The In­ter­bel­lum

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of these ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Now that US Iso­la­tion­ism is once again on the cards it is per­haps per­ti­nent to re­view that last time Amer­ica re­treated into its shell. Af­ter 1919, Ger­mans over the age of 20 were given the vote. The Ger­man Bank was re­formed and the pe­riod be­tween 1923 and 1929 saw the Ger­man econ­omy and its cul­tural life boom. Coun­tries that signed the peace treaties at Ver­sailles agreed to set up the League of Na­tions to set­tle any fu­ture dis­putes by ar­bi­tra­tion. The League had no armed forces to com­pel com­pli­ance, but it could en­force eco­nomic sanc­tions. The League was weak­ened when the USA and Rus­sia re­fused to join; later Ja­pan, Italy and Ger­many all pulled out. The Ital­ian in­va­sion of Ethiopia, both then mem­bers of the League, in 1935 showed the League to be pow­er­less to in­ter­vene in armed con­flicts.

Amer­ica turned its back on the world. Dur­ing the 1920s the Amer­i­can econ­omy boomed un­til the Great De­pres­sion of 1928. Prices of grain and other agri­cul­tural pro­duce fell glob­ally, fol­lowed by fi­nan­cial col­lapse as Wall Street spec­u­la­tors sold their stocks in panic. Money dried up, ex­ports de­clined sharply, peo­ple stopped spend­ing, and the world's econ­omy ground to a halt. In Ger­many, which re­lied on Amer­i­can fi­nan­cial loans, com­pa­nies went bank­rupt and mil­lions of work­ers were laid off. In des­per­a­tion, vot­ers turned to the ex­treme Nazi and Com­mu­nist Par­ties.

In 1917, the Tsar was over­thrown. The Bol­she­viks, led by Lenin, seized all pri­vate prop­erty and cre­ated the world's first Com­mu­nist state, the Union of Soviet So­cial­ist Re­publics. In 1924, af­ter Lenin's death, Stalin took over. He was ruth­less, tor­tur­ing, killing and send­ing many to work in the slave camps of the Gu­lag. In 1922, Mus­solini, the dic­ta­to­rial leader of the Ital­ian Na­tional Fas­cist party, crushed all op­po­si­tion. Un­like Bri­tain or France, Italy had a small em­pire: So­ma­lia, Eritrea, and Libya. Italy formed al­liances with Nazi Ger­many and Ja­pan. Its forces over­ran Ethiopia (Abyssinia) and seized Al­ba­nia. Ja­pan too had emerged on the win­ning side of WWI but it also wanted more ter­ri­tory. The mil­i­tary grad­u­ally took con­trol of the gov­ern­ment. Ja­pan al­ready con­trolled Korea and Tai­wan. In 1937 she at­tacked the rest of China. The Civil War in Spain be­came a bat­tle­ground of ideas for the whole of Europe. Soviet Rus­sia sup­ported the repub­lic; Ger­many and Italy sup­ported the na­tion­al­ist rebels led by Gen­eral Franco. Spain re­mained neu­tral through­out World War II, but re­mained un­der Franco's dic­ta­to­rial con­trol un­til his death in 1975.

In Ger­many, the Nazi leader, Hitler, whose party won the elec­tions to the Re­ich­stag with­out its own ma­jor­ity, was ap­pointed Chan­cel­lor. The Com­mu­nists were blamed for burn­ing the Re­ich­stag and thou­sands were ar­rested. Hitler passed laws with­out the ap­proval of Par­lia­ment, ban­ning all other po­lit­i­cal par­ties. All peo­ples the Nazis con­sid­ered to be in­fe­rior to the Aryan race were to be ex­ter­mi­nated or ex­pelled. Re-armed Ger­man troops oc­cu­pied the Rhineland. Hitler de­manded that the bor­der re­gion of Cze­choslo­vakia be­come part of Ger­many. The Bri­tish, French and Ital­ian gov­ern­ments agreed to this against the wishes of Cze­choslo­vakia. The Bri­tish prime min­is­ter, de­clared “peace in our time.” In 1939 Ger­man troops oc­cu­pied the rest of Cze­choslo­vakia. Bri­tain and France pledged to de­fend Poland. On 1st Septem­ber Ger­many in­vaded west­ern Poland. Two days later, Bri­tain and France de­clared war.

There is ev­ery rea­son to fear the tsunami of right-wing ex­trem­ism that is swamp­ing the world. His­tory does re­peat it­self.

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