Study Guide 13 Bentley 34 Part I The Age of Anxiety

Study Guide
Bentley, chapter 34 (part 1)
An Age of Anxiety
1. Birth of a Monster? Just as Adolf Hitler changed as a result of his life experiences in the
early twentieth century, so too did European society as a whole. Badly shaken by the
effects of years of war, Europeans experienced a shock to their system of values, beliefs,
and traditions. Profound scientific and cultural transformations that came to the fore in
the postwar decades also contributed to a sense of loss and anxiety. As peoples in Europe
and around the world struggled to come to terms with the aftermath of war, an
unprecedented economic contraction gripped the international community.
2. Postwar Cultural Change and Technological Innovation: Although most of Western
Europe and the United States wanted simply to return to prewar stability and
conservatism, the war had initiated changes that could not be reversed. White-collar
workers and the middle class grew substantially, but the working class declined.
European refugees migrated in large numbers until the United States, Canada, and
Australia enacted immigration restrictions. Women's lives changed the most. Many
women had joined the work force as wage earners during the war and were reluctant to
abandon those jobs. After the war, western European and U.S. women also won the right
to vote. Technological innovations such as aircraft, automobiles, radio, home appliances,
and electricity all changed people's lives. The cinema and jazz transformed popular
culture. Advances in physics and the social sciences fundamentally altered Western
cultures' view of themselves, often in very unsettling ways. The Great War's scars
transformed the physical environment, as did dams, irrigation projects, and continued
industrialization and suburbanization.
3. Postwar Pessimism:
William Butler Yeats
The Second Coming (1919)
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
“You are all a lost generation,” noted Gertrude Stein (1874– 1946) to her fellow
American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899– 1961). Stein had given a label to the group of
American intellectuals and literati who congregated in Paris in the postwar years. This
“lost generation” expressed in poetry and fiction the malaise and disillusion that
characterized U. S. and European thought after the Great War. The vast majority of
European intellectuals rallied enthusiastically to the war in 1914, viewing it as a splendid
adventure. The brutal realities of industrialized warfare left no room for heroes, however,
and most of these young artists and intellectuals quickly became disillusioned. During the
1920s they spat out their revulsion in a host of war novels such as Ernest Hemingway’s A
Farewell to Arms (1929) and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front
(1929), works overflowing with images of meaningless death and suffering.
4. Attacks on Progress: The “dada” art style of the 1920s represents an attack on “progress”
and “modernity” in that it rejected rationality, and so called “artistic standards.” The
Great War was a grotesque expression of man’s actually self – any claims to rationality
and reason were self-indulgent lies. The world revealed by the war was absurd, and Dada
was a nonsense word chosen to communicate this absurdity. It declared that only
irrational acts made any sense in an absurd world. The goal of dada was to destroy the
false rational order and expose the irrational undercurrents beneath. The dadaists’
rejection of all previous artistic and social values had an impact on other artists who did
not necessarily call themselves dadaists, including Max Ernst and George Grosz.
Max Ernst – Two Ambiguous Figures
5. Stalin’s Revolution: Stalin rose to power through the ranks of the Bolshevik Party by
becoming party secretary and controlling admission into the party. After Lenin's death, he
managed to oust Trotsky by arguing against collectivized agriculture. Once in power, he
changed his direction to implement the first of several Five-Year Plans intended to
industrialize the Soviet Union at an extremely rapid pace, in large part because he knew
that the Second World War was only a matter of time and the USSR was not prepared to
fight Europe without some extreme measures to build up heavy industry. Stalin phrased
this as part of an overall plan to achieve “socialism in one country” and prove the
viability of communism. The Communist Party under Stalin established the first
totalitarian regime of the twentieth-century. This totalitarian regime subordinated the life
of the individual to that of the state. Through strict government control of political,
economic and cultural life, and by means of coercive measures such as censorship and
terrorism, the state imposed its will upon the conduct of the society. Soviet communists
persecuted all individuals and religious groups whose activities they deemed threatening
to the state. Using educational propaganda and the state-run media, they worked tirelessly
to indoctrinate Soviet citizens to the virtues of communism.
6. Five Year Plans: Stalin's Five-Year Plans were intended to gear up the USSR's industry
to compete effectively with the rest of the world, as well as to show the viability of
communism to skeptics. It was reasoned that, having demonstrated that socialism in one
country would work, other states would fall in line and the revolution would take place
on a world scale as true communism was implemented. In reality, the Five-Year Plans
were a means for Stalin to enforce his dictatorship and kick-start the economy of the
USSR to prepare it for war. The Five-Year Plans were initially successful in
industrializing Russia, but at great cost: in effect, Stalin declared war on the peasantry by
enforcing collectivized agriculture and demanding quotas of grain and agricultural
products both to feed industrialized urban areas and to provide surplus for trade. While
the economy of the Soviet Union did prosper during the post-Depression years and was
even one of the few places in the world that didn't suffer dramatic effects from the
Depression, those who cooperated were generally fanatical communists and those who
resisted or protested were exiled, killed, or sentenced to the gulag. The Five-Year Plans
did, however, open positions for women in the workplace that were previously
7. Collectivization of agriculture: Stalin ordered the collectivization of Soviet agriculture to
correspond with the first five year plan. Peasants were to give up any remaining private
holdings and to report for reassignment as agricultural wage workers. The idea was to
create a more efficient and rapid transition to socialism in the USSR (socialism in one
country, as Stalin described it).
8. NKVD: This is the Soviet secret police. The NKVD encouraged Soviet citizens to spy
on one another and to “report” seditious, anti-state activities – the potential for abuse is
9. Purges/show trials: After the civil war, the Soviet government began implementing
“show trials” to punish those who had collaborated with the White armies and their
foreign allies. The show trials were later extended to large landowners and even better
off “kulaks” under the rule of Joseph Stalin
10. Kulaks: This is a class of independent, relatively small landowners across Russia. Lenin
encouraged the growth of the kulak class under his program known as the “New
Economic Policy.” After the devastation of the Great War, and then the civil war, Lenin
saw the acceptance of market principles in agriculture as a means to rapidly increase
agricultural production. Many kulak farmers prospered under the NEP – they resisted
Joseph Stalin’s reversal of the NEP with the implementation of “collectivization” –
Kulaks resisted by destroying their crops, milk supplies and livestock -- many millions
were killed or sent to “reeducation camps” (slave labor camps)
11. Gulags - These are the Soviet “labor camps” that were strewn across Siberia. The
victims of these camps (those “sentenced” to prison terms) were basically utilized as
slave labor in mining, agriculture and infrastructure development
12. Market Crash: The Depression in the 1930s was the deepest and most widespread
economic collapse in history. After the stock market crash, consumption and production
of manufactured goods around the world declined. Unemployment rose drastically.
American banks called in overseas loans to offset their losses. Nations deeply in debt
from war loans or reparation payments could not afford early repayment, and panic
spread. Nations erected protective tariffs, resulting in ruined export industries and
additional reductions in world trade. Still, some nations fared better than others. France
and Britain were to some extent insulated from the world economy by their overseas
colonies. Those colonies, particularly India, also fared well. Nations that were heavily
dependent on imported food and raw materials suffered the most from the Depression.
Exported agricultural crops, such as Malayan rubber, Caribbean sugar, and Brazilian
coffee, were very hard hit. Widespread economic distress had profound political
consequences. For example, the United States enacted sweeping New Deal legislation,
and radical politicians came to power in Germany, Italy, and Japan. Nations devastated
by declining monocrop exports consciously imitated those new dictatorships and
exercised authoritarian control over their peoples and economies. Those political changes
had particular significance in the decade leading toward World War II.
13. Global industrial production and world trade: Both production and trade declined
dramatically. In the United States 25% unemployment, Germany 50% unemployment
with similar numbers in-between for England, France, and Japan. Tariff barriers raised
by each of the respective nations increased the problem.
14. Define fascism: A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power,
forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc.,
and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism. Fascism was a form of
corporatism, but extreme and violent with an emphasis on the group over the individual
and on the obliteration of anyone who did not agree or was seen as outside the group.
15. Rise of fascism: Mussolini was the first to use fascism in Europe as a policy of
dictatorship. He found a ready audience because of the economic instability after the war,
a disgruntled and unemployed population, and the effects of the Depression on an
underindustrialized country. His idea was to control not only the parliament but also the
industries and the press and to eliminate any criticism against him or his methods. He
promised to fight off the evils of communism, which was seen as a plot to steal private
property, and restore Italy's national pride, as well as to modernize its economy, army,
and society and bring back full employment.
16. Mein Kampf: In his autobiographical work Mein Kampf (My, Struggle), published in
1925, Hitler set forth a fanatical theory of "Aryan racial superiority" that would inspire
some of the most malevolent episodes in the history of humankind, including genocide:
the systematic extermination of millions of Jews, along with thousands of Roman
Catholics, gypsies, homosexuals, and other minorities. Justifying his racist ideology, he
wrote: “What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race
and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom
and independence of the fatherland so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of
the mission allotted to it by the creator of the universe.” Mein Kampf exalted the
totalitarian state as "the guardian of a millennial future in the face of which the wishes
and the selfishness of the individual must appear as nothing and submit." "The state is a
means to an end," insisted Hitler. "Its end lies in the preservation and advancement of
physically and psychically homogeneous creatures."
17. Germany and the Nazis: Hitler also used the ideology of a centralized state and addressed
a country that was in economic collapse. In addition, he gave the German people
someone to blame (Jews and communists) and attempted to reinstill national pride
through his idea of the racial superiority of the German people. He quickly espoused a
plan to rebuild the German Empire by “liberating” all German-speaking peoples and
enslaving the undesirable.
18. Japan and the militarists: Japan has very few natural resources that are essential to
maintain and expand an industrial economy. The Japanese depended on exports to
purchase industrial commodities such as iron, coal and oil from international suppliers
(including the United States). The depression and resulting tariff barriers thrown up by
Japan’s buyers deepened the economic crisis in Japan. The militarists basically staged a
coup d’etat and seized political control of the Japanese government. The militarists (the
military), saw imperial expansion as the means to secure the resources Japan would need
to remain economically viable and secure. This meant that Japan would steadily
encroach upon China and then into the areas controlled by the European and American
imperialists in East and Southeast Asia. This was the Japanese master plan: make a bid
for control of East Asia and secure the resources, especially oil, at the expense of rival
imperialists. The Japanese plan was to become the imperial, hegemonic power in Asia.
19. Spanish Civil War -- Dress rehearsal for WWII: In Spain, the struggle between the polarized
political ideologies turned into a civil war in 1936 when right-wing army officers revolted against
the democratically elected Popular Front government. Both fascist Italy and Nazi Germany
supported the right-wing rebels, but the only support the Republican government had came
from the Soviet Union, as the democracies remained neutral, although some of their citizens
volunteered to fight for democracy. The right-wing forces led by Francisco Franco were
victorious in March of 1939.
See Part 2