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Issue #1742      August 3, 2016

Culture & Life

Cold Warriors ride again

Readers of this journal are well aware that, contrary to the propaganda relentlessly churned out by the ideologues of capitalism, the Cold War did not end. The Cold War was a tactic in capitalism’s strategic war against socialism and the world’s working class. That war certainly hasn’t ended, hence neither has the propaganda offensive known as the Cold War.

An army of academics, journalists, publishers, media editors and more (lots more!) ensure that there is a constant stream – sometimes a torrent – of propaganda produced and widely disseminated that denigrates, belittles and distorts the history and achievements of socialism and socialist leaders.

Last January (my apologies for catching up on it so late!) the Australian Financial Review reprinted – spread over two pages, in fact – a lengthy piece of Cold War propaganda from The Washington Post about the destruction of Japan’s Kwantung Army by the USSR in 1945. The article, by US author John Pomfret, is actually a book review: of a history of the last year of the War by Richard Bernstein called China 1945. The review was printed in the AFR under the revealing headline “Red Allies’ Duplicity Revisited”. The book, like the review, is a classic Cold War product.

(The Cold War was – and still is – primarily concerned with attacking Russia. So, although the article is ostensibly about China, Pomfret is only into his second paragraph when he manages to include a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin as “a thug”.)

For his part, Bernstein’s line is, in Pomfret’s words, that “Mao was as devious as, if not more so, than his mentor, Josef Stalin.” And he takes a dig at any of his colleagues who might hold a different view: “American officials then – and the academics of the 1970s as well, Bernstein writes – were ‘naively dazzled’ by Mao’s assertions of Sino-American friendship, commitment to Western-style democracy and solicitation of Yankee capital to modernise China.” Surely the last of those has in fact been crucial to China’s development?

The Kwantung Army had been kept intact and ready for action throughout the War as part of a strategy that saw the conquest of China as the key to Japan’s future as an imperial power.

So vital was the role of the Kwantung Army that it was confidently expected to fight on even after the fall of Japan’s home islands. However, the USSR agreed at the Potsdam Conference to break its non-aggression pact with Japan and to unleash its massive military forces, fresh from victory over Germany, against Japan instead. In accordance with the timetable agreed at Potsdam, on August 9, 1945, 11 Soviet army groups totalling a million men – backed by 27 thousand artillery pieces, 5,500 tanks and self-propelled guns and 3,700 aircraft – duly invaded Japanese-occupied Manchuria and crushed the Kwantung Army. The war would not continue after the fall of the home islands.

Pomfret at least acknowledges that this was “one of the great operations of World War II”. Pomfret, however, is more interested in positioning Bernstein’s book in a context of slagging-off people’s China. “American businesses, long the bulwark of warm feelings for the authoritarian government across the Pacific, are souring on China ... as the Chinese government and its agents pilfer United States technology and use a variety of tactics – some of them sleazy – to out-compete US firms.” US firms don’t pilfer other countries’ technology, or use sleazy tactics against rivals? A case of the boot being on the other foot, I think?

Pomfret, quoting President Obama, actually accuses the Chinese government of “freeloading off an American-led international security and economic system that has arguably benefited China more than any other country on the planet.” That international economic system is called trade and commerce, and US firms would not participate if they did not think they were going to make money from the deal. I like the way China is depicted as “freeloading” off the global economy. In fact, that term would better describe the “bully boy” tactics used by the USA itself to better position it in the global marketplace.

Of particular – and startling – interest, however, is the reference to “an American-led international security ... system”. The Chinese economy has certainly not been helped by the numerous restrictions and outright bans placed on it by the US government that prevent China importing products it wants from the US or from investing as it wishes in the US (or even in the USA’s allies).

Nor has China been helped by the constant, non-stop warfare around the world that the US government mistakenly thinks is essential to its economic well-being. China’s multi-pronged economic activity in Africa has been seriously – and deliberately – impeded by US counter-measures, to the obvious and vocal annoyance of African states that welcome China’s non-predatory approach to investment in their continent.

Perhaps the epitome of Cold War thinking was the US position regarding support for Chiang Kai-Chek. Supporting the fervently anti-Communist forces of Chiang accorded with the class interests of American capitalism, but it made no sense from a strategic point of view. And yet successive US administrations persisted in backing Chiang decades after he had been kicked out of China.

During the War, however, the US had agents/diplomats in Chiang’s capital Chungking trying to support the Chinese fight against Japan. It did not take them long to realise that Chiang was more interested in fighting the Communists than the Japanese. Two US diplomats, John Paton Davies and John Stewart Service, informed the State Department that it should switch its support from Chiang’s Nationalists to Mao’s Chinese Red Army. Bernstein chooses to say they were wrong, and as usual his reasoning is cock-eyed.

“Being straightforward men of integrity themselves”, he writes, “Service and Davies didn’t detect the breathtaking deceit that was practised on them by Mao and Stalin, two of the greatest masters of deception that the world has ever known.”

Oh, go on Richard. Don’t be shy, say what you really think. Sadly, this farrago is what passes for history in the USofA. And they have the hide to look down their nose at Marxist historians!

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