The most symbolic date of the American Revolutionary period: the year of the Declaration of Independence. For our purposes, we shall call this the year that the United States (USA) came into existence.
Adam Smith publishes his Wealth of Nations, bringing into the world "the invisible hand of market" and the foundations of laissez-faire capitalism. The market, argues Smith, will regulate itself; rational self-interest will create the best for the most.
It is useful that we can trace both the beginning of the USA and of what Communism would come to see as "Western capitalism" to the same year.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto. Along with other writings, this will become the foundation of Soviet Communism. Marx and Engels see the world defined by material conditions, and theorize the revolution that will re-arrange the existing (Industrialist) social order, bringing about a classless society.
The Russian Revolution. Following an abdication and a brief liberal government, Lenin and his Bolshevik Party stage a coup d'etat and seize power in Russia. Over the next few years, the Bolsheviks will defeat their opponents and consolidate their power. Communism is born.
In Hungary, the Communist Bela Kun proclaims a Communist state—the world's second. It does not last long, and is soon replaced by the Conservative regime of Admiral Horthy. Already, the ideological fight between Communism and, broadly defined, Capitalism has begun.
The Polish-Soviet War is fought. Lenin, who wishes to bring revolution to Europe through force, is defeated by the Poles. The spread of Communism is contained. Lenin changes tactics: instead of revolution by force, he will seek to foster Communist parties and Communist revolution by other, less military, means.
The Soviet Union (USSR) is officially created. It is recognized by the British two years later. It will last until 1991.
Lenin dies, unleashing a power struggle within the Communist Party. Over the next few years, Joseph Stalin emerges as the new leader of the USSR.
Stalin introduces the USSR's first five-year plan. Part of this plan is a change in international strategy: no longer focused on a world revolution, as was Lenin, Stalin sets his goal as "socialism in one country".
The US establishes a diplomatic relationship with the USSR.
The Spanish Civil War becomes the first fighting ground for what will come to be called The Cold War. Franco's Conservatives battle Spanish Socialists. The USSR lends support to the anti-Franco forces, the Fascist Italians and Nazi Germans give aid to Franco, and the USA stays out.
The first two years of World War II. In September of 1939, after having signed a secret pact, the Germans and Soviets attack Poland. After Poland falls, the Germans roll westward, into France, which falls quickly, too. Meanwhile, the Soviets, at the end of November, attack Finland. As a result, the USSR is expelled from the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations (UN).
Though the USA is giving lend-lease aid to Britain from the beginning of the war, the Americans are not yet directly involved.
Germany betrays Stalin and attacks the USSR. Stalin suddenly becomes an Ally.
Later in the same year, the Japanese attack the American base at Pearl Harbor, which is followed up by a declaration of war against the USA by Hitler, sending the Americans into war with both the Japanese and the Germans.
The Americans and Soviets are now on the same side.
After defeats in North Africa, Russia, and the Allied landings in France, the war culminates in a "race to Berlin" between the USA and the USSR, by now the two major powers. The Soviets win.
As a result of a series of conferences held from 1943 to 1945, post-war Europe is uneasily divided between Western and Soviet camps. The