The first organization specifically dedicated to opposing communism was the Russian White movement, which fought in the Russian Civil War starting in 1918 against the recently established Communist government. The White movement was supported militarily by several allied foreign governments, which represented the first instance of anti-communism as a government policy. Nevertheless, the Communist Red Army defeated the White movement and the Soviet Union was created in 1922. During the existence of the Soviet Union, anti-communism became an important feature of many different political movements and governments across the world.
In the United States, anti-communism came to prominence with the First Red Scare of 1919–1920. In Europe during the 1920s and 1930s, opposition to communism was promoted by conservatives, social democrats, liberals and fascists. Fascist governments rose to prominence as major opponents of communism in the 1930s and they founded the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936 as an anti-communist alliance. In Asia, the Empire of Japan and the Kuomintang (the Chinese Nationalist Party) were the leading anti-communist forces in this period.
After World War II, fascism ceased to be a major political movement due to the defeat of the Axis powers. The victorious Allies were an international coalition led primarily by the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, but after the war this alliance quickly broke down into two opposing camps: a Communist one led by the Soviet Union and a capitalist one led by the United States. The rivalry between the two sides came to be known as the Cold War and during this period the United States government played a leading role in supporting global anti-communism as part of its containment policy. There were numerous military conflicts between Communists and anti-Communists in various parts of the world, including the Chinese Civil War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Soviet–Afghan War. NATO was founded as an anti-communist military alliance in 1949 and continued throughout the Cold War.
With the revolutions of 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, most of the world's Communist governments were overthrown and the Cold War ended. Nevertheless, anti-communism remains an important intellectual element of many contemporary political movements and organized anti-communism is a factor in the domestic opposition found to varying degrees within the People's Republic of China and other countries governed by Communist parties.
Since the split of the Communist parties from the socialist Second International to form the Communist Third International, democratic socialists and social democrats have been critical of Communism for its anti-democratic nature. Examples of left-wing critics of Communist states and parties are such as Friedrich Ebert, Boris Souveraine, Bayard Rustin, Irving Howe and Max Shachtman. The American Federation of Labor has always been strongly anti-communist. The more leftist Congress of Industrial Organizations purged its Communists in 1947 and has been staunchly anti-communist ever since. In Britain, the Labour Party strenuously resisted Communist efforts to infiltrate its ranks and take control of locals in the 1930s. The Labour Party became anti-communist and Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee was a staunch supported of NATO