History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1941-1951 - Vol. 4

By Noreen Branson | Go to book overview

10
THE LABOUR GOVERNMENT
AND THE OUTSIDE WORLD
1945–6

On 6 August 1945, ten days after the Labour Government was installed, a single American plane flew over a Japanese city, Hiroshima, and for the first time dropped an atomic bomb. Within a few minutes, some 80,000 people were dead, a similar number injured, and two-thirds of the city was gutted by fire. Three days later, a second atomic bomb was dropped by the Americans, this time on Nagasaki. On 10 August Japan offered to surrender, and on 14 August the final terms were agreed. They were ratified on 2 September. The war with Japan was over.

Weeks before the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, the Japanese rulers, who knew they were beaten, had sued for peace and appealed to the Russians to mediate on their behalf. This’appeal was rejected because the Soviet Union’s leader, Stalin, had previously promised Britain and the USA that his country would declare war on Japan three months after the German surrender. It has since been suggested that one of the objects of the Americans in dropping the bomb was to force Japan’s surrender before the Soviet Union entered the war in the Far East in order to limit possible Soviet gains in the region.1 Another motive was undoubtedly the desire of the American military to demonstrate the power of their new weapon before the war ended. Whatever the aims, it was a devastating event, and the development thereafter of nuclear weapons was to overshadow international relations for the next half century, and to threaten the whole future of the human race.

Initially the true significance of the Hiroshima bomb was not fully appreciated on the left. The Daily Worker went as far as to suggest on 7 August that the bomb would expedite Japanese surrender and thus

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