The Collapse of the Old Order, 1929–1949
I0. The Stalin Revolution
A0. Five-Year Plans
10. Joseph Stalin, the son of a poor shoemaker, was a skillful administrator who rose within
the Communist Party and used his power within the bureaucracy to eliminate Leon
Trotsky and all other contenders for power. Stalin then set about the task of
industrializing the Soviet Union in such a way as to increase the power of the Communist
Party domestically and to increase the power of the Soviet Union in relation to other
20. Beginning in October 1928 Stalin devised a series of Five-Year Plans that were designed
to achieve ambitious goals by instituting centralized state control over the economy.
Under the Five-Year Plans the Soviet Union achieved rapid industrialization,
accompanied by the kind of environmental change that was experienced by the United
States and Canada during their period of industrialization several decades earlier.
B0. Collectivization of Agriculture
10. The Soviet Union squeezed the peasantry in order to pay for the massive investments
required by the Five-Year Plans and in order to provide the necessary labor and food
supplies required by the new industrial workers. The way the Soviet Union did this was
to consolidate small farms into vast collectives that were expected to supply the
government with a fixed amount of food and distribute what was left among their
20. Collectivization was an attempt to organize the peasants into an industrial way of life and
to bring them firmly under the control of the government. Collectivization was
accomplished by the violent suppression of the better-off peasants (the kulaks) and
disrupted agricultural production so badly as to cause a famine that killed some 5 million
people after the bad harvests of 1933 and 1934.
30. The Second Five-Year Plan (1933–1937) was originally intended to increase the output
of consumer goods, but fear of the Nazi regime in Germany prompted Stalin to shift the
emphasis to heavy industries and armaments. Consumer goods became scarce and food
C0. Terror and Opportunities
10. Stalin’s policies of industrialization and collectivization could only be carried out by
threats and by force. In order to prevent any possible resistance or rebellion, Stalin used
the NKVD (secret police) in order to create a climate of terror that extended from the
intellectuals and the upper levels of the Party all the way down to ordinary Soviet
20. Many Soviet citizens supported Stalin’s regime in spite of the fear and hardships.
Stalinism created new opportunities for women to join the workforce and for obedient,
unquestioning people to rise within the ranks of the Communist Party, the military, the
government, or their professions.
30. Stalin’s brutal methods helped the Soviet Union to industrialize faster than any country
had ever done. In the late 1930s the contrast between the economic strength of the Soviet Union and the Depression troubles of the capitalist nations gave many the impression
that Stalin’s planned economy was a success.
II0. The Depression
A0. Economic Crisis
10. In the United States the collapse of the New York stock market on October 29, 1929
caused a chain reaction in which consumers cut their purchases, companies laid off
workers, and small farms failed.
20. On the international scale, the stock-market collapse led New York banks to recall their
loans to Germany and Austria, thus ending their payment of reparations to France and
Britain, who then could not repay their war loans to the United States. In 1930, the
United States tried to protect its industries by passing the Smoot-Hawley tariff act; other
countries followed suit, and world trade declined by 62 percent between 1929 and 1932.
B0. Depression in Industrial Nations
10. France and Britain were able to escape the worst of the Depression by forcing their
colonies to purchase their products. Japan and Germany suffered much more because
they relied on exports to pay for imports of food and fuel.
20. The Depression had profound political repercussions. In the United States, Britain, and
France, governments used programs like the American New Deal in an attempt to
stimulate their economies. In Germany and Japan, radical politicians devoted their
economies to military build-up, hoping to acquire empires large enough to support self-
C0. Depression in Nonindustrial Regions
10. The Depression spread to Asia, Africa, and Latin American unevenly.
20. India and China were not dependent on foreign trade and thus were little affected.
Countries that depended on exports of raw materials or on tourism were devastated. In
Latin America the Depression led to the establishment of military dictatorships that tried
to solve economic problems by imposing authoritarian control over their economies.
30. Southern Africa boomed during the 1930s. The increasing value of gold and the
relatively cheaper copper deposits of Northern Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo led to a
mining boom that benefited European and South African mine owners.
III0. The Rise of Fascism
A0. Mussolini’s Italy
10. In postwar Italy thousands of unemployed veterans and violent youths banded together in
fasci di combattimento to demand action, intimidate politicians, and serve as strong-arm
men for factory and property owners. Benito Mussolini, a former socialist, became leader
of the Fascist Party and used the fasci di combattimento to force the government to
appoint him to the post of prime minister.
20. In power, Mussolini installed Fascist Party members in all government jobs and crushed
all sources of opposition. Mussolini and the Fascist movement excelled at propaganda
and glorified war, but Mussolini’s foreign policy was cautious.
30. The Italian Fascist movement was imitated in most European countries, Latin America,
China, and Japan.
B0. Hitler’s Germany
10. Germany had been hard-hit by its defeat in the First World War, the hyperinflation of
1923, and the Depression. Germans blamed socialists, Jews, and foreigners for their
20. Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German army veteran who became leader of the
National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis) and led them in an unsuccessful
uprising in Munich in 1924. In 1925 Hitler published Mein Kampf, in which he laid forth
his racial theories, his aspirations for the German nation, and his proposal to eliminate all
Jews from Europe. 30. When the Depression hit Germany the Nazis gained support from the unemployed and
from property owners. As leader of the largest party in Germany, Hitler assumed the post
of chancellor in March 1933 and proceeded to assume dictatorial power, declaring
himself Führer of the “Third Reich” in August 1934.
40. Hitler’s economic and social policies were spectacularly effective. Public works
contracts, a military build-up, and a policy of encouraging women to leave the work-
place in order to release jobs for men led to an economic boom, low unemployment, and
rising standards of living.
C0. The Road to War, 1933–1939
10. In order to pursue his goal of territorial conquest, Hitler built up his armed forces and
tested the reactions of other powers by withdrawing from the League of Nations,
introducing conscription, and establishing an air force—all in violation of the Versailles
treaty. Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, and Hitler sent ground troops into the Rhineland in
20. Hitler’s and Mussolini’s actions met with no serious objections from France, Britain, or
the United States. Hitler was thus emboldened in 1938 to invade Austria and to demand
the German-speaking portions of Czechoslovakia, to which the leaders of France,
Britain, and Italy agreed in the Munich Conference of September 1938.
30. There were three causes for the weakness of the democracies—now called
“appeasement.” The democracies had a deep-seated fear of war, they feared communism
more than they feared Germany, and they believed that Hitler was an honorable man who
could be trusted when he assured them at Munich that he had “no further territorial
40. After Munich it was too late to stop Hitler short of war. In March 1939 Hitler’s invasion
of Czechoslovakia inspired France and Britain to ask for Soviet help, but Hitler and
Stalin were already negotiating the Nazi-Soviet Pact in which the two countries agreed to
divide Poland between them.
IV0. East Asia, 1931–1945
A0. The Manchurian Incident of 1931
10. Ultranationalists, including young army officers, believed that Japan could end its
dependence on foreign trade only if Japan had a colonial empire in China. In 1931 junior
officers in the Japanese Army guarding the railway in Manchuria made an explosion on
the railroad track their excuse for conquering the entire province, an action to which the
Japanese government acquiesced after the fact.
20. Japan built heavy industries and railways in Manchuria and northeastern China and sped
up their rearmament. At home, the government grew more authoritarian, and mutinies
and political assassinations committed by junior officers brought generals and admirals
into government positions formerly controlled by civilians.
B0. The Chinese Communists and the Long March
10. The main challenge to the government of Chiang Kai-shek came from the Communist
Party, which had cooperated with the Guomindang until Chiang arrested and executed
Communists, forcing those who survived to flee to the remote mountains of Jiangxi
province in southeastern China.
20. Mao Zedong (1893–1976) was a farmer’s son and man of action who became a leader of
the Communist Party in the 1920s. In Jiangxi, Mao departed from standard Marxist-
Leninist ideology when he planned to redistribute land from the wealthy to the poor