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10-08-2015, 17:12

THE COLLAPSE OF THE GRAND ALLIANCE

The problem started in Europe. At the end of the war, Soviet military forces occupied all of Eastern Europe and the Balkans (except for Greece, Albania, and Yugoslavia), while U.S. and other allied forces completed their occupation of the western part of the continent. Roosevelt had assumed that free elections administered by “democratic and peace-loving forces” would lead to the creation of democratic governments responsive to the aspirations of the local population. But it soon became clear that Moscow and Washington differed in their interpretations of the Yalta agreement. When Soviet occupation authorities turned their attention to forming a new Polish government in Warsaw, Stalin refused to accept the legitimacy of the Polish government in exile —headquartered in London during the war, it was composed primarily of representatives of the landed aristocracy who harbored a deep distrust of the Soviets—and instead installed a government composed of Communists who had spent the war in Moscow. Roosevelt complained to Stalin but was preoccupied with other problems and eventually agreed to a compromise solution whereby two members of the exile government in London were included in a new regime dominated by the Communists. A week later, Roosevelt was dead of a cerebral hemorrhage. Similar developments took place elsewhere in Eastern Europe as all of the states occupied by Soviet troops became part of Moscow’s sphere of influence. Coalitions of all political parties (except Fascist or right-wing parties) were formed to run the government, but within a year or two, the Communist parties in these coalitions had assumed the lion’s share of power. The next step was the creation of one-party Communist governments. The timetables for these takeovers varied from country to country, but between 1945 and 1947, Communist governments became firmly entrenched in East Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, and Hungary. In Czechoslovakia, with its strong tradition of democratic institutions, the Communists did not achieve their goals until 1948. In the elections of 1946, the Communist Party became the largest party but was forced to share control of the government with non-Communist rivals. When it appeared that the latter might win new elections early in 1948, the Communists seized control of the government on February 25. All other parties were dissolved, and Communist leader Klement Gottwald became the new president of Czechoslovakia. Yugoslavia was a notable exception to the pattern of growing Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe. The Communist Party there had led resistance to the Nazis during the war and easily took over power when the war ended. Josip Broz, known as Tito (1892–1980), the leader of the Communist resistance movement, appeared to be a loyal Stalinist. After the war, however, he moved toward the establishment of an independent Communist state in Yugoslavia. Stalin hoped to take control of Yugoslavia, just as he had done in other Eastern European countries. But Tito refused to capitulate to Stalin’s demands and gained the support of the people (and some sympathy in the West) by portraying the struggle as one of Yugoslav national freedom. In 1958, the Yugoslav party congress asserted that Yugoslav Communists did not see themselves as deviating from communism, only from Stalinism. They considered their more decentralized economic and political system, in which workers could manage themselves and local communes could exercise some political power, closer to the Marxist-Leninist ideal. To Stalin (who had once boasted, “I will shake my little finger, and there will be no more Tito”), the creation of pliant pro-Soviet regimes throughout Eastern Europe may simply have represented his interpretation of the Yalta peace agreement and a reward for sacrifices suffered during the war while satisfying Moscow’s aspirations for a buffer zone against the capitalist West. Recent evidence suggests that Stalin did not decide to tighten communist control over the new Eastern European governments until U.S. actions—notably the promulgation of the Marshall Plan (see below)—threatened to undermine Soviet authority in the region. If the Soviet leader had any intention of promoting future Communist revolutions in Western Europe—and there is some indication that he did—in his mind such developments would have to await the appearance of a new capitalist crisis a decade or more into the future. As Stalin undoubtedly recalled, Lenin had always maintained that revolutions come in waves.

 

 

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