The Watergate Scandal is the first thing most people think of when Richard Nixon’s name is mentioned. Whilst this was the defining point of his presidency, the shadow it casts blots out other important aspects of the years from 1968 to 1974. Nixon’s very own Cardinal Wolsey, Henry Kissinger, came to exert an enormous amount of power in the White House. He was able to bypass the normal channels of American diplomacy and attempted, with immense violence across much of Asia, to dig the USA out of a series of foreign policy quagmires. The Cold War was in deadlock, America was bogged down in Vietnam and Kissinger had to deliver to his master a foreign policy triumph, even though Nixon was for the most part disinterested in the art of diplomacy.
Harry Truman in 1945
There had possibly been no president in American history as untested and unsure as Harry Truman. The death of Franklin D. Roosevelt came at a critical moment in the final stages of the Second World War and the emerging Cold War with the USSR. It also came as Roosevelt’s dream of a world organisation to regulate international affairs, the UN, was coming to fruition. Truman had virtually no experience in diplomacy, which Roosevelt himself had lived and breathed, but this didn’t mean that the new president had no understanding of how to deal with the USSR. His brusque, abrupt and uncompromising attitude was a welcome breath of fresh air to many in the White House who believed that the Soviets had been appeased by Roosevelt for too long.
You can hear more about Harry Truman here
The October Revolution of 1917 was at once a break with the past, a new beginning and an end of history, three ideas encapsulated within the dialectic of Marxism and the Hegelian eschatology that Marx’s ideas were based upon. A revolution staged by a radical intelligentsia who claimed to have correctly interpreted the processes of history itself was unprecedented, and because of this it would present specific philosophical and aesthetic challenges to the revolution’s heirs who set about building a new society on the ruins of the old.
The revolution of October 1917 had been a based around what its practitioners believed was a scientific analysis of the laws of history. Lenin was focused in his 1902 treatise on revolution ‘What is to be done’, on where Russia stood in its historical development, where exactly in history she was. The conclusion that he reached was that Russia was mired in here own backward peasant past and that a historical ‘short cut’ was necessary to jolt her into the future[i]. This short cut would be the coup of October 1917 and the state built thereafter would construct socialism, thus ushering in the final phase of human existence, Communism.
Listen to the full podcast on Stalinist Architecture here
India in 1945
The First World War had pushed British rule in India close to collapse and had arguably made home rule or dominion status only a matter of time. During the Second World War the Quit India campaign manifested itself as open rebellion against Britain and the subsequent famine in Bengal discredited Churchill’s wartime government in the eyes of much of the population. By 1945 the pressures that Japan’s war against Britain’s Asian Empire had placed on the colonial rulers had made the end of empire an inevitability. Not only had the British failed to show their martial prowess against Japan, but the war had revolutionised Indian society, seen the development of a huge war industry and a powerful Indian army of over a million men had been primarily responsible for taking the fight to the Japanese. The consequences of this for British rule were catastrophic. Listen to the podcast here for more: