1. Why did the conflict between 1914 and 1918 in Europe quickly evolve into a world war? How was the balance of power in Europe and the world changed by this first “total war”? (What does this expression mean?)
As a result of many of the countries involved possessed colonies, the conflict between 1914-1918 evolved into a world war. The conflict escalated so quickly due to a system of alliances that established by the powers of Europe that connected all of them, and was able to draw them all into war if a conflict occurs. Not only Europe but also the colonial world as the 3rd International tries to spread Bolshevism around the world were influenced by the rise of the USSR and its impact. The WWI is considered one of the biggest wars in human history, also known as the Great war. Bolshevism and fascism was both born during the war, which are both based on the vanguard party concept of a small party directing the transformation of society through a technological change. The conflict evolves into a world war is also because of the existence of political and military alliances all around Europe. Germany supported Austria-Hungary’s invasion of Serbia but didn’t fulfill what it promised. All countries in Europe feared losing its own empire bringing all the countries to argue and conflict. Russia, Germany, Hungary, and other European countries believed that they are getting weaken and will ultimately lose its power. Coming to the end of the war, every European country saw the fall of European empire, for instance, German empire, the Russian empire, etc. The result brought loss of strength. Concerning the balance of power, WW1 saw the end of many European and Mediterranean empires such as the German Empire, the Russian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. It also weakened Europe and strengthened America. Put simply, total war is the conduct of the war which views all civilian and normally non-military establishments as valid targets. It is usually associated with high civilian casualties and large degrees of physical destruction. The collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917 would lead to the creation of the first communist state under V. I. Lenin’s Bolshevik Party that later under Joseph Stalin would nationalize the economy and create by 1939 the second largest economy in the world via Five Year Plans. The tragic irony about WWI’s outcomes is that across Europe royal houses and aristocracies lost power to middle class parliamentary democracies. The Great Depression would be the darkest day of capitalism and then with WWII and the triumph of the USA, we see capitalism bouncing back with America ensuring a global market based on free trade. The parliamentary democracies faced the worst economic crisis in the history of modern capitalism during the Great Depression.
2. How did the consequences of World War I–especially the emergence of communism in Russian, fascism in Western Europe, and then the Great Depression—affect the Asian, the Middle East, and Latin America during the Interwar Era (1919-1939)?
The turmoil brought about by World War I not only resulted in the destruction of several of the major Western empires and a redrawing of the map of Europe but also opened the door to political and social upheavals elsewhere in the world. Soviet Union, the first communist state, emerged in Russia by the end of WWI. In Europe the capitalist class faced a series of potential revolution at the end of WWI and the start of a precarious peace. In the Middle East, the decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire led to the creation of the secular republic of Turkey. The state of Saudi Arabia emerged in the Arabian Peninsula, and Palestine became a source of tension between newly arrived Jewish settlers and longtime Muslim residents. Other parts of Asia and Africa also witnessed the rise of movements for national independence. In many cases, these movements were spearheaded by local leaders who had been educated in Europe or the United States. In India, Mahatma Gandhi and his campaign of civil disobedience played a crucial role in his country’s bid to be free of British rule. Communist movements also began to emerge in Asian societies as radical elements sought new methods of bringing about the overthrow of Western imperialism. Japan continued to follow its own path to modernization, which, although successful from an economic perspective, took a menacing turn during the 1930s. Between 1919 and 1939, China experienced a dramatic struggle to establish a modern nation. Two dynamic political organizations—the Nationalists and the Communists—competed for legitimacy as the rightful heirs of the old order. At first, they formed an alliance in an effort to defeat their common adversaries, but cooperation ultimately turned to conflict. The Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek emerged supreme, but Chiang found it difficult to control the remnants of the warlord regime in China, while the Great Depression undermined his efforts to build an industrial nation. By demolishing the remnants of their old civilization on the battlefields of World War I, Europeans had inadvertently encouraged the subject peoples of their vast colonial empires to begin their own movements for national independence. The process was by no means completed in the two decades following the Treaty of Versailles, but the bonds of imperial rule had been severely strained. Hitler promised to put Germany back to work. He did so first by building highways and then by rearming for another world war. The instability and political extremism that emerged in Europe in the wake of the Great Depression also emerged around the rest of the world and the peoples in European colonies whether in Africa, Asia, in a neocolonial condition, Latin America often blamed capitalism for their misery and often looked to the USSR which seemed to have no unemployment and to be producing a society of economic prosperity and social and political equality. Once Europeans began to weaken themselves in the even more destructive conflict of World War II, the hopes of African and Asian peoples for national independence and freedom could at last be realized. While European nation states lost much of their political and economic dominance the fact that both capitalism and communism had emerged in Europe after the Enlightenment and French Revolution ensured that most of the world’s population through the 1970s were still mainly reacting to ideas and ideologies developed in Europe between 1600 and 1900.
3. How did World War II end the age of European colonialism and empire and usher in the Cold War? Why did European political and economic dominance decline between 1945 and 1979 yet the ideologies produced on this small continent continue to have such power around the world?
World war II ended the age of European imperialism by forever abandonment of the notion that Europeans and their system were somehow superior and/or more powerful than non-Europeans. This was done primarily through the Japanese empire’s defeat of the colonizing powers in Asia and through a realization by world peoples that Europe’s politics had thrown the world into two destructive world wars. European political dominance declined after WW2 as America and the USSR rose to the fore and because their nations and economies were stripped of their empires, destroyed by war, and faced the Americans and Russians on the world stage. These two continentals “superpowers” would defeat Hitler in Europe and divide the continent between them and then try to spread their ideology (capitalism in the USA, communism in the USSR) during the Cold War. Ideologies produced during the European imperial age continue to have power because they influenced many countries and their behaviors. Neither the USA or the USSR would use the new atomic weapons that could very well wipe out humanity but instead would try to gain the adherence of nations and peoples through the superior functioning of the free market or public control of the economy. To gain greater credence the USA promoted decolonization of Asia and Africa and the USSR tried to promote revolutions such as its own or ones like China or Cuba. Japan, previously mentioned, is an example. To prevent themselves from being colonized and defeated, they modernized along European lines and became an empire of their own. Furthermore, despite the end of imperialism, the economic imbalances, artificial states, and socio-political scars that resulted from imperialism continue to hamper development and success in the post-imperial colonies. This is very noticeable in African post-colonial states, where economic factors, such as a lack of infrastructure, led them to become resource supplying states unable to develop heavy domestic industries and deficiencies in education during the imperial period made forming post-war governments difficult.
4. Why did Communist China change economic policies in the late 1970s? Why did the USSR collapse in 1991? What has been the impact on these shifts for political and economic policies around the world?
Two of the most momentous events of world history since 1980 is the transformation of the China into a capitalist economy even while the political system remains officially communist and the disintegration of the USSR into a series of states lacking the former coherence of Russian autocracy yet not being fully democratic or free market capitalist. When Communist Party leader Mao Zedong took power in 1949 he was determined to transform China from a rural economy into an industrial giant. Farms were collectivized into large communes and resources shifted to heavy industry, which was nationalized. But by Mao’s death in 1976 it was clear these reforms had failed, leaving China impoverished and isolated. When he came to power in the late 1970s, Deng Xiaoping recognized the need to restore credibility to a system on the verge of the breakdown and hoped that rapid economic growth would satisfy the Chinese people and prevent them from demanding political freedoms. Deng Xiaoping started slowly to transform China after the death of Mao. Post-Mao leaders clearly placed economic performance over ideological purity. To stimulate the stagnant industrial sector, which had been under state direction since the end of the New Democracy era, they reduced bureaucratic controls over state industries and allowed local managers to have more say over prices, salaries, and quality control. Productivity was encouraged by permitting bonuses for extra effort, a policy that had been discouraged during the Cultural Revolution. The regime also tolerated the emergence of a small private sector. China has been the country with the largest population. Thus, it required huge employment opportunities as well as robust growth to prevent chaos in the economy. Thus, China sensed the upcoming opportunities because of the beginning of globalization and opened the door for companies. It helped to fuel the growth, offered employment to Chinese labor force and opened a window of low-cost exports to other nations. Thus, China started building their own market to cater their own growth. Also, China played cleverly to focus on manufacturing setups because it helped in using economy of scale. It fed the demand side of the economy and brought in price stability in the long term. In 1978 Deng Xiaoping became the leader and began an ambitious programmed of economic reform aimed at raising rates of foreign investment and growth.
After overthrowing the centuries-old Romanov monarchy, Russia emerged from a civil war in 1921 as the newly formed Soviet Union. The world’s first Marxist-Communist state would become one of the biggest and most powerful nations in the world, occupying nearly one-sixth of Earth’s land surface, before its fall and ultimate dissolution in 1991.The USSR was a group of nations with different ambitions. These nations wanted to move independently without any master like USSR. Though, USSR stuck with old-fashioned policies that were not working to meet everyone’s need in the changed global scenario. Oppressive policies in combination with lack of freedom caused different forces to pull the USSR in different directions. Finally, it led to the collapse of USSR and countries freed from the socialist republic choose their own path. Moreover, China after the 2008 economic crisis embarked on an ambitious economic stimulus program that may make this ancient nation the world economic leader in total Gross National Product by 2025 or sooner. One tragic irony to consider is that the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989 in Beijing was in part inspired by Gorbachev’s visit to China. Alas, China has not yet become democratic and neither has Russia.
Moreover, high levels of corruption at various levels in USSR member countries and vast and fundamental cultural differences between certain members of the Soviet Union coupled with dramatic reforms initiated by Gorbachev that the country was not ready for can be highlighted as main reasons behind the collapse of the USSR.
5. What is the significance of the Iranian Revolution of 1979? What is its relationship with the Islamic Revival?
The Iranian revolution is considered as the most epochal event of the century because for the first time a non-European society rejected Western models for modernization and based its revolutionary agenda on its traditional religion of Islam. Along with the revival of the Islamic religion, the period also witnessed the struggle against modernism. The political powers were being used to keep the people away from modernism. Mosques became the center of the resistance and the messages of the Ayatollah Khomeini and other religious leaders were widely spread through tapes and tape recorders. Demonstrators used the traditional 40-day mourning cycle for dead friends and family to keep the protests going. To stem unrest due to inflation the Shah cut government spending but this lead to an increase in unemployment and the economic and political crises thus exacerbated each other. In the regime of Mohammed Reza Shah, a religious and secret force SAVAK was used to exercise the powers of the monarch. The imperial influence from the west and the other irregularities that it had brought along with it were brought down under control during this period. The Iranian revolution stood against the weaknesses such as favoritism, income inequalities and concentration of the economic power in the hands of a few. The period was marked by the struggle between the classes. The other important event that the revolution marked was the fall of the monarchy.
The third sign of the Iranian revolution in the year 1979 was to help in the sustenance of the religion. After the fall of USSR, eradication of Islam became important for many countries. After the Second World War, USA allied with Saudi Arabia and saw the acceptance of Muslims as a method to promote communal brotherhood, whereas Iran joined hands with the Shi’s. The countries with Islam as the major religion strengthen the emphasis on practicing the religion and removal of the adversaries such as western influence not only from the economic background of the country but also from the social structure of the nations. The stress was being laid on following the rules that have been taught in the Islamic religious books to frame the way of living. The period framed policies that reinforced the extremist views and laid stress on practicing the religion as the base of living for all people.
6. What political, economic, and social forces are shifting the center of world economic activity Eastward and Southward? What are the consequences of this transformation?
Since the 1970s the growing ability of people and companies to ship and communicate every more quickly and easily has resulted in Asia and Latin America increasingly becoming the site of industrial production due to cheaper labor costs and newer and more efficient factories. Money typically flows from Low-interest rate economies to high-interest-rate economies obviously for an obvious reason which is better investment avenues. Germany and France show that developed nations can retain a powerful export market through specialized tools that required high levels of expertise, such as airplanes, cars, and military weapons and the USA shows that innovations in computer technology can also keep the developed world competitive. Institutions also enter carrying trade which refers to borrowing from low-interest rate economies and investing in risk-free government securities of high-interest rate economies and earning the margin by taking the interest rate risk. But it shall be kept in mind that currency stability and political stability is a necessity for capital inflows to take place. For e.g. Russia kept policy rates at 17% but still, we witness potential net outflows due to its currency being inadequately unstable. Manufacturing is centered “east” in countries with ridiculously low labor rates, lax labor laws, and high work ethic. So, Africa has cheap labor but low productivity while Asia has high productivity. The West then conveniently overlooks what amounts to slave labor or in China labor camps for political prisoners etc. and simply enjoys the benefits of the cheap product and the vague hope that someone somewhere ate a meal because of the job provided which oddly enough is true in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia. As economic activity puts disposable income into the hands of workers and the business owners they become more discerning and begin looking for cheaper labor markets. So, China invests equipment in Africa with huge business loans in the hope of harvesting labor and setting up factories in Vietnam and Cambodia. But equally the economic activity brings internal demand for goods and services from the newly empowered business owners and workers. So, much of China’s demand is for internal growth while the rest is for manufacturing input to Europe and America. But all of this is happening amidst a worldwide industrial, scientific, and urban revolution that hopefully will result in no portion of the world deprived. One only must see the massive amount of Chinese investment in overseas property markets to know that not all the cash moving offshore is business related but much is money laundering by corrupt officials and business owners for a quick getaway if the regime changes.