A Socialist Labor Party Statement—

The Socialist Alternative to Nuclear Catastrophe

In the wake of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant disaster, many liberal critics of such plants are contending that the incident points up the need to come to grips with some of the technological problems posed by nuclear technology. And toward this end, many have already called for improved designs, stiffer regulations and more stringent inspections of nuclear plants. However, the events at Three Mile Island again demonstrate that nuclear power plants involve far more than technological problems for scientists and government bureaucrats to solve. Indeed, if there is any lesson to be learned from the recent accident, it is that capitalism has again proven incapable of reconciling the safety and welfare of workers with the profit motive.

While the Three Mile Island accident dramatically reconfirms that conclusion, the conflict between the commercial use of nuclear technology and the well-being of the American people has for years been obvious to anyone willing to review the facts. Scores of scientific studies and a host of commercial accidents had long ago obviated any need to doubt the dangers posed by nuclear plants. The capitalist class would like workers to believe that the Three Mile Island accident will result in stiffer regulations and standards that will render such plants safe, but what the crippled Pennsylvania reactor really attests to is the wanton irresponsibility of those who own and control nuclear technology. Even if nuclear plant operations could somehow be rendered fail-safe, the nuclear industry has found no solution to the stockpiles of nuclear waste that have already mortgaged the health and safety of generations to come.

Business as Usual

In fact, while calling for additional federal regulations and increased government policing of nuclear power plants, capitalist politicians and bureaucrats have already demonstrated that even a near-catastrophe like the one that occurred near Harrisburg will have no substantive impact on the manner in which the nuclear industry does business. Dozens of nuclear plants, a number of them virtual “clones” of the Three Mile Island installation, continue to operate in callous disregard for the public safety. And the Carter administration has already announced that it will push ahead with legislation to streamline the procedure to license new nuclear facilities.

The recent nuclear accident again supports the Socialist Labor Party’s position that nothing less than the abolition of the profit system and the socialist reconstruction of society will make it possible for the American people to restore and maintain a safe and healthful environment. Only with the elimination of private ownership in the means of production and the establishment of a socialist industrial democracy will the working-class majority of Americans be able to harness technology while giving due consideration to its health, safety and environmental implications.

The call for a socialist solution to the nuclear energy problem has nothing in common with calls for the nationalization of the nuclear industry. Such a step would neither alter the profit motivations which dictate how nuclear technology is implemented nor take control of such technology out of the hands of a small minority and place it under the collective control of the working class. Indeed, the fact that the current nuclear peril has been overseen by government agencies for years provides ample proof that a resolution of the problem is not to be found in government ownership by the capitalist state.

Socialist Solution

In a socialist society, the government would consist of the industrial organization of the working class at the workplace, where workers would democratically make the decisions on how the resources available to society are to be used, what energy sources are to be developed, what goods are to be produced, etc. Workers would collectively hold full decision-making power over the use of all technology, nuclear or otherwise. With the abolition of the profit motive and the transformation of the means of production from private into social property, such decisions would be made not by a minority to serve its own vested interests, but by the working-class majority, which could rationally assess the overall impact any decision would have on the general welfare.

Moreover, putting the nation on a socialist foundation based on production for use would free the economy of the capitalist economic imperatives that have fueled the drive toward nuclear energy. A socialist economy would be characterized by the planning and rational allocation of resources that are rendered impossible by the profit motive. A socialist society would reduce the need for all sources of energy by eliminating the enormous waste that takes place today under capitalism. Planned obsolescence, shoddy products and other manifestations of the waste that permeate capitalist production would be eliminated. Mass transit systems would be developed. And a socialist society would accelerate the development of safe, nonpolluting, renewable sources of energy. These efforts—coupled with the dismantling of U.S. imperialism’s massive nuclear arsenal—would rapidly eliminate the social peril nuclear energy now poses.

Workers today continue to live under the shadow of nuclear disaster, but in a socialist society workers could enjoy a material abundance without in any way compromising their health and safety. Outrages like the one that occurred near Harrisburg continue to expose the antisocial nature of the capitalist system for all workers to see. And as the manifold social problems of capitalism increasingly threaten the lives and well-being of workers, it becomes more and more imperative that they recognize the need to organize politically and economically to take control of the economy, abolish class-divided capitalism and administer production through their own democratic bodies.


Socialist Labor Party of America, P.O. Box 218, Mountain View, CA 94042-0218 • www.slp.org • socialists@slp.org

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