1 C H A P T E R 11 Postwar Settlements and Europe in the 1920s At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 the victorious powers dictated terms to the defeated nations. Russia, in the midst of its civil war, did not participate. U.S. president Woodrow Wilson was a major participant and preached idealistic principles including the rather vague idea of self-determination, which suggested that each nationality should have the right to live under a government of its own choice and, where feasible, geographic boundaries should reflect major national or ethnographic boundaries. Wilson also called for a peace without annexations. But the settlements that ensued were at times at odds with Wilson s rhetoric. Although some nationalities were able to create their own states, many ethnic groups remained minorities, and the Western colonial powers rejected self-determination for Africans, Arabs, and others. Germany and its wartime allies considered the peace terms excessively harsh and resented them. The myriad resentments engendered by the peace treaties heightened international tension in the postwar period. The decade following the Paris Peace Conference was one of economic, social, political, and cultural adjustments to the results of the war and to the Russian revolutions of From 1919 until , instability pervaded Europe and competing political forces struggled against one another. By the middle of the decade, there were indications that a more stable atmosphere was returning, both among European governments and in domestic affairs. Although many politicians and statesmen expressed newfound confidence in the late 1920s, the postwar foundations remained shaky. 154 THE PARIS PEACE CONFERENCE The Paris Peace Conference opened on January 18, 1919, with 27 of the victorious nations represented. It was to be a gathering of only the victors; Germany and other defeated powers were not allowed representation at the conference. Nor was Russia represented; the victors resented the new Bolshevik government, which had made a separate peace with Germany, and a civil war then being waged in Russia provided a pretext for not inviting a Russian delegation to Paris. Originally, the victors made plans to follow the conference with a peace congress that would have included the defeated powers, but this idea was later dropped.
2 Lisbon POR TUGAL A F R I Madrid SPAIN OCEAN ATLANTIC I R I S H Dublin F RE E S T A TE C N ET H. A G E N Rome Kaunas Belgrade HUN NG G A RY RY Budapest Budapest S L OVAKIA Sofia Athens GREECE Mediterranean Sea ALBANIA Tirana B U LG A R I A Bucharest Moscow T U R K E Ankara Black Sea U. S. S. R. Leningrad R O MA N I A POLAND Warsaw EAST PRUSSIA (Ger.) LITH LIT H UAN U A NIA IA Riga LAT LA T VIA V IA ES TO EST O NIA Revel Revel Helsinki A ND FI NL AND YU UG GO OSL SLA AV VIA AU A U STRIA ST R I A Vienna HO Danzig Prague C Z E C M A Berlin R S WE DE N Stockholm I T A L Y SWITZ. Bern LUX. B ELG. FRANCE Paris Brussels London Amsterdam BRITAIN North D EN MA R K Sea Copenhagen GREAT Oslo NOR WAY Y c S ea B a l ti Y Caspian Sea 400 Miles Demilitarized zone Rhineland occupation area Newly independent or reformulated state after World War I Europe in 1925 gof0692x_ch11_ /17/06 15:46 Page 155 CONFIRMING PAGES 155
3 156 Part II The Era of Revolution and War At the Paris Peace Conference: Lloyd George, Orlando (of Italy), Clemenceau, and Wilson. The Supreme Council, which included the heads of state and foreign ministers of the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, made the important decisions at the conference. The dominant figures there were the scholarly U.S. president Woodrow Wilson, the colorful British prime minister David Lloyd George, and the French prime minister Georges Clemenceau, the tiger of France, who was in his late 70s and still a formidable figure. Since the three men had differing priorities, they had to make concessions to each other to obtain some of their objectives. Wilson was primarily concerned with ensuring that agreement would be reached on a covenant for the League of Nations and that, to the extent possible, the peace would be based on his Fourteen Points. Clemenceau s main preoccupation was to ensure that Germany would never again threaten French security. Lloyd George was not as inclined as Clemenceau to be harsh toward the Germans, but he had just been returned to office after his party had promised to hang the kaiser and to squeeze the German lemon until the pips [seeds] squeaked. Through the spring and into the summer of 1919, the conference moved at a rapid but often disorderly pace a riot in a parrot house, as one member of the British delegation described it. The Treaty of Versailles On June 28, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the attending nations signed the Treaty of Versailles with Germany. Germany had protested that the terms were too harsh and not in keeping with Wilson s Fourteen Points, on the basis of which Germany had agreed to lay down its arms. Undoubtedly, the German perception of the treaty was influenced by the fact that almost all
4 Chapter 11 Postwar Settlements and Europe in the 1920s 157 the war had been fought on non-german soil, and to many Germans it seemed more a stalemate than a decisive Allied victory. However, Germany had little choice but to sign. According to the terms of the treaty, Germany lost Alsace-Lorraine to France, several small districts to Belgium, one to Czechoslovakia, and a large portion of eastern Germany to Poland. In addition, plebiscites were to be held in several areas, such as northern Schleswig on the Danish border; Germany eventually lost some of these territories as well. Several German areas, such as the Saar district and the city of Danzig, were to be put under the control of the newly formed League of Nations. The city of Memel was also taken away and eventually ceded to Lithuania. Many of the lost German territories contained only a minority of Germans. In the Saar, Danzig, and Memel, however, Germans predominated. Germany also lost all its overseas colonies, which came under the control of the victors. Despite these losses, Germany s population still outnumbered France s by more than a three-to-two margin and had been growing at a faster rate for some time both causes of alarm in France. According to the treaty, Germany and its allies were guilty of aggression in imposing a war on the Allies. The kaiser was to be tried for offenses against international morality and the sanctity of treaties, and hundreds of German military officers were charged with war crimes. Although no significant individuals came to trial, Germany was assessed reparations to pay for war damages. The exact figure was not settled at the time of the conference, but the Allies stipulated that Germany would make payments totaling the equivalent of $5 billion by At that time the final sum, understood to be much higher, would be announced. Germany also had to observe various strict limitations on its armed forces and weapons. As an additional safeguard for France, Allied forces were to occupy the Rhineland area west of the Rhine and control three of the river s bridgeheads, in both cases for periods ranging from 5 to 15 years. In addition, the Rhineland and a 30-mile zone east of the river were to be permanently demilitarized. Although Germany regarded the Treaty of Versailles as severe, the treaty would have been even harsher if French desires had been fully realized. Concerned for its future security, France had proposed, among other points, that the territory west of the Rhine be made into a separate buffer state under French influence. Wilson, however, reduced France s demands on Germany by agreeing, along with Great Britain, to guarantee France against any future German invasion, a guarantee that never became operative because of the U.S. Senate s later refusal to support Wilson s pledge. GERMAN TERRITORIAL LOSSES REPARATIONS AND OTHER STIPULATIONS Arrangements for the Rest of Europe The Allies at the conference also dictated terms to the other defeated powers: Austria- Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire. All had to pay reparations, limit their armies, and acknowledge the loss of some territory. Punishment for Bulgaria was comparatively light in all these categories, though it did lose its former access to the Aegean Sea. To some extent, drafting treaties for the other defeated nations involved sanctioning the reformation of ethnic groupings that had already occurred in central and eastern Europe. By 1919 little was left of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. Led by the able
5 158 Part II The Era of Revolution and War CZECHOSLOVAKIA, YUGOSLAVIA, AND POLAND SELF-DETERMINATION and respected Thomas Masaryk, the Czechs and Slovaks had appealed to Allied leaders to act on the basis of Wilson s principle of self-determination and recognize the independence of Czechoslovakia. Even before the November 1918 armistice was signed, the Allies had complied, and a separate government was already functioning there. A month before the convening of the Paris Peace Conference, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (or Yugoslavia, as it would later be officially known) had been proclaimed. It included, or soon would include, formerly independent Serbia and Montenegro, combined with the former Austro-Hungarian areas of Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. In addition, Romania had seized the Transylvania region from Hungary. The Poles also gained their independence. Poland had not existed as a nation since it had been divided in the late eighteenth century among Prussia (now part of Germany), Russia, and Austria. Woodrow Wilson s 13th point, proclaimed a full year before the convening of the conference, called for an independent Poland, to include the territories indisputably Polish, with free and secure access to the sea. By the time Allied diplomats assembled in 1919, a Polish republic had been proclaimed, and the Poles had already taken control of Polish segments of Austria-Hungary, as well as Polish-claimed portions of Germany and Russia. The key territory Poland annexed from Germany was the Polish Corridor, primarily peopled by Poles. The corridor, along with Danzing (under the control of the League of Nations), provided Poland with an outlet to the sea and severed East Prussia from the rest of Germany. The final Polish gains at the expense of Austria-Hungary and Russia were not determined until after Polish success in the Russian-Polish War of The Allies ended the union of Austria and Hungary in the Treaty of St. Germain (1919) with Austria and the Treaty of Trianon (1920) with Hungary. Austria and Hungary recognized the losses to Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, and Romania; in addition, Austria recognized the loss of territory to Italy. Fearing the possibility of German dominance over central Europe, the Allies also forbade Austria, now composed of only a German-speaking population, any future union (Anschluss) with Germany. Both Austria and Hungary agreed to reparations payments and to limitations on their armies. In general, the conference delegates claimed to be dividing Austria-Hungary according to the principle of ethnic nationalist self-determination, but this principle was violated in some cases. Earlier bargaining was one reason. The Allies, for example, had made promises to Italy and Romania to bring them into the war. When the boundaries of Italy were drawn through the Alps in accordance with these promises, Italy was given control over several hundred thousand former Austrian Germanspeaking people in South Tyrol and tens of thousands of Slavs in Istria. (When Italy further demanded the Adriatic port of Fiume, also claimed by the Yugoslavs, Wilson refused and Italy stormed out of the Paris Peace Conference.) Romania, too, was granted control over other ethnic groups. In the Transylvanian territory annexed by Romania there were two Magyars (ethnic Hungarians) for every three Romanians. Economic or strategic considerations also came into conflict with a strict application of the principle of ethnic self-determination. Both factors helped persuade Allied statesmen to recognize as part of Czechoslovakia a German-speaking area of the former Austro-Hungarian territory that the Nazis later claimed as the Germanic Sudetenland.
6 Chapter 11 Postwar Settlements and Europe in the 1920s 159 In general, the principle of self-determination was much more complex than it first seemed. It was almost impossible to create a new state composed entirely of just one ethnic nationality. Some ethnic groups in the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes were thought to be too closely intermingled or too small to exist as an independent nation. The new Poland contained not only ethnic Poles but also Ukrainians and Jews (together making up about 24 percent of Poland s population), as well as Belorussians, Germans, and other smaller groups. Thus, some ethnic groups, willingly or unwillingly, became part of a larger state. As already noted, Russia was not invited to the peace conference, and neither the Red Bolsheviks nor the White anti-bolsheviks were officially recognized by any of the Allied powers as the legitimate government of Russia. The fate of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, all parts of the former Russian Empire, was not officially dealt with at the conference. Nevertheless, the conference diplomats were concerned by 1919 with the possible spread of communism. Their favorable treatment of Poland and Romania in part reflected a desire to set up strong bulwarks against communism and to create a cordon sanitaire, or quarantine zone, to keep communism out of central and western Europe. Hence, between 1918 and 1921, European powers supported independence for the four Baltic nations as part of the cordon sanitaire. RUSSIA European Imperialism at the Peace Conference Although President Wilson had called for a peace without annexations, the prewar imperialist drive to acquire new possessions continued at the conference. Great Britain and France, for example, obtained the right to rule as mandates of the League of Nations former German territories in Africa and former Ottoman Turkish lands in the Middle East. (See Chapter 15 and the map in Chapter 4). The new mandates were divided into A, B, and C categories, and as such give a good indication of the cultural imperialism prevailing early in the twentieth century. Set up by the European and U.S. delegations, the classification was based on Western perceptions of the degree of inferiority of particular non-western societies that is, the degree of deviance from Western standards. Type A mandates in the Middle East were considered to be almost ready for independence; Type B mandates, mostly African, were not considered ready for independence for several generations; and Type C, some former German-held islands in the Pacific, were judged unprepared for independence in the foreseeable future. The League of Nations was supposed to safeguard the interests of the peoples in the mandates, but in practice the countries that received the mandates exercised unrestricted authority and treated their mandates like colonies. EUROPEAN REFUGEES, EMIGRANTS, AND MINORITIES Faced with new governments and changing boundaries, several million people left their homes and settled elsewhere. Some left their nation behind, as, for example, the Russians who left the new Soviet state to live in such cities as Berlin, Paris, and Shanghai. Some took up a new life in a nation for which they felt kinship, such as the Germans
7 160 Part II The Era of Revolution and War who moved inside the new borders of Germany from areas that had been part of prewar Germany but were now French or Polish. However, not all minorities were able to move. Between the wars, minority problems, especially in central and eastern Europe, would continue to cause tension. Of particular significance were the German minorities in Poland and especially Czechoslovakia, where more than one out of every five individuals was German. Other notable minorities were the Slavic and German minorities in Italy; the Hungarian (Magyar) minorities in Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia; the Ukrainian and Jewish minorities in Poland; the Ukrainians in Romania; and the Great Russians in Estonia, Latvia, and Romania. Sometimes religious and cultural differences contributed to ethnic tensions. Yugoslavia provides one example. The dominant Serbs were Orthodox, most Croats and Slovenes were Catholic, and many of the people who lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina were Muslim. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim Albanians lived primarily in the Yugoslav area of Kosovo, which bordered Albania. Between the wars, ethnic minorities and the dominant national groups continued to view each other with hostility. In Yugoslavia such hostility led to the killing of a Croatian political leader in 1928 and the assassination of Alexander I, the Serbian king of Yugoslavia, in The separation from their home nation of some members of an ethnic group, such as the Germans of Memel and Danzig, provided a convenient grievance and excuse for one nation to interfere in the affairs of another. UNEMPLOYMENT AND INFLATION ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, AND CULTURAL ADJUSTMENTS One of the greatest problems European governments faced after the war was how to reintegrate millions of returning servicemen into their peacetime economies. Some men were unable to find jobs and became part of a severe unemployment problem in Europe during the postwar decade. After years of combat, many also found it difficult to settle down into a civilian routine. They believed that those who had not been through combat were not in a position to hold themselves up as guides and teachers. Some veterans blamed their elders for the folly of the war, and some, especially in Germany and Italy, objected to the peace settlements. Although many servicemen stayed out of politics or supported traditional political leaders, some of the early followers of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler were fellow veterans. Europeans also found it difficult to adjust to the inflation that had resulted from high government wartime spending, economic disruptions, and some postwar settlements, including the reparations payments imposed on the defeated powers (see Chapter 9). Inflation affected mostly old people on pensions, clerks, civil servants, teachers, and others on fixed incomes. Many of these people had prided themselves on their white-collar, middle-class status and now often saw their wages fall behind those of unionized blue-collar workers, who were in a better position to bargain for salary increases. Many feared that inflation would eat up their savings and that they would be destitute in their old age. Economic insecurities in Italy and Germany, later heightened in Germany by the Great Depression, led white-collar
8 Chapter 11 Postwar Settlements and Europe in the 1920s 161 workers increasingly to doubt that moderate governments could find effective solutions. Fearful that the blue-collar parties of the Left would bring social disorder and loss of their status, many white-collar workers turned to the policies of Mussolini and Hitler. The postwar period saw the gap between the aristocracy and the rest of society decrease. Ever since citizens had been encouraged to make sacrifices during the war, flagrant displays of wealth had gone out of style. The 1917 Marxist revolution had destroyed the aristocracy in Russia, and its status was in decline in Germany and Austria-Hungary with the collapse of the monarchies there. The aristocracy elsewhere in Europe often found its real wealth eroded by taxes and inflation. At the other end of the social scale, the working class and its unions became more respectable. Most wartime governments had realized the need to cooperate with the unions, and this had conferred on the unions a new prestige. Extensive labor unrest immediately followed the war, but by the middle of the 1920s the situation was more stable. In 1924 Great Britain acquired its first Labour government. The growing power of the masses alarmed some European intellectuals. In The Revolt of the Masses (1930), the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset wrote, The mass crushes beneath it everything that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified, and select. Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated. 1 Ortega and many other European intellectuals perceived this phenomenon in everything from political movements such as communism and fascism to mass culture, influenced by America and new technology. To many European thinkers nothing epitomized mass culture better than Hollywood movies, which inundated postwar Europe. In Berlin and Moscow, despite the presence of films by great directors such as Fritz Lang and Sergei Eisenstein, American films featuring such stars as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks were often more popular. Another change stimulated by the war related to women. During the war they had been permitted for the first time to engage in some occupations previously reserved for men, and, with so many men at the front, it had become more acceptable for respectable women to be seen in public without male escorts. Although many women gave up their jobs, willingly or unwillingly, when the veterans returned, and there was some reversion to prewar attitudes toward women, the war nevertheless sparked at least some changes that were more lasting. For example, many women who during the war had become office typists remained on the job. Women also secured the right to vote in a number of nations. Great Britain enfranchised most women over 30 in 1918 (reduced to 21 and over in 1928), and German women got the vote in 1919; in France and southern Europe, however, it would take another generation. During the 1920s it became more common to see women smoking and drinking in public. In addition, Soviet Russia s proclamation of the emancipation and equality of women (see Chapter 10), though far from fulfilled, at least helped challenge more traditional views of gender. CLASSES AND THE MASSES WOMEN 1 The Revolt of the Masses. 25th ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1957), p. 18.
9 162 Part II The Era of Revolution and War CULTURAL DEVELOPMENTS The challenge to traditional views was also apparent in the whole realm of culture. While fighting men were still in the trenches, a group known as dadaists founded an artistic and literary movement in Zurich, Switzerland, that for a short time symbolized disenchantment with all the old values. One of the founders wrote, I loathe fat objectivity and harmony and Logic was always false. After the war, the dadaists returned to Paris and Berlin and resorted to displays such as reading poetry while ringing bells. When their actions created disbelief, they replied that their audiences were not the only ones who did not understand their actions they themselves did not. Dadaism soon gave way to surrealism, an artistic and literary movement begun in France. Influenced by Freud, surrealists expressed the belief that the unconscious world of dreams and fantasies represented a higher, more real, and more significant world than the external one of everyday life. In their writings, paintings, and films, they attempted to portray this unconscious dream world. Although surrealism as a distinct movement ended at the beginning of World War II, surrealist ideas continued to influence writers, artists, and film directors wishing to go beyond traditional realism. Two writers who reflected the 1920s spirit of challenging traditional forms and experimenting with new ones were the Irishman James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, who had moved to Paris from America before World War I. Joyce s Ulysses (1922) was one of the most significant novels of the interwar period. Its stream-of-consciousness technique reflected the author s interest in the subconscious life of his characters. Stein experimented with language that at times seemed as nonsensical as that of dadaism. She was a patron of many artists and writers who made their way to Paris, and her writings were influenced by psychology, art, the new cinema, and her own unconventional personality. From the beginning to the end of the 1920s, European literature mirrored the disillusionment of the decade. The most influential poet of these years was T. S. Eliot, who was born in the United States but lived in England after Although his most celebrated poem of the 1920s, The Waste Land (1922), is complex and contains many layers of meaning, its words reflect well the desolate spirit that affected so many of the writers and artists of the time. It is also noteworthy that much of the literature and art of the period was incomprehensible to the average person, a further indication of the contempt of many intellectuals of the 1920s for the tastes of the masses. CHALLENGES FROM THE LEFT AND RIGHT IN EUROPE With the collapse of the monarchies in Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, champions of democracy hoped that the postwar period might be a golden age. They had been further encouraged by Woodrow Wilson, who had proclaimed in 1917 that the United States would fight for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government. The hope proved to be utopian. Instead, undemocratic movements of the Left and the Right (see glossary), by challenging and at times overcoming fragile democratic institutions, contributed to the instability of the period. The Marxist revolution in Russia, by encouraging extreme leftist attempts to overthrow existing governments, contributed to Red scares in other European nations. Fear of extreme leftist elements, in turn, often played into the hands of right-wing leaders,
10 Chapter 11 Postwar Settlements and Europe in the 1920s 163 who pledged to maintain or restore order. In Barcelona, Spain, in 1923, for example, General Miguel Primo de Rivera crushed a leftist and Catalan separatist rebellion (the separatists in Catalonia had been encouraged by Wilson s call for self-determination) and established a Spanish dictatorship. Three years later, after years of Left-Right conflicts, a Portuguese military group overthrew the legitimate government in Portugal. Fascist Italy The most important and successful right-wing movement of the immediate postwar years was that of the Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini. Before the war, Mussolini had been one of Italy s most prominent socialists and the editor of the official Socialist Party newspaper. In addition to the ideas of Karl Marx, those of Nietzsche also strongly influenced him. To comprehend Nietzsche, he wrote in 1908, we must imagine a new race of free spirits, strengthened in war... spirits endowed with a sort of sublime perversity, spirits that will free us from the love of our neighbor. Such macho statements were typical of Mussolini, who also thought of himself as a virile man (he reportedly had 169 mistresses during his lifetime). He also said that war is to man as maternity is to woman and the Italians must learn to grow less likeable and to become hard, implacable, and full of hatred. Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, Mussolini s call for Italian participation on the side of France and Great Britain led the Italian Socialist Party to expel him. He then became the editor of his own newspaper and continued a campaign for Italian intervention. Soon after Italy entered the war in 1915, Mussolini was sent to the front but did not see combat. After the war, he emerged as the leader of a group whose members soon came to be known as Fascists after they had labeled themselves Fasci di Combattimento, meaning combat groups. A number of factors explain how Mussolini was able to rise from the leader of a small group of malcontents to the legitimate head of the Italian government by late Although Italy possessed a parliamentary system, it did not have a strong democratic tradition. After the war its prime ministers and the Chamber of Deputies had to deal with a number of serious problems, including an inflation rate that by 1920 had reduced the lira to one-fifth of its prewar value. Like other nations, Italy faced the difficulty of reintegrating veterans into its society and economy and of returning to peacetime norms. In addition, the government had to contend with the anger of those disappointed over the failure of Italy to gain more territory from the postwar settlements. Mussolini and his black-shirted Fascists helped to magnify these problems and added others of their own. Aided by the alarm created by strikes and land seizures in 1919 and 1920, Mussolini played on the fears of communism and socialism shared by those afraid of losing their property and by those opposed to Marxist atheism. The Fascists attacked and at times killed their leftist opponents. Semilawlessness soon existed as violence countered violence. Many of the rich and powerful were willing to countenance Fascist brutality in the hope that it would destroy leftist forces. In the face of these difficulties, the various parties in the Chamber of Deputies found it increasingly difficult to work together. Finally, confronted with the threat of Fascist MUSSOLINI BECOMES PRIME MINISTER, 1922
11 164 Part II The Era of Revolution and War A defiant-looking Mussolini with some of his followers before assuming power in bands marching on Rome, Victor Emmanuel III, the constitutional monarch, asked Mussolini to form a new government in Since his party still possessed only a small number of representatives in the Chamber of Deputies, Mussolini s first government included only 4 Fascists among the 14 ministers. Undoubtedly, some Italians hoped that, once saddled with the responsibilities of government, Mussolini and his followers would become more moderate. Mussolini did consolidate his power cautiously, but his goal was still authoritarian government. For a short period, other parties continued to criticize the Fascists. In May 1924, for example, the Socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti stood up in the Chamber of Deputies, amidst flying inkwells and insults, and accused the Fascists of rigging the recent elections and of resorting to murdering their political opponents. When he finished, he said to a colleague, Now you may write the eulogy for my funeral. Eleven days later, he was stabbed to death by a Fascist gang. The public outrage that followed created the most serious crisis Mussolini had yet faced. Once again, however, the other political parties were unable to effectively move against Mussolini, and by 1925 all political parties except the Fascists were outlawed. REASONS FOR INSTABILITY The Weimar Republic and Threats to Its Existence In February 1919 a Constituent Assembly was convened at Weimar, Germany. By July it had adopted a democratic constitution, which remained in effect until Hitler began circumventing it in Both before and after adoption of the constitution, political conditions remained in a state of flux. Political instability was partly a result of
12 Chapter 11 Postwar Settlements and Europe in the 1920s 165 the Weimar system of representation: Parties in the Reichstag (lower house of parliament) received seats in proportion to the votes each had gained in general elections. This system virtually ensured a multiplicity of parties and made coalition governments almost inevitable. As was often the case in other European nations with similar systems, Weimar coalition governments disintegrated quickly. The moderate Socialist Friedrich Ebert was president from 1919 until 1925, but cabinets under several chancellors changed on the average of once a year. Stability was also difficult to achieve in Germany because of Germans resentment of the terms of the Versailles treaty. The Right, as well as many politically moderate Germans, believed their nation had not really been defeated but in fact had been tricked by the Allies or betrayed by their own leaders. Extreme right-wing enemies of the republic insisted that the military had been betrayed in World War I by some of the same politicians who now supported the new form of government, and these extremists insisted that the Versailles treaty could have been resisted by again taking up arms. Partly in an effort to discredit further attacks from the Right, but also because most Germans were indignant regarding the treaty, many German politicians did their best to prevent its full enforcement. This undermining of the treaty fueled continual tensions with the Versailles winners, which in turn further contributed to the unsettled conditions in Germany, especially before Instability also resulted from the lack of any strong tradition of democracy and because parties on the extreme Right and Left opposed both the leadership of various moderate coalitions and the Weimar constitution itself. In January 1919 disturbances involving leftists broke out in Berlin, after which two leading German Communists, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were murdered. Later in 1919, Communists briefly established a government in Bavaria until German regular troops and Freikorps (free corps) volunteers ended the takeover. In 1920 German leftist forces were put down in the Ruhr mining districts. The far Right also attempted coups. In March 1920 Berlin was taken over for several days by rightist military forces during the Kapp Putsch. The putsch failed when the Socialist Party and trade unions began a general strike. In 1923 in Munich, the former army corporal Adolf Hitler unsuccessfully attempted to topple both the local Bavarian and the German Republic governments. Although not as clearly on the Right as he would later become, he was certainly strongly opposed to Communists and the far Left. Born in 1889, the son of a minor Austrian customs official, he failed to graduate from high school and went to Vienna hoping to enter art school. He was unsuccessful, but he remained in the Austro-Hungarian capital, living an impoverished life as a creator of advertising cards and small paintings. In 1913 he left Vienna for Munich, Germany. When World War I broke out, he enlisted in the German army and was several times wounded and decorated for bravery. After the war, Hitler became involved with a small, rather insignificant nationalistic political group in Munich that called itself the German Workers Party. Within a couple of years he became its Führer, or leader. After leading the unsuccessful Beer-Hall Putsch in Munich in 1923, he spent nine months in prison. He used the time to write Mein Kampf (My Struggle), a work he originally wished to call Four and HITLER AND THE NAZIS
13 166 Part II The Era of Revolution and War a Half Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice. In it he spelled out his nationalism, anti-semitism, and racism. After his release from prison he continued to build up his party, by then called the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party. In the late 1920s, however, it did not seem to be a major threat because political conditions appeared more stable. In the 1928 Reichstag elections, the Nazis, then a party of some 108,000 paid members, won only about 3 percent of the total vote. But by 1930 the onset of the Great Depression and continued national resentment over the Versailles treaty brought about impressive Nazi gains in the Reichstag elections; the Nazis gained 18 percent of the vote and became the second-largest party in that body. Eastern Europe In eastern Europe, with its plethora of new states and ethnic rivalries and grievances, democracy was also on unsettled soil. Two basic economic difficulties further contributed to the region s problems: rural overpopulation and small markets for exports, a problem exacerbated by rising foreign tariffs. In 1919, Communists briefly established a government in Hungary until Romanian troops helped to oust it. A nondemocratic right-wing government under Admiral N. Horthy took its place, and right-wing forces remained in power in Hungary throughout the interwar period. In Poland, another military man, Marshal Józef Pilsudski, curtailed his country s experiment in democracy when he took over power in 1926 and ruled, formally or informally, until his death in In Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia earlier attempts at more democratic rule were abandoned, and authoritarian monarchical governments were in place by the end of the decade. Among the larger eastern European states, Czechoslovakia, under President Masaryk, adapted best to democracy, but its large German minority would become a major problem when Hitler attempted to unite all Germans in the late 1930s. CONFLICT IN IRELAND THE UNITED KINGDOM AND FRANCE The biggest problem facing the United Kingdom (Great Britain and Ireland) at the end of World War I was the Irish quest for independence. The Catholic Irish majority on the island had long regarded the Protestant British rulers and Scots-Irish minority as exploiters and religious enemies. The Irish had already been agitating for the right to run their own internal affairs (Home Rule) for about 50 years. A Home Rule bill was enacted in 1914, but because of the outbreak of the war and resistance among Protestants in northern Ireland, the British government decided not to put it into effect until the hostilities ended. After the British government executed 14 ringleaders in 1916 for attempting an uprising, the radical Sinn Fein Party, with Eamon De Valera at its head, became more popular among the Irish. In December 1918 the Sinn Fein Party won a smashing victory in the election of Irish members to the British Parliament. The next month, its leaders organized an Irish parliament of their own and declared their independence from Great
14 Chapter 11 Postwar Settlements and Europe in the 1920s 167 Britain. The British, supported by the Protestants, sent in forces to crush the rebels. A vicious cycle of violent actions, marked by bombs, arson, and torture, followed. In December 1921 the British government and rebel leaders signed a treaty that recognized the Irish Free State, a self-governing dominion comprising most of Ireland. Much of Ulster in the north, where the Protestants were dominant, remained a part of Great Britain. The trouble was still not over. Some of the Irish nationalists, led by De Valera, were not willing to write off Northern Ireland or accept anything other than complete independence and thus continued to wage an unsuccessful civil war until De Valera s arrest in De Valera later returned and became the outstanding figure in Irish politics for decades. After World War II, the Republic of Ireland declared its complete independence. Northern Ireland, with its Protestant majority, continued to be united with Great Britain. The Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, however, opposed the union with Great Britain and wanted to be incorporated into the Republic of Ireland. The Irish question remained unanswered. In Great Britain itself Liberals and Conservatives dominated the political process until late 1923, when a split in the Liberal Party enabled the Labour Party to become the second largest in the country. The following year Britain s first Labour government came to power, under Ramsay MacDonald, but it was soundly defeated in a general election later that year. A forged letter, supposedly from the Soviet Comintern leader (G. Zinoviev), that encouraged the British to revolt against their government aided the Conservative victory. The party s leader, Stanley Baldwin, remained in power for the next five years. Baldwin prided himself on being a plain and ordinary man, full of common sense. Under the Conservatives, the British appeared to be returning to happier times; the general standard of living went up, and the state provided even more benefits for the old, widowed, orphaned, and unemployed. But Britain s economic foundation was weak. Basic industries such as iron and steel, coal, cotton, and shipbuilding were declining as a result of a combination of foreign competition, outdated business practices and technology, and legislation that prohibited general strikes and hampered the unionization of civil servants. In France, with its many political parties and coalition governments, politics was less stable. After Edouard Herriot, the leader of the Radical Socialist Party, had governed for 10 months in , six successive governments followed each other in the period from April 1925 to July 1926, most of them brought down when they failed to deal with inflation. Only in July 1926, when Raymond Poincaré became prime minister of a broad-based National Union Coalition, was inflation brought under control. Poincaré s government lasted three years, a long time in French politics, and was instrumental in bringing to France a measure of the calm that characterized the last part of the decade. Unfortunately for France, fundamental problems remained. The temporary equilibrium was largely a result of Poincaré s leadership rather than of change in the basically rickety French political system. In addition, French industry could not successfully compete with German industry, and both its industry and its agriculture remained inefficient compared to those of the United States. BRITISH POLITICS AND ECONOMICS FRENCH POLITICS AND ECONOMICS
15 168 Part II The Era of Revolution and War FRANCE S SEARCH FOR SECURITY AND EUROPE S INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS FRENCH-GERMAN RELATIONS IN THE EARLY 1920s WASHINGTON NAVAL CONFERENCE In international affairs, France s search for security was significant. France had fought two wars with Germany in 50 years and had twice seen German soldiers occupy its lands. The cost in lives and economic damage had been great. Yet Germany, despite its defeat in World War I, remained a potentially stronger nation, with a population considerably larger than that of France. Growing British and French differences over treatment of Germany, as well as other international issues, left the French in an especially difficult position. Great Britain s pledge to support France if Germany attacked in the future had lapsed when the United States had failed to ratify a similar commitment. Great Britain feared German resurgence less than France did and seemed more concerned with restoring prewar trade with Germany. Britain therefore was more willing than France to moderate the level of German reparations payments. Neither the League of Nations, dominated by the Europeans but with no real power, nor subsequent treaties signed with eastern European nations offered much reassurance to French anxieties concerning German revitalization. Meanwhile, France became increasingly frustrated by German attempts to evade the Versailles treaty. Because of opposition to the treaty at home, and because German statesmen also sensed a lack of Allied unity, Germany had no reservations about trying to subvert it. Germany attempted to evade full compliance with disarmament provisions, failed to comply with some boundary commission decisions, and failed to meet many of its reparations payments on schedule. In 1922, Germany s Rapallo Agreement with Russia, which reduced Germany s diplomatic isolation, caused further French fears. Against the background of these events, and because of the insistence of the United States that Allied nations repay large wartime loans, France, Belgium, and Italy occupied the Ruhr industrial region in early 1923 when Germany failed to meet a reparations obligation. The Germans in the Ruhr responded with passive resistance, which inadvertently contributed to the already unstable German currency. As the economy faltered and inflation skyrocketed paying a billion marks for a restaurant meal was not unusual the Allies held firm, and the German government of Wilhelm Cuno collapsed. The French encouraged separatist movements in the occupied territories, and the Soviet-dominated Comintern helped stir up unrest in central Germany. France s insecurity and Germany s political and economic weakness were a few indications that Europe s global position had weakened during the war. A series of international naval treaties provided further evidence. The major naval powers feared that a new naval shipbuilding race would escalate tensions and increase expenses. In particular, many nations were concerned about the aggressive actions of Japan. The United States invited delegates from eight other nations to attend a conference in Washington, and during 1921 and 1922 several agreements were worked out. One agreement was the Five-Power Naval Treaty, which provided for scrapping 70 ships, a 10-year moratorium on new construction of capital ships, and a global tonnage ratio
16 Chapter 11 Postwar Settlements and Europe in the 1920s 169 for capital ships (United States, 5; Great Britain, 5; Japan, 3; France, 1.75; and Italy, 1.75). The treaty also provided for a cessation of further naval fortifications in most of the Pacific area. Another agreement, the Four-Power Treaty, ended the Anglo- Japanese Alliance and replaced it with an agreement among the United States, Great Britain, Japan, and France for mutual consultation in case of threats to the security of any territories belonging to any of them. The Nine-Power Treaty provided for continuation of the Open Door policy and preservation of China s sovereignty but continued the unequal treaties of the imperialist era. In addition, Japan agreed to make a compensated, gradual withdrawal from the Shantung Peninsula in China and also to remove its troops from Siberia. The agreements made in Washington in effect recognized that World War I had weakened the global power of Europe and augmented the military strength of the United States and Japan. In particular, in return for curbing aggressive tendencies on the Asian mainland, Japan gained de facto recognition as the dominant naval power in Asian waters. By , however, Europe was at least more stable than in the immediate postwar years. The conflicts in Ireland and Russia were now over, and the Soviet Union, in the midst of its New Economic Policy, seemed less threatening than it had earlier. In 1924 Britain, France, and Italy established official diplomatic relations with it. In Germany, Chancellor Gustav Stresemann not only helped stabilize the currency but also instituted a foreign policy that appeared to be more accommodating than that of his predecessors. After being replaced as chancellor in November 1923 after only 100 days he remained in various cabinets as foreign minister until his death in Stresemann helped Germany to improve relations with the former Allies and to scale down reparations payments. The latter accomplishment was aided by the Dawes Plan of 1924, which also provided for U.S. loans, and the Young Plan of For many, the Locarno treaties of 1925 represented the greatest sign of hope for a more tranquil era. The most important of these treaties confirmed the existing Franco-German and Belgian-German frontiers and was guaranteed by Great Britain and Italy. Germany, France, Belgium, Poland, and Czechoslovakia also signed a series of agreements promising to submit any conflict to arbitration. Finally, France signed treaties with Poland and Czechoslovakia providing for mutual assistance in case of a German attack. Although it might appear that the treaties signified no great gain for Germany, the rewards were significant. As the price for apparent German willingness to accept the western frontier imposed on it by the Versailles treaty, France agreed to give way on a number of points that considerably weakened its powers of coercion over Germany. The right of the Allies to ensure Germany s compliance with the disarmament provisions of Versailles now became almost meaningless. The evacuation of part of the Rhineland, which was scheduled to occur in 1925, went forward. Germany was also to join the League of Nations and to be given a permanent seat on its Council. Finally, it was significant that Germany refused at Locarno to confirm its eastern borders, a situation that increased the fears of Czechoslovakia and Poland and helped drive them into the arms of the French. LOCARNO TREATIES
17 170 Part II The Era of Revolution and War ILLUSORY STABILITY In 1926 Stresemann and the French and British foreign ministers, Aristide Briand and Austen Chamberlain, were all awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for their Locarno efforts. Europeans talked of the new spirit of conciliation in the air. This spirit of Locarno was further evidenced in 1928 when U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg joined Briand in creating the Kellogg-Briand Pact, in which 64 nations renounced war as an instrument of national policy. Paradoxically, the same nations reiterated their right to take up arms in self-defense. Despite all these agreements, international stability proved illusory. Europe s economic recovery had in general been sluggish. Germany s economy and reparations payments depended partly on U.S. loans. Thus, a serious curtailment of the U.S. loans could have a ripple effect on Germany and the European Allies. Between a Germany bent on revision of the Treaty of Versailles and a France attempting to maintain its security, the potential for serious conflict remained. Germany s unwillingness at Locarno to agree that its eastern frontiers were permanent was also an ill omen. In addition, the Washington Naval Conference agreements included no guarantee that the signatories would continue to honor them once they no longer felt it was in their interest to do so. The Kellogg-Briand Pact contained no provisions for dealing with aggression. In fact, it was little more than a pious wish, an international kiss, in the words of one U.S. senator. Attempts in the late 1920s and early 1930s to deal with concrete issues of aggression and disarmament also proved fruitless. SUMMARY The postwar settlements pleased some nations, angered others, and left still others with decidedly mixed feelings. The new nations of eastern Europe Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia gained the most from the conflict: their independence. The defeated nations, particularly Germany, which faced various territorial losses, the payment of reparations, and other stipulations such as occupation of the Rhineland, were the most dissatisfied. The immediate postwar years presented Europe with problems in addition to its weakened global position. It had to deal with refugees, emigrants, minorities, the reintegration of soldiers into a peacetime economy, reparations, the repayment of loans, unemployment, inflation, social and cultural adjustments, armed conflict in Russia and Ireland, and challenges from the Left and the Right to fragile democratic governments. For the time being, some governments were able to withstand the pressure, but others were not; the most notable case was that of Italy, where Mussolini came to power in By the middle and latter part of the decade, most of the major powers appeared to be less troubled, as their economies apparently recovered. Agreements such as the Washington Naval Conference treaties, the Locarno treaties, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact all promised greater international equilibrium. Governments also seemed more stable. Stresemann remained Germany s foreign minister from 1923 to 1929, Baldwin was prime minister in Great Britain from 1924 to 1929, and Poincaré was prime minister in France from 1926 to 1929.
18 Chapter 11 Postwar Settlements and Europe in the 1920s 171 Underneath the apparent stabilizing developments of the late 1920s, however, there were problems. The economic underpinnings of many nations remained weak, and in Europe allegiance to democratic political forms was tentative. German resentment toward the Allies also was never far below the surface. All the international agreements in turn depended largely on the domestic stability and prosperity of the signatories, as well as continuing successful diplomacy. Beginning in 1929 and continuing into the 1930s, these problems manifested themselves in depression, aggression, and, finally, total war. The French writer Romain Rolland was more prophetic than he knew when on June 23, 1919, he wrote, Sad peace! Laughable interlude between the massacres of peoples! SUGGESTED SOURCES Berend, Ivan T. Decades of Crisis: Central and Eastern Europe before World War II Pts. 1 and 2. Good overview of various aspects of the region up to the Great Depression.* Bessel, Richard. Germany after the First World War An excellent work by a leading scholar on the aftereffects of World War I for Weimar Germany.* Boemeke, Manfred F., Gerald D. Feldman, and Elisabeth Glaser-Schmidt, eds. The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years Twenty-six essays by a group of international scholars provide a comprehensive reexamination of various aspects of the end of the war, the Paris Peace Conference, and the Treaty of Versailles. Bosworth, R. J. B. Mussolini The best English-language biography.* The Conformist A Bertolucci film set in Mussolini s Italy. (Also available on video.) Evans, Richard J. The Coming of the Third Reich Chaps The first of three projected volumes, this volume covers the period up to and including Hitler s assumption and solidifying of power in 1933.* Graves, Robert, and Alan Hodge. The Long Week-End An interesting portrayal of British life and customs in the interwar period.* Klingaman, William K. 1919: The Year Our World Began A vivid political, social, and cultural narrative of the world s main events and personalities in 1919.* Kolb, Eberhard. The Weimar Republic A good overview by a German scholar.* MacMillan, Margaret. Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World A detailed analysis and overview that actually deals with diplomatic history from 1918 to 1923 and asserts that the peacemakers in Paris did a better job than sometimes acknowledged.* Marks, Sally. The Illusion of Peace: International Relations in Europe, nd ed A solid historical overview of European international relations in an era of shifting power alliances.* Nicolson, Harold. Peacemaking, The highly personal memoirs of a British participant.* O Flaherty, Liam. The Informer A classic novel dealing with the Irish civil war.* (Also an award-winning film directed by John Ford.) Passmore, Kevin, ed. Women, Gender, Fascism in Europe, A book of essays dealing with women and fascism in numerous countries.* Sharp, Alan. The Versailles Settlement: Peacemaking in Paris, A brief account that takes a multinational approach to the Paris, Peace Conference.* Shirer, William L. 20th Century Journey More than 300 pages are devoted to the 1920s in this U.S. journalist s account of experiences in the United States and in Paris, London, and other European cities.* Silone, Ignazio. Fontamara A leading Italian novelist s depiction of conflict in the 1920s between the village of Fontamara and Mussolini s Fascists.*
19 172 Part II The Era of Revolution and War Steiner, Zara. The Lights That Failed: European International History, A comprehensive look at European interwar developments and relations in the pre-nazi period. Walworth, Arthur. Wilson and His Peacemakers A first-rate, comprehensive narrative history of Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference. Willett, John. Art and Politics in the Weimar Period: The New Sobriety, An excellent overview of the dynamic world of Weimar arts and politics, with numerous photos and illustrations.* Wright, Jonathan. Gustav Stresemann: Weimar s Greatest Statesman An excellent biography of Germany s leading statesman of the 1920s by an English scholar.* WEB SOURCES This Yale Law School site (The Avalon Project) provides the text of the Treaty of Versailles. This Fordham site provides links to materials on fascism in Europe. *Paperback available.