concrete and horrific example of nuclear disaster since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It must also bring yet again into sharp focus the sweeping safety assertions of those intent on furthering the “peaceful use” of nuclear energy. Is it, can it be, by any human and humane yardstick, worth the risk?

In a second paper (Babst, D., 1989), “Overkill Capacity and Self-Assured Destruction (SAD)”, Global Security Study No.6, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Santa Barbara, Cal.), Babst again uses the Chernobyl example in pointing out the enormous “inflation” in nuclear arms that has occurred since the US Navy’s 1958-59 claim that a nuclear force of 464 warheads would provide “adequate deterrence” (the US and USSR now have 25,000 warheads each). President Jimmy Carter said in 1979, “Just one of our … Poseidon submarines — less than 2 percent of our total nuclear force … carries enough warheads to destroy every large and medium-size city in the Soviet Union,” Babst cogently asks such questions as the following: as the planned MX and Midgetman systems are estimated to cost $15 and $31 billion respectively, “… is there any of the research money for them being used to assess how much global cancer producing radioactive fallout each system will produce?” He also makes a point of immediate relevance to North Americans. As a consequence of Chernobyl, radioactivity in air, water and milk increased in the U.S., and was greatest in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Vermont. Death rates were higher than expected in these areas during the 4 months after Chernobyl. Lastly, Babst points out that the arms race has never been founded on logic but on the false psychological notions and suppositions, and fears of politico-military leaders. Thus, Robert McNamara: “the twenty-five thousand warheads … did not come about through any plan … (but) … through the indiscriminate applications of continuing technical innovations and the persistent failure to recognize that nuclear weapons are not weapons in any traditional sense.”

— Alan H. Weatherley


  1. Dorn, W. (1989). “An international monitoring agency for the Arctic.” Information North 15, (1), 1- 4. Reviews the possible role of the Canadian civilian satellite RADARSAT, soon to be launched in relation to Canada’s role in Arctic security; especially in relation to arms control. “Arctic arms control is an area in which Canada should play a primary role … (and) is one in which Canada can negotiate outside the shadow of the United States.”

  2. Nixon, R. (1988). ’1999 — Victory without war.” Pocket Books, 336 pp. It is hoped to have this reviewed for the Bulletin.

  3. Rapoport, A. (1988). “The study of conflict.” Canadian Papers in Peace Studies No.l. Science for Peace, Samuel Stevens, Toronto, 28 pp. Contents include — peace and conflict studies, the predicament of human extinction, enlightenment and causes of war, weapons addiction, re-education, strategic thinking, game theory, system theory.

  4. McMurtry, J. (1988). “Understanding War.” Canadian Papers in Peace Studies No.2. Science for Peace, Samuel Stevens, Toronto, 68 pp. A critical essay which confronts the problem of understanding war, in terms of basic fallacies of the military paradigm, the “self” of national self-defense, identifying the national purpose and the national “enemy”, discovering the “just war” (e.g. war on disease, hunger, etc.), modes of war (from genocide to liberation), the political economy of militarism.

  5. Griffiths, F. (1988). “The Arctic as an international political region.” Canadian Papers in Peace Studies No.3. Science for Peace, Samuel Stevens, Toronto, 24 pp. Discusses and defines the nature of the Arctic as a region, Arctic regional development and policy implications.

  6. Kennedy, P. (1988). ‘The rise and fall of the great powers: Economic change and military conflict from 1500 to 2000.” Unwin Hyman, London, 677 pp.

The following publications are available from the Publications office (write to Derek Paul, Physics Dept., Univ. of Toronto, Toronto M5S1A7):

  1. “Offensive Light Infantry Forces at Fort Drum, New York: Why should Canadians care?” by Floyd W. Rudmin, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University.

  2. Forthcoming in July: Canadian Papers in Peace Studies 1989 No.1 “Militarism and the Quality of Life” by Alex Michalos, Professor of Philosophy, University of Guelph.

  3. April 1989 Workshop on the Control of Chemical and Biological Weapons: Recommendations developed by the Workshop; 3pp.

  4. Wm. Epstein, “The Linkage between a Nuclear Test Ban and Nuclear Non-Proliferation”, 2Opp.


  1. Third International Castigioncello Conference — “Nuclear Arsenals Reductions: Perspective and Consequences” September 22-25, 1989, Livorno, Italy. Information from Francesco Lenci (USPID Secretary General), c/o CNR Instituto di Biofisica; Via San Lorenzo, 26-56127 Pisa, Italy. Phone: (39-50) 513111. Fax: (39-50)501836. Limited to 120 participants. Letters of Application before August 15, 1989.

  2. “The Technologies of arms-control verification — a short course for non-scientists” September 18- 22, 1989, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of London. Queries to Dr. Jeremy Leggett; Registration; Pamela Manser; both, Tel. 01-589-5111, Telex 929 484, Fax 01-584-7596.

  3. International Peace Bureau (IPB), Annual Conference 1989, Brighton, U.K. September 1-2: “New Opportunities, new strategies: peace in an interdependent world.” Information, or to register: Conference Sec., Anna Rehin, 30 Prince Edwards Road, Lewes, Sussex, BN7 1BE, UK. (Tel 0273 476358); registration by July 27.

  4. “Eighth Convention for European Nuclear Disarmament”, Victoria-Gasteiz, Spain. Details from Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, 0602-784504.

  5. “Ethical Choices in the Age of Pervasive Technology — A World Conference”, October 25-29, 1989. Enquiries to University School of Continuing Education, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Tel (519) 824-4120 ext. 5196; Tel. registration ext. 3957; FAX 1-519-767-0758, before October 15, 1989.

  6. The Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility is holding an International Symposium on energy and sustainable development at the Botanical Garden, Montréal 14-17 Sept. 1989. Discount rates prior to 1 Aug: $50, or $25 for students and non-salaried. For information write C.P. 236 Succursale Snowden, Montréal H3X 3T4.

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