People's History: Communism and the Cold War, 1946-59 (Chap 16)

Ain't That a Shame, Fats Domino
West of the Wall, Miss Toni Fisher
Great Pretender, The Platters
Der Clown, Nini Rosso
Fever, Peggy Lee
Over and Over Again, Moonglows
Singing the Blues, Guy Mitchell

Post-war, the businessman and government
used fears of evil communists to seize
control, to keep the citizens content,
to capture growing markets overseas.

The war was over, but the fears would long remain,
with government and business able to maintain
control with talk of communists. In '48
the Russians would subdue the Czechs and isolate
Berlin - the "Iron Curtain" formed between the West
and East. And now the "Truman Doctrine" was professed
to all the world: America won't tolerate
oppression! But as rebels tried to liberate
themselves from right-wing government control in Greece
and China, they encountered U.S. arms. When peace
was shattered in Korea's struggle, we replied
with bombs, two million killed, the "rule of force" applied
despite a Truman pledge for "rule of law." And worse,
attacking North Korea's mainland would coerce
their allies, Chinese Communists, to join the fight.
Though neither side would win, Korea would unite
the West against the communists, to the delight
of business with its unrelenting appetite
for war production. Much the same in Africa
and Indonesia, anti-Red phenomena
around the world, the clamorings for liberty,
which some declared a means of Russian treachery.
The public was convinced -- the anti-loyalty
campaign expanded to a profligate degree.
It challenged the Committee for the Bill of Rights,
it contradicted any writing that incites
rebelliousness -- the works of Thomas Jefferson,
the "Children's Hour." This undertaking would begin
and end with Joe McCarthy, demagogue supreme,
who ruined the lives of innocents. The most extreme
example was the Rosenbergs, the pair accused
on flimsy evidence of treason -- so abused
were human rights that even Einstein would protest.
But "UnAmerican Activities" obsessed
us -- even freedom groups were starting to conform!
Cold War preparedness would hurriedly transform
us to a war economy, the peacetime budget twice
as high by '55, the nuclear device
on everybody's mind, the "duck and cover" drill
in classrooms, fallout shelters, and the shrill
alarm of warning blasts. An ample guarantee
of paranoia, and a ton of TNT
for everyone on earth. And with minorities
and unions losing ground, the businessman could seize
control. The Marshall Plan made open trade
the status quo in Europe, and directed aid
to anti-communists. The anti-populist
United States was so determined to resist
the leftist movement that it funded CIA
subversion. First Iran, with efforts underway
for national control of stolen oil supplies;
then Guatemala, where the stolen prize
was land (United Fruit extorted properties
with backing from American authorities).
And Cuba: Castro's people's revolution fought
for freedom; when the struggling island nation sought
assistance, U.S.-funded IMF refused,
but Russia helped. And JFK, who had defused
the issue with a promise never to invade,
approved the Bay of Pigs, a reckless Cuban raid.

Return to