Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 23:55:02 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <>
Subject: The Comeback of Brazen Empire
From: (Workers World Service)

‘The Great Game’: The Comeback of Brasen Empire

By Fred Goldstein, in Workers World, 18 January 1996

The U.S. government poured trillions of dollars into the Cold War to defeat the Soviet Union and destroy socialism. These trillions of dollars—which should have been spent on education, housing, health care, jobs and all the things that workers here need—were thrown into the Pentagon, the CIA, political subversion and economic blockade.

All this was done in the name of defending freedom and democracy. But behind these political slogans were the real politics that rule this country—the politics of imperialist conquest.

And behind the drive for conquest is the profit motive of the super-rich corporations.

Anyone who doubts that the politics of the Cold War were driven by the economics of imperialism should read the New York Times editorial of Jan. 2 entitled The New Great Game in Asia.

While few have noticed, opined the Times, Central Asia has again emerged as a murky battleground among big powers engaged in an old and rough geopolitical game. Western experts believe that the largely untapped oil and natural gas riches of the Caspian Sea countries could make that region the Persian Gulf of the next century. The object of the revived game is to befriend leaders of the former Soviet republics controlling the oil, while neutralizing Russian suspicions and devising secure alternative pipeline routes to world markets. ...

The core problem, the Times continued, is Russia's determination to control the flow of oil and gas from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

These are former Soviet republics where the imperialists are now bribing and threatening the leaders into compliance with the giant oil companies. Proposed investments in the area total close to $40 billion.

Now that imperialist oil monopolies are grabbing these oil territories, which used to belong to all the peoples of the USSR, the question of who controls the future flow of oil is decisive.

The two major pipeline systems now run north through Chechnya, where a war is raging. There is no pipeline heading south. Quietly and rightly, said the Times, Washington has sided with the Central Asian wish for a more secure southern route.

The Times pointed out that Exxon and Japan's Mitsubishi Corporation, among others, are studying a $12-billion, 4,900-mile pipeline from Turkmenistan to the Pacific that would circumvent Russia.

Encouraging these efforts, the Times gloated: Everybody could benefit in the revived game by agreeing to split the winnings. Western and Japanese capital is essential to developing Caspian fields, and some oil companies are clearly willing to plunge forward: Chevron, the world's fifth biggest, has already invested $700 million into tapping the huge Tengiz reserves in Kazakhstan.

Everybody could benefit from imperialist banditry— except the oppressed peoples in the former Soviet republics.

Everybody is the tiny handful of billionaires who own and control the oil companies; the Pentagon, which requires the oil and territory for its militaristic enterprises; Wall Street, which will get rich in trading up oil stocks; and U.S. big business in general.

This is what the dismemberment of the USSR has meant to the peoples of this vast region. Their resources will flow out into the commodity markets of the capitalist world to enrich Exxon, Mitsubishi, British Petroleum and others instead of being used for socialist construction.


The Cold War was never a war for democracy and freedom. It was a class war against the workers and the oppressed—a war for super-profits for the giant monopolies that want to get their hands back on the one-sixth of the earth's surface that was removed from their sphere of exploitation by the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

Of course, this is not late-breaking news. Anyone with a Marxist understanding always knew about the profit motive that drove the war against the socialist camp.

What is new is the brazenness with which the supposedly liberal New York Times has stated imperialism's crass aims so directly.

In fact, as if to emphasize the message, an opinion piece in the same newspaper on the same day lauded The Third American Empire. Written by Jacob Heilbrunn and Michael Lind, two editors of the right-wing magazine New Republic, it put forward the thesis that the U.S. intervention in Bosnia should be viewed as establishing the western border of a new American empire in the Middle East encompassing the regions once ruled by the Ottoman Turks.

This refers to the region subjected to imperialist domination by Britain, France and Germany before World War I—a vast area stretching from Iraq to the Balkans. Heilbrunn and Lind call for shifting away from the Far East and concentrating on this oil-rich strategic area, which seems to them more manageable.

They admit this new empire cannot be justified as a means of spreading democracy and self-determination, pointing out that feudal dictators prevail in many U.S.-puppet states like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. And they conclude by warning that failure in Bosnia could undermine the third American empire before it has even been established.

The extent to which this particular strategic view carries weight in the U.S. ruling class is not clear. The important thing is that the Times does not feel inhibited from making brazen imperialist threats to the world.


The Times runs a global enterprise, unlike any other newspaper in this country.

Like the U.S. State Department, it has bureaus all over the world and pipelines into the highest levels of Washington and many other governments. Diplomats and government officials everywhere read it for clues to U.S. policy.

Such a belligerent message is a departure from the long- established, hypocritical, double-talking imperialist journalism that makes a fine art of subtlety and innuendo in order to communicate Wall Street's aims to the insiders while concealing these aims from the world at large.

The allusion to Rudyard Kipling's phrase the Great Game is understood all over the world, particularly in the East. It is an approving reference to the person who most blatantly glorified British imperialism's machinations to control Asia.

Kipling was the white-supremacist ideologist on colonial conquest who popularized the slogan white man's burden.

Siding openly with the oil monopolies—the most aggressive group of corporations at the heart and soul of the U.S. military-industrial complex—betrays the bourgeoisie's giddy new-found freedom to say what they really think, now that they don't have to worry about the attraction of the oppressed countries to the USSR and the rival social system it represented.


It was the Bolsheviks under Lenin who forced the capitalist establishment to conceal its aims in the first place.

When the Bolsheviks took power on Nov. 7, 1917, in the name of the workers and peasants, they declared an end to secret diplomacy. They renounced all the annexationist goals of the czarist regime. And they proceeded to publish in their press and in pamphlet form for world distribution all the secret treaties and memoranda devised by the Russian, British and French governments from 1914 to 1917.

These secret agreements had been made while European workers were dying by the millions in the horrific trenches of World War I. They were nothing but robbers' pacts to divide up the territories and resources of Central Asia, Europe and the Far East.

After this exposure by the Soviet regime, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in January 1918 attempted what today would be called damage control. He promulgated his 14 Points calling for self-determination and open covenants, openly arrived at.

Of course, U.S. imperialism had troops in Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and the Philippines. Wilson had invaded Mexico just one year earlier. But that didn't stop him from spouting liberal demagogy in an attempt to counteract the anti- imperialist expos,s of the Bolsheviks.

The very existence of the USSR, of China during its revolutionary period, and of the entire socialist camp forced the imperialists to mask the aims of their diplomacy. But now they feel free to adopt a new aggressive tone that is remarkably similar to the old imperialist arrogance of a century ago.


The lesson for the workers in this country is that the liberalism of the ruling class and its government—when they bother to profess liberalism, which happens less and less— is not based on any humanitarian impulses. It is based on deception, but also fear of the people.

All the social gains in this country were won by struggles of the workers, and not because the ruling class was in a giving mood. When they have a free hand, the bosses only know how to take and exploit.

The workers and oppressed here should waste not an ounce of energy trying to get the liberal establishment to pull them out of the deepening pit of poverty, layoffs, low pay, racism and all the other injustices that are mounting daily.

The kind of robbery the bosses are carrying out against the masses of Central Asia and the former Soviet Union is no different from the Contract with America here at home: stealing what belongs to the workers and turning it over to the rich. Only the independent struggle of the workers will turn this situation around—from Kazakhstan to Kansas.