Those who have organized this comprehensive webinar on the Cold War, did so on behalf of exposing the lies and common misconceptions about the Cold War What I will now do, in anticipation of hearing from a wide array of highly knowledgeable speakers, is to raise some of the critically important questions about the Cold War that call for answers and understanding; to flag, in advance, some of the key lies and myths that today’s speakers will no doubt explore more fully.
When historians speak of theCold War, they are generally talking about the period between 1947 and 1991. And it is called a “cold” war because the United States and the former Soviet Union, as well as China, were not in direct military conflict during that period.
But I contend that the very first lie, or myth that must be laid to rest about the “Cold War” is that it was a “cold” war. There was nothing “cold” about it. In fact, estimates of the death toll linked to the Cold War run between 10 and 25 million, by estimating the tally from related civil wars, interventions and genocides, in which the former Soviet Union, China and the United States played an often-pivotal role. As such, the Cold War would rank as the ninth deadliest in world history.
This horrific death toll is, in major part, a direct consequence of the fact that although the United States was not waging a direct military war with the former Soviets or China during the Cold War did not mean that the three nations were not at military war with each other by proxy; by supporting and arming one side or another in one or more of other nation’s civil wars that took place over the course of the Cold War. Think of the millions who died in Korea and Vietnam, both military and civilian deaths. Does anyone doubt that the death toll of those civil wars would have been lower had the two sides in those civil wars not had the backing, military and otherwise, of the world’s two major powers, the United States and the former Soviet Union, as well as of China?
I saw the evidence of this firsthand in 1971, while visiting North Vietnam when the war was still underway. When visiting the War Museum in Hanoi, I could clearly read on fragments of weapons shown in that museum, the words, “made in the USA.”
Further proof that the Cold War was not truly cold, is found in the answer this question: “Can acts of a government, other than military acts, constitute ‘acts of war?’” For instance, what about sanctions? Sanctions, imposed by the United States on various nations, including Cuba and Russia and Iran, have caused hundreds of thousands, if not more, deaths and injuries, primarily to civilians in those sanctioned countries. Are not, then, imposing sanctions acts of war?
Or what about embargoes? How about blockades? How about refusals to trade with an unfavored nation? After all, these non-military actions cause death and destruction, just as do bombs and guns and tanks. Is the United States not responsible for much of the hunger and starvation in North Korea, caused by our continuing sanctions imposed on that nation, even after the end of military conflict in the Korean War? Not responsible for some of the suffering in Iran? And think about the life destroying sanctions and embargoes now taking place against Venezuela?
What about political interference and sabotage conducted by the cold war countries? Was not the U.S. orchestrated overthrow of Muhammad Mosaddegh in 1953, the first democratically elected prime minister of Iran, an act of war? Or our aid and backing of the 1973 military overthrow of the Salvador Allende government in Chile?
There are other myths about the Cold War that Sunday’s fine speakers will no doubt talk about: the notion that it brought stability to the world; that it halted the proliferation of nuclear weapons; and, here in the United States, that it kept communism from overrunning our nation, although that was clearly a major reason why the ruling elite in the United States acted as it did during the Cold War.
Yes, in the United States we were told it was because we had to stop communism before it reached our own shores. (Remember the so-called “domino effect?”) And so, in the name of stopping the spread of communism to our shores, we not only experienced the McCarthy-era which-hunts, ruining untold numbers of Americans lives, at home, we also sent our sons and daughters to die in foreign lands like Korea and Vietnam. And we spent trillions of dollars on military hardware that should have been spent on domestic needs, instead of making obscene profits for Corporate America.
A second lie or myth is the claim that the Cold War ended in conjunction with the collapse of the Soviet Union. But does anyone seriously doubt that the United States is still engaged in a cold war…a cold war with Russia, and now also China? Just this past week president Biden called Russia’s Vladimir Putin a “killer” and promised reprisals for Russia’s alleged interference in our 2020 election. And now Corporate America wants the government to spend over 27 billion dollars in new anti-China military readiness, in response to Admiral Phillip Davidson’s belief that, “China is the strategic threat of the century to the U.S.” And top officials in the Biden Administration, including Biden, himself, agree with him. So the never ending “arms race” gains ever more speed.
And think about how the Cold War nations are still waging proxy wars with one another in places like Syria and Yemen.
But we must dig deeper still to understand why the ruling elite of the United States still so desperately needs a boogie man to frighten the American people with, be it Russia or China, and thereby continue the Cold War. Because no matter how far those countries have strayed from true communism, making them the boogie man still provides political cover for the United States. Political cover for Corporate America to continue gobbling up the resources of weaker nations in the name of ever greater corporate profits, be those the resources of other capitalist nations, or pseudo-communist nations, if capitalism and the class system in America is to survive.
And this, in turn, makes it crystal clear that the Cold War is and always has been a “class war”. A class war throughout this world and here in the United States. And exposing this truth, and then building a powerful enough movement to replace the greedy and corrupt capitalist economic system with a socialist one, must surely be our goal.
This, in turn, is why this Cold War webinar is so critically important. The world is in crisis, brought about largely by hundreds of years of capitalist caused wars and spoilation. Neo-fascism is again on the rise, at home and abroad. Our planet, our home, is in danger of becoming unable to sustain life due to our despoiled environment. But what we must remember if we are not to give up in despair, is that we have fought against many of today’s evils in the past…and that we have won great victories in the past… and that therefore history itself is on our side. Yes, we must remember that things can change if we have the will to change them.
Today, America is a divide country. But ironically, in that division may lie the best hope and opportunity we have had in generations to finally make America the kind of socially and economically just county it can be. Because while the stakes have never been higher, neither has the awareness of so many in our nation that our capitalist system is failing our people. So, as you listen to Sunday’s inspiring activist speakers, vow to join the growing struggle to form a more massive and united movement, a movement for true progressive and liberating change. And as you join this effort, vow to remember that with history itself on our side, we the people, at long suffering last, can and will finally make America the America of our dreams!