Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

The Cold War in Canada

While researching for an upcoming conference paper on transnational Nicaraguan twinning links – the United States is the apparently one of the few Western countries that calls these relationships “sister cities” – I came across two very interesting political cartoons. Both images, published in the Whitby Free Press, an independent press operating an hour from the heart of Toronto, depicted 1980s world leaders in a less than flattering light.


Whitby Free Press, November 30, 1983, 1.

The above image shows U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – the father of Current PM Justin Trudeau – and Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov playing video games in an arcade. Reagan and Andropov are both playing a game labeled The Day After, a reference to the TV movie of the same name that premiered earlier that year and captured popular attention due to its graphic depictions of the horrors of nuclear war. It is also a reference to the increased tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the “Second Cold War” of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The cartoon, which draws attention to the increasingly dangerous and apocalyptic contest between the United States and the Soviet Union, pokes fun at Trudeau’s dovishness and desire for detente between the superpowers, showing the prime minister playing a peaceful game as represented by hearts and a dove. Although he did not engineer it, Trudeau’s cooperative approach ultimately won out as relations between the United States and the Soviet Union warmed in the final years of the Cold War.


Whitby Free Press, January 18, 1989, 7.

The second image makes light of Reagan’s age – he was the oldest elected president of the United States – and shows him sleeping while holding a bottle of Geritol and riding a horse backwards. Although a rather funny cartoon, it highlighted a significant issue of the Reagan presidency. By his second term as president, Reagan demonstrated signs of significant mental decline, often forgetting important details about his own policies. At the time, many of the president’s critics blamed his “forgetfulness” on political intransigence, especially in the wake of the Iran-Contra scandal and the subsequent questions concerning Reagan’s role in the illicit arms deals. However, today most scholars believe that Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which affected the president’s ability to govern in his second term. It is likely that his forgetfulness was less a ploy and more a result of his declining mental state. The president is also holding a jar of jelly beans, which, as we all know, was his favorite snack. At the time, this cartoon was meant to highlight the absurdity of Reagan’s final years in office. However, the cartoon also unintentionally serves to humanize Reagan by addressing his struggle with Alzheimer’s. My own grandmother is dealing with memory loss and, despite my opinions of Reagan’s policies, which aren’t good, I can not help but feel sorry him.

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Reagan the Bozo


Above is another image from the Nicaraguan Solidarity Campaign’s collection of Roger Sanchez’s cartoons, however this cartoon was drawn by British cartoonist Steve Bell. Since 1981 Bell has been the editorial cartoonist for The Guardian newspaper and is best known for his political cartoons. The above cartoon is a satirical depiction of Ronald Reagan, which Bell adequately explains.

Apart from depicting Bell’s attitudes, the image is an excellent representation of broader Western European sentiments towards Ronald Reagan. Because of his antagonistic rhetoric and actions towards the Soviet Union, many Europeans viewed Reagan as a threat to the Cold War status quo on the continent. Those opposed to Reagan’s policies saw the Nicaraguan Revolution as an opportunity to challenge U.S. hegemony. Although although many Europeans held idealistic concerns about human rights abuses in Nicaragua, it also presented a pragmatic opportunity to hamstring U.S. policy.

I’m going to make an effort to cite some relevant works so I’m not just blowing smoke with my blog posts.

Eusebio Mujal-León. “European Socialism and the Crisis in Central America.” Rift and Revolution: The Central American Imbroglio (Washington: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1984)

Wolf Grabendorff, Heinrich-W. Krumwiede, Jorg Todt. Political Change in Central America: Internal and External Dimensions (Boulder: Westview Press, 1984).

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Images are a powerful means of protest. Much like the cartoons of Roger Sanchez, the posters of European solidarity organizations conveyed a message of resistance to U.S. imperialism.  Some posters advertised rallies and protests, aiding in the organization of mass demonstrations. Others, like the one above, carried a message that challenged the policies of the United States. This poster features a monstrous Ronald Reagan, shaped like North America minus Canada, about to devour tiny Nicaragua. The heading roughly translates as “The USA makes Nicaragua broken. We want the establishment of a free Nicaragua to continue.” The image in the bottom right corner indicates that  The Greens of North Rhine-Westphalia created the poster. Although some details are unclear, such as when this branch of The Greens printed this poster, it is not difficult to discern their stance on the situation in Nicaragua.

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Pledge of Resistance, German Style



My first full day in the archive proved fruitful. The staff at the Archiv Grünes Gedächtnis (Green Memory Archive) were so helpful and very sympathetic to my lack of German. My best finds so far are petitions and packets of newspaper clippings sent to Green Party member of parliament Gabby Gottwald. These documents were from solidarity groups in Germany and the United States reaching out to their representatives in government, and in the case of the U.S. organizations, those of another country.

The above document is a German translation and modification of the Pledge of Resistance. After the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983 many in the solidarity movement in the United States feared that the Reagan administration would soon invade Nicaragua. In response, a group, which came to be known simply as Pledge of Resistance, created a pledge promising to resist a U.S. invasion and stand in solidarity with the people of Nicaragua. The pledge soon became the rallying cry for those opposed to the Reagan administration’s aggression towards Nicaragua. The fact that the document made it to Germany, and eventually into the hands of a German member of parliament, demonstrates the transnational dimensions of revolutionary solidarity.

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Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign


“Lawyer Henry Spooner and actors Alfred Molina and Maggie Steed taking part in a protest outside the US embassy in London demanding US recognition of the World Court verdict in London in 1987″

In the 1980s Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign (NSC) created a broad coalition that condemned U.S. military and economic aggression against Nicaragua. NSC became the nexus of Nicaraguan Solidarity in Great Britain, organizing protests, work brigades, and study tours. NSC also sent thousands of pounds to Nicaragua for the creation of hospitals and schools. According to their website the NSC “played a key role in counteracting the intense media campaign that in the ThatcherReagan cold war era depicted Nicaragua as a communist totalitarian dungeon with troops poised to storm the Texan border.”

Through my contacts in Newcastle I was able to reach out to NSC and I’m in the process of setting up a Skype interview with them. If time permits I may try to go to London while I’m in Europe and visit the NSC’s archives.

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