Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 






The World Wars and Interwar Period 

1914-1945


 


The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


 



Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937

 

 

 


In Focus:


World War II

1939 - 1945


World War II: An Overview

 


Allied troops land in Normandy, June 6, 1944
Hitler declares war on Poland in the Reichstag on Sep 1, 1939
View over the destroyed city of Hiroshima after the atomic bombing
 

 

The political order established at the end of World War I favored the victorious powers and reinforced "revisionism" in Germany, an attitude exploited by the National Socialists. Italy and Germany formed the core of the Axis powers in 1936 and Japan joined them in 1940. The Soviet Union and the United States entered the war in 1941 and, together with Great Britain, formed the core of the Allied coalition that opposed the Axis.

Nazi ideology prescribed the need for Aryan "living space"—lebensraum—in the east and planned to reorganize the continent according to fascist "racial hierarchies." To this end, Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, quickly defeating the Polish forces.

With the German army's rapid surprise attacks, dubbed the "Blitzkrieg," Hitler secured supremacy on the European mainland. In quick succession, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands were overrun. France capitulated in May 1940. The German attack on Great Britain failed. German troops marched into Greece in 1941 and, together with their Italian allies, into Yugoslavia. They supported Italy's campaign against Libya in Africa, but were temporarily halted there by the British.
The attack against the Soviet Union began in 1941. German troops initially made rapid advances, but were halted in December 1941 just outside Moscow. Following behind the advancing units, SS troops routinely murdered political opponents and "racially inferior" people, while others were systematically deported from German-occupied territory to concentration camps.

After the Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the United States officially entered the war. By this time, the military superiority of the Allies became apparent. The Axis front in Africa collapsed in May 1943, and in September Allied troops toppled Mussolini in Italy. The Allies landed on the Normandy coast of France on June 6, 1944. They met fierce resistance but marched into Paris on August 25. By the end of 1944, the Red Army had pushed the Germans back as far as Warsaw and Budapest.

Despite the hopelessness of their situation, the Nazi leaders would not consider surrender, so the Allies advanced into German territory from all sides at the beginning of 1945, occupied the country, and forced the surrender of the German Reich on May 8, 1945.

Hostilities continued in the Pacific. The Japanese army had occupied much of Southeast Asia by 1942 until halted by an Allied counteroffensive in 1943 and slowly pushed back. To force a quick surrender, the US government decided to drop two atomic bombs on Japanese cities: Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 8, 1945. The Japanese signed an unconditional surrender on September 2, 1945. World War II, which cost more than 55 million lives, had finlly ended.

 

 


Biographies

The Commanders in Chief

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)
 

 

 

 

Adolf Hitler

dictator of Germany
byname Der Führer (German: “The Leader”)

born April 20, 1889, Braunau am Inn, Austria
died April 30, 1945, Berlin, Germany

Main
leader of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party (from 1920/21) and chancellor (Kanzler) and Führer of Germany (1933–45). He was chancellor from January 30, 1933, and, after President Paul von Hindenburg’s death, assumed the twin titles of Führer and chancellor (August 2, 1934).

Hitler’s father, Alois (born 1837), was illegitimate. For a time he bore his mother’s name, Schicklgruber, but by 1876 he had established his family claim to the surname Hitler. Adolf never used any other surname.

Early life
After his father’s retirement from the state customs service, Adolf Hitler spent most of his childhood in Linz, the capital of Upper Austria. It remained his favourite city throughout his life, and he expressed his wish to be buried there. Alois Hitler died in 1903 but left an adequate pension and savings to support his wife and children. Although Hitler feared and disliked his father, he was a devoted son to his mother, who died after much suffering in 1907. With a mixed record as a student, Hitler never advanced beyond a secondary education. After leaving school, he visited Vienna, then returned to Linz, where he dreamed of becoming an artist. Later, he used the small allowance he continued to draw to maintain himself in Vienna. He wished to study art, for which he had some faculties, but he twice failed to secure entry to the Academy of Fine Arts. For some years he lived a lonely and isolated life, earning a precarious livelihood by painting postcards and advertisements and drifting from one municipal hostel to another. Hitler already showed traits that characterized his later life: loneliness and secretiveness, a bohemian mode of everyday existence, and hatred of cosmopolitanism and of the multinational character of Vienna.

In 1913 Hitler moved to Munich. Screened for Austrian military service in February 1914, he was classified as unfit because of inadequate physical vigour; but when World War I broke out he immediately volunteered for the German army and joined the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment. He served throughout the war, was wounded in October 1916, and was gassed two years later. He was hospitalized when the conflict ended. During the war, he was continuously in the front line as a headquarters runner; his bravery in action was rewarded with the Iron Cross, Second Class, in December 1914, and the Iron Cross, First Class (a rare decoration for a corporal), in August 1918. He greeted the war with enthusiasm, as a great relief from the frustration and aimlessness of civilian life. He found discipline and comradeship satisfying and was confirmed in his belief in the heroic virtues of war.

Rise to power
Discharged from the hospital amid the social chaos that followed Germany’s defeat, Hitler took up political work in Munich in May–June 1919. As an army political agent, he joined the small German Workers’ Party in Munich (September 1919). In 1920 he was put in charge of the party’s propaganda and left the army to devote himself to improving his position within the party, which in that year was renamed the National-sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (Nazi). Conditions were ripe for the development of such a party. Resentment at the loss of the war and the severity of the peace terms added to the economic woes and brought widespread discontent. This was especially sharp in Bavaria, due to its traditional separatism and the region’s popular dislike of the republican government in Berlin. In March 1920 a coup d’état by a few army officers attempted in vain to establish a right-wing government.

Munich was a gathering place for dissatisfied former servicemen and members of the Freikorps, which had been organized in 1918–19 from units of the German army that were unwilling to return to civilian life, and for political plotters against the republic. Many of these joined the Nazi Party. Foremost among them was Ernst Röhm, a staff member of the district army command, who had joined the German Workers’ Party before Hitler and who was of great help in furthering Hitler’s rise within the party. It was he who recruited the “strong arm” squads used by Hitler to protect party meetings, to attack socialists and communists, and to exploit violence for the impression of strength it gave. In 1921 these squads were formally organized under Röhm into a private party army, the SA (Sturmabteilung). Röhm was also able to secure protection from the Bavarian government, which depended on the local army command for the maintenance of order and which tacitly accepted some of his terrorist tactics.

Conditions were favourable for the growth of the small party, and Hitler was sufficiently astute to take full advantage of them. When he joined the party, he found it ineffective, committed to a program of nationalist and socialist ideas but uncertain of its aims and divided in its leadership. He accepted its program but regarded it as a means to an end. His propaganda and his personal ambition caused friction with the other leaders of the party. Hitler countered their attempts to curb him by threatening resignation, and because the future of the party depended on his power to organize publicity and to acquire funds, his opponents relented. In July 1921 he became their leader with almost unlimited powers. From the first he set out to create a mass movement, whose mystique and power would be sufficient to bind its members in loyalty to him. He engaged in unrelenting propaganda through the party newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter (“Popular Observer,” acquired in 1920), and through meetings whose audiences soon grew from a handful to thousands. With his charismatic personality and dynamic leadership, he attracted a devoted cadre of Nazi leaders, men whose names today live in infamy—Alfred Rosenberg, Rudolf Hess, Hermann Göring, and Julius Streicher.

The climax of this rapid growth of the Nazi Party in Bavaria came in an attempt to seize power in the Munich (Beer Hall) Putsch of November 1923, when Hitler and General Erich Ludendorff tried to take advantage of the prevailing confusion and opposition to the Weimar Republic to force the leaders of the Bavarian government and the local army commander to proclaim a national revolution. In the melee that resulted, the police and the army fired at the advancing marchers, killing a few of them. Hitler was injured, and four policemen were killed. Placed on trial for treason, he characteristically took advantage of the immense publicity afforded to him. He also drew a vital lesson from the Putsch—that the movement must achieve power by legal means. He was sentenced to prison for five years but served only nine months, and those in relative comfort at Landsberg castle. Hitler used the time to dictate the first volume of Mein Kampf, his political autobiography as well as a compendium of his multitudinous ideas.

Hitler’s ideas included inequality among races, nations, and individuals as part of an unchangeable natural order that exalted the “Aryan race” as the creative element of mankind. According to Hitler, the natural unit of mankind was the Volk (“the people”), of which the German people was the greatest. Moreover, he believed that the state existed to serve the Volk—a mission that to him the Weimar German Republic betrayed. All morality and truth were judged by this criterion: whether it was in accordance with the interest and preservation of the Volk. Parliamentary democratic government stood doubly condemned. It assumed the equality of individuals that for Hitler did not exist and supposed that what was in the interests of the Volk could be decided by parliamentary procedures. Instead, Hitler argued that the unity of the Volk would find its incarnation in the Führer, endowed with perfect authority. Below the Führer the party was drawn from the Volk and was in turn its safeguard.

The greatest enemy of Nazism was not, in Hitler’s view, liberal democracy in Germany, which was already on the verge of collapse. It was the rival Weltanschauung, Marxism (which for him embraced social democracy as well as communism), with its insistence on internationalism and economic conflict. Beyond Marxism he believed the greatest enemy of all to be the Jew, who was for Hitler the incarnation of evil. There is debate among historians as to when anti-Semitism became Hitler’s deepest and strongest conviction. As early as 1919 he wrote, “Rational anti-Semitism must lead to systematic legal opposition. Its final objective must be the removal of the Jews altogether.” In Mein Kampf, he described the Jew as the “destroyer of culture,” “a parasite within the nation,” and “a menace.”

During Hitler’s absence in prison, the Nazi Party languished as the result of internal dissension. After his release, Hitler faced difficulties that had not existed before 1923. Economic stability had been achieved by a currency reform and the Dawes Plan had scaled back Germany’s World War I reparations. The republic seemed to have become more respectable. Hitler was forbidden to make speeches, first in Bavaria, then in many other German states (these prohibitions remained in force until 1927–28). Nevertheless, the party grew slowly in numbers, and in 1926 Hitler successfully established his position within it against Gregor Strasser, whose followers were primarily in northern Germany.

The advent of the Depression in 1929, however, led to a new period of political instability. In 1930 Hitler made an alliance with the Nationalist Alfred Hugenberg in a campaign against the Young Plan, a second renegotiation of Germany’s war reparation payments. With the help of Hugenberg’s newspapers, Hitler was able for the first time to reach a nationwide audience. The alliance also enabled him to seek support from many of the magnates of business and industry who controlled political funds and were anxious to use them to establish a strong right-wing, antisocialist government. The subsidies Hitler received from the industrialists placed his party on a secure financial footing and enabled him to make effective his emotional appeal to the lower middle class and the unemployed, based on the proclamation of his faith that Germany would awaken from its sufferings to reassert its natural greatness. Hitler’s dealings with Hugenberg and the industrialists exemplify his skill in using those who sought to use him. But his most important achievement was the establishment of a truly national party (with its voters and followers drawn from different classes and religious groups), unique in Germany at the time.

Unremitting propaganda, set against the failure of the government to improve conditions during the Depression, produced a steadily mounting electoral strength for the Nazis. The party became the second largest in the country, rising from 2.6 percent of the vote in the national election of 1928 to more than 18 percent in September 1930. In 1932 Hitler opposed Hindenburg in the presidential election, capturing 36.8 percent of the votes on the second ballot. Finding himself in a strong position by virtue of his unprecedented mass following, he entered into a series of intrigues with conservatives such as Franz von Papen, Otto Meissner, and President Hindenburg’s son, Oskar. The fear of communism and the rejection of the Social Democrats bound them together. In spite of a decline in the Nazi Party’s votes in November 1932, Hitler insisted that the chancellorship was the only office he would accept. On January 30, 1933, Hindenburg offered him the chancellorship of Germany. His cabinet included few Nazis at that point.

Hitler’s life and habits
Hitler’s personal life had grown more relaxed and stable with the added comfort that accompanied political success. After his release from prison, he often went to live on the Obersalzberg, near Berchtesgaden. His income at this time was derived from party funds and from writing for nationalist newspapers. He was largely indifferent to clothes and food but did not eat meat and gave up drinking beer (and all other alcohols). His rather irregular working schedule prevailed. He usually rose late, sometimes dawdled at his desk, and retired late at night.

At Berchtesgaden, his half sister Angela Raubal and her two daughters accompanied him. Hitler became devoted to one of them, Geli, and it seems that his possessive jealousy drove her to suicide in September 1931. For weeks Hitler was inconsolable. Some time later Eva Braun, a shop assistant from Munich, became his mistress. Hitler rarely allowed her to appear in public with him. He would not consider marriage on the grounds that it would hamper his career. Braun was a simple young woman with few intellectual gifts. Her great virtue in Hitler’s eyes was her unquestioning loyalty, and in recognition of this he legally married her at the end of his life.


Dictator, 1933–39
Once in power, Hitler established an absolute dictatorship. He secured the president’s assent for new elections. The Reichstag fire, on the night of February 27, 1933 (apparently the work of a Dutch Communist, Marinus van der Lubbe), provided an excuse for a decree overriding all guarantees of freedom and for an intensified campaign of violence. In these conditions, when the elections were held (March 5), the Nazis polled 43.9 percent of the votes. On March 21 the Reichstag assembled in the Potsdam Garrison Church to demonstrate the unity of National Socialism with the old conservative Germany, represented by Hindenburg. Two days later the Enabling Bill, giving full powers to Hitler, was passed in the Reichstag by the combined votes of Nazi, Nationalist, and Centre party deputies (March 23, 1933). Less than three months later all non-Nazi parties, organizations, and labor unions ceased to exist. The disappearance of the Catholic Centre Party was followed by a German Concordat with the Vatican in July. (See Adolf Hitler addressing the Reichstag.)

Hitler had no desire to spark a radical revolution. Conservative “ideas” were still necessary if he was to succeed to the presidency and retain the support of the army; moreover, he did not intend to expropriate the leaders of industry, provided they served the interests of the Nazi state. Ernst Röhm, however, was a protagonist of the “continuing revolution”; he was also, as head of the SA, distrusted by the army. Hitler tried first to secure Röhm’s support for his policies by persuasion. Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler were eager to remove Röhm, but Hitler hesitated until the last moment. Finally, on June 29, 1934, he reached his decision. On the “Night of the Long Knives,” Röhm and his lieutenant Edmund Heines were executed without trial, along with Gregor Strasser, Kurt von Schleicher, and others. The army leaders, satisfied at seeing the SA broken up, approved Hitler’s actions. When Hindenburg died on August 2, the army leaders, together with Papen, assented to the merging of the chancellorship and the presidency—with which went the supreme command of the armed forces of the Reich. Now officers and men took an oath of allegiance to Hitler personally. Economic recovery and a fast reduction in unemployment (coincident with world recovery, but for which Hitler took credit) made the regime increasingly popular, and a combination of success and police terror brought the support of 90 percent of the voters in a plebiscite.

Hitler devoted little attention to the organization and running of the domestic affairs of the Nazi state. Responsible for the broad lines of policy, as well as for the system of terror that upheld the state, he left detailed administration to his subordinates. Each of these exercised arbitrary power in his own sphere; but by deliberately creating offices and organizations with overlapping authority, Hitler effectively prevented any one of these particular realms from ever becoming sufficiently strong to challenge his own absolute authority.

Foreign policy claimed his greater interest. As he had made clear in Mein Kampf, the reunion of the German peoples was his overriding ambition. Beyond that, the natural field of expansion lay eastward, in Poland, the Ukraine, and the U.S.S.R.—expansion that would necessarily involve renewal of Germany’s historic conflict with the Slavic peoples, who would be subordinate in the new order to the Teutonic master race. He saw fascist Italy as his natural ally in this crusade. Britain was a possible ally, provided it abandon its traditional policy of maintaining the balance of power in Europe and limit itself to its interests overseas. In the west France remained the natural enemy of Germany and must, therefore, be cowed or subdued to make expansion eastward possible.

Before such expansion was possible, it was necessary to remove the restrictions placed on Germany at the end of World War I by the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler used all the arts of propaganda to allay the suspicions of the other powers. He posed as the champion of Europe against the scourge of Bolshevism and insisted that he was a man of peace who wished only to remove the inequalities of the Versailles Treaty. He withdrew from the Disarmament Conference and from the League of Nations (October 1933), and he signed a nonaggression treaty with Poland (January 1934). Every repudiation of the treaty was followed by an offer to negotiate a fresh agreement and insistence on the limited nature of Germany’s ambitions. Only once did the Nazis overreach themselves: when Austrian Nazis, with the connivance of German organizations, murdered Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss of Austria and attempted a revolt (July 1934). The attempt failed, and Hitler disclaimed all responsibility. In January 1935 a plebiscite in the Saarland, with a more than 90 percent majority, returned that territory to Germany. In March of the same year, Hitler introduced conscription. Although this action provoked protests from Britain, France, and Italy, the opposition was restrained, and Hitler’s peace diplomacy was sufficiently successful to persuade the British to negotiate a naval treaty (June 1935) recognizing Germany’s right to a considerable navy. His greatest stroke came in March 1936, when he used the excuse of a pact between France and the Soviet Union to march into the demilitarized Rhineland—a decision that he took against the advice of many generals. Meanwhile the alliance with Italy, foreseen in Mein Kampf, rapidly became a reality as a result of the sanctions imposed by Britain and France against Italy during the Ethiopian war. In October 1936, a Rome–Berlin axis was proclaimed by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini; shortly afterward came the Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan; and a year later all three countries joined in a pact. Although on paper France had a number of allies in Europe, while Germany had none, Hitler’s Third Reich had become the principal European power.

In November 1937, at a secret meeting of his military leaders, Hitler outlined his plans for future conquest (beginning with Austria and Czechoslovakia). In January 1938 he dispensed with the services of those who were not wholehearted in their acceptance of Nazi dynamism—Hjalmar Schacht, who was concerned with the German economy; Werner von Fritsch, a representative of the caution of professional soldiers; and Konstantin von Neurath, Hindenburg’s appointment at the foreign office. In February Hitler invited the Austrian chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg, to Berchtesgaden and forced him to sign an agreement including Austrian Nazis within the Vienna government. When Schuschnigg attempted to resist, announcing a plebiscite about Austrian independence, Hitler immediately ordered the invasion of Austria by German troops. The enthusiastic reception that Hitler received convinced him to settle the future of Austria by outright annexation (Anschluss). He returned in triumph to Vienna, the scene of his youthful humiliations and hardships. No resistance was encountered from Britain and France. Hitler had taken special care to secure the support of Italy; as this was forthcoming he proclaimed his undying gratitude to Mussolini.

In spite of his assurances that Anschluss would not affect Germany’s relations with Czechoslovakia, Hitler proceeded at once with his plans against that country. Konrad Henlein, leader of the German minority in Czechoslovakia, was instructed to agitate for impossible demands on the part of the Sudetenland Germans, thereby enabling Hitler to move ahead on the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. Britain’s and France’s willingness to accept the cession of the Sudetenland areas to Germany presented Hitler with the choice between substantial gains by peaceful agreement or by a spectacular war against Czechoslovakia. The intervention by Mussolini and British prime minister Neville Chamberlain appear to have been decisive. Hitler accepted the Munich Agreement on September 30. He also declared that these were his last territorial demands in Europe.

Only a few months later, he proceeded to occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia. On March 15, 1939, he marched into Prague declaring that the rest of “Czechia” would become a German protectorate. A few days later (March 23) the Lithuanian government was forced to cede Memel (Klaipeda), next to the northern frontier of East Prussia, to Germany.

Immediately Hitler turned on Poland. Confronted by the Polish nation and its leaders, whose resolution to resist him was strengthened by a guarantee from Britain and France, Hitler confirmed his alliance with Italy (the “Pact of Steel,” May 1939). Moreover, on August 23, just within the deadline set for an attack on Poland, he signed a nonaggression pact with Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union—the greatest diplomatic bombshell in centuries. Hitler still disclaimed any quarrel with Britain, but to no avail; the German invasion of Poland (September 1) was followed two days later by a British and French declaration of war on Germany.

In his foreign policy, Hitler combined opportunism and clever timing. He showed astonishing skill in judging the mood of the democratic leaders and exploiting their weaknesses—in spite of the fact that he had scarcely set foot outside Austria and Germany and spoke no foreign language. Up to this point every move had been successful. Even his anxiety over British and French entry into the war was dispelled by the rapid success of the campaign in Poland. He could, he thought, rely on his talents during the war as he relied on them before.


World War II
Germany’s war strategy was assumed by Hitler from the first. When the successful campaign against Poland failed to produce the desired peace accord with Britain, he ordered the army to prepare for an immediate offensive in the west. Bad weather made some of his reluctant generals postpone the western offensive. This in turn led to two major changes in planning. The first was Hitler’s order to forestall an eventual British presence in Norway by occupying that country and Denmark in April 1940. Hitler took a close personal interest in this daring operation. From this time onward his intervention in the detail of military operations grew steadily greater. The second was Hitler’s important adoption of General Erich von Manstein’s plan for an attack through the Ardennes (which began May 10) instead of farther north. This was a brilliant and startling success. The German armies reached the Channel ports (which they had been unable to reach during World War I) in 10 days. Holland surrendered after 4 days and Belgium after 16 days. Hitler held back General Karl von Rundstedt’s tanks south of Dunkirk, thus enabling the British to evacuate most of their army. But the Western campaign as a whole was amazingly successful. On June 10 Italy entered the war on the side of Germany. On June 22 Hitler signed a triumphant armistice with the French on the site of the Armistice of 1918.

Hitler hoped that the British would negotiate an armistice. When this did not happen, he proceeded to plan the invasion of Britain, together with the elimination of British air power. At the same time preparations were begun for the invasion of the Soviet Union, which in Hitler’s view was Britain’s last hope for a bulwark against German control of the continent. Then Mussolini invaded Greece, where the failures of the Italian armies made it necessary for German forces to come to their aid in the Balkans and North Africa. Hitler’s plans were further disrupted by a coup d’état in Yugoslavia in March 1941, overthrowing the government that had made an agreement with Germany. Hitler immediately ordered his armies to subdue Yugoslavia. The campaigns in the Mediterranean theatre, although successful, were limited, compared to the invasion of Russia. Hitler would spare few forces from “Operation Barbarossa,” the planned invasion of the Soviet Union.

The attack against the U.S.S.R. was launched on June 22, 1941. The German army advanced swiftly into the Soviet Union, corralling almost three million Russian prisoners, but it failed to destroy its Russian opponent. Hitler became overbearing in his relations with his generals. He disagreed with them about the object of the main attack, and he wasted time and strength by failing to concentrate on a single objective. In December 1941, a few miles before Moscow, a Russian counteroffensive finally made it clear that Hitler’s hopes of a single campaign could not be realized.

On December 7, the next day, the Japanese attacked U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor. Hitler’s alliance with Japan forced him to declare war on the United States. From this moment on his entire strategy changed. He hoped and tried (like his idol Frederick II the Great) to break what he deemed was the unnatural coalition of his opponents by forcing one or the other of them to make peace. (In the end, the “unnatural” coalition between Stalin and Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt did break up, but too late for Hitler.) He also ordered the reorganization of the German economy on a full wartime basis.

Meanwhile, Himmler prepared the ground for a “new order” in Europe. From 1933 to 1939 and in some instances even during the first years of the war, Hitler’s purpose was to expel the Jews from the Greater German Reich. In 1941 this policy changed from expulsion to extermination. The concentration camps created under the Nazi regime were thereby expanded to include extermination camps, such as Auschwitz, and mobile extermination squads, the Einsatzgruppen. Although Catholics, Poles, homosexuals, Roma (Gypsies), and the handicapped were targeted for persecution, if not outright extermination, the Jews of Germany, Poland, and the Soviet Union were by far the most numerous among the victims; in German-occupied Europe some 6,000,000 Jews were killed during the war. The sufferings of other peoples were only less when measured in their numbers killed.

At the end of 1942, defeat at El-Alamein and at Stalingrad and the American landing in French North Africa brought the turning point in the war, and Hitler’s character and way of life began to change. Directing operations from his headquarters in the east, he refused to visit bombed cities or to allow some withdrawals, and he became increasingly dependent on his physician, Theodor Morell, and on the large amounts and varieties of medicines he ingested. Yet Hitler had not lost the power to react vigorously in the face of misfortune. After the arrest of Mussolini in July 1943 and the Italian armistice, he not only directed the occupation of all important positions held by the Italian army but also ordered the rescue of Mussolini, with the intention that he should head a new fascist government. On the eastern front, however, there was less and less possibility of holding up the advance. Relations with his army commanders grew strained, the more so with the growing importance given to the SS (Schutzstaffel) divisions. Meanwhile, the general failure of the U-boat campaign and the bombing of Germany made chances of German victory very unlikely.

Desperate officers and anti-Nazi civilians became ready to remove Hitler and negotiate a peace. Several attempts on Hitler’s life were planned in 1943–44; the most nearly successful was made on July 20, 1944, when Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg exploded a bomb at a conference at Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia. But Hitler escaped with superficial injuries, and, with few exceptions, those implicated in the plot were executed. The reduction of the army’s independence was now made complete; National Socialist political officers were appointed to all military headquarters.

Thereafter, Hitler was increasingly ill; but he did not relax or lose control, and he continued to exercise an almost hypnotic power over his close subordinates, none of whom wielded any independent authority. The Allied invasion of Normandy (June 6, 1944) marked the beginning of the end. Within a few months, eight European capitals (Rome, Paris, Brussels, Bucharest, Sofia, Athens, Belgrade, Helsinki) were liberated by the Allies or surrendered to them. In December 1944 Hitler moved his headquarters to the west to direct an offensive in the Ardennes aimed at splitting the American and the British armies. When this failed, his hopes for victory became ever more visionary, based on the use of new weapons (German rockets had been fired on London since June 1944) or on the breakup of the Allied Powers.

After January 1945 Hitler never left the Chancellery in Berlin or its bunker, abandoning a plan to lead a final resistance in the south as the Soviet forces closed in on Berlin. In a state of extreme nervous exhaustion, he at last accepted the inevitability of defeat and thereupon prepared to take his own life, leaving to its fate the country over which he had taken absolute command. Before this, two further acts remained. At midnight on April 28–29 he married Eva Braun. Immediately afterward he dictated his political testament, justifying his career and appointing Admiral Karl Dönitz as head of the state and Josef Goebbels as chancellor.

On April 30 he said farewell to Goebbels and the few others remaining, then retired to his suite and shot himself. His wife took poison. In accordance with his instructions, their bodies were burned.

Hitler’s success was due to the susceptibility of postwar Germany to his unique talents as a national leader. His rise to power was not inevitable; yet there was no one who equalled his ability to exploit and shape events to his own ends. The power that he wielded was unprecedented, both in its scope and in the technical resources at its command. His ideas and purposes were accepted in whole or in part by millions of people, especially in Germany but also elsewhere. By the time he was defeated, he had destroyed most of what was left of old Europe, while the German people had to face what they would later call “Year Zero,” 1945.

Alan Bullock, Baron Bullock
Wilfrid F. Knapp
Ed.

 

 

 

 

 

Benito Mussolini

Italian dictator
in full Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, byname Il Duce (Italian: “The Leader”)
born July 29, 1883, Predappio, Italy
died April 28, 1945, near Dongo

Main
Italian prime minister (1922–43) and the first of 20th-century Europe’s fascist dictators.

Early life
Mussolini was the first child of the local blacksmith. In later years he expressed pride in his humble origins and often spoke of himself as a “man of the people.” The Mussolini family was, in fact, less humble than he claimed—his father, a part-time socialist journalist as well as a blacksmith, was the son of a lieutenant in the National Guard, and his mother was a schoolteacher—but the Mussolinis were certainly poor. They lived in two crowded rooms on the second floor of a small, decrepit palazzo; and, because Mussolini’s father spent much of his time discussing politics in taverns and most of his money on his mistress, the meals that his three children ate were often meagre.

A restless child, Mussolini was disobedient, unruly, and aggressive. He was a bully at school and moody at home. Because the teachers at the village school could not control him, he was sent to board with the strict Salesian order at Faenza, where he proved himself more troublesome than ever, stabbing a fellow pupil with a penknife and attacking one of the Salesians who had attempted to beat him. He was expelled and sent to the Giosuè Carducci School at Forlimpopoli, from which he was also expelled after assaulting yet another pupil with his penknife.

He was also intelligent, and he passed his final examinations without difficulty. He obtained a teaching diploma and for a time worked as a schoolmaster but soon realized that he was totally unsuited for such work. At the age of 19, a short, pale young man with a powerful jaw and enormous, dark, piercing eyes, he left Italy for Switzerland with a nickel medallion of Karl Marx in his otherwise empty pockets. For the next few months, according to his own account, he lived from day to day, jumping from job to job.

At the same time, however, he was gaining a reputation as a young man of strange magnetism and remarkable rhetorical talents. He read widely and voraciously, if not deeply, plunging into the philosophers and theorists Immanuel Kant, Benedict de Spinoza, Peter Kropotkin, Friedrich Nietzsche, G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Kautsky, and Georges Sorel, picking out what appealed to him and discarding the rest, forming no coherent political philosophy of his own yet impressing his companions as a potential revolutionary of uncommon personality and striking presence. While earning a reputation as a political journalist and public speaker, he produced propaganda for a trade union, proposing a strike and advocating violence as a means of enforcing demands. Repeatedly, he called for a day of vengeance. More than once he was arrested and imprisoned. When he returned to Italy in 1904, even the Roman newspapers had started to mention his name.

For some time after his return little was heard of him. He once more became a schoolmaster, this time in the Venetian Alps, north of Udine, where he lived, so he confessed, a life of “moral deterioration.” But soon tiring of so wasteful a life, he returned to trade-union work, to journalism, and to extreme politics, which led yet again to arrest and imprisonment.

During a period of freedom in 1909, he fell in love with 16-year-old Rachele Guidi, the younger of the two daughters of his father’s widowed mistress; she went to live with him in a damp, cramped apartment in Forlì and later married him. Soon after the marriage, Mussolini was imprisoned for the fifth time; but by then Comrade Mussolini had become recognized as one of the most gifted and dangerous of Italy’s younger socialists. After writing in a wide variety of socialist papers, he founded a newspaper of his own, La Lotta di Classe (“The Class Struggle”). So successful was this paper that in 1912 he was appointed editor of the official Socialist newspaper, Avanti! (“Forward!”), whose circulation he soon doubled; and as its antimilitarist, antinationalist, and anti-imperialist editor, he thunderously opposed Italy’s intervention in World War I.

Soon, however, he changed his mind about intervention. Swayed by Karl Marx’s aphorism that social revolution usually follows war and persuaded that “the defeat of France would be a deathblow to liberty in Europe,” he began writing articles and making speeches as violently in favour of war as those in which he previously had condemned it. He resigned from Avanti! and was expelled from the Socialist Party. Financed by a publisher who favoured war against Austria, he assumed the editorship of Il Popolo d’Italia (“The People of Italy”), in which he unequivocally stated his new philosophy: “From today onward we are all Italians and nothing but Italians. Now that steel has met steel, one single cry comes from our hearts—Viva l’Italia! [Long live Italy!]” It was the birth cry of fascism. Mussolini went to fight in the war.


Rise to power
Wounded while serving with the bersaglieri (a corps of sharpshooters), he returned home a convinced antisocialist and a man with a sense of destiny. As early as February 1918, he advocated the emergence of a dictator—“a man who is ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean sweep”—to confront the economic and political crisis then gripping Italy. Three months later, in a widely reported speech in Bologna, he hinted that he himself might prove to be such a man. The following year the nucleus of a party prepared to support his ambitious idea was formed in Milan. In an office in Piazza San Sepolcro, about 200 assorted republicans, anarchists, syndicalists, discontented socialists, restless revolutionaries, and discharged soldiers met to discuss the establishment of a new force in Italian politics. Mussolini called this force the fasci di combattimento (“fighting bands”), groups of fighters bound together by ties as close as those that secured the fasces of the lictors—the symbols of ancient Roman authority. So fascism was created and its symbol devised.

At rallies—surrounded by supporters wearing black shirts—Mussolini caught the imagination of the crowds. His physique was impressive, and his style of oratory, staccato and repetitive, was superb. His attitudes were highly theatrical, his opinions were contradictory, his facts were often wrong, and his attacks were frequently malicious and misdirected; but his words were so dramatic, his metaphors so apt and striking, his vigorous, repetitive gestures so extraordinarily effective, that he rarely failed to impose his mood.

Fascist squads, militias inspired by Mussolini but often created by local leaders, swept through the countryside of the Po Valley and the Puglian plains, rounded up Socialists, burned down union and party offices, and terrorized the local population. Hundreds of radicals were humiliated, beaten, or killed. In late 1920, the Blackshirt squads, often with the direct help of landowners, began to attack local government institutions and prevent left-wing administrations from taking power. Mussolini encouraged the squads—although he soon tried to control them—and organized similar raids in and around Milan. By late 1921, the Fascists controlled large parts of Italy, and the left, in part because of its failures during the postwar years, had all but collapsed. The government, dominated by middle-class Liberals, did little to combat this lawlessness, both through weak political will and a desire to see the mainly working-class left defeated. As the Fascist movement built a broad base of support around the powerful ideas of nationalism and anti-Bolshevism, Mussolini began planning to seize power at the national level.

In the summer of 1922, Mussolini’s opportunity presented itself. The remnants of the trade-union movement called a general strike. Mussolini declared that unless the government prevented the strike, the Fascists would. Fascist volunteers, in fact, helped to defeat the strike and thus advanced the Fascist claim to power. At a gathering of 40,000 Fascists in Naples on October 24, Mussolini threatened, “Either the government will be given to us, or we will seize it by marching on Rome.” Responding to his oratory the assembled Fascists excitedly took up the cry, shouting in unison “Roma! Roma! Roma!” All appeared eager to march.

Later that day, Mussolini and other leading Fascists decided that four days later the Fascist militia would advance on Rome in converging columns led by four leading party members later to be known as the Quadrumviri. Mussolini himself was not one of the four.

He was still hoping for a political compromise, and he refused to move before King Victor Emmanuel III summoned him in writing. Meanwhile, all over Italy the Fascists prepared for action, and the March on Rome began. Although it was far less orderly than Fascist propaganda later suggested, it was sufficiently threatening to bring down the government. And the king, prepared to accept the Fascist alternative, dispatched the telegram for which Mussolini had been waiting.


Dictatorship
Mussolini’s obvious pride in his achievement at becoming (October 31, 1922) the youngest prime minister in Italian history was not misplaced. He had certainly been aided by a favourable combination of circumstances, both political and economic; but his remarkable and sudden success also owed something to his own personality, to native instinct and shrewd calculation, to astute opportunism, and to his unique gifts as an agitator. Anxious to demonstrate that he was not merely the leader of fascism but also the head of a united Italy, he presented to the king a list of ministers, a majority of whom were not members of his party. He made it clear, however, that he intended to govern authoritatively. He obtained full dictatorial powers for a year; and in that year he pushed through a law that enabled the Fascists to cement a majority in the parliament. The elections in 1924, though undoubtedly fraudulent, secured his personal power.

Many Italians, especially among the middle class, welcomed his authority. They were tired of strikes and riots, responsive to the flamboyant techniques and medieval trappings of fascism, and ready to submit to dictatorship, provided the national economy was stabilized and their country restored to its dignity. Mussolini seemed to them the one man capable of bringing order out of chaos. Soon a kind of order had been restored, and the Fascists inaugurated ambitious programs of public works. The costs of this order were, however, enormous. Italy’s fragile democratic system was abolished in favour of a one-party state. Opposition parties, trade unions, and the free press were outlawed. Free speech was crushed. A network of spies and secret policemen watched over the population. This repression hit moderate Liberals and Catholics as well as Socialists. In 1924 Mussolini’s henchmen kidnapped and murdered the Socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti, who had become one of fascism’s most effective critics in parliament. The Matteotti crisis shook Mussolini, but he managed to maintain his hold on power.

Mussolini was hailed as a genius and a superman by public figures worldwide. His achievements were considered little less than miraculous. He had transformed and reinvigorated his divided and demoralized country; he had carried out his social reforms and public works without losing the support of the industrialists and landowners; he had even succeeded in coming to terms with the papacy. The reality, however, was far less rosy than the propaganda made it appear. Social divisions remained enormous, and little was done to address the deep-rooted structural problems of the Italian state and economy.

Mussolini might have remained a hero until his death had not his callous xenophobia and arrogance, his misapprehension of Italy’s fundamental necessities, and his dreams of empire led him to seek foreign conquests. His eye rested first upon Ethiopia, which, after 10 months of preparations, rumours, threats, and hesitations, Italy invaded in October 1935. A brutal campaign of colonial conquest followed, in which the Italians dropped tons of gas bombs upon the Ethiopian people. Europe expressed its horror; but, having done so, did no more. The League of Nations imposed sanctions but ensured that the list of prohibited exports did not include any, such as oil, that might provoke a European war. If the League had imposed oil sanctions, Mussolini said, he would have had to withdraw from Ethiopia within a week. But he faced no such problem, and on the night of May 9, 1936, he announced to an enormous, expectant crowd of about 400,000 people standing shoulder to shoulder around Piazza Venezia in Rome that “in the 14th year of the Fascist era” a great event had been accomplished: Italy had its empire. This moment probably marked the peak of public support for the regime.

Italy had also found a new ally. Intent upon his own imperial ambitions in Austria, Adolf Hitler had actively encouraged Mussolini’s African adventure, and under Hitler’s guidance Germany had been the one powerful country in western Europe that had not turned against Mussolini. The way was now open for the Pact of Steel—a Rome-Berlin Axis and a brutal alliance between Hitler and Mussolini that was to ruin them both. In 1938, following the German example, Mussolini’s government passed anti-Semitic laws in Italy that discriminated against Jews in all sectors of public and private life and prepared the way for the deportation of some 20 percent of Italy’s Jews to German death camps during the war.


Role in World War II
While Mussolini understood that peace was essential to Italy’s well-being, that a long war might prove disastrous, and that he must not “march blindly with the Germans,” he was beset by concerns that the Germans “might do good business cheaply” and that by not intervening on their side in World War II he would lose his “part of the booty.” His foreign secretary and son-in-law, Count Galeazzo Ciano, recorded that during a long, inconclusive discussion at the Palazzo Venezia, Mussolini at first agreed that Italy must not go to war, “then he said that honour compelled him to march with Germany.”

Mussolini watched the progress of Hitler’s war with bitterness and alarm, becoming more and more bellicose with each fresh German victory, while frequently expressing hope that the Germans would be slowed down or would meet with some reverse that would satisfy his personal envy and give Italy breathing space. When Germany advanced westward, however, and France seemed on the verge of collapse, Mussolini felt he could delay no longer. So, on June 10, 1940, the fateful declaration of war was made.

From the beginning the war went badly for Italy, and Mussolini’s opportunistic hopes for a quick victory soon dissolved. France surrendered before there was an opportunity for even a token Italian victory, and Mussolini left for a meeting with Hitler, sadly aware, as Ciano put it, that his opinion had “only a consultative value.” Indeed, from then on Mussolini was obliged to face the fact that he was the junior partner in the Axis alliance. The Germans kept the details of most of their military plans concealed, presenting their allies with a fait accompli for fear that prior discussion would destroy surprise. And thus the Germans made such moves as the occupation of Romania and the later invasion of the Soviet Union without any advance notice to Mussolini.

It was to “pay back Hitler in his own coin,” as Mussolini openly admitted, that he decided to attack Greece through Albania in 1940 without informing the Germans. The result was an extensive and ignominious defeat, and the Germans were forced unwillingly to extricate him from its consequences. The 1941 campaign to support the German invasion of the Soviet Union also failed disastrously and condemned thousands of ill-equipped Italian troops to a nightmarish winter retreat. Hitler had to come to his ally’s help once again in North Africa. After the Italian surrender in North Africa in 1943, the Germans began to take precautions against a likely Italian collapse. Mussolini had grossly exaggerated the extent of public support for his regime and for the war. When the Western Allies successfully invaded Sicily in July 1943, it was obvious that collapse was imminent.

For some time Italian Fascists and non-Fascists alike had been preparing Mussolini’s downfall. On July 24, at a meeting of the Fascist Grand Council—the supreme constitutional authority of the state, which had not met once since the war began—an overwhelming majority passed a resolution that in effect dismissed Mussolini from office. Disregarding the vote as a matter of little concern and refusing to admit that his minions could harm him, Mussolini appeared at his office the next morning as though nothing had happened. That afternoon, however, he was arrested by royal command on the steps of the Villa Savoia after an audience with the king.

Imprisoned first on the island of Ponza, then on a remoter island off the coast of Sardinia, he was eventually transported to a hotel high on the Gran Sasso d’Italia in the mountains of Abruzzi, from which his rescue by the Germans was deemed impossible. Nevertheless, by crash-landing gliders on the slopes behind the hotel, German commandos on September 12, 1943, effected his escape by air to Munich.

Rather than allow the Germans to occupy and govern Italy entirely in their own interests, Mussolini agreed to Hitler’s suggestion that he establish a new Fascist government in the north and execute those members of the Grand Council, including his son-in-law, Ciano, who had dared to vote against him. But the Repubblica Sociale Italiana thus established at Salò was, as Mussolini himself grimly admitted to visitors, no more than a puppet government at the mercy of the German command. And there, living in dreams and “thinking only of history and how he would appear in it,” as one of his ministers said, Mussolini awaited the inevitable end. Meanwhile, Italian Fascists maintained their alliance with the Germans and participated in deportations, the torture of suspected partisans, and the war against the Allies.

As German defenses in Italy collapsed and the Allies advanced rapidly northward, the Italian Communists of the partisan leadership decided to execute Mussolini. Rejecting the advice of various advisers, including the elder of his two surviving sons—his second son had been killed in the war—Mussolini refused to consider flying out of the country, and he made for the Valtellina, intending perhaps to make a final stand in the mountains; but only a handful of men could be found to follow him. He tried to cross the frontier disguised as a German soldier in a convoy of trucks retreating toward Innsbruck, in Austria. But he was recognized and, together with his mistress, Claretta Petacci, who had insisted on remaining with him to the end, he was shot and killed on April 28, 1945. Their bodies were hung, head downward, in the Piazza Loreto in Milan. Huge, jubilant crowds celebrated the fall of the dictator and the end of the war.

The great mass of the Italian people greeted Mussolini’s death without regret. He had lived beyond his time and had dragged his country into a disastrous war, which it was unwilling and unready to fight. Democracy was restored in the country after 20 years of dictatorship, and a neo-Fascist Party that carried on Mussolini’s ideals won only 2 percent of the vote in the 1948 elections.

Christopher Hibbert
Ed.

 

 

 

 

 

Emperor Hirohito

Main
emperor of Japan
original name Michinomiya Hirohito, posthumous name Shōwa

born April 29, 1901, Tokyo
died Jan. 7, 1989, Tokyo

emperor of Japan from 1926 until his death in 1989. He was the longest-reigning monarch in Japan’s history.

Hirohito was born at the Aoyama Palace and was educated at the Peers’ School and at the Crown Prince’s Institute. Early in life he developed an interest in marine biology, on which he later wrote several books. In 1921 he visited Europe, becoming the first Japanese crown prince to travel abroad. Upon his return he was named prince regent when his father, the emperor Taishō, retired because of mental illness. In 1924 he married the princess Nagako Kuni.

Hirohito became emperor of Japan on Dec. 25, 1926, following the death of his father. His reign was designated Shōwa, or “Enlightened Peace.” The Japanese constitution invested him with supreme authority, but in practice he merely ratified the policies that were formulated by his ministers and advisers. Many historians have asserted that Hirohito had grave misgivings about war with the United States and was opposed to Japan’s alliance with Germany and Italy but that he was powerless to resist the militarists who dominated the armed forces and the government. Other historians assert that Hirohito might have been involved in the planning of Japan’s expansionist policies from 1931 to World War II. Whatever the truth may be, in 1945, when Japan was close to defeat and opinion among the country’s leaders was divided between those favouring surrender and those insisting on a desperate defense of the home islands against an anticipated invasion by the Allies, Hirohito settled the dispute in favour of those urging peace. He broke the precedent of imperial silence on Aug. 15, 1945, when he made a national radio broadcast to announce Japan’s acceptance of the Allies’ terms of surrender. In a second historic broadcast, made on Jan. 1, 1946, Hirohito repudiated the traditional quasi-divine status of Japan’s emperors.

Under the nation’s new constitution, drafted by U.S. occupation authorities, Japan became a constitutional monarchy. Sovereignty resided in the people, not in the emperor, whose powers were severely curtailed. In an effort to bring the imperial family closer to the people, Hirohito began to make numerous public appearances and permitted publication of pictures and stories of his personal and family life. In 1959 his oldest son, Crown Prince Akihito, married a commoner, Shōda Michiko, breaking a 1,500-year tradition. In 1971 Hirohito broke another tradition when he toured Europe and became the first reigning Japanese monarch to visit abroad. In 1975 he made a state visit to the United States. Upon his death in 1989, Hirohito was succeeded as emperor by Akihito.
 

 

 

 

 

Joseph Stalin

prime minister of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Russian in full Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, original name (Georgian) Ioseb Dzhugashvili

born Dec. 21 [Dec. 9, Old Style], 1879, Gori, Georgia, Russian Empire
died March 5, 1953, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.

Overview
Soviet politician and dictator.

The son of a cobbler, he studied at a seminary but was expelled for revolutionary activity in 1899. He joined an underground revolutionary group and sided with the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party in 1903. A disciple of Vladimir Lenin, he served in minor party posts and was appointed to the first Bolshevik Central Committee (1912). He remained active behind the scenes and in exile (1913–17) until the Russian Revolution of 1917 brought the Bolsheviks to power. Having adopted the name Stalin (from Russian stal, “steel”), he served as commissar for nationalities and for state control in the Bolshevik government (1917–23). He was a member of the Politburo, and in 1922 he became secretary-general of the party’s Central Committee. After Lenin’s death (1924), Stalin overcame his rivals, including Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinovyev, Lev Kamenev, Nikolay Bukharin, and Aleksey Rykov, and took control of Soviet politics. In 1928 he inaugurated the Five-Year Plans that radically altered Soviet economic and social structures and resulted in the deaths of many millions. In the 1930s he contrived to eliminate threats to his power through the purge trials and through widespread secret executions and persecution. In World War II he signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact (1939), attacked Finland (see Russo-Finnish War), and annexed parts of eastern Europe to strengthen his western frontiers. When Germany invaded Russia (1941), Stalin took control of military operations. He allied Russia with Britain and the U.S.; at the Tehrān, Yalta, and Potsdam conferences, he demonstrated his negotiating skill. After the war he consolidated Soviet power in eastern Europe and built up the Soviet Union as a world military power. He continued his repressive political measures to control internal dissent; increasingly paranoid, he was preparing to mount another purge after the so-called Doctors’ Plot when he died. Noted for bringing the Soviet Union into world prominence, at terrible cost to his own people, he left a legacy of repression and fear as well as industrial and military power. In 1956 Stalin and his personality cult were denounced by Nikita Khrushchev.

Main
secretary-general of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–53) and premier of the Soviet state (1941–53), who for a quarter of a century dictatorially ruled the Soviet Union and transformed it into a major world power.

During the quarter of a century preceding his death, the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin probably exercised greater political power than any other figure in history. Stalin industrialized the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, forcibly collectivized its agriculture, consolidated his position by intensive police terror, helped to defeat Germany in 1941–45, and extended Soviet controls to include a belt of eastern European states. Chief architect of Soviet totalitarianism and a skilled but phenomenally ruthless organizer, he destroyed the remnants of individual freedom and failed to promote individual prosperity, yet he created a mighty military–industrial complex and led the Soviet Union into the nuclear age.

Stalin’s biography was long obscured by a mendacious Soviet-propagated “legend” exaggerating his prowess as a heroic Bolshevik boy-conspirator and faithful follower of Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. In his prime, Stalin was hailed as a universal genius, as a “shining sun,” or “the staff of life,” and also as a “great teacher and friend” (especially of those communities he most savagely persecuted); once he was even publicly invoked as “Our Father” by a metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church. Achieving wide visual promotion through busts, statues, and icons of himself, the dictator became the object of a fanatical cult that, in private, he probably regarded with cynicism.

The young revolutionary
Stalin was of Georgian—not Russian—origin, and persistent rumours claim that he was Ossetian on the paternal side. He was the son of a poor cobbler in the provincial Georgian town of Gori in the Caucasus, then an imperial Russian colony. The drunken father savagely beat his son. Speaking only Georgian at home, Joseph learned Russian—which he always spoke with a guttural Georgian accent—while attending the church school at Gori (1888–94). He then moved to the Tiflis Theological Seminary, where he secretly read Karl Marx, the chief theoretician of international Communism, and other forbidden texts, being expelled in 1899 for revolutionary activity, according to the “legend”—or leaving because of ill health, according to his doting mother. The mother, a devout washerwoman, had dreamed of her son becoming a priest, but Joseph Dzhugashvili was more ruffianly than clerical in appearance and outlook. He was short, stocky, black-haired, fierce-eyed, with one arm longer than the other, his swarthy face scarred by smallpox contracted in infancy. Physically strong and endowed with prodigious willpower, he early learned to disguise his true feelings and to bide his time; in accordance with the Caucasian blood-feud tradition, he was implacable in plotting long-term revenge against those who offended him.

In December 1899, Dzhugashvili became, briefly, a clerk in the Tiflis Observatory, the only paid employment that he is recorded as having taken outside politics; there is no record of his ever having done manual labour. In 1900 he joined the political underground, fomenting labour demonstrations and strikes in the main industrial centres of the Caucasus; but his excessive zeal in pushing duped workers into bloody clashes with the police antagonized his fellow conspirators. After the Social Democrats (Marxist revolutionaries) of the Russian Empire had split into their two competing wings—Menshevik and Bolshevik—in 1903, Dzhugashvili joined the second, more militant, of these factions and became a disciple of its leader, Lenin. Between April 1902 and March 1913, Dzhugashvili was seven times arrested for revolutionary activity, undergoing repeated imprisonment and exile. The mildness of the sentences and the ease with which the young conspirator effected his frequent escapes lend colour to the unproved speculation that Dzhugashvili was for a time an agent provocateur in the pay of the imperial political police.


Rise to power
Dzhugashvili made slow progress in the party hierarchy. He attended three policy-making conclaves of the Russian Social Democrats—in Tammerfors (now Tampere, Finland; 1905), Stockholm (1906), and London (1907)—without making much impression. But he was active behind the scenes, helping to plot a spectacular holdup in Tiflis (now Tbilisi) on June 25 (June 12, O.S.), 1907, in order to “expropriate” funds for the party. His first big political promotion came in February (January, O.S.) 1912, when Lenin—now in emigration—co-opted him to serve on the first Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, which had finally broken with the other Social Democrats. In the following year, Dzhugashvili published, at Lenin’s behest, an important article on Marxism and the national question. By now he had adopted the name Stalin, deriving from Russian stal (“steel”); he also briefly edited the newly founded Bolshevik newspaper Pravda before undergoing his longest period of exile: in Siberia from July 1913 to March 1917.

In about 1904 Stalin had married a pious Georgian girl, Ekaterina Svanidze. She died some three years later and left a son, Jacob, whom his father treated with contempt, calling him a weakling after an unsuccessful suicide attempt in the late 1920s; when Jacob was taken prisoner by the Germans during World War II, Stalin refused a German offer to exchange his son.

Reaching Petrograd from Siberia on March 25 (March 12, O.S.), 1917, Stalin resumed editorship of Pravda. He briefly advocated Bolshevik cooperation with the provisional government of middle-class liberals that had succeeded to uneasy power on the last tsar’s abdication during the February Revolution. But under Lenin’s influence, Stalin soon switched to the more militant policy of armed seizure of power by the Bolsheviks. When their coup d’état occurred in November (October, old style) 1917, he played an important role, but one less prominent than that of his chief rival, Leon Trotsky.

Active as a politico-military leader on various fronts during the Civil War of 1918–20, Stalin also held two ministerial posts in the new Bolshevik government, being commissar for nationalities (1917–23) and for state control (or workers’ and peasants’ inspection; 1919–23). But it was his position as secretary general of the party’s Central Committee, from 1922 until his death, that provided the power base for his dictatorship. Besides heading the secretariat, he was also member of the powerful Politburo and of many other interlocking and overlapping committees—an arch-bureaucrat engaged in quietly outmaneuvering brilliant rivals, including Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev, who despised such mundane organizational work. Because the pockmarked Georgian was so obviously unintellectual, they thought him unintelligent—a gross error, and one literally fatal in their case.

From 1921 onward Stalin flouted the ailing Lenin’s wishes, until, a year before his death, Lenin wrote a political “testament,” since widely publicized, calling for Stalin’s removal from the secretary generalship; coming from Lenin, this document was potentially ruinous to Stalin’s career, but his usual luck and skill enabled him to have it discounted during his lifetime.


Lenin’s successor
After Lenin’s death, in January 1924, Stalin promoted an extravagant, quasi-Byzantine cult of the deceased leader. Archpriest of Leninism, Stalin also promoted his own cult in the following year by having the city of Tsaritsyn renamed Stalingrad (now Volgograd). His main rival, Trotsky (once Lenin’s heir apparent), was now in eclipse, having been ousted by the ruling triumvirate of Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, and Stalin. Soon afterward Stalin joined with the rightist leaders Nikolay Bukharin and Aleksey Rykov in an alliance directed against his former co-triumvirs. Pinning his faith in the ability of the Soviet Union to establish a viable political system without waiting for the support hitherto expected from worldwide revolution, the Secretary General advocated a policy of “Socialism in one country”; this was popular with the hardheaded party managers whom he was promoting to influential positions in the middle hierarchy. His most powerful rivals were all dismissed, Bukharin and Rykov soon following Zinoviev and Kamenev into disgrace and political limbo pending execution. Stalin expelled Trotsky from the Soviet Union in 1929 and had him assassinated in Mexico in 1940.

In 1928 Stalin abandoned Lenin’s quasi-capitalist New Economic Policy in favour of headlong state-organized industrialization under a succession of five-year plans. This was, in effect, a new Russian revolution more devastating in its effects than those of 1917. The dictator’s blows fell most heavily on the peasantry, some 25,000,000 rustic households being compelled to amalgamate in collective or state farms within a few years. Resisting desperately, the reluctant muzhiks were attacked by troops and OGPU (political police) units. Uncooperative peasants, termed kulaks, were arrested en masse, being shot, exiled, or absorbed into the rapidly expanding network of Stalinist concentration camps and worked to death under atrocious conditions. Collectivization also caused a great famine in the Ukraine. Yet Stalin continued to export the grain stocks that a less cruel leader would have rushed to the famine-stricken areas. Some 10,000,000 peasants may have perished through his policies during these years.

Crash industrialization was less disastrous in its effects, but it, too, numbered its grandiose failures, to which Stalin responded by arraigning industrial managers in a succession of show trials. Intimidated into confessing imaginary crimes, the accused served as self-denounced scapegoats for catastrophes arising from the Secretary General’s policies. Yet Stalin was successful in rapidly industrializing a backward country—as was widely acknowledged by enthusiastic contemporary foreign witnesses, including Adolf Hitler and such well-known writers as H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw.

Among those who vainly sought to moderate Stalin’s policies was his young second wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, whom he had married in 1919 and who committed suicide in 1932. They had two children. The son, Vasily, perished as an alcoholic after rising to unmerited high rank in the Soviet Air Force. The daughter, Svetlana, became the object for her father’s alternating affection and bad temper. She emigrated after his death and later wrote memoirs that illuminate Stalin’s well-camouflaged private life.


The great purges
In late 1934—just when the worst excesses of Stalinism seemed to have spent themselves—the Secretary General launched a new campaign of political terror against the very Communist Party members who had brought him to power; his pretext was the assassination, in Leningrad on December 1, of his leading colleague and potential rival, Sergey Kirov. That Stalin himself had arranged Kirov’s murder—as an excuse for the promotion of mass bloodshed—was strongly hinted by Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary of the party, in a speech denouncing Stalin at the 20th Party Congress in 1956.

Stalin used the show trial of leading Communists as a means for expanding the new terror. In August 1936, Zinoviev and Kamenev were paraded in court to repeat fabricated confessions, sentenced to death, and shot; two more major trials followed, in January 1937 and March 1938. In June 1937, Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, at the time the most influential military personality, and other leading generals were reported as court-martialed on charges of treason and executed.

Such were the main publicly acknowledged persecutions that empowered Stalin to tame the Soviet Communist Party and the Soviet elite as a whole. He not only “liquidated” veteran semi-independent Bolsheviks but also many party bosses, military leaders, industrial managers, and high government officials totally subservient to himself. Other victims included foreign Communists on Soviet territory and members of the very political police organization, now called the NKVD. All other sections of the Soviet elite—the arts, the academic world, the legal and diplomatic professions—also lost a high proportion of victims, as did the population at large, to a semi-haphazard, galloping persecution that fed on extorted denunciations and confessions. These implicated even more victims until Stalin himself reduced the terror, though he never abandoned it. Stalin’s political victims were numbered in tens of millions. His main motive was, presumably, to maximize his personal power.

Role in World War II
During World War II Stalin emerged, after an unpromising start, as the most successful of the supreme leaders thrown up by the belligerent nations. In August 1939, after first attempting to form an anti-Hitler alliance with the Western powers, he concluded a pact with Hitler, which encouraged the German dictator to attack Poland and begin World War II. Anxious to strengthen his western frontiers while his new but palpably treacherous German ally was still engaged in the West, Stalin annexed eastern Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and parts of Romania; he also attacked Finland and extorted territorial concessions. In May 1941 Stalin recognized the growing danger of German attack on the Soviet Union by appointing himself chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars (head of the government); it was his first governmental office since 1923.

Stalin’s prewar defensive measures were exposed as incompetent by the German blitzkrieg that surged deep into Soviet territory after Hitler’s unprovoked attack on the Soviet Union of June 22, 1941. Khrushchev claimed that Stalin was shocked into temporary inactivity by the onslaught, but, if so, he soon rallied and appointed himself supreme commander in chief. When the Germans menaced Moscow in the winter of 1941, he remained in the threatened capital, helping to organize a great counter-offensive. The battle of Stalingrad (in the following winter) and the Battle of Kursk (in the summer of 1943) were also won by the Soviet Army under Stalin’s supreme direction, turning the tide of invasion against the retreating Germans, who capitulated in May 1945. As war leader, Stalin maintained close personal control over the Soviet battlefronts, military reserves, and war economy. At first over-inclined to intervene with inept telephoned instructions, as Hitler did, the Soviet generalissimo gradually learned to delegate military decisions.

Stalin participated in high-level Allied meetings, including those of the “Big Three” with Churchill and Roosevelt at Tehrān (1943) and Yalta (1945). A formidable negotiator, he outwitted these foreign statesmen; his superior skill has been acclaimed by Anthony Eden, then British foreign secretary.


Last years
After the war, Stalin imposed on eastern Europe a new kind of colonial control based on native Communist regimes nominally independent but in fact subservient to himself. He thus increased the number of his subjects by about a hundred million. But in 1948 the defection of Titoist Yugoslavia from the Soviet camp struck a severe blow to world Communism as a Stalin-dominated monolith. To prevent other client states from following Tito’s example, Stalin instigated local show trials, manipulated like those of the Great Purge of the 1930s in Russia, in which satellite Communist leaders confessed to Titoism, many being executed.

Far from continuing his wartime alliance with the United States and Great Britain, Stalin now regarded these countries—and especially the United States—as the arch-enemies that he needed after Hitler’s death. At home, the primacy of Marxist ideology was harshly reasserted. Stalin’s chief ideological hatchet man, Andrey Zhdanov, a secretary of the Central Committee, began a reign of terror in the Soviet artistic and intellectual world; foreign achievements were derided, and the primacy of Russians as inventors and pioneers in practically every field was asserted. Hopes for domestic relaxation, widely aroused in the Soviet Union during the war, were thus sadly disappointed.

Increasingly suspicious and paranoid in his later years, Stalin ordered the arrest, announced in January 1953, of certain—mostly Jewish—Kremlin doctors on charges of medically murdering various Soviet leaders, including Zhdanov. The dictator was evidently preparing to make this “Doctors’ Plot” the pretext for yet another great terror menacing all his senior associates, but he died suddenly on March 5, according to the official report; so convenient was this death to his entourage that suspicions of foul play were voiced.


Assessment
A politician to the marrow of his bones, Stalin had little private or family life, finding his main relaxation in impromptu buffet suppers, to which he would invite high party officials, generals, visiting foreign potentates, and the like. Drinking little himself on these occasions, the dictator would encourage excessive indulgence in others, thus revealing weak points that he could exploit. He would also tease his guests, jocularity and malice being nicely balanced in his manner; for such bluff banter Stalin’s main henchman, Vyacheslav Molotov, the stuttering foreign minister, was often a target. Stalin had a keen, ironical sense of humour, usually devoted to deflating his guests rather than to amusing them.

Foremost among Stalin’s accomplishments was the industrialization of a country which, when he assumed complete control in 1928, was still notably backward by comparison with the leading industrial nations of the world. By 1937, after less than a decade’s rule as totalitarian dictator, he had increased the Soviet Union’s total industrial output to the point where it was surpassed only by that of the United States. The extent of this achievement may best be appreciated if one remembers that Russia had held only fifth place for overall industrial output in 1913, and that it thereafter suffered many years of even greater devastation—through world war, civil war, famine, and pestilence—than afflicted any of the world’s other chief industrial countries during the same period. Yet more appallingly ravaged during World War II, the Soviet Union was nevertheless able, under Stalin’s leadership, to play a major part in defeating Hitler while maintaining its position as the world’s second most powerful industrial—and now military—complex after the United States. In 1949 Stalinist Russia signaled its arrival as the world’s second nuclear power by exploding an atomic bomb.

Against these formidable achievements must be set one major disadvantage. Though a high industrial output was indeed achieved under Stalin, very little of it ever became available to the ordinary Soviet citizen in the form of consumer goods or amenities of life. A considerable proportion of the national wealth—a proportion wholly unparalleled in the history of any peacetime capitalist country—was appropriated by the state to cover military expenditure, the police apparatus, and further industrialization. It is also arguable that a comparable degree of industrialization would have come about in any case—and surely by means less savage—under almost any conceivable regime that might have evolved as an alternative to Stalinism.

Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture did not produce positive economic results remotely comparable to those attained by Soviet industry. Considered as a means of asserting control over the politically recalcitrant peasantry, however, collectivization justified itself and continued to do so for decades, remaining one of the dictator’s most durable achievements. Moreover, the process of intensive urbanization, as instituted by Stalin, continued after his death in what still remained a population more predominantly rural than that of any other major industrial country. In 1937, 56 percent of the population was recorded as engaged in agriculture or forestry; by 1958 that proportion had dropped to 42 percent, very largely as a result of Stalin’s policies.

Another of the dictator’s achievements was the creation of his elaborately bureaucratized administrative machinery based on the interlinking of the Communist Party, ministries, legislative bodies, trade unions, political police, and armed forces, and also on a host of other meshing control devices. During the decades following the dictator’s death, these continued to supply the essential management levers of Soviet society, often remaining under the control of individuals who had risen to prominence during the years of the Stalinist terror. But the element of total personal dictatorship did not survive Stalin in its most extreme form. One result of his death was the resurgence of the Communist Party as the primary centre of power, after years during which that organization, along with all other Soviet institutions, had been subordinated to a single man’s whim. Yet, despite the great power wielded by Stalin’s successors as party leaders, they became no more than dominant figures within the framework of a ruling oligarchy. They did not develop into potentates responsible to themselves alone, such as Stalin was during his quarter of a century’s virtually unchallenged rule.

That Stalin’s system persisted as long as it did, in all its major essentials, after the death of its creator is partly due to the very excess of severity practiced by the great tyrant. Not only did his methods crush initiative among Soviet administrators, physically destroying many, but they also left a legacy of remembered fear so extreme as to render continuing post-Stalin restrictions tolerable to the population; the people would have more bitterly resented—might even, perhaps, have rejected—such rigours, had it not been for their vivid recollection of repressions immeasurably harsher. Just as Hitler’s wartime cruelty toward the Soviet population turned Stalin into a genuine national hero—making him the Soviet Union’s champion against an alien terror even worse than his own—so too Stalin’s successors owed the stability of their system in part to the comparison, still fresh in many minds, with the far worse conditions that obtained during the despot’s sway.

Stalin has arguably made a greater impact on the lives of more individuals than any other figure in history. But the evaluation of his overall achievement still remains, decades after his death, a highly controversial matter. Historians have not yet reached any definitive consensus on the worth of his accomplishments, and it is unlikely that they ever will. To the American scholar George F. Kennan, Stalin is a great man, but one great in his “incredible criminality . . . a criminality effectively without limits,” while Robert C. Tucker, an American specialist on Soviet affairs, has described Stalin as a 20th-century Ivan the Terrible. To the British historian E.H. Carr, the Georgian dictator appears as a ruthless, vigorous figure, but one lacking in originality—a comparative nonentity thrust into greatness by the inexorable march of the great revolution that he found himself leading. To the late Isaac Deutscher, the author of biographies of Trotsky and Stalin—who, like Carr, broadly accepts Trotsky’s version of Stalin as a somewhat mediocre personage—Stalin represents a lamentably deviant element in the evolution of Marxism. Neither Deutscher nor Carr has found Stalin’s truly appalling record sufficiently impressive to raise doubts about the ultimate value of the Russian October Revolution’s historic achievements.

To such views may be added the suggestion that Stalin was anything but a plodding mediocrity, being rather a man of superlative, all-transcending talent. His special brilliance was, however, narrowly specialized and confined within the single crucial area of creative political manipulation, where he remains unsurpassed. Stalin was the first to recognize the potential of bureaucratic power, while the other Bolshevik leaders still feared their revolution being betrayed by a military man. Stalin’s political ability went beyond tactics, as he was able to channel massive social forces both to meet his economic goals and to expand his personal power.

Ronald Francis Hingley
Ed.

 

 

 

 

 

Sir Winston Churchill

prime minister of United Kingdom
in full Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
born Nov. 30, 1874, Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, Eng.
died Jan. 24, 1965, London

Overview
British statesman and author.

Son of Lord Randolph Churchill and the American Jennie Jerome, he had an unhappy childhood and was an unpromising student. After joining the 4th Hussars in 1895, he saw service as both a soldier and a journalist, and his dispatches from India and South Africa attracted wide attention. Fame as a military hero helped him win election to the House of Commons in 1900. He quickly rose to prominence and served in several cabinet posts, including first lord of the Admiralty (1911–15), though in World War I and during the following decade he acquired a reputation for erratic judgment. In the years before World War II, his warnings of the threat posed by Adolf Hitler’s Germany were repeatedly ignored. When war broke out, he was appointed to his old post as head of the Admiralty. After Neville Chamberlain resigned, Churchill headed a coalition government as prime minister (1940–45). He committed himself and the nation to an all-out war until victory was achieved, and his great eloquence, energy, and indomitable fortitude made him an inspiration to his countrymen, especially in the Battle of Britain. With Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, he shaped Allied strategy through the Atlantic Charter and at the Cairo, Casablanca, and Tehran conferences. Though he was the architect of victory, his government was defeated in the 1945 elections. After the war he alerted the West to the expansionist threat of the Soviet Union. He led the Conservative Party back into power in 1951 and remained prime minister until 1955, when ill health forced his resignation. For his many writings, including The Second World War (6 vol., 1948–53) he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953; his later works include his History of the English-Speaking Peoples (4 vol., 1956–58). He was knighted in 1953; he later refused the offer of a peerage. He was made an honorary U.S. citizen in 1963. In his late years he attained heroic status as one of the titans of the 20th century.

Main
British statesman, orator, and author who as prime minister (1940–45, 1951–55) rallied the British people during World War II and led his country from the brink of defeat to victory.

After a sensational rise to prominence in national politics before World War I, Churchill acquired a reputation for erratic judgment in the war itself and in the decade that followed. Politically suspect in consequence, he was a lonely figure until his response to Adolf Hitler’s challenge brought him to leadership of a national coalition in 1940. With Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin he then shaped Allied strategy in World War II, and after the breakdown of the alliance he alerted the West to the expansionist threat of the Soviet Union. He led the Conservative Party back to office in 1951 and remained prime minister until 1955, when ill health forced his resignation.

In Churchill’s veins ran the blood of both of the English-speaking peoples whose unity, in peace and war, it was to be a constant purpose of his to promote. Through his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, the meteoric Tory politician, he was directly descended from John Churchill, 1st duke of Marlborough, the hero of the wars against Louis XIV of France in the early 18th century. His mother, Jennie Jerome, a noted beauty, was the daughter of a New York financier and horse racing enthusiast, Leonard W. Jerome.

The young Churchill passed an unhappy and sadly neglected childhood, redeemed only by the affection of Mrs. Everest, his devoted nurse. At Harrow his conspicuously poor academic record seemingly justified his father’s decision to enter him into an army career. It was only at the third attempt that he managed to pass the entrance examination to the Royal Military College, now Academy, Sandhurst, but, once there, he applied himself seriously and passed out (graduated) 20th in a class of 130. In 1895, the year of his father’s tragic death, he entered the 4th Hussars. Initially the only prospect of action was in Cuba, where he spent a couple of months of leave reporting the Cuban war of independence from Spain for the Daily Graphic (London). In 1896 his regiment went to India, where he saw service as both soldier and journalist on the North-West Frontier (1897). Expanded as The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898), his dispatches attracted such wide attention as to launch him on the career of authorship that he intermittently pursued throughout his life. In 1897–98 he wrote Savrola (1900), a Ruritanian romance, and got himself attached to Lord Kitchener’s Nile expeditionary force in the same dual role of soldier and correspondent. The River War (1899) brilliantly describes the campaign.
 

Political career before 1939
The five years after Sandhurst saw Churchill’s interests expand and mature. He relieved the tedium of army life in India by a program of reading designed to repair the deficiencies of Harrow and Sandhurst, and in 1899 he resigned his commission to enter politics and make a living by his pen. He first stood as a Conservative at Oldham, where he lost a by-election by a narrow margin, but found quick solace in reporting the South African War for The Morning Post (London). Within a month after his arrival in South Africa he had won fame for his part in rescuing an armoured train ambushed by Boers, though at the price of himself being taken prisoner. But this fame was redoubled when less than a month later he escaped from military prison. Returning to Britain a military hero, he laid siege again to Oldham in the election of 1900. Churchill succeeded in winning by a margin as narrow as that of his previous failure. But he was now in Parliament and, fortified by the £10,000 his writings and lecture tours had earned for him, was in a position to make his own way in politics.

A self-assurance redeemed from arrogance only by a kind of boyish charm made Churchill from the first a notable House of Commons figure, but a speech defect, which he never wholly lost, combined with a certain psychological inhibition to prevent him from immediately becoming a master of debate. He excelled in the set speech, on which he always spent enormous pains, rather than in the impromptu; Lord Balfour, the Conservative leader, said of him that he carried “heavy but not very mobile guns.” In matter as in style he modeled himself on his father, as his admirable biography, Lord Randolph Churchill (1906; revised edition 1952), makes evident, and from the first he wore his Toryism with a difference, advocating a fair, negotiated peace for the Boers and deploring military mismanagement and extravagance.


Political career before 1939 » As Liberal minister
In 1904 the Conservative government found itself impaled on a dilemma by Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain’s open advocacy of a tariff. Churchill, a convinced free trader, helped to found the Free Food League. He was disavowed by his constituents and became increasingly alienated from his party. In 1904 he joined the Liberals and won renown for the audacity of his attacks on Chamberlain and Balfour. The radical elements in his political makeup came to the surface under the influence of two colleagues in particular, John Morley, a political legatee of W.E. Gladstone, and David Lloyd George, the rising Welsh orator and firebrand. In the ensuing general election in 1906 he secured a notable victory in Manchester and began his ministerial career in the new Liberal government as undersecretary of state for the colonies. He soon gained credit for his able defense of the policy of conciliation and self-government in South Africa. When the ministry was reconstructed under Prime Minister Herbert H. Asquith in 1908, Churchill was promoted to president of the Board of Trade, with a seat in the Cabinet. Defeated at the ensuing by-election in Manchester, he won an election at Dundee. In the same year he married the beautiful Clementine Hozier; it was a marriage of unbroken affection that provided a secure and happy background for his turbulent career.

At the Board of Trade, Churchill emerged as a leader in the movement of Liberalism away from laissez-faire toward social reform. He completed the work begun by his predecessor, Lloyd George, on the bill imposing an eight-hour maximum day for miners. He himself was responsible for attacking the evils of “sweated” labour by setting up trade boards with power to fix minimum wages and for combating unemployment by instituting state-run labour exchanges.

When this Liberal program necessitated high taxation, which in turn provoked the House of Lords to the revolutionary step of rejecting the budget of 1909, Churchill was Lloyd George’s closest ally in developing the provocative strategy designed to clip the wings of the upper chamber. Churchill became president of the Budget League, and his oratorical broadsides at the House of Lords were as lively and devastating as Lloyd George’s own. Indeed Churchill, as an alleged traitor to his class, earned the lion’s share of Tory animosity. His campaigning in the two general elections of 1910 and in the House of Commons during the passage of the Parliament Act of 1911, which curbed the House of Lords’ powers, won him wide popular acclaim. In the Cabinet his reward was promotion to the office of home secretary. Here, despite substantial achievements in prison reform, he had to devote himself principally to coping with a sweeping wave of industrial unrest and violent strikes. Upon occasion his relish for dramatic action led him beyond the limits of his proper role as the guarantor of public order. For this he paid a heavy price in incurring the long-standing suspicion of organized labour.

In 1911 the provocative German action in sending a gunboat to Agadir, the Moroccan port to which France had claims, convinced Churchill that in any major Franco-German conflict Britain would have to be at France’s side. When transferred to the Admiralty in October 1911, he went to work with a conviction of the need to bring the navy to a pitch of instant readiness. His first task was the creation of a naval war staff. To help Britain’s lead over steadily mounting German naval power, Churchill successfully campaigned in the Cabinet for the largest naval expenditure in British history. Despite his inherited Tory views on Ireland, he wholeheartedly embraced the Liberal policy of Home Rule, moving the second reading of the Irish Home Rule Bill of 1912 and campaigning for it in the teeth of Unionist opposition. Although, through his friendship with F.E. Smith (later 1st earl of Birkenhead) and Austen Chamberlain, he did much to arrange the compromise by which Ulster was to be excluded from the immediate effect of the bill, no member of the government was more bitterly abused—by Tories as a renegade and by extreme Home Rulers as a defector.


Political career before 1939 » During World War I
War came as no surprise to Churchill. He had already held a test naval mobilization. Of all the Cabinet ministers he was the most insistent on the need to resist Germany. On Aug. 2, 1914, on his own responsibility, he ordered the naval mobilization that guaranteed complete readiness when war was declared. The war called out all of Churchill’s energies. In October 1914, when Antwerp was falling, he characteristically rushed in person to organize its defense. When it fell the public saw only a disillusioning defeat, but in fact the prolongation of its resistance for almost a week enabled the Belgian Army to escape and the crucial Channel ports to be saved. At the Admiralty, Churchill’s partnership with Adm. Sir John Fisher, the first sea lord, was productive both of dynamism and of dissension. In 1915, when Churchill became an enthusiast for the Dardanelles expedition as a way out of the costly stalemate on the Western Front, he had to proceed against Fisher’s disapproval. The campaign aimed at forcing the straits and opening up direct communications with Russia. When the naval attack failed and was called off on the spot by Adm. J.M. de Robeck, the Admiralty war group and Asquith both supported de Robeck rather than Churchill. Churchill came under heavy political attack, which intensified when Fisher resigned. Preoccupied with departmental affairs, Churchill was quite unprepared for the storm that broke about his ears. He had no part at all in the maneuvers that produced the first coalition government and was powerless when the Conservatives, with the sole exception of Sir William Maxwell Aitken (soon Lord Beaverbrook), insisted on his being demoted from the Admiralty to the duchy of Lancaster. There he was given special responsibility for the Gallipoli Campaign (a land assault at the straits) without, however, any powers of direction. Reinforcements were too few and too late; the campaign failed and casualties were heavy; evacuation was ordered in the autumn.

In November 1915 Churchill resigned from the government and returned to soldiering, seeing active service in France as lieutenant colonel of the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers. Although he entered the service with zest, army life did not give full scope for his talents. In June 1916, when his battalion was merged, he did not seek another command but instead returned to Parliament as a private member. He was not involved in the intrigues that led to the formation of a coalition government under Lloyd George, and it was not until 1917 that the Conservatives would consider his inclusion in the government. In March 1917 the publication of the Dardanelles commission report demonstrated that he was at least no more to blame for the fiasco than his colleagues.

Even so, Churchill’s appointment as minister of munitions in July 1917 was made in the face of a storm of Tory protest. Excluded from the Cabinet, Churchill’s role was almost entirely administrative, but his dynamic energies thrown behind the development and production of the tank (which he had initiated at the Admiralty) greatly speeded up the use of the weapon that broke through the deadlock on the Western Front. Paradoxically, it was not until the war was over that Churchill returned to a service department. In January 1919 he became secretary of war. As such he presided with surprising zeal over the cutting of military expenditure. The major preoccupation of his tenure in the War Office was, however, the Allied intervention in Russia. Churchill, passionately anti-Bolshevik, secured from a divided and loosely organized Cabinet an intensification and prolongation of the British involvement beyond the wishes of any major group in Parliament or the nation—and in the face of the bitter hostility of labour. And in 1920, after the last British forces had been withdrawn, Churchill was instrumental in having arms sent to the Poles when they invaded the Ukraine.

In 1921 Churchill moved to the Colonial Office, where his principal concern was with the mandated territories in the Middle East. For the costly British forces in the area he substituted a reliance on the air force and the establishment of rulers congenial to British interests; for this settlement of Arab affairs he relied heavily on the advice of T.E. Lawrence. For Palestine, where he inherited conflicting pledges to Jews and Arabs, he produced in 1922 the White Paper that confirmed Palestine as a Jewish national home while recognizing continuing Arab rights. Churchill never had departmental responsibility for Ireland, but he progressed from an initial belief in firm, even ruthless, maintenance of British rule to an active role in the negotiations that led to the Irish treaty of 1921. Subsequently, he gave full support to the new Irish government.

In the autumn of 1922 the insurgent Turks appeared to be moving toward a forcible reoccupation of the Dardanelles neutral zone, which was protected by a small British force at Chanak (now Çanakkale). Churchill was foremost in urging a firm stand against them, but the handling of the issue by the Cabinet gave the public impression that a major war was being risked for an inadequate cause and on insufficient consideration. A political debacle ensued that brought the shaky coalition government down in ruins, with Churchill as one of the worst casualties. Gripped by a sudden attack of appendicitis, he was not able to appear in public until two days before the election, and then only in a wheelchair. He was defeated humiliatingly by more than 10,000 votes. He thus found himself, as he said, all at once “without an office, without a seat, without a party, and even without an appendix.”
 


Political career before 1939 » In and out of office, 1922–29
In convalescence and political impotence Churchill turned to his brush and his pen. His painting never rose above the level of a gifted amateur’s, but his writing once again provided him with the financial base his independent brand of politics required. His autobiographical history of the war, The World Crisis, netted him the £20,000 with which he purchased Chartwell, henceforth his country home in Kent. When he returned to politics it was as a crusading anti-Socialist, but in 1923, when Stanley Baldwin was leading the Conservatives on a protectionist program, Churchill stood, at Leicester, as a Liberal free trader. He lost by approximately 4,000 votes. Asquith’s decision in 1924 to support a minority Labour government moved Churchill farther to the right. He stood as an “Independent Anti-Socialist” in a by-election in the Abbey division of Westminster. Although opposed by an official Conservative candidate—who defeated him by a hairbreadth of 43 votes—Churchill managed to avoid alienating the Conservative leadership and indeed won conspicuous support from many prominent figures in the party. In the general election in November 1924 he won an easy victory at Epping under the thinly disguised Conservative label of “Constitutionalist.” Baldwin, free of his flirtation with protectionism, offered Churchill, the “constitutionalist free trader,” the post of chancellor of the Exchequer. Surprised, Churchill accepted; dumbfounded, the country interpreted it as a move to absorb into the party all the right-of-centre elements of the former coalition.

In the five years that followed, Churchill’s early liberalism survived only in the form of advocacy of rigid laissez-faire economics; for the rest he appeared, repeatedly, as the leader of the diehards. He had no natural gift for financial administration, and though the noted economist John Maynard Keynes criticized him unsparingly, most of the advice he received was orthodox and harmful. His first move was to restore the gold standard, a disastrous measure, from which flowed deflation, unemployment, and the miners’ strike that led to the general strike of 1926. Churchill offered no remedy except the cultivation of strict economy, extending even to the armed services. Churchill viewed the general strike as a quasi-revolutionary measure and was foremost in resisting a negotiated settlement. He leaped at the opportunity of editing the British Gazette, an emergency official newspaper, which he filled with bombastic and frequently inflammatory propaganda. The one relic of his earlier radicalism was his partnership with Neville Chamberlain as minister of health in the cautious expansion of social services, mainly in the provision of widows’ pensions.

In 1929, when the government fell, Churchill, who would have liked a Tory-Liberal reunion, deplored Baldwin’s decision to accept a minority Labour government. The next year an open rift developed between the two men. On Baldwin’s endorsement of a Round Table Conference with Indian leaders, Churchill resigned from the shadow cabinet and threw himself into a passionate, at times almost hysterical, campaign against the Government of India bill (1935) designed to give India dominion status.


Political career before 1939 » Exclusion from office, 1929–39
Thus, when in 1931 the National Government was formed, Churchill, though a supporter, had no hand in its establishment or place in its councils. He had arrived at a point where, for all his abilities, he was distrusted by every party. He was thought to lack judgment and stability and was regarded as a guerrilla fighter impatient of discipline. He was considered a clever man who associated too much with clever men—Birkenhead, Beaverbrook, Lloyd George—and who despised the necessary humdrum associations and compromises of practical politics.

In this situation he found relief, as well as profit, in his pen, writing, in Marlborough: His Life and Times, a massive rehabilitation of his ancestor against the criticisms of the 19th-century historian Thomas Babington Macaulay. But overriding the past and transcending his worries about India was a mounting anxiety about the growing menace of Hitler’s Germany. Before a supine government and a doubting opposition, Churchill persistently argued the case for taking the German threat seriously and for the need to prevent the Luftwaffe from securing parity with the Royal Air Force. In this he was supported by a small but devoted personal following, in particular the gifted, curmudgeonly Oxford physics professor Frederick A. Lindemann (later Lord Cherwell), who enabled him to build up at Chartwell a private intelligence centre the information of which was often superior to that of the government. When Baldwin became prime minister in 1935, he persisted in excluding Churchill from office but gave him the exceptional privilege of membership in the secret committee on air-defense research, thus enabling him to work on some vital national problems. But Churchill had little success in his efforts to impart urgency to Baldwin’s administration. The crisis that developed when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935 found Churchill ill prepared, divided between a desire to build up the League of Nations around the concept of collective security and the fear that collective action would drive Benito Mussolini into the arms of Hitler. The Spanish Civil War (1936–39) found him convinced of the virtues of nonintervention, first as a supporter and later as a critic of Francisco Franco. Such vagaries of judgment in fact reflected the overwhelming priority he accorded to one issue—the containment of German aggressiveness. At home there was one grievous, characteristic, romantic misreading of the political and public mood, when, in Edward VIII’s abdication crisis of 1936, he vainly opposed Baldwin by a public championing of the King’s cause.

When Neville Chamberlain succeeded Baldwin, the gulf between the Cassandra-like Churchill and the Conservative leaders widened. Repeatedly the accuracy of Churchill’s information on Germany’s aggressive plans and progress was confirmed by events; repeatedly his warnings were ignored. Yet his handful of followers remained small; politically, Chamberlain felt secure in ignoring them. As German pressure mounted on Czechoslovakia, Churchill without success urged the government to effect a joint declaration of purpose by Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. When the Munich Agreement with Hitler was made in September 1938, sacrificing Czechoslovakia to the Nazis, Churchill laid bare its implications, insisting that it represented “a total and unmitigated defeat.” In March 1939 Churchill and his group pressed for a truly national coalition, and, at last, sentiment in the country, recognizing him as the nation’s spokesman, began to agitate for his return to office. As long as peace lasted, Chamberlain ignored all such persuasions.



Leadership during World War II
In a sense, the whole of Churchill’s previous career had been a preparation for wartime leadership. An intense patriot; a romantic believer in his country’s greatness and its historic role in Europe, the empire, and the world; a devotee of action who thrived on challenge and crisis; a student, historian, and veteran of war; a statesman who was master of the arts of politics, despite or because of long political exile; a man of iron constitution, inexhaustible energy, and total concentration, he seemed to have been nursing all his faculties so that when the moment came he could lavish them on the salvation of Britain and the values he believed Britain stood for in the world.

On Sept. 3, 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany, Chamberlain appointed Churchill to his old post in charge of the Admiralty. The signal went out to the fleet: “Winston is back.” On September 11 Churchill received a congratulatory note from Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt and replied over the signature “Naval Person”; a memorable correspondence had begun. At once Churchill’s restless energy began to be felt throughout the administration, as his ministerial colleagues as well as his own department received the first of those pungent minutes that kept the remotest corners of British wartime government aware that their shortcomings were liable to detection and penalty. All his efforts, however, failed to energize the torpid Anglo-French entente during the so-called “phony war,” the period of stagnation in the European war before the German seizure of Norway in April 1940. The failure of the Narvik and Trondheim expeditions, dependent as they were on naval support, could not but evoke some memories of the Dardanelles and Gallipoli, so fateful for Churchill’s reputation in World War I. This time, however, it was Chamberlain who was blamed, and it was Churchill who endeavoured to defend him.


Leadership during World War II » As prime minister
The German invasion of the Low Countries, on May 10, 1940, came like a hammer blow on top of the Norwegian fiasco. Chamberlain resigned. He wanted Lord Halifax, the foreign secretary, to succeed him, but Halifax wisely declined. It was obvious that Churchill alone could unite and lead the nation, since the Labour Party, for all its old distrust of Churchill’s anti-Socialism, recognized the depth of his commitment to the defeat of Hitler. A coalition government was formed that included all elements save the far left and right. It was headed by a war Cabinet of five, which included at first both Chamberlain and Halifax—a wise but also magnanimous recognition of the numerical strength of Chamberlainite conservatism—and two Labour leaders, Clement Attlee and Arthur Greenwood. The appointment of Ernest Bevin, a tough trade-union leader, as minister of labour guaranteed cooperation on this vital front. Offers were made to Lloyd George, but he declined them. Churchill himself took, in addition to the leadership of the House of Commons, the Ministry of Defence. The pattern thus set was maintained throughout the war despite many changes of personnel. The Cabinet became an agency of swift decision, and the government that it controlled remained representative of all groups and parties. The Prime Minister concentrated on the actual conduct of the war. He delegated freely but also probed and interfered continuously, regarding nothing as too large or too small for his attention. The main function of the chiefs of the armed services became that of containing his great dynamism, as a governor regulates a powerful machine; but, though he prodded and pressed them continuously, he never went against their collective judgment. In all this, Parliament played a vital part. If World War II was strikingly free from the domestic political intrigues of World War I, it was in part because Churchill, while he always dominated Parliament, never neglected it or took it for granted. For him, Parliament was an instrument of public persuasion on which he played like a master and from which he drew strength and comfort.

On May 13 Churchill faced the House of Commons for the first time as prime minister. (See Winston Churchill, first speech as prime minister, 1940. ) He warned members of the hard road ahead—“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”—and committed himself and the nation to all-out war until victory was achieved. Behind this simplicity of aim lay an elaborate strategy to which he adhered with remarkable consistency throughout the war. Hitler’s Germany was the enemy; nothing should distract the entire British people from the task of effecting its defeat. Anyone who shared this goal, even a Communist, was an acceptable ally. The indispensable ally in this endeavour, whether formally at war or not, was the United States. The cultivation and maintenance of its support was a central principle of Churchill’s thought. Yet whether the United States became a belligerent partner or not, the war must be won without a repetition for Britain of the catastrophic bloodlettings of World War I; and Europe at the conflict’s end must be reestablished as a viable, self-determining entity, while the Commonwealth should remain as a continuing, if changing, expression of Britain’s world role. Provided these essentials were preserved, Churchill, for all his sense of history, was surprisingly willing to sacrifice any national shibboleths—of orthodox economics, of social convention, of military etiquette or tradition—on the altar of victory. Thus, within a couple of weeks of this crusading anti-Socialist’s assuming power, Parliament passed legislation placing all “persons, their services and their property at the disposal of the Crown”—granting the government in effect the most sweeping emergency powers in modern British history.

The effort was designed to match the gravity of the hour. After the Allied defeat and the evacuation of the battered British forces from Dunkirk, Churchill warned Parliament that invasion was a real risk to be met with total and confident defiance. Faced with the swift collapse of France, Churchill made repeated personal visits to the French government in an attempt to keep France in the war, culminating in the celebrated offer of Anglo-French union on June 16, 1940. When all this failed, the Battle of Britain began. Here Churchill was in his element, in the firing line—at fighter headquarters, inspecting coast defenses or antiaircraft batteries, visiting scenes of bomb damage or victims of the “blitz,” smoking his cigar, giving his V sign, or broadcasting frank reports to the nation, laced with touches of grim Churchillian humour and splashed with Churchillian rhetoric. The nation took him to its heart; he and they were one in “their finest hour.”

Other painful and more debatable decisions fell to Churchill. The French fleet was attacked to prevent its surrender intact to Hitler. A heavy commitment was made to the concentrated bombing of Germany. At the height of the invasion threat, a decision was made to reinforce British strength in the eastern Mediterranean. Forces were also sent to Greece, a costly sacrifice; the evacuation of Crete looked like another Gallipoli, and Churchill came under heavy fire in Parliament.

In these hard days the exchange of U.S. overage destroyers for British Caribbean bases and the response, by way of lend-lease, to Churchill’s boast “Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job” were especially heartening to one who believed in a “mixing-up” of the English-speaking democracies. The unspoken alliance was further cemented in August 1941 by the dramatic meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, which produced the Atlantic Charter, a statement of common principles between the United States and Britain.


Leadership during World War II » Formation of the “grand alliance”
When Hitler launched his sudden attack on the Soviet Union, Churchill’s response was swift and unequivocal. In a broadcast on June 22, 1941, while refusing to “unsay” any of his earlier criticisms of Communism, he insisted that “the Russian danger . . . is our danger” and pledged aid to the Russian people. Henceforth, it was his policy to construct a “grand alliance” incorporating the Soviet Union and the United States. But it took until May 1942 to negotiate a 20-year Anglo-Soviet pact of mutual assistance.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941) altered, in Churchill’s eyes, the whole prospect of the war. He went at once to Washington, D.C., and, with Roosevelt, hammered out a set of Anglo-American accords: the pooling of both countries’ military and economic resources under combined boards and a combined chiefs of staff; the establishment of unity of command in all theatres of war; and agreement on the basic strategy that the defeat of Germany should have priority over the defeat of Japan. The grand alliance had now come into being. Churchill could claim to be its principal architect. Safeguarding it was the primary concern of his next three and a half years.

In protecting the alliance, the respect and affection between him and Roosevelt were of crucial importance. They alone enabled Churchill, in the face of relentless pressure from Stalin and ardent advocacy by the U.S. chiefs of staff, to secure the rejection of the “second front” in 1942, a project he regarded as premature and costly. In August 1942 Churchill himself flew to Moscow to advise Stalin of the decision and to bear the brunt of his displeasure. At home, too, he came under fire in 1942: first in January after the reverses in Malaya and the Far East and later in June when Tobruk in North Africa fell to the Germans, but on neither occasion did his critics muster serious support in Parliament. The year 1942 saw some reconstruction of the Cabinet in a “leftward” direction, which was reflected in the adoption in 1943 of Lord Beveridge’s plan for comprehensive social insurance, endorsed by Churchill as a logical extension of the Liberal reforms of 1911.


Leadership during World War II » Military successes and political problems
The Allied landings in North Africa necessitated a fresh meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt, this time in Casablanca in January 1943. There Churchill argued for an early, full-scale attack on “the under-belly of the Axis” but won only a grudging acquiescence from the Americans. There too was evolved the “unconditional surrender” formula of debatable wisdom. Churchill paid the price for his intensive travel (including Tripoli, Turkey, and Algeria) by an attack of pneumonia, for which, however, he allowed only the briefest of respites. In May he was in Washington again, arguing against persistent American aversion to his “under-belly” strategy; in August he was at Quebec, working out the plans for Operation Overlord, the cross-Channel assault. When he learned that the Americans were planning a large-scale invasion of Burma in 1944, his fears that their joint resources would not be adequate for a successful invasion of Normandy were revived. In November 1943 at Cairo he urged on Roosevelt priority for further Mediterranean offensives, but at Tehrān in the first “Big Three” meeting, he failed to retain Roosevelt’s adherence to a completely united Anglo-American front. Roosevelt, though he consulted in private with Stalin, refused to see Churchill alone; for all their friendship there was also an element of rivalry between the two Western leaders that Stalin skillfully exploited. On the issue of Allied offensive drives into southern Europe, Churchill was outvoted. Throughout the meetings Churchill had been unwell, and on his way home he came down again with pneumonia. Though recovery was rapid, it was mid-January 1944 before convalescence was complete. By May he was proposing to watch the D-Day assaults from a battle cruiser; only the King’s personal plea dissuaded him.

Insistence on military success did not, for Churchill, mean indifference to its political implications. After the Quebec conference in September 1944, he flew to Moscow to try to conciliate the Russians and the Poles and to get an agreed division of spheres of influence in the Balkans that would protect as much of them as possible from Communism. In Greece he used British forces to thwart a Communist takeover and at Christmas flew to Athens to effect a settlement. Much of what passed at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, including the Far East settlement, concerned only Roosevelt and Stalin, and Churchill did not interfere. He fought to save the Poles but saw clearly enough that there was no way to force the Soviets to keep their promises. Realizing this, he urged the United States to allow the Allied forces to thrust as far into eastern Europe as possible before the Russian armies should fill the vacuum left by German power, but he could not win over Roosevelt, Vice Pres. Harry S. Truman, or their generals to his views. He went to Potsdam in July in a worried mood. But in the final decisions of the conference he had no part; halfway through, when news came of his government’s defeat in parliamentary elections, he had to return to England and tender his resignation.


Leadership during World War II » Electoral defeat
Already in 1944, with victory in prospect, party politics had revived, and by May 1945 all parties in the wartime coalition wanted an early election. But whereas Churchill wanted the coalition to continue at least until Japan was defeated, Labour wished to resume its independence. Churchill as the popular architect of victory seemed unbeatable, but as an election campaigner he proved to be his own worst enemy, indulging, seemingly at Beaverbrook’s urging, in extravagant prophecies of the appalling consequences of a Labour victory and identifying himself wholly with the Conservative cause. His campaign tours were a triumphal progress, but it was the war leader, not the party leader, whom the crowds cheered. Labour’s careful but sweeping program of economic and social reform was a better match for the nation’s mood than Churchill’s flamboyance. Though personally victorious at his Essex constituency of Woodford, Churchill saw his party reduced to 213 seats in a Parliament of 640.


Postwar political career » As opposition leader and world statesman
The shock of rejection by the nation fell heavily on Churchill. Indeed, though he accepted the role of leader of the parliamentary opposition, he was never wholly at home in it. The economic and social questions that dominated domestic politics were not at the centre of his interests. Nor, with his imperial vision, could he approve of what he called Labour’s policy of “scuttle,” as evidenced in the granting of independence to India and Burma (though he did not vote against the necessary legislation). But in foreign policy a broad identity of view persisted between the front benches, and this was the area to which Churchill primarily devoted himself. On March 5, 1946, at Fulton, Mo., he enunciated, in the presence of President Truman, the two central themes of his postwar view of the world: the need for Britain and the United States to unite as guardians of the peace against the menace of Soviet Communism, which had brought down an “iron curtain” across the face of Europe; and with equal fervour he emerged as an advocate of European union. At Zürich, on Sept. 19, 1946, he urged the formation of “a council of Europe” and himself attended the first assembly of the council at Strasbourg in 1949. Meanwhile, he busied himself with his great history, The Second World War, six volumes (1948–53).

The general election of February 1950 afforded Churchill an opportunity to seek again a personal mandate. He abstained from the extravagances of 1945 and campaigned with his party rather than above it.

The electoral onslaught shook Labour but left them still in office. It took what Churchill called “one more heave” to defeat them in a second election, in October 1951. Churchill again took a vigorous lead in the campaign. He pressed the government particularly hard on its handling of the crisis caused by Iran’s nationalization of British oil companies and in return had to withstand charges of warmongering. The Conservatives were returned with a narrow majority of 26, and Churchill became prime minister for the second time. He formed a government in which the more liberal Conservatives predominated, though the Liberal Party itself declined Churchill’s suggestion of office. A prominent figure in the government was R.A. Butler, the progressive-minded chancellor of the Exchequer. Anthony Eden was foreign secretary. Some notable Churchillians were included, among them Lord Cherwell, who, as paymaster general, was principal scientific adviser with special responsibilities for atomic research and development.


Postwar political career » As prime minister again
The domestic labours and battles of his administration were far from Churchill’s main concerns. Derationing, decontrolling, rehousing, safeguarding the precarious balance of payments—these were relatively noncontroversial policies; only the return of nationalized steel and road transport to private hands aroused excitement. Critics sometimes complained of a lack of prime ministerial direction in these areas and, indeed, of a certain slackness in the reins of government. Undoubtedly Churchill was getting older and reserving more and more of his energies for what he regarded as the supreme issues, peace and war. He was convinced that Labour had allowed the transatlantic relationship to sag, and one of his first acts was to visit Washington (and also Ottawa) in January 1952 to repair the damage he felt had been done. The visit helped to check U.S. fears that the British would desert the Korean War, harmonized attitudes toward German rearmament and, distasteful though it was to Churchill, resulted in the acceptance of a U.S. naval commander in chief of the eastern Atlantic. It did not produce that sharing of secrets of atom bomb manufacture that Churchill felt had unfairly lapsed after the war. To the disappointment of many, Churchill’s advocacy of European union did not result in active British participation; his government confined itself to endorsement from the sidelines, though in 1954, faced with the collapse of the European Defense Community, Churchill and Eden came forward with a pledge to maintain British troops on the Continent for as long as necessary.

The year 1953 was in many respects a gratifying one for Churchill. It brought the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, which drew out all his love of the historic and symbolic. He personally received two notable distinctions, the Order of the Garter and the Nobel Prize for Literature. However, his hopes for a revitalized “special relationship” with Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower during his tenure in the White House, beginning in 1953, were largely frustrated. A sudden stroke in June, which caused partial paralysis, obliged Churchill to cancel a planned Bermuda meeting at which he hoped to secure Eisenhower’s agreement to summit talks with the Russians. By October, Churchill had made a remarkable recovery and the meeting was held in December. But it did not yield results commensurate with Churchill’s hopes. The two leaders, for all their amity, were not the men they once were; their subordinates, John Foster Dulles and Anthony Eden, were antipathetic; and, above all, the role and status of each country had changed. In relation to the Far East in particular there was a persistent failure to see eye to eye. Though Churchill and Eden visited Washington, D.C., in June 1954 in hopes of securing U.S. acceptance of the Geneva Accords designed to bring an end to the war in Indochina, their success was limited. Over Egypt, however, Churchill’s conversion to an agreement permitting a phased withdrawal of British troops from the Suez base won Eisenhower’s endorsement and encouraged hopes, illusory as it subsequently appeared, of good Anglo-American cooperation in this area. In 1955, “arming to parley,” Churchill authorized the manufacture of a British hydrogen bomb while still striving for a summit conference. Age, however, robbed him of this last triumph. His powers were too visibly failing. His 80th birthday, on Nov. 30, 1954, had been the occasion of a unique all-party ceremony of tribute and affection in Westminster Hall. But the tribute implied a pervasive assumption that he would soon retire. On April 5, 1955, his resignation took place, only a few weeks before his chosen successor, Sir Anthony Eden, announced plans for a four-power conference at Geneva.


Postwar political career » Retirement and death
Although Churchill laid down the burdens of office amid the plaudits of the nation and the world, he remained in the House of Commons (declining a peerage) to become “father of the house” and even, in 1959, to fight and win yet another election. He also published another major work, A History of the English- Speaking Peoples, four volumes (1956–58). But his health declined, and his public appearances became rare. On April 9, 1963, he was accorded the unique distinction of having an honorary U.S. citizenship conferred on him by an act of Congress. His death at his London home in January 1965 was followed by a state funeral at which almost the whole world paid tribute. He was buried in the family grave in Bladon churchyard, Oxfordshire.


Postwar political career » Assessment
In any age and time a man of Churchill’s force and talents would have left his mark on events and society. A gifted journalist, a biographer and historian of classic proportions, an amateur painter of talent, an orator of rare power, a soldier of courage and distinction, Churchill, by any standards, was a man of rare versatility. But it was as a public figure that he excelled. His experience of office was second only to Gladstone’s, and his gifts as a parliamentarian hardly less, but it was as a wartime leader that he left his indelible imprint on the history of Britain and on the world. In this capacity, at the peak of his powers, he united in a harmonious whole his liberal convictions about social reform, his deep conservative devotion to the legacy of his nation’s history, his unshakable resistance to tyranny from the right or from the left, and his capacity to look beyond Britain to the larger Atlantic community and the ultimate unity of Europe. A romantic, he was also a realist, with an exceptional sensitivity to tactical considerations at the same time as he unswervingly adhered to his strategical objectives. A fervent patriot, he was also a citizen of the world. An indomitable fighter, he was a generous victor. Even in the transition from war to peace, a phase in which other leaders have often stumbled, he revealed, at an advanced age, a capacity to learn and to adjust that was in many respects superior to that of his younger colleagues.

Herbert G. Nicholas

 

 

 

 

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt

president of United States
in full Franklin Delano Roosevelt, byname FDR
born Jan. 30, 1882, Hyde Park, N.Y., U.S.
died April 12, 1945, Warm Springs, Ga.

Main
32nd president of the United States (1933–45). The only president elected to the office four times, Roosevelt led the United States through two of the greatest crises of the 20th century: the Great Depression and World War II. In so doing, he greatly expanded the powers of the federal government through a series of programs and reforms known as the New Deal, and he served as the principal architect of the successful effort to rid the world of German National Socialism and Japanese militarism. (For a discussion of the history and nature of the presidency, see presidency of the United States of America.)

Early life
Roosevelt was the only child of James and Sara Delano Roosevelt. The family lived in unostentatious and genteel luxury, dividing its time between the family estate in the Hudson River Valley of New York state and European resorts. Young Roosevelt was educated privately at home until age 14, when he entered Groton Preparatory School in Groton, Mass. At Groton, as at home, he was reared to be a gentleman, assuming responsibility for those less fortunate and exercising Christian stewardship through public service.

In 1900 Roosevelt entered Harvard University, where he spent most of his time on extracurricular activities and a strenuous social life; his academic record was undistinguished. It was during his Harvard years that he fell under the spell of his fifth cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, the progressive champion who advocated a vastly increased role for the government in the nation’s economy. It was also during his Harvard years that he fell in love with Theodore Roosevelt’s niece, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was then active in charitable work for the poor in New York City. The distant cousins became engaged during Roosevelt’s final year at Harvard, and they were married on March 17, 1905. Eleanor Roosevelt would later open her husband’s eyes to the deplorable state of the poor in New York’s slums.

Roosevelt attended Columbia University Law School but was not much interested in his studies. After passing the New York bar exam, he went to work as a clerk for the distinguished Wall Street firm of Carter, Ledyard, and Milburn, but he displayed the same attitude of indifference toward the legal profession as he had toward his education.


Early political activities
Motivated by his cousin Theodore, who continued to urge young men of privileged backgrounds to enter public service, Roosevelt looked for an opportunity to launch a career in politics. That opportunity came in 1910, when Democratic Party leaders of Dutchess county, N.Y., persuaded him to undertake an apparently futile attempt to win a seat in the state senate. Roosevelt, whose branch of the family had always voted Democratic, hesitated only long enough to make sure his distinguished Republican Party relative would not speak against him. He campaigned strenuously and won the election. Not quite 29 when he took his seat in Albany, he quickly won statewide and even some national attention by leading a small group of Democratic insurgents who refused to support Billy Sheehan, the candidate for the United States Senate backed by Tammany Hall, the New York City Democratic organization. For three months Roosevelt helped hold the insurgents firm, and Tammany was forced to switch to another candidate.

In the New York Senate Roosevelt learned much of the give-and-take of politics, and he gradually abandoned his patrician airs and attitude of superiority. In the process, he came to champion the full program of progressive reform. By 1911 Roosevelt was supporting progressive New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson for the Democratic presidential nomination of 1912. In that year Roosevelt was reelected to the state senate, despite an attack of typhoid fever that prevented him from making public appearances during the campaign. His success was attributable in part to the publicity generated by an Albany journalist, Louis McHenry Howe. Howe saw in the tall, handsome Roosevelt a politician with great promise, and he remained dedicated to Roosevelt for the rest of his life.

For his work on behalf of Wilson, Roosevelt was appointed assistant secretary of the navy in March 1913. Roosevelt loved the sea and naval traditions, and he knew more about them than did his superior, navy secretary Josephus Daniels, with whom he was frequently impatient. Roosevelt tried with mixed success to bring reforms to the navy yards, which were under his jurisdiction, meanwhile learning to negotiate with labour unions among the navy’s civilian employees.

After war broke out in Europe in 1914, Roosevelt became a vehement advocate of military preparedness, and following U.S. entry into the war in 1917, he built a reputation as an effective administrator. In the summer of 1918 he made an extended tour of naval bases and battlefields overseas. Upon his return, Eleanor Roosevelt discovered that her husband had been romantically involved with her social secretary, Lucy Mercer. She offered him a divorce; he refused and promised never to see Mercer again (a promise he would break in the 1940s). Although the Roosevelts agreed to remain together, their relationship ceased to be an intimate one.



Paralysis to presidency
At the 1920 Democratic convention Roosevelt won the nomination for vice president on a ticket with presidential nominee James M. Cox. Roosevelt campaigned vigorously on behalf of American entry into the League of Nations, but the Democrats lost in a landslide to the Republican ticket of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Roosevelt then became vice president of a bonding company, Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland, and entered into several other business ventures.

In August 1921, while on vacation at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, Roosevelt’s life was transformed when he was stricken with poliomyelitis. He suffered intensely, and for some time he was almost completely paralyzed. His mother urged him to retire to the family estate at Hyde Park, but his wife and Howe believed it essential that he remain active in politics. For his part, Roosevelt never abandoned hope that he would regain the use of his legs.

Unable to pursue an active political career as he recovered from polio, Roosevelt depended on his wife to keep his name alive in Democratic circles. Although initially very shy, Eleanor Roosevelt became an effective public speaker and an adroit political analyst under Howe’s tutelage. As a result of her speaking engagements all over New York state, Roosevelt never faded entirely from the political scene, despite what seemed to be a career-ending affliction. In 1924 he made a dramatic appearance at the Democratic convention to nominate Alfred E. Smith, governor of New York, for president, and he repeated his nomination of Smith at the 1928 convention. Smith, in turn, urged Roosevelt to run for governor of New York in 1928. Roosevelt was at first reluctant but eventually agreed.

As he traveled by automobile around the state, Roosevelt demonstrated that his illness had not destroyed the youthful resilience and vitality that had led people such as Howe to predict great political success. He also showed that he had matured into a more serious person, one now with a keen appreciation for life’s hardships. On election day Roosevelt won by 25,000 votes, even though New York state went Republican in the presidential election, contributing to Herbert Hoover’s landslide victory over Smith.

Succeeding Smith as governor, Roosevelt realized he had to establish an administration distinct from that of his predecessor. Accordingly, he declined to appoint Smith’s cronies to state office and did not look to Smith, the “Happy Warrior,” for guidance. Smith, already stung by his defeat for the presidency, was hurt by Roosevelt’s apparent lack of gratitude, and a breach developed between the two men.

During his first term, Governor Roosevelt concentrated on tax relief for farmers and cheaper public utilities for consumers. The appeal of his programs, particularly in upstate New York, led to his reelection in 1930 by 725,000 votes. As the depression worsened during his second term, Roosevelt moved farther to the political left, mobilizing the state government to provide relief and to aid in economic recovery. In the fall of 1931 he persuaded the Republican-dominated legislature to establish the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration, which eventually provided unemployment assistance to 10 percent of New York’s families. His aggressive approach to the economic problems of his state, along with his overwhelming electoral victory in 1930, boosted Roosevelt into the front ranks of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1932.

Because winning the nomination then required a two-thirds vote in the Democratic convention, even a leading contender could be stopped with relative ease. It soon became apparent that Roosevelt’s strongest opposition would come from urban and conservative Eastern Democrats still loyal to Smith; his strongest support was in the South and West. The opposition became stronger when John Nance Garner of Texas, speaker of the House of Representatives, won the California Democratic primary. But on the third ballot at the 1932 convention, Garner released his delegates to Roosevelt, who then captured the required two-thirds vote on the fourth ballot. Garner received the vice presidential nomination. Roosevelt then broke tradition by appearing in person to accept his party’s nomination. In his speech before the delegates, he said, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.” (For a related campaign speech, see primary source document: Call for Federal Responsibility.)

With the depression the only issue of consequence in the presidential campaign of 1932, the American people had a choice between the apparently unsuccessful policies of the incumbent Hoover and the vaguely defined New Deal program presented by Roosevelt. While Roosevelt avoided specifics, he made clear that his program for economic recovery would make extensive use of the power of the federal government. In a series of addresses carefully prepared by a team of advisers popularly known as the Brain Trust, he promised aid to farmers, public development of electric power, a balanced budget, and government policing of irresponsible private economic power. Besides having policy differences, the two candidates presented a stark contrast in personal demeanour as well. Roosevelt was genial and exuded confidence, while Hoover remained unremittingly grim and dour. On election day, Roosevelt received nearly 23 million popular votes to Hoover’s nearly 16 million; the electoral vote was 472 to 59. In a repudiation not just of Hoover but also of the Republican Party, Americans elected substantial Democratic majorities to both houses of Congress.

In the four months between the election and Roosevelt’s inauguration, President Hoover sought Roosevelt’s cooperation in stemming the deepening economic crisis. But Roosevelt refused to subscribe to Hoover’s proposals, which Hoover himself admitted would mean “the abandonment of 90 percent of the so-called new deal.” As a result, the economy continued to decline. By inauguration day—March 4, 1933—most banks had shut down, industrial production had fallen to just 56 percent of its 1929 level, at least 13 million wage earners were unemployed, and farmers were in desperate straits.


The first term
In his inaugural address  Roosevelt promised prompt, decisive action, and he conveyed some of his own unshakable self-confidence to millions of Americans listening on radios throughout the land. “This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and prosper,” he asserted, adding, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”


The first term » “The Hundred Days”
Roosevelt followed up on his promise of prompt action with “The Hundred Days”—the first phase of the New Deal, in which his administration presented Congress with a broad array of measures intended to achieve economic recovery, to provide relief to the millions of poor and unemployed, and to reform aspects of the economy that Roosevelt believed had caused the collapse. Roosevelt was candid in admitting that the initial thrust of the New Deal was experimental. He would see what worked and what did not, abandoning the latter and persisting with the former until the crisis was overcome.

His first step was to order all banks closed until Congress, meeting in special session on March 9, could pass legislation allowing banks in sound condition to reopen; this “bank holiday,” as Roosevelt euphemistically called it, was intended to end depositors’ runs, which were threatening to destroy the nation’s entire banking system. The bank holiday, combined with emergency banking legislation and the first of Roosevelt’s regular national radio broadcasts (later known as “fireside chats”), so restored public confidence that when banks did reopen the much-feared runs did not materialize.

Two key recovery measures of The Hundred Days were the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) and the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA). The AAA established the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, which was charged with increasing prices of agricultural commodities and expanding the proportion of national income going to farmers. Its strategy was to grant subsidies to producers of seven basic commodities—wheat, corn (maize), hogs, cotton, tobacco, rice, and milk—in return for reduced production, thereby reducing the surpluses that kept commodity prices low. The subsidies were to be generated from taxes on the processing of the commodities. When the Supreme Court invalidated the tax in 1936, Roosevelt shifted the focus of the AAA to soil conservation, but the principle of paying farmers not to grow remained at the core of American agricultural policy for six decades. Although quite controversial when introduced—especially because it required the destruction of newly planted fields at a time when many Americans were going hungry—the AAA program gradually succeeded in raising farmers’ incomes. However, it was not until 1941 that farm income reached even the inadequate level of 1929.

The NIRA was a two-part program. One part consisted of a $3.3-billion appropriation for public works, to be spent by the Public Works Administration (PWA). Had this money been poured rapidly into the economy, it might have done much to stimulate recovery. Since Roosevelt wanted to be sure the program would not invite fraud and waste, however, the PWA moved slowly and deliberately, and it did not become an important factor until late in the New Deal.

The other part of the NIRA was the National Recovery Administration (NRA), whose task was to establish and administer industrywide codes that prohibited unfair trade practices, set minimum wages and maximum hours, guaranteed workers the right to bargain collectively, and imposed controls on prices and production. The codes eventually became enormously complex and difficult to enforce, and by 1935 the business community, which at first had welcomed the NRA, had become disillusioned with the program and blamed Roosevelt for its ineffectiveness. In May of that year the Supreme Court invalidated the NRA, which by that time had few supporters in Congress or the administration.

Another important recovery measure was the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a public corporation created in 1933 to build dams and hydroelectric power plants and to improve navigation and flood control in the vast Tennessee River basin. The TVA, which eventually provided cheap electricity to impoverished areas in seven states along the river and its tributaries, reignited a long-standing debate over the proper role of government in the development of the nation’s natural resources. The constitutionality of the agency was challenged immediately after its establishment but was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1936.

The Hundred Days also included relief and reform measures, the former referring to short-term payments to individuals to alleviate hardship, the latter to long-range programs aimed at eliminating economic abuses. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) granted funds to state relief agencies, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) employed hundreds of thousands of young men in reforestation and flood-control work. The Home Owners’ Refinancing Act provided mortgage relief for millions of unemployed Americans in danger of losing their homes.

Reform measures included the Federal Securities Act, which provided government oversight of stock trading (later augmented by establishment of the Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC]), and the Glass-Steagall Banking Reform Act, which prohibited commercial banks from making risky investments and established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to protect depositors’ accounts.


The first term » The “Second New Deal”
By the fall of 1934, the measures passed during The Hundred Days had produced a limited degree of recovery; more importantly, they had regenerated hope that the country would surmount the crisis. Although the New Deal had alienated conservatives, including many businessmen, most Americans supported Roosevelt’s programs. That support manifested itself in the congressional elections of 1934, in which Democrats added to their already substantial majorities in both houses.

Yet by 1935 Roosevelt knew he had to do more. Although the economy had begun to rise from its nadir during the winter of 1932–33, it was still far below its level before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Millions of Americans were still unemployed—many had been jobless for several years—and the destitute were beginning to listen to demagogues who criticized the New Deal for not going far enough. Roosevelt foresaw the possibility that in the 1936 presidential election he would face a significant third-party challenge from the left.

To meet this threat, Roosevelt asked Congress to pass additional New Deal legislation—sometimes called the “Second New Deal”—in 1935. The key measures of the Second New Deal were the Social Security Act, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and the Wagner Act. The Social Security Act for the first time established an economic “safety net” for all Americans, providing unemployment and disability insurance and old-age pensions. (See primary source document: A Program for Social Security.) The WPA, headed by Roosevelt’s close confidant Harry Hopkins, aimed to provide the unemployed with useful work that would help to maintain their skills and bolster their self-respect. Between 1935 and 1941 it employed a monthly average of 2.1 million workers on a variety of projects, including the construction of roads, bridges, airports, and public buildings; natural-resource conservation; and artistic and cultural programs such as painting public murals and writing local and regional histories. The Wagner Act (officially the National Labor Relations Act) reestablished labour’s right to bargain collectively (which had been eliminated when the Supreme Court had invalidated the NRA), and it created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to adjudicate labour disputes. In addition to these hallmark measures, Congress also passed a major tax revision—labeled by its opponents as a “soak-the-rich” tax—that raised tax rates for persons with large incomes and for large corporations.


The second term
Roosevelt ran for reelection in 1936 with the firm support of farmers, labourers, and the poor. He faced the equally firm opposition of conservatives, but the epithets hurled at him from the right merely helped to unify his following. The Republican nominee, Governor Alfred M. Landon of Kansas, a moderate, could do little to stem the Roosevelt tide. Landon received fewer than 17 million votes to Roosevelt’s nearly 28 million, and Roosevelt carried every state except Maine and Vermont.


The second term » Supreme Court fight
Declaring in his Second Inaugural Address (see original text) that “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished,” Roosevelt was determined to push forward with further New Deal reforms. With large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, there remained only one obstacle to his objectives: the Supreme Court. During Roosevelt’s first term, the court, which consisted entirely of pre-Roosevelt appointees, had invalidated several key New Deal measures, and cases challenging the Social Security Act and the Wagner Act were pending. To make the court more supportive of reform legislation, Roosevelt proposed a reorganization plan that would have allowed him to appoint one new justice for every sitting justice aged 70 years or older. Widely viewed as a court-packing scheme (even by Roosevelt’s supporters), the reorganization bill provoked heated debate in Congress and eventually was voted down, which handed Roosevelt his first major legislative defeat. Meanwhile, the fight over court packing seemed to alter the Supreme Court’s attitude toward the New Deal, and both the Social Security Act and the Wagner Act were upheld.


The second term » End of the New Deal
By 1937 the economy had recovered substantially, and Roosevelt, seeing an opportunity to return to a balanced budget, drastically curtailed government spending. The result was a sharp recession, during which the economy began plummeting toward 1932 levels. Chastened by the recession, Roosevelt now began to pay more attention to advisers who counseled deficit spending as the best way to counter the depression. Late in 1937 he backed another massive government spending program, and by the middle of 1938 the crisis had passed.

By 1938 the New Deal was drawing to a close. Conservative Southern Democrats openly opposed its continuation, and Roosevelt’s attempt to defeat several of them in the 1938 Democratic primaries not only proved unsuccessful but also produced charges that the president was a dictator trying to conduct a “purge.” In the congressional elections that year the Republicans gained 80 seats in the House and 7 in the Senate. Despite continued Democratic majorities in both houses, an alliance of Republicans and conservative Democrats now blocked any further reform legislation.


The second term » Foreign policy
By 1939 foreign policy was overshadowing domestic policy. From the beginning of his presidency, Roosevelt had been deeply involved in foreign-policy questions. Although he refused to support international currency stabilization at the London Economic Conference in 1933, by 1936 he had stabilized the dollar and concluded stabilization agreements with Great Britain and France. Roosevelt extended American recognition to the government of the Soviet Union, launched the Good Neighbor Policy to improve U.S. relations with Latin America, and backed reciprocal agreements to lower trade barriers between the U.S. and other countries. (See primary source document: The Good Neighbor Policy.)

Congress, however, was dominated by isolationists who believed that American entry into World War I had been mistaken and who were determined to prevent the United States from being drawn into another European war. Beginning with the Neutrality Act of 1935, Congress passed a series of laws designed to minimize American involvement with belligerent nations. Roosevelt accepted the neutrality laws but at the same time warned Americans of the danger of remaining isolated from a world increasingly menaced by the dictatorial regimes in Germany, Italy, and Japan. Speaking in Chicago in October 1937, he proposed that peace-loving nations make concerted efforts to quarantine aggressors. Although he seemed to mean nothing more drastic than breaking off diplomatic relations, the proposal created such alarm throughout the country that he quickly backed away from even this modest level of international involvement. Then, in December, the Japanese sank an American gunboat, the USS Panay, on the Yangtze River in China. Most Americans feared that the attack would lead to war, and they were pleased when Roosevelt accepted Japan’s apologies.

When World War II broke out in Europe in September 1939, Roosevelt called Congress into special session to revise the neutrality acts to permit belligerents—i.e., Britain and France—to buy American arms on a “cash-and-carry” basis; over the objections of isolationists, the cash-and-carry policy was enacted. When France fell to the Germans in the spring and early summer of 1940, and Britain was left alone to face the Nazi war machine, Roosevelt convinced Congress to intensify defense preparations and to support Britain with “all aid short of war.” In the fall of that year Roosevelt sent 50 older destroyers to Britain, which feared an imminent German invasion, in exchange for eight naval bases.


The third and fourth terms
The swap of ships for bases took place during the 1940 presidential election campaign. Earlier in the year the Democrats had nominated Roosevelt for a third term, even though his election would break the two-term tradition honoured since the presidency of George Washington. The Republican nominee, Wendell L. Willkie, represented a departure from the isolationist-dominated Republican Party, and the two candidates agreed on most foreign-policy issues, including increased military aid to Britain. On election day, Roosevelt defeated Willkie soundly—by 27 million to 22 million popular votes—though his margin of victory was less than it had been in 1932 and 1936. Roosevelt’s support was reduced by a number of factors, including the court-packing scheme, the attempted “purge” of conservative Democrats in 1938, the breaking of the two-term tradition, and fears that he would lead the nation into war. (See primary source document: Third Inaugural Address.)

By inauguration day in 1941, Britain was running out of cash and finding it increasingly difficult—owing to German submarine attacks—to carry American arms across the Atlantic. In March 1941, after a bitter debate in Congress, Roosevelt obtained passage of the Lend-Lease Act, which enabled the United States to accept noncash payment for military and other aid to Britain and its allies (see primary source document: Proposal for Lend-Lease). Later that year he authorized the United States Navy to provide protection for lend-lease shipments, and in the fall he instructed the navy to “shoot on sight” at German submarines. All these actions moved the United States closer to actual belligerency with Germany.

In August 1941, on a battleship off Newfoundland, Canada, Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued a joint statement, the Atlantic Charter, in which they pledged their countries to the goal of achieving “the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny.” Reminiscent of the Four Freedoms (see original text) that Roosevelt outlined in his annual message to Congress in January 1941, the statement disclaimed territorial aggrandizement and affirmed a commitment to national self-determination, freedom of the seas, freedom from want and fear, greater economic opportunities, and disarmament of all aggressor nations.


The third and fourth terms » Attack on Pearl Harbor
Yet it was in the Pacific rather than the Atlantic that war came to the United States. When Japan joined the Axis powers of Germany and Italy, Roosevelt began to restrict exports to Japan of supplies essential to making war. Throughout 1941, Japan negotiated with the United States, seeking restoration of trade in those supplies, particularly petroleum products. When the negotiations failed to produce agreement, Japanese military leaders began to plan an attack on the United States. According to one school of thought, this was exactly what Roosevelt wanted, for, by backing Japan into a corner and forcing it to make war on the United States, the president could then enter the European war in defense of Britain—the so-called “back door to war” theory. This controversial hypothesis continues to be debated today. (See Sidebar: Pearl Harbor and the “back door to war” theory.)

By the end of November, Roosevelt knew that an attack was imminent (the United States had broken the Japanese code), but he was uncertain where it would take place. To his great surprise, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, destroying nearly the entire U.S. Pacific fleet and hundreds of airplanes and killing about 2,500 military personnel and civilians. On December 8, at Roosevelt’s request, Congress declared war on Japan (see primary source document: Request for a Declaration of War); on December 11 Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.

At a press conference in December 1943, Roosevelt asserted that “Dr. New Deal” had been replaced by “Dr. Win the War.” The many New Deal agencies designed to provide employment during the Great Depression rapidly disappeared as war mobilization created more jobs than there were people to fill them. Full economic recovery, which had resisted Roosevelt’s efforts throughout the 1930s, suddenly came about as a consequence of massive government spending on war production in the early 1940s.



The third and fourth terms » Relations with the Allies
From the start of American involvement in World War II, Roosevelt took the lead in establishing a grand alliance among all countries fighting the Axis powers. He met with Churchill in a number of wartime conferences at which differences were settled amicably. One early difference centred upon the question of an invasion of France. Churchill wanted to postpone such an invasion until Nazi forces had been weakened, and his view prevailed until the great Normandy Invasion was finally launched on “D-Day,” June 6, 1944. Meanwhile, American and British forces invaded North Africa in November 1942, Sicily in July 1943, and Italy in September 1943.

Relations with the Soviet Union posed a difficult problem for Roosevelt. Throughout the war the Soviet Union accepted large quantities of lend-lease supplies but seldom divulged its military plans or acted in coordination with its Western allies. Roosevelt, believing that the maintenance of peace after the war depended on friendly relations with the Soviet Union, hoped to win the confidence of Joseph Stalin. He, Stalin, and Churchill seemed to get along well when they met at Tehrān in November 1943. By the time the “Big Three” met again at the Yalta Conference in the Crimea, U.S.S.R., in February 1945, the war in Europe was almost over. At Yalta, Roosevelt secured Stalin’s commitment to enter the war against Japan soon after Germany’s surrender and to establish democratic governments in the nations of eastern Europe occupied by Soviet troops. Stalin kept his pledge concerning Japan but proceeded to impose Soviet satellite governments throughout eastern Europe.


The third and fourth terms » Declining health and death
Roosevelt had been suffering from advanced arteriosclerosis for more than a year before the Yalta Conference. His political opponents had tried to make much of his obviously declining health during the campaign of 1944, when he ran for a fourth term against Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York. But Roosevelt campaigned actively and won the election by a popular vote of 25 million to 22 million and an electoral college vote of 432 to 99. (See primary source document: Fourth Inaugural Address.) By the time of his return from Yalta, however, he was so weak that for the first time in his presidency he spoke to Congress while sitting down. Early in April 1945 he traveled to his cottage in Warm Springs, Georgia—the “Little White House”—to rest. On the afternoon of April 12, while sitting for a portrait, he suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage, and he died a few hours later. With him at his death were two cousins, Laura Delano and Margaret Suckley, and Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd (by then a widow), with whom he had renewed his relationship a few years before.


Assessment
During his lifetime Franklin D. Roosevelt was simultaneously one of the most loved and most hated men in American history. His supporters hailed him as the saviour of his nation during the Great Depression and the defender of democracy during World War II. Opponents criticized him for undermining American free-market capitalism, for unconstitutionally expanding the powers of the federal government, and for transforming the nation into a welfare state. It is generally accepted by all, however, that he was a brilliant politician, able to create a massive coalition of supporters that sustained the Democratic Party for decades after his death. There is also little argument that he was a talented administrator, able to retain leaders of diverse views within the executive branch. At his death most Americans were plunged into profound grief, testimony to the strong emotional attachment they felt for the man who had led them through two of the darkest periods in the nation’s history. Although much of that emotion has dissipated over the years, Roosevelt’s standing as one of the few truly great American presidents seems secure.

Frank Freidel
Ed.

 

 

 

 

 

Charles de Gaulle

president of France
in full Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle

born November 22, 1890, Lille, France
died November 9, 1970, Colombey-les-deux-Églises

Main
French soldier, writer, statesman, and architect of France’s Fifth Republic.

Education and early career
De Gaulle was the second son of a Roman Catholic, patriotic, and nationalist upper-middle-class family. The family had produced historians and writers, and his father taught philosophy and literature; but, as a boy, de Gaulle already showed a passionate interest in military matters. He attended the Military Academy of Saint-Cyr, and in 1913, as a young second lieutenant, he joined an infantry regiment commanded by Colonel Philippe Pétain.

De Gaulle was an intelligent, hardworking, and zealous young soldier and, in his military career, a man of original mind, great self-assurance, and outstanding courage. In World War I he fought at Verdun, was three times wounded and three times mentioned in dispatches, and spent two years and eight months as a prisoner of war (during which time he made five unsuccessful attempts to escape). After a brief visit to Poland as a member of a military mission, a year’s teaching at Saint-Cyr, and a two-year course of special training in strategy and tactics at the École Supérieure de Guerre (War College), he was promoted by Marshal Pétain in 1925 to the staff of the Supreme War Council. From 1927 to 1929 de Gaulle served as a major in the army occupying the Rhineland and could see for himself both the potential danger of German aggression and the inadequacy of the French defense. He also spent two years in the Middle East and then, having been promoted to lieutenant colonel, spent four years as a member of the secretariat of the National Defense Council.

De Gaulle’s writing career began with a study of the relations between the civil and military powers in Germany (La Discorde chez l’ennemi, 1924; “Discord Among the Enemy”), followed by lectures on his conception of leadership, Le Fil de l’épée (1932; The Edge of the Sword). A study on military theory, Vers l’armée de métier (1934; The Army of the Future), defended the idea of a small professional army, highly mechanized and mobile, in preference to the static theories exemplified by the Maginot Line, which was intended to protect France against German attack. He also wrote a memorandum in which he tried, even as late as January 1940, to convert politicians to his way of thinking. His views made him unpopular with his military superiors, and the question of his right to publish under his name a historical study, La France et son armée (1938; France and Her Army), led to a dispute with Marshal Pétain.



World War II
At the outbreak of World War II, de Gaulle commanded a tank brigade attached to the French Fifth Army. In May 1940, after assuming command as temporary brigadier general in the 4th Armoured Division—the rank that he retained for the rest of his life—he twice had the opportunity to apply his theories on tank warfare. He was mentioned as “an admirable, energetic, and courageous leader.” On June 6 he entered the government of Paul Reynaud as undersecretary of state for defense and war, and he undertook several missions to England to explore the possibilities of continuing the war. When the Reynaud government was replaced 10 days later by that of Marshal Pétain, who intended to seek an armistice with the Germans, de Gaulle left for England. On June 18 he broadcast from London his first appeal to his compatriots to continue the war under his leadership. On August 2, 1940, a French military court tried and sentenced him in absentia to death, deprivation of military rank, and confiscation of property.

De Gaulle entered his wartime career as a political leader with tremendous liabilities. He had only a handful of haphazardly recruited political supporters and volunteers for what were to become the Free French Forces. He had no political status and was virtually unknown in both Britain and France. But he had an absolute belief in his mission and a conviction that he possessed the qualities of leadership. He was totally devoted to France and had the strength of character (or obstinacy, as it often appeared to the British) to fight for French interests as he saw them with all the resources at his disposal.

In his country, to the politicians on the political left, a career officer who was a practicing Roman Catholic was not an immediately acceptable political leader, while to those on the right he was a rebel against Pétain, who was a national hero and France’s only field marshal. Broadcasts from London, the action of the Free French Forces, and the contacts of resistance groups in France either with de Gaulle’s own organization or with those of the British secret services brought national recognition of his leadership; but full recognition by his allies came only after the liberation of Paris in August 1944.

In London de Gaulle’s relations with the British government were never easy, and de Gaulle often added to the strain, at times through his own misjudgment or touchiness. In 1943 he moved his headquarters to Algiers, where he became president of the French Committee of National Liberation, at first jointly with General Henri Giraud. De Gaulle’s successful campaign to edge out Giraud gave the world proof of his skill in political maneuvering.

Early political career
On September 9, 1944, de Gaulle and his shadow government returned from Algiers to Paris. There he headed two successive provisional governments, but on January 20, 1946, he abruptly resigned, apparently because of his irritation with the political parties forming the coalition government.

In November 1946 the Fourth French Republic was declared, and until 1958 de Gaulle campaigned against its constitution, which, he charged, was likely to reproduce the political and governmental inadequacies of the Third Republic. In 1947 he formed the Rally of the French People (Rassemblement du Peuple Français; RPF), a mass movement that grew rapidly in strength and that to all intents and purposes became a political party during the elections of 1951, when it won 120 seats in the National Assembly. The movement expressed de Gaulle’s hostility to the constitution, to the party system, and, in particular, to the French Communists, because of their unswerving loyalty to directives from Moscow. He became dissatisfied with the RPF, however, and in 1953 severed his connection with it. In 1955 it was disbanded.

The general made no public appearances in 1955–56 and retired to his home in Colombey-les-deux-Églises, where he worked on his memoirs: L’Appel, 1940–1942 (1954; The Call to Honour, 1940–1942), L’Unité, 1942–1944 (1956; Unity, 1942–1944), and Le Salut, 1944–1946 (1959; Salvation, 1944–1946). The last volume was completed only after his return to power in 1958.
 

Return to public life
De Gaulle’s compatriots were deeply divided on the question of his return to public life. The reasons for their hesitation belong to the political history of the period. The opportunity presented itself in May 1958 when the insurrection that had broken out in Algiers threatened to bring civil war to France. De Gaulle must have seen his return to politics as the most carefully balanced calculation in a life that had had its share of political gambles. He was cautious, for it was by no means certain that the French parliament would accept his return on conditions that he could accept. He affirmed his determination not to come to power by other than legal means, and there was never any evidence of his association with insurgent plans to bring him back; however, his carefully worded statements (on May 15, 19, and 27) certainly helped the insurgents. On June 1, three days after President René Coty threatened to resign unless de Gaulle’s return to power was accepted, de Gaulle presented himself before the National Assembly as a prime minister designate. On the following day he attended the parliamentary session (after he was duly invested as prime minister) that authorized him to reform the constitution and accorded him the special powers that he demanded.

On December 21, 1958, de Gaulle was elected president of the republic. The powers given to the president in the new constitution, which had been approved by referendum on September 28, 1958, especially those providing for the use of the referendum and for presidential rule during a state of emergency, reflected his firm conviction that a strong state required a leader with the power to make decisions. De Gaulle realized that his fellow citizens would accept him only in a crisis and that he must, therefore, take steps to retain the support of the general public and to disarm the power of “the system of parties” in parliament, always potentially hostile to him. His tactics were first to obtain consent for the personal control of government policy by the president and then to ensure its renewal through elections or referenda. He therefore undertook throughout his presidency what was virtually a continuous election campaign in the form of provincial tours, in which he visited every département and during which he met ordinary citizens as well as local notables. He appeared on television several times a year. He relied as far as possible on ministers who were compagnons—those whose loyalties went back to the wartime days—and counted on their use of the constitutional provisions to curb the powers of the deputies to obstruct parliamentary business or harass governments.

De Gaulle retained the essential function of parliaments in a democracy—namely, the right to criticize governments and to withdraw confidence in them. There were frequent complaints of progovernmental bias on the radio, but these also had been common under pre-Gaullist regimes. Under a law of 1881, insults to the president of the republic constitute an offense, and, while there was certainly more recourse to this law during de Gaulle’s presidency than under previous regimes, it presented no obstacle to political criticisms of Gaullist policies and Gaullist ministers in the press and by political parties. Indeed, those criticisms were continual and widespread.

De Gaulle’s greatest challenge in his early years as president was to find a way to resolve the bloody and extraordinarily divisive Algerian War. France’s influential left-wing intellectuals supported Algerian independence and wanted de Gaulle to find a face-saving way to end the war quickly. The European residents of Algeria and their many supporters on the mainland, most of them politically conservative, wanted France to retain Algeria at all costs. The leaders of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN), meanwhile, were willing to discuss nothing short of full independence. De Gaulle realized that he had no choice but to end the war, and, when he began peace negotiations with the FLN, French military leaders in Algiers turned against him, forming a rebel faction known as the Secret Army Organization (OAS).

In April 1961 the OAS seized control of Algiers and threatened to take Paris as well. De Gaulle responded vigorously, using the emergency powers permitted by the constitution of the Fifth Republic. Most French citizens rallied to de Gaulle, and after a tense standoff the OAS action fell apart. The bulk of the military refused to side with the rebellious generals, and de Gaulle’s peace initiative was allowed to proceed. The bloodletting, however, was not over. The OAS, now a full-fledged terrorist organization, undertook a wave of bombings and assassinations (including attempts on de Gaulle) that left some 12,000 victims. But the overwhelming majority of the population supported de Gaulle, allowing him to negotiate Algerian independence (1962) and defeat the OAS.

Having been preoccupied with Algeria during his first three years, de Gaulle was finally in a position to turn to other pressing matters. Beginning in 1962, he moved to strengthen the country’s economy, planned the reorganization of the army, developed an independent nuclear deterrent, and prevented fresh “Algerias” in the future by providing for the constitutional transformation of the African overseas territories into 12 politically independent states. From mid-1962 onward, however, with the recognition of an independent Algerian state, he had to consolidate his own position by obtaining a fresh vote of confidence from the electorate, for he was no longer politically indispensable.

One lesson that de Gaulle had learned was that his personal position was stronger if he remained, at least in theory, above the political and party battle, as he had tried to do during the wartime and early postwar years. Before the elections of 1958, he had therefore forbidden his supporters to use his name, “even in the form of an adjective,” in the title of any group or candidate. In 1962 he offered the electors the choice between his resignation and acceptance of a constitutional amendment providing for the election of the president by universal suffrage. Under the original constitution, the president was to be chosen by an electoral college of some 80,000 members, mainly mayors and local leaders. The electors favoured the amendment overwhelmingly. During the parliamentary general election in November, the Gaullist party won an additional 64 seats, thus obtaining, with the support of some 30 conservative deputies, a majority in the National Assembly. From then on, de Gaulle was in a position to carry out, with public consent, the plans that he regarded as essential in restoring France to the status of a great power.

As a statesman, de Gaulle fought his political battles like a military campaign, using all the devices that he had learned to transform France’s postwar international position of weakness into one of strength and to overcome opposition to his plans at home. These devices have been often described by his fellow citizens: “egoism, pride, aloofness, guile,” according to sociologist and historian Raymond Aron; “empiricism, intuition, flexibility of mind if not of soul,” according to one of the most perceptive of his biographers, Jean Lacouture.

From 1962 until his reelection as president in 1965, de Gaulle used the European Economic Community (EEC; now part of the European Union) to serve French interests, especially agricultural interests. France’s participation in the supranational North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was progressively withdrawn, because de Gaulle’s policy for France was one of “national independence” and of international cooperation based only on agreements between nation-states. This was the main theme of his presidential campaign in 1965. On December 21 he was reelected, though only on the second ballot, after facing a surprisingly strong challenge from the Socialist Franƈois Mitterrand. On March 7, 1966, de Gaulle announced France’s withdrawal from the integrated military command of NATO but not from the alliance.

During the remainder of his second term as president, de Gaulle turned his attention increasingly to wider fields. He had already begun a policy of “détente and cooperation” with countries behind the Iron Curtain by encouraging trade and cultural relations with the Soviet Union and the countries of eastern Europe and by recognizing the People’s Republic of China in January 1964. As a solution for the Vietnam War, he advocated a policy of neutrality for all nations concerned, based on a negotiated peace of which a necessary preliminary was to be the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Vietnam. These activities, together with visits to Canada, the Far East, and all of Latin America, formed part of a policy that aimed at increasing the influence of France, first in French-speaking countries or countries that shared some bond derived from a common attachment to Latin culture, then in Europe, which, in his view, would sooner or later extend beyond the boundaries of the EEC or the division into Western and Eastern blocs, and finally in the world, where he foresaw the gradual dissolution of the two great blocs.

Circumstances worked against his success. He felt obliged to take up attitudes that were generally interpreted as anti-American. His theory of “desatellization,” the progressive loosening of the Soviet hold on the countries of eastern Europe, was brutally invalidated by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Moreover, there was no evidence that France carried any real weight with the countries that it hoped to influence. As the political and economic crisis of May 1968 revealed, France had neither the internal cohesion nor the financial resources to play the role of leader in what de Gaulle called “Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals.”

His strength had been in his appeal for unity against a common enemy—in 1940, Germany; in 1958, subversion and civil disorder. In the students’ and workers’ revolt of May 1968, the enemy was once again subversion and civil disorder, but the rapid collapse of the revolt and the divisions within the left that it revealed made de Gaulle seem less indispensable than in the past. The solution to the underlying causes of the revolt required the patient negotiation of a government rather than leadership by a man of destiny. A broadcast on May 30 brought a massive demonstration of support and a landslide Gaullist victory in the subsequent election, but the victory was for peace and normality rather than for the president and his policies.

When in April 1969 de Gaulle called once again for a referendum, it was not clear whether he really wanted to remain in power. The referendum, calling for the acceptance of regional reorganization and a reform of the Senate, was presented to voters, as other referenda had been, as a choice between acceptance of the measures (though the second was generally unpopular) or of his own resignation. The diplomatic methods that had been welcomed during his first term as assertions of France’s claim to equality with and influence among the great powers now created great unease. His advocacy of neutrality on Vietnam in 1966 was widely interpreted as an expression of personal anti-Americanism. On his visit to Canada in 1967, he seemed actively to encourage French Canadian separatism. His declarations of neutrality in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war seemed to show a pro-Arab bias. France had not formally withdrawn from NATO, and the so-called independent nuclear deterrent that he sought was neither independent nor within France’s means. The question “After de Gaulle, who?” was answered by the president himself when he dismissed Georges Pompidou in 1968 after a record six years as prime minister. This left Pompidou free to present himself as a credible and acceptable successor to de Gaulle.

On April 28, 1969, following his defeat in the referendum, de Gaulle resigned and returned to Colombey-les-deux-Églises to retire permanently and to resume writing his memoirs. There he died of a heart attack the following year. His aims and actions as president have drawn more exegesis and speculation than those of any other French statesman.

Dorothy M. Pickles
Ed.

 

 

 

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