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The United Nations and the Nations Disunited 1943 -1949

united nations

So at last, in the Pacific as in Europe, the guns were silent; the nations that had brought so much death and destruction to the world had been defeated, but victory alone was not enough. Governments had to be set up for the defeated nations, the destruction of war had to be repaired, hungry people had to be fed, industry and commerce had to be set in motion. Even more important, a way had to be found to keep war out of the world, to settle disputes between nations by peaceful means rather than by violence. The League of Nations, which had been set up for such a purpose after World War I, had failed, but the attempt had to be made again, for a third world war might well destroy all of civilization. Even before World War II ended, President Roosevelt had been looking ahead to the future and the United States proposed the establishment of a new international organization. Her wartime allies were quick to agree. Meeting in Moscow in October of 1943, the foreign ministers of the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and China declared: “The four powers recognize the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organization, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security.” Representatives of the same four nations met at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington from August 21 to October 7, 1944, to discuss plans for the new organization. When Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met at Yalta in February of 1945, they agreed that the United Nations Conference on International Organization be held at San Francisco in April. The conference was held as scheduled and it was attended by representatives of fifty nations at …

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Victory in the Pacific 1941 – 1945

pearl harbour

On June 25, 1940, the Japanese war minister said, “The present international situation is developing in a manner advantageous to Japan’s national policy. We should not miss the present opportunity. . . Japan’s national policy was scarcely a secret. It had already linked itself by treaty to the aggressor nations of Germany and Italy – for several years it had been fighting an undeclared war against China. Although Chinese guerrilla forces were fighting back the Japanese controlled most of the Chinese railroads and held such cities as Peiping, Shanghai and Canton. They planned to establish something they called the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” –actually a vast empire that would take in the South Seas as well as East Asia, an empire ruled by the Japanese. In July of 1941, as another step in carrying out their plan, they occupied Indochina. In trying to build up its new empire, however, Japan ran into certain difficulties. The Chinese, led by Chiang K’ai-shek were getting more and more aid from the United States and Britain. Even more important, Japan depended on trade with the United States and Britain for its war materials, especially scrap metal and oil. It was a serious blow when, in 1941, the United States and Britain “froze” all Japanese assets in the two countries, bringing trade to a stop. The Netherlands East Indies, which had been supplying oil to Japan, soon took the same action. In October, General Hideki Tojo became premier of Japan and the militarists were in full control of the government. Tojo sent a special envoy to Washington to negotiate with the United States. Japan demanded, among other things, that the United States stop all aid to China and again trade freely with Japan. The United States insisted that Japan withdraw its forces from China …

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A World at War 1939 – 1941

world war 2

Now the people of Europe began to hear a new sound, a sound that would haunt them throughout the years of war — the wail and shriek of air-raid sirens. At night, the lights of Europe went out and the “blackout” made familiar streets strange places of darkness. Street lamps were left unlit and windows were covered with heavy draperies. Any stray gleam of light might help guide enemy bombers to their targets. Hurrying about their wartime duties, the people of Britain and France began to wonder. They had not wanted war and yet war had come. Why? What had happened? It seemed mysterious and impossible to understand, but as they thought about it, certain things became clear. Some of the problems that led to World War II were left-overs from World War I. Germany and Italy had remained “have-not” nations. They needed more territory for raw materials and more markets for their goods. The Germans felt that the Versailles Treaty was humiliating, unjust and the Allies had done nothing to change it. The League of Nations, especially without the participation of the United States, had been weak and had not carried out its promise of real disarmament. The United States had not wanted to get involved in Europe’s problems and had followed a policy of “isolation.” These were some of the causes of the war; there were others as well. France had suffered greatly in World War I and was afraid of being drawn into another conflict. Her generals had hesitated to send troops against Hitler at a time when it was still possible to stop him and then there was the distrust of the Soviet Union and Communism. Many French and British statesmen, such as Chamberlain, had believed that Fascism would protect Europe against Communism. Unlike Churchill, they …

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Totalitarianism Versus Democracy

totalitarian

AS THE 1930’s drew to a close, only eight countries in Europe, besides Great Britain and France, were still democracies. They were Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Three of Europe’s most important nations were dictatorships. The Soviet Union was communist; Germany and Italy were fascist. There had been dictatorships before, but these went further; they were totalitarian. The word “totalitarian” comes from the word “total,” and total control is what these dictatorships were after — total control of their people, total control of their actions and thought. There were differences between the totalitarian countries. While Stalin exterminated his opponents as ruthlessly as the fascists, he sought to spread his power less by war than by internal revolt. Nor did the Soviets openly preach racial war and genocide. In Germany, however, the Nazis loudly boasted that the Germans were the master race, destined to conquer all other, inferior, peoples. “Today Germany,” they said, “tomorrow the world.” Furthermore, the fascists claimed to be the only ones who could stop Communism and the communists considered the fascists their worst enemies. As a result, the communists in some countries found themselves lined up with the defenders of democracy against fascism. In France they were part of the Popular Front. In the United States they supported Roosevelt and the New Deal. In Spain they fought against Franco side by side with men who believed in democracy, although the communists later betrayed the Spanish democrats. Three ideologies competed for control of the world and as events turned out, one totalitarian nation — the Soviet Union — would finally be forced to stand with the democracies against the totalitarians of Germany, Italy and Japan in the most terrible war in the history of the world.

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Democratic but Divided 1926-1939

fascist

UNLIKE Britain, France was not a highly industrialized country; its economy was fairly evenly divided between industry and farming. For this reason, the depression came to France later than it did to any of the democracies and its effect was less severe, but in no other democracy did communists and fascists play so large a part. For a time there was real danger that the French republic would be overthrown by the fascists and there were riots in the streets. One reason the fascists were so dangerous was that the French people were sharply divided in their political opinions. There were many parties of many political shades. The largest and most important was the Radical Socialist party, which was neither radical nor socialist. The name was something that had been left over from the past. It was a middle-of-the-road party, supported by the middle class and the farmers. To the left of the Radical Socialists were the Socialists, who had considerable strength and the Communists. On the extreme right were the anti-republic parties and the fascists. The most powerful of these was the Croix de Feu, the Cross of Fire. Made up mainly of war veterans, it was led by Colonel Francois de la Rocque and it won the support of a number of industrialists and financiers. Less strong, though still troublesome, were Action Francaise, Camelots du Roi, Solidarité Francaise‚ Jeunesse Patriote and the Cagoulards. Because of the number of parties, it was almost impossible for any one party to win a majority and control the government. France was governed by coalitions, or combinations, of two or more parties, which supported the premier, the head of the government. But disagreements often arose, and the parties were quick to withdraw their support of the premier. Whenever that happened, a new coalition …

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The Meaning of Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism

So it happened that in many parts of the world people were living under a system of government that came to be called totalitarianism. There were differences in the governments of the totalitarian countries, but they were alike in certain important ways. In each of them, the government was controlled by one political party, usually under a dictator and no other political parties were allowed. The ruling party was not satisfied to control the government; its aim was total control of the life of its people. It controlled the courts and the armed forces, labour and industry, science and the arts. In some countries, it controlled religion completely; in others, religious groups were allowed to exist so long as they did not challenge the power of the government. To keep their strict control of the people, the totalitarian governments set up a secret police and totalitarian countries were often called “police states.” The people had no civil liberties and no part in the governing of the country. They had to obey and do as they were told. If they did not, they risked prison, concentration camp, torture and death. As totalitarianism spread widely over the world, men began to wonder what had made it possible. The reasons were not too difficult to find . The end of World War I had left many countries, especially those that had been defeated, divided and disorganized. Their weak governments could not solve the problems that faced them. This gave “strong men” the chance to take over the government. Another important reason was the great depression that began around 1929. Business seemed to come to a standstill. Unsold goods piled up in warehouses, while factories shut down and millions of people were thrown out of work. Hungry people were willing to listen to anyone …

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“My Struggle”

mein kampf

When Hitler was discharged by the army in 1918, he found an altogether different Germany from the one he had known before the war. It was no longer ruled by a kaiser. The Socialists had taken over the government, but the Communists were active and calling for a revolution like that of Russia’s. After some fighting, the government succeeded in putting down the Communists. Their leaders, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, were killed and the communist threat died down, at least for a time. In 1919, after elections, a coalition — a combination of various parties — led by the Socialists, took control of the government. It set up a republic, which was called the “Weimar Republic,” because the government first met in the city of Weimar. A constitution was adopted and it looked as though Germany was on the way to becoming a real democracy. There were too many people in Germany who had no use for democracy. Germany had long been a militaristic nation and the army had had enormous power. Its officers longed to regain that power and they were supported by the judges and officials whom the republic inherited from the old government. The army began to spread the story that it was not to blame for losing the war. Germany should have won and would have won — if it had not been for the Socialists and the other politicians who wanted to set up a republic. They had plotted against the army, they had “stabbed it in the back.” They were responsible for Germany’s defeat‚ for the signing of the harsh Versailles Treaty, for all of Germany’s troubles. The story was not true, but millions of Germans were ready to believe it. Like Hitler, they had been shocked by their country’s surrender and they …

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Revolution in a Beer Hall 1923 – 1924

hitler

ON NOVEMBER 8, 1923, about three thousand men were sitting at the tables of a large beer hall on the outskirts of Munich. They had come this evening not just to drink beer; they were to hear a speech by Gustave von Kahr. He was the head of the government of Bavaria, one of the states of Germany. Conditions had been bad in Germany since the end of World War I and Kahr’s audience was anxious to learn what the government intended to do. Kahr was still speaking when there was a commotion at the back of the ball. Several men had come in and one of them leaped up on a table and fired a pistol into the air. He wore his hair combed down over one eye and had a small moustache that resembled Charlie Chaplin’s. Kahr recognized him. His name was Adolph Hitler. He was the head of a political group, the National Socialist German Workers party, whose members were usually called Nazis. Hitler and his companions pushed their way to the speaker’s platform, where Hitler shouted, “The National Revolution has begun!” The building was surrounded by his brown-shirted storm troopers, their machine guns ready. Soon, he said, the Nazi flag with its black swastika would be flying over Bavaria. Then the Nazis would march on Berlin and take over all of Germany. As it happened, Hitler was a bit too optimistic. He would not take over Germany quite that soon. Forcing Kahr and two other important government officials into a back room, Hitler threatened them with his pistol. He thought he had won them over and could expect their help, but again he was mistaken. In the confusion they managed to slip away and Kahr issued an order dissolving the Nazi party. The next day, disappointed …

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Fascism and Mussolini 1918 – 1936

mussolini

WHILE THE red flag with its emblem of communism — the hammer and sickle — flew over the domes of the Kremlin in Moscow, other new flags were being unfurled in Europe. The end of World War 1 left the leaders of Italy dissatisfied. They had hoped — and expected — to get rich territories as a reward for joining the war on the side of the Allies and fighting against Germany, but when the statesmen of the Allies divided the spoils of war, Italy got practically nothing. The Italian soldiers, returning from the front, found their homecoming anything but sweet. Prices were rising every day. Jobs were scarce and growing scarcer. The government was deeply in debt. Neither the king, little Victor Emmanuel III, nor the parliament, the Chamber of Deputies‚ seemed able to do anything to better conditions. The Socialists pointed out that they had predicted exactly what was happening — and the people listened. Following the example of the Russian Marxists, the Socialists called for action — and the people acted. A great wave of strikes swept the country. Farmers tried to seize land. Crowds of workers tramped through the streets singing “Bandiera Rossa,” a song of the red flag waving triumphantly for socialism and liberty. Communists and anarchists were also busy preaching revolution and for a while it looked as though Italy would go the same way as Russia. In 1920, during August and September, workers took over more than 600 factories. Italians wondered: Was this the revolution? Would Italy soon have a communist dictatorship? When the government agreed to set up factory councils, the workers listened to the more moderate Socialists and gave up the factories. Even so, the aristocrats and landowners and industrialists were worried. They had escaped revolution this time, but it had …

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Stalin Succeeds Lenin 1924 – 1939

stalin

AFTER THE PEACE with Germany, Lenin had hoped for a breathing spell which would give him the chance to build up his backward country. Instead, there had been civil war and it left Russia worse off than ever. Although the government had taken over all the industries, they were producing very little. A way had to be found to give the people the necessities of life, especially food. To do this, Lenin proposed to put into effect something he called the New Economic Policy, soon known as NEP. While large industries would remain in the hands of the state, small businessmen could operate on their own and peasants could sell farm products to the consumer. To many people, including some within his party, this seemed like a return to capitalism. Lenin denied it. He said that NEP was only a temporary measure to allow the country to get back on its feet. Besides, Marxism was not a set of rules to be followed blindly. Marxists must always adapt themselves to the circumstances of life. In spite of the opposition, Lenin succeeded in winning support for his plan and the New Economic Policy was in effect from 1921 to 1928. Food remained an urgent problem. Crops were poor in 1922 and there was famine in the land. Several million persons died of hunger and the number might have been greater if aid had not arrived from the people of the United States. Even so, the New Economic Policy was working out well. Conditions were beginning to improve and in 1923 the Communist party approved the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The U.S.S.R., also known as the Soviet Union, included Russia, the Ukraine, White Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Lenin was in poor health and in 1922, after his …

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