....(Printed below are excerpts from U.S. Imperialism has Lost the Cold War, by Jack Barnes. The resolution was discussed and adopted by the 1990 national convention of the Socialist Workers Party. The entire resolution is published in New International no. 11 Copyright © 1998 by 408 Printing and Publishing Corp., reprinted by permission.)
1. The "Cold War" was the term used to describe the strategic military course forced upon U.S. imperialism and its allies in face of the limitations imposed by the international balance of class forces coming out of World War II. These limitations made impossible for the foreseeable future the use of massive armed forces to accomplish Washington's strategic goal--overturning the Soviet Union and Eastern European workers states and reestablishing capitalism there.
During the period just after World War II, Washington was blocked from pursuing this goal by the refusal of the GIs to go back to war, this time against former allies, the Soviet Union and the workers and peasants of China. Faced with a popular "Bring Us Home!" movement organized by the soldiers themselves, the imperialist rulers were politically forced to live up to their promises to demobilize the bulk of their armed forces.1
The U.S.-organized imperialist assault on Korea in 1950, which tested the "back door" military approach to the Soviet Union, failed in its objective to overturn the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as the war ended in a stalemate at the thirty-eighth parallel.
The consequences of the aggression against Korea speeded the overturn of capitalist property and the consolidation of a workers state in neighboring China. Massive numbers of Chinese worker and peasant volunteers poured across the Yalu River to fight together with the Korean people to turn back the imperialist invading forces.
The imperialists concluded that the political price they would pay throughout Asia for unleashing nuclear weapons for a second time in the region precluded their use in the Korean conflict. The difficulties of maintaining a politically unpopular land war in Asia against a workers state foreshadowed the U.S. defeat in Vietnam some two decades later.
The war left a divided Korea, denied its national unification after more than half a century of occupation by Tokyo and Washington. This remains the most important and explosive unresolved national division imposed by the victors of World War II.
By the latter half of the 1950s, the USSR's development of nuclear weapons and space technology convinced the imperialists that the risks of massive destruction not only of capitalist Europe but also the United States were too great to consider a direct assault against the Soviet and Eastern European workers states. Since the end of the 1960s, the Soviet Union has had rough parity with U.S. imperialism in nuclear weaponry and delivery systems (parity not in the sense of equal numbers of warheads and missiles, but the capacity of both governments to inflict devastating damage against each other--Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD, in Pentagon lingo).2
2. Given these realities, Washington was restricted during the Cold War to using its military power to attempt to contain any extension of the revolutionary overturn of imperialist domination and capitalist property relations. Its strategic effort to weaken the Soviet and Eastern European workers states became one of applying pressure on the bureaucratic castes to police the working class, squelch all political initiatives, and keep working people isolated from the struggles of workers and peasants around the world, with all the depoliticizing and demoralizing consequences that flow from such a separation.
For imperialism this was an unavoidable interlude, preparing for the day when the workers states would be sufficiently weakened by Stalinist policies that demoralized the working class to make possible their destruction in a direct imperialist assault.
Instead, what has culminated in 1989 and 1990 is an accelerating and irreversible crisis of the Stalinist parties and parasitic petty-bourgeois castes on which they are based, whose counterrevolutionary policies have been weakening the degenerated or deformed workers states for decades.
The workers states and their proletarian property foundations have proven stronger than the castes.
Although brutalized and depoliticized, the working class in the workers states has demonstrated its ability--even within the limits of bourgeois trade union consciousness--to resist the economic and social consequences of the deepening parasitism and bureaucratism of the governing castes.
This resistance, beginning with the Polish workers' uprising in 1980, has triggered the crises that are now ravaging the regimes across Eastern and Central Europe and in the Soviet Union.
The workers of these countries will resist the consequences of moving toward capitalist restoration even more fiercely.
These events confirm the continuing truth of the prognosis advanced by communists in the 1930s. As succinctly put by Trotsky: "As a conscious political force the bureaucracy has betrayed the revolution. But a victorious revolution is fortunately not only a program and a banner, not only political institutions, but also a system of social relations. To betray it is not enough. You have to overthrow it. The October revolution has been betrayed by the ruling stratum, but not yet overthrown."3
3. With the betrayers--who have been the biggest obstacle to strengthening the workers states--either crumbling or on the defensive, and with prospects of a military assault against the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe less feasible than ever before, imperialism still confronts the same historic battle, but from a weakened position. Instead of waging a "Cold War" against the petty-bourgeois regimes of the bureaucratic caste, imperialism will have to directly take on and try to defeat the working class in order to overthrow the workers states and reestablish capitalism in Eastern and Central Europe and the Soviet Union.
1. See "1945: When U.S. Troops Said 'No!'" by Mary-Alice Waters in New International no. 7.
2. Despite John F. Kennedy's demagogy during his 1960 U.S. presidential campaign against Richard Nixon, alleging a "missile gap" that gave the USSR a military advantage over Washington, the truth was the opposite. In 1962 the U.S. government had some 5,000 nuclear warheads and 500 intercontinental missiles, while the Soviet Union had 300 or fewer nuclear warheads and only a few dozen missiles. The Soviet government stated that it reached parity with Washington in the number of missile launchers in 1971, although Moscow continued to have many fewer warheads. Currently Washington has more than 7,100 nuclear warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine launchers, and bombers; Russia has some 6,200 warheads.
3. Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going? (Pathfinder, 1972), pp. 227.