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New Left Review I/147, September-October 1984

Morten Ougaard

The Origins of the Second Cold War

In the seventies writings on the crisis of imperialism proliferated in leftist social science. [1] Among the important contributions were Elmar Altvater, Die Weltwährungskrise, Frankfurt 1969, postscript 1973; the essays by Samir Amin, Alexandre Faire and Gustave Massiah in Samir Amin et al., La crise de l’impérialisme, Paris 1975; André Farhi, ‘La règne du dollar. Hégémonie et déclin’, in Fitt, Yan et al., La crise de l’impérialisme et la troisième guerre mondiale, Paris 1976; Christian Leucate, ‘La contradiction inter-impérialiste aujourd’hui’, in Critiques de l’ Économie Politique, no 13/14, Paris 1973; the essay by Nicos Poulantzas on the internationalization of capital in Classes in Contemporary Capitalism, NLB/Verso, London 1975. Their focus of attention was the revolutions in the Third World, the relations between North and South, the incipient economic crisis in the centre, and the sharpening of economic rivalry among the main capitalist nations. For some writers it was precisely the simultaneous sharpening of these contradictions in the capitalist system which constituted the essence of the crisis of imperialism. Today, roughly a decade later, these topics are still being studied, written about, and discussed. But for reasons that are both obvious and impeccable, a new subject seems to have come to centre-stage: the East–West conflict and the Second Cold War. [2] I am of course referring to the theoretical debate triggered by Edward Thompson’s essay on Exterminism. A number of important contributions to this debate are collected in the volume edited by New Left Review, Exterminism and Cold War, Verso/NLB, London 1982. These two trends within Marxist analysis deal to some extent with the same subject, and the crucial inter-relationship between the crisis of imperialism and the Second Cold War has been examined by a number of writers. In this article I intend to take a critical look at how this question is tackled in one of the major new works on East–West relations: Fred Halliday’s The Making of the Second Cold War. [3] Fred Halliday, The Making of the Second Cold War, Verso/NLB, London 1983. [*] The author wishes to thank Thure Hastrup and Gorm Rye Olsen for helpful comments.

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