History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1941-1951 - Vol. 4

By Noreen Branson | Go to book overview

19
EASTERN EUROPE AND
STALIN’S INFLUENCE

As noted in Chapter 10, in his very first speech as Foreign Secretary in August 1945, Bevin had sneered at the ‘totalitarian’ regimes set up in Eastern European countries after their occupation by the Red Army. In fact, in most of these countries, democratic elections had been held at the end of 1945 or the beginning of 1946, in some of them for the very first time.

Before the war, Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary had all been subject to authoritarian regimes, and their governments had supported the Nazi invasion of Russia. The war, the defeat of Hitler, the occupation by Soviet troops, had led to the downfall of these pro-fascist governments, and their replacement by anti-fascist coalitions in which the previously illegal communist parties were at last able to participate. Thus in Hungary, where free elections were held for the very first time on 4 November 1945, 4.7 million people voted, and the result was 242 seats for the Smallholders Party, 70 seats for the Social Democrats, 69 seats for the Communists, 23 seats for the National Peasants Party. In Bulgaria, where a general election took place on 18 November 1945, a coalition of five parties which had joined together in resistance to the Nazis, calling itself the ‘Fatherland Front’, put forward 276 candidates, of whom 94 belonged to the Agrarian People’s Union, 94 to the Communist Party (its leader was the international hero, Dimitrov), 45 to Zveno (a middle class patriotic party whose leader became Prime Minister), 31 to the Social Democrats, 11 to the Radicals. In the election, 3.4 million voters backed the ‘Fatherland Front’ candidates, while only 473,425 voted for the opposition candidates, none of whom were returned.

With the exception of Czechoslovakia, most of the countries neighbouring the Soviet Union were industrially backward and agriculturally primitive. The coalition governments which were elected

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