On Jan. 22, a broad coalition of organizations including PSL Pittsburgh, ANSWER Coalition, the Green Party of Allegheny County, Code Pink, and others joined for a rally and speakout at the PNC Bank headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh. This action was the latest in years of work on the part of local activists in a movement called Stop Banking the Bomb, which aims to pressure PNC to divest the millions of dollars they have invested in nuclear weapons. At the action, this message was spoken with the force of not just local Pittsburgh activists, but also 50 sovereign states around the world that have signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) – a treaty that officially went into effect on Jan. 22 and bans nuclear weapons under international law.
Nuclear weapons a threat to human life
Nuclear weapons are immoral and serve no purpose other than to kill. Additionally, they have continually been used by imperialist powers like the United States to bend others to their will. This is evidenced perfectly by the only time nuclear weapons have ever been used, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
As World War Two was drawing to an end in 1945, Japan had been defeated and its empire was dwindling. One question remained: Who would preside over Japan’s surrender, the United States or the Soviet Union? Fearing the rising tide of socialist revolution in Asia, the United States decided to force Japan into unconditional surrender to the United States and the United States only — by dropping nuclear bombs.
The effects of the bombs were immediately disastrous. Over 100,000 people were murdered instantly, and tens of thousands more died in the following weeks. Two major cities were incinerated, and many of the survivors had to live with lifelong disabilities from the radiation. The U.S. government quickly occupied Japan, and the military bases they established still operate to this day.
Nuclear weapons become illegal
In recent years, worldwide opposition to nuclear weapons has been growing immensely, with the people of countries across the world challenging the need for nuclear weapons at all. Jan. 22 marked a huge step toward a nuclear free world. 50 countries have ratified the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons so far. Now that the TPNW has gone into effect, the production, possession, use, transfer or threat of use of nuclear weapons are all now officially illegal under international law. Additionally, this treaty outlaws the transfer of the weapons and forbids nuclear explosive devices to be stationed, installed or deployed in the territory of any signatories. The implications of this were clear to those in attendance at the rally January 22 — PNC’s investments are now not only immoral, but also illegal.
Speakers Friday spoke about the destruction to human lives and the environment wrought by nuclear weapons. They rightly brought up the fact that PNC has formerly divested from companies participating in destructive practices like mountaintop removal and identified this as a precedent for PNC to divest from nuclear weapons. The message was also clear as to who exactly must be targeted first in the path to world denuclearization: the first country to develop nuclear weapons and the only country to ever use them, the United States, not victims of imperialism like North Korea. Attendees at the action demanded PNC take the lead in the United States’ path toward denuclearization by divesting from nuclear weapons in 2021.
As anti-imperialists, our message is clear. Our task in the heart of the U.S. empire is to organize a militant anti-war movement and PNC Stop Banking the Bomb Campaign is part and parcel of that movement. We demand: nukes out of the United States, and the U.S. military out of everywhere!