American Cold War Culture: Liberal’s Favorite Boogeyman


Liberals today smirk at American Cold War culture of the late 40s to early 60s with their typical moral vanity. Unable to avoid the failures and horrors of communism, they nevertheless try to salvage 1960s’ era views of American culture as hysterically misinformed about a superpower that had missiles pointing at the U.S.

But upon examination, it is apparent that the Left has done considerable editing by halting history around 1970, thus skipping whole decades of Venona revelations, the Berlin Wall falling and workers in Red Square toppling Lenin’s statue, resuming it. Hence archaic terms like military industrial complex can seem fresh and applicable.

In this narrative, the Cold War was not the complicated affair of halting Soviet imperialism without risking nuclear war but the simple attempt of America to stifle the Left (the argument promoted by the American Communist Party in 1949). No mention is made of Nixon’s détente with Communist China or Reagan aiding the Solidarity movement. Far from stifling the Left, cold warriors came to terms with it and even aided some of its segments.

Confronting the looming presence of George Orwell, they have to edit out the writer’s authentic socialism (during the Spanish Civil War, a fascist bullet went through his throat). Orwell’s lifelong anti-imperialism is subsumed under leftist assertions that the writer was a cheerleader for American empire building.

Left out of this portrait was Orwell’s hopes for a third alternative of a United Socialist States of Europe rather than support for either West or East. Far from a proponent of American empire building, Orwell was a trenchant critic of its strongest proponent, James Burnham. Orwell saw Burnham’s support of American imperialism as “smacking of power worship” and feared that such a proposal would aid rightist forces.
Leftists characterize movies in the 1950s as uniformly right-wing. Much is made of the right-wing mentality voiced by the docu-dramas of the era and the film The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But absent from this study are films that criticized the right from such as Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, a study of photogenic fascism, and The Manchurian Candidate, which posited that the far right was a tool of the far left.

And these same leftists who accuse Joseph McCarthy of ignoring the contextual reasons for Americans becoming communists in the 1930s, ignore context themselves. When one considers what Americans were confronted with in the 1950s—the Soviets acquiring the Atomic bomb; China, America long-term ally, falling to the Communists; State Department official Alger Hiss and the Communist couple the Rosenbergs outed as spies; Communist satellites like Hungary brutally crushed by the Soviets–it is readily understandable why Americans were panicked

Ron Capshaw is a Senior Contributor to The Liberty Conservative from Midlothian, Va. His work has appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the American Spectator.

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