The Cold WarCommunism VS Democracy

Communism: A government in which the daily life of citizens is controlled by a single communist party through fear and oppression. There is an oppression of personal freedoms and censorship of the media. Work and Wealth are shared equally by the citizens. The Soviet Union employed a communist form of government, which it hoped to spread to other countries.
Democracy: A government for the people. There are personal freedoms such as speech and religion, and there are free elections. a democratic government is focused on the people. The United States had a democratic and capitalistic government and did not want communism to take over the world.


The argument over communism vs.democracy, led to rising tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union and prompted the start of the Cold War.

Communism in the Soviet Union
  • Vladimir I.Lenin founded the communist party in the Soviet Union and became the first communist dictator of the country
  • Another communist dictator, Joseph Stalin, came to power in 1929 and suppressed personal freedoms.
  • Stalin wanted to expand communism to the surrounding nations.
  • The Long Telegram expressed Soviet ideas about the future of communism to American officials and caused the U.S. to adopt the policy of containment, or stopping the spread of communism.
  • Winston Churchill used the term, "iron curtain" to describe Europe's division into two different political regions. Western Europe was democratic and Eastern Europe was communist.

stalin.jpeg iron_curtain.jpg

Communism in America
American Reaction
  • Mao Zedong had led the communist party to gain strength in China. The communists had gained most of the power in China by 1945. The United States reacted with shock and fear. They couldn't believe that communism had triumphed in China and they were afraid that the world would be overthrown by communism.
  • Containment- The United states adopted a policy of containment which declared that they would go to any means necessary to prevent the spread of communism.
The Power of Communism in America
  • The fear of communism was so powerful in America that it caused the government to go to extremes to ensure that communism would not trump democracy. People's rights were violated as more and more Americans were accused of being communists, some did not even have evidence presented against them. Things got so out of hand that they turned into a modern day "communist hunt". Similar to the Salem witch hunts that took place centuries earlier, everybody and anybody was accused of being a communist and an anti-communist hysteria developed in the United States that caused people to make false accusations against anyone, even family members.
Anti-communist Measures
  • House Un- American Activities- Targeted communism in the movie industry. The committee was afraid of communist propaganda in films. 43 witnesses were used to verify the accusation of communism in the movie industry. The ten people that refused to testify were called the Hollywood Ten and they went to prison because of it. A blacklist was created by Hollywood executives and around 500 peoples' careers were negatively affected because they were accused of communism.
  • Loyalty Review Board- Truman set up the Loyalty review board in March, 1947. The job of the board was to investigate the loyalty of government employees. Around 3.2 million employees were investigated and 212 were fired. 2,900 more quit because they felt that their constitutional rights were being violated.
  • The McCarran Act- Made it illegal to be disloyal to the government in any way or to plot against the government in a way that could lead to totalitarian dictatorship.
  • Alger Hiss- was accused of working as a Soviet Union spy by Whittaker Chambers. Chambers used documents as evidence that suggested Hiss' guilt. Hiss was not charged with espionage but he was imprisoned for lying about the documents.
  • Julius and Ethel Rosenberg- When the United States learned that the Soviets had an atomic bomb, people feared that information about the bomb had been supplied to the soviets from communist supporters. Members of the communist party, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, refused to admit that they were communists and they were executed for engaging in espionage against the United States.
  • McCarthyism- Joseph McCarthy built off of the public's fear of communism to accuse people of being suspected communists. When McCarthy curved his accusations towards the U.S army in 1954, he lost public support and was condemned by the Senate.


How did all of this lead to the Cold War?
  • After World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States went their separate way in terms of government, which led to conflict.
  • The United States was afraid of the Soviet sphere of influence cutting off Western trade and interfering with the economy.
  • The United States and the Soviet Union were each afraid of an atomic bomb attack from the other country.
    - This fear led to widespread communist cases in the United States such as, the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
  • Different beliefs from each country: the Soviets disliked the American democratic and capitalistic form of government and the main goal in America was to stop the spread of communism by the Soviet Union.
  • Allies of the Soviet Union were forced by the Soviet Union to reject American aid from the Marshall plan.
  • Stalin gave a pre-election speech in which he addressed the causes of the World Wars, but his speech was interpreted as Soviet hostility directed towards the West.
  • Americans believed it was their duty to control communism, which they did by giving aid to countries through the Marshall Plan.

Significance and Impact
  • The argument over communism and democracy led to the Cold War and ultimately increased tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • The two countries, who were once friends, began to develop a hatred towards each other and drift away from the allied relationship that they shared during World War II.
  • They engaged in a war that did not include fighting, but rather competition to prove which country was the best. This included a policy of brinkmanship in which each country raced to see who could develop the most arms and nuclear weapons the quickest. They went all out, almost to the brink of war. The United States and the Soviet Union also competed in a space race. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite. This caused fear in the United States, who responded with attempts to launch its own satellite. Soon, the two nations were both furiously working to see who could make a breakthrough in the space program and send a man to the moon.
  • Ultimately, the conflict of communism vs. democracy caused the Soviet Union and the United States to compete against each other. The United States had a democratic and capitalistic government, which the Soviet Union did not like, and the Soviet Union had a communistic government, which the United States saw as evil and they made it their goal to stop the spread of communism. By competing against each other, the two countries were trying to prove who had the best government, and essentially the best country.

Musical Selection

The song Uprising can be used to parallel the Cold War. The theme and lyrics resemble the conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States, during the Cold War.
  • The first line of the song, "paranoia is in bloom", represents the paranoia that was spreading around the United States as a result of communism.
  • The line, "And endless red tape to keep the truth confined", describes the way in which the Soviets and Americans tried to keep their information to themselves so that the other country would not be able to access it. For example, information about the atomic bomb was kept top secret in the United States, so as not to be leaked to the Soviet Union.
  • "We will be victorious" expresses each country's desire to win the Cold War and prove its government and country the best.
  • The line "we should never be afraid to die" describes how Americans were taught to react to the threat of a nuclear attack.
  • "Rise up and take the power back" symbolizes the Soviet Union's struggle to spread communism and the United States actions to contain communism.
  • "We have to unify and watch our flag ascend" represents the nationalism that each country felt and that they would do anything to defend their country, the Soviets would do anything to defend communism and the United States would do anything to defend democracy.

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