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Issue #1789      August 9, 2017

Culture & Life

The ongoing Cold War

Anyone who tries to tell you that the Cold War finished years ago “with the fall of the Soviet Union”, has not been paying attention to what is happening right now in various parts of the world, most conspicuously perhaps in Venezuela. A democratically-elected government that is trying to meet the needs of the poor is being destabilised by a well-organised, well-funded foreign-directed campaign supported by a massive, co-ordinated propaganda blitz through all the world’s monopoly-controlled media.

That was the essence of the Cold War – that and the fact that it was always aimed at disrupting and if possible removing left-wing governments, whether the social democrat Allende in Chile or the Communist-led government in Moldova.

Capitalism prefers to remove troublesome left-wing governments by way of Cold War destabilising because that way the illusion can be retained that it was “popular discontent” that brought about the regime change that imperialism wanted and that somehow democracy is not only still in place but has actually “triumphed”.

But if the Cold War was not so much a thing as a collection of tactics used by imperialism against progressive governments everywhere, those tactics have been refined over the century since 1917. They certainly did not come to an end in 1989.

Attempts by the imperialist powers to preserve Russian capitalism from the dread prospect of socialist revolution began in 1917 well before October. The American Ambassador cabled his government that an anarchist named Lenin was stirring up trouble but the ambassador assured Washington that he would deal with the problem before it got out of hand. After all, Russian capitalism had installed Kerensky in power in Petrograd, but his efforts to continue the imperialist war met with resistance from the Russian people.

When the Revolution broke out, Kerensky fled in a car flying the American flag. Almost immediately imperialist-backed anti-Soviet conspiracies broke out. The aristocratic officer corps felt besmirched by the Revolution’s raising up of common working people and peasants. The ruling class in Britain and France agreed that the Revolution was unnatural and an affront to the established order and that it must be put right by being promptly removed from history.

Unfortunately, the Russian workers and peasants saw things differently. When the British agent Sidney Reilly tried to play on the Lettish Kremlin Guard’s supposedly anti-Russian sentiments to get them to arrest Lenin (who would probably have been summarily shot had they done so) they played along with Reilly’s conspiracy while reporting everything to the Cheka (the Revolution’s security service). Reilly only just evaded capture himself.

For the next decade, European imperialism tried to cripple the new Socialist state with a trade boycott, while simultaneously conducting a non-stop propaganda campaign against it together with espionage and sabotage actions (and even assassinations) against Soviet diplomatic and trade missions. Meanwhile, imperialism prepared to launch an actual invasion. The latter was ultimately set down for 1929 but the collapse of Wall Street and the onset of the Great Depression rendered imperialism’s plans null and void. (To the aggravation of the capitalist powers, the only country that was not afflicted with economic chaos during the Great Depression was the USSR, which actually closed its last employment bureau in 1929.)

That was the time, at the end of the 1920s, when the USSR launched its industrialisation program. Leading capitalists everywhere saw this ambitious program as the chance to make profits by breaking the boycott and trading with the socialist enemy. By skilfully taking advantage of this capitalist greed, the USSR was able to obtain the necessary technology and expertise it required to carry out its unprecedented program of rapid industrialisation and modernisation throughout the 1930s. At the same time, the most reactionary elements of capitalism sought to protect themselves from the danger of Red Revolution by imposing fascism on the rest of the world by force.

Fortunately for the rest of us, the USSR was able to take advantage of the rivalry between the imperialist powers to stall their manoeuvres and – by great effort and with considerable sacrifice – to build up its industrial capacity to the point where it was able when the Nazi invasion finally came, to smash it and thereby save us all.

Since then, imperialism’s methods have been further refined and made more sophisticated. The language of the Left has been appropriated by the Right and applied in a topsy-turvy fashion. The counter-revolutionary disturbances that overthrew the People’s Governments of Eastern Europe were labelled by the Right wing as “revolutions”, distinguished by their chosen colour, always a colour with no actual political connotations. Now the destabilising of any left-wing government is promptly and enthusiastically labelled a “revolution” by the bourgeois media.

At the same time, a left-wing leader such as President Maduro of Venezuela is prominently and – in the bourgeois media – universally labelled a “dictator”. Maduro is striving to save the genuine revolution in Venezuela, the Bolivarian Revolution launched by Hugo Chávez that has so improved the lives of the poor and the landless in his country.

In the Cold War lexicon of capitalism, black is white and white is black. The rich are benevolent and the poor are terrorists. The crimes of mass murder and genocide once egregiously ascribed to the leaders of the USSR are now laid at the feet of the anti-imperialist government of Syria, and before that the government of Libya, to justify war against them.

The manipulation of public opinion has long been a favoured tactic of capitalism. With the concentration of the mass media in fewer hands and ingenious research into ways of moulding popular perception this manipulation has become much more adroit and enormously more powerful. The unscrupulous albeit sometimes subtle methods used to increase sales are now applied to the manipulation of bourgeois democracy.

The Cold War is not dead and buried: it is alive and well. It has merely altered its camouflage. It is just as vicious, dangerous and destructive as it ever was. It is up to us of the Revolutionary Left to expose it wherever and whenever it rears its evil head.

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