Communist Party USA

  “Peaceful coexistence” between nations sounds like a pipe dream today. But as a concept and policy, peaceful coexistence of countries with different social systems was birthed during the Cold War, when tensions between the U.S. and Soviet Union were at their highest, and nuclear war was such a real possibility that school children were trained to “duck and cover” during air raid drills. What is the history of peaceful coexistence? What can we learn from it to understand the struggle for peace today? “Peaceful coexistence” as a concept was used first by the Soviet Union during the high Cold War period of the 1950s. It was during this period that the CPSU and the world communist movement advanced the concepts of peaceful coexistence, peaceful competition, and peaceful transition, the latter of which imagined that socialism could be achieved without a civil war. Peaceful coexistence was picked up by the movement of “non-aligned nations,” the African and Asian nations emerging from the old colonial empires after World War II. These nations met at Bandung in Indonesia, itself a major colony of the former Dutch empire in 1955. They called for a policy of peace and cooperation outside the military alliances that the United States and the Soviet Union had created in Europe and that the U.S. was creating in Asia and the Near East. The People’s Republic of China attended the conference six years after its establishment as a nation committed to the construction of socialism and opposed to imperialism. From this conference the idea of a “third world,” representing most of the people of the world (the peoples of Africa, the Asia Pacific, and Latin America), came into existence. Many of these new nations had been strongly influenced by socialism in their struggle to free themselves, and some sought a socialist path for development. However, what did “peaceful coexistence” as a policy mean? It should be recalled that the U.S. bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki near the end of World War II. Many, including the leadership of the USSR, interpreted this as a political as well as military warning aimed at the Red Army. This was accompanied by Winston Churchill’s infamous “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton Missouri in 1946. Small wonder that the U.S. and its NAT0 allies rejected the idea from its inception as “Communist propaganda.” The aim of U.S. global policy, as stated in the 1947 Truman Doctrine, was to “contain” revolutionary movements by defining them as a Soviet and later “Sino Soviet” conspiracy for “Communist world domination.” The first application of this doctrine occurred the same year, when Congress passed the Greek-Turkish Aid Act, which provided military aid to Greece during the civil war against Communist-led revolutionary forces. The U.S. response to the postwar world situation had been to reorganize and greatly expand its economic, military, and intelligence forces. It also began to establish regional anti-Communist military alliances, starting with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (1949) aimed at both the Soviet Union and the then large and influential communist parties of France and Italy. Previously, the U.S. had refused to share nuclear information with the Soviet Union and had opposed a serious plan to achieve nuclear disarmament in the first years of the United Nations. After the Soviets exploded a nuclear device in 1949, conservative politicians and mass media blamed this on Soviet and Communist spies and launched a crash program to build a more devastating hydrogen bomb. The nuclear arms race that followed would grow vastly more expensive and deadly with the development of long-range bombers and multi-warhead (multi-bomb) medium- and long-range guided missiles. By the…

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Peaceful coexistence yesterday and today: Realities and legacies