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The Cold War 1945-1989

Hostilities between the capitalist and communist nations began in 1918, before the Russian communists gained full control of their country. 18 nations including Britain sent troops to Russia to aid the anti-communist forces. Fortunately for Lenin and Trotsky and their fellow Bolsheviks, it was a half hearted invasion which was soon petered out.

Within 30 years Lenin's successor Stalin and his supporters had taken a fading feudal empire back to the forefront of world politics. It emerged from the Second World War a global power second only to the United States. With China after 1949 it formed the communist bloc.

The competition between the US and the communist bloc was dubbed the Cold War, since the two superpowers never came into direct military conflict. Instead the real deadly wars were fought in other countries, of Asia, Africa and Southern America, and ideological battles took place the world over.

In Europe after the Second World War, the United States spent a large amount of money and time ensuring that there were labour movement organisations who would remain sympathetic to capitalism. Their attentions included the British Labour Party.

Those who were sympathetic to the Soviet Bloc were belittled in the establishment press as 'fellow travelers'. The Cold War division came to a head in the Labour Party around issue of nuclear disarmament, and at the 1960 party conference future leader Michael Foot asked of the pro nuclear defence lobby "Who were they traveling with?"

Like the Christmas Truce of the First World War, there were events which broke through the barriers of hostility. Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, was a foundry worker by trade and so the British Foundry Workers' Union invited him to visit. In July 1961 he came to Manchester, to a heroic welcome.