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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Are we really better off without a Cold War? Part 1

By  សតិវ ​អតុ
Before the end of the cold war, 1991 or maybe 1992, there were lots of communist parties all over the world. They fell into two categories; those that were pro-Soviet Union and those that were anti-Soviet Union. That might seem simple enough, but the anti-Soviet Union parties seemed endless. There were lots of them. They usually had at least one important theoretician. Some had more than that. But in the eyes of the US press there was just one "Communist Party." In almost all news magazines and newspapers there was just that one "Communist Party." It was pro-Soviet Union. If people only read mainstream newspapers they would never know there were other communist parties in the United States of America.
We can also say that communism in general was almost always treated as if it were Soviet Union communism. For a while there was a "Red China," an evil menace that was just as bad as the evil Soviet Union. And by the end of the 1970s China became the "good communist country." They were OK.
It is hard to say when the Cold War actually ended. Did it end when the Berlin Wall came down? Did it end when Boris Yeltsin (Борис Ельцин) stood down a pro-communist coup? All we can really say for sure is that it ended.
This article looks at two things. The fist is how the end of the cold war effected other communist and socialist movements that were not directly supported or supportive of Soviet Communism. The other is how the fall of the Soviet Union affected workers everywhere.
So we can start with other communist parties, especially here in the US. By the 1970s we had an era where there were several "new communist parties." Most of these were pro-China or just plain pro-Mao Zedong (毛泽东), often referred to as Mao Zedong thought. But there were other theoretical leaders including Joseph Stalin (Иосиф Виссарионович Сталин/ იოსებ ბესარიონის ძე სტალინი), Enver Hoxha, Jean-Paul Sartre,
Antonio Gramsci and Herbert Marcuse. There were also groups inspired by Leon Trotsky (Лев Дави́дович Тро́цкий), such as Spartacist League  and the Socialist Workers Party, even though not everyone considered the latter groups as part of new communism. Most new communist parties were inspired by Mao, such as the Communist Workers Party and Revolution Communist Party. The Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) was the official pro-China government party. It eventually broke with the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) and other similar parties over China's persecution of the Gang of Four, including Mao's widow Jiang Qing (江青). Some parties, as the Sojourner Truth Organization drew inspiration from the 1960s new left or western style Marxists, such as Antonio Gramsci as much as or more so than Mao or Stalin.
There have also been many democratic socialist parties, such as Socialist Party USA and Democratic Socialists of America. We can safely say they were all against the Soviet Union and most other communist parties.
Such Marxist-Leninist division took place in almost every country where ML parties existed. For example, in Iran Peykar  was a Maoist party that resembled the US RCP. Their pro-Soviet party was called the Tudeh Party.  
Most of the above parties mentioned above no longer exists. Revolution Communist Party, Socialist Workers Party (no longer Trotskyite) and Spartacist League are some of the few of such Marxist organizations left from the New Communist era. Most have folded.
Then there was the actual Communist Party USA. That was the official Soviet Union supported and supportive communist party. That was the communist party that news organizations all referred to anytime someone wanted to speak of the pro-Soviet communist party. The US mainstream press was not interested in covering or even acknowledging the existence of other communist parties or tendencies. They all wanted the American public to believe that there was only one kind of communism and that communism was exemplified by the Soviet Union, which was often simply referred to as Russia.
Gus Hall was the leader of Communist Party USA. When he died The New York Times described him this way:

Gus Hall, the zealous lifelong Communist who led the American branch of the party from the cold war through political oblivion in the post-Soviet era, died on Friday at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. He was 90 and lived in Yonkers.
The son of an impoverished Minnesota miner, Mr. Hall became radicalized early, beginning a career as a union and Communist Party organizer during the Depression. J. Edgar Hoover once described him as ''a powerful, deceitful, dangerous foe of Americanism.''
He served eight years in prison for his political views, ran for president four times and never apologized for or wavered from the increasingly marginalized ideology he championed.
By the end of his life he had become a lonely Communist stalwart in a post-Communist world. Those who sought him out for interviews at party headquarters on West 23rd Street in Manhattan found a genial white-haired man presiding over ''a museum of history,'' as he put it. Pictures of his family shared space with a portrait of Lenin (a gift from Leonid I. Brezhnev); a wood sculpture from Fidel Castro and a tapestry of Karl Marx, courtesy of Erich Honecker, the former leader of East Germany......
........Mr. Hall was first elected general secretary of the Communist Party, U.S.A., in 1959, when the federal government considered the organization an outpost of the Kremlin and all its members potentially dangerous subversives.

And from the Los Angeles Times we see what most Americans saw when Hall Died:

Gus Hall, the lumberjack, iron miner, steelworker and union organizer whose name became synonymous with the American Communist Party, which he led for 40 years, has died at the age of 90.

The L.A. Times don't even give the full name of his party and most news outlets didn't do that either. None of these sources hint that there are any other communist people or groups besides Communist Party USA.
There were a lot of communists here in the US, as myself, who did not like a lot of the baggage the Soviet Union had. We didn't like the lack of democracy, the lack of freedom of speech and the general lack of political liberties that the Soviet Union just didn't seem to have. There were other problems, mainly with imperialism. The Soviet Union tried to oppose US imperialism, but its own actions were imperialistic. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and sent troops to other parts of its alleged empire. The Soviet Union tried to put nuclear missiles in Cuba. It gave extensive military hardware to many nations in Africa and it had military bases in such countries as Ethiopia. The Soviet Union directly controlled the affairs of many Easter European nations and sent in troops when its orders seemed to be slipping. It is easy to see much of these actions as imperialism.
One of the important points to make about all these "other communists and their parties" was their rejection of the limits of democracy of the Soviet Union. Raymond Lotta, in his review of Bob Avakian's (Chairman and leader of the RCP) book, Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than Than? wrote:

Avakian wrote this text against an international backdrop of intensifying rivalry between the U.S.-led imperialist and Soviet-led social-imperialist blocs. The U.S. ruling class under Reagan had been ramping up its ideological offensive around “Western democracy” as the “bulwark” against Soviet “totalitarianism.” This was also a time when various “socialist” theorists seeking to “reinterpret” Marxism as a “radical democratic discourse,” and to turn the socialist project into the linear extension of democracy, were gaining some traction under the banner of a “crisis of Marxism....."


"The stakes are high. "Because the horrors of the world are inextricably bound up with
capitalism-imperialism, with its global economics based on exploitation and oppression, with its state power and politics that enforce and reinforce all of this, and with its ideology that legitimizes and rationalizes the system that is responsible for all the unnecessary misery and suffering in this world. Put differently, the issues addressed in this book have everything to do with whether the world stays the way it is…or whether humanity will transform it through communist revolution that
opens up whole new vistas of freedom."

Other new communist parties also had their own ideas of communist democracy. As with the RCP, most of these new communist parities rejected the rigid dictatorship of the Soviet Union and wanted a more democratic form of communism. Soviet imperialism was also rejected by many of these communist parties. Notice that Avakian refers to the Soviets as "Soviet-led social-imperialist."
At first it appears that these communists are in agreement with the US mainstream politicians who constantly complain about Soviet expansionism and the lack of freedom in the Soviet Union.[1] It would be easy to mistakenly believe that these two political positions are either the same or similar. That belief is wrong. All we have to do is look at such leaders as Francisco Franco or Spain, Augusto Pinochet of Chile or the Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Shah of Iran (حمدرضا پهلوی‎,), to see that political liberty is not the main goal of the US. The  main goal is capitalism. Each of these leaders defended the free-enterprise system and the US empire. Each of these leaders replaced democratically elected leaders. Curtailment of freedom was perfectly acceptable to the US and long as these leaders supported the US and its interests abroad. That interest always included free enterprise and the international capitalist class. Support of such leaders goes back for more than a century. Today the US sheds crocodile tears for the people who are denied freedoms in North (Democratic People's Republic) Korea and Syria. And yet the US is fine supporting the undemocratic regime of Saudi Arabia.
Since the fall of the Cold War
That brings us to modern times. The Soviet Union is gone. There are still a lot of Marxist-Leninist groups, Maoist and non-Maoist. There are Trotskyists all over Facebook. But are we better off without the Soviet Union? Is there more democracy in the world? Is there more freedom in the world under the single leadership of the US than having two competing empires? The answer to all of that is NO!
Today the top 1 percent, or those $billionaires who own most of the country’s wealth, are acting as if they suddenly have a green light to go after all laws that support workers. Worker’s rights are under attack. What we have to consider is that capitalism was threatened by the idea of a communist revolution where workers would get everything and the ruling class would cease to exist. But with the Soviet Union gone, the attitude seems to be that the whole idea of communism is dead. The capitalist act and talk as if communism and all possibilities of communist revolution are dead. That means the capitalists can do what they want. There are no constraints. For example the $billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, are out to destroy unions. They want to defang workers and leave them completely at the mercy of their employers. Elisabeth Garber-Paul, of Rolling Stone reports:

"Really, what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees, so they don't have the resources to fight," says Scott Hagerstrom, the Michigan director of Americans for Prosperity – a group heavily funded by the Kochs – in a damning clip from the film. And it seems to sum up the Kochs' approach to unions: Americans for Prosperity were integral to the 2011 union-busting fight in Wisconsin, and American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC, which works closely with the brothers) has drafted the model anti-union legislation used to slash collective bargaining rights for workers in 36 states. "They do not want to have safety regulations," says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in the film. "They do not want workers to be able to negotiate wages and benefits."

And we only have to look as far as our President Donald Trump, to see this attitude in action. In the past presidents have been professional politicians that represent members of the ruling class. Now we have a president who got rid of the  middle man, an actual $billionaire, a man who is actually part of the 1 percent, is now running the country. And it is like seeing a child take over the candy store. Regulations to protect workers and consumers are being plundered to let the capitalist class do what it wants, getting everything it wants at the expense of the common worker. Just recently Trump appointed Mick Mulvaney to the Consumer Protection Agency.  Mulvaney has made it clear he plans to get rid of as many rules as he can. This is a man who watches out for corporations, not the consumer. For Trump and Mulvaney consumer protection is obsolete. They will do what is best for the big banks and corporations—once again at the consumer’s and working classes’ expense.
The results of all of this are fairly obvious. According to Premilla Nadasen, of the Washington Post:

“But since the 1970s, the safety net has been diminished considerably. Labor regulations protecting workers have been rolled back, and funding for education and public programs has declined. The poor have been the hardest hit. With welfare reform in 1996, poor single parents with children now have a lifetime limit of five years of assistance and mandatory work requirements. Some states require fingerprinting or drug testing of applicants, which effectively criminalizes them without cause. The obstacles to getting on welfare are formidable, the benefits meager. The number of families on welfare declined from 4.6 million in 1996 to 1.1 million this year. The decline of the welfare rolls has not meant a decline in poverty, however.
Instead, the shredding of the safety net led to a rise in poverty. Forty million Americans live in poverty, nearly half in deep poverty — which U.N. investigators defined as people reporting income less than one-half of the poverty threshold. The United States has the highest child poverty rates — 25 percent — in the developed world. Then there are the extremely poor who live on less than $2 per day per person and don’t have access to basic human services such as sanitation, shelter, education and health care. These are people who cannot find work, who have used up their five-year lifetime limit on assistance, who do not qualify for any other programs or who may live in remote areas. They are disconnected from both the safety net and the job market.
In addition to the reduction of public assistance and social services, the rise in extreme poverty can also be attributed to growing inequality. To quote the U.N. report: “The American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion, as the U.S. … now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries.” In 1981, the top 1 percent of adults earned on average 27 times more than the bottom 50 percent of adults. Today the top 1 percent earn 81 times more than the bottom 50 percent.”
As to how much the end of the cold war affects the actions of $billionaires and the rest of the 1 percent is questionable. It can’t be proven that the end of fear of a worker’s revolution has caused the greed and oppression of America’s ruling class today. But they do act as if there is now NO DANGER in pulling out all the stops to make America a paradise for them and near slavery for those at the bottom.
But there are those who believe the cold war did affect the way the US treated its citizens. For example from Shad's Blog:

Not all aspects of the cultural conflicts of the Cold War were negative. One of the worst blemishes on American culture of the time was racial inequality. Despite being freed from slavery approximately 80 years before the end of WWII, blacks were still second class citizens in the South and discrimination was common in varying forms almost everywhere. While change for blacks and other minorities came slowly, it did eventually come. President Truman “noted that if the United States were to offer the ‘peoples of the world’ a ‘choice of freedom or enslavement’ it must ‘correct the remaining imperfections in our practice of democracy” (Foner 857). Beginning in the early 1950s states began establishing fair employment commissions, they passed laws banning discrimination, and black voter registration began to rise….

……..President Johnson not only disliked injustice, he understood the international repercussions that came along with America’s perceived hypocrisy. In turn, he helped pass The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination in public and many private accommodations. While it would not be accurate to say the civil rights movement happened because of the Cold War, the backdrop of the Cold War helped people to realize that aspects of American society were in contrast to the values we were professing to stand for and changes were needed. While cultural effects of the Cold War were primarily domestic, political battles between the Soviet Union and the United States were mostly fought on an international stage.

And it is no surprise that the Koch brothers have worked to reverse these advances, made in response to the cold war. Again from Rolling Stone:

During the 2012 election, an organization called True the Vote called itself a "citizen-led effort to ensure free and fair elections." Their tactic? Placing mostly white "poll-watchers" in polling places, many of them in minority areas, which led to complaints of voter intimidation. The funding came from Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. What's worse, ALEC, which counts roughly 20 percent of all state legislators as members, also drafted a model Voter ID bill and used its ranks to disseminate it across the country. Now, 41 states have introduced more than 180 such bills, which could mean that over 21 million people could be denied their most basic right as a citizen. "The reason that you target somebody's voting rights," Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP, says… "is it makes it easier to take away the rest of their rights.

So today we have rampant inequality, corruption at the top and just plain greed at levels never seen since the 1930s. Most Americans, over the last century, bought all the cold war fear mongering of “commies trying to take away their freedom and democracy.” What they didn’t notice was the fear their leaders had of a society where people are equal. That terrified the ruling class way more than any loss of freedom or democracy. Today such leaders behave as if there is nothing to fear at all. And that isn’t so good for the rest of us. 

To be Continued=>

[1] There are massive amounts of anti-communist propaganda and literature that describes the extreme fear of US Politicians and pundits. For just one example see: How should the United States Confront Soviet Communist Expansionism?

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