TIMELINE


       
 





ART OF THE 20TH CENTURY


A Revolution in the Arts





 




 

1900: Guimard builds stations and entrance halls of Paris Metro in Art Nouveau style.

1902: Italian Liberty movement affirmed at Turin Exhibition of Decorative Art

1905
: Japan wins war against Russia.

1905
: Expressionist group Die Brucke is formed in Dresden.

1907: Picasso completes Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, initiating the great period of Cubist art;
Pope Pius X condemns Catholic modernism.

1913: the poet Apollinaire coins phrase "Orphic Cubism" with reference to work of painters Delaunay, Leger, and Kupka.

1914: Duchamp exhibits the Bicycle Wheel, the first of his famous "ready-mades";
World War I breaks out following assassination of Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand of Austria.

1918: the loss of over ten million lives in the war is commemorated by poets such as Wilfred Owen and painters such as Paul Nash.

 
               


 



 



 



 



 



 



 
   
 
 


Europe, 1919

 



1920: Swiss-born artist Paul Klee gives lessons at the Weimar Bauhaus.

1923: art critic Margherita Sarfatti encourages the Novecento group to exhibit at Pesaro Gallery, Milan.

1924: Andre Breton publishes Manifesto of Surrealism.

1925: Austrian Alban Berg composes the opera Wozzeck;
Fascist regime seizes power in Italy.

1929: crash of New York stock market, causing grave economic crisis in the US.

1930: II Milione Gallery, focal point of Italian abstraction, opens in Milan.

1932: first exhibition of cinematography held in Venice.

1933: in Germany, Hitler becomes chancellor of the Reich.

1935: Italian troops invade Abyssinia.

1936: civil war erupts in Spain.

1937: Picasso's Guernica is exhibited in the Spanish pavilion of Paris Exposition Internationale.

1939: outbreak of World War II.

1945: atomic bombs destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki;
international capital of art shifts from Paris to New York.
 
1947: Treaty of Paris establishes conditions of peace between World War II victors and vanquished, deferred in the cases of Germany and Japan;
W. F Iibby discovers carbon 14 and relative system of dating.

1948: Movement for Concrete Art (MAC) is established in Milan;
Vittorio de Sica's film Bicycle Thieves is an international success.

1949: Atlantic Pact drawn up in Washington.

1950: Albert Einstein publishes his Significance of Relativity, in which he asserts his theory
of an expanding universe.

1950: Roberto Longhi founds magazine Paragone.

1951: Lucio Fontana creates luminous spirals for the ceiling of Ninth Triennial of Milan.

1955: the musical work of Luciano Berio is recognized.

1956—59: building of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York.

1958: Jasper Johns, representative of new Dadaism in the US, paints his series of American flags.

1961-62: birth of the "Fluxus" movement, which conceives art as an inter-disciplinary "event";
Piero Manzoni creates his "living" sculptures.

1965: proclamation of Optical art at the New York Museum of Modern Art exhibition.

1967: critic Germano Celant coins the term'arte povera".

1973: death of Pablo Picasso.

1980: deaths of Oskar Kokoschka and Graham Sutherland.

1986: American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat dies aged 26.

1991: after the failure of a Communist coup d'etat, the Soviet Union is dissolved.

1997: death of Willem de Kooning.

1998: death of the Italian architect Alberto Sartoris.

 

 


Europe, 2000

 
 
 
 


History - 1789-1992


(Encyclopaedia Britannica)


Revolution and the growth of industrial society, 1789–1914

Modern culture

The new century

New trends in technology and science
In parallel with the new craftsmanship, the new technology of the 1900s began to give hope of wider improvements. The use and transmission of electric power suggested the possibility of the clean factory, all glass and white tile. Better machines, new materials and alloys, a greatly expanded chemical industry—all supplied more exact, more functional, less hazardous objects of use and consumption, while the application of science to medicine nourished the hope of greatly reducing the physical ills of mankind. Those closest to all these developments were certainly not among the despairers and fugitives from the world. Like all those who struggle successfully with practical difficulties, they were inspirited by what they knew to be demonstrable progress along their chosen lines.

The same outlook animated workers in the natural and socialsciences. It was for both a time of transformation, and genuine novelty exerted its usual invigorating effect. From the 1880s onward it had been clear that simple mechanistic explanations based on “dead” matter were inadequate. The Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887 had given the coup de grace to the mere push-pull principle by showing that, though light consisted of waves, the waves were not in or of anything, such as the ether, which did not exist. Even earlier,James Clerk Maxwell's attempt to work out the facts of electromagnetism on Newtonian principles had failed. And on the philosophic front, the notion of natural “laws” was being radically modified by thinkers such as Poincaré, Boutroux, Ernst Mach, Bergson, and William James. All this prepared the ground for the twin revolutions of relativity andquantum theory on which the 20th-century scientific regime is based.

The decline of the machine analogy had its counterpart in the biological sciences. With narrow Darwinian dogmas in abeyance, the genetics of Gregor Mendel were rediscovered,and a new science was born. The fixity of species was again regarded as important (Bateson), while the phenomenon of large mutations (de Vries) caught the public imagination, just as the slow, small changes had done 60 years earlier. The elusive “fitness of the environment” was being considered of as much importance in the march of evolution as the fitness of the creature. Vitalism once more reasserted its claims, as it seems bound to do in an eternal seesaw with mechanism.

The social sciences
Finally, in the social sciences, fresh starts were made on newpremises. Anthropology dropped its concern with physique and race and turned to “culture” as the proper unit of scientific study. Similarly in sociology, Durkheim, seconded by Tönnies, Weber, Tarde, and Le Bon, concentrated on “the social fact” as an independent and measurable reality equivalent to a physical datum. Psychology, also long under the exclusive sway of physics and physiology, now established at the hands of William James that the irreducible element of its subject matter was the “stream of consciousness”—not a compound of atomized “ideas” or “impressions” or “mind-stuff” but a live force in which imageand feeling, subconscious drive and purposive interest, werenot separable except abstractly. A last domain of research was mythology, to the significance of which James George Frazer's The Golden Bough gave massive witness, thereby exerting proportional influence on literature and criticism.

Reexamination of the universe

The net effect of these innovations in the sciences of man and of nature was liberating. Whatever each specialty or subspecialty meant to its practitioners, the persons who carry in their minds the general culture of an age took the new message to mean that the universe, formerly closed andcomplete like a machine, had been reopened and shown to be more alive than dead—and by the same token more mysterious, full of questions to be resolved by new research and new sciences. The term astrophysics, replacing astronomy, symbolized the change of perspective from Newton's cosmology to Einstein's. In turn, these conclusions furnished a new opportunity for the exercise of individual thought and will in the realm of mind and spirit, of ethics and religion. Man was no longer deemed an automaton, he had free choice in the all-important matters that lay outside physical science.

In philosophy, politics, and criticism this reexamination may be called the pragmatic revolution; in social and moral life, the liquidation of Victorianism. But the Pragmatic Revolutionmust not be thought of as being only the work of those who, like James, called themselves pragmatists. Nietzsche, Samuel Butler, Shaw, Bergson, and others constitute the headwaters of the stream of thought that issues in present-day existentialism. The common features are the turning away from absolutes and unities to pluralisms and the method of testing by consequences. Subjective and objective tests looking to future thought and action—not authority or antecedents—are to decide what is true, good, and beautiful.

Such an outlook, of which the refinements are, like the defects, beyond the scope of this article, is the logical and appropriate one for an age of reconstruction. It boils down to trying all things new and holding fast to that which is good; but it presupposes the creation of new things to try, and here it is allied to the liquidation of Victorianism. In morals the work of destruction generally begins by affirming the opposite of the accepted rule. An excellent source book for this attitude is Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh, written in 1885 but not published until 1903. The Victorian Tennyson had said: “'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Butler said: “'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all.” This inversion of values—don't weep over loss; there are plenty of loves to be had and the more the merrier—is but an indication of method. At first the denial was uttered as humour and paradox: Butler's Note-books, Shaw's Arms and the Man (the soldier wants chocolate, not ammunition), Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Jarry's Ubu roi, Strindberg's tragicomedies—to cite but a few subverters of the Victorian—all used derision and topsy-turviness to make their point.

Underneath the joke was the new purpose, which soon found open expression in positive utterance and action. In the plays of Hauptmann and Brieux, the novels and anticipationsof H.G. Wells, the essays of Tolstoy, Péguy, Georges Sorel, Ellen Key, Havelock Ellis, Unamuno, Ortega y Gasset, or Shaw, the new modes of feeling and the new scale of virtues and vices are set forth with as much earnestness and vigour as the old Victorian kind.


Nor did action wait until all the books wereout. From the onset of the overturn, say 1885 onward, the rebellion was a biographical fact. Individuals braved public opinion and got divorced, lived together unmarried, practiced and preached contraception, studied the psychology of sex, and defended homosexuality. Or again, the sons of the rich turned socialist, became labour leaders, and fomented syndicalist (i.e., direct-action) strikes, while the daughters demanded the vote as suffragists, assaulted policemen, and went to jail for chaining themselves to the door handles of government offices (see photograph). Meanwhile, students rioted about international incidents or university affairs; schools were subjected to the devastation of the softer pedagogies; “rational clothing” exhibited itself in spite of derision, like the bicycle and the newfangled automobile; and new cults multiplied like mushrooms—outdoor sports, nudism, Theosophy, Esoteric Buddhism, Rosicrucianism, New Thought, the Society for Psychical Research, Christian Science, the Salvation Army, and the “Maximinism” of Stefan George.

Of these, hardly any need explanation here. But a word must be added about Theosophy if only because of its historical importance in developing Yeats's genius and for expressing once again the attraction that the “wisdom of the East” has for Westerners. Not that the doctrine elaborated by Madame Blavatsky rested on any exact knowledge of Hindu religion and philosophy. That is not its point. The point is rather that Theosophy supplied the need for quietude, mystery, transcendence, and immortality in the wearied souls of Europeans. In Theosophy the doctrine of reincarnation offerssatisfaction of immortal longings and inspires to wisdom, thedemands of which are periodically revealed by mahatmas, orholy men.

As for the poet Stefan George's worship of his young friend Maximin, who died at 15, it answers a similar impulse to permanent truth but with the additional urge to abolish (rather than escape) “contemporary materialism.” George was but one among many European writers who wanted to found a new society in place of the actual one. What has fitly been called the politics of cultural despair fastened on a great many saviours as the new hope—monarchy, “integral nationalism,” a new aristocracy (usually tinged with intellect), technocracy (rule by science and the engineers), the proletariat (in syndicalist “cells” or communist collectives), trade and professional guilds federated in a corporate state, or again the mystic unity of “blood” and “race.” In all these creeds, at least at their beginnings, the thirst for the ideal is evident; together they formed a new utopianism, of which the later fruits are familiar but quite other than those predicted: Soviet and Chinese communism, Italian fascism, German National Socialism. As the 20th century ends, the echoes and offshoots of this earlier wave of cultist thought are found in many places. Attitudes and practices derived from the East (Zen, Yoga, meditation) are taken for granted as permanent elements of Western pluralist culture, part of the broad offering of “life-styles.”

In one country, as the 19th century passed into the 20th, all the violent rival energies seeking an ideal found an unexpected outlet. The occasion for battle was the conviction of a French officer for espionage; i.e., the Dreyfus affair. Its cultural suggestiveness is apparent: on one side, the ideal of justice and the regard for the individual as an end in himself; on the other, the social or collective ideal typified by the army and the nation; throughout, the ideal of truth—the facts—pursued, lost, and found again in an embittered struggle that threw up a host of endemic prejudices—about race, about class, for and against intellect—to say nothing of individual egotisms and obsessions that had been charged with the force of pent-up aggression.


The prewar period

The same universal aggressiveness was to have its field dayin the coming war of nations, but in the intervening decade (1905–14) occurred the remarkable outburst of a creativeness, which, for the first time since 1789, had its source elsewhere than in Romanticism. The “Cubist decade” (as it has been conveniently called) gave the models and themethods of a new art, just as the natural and social sciences had begun to do for themselves a little earlier. Cubism in painting defined itself as a new classicism, but it was obviously not Neoclassical. In painting and sculpture, in music and poetry, and in architecture especially, the new qualities were simplicity, abstraction, and the importance of mass.

This truly modern art evidently meant to reconnect itself to contemporary life. To define it in one word, it was Constructivist. As such, it valued the products of technology,which embodied the artist's rediscovered love of matter and from which he drew suggestions of form. In the style of interior furnishing known as Art Deco, geometric angularity, smooth surfaces, plain glass, and strong colours not only matched the unadorned outside of buildings in the new International Style but also resembled the creations of the industrial engineers. Indeed, it was not unusual to see on the mantelpiece of an Art Deco living room a set of gears or some other portion of a modern machine. The latest sculptures on western streets are but a further fragmentation of the new taste for solidity, clarity, volume, and mass.

To this many-sided, original, and buoyant productiveness the war of 1914 put an instantaneous stop. It was a war of a sort Europe had not known since 1815—the nation in arms. And at that earlier time, the absence of large industry had precluded the involvement, physical and mental, of every adult citizen simultaneously throughout Europe. In 1914 Beethoven and Goethe, Wordsworth and Delacroix would have been in the trenches.

The cessation of cultural activities; their replacement everywhere by a propaganda of hate; the rapid decimation of talent and genius in the murderous warfare of bombardment and infantry assault; the gradual demoralization through four years of less and less intelligible war aims; and after the Armistice, the long sequelof horrors—starvation, dispersion, disease, and massacre—together shattered the high civilization born of the Renaissance and based on the idea of the national state. Too many able men and women had been killed for the continuity of culture. Too many intimate faiths and civil traditions had been ground down for any recovery of self-confidence and public hope to be possible.

Jacques Barzun


European society and culture since 1914

“If it works, it's obsolete.” First reported in or about 1950, the saying neatly expressed that period's sense of the headlong speed at which technology was changing. But equally rapid change is the hallmark of many aspects of life since 1914, and nowhere has it been more apparent than in Europe. Photographs from 1914 preserve a period appearance ever more archaic: statesmen in frock coats and top hats; early automobiles that fit their contemporary description as “horseless carriages”; biplane “flying machines” with open cockpits; long, voluminous bathing costumes. The young 20th century, its advent celebrated in such enterprises as The New Century Library—pocket editions of classics recently out of copyright—appears in such images more and more like a mere continuation of the century before.

The 19th century had itself seen the culmination of the Industrial Revolution that had begun in the 18th, but the transformation wrought by steam power, steel, machine-made textiles, and rail communications was only the beginning. Still more rapid and spectacular changes came with further advances in science and technology: electricity, telegraphy and telephony, radio and television, subatomic physics, oil and petrochemicals, plastics, jet engines, computers, telematics, and bioengineering.

The development of technology, in particular, would not have been possible without a more skilled and better educated work force. In most European countries during this period, education was extended both to more of the population and to a later age, and the numbers entering higher education greatly increased. Women began to gain access to more of the opportunities hitherto monopolized by men.

If this was a process of social leveling upward, the same process began to affect the social classes themselves. WhileEuropean society remained more hierarchical than that in the United States, there began to be both greater social mobility and fewer blatant class differences as expressed in clothes, behaviour, and speech. A “mass society” began to share mass pleasures. Apparent homogeneity, both vertically within societies and horizontally between them, was accelerated by the cinema, radio, and television, each offering attractive role models to be imitated or, by older generations, deplored. Some referred to this process as “the Americanization of Europe.”

Alongside these changes, and in some instances spurring them, the period since 1914 in Europe has been marked by major economic and political upheavals. The most cataclysmic were the two world wars. The second of these resulted from the rise of dictatorship in Italy and Germany; but the period also saw dictatorships in Spain and Portugal, as well as in the U.S.S.R., where the 1917 revolution was followed by the totalitarian rule of Joseph Stalin.

The two wars, of 1914–18 and 1939–45, brought the old Europe of the balance of power to the brink of destruction. Europeans were thenceforth spectators at or minor actors in the global balance of terror between the United States and the U.S.S.R. This convinced a number of European statesmen that their peace, prosperity, and position in the world could be safeguarded only if Europeans united. For much of the period after 1945, Europe remained divided between East and West, and it was only in the West that unity began to be practicable. At length, however, political changes in central and eastern Europe gradually revived old hopes of “Paneuropa.”

This section describes—on a European rather than a nationalbasis—the social, economic, intellectual, and cultural implications of these and other developments in Europe. For a complete discussion of the diplomatic events and military course of World Wars I and II, see World War I and World War II. Further treatment of the diplomatic history of 20th-centuryEurope may be found in international relations.


The Great War and its aftermath

The shock of World War I

The year 1914 witnessed not only the outbreak of World War I but also such very different events as the publication of James Joyce's short stories Dubliners, André Gide's novel LesCaves du Vatican, and D.H. Lawrence's story The Prussian Officer. It was also the year of Pablo Picasso's painting “The Small Table,” Igor Stravinsky's Rossignol, Sergey Diaghilev'sballet version of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov's Le Coq d'or, and the founding of the Vorticist movement in Britain by the painter and writer Percy Wyndham Lewis.

All these, in their various ways, were characteristically “modern” phenomena. The new century had already produced some fairly self-conscious attempts to criticize or repudiate the past. In 1901 the novelist Thomas Mann had chronicled in Buddenbrooks the decline of a Lübeck businessfamily as it became more “refined,” while in Sweden the playwright August Strindberg had savagely dissected in The Dance of Death a love-hate relationship on the eve of a silver wedding anniversary.

In 1903 Samuel Butler's bitter semi-autobiographical The Way of All Flesh had been posthumously published. In 1904 Frank Wedekind had fiercely attacked social and sexual hypocrisy in his play Pandora's Box. In 1905, Thomas Mann's brother Heinrich had shown a tyrannical schoolmaster ruinedby an affair with a nightclub singer in Professor Unrat (betterknown in its 1928 film version as The Blue Angel). In 1907 the respectable writer and critic Edmund Gosse had anonymously published Father and Son, an autobiography recording what he called “a struggle between two temperaments, two consciences and almost two epochs.”

In that same year (1907), Picasso and Georges Braque had founded the Cubist movement, with its slogan, “Paint not what you see but what you know is there.” In 1909 La Nouvelle Revue française had been inaugurated as a forum for younger writers. In 1910 Wassily Kandinsky had produceda Postimpressionist painting defiantly entitled First Abstract Work; the Russian authorities had banned Rimsky-Korsakov's two-year-old Le Coq d'or because of its satire on government; and Sir Norman Angell had published The Great Illusion—an attempt to demonstrate the futility of war, even for the supposed victors. The year 1913, finally, had seen the publication of Guillaume Apollinaire's poems Alcoöls and the beginning of Marcel Proust's great novel Remembrance of Things Past.

The 20th century had begun, then, with what might be termedcultural parricide—an attack on the paternalistic, stuffily religious, and sexually repressive features of the century before. Younger writers and artists such as Joyce, Lawrence, Gide, Picasso, Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot formed what the novelist Ford Madox Ford called “a proud and haughty generation,” determined, in Pound's words, to “make it new.” Yet, looking back in 1937,Wyndham Lewis wrote ruefully:
We are not only “the last men of an epoch” (as Mr Edmund Wilson and others have said): we are more than that, or we are that in a different way to what is most often asserted. We are the first men of a Future that has not materialised.




What had blocked that future was war—“The Great War,” as its stunned contemporaries called it. Not for nothing did the poet and novelist Robert Graves call his 1929 war reminiscences Good-bye to All That . He was bidding farewellto his prewar schooldays and to his first marriage; but what stuck in the minds of his readers was the cause of the leave-taking—the horror of life and death in the trenches of the Western Front. Graves was by no means the only writer to experience and report that visceral shock. In 1914, despiteAngell's warnings, the idea of war had still borne vestiges of glamour. Idealistic young poets such as Rupert Brooke and Julian Grenfell had gone to war, initially, with eager innocence. After the slaughter on the Somme and the stalemate of trench warfare, the key word became Disenchantment, the apt title of C.E. Montague's account of the process. It pervaded the work of Edmund Blunden, Siegfried Sassoon, and Wilfred Owen in Britain, of Henri Barbusse (author of Under Fire) in France, and of Erich Maria Remarque (author of All Quiet on the Western Front) in Germany.

Through conscription, and, to a lesser extent, through air raids, the war had involved and affected far more of the population than any previous international conflict. By the time of the Armistice, in November 1918, there was widespread weariness in Europe and a sense of disillusion that gave the years before the war a retrospective autumn radiance, as if a dream had died.

Real deaths, indeed, had been numbered in millions. In the whole of the previous century, from the Napoleonic Wars to the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, Europe had lost fewer than 4.5 million men. Now, at least 8 million had died in four years,while more than twice as many had been wounded, some of them crippled for life. Millions more had succumbed to the worldwide influenza epidemic that had ended in 1918. The outcome, in all countries, was imbalance between the sexes—a shortage of men that at the time was sometimes called “the problem of surplus women.” During the war, women had had to be recruited into the civilian work force—in factories “for the duration,” in offices sometimes for good. The net result was to encourage women's emancipation. In 1918, British women over the age of 30 were given the vote—although women's suffrage was delayed until 1944 in France and 1945 in Italy. The year 1921,moreover, saw the opening of the first birth control clinic in Britain.

Wartime comradeship helped to reduce not only barriers between the sexes but also rigidities of class. Government control of the war economy—known in Germany as Kriegssozialismus, or war socialism—was also a general phenomenon that left a permanent mark, in particular encouraging economic nationalism. Nowhere was this process more intense than in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917, where it was known as “war communism.”

Nationalism had been a feature of Europe since at least the French Revolution. Napoleon had embodied its classic, democratic, or Gallic variety—the nation as a people bearing arms. Equally powerful, and more deeply rooted in history, was Romantic, cultural, or Germanic nationalism—the nation as an entity based on age-old racial and linguistic allegiance. Both forms of nationalism were encouraged by the war and its aftermath; and the latter was especially furthered by some of the provisions in the Treaty of Versailles.
European society and culture since 1914


The mood of Versailles

The peace conference that met in Paris from January 1919 to January 1920 and which produced, among other things, the Treaty of Versailles was both vengeful and idealistic.

Public opinion in France and Britain wished to impose harsh terms, especially on Germany. French military circles sought not only to recover Alsace and Lorraine and to occupy the Saar but also to detach the Rhineland from Germany. Members of the British Parliament lobbied to increase the reparations Germany was to pay, despite the objections of several farsighted economists, including John Maynard Keynes.

The Versailles treaty, signed on June 28, 1919, met most of these demands. It also stripped Germany of its colonies and imposed severe restrictions on the rebuilding of its army andfleet. In these ways, the peace settlement could be seen as punishing the defeated enemy, as well as reducing its statusand strength. Not unnaturally, this caused resentment among the Germans and helped to stimulate the quest for revenge.

At the same time, however, Versailles was imbued with more constructive aims and hopes. In January 1918 the U.S. president, Woodrow Wilson, set out his peace proposals in the “Fourteen Points.” The general principles were open covenants openly arrived at, freedom of navigation, equalityof trading conditions, the reduction of armaments, and the adjustment of colonial claims. Wilson also proposed “a general association,” which became the League of Nations, but his more specific suggestions were concerned less with unity among nations than with national self-determination. His aim, in effect, was to secure justice, peace, and democracy by making the countries of Europe more perfect nation-states.

Among other measures, this involved readjusting Germany's borders. Alsace-Lorraine was duly returned to France and Eupen-Malmédy to Belgium, while Germany also lost territory to the east. But the Versailles and associated settlements went further still in dealing with central Europe. They broke up the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they created or re-created sovereign states, and they sought to make frontiers coincide with the boundaries between ethnic, linguistic, and cultural groups. This consecration of nationalism proved a highly equivocal legacy; for example, in Northern Ireland or in the German-speaking Sudetenland of Bohemia.

In succession to the Habsburg empire, Austria and Hungary became small, separate, landlocked states. Poland was restored and acquired new territory; so did Greece, Italy, andRomania, which doubled its former size. Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia came into existence as composite states. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania won independence from Russia.

Parallel to the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a further result of the war was the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Most of its eastern Mediterranean territory, together with Iraq, was placed under mandate to France and to Britain, which backed a ring of Arab sheikdoms around the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. Turkey was reduced to a mere 300,000 square miles. The peace terms initially agreed upon by the Treaty of Sèvres were rejected by the sultan until British troops occupied Istanbul, and eventhen the National Assembly in Ankara organized resistance. A war with Greece in 1921–22 ended in the Peace of Lausanne, giving Turkey better terms than those decided at Sèvres. Soon, however, the secular sultanate and the religious caliphate were abolished, and Kemal Atatürk became president of a new, secular republic, which, among other Westernizing measures, adopted the Latin alphabet in place of Arabic script.

The drawing of new frontiers could never definitively satisfy those who lived on either side of them, and the problem of minorities became an important factor in the instability that marked Europe after World War I. The new composite state ofCzechoslovakia, for instance, included not only industrialized Bohemia, formerly Austrian, but also rustic Slovakia and Ruthenia, formerly Hungarian. Romania similarly comprised both Transylvania, formerly Hungarian, and Bessarabia, formerly Russian. Reconstituted Poland wasequally an amalgam, and in 1921, after Józef Piłsudski's campaign against the U.S.S.R., it moved its eastern frontier more than 100 miles beyond the so-called Curzon Line established in 1920. Yugoslavia, finally, was based mainly on Serbia; but it also included Westernized Croatia, formerly Austro-Hungarian, and part of Easternized Macedonia, formerly Turkish, as well as other territories. The rest of Macedonia was now Greek; but an exchange of minorities between Greece and Bulgaria put many Macedonians under Bulgarian rule, sparking off an armed rebellion. Similar turbulence agitated Albania. Altogether, the Balkans becamea synonym for violent nationalistic unrest.

Two global developments, moreover, formed an ominous backdrop to Europe's territorial disputes. One was the Russian Revolution of 1917, which inspired a few idealists but mainly aroused fear throughout the rest of Europe lest bolshevism spread westward. The other was the active intervention of the United States, which had entered the war—decisively—in 1917 and played a determinant role in shaping the peace.


The interwar years

Hopes in Geneva

Woodrow Wilson's vision of a general association of nations took shape in the League of Nations, founded in 1920. Its basic constitution was the Covenant—Wilson's word, chosen,as he said, “because I am an old Presbyterian.” The Covenant was embodied in the Versailles and other peace treaties. The League's institutions, established in Geneva, consisted of an Assembly, in which each member country had a veto and an equal vote, and a smaller Council of four permanent members and four (later six, then nine) temporary members chosen by the Assembly.

The basic principle of the League was collective security, whereby its signatories were pledged both to seek peaceful solutions to disputes and to assist each other against aggression. As such, it was novel and potentially far-reaching; it could have developed into a powerful instrument for peace. It did indeed settle a number of practical disputes—between Finland and Sweden, Albania and Yugoslavia, Poland and Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. It also set up subordinate bodies to deal with particular problems, among them the status of Danzig and the Saar, narcotics, refugees, and leprosy. It was complemented by a Permanent Court of International Justicein The Hague, Neth., and by the International Labor Organization.

Yet the League of Nations disappointed its founders' hopes. From the start it lacked teeth, and most of its members were unwilling to see it develop. It thus became little more than a permanent version of the congresses (of Vienna, etc.) that had founded the old-style Concert of Europe.

Its first weakness was the veto: all its decisions had to be unanimous, or at least unopposed. Secondly, when in March 1920 the U.S. Congress failed to ratify the Versailles treaty by the necessary two-thirds majority, the United States was debarred from joining the League. Nor, at that time, were Germany and Russia among its members. Germany belonged from 1926 to 1933, and the U.S.S.R. from 1934 to 1939. Turkey joined in 1932, but Brazil withdrew in 1926, Japan in 1933, and Italy in 1937.

American suspicion of the League, reflecting general isolationism, centred on Article 10 of the Covenant. This called on member states to respect and preserve as against external aggressionthe territorial integrity and existing political independence of all the Members of the League. In case of any such aggression or in case of any threat or danger of such aggression the Council shall advise upon the means by which this obligation shall be fulfilled.




The means envisaged were known as sanctions—an economic boycott authorized under Article 16 of the Covenant and invoked in October 1935 against Italy for invading Abyssinia. However, as a conciliatory gesture, the League excluded oil, iron, and steel from the boycott, makingthe sanctions ineffective. Within less than a year they were lifted, and they were not applied at all when Germany sent troops into the Rhineland in 1936.

Nevertheless, the League did witness one effort to go beyond mere cooperation between governments. It proved abortive, but in retrospect it was highly significant. This was the proposal for European unity made by the French statesman Aristide Briand.

When taking office as foreign minister in 1925 he had declared his ambition to establish “a United States of Europe,” and on Sept. 9, 1929, he made a speech to the then 27 European members of the League in which he proposed a federal union. Seven months later, on May 1, 1930, he laid before them a closely and cogently argued “Memorandum from the French Government on the Organization of a Regime of European Federal Union.” The text was elegantly worded; its actual author was the secretary-general of the French Foreign Ministry, Alexis Léger—better known to readers of poetry under his pen name Saint-John Perse and later a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Briand's proposal evoked “the very real feeling of collective responsibility in the face of the danger that threatens the peace of Europe,” and the need to counter Europe's “territorial fragmentation” by a “bond of solidarity which would enable European nations at last to take account of Europe's geographical unity.” To this end, Briand proposed a pact establishing a European Conference within the League of Nations, with a permanent political committee and a small secretariat, putting politics before economics in this European community, but nevertheless working toward a “common market” in which “the movement of goods, capital,and people” would be gradually liberalized and simplified. The practical details, Briand suggested, should be worked out by the governments concerned.

Briand's Memorandum was careful to specify that agreementbetween the European nations must be reached on the basis of “absolute sovereignty and total political independence.”
Is it not the genius of each nation to be able to affirm itself still more consciously by co-operating in the collective effort within a federal union that fully respects the traditions and characteristics of each of its constituent peoples?




Despite these precautions, the other members of the Leaguedid little to implement the French initiative. Except for Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and (with some reservations) Czechoslovakia, Greece, and Norway, their general response was at best skeptical and at worst politely hostile. None saveThe Netherlands saw any need to limit or pool national sovereignty. Many—including Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom—expressed fears for the integrity of the League. Several saw no point in setting up new institutions. Some wanted to recruit other European nations such as the U.S.S.R. and Turkey, which were not then members of the League; others insisted on their own world responsibilities, as did theUnited Kingdom. A large number—understandably, after the Wall Street crash—thought that Europe's really urgent tasks were economic, not political.

Briand defended his paper with vigour, but on Sept. 8, 1930, the European members of the League effectively buried it, with a few rhetorical flowers—“close collaboration,” “in full agreement with the League of Nations,” “respecting all the principles of the Pact”—by voting to put it on the agenda of the plenary Assembly. All that followed was a series of meetings, which ended with Briand's death in 1932.

Earlier, Briand had worked closely with the German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann, with whom he had negotiated the Locarno Treaties of 1925, confirming, among other things, the new western frontiers of Germany. A fervent nationalist during the war, Stresemann had come to the conclusion that Germany must respect the Versailles treaty, however harsh its provisions, though initially he had hoped to revise it. As a champion of peace (for which he had won the Nobel Prize in 1926), he would surely have supported Briand's federal union plan. But Stresemann died in 1929, and Chancellor Heinrich Brüning of the Catholic Centre Party proved no less negative than most of his colleagues elsewhere. By that time, too, Germany's fragile postwar Weimar Republic was under growing threat of collapse.

European society and culture since 1914


The lottery in Weimar

Germany's Weimar Republic was born of defeat, revolution, and civil war. It was plagued by political violence but distinguished by cosmopolitan culture that influenced both Europe and the wider world.

On Oct. 28, 1918, the sailors at the Kiel naval base mutinied, and on November 8 the Independent Socialist Kurt Eisner declared Bavaria a republic. On the following day the chancellor, Prince Maximilian von Baden, resigned in favour of the Social Democrat leader Friedrich Ebert and announcedthe abdication of the emperor William II. That same day, November 9, the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed all of Germany a republic. Two days later, on November 11, Germany concluded the armistice that ended World War I.

The new republic was soon under pressure from both left andright. Left-wing socialists and Marxist “Spartacists,” led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, fomented strikes and founded Workers' and Soldiers' Councils like those in the U.S.S.R., but on Jan. 15, 1919, both revolutionaries were arrested and brutally killed. On the right, meanwhile, ex-officers and others formed the paramilitary Freikorps. In the event, it was from the right that the deadliest challengescame.

Elections to a constitutional convention, or assembly, were held on Jan. 19, 1919. They gave the Social Democrats 163 seats, the Catholic Centre Party 89, and the new and progressive Democratic Party 75; other parties won smaller numbers of seats. These three groups were like-minded enough to form a coalition and powerful enough—for the present—to dominate the new republic. Their rivals on the right were the old conservatives (now called the National People's Party), with 42 seats, and the new People's Party, with 21. On the left, the Independent Socialists had 22 seats.

The National Assembly met on Feb. 6, 1919, at Weimar on theIlm River. The choice of venue was only partly a tribute to thecity's historic associations with Goethe, Schiller, and Herder; the main concern was to avoid the danger of violence in Berlin. Not until the spring of 1920 did the new republic's Parliament (still called the Reichstag, or “Imperial Diet”) meet in the German capital. By then, the name Weimar Republic had stuck.

Its constitution, completed on July 31, 1919, was the most modern and democratic imaginable, based on universal suffrage, proportional representation, and referenda. But it was a flimsy cap over a political volcano.

The first sign of trouble, in March 1920, was an attempted monarchist coup d'état. It failed, but the elections that followed in June marked a defeat for the republicans. The centrist Democrats lost almost two-thirds of their strength and the Social Democrats almost half of theirs. The right-wing parties and the left-wing Independent Socialists, plus various splinter groups, made heavy gains. The Weimar coalition no longer had a majority. Within the Parliament, theextremists had triumphed. Outside it, violence was on the increase.

On Aug. 26, 1921, two ex-officers shot and killed Matthias Erzberger, a Catholic Centre Party deputy who had negotiated the peace terms. On June 24, 1922, three right-wing students shot dead Walther Rathenau, the newly appointed foreign minister, who was Jewish. On Nov. 8–9, 1923, an extremist group staged an abortive putsch in Munich. The conspirators included Hermann Göring and Adolf Hitler.

Racked by economic problems, shaken by internal crises andshifting alliances, reviled by the far left and the far right, successive centrist governments struggled ahead for another 10 years. Although politically precarious, the Weimar Republic nonetheless witnessed and helped to fosteran extraordinary explosion of creative talent, notably in the arts.

Wassily Kandinsky and Max Ernst in painting, Bruno Walter inmusic, Bertolt Brecht and Max Reinhardt in the theatre, Walter Gropius in architecture, Albert Einstein in physics, Erwin Panofsky in art history, Ernst Cassirer in philosophy, Paul Tillich in theology, Wolfgang Köhler in psychology, Fritz Lang in films—all these became household names, partly because every one of them took refuge abroad after Hitler came to power in 1933.

All, in their various ways, were part of the cosmopolitan “Modern movement” that pervaded the whole of Europe. Kandinsky was a typical example. Born in Russia, he learned a great deal from French Fauves such as André Derain and Henri Matisse, then settled in Munich, where he developed his own characteristic style. German Expressionist theatre and cinema, likewise, drew inspiration from abroad, in particular from Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg. Germany was equally influenced by Austrians: Sigmund Freud in psychiatry, Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Arthur Schnitzler in the theatre, and Karl Kraus in the press. In architecture the clean, functional lines of Gropius' Bauhaus school found imitators throughout Europe.

Like all such phenomena, the Modern movement was not wholly novel. Many of its practitioners and their artifacts hadpredated or coincided with World War I. Even Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's Futurism, so dominant in 1920s Italy, was a relic of the prewar past.

But the mood after 1918 was no longer so euphoric as at the beginning of the century. Before the war, the French novelist André Gide and the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke had exchanged letters in leisurely French like two survivors from the 18th century. After it, following a six-year silence, Rilke wrote of “the crumbling of a world,” and both complained of the complications caused by passports and frontier formalities, looking back nostalgically to the carefree “journeys of long ago.”

The postwar world, as seen by writers and other artists, had the fragmentary, disillusioned quality of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, published in 1922. It was self-conscious and introspective, as in Luigi Pirandello's 1921 play Six Characters in Search of an Author. It was more open to the unconscious, as in Dada and Surrealism. It was more aware of man's dark fears and instincts, as in Franz Kafka's The Trial(1925) and The Castle (1926). It was more responsive to the appeal of “the primitive,” whether in African sculpture or in jazz—the quintessential art of the 1920s, which also influenced mainstream music, notably in the Austrian composer Ernst Krenek's 1927 opera Jonny spielt auf (“Johnny Strikes up the Band”).

No less pervasive, however, was the brittle hedonism typified by the gossip-column antics of the “Bright Young Things.” They were not wholly isolated. Already in 1918 Thomas Mann had published his Reflections by an Unpolitical Man; this was a mental label thankfully worn by many who, after the rigours of war, were eager to pursue private happiness, whether in metropolitan society or in placid suburbia. The Europe of Weimar also was the Europe of the detective story and the crossword puzzle. Both were analgesics at a time of political uncertainty and economic disquiet.


The impact of the slump

Economically, Europe emerged from World War I much weakened, partly by the purchases that had had to be made in the United States. Even in 1914 the United States had been the world's leading economic power. By 1918 profits had enabled it to invest more than $9 billion abroad, compared with $2.5 billion before the war. The Allies, meanwhile, had used up much of the capital they had invested in the United States and had accumulated large public debts, many of them to the U.S. Treasury.

American financial dominance and European debt overshadowed economic relations in the first decade after the war. The debts included those owed by the Allies to each other, especially to Britain, as well as those owed, especiallyby Britain, to the United States. A third baneful factor was reparations, the financial penalties imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles.

Keynes described reparations as morally detestable, politically foolish, and economically nonsensical. Winston Churchill called them “a sad story of complicated idiocy.” Essentially, they meant demanding from Germany either goods—which would have dislocated industry in the recipient countries—or money. This the Germans could obtain only by contracting vast and almost unrepayable loans in the United States—to whom the European recipients of reparations promptly returned much of the cash in an effort to settle their own transatlantic debts.

In April 1921 the Allied Reparations Committee set Germany's reparations bill at 132 billion gold marks, to be increased later if the Germans proved able to pay more. The first installment of one billion gold marks was due by the endof May.

Understandably resentful, the Germans wavered between two possible responses: refusal to pay, as urged by ultra-nationalists and some industrialists, and the so-called Erfüllungspolitik, or “policy of fulfillment,” advocated by Rathenau and Stresemann. They proposed to meet initial demands for reparations so as to reestablish trust and then negotiate for better terms. This was the policy adopted by the Weimar Republic.

Even so, Germany paid the first tranche only in August 1921, in response to a threat to occupy the Ruhr, and the money had to come from a bank loan raised in London. Thereafter, it paid in kind but not in cash, until at the beginning of 1923 it announced that payments must cease. The French and the Belgians, backed by Italy but opposed by the United States and Britain, thereupon occupied the whole of the Ruhr.

With the German government's connivance, Ruhr industrialists and workers brought production to a virtual halt, and the Treasury printed a reckless flood of paper money. By 1924 the mark was almost worthless, enriching speculators and owners of real property but ruining rentier savers and others on fixed incomes. This removed an important stabilizer from German society, making it all the easier for extremism to triumph in the Nazi victory 10 years later.

For the moment, however, the Allies formed a committee of financial experts, chaired by the American Charles G. Dawes,to find a lasting solution to the reparations problem. It proposed, and the governments accepted, a two-year moratorium, the return of the Ruhr to Germany, a foreign loan of 800 million marks, and a new rate for reparation payments: 1–2.5 billion gold marks annually, which continued for five years. In 1929 a further committee, chaired by Owen D. Young, revised the Dawes Plan. Germanywas to have a new loan of 1.2 billion marks and to spread reparations over the next 59 years. Although the German Parliament and people (by referendum) reluctantly agreed to the Young Plan, reparations finally ceased in 1932.

Germany's was an extreme case, but it was not the only European country to suffer after World War I. The Allies also experienced inflation and were saddled with debts. While theUnited States was willing in the long run to write off the political debts of reparations, it would not do the same with the commercial debts contracted by Britain, Italy, and France: one by one, they had to sign agreements to pay.

Despite these obligations, Europe in the 1920s enjoyed a modicum of the economic growth that was so rapid and spectacular in the United States. In 1913, Britain's income had been £2.021 billion. By 1921, it had fallen to £1.804 billion; but by 1929 it had risen again, this time to £2.319 billion. The corresponding figures for France (in 1938 francs) were 328 billion, 250 billion, and 453 billion. Even Germany, whose 1914 income had been 45.7 billion gold marks, had recovered enough by 1931 to be earning 57.5 billion.

Yet postwar prosperity was precarious. The American boom was a speculative affair. Fueled by optimism, production wassoaring. To shift the accumulating goods, customers were urged to buy on credit or to borrow from the banks, which thereby earned large profits. The stock market was riding high. But at any sign of a credit squeeze or a loss of confidence, everything was likely to collapse. Demand wouldfall, goods would pile up, and prices would plummet. This wasprecisely what happened on “Black Tuesday,” Oct. 24, 1929, the day of the Wall Street crash.

Its first foreign victims were in Latin America, which was dependent on the American market for selling raw materials. Europe was not affected immediately; American loans and investments there dwindled only slowly. By 1931, however, the flow of capital had virtually ceased, and direct investment dried up in the following year. Worse still, to pay their own debts, Americans repatriated huge sums of money.Germany, Austria, and Britain were the hardest hit. Between the end of May and the middle of July in 1931, the German central bank, the Reichsbank, lost $2 billion in gold and foreign currency. To compound Europe's problems, on June 17, 1930, the United States had imposed the protective Smoot-Hawley Tariff, replacing average import duties of 26 percent with the prohibitive average level of 50 percent.

The combined results were catastrophic. Highly respected banks failed, first among them the great Kreditanstalt of Vienna, which collapsed in May 1931. The Bank of England, at that time, was losing gold at the rate of £2.5 million a day. Everywhere, industrial production fell: by 40 percent in Germany, 14 percent in Britain, and 29 percent in France.

On June 20, 1931, U.S. President Herbert Hoover announced ayear's moratorium on all government debts. When it expired in June 1932, the secretary of state, Henry Stimson, proposeda year's extension, but Hoover refused. The Europeans had meanwhile agreed to cancel their claims on German reparations but not to ratify this decision unless the United States wrote off their war debts. The Americans, seeing this as a European conspiracy, demanded continued payment. At this, all the European nations except Finland dug their heels in, exacerbating U.S. isolationism and making a global solution of the crisis still more unlikely.

In June 1933, nevertheless, a World Economic Conference met in London. Hoover's successor as president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, made his secretary of state, Cordell Hull, the head of the U.S. delegation. Hull was a free-trader, but in July 1933 Roosevelt sent a message to the conference insisting that its main concern must be monetary exchanges, and in January 1934 the United States passed the Johnson Act, forbidding even private loans to countries that had not paid their war debts.

So there was no global solution: it was every man for himself. Some European countries—Germany in 1930–32, France until 1936—responded by deflation; they maintained the external value of their currencies but reduced their export prices by cutting wages and costs. The result was social unrest. In Germany, Chancellor Brüning's 1930 decrees of the dissolution of the Reichstag and government by presidential order led to 107 Nazis and 77 Communists being elected to Parliament that September. In France, PierreLaval's decrees led to the 1936 success of the left-wing Popular Front.

Other countries took to devaluation, leaving the gold standard to which Belgium, France, Italy, The Netherlands, and Switzerland still clung from 1931 to 1935. Britain devalued in September 1931, the United States in April 1933,and France in September 1936. This had the effect of making exports cheaper, but since it made imports more expensive itworked only if they could be discouraged by high tariffs (as in the United States) or if the country in question had access to cheap raw materials (as in Britain's system of imperial preference).

A third option was to impose exchange controls to cut the economy off from world markets. This was the solution adopted by Germany in 1932 and by most of central Europe and the Balkans. It had the effect of creating German hegemony, since those central European and Balkan countries that needed to sell to the large German market were unable to repatriate their earnings and had to buy German goods. In 1932 Germany saw exchange controls and their effects as a temporary expedient. For Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, however, they became part of a settled and sinister policy.
European society and culture since 1914



The trappings of dictatorship

Totalitarian dictatorship was a phenomenon first localized in20th-century Europe. A number of developments made it possible. Since the 19th century the machine gun had greatlyfacilitated drastic crowd control. Public address systems, radio, and, later, television made it easy for an individual orator to move a multitude. Films offered new scope for propaganda. Psychology and pharmaceuticals lent themselves to brainwashing. Miniature cameras and electronic listening devices simplified surveillance. Heavy artillery, aircraft, and fast armoured vehicles provided the means for waging a Blitzkrieg, or “lightning war.” Bullies and brutality, of course, there had always been.

The European dictatorships were far from identical. They differed in their historical roots, their social contexts, their ideologies, and their trappings. But they bore a family resemblance. Political analysis may underplay it; to their victims, it was all too obvious.

Europe's first practical dictatorship was established in Russia by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Its emblem, the hammer and sickle, represented physical labour in factory or field; there was no symbol for the scientist, the statesman, or the scholar. The aims of the revolution—liquidating the capitalist economic system, increasing public wealth, raisingthe material and cultural standard of working people—had wide appeal. But in its concern to industrialize and modernize a huge, backward union of republics with a long cultural legacy of tsarist domination that had been replaced by a centralizing socialist ideology, it relied on a one-party state, heavy censorship, the suppression of individual liberty, and the murder of awkward opponents. Theoretically,it foresaw “the withering away of the state.” For the time being, it embodied “the dictatorship of the proletariat”—or rather of a single leader, first Vladimir Ilich Lenin, then Joseph Stalin.

Two years after the Russian Revolution, in 1919, Benito Mussolini founded the fascist party in Italy. Its emblem, the fasces (a bundle of rods with an axe in the centre), was a symbol of state power adopted from ancient Rome. Explicitlyanticommunist, it was as opposed to the withering away of the state as it was to individualistic liberalism. “For the Fascist,” wrote Mussolini, “everything is the State.” His own regime, partially established in 1924 and completed in 1928–29, had its bullyboys and castor-oil torture, its murders and aggressive wars. But, for sociological and cultural, as well as political, reasons, it was both less systematic and less brutal than some other European dictatorships. Italy hada long tradition of regional diversity that resisted uniformity,and Italian society was permeated—in complex, sometimes contradictory ways—by the ubiquitous influence of the Roman Catholic church.

Forms of fascism took root in other Latin countries. In Spain in 1923 General Miguel Primo de Rivera seized power with the approval of the king. He dissolved Parliament, imprisoned democratic leaders, suspended trial by jury, censored the press, and placed the country under martial law. He tried to establish a fully fascist regime based on “Country, Religion, and the Monarchy,” but he met resistance from students and workers and abandoned the attempt in 1925, although he remained prime minister until 1930. In 1931 a republic was proclaimed, headed by a provisional government of republicans and socialists.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Portugal, António de Oliveira Salazar, a professor of economics, had been made finance minister after a military coup d'état in 1926; and, although he had resigned soon afterward, he had been recalled in 1928. After reorganizing the Portuguese budget, in 1932 he was offered the premiership. His conception of what he called the “Estado Novo,” or “New State,” was corporatist and fascist. Its authoritarian constitution, endorsed by plebiscite in 1933, allowed only one political party, the National Union (Uniao Nacional).

In 1936 a general election in Spain gave a clear majority to the left. On May 10, Manuel Azaña, the Popular Front leader, was elected president, but two months later a group of army officers led by General Francisco Franco staged a fascist revolt. Supplied with arms, air power, and “volunteers” by Mussolini and Hitler, Franco's forces won the ensuing Spanish Civil War—although it dragged on until 1939, when the U.S.S.R. finally cut off the aid it had given to the Republican government. The French and British governments pursued a policy of nonintervention, although an International Brigade of private volunteers fought alongside the Republicans. One significant feature of the Spanish Civil War was its use by Nazi pilots as a training ground for the dive-bombing tactics they later employed in World War II.

Nazi Germany, in fact, was Europe's most elaborately developed dictatorship. Characteristically, Hitler took great care with the design of its emblem, a black swastika in a white circle on a red background; as iconography, it has long survived its regime. The swastika, originally the obverse of the Nazi version, was an Eastern mystic symbol brought into Europe in the 6th century—and Nazi ideology was no less mystical. It differed from fascism in at least two respects. It regarded the state as a means, rather than an end in itself; and the end it envisaged was the supremacy of what Hitler believed to be “the Aryan master race.” The final result—Hitler's so-called Final Solution—was the systematic slaughter of at least six million Jews.

Born in Austria, Hitler had fought in World War I in the Bavarian infantry, twice winning the Iron Cross. In September 1919, six months after Mussolini founded the Italian fascist party, Hitler joined a German nationalist groupthat took the name of National Socialist German Workers' Party, derisively nicknamed “Nazi.” Its policies included anti-Semitism and fierce opposition to the Treaty of Versailles. After his abortive Munich coup in 1923, Hitler was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, of which he served nine months. While in prison, he wrote his autobiographical manifesto, Mein Kampf.

In 1930, with 107 seats, the Nazis became the second largestparty in Parliament. On Jan. 30, 1933, after three ineffectual chancellors, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler to the post, believing that the vice-chancellor, Franz von Papen, would counterbalance any Nazi excess.

Four weeks later the Reichstag building in Berlin was gutted by a fire probably started by a foolish young Dutchman, but certainly exploited by the Nazis as evidence of an alleged communist plot. Hitler used the excuse to enact decrees thatgave his party totalitarian powers. In the following June he eliminated most potential rivals, and when Hindenburg died on Aug. 2, 1934, Hitler was proclaimed Führer, or leader of the German Reich.

Hitler's foreign policy triumphs followed: the reoccupation ofthe Rhineland and the alliance with Mussolini in 1936; the Anschluss (“union”) with Austria and the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938–39; and in 1939 the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. Until Hitler's invasion of Poland in September of that year, it sometimes seemed as if Europe's democracies could only look on, prevaricate, and tremble.


The phony peace

The early months of World War II, marked by no major hostilities, came to be known as “the Phony War.” The 1930s,marked by war in Spain and the fear of war throughout Europe, might as aptly be called “the Phony Peace.”

Economically, that decade saw a gradual revival of prosperity in most of Europe. For the middle classes in some countries, indeed, it was a slightly hollow golden age. Many could still afford servants, often drawn from the ranks of unmarried girls from poor families with few skills to sell. “Ribbon development” of suburbs was providing new houseson the cleaner outskirts of cities, served by expanding urban transport systems. Every suburb had one or more palatial cinemas showing talking pictures, some of them even in colour. Gramophones and records were improving their quality, radio sets were growing more compact and versatile,and, toward the end of the decade, television began. Cheaperautomobiles were appearing on the market, telephones and refrigerators were becoming general, and some homes began to boast washing machines. Air travel was still a raritybut was no longer unheard of. The cheap franc made France aplayground for tourists from countries with harder currencies.

For those less privileged, daily life was far less benign. Deference was still deeply ingrained in European society. The humbler classes dressed differently, ate differently, and spoke differently; they even walked and stood differently. They certainly had different homes, often lacking a bathroom or an indoor lavatory. Unemployment was still widespread. In Britain, in the Tyneside town of Jarrow, starting point of the 1936 protest march to Westminster, almost 70 percent of the work force was out of a job. Those inwork still faced long hours; dirty, noisy, and dangerous conditions; and monotonous, repetitive assembly-line tasks. Some of the workers were women, but, despite their “liberation” during World War I, many had returned to domesticity, which to some seemed drudgery. Young people had yet to acquire the affluence that later gave them such independence and self-assurance as an economic and cultural group.

Beneath the placid surface, moreover, there were undercurrents of unease. On the right, especially in France and Germany, there was still much fear of bolshevism. Some,for this reason, saw merits in Mussolini, while a few were attracted by Hitler. On the left, conversely, many admired the U.S.S.R.—although some, such as the French writer André Gide, changed their minds when they had seen it. But left, right, and centre in most of the democracies had one thing in common, though they differed radically about how to deal with it. What they shared was a growing fear of war. Having fought and won, with American help, “the war to end war,” were they now to face the same peril all over again?

This fear became acute toward the end of the decade, as Hitler's ambitions grew more and more plain. But underlying it was a broader, deeper, and less specific disquiet, especially in continental Europe.

In 1918 the German philosopher of history Oswald Spengler published Der Untergang des Abendlandes, translated in 1926–28 as The Decline of the West. In 1920 the French geographer Albert Demangeon produced The Decline of Europe. In 1927 Julien Benda published his classic study The Great Betrayal, and in 1930 José Ortega y Gasset produced The Revolt of the Masses. All these works—and many others—evoked what the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga called, in the title of a book published in 1928, The Crisis of Civilisation. That same year, coincidentally, saw René Guenon's The Crisis of the Modern World. Similar concerns were voiced in Britain almost a decade later, when the French-born Roman Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc published The Crisis of our Civilisation.

Many such writers were pessimistic. Paul Valéry, in Glimpsesof the Modern World (1931), warned Europeans against abandoning intellectual discipline and embracing chauvinism, fanaticism, and war. Thomas Mann, in Warning Europe (1938), asked: “Has European humanism become incapable of resurrection?” “For the moment,” wrote Carl J. Burckhardt, “it . . . seems that the world will be destroyed before one of the great nations of Europe gives up its demand for supremacy.”

At Munich in September 1938 the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain and his French counterpart Édouard Daladier bought time with “appeasement”—betraying Czechoslovakia and handing the Sudetenland to Hitler. Millions cheered the empty pledge they brought back with them: “Peace for our time.” Within 11 months Hitler had invaded Poland and World War II had begun.



The blast of World War II

World War II was the most destructive war in history. Estimates of those killed vary from 50 million to 64 million—about as many as the entire population of Britain or France. The total for Europe alone was 15 million to 20 million—more than twice as many as in World War I. At least 6 million, not all of them Jews or Gypsies, died in Hitler's extermination camps. Nor were the Germans themselves spared. By 1945, in a population of some 70 million, there were 7 million more German women than men.

One after another, most of the countries in continental Europe had been invaded and occupied: Austria, Czechoslovakia, Albania, Poland, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, Yugoslavia, and the U.S.S.R. and then, when the tide turned, Italy and Germany. Many countries had been fought over twice.

The resulting devastation had turned much of Europe into a moonscape: cities laid waste or consumed by fire storms, thecountryside charred and blackened, roads pitted with shell holes or bomb craters, railways out of action, bridges destroyed or truncated, harbours filled with sunken, listing ships. “Berlin,” said General Lucius D. Clay, the deputy military governor in the U.S. zone of postwar Germany, “was like a city of the dead.”

Between 1939 and 1945, moreover, at least 60 million European civilians had been uprooted from their homes; 27 million had left their own countries or been driven out by force. Four and a half million had been deported by the Nazis for forced labour; many thousands more had been sent to Siberia by the Russians. When the war ended, 2.5 million Poles and Czechs were transferred to the U.S.S.R., and more than 12 million Germans fled or were expelled from eastern Europe. At one period in 1945, 40,000 refugees a week poured into northwestern Germany.

Death, destruction, and mass displacements—all had demonstrated how fragile and vulnerable Europe's proud nations had become. In most earlier conflicts the state's defenses had been its frontiers or its front line: its armies had been a carapace protecting the civilians within. Now, even more than in World War I, this was no longer so. Air raids, rockets, mass conscription, blitzkrieg invasion, commando raids, parachute drops, Resistance sabotage, andguerrilla warfare had put everyone, as the phrase went, “in the front line.” More accurately, national frontiers had shownhow flimsy they were, and the “front line” metaphor had lost its force. Even the distinction between civilians and soldiers had become blurred. Civilians had fought in Resistance circuits—and been shot, sometimes as hostages, and when the Allies or the Axis practiced area bombing, civilians were the main victims. The most extreme instances were the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. They not only ignored the civilian-military distinction; they utterly transformed the nature of war.

Hitler's death camps, likewise, made World War II unique. Theappalling product of spurious science, evil fanaticism, blind bureaucratic obedience, sadistic perversion, and pedantic callousness, they left an unhealing wound. They reminded humanity of the depths to which human beings can sink and of the vital need to expunge racism of all kinds—including the reflex, understandable at the time, of regarding the Germans as solely capable of committing Nazi-type crimes.

The Nürnberg trials were a further unique feature of World War II. By arraigning and punishing major surviving Nazi leaders, they undoubtedly supplied a salutary form of catharsis, if nothing else. They proved beyond doubt the wickedness of Hitler's regime; at one point, when films of thedeath camps were shown, they actually sickened and shamed the defendants. In some eyes, however, the trials were somewhat tainted. Although scrupulously conducted, they smacked slightly of show trials, with the victorious Allies playing both prosecutor and judge. The charges included not only war crimes, of which many of the accused were manifestly guilty, but also “waging aggressive war”—a novel addition to the statute book. Finally, a number of war criminals certainly slipped through the Nürnberg net. The overall intention, however, was surely honourable: to establish once and for all that international affairs were not immune from ethical considerations and that international law—unlike the League of Nations—was growing teeth.

In two further respects, World War II left a lasting mark on Europe. The first and most obvious was its division between East and West. Both U.S. and Soviet troops, from opposite directions, had helped to liberate Europe, and on April 25, 1945, they met on the Elbe River. They toasted each other and posed for the photographers; then the Soviets dug themselves into new defensive positions, still facing west.

It was not a confrontation, but it was symbolic. Stalin had long made clear that he sought to recover the three Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, as well as the partof Poland that the Poles had seized after Versailles. He also expected a free hand in exerting influence on the rest of eastern Europe. At a meeting in Moscow in October 1944, Churchill had largely conceded this principle, proposing 90 percent Soviet influence in Romania, 90 percent British influence in Greece, 75 percent Soviet influence in Bulgaria, and a 50–50 split in Yugoslavia and Hungary. Cynical as this might seem, it was a tacit recognition of strategic and military facts. Similar considerations determined the East-West zonal division of Germany, which endured in the form of two German republics until their reunification in October 1990.

The fact that the U.S.S.R. and the United States now faced each other in Europe along the so-called “Iron Curtain” denounced by Churchill in his Fulton, Mo., speech on March 5,1946, dramatized Europe's final legacy from World War II. This was a drastic reduction in wealth, status, and power.

In financial terms, World War II had cost more than the combined total of all European wars since the Middle Ages. Even Britain, which had been spared invasion, had been transformed from the world's biggest creditor to the world's biggest debtor, and much of continental Europe was obliged to continue living on credit and aid. Economically, all Europe's once great powers were dwarfed by the world's superpowers. Their status was diminished still further when their remaining colonies were freed.



Postwar Europe

Planning the peace

International planning for peace after World War II took placeon a world scale. Within five years, in an extraordinary burst of energy and imagination, statesmen endowed the world with almost all its existing network of global institutions: theUnited Nations (UN), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Monetary Fund (the IMF), the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the IBRD, or World Bank), the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the International Court of Justice, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the International Refugee Organization (IRO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). Some of these, in particular the UN, were to reveal limitations. But they embodied serious efforts to replace outdated national and bilateral diplomacy with permanent multilateral institutions.

Domestically, many people's first instinct after World War II was to return to normal: to restore law and order after the euphoric anarchy of liberation; to repatriate prisoners and demobilize soldiers; to reopen the bombed Teatro alla Scala,Milan, and have Arturo Toscanini conduct there again; and tobring back long dresses with Christian Dior's “New Look.” At the same time, however, there was deep eagerness for change. Even more than World War I, World War II had been a democratic war, fought against dictatorship as much as against aggression. Like many wars, it had brought forth military and other leaders from the rank and file. For many the aim was to inaugurate a new and more just society withinnation-states that were pledged to work together for peace. “From Resistance to Revolution” was the masthead slogan of Combat, the left-wing French Resistance newspaper founded in 1941 but after the war edited as a Paris daily by the novelist Albert Camus. The words could well have been endorsed by others, in particular the radical Action Party in Italy and many socialists there and elsewhere.

No less innovative, if less radical, were the Christian Democrat parties springing up or being revived: the Christian Democrats in Italy, the Christian Democratic Union in Germany, the Dutch People's Movement in The Netherlands, the Popular Republican Movement in France. At that time, most such Roman Catholic parties had a more left-of-centre tone than was later the case.

Britain had no Christian Democrat party, and its Labour Party had less in common with continental socialist ideology than with nonconformism and the trade union movement. Yet the British people shared the general impatience for change, as they showed when they voted in large numbers for Labour in the 1945 general election, roundly defeating the Conservatives under Winston Churchill, who had led the country so memorably during the war.

In its election manifesto, the Labour Party proposed a program of nationalization of the Bank of England, of fuel and power, of iron and steel, and of inland waterways. It endorsed the Education Act already steered through by the moderate Conservative R.A. Butler. It proposed a national health service and a social security system, and it called for physical controls to allocate raw materials, limit food prices, provide new homes, and direct the location of industry.

Similar reforms were envisaged throughout western Europe. They embraced more equality, fairer shares, and better social conditions—full employment, higher wages, fairer taxes, more trade union rights, antitrust provisions, government-funded social security, and (where necessary) land reform. Such measures also implied far more central control of the economy.

“Planning” was now a common objective. In Italy it was the responsibility of the Institute of Industrial Reconstruction. In Britain the government maintained the machinery of statutory controls that it had used in wartime. In Germany the banks played a major role in forecasting, steering, and assisting investment. But in France it was the extraordinary Jean Monnet who made planning a concerted national effort rather than a set of directives from above.

Between the wars Monnet had been deputy secretary-general of the League of Nations, a private banker,and a negotiator for the French government. In the United States during World War II he had helped to spur Roosevelt's Victory Program of aircraft for the Allies. Subsequently, in Algiers, he had helped to reconcile General Charles de Gaulle with his American-backed rival General Henri Giraud. It was to de Gaulle, who shortly became premier of France, that Monnet proposed a planning commissariat, attached only to the prime minister's office and bringing together for the first time in France industrialists, labour unions, and senior civil servants to discuss production targets, supplies, bottlenecks, and urgent action in key sectors of the economy. Revolutionary at the time, the plan was highly successful and was soon imitated elsewhere.

National planning alone, however, could not solve Europe's problems. Joint action was needed, as was help from the United States. In 1947, two years after the end of the war, many Europeans were still leading a Spartan existence. Everywhere, food continued to be rationed. Dimmed lights, brownouts, and power cuts were still common. A hard winter and waves of strikes added to the general misery. Underlyingit was the stark fact that the countries of Europe were in serious financial trouble.

They had long been living on handouts. By October 1945 the United States had advanced some $46 billion in nonrepayable “lend-lease” loans. When the war ended, so did lend-lease—to be replaced by huge stopgap loans on ordinary terms. Britain received $3.75 billion, but only on condition that it make sterling freely convertible. As soon as it did, there was a run on the pound. The entire loan, it was reckoned, would have melted away in two and a half months if Britain had not suspended convertibility. As it was, a third of the credit was wiped out by price increases in the United States.

Britain, in fact, was overextended. In 1946 it had spent $60 million to help feed the German people, and it still had one and a half million troops trying to police the globe. Already, on Feb. 21, 1947, Britain had warned the United States that it would soon have to cancel economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey. It was this message that triggered a rescue operation for the whole of western Europe.


The United States to the rescue

Greece and Turkey, in the Cold War conditions of 1947, were strategically vital and highly vulnerable Western outposts on the southern flank of the U.S.S.R. and its satellite states. Turkey was especially exposed. In Greece, the mainly communist National Liberation Front (EAM) had failed in its violent bid for power, but guerrilla units were still fighting in the Pindus Mountains and the Peloponnese, and the Greek economy was near collapse.

The news that Britain was to pull out of the Balkans horrified Washington. Dean Acheson, the under secretary of state, called the British messages “shockers.” With George Marshall, the secretary of state, he lost no time in tackling the problem. After conferring with them, President Harry S. Truman called in the Congressional leaders—and managed to win to his cause the influential Republican senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, theretofore a notorious isolationist. With his support secured, Acheson felt able to quote to the British ambassador the motto of the Seabees: “We do the difficult at once; the impossible takes a little longer.”

On March 12, 1947, less than three weeks after Britain's plea for help, Truman announced to Congress what came to be called the Truman Doctrine: U.S. support for free peoples against armed subjugation, primarily through economic and financial aid. By May 22 he had been empowered to sign the Greek-Turkish Aid Act.

Reports from Europe, however, showed that other countries were equally in need of American help. On June 5, 1947, Marshall gave a 10-minute commencement address at Harvard University and thereby launched the Marshall Plan. This and the Truman Doctrine, Truman remarked later, were “two halves of the same walnut.” Marshall told his audience, Europe's requirements for the next three or four years of foreign food and other essential products are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help.


Without it, the economic, social, and political outcome could be “very grave.”

Aside from the demoralizing effect on the world at large and the possibilities of disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of the people concerned, the consequences to the economy of the United States should be apparent to all. It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace.

Marshall added three conditions. First, aid must be systematic, not piecemeal. Second, the countries of Europe must work out their needs and plans together. Third, public opinion must endorse the policy.

Hearing the news of Marshall's speech and a commentary bya specially briefed British journalist, British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin “grabbed the proposals,” as he said later, “with both hands.” With French foreign minister Georges Bidault, he invited their colleague from the U.S.S.R., Vyacheslav Mikhaylovich Molotov, to join in a collective response to the Marshall offer. Molotov refused, attacking the plan as a violation of sovereignty. Later the U.S.S.R. prevented Czechoslovakia from taking it up.

So it was that the Marshall Plan was confined to western Europe. On July 12, 1947, the representatives of 16 nations met in Paris: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Four days later they set up a temporary Committee of European Economic Co-operation under Sir Oliver Franks. By the third week in September it had produced a draft four-year recovery plan, which was subsequently much revised. Under powerful U.S. pressure, the Europeans reluctantly agreed to establish a permanent body in place of the temporary committee. It was finally inaugurated as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) on April 16, 1948.

By then the U.S. Congress had approved the European Recovery Program, and Truman had appointed Paul Hoffman to administer it. Within two weeks of his appointment, the freighter John H. Quick sailed for Europe from Galveston, Texas, with 9,000 tons of wheat. It was the first of many, carrying every kind of commodity from spiced ham to tractors, from powdered eggs to machine tools. Within Europe, Marshall aid made possible some spectacular projects. They ranged from land reclamation in Italy and The Netherlands to a dam in Austria harnessing water power frommelting glaciers. In all, the European Recovery Program brought Europe grants and credits totaling $13.15 billion—5 percent of the national income of the United States. At the same time, private relief parcels amounted to over $500 million—more than $3.00, on average, from every American man, woman, and child.

The United States' timely generosity saved Europe from imminent economic ruin and laid firm foundations for later economic growth. By 1950 trade within western Europe had recovered to its prewar volume, two years ahead of expectations; and by 1951 European industrial output was 43 percent greater than before the war. U.S. insistence on a coordinated approach to recovery supplied the incentive and the institutions for permanent mutual consultations; in the process, the OEEC gradually reduced the quantitative and monetary barriers that had hamstrung intra-European trade. It failed, however, to remove tariffs. U.S. pressure for a European customs union eventually came to nothing; although willing to consult and cooperate, Europeans were not yet ready for economic integration, still less political union.

This made difficult a relationship of equals between European countries and the United States. But, short of that, the Marshall Plan did lead to much closer transatlantic ties. Under W. Averell Harriman, its Paris-based chief representative, U.S. experts worked throughout Europe. “They swooped down here,” said one German businessman, “like birds on a field.” By 1952 the U.S. embassy in Paris was responsible for 2,500 U.S. officials, plus 5,000 family members. Within a decade, 40,000 private American businessmen had settled in Europe, working for 3,000 American companies, whose European investments had quadrupled in that time.

War and peace had brought Europeans and Americans closer together than at any time since the mass migrations from the Old World to the New. Their mutual relations were complex and ambivalent: a blend of European gratitude, envy, and slight resentment combined with American impatience, fascination, and missionary zeal. As time went on, some Europeans complained of “Americanization”; what this of ten meant was merely that innovations had reached the United States first. But, for all their differences, Americans and western Europeans had one great common commitment—to a free and democratic way of life, which in eastern Europe had been progressively suppressed.



A climate of fear

By the time that Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin had held their Yalta Conference in February 1945, Europe was already divided between East and West; Yalta, therefore, was not to blame for the division. On the contrary, it could in theory have reunited Europe, since all three powers had pledged themselves to help any liberated or former Axis satellite state form an interim government broadly representing all democratic elements, followed as soon as possible by free elections. The Western Allies kept their Yalta promise; Stalin did not.

One after another, Stalin subjected all but two of the eastern European countries to a similar takeover process. It was described frankly, in retrospect, in a textbook published between 1948 and 1950 by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia: How Parliament Can Play a Revolutionary Part in the Transition to Socialism and the Role of the Popular Masses. First, communist ministers were imposed upon the existing coalition government, if possible in key posts such as the Ministry of the Interior. Then, the party gradually established or infiltrated power centres outside parliament; for instance, by arming the proletariat, setting up action committees, or expanding the secret police. This would create “a pincer movement operating from above and below.” The end product was an antidemocratic coup; even ifthe bourgeoisie still retained some support in the country, a short period of “people's democratic government” would soon achieve “the disintegration of the political army upon which the bourgeoisie could formerly count.”

The exceptions to this routine were Finland and Yugoslavia, each favoured by geography and supported by a powerful patriotic army. While both, in 1945, acquired left-wing, Marxist governments, both felt strong enough to resist domination by the U.S.S.R. This was not the case in Albania, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia—all of which succumbed to the “pincer movement” or “salami tactics” of the Czechoslovak textbook.

In Albania there was not even a preliminary coalition. At the first postwar elections in December 1945, voters faced a single list of candidates without opposition. Not surprisingly, it won an 86 percent majority. Subsequent referenda, designed to sidestep the high rate of illiteracy, gave voters aball to drop into a “Yes” or a “No” slot. Through the former, it fell silently into a sack; through the latter, it rattled into a can.

In Poland the postwar coalition included a minority of members returned from wartime exile in London, but a majority were their rivals, backed by the U.S.S.R., who held such key positions as the Ministry of Public Security and resorted to censorship, threats, and murder against the bourgeois parties and the press. The eventual election, held under a reign of terror in January 1947, gave a landslide victory to left-wing socialists and communists. Already in the previous September they had agreed with Stalin and Molotov on the composition of the future government.

In Bulgaria's coalition government, formed in 1944, Communists held the ministries of Interior and Justice. Purges, intimidation, and the imprisonment of opposition leaders made the eventual election a mockery. When Georgi Dimitrov (who had been one of the defendants in the GermanReichstag fire trial) became prime minister of a fresh coalition in 1946, his Cabinet included nine Communist ministers, making the coalition a mere façade.

In Romania in 1945, the U.S.S.R. insisted that King Michael, who had set up a coalition government, should accept in it Communist ministers of the Interior and of Justice. In the subsequent 1946 election campaign, the Communists broke up rival meetings, persuaded printers to boycott opposition literature, and imprisoned or killed political opponents.

In Hungary the 1944 coalition included only two communist ministers, and in the 1945 election the moderate-liberal Smallholders' Party led the poll. The communists threatened to quit the government, leaving it as a minority, unless they were given the Ministry of the Interior. They organized demonstrations and insisted on the dismissal of 22 Smallholders' representatives. In December 1946 the communist ministers of Defense and of the Interior made widespread arrests. In August 1947, 35 percent of the electorate still voted for the opposition, closely linked with the Roman Catholic church. However, in 1949, after the arrest and imprisonment of József Cardinal Mindszenty, the government staged a single-list election and claimed 90 percent of the votes.

In Czechoslovakia the 1945 coalition provisional government had Communists at the ministries of the Interior,Education, Agriculture, and Information. In the 1946 election of a Constituent Assembly the Communists and their Social Democratic allies held a slender majority, and for two years the country prospered. But, as the 1948 election approached,the Communists prepared for a takeover. The minister of the Interior dismissed eight non-Communist police commanders in Prague, replacing them with party men. In the ensuing protest in the Cabinet, the non-Marxist ministers resigned, but the Social Democrats unexpectedly remained and kept the government in place. When the ex-ministers tried to return, they were ejected. The Communists, assured of backing by the U.S.S.R., staged strikes, armed workers' rallies, and a violent putsch. Their most illustrious victim wasJan Masaryk, the foreign minister, son of the republic's founder, who died on the night of March 9, 1948. Czechoslovak democracy died with him—and would not be resurrected for 40 years.

With communist ministers in the postwar governments of Belgium, France, and Italy, and with communists fomenting political strikes, some feared similar takeovers in the West. Germany , however, was the scene of the sharpest clash. For several years, by a leapfrog process of move and countermove, the eastern and western occupation zones of Germany had gradually been solidifying into separate entities. When in June 1948 the Western authorities issued a new western deutsche mark, the U.S.S.R. retaliated by imposing a land blockade on Berlin, which was jointly administered by the four occupation powers but was physically an enclave within the Soviet zone. The West responded with a massive 11-month airlift of food, goods, and raw materials. Meanwhile, 12 Western countries—Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States—negotiated and signed on April 4, 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty, agreeing “that an armed attack against one or more of them . . . shall be considered an attack against them all.” Almost immediately,the U.S.S.R. called off the Berlin blockade.

Within a few weeks, Germany was formally divided into two rival republics. The Cold War had reached a climax. Western Europe had drawn even closer to the United States.


Affluence and its underside

The West German currency reform that produced the western deutsche mark was a courageous act. It exchanged one deutsche mark for 10 obsolete reichsmarks; later the rate was slightly reduced. In one respect, the result was similar to that of Weimar's hyperinflation; paper savings were suddenly devalued. This time, however, there was a limit to any losses. What was more, quite small quantities of the new currency would actually buy goods. When Ludwig Erhard, the economic director who had undertaken the reform, also dismantled price and other controls, the scene was set for the so-called Wirtschaftswunder, the German “economic miracle,” fueled by freedom and competition and the energy they released.

By 1950 West Germany's gross national product had caught up with the 1936 figure. Between 1950 and 1955 the nationalincome rose by 12 percent a year, while exports grew even faster. From a small deficit in 1950, gold and foreign currency reserves increased to nearly 13 billion deutsche marks by 1955, while unemployment fell from 2.5 million to 900,000. Per capita income nearly doubled. New homes were built at the rate of 500,000 a year. By 1955 West Germany had more than 100,000 television sets. Bombed cities had been rebuilt. Every other family seemed to possess a Volkswagen “beetle” car.

West Germany's was not the only economic miracle. France, spurred by the bright young graduates of grandes écoles likethe Polytéchnique, was modernizing rapidly—electrifying railways, launching new power projects, discovering natural gas, building nuclear reactors, mechanizing coal mines, and designing the Caravelle jet airplane. In 1948 France's total output had been only just above the 1936 level. By 1955 it was half again as high. Between 1955 and 1958 French productivity increased by 8 percent a year, faster than anywhere else in Europe.

Italy, however, was not to be left behind. With a comparatively low starting point, plentiful labour, and new discoveries of oil and, especially, natural gas, it was able to increase the gross national product by 32.9 percent between 1950 and 1954. In Italian industry between 1950 and 1958, the average annual growth rate was 9 percent. As in West Germany, the transformation was visible: better clothes; smarter shop fronts; higher meat consumption; bicycles replaced by motor scooters and later by small cars.

In Britain, although there was no economic miracle, there were industrial success stories in chemicals, quality cars, nuclear energy, and aviation. It was a British airline that in 1952 inaugurated the world's first purely jet airline service. By the end of the decade, Heathrow in London was the busiest airport in the world.

By 1955 all western European countries were producing more than in the 1930s. Abroad, from 1952 onward, western Europe was earning more than it spent. Between 1950 and 1955, average productivity in Europe increased by 26 percent. Although British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was both misunderstood and mocked when he made the remark, he had some justification for telling an audience on July 20, 1957: “Most of our people have never had it so good.”

The benefits, for ordinary Europeans, took many forms. Therewas easier access to higher education and cheaper mass travel. There was more varied food; there was better health, preserved by better medicine. There were new synthetic materials, more plentiful housing, and wider automobile ownership. There were stereophonic recordings, colour television, high-fidelity audio equipment, and cheap paperback editions of serious books. There were new, more classless eating-houses, pedestrian precincts, supermarkets,and shopping malls. What its critics called “Americanization”had arrived.

But affluence had a downside, in Europe as elsewhere. It often harmed the environment: more cars meant more roads,and more yachts meant more marinas. It multiplied the production of waste, not all of it biodegradable. It sometimes seemed to glorify greed and snobbery, especially when it passed some people by. It troubled the young and the thoughtful: their material needs sated, they might be left asking, “So what?” With money more plentiful, it was easier to be spendthrift. With greater prosperity, drug abuse and alcoholism became more common; so, paradoxically, did hooliganism and casual crime. One of the by-products of the affluent society was self-doubt and self-questioning—the kind of critique of “consumer values” that was voiced by student rebels in and around 1968. It left many Europeans unsure of their deeper objectives and, still more, of their role in a bewildering world.
The reflux of empire

One major change in the world during the decades that followed World War II was the emergence of more than 50 new sovereign states. Essentially, this was the result of decolonization.

Before World War II the countries of western Europe had ruled, controlled, or powerfully influenced vast tracts of territory overseas. The main exceptions were Spain, which had long since lost its empire, and Germany, whose colonies had been confiscated after World War I. Otherwise, Belgium, Britain, France, Italy, The Netherlands, and Portugal remained imperial powers, holding direct or indirect sway over most of Southeast Asia, parts of the West Indies, nearly all of Africa, and much of the Middle East.

Gradually, what had once been colonies, protectorates, or client states won their independence. Some 800 million people were now responsible for their own affairs. Few were richer or more secure. Many retained links with Europe—linguistic, cultural, economic or commercial; many depended on European investment and aid. But they were free of their colonial masters. Painfully, and sometimes violently, the old order had been superseded, and new relationships had to be built.

The Italian colonies in North and East Africa, like the Japanese empire in East Asia, were dismantled fairly quickly.Independence likewise came early to various Middle Eastern countries, although for many years European influence therecontinued. Egypt had become formally independent in 1922, Iraq in 1932, and Lebanon and Syria in 1941. Iran's independence was guaranteed by Britain and the U.S.S.R. in 1942. The year 1946 saw Jordan's independence, and 1948 the proclamation of Israel. Historical ties (including the memory of Hitler's Holocaust), strategic pressures, and the need for Middle Eastern oil kept Europe deeply involved in the area long after most of its countries' formal independence had become much more real. The Suez expedition of 1956 actually brought down a British government; oil price rises in the 1970s caused a European recession; and Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 for a time seemed to threaten the risk of world war.

British and Dutch decolonization in East Asia began in 1947 with the independence of India and the creation of Pakistan. Burma and Ceylon followed in 1948, and the Dutch East Indies in 1949. Malaya's independence was delayed until 1957 by a communist campaign of terror, quelled by both a sophisticated antiguerrilla campaign and a serious effort to win what the British General Sir Gerald Templer called “the hearts and minds of the Malayan people.”

French decolonization proved more troublesome. France hadgiven the name “Indo-China” to a million square miles in Southeast Asia, an area nearly 10 times the size of the mother country, which it had colonized in the 19th century—aunion of settlements and dependencies in Tonkin, Annam, Laos, Cambodia, and Cochinchina around Saigon. As early as1925, the Vietnam Revolutionary Party had been founded to fight for the unity and independence of Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina. In 1945 it proclaimed a democratic republic andfought the French for eight years. Following the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, Vietnam became independent and was partitioned between Hanoi and Saigon.When communist North Vietnam began threatening and attacking the South, the United States was drawn into 10 years of unsuccessful and divisive hostilities, at a heavy cost in human life and political credibility.

France faced similar problems in North Africa. Morocco and Tunisia obtained independence in 1956, but Algeria, legally part of the French republic, aroused far fiercer passions and led to another eight-year war, from 1954 to 1962. Whereas Dien Bien Phu had brought down a French government, the Algerian War caused the downfall of the French Fourth Republic and the accession to power of de Gaulle, who had been in retirement (his second) since 1951. French settlers inAlgeria cheered him when he told them: “I have understood you.” Only later did they realize that his understanding embraced the need to grant Algeria independence and to crush attempted coups on the part of the settlers' right wing.

In sub-Saharan Africa, what Harold Macmillan called “the wind of change” blew less stormily. There were violent incidents and atrocities, as in the former Belgian Congo; and there were tribal and civil wars. Some white settlers hotly resisted decolonization, as in Rhodesia and South Africa. Butby the 1990s only South Africa maintained white supremacy,and even there the apartheid system was being modified. Europeans were aghast at Africa's recurrent famines and concerned at the persistence of apartheid. Yet no aspect of Africa's development seemed likely to affect Europe as deeply as Indochina and Algeria had affected France.

One feature of the postcolonial period, however, was the reflux into Europe of emigrants from the former colonies. Some, civil servants and business people, had little difficultyin settling themselves. Others, with brown or black skin, faced latent racism. In Britain the first such immigrant groups, from the West Indies, were broadly welcomed. But between 1950 and 1957 Britain's immigrant population doubled, to 200,000; and the busy diligence of Indian and Pakistani shopkeepers, though welcomed by many, also aroused envy and hostility, as it had in Uganda, whence some of them had fled. In France, too, there was racial hostility, directed more often against North Africans than against black immigrants. Neither France nor Britain seemed to have studied the careful preparations that The Netherlands had made to meet similar problems with immigrants from East Asia.

In eastern Europe there was also pressure for independence from quasi-colonial rule. Signs of unrest had begun in Poland, where in June and July 1956 strikes and riots in Poznań had ended with the deaths of 53 workers. In October of that year in Hungary, there was a full-scale revolt, finally quelled on November 4 by Soviet tanks. A similar fate ended the “Prague Spring” of 1968 in Czechoslovakia. For a long time, it seemed as if eastern Europe would never be free.

Yet there too the winds of change were blowing. The accession to power of Mikhail S. Gorbachev in 1985 marked areal turning point in the U.S.S.R.: glasnost (“openness”) replaced compulsive secrecy, and attempts at perestroika (“restructuring”) sought to replace with efficiency the dead hand of state control. Already in Poland the workers' leader Lech Wałęsa had rallied supporters round the union banner of Solidarity; in Poland and elsewhere, as the 1980s ended, anew era began. Victims were rehabilitated; oppressive regimes were overthrown; dictators were executed; and freeelections were held. For many, the most moving moment wason the night of Nov. 9–10, 1989, when the Berlin Wall was breached. Erected by the East German authorities in 1961 to prevent their citizens from fleeing to the West, the Wall was a concrete symbol of the division of Berlin, of Germany, and of Europe. Less than a year later, on Oct. 3, 1990, Germany and Berlin were both formally reunited. How long would it be before Europe was reunited too?


Ever closer union?

Discussed by philosophers for centuries, actively promoted from the 1920s onward by Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi's Pan-European Movement, and officially proposed in 1929 by Aristide Briand on behalf of France, the idea of uniting Europe was revived again as World War II approached. In Britain a small private group thatcalled itself Federal Union—in close touch with others at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House)—began to campaign for unity in Europe as a last frail hope of preventing war. Some of the papers produced by its distinguished supporters, including work by Lord Lothian and Lionel Robbins, found their way to another group of activists in the Italian Resistance, led by, among others, Altiero Spinelli. One of the most stubborn of Mussolini's political prisoners, he was freed in 1943 from confinement on an island off the coast between Rome and Naples. Admiring what he called “the clean, precise thinking of the English federalists,” he echoed it in the declaration he drafted for a secret grouping of Resistance leaders from eight other countries, including Germany. Britain thus contributed to Continental developments that British governments shunned for many years.

Support for European unity came from the right as well as the left, from liberals as well as dirigistes, from clerics as well as anticlericals, from “Atlanticists” as well as those whosaw Europe as a “Third Force” between East and West. It even received official support, overt as well as implicit.

In 1939 the British Labour Party leader Clement Attlee declared: “Europe must federate or perish.” In 1940, prompted by Jean Monnet, Churchill's government, in agreement with General de Gaulle, proposed a political union between Britain and France. In 1943 Churchill called for a Council of Europe after the war, and de Gaulle's colleague René Mayer suggested an economic federation. In 1944 the exiled governments of Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg signed the Benelux Convention for a future customs union. Pope Pius XII, meanwhile, had envisaged a close union of European states.

Individual supporters of European unity included not only statesmen such as Paul-Henri Spaak from Belgium, Alcide De Gasperi from Italy, Robert Schuman from France, Johan Willem Beyen from The Netherlands, Konrad Adenauer from Germany, and Joseph Bech from Luxembourg but also such well-known writers as Albert Camus, Raymond Aron, George Orwell, Denis de Rougemont, and Ignazio Silone. All urged, and many helped to organize, what Winston Churchill called in 1946 “a kind of United States of Europe.”

In 1948 a number of activist organizations, coordinated by Joseph Retinger, former assistant to the late General Władysław Sikorski, head of the wartime Polish government-in-exile in London, staged a full-scale Congress of Europe in The Hague, Neth. Attended by 750 statesmen from throughout western Europe, including Spaak, De Gasperi, Churchill, Schuman, Adenauer, and a young French Resistance worker named François Mitterrand, it called for political and economic union, a European Assembly, and a European Court of Human Rights.

Some governments responded sympathetically. The postwarconstitutions of France, West Germany, and Italy all envisaged limiting national sovereignty: the German text specifically looked forward to a united Europe. The British, however, were skeptical; and when in response to proposals by the French foreign minister Georges Bidault (who had attended The Hague Congress) the governments took action,it was of limited scope. In May 1949 they set up the Council of Europe, consisting of a Committee of Ministers and a Consultative Assembly.

To the activists, it was something; but it was not enough. TheCouncil of Europe's main achievement, apart from useful studies and discussions, was to produce the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights (1950), effectively backed by a court and a commission. But the Consultative Assembly was just that: it had no power, and the Committee of Ministers had a veto.

The initiative to go further came from Monnet. His opportunity came when France was at loggerheads with Britain and the United States, both of which sought to removethe postwar restraints preventing German heavy industry from making its full contribution to the prosperity of the West. Monnet proposed to sidestep the dilemma by pooling coal and steel production in western Europe, including West Germany's, under common institutions to replace with a lightand shared rein the heavy control that the International RuhrAuthority had imposed on West Germany alone.

This was the essence of what became the Schuman Plan in 1950 when Robert Schuman, by then the French foreign minister, accepted it after Georges Bidault, the prime minister, had neglected to take it up. Its end product, initially embracing only six nations, was the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community, which began work in 1952.

Monnet and Schuman saw this as only a first step on the way to a European federation. Monnet followed it by proposing to René Pleven a similar solution to the problem of German rearmament: a European Defense Community. When that eventually failed, he proposed to Spaak and Beyen what became in 1958 the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), a similar organization for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The three institutions were ultimately merged to become theEuropean Communities (EC) in 1967. With a Council of Ministers to make essential decisions (if need be by majorityvote), a Commission to propose policy, and a European Parliament and Court of Justice to exert, respectively, legislative and judicial control, the EC had the embryo of a federal constitution, limited to economic and social affairs.

It also had the potential for crises, growth, and enlargement. Its first major crisis, indeed, concerned enlargement, when President de Gaulle vetoed the first British application to join, in 1963. The second crisis, two years later, was also provoked by de Gaulle, who objected to the extension of majority voting.

The EC weathered both crises and proceeded to recruit new members alongside the original six of France, West Germany, Italy, and the three Benelux countries. First came Britain, Ireland, and Denmark, followed by Greece, Spain, andPortugal—with further candidates in the offing, notably Austria, Turkey, and Sweden. The possibility of further extension in eastern Europe was also mooted, despite doubts whether eastern European countries could yet face full EC competition and whether the EC might not be slowed down by too many new recruits.

The EC has developed. Its basic customs union was to be completed by the removal of all nontariff barriers in a “single market” by the end of 1992. It has formed association agreements with the members of the European Free Trade Association (Austria, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Finland, and Iceland), set up alongside the EC by those European countries that failed to join. It has contracted aid and trade arrangements throughout the world, notably with African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries, many of them former colonies of its member states. In trade negotiations, it is big enough to act as an equal partner to the United States. It seeks economic and monetary union, with the possibility of ultimately adopting a single currency. It has set in place machinery for foreign policy coordination called “European Political Co-operation.” It is pledged by treaty to “ever closer union.” Only future generations can decide how close that may become.

The EC was founded in response to a checkered half-century of European history. In 50 years some of the world's most civilized nations had plumbed depths of savagery, folly, tyranny, and genocide that in a work of science fiction would be hard to believe. The time had surely come to learn lessonsfrom the past.

The EC's first and most obvious purpose was to reconcile former enemies and prevent war. This meant not only forging indissoluble bonds between France and Germany butbringing Germany into the Western fold as an equal and not as an inferior, the victim of Versailles-style reprisals. By cementing Western unity, moreover, unilateral national action could be made impossible, eliminating the fear of revanche toward the East. The EC could thus be seen as an element in “confidence building” between East and West.

Its second aim was to avoid the economic errors that Europeans had made in the 1930s, when instead of a global recovery policy they had worsened the crisis by the beggar-my-neighbour tactic of every man for himself. Economic nationalism of that sort had been the breeding ground for dictatorship. After World War II the foundations of a better approach had been laid by the OEEC. The EC went further, by pooling economic resources in a “common market,” making national protectionist measures ever more difficult, and appointing an independent commission responsible for seeing the EC's problems not from separate national viewpoints but collectively, as a whole.

Meanwhile, Europe's world status had drastically changed. Its individual nations, once great powers, were dwarfed—politically and militarily by the United States and the Soviet Union (until its dissolution in 1991–92), numerically by them and by India and China, economically by the United States, Japan, and any new economic powers that might emerge. Europe's empires had been dismantled; and yet, like the rest of the world's rich Northern Hemisphere,it could not shrug off the poor and hungry millions in the South. All the more reason, therefore, for European countriesto come together—not merely to hold their own vis-à-vis political and economic superpowers but also to maximize their power to meet their wider responsibilities in the world.

Finally, 20th-century Europe had witnessed and shared in extraordinarily rapid technological change. Computers, industrial robots, and genetic engineering are only its most obvious recent examples. The splitting of the atom had vastly multiplied humanity's power to destroy itself. Jet aircraft, space travel, and electronic telecommunications had revolutionized the sense of distance and scale. Radio and television, still more than the cinema, had become truly “mass media,” with satellites giving all broadcasts global range.

But economic progress had not kept pace with technology; ina world of potential plenty and well-being, there were still both penury and pollution. Political progress had been slowerstill. International cooperation was increasing, but the basic political unit remained the nation-state. That dated from an age when the fastest means of travel had been a galloping horse. This was why the founders of the EC, as Monnet said, were not concerned to make coalitions of states but to unite people. A united Europe along these lines, with common rules and democratic institutions, was in his eyes a pilot plant for a united world.

Richard J. Mayne
 

 

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