Nazi-Soviet Pact/Stalin’s Speech

The first of Wednesday’s readings, the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, was a document that created a mutually beneficial, albeit brief, truce between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. Although both countries had fundamentally different political systems and ambitions, Russia favored entering into a non-aggression pact because it knew that Germany was a highly industrialized, blossoming state that posed them a significant threat. Stalin knew that if Hitler chose to strike Russia, they would not be adequately prepared to defend themselves. At first the truce benefitted Germany because once they decided to engage most of Europe, they knew that they would not be required to fight a two-front war as they had to do in the past during WWI. Hitler saw fit to violate this pact, which it appears to have been his intention all along, because it was part of his political ideology to remove the Jewish problem in the east in order to make room for the Lebensraum to house the burgeoning German population. He believed that Russia could be easily taken, allowing Germans to reclaim the territory that is rightfully theirs, from the Bolshevik/Jewish “menace.”

The second of Wednesday’s readings, Stalin’s speech form 1946, was the speech that highlighted his re-election campaign. In this speech he attributed Russia’s victory to the effectiveness of the country’s Soviet system. Stalin adamantly professed the efficacy of the system when he stated, “The issue now is no longer the viability of the Soviet state system, because there can be no doubt about its viability…” While it is true that Russia was much more effective fending off Germany in WWII than WWI, Stalin asserted that no other system could have achieved such positive results. While arguing for the efficacy of his Five Year plans, he compared Russia’s output in 1941 to that of 1913. He used suspect reasoning while justifying his argument with these statistics because Russia was in such a dismal state of affairs in 1913 that the gains experienced during this interval of time could in fact be considered, “the simple and ordinary development of a country from backwardness to progress.” Once Germany violated their Non-Aggression pact, Russia was put on the defensive and nearly taken over by Germany. For a nation as large and populous as Russia, the industrialization achieved by 1941 was still relatively lackluster. When Stalin stated in his speech that “it does not resemble the picture of the way our army was supplied during the First World War, when the front suffered chronic shortages of artillery and shells, when the army fought without tanks and aircraft, and when one rifle was issue for every three men,” he is partially incorrect because that was the Red Army’s state of affairs for much of the first half of the war. During the battle of Stalingrad troops were sent into battle rifleless, similarly to WWI. Also, Stalin was forced to pass order #227, which stated that any man who made an attempt to retreat was to be gunned down by his own troops who were stationed in the rear of the lines.[1] He failed to take into consideration the fact that any population facing the brink of total annihilation will do anything in their power to survive by focusing the entire nation’s efforts and resources towards the war effort, regardless of what system is in place. Stalin used the Russian victory as a springboard to launch his reelection campaign. He only highlighted the positive aspects of the war, which obviously cumulated with a Soviet victory against their antagonistic, Nazi-German enemy. What he chose to exclude from his speech was the 21 to 28 million deaths that the Soviet Union experienced during the war – far more than any other participating nation.


The Proclamation of the Irish Republic

Author(s): Irish Citizen Army, Thomas J. Clarke, Sean Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, P. H. Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, and Joseph Plunkett. Thomas J. Clarke was most responsible for the rising and the writing of the document. All seven signatories of the proclamation were later executed by the British military for treason in wartime (World War I).
Context: 1916, World War I. Members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood organized an insurrection in the spring of 1916, while Britain was involved in the war in Europe. Ireland was still controlled by Britain, and was far outmatched by the British military. The resulting conflict lasted just six days, before the leaders of the insurrection agreed to an unconditional surrender.
Language: The language of this proclamation is defiant and confident. It is not difficult to read, and is fairly straightforward.
Audience: The Irish people as well as the British government and royalty.
Intent: To declare independence from England and to emphasize the will of the Irish people to continue to seek sovereignty and independence. “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of the Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.”
Message: The authors and signatories of this proclamation aimed to inform the British government and the Crown that Ireland would be independent and sovereign, and they would continue to seek independence until it was achieved. The only way to stop the Irish people from seeking independence was to stop the Irish people from existing altogether. This proclamation is also a call to arms for the Irish people; it claims the allegiance of every Irishman and woman, and calls the children of Ireland “to sacrifice themselves for the common good.”

Disillusionment and Fear Following WWI

Following the First World War, a sense of disillusionment fell over Europe, and Germany especially. In his 1920 film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Robert Wiene depicts the bewilderment of the German people after losing the war, as well as a general apprehension about change in the world. On the surface, Wiene’s film may seem like merely a horror movie, but it is, like all art, influenced by the ideas and events of the time, giving us a glimpse of interwar thinking.

In the early 19th century, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein served as a cautionary tale about the dangers of science and attempting to play God. Bertrand Russell discusses the dangers of science, as well, in Icarus or The Future of Science, in 1924, a century after Shelley. At this point, technological advances are occurring in many fields, such as manufacturing and science. Russell warns, “physiology will in time find ways of controlling emotion, which it is scarcely possible to doubt.” He fears that someday people will be able to control others with hormone injections, and make them do their bidding. This fear is brought to life in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Dr. Caligari is a physiologist who controls one of his patients by keeping him asleep through hypnosis, then waking him and forcing him to murder people. Not only does this show the evil of playing God, in the end, the whole story was just the main character’s hallucination, who is himself an inmate at a mental institution. This represents the disenchantment of the time, especially in Germany. The German people thought that President Wilson’s Fourteen Points would be the basis of the peace treaty, but instead all of the guilt and economic burden of the war are placed on Germany’s shoulders, while at the same time, Germany is being stripped of her economic resources.

The time period after World War One was an awakening. The war had caused destruction and death of an unprecedented amount.  To express disillusionment with the world, many people turned to the arts. Why the arts? Why, especially, film? Why was and is film such a strong medium for conveying ideas? What is it about film that makes it so powerful? Or is film not powerful, and some other form of art is the best form of self and ideological expression? Why?