Division of the World: Capitalism vs Communism

Division of the World: Capitalism vs Communism



Following World War II, the world became divided between Communist and Capitalist lines. This ideological division started before the end of World War II and would consume the world. Both the United States and the Soviet Union wanted to grow their political and ideological reach throughout the world. The division between the Capitalist, Communist, and the Non-Aligned states would create conflicts with other aspects of global life, such as decolonization in the period. Allied during World War II, the U.S. and USSR became competitors on the world stage and engaged in the Cold War, so-called because it never boiled over into open war between the two powers but was focused on espionage, political subversion, and proxy wars. The Cold War had a large impact on global politics in the period 1945-1992.


Learning Objectives

  • Evaluate the differences between Soviet Communism and United States Capitalism.
  • Analyze the impact of the end of World War II on the post-war societies.
  • Evaluate the role of United States foreign policy in shaping the post World War II world. 


Key Terms / Key Concepts

denazification: an Allied initiative to rid German and Austrian society, culture, press, economy, judiciary, and politics of any remnants of the National Socialist ideology (Nazism) (It was carried out by removing from positions of power and influence those who had been Nazi Party members and disbanding or rendering impotent the organizations associated with Nazism.)

reparations: payments intended to cover damage or injury inflicted during a war



The Polar Post War World

The German Nazi’s were such a threat to the United States and the Soviet Union that both countries came together to fight. In many ways, the fighting of World War II pulled these two countries together, but unfortunately this was not to last. At the Potsdam Conference, FDR and Churchill came together with Stalin to craft a lasting peace. But unforutnately this did not last because these three leaders disliked Hitler. The old statement, the enemy of my enemy is my friend is very important here. With Hitler removed, the United States and the Soviet Union quickly lost their friendly relationship.

After the war these two sides were polar opposites in ideology and society. The Russian Revolution and the United States reaction to the revolution in the 1920s meant that the Soviet Union was very antagonistic to the United States. The United States support of the White Russians, meant that the Soviet Union had very negative feelings towards the United States.

The United States and the Soviet Union were the lone world powers following World War II. Both countries attempted to spread their economic, political, cultural, and social values throughout the world directly after WWII. This would create tensions as both powers saw themselves in direct competition with one another. As the Cold War started taking shape, both powers felt that they alone should be leading the world.

The competition appeared to be leading to outright war. But because of the technological development of the atomic bomb, direct fighting between these two powers was not something that could happen. The fear of atomic warfare meant the entire world was in the balance if there was any conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. This fear and tension between communism and capitalism meant that conflicts were never directly open between these two powers; instead, the Cold War was mostly fought around the world in states that were decolonizing. This is why this time period is known as a Cold War: there was never active fighting between these two states and instead there was fighting in regions that was never directly between the United States and the Soviet Union.

To understand how the Cold War got started, it is important to understand the end of World War II, specifically the Yalta Treaty. This treaty set in motion much of the antagonism of the post-war period. It is important to also note that the leaders at Yalta had seen the horrors of World War I and how this directly caused World War II. They did not want to have a World War III. These leaders understood that the Treaty of Versailles was at the heart of the problem that caused World War II, and they did not want to make the same mistake again. The three leaders wanted to be active in stopping another crisis but had to establish a way to develop and rebuild Europe. The Yalta Conference is significant to the development of understanding the Cold War conflict.


The Details

The main agreements made during the meeting are as follows:

  1. All agreed to the priority of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. After the war, Germany and Berlin would be split into four occupied zones.
  2. Stalin agreed that France would have a fourth occupation zone in Germany that would be formed out of the American and British zones.
  3. Germany would undergo demilitarization and denazification.
  4. German reparations were partly to be in the form of forced labor to repair damage that Germany had inflicted on its victims.
  5. Creation of a reparation council located in the Soviet Union.
  6. The Polish eastern border would follow the Curzon Line, and Poland would receive territorial compensation in the west from Germany.
  7. Stalin pledged to permit free elections in Poland.
  8. Citizens of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were to be handed over to their respective countries, regardless of their consent.
  9. Roosevelt obtained a commitment by Stalin to participate in the UN.
  10. Stalin requested that all of the 16 Soviet Socialist Republics would be granted UN membership. This was taken into consideration, but 14 republics were denied.
  11. Stalin agreed to enter the fight against the Empire of Japan.
  12. Nazi war criminals were to be found and put on trial.
  13. A “Committee on Dismemberment of Germany” was to be set up to decide whether Germany would be divided into six nations.

The end result was that Europe was divided between the United States and the Soviet Union with the purposes of rebuilding, which created a new post-war world reality. The significant problem that arose was due to the fact that the United States and England were to rebuild the Western section of Europe, while the Soviet Union was to rebuild the Eastern parts of Europe. Many historians question this tactic that Roosevelt bargained for, because it gave away so much territory to the Soviet Union. Some historians believe this was mean to be a starting point for the negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union, and that Roosevelt felt he could arrange for a better agreement later. However, Roosevelt was very sick, and he died the next year. Stalin did not want to renegotiate the Yalta Conference, and later conferences the United States and Soviet Union remained in this deadlocked position between the two.

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