Kissinger and Horne: What was the Cold War about?

Gerald Horne

‘‘The world diplomatic front is a screen on which appears the apparent struggle between the Free World and the Communist camp….Behind it the real struggle goes on …’

Henry Kissinger (1955)1

This conflict in Ukraine has exposed the underlying features, previously hidden, of the contemporary world. Europe’s condition as a vassal state was expertly hidden but is now thoroughly revealed. This generates a question: what was the Cold War truly about? What were the US ambitions in Europe? To many the most clear answer is to look to Mackinder2 and see the struggle as one over the Eurasian heartland. This becomes a struggle for global domination which requires that Germany and Russia be kept apart. Gorbachev’s attempt to make peace in Europe, under this view, never had a chance. Germany and Russia together would be a major threat to US hegemony.

Another aspect of the US wish for global domination would be the need to generate conflict everywhere. Conflict everywhere creates a demand for arms and a recycling of surplus dollars. This demand for arms funds the development cycle of the arms industry. In addition, after WW1 the US and Europe sought to dismember the Ottoman Empire. Today the US wishes to do the same for Russia.

Du Bois had stated that:

‘The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line,—the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.’ 3

 Gerald Horne rephrased this in what became known as the ‘Horne Thesis’. This has been expressed by Erik McDuffie4

‘what I term the “Horne thesis”: the argument that white supremacy and anticommunism were the major forces shaping post–World War II life and politics in the United States, with significant implications for African-descended and colonized people globally.’

This posing of the relation between the colour line and socialism has clearly become incoherent. The conflict with Russia, no longer a communist state, cannot be encapsulated in anti-communism, and so the conflict with China cannot be so described either. We are faced with the consequences of economic reductionism, a temptation which is strong in Marxists.  This involves undervaluing the role of culture and normalising cultural structures as inevitable and non-historical. 

If Horne had considered these issues more carefully he might have seen an answer to his own question:

‘But if “Stalinism” discredited socialism, why did slavery, the slave trade, and racism not discredit capitalism? If Soviet intervention in Eastern Europe discredited socialism, then why did U.S. backing of apartheid South Africa not discredit capitalism’5

It is easy now to notice that Stalinism and its sister, Soviet intervention in Eastern Europe, affected what might be called ‘white people’ and so was unacceptable to the left and right among Europeans, whereas  US interventions affected mostly non-whites and so were not such a heartfelt issue. Many Europeans who suffered Soviet intervention fled to apartheid South Africa. For people in pursuit of a free society, choosing apartheid South Africa for their new home might appear a strange choice.

But looking back at the birth of ‘whiteness’ we discover that this concept has economic consequences for non-whites but strong cultural consequences for white people. Even if you lived alone and self-sufficient on a farm, if you were European the concept of Whiteness would have changed your life. ‘Whiteness’ is a cultural creation formed to allow the ruling elite to mobilise a population to do certain things, particularly to die on behalf of the goals of the elite if called upon. It creates a bond of complicity, and a flexible membership category that originally did not include the Irish , Eastern Europeans or Jews. Karen Brodkin illustrate this in her book ‘How Jews Became White Folks’. Another Jewish academic has found that though she was technically Black or mixed race at birth, because she was Jewish in her own lifetime she has transited to become ‘white’with the general acceptance of Jews among the elite in the US.

Col Douglas Macgregor6 asks pointedly ‘what is this Europe?’ Who is included? He says that he can see something like northern Europe, central Eastern Europe, southern Europe. Who is included in Europe? If we refer to DuBois’s statement this question can be seen as a polite reformulation of ‘who is considered ‘white’?’ Macgregor continued to state that Europe ‘is where it all began’, that Europe is the fountainhead of ‘our civilisation’. However, if Islam is foreign where does that leave Judaism? Macgregor is strongly against anti-Semitism, but does he not open a door? Here the need to challenge ‘this is where it all began’7 is shown not to be merely an academic nicety but possibly essential for human future survival.8 The recent (as in centuries) contributions of Islamic scholars, the earlier contributions ( as in millennia) of African civilisation to ancient Greece and Europe, 9 and the contributions of Chinese civilisation are being ignored perhaps deliberately by Western institutions of learning. This eurocentric myth is endangering not only our ability as peoples of this planet, humankind,  to live together but possibly the future of humanity. It is no longer a scholarly issue but one of global security.

Dubois and Kissinger might agree that the so-called anti-communist crusade was a smokescreen. It concealed a generalised Western genocidal crusade. Where Kissinger and Dubois part company would be over whether the US would happily sacrifice Western Europe. Macgregor is convinced the US would happily sacrifice Europe for its own goals.10 Dubois’ confidence in white solidarity may be seriously misplaced. But if the US elite would sacrifice Europe for its goals this implies a possible total war of annihilation. As Matthew Ehret puts it:

‘…. many of these disturbing figures honestly believe that a total war of annihilation is a risk worth taking in order to achieve their goals of total global hegemony..’11.


1.   Kissinger in a previously classified document of 1955, declassified in Feb 2008.(Baker, 2021, p. 25)

2.   (Mackinder, 1904)

3.  (DuBois, 1903 chapter 2)

4.   (McDuffie, 2011, p. 236)

5.   (Horne, 1996, p. 615)

6.   (De Nieuwe Wereld TV, 2024)

7.   (The Africanity of Ancient Egypt, 2019)

8.   (Ladimeji, 2024)

9.   (Park, 2013) (Needham, 1956) (Menzies, 2003)  (Menzies, 2009)  (Menzies & Hudson, 2013) (The Africanity of Ancient Egypt, 2019)

10.   (De Nieuwe Wereld TV, 2024)

11.  (Ehret, 2020)


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De Nieuwe Wereld TV (Director). (2024, June 25). The war in Ukraine and the decline of the West | #1623 with Douglas Macgregor.

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Ehret, M. (2020, January 19). The Geopolitics Of Epistemological Warfare: From Babylon To Neocon. Canadian Patriot.

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Park, P. K. J. (2013). Africa, Asia and the History of Philosophy: Racism in the formation of the philosophical canon 1780-1830. SUNY.

The Africanity of Ancient Egypt: Huggins Lectures by Christopher Ehret. (2019, November 7).