- Europe between the Wars
- United States Emerges as the Strongest Power
- The Emergence of the Soviet Union
- Nationalist Movements in Asia and Africa
- Beginning of Fascist Aggression
- Japanese Invasion of China
- German Militarization
- Italian Invasion of Ethiopia
- The Spanish Civil War
- The Munich Pact
UPSC has included World History in General studies (Mains) syllabus from 2013. Hence Old NCERT, particularly Chapter 9 to 13 from Class 10= becomes necessary as the ‘foundation/base material’ for the topics of World History. But for non-Delhi candidates, it is almost impossible to get that book, because NCERT changed syllabus, hence book is no longer printed. Therefore I’m uploading the chapters one by one. And, just because these chapters are uploaded, doesn’t mean I’m stopping my Jack Sparrow series on [World History], it will continue at its own pace.
Between the Wars
HARDLY twenty years had passed since the end of the Fast World War, when, in 1939, the Second World War broke out. It was the most destructive war in history which affected the life of the people in every part of the globe. The twenty years between the First and Second World Wars were a period of tremendous changes all over the world. Many developments took place in Europe which paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War. A major economic crisis took place during this period which affected almost every part of the world and, more particularly, the most advanced capitalist countries of the West. In Asia and Africa, the period saw an unprecedented awakening of the peoples which found its fulfilment after the Second World War. The changes and developments in this period are important not only for understanding the forces and factors which led to the Second World War but also the world that emerged after the war. Thus they are crucial to an understanding of the present-day world.
The misery caused by the First World War influenced the political developments in many countries. You have read earlier about the revolution in Germany towards the end of the war which forced the German emperor to flee the country. Germany became a republic. The proclamation of the republic did not satisfy the German revolutionaries who attempted another uprising in January 1919. The uprising was, however, suppressed. Two leaders of the German revolutionary movement, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, were assassinated. There was an uprising in Hungary but the revolutionary government which came into being was over thrown within a few months. Inspired by the Russian Revolution, there were revolutions in many other countries of Europe such as Finland, and Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania which had earlier been parts of the Russian empire. But all these revolutions were shortlived. There were movements in other parts of Europe for improvement in living conditions. The political situation in almost every country in Europe was complicated. The period saw the growth of socialist and communist par ties in almost every country of Europe However, within a few years in many countries of Europe, the socialist movements were defeated and dictatorial governments came to power. These governments not only suppressed socialist movements but also destroyed democracy. The emergence of dictatorial governments in Europe in this period had dangerous consequences not only for the peoples of Europe but for the whole world. The most dangerous development was the triumph of fascism in Italy and Germany which paved the way for the Second World War.
A number of political movements which arose in Europe after the First World War are generally given the name ‘fascist’ . The common features of these movements were their hostility to democracy and socialism, and the aim of establishing dictatorships. They succeeded, in many countries of Europe, such as, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Germany, Spain. Their success in Italy and Germany had the most serious consequences.
The term ‘fascism’ is of Italian origin. It was first used for the movement which started in Italy under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. Mussolini had organised armed gangs against socialists and communists in 1919. You have read earlier about the unification of Italy and her imperialist ambitions. The Italian government had shown little concern for the welfare of the agricultural and industrial workers whose conditions were miserable in the extreme. It had, instead, plunged Italy into the First World War in the hope of gaining colonies. About 700,000 Italians were killed in the war. The conditions of the people had worsened further. The growing strength of the socialist movement in Italy posed a threat to the existing system.
Italy had joined the war with the aim of gaining colonies. However, the peace tree, ties had failed to satisfy her ambitions. The Italian government at the time was dominated by capitalists and landlords. These sections began to support antidemocratic movements which promised to save them from the danger of socialism as well as to satisfy their colonial aspirations. The movement started by Mussolini was one such movement. His armed gangs were used by landlords and industrialists to organize violence against socialists and communists. A systematic campaign of terrorism and murder was launched but the government showed little interest in curbing it.
In 1921, elections were held m Italy. However, no single party could win a majority and no stable government could be formed. In spite of the terror organized by Mussolini’s gangs, his party could get only 35 seats while the socialists and communists together won 138 seats. In spite of his poor showing in the elections, Mussolini openly talked of seizing power. On 28 October 1922, he organized a march on Rome. The government of Italy did not show any sign of resistance against the volunteers of Mussolini. Instead, on 29 October 1922, the king of Italy invited Mussolini to join the government. Thus without firing a shot, fascists under Mussolini s leadership came to power in Italy.
The takeover of the government by fascists was followed by a reign of terror. The socialist movement was suppressed and many socialist and communist leaders were either jailed or killed. In 1926 all political parties except Mussolini’s party were banned. The victory of fascism Italy not only led to the destruction of democracy and the suppression of socialist movement, it also led tothe preparation for war. The fascists believed that there could be no harmony between two or more nations. They glorified war which, according to them, ennobled people. They openly advocated a policy of expansion and said that nations which do not expand cannot survive for long.
The victory of fascism in Italy was neither the result of a victory in elections nor of a popular uprising. The government of Italy was handed over to the fascists because the ruling classes of Italy considered democracy and socialism as threats to their power.
Within eleven years of the fascist capture of power in Italy, Nazism triumphed in Germany. Nazism which was the German version of fascism was much more sinister than the original Italian version The Nazis, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, established the most barbarous dictatorship of modern times.
You have read earlier about the unification of Germany and certain aspects of Germany’s history up to the First World War. Germany had sought to satisfy her imperial ambitions through war but she had suffered defeat. The outbreak of revolution in Germany towards the end of the First World War led to the collapse of the German monarchy. However, even though Germany became a republic, the forces behind the monarchy the industrialists, the big landowners and the officers of the army remained quite powerful. The government of German republic was not able to destroy their power. These forces began to turn to the anti democratic forces represented by Nazism to extend their power and to check the power of the socialist movement, The term ‘Nazism’ derived born the name of the part’ which Hitler founded in 1921 the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, for short Nazi Party. Like Mussolini, Hitler had also planned to capture power through a march on Berlin. He was arrested and jailed, but released long before his term was over. In jail he wrote his book Mein Kampf (literal meaning ‘My Struggle’) which expressed some of the most monstrous ideas of the Nazi movement. He glorified the use of force and brutality, and the rule by a great leader and ridiculed internationalism, peace and democracy. He preached extreme hatred against the German Jews who were blamed not only for the defeat of Germany in the First World War but for all the ills of Germany. He glorified violent nationalism and extolled war. The dreadful ideas of the Nazis found favour with the army, the industrialists, the big landowners and the anti republican politicians. They began to look upon Hitler as the saviour of Germany.
The Nazis capitalized on the sense of humiliation which many Germans felt at their defeat in the war and the unjust provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. They also exploited the misery of the people which had worsened due to the reparations which Germany was made to pay to the Allied powers. In 1929 occurred the most serious economic crisis which affected all the capitalist countries of the world. About this, you will read later. As a result of this crisis, eight million workers, about half of the working population of Germany, were rendered unemployed. It was during this period that the Nazi Party, which was no more than a conspiratorial group in the beginning, began to spread its influence. The Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party were powerful parties with huge following. These two parties, however, failed to unite against the Nazis.
The victory of Nazism in Germany, like that of fascism in Italy, was neither the outcome of a popular uprising, nor the result of a sham march on Berlin such as Mussolini’s on Rome. In the elections held in Germany before Hitler came to power, the Nazi Party had polled less votes than the Socialist and Communist vote put together. It had won only 196 seats out of a total of about 650. Hitler’s coming to power was the result of political intrigues. In spite of his poor showing in the elections, Hitler was appointed the Chancellor of Germany by the President of Germany on 30 January 1933. Within a few weeks, the entire fabric of democracy in Germany was shattered. Soon after coming to power, Hitler ordered fresh elections and let loose a reign of terror. Assassination of anti-Nazi leaders was organized on a large scale. On 27 February 1933, the Reichstag (Parliament) building was set on fire by the Nazis. The Communist Party Germany was blamed for the fire and was suppressed. In spite of the terror organized by the Nazis, the Nazi Party could not win a majority of seats in Parliament. However, Hitler assumed dictatorial powers and, in 1934, became the President. Trade unions were suppressed and thousands of socialists, communists and antiNazi political leaders were exterminated. The Nazis started huge bonfires into which the works of some of the best writers of Germany and other countries were thrown. Besides socialists and communists, Jews were made victims of an organized campaign of humiliation and violence. Within a few years they were to be completely exterminated. Simultaneously, a massive programme of militarization was launched and preparations for war began. The victory of Nazism was a calamity not only for the German people but for entire Europe and many other parts of the world. It brought in the Second World War. The policies and acts of the fascist governments of Italy and Germany which ultimately led to the Second World War are described in another section.
The two major countries of Europe which did not succumb to fascist movements were Britain and France. However, both these countries were faced with serious economic difficulties. In 1921, there were 2 million unemployed persons in Britain. The workers’ movement made great advances. In 1924, the first Labour Party government came to power. However, it did not remain in power for long. In 1926 occurred the biggest strike in the history of Britain involving 6 million workers. The strike ultimately failed. A few years later, Britain was badly affected by the worldwide economic crisis and about three million people were unemployed. In 1931, the National government comprising the Conservative, the Labour and the Liberal parties was formed. This government took some steps to over come the serious economic difficulties though the unemployment situation reroamed serious. After the victory of fascism in Germany, a fascist movement started in Britain but it could not make much headway and Britain continued as a democratic country.
The government of France for many years was dominated by big bankers and industrialists. It hoped that by making use of the resources of the German areas which had come under her control after the war, it would be able to make France economically strong. However, these hopes were not fulfilled. France could not attain political stability also. Many governments came and fell. Political instability was made worse as a result of the economic crisis, and corruption became rampant. Fascist movement rose its head and there was violence in the streets. Ultimately, to meet the threat posed by fascist and other antidemocratic forces, a government comprising Socialist, Radical Socialist and Communist parties was formed in 1936. This is known as the Popular Front government and it lasted for about two years. During this period many important economic reforms were introduced in France.
Thus Britain and France succeeded in remaining democratic countries even though they were faced with serious problems. However, the foreign policy of these countries, as you will see later, was not conducive to the maintenance of democracy in other parts of Europe and in preventing the outbreak of war
One of the most important features of the period after the First World War was the decline in the supremacy of Europe in the world and the growing importance of the United States of America. She had, in fact, emerged as the richest and the most powerful country in the world at the end of the war. This was clear from the important role that she played during the framing of the peace treaties. While the war had severely damaged the economy of the European countries, the economy of USA during this time had in fact become stronger. She had made tremendous industrial progress and was beginning to make heavy investments in Europe. However, in spite of this progress, the United States was frequently beset with serious economic problems. These problems were the result of the capitalist system about which you have read before.
The worldwide economic crisis which began in 1929 has been mentioned before. The crisis originated in USA. The years after First World War had seen a big increase in the production of goods in America. In spite of this, however, more than half of the population lived at less than the minimum subsistence level. In October 1929, the entire economy began to collapse. The stock market in New York Crashed. The fall in the value of shares had created so much panic that in one day 16 million shares were sold in New York Stock Exchange. In some companies, the shares held by people became totally worthless. During the next four years, more than 9,000 American banks closed down and millions of people lost their life’s savings. The manufacturers and farmers could not get any money to invest and as people had little money to buy, the goods could not be sold. This led to the closing of thousands of factories and throwing of workers out of employment. The purchasing power of the people was thus reduced which led to the closing down of more factories and to unemployment.
The Depression, as this situation is called, began to spread to all the capitalist countries of Europe in 1931. After the First World War, the economies of the countries of Europe, excluding Russia, had become closely connected with and even dependent on the economy of USA, particularly on the American banks. The consequences of the Depression in Europe were similar to those in the USA and in some cases even worse. The economies of the colonies of the European countries were also affected.
The Depression resulted in large scale unemployment, loss of production, poverty and starvation. It continued throughout the 1930s even though after 1933, the economies of the affected countries began to recover. The crisis as long as it lasted was the most terrible and affected the lives of scores of millions of people all over the world. The estimates of unemployed during this period all over the world vary between 50 and 100 million. In USA alone, the richest country in the world, the number of the unemployed exceeded 15 million. Thousands of factories, banks and business enterprises stopped working. The industrial production fell by about 35 per cent, in some countries by about half.
It may appear surprising that the crisis was caused by overproduction. You have read earlier how under capitalism, the owners of factories and business enterprises try to maximize their profits by producing more and more goods. When production increases but the purchasing power of the workers remains low, the goods cannot be sold unless their prices are reduced. However, the prices cannot be reduced because this would affect the profits. So the goods remain unsold and the factories are closed to stop further production. With the closure of factories people are thrown out of employment which makes the situation worse as the goods which have been produced cannot be sold. Such crises occurred often in almost every country after the spread of the Industrial Revolution. The crisis of 192933 was, however, the worst in history. In this crisis while millions were starving, lakhs of tonnes of wheat were burnt down in some areas to prevent the price of wheat from falling.
The economic crisis had serious political consequences. You have read how the Nazis in Germany exploited the discontent of the people to promote their antidemocratic programme. In many countries, hunger marches were organized and the socialist movement pressed for far-reaching changes m the economic system so that such crises would not recur. The only country which was not affected by the economic crisis of 192933 was the Soviet Union.
The economic crisis had worst affected—the economy of the United States. It led to the victory of the Democratic Party and Franklin D. Roosevelt became the President of the United States in 1933. Under his leadership a programme of economic reconstruction and social welfare was started. This programme is known as the New Deal. Steps were taken to improve the conditions of workers and to create employment. As a result of the New Deal, the economy of the United States recovered from the crisis and the industrial production picked up again. In 1939, however, there were still 9 million unemployed people in the United States.
The United States had retained her position as a mighty power. However, her foreign policy was not very different from that of Britain and France. She, like Britain and France, did not adopt a strong position to resist aggressive acts of fascist powers until after the outbreak of the Second World War when she herself had to enter the war.
The period after the First World War saw the emergence of the Soviet Union as a major power and she began to play a crucial role in world affairs. The military intervention by Britain, France, USA and Japan in Russia in support of the counterrevolutionary forces has already been mentioned. By 1920 the counterrevolutionary forces had been defeated and the foreign armies driven out.
Russia’s participation in the First World War and the long period of civil war and foreign intervention which followed the revolution had completely shattered the economy of the country. This was a period of acute economic distress for the people. There was a severe shortage of food. The production of industrial goods had fallen far below the prewar level. To make the distribution of goods equitable in conditions of severe scarcity, certain strong measures were taken. The peasants were made to part with their produce which was in excess of what was essential for their own needs. They were not allowed to sell it in the market. The payment of salaries in cash was stopped and instead people were paid in kind, that is foodstuffs and manufactured goods. These measures had created unrest among the peasants and other sections of society but were accepted because they were considered essential to defend the revolution. After the civil war ended, these measures were withdrawn and in 1921, the New Economic Policy was introduced. Under this policy, the peasants were allowed to sell their produce in the open markets, payment of wages in cash was reintroduced and production of goods and their sale in some industries under private control was permitted. A few years later, in 1929, the USSR slat ted its vigorous programme of economic reconstruction and industrialization when it adopted the first of a series of its Five Year Plans. Within a few years, the Soviet Union emerged as a major industrial power. The extraordinary economic progress that the Soviet Union achieved was against heavy odds. Though the foreign intervention had been ended, many countries of Europe, and the United States followed a policy of economic boycott with the aim of destroying the revolution. However, the Soviet Union not only survived but continued to grow economically at a fast rate. She was, as mentioned before, the only country which remained unaffected by the economic crisis of 1929-33. On the contrary, its industrial development went on as before while millions of people in the west were unemployed and thousands of factories had come to a standstill.
Major changes were introduced in agriculture. After the revolution the estates of the landlords, the church and the nobility had been confiscated and distributed among the peasants. There were in all about 25 million landholdings most of which were very small. The small landholdings or farms were considered not very productive. To increase production, it was considered essential to introduce tractors and other farm machinery. It was thought that this could be done only if the size of the farms was large. For this, the government started its own farms. Besides, it adopted the policy of promoting collective farms by bonging the small farms of the peasants together. In these farms, individual ownership of farms by peasants was ended and the peasants worked on these ‘collective farms’ collectively. The government pursued the policy of collectivization vigorously and by 1937 almost all cultivable land was brought under collective farms. Initially, the peasants were free to decide whether they wanted to join the collective farms or not. Later, they were forced to join. The rich peasants who opposed collectivization were severely dealt with. The process of collectivization of agriculture was accompanied by many atrocities. Accor ding to some estimates, millions of people perished in this period. Thus, while the oppression by landlords had been ended, the introduction of new measures was not without serious problems and oppression. In industry also, while production of goods to profit a few capitalists had been ended and industrialization of the country took place at a fast rate, the production of goods of daily necessities was neglected.
The main centres of the revolution in 1917 were in Russia. In the following years, the revolution spread to many other parts of the old Russian empire and the Bolshevik Party and its supporters. formed governments in the areas inhabited by nonRussian nationalities. In 1922 all these territories were formally united in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), for short Soviet Union, which was a federation of many republics. At that time, the number of Republics constituting the USSR was five. When a new constitution was adop ted in 1936, their number was eleven. A few years later, in 1940, their number rose to 15.
After the death of Lenin in 1924 many serious differences arose within the ruling Communist Party the only political party which existed — over policies to be followed. There was also serious struggle for power between different groups and individual leaders. In this struggle, Stalin emerged victorious. In 1927, Trotsky who had played an important role in the revolution and had organized the Red Army was expelled from the Communist Party. In 1929, he was sent into exile. In the 1930s, almost all the leaders who had played an important role in the revolution and m the following years were eliminated. False charges were brought against them, and after fake trials they were executed. Political democracy and freedom of speech and press were destroyed. The expression of differences even within the party was not tolerated. Stalin, who had been the General Secretary of the Communist Party, assumed dictatorial powers which he exercised till his death in 1953. These developments had an adverse effect on the building of socialism in the USSR and introduced features which were contrary to the humanistic ideals of Marxism and of the revolution. The development of art and literature also suffered because of restrictions on freedom.
The Soviet Union was not recognized by most European powers and USA for a long time. You have read before that she was not allowed to be represented at the Peace Conference which was held at the end of the First World War nor in the League of Nations. She remained surrounded by countries which were openly hostile to her. However, with its growing strength she could not be ignored and gradually one country after another recognized her. Britain established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1933. In 1934 she also became a member of the League of Nations. However, in spite of the ending of the isolation of the Soviet Union, the hostility towards the Soviet Union continued. The Soviet Union followed a policy of support to the movements for independence. The help given to China is notable in this context. When the fascist countries started their acts of aggression, the Soviet government pressed for action against them. However, the Western countries did not agree to the Soviet proposals. They continued to regard the Soviet Union as a danger to them and hoped that the fascist countries would destroy her. Their hostility to the Soviet Union led to the appeasement of fascist powers and paved the way for the Second World War.
The period following the First World War saw the strengthening of the movements of the peoples of Asia and Africa for independence. As stated earlier, many leaders of freedom movements in Asia and Africa had supported the war effort of the Allies in the hope that their countries would win freedom, or at least more rights after war was over. Their hopes had been belied and the imperialist leaders soon made it clear that the wartime slogans of freedom and democracy were not meant for then colonies. However, the war had weakened the imperialist countries arid had contributed to the awakening of the colonial peoples. Their struggles for freedom entered a new phase after the war. The support of the Soviet Union further added to the strength of the freedom movements. Even though most of the countries of Asia and Africa emerged as independent nations after the Second World War, the period after the First World War saw serious weakening of imperialism.
In India this was the period when the freedom movement became a mass movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Many countries in Asia made significant advances towards freedom. You have read before that Iran had been divided into Russian and British spheres of influence before the First World War. The Soviet government after the revolution of 1917 had given up the sphere under her control and had withdrawn all her troops from there. The British, however, tried to extend their influence over the entire country. These efforts were met with a widespread uprising. In 1921, power was seized by Reza Khan who in 1925 became the emperor. The British troops left Iran and the modernization of Iran began.
The British government had waged many wars against Afghanis tan in the nineteenth century. As a result of these wars, the independence of Afghanistan had been curbed. The foreign relations of Afghanistan had passed under British control. In 1919, the king of Afghanistan was assassinated and his son, Amanullah became the King. Amanullah proclaimed complete independence of Afghanistan, which was immediately recognized by the Soviet Union. The British government in India waged a war against the new Afghan government but in the end Britain agreed to recognize the independence of Afghanistan. Amanullah’ s government made vigorous efforts to modernize Afghanistan.
There was an upsurge in Arab countries against Britain and France. The Arabs had been asked by the Allies, during the First World War, to fight against their Ottoman rulers. However, the end of the war did not result in the independence of Arab countries. These countries had assumed additional importance after it was known that they had immense oil resources. Britain and France had extended their control over these countries as their protectorates and ‘mandates’ . There were uprisings against Britain in Egypt and Britain was forced in 1922 to grant independence to Egypt though British troops continued to stay there.
Syria had been handed over to France after the war. However, from the very beginning France met with intense opposition there. In 1925 there was an open rebellion and the French government resorted to a reign of terror. The city of Damascus which became a centre of revolt was reduced to ruins when the French troops bombed the city from the air and made use of heavy artillery to shell the city. About 25,000 people were killed as a result of bombing and shelling of Damascus. However, in spite of these massacres, the resistance to French rule continued.
One of the most important events in the national awakening of the peoples after the First World War was the revolution in Turkey. You have read earlier of the disintegration of the Ottoman empire which began in the nineteenth century and was completed after Turkey’s defeat in the First World War. During this period, many nations which were formerly under the subjugation of the Ottoman empire had become free. The Arab territories of the empire had been given away to Britain and France as mandates after the First World War. The Allies, however, did not stop at the dismemberment of the empire. They wanted to establish their domination over Turkey itself and to give away parts of Turkey to Greece and Italy. The treatment meted out to Turkey by the Allies had led to a mass upsurge in India directed against Britain. This upsurge is known as the Khilafat movement which had merged with the Indian nationalist movement.
The nationalist movement in Turkey was organised to prevent the domination of the country by the Allied powers and the annexation of parts of Turkey by Greece and Italy. The Sultan of Turkey agreed to the terms dictated by the, Allied powers. However, even before the treaty was signed by the Sultan, a national government had been established under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal with its headquarters at Ankara. This government signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet government in 1921 under which Turkey received Soviet political support and arms for the nationalist cause. Following the treaty with the Sultan, Turkey had been invaded by Greece. The Turks under Kemal’s leadership were able to repel the invasion and the Allies were forced to repudiate the earlier treaty. The Allied troops were withdrawn from Turkish territory and the areas which were to be annexed by European countries remained in Turkey. Thus Turkey was able to win her complete independence.
The success of the Turks in winning the complete independence of their country was followed by a programme to modernize Turkey and to end the influence of backwardlooking feudal elements. Turkey was proclaimed a republic The Turkish Sultan had carried the title of Caliph. The new government abolished the institution of Caliph. Education was taken out of the hands of the religious leaders. Religion was separated from the state.
The revolution in Turkey became a source of inspiration for the movements for freedom in Asia. It also helped to promote the ideas of social reform and modernization.
Movements for independence were strengthened in the other parts of Asia. In Indonesia, for example, there were uprisings against the Dutch rule In 1927 the National Party Was organised with the aim of achieving independence. In Korea there was a movement for independence from Japanese rule. Movements for independence gathered strength in IndoChina, Burma and other countries.
One of the most powerful movements in this period began in China. You have read before about the imperialist domination of China. In 1911, there was a revolution in China which resulted in the established of a republic. However, power passed into the hands of corrupt governors called warlords. The national movement in China aimed at the overthrow of foreign domination and the unification of China by ending the rule of the warlords. The founder of the national movement in China was Dr.Sun YatSen. He had played an important role in the 1911 revolution and in 1917 had set up a government at Canton in south China. The party formed by him called Kuomintang led the national struggle in China for a number of years.
The Russian Revolution had a deep impact on China. The new government in Russia had renounced all the unequal treaties which the Russian emperors had imposed on China and had promised full support to the Chinese national struggle. In 1921 the Communist Party of China was formed. In 1924, the Kuomintang and the Communist Party decided to work together and the Soviet government gave various kinds of aid, such as the training of a revolutionary army. A number of Soviet political and military advisers worked with the Chinese liberation movement. After the death of Sun YatSen in 1925, the unity between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party was broken and a period of civil war began. In the 1930s when the Japanese attacked China with the aim of subjugating the entire country, the two parties agreed to work together to resist the Japanese invasion. The Communist Party played a leading role in the war of resistance against the Japanese invasion. It was able to establish its supremacy in the country and within a few years after the end of the Second World War was victorious in the civil war.
This period also saw the emergence of political and national consciousness in Africa. Though the struggles for national independence in Africa gained momentum after the Second World War, the 1920s and the 1930s were a period when the first political associations were formed. An important role in the growth of national consciousness in Africa was played by a series of PanAfrican Congresses. The Pan African movement asserted the identity and unity of the African people, and independence of Africa. The national movement in ‘the Union of South Africa had emerged earlier than in other parts of Africa. In 1912 had been formed the African National Congress which became the leading organization of the South African people. The people of Ethiopia fought heroically against the Italian invasion of Chen country in 193536 and their resistance served as a source of inspiration to the people of Africa.
The national awakening of the people of Asia and Africa and the growing strength of their struggle for freedom were factors of great importance in the making of the modern world. While the long oppressed peoples in these two continents were beginning to assert their right to independence, preparations for another war were being made in Europe.
In the 1930s the fascist powers began their wars of conquest which ultimately led to the Second World War. The major fascist countries were Italy and Germany. They acquired an ally in the militarist regime which came to power in Japan. The triumph of fascism in Italy and Germany has already been described. You have also read earlier about the rise of Japanese imperialism, her wars against China and Russia, the conquest of Korea and her acquisition of the German spheres in China after the First World War. The government of Japan gradually passed into the hands of militarists. These three countries started series of aggressions in Europe, Asia and Africa. All of them clai med to have been fighting against communism and were united in 1937 under the AntiComintern Pact. (Comintern is short for Communist International which, as mentioned before, had been formed after the Russian Revolution and to which the Communist Parties of various countries were affiliated.) Germany, Italy and Japan came to be known as the Axis Powers.
When the acts of aggression began, the aggrieved countries, the Soviet Union and many leaders m different countries of the world demanded collective action to defeat the aggressions. In 1935, the Communist International advocated the formation of Popular Fronts consisting of Communists, Socialists and other antifascists to counter the danger of fascism and war. It may be recalled that Hitler had come to power m Germany because the Communist and Social Democratic Parties of Germany had failed to unite against the Nazis. The Comintern’ s advocacy of uniting all antifascist forces was followed by the formation of Popular Fronts in many countries. In France, the Popular Front succeeded in preventing a fascist takeover. The policy of Popular Front also had a significant influence in bringing together various antiimperialist forces in the colonies. It also created a worldwide awareness of the danger that fascism posed to all countries and helped in building support for the victims of fascist aggression. The leader of the Comintern at this time was Georgi Dimitrov, a Bulgarian Communist, who had been arrested along with German Communists, by the Nazis in 1933 after the Reichstag fire. His courageous defence at the trial had won him worldwide admiration and he had been released.
You have read earlier that the covenant of the League of Nations contained a provision for economic and military sanctions and collective action against aggression. However, the Western governments, instead of resisting the aggressions, followed a policy of appeasement of the aggressive powers. Appeasement meant a policy of conciliating an aggressive power at the expense of some other country. But for the Western countries’ policy of appeasement, fascism could not have survived as long as it did and would not have been able to unleash the Second World War.
Germany, Italy and Japan which launched a series of aggressions in the 1930s claimed that they were fighting communism. Hitler had time and again declared that Germany had ambitions of conquering the vast resources and territory of the Soviet Union. In all these countries, the socialist and communist movements had been suppressed. Since the success of the Russian Revolution, the Western countries had been haunted by the danger of communism and they hoped that fascist countries would rid them of this danger. The attitude of the Western powers to the fascist aggressions has been summed up by a historian thus: “There was no question that the Nazis had done their best to convince the world that they were out to smash Bolshevism and conquer the Soviet Union. Hitler’s speech saying that if he had the Urals all the Germans would be swimming in plenty was only an outstanding example of this propaganda. Nor was there any reluctance among the elites in the Western world to believe him. The great landowners, aristocrats, industrialists, bankers, high churchmen, army leaders —magnates of every kind in Western Europe, together with many middleclass elements —had never lost their fear that their own workers and peasants might demand a social revolution, perhaps one spearheaded and organized by communists. Their support of fascism as a force, albeit a gangster one, which would defeat communism and at the same time leave the vested interests largely in control, had been instinctive and sincere. There can be little doubt that many powerful people in Britain and France worked to strengthen and build up the Axis powers with a view to an attack by them upon the Soviet Union”. The Policy of appeasement .strengthened the fascist powers and led to the Second World War.
One of the first major acts of aggression after the First World War was the Japanese invasion of China in 1931. A minor incident involving a railway line owned by the Japanese in Manchuria, the northeastern province of China, was made the pretext for the invasion. China, a member of the League of Nations, appealed to the League for sanctions against Japan to stop the aggression. However, Britain and France, the leading countries in the League, were completely indifferent to the appeal and acquiesced in the aggression. Japan occupied
Manchuria, installed a puppet government there and proceeded to conquer more areas. The United States also did nothing to counter the aggression. In 1933, Japan quit the League of Nations. She had also started seizing the British and American property in China. However, the appeasement of Japan continued as the Western countries thought that the Japanese could be used to weaken China as well as the Soviet Union. Britain had an additional reason. She did not want to alienate Japan and thus endanger her possessions in Asia.
Germany had been admitted to the League of Nations some time after its formation but soon after Hitler came to power, she quit the League and undertook a massive programme of militarization. According to the Treaty of Versailles, severe restrictions had been imposed on the military strength of Germany. The beginning of German remilitarization in violation of the Treaty created a sense of insecurity in many countries, particularly France. It was in this situation that the Soviet Union became a member of the League in 1934. However, nothing was done to stoop’ the German remilitarization. According to the Treaty of Versailles, the German area bordering France called the Rhineland had been demilitarized to make a German attack on France difficult. In 1936, Hitler’s troops entered the Rhineland in violation of the Treaty. Though this step alarmed Prance, nothing was done to stop Germany. By then Germany had built an army of 800,000 men while the Treaty of Versailles, you may remember, had imposed a limit of 100,000 men. She had also started building a strong navy.
In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia On the appeal of Ethiopia, the League of Nations passed a resolution condemning Italy as an aggressor. The resolution also mentioned the use of economic sanctions against Italy, including a ban on the sale of arms to Italy. However, no action was taken to punish Italy and by 1936 Italy had completed the conquest of Ethiopia.
The next event which marked the beginning of an alliance between Germany and Italy was the intervention by these two countries in the Civil War in Spain. In 1931 Spain had become a republic. In 1936 a Popular Front comprising the Socialist, Communist and other democratic and antifascist parties came to power. A section of the army under the leadership of General Franco with the armed support of Italy and Germany revolted against the government. Italy and Germany started intervening openly in the Civil War that followed. They sent forces, tanks and warships in support of the rebels. The German aircrafts conducted airraids on Spanish towns and villages. The government of the Spanish Republic appealed for help against the fascists. Only the Soviet Union came to the help of the Republican forces Britain and France advocated a policy of nonintervention and refused to give any aid to the government of Spain .They remained Indifferent to the German and Italian intervention in the war .However, the cause of the Republicans evoked tremendous response the world over .Thousands of antifascist volunteers from many countries including many antifascist Germans were organized into international brigades who went to Spain and fought alongside the Spaniards against fascism. Thousands of them were killed in Spain. Some of the best writers and artists of the twentieth century actively supported the cause of the Republicans. The battle in Spain assumed an international significance as it was increasingly realized that the victory of fascism in Spain would encourage more fascist aggressions. The sacrifice of their lives by thousands of non Spaniards in Spain m the cause of freedom and democracy is one of the finest examples of internationalism in history. The Civil War in Spain continued for three years. About a million people were killed in the war. Finally, the fascist forces under General Franco succeeded in destroying the Republic in 1939. Soon the new government was recognized by most of the Western powers.
It may by recalled that the Indian nationalist movement which was alive to the danger of fascism had extended its support to the Republican cause. Jawaharlal Nehru went to Spain during this period as a mark of solidarity of the Indian nationalist movement with the Republicans.
The victory of fascism was the result of the Western countries’ appeasement of fascism, which made the fasces t countries more aggressive. Germany had tested the effectiveness of many new weapons in the Spanish Civil War which she was to use in the Second World War.
While the Spanish Civil War was still going on, Hitler’s troops marched into Austria in March 1938 and occupied it. Even though this was a violation of the peace treaties signed after the First World War, the Western powers did not protest against it.
The final act of appeasement of fascism by the Western powers was the Munich Pact. Germany coveted Czechoslovakia which wasvery important because of her industries. The area also had strategic importance for the expansion of Germany in the east towards the Soviet Union. Hitler claimed a part of Czechoslovakia called Sudetenland which had substantial German population. This area formed about one fifth of the area of Czechoslovakia and had one of the largest munition factories in the world. Instead of meeting the threat posed by Germany, the Prime Ministers of Britain and France met Hitler and Mussolini at Munich in Germany on 29 and 30 September 1938 and agreed to Germany s terms without the consent of Czechoslovakia. Soon after, the Sudetenland was occupied by German troops A few months later in March 1939 entire Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany.
The Munich Pact was the last major act of appeasement by the Western powers. It led Germany to make more demands. The only way the fascist aggression could have been checked and another world war prevented was an alliance of the Western powers with the Soviet Union.The Soviet Union had been pleading for such an alliance. However, the Western policies of appeasement had convinced the Soviet Union that their main interest was to divert the German expansion towards the Soviet Union. The Munich Pact was an additional proof to the Soviet Union that the Western powers were trying to appease Germany with a view to directing her aggression eastward against the Soviet Union .The Soviet Union at this time signed a Non Aggression Pact with, Germany in August 1939. The signing of this Pact by the Soviet Union shocked antifascists the world over. In the meantime Britain and France promised to come to the aid of Poland, Greece, Rumania and Turkey in case their independence was endangered.
In the next part of this chapter we’ll see the events of WW2. exercise/questions after second part of chapter is over.