USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

Europe's Political Culture in the 1920s: A General View

By now, we have a basic idea of the political culture in Europe in the 1920s – with the exception of the two western powers, England and France, both of which remained relatively stable during these years. Let’s sum up some of the main points. 1) New state boundaries fueled old tensions and created new ones. The lack of a definite balance of power meant that small nations could launch localized aggression against neighbors and dozens of localized conflicts broke out after WWI. 2) Nations were becoming radicalized based on notions of heightened nationalism and ethnic identity. Minorities within countries, greatly increased by the political divisions of the Paris agreements, became more marginalized than they had been under the older imperial powers. 3) Politics of “national renewal” in Italy, Germany, Poland and Yugoslavia heightened internal and international divisions. National renewal, according to those on the right wing, presented the only way to confront the two perceived principle dangers – a) general cultural decline and b) the rise of Bolshevism (revolutionary and militant communism). Such was the fear that Bolshevism created in the hearts of even the most democratic actors (in England, for example) that western powers were more than willing to deal with Central Europe authoritarians in order to block the (perceived) Russian menace. Thus, no action was taken on the part of the international community to stem the rise of authoritarianism on the continent. The United States, after the Congress failed to ratify the Paris peace treaty, retreated into political isolation, only to emerge to fight the next world war.

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