cold war

Major Sources of Discord between the Bolsheviks and European States: 1917 to 1921

There were several major sources that created discord between the Bolsheviks and western states in Europe from 1917 to 1921. Conflicting ideologies that each attacked the very fabric of the other’s respective society led to the notion that capitalism and communism could not coexist. The attempts of both actors to hold control of their own political system and to expand their political ideas internationally led to major conflicts between them. Also, the lack of respect for the upstart Bolshevik government by the west led to misperceptions concerning the actions of the Soviets. Russia’s unsatisfactory involvement in World War I and their abrupt departure from the war which affected the western Allies war effort created much disenchantment between the two sides. The imperial and expansionist nature of both groups of actors led to conflict as the creation of both communist and non-communist blocs began with the independence of Poland as a free state in 1919. By using the Communist party as a vehicle to inject Communism into societies abroad, the Bolsheviks began to make free countries take notice of the threat that the “worker’s party” presented and began to act in strong opposition of Communism. The actions of both sides began a race for an expansion of two different ideologies which created conflict so strong that in due time another World War seemed inevitable. The “Cold War” had begun.
The fundamental difference between Russia and Europe was extremely contrasting views in ideology. The modernization of politics in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s had created similar political movements in both Europe and Russia meant to increase the authority of the masses over their own government. These movements replaced authoritarian regimes with political systems that were created to better the lives of the common people (Harris). Leading states of Europe such as France and Britain began to take the path of “social democracy” in which the working class would be given a voice through parliamentary elections (Harris). Also by organizing the proletariat through trade unions, social democracy allowed for collective bargaining to lead to improvements in working conditions, pay, benefits, and other factors that helped to limit the exploitation of lower class labor (Harris). On the other hand, the Bolshevik model for serving in the best interests of the common people was not to raise the level of the proletariat by giving them more rights and a stronger political voice, but to bring down the upper class that was exploiting them by destroying the caste system altogether. The goal of Bolshevism was to use a governing body to place the masses into one equal social class where everybody would work equally for the advancement of society as a whole (Harris). Communism under the direction of Lenin called for the abolishment of private property and the nationalization of all means of production thereby putting the state in control of all economics, politics, and social concerns (Harris). With the direction of the Bolshevik party, the Soviets were beginning to form a cohesive political machine that was to shape a new communist Russia, and eventually, a new communist world.
An intrinsic trait of Communist ideology was the opposition of the imperialist and capitalist ways of the west (Harris). The Bolsheviks contended that capitalism itself was one of the human race’s major evils and should be eliminated. Marxism states that inequality and lower class exploitation creates inter-class struggle which he felt was a major downfall of society (Harris). Fueled by materialistic greed, members of a capitalist society found themselves constantly trying to better themselves at the expense of others around them. The lower class of society such as the peasants and workers were being exploited by the upper bourgeois in the way that they were paid and how they were treated.
The Bolsheviks felt that the ultimate example of capitalistic evil was the Western imperialists who contended with one another for the accumulation of lands that they had no right to control (Harris). States such as Britain, Germany, France, and Austria-Hungary were proponents for the imperialist way which Lenin felt would lead to an inevitable World War between the imperialist states (Ulam, p. 79). Lenin’s idea was that the competition for lands and resources as well as