The Revolutionary Highway Has No Exits – The History of the Cold War
By Arlen Tracey
The Cold War, a global conflict between the United States and its allies in Western Europe, against the Soviet Union and its allies around the world, was a conflict that evolved and twisted itself over its decades of existence.
It is important to acknowledge that throughout the war, the emphasis and goals of both sides changed numerous times. A historical record must be made of the evolving positions of the Soviet, Chinese, Albanian, Yugoslavian, and United States governments.
Stalin Wanted Peace
The “Cold War” began, according to historians, at the end of World War Two, when the Soviet Union and the United States ended their war-time alliance.
The most ignored aspect of the opening of the cold war was the fact that the Soviet Union had calculated the opposite occurrence. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union predicted, expected, and hoped for period of “peace” among the “Democratic Powers.”
The actions of the Soviet Union even as the war was still in the process of ending, but especially in the few years immediately following it, were devoted to doing its best to prevent any conflict between the US and the USSR.
The Tehran Accords, signed by Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt, made clear that these “democratic powers” were to be united after the war. Soviet-American-British cooperation was to be the order of the day following the war, according to the accords.
In order to appease the British and Americans, the Soviets demanded that the French Communist Party agree to withdraw from the French Government, even though it had won a clear majority in the post-war elections. The Italian Partisan Brigades, which had fought the Nazis and were led by Communists, laid down their arms without a shot, and allowed a “democratic government” which excluded to them to take hold.
In the U.S., the Communist Party dissolved itself and became the “Communist Political Association.”
But this was not enough for the imperialists. They never intended to have unity with the “democratic powers” of the Soviet Union. Stalin’s attempts to appease the capitalists in the post war period were of no avail.
Hitler’s staunch allies who led the fascist regimes Spain and Portugal were embraced by the United States and Britain. The forces fighting for democracy against the Pro-Fascist Greek Monarchy found the U.S. and Britain sending guns to their oppressors.
In China, though the Chinese Communist Party had done the bulk of the fighting against the Japanese Imperialists, it was blocked from the government, and again suffering persecution by U.S. backed despot named Chiang Kia-shek.
U.S. military bases were set up in West Germany. U.S. Communists endured the horrific “McCarthy Period” in which they were forced into semi-underground status, and the entire leadership of their organizations were jailed.
In response to this, Stalin’s mild policies of peace and cooperation with the west reversed. The Soviet Union led the World Communist Movement into a “left turn.”
In Response to Aggression, Stalin Turns Left
It was in response to this that the USSR turned away from it post-war “world democratic peace” policies and became a cold warrior. The Chinese Communist Party took up arms and defeated the U.S. backed “nationalist” government and established a socialist regime. The Warsaw Pact created unity among the “People’s Democracies” of Eastern Europe, who rapidly moved to place the Communist Parties in command of the “Democratic Fronts” created during WWII.
In 1949, Chinese Communist Party, due to its popular support was victorious, and removed the U.S. backed dictatorship of the Nationalists.
The Koreans attempted to re-unify their country, and overthrow the U.S. backed dictator, Syngman Rhee, who held power in the South. The U.S. imperialists could not tolerate Korean Re-Unification and the “Korean War” erupted.
In 1948, the U.S. Communist Party, directed by the Soviet Union, abandoned the Democratic Party, which it had supported since 1936. Since 1936, the Communist had always run independent candidates for symbolic purposes, but voted for the Democratic Party in the name of creating a “people’s coalition”, but in 1948, the Communist devoted all their forces to the Progressive Party of Henry Wallace.
Aid to people in Africa and Asia from the Soviet Union increased. The feeling of the Soviet Union was that “peaceful co-existence”, once offered at the end of the war, had been met with betrayal, and that the only hope for survival of the USSR was a stronger, world revolution.
No summing up or self-criticism of the earlier policies with Italy, France, and elsewhere was made publicly, however, it should be noted. However, this can be justified by an understanding that doing so might undermine the credibility of the leaders who made the errors, who still held power.
In 1945, the U.S. Communist Party did expelled Earl Browder, who was the symbol of the classless, pro-imperialist, “democracy” brand of Socialism that marked the war years.
The only internally known vocal opponent of Stalin’s turn toward world revolution within the socialist camp was Tito. Tito headed Yugoslavia, and in 1948, at the same time Stalin was embracing revolution as a response to aggression, announced the opposite position.
Tito proclaimed his opposition to “Stalinist Expansionism” and “Soviet Domination.” He aligned himself with the United States during the Korean Conflict, and in response was given millions of dollars in “aid.” Tito also began to implement “workplace democracy”, which in reality, meant the break up of the state industries created after the war, into small, capitalist corporations.
Tito denounced world revolution as “aggression” and socialist economics as “dogmatism”, throwing Stalin’s name in with both. The words of Stalin for Tito were fiery and critical. Albania’s criticism was equally fiery.
Mao briefly flirted with Tito, before shortly afterward condemning him.
The 20th Party Congress and Revisionism
When Stalin died in 1954 this opened the floodgates for an internal Communist Party fight that had been under the surface for decades, heating up most intensely at that moment.
The “right opposition” of Bukharin, who had opposed a socialist economy for a “market socialism”, and had opposed world revolution but wanted “peaceful co-existence” still existed. They had been suppressed while Stalin was alive, and had no following as Stalin opposed them, and Stalin was so beloved by all who fought against U.S. imperialism and Nazism.
The fight went on for 2 years after Stalin’s death as no longer did the forces defending world revolution and socialist economics have Stalin’s leadership to rally behind.
In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Neo-Bukharinists, gave the “secret speech” at the 20th Party Congress. His speech went into detail attacking Stalin on personal grounds, repeating the very content of Hearst Newspaper and Anti-Communist slander.
The speech was “secret” from the people of the Soviet Union, but was circulated throughout the world in order to make clear that the new Soviet leaders were not “revolutionaries” like Stalin, but believers in “peaceful co-existence” and “cooperation.”
Pro-Stalin leaders were jailed and executed. Pro-Stalin literature was burned. China and Albania were silent about the policies at first, hoping they could be corrected without a huge conflict.
The first acts of Khrushchev was to attempt to restore the relationship with Tito in Yugoslavia. Khrushchev had numerous meetings with Tito, and did all he could, unsuccessfully to win Yugoslavia to being friendly toward the Soviet Union.
In 1956, rightists and fascist rose up in Hungary to overthrow socialism and install a pro-western dictatorship. Khrushchev attempted to have dialogue with openly Pro-Nazi Priests and other Neo-Fascists within the regime. Khrushchev also refused to receive the input from the Hungarian leaders about how to deal with the counter-revolutionary uprising.
Finally, he sent in the Red Army to crush them, and symbolically, the Chinese Communist Party sent some of its own troops as well.
China & Albania Speak Out and are Punished
In response to Khrushchev’s open lack of support revolution around the world, Mao Zedong and Enver Hoxha loudly denounced the ideology of Khrushchev. They praised Stalin for the left turn prior to his death, and preached that it was the duty of Communists to support people in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere who wanted revolution against colonialism.
They denounced the manner in which Khrushchev sought to negotiate and make peace with capitalism, and his various scheming attempts to de-socialize the Soviet economy and move toward “market socialism” as Tito had done.
China and Albania’s calls were not hostile denunciation, but rather soft spoken critiques. But this was too much for Khrushchev.
While Khrushchev always wanted dialogue and negotiation with the U.S. imperialists and with rightists like Tito and the elements in Hungary, he offered no such understanding to China and Albania.
The USSR cut off diplomatic relations with Albania and China, something never even done to the Nazis. In both China and Albania, soviet engineers and technicians burned their blueprints, and left buildings half built.
In China, the economy had depended on foreign aid from the USSR, and the punishing vengeance of Khrushchev forced an economic disaster as the country was forced to re-organize its economy at the drop of hat.
USSR and USA align for “Peace” Against World Revolution
After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union announced that Kennedy was their friend. The battle cry of the Soviet leadership became “world peace.” All who opposed world peace, whether they be the Africans who fought against colonial domination, or the people of Indonesia who sought to elect a socialist government, were the enemy.
Mao, Hoxha, and Che Guevara thunderously preached that it was the duty of third world people to fight against imperialism. Khrushchev and the leaders of the USSR were convinced that “world peace” depended on them keeping these “ultra-lefts” in line.
Khrushchev called for Mao and Hoxha’s overthrow as they were “brutal dictators.” Khrushchev denounced China for seeking atomic weapons.
The USSR urged the people of Vietnam to drop their weapons and “negotiate” the continued existence of the U.S. backed dictatorship in South Vietnam.
It seemed that in their desire to suppress world revolution there was a temporary alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union’s leaders.
The Soviet leaders, acting as social democratic sellouts always do, lectured the figures within their own movement to “slow down” and “stop being so extreme.” It is likely that Khrushchev wanted to go even further with this betrayal, which is why he was removed in coup, and replaced by Kosygin and Brezhnev in 1964. But for the moment, the policies continued.
China and Albania were the fire of the left screaming for world revolution. Cuba, Korea, and the German Democratic Republic walked the “middle of the road”, trying to negotiate with both sides.
The USSR continued to say that revolution was immoral, as it would “provoke” the U.S. imperialists to use atomic weapons.
The Shift of 1972
In 1972, there was a rapid shift in the cold war. No longer were the Soviet and U.S. leaders united in their opposition to world revolution. Now, China was actively fighting the cold war on the side of the U.S., Albania was confused and silent, and the Soviet Union became the main target of U.S. hatred.
In 1972, Nixon was welcomed into China and greeted as a hero. The Chinese government proclaimed that the “main danger” was the Soviet Union. China proclaimed that supporting Marxist-Leninist parties in third world countries was “Social Imperialism.”
China instead embraced leaders like the Shah of Iran who represented the “indigenous identity of the people.” It was better to have a pro-U.S. capitalist leader than to have a revolutionary one who was loyal to the USSR.
China was aligned with the U.S., not against world revolution, but against the Soviet Union.
Chinese allied rebel groups in the third world, which had been constructed in order to defy the Soviet policy of “peace”, suddenly were embracing U.S. dictators as “defense” from the “Soviet Social Imperialists.”
The only “revolution” that China would support would be a revolution to overthrow a pro-Soviet government. China’s internal policy no longer spoke of revolution or Communism, but of “third world unity” against “Soviet Social Imperialism.”
This policy began in 1972, but continued after Mao’s death. In 1979 China invaded Vietnam to “liberate” it from “Soviet Social Imperialism.” China funded the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan along with the U.S. China sent weapons and aid to the Shah of Iran, and denounced the Iranian revolution as a “Social Imperialist Plot.”
Albania denounced this, an as resulted in a period of isolation with horrific economic consequences. China, Albania’s only ally, was gone. Albania was a lone, small, isolated nation, which claimed to be the only socialist country in the world amidst “Soviet and Chinese Social Imperialism.”
The USSR’s Response
In response to China openly siding with the United States, the USSR began to no longer distance itself from revolutionary causes around the world. The Soviet Union, which had previously discouraged people in Latin America, Africa, and Asia from fighting back, instead, openly championed such things.
The African National Congress, which the USSR had discouraged from taking up arms against apartheid, now received Soviet money and weapons. The Cubans became the icon of the Soviet Union’s world revolutionary camp, as did the Koreans.
The USSR embraced U.S. revolutionary Angela Davis and highlighted her as a symbol of Black Liberation in the U.S.
The USSR began to “talk left”, while at the same accusing all who criticized them of being “Maoists”, a world that would that became synonymous with “Trotskyite.”
The response of the U.S. was to intensify its brutality toward the USSR. Contra death squads were sent throughout Latin America to commit fascistic crimes against the people.
Reagan waved his arms preaching about a “world crusade against Bolshevism” in ways that would make Adolph Hitler jealous.
The Crack of 1989
The cold war ended officially in 1991 with the collapse of the USSR, but by 1989 the battle was lost. Gorbachev led a section of the Communist Party that was politically to the right of Khrushchev. They denounced the “working class” in favor “universal humanism” and other nonsensical, non-Marxist ideas.
Margaret Thatcher and Reagan found in Gorbachev’s and his followers to be “Communist leaders we can do business with” because they weren’t “war mongering” like their predecessors, i.e. they were open to surrender.
Gorbachev opened the economy, and let the west pour in. His “market socialism” made Yugoslavia’s look dogmatic.
The cold war ended because China and the USSR had both become dominated by leaders who abandoned any will to fight. With Pro-U.S. forces in power in Russia and China, there was no arms race to be had.
The cold war was ended, not by a flaw in Communism, not by a lack of ability to “negotiate” on the part of the Soviet leaders, but the opposite.
Neither the leaders of the USSR nor of China were purely committed to the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. They had both become infected with careerism and revisionism. They both found comfort and peace, and abandoned their will to fight.
It was treason and lack of endurance that caused the horrific events of 1991.
The majority of the Communist Parties were filled elements without principles. The parties were also disconnected from the masses, so even the non-revisionist elements within them could not mobilize a defense of the revolution properly.
The only way the imperialists were able to instill the massive set backs of 1991 was because of the very “revisionism” we see in modern times.
It is always easier to be wrong than to be right. It is always a more comfortable life to accommodate and befriend the oppressors.
The most successful period of the cold war was Stalin’s left turn before his death. Sure, he got caught up in illusions during the war. But Stalin’s response to U.S. imperialist backstabbing was different than Khrushchev or Mao.
Stalin saw that being attacked by the imperialists called not for being more moderate, but for being more radical and hostile.
Did this make his life easier? Did this make them like him more?
No. But it strengthened world revolution like nothing else.
Life in 1930s Germany was much easier for “Good Germans” than for underground resistance fighters. Now “good Germans” live in shame.
Life in the Southern U.S. in the early 1960s was much easier for members of the KKK, than for Civil Rights Movement. But now there is Martin Luther King holiday, while the KKK is the subject of jokes, denial, and ridicule.
Progress comes through struggle and confrontation.
The essence of revisionism is refusal to accept the reality of being a revolutionary.
Revolution is a difficult life. It is an uphill battle. It is a road without short-cuts.
Its final victory is the most glorious of all.
But the journey does not end. As long as oppression exists, revolutionaries must fight oppression.
The revolutionary highway has no exits.
The journey must continue until Communism is reached. Reaction will inevitably begin, when the thrust for progress halts.