The stresses of economic collapse and total war engendered internal conflicts within European states and created conflicting conceptions of the relationship between the individual and the state, as demonstrated in the ideological battle between and among democracy, communism, and fascism.
During World War I, states increased the degree and scope of their authority over their economies, societies, and cultures. The demands of total war required the centralization of power and the regimentation of the lives of citizens. During the war, governments sought to control information and used propaganda to create stronger emotional ties to the nation and its war effort. Ironically, these measures also produced distrust of traditional authorities. At the end of the war, four empires dissolved -- the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian empires -- but the democratic nations that arose in their place lacked a tradition of democratic politics and suffered from weak economies and ethnic tensions. Even before the end of the war, Russia experienced a revolution and civil war that created not only a new state, the USSR, but also a new conception of government and socioeconomic order based on communist ideals.
In Italy and Germany, charismatic leaders led fascist movements to power, seizing control of the post–World War I governments. Fascism promised to solve economic problems through state direction, although not ownership, of production. The movements also promised to counteract the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles by rearming the military and by territorial expansion. The efforts of fascist governments to revise the Treaty of Versailles led to the most violent and destructive war in human history (World War II) -- a conflict between liberal democracies, temporarily allied with communist Russia, and fascist states. At the end of this conflict, fascist forces had been defeated, Europe was devastated, and the international diplomatic situation developed into a conflict between the capitalistic democracies and the centrally directed communist states.
In the post–World War II period, states in both Eastern and Western Europe increased their involvement in citizens’ economic lives. In the West this came through social welfare programs and the expansion of education, while Eastern European nations were heavily regulated in planned economies directed by the Soviet Union.
With the collapse of communism and the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Western European democracies celebrated the triumph of their political and economic systems, and many of the former communist states sought admission into the European Union and NATO. By the late 1990s, it became evident that the transition from communism to capitalism and democracy was not as simple as it first appeared to be, with Western Europe experiencing difficulties because of economic recession and the extension of social welfare programs.
4.2.1: The Russian Revolution created a regime based on Marxist-Leninist theory.
4.2.1.A: In Russia, World War I exacerbated long-term problems of political stagnation, social inequality, incomplete industrialization, and food and land distribution, all while creating support for revolutionary change.
4.2.1.B: Military and worker insurrections, aided by the revived Soviets, undermined the Provisional Government and set the stage for Lenin’s long-planned Bolshevik Revolution and establishment of a communist state.
4.2.1.C: The Bolshevik takeover prompted a protracted civil war between communist forces and their opponents, who were aided by foreign powers.
4.2.1.D: In order to improve economic performance, Lenin compromised communist principles and employed some free-market principles under the New Economic Policy. After Lenin's death, Stalin undertook a centralized program of rapid economic modernization, often with sever repercussions for the population.
4.2.1.E: Stalin’s economic modernization of the Soviet Union came at a high price, including the liquidation of the kulaks (the land-owning peasantry) and other perceived enemies of the state, devastating famine in the Ukraine, purges of political rivals, and, ultimately, the creation of an oppressive political system.
4.2.2: The ideology of fascism, with roots in the pre-World War I era, gained popularity in an environment of postwar bitterness, the rise of communism, uncertain transitions to democracy, and economic instability.
4.2.2.A: Fascist dictatorships used modern technology and propaganda that rejected democratic institutions, promoted charismatic leaders, and glorified war and nationalism to attract the disillusioned.
4.2.2.B: Mussolini and Hitler rose to power by exploiting postwar bitterness and economic instability, using terror and manipulating the fledgling and unpopular democracies in their countries.
4.2.2.C: Franco’s alliance with Italian and German fascists in the Spanish Civil War -- in which the Western democracies did not intervene -- represented a testing ground for World War II and resulted in authoritarian rule in Spain from 1936 to the mid-1970s.
4.2.2.D: After failing to establish functioning democracies, authoritarian dictatorships took power in central and eastern Europe during the interwar period.
4.2.3: The Great Depression, caused by weaknesses in international trade and monetary theories and practices, undermined Western European democracies and fomented radical political responses throughout Europe.
4.2.3.A: World War I debt, nationalistic tariff policies, overproduction, depreciated currencies, disrupted trade patterns, and speculation created weaknesses in economies worldwide.
4.2.3.B: Dependence on post-World War I American investment capital led to financial collapse when, following the 1929 stock market crash, the United States cut off capital flows to Europe.
4.2.3.C: Despite attempts to rethink economic theories and policies and forge political alliances, Western democracies failed to overcome the Great Depression and were weakened by extremist movements.
4.2.4: Postwar economic growth supported an increase in welfare benefits; however, subsequent economic stagnation led to criticism and limitation of the welfare state.
4.2.4.A: Marshall Plan funds from the United States financed an extensive reconstruction of industry and infrastructure and stimulated an extended period of growth in Western and Central Europe, often referred to as an “economic miracle,” which increased the economic and cultural importance of consumerism.
4.2.4.B: The expansion of cradle-to-grave social welfare programs in the aftermath of World War II, accompanied by high taxes, became a contentious domestic political issue as the budgets of European nations came under pressure in the late 20th century.
4.2.5: Eastern European nations were bound by their relationships with the Soviet Union, which oscillated between repression and limited reform, until the collapse of communist governments in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Soviet Union.
4.2.5.A: Central and Eastern European nations within the Soviet bloc followed an economic model based on central planning, extensive social welfare, and specialized production among bloc members. This brought with it the restriction of individual rights and freedoms, suppression of dissent, and constraint of emigration for the various populations within the Soviet bloc.
4.2.5.B: After 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization policies failed to meet their economic goals within the Soviet Union; combined with reactions to existing limitations on individual rights, this prompted revolts in Eastern Europe, which ended with a reimposition of Soviet rule and repressive totalitarian regimes.
4.2.5.C: Following a long period of economic stagnation, Mikhail Gorbachev’s internal reforms of perestroika and glasnost, designed to make the Soviet system more flexible, failed to stave off the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of its hegemonic control over Eastern and Central European satellites.
4.2.5.D: The rise of new nationalisms in Central and Eastern Europe brought peaceful revolution in most countries but resulted in war and genocide in the Balkans and instability in some former Soviet republics.