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Cold War charades begin anew as America and Russia quarrel

First of a two-part series

Gregg Reese | 10/19/2017, 3:57 p.m.
Autumn in America typically brings with it the arrival of football season, completion of harvest time...

Meanwhile, the Soviets made overtures to some of the leading artistic and cultural figures of Black America through the patronage of University of California at Berkeley alumnae and leftist sympathizer Louise Thompson. She arrived in New York City just as the arrival of the phenomenon the “New Negro Movement” or better-known Harlem Renaissance was reaching its zenith. She quickly formed a Harlem branch of the Friends of the Soviet Union, an organization with ties to the Comintern, and then organized a trip to the USSR for a group of intellectuals that made up a “whos who” of Negro progressives, including the journalist, novelist and poet Langston Hughes. Once there, they became involved in the production of a motion picture depicting conditions for Blacks in the American South.

The expatriates saw this as an opportunity to counter the negative racial stereotypes projected in the Hollywood productions of the day. For the Soviets, it was a golden opportunity to showcase the negative inequities of the capitalist system. For the remaining decades of the 20th Century, racism would be a strategic tool to use to highlight the flaws of Western society as the frigid legacy of the Cold War chilled the globe.

You lynch Negroes, don’t you?

“There are a lot of killers. You got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?”

—Donald Trump’s response to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly’s observation of his friendship with Valdimir Putin and his KGB past

Both sides engaged in a form of “one-upmanship,” in which each touted the merits of their own system while underscoring the failings of the opposition. In this, conflicting sides might blunt the criticisms of an antagonist with the tool of hypocrisy without going through the hassle of disproving the charges directed their way.

Thusly, American accusations about abysmal Soviet human rights abuses, the treatment of political dissidents, and the horrors of the “gulags,” (forced labor camps), could be contradicted with the mention of economic and employment disparages among the United States labor force. The woefully unbalanced U.S. criminal justice system was/is another invaluable instrument of propaganda, serving as an overwhelming indictment in and of itself, and if all else failed, there remained the ultimate “trump card” of global diplomacy: the lynching of Negroes.

The technique is derived from a ubiquitous schoolyard insult, witnessed on any playground but updated for use on the (adult) international stage. The practice became a staple of Russo-American exchange during the era of Joseph Stalin, and remnants continue to this very day. Russian President Vladimir Putin is noted to be an avid practitioner of this modus operandi, as is our own chief executive when cornered in televised press conferences and other public settings. This practice of dealing with allegations or tricky questions is also known as “whataboutism.”

Visions of utopia

“A friend of mine, a member of the Moscow intelligentsia, repeated to me the remarks of the lady respondent of a Danish newspaper: that I should not be taken as a representative Negro for she had lived in America and found all Negroes lazy, bad and vicious, a terror to White women.”