Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A symbol of freedom

In 1948 the postwar euphoria that had attended the founding of the United Nations had evaporated, and the Soviet Union directly challenged the United States by blockading West Berlin, a tiny western toehold on the Soviet side of a now-divided Europe. 

The Western powers responded by airlifting supplies into West Berlin around the clock for over a year until the Soviets lifted the blockade. With the establishment in 1949 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an alliance between the United States and its European allies, and the setting up of the rival Warsaw Treaty Organization by the Soviet Union, the stage was set for the decades-long military deadlock of the cold war. 

During this period, in which the two blocs competed for influence and fought proxy wars in many parts of the world but never came into direct conflict, Coca-Cola came to be associated not just with America but with the broader Western values of freedom, democracy, and free-market capitalism. 

Among communists, conversely, Coca-Cola came to stand for everything that was deemed wrong with capitalism, particularly the notion that satisfying consumers’ often trivial demands should be the organizing principle of the economy. 

As a placard at the Coca-Cola Company’s 1948 convention put it, “When we think of Communists, we think of the Iron Curtain. But when they think of democracy, they think of Coca-Cola.”
Source: A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

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