Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 20. Thursday, September 7, 1950
A Vested Interest in Peace
A Vested Interest in Peace
An open letter to the students of New Zealand from the New Zealand Student Labour Federation, meeting at its Winter Conference in Dunedin, August, 1950.
To the Students of N.Z.:—
When the United Nations was set up in 1945, on it were fastened all the hope and faith of the world in a future of constructive co-operation and peace.
Only five years later, talk of new world war has become sickeningly familiar. Already in Malaya, Viet Nam and Korea, the guns are booming. The United States authorities boast of their accumulation of atomic weapons. To the normal fears of insecurity in our society, is added the terrible fear of death raining from the skies.
"He saw there about 20 men and they were all in the same nightmarish state their faces were wholly burned, their eye-sockets hollow, the fluid of their melted eyes had run down their cheeks, their mouths were mere swollen, pus-covered wounds. . . . He reached down and took a woman by the hands, but her skin slipped off in huge glove-like pieces. . . . Now not many people walked in the streets, but a great number sat on the pavement, vomited, waited for death, and died. . . . A hundred thousand people were killed by one atomic bomb."
This weapon is not a weapon of war, but of mass extermination. Another world war would be a mass extermination. Actions which have tended to split the United Nations—the signing of the Atlantic Pact, the boycotting of new China, the American action in Korea—are helping to drive the world towards such a mass extermination, and conditioning people's minds to the idea that it is inevitable.
We do not believe that it is inevitable. We believe that the vast and overwhelming majority of the people of New Zealand, and of every other country, desire an effective and a lasting peace. We believe that the people, by making a mass expression of their feelings in words and deeds, can force peace on those who fancy they would make some petty gain out of slaughter. We believe that the students of New Zealand, being an informed and conscious section of the people, have a responsibility to the people to help lead them in this struggle.
Accordingly, we wholeheartedly endorse the call of the International Union of Students to the students of New Zealand to sign the Stockholm Appeal of the World Peace Congress for the prohibition of the Atomic Weapon, and pledge ourselves to co-operate with the New Zealand Peace Council in the organisation and strengthening of the peace movement among the students.
Already 300 million people have signed the appeal. They come from all walks of life, and from all countries. Among them are some of the most outstanding world figures. We quote a few of these:
"Scientists must not be accomplices of those who, because of a bad social system, are able to exploit the achievements of scientific research for selfish and evil ends. . . . Scientists and technicians, like all other citizens in the great community of workers, must all fight together to ensure the full use of science for peace and the well-being of the human race."
"The banning of the atom bomb would be the first step towards general disarmament, without which peace will always be in danger."
"I brand as murder the wholesale mass production, streamlined roasting and "killing of non-combatants contemplated by the advocates of the use of A and H bombs. I brand them as lunatics who must be controlled in the interest and welfare of humanity. . . I will go on speaking and working for peace, no matter what the warmongers and their dupes may say about me. I remember the words of Christ—'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God'."
"I have signed the petition and given my support to the Peace Council: not because I am a Communist, or because I am 'gullible' or 'naive,' but because, as a Christian, I feel that it is the proper thing to do."
"At the time of the Nuremberg trial, one of the accused said: 'We could not foresee that it would end precisely in this way. . .' The people who drenched Europe in blood did not foresee that they would land in the dock. Perhaps it will be in order for us to warn those who want to destroy culture, life and the future, by means of the atomic bomb, that they will most surely meet their end sitting in the dock, and not on the throne of world rulers."
"I believe that we English should take a brave and independent step—say definitely that we consider the use of atomic bombs wicked and un-Christian. International talk is good, but good action is better."
"The bomb? It's horrible. It is quite unimaginable that people should think of using it. I don't know much about politics, but I think that the United States and Russia should 'be able to come to an agreement. Instead of getting ready for war, they should be discussing, learning to understand one another. It is essential for peace."
"The Russians want peace, and to them, as it should be to us, Stalingrad is a symbol of the destructiveness of war as well as a symbol of the reconstruction that the whole world wants."
"Almost five years have elapsed since our land was burned out by the atom bomb. The flames and the smoke caused by the explosion have disappeared, but in our hearts remains a growing hatred for the bomb which in an instant killed or burned our parents, our brothers and our sisters. . . .
"Young men and women of the world, a great responsibility rests upon your shoulders in safeguarding the future of humanity. Hear our call, hear the call of those who went through the horrors of the atom bomb themselves, and sign, by hundreds of millions, the Stockholm Appeal, the Appeal of Peace, the Appeal of Life."
Our own Rutherford gave his genius to the birth of atomic science. For the honour of his name, and of New Zealand's, the students of New Zealand must see to it that atomic energy is used to build the world in peace, not destroy it in mass carnage.
Yours for peace,
The N.Z. Student Labour Federation
Please ring 56-077 (business hours) or write to 61 Hutt Rd., Petone, stating price.
J. D. Raine.