Who really won the Cold War? Why does it matter?
After the Great Reagan Rapture that occurred after the Gipper's death in 2004, it behooves us to reflect on who was the victor and who the vanquished when the post WWII conflict known colloquially as the “Cold War” fizzled to its conclusion. Obviously, from a geo-political perspective, the clear “winner” was the U.S.A.
I do not mean the American people were the “winner,” but, rather, that those who own most of, and who make all the important decisions in this country, were the hands down winners. As for the rest of American's citizens, however, the matter is more complicated.
Remember, first of all, that the Soviet Union that crashed in the latter decades of the 20th Century was hardly a bastion of “Marxism”. The political, economic and social systems that existed at the end of the Soviet Union's life were as close to its communist roots as, dare we say, America's current brand of “constitutional government” resembles that laid out by its founders.
There is a popular perception among Americans -- a perception nurtured by our culture conformity machines -- that the Cold War was worth the effort, and that the outcome was a foregone conclusion because “we” had the superior political, economic and social systems and “they” had inferior ones. That is, so goes the popular wisdom, “we” are still here as the Cold War victors, and “they”, the Soviet losers, have disappeared.
However, although the Soviet Union is truly gone, has not its DNA gotten into us?
Take, for example, the hallmark “one party rule” that characterized the 20th Century SU Here, in the United States of the 21st Century, do we now have anything different? The Republicans control all three branches of government and they are busy stocking the federal judiciary with life-time appointments who meet Republican litmus tests. Although one can argue that the Democrats and the Republicans are “different” parties, there is no dispute that the core power brokers in both parties closely resemble one another. Both parties' financial lifeblood come from the same corporate and upper class donors, both parties tread lightly around the same special interest groups. Neither party offers anything different than gradations of the same elite-oriented policies. It is not terribly novel to state that the Democrats and the Republicans are merely different shades of the same party.
Even within the context of the elections that are held in the United States, can we seriously contrast what we have today with what the Soviets had in their day? There are barely any contested elections at the local level in America, just like in the Soviet Union. And at the national level, the Republican and the Democrats do their level best to keep off the ballot anyone who is not vetted and approved by their think-alike national committees. Thus, in America, too, we can choose only from an approved list of candidates, just like Soviet citizens of yore. There, the voters' choices were restricted by the Party. Here, the parties restrict the candidates to the lesser of two similar evils. The quality of “choice” seems remarkably 'soviet'.
Of course, in the old Soviet Union one never knew whether your vote was even counted. This is 21st Century America: after the Florida 2000 disenfranchisement of the African-American voter and our blind rush to install unverifiable Black Box computerized voting machines, do we need to pursue that comparison any deeper?
Citizens of the old SU knew that theirs was a society of widespread domestic surveillance and eavesdropping. 21st Century America, have you not become the same? Who listens to your digital phone calls? Who monitors your email? Who tracks where you travel on which airlines, what you buy at the bookstore and where you use your credit cards?
In the Soviet Union, people... even Citizens... could be arrested in the dead of night, disappear, and never be seen again. There was no right of 'habeas corpus'. It is 2004 in America. People... even citizens... have been arrested in the dead of night, they disappear never to be seen again, and you literally have no right of 'habeas corpus.' Are our rights today any stronger than those of citizens in the old Soviet Union? There was virtually no free speech in Soviet times. Do we have free speech when it can only be exercised in razor wire enclosed “free speech zones?”
The Kremlin surrounded the Motherland with a chain of totalitarian satellite countries that protected its geopolitical interests. The White House now guards its geopolitical interests with a global chain of totalitarian satellite countries. We even station our soldiers in those countries to guarantee their obeisance, just like the Soviet Union did with its soldiers stationed in its satellite states.
Diplomacy was not the strong suit of the old Soviet Union. Some will recall Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on the podium while addressing the United Nations. They would 'bury us' capitalists with their superior politico-economic system, said Mr. Khrushchev. Now, George Bush and his minions shake their fists at the United Nations and insist that Western Judeo-Christian Capitalism will bury Islam and all other opposition in the world. Our respective applications of diplomacy, therefore, are not very different, are they?
The Soviet Union was known for its seamless welding of the State and the Economy. In America, unless you believe in the Tooth Fairy, you recognize that our State and Economy have been welded together, too. Our stock and commodity markets are as manipulated as hand puppets, and the hands within the puppets are the Federal Reserve Bank, the Treasury Department, the various federal commodities trading boards, the national reserve banks, the network of interlocking Fortune 500 boards of directors, a few ex-officio committees and a handful of financial moguls. Many in America believe that what the Fed Chairman does and says on any given day dictates what any investor should buy or sell, and they believe that the manipulated highs and lows of the stock exchanges give the signal whether to buy stock or to sell. Curiously, however, the same ones who believe that will also profess the double-think that we have a 'free market economy'.
Our 'free market economy' is as manipulated as was the Soviet 'government economy'. For better or for worse, there is no Adam Smith 'invisible hand' directing our economy today – there are only invisible puppeteer hands, just like in the old controlled economies of the Soviet Block.
In the Soviet Union, huge, state-sanctioned companies dominated the country and the business of the little people. In America of the 21st Century, is not the same just as true? The 'state imprimatur' is not as visible with Microsoft or Boeing or Fox or Hearst or DuPont or Monsanto or Bechtel or Westinghouse or GE or Disney, but are they not, in the government's tacit approval of their virtual stranglehold on their respective markets, state-sanctioned companies as huge and as stifling and as powerful as any were in Soviet Russia?
The Soviet Union was derided for its manipulation of economic statistics. Its Three, Five and Ten Year Plans were the butt of capitalists' jokes. Why do we in the United States not laugh when today we are fed distorted and misleading economic data and statistics? We are told good jobs are being created when we know that you need to work three of them just to pay the rent. We are told that globalization creates work as our jobs are outsourced, our wages decreased and our pensions devalued. We are told our incomes are rising while it seems like we have less disposable income every year.
We are told in the financial pages of the newspaper that oil prices in 2004, though high, are relatively cheap when compared to the 1970s when the price of oil is adjusted for inflation. At the same time, on another page of the same newspaper, we are told that nothing really costs more than before because there is virtually no inflation. Are America's citizens, therefore, conned no less than were the Soviet Citizens by an endless stream of misleading, manipulated economic data and statistics?
And for the sake of industry, what did the Soviet Union do to Mother Russia's environment? It trashed it, utterly, wantonly, recklessly. And for the sake of profit, what does America today do to Mother Earth? It trashes it, utterly, wantonly, recklessly.
There was religion in the Soviet Empire. There was a state-sanctioned orthodox church run by state approved leaders who urged submission to the will of the Government. In the 21st Century American Empire, are we trending toward state-sanctioned religion where approved churches get 'vouchers' and government funding for 'good works', and where craven religious leaders urge their flock to Kill and Maim and Conquer for Caesar, in the name of God?
In the Soviet Union it was hard to know what was the truth. The media was consolidated in the hands of a few. The choice in newspapers, television and radio media was pathetic. Do we really need to compare the consolidated media of 21st Century America with the Soviet Union? The similarities make us wonder.
As the dying Soviet Union collapsed on itself, its social systems, its very quality of life began to decay. What of us, America, in the early 21st Century? Our public schools collapse and we have no money for our teachers. Our libraries, our roads, our medical care system, our railroads, our inner cities, our social safety nets, our universities, all are slowly starving for lack of funds. Many countries top the U.S. now in the quality of education, child mortality, vacation time, medical care and social support systems. You can see America's decay just as you could see it in the waning days of the Soviet Empire. In the SU, life expectancy began to trend downward. It is trending downward in America too. You can feel it, you can see it, you can hear it in conversation everywhere.
The Soviets had their Gulags. Now, we have Abu Ghraib. Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay. Secret prisons in Afghanistan, Diego Garcia and Camp Bondsteel. Are not people held in secret right here in the United States, without charge, without bond, without access to counsel? How are we different from the Soviets and their prison camps? Were their tortures qualitatively worse? Are our 'intentions' qualitatively better? On close examination, the similarities are stronger than the differences.
The Soviets developed a cult of heroes. Immense heroes of the Revolution. Larger than life political leaders. They had cults of adoration for the designated governmental figurehead. And what of America, vintage 2004? We have our strutting warrior hero president, our manly-jawed Terminator governor, our cultish, fawning legions of leader-worshipers who will brook no dissent and tolerate no slight of Our Rulers' reputations or intentions. It is all very Soviet, is it not?
There was a curious feature of the Soviet soul as that empire's star began to set. Its people became depressed. They became withdrawn. They became apathetic as they waited, sourly, for The Fall. Look around you, America. Look deeply into the eyes and souls of your compatriots. How are you and they feeling? How are you and they acting? What is your personal expectation for the future?
Look in the mirror. Do you see a Soviet Citizen?
It is the end of the Cold War. We have met the Soviet Empire, and we became them.
Zbignew Zingh can be reached at Zbig@ersarts.com. This Article is CopyLeft, and free to distribute, reprint, repost, sing at a recital, spray paint, scribble in a toilet stall, etc. to your heart’s content, with proper author citation. Find out more about Copyleft and read other great articles at www.ersarts.com.
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