The break out of the cold war

Essay by robichou September 2006

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The origins of the cold war are not really that difficult to uncover. Nor are these origins that complex. Here in the west we have the tendency -- not unusual, I suppose -- to place the entire responsibility of the cold war upon the shoulders of the Soviet Union. And so, there have been a few events which have shaped this response. For instance, when Mother Russia overthrew its tsar, made a revolution, became the Soviet Union, unified itself under Lenin and created an ideological structure called communism, the United States could only react with fear and trepidation. The government could not accept the simple fact that a country could exist with economic and political principles so critically opposed to democracy and industrial capitalism.

By 1919 or 1920, the Red Scare had become an American reality. Through the manipulation of public opinion and repression and even physical force, anarchists, socialists and communists were clearly forced into retreat.

Socialism or communism in the United States is simply an impossibility -- it is too European for American tastes. It always has been and perhaps always will be. True, there have been socialists and communists in this country well before 1917. And they exist today as well, but only as small pockets of supporters from whom we basically never hear a word. Americans fear revolution. Americans fear change -- real, fundamental social, economic and political change. And what really terrifies Americans are immigrants who desire change through revolution. Again, it's too European. This is an attitude which does have a history and I think if you study the atmosphere of the United States in the late 1840s and 50s you will discover why. In 1848, most European governments were under assault from the left. And when many of these individuals came to this...