Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 5 No. 2 | Summer 1983 (Seattle) /// Issue 4 of 24 /// Master# 4 of 24

Continued from Page 7 War. They have a direct interest in its continuance. This is not only because their own establishments and their own careers depend upon this. It is not only because ruling groups can only justify their own privileges and their allocation of huge resources to “ defense” in the name of Cold War emergencies. And it is not only because the superpowers both need repeated Cold War alarms to keep their client states, in NATO or the Warsaw Pact, in line. All these explanations have force. But, at an even deeper level, there is a further explanation — which I will describe by the ugly word “ psycho-ideological” which must occasion the grimmest pessimism. The Threat of the Other ■ he threat of the enemy — ■ even recourse to war — has always afforded to uneasy rulers a internal ideological regulation and social discipline. This was a familiar notion to Shakespeare. The dying Henry IVth, knowing that the succession was beset with enemies, advised his son — Therefore, my Harry, Be it thy course to busy giddy minds With foreign quarrels . . . This advice led Henry Vth to Agincourt. The fear or threat of the Other is grounded upon a profound and universal human need. It is intrinsic to human bonding. We cannot define whom “ we” are without also defining “ them” — those who are not “ us.” “ They” need not be perceived as threatening: they may be seen only as different from “ us” — from our family, our community, our nation: “ they” are others who do not “ belong.” But if “ they” are seen as threatening to us, then our own internal bonding will be all the stronger. This threat of the Other has been internalised within both Soviet and American culture, so that the very self-identity of many American and Soviet citizens is bound up with the ideological premises of the Cold War. There are historical reasons for this, which have less to do with the actualities of communist or capitalist societies than we may suppose. Americans, for a century or so, have had a growing problem of national identity. America has a population, dispersed across half a continent, gathered in from the four corners of the globe. Layer upon layer of immigrants have come in, and new layers are being laid down today: Vietnamese and Thailanders, Cubans and undocumented Hispanic workers. Internal bonding tends to fall, not upon horizontal nationwide lines — the bonding of social class remains weak — but in vertical, fissiparous ways: local, regional, or ethnic bonding — the blacks, the Hispanics, the Poles, the Irish, the Jewish lobby. The resounding, media-propogated myth of United States society is that of an open market society, an upwardly-mobile free-for-all: its objective not any communal goal but equality of ego-fulfillment for everyone. But where, in all these centrifugal and individualistic forces, is any national bonding and sense of American self-identity to be found? American poets and novelists have suggested better answers — America (they have suggested) might be the most internationalist nation in the world — but the answer which has satisfied America's present rulers is, precisely, in the Cold War. The United States is the leader of “ the Free World,” and the Commies are the Other. They need this Other to establish their own identity, not as blacks or Poles or Irish, but as free Americans. Only this pre-existent need, for bonding-by-exclusion, can explain the ease by which one populist rascal after another has been able to float to power — and even to the White House — on nothing but a flood of sensational Cold War propaganda. And anti-Communism can be turned to other internal uses as well. It can serve to knock trade unions on the head, or to keep dissident rascal voices or peace movements (“ soft on Communism” ) on the margins of political life. But what about the Soviet Union? Is there a similar need to bond against the Other within Soviet culture? I can speak with less confidence here. But there are indications that this is so. The Soviet Union is not “ Russia” but a ramshackle empire inherited from Tsarist times. It also has its own fissiparous tendencies, from Mongolia to the Baltic states. It has no need to invent an Other, in some fit of paranoia. It has been struck within active memory, by another, to the gates of Moscow, with a loss of some 20 million dead. One would suppose that Soviet rulers, while having good reason for a defense mentality, would need the Cold War like a hole in the head. They would want it to go away. And, maybe, some of them do. Yet the Cold War, as ideology, has a bonding function in the Soviet Union also. This huge collocation of peoples feels itself to be surrounded — it is surrounded — from Mongolia to the Arctic ice-cap to its Western frontiers. The bonding, the selfidentity, of Soviet citizens comes from the notion that they are the heartland of the world’s first socialist revolution, threatened by the Other — Western imperialism, in alliance with 1,000 million Chinese. The positive part of this rhetoric — the Marxist- Leninist, revolutionary bit — may now have worn exceedingly thin; but the negative part remains compelling. The one function of the Soviet rulers which commands consensual assent throughout the population is their self-proclaimed role as defenders of the Fatherland and defenders of peace. There is nothing sinister about that. But the bonding function of Cold War ideology in the Soviet Union is directly disciplinary. The threat of the Other legitimates every measure Clinton St. Quarterly 33