By Worker Wire Services. Originally published on May 15, 2022.
Immediately following WWII, the United States stood atop the world almost unscathed and began the dirty work of securing hegemony. The principal enemy of the American ruling class was the USSR and the burgeoning alternative social formation it represented. American politicians such as future president Harry Truman went as far as suggesting that Americans should have supported Nazi Germany in the event of the Soviet Union gaining the upper hand in the war: “If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible…”.1 The aggressive posture the American empire took resulted in the founding of NATO with the goal of scooping up post-war Europe and turning it into an anti-Soviet bloc.2 NATO would even go as far as employing former Nazis like Adolf Heusinger, the Chair of the NATO Military Committee in 1961.3 As a response, the Soviets formed their own communist bloc, the Warsaw Pact, mainly in the eastern half of the continent. This is the beginning of the different “Worlds” with the Americans and their allies representing the “First World” and the communist bloc representing the “Second World”. Remaining outside of these blocs was most of the world population in what is known as the “Third World” in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Thus, these were the lines drawn in the sand at the beginning of the Cold War.
The Third World historically has been the place of brutal colonization, imperialism, and genocide perpetrated by the First World nations. The fight for national liberation and self-determination in the colonized world has been an on-going process for hundreds of years, and in the post-war period the Third World countries decided to collaborate with each other on a global scale. From this collaboration effort the Non-Aligned Movement was forged in the 1950s with the expressed purpose of fighting imperialism, colonialism, and other forms of foreign imperialist aggression.4 The political range the Non-Aligned Movement had was broad, but there were countries such as Indonesia that had a huge communist party (KPI), or those that had communist leaders like Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana. Despite not having an explicitly communist stance, the Non-Aligned Movement had many of the same anti-imperialist goals that the Second World countries had.
To combat a growing fervor of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism, the First World developed techniques to crush countries in both the Second World and Non-Aligned Movement. Many non-aligned countries fought and won national liberation in the post-war period, but the West would not let them develop in peace. The most violent responses came in the wars and genocides waged in Asia. The Korean War came quickly following the beginning of the Cold War, and the United States-led First World would not stand for the Second World-backed North Korean communists taking over the entire country. The United States lobbied the United Nations Security Council to adopt and pass a resolution to denounce the North Koreans and used the opportunity to intervene when the resolution was ignored.5 The amount of firepower employed by the United States and allies during the Korean War was staggering. The United States alone dropped more than 600,000 tons of bombs and more than 30,000 tons of napalm during the conflict. Estimates for North Korean deaths during the war are as high as 15% of the total population.6 The resulting armistice established the socialist North and capitalist South Korea split that is maintained to this day.
Following the Korean War, the battleground shifted to Southeast Asia. The First World supported forces fighting communists mainly in the countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The United States relied on overwhelming firepower and air superiority to drop millions of tons of ordinance on the region.7 Chemical warfare was also employed in the form of defoliant agents such as Agent Orange. The herbicidal campaign in Vietnam has had disastrous health effects for those in the area. Upwards of four million Vietnamese people have suffered health problems resulting from the use of Agent Orange.8 Eventually the North Vietnamese communists outlasted the United States and won liberation for their country, but at massive cost.
With the fall of the Soviet Union resulting in support being cut off for overexploited countries, the United States and the West assumed global hegemony and the remaining communist, socialist, and Third World states were left encircled. Neocolonialism runs rampant in the Third World and nations that do not play by America’s rules are attacked in all avenues. One of the new favorite disciplinary tools of America and the Western powers is the ability to sanction countries and starve out the ordinary people to get a desired result. It is sold to the Western populace as the softer touch, but the body count of sanctions is enormous. In Iraq, the sanctions imposed on the country during the 1990s led to an estimated 500,000 excess child deaths.9 In more recent news, the United States has stolen billions of dollars from Afghanistan after two decades of war. Lack of aid and food scarcity threatens to starve tens of thousands of Afghani children.10 Today the West is sanctioning Russia for the war in Ukraine. The ordinary Russian civilian is the one who will shoulder the brunt of the economic impact of sanctions. The West is cutting Russia out of technological systems and isolating them economically. Russia has no choice but to turn east towards China and other nations that are at odds with the West.
This may be the beginning of a new geopolitical horizon where overexploited countries can band together to get out from under the yoke of unipolarity ruled by the imperialist West. When the balance of the world shifts the lines in the sand will shift as well. For instance, the country of Venezuela is rich in oil reserves. The United States has sanctioned Venezuela in the past and attempted regime change against the government.11 Now that Russian oil is being sanctioned by the West, the United States has reached out to Venezuela to buy its oil.12 The emergence of a rupture between the West and East could lead to more examples of countries finding ways around sanctions and imperialist aggressions. While the axis of global geopolitics turns, it remains the job of the communist in the West to combat the imperialism of their country. Weakening and ultimately killing the imperialist beast is what is needed to obtain liberation for the global proletariat. The task of organizing the proletariat and overthrowing the bourgeoisie must never be obfuscated.
1. McCullough, David (15 June 1992). Truman. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 262
2. U.S. Department of State, “North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), 1949”, https://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/nato.
3.North Atlantic Treaty Organization,“Chairs of the NATO Military Committee”, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/who_is_who_134296.htm.
4. Jayaprakash, N D (5 June 2005). “India and the Bandung Conference of 1955 – II”. People’s Democracy. XXIX (23)
6. Armstrong, Charles (20 December 2010). “The Destruction and Reconstruction of North Korea, 1950–1960”. The Asia-Pacific Journal. 8 (51)
7. Kiernan, Ben; Owen, Taylor (27 April 2015). “Making More Enemies than We Kill? Calculating U.S. Bomb Tonnages Dropped on Laos and Cambodia, and Weighing Their Implications”. The Asia-Pacific Journal. 13 (17).
8. Stocking, Ben (June 14, 2007). “Agent Orange Still Haunts Vietnam, US”. The Washington Post.