A Marxist history of the Cold War

2:30pm Saturday 18 September

About this session

The Cold War between the United States and the USSR shaped world politics through most of the 20th Century. At times two nuclear armed imperialist blocs threatened the world with nuclear war. For the left the Cold War was deeply challenging. Most of Western liberalism capitulated to, or led the Cold War anti-communist hysteria leading to a massive shift to the right in the workers movement and all struggle. In the US the McCarthyist hysteria split the workers movement and set the anti-racist struggle back decades. For the anti-capitalist left the dominate current was Stalinism, an outlook which opposed imperialism and militarism in the West but often championed the imperialism of the USSR, and often failed to support uprisings in the Eastern bloc.

As we enter a new Cold War with the US and its allies on the one side, and China on the other it’s worth revisiting the politics of the last Cold War. It was a time of imperialist tension, militarism and nationalist paranoia. It was also a time that led to radical struggle in both the East and West, with the rebellions of 1968, including the Prague Spring, posing the possibility of an alternative approach to either pro-West liberalism or Stalinist campism. In this session Vietnam war era activist and Marxist Diane Fieldes will look at the history of the Cold War from the perspective of ‘neither Washington nor Moscow but international socialism’.

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