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Western Democracies Stumble
Transcript of Western Democracies Stumble
The Politics of the Postwar World
Following the death of almost an entire generation of future leaders, Britain, France (and even the United States in some cases) struggled, even with the Paris Peace Conference benefitting all three)
The Party Struggles in Britain
Even though the war was seen as a win for Democracy in Britain, post-war a new political party, the Labour Party, gained power pushing for more socialist ideas in an economy that veterans struggled to find work.
The Liberal Party
The previous ruling party, the Liberal Party, failed to thrive in a postwar society since they represented the interests of middle-class business. In 1926, nearly three million workers went on strike, leading a Conservative Party to pass legislation LIMITING the power of workers.
Following the war, Britain still suffered issues with the Irish fighting for inde-pendence. The IRA (Irish Republican Army) launched guerrilla attacks on Britain. In 1922, the two reached an agree-ment, offering freedom to the Irish Free State but kept control of the Protestant North
France's Troubled Peace
France suffered a similar fate as Britain in entering the war "winners" but the economy coming out as losers. Several parties, from Conservatives to Communists, brought France nearly to war within themselves in how to best repair the war-torn economy.
Isolation in the US
Unlike the other Allied Powers, the US left the war in relative good shape since they lost very little. However, fear of the Bolsheviks rising to power in Russia caused the "Red Scare" in the US. The police rounded us suspected "communists" and the US limited immigration causing an isolation.
Postwar Foriegn Policy
In addition to problems at home, the three democracies faced a difficult international situation. The peace settlements caused friction, especially in Germany and among some ethnic groups in Eastern Europe.
France's number one concern post war was to build defenses and weaken Germany to avoid ever having another attack on their soil (which failed since the most bloody day in modern war history took place on French shores). France built strong fortifications: the Maginot Line.
Military and Alliances
France also sought alliances with other foriegn countries to prepare for another German attack. This included teaming up with Stalin's Soviet Union and building a military. Britain disagreed on this end because they believed France and the USSR would grow too powerful
The Search for Peace
The Kellog-Brand Pact
The League of Nations Grows
The U.S. drafted up this pact with all League of Nations countries signing to agree to "renounce war as an instrument of national policy." The Allied Powers signed a "disarmement" agreement to weaken their navies to show good faith in this pact but nothing was done about their armies.
The League met in Geneva Switzerland to make a further commitment to end aggression following WWI. The League even allowed Germany and the Soviet Union to enter in the league, though Germany's economy still struggle under the weight of the reparations they were ordered to pay.
The League's Weakness
Though the Kellog-Brand pact was an agreement to end aggressions from League of Nations countries, there was no way to enforce this agreement. The league condemned Japan's invasion of Manchuria but never rose a military to defend against Japan's aggression.
The war affected economies all over the world, both helping some and hurting others. Britain and France both owed huge war debts to the U.S.. Both relied on reparation payments from Germany to pay back money owed. Meanwhile, these reparations crushed Germany.
Britain and France Recover
A Shaky Recovery
Britain's economy struggled for several reasons following the war. For one, they were deeply in debt. They also had outdated factories and low wages, leading to a general strike in 1926.
France's economy righted itself quicker but the drastic swing led to more upheaval.
Despite these problems, Europe made a shaky recovery during the 1920s. Economics returned to peacetime manufacturing and trade. Veterans gradually found jobs, although unemployment never ceased to be a problem. Middle-class families enjoyed a rising standard of living.
The United States Booms
In contrast, the United States emerged from the war as the world's leading economic power. Capitalism added the US in loaning and investing in European regrowth, allowing them to buy in low as their Allies rebuilt their economies.
The Great Depression
This prosperity did not last. At the end of the 1920s, an economic crisis began in the United States and spread to the rest of world, leaving almost no corner untouched.
Falling Demand and Overproduction
Capitalism did not help everyone in the U.S. Farmers and unskilled workers did not get the wealth gained by overseas investments. Because the need for goods skyrocketed during the war, it fell drastically after the war and raw supplies were no longer bought at the same rate it was before.
As technology increased, so too did production. This led to overproduction, a process in which more goods were made than were being sold. As factories cut back the amount of goods made, more unskilled workers were laid off.
Crash and Collapse
Wall Street Falls Apart
Because of the rapid growth of investments, more and more investors were taking unnecessary risks in the stock market. As Wall Street prices reached an all time high, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates to slow the amount of investments... it didn't work.
Fear Sets in at the Stock Exchange
As investors started to see the writing on the wall for the Great Depression, many people sold stocks all at once causing a giant spike in stocks worth. Panic set in and the Great Depression officially began. Businesses folded without investors, banks failed and millions were left jobless.
The Depression Spreads
The US started to call in their debts from overseas leading to... you guessed it... more pressure on Germany as Britain and France lost their bankrolls. The US raised taxes on oversea goods causing more tensions growing amongst other countries that in turn raised tariffs on US goods as well.
The Democracies React to the Depression
The governments of Britain, France, and the United States, like others around the world, tried to find ways to lift the Depression. None of their methods provided a quick fix, but they did alleviate some of the suffering.
Britain, France and USA
Britain and France Search for Solutions
Britain created a new "coalition" government with leaders from all three major parties but failed to save the economy. In 1931, 1/4 workers was unemployed.
France briefly turned to a Socialist leader but it did not satisfy the starving/un-employed. Democracy barely survived.
Roosevelt's New Deal
President Hoover decided that the government could not interfere with private business and the US struggled. When FDR was elected, he started the "New Deal," a massive package social and economic programs.
The New Deal
The New Deal allowed for government regulations of banks and the stock market. The New Deal also created jobs and aid for farmers to get back to work. The New Deal also started social security which provided for the elderly with pension benefits.
The New Deal Fails
Though the New Deal took a lot of the pressure off of the American economy, a natural disaster made sure to keep the country in a depression. A drought combined with massive winds created The Dust Bowl causing thousands of farmers to lose their land.
Loss of Faith in Democracy
Postwar disillusionment combined with depressions throughout the world caused many countries to lose faith in democracies for providing for their countries. While Britain, France and the USA remained democracies, other countries sought more radical changes.