chapter  9
18 Pages

The cold war, American anticommunism and the global ‘Colour Line’

ByRichard Seymour

Race has been expunged from the history of international relations and yet, as the introduction to this book points out, “race and racism continue to subliminally structure world politics, in both material and ideological ways”. Du Bois had argued that despite its absence from dominant explanations, the racial order, as manifested in colonialism and other forms of expansionism, was the infrastructure of the world system behind the crisis of the European state system culminating in World War I. In a similar fashion, the world system after 1945 must be interpreted in view of the tectonic shifts in its racial order. The absence of race from explanations of the Cold War must therefore be rectified. This chapter will argue that one of the ways in which race has been simultaneously repressed and its effects sustained in the international order is through the deployment of anticommunism in the Cold War. The history of anticommunism is enfolded within a history of race. In two great

waves of US anticommunism, the first immediately following the Russian Revolution, and the second following the defeat of the Third Reich, race figured centrally in the understanding of communism and in the organisation of its suppression. The rise and breakdown of the anticommunist consensus was, when it came, intricated with the overthrow of the colonial world system and the concomitant upsurge of civil rights activism. The modes of repression and the techniques of ascriptive denigration deployed in each case were contiguous. As Heonik Kwon put it,

[b]eing a white person or person of color was a major determining factor for an individual’s life career for a significant part of the past century, but so was the relatively novel color classification of being ‘Red’ or ‘not Red’ in many corners of the world, including the United States and South Africa.