Franklin Roosevelt’s vision of a neocolonial world system with US hegemony and cooperation among the global powers, including the Soviet Union, was cast aside by the ideological construction of the Cold War, which defined communism as evil and expansionist, requiring the defense of democracy through a permanent military preparedness.
A liberal-conservative consensus emerged. There was wide agreement on the militarist application of Keynesian economic principles, facilitating the growth of the economy and the capacity for military intervention anywhere in the world. “Conservatives as well as liberals ended up supporting this approach, which reduced the differences between the two to the dimension and the quality of the intervention of the state in the economy, with neither side rejecting its
tax collector-investor function in the production of arms” (Arboleya 2008:133). And there was consensus based on Cold War ideological premises. “In foreign policy, the distance between liberals and conservatives was reduced to the point of converting Roosevelt into the last traditional liberal that occupied the White House. As liberalism moved toward militant anti-communism in the context of the Cold War, liberalism ceased to be an alternative ideological current for foreign policy, expressed on the basis of a different political agenda. Militarism united both currents, and although differences persisted between conservatives and liberals in regard to the procedures to be utilized, nearly no one questioned the strategic importance of US expansionism. Isolationism became obsolete during the Second World War. The United States no longer was separated from the rest of the world by the ocean or by anything. Like the dollar, its soldiers appeared everywhere" (Arboleya 2008:138).
Utilizing the Cold War ideological construction, US presidents Harry Truman (1945-53) and Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1960) provided economic and military support to Latin American governments that utilized repressive tactics against communist and socialist parties as well as progressive organizations. Eisenhower’s “Good Partner” policy included CIA support for a counterrevolutionary force in Guatemala in 1954 in opposition to the government of Jacobo Árbenz, a democratically elected president who had nationalized some of the properties of the United Fruit Co. “In addition to the overthrow of Árbenz and his replacement with the Carlos Castillo Armas dictatorship (1954-57), the Good Partner policy also stimulated the fall of the governments of Getúlio Vargas in Brazil (1954); Juan Domingo Perón in Argentina (1955); and Federico Chaves in Paraguay, which led to Alfredo Stroessner’s dictatorship (1956-89). At the same time, Eisenhower’s policies contributed to undermining the thrust of the Bolivian revolution in the governments of Victor Paz Estenssoro (1952-56) and Hernán Siles Zuazo (1956-60). Jean-Claude Duvalier’s dictatorship in Haiti also arose in this period” (Regalado 2007:122).
The Cold War was the ideological pillar of imperialism, facilitating US economic and financial penetration of Latin America and the Third World and ensuring the consolidation of the United States as the hegemonic power of the neocolonial world-system.
Thus, we see that immediately following the Second World War, pushed by the economic interests of arms industries, political leaders created a Cold War ideology that provided justification for a permanent war economy. But the Cold War ideology distorted history in fundamental ways: the Soviet Union was not a threat, and it was less evil than portrayed; the nations of the Third World were not turning to communism, but were seeking independence from colonialism and neocolonialism; and the nation itself was less democratic than it pretended. The Cold War ideological distortions became widely accepted beliefs not because they were true or right, but because they served powerful particular interests.
The ideological distortions of the Cold War would be exposed in the 1960s by the African-American movement and the student anti-war movement, bringing to an end the post-war consensus. We will be discussing these movements and their anti-imperialism in future posts.
Arboleya, Jesús. 2008. La Revolución del Otro Mundo. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
Regalado, Roberto. 2007. Latin America at the Crossroads: Domination, Crisis, Popular Movements, and Political Alternatives. New York: Ocean Press.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Cold War, militarization, Eisenhower, Truman