Many, when analyzing the Cold War, conclude that it was inevitable. The result of an irreconcilable ideological divide between the capitalist and socialist countries. While right on the surface, very few look beyond this simple framework. Nothing is inevitable in history or life. The Cold War was not inevitable and its origins go back to a terrible day in history. July 21st, 1944. The Vice Presidential Nomination of the Democratic Party.
In 1944 the free world was in a death struggle against fascism. The Soviet Union, China, Britain, and the United States fought against the genocidal terror states of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The Soviets were liberating Eastern Europe, the Western front had opened up, and the Japanese were losing in the Pacific. The postwar era was looking to be one of republics working towards an anti-imperialist multipolar world. The United States under the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt and Henry Wallace pushed forward the idea of the United Nations and decolonization. Henry Wallace was seen as the successor to FDR’s vision and with FDR’s health failing, a Wallace presidency seemed inevitable.
In 1942, Henry Wallace gave his address Century of A Common Man in which he advocated for an end to poverty, war, and fascism internationally. Along with this and unlike FDR, Henry Wallace was firmly against segregation and advocated for Civil Rights. Overall, Wallace sought to continue the New Deal, supported a multipolar world, and wanted to move towards a New America. This for the Eastern Establishment, Southern Segregationists, and British Imperialists was a terrifying prospect. These cliques both within the US and abroad would simply not let Wallace succeed FDR.
Higher-ups in the Democratic Party scrambled to sabotage and stop a Wallace nomination at the July Convention. The most notable figures within this effort were Robert E. Hannegan, a Southern Segregationist and party insider. Another critical conspirator was Edwin W. Pauley, a capitalist who later worked with Hoover and the FBI on disrupting anti-war organizers in California during the 60s-70s. At the Democratic Convention, Wallace won far more delegates than Truman. But due to the delaying of a vote, divide and conquer and relentless anti-Wallace maneuvering. The Democratic nomination was stolen from the American people and secured for Harry Truman. FDR at this time was incredibly ill and could do little to help his preferred nominee, Wallace, to win.
Truman in terms of vision was the exact opposite of Wallace. Truman was an old-school Dixiecrat, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, and a fervent reactionary. When the Soviet Union was invaded by the Axis in June of 1941 Truman commented, “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible”. This type of pro-fascist rhetoric is shocking when one considers this man became President of the United States right after Roosevelt, who fought against these political forces which Truman represented. The Klan during the 30s opposed Roosevelt ferociously. So much so that a faction of the Klan called the Black Legion conducted terrorist attacks in the Midwest against Progressives, Labor organizers, and African Americans. It is also suspected that the Black Legion was responsible for the murder of Malcolm X’s father.
Truman after coming to power immediately began to reverse the foreign and domestic policy created by the Roosevelt era. It began with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These bombings and the hundreds of thousands of deaths that accompanied them were entirely unnecessary. The Soviet Union with its liberation of Manchuria and destruction of the Kwantung Army already resulted in the Japanese sending peace feelers to both America and the Soviets. This move was a passive-aggressive move as Truman told Stalin about the existence of the bomb at the Potsdam conference. After the disaster caused by this bombing and immediately after WW2, the Trumanite reaction continued. Vietnam during WW2 was liberated from the Japanese by the Vietminh in collaboration with Roosevelt’s OSS. In 1945 out of desperation, the British Empire used Japanese POWs to reoccupy Vietnam on behalf of France. Truman and the US government went right along with the British in the reconquest of colonies post WW2. Malaysia, Indochina, Korea among other nations fell victim to this reaction.
At home, the Trumanite reaction expressed itself in the fullest sense. Women who worked in the factories producing critical arms for the war effort were soon out of a job and put back in the home. This can be explained by the need for capitalism to maintain unemployment to shore up a reserve army of labor. African-Americans after spilling blood in service against fascism came home to face a new form of fascism. Lynchings, unemployment, and systemic racism continued to plague African-Americans and still do to this day.
Politically, the Trumanite counterrevolution got worse as the 40s progressed. The Red Scare began in the late 40s throughout the mid-50s. Progressive forces were smashed, with their leadership arrested, erosion of membership, and destruction of militant labor unions. The AFL-CIO purged itself of its left flank which won the Flint Strike among other massive labor struggles. Actors, artists, musicians, organizers, workers were all repressive in this terror which American politics still has yet to recover from. The names of the victims of McCarthyism are countless. Paul Robeson, William Z Foster, Benjamin Davis, Lillian Helman, Henry Winston, Langston Hughes, The Rosenbergs, among thousands of others. Victims from all backgrounds lost their livelihoods, jobs, families, sight, and even lives. The Trumanite reaction casts long shadows to this day. American and global politics were irrevocably impacted by this disaster. It will be up to future generations to undo the damage of this counterrevolution.