James R. Bennett (written mid-1990s)
Leaders and their uncritical populations on both sides reduced the Cold War to a struggle between Good and Evil. Blame falls on both adversaries; they were in many ways mirror images of the other. We are able to understand this today, because the secrecy of the times has been partially penetrated, and we realize that neither Stalinism nor the corporate state furnished solutions to the problems of the world. To readers of this journal I offer a summary of the U.S. share of Cold War culpability in the form of a list of some of the salient events and topics in the history of U.S. enmity toward the Soviet Union. The earlier scholarship I surveyed in my Control of Information in the United States in the section entitled “Anti-communism and Anti-Sovietism”; works published since 1986 have been consulted too. In a future issue of Change I will focus on the consequences of the Cold War. [see]
The long history in the U. S. of xenophobic hatred against anarchists, communists, and socialists, who were often popularly lumped together. Repression against anti-capitalists has existed everywhere in the nation throughout its existence in various degrees, but certain periods are notable for their intensity. The first big “Red Scare” occurred in 1886 with the Haymarket bombing, for which four anarchists were hanged, despite the lack of hard evidence. The years 1919-1920 produced the fabricated “Great Red Scare,” it was called. Beginning at least as early as 1937, conservatives interpreted New Deal programs as part of a Red conspiracy, and in the elections of 1942 Republicans smeared opponents as communist sympathizers. Then in 1945 began the forty-five year period of the Great Red Scare Cold War.
The first major act of post-WWII hostility toward the Russians was U.S. atomic bomb secrecy at Potsdam (July 1945).
Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9) had as two of its motives to make Japan surrender to the U.S. rather than to the Soviet Union and to make the Russians more manageable in world affairs. S.U. insecurity, its national condition since 1917, was intensified by the new U.S. atomic bomb threat.
The Truman administration sought to reshape the world according to U.S. needs and standards, and employed propaganda of U.S. innocence and omnipotence to accomplish its ends. Its policy was designed to maintain control over the allocation of world-wide resources and available labor and ensure U.S. access to market and investment areas.
The Truman Doctrine established the hostile plan to eliminate Soviet influence from Europe, and to contain it through the world, and used the atomic bomb in the advancement of that policy. In practice, this meant opposition to insurgency groups and democratic movements, as in Greece, despite Stalin’s own opposition to the Greek Communist insurgency.
Eastern Europe and Other Nations Adjacent to the S.U.:
The U.S. perceived the Soviet takeover of Eastern European countries after World War II as indicative of the USSR’s global “Octopus” imperial ambitions. But although Stalinism and Nazism, were alike in several ways (police states, concentration camps), they differed in the one’s conquest for defense against invasion from the west in contrast to the other’s conquest for lebensraum. The S.U. viewed all nations on it borders as areas that could be used by adversaries to attack it (Korea, Finland, Poland, Iran, etc.).
Iran and Turkey:
U.S. consistent support of Iran and Turkey in their conflicts with the S.U. became major sources of friction, U.S. belief that the S.U. wanted to dominate those countries contributed to the Truman Doctrine of 1947.
Universal Military Training:
Pres. Truman urged Congress to adopt UMT to protect the U.S. and enforce the U.N. (Oct. 23).
Atomic Bomb Secrecy:
Truman declared the atomic bomb process would remain an exclusive U.S. secret, which exacerbated S.U. insecurity.
The National Security Act of 1947 established the chief structures of the Cold War. It consolidated the armed services into one body (named the Department of Defense in 1949), and created the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, the highest war-planning group in the country and supervisor of the CIA.
Truman’s War Scare:
In order to save the aircraft industry, Pres. Truman and other high officials lied to Congress that the S.U. was about to invade the West and that a 70-group Air Force was required to stop them.
The change of the name of the War Department to the Defense Department was an enormous doublespeak coup for the forces of anti-Soviet militarism and expansion.
National Security State:
In the late 1940s and early 1950s the creation of the National Security State, when the U. S. launched a global campaign against the Soviet Union, was designed by the ruling elites to ensure national stability, to mute class conflicts, and to secure the domestic economy. This state then became the basis for domestic and global McCarthyism.
The 1950 National Security Council Document No. 68 (NSC 68) articulates doctrine that the Soviet enemy must be confronted everywhere with superior military might and threatened with annihilation.
The concept of “preventive war” touted at highest government and military levels: the Soviets should be forced into a confrontation with the U.S. before they had equal or superior nuclear forces.
Not only did the Strategic Air Command fly provocative flights straight at the S.U.’s borders to trigger their radar, General Curtis Le May (General Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove) ordered unauthorized flights over the S.U. in 1954, 1957, and 1958. Soviet fighters did not shoot them down.
First and Second Cold Wars:
According to one historian, the first Cold War was especially anti-communist, the second (Reagan) specifically directed against the USSR.
The many years of negotiations for disarmament covered up the NATO bloc’s opposition to disarmament, while the S.U. desired it. The U.S. position was and is that of military supremacy reinforced by a network of military alliances, concealed by a rhetoric of peace. Almost all of the major arms innovations (the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb, etc.,) were initiated by the U.S.
President Truman relied upon the wrong assumptions (the “Riga axioms”) and the wrong advisers (Sovietphobes).
Competition Over Resources:
The U.S. and the U.K. attempted to monopolize the West’s supply of uranium and thorium during and immediately following WWII. The campaign was conducted in great secrecy by soldiers and businessmen.
Bigotry in the U.S. is not spasmodic, as Gustavus Myers has shown in his History of Bigotry in the United States, but has persisted in sustained patterns from its beginnings. Anti-communism is one of the earliest patterns. The familiar label for modern U.S. anti-communism and anti-Sovietism is “McCarthyism,” after the infamous red-baiter Senator Joseph McCarthy. But mobilization against communism and the S.U. began long before Senator McCarthy, who is only one recent outburst of that mode of intolerance. Sovietphobia began in 1919 and except during WWII never let up. Domestically, in 1919 the government began a ferocious repression of communists and socialists, lying that the S.U. was conspiring to overthrow the U.S. Globally, hatred of “Bolsheviks” in 1919 led to the invasion of the S.U. by the U.S. and other Western nations in a failed effort to restore the old regime, an intervention that lasted two years. When that invasion failed to topple the new Soviet state, the U.S. turned to demonizing it, as much to justify U.S. state lawlessness and to subdue its own population, as to defeat the S.U. through Cold War.
Control of Atomic Weapons:
The policy of secrecy and monopoly undermined the option of international control of the bomb and resulted in the victory of Cold War forces over atomic energy.
The real containment was containment of Communist revolution (or election) rather than Soviet expansion, for which there was little evidence. U.S. Cold War policy had a counter-revolutionary rather than a counter-expansionary character. The rhetoric of opposition to Soviet aggression was a cover for containing internal change in the poverty stricken two-thirds of the world’s population. After WWII, the U.S. became the leader of a global anti-revolutionary movement in defense of vested interests.
The Cold War intensified indoctrination to consider war as a necessity. ROTC indoctrinated tens of thousands in over 500 colleges, and more in JrROTC, to prepare to fight the Soviet enemy.
The U.S. threatened the S.U. by surrounding its borders with hundreds of bases and by frequently incoming bombers and by spy planes, to discover their military defenses.
The U.S. seems to need an enemy in order to function, especially an enemy so evil any counter-evil is excusable. Soviet militarism and expansion have been monstrously exaggerated, while U.S. militarism and expansion have been minimized, the S.U. vile, the U.S. virtuous. When the Cold War ended, the people expected a decrease in military spending and social dividends. But the Pentagon and government hawks have “discovered” numerous new enemies or have inflated old enemies that require the continuation of the military-industrial complex. Demonic enemies, joined with the bureaucracy of mass annihilation and global economic expansion and military intervention, make a powerful dynamo driving the country.
Economic Motive and Soviet Threat.
There were no significant economic or territorial conflicts between the U.S. and the S.U. But in order to dominate the world for overseas markets, outlets for investments, and profits, the U.S. used the Soviet threat and its nuclear arsenal to control people and nations. The goal of U.S. strategy was to acquire the world as a Western capitalist preserve and keep socialist influence out.
Jean-Paul Sartre considered the U.S. dangerously “obsessed by fear of communism.” Even the film Ferdinand the Bull was denounced as left-wing propaganda because the bull refused to fight the matador.
Films fueled the anti-Soviet hysteria: Red Dawn, commando, Rambo, Missing in Action, Iron Eagle, Invasion USA, Top Gun, and Aliens are only a few examples of Hollywood’s support of the War. Rambo: First Blood Part II grossed $75.8 million in its first twenty-three days, at the time the third biggest in history.
Part of the enmity system was foundations. For example, the Council on Foreign Relations published The Soviet Challenge, a call to war and unrestrained intervention wherever U.S. economic or strategic interests are threatened, and paid for by the Ford Foundation.
The forty years of post-WWII U.S. Sovietphobia was partly generated by a holy war against the godless Communists by Protestant and Catholic Evangelical fundamentalists preaching the imminent second coming of Christ and the destruction of the forces of evil in an Armageddon of U.S. nuclear bombs. In their advocacy of absolutism and authoritarianism, they contribute greatly to the mirroring of the U.S. and S.U.
Businessmen and Anticommunist Ideology:
Businesmen and military officers constituted the most hawkish of U.S. elite groups. Since only a few thousand individuals out of almost 300 million decide about war and peace, their anticommunism influenced policy far beyond their numbers. Power in the U.S. was Sovietphobic capitalism.
Ignorance and Intolerance:
Not only right-wing groups but members of the news media, the entertainment industry, politicians, and the public were ignorant and intolerant of the USSR.
The U.S. expressed the imperatives of capitalism—growth and world-wide expansion, the urge to dominate the world for markets, investments, and profits. For example, U.S.-backed development of commercial agriculture displaced small landholders in Central America and enriched large landholders. To protect this domination, the U.S. and the West have relied on technological force, nuclear terror, and demonizing the S.U.
Jean-Paul Sartre described U.S. enmity toward the Soviet Union as “Manicheism.” Obsessed by fear of communism, the U.S. made everything black and white, and everything evil was imported from Moscow.
The Marshall Plan excluded the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, further emphasizing exclusion and antagonism.
Even though U.S. enmity against the Soviet Union is as old as the Bolshevik Revolution, and hatred of communism is two centuries old at least, in the 1950s Senator Joseph McCarthy became the touchstone for incandescent anti-communism. In his extreme desire to root out the “Enemy within,” and to enforce a nation purified of alien and evil ideas, he represents the repressive spirit that continually engulfs the country, which one historian has likened to a “black hole.” McCarthy was not freakish, not an aberration outside U.S. history, not psychotic, but a blow-up of millions of citizens who were fearful of an illusionary threat perceived as apocalyptic.
Whether liberal or conservative, the mainstream media joined with the government in constructing the myth of the “Iron Curtain,” another way by which the “enemy” was defined, and then the myth gradually hardened. The media also contributed to the “Red Fascist” rhetorical perception of the Soviet Union that became fundamental to official and popular fantasies of the enemy. The press consistently downplayed totalitarian excesses by governments allied to the U.S., while foregrounding communist wrongs often even rancorously. A self-reproducing, U.S. military-industrial-media bureaucracy exaggerated the Soviet threat to justify constant expansion.
In his Farewell Address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the militaristic dangers of the combination of the Pentagon and corporations. Supported by patriots, they sought safety by armed violence. The MIC stoked the war furnace through immense lobbying, campaign contributions, and advertising. In the1984 political campaign, for example, the 20 largest contractors spent $3.6 million, $440,000 of that to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Consequently, the U.S., on a permanent war footing since 1941, might be called the Pentagon State.
Misinformation, Deception, Secrecy
Disinformation and distortion characterized official and media behavior twoard the S.U. ever since the end of WWI. Official information about the SU was systematically unreliable, never based on a realistic assessment of the Soviet Union. The secrecy system was intended more to keep the U.S. public ignorant than to defend against S.U. intelligence.
The U.S. perceived the S.U. as a threat to its survival, requiring the antidote of power, aggression, and domination, which is explained as defensive. Anti-communism is inwoven in all U.S. conceptualizations of the S.U.: enmity strengthens bureaucratic self-interest, international expansion, and national unity.
NATO established a massive armed camp in the West, which had invaded Russia/the Soviet Union several times from Napoleon to Hitler.
Crucial to the anti-Soviet ideology is the Bomb. Ever since 1945 the U.S. has aimed to win by nuclear war, and in over a dozen episodes has brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war.
The U.S. was more responsible for the ways in which the Cold War developed, because at the end of WWII it had much greater opportunity and far more options to influence the course of events than the Soviet Union, whose situation in victory was worse in some ways than that of the defeated countries. Regardless, U.S. policy became inflexibly anti-Soviet.
The enormous rise of the Pentagon’s budget and of U.S. military power is inseparable from anticommunism and Sovietphobia. Many books and reports have warned of the dangers of militarism. In order guarantee and further increase their power, the Pentagon in 1984 spent $34.5 million for public relations. In numerous ways it exaggerated the Soviet “threat”; for example, its annual report on Soviet military power was systematically false, but it played well in Congress.
Cause and consequence are often inseparable. As a cause of the Cold War, secrecy prevented the U.S. public from gaining the truths it needed in order to judge and act responsibly (U.S. initiation of the arms race, lying about the Soviet “threat,” etc.).
The two countries mirrored each other. 1) The military and security establishments of both countries were self-reproducing. International polarization empowers national security managers, and the National Security State grows. 2) The ways the U.S. conceptualized its global privileges were indistinguishable from the Warsaw Pact and Brezhnev Doctrine. For example, the Soviet Union rationalized its brutal suppression of Czechoslovakia in 1965 with arguments similar to those the U.S. and the Organization of American States used for their practices.
From 1945 to the 1990s the U.S. was fanatically intolerant of the Soviet Union. Suspicion and cynicism met Soviet initiatives. For example, in 1958 the government, followed by the media, inflamed a proposal by Kruschev on Berlin into a threat and a crisis.
After being invaded from the West so often, the primary Soviet foreign policy motive was national security not expansion. The S.U. was never the threat the U.S. fearmongers claimed. It had significant influence perhaps in 15% of the world’s nations at its peak in the late 1950s, and now today barely avoids total economic collapse. One of the functions of the exaggerated “threat” by U.S. leaders was control of public opinion in support of its own expansionist foreign policy. Once the public had been convinced of a “Soviet threat,” the government was free to militarize in order to defend its expansion.
Negotiations with the Soviet Union were seldom regarded as a means of settling disputes or achieving détente, but as a stepping stone toward “victory.”
The doctrine of violence—threatening nuclear war and the construction of the largest military machine in the history of humankind—was the fundamental basis of U.S. policy and a substitute for political and economic programs.
Hatred of foreigners, long a powerful stream in U.S. history, was particularly intense in regard to the Russians.
Richard Schwartz, The Cold War Reference Guide; Michael Barson, “Better Dead Than Red!”; Robert Bathurst, Intelligence and the Mirror: On Creating an Enemy; Noam Chomsky, Towards a New Cold War; D. F. Fleming, The Cold War and Its Origins; Franck and Weisband, Word Politics; Richard Freeland, The Truman Doctrine and the Origins of McCarthyism; Tom Gervasi, Soviet Military Power; Gregg Herken, The Winning Weapon: The Atomic Bomb in the Cold War; George Kennan, The Nuclear Delusion; Frank Kofsky, Harry Truman and the War Scare of 1948; Joel Kovel, Against the State of Nuclear Terror; Sidney Lens, The Futile Crusade; Sam Marullo, Ending the Cold War at Home; Michael O’Brien, McCarthy and McCarthyism in Wisconsin; Marcus Raskin, The Politics of National Security; Nora Sayre, Running Time: Films of the Cold War; Poul Villaume, Cement of Fear.