Q.1 Assess the impact of Communist revolution on Chinese society and economy. [20 Marks]
The Chinese Communist Revolution resulted in the victory of communists and the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China, on 1 October 1949.
Problems faced by the new regime were:
- The world as a whole would not recognize the new regime.
- The United States did not recognize Communist China for more than twenty year.
- except for soviet union, others adopted a hostile attitude.
- Economic issues:
- the total wreck of the national economy,
- galloping inflation,
- disrupted and destroyed communications,
- no foreign trade,
- hardly any functional industry, and
- threat of famine in many areas.
For these reasons many observers believed that the ‘new communist government would not be able to survive long. But it had certain advantages:
- It had the support of the vast majority of the Chinese people. Few knew about Communism, but they were conscious of building a new society.
- The poorest of the poor felt a new dignity and usefulness in society. The whole country, for the first time in many years, was united and was at peace.
- Communications were restored fast using unpaid labour of masses who were treated equally with soldiers.
- The towns did not starve in the winter of 1949. Food was transported to deficit regions.
- The Chinese people survived the economic blockade by the foreign powers.
- The Amy had no more wars to fight: It was set to work in the cities, rebuilding shattered dwellings and public buildings.
- A new currency was introduced. In the middle of 1951, within two years of victory. the inflation was halted and there was some economic stability.
It was on the basis of this new stability that the leaders of the CPC tried to put into practice their experience of Kiangsi and Yenan throughout the country.
Impact on polity: (skip it for this question)
- On October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong officially proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China at Tiananmen Square.
- Chiang Kai-shek with his Nationalist troops and two million Nationalist-sympathizer refugees retreated to the island of Taiwan.
- It was a democratic coalition government. Which blueprint was forwarded by Mao in his essay “On the Peoples’ Democratic Dictatorship.”
- The political structure envisaged by Mao allowed for the participation of a very broad section of the Chinese population in the political and economic life of the country.
- This entire might of the people was to be directed against the power of the landlords and the reactionaries.
- As soon as China was proclaimed a Republic with Communist victory, this kind of a government was established. It was a coalition of fourteen parties and groups and the non-Communists were also included.
- This political structure was a symbol of the broad support enjoyed by the new regime.
- In social terms it represented a united front or alliance of the working class, the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie.
- Mao was made the Chairman of the Peoples’ Republic.
Impact on society:
- The Marriage Law of 1950 was an important landmark in transforming social relatronships.
- Through making marriage an institution based on equality and free mutual consent, the position of women was vastly improved.
- Traditionally, women were regarded as inferior to men.
- Girls had to be obedient to their fathers, wives to their husbands and old women to their sons (the Marriage Law abolished this).
- The Marriage Law abolished the supremacy of man over woman, and also concubinage and child-marriage.
- Marriage began to be treated as contract, freely concluded by man and woman. Both husband and wife were given the right to demand divorce.
- Women were given equal right in family property.
- Child-marriage was still common, and helped ensure that husbands dominated their wives. Baby girls were sometimes killed or abandoned (the Communists banned this).
- Girls could be sold as servants, concubines or prostitutes (the Communists banned this).
- In the communes, women were regarded as equal to men, and had to work like men; their children were put in crèches so they could work, but this damaged their role as a mother.
- Traditionally, women were regarded as inferior to men.
- Women played an active role in productive work and in shouldering social responsibilities.
- They became active citizens of a new China.
- Many women married against their wlsh asked for divorce and were helped by women’s organizations.
- Prostitution became a crime. The prostitutes were given medical care and emotional support to begin new lives.
- Imposed a strict ban on sale of daughters and wives, child brothels etc.
- The Marriage Law was also a law for protection of children. Female infanticide was strictly forbidden.
- It was illegal to sell children, which had happened frequently during the famines of 1921, 1931 and 1943.
- Fighting drug abuse:
- The peddlars. of opium and other drugs were hunted down; the reeducation and cure of opium eddicts was organized and public gambling was outlawed.
- As Mao declared : “the serious problem is the education of the peasantry.”
- Literacy campaigns were organized in the villages, factories and amount the poor sections of the cities.
- The number of students doubled between 1949 and 1952 from 24 to 51 million primary school children, and from I million to 2.5 million secondary school students.
- A national system of Primary education was set up; the literacy rate, 20% in 1949, was 70% by 1976. Officially, education was free and for both boys and girls.
- To help with communication and writing, the government introduced a phonetic form of Mandarin called pinyin; this greatly eased the learning of Mandarin.
- Patriotic Health Movements: Teams of cadres went into the villages explaining the connection between dirt and disease, and how to avoid dysentery and malaria.
- Barefoot Doctors: A million people were given 6-months basic medical training and sent out into the villages to provide basic medical care free of charge.
- Opium addiction: Poppy fields were burned, and addicts killed or forced to reform; their families were made responsible for their future good behaviour.
- Destruction of Traditional Religion and Culture:
- 1.5 million Propagandists: Propagandists were loyal Party members charged with spreading the latest Party message.
- Ordinary people would be made to attend one or two meetings a week, people needing ‘re-education’ would have to go to more; they would listen to lectures.
- Many of Beijing’s ancient houses and structures were pulled down and replaced by Soviet Realism concrete eyesores.
- Mao said religion was as bad as Nazism, and had to be eradicated.
- Churches were destroyed, priests and monks mocked and beaten – ancestor worship was condemned as a superstition.
- In Tibet, the government feared the mixture of Buddhism and nationalism, and embarked on a campaign of religious persecution.
- In Xinjiang, the government feared the mixture of Islam and nationalism, conquered the area in a military campaign, and settled huge numbers of Chinese immigrants in the region to try to counter the local population.
- Mao believed that the Communist revolution should brutally overthrow every aspect of the past, and he put his wife in charge as ‘the cultural purifier of the nation’.
- The government banned traditional songs and dances, festivals and wandering poets; instead, children were made to chant communist slogans.
- All traditional and western culture was banned. Musicians, authors etc. had to conform, or they were persecuted and sent for re-education.
- Disease, banditory, crime etc. were brought under control.
Impact on economy:
- Agrarian policy/Land reform:
- It was the first major policy to be implemented. It means:
- All land should be as far as possible shared out equally between the village or district, and
- the former landlords were to retain a small share, equal to that of others and onlt to them who were prepared to work it themselves.
- In keeping with the broad base of the new political structure, the agrarian policy was also moderate, and such as to retain the support of the broader sections of the Chinese people in the countryside.
- It was also a policy geared to promote economic development of the countryside and to re-shape social and economic relations there.
- The Agrarian Law of 1950, divided the rural land’s and goods of landowners without indemnity, but left them in possession of their city properties and business.
- The rich peasants were allowed to keep their lands and holdings, consideration being given to their productive capacity and the fact that cities had to be supplied with rice.
- The properties of the landlords were divided among the poor and middle peasants.
- Tenant farming, with payments both in kind and cash, was abolished.
- This amounteo to 1/4 of the country’s agricultural production, which was earlier being handed ovet to landlord.
- Forced labour and other feudal services were also abolished.
- Approximately 300 million peasants benefited from these reforms. They became fulo owners of their land which they could buy, sell and rent.
- The rich peasants, howeverr retained their better quality lands.
- The Agrarian Reform law also defined the powers of the peasants associations which were set up for carrying out the changes and peoples’ courts were also established to deal with the cases of conflict.
- With the formation of peoples’ courts and peasants associations, the political power of the landlords was also destroyed.
- Mass trials of cruel and oppressive landlords were darried out in all parts of China. A number of landlords were executed after these trial.
- Agrarian reform also helped to activate the social life in the villages. Health and literacy campaigns were conducted by peasants associations.
- It was the first major policy to be implemented. It means:
- Industry and its management was in the hands of the national bourgeoisie and the Communists had very little control over it.
- Therefore, through the 1950 law thec concerned themselves primarily with labour unions, price control, distribution of primary materials and state orders.
- The CCP organized a vast network of unions in factories, city federations, provinces and in the different branches of industry.
- They represented workers interests in the factories and also carried out literacy campaigns.
- Private economy was allowed to develop and even make profit under the generag guidance of the state.
- Relentless struggle was carried out against corruption, waste, bribery and other such evils which undermined production.
- Transportation, finances and commerce were also put in order.
These social, political and economic changes were implemented through the creation of an organizational network extending to the most backward areas in the country. Mass organizations linked to the Party grew in all areas of social life: unions, women’s organizations, youth groups, professional and intellectual organizations etc. e.g. In 1952 the women organizations had 76 million members and Democratic Youth Organization 7 million members.
These organizations helped to:
- link the masses to the important policy measures of the time.
- give them an active role, and
- consolidate new thinking and new values through campaigns in the form of public meetings, discussions, posters and huge marches.
In this way the social, political and economic foundations were created for new China.
The Communists established a new regime which faced a number of difficulties in the initial stage. However, with various reforms and organized efforts by its cadres, the CPC was able to gradually overcome these difficulties.
Q.2 German political unity was grafted on a solid material and cultural foundation. Comment. [20 Marks]
The German nationalism emerged about the late 18th century under the impetus provided by the French Revolution and the simplification of the political map of Europe and of the German states by the destruction of the Holy Roman Empire by Napoleon armies.
The Germany was united in 1871 after a long drawn process. In the process of German unification, a nation state for created by overcoming domestic discord and political fragmentation and also by international diplomacy and war. The unity was created by processes of cultural activities, economic and political unification domestically, skillful diplomacy and warfare and also pragmatic handling of popular national sentiments.
Foundations on which the German political unity wad grafted:
- Cultural foundation:
- Martin Luther’s rejection of the authority of the Pope and translation of the Bible into German created the basis for a national consciousness.
- The term German nation was used by Luther, Ulrich and the Humanists. German romantics and intellectuals developed a primarily ethnic and linguistic definition of nationalism based on the concept of the ‘’culture nation’.
- Mid 18th century onwards, there was a remarkable revival in the field of art, literature and philosophy in German states.
- This movement began as culture and eventually entered the realm of politics and awakened German nationalism.
- Many writers, thinkers, philosophers emerged who contributed to it.
- A famous poet Goethe who preached humanism in his poems.
- Emmanuel Kant was a great thinker and philosopher who also gave German nationalism an articulate shape.
- Hegel proclaimed German spirit as a spirit of the new world.
- The Brothers Grimm, who compiled a massive dictionary known as The Grimm, also assembled a compendium of folk tales and fables.
- The words of Fallersleben expressed not only the linguistic unity of the German people but also their geographic unity. In Deutschland, he called upon sovereigns throughout the German states to recognize the unifying characteristics of the German people.
- Such other patriotic songs as “Die Wacht am Rhein” (“The Watch on the Rhine”) by Max Schneckenburger began to focus attention on geographic space, not limiting “Germanness” to a common language.
- Many other patriotic poetry as Nicholaus Becker’s “Das Rheinlied” (“The Rhine”), Germans were called upon to defend their territorial homeland.
- J.G. Fichte proclaimed that the German language is ‘Urs-Prache’ i.e. foundation of language and he called Germans as ‘Urvolk’ i.e. oldest and most ethical nation.
- Linguistic uniformity served as the basis of the German nation.
- Berlin university founded in 1810 emerged as a great centre of rise of new currents of such thoughts.
- Solid material/ Economic Foundation:
- Industrialisation in German states-1820’s & 1830’s onwards particularly in northern German states. It was associated with the development of railways, banking system, financial system, growth of population, urbanisation etc.
- This development gradually began to transform the traditional feudal socio-economic structure. It gave birth to the new social force i.e. Bourgeoisie and at the same time it created fertile ground for the growth of Liberalism and capitalism.
- Such development found expression in the rise of the idea of economic unification and Fredrick List– an economist was the first who presented such idea.
- Creation of Zollverein which was a custom union and this was a initiative of Prussia in 1818-1819. This trend gradually grew and by 1851, all the states had joined the Zollverein and only Austria was left out.
- Prussia being leader got maximum benefit and developed a strong economy and hence a strong army as well.
- Various pan German associations emerged and they tried to push the trend of unification still further.
- After 1858 a congress of German economist agitated and the unified system of coinage and cooperative organisations and in 1861 this body organised a national chamber of commerce.
- The economic development characterised by industrialisation and economic unification created favourable ground for German political unification.
- Development of common market → development of communication → boost to national feeling → voiced for political unification.
- Economic progress → capitalist class → competition with Britain and France → wanted German empire → voiced for political unification so that empire could be formed.
- The industrialisation process created resources on which the process of unification could be sustained.
- It is considered that in the absence of rapid economic development, German nationalism would have been a much weaker force.
- Historians under the term- “the forces of coal&Iron” for such development and consider their role significant in the political unification of Germany. Coal& Iron refers to economic ties unifying Germany.
However, other factors also played significant role in the German unification:
- Role of Napoleon:
- The destruction of the Holy Roman Empire.
- All German states except Prussia and Austria became part of Napoleonic empire.
- He played role in German unification in following ways:
- He introduced reformed in line of ideals of French revolution, giving birth to nationalism.
- He reorganized German state and united them as the Confederation of the Rhine.
- The political fragmentation of Germany was partially overcome by the reduction in the number of sovereign German states to thirty-eight from the three hundred states of the Holy Roman Empire which was abolished.
- His despotic rule gave rise to nationalist feelings against alien rule among German.
- Later during Vienna congress, the German Bund was created in 1815 in order to preserve “the independence and sovereignty of the individual German states”. It was cnstituted by Austria, Prussia and 39 other states. Vienna congress couldn’t reverse the Rhine federation.
- liberal movement in German states:
- German liberals were influenced by constitutional experiments in revolutionary France and England.
- The German universities emerged as the seed-beds of German liberalism.
- German Liberal movement stood for constitutional monarchy and Pan Germanism.
- After 1815, German liberals worked for introduction of written constitution in various states. But such moves were crushed by Metternich.
- After fall of Metternich and there was boost to German liberal movement. They forced many states to introduce written constitution.
- Finally, some liberal leaders came together and formed a preliminary parliament. It made arrangement for elections in each German states and each delegates represented 50,000 Germans. These elected candidates created a Pan German Parliament, known as Frankfurt parliament.
- They met at Frankfurt in 1848 to frame a new constitution for united Germany.
- The whole event was unique as election was not arranged by the government; but by the liberal leaders.
- The idea was to create a unified Germany, characterized by constitutional monarchy and a new constitution to replace the constitution of German Bund and to invite the king of Prussia for the office of constitutional monarch.
- But, there was a lot of debates and discussions within Frankfurt parliament. Parliament was heterogenous and different ideologies were at work. So, no concrete single decision was taken and king of Prussia also refused on the advice of Bismarck.
- This is what historians called- ‘Narrow nationalism in Frankfurt parliament’ which became the cause of collapse collapse of Frankfurt parliament.
- After some of the extremist members among Liberals became active the movement took radical turn. Prussia and Austria became against the trend of radicalism and the movement was crushed.
- Some historians believe that, although German industry was stimulated by the Zollverein and the rapid development of railways, industrial progress was not sufficiently strong to influence the process of German unification.
- The period of high tariffs emerged in 1879: much after unification.
- Bismark’s policy of ‘Blood and Iron’:
- He declared that Germany was looking not to Prussia’s liberalism but to his power and said “not by speeches and resolutions of the majorities are the great questions of the day to be decided but by Blood and Iron.”
- He overrided the Constitution and carried out army reform:
- He wanted money for strengthening of military and for this the nod of the parliament was essential. But liberals were in majority in parliament, I (Prussian diet) was being an obstacle.
- He bypassed the parliament and collected taxes for military reforms.
- He used diplomacy and waged wars to realise unification: (Details are given to cover the topic. For this question you need to mention it only in brief.)
- He safeguarded Prussia against the danger of foreign intervention before was started.
- War with Denmark (in 1864) while befriending with Austria:
- Denmark had control over Northern German states-Schleswig (had Dens + Germans) and Holstein (Mainly Germans).
- Bismarck negotiated with Austria and took it into confidence.
- The war was fought between Denmarck vs. Austria & Prussia.
- The war was followed by Convention of Gastein. The Prussia got Schleswig and Austria got Holstein.
- This convention was highly disadvantage to Austria. It shows the smart diplomacy by Bismarck.
- Holstein was surrounded by Prussian territories.
- War with Austria (in 1866) while ensuring neutrality of Russia and France and in alliance of Italy:
- Bismarck cut Austria of all its allies:
- Supported Russian suppression of Polish revolt and gained it’s confidence.
- Signed agreement with France in 1865, promised some land in Rhine or Belgium in return of neutrality during Austro-Prussian war.
- Negotiated treaty with Italy: Italy will ally with Prussia when Austro-Prussia was takes place. In return Venice will be given to Italy.
- Now Bismarck provoked Austria for war by instigating people of Holstein for popular rebellion against Austria.
- The war (aka Seven Weeks’ War) followed and Prussia won decisively at battle of Sadowa (1866) and Holstein was integrated. In this war, many German states got involved in support of Auatria, all of them were defeated. Thus, Prussia got the control over all of them.
- Treaty of Parague followed after the war:
- Bismarck made arrangement for unification of Northern Germany. A 21 states North German Confederation was created in 1867.
- German Bund collapsed.
- Austria was not excluded from the German affairs and agreed to unification of Germany without Austria.
- Holstein were ceded to Prussia.
- Bismarck cut Austria of all its allies:
- War with France (1870):
- For Bismarck, a war with France laid in the logic of history. As France will never accept a strong and united Germany at it’s door-step.
- Diplomacy before war:
- Secret defensive and offensive alliances were negotiated with the south German states to ensure that all non-Austrian Germany would be united in case of war. The fear of France no doubt encouraged the small south German states to attach themselves to Prussia.
- Bismarck also ensured neutrality of Austria by treating it well after the Seven Weeks’ War.
- In France, after Austrian-Prussian war the situation was already tensed. It was shocked by the victory of Prussia over Austria. Bismarck didn’t give any land to France, he had promised before Austrian-Prussian war.
- Further, Bismarck skillfully exploited the dispute about the Hohenzollern candidature to the Spanish throne. Bismarck manipulated the statement of Prussian king and made it look like that the French were humiliated by Prussian king.
- This provoked chaos in both France and Prussia. Public pressure mounted on French King Napoleon III.
- Bismarck deliberately created emotional wave in Germany e.g. publishing old letters of Napoleon III about Rhine land Neutrality.
- France declared war on Prussia in 1870.
- It led to Franco-Prussian war and France was defeated at the battle of Sedan (1870).
- The Treaty of Frankfurt was imposed on France.
- The four southern states, Bavaria, Germany and Italy Wurtemberg, Baden and Hesse joined the German Empire.
- France also lost Alsace-Lorraine.
- Thus, it led to the creation of the German Empire. 2nd Reich was proclaimed. Wilhelm 1 crowned emperor of German empire.
- It was proclaimed at the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles palace.
Thus, the actual process of nation state formation was determined by complex historical realities. There were various factors which played their role in German unification. Even though the cultural developments and solid material ground created in ground over which the German unity could be grafted, these factors was not enough for unification as the previous two attempts in form of Frankfurt and Erfurt union had already failed. Bismarck certainly played more important role than any one else. But, the background work was done previous developments over which Bismarck could build the German empire.
The great economic depression started in USA with the Wall Street Crash between September-October 1929. In September 1929 the buying of shares at the New York stock exchange in WallStreet, began to slow down. Rumours spread that the boom might be over, and so people rushed to sell their shares before prices fell too far. It led panic and resulted into Black Tuesday (Oct 29, 1929). Thousands of people who had bought their shares when prices were high were ruined. The great boom had suddenly turned into the great depression. It rapidly affected not only the USA, but other countries as well, and so it became known as the world economic crisis.
The Wall Street Crash did not cause the depression; it was just a symptom of a problem of which the real causes lay much deeper.
Factors responsible for the Great Depression (1929):
American industrialists, encouraged by high profits and helped by increased mechanization, were producing too many goods for the home market to absorb (in the same way as the farmers).
This was not apparent in the early 1920s, but as the 1930s approached, unsold stocks of goods began to build up, and manufacturers produced less.
Since fewer workers were required, men were laid off; and as there was no unemployment benefit, these men and their families bought less. And so the vicious circle continued.
There was a maldistribution of income:
This means that the enorımous profits being made by industrialists were not being shared evenly enough among the workers.
The average wage for industrial workers rose by about 8 per cent between 1923 and 1929, but during the same period, industrial profits increased by 72 per cent.
If employers had allowed larger wage increases and been content with less profit, there is no reason why the boom could not have continued for several more years, while its benefits were more widely shared.
Even so, a slump was still not inevitable, provided the Americans could export their surplus products.
Exports began to fall away:
U.S.A economy after the war kept on growing due to no destruction in war.
Earlier buyers were European countries. But, post WW1, EU countries bankrupt.
This was partly because foreign countries were reluctant to buy American goods when the Americans themselves put up tariff barriers to protect their industries from foreign imports.
Although the Fordney McCumber tariff (1922) helped to keep foreign goods out, at the same time it prevented foreign states, especially those in Europe, from making much-needed profits from trade with the USA, Without those profits, the nations of Europe would be unable to afford American goods, and they would be struggling to pay their war debts to the USA.
To make matters worse, many states retaliated by introducing tariffs against American goods.
The situation was worsened by a great rush of speculation on the New York stock market, which began to gather momentum about 1926.
Speculation is the buying of shares in companies; people with cash to spare like to do this for two possible motives:
to get the dividend – this is the annual sharing-out of a company’s profits among its shareholders;
to make a quick profit by selling the shares for more than they originally paid for them.
In the mid-1920s it was the second motive which most attracted investors: as company profits increased, more people wanted to buy shares; this forced share prices up and there were plenty of chances of quick profits from buying and selling shares.
The average value of a share rose from $9 in 1924 to $26 in 1929.
Promise of quick profits encouraged all sorts of rash moves:
ordinary people spent their savings or borrowed money to buy a few shares. Stockbrokers sold shares on credit; banks speculated in shares using the cash deposited with them.
It was all some-thing of a gamble; but there was enormous confidence that prosperity would continue indefinitely.
This confidence lasted well on into 1929, but when the first signs appeared that sales of goods were beginning to slow down, some better-informed investors decided to sell their shares while prices were still high.
This caused suspicion to spread – more people than usual were trying to sell shares.
Confidence in the future began to waver for the first time and more people decided to sell their shares.
This means that by their own actions, investors actually caused the dramatic collapse of share prices which they were afraid of.
One especially bad day was 24 October (aka Black Thrusday) when nearly 13 million shares were dumped on the stock market at very low prices.
The Prices kept falling continuously. Rock bottom was reached in 1932, and by then the whole of the USA was in the grip of depression.
The stock market crash ruined millions of investors who had paid high prices for their shares.
If investors had bought shares on credit or with borrowed money, their creditors lost heavily too, since they had no hope of receiving payment.
Banks were in a shaky position, having themselves speculated unsuccessfully.
When millions of people rushed to withdraw their savings in the belief that their cash would be safer at home, many banks were overwhelmed, did not have enough cash to pay everybody, and closed down for good.
There were over 25 000 banks in the country in 1929, but by 1933 there were fewer than 15 000.
This meant that millions of ordinary people who had had nothing to do with the speculation were ruined as their life savings disappeared.
As the demand for all types of goods fell, workers were laid off and factories closed,
Industrial production in 1933 was only half the 1929 total, while unemployment stood at around 14 million.
About a quarter of the total labour force was without jobs, and one in eight farmers lost all their property.
There was a drop in living standards. The ‘great American dream’ of prosperity for everybody had turned into a nightmare.
There were no unemployment and sickness benefits to help out. Outside every large city, homeless people lived in camps nicknamed Hoovervilles’ after the President who was blamed for the depression.
Many other countries, especially Germany, were affected because their prosperity depended to a large extent on loans from the USA.
As soon as the crash came, the loans stopped, and the Americans called in the short-term loans they had already made.
By 1931 most of Europe was in a similar plight. The depression had political results too; in many states – Germany, Austria, Japan and Britain -right-wing governments came to power when the existing regimes failed to cope with the situation.
Women in the Great Depression:
Women actually gained jobs during the Great Depression.
From 1930 to 1940, the number of employed women in the United States rose 24 percent from 10.5 million to 13 million.
Though they’d been steadily entering the workforce for decades, the financial pressures of the Great Depression drove women to seek employment in ever greater numbers as male breadwinners lost their jobs.
The 22 percent decline in marriage rates between 1929 and 1939 also created an increase in single women in search of employment.
Jobs available to women paid less, but were more stable during the banking crisis: nursing, teaching and domestic work.
Thus the Depression had its impact in almost all aspects of the society. The ‘New Deal’ of Roosevelt took a long way towards taking economy out of depression. But, it was 2nd world war which rescued USA from depression and put an end to it. The war efforts brought the unemployment below 1 million marks and economy was back on track.
- The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organisation founded on 10 January 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first international organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace.
Failure of the League
- It was too closely linked with the Versailles Treaties
- This initial disadvantage made the League seem like an organization created especially for the benefit of the victorious powers.
- In addition, it had to defend a peace settlement which was far from perfect. It was inevitable that some of its provisions would cause trouble -for example, the disappointing territorial gains of the Italians and the inclusion of Germans in Czechoslovakia and Poland.
- It was rejected by the USA
- The League was dealt a serious blow in March 1920 when the US Senate rejected both the Versailles settlement and the League.
- The absence of the USA meant that the League was deprived of a powerful member whose presence would have been of great psychological and financial benefit.
- Other important powers were not involved
- Germany was not allowed to join until 1926 and the USSR only became a member in 1934 (when Germany left).
- So for the first few years of its existence the League was deprived of three of the world’s most important powers.
- The Conference of Ambassadors in Paris was an embarrassment
- This gathering of leading ambassadors was only intended to function until the League machinery was up and running, but it lingered on, and on several occasions it took precedence over the League.
- In 1920 the League supported Lithuania in her claim to Vilna, which had just been seized from her by the Poles; but when the Conference of Ambassadors insisted on awarding Vilna to Poland, the League allowed it to go ahead.
- A later example was the Corfu Incident (1923):
- This arose from a boundary dispute between Greece and Albania, in which three Italian officials working on the boundary commission were killed.
- Mussolini blamed the Greeks, demanded huge compensation and bombarded and occupied the Greek island of Corfu.
- Greece appealed to the League, but Mussolini refused to recognize its competence to deal with the problem. He threatened to withdraw Italy from the League, whereupon the Ambassadors ordered Greece to pay the full amount demanded.
- At this early stage, however, supporters of the League dismissed these incidents as teething troubles.
- There were serious weaknesses in the Covenant
- Weaknesses in the Covenant made it difficult to ensure that decisive action was taken against any aggressor.
- It was difficult to get unanimous decisions.
- The League had no military force of its own.
- Though Article 16 expected member states to supply troops if necessary, a resolution was passed in 1923 that each member would decide for itself whether or not to fight in a crisis. This clearly made nonsense of the idea of collective security.
- Several attempts were made to strengthen the Covenant, but these failed because a unanimous vote was needed to change it, and this was never achieved.
- British government was reluctant to commit Britain and the Empire to the defence of all the 1919 frontiers.
- Reasons for this apparently strange British attitude include the fact that British public opinion was strongly pacifist, and there was a feeling that Britain was now so militarily weak that armed interventions of any sort should be avoided.
- Many other League members felt the same as Britain; and so, perversely, they were all basing their security on a system whose success relied on their support and commitment, but which they were not prepared to uphold.
- The attitude seemed to be: leave it to the others.
- Weaknesses in the Covenant made it difficult to ensure that decisive action was taken against any aggressor.
- It was very much a French/British affair
- The continued absence of the USA and the USSR, plus the hostility of Italy, made the League very much a French/British affair.
- But British were never very enthusiastic about the League. They preferred to sign the Locarno Treaties (1925), outside the League, instead of conducting negotiations within it.
- None of these weaknesses necessarily doomed the League to failure, however, provided all the members were prepared to refrain from aggression and accept League decisions; between 1925 and 1930 events ran fairly smoothly.
- The world economic crisis began in 1929
- The situation really began to drift out of control with the onset of the economic crisis, or the Great Depression.
- It brought unemployment and falling living standards to most countries, and caused extreme right-wing governments to come to power in Japan and Germany; together with Mussolini, they refused to keep to the rules and took a series of actions which revealed the League’s weaknesses.
- The Japanese invasion of Manchuria (1931)
- In 1931 Japanese troops invaded the Chinese territory of Manchuria; China appealed to the League, which condemned Japan and ordered her troops to be withdrawn.
- When Japan refused, the League appointed a commission under Lord Lytton, which decided (1932) that there were faults on both sides and suggested that Manchuria should be governed by the League. However, Japan rejected this and withdrew from the League (March 1933).
- The question of economic sanctions, let alone military ones, was never even raised, because Britain and France had serious economic problems.
- They were reluctant to apply a trade boycott of Japan in case it led to war, which they were ill equipped to win, especially without American help.
- Japan had successfully defied the League, whose prestige was damaged, though not yet fatally.
- The failure of the World Disarmament Conference (1932-33)
- This met under the auspices of the League, and its failure was a grave disappointment.
- The Germans asked for equality of armaments with France, but when the French demanded that this should be postponed for at least eight years, Hitler was able to use the French attitude as an excuse to withdraw Germany from the conference and later from the League.
- The Italian invasion of Abyssinia (October 1935)
- This was the most serious blow to the League’s prestige and credibility.
- The League condemned Italy and introduced economic sanctions; however, these were not applied to exports of oil, coal and steel to Italy.
- So half-hearted were the sanctions that Italy was able to complete the conquest of Abyssinia without too much inconvenience.
- A few weeks later sanctions were abandoned, and Mussolini had successfully flouted the League.
- Again, Britain and France must share the blame for the League’s failure. Their motive was the desire not to antagonize Mussolini too much, so as to keep him as an ally against the real danger – Germany. But the results were disastrous:
- Mussolini was annoyed by the sanctions anyway, and began to draw closer to Hitler;
- small states lost all faith in the League;
- Hitler was encouraged to break the Versailles Treaty by introducing conscription (March 1935) and sending German troops into the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland (March 1936).
- Neither matter was raised at the League Council, mainly because France and Britain were afraid that Hitler would reject any decision that went against Germany, and they were reluctant to be forced into military action against the Germans.
- After 1935, therefore, the League was never taken seriously again. The real explanation for the failure of the League was simple: when aggressive states such as Japan, Italy and Germany defied it, the League members, especially France and Britain, were not prepared to support it, either by decisive economic measures or by military action.
- The League was only as strong as the determination of its leading members to stand up to aggression; unfortunately, determination of that sort was sadly lacking during the 1930’s.
League was not a complete failure
- Some historians believe that the League should not be dismissed as a complete failure and a total irrelevance in world history.
- Ruth Henig, for example, feels that the League is seen for what it was, a bold step towards international cooperation which failed in some of its aims but succeeded comprehensively in others’. She published a book, The League of Nations (2010) in which she gave the following arguments:
- The League’s creation ‘marked an important step on the road to our contemporary global system of international organisation, coordinated through the United Nations, which was built on the foundations of the League’s experience’.
- Expectations of what the League might achieve were far too high and completely unrealistic. How could it possibly have been expected to deal with aggressors when it had no army of its own and no mechanism to compel member states to provide their troops?
- The League’s great contribution was that it provided the first experimental phase, the blueprint for a second, more effective and longer-lasting form of international co-operation – the United Nations (UN).
- The Assembly, the Council and the Secretariat were adopted as a basis by the UN.
- The UN International Court of Justice reproduced almost identically the League’s Permanent Court.
- The International Labour Organization is still operating today.
- Many other UN bodies, such as the Economic and Social Council and World Health Organization, were built on the foundations of the pioneering work carried out by the League agencies before 1939.
- Many of the committees and commissions achieved valuable results and much was done to foster international co-operation.
- International Labour Organization (ILO):
- One of most successful was ILO under its French socialist director, Albert Thomas.
- It collected and published a vast amount of information, and many governments were prevailed upon to take action.
- Its purpose was to improve conditions of labour all over the world by persuading governments to:
- fix a maximum working day and week;
- specify adequate minimum wages;
- introduce sickness and unemployment benefit;
- introduce old-age pensions.
- The Refugee Organization:
- It solved the problem of thousands of former prisoners of war marooned in Russia at the end of the war; about half a million were returned home.
- After 1933, valuable help was given to thousands of people fleeing from the Nazi persecution in Germany.
- The Health Organization:
- It did good work in investigating the causes of epidemics, and it was especially successful in combating a typhus epidemic in Russia, which at one time seemed likely to spread across Europe.
- The Mandates Commission:
- It supervised the government of the territories taken from Germany and Turkey, while yet another commission was responsible for administering the Saar.
- It did this very efficiently and concluded by organizing the 1935 plebiscite in which a large majority voted for the Saar to be returned to Germany.
- Not all were successful, however; the Disarmament Commission made no progress in the near-impossible task of persuading member states to reduce armaments, even though they had all promised to do so when they agreed to the Covenant.
- International Labour Organization (ILO):
- Political disputes resolved:
- Several political disputes were referred to the League in the early 1920s. In all but two cases, the League’s decisions were accepted.
- In the quarrel between Finland and Sweden over the Aaland Islands, the verdict went in favour of Finland (1920).
- Over the rival claims of Germany and Poland to the important industrial area of Upper Silesia, the League decided that it should be partitioned between the two (1921).
- When the Greeks invaded Bulgaria, after some shooting incidents on the frontier, the League swiftly intervened: Greek troops were withdrawn and damages were paid to Bulgaria.
- When Turkey claimed the province of Mosul, part of the British mandated territory of Iraq, the League decided in favour of Iraq.
- In South America, squabbles were settled between Peru and Colombia and between Bolivia and Paraguay.
- It is significant, however, that none of these disputes seriously threatened world peace, and none of the decisions went against a major state that might have challenged the League’s verdict.
- In fact, during this same period, the League found itself twice overruled by the Conference of Ambassadors, based in Paris, which had been set up to deal with problems arising out of the Versailles Treaties.
- There were first the rival claims of Poland and Lithuania to Vilna (1920), followed by the Corfu Incident (1923); this was a quarrel between Mussolini’s Italy and Greece. The League made no response to these acts of defiance.
- Several political disputes were referred to the League in the early 1920s. In all but two cases, the League’s decisions were accepted.
- However, the creation of the League of Nations promoted international collaboration and compromise and was a dynamic step forward in international diplomacy. Rather than dwell on its weaknesses or condemn its failings, we should applaud the League’s successes, while continuing to learn important lessons from its history.
- All those enrolled for 2023 Test Series + Daily Weekly Problem Practice can send their answers for evaluation in PDF format after scanning (you can use any app) on email@example.com
- Name your file as your name and date. For example, if your name is Ashok Kumar and you are sending answer of Week 1, your file should be named as AshokKumarweek1.pdf
- Answers will be evaluated within 5 days.