Cold War 2.0 and the Fate of White Supremacy

by Gerald Horne

Remarks given by Professor Gerald Horne, Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, at the 2023 MAPA Annual Meeting, April 29, 2023. You can view his keynote address on our YouTube channel. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity. – ed.

“We need an updated analysis of the history and reality of this nation. Continuing to see the depredations of imperialism as an exception to an otherwise progressive nation simply won’t do.” 

First of all, thank you for inviting me, and thank you even more for continuing to mount your struggle on behalf of peace and justice.

Still, this is no time for MAPA to rest on its many laurels as it appears that this nation is embarking on a new Cold War against the People’s Republic of China, which is more dangerous than Cold War I.

How so? Well, China represents a trifecta of large dangers for U.S. imperialism, which is a major reason this latest cause attracted bipartisan support in Washington. China is a juggernaut in the passing lane eroding the hegemonic U.S. role on the planet which has been in place for almost 80 years, by some measures since the late 19th century.

Second, China is an Asian nation, and I’m sure we are all familiar with this nation’s mistreatment of citizens of Asian descent, it anti-Chinese bigotry in the second half of the 19th century, including lynchings, or the mass internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Not to mention the murderous assaults on those of Asian and Pacific Islander descent that have led to the movement marching under the slogan “Stop API hate”.

Thirdly, despite the demonizing of socialism and Communist parties in this country, a hallmark of the previous Cold War, China is led by a Communist Party, which is likely the largest political organization on planet Earth with 90-plus million members, party units, and numerous U.S corporations sited in China. Citizens of this country generally have no such cells and analogous corporations here in the United States such as Microsoft, Apple, etc. Despite the apparent U.S. victory in Cold War I, anti-communism remains a leading secular religion in this country that will continue to sound ominously during Cold War II.

How did we arrive at this perilous point? Since December 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, triumphalism reigned supreme amongst those who should have known better. Rather, they proclaimed the death of socialism, the death of communism, the onset of unipolarity, and the hegemony of the sole remaining superpower. The death of communism analysis was always overblown in that it either pointedly overlooked or engaged in wishful thinking about the existence of the Communist Party of China, perhaps because of how Beijing maneuvered itself into the passing lane.

Those of us who communicate in the English language should fully understand how China rose to the pinnacle of global success. As I wrote in my book on the 16th century so kindly mentioned in the introduction, for the most part during that crucial century, the 16th century, England was a dysfunctional monarchy on the fringes of Europe. By the 1530s, it got caught up in the Protestant secession from Catholicism. It then cut a deal against the interests of its fellow Christians in Spain and to a degree Paris. The latter, antagonists of the fearsome Muslim powers, were on the other end of that bargain with London, especially the Ottoman Turks.

Approximately a half-century ago, China was a relatively poor nation, not unlike 16th century England. It made a deal against the interests of its fellow Communists in Moscow, and to a degree Hanoi, antagonists of the fearsome imperialist power, the United States of America. In return, China received a massive direct foreign investment from the United States, including Apple – now busily seeking to relocate to Vietnam and India – Starbucks, KFC, Microsoft, and, of late, Tesla. In return, China had complicated the way forward for peace advocates during that previous half-century by waging war on Vietnam and collaborating with U.S. imperialism in Angola in the 1970s.

“The current conflict in Ukraine [makes] it all the more important for the U.S. peace movement to support the recently enunciated Chinese peace plan…”

However, today China is likely the major trading partner of the southwest African nation, and if Angola can allow bygones to be bygones, so can we. Unfortunately, neither India nor Vietnam, involved in military conflict with China during Cold War I, seem to be as forgiving as I am in suggesting that we can. Indeed the relationship between India and China may be the most important bilateral tie of this era, and it cries out for massaging by the U.S. peace movement, including MAPA, perhaps by closer liaison with our peers in Delhi and Beijing. As I pointed out in an article written in March 2022 on the Black Agenda Report’s website, the current conflict in Ukraine can be seen as part of an elongated process that has China in the crosshairs, making it all the more important for the U.S peace movement to support the recently enunciated Chinese peace plan, so-called, for Ukraine.

Still, NATO should have gone out of business after December 1991. But per a recent summit in Spain, it intends to extend its remit globally. This was foreshadowed when it overthrew the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli more than a decade ago. Without entering frontally the thicket of the special military operation in Ukraine, I tend to agree with President Ramaphosa of South Africa, who represents the consensus of the global South in refusing to endorse the sanctions crusade against Russia. He has suggested that NATO, by balking at accepting a capitalist Russia but instead continuing to encircle it, helped to create conditions that allowed the flames of conflict to leap even higher.

NATO… intends to extend its remit globally… enacting and reenacting fractures in Europe that go back centuries.

Actually, the North Atlantic bloc was enacting and reenacting fractures in Europe that go back centuries. Recall that approximately 200 years ago, Napoleon of France invaded Russia and had his hat handed to him. That is to say that as Western European nations, especially France and Britain, were moving Southward and Westward – benefiting off of the plunder of the African slave trade, which helps to explain my presence in North America, and benefiting off of the dispossession of the Indigenous, which led directly to the system now known as capitalism – Russia was moving southward and eastward, often at the expense of China. Russia established its window on the Pacific, speaking of Vladivostok, as late as 1860. This created a fundamental contradiction on the old continent insofar as Russia, the most populous and largest nation by territory (with a contemporary population of 150 million) was often perceived as an antagonist by the richer but much smaller nations of Britain and France (with populations about 60 million each). Western Europe, by some measures was not as large territory-wise as the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Sudan alone is five times the size territorially of Germany, and its troubled Darfur region is the size of Spain.

Fatefully, the Russia question has fomented some of Western Europe’s biggest blunders, not only by Napoleon but also by London. The latter financed the world’s historic Japanese attack on Russia in 1904-1905 and not only laid the groundwork for the Russian Revolution of 1917 but also provided jet propulsion for Japan’s defenestration of the British Empire in Asia a few decades later. Fatefully, Berlin attacked Russia on June 22. 1941 with Operation Barbarossa, fortunately shrinking the tenure of what was thought to be the Thousand-Year Reich.

And this brings us to today’s New Cold War which of late has endured several setbacks, spelling ill for the North Atlantic block. It was not only the Putin-Xi summit that contravened the dictum of Henry Kissinger that, strategically, U.S imperialism should be closer to both of these Giants than they were to each other; or the Council of the late Halford Mackinder of Britain [1861-1947, English geographer and founding father of geopolitics and geostrategy – ed.] who counseled that influence on the Euro-Asian land mass as interlinked with Africa was essential to global domination. In words repeated frequently by The Wall Street Journal since Xi’s departure from Moscow a few days ago, and I paraphrase, Xi said the world is seeing changes it has not witnessed in a century and it is we – speaking of Putin and Xi – that are driving these changes. Assuredly, this de facto alliance between Moscow and Beijing has disrupted the EU economy, previously dependent on the Chinese market and cheap energy from Russia. This reality led to yet another Xi summit, involving President Macron of France accompanied by a plane load of businessmen, wherein the leader of the hexagonal nation suggested that Paris was not on board concerning the Taiwan question, and by implication not on board concerning Cold War II. This follows an upset in France with the United States elbowing France aside and scooping up a multi-billion dollar submarine deal with Australia en route to the formation of AUKUS -Australia, U.K., U.S. – the spearhead of the new Cold War. Tensions between Paris and Washington are also bubbling over in Africa, which I can expand upon if you choose. Then there was the Xi- Lula summit wherein the South American giant moved decisively towards “de-dollarization”, a mortal threat to the fraying hegemony of U.S imperialism.

MAPA needs to liaise more closely with the global peace movement… and should thread throughout its work… a militant fight against white supremacy.

But what does all this mean for MAPA? Assuredly, if it has not already, MAPA needs to liaise more closely with the global peace movement, especially that of France, a nation which as suggested is portending a split in the North Atlantic Alliance, which would be a step forward for global peace and security. With tensions between Washington and Paris, stretching back, at least, to the 1956 Suez Crisis, wherein London, Paris, and Israel attacked Nasser’s Egypt for control of the Suez Canal. Of course, that led Britain to tie its apron strings closer to Uncle Sam, and France to go in an opposing direction, including, for a while, withdrawal of Paris from the military wing of NATO, something that needs to reoccur.

Macron stated reluctance to join the new Cold War against China in his address before the Munich security conference a few months ago where he seemed to be involved in, as they say in the United States, recriminations concerning Ukraine implicitly, questioning what he saw as NATO’s regime change agenda for Russia.

The U.S. peace movement also needs to liaise more closely with the peace movements of Brazil and South Africa. I say this, in particular, for there seems to be a growing trend in the international community to turn on its head the customary trope of the U.S. left that the Democrats represent the lesser of two evils compared to the Republicans. But since the Democrats seek to confront Russia and China simultaneously, while the ascending Trump forces are willing to cut a deal with Moscow while focusing like a laser beam on China, the idea is growing at least abroad, that is as regards peace, the GOP is the lesser of two evils. MAPA must address this frontally and must, also, in that regard, increase influence upon U.S. domestic forces.

Fortunately, the NAACP is holding its convention in Boston within months. It was in Boston in 1950 that this important organization ratified its notorious anti-communist resolution that led to their denouncing the late great Paul Robeson and of course, attacking many forces to their left. We still have this anomaly in the United States where the right-wing has a strategy, or a motto at least, of no antagonist to our right while many of our “liberal friends have a strategy of no allies, no friends to our left.

This is a real weakness of the centrists within the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the current moment demands a repudiation of this 1950 resolution as a precedent for the NAACP re-entering structurally the peace movement, which it abandoned during Cold War I when it refused to stand by its founder W.E.B Du Bois, who matriculated to Cambridge when he was indicted in 1951 because of his anti-nuclear activism and his presumed ties to Moscow.

MAPA needs to liaise also, if it is not doing so already, with the local labor movement as an entry point for seeking to influence the AFL-CIO International department, which to a degree, could easily withstand a blast of Perestroika. On the class front, the peace movement needs to raise more sharply the question of class collaboration amongst the 75 million strong middle-class and working-class base of the GOP, in which class collaboration is key to comprehending the toxicity of settler colonialism in North America over the centuries. This latter point illustrates that we need an updated analysis of the history and reality of this nation continuing to see the depredations of imperialism as an exception to an otherwise progressive nation simply will not do. Likewise, in light of the Chicago mayor’s race, the Wisconsin Supreme Court battle, the Trump indictment, and the sacking of Tucker Carlson, we need to consider if we are turning the corner in the battle against the right-wing which a fortiori should cause us to consider that we continually should be updating our analysis of global and domestic politics on a daily if not hourly basis. Anything less, simply, will not do.

And to end where we began, MAPA should thread throughout its work, if it is not doing so already, a militant fight against white supremacy which has surged of late, driven and in no small measure due to tensions with China, which led to denunciations of the so-called “Chinese flu” and the organizing of rather dangerous groups such as the Goyim Defense League and White Lives Matter and the Patriotic Front.

Thank you for your attention.

Professor Gerald Horne is the Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. His latest book is The Counter Revolution of 1836: Texas Slavery & Jim Crow and the Roots of American Fascism.