Who Won the Cold War?–The Answer May Surprise You

With the end of the Cold War, and the implosion of Communism, the political landscape in the US is undergoing a seismic shift. The Left, which had once been antiwar and pro-individual rights (at least in theory) has been infected with a mania for militarism (albeit in the name of “humanitarianism”) and a penchant for punishing free expression that it disapproves of (i.e. “hate speech”). The Right, on the other hand, once traditionally the bastion of warmongering and authoritarian rule, has been shifting – almost overnight, in historical terms – into a movement that was not only anti-government but also militantly antiwar. It was the broad, liberal Left, after all, that screamed for the blood of Serbians, all of whom were deemed by the New Republic to be “Milosevic’s willing executioners,” in the Goldhagian phrase.BLOODTHIRSTY PEACENIKS

Cheering as the bombs fell on Belgrade, these former “peaceniks” proved to be both more bloodthirsty and less forthright about it than the rightists of the Cold War era: at least General Curtis “Bombs Away” LeMay did not have any highfalutin’ pretensions or rationalizations for his bloodymindedness. We were at war, and he wanted to “win” it. But the “humanitarian” imperialists of the Third Way do not even pretend to be fighting a defensive war; indeed, they glory in the fact that they have boldly gone on the offensive, openly proclaiming their globalist ambition and undertaking a merciless war against the very concept of national sovereignty. The ruminations of Deputy secretary of State Strobe Talbott, a former editor of Time, on the “obsolescence” of the nation-state summarized the internationalist predilections of the Western power elites: “All countries are basically social arrangements,” he averred, “accommodations to changing circumstances. No matter how permanent and even sacred they may seem at any one time, in fact they are all artificial and temporary.” Talbott predicted that by the end of the 21st century “nationhood as we know it will be obsolete: all states will recognize a single global authority.” This, of course, is in his view a “basically positive phenomenon.” In the world of Strobe Talbott, the only permanence is in the State, a planetary Authority that will countenance no rivals – immortal, benevolent, and divine. Borders or boundaries of any sort are barriers to the power of the new global hegemons, and therefore politically incorrect:


As the Left has moved away from its anti-imperialist heritage and taken up the cudgels on behalf of a self-righteously aggressive foreign policy, the Right has gone in the exact opposite direction. While it seems like only yesterday that conservatives were reflexively militaristic, and the most consistent champions of interventionism on a world scale, today they are the first to confront any new crisis with an equally reflexive “isolationism,” i.e. a traditionally American desire to stay out of what does not concern us. The Gulf War of ’90-91 saw this trend come to the fore, with the leading opponent of conflict none other than Patrick J. Buchanan. The combative conservative columnist had worked for two Republican presidents, Nixon and Reagan, who had vigorously prosecuted America’s international war on Communism, and Buchanan was one of the most vehement of the Cold Warriors. His 1988 autobiography, Right From the Beginning, is capped by a final chapter entitled “Containment is Not Enough” that summarized the rightist case for rolling back the Soviet empire by any means necessary: “Because the Communist party is, at its core, a war party,” he wrote, “every ‘peace’ agreement signed with it is a fraud on their part, and an act of self-delusion on ours.” There was, according to Buchanan in those years, but one course of action open to the US government: “The inescapable conclusion is that the only way to bring an end to the East-West struggle, the only way to bring true peace to mankind, is to eliminate the root cause of the century’s struggle, the Communist party of the Soviet Union. Containment is not enough.”


A few years later, the President whom Buchanan kept well-supplied with fire-breathing anti-Communist rhetoric had signed a peace agreement with the Soviet Union radically limiting the development and deployment of nuclear weapons – and opening the way up for glasnost, perestroika, and the self-elimination of the CPSU carried out by Mikhail Gorbachev and his reformist allies. When the Communist empire collapsed like a house of cards, some on the Right patted themselves on the back and looked for new worlds to conquer. But others were reminded of the original conception of the conservative anti-Communist crusade as a temporary expedient, an extended but supposedly necessary diversion from the main task of building a free society, i.e. rolling back Big Government on the home front. And they began to wonder whether America’s alleged moral obligation to right every wrong, patrol every disputed border, had become an intolerable burden.


Buchanan’s 1999 treatise, A Republic, Not an Empire, relates what happened next:

“The Cold war was an exceptional time that called forth exceptional circumstances. A nation that had wanted to stay out of World War II had declared by 1950 that an attack on Turkey would be treated as an attack on Tennessee, that the 38th parallel of Korea would be defended as though it were the 49th parallel of the United States. But when the Cold War ended, the Cold War coalition collapsed and traditionalists declared the time had come to dissolve the now-unnecessary alliances and bring the boys home.”


Confronted with the new world reality, a whole section of the Right began to rediscover its lost heritage, the rich legacy of the biggest antiwar movement in American history: the American First Committee founded in 1940 by a bunch of college students and Midwestern businessmen who opposed FDR’s relentless drive to drag us into the European war. As the rationale for global intervention imploded, along with the Soviet empire, the history of the Old Right was dug up from the cellar, dusted off, and reexamined in a new light. Galvanized by the Gulf War and inspired by Buchanan’s vocal opposition to this, the first major post-Cold War military intervention by the US, the so-called “paleoconservatives” looked to their Old Right roots for insight: the prefix ‘paleo’ means getting back to one’s origins, getting in touch with your roots, The arguments made by such Old Right stalwarts as John T. Flynn, H. L. Mencken, and Garet Garrett that we would win the fight against national socialism in the trenches, and lose it on the home front, seemed prescient to those post-Cold War conservatives looking for some ancient wisdom to cling to. They took to heart Garrett’s warning, made in 1952, at the height of the Cold War, that “between government in the republican meaning, that is, Constitutional, represented, limited government, on the one hand, and Empire on the other, there is mortal enmity. Either one must forbid the other or one will destroy the other.”

As conservatives looked around at the world of the late 20th century in the wake of their great victory over Communism, it was clear what had been destroyed. The old Republic was dead, and a bloated monstrosity of an Empire had risen to take its place.


In the name of “a New World Order,” President George Bush launched a war on Iraq that continues, under a Democratic President, to this day: a merciless assault on an essentially defeated and virtually defenseless people that kills 5,000 children every month. When Buchanan launched his first presidential bid, in 1992, he rallied his Buchanan Brigades with his electrifying rhetoric, directly addressing the America’s elites and vowing “when I raise my hand to take that oath, your New World Order comes tumbling down!”


Buchanan’s rhetoric defined the new battle-lines clearly enough, years before the Kosovo war: on one side, an internationalist liberalism is asserting its right to intervene anywhere and everywhere in the name of “human rights” and “democratic values,” while the patriots of every country unite in their opposition to the globalist agenda. This is the major issue of the new millennium, the challenge confronting both those libertarian sympathizers on the Left as well as the Right who fear that freedom will wither in the shadow of the rising global colossus. For what is emerging through the mists of the new millennium is an evolving world government, an interlocking directorate of transnational corporate and political elites that increasing resorts to the use of force to achieve its goal of global hegemony.


Both conservatives and those to the left of the Social Democracy find themselves confronted by a system of global mercantilism (or state-capitalism) in which transnational institutions oversee and regulate most economic and cultural transactions, and faceless bureaucrats accountable to no one decide the economic fate of nations. Little wonder that both the left and the right are rising up against the rule of the acronyms. And it isn’t just the WTO: as the European mega-state swallows up the proud old nations of the West, and NATO approaches the very gates of Moscow, the Old Left and the Old Right unite against the New Imperialism – and a political realignment is in the making.


The rise of the paleoconservative tendency on the Right has its parallel on the Left in the British “Living Marxism” group, which evolved as a split-off from Tony Cliff’s International Socialist Organization into an explicitly libertarian analysis of life in Tony Blair’s New Labour paradise. The magazine dropped its old title, calling itself simply LM and denouncing what the editors called “a dangerous new mood” in Great Britain and throughout the West:

“We live in an age of caution and conformism, when critical opinions can be outlawed as ‘extremism’ and anything new can be rubbished as ‘too risky.’ Ours is an age of low expectations, when we are always being told what is bad for us, and life seems limited on all sides by restrictions, guidelines and regulations. The spirit of LM is to go against the grain: to oppose all censorship, bans and codes of conduct; to stand up for social and scientific experimentation; to insist that we have the right to live as autonomous adults who take responsibility for our own affairs. These are basic human values that cannot be compromised if we are ever going to create a world fit for people.”


Ferociously critical of the all-pervasive atmosphere of political correctness that stifles free thought and action in Tony Blair’s Britain, the editors of LM enraged the British Left with their devastating attacks on Luddite attitudes in the environmentalist movement, and their debunking of the war propaganda churned out by the government-aligned media during the Kosovo war. On Kosovo, LM editor and London Times columnist Mick Hume mocked Blair’s moral pretensions: “So what did Tony Blair mean when he told Parliament that the war is being fought ‘for a moral purpose as much as a strategic interest’? What moral purpose moved Mr. Blair to become the first Labour Prime Minister to lead Britain into a major international war, involving democratic socialist airstrikes on passenger trains, TV transmitters and homes?”


But why shouldn’t socialist imperialism be just as rapacious, relentless, and insufferably self-righteous as the capitalist variety – if not more so? As Hume points out, the war had more to do with the politics of Great Britain than events in an obscure corner of the Balkans: “The war against the Serbs is primarily about giving Mr. Blair’s Government an aura of moral authority and a sense of mission. It is about projecting a self-image of the ethical new Britain bestriding the world. It is a crusade.” A crusade entirely consistent with its socialist (or “Third Way”) ideals: “The self-image of new Britain which Mr. Blair’s crusade seeks to endorse is captured by touching pictures of British Army officers bottlefeeding Albanian babies and brushing the hair of young refugee girls separated from their parents. This is a nanny state with a difference, claiming the right to act in loco parentis for all those it deems deserving.”


Every once in a while the political spectrum undergoes a massive shift, a switch in polarities in which right and left switch sides on the war question. It happened after 1917, when the Wilsonian internationalism of the liberals was overcome with disillusion by the terms of the Versailles Treaty, and the secret codas that divided up the war spoils among the Great Powers – and virtually ensured a replay of the European tragedy– was revealed. It happened again in the 1930s, when conservatives, and midwestern populists and progressives joined together to oppose US entry into World War II, while the pro-Soviet left agitated for the opening up of a “Second Front.” The Cold War brought on another polarity reversal, with the anti-Communist right dropping its Taftian isolationism and signing on to the deal proposed by budding young Cold War conservative William F. Buckley, Jr., in a 1952 piece in Commonweal, is which he launched into what was to be the keynote of the “new” pro-war Right: as long as the battle against international Communism continues, he wrote, “we have to accept Big Government for the duration – for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged . . . except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.” Never mind all that stuff about the free market and individual liberty – that’s just rhetoric we roll out every Sunday for the sermon, and forget about for the rest of the week: instead, Buckley advised his fellow conservatives to become apologists for “the extensive and productive tax laws that are needed to support a vigorous anti-Communist foreign policy.” We must put up with “war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington – even with Truman at the reins of it all.”


But now that the Cold War is over, and the alleged threat from Communism is just a fading memory, the totalitarian bureaucracy within our own shores shows no signs of being dismantled. Instead it is not only bigger and more entrenched than ever, but shows a disturbing tendency to extend its power internationally. Conservatives were certainly taken in by this ruse, and are now scratching their heads and numbly asking: what went wrong?


The celebration that greeted the downing of the Berlin Wall drowned out anyone who might have ventured to ask: but who won the Cold War, anyway? Well, the West, you say: the Good Guys won. But the defeat of the Bolsheviks obscured the real news of the nineties – the ironic victory of the Mensheviks.


History seems to have forgotten the old Mensheviks, or “minority” tendency of Lenin’s Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, who split away in 1903, ostensibly over differences in defining the nature of party membership. Lenin and his Bolsheviks, or majority tendency, wanted a centralized cadre organization of professional revolutionaries, while Martov, the Menshevik leader, called for a more loose-knit and relatively undemanding structure. But the real differences were over the basics of Marxist orthodoxy, which the Mensheviks adhered to by holding that a socialist revolution in Russia was impossible since the country had never undergone a capitalist revolution and overturned feudalism – a precondition for the existence of socialism, at least according to the original Marxist conception. Socialism, the Mensheviks averred, would be achieved as the result of a long-term evolutionary process, not only in Russia but throughout the world. The Leninists rejected orthodox Marxist theory and instead proposed that the bourgeois revolutionary stage of the “inevitable” development of socialism could be bypassed in Russia if the revolution spread to Europe, where the industrial proletariat was ripe for revolt.


It was Lenin and his Bolsheviks who made the 1917 Revolution, and drove Kerensky and his Menshevik allies into exile, where they fulminated against their former partners in the Russian provisional government and merged into the anti-Stalinist “democratic socialist” milieu, an historical footnote known only to academic specialists and Marxist ideologues. The irony is that the end of the Cold War turned out to be their victory. In the first year of the new millennium, the social democratic parties of the “Third Way” are in power in every major Western country, and the Second International reigns supreme. The Cold War was not a simple black-and-white struggle between two completely antithetical systems, capitalism and communism, but a three-way battle, pitting capitalism against both communism and a Third Way, social democracy – and it looks like our old friends the Mensheviks have finally come out on top.


A movement is in large part energized and defined by its enemies. Just as isolationist Midwestern progressive Republicans, disillusioned liberals, and conservative businessmen came together in the America First Committee to oppose the war plans of “that man in the White House,” so the opponents of New World Order globalism on both ends of the political spectrum are increasingly coming together to fight against the machinations of our latter day Mensheviks, on all kinds of issues – but especially on the question of war and intervention. This is the issue that has always been the catalyst of the various polarity shifts discussed above, the occasion for a major seismic event to transform the political landscape, and it is the central axis on which a new insurgent movement, a new radicalism, will take shape. Anti-globalist, anti-statist, antiwar and fiercely regionalist, particularist, and individualistic, the cadres of the post-millennial radicalization are even now organizing the Counterrevolution – working for the day when the Mensheviks join the Bolsheviks on the dustbin of history. Out of that struggle will come a new ideology, a critique of the rising global oligarchy, that borrows the insights of both left and right – and transcends both.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].