Beyond Cold War Women: The Peace versus Freedom Debate Revisited.

AuthorKim, Suzy

THE COLD WAR IS CONVENTIONALLY THOUGHT TO BE LONG OVER. Whatever legacies of it remain in East Asia, such as the continued division of the Korean Peninsula and strained relations between Taiwan and China, are regarded as mere relics of a bygone era. When the Cold War in its conventional periodization was entering its last decade, the famed historian of the English working class and longtime peace activist E.P. Thompson delivered a prescient lecture in 1981 about going "beyond the Cold War." This statement has come to resonate far beyond its original context, for it is now clear that the Cold War never ended. (1)

Thompson's basic argument was that the Cold War had essentially split the causes of peace and freedom so that the West claimed freedom while the East advocated peace. Neither side was able to abide by their principal claims, and yet these "underpinned the ideological contestations of the Cold War" (Thompson 1982, 6). Even as certain freedoms of association and belief were curtailed through such forms as the House Un-American Activities Committee in the United States, the so-called Free West relied on democratic practices as an integral part of its political identity, whereas the East consistently aligned itself with the cause of peace, perhaps as a result of its own necessity for survival in the face of the overwhelming superiority of US weapons technology, with the demonstrated capacity to use nuclear weapons as seen in Japan at the end of World War II.

Thompson (ibid., 8) referred to Europe as being in a state of "permanent double-bind," whereby "those who worked for freedom in the East were suspected or exposed as agents of Western imperialism" and "those who worked for peace in the West were suspected or exposed as pro-Soviet 'fellow travellers' or dupes of the Kremlin"; however, this double bind is neither limited to Europe nor to the twentieth century. It continues to encompass all areas under the grips of the long Cold War. The double bind, which also manifests in the form of a "double vision" (Kim 2018), paradoxically underestimates women's power even while overestimating and misinterpreting their motives. The tacit yet persistent angle in such views pits peace against freedom as if the cause of peace is waged at the expense of freedom.

This essay traces the puzzling history of the peace versus freedom debate in order to show more concretely how such abstract notions as peace and freedom take on gendered meaning with dire political implications. I begin with a brief historical account to situate women in this debate, showing how the bifurcation of peace and freedom affected women peacemakers during the Cold War, that is, as Cold War women. I then trace a discursive genealogy of this bifurcation and highlight the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, as a specific display of this gendered binary. Freedom came to evoke masculinity and strength, whereas peace became aligned with femininity and weakness during World War II, which were then inscribed onto and reinforced by the Cold War. Korea looms large in this history as one of the countries to be divided as a direct result of the Cold War rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States, which ultimately led to the Korean War (1950-1953). Using Thompson's observations of the Cold War as both prophetic but also critically limited in their account of women's role and the gendered dimensions of the Cold War, I conclude in the last section by introducing the concept of "survival politics" from the work of South Korean feminist anthropologist Cho Haejoang (2017) as a way to move beyond the double bind and the false binary in which Cold War women, including peacemakers today, have been caught.

Cold War Women: Peace as Method for Social justice

The oldest women's international peace organization, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), was founded in 1915 when the International Suffrage Alliance convened an international congress of women to form the International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace (Bussey & Tims 1965, 17). The gathering was dismissed as "foolish and naive; interfering and ill-informed," as well as "irresponsibly feminine, and at the same time boldly unwomanly" (ibid., 19-20), despite the fact that no other group had succeeded in overcoming nationalist allegiances to call for peace during World War I. During its second congress in 1919, the group came up with its present name as an international organization with its headquarters in Geneva to coincide with the founding of the League of Nations. The name included both peace and freedom precisely to counter the double bind that existed even before the start of the Cold War, and yet the group was never too far from being red-baited and accused of being communist due to its call for peace (ibid., 79).

The organization itself was often divided over the means to achieve peace and how to conceptualize peace and freedom as interdependent. For example, women at the second congress had lengthy debates about their position regarding pacifism and nonviolence. Acknowledging the justified use of force in cases of self-defense and causes of social justice, the women voted in favor of supporting the cause of Sinn Fein for Irish self-determination, as well as the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, even while maintaining its faith in peaceful methods (ibid., 39-40). (2) The consensus was that peace was not simply a cessation of hostilities or absence of violence but an active praxis; as Kathleen Innes, a British Quaker at the 1934 congress stated, "Peace is a method and not a state" (ibid., 121). As World War II loomed, with attempts to save the peace by forsaking the right to self-determination of some countries, WILPF condemned such policies as a sham peace and proclaimed:

Pacifism is not quietistic acceptance of betrayal and lies for the sake of 'Peace'. Pacifism is the struggle for truth, the struggle for right, the struggle for clear political aims, for firm political will and action. Pacifism is not weak acceptance of 'faits accomplis' achieved by brute force. Pacifism is courageous initiative for a...

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