A Fluctuating State

I used to think of Fascist regimes as strict and highly consistent. However, Christopher Leeds’ article, “The Fascist State” describes the vast changes that occurred within the Fascist party during its time in power. The party’s lack of concrete political ideologies granted it the flexibility to react to economic, social, and political developments throughout the decades.

The Fascist party, led by Mussolini, could implement policies even if they seemed useless or superfluous. I particularly enjoyed the example of the party’s incentives to increase the Italian population and the exchange between Emil Ludwig, the German writer and reporter, and Mussolini. When Ludwig questioned Mussolini’s goal to increase the Italian population, the Duce erupted in the reporters face ((Leeds, Christopher. “The Fascist State” in Italy under Mussolini, London: Wayland Publishers, 40.)) Such a lively exchange highlighted Mussolini’s political sensitivity and his obsession with control. The Fascist state, and its leader, needed to appear infallible in order to legitimize the authoritarian control it exerted over Italy. Ludwig questioned, and rightly so, the necessity Mussolini’s policies aimed at increasing the Italian population due to the country’s existing high population density ((Christopher Leeds, “The Fascist State,” 40.)) These policies cemented the post-WWI fears that we studied earlier in the year. The devastating casualties inflicted by modern weapons taught world leaders that military success hinged on manpower.

Such episodes, such as the one between Ludwig and Mussolini, also start to highlight a trend that authoritarian leaders all stand on edge and might suffer from some sort of self confidence problems. Do you think that self-consciousness is a prerequisite to become a dictator?

What is Fascism?

1) Political: Highly efficient but unilateral. Mussolini’s Fascism highly contrasts common democracy because it dismisses the ethical philosophy that the majority is always right due to it being the most beneficial for the greater good. Although decisions that are non-consensual to demographic representation are often interpreted as inherently chaotic, this type of government can accomplish its political agendas more efficiently due to less required processes.

2) Economic: The opposite of Marxian Socialism. The economic ideology of Mussolini’s original fascism revolves around the individuals motives for “heroism” rather than materialism. Therefore, workers who embrace this principle will discard their desire of upward class mobility and replace it with the intent to work for the power of the State, as “Fascism believes in…actions influenced by no economic motive.” This can potentially serve as a powerful incentive for production due to laborers impression that greatness is achieved through effort rather than status.

3) Military: Expansionist. Mussolini believed what marked a powerful nation was its momentum, and there was no better way to achieve this than through expansion and imperial prowess.

How did Fascism manifest itself given the cultural and political history of Italy? Would Fascism have arisen had Italy played a larger military role in World War I?

It is easy to understand why American’s view of Fascism is dark. “The pursuit of happiness” is an American phrase that is embedded in our Declaration of Independence, while fascism regards happiness as a “myth.”

Treaty of Versailles

Three Points:

1. Germany was forced to surrender much of the territory they gained during the war.  They lost the territory that they gained from France and also had many other restrictions.  They also had many restrictions put on their control of the Rhine, saying “Germany is forbidden to maintain or construct any fortifications” around the Rhine.  They were forced to return all of their newly controlled territories.

2. Germany was forced to disassemble their armed forces.  First of all their army was not allowed to have more than 100,000 members.  Those 100,000 members were only allowed to manage the territory and not actually invade any countries.  Along with this they were only allowed to have men in the army and not use any technology such as vehicles.

3. Germany was forced to accept all responsibility for the war.  The main aspect of this is that Germany would be forced to pay for all damage committed to the “Allied and Associated Governments”.  This put all the fault of the war on the Germans and that the “Allied and Associated Governments” recognized that Germany had to assume responsibility.


1. Was there a less aggressive way to handle this and not put all of the blame on Germany?

2. How much of an impact did the Treaty of Versailles have on how Germany handled World War II.

Interesting Fact:

There was actually a second agreement, the Locarno Treaties in 1925 that was signed by the same group of countries that was used to fix relations with Germany.

Rupert Brooke’s Great War Poetry

Author: Rupert Brooke was born in England, in 1887. Brooke, renowned for his World War I poetry, attended Cambridge University on a scholarship and was eventually commissioned to Britain’s Royal Naval Division. His premature death was the result of a mosquito bite that gave him septicemia on April 23, 1915.

Content: The content of Brooke’s poetry is striking. There is a stark contrast between the majority of Great War poets who lent their prose to engraving our imaginations with repugnant images of trenches, diseases, and death, to Brooke’s stanzas that could make a man or woman leave the comfort of their home to rather charge through no-man’s land with bayonet in hand. He is extremely optimistic about the war.

Language: Poetry of this caliber is difficult to read. The language is flowery, and the line breaks sometimes make it hard to complete the whole image which Brooke’s is trying to portray. Perhaps the language would come more easily had it been read by an Englishman one hundred years ago.

Audience: All of England. This is very romantic, pro-nationalist poem that is written for anyone who is scared of, or willing to help the war effort.

Intent: Brooke’s intent is to motivate. Also, to elicit a sense of national pride and honor which can be achieved through sacrificing yourself for England.

Message: Choose glory over life; for there is nothing greater than fighting for England. “But, dying, has made us greater gifts than gold.” He also implies that death is release from this world, which Brook’s seems to think is somewhat dreaded, and that the manner in which you die on the battlefield makes one “Rich” in a sense that is more significant that monetary wealth. Simply put, Brooke’s message is that dying for England is greater than merely living for England.


The Shift From Material to Psychological Humanitarian Efforts in Post-war Europe.

Tara Zahra’s book, The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II is a heartbreaking account of displaced and impoverished children lacking national identities. In the introduction and first chapter, parallels are drawn between both the physical reconstruction of post-war Europe and the reconstruction of childhood identity. These children were at the center of political conflicts and were the social problem that dominated Europe from the onset of World War I. The state of Europe’s children represented the civilization itself in chaos. Organizations after World War 1 sought to supply these children with immediate material needs. After the Spanish Civil War and World War II, however, humanitarian efforts were ideologically transformed. While some intense nationalistic and political goals still lay underneath the surface, the primary function of these social organizations were now to serve the psychological needs of a child with an incomplete family, empty stomach, and no national identity.

The responses to World War 1 and the Armenian Genocide set the stage for future humanitarian endeavors. These interwar campaigns focused on the obvious immediate needs to a child. Food, shelter, water, and so on. However, they also largely focused on reuniting parents with their children that were sent away for their safety. With this came a larger issue; the denationalization of children. Children that were sent away during the Armenian Genocide were largely sent to to Turkey and learned Muslim practices. Efforts to reclaim these children and to “renationalize” them were crucial to these international organizations. After World War 1, children were exiled and then reclaimed again for “their own good”. However, “all the improvements in a child’s life may dwindle down to nothing when faced with the fact that it has to leave the family to get to them”. (18) This was the major issue governments were missing. People believed that the memories and possible psychological traumas would be minimal as long as the were physically safe and healthy, but we know today that that is not true.

This idea changed dramatically after the Spanish Civil War. While the aftermath left the Spaniards wanting their children back from exile in France to be reassimilated back into Spanish culture, the individual’s psyche was beginning to be taken into account. These loyalist approaches to repatriation wouldn’t go away until well after World War 2 when identities were no longer defined by where they came from, but rather where they called home. Still, strides were being made to get these “lost” children psychological help along with their material needs. Light was now shedding on the moral and social risks of a divided family and after World War II, in an effort to move forward from the depths of depravity found in the Nazi Regime, and to reclaim democracy, the child’s individual welfare was now being focused on far more than the countries desire for a unified nation. Each war and genocide set the the foundation for new improvements in humanitarian efforts.

Much of this content relates to Hoffman’s ideas on social welfare and the modern state. Children were the objects of popular politics all throughout the first half of the 20th century. After they were exiled for their safety, the children were sought after to become assimilated members of a homogenous society. Hoffman’s main idea is that social welfare is for the good of country far more than for the good of individual. The countries wanted a healthy person to increase economic output in an industrial society. Industrial society was the modern state. In the book the reader learns that the countries sent away their children and then brought them back for family stability which was a core value of Europe at this time. Leaders believed that children wouldn’t grow up to be functioning members of society if they don’t have a normal family upbringing. Eventually, they moved to a practice in which these agencies and governments did what was psychologically best for the child. This reconstruction of childhoods mimicked the reconstruction of Europe itself.

Lost Children in Post War Europe

In Lost Children : Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II, Tara Zahra explains the changes in attitudes towards the rehabilitation of children in Europe after the two major world wars. Millions of children were displaced as a result of the Armenian Genocide, World War I, and the Mexican Revolution, and World War II. In order to combat the mass orphanage, organizations such as the ARA (American Relief Association) and the IRO (International Refugee Organization) were created to feed, house, psychologically rehabilitate, and provide welfare to the displaced, wandering new “wolf children” of Europe. (4)

The welfare systems that were implemented to save children in Lost Children: Recontructing Europe’s Families after World War II revolved around psychological rehabilitation. According to Zahra, the social workers worked in the “best interest of the child, rather than any particular agenda”. (17) There is a stark contrast between the European post war welfare system than the one in an industrializing Russia, which was described by Hoffman as “a set of reciprocal obligations between the state and its citizens, rather than as a means to protect the dignity of the individuals”. (Hoffman, 19)

While programs such as the ARA and the IRO sought to bring stability to the individual emotionally and provide them with proper homes to rebuild European family life, the Russian welfare system was to serve as a catalyst for industrialization to catapult the nation into a modern era.

Critical Review of Mazower

The first four chapters of Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent offer readers a look into the European political, economic and social developments of the Interwar Era. Mazower’s main argument is that many factors influenced the political path that Europe followed: meaning that democracy was not an obvious or guaranteed form of government on the continent.

The changes that were rocking the continent at this time are clearly explained in the book using comparisons as many similarities were seen in countries across the continent. Mazower’s analysis of the way in which both right and left wing political movements gained traction during this period made especially good use of comparison to illustrate the trends throughout Europe. Through this level of comparison, Mazower displays an in depth understanding of the continent’s complexities. These nuances are presented to readers without becoming entirely overwhelming—a difficult task.

The book illustrates a deep understanding of the period in its use of anecdotes and quotations, but these details are very dense to read. Because so many quotations and examples are used, there is a lot of information to process and comprehend while reading. Moreover, the fluidity of Mazower’s own analysis is continually interrupted. Mazower assumes some level of knowledge on the part of the reader, especially in his explanations of events. He refers to many different political figures of the era, with little or no description of who they were and what they did.

Dark Continent does, however, address all of the major themes of the period with a sense of completion that is difficult to find. The book was published in 1998, and was very well received for the originality of many of its arguments. Since it’s publication, it has become a book that has informed many other historians and the perspectives present in their work. Mazower’s analysis of the political movements of the 1920s and 1930s has been used to explain political evolution in works about the Interwar Period and World War II. Julian Jackson’s France: the Dark Years (2003) addresses many of the same themes that Mazower touches upon.

The book does have some weaknesses that impact how the book should and must be read and received. The lack of bibliography at the end of the book prevents readers from being able to see his sources organized by type. The endnotes do reveal that Mazower relied heavily upon secondary sources, listing a very limited number of primary sources. This does not detract from the level of interpretation and study illustrated in the book; however, this does change the way in which the book needs to be read and studied, because it is not largely based on original research—which is surprising given that he wrote in the late 1990s about the Soviet Union, when Soviet archives had opened up to foreign researchers.

Despite the limited number of weaknesses displayed in the book, Mazower’s Dark Continent is an incredible resource for students and scholars studying inter-war Europe.

Versailles Treaty

The Versailles Treaty ended the First World War and effectively left Germany in a state of disrepair. The allies viewed Germany as the aggressor, and thus required them to make full reparations for the damages that the war caused. From the allied perspective it is easy to understand why they came down so harshly on Germany for all the suffering that was caused, however the demands were unrealistic, prompting future conflict by creating an unsettled atmosphere that ultimately contributed to Hitler’s rise.

The treaty was especially harsh in terms of Germany and her territories. Articles 45, 51, 119, and 156 were meant to strip Germany down to a mere shell of its former self by forcing the cession of many territories. The coal mines in the Saar Basin were to be ceded to France as compensation for the destruction of coal mines in the north of France, frontiers from 1871 were restored, and claims to overseas possessions were renounced. Many of these land cessions were to the direct benefit of France because out of all of the Allied countries, France took the harshest blows from the war because a lot of the fighting took place on French soil. To this day there are still regions in France that are unlivable because large amounts of live munitions remain undiscovered.

It was also evident that the Treaty intended to prevent a future war with Germany by imposing severe limitations on the capabilities of its armed forces, which is demonstrated in Article 160. Although this may have seemed like a viable solution at the time, in hindsight it is apparent that such a policy was nearly impossible to enforce. This policy lead to a series of appeasements, which allowed Germany to slowly rebuilt its armed forces while under Allied watch, ultimately allowing them to accumulate a powerful arsenal that was at Hitler’s disposal.

After the Second World War the Allies approached the post-war rebuilding process far differently. Applying unfair and impossible demands to a defeated country leaves the political atmosphere ripe for radicalism. They learned from their mistakes and adopted a policy that was less harsh and more constructive.

Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles was presented by the allied powers, and was clearly devastating for Germany.  Throughout World War I, Germany strove to be an authoritarian power, and France suffered as a result.  Following Germany’s loss, France was in the position of power over Germany, and fully took advantage of this opportunity by limiting their access to land and weakening their military.

Following World War I, France’s aim was primarily to weaken Germany’s power as much as possible.  Because Germany equated land with power, the Treaty prevented Germany from, “construct[ing] any fortifications either on the left bank of the Rhine, or on the right bank to the west of a line drawn 50 kilometres to the East of the Rhine,” and restored much of Germany’s land to France (Treaty of Versailles, Article 42).  Because Germany placed so much emphasis on acquiring land, the Treaty of Versailles certainly aimed to prevent them from having a future as a powerful nation.

The Treaty of Versailles also placed severe limitations on the German military.  The allied powers hoped that this would sever the power that Germany previously held, and force them to completely rebuild their armies.

The Treaty of Versailles was very harsh, and had the potential to take all the power away from Germany.  This was important to the allied powers, especially France.  In that sense, because Germany had taken so much from France during the war, the Treaty served as France’s revenge, and they were eager to take as much power away from Germany as possible.

Treaty of Versailles Post

What struck me when reading the selected articles of the Treaty of Versailles was how the Allied Powers used the treaty as an instrument of revenge. This feeling of anger had much to do with the rather aggressive nature that Germany took when the war began. They were quicker to mobilize than the other Western Powers, and they made the opening move in the war with their invasion of France through neutral Belgium. Germany’s decision to go through Belgium made sense tactically, but they did not realize the political ramifications that it would cause in the long run. As a result of this action the war was not seen by the Allies and neutral powers as one created by a series of tangled alliances, but it was seen as a war of German aggression. When it was time to draw up the armistice that ended the hostilities, Germany was not able to negotiate with the Allies in any way. They were at the mercy of the victors who decided to strip Germany bare of anything of value. In Articles 45,119,231,232 of the treaty the Allies are clearly taking anything of value from the German economy including coal mines and overseas colonies, and they also made the Germans pay restitution for all damages caused by the war. These harsh measures taken by the Allies destroyed the German economy and it was one of the many reasons behind the radicalization of the German populous after World War One.