The period of twenty years between the two World Wars experienced tremendous changes. There were positive developments like national awakening in countries of Asia and Africa and popularity of Socialist Movement in the Soviet Union and in other countries. The world also saw the worst form of dictatorship in many countries of Europe, especially in Italy and Germany.
A major economic crisis took place which affected almost every part of the world, particularly the most advanced countries of the West. The period also witnessed the worst economic depression in USA in 1929, which affected the economy of the entire world.
After the war, a number of political movements arose in Europe which was given the name Fascism. They had a number of features which were common that is hostility to democracy and socialism, and the aim to establish dictatorship.
They were supported by the rulers, the upper class aristocrats and the capitalists because they promise to save them from the danger of socialism. They let loose a systematic campaign of terrorism and murder which the government showed little interest in curbing.
The dictatorship introduced in Italy by Mussolini is referred to as Fascism. The term Fascism is derived from Latin word fasces which stood for ‘symbols of authority’ in Ancient Rome. In 1922, Mussolini came to power with the support of the Italian King and ruled like a dictator from 1925 to 1943. Mussolini banned all political parties and introduced some reforms to get the support of the people.
The arrogance of Victorian powers, the inability of the existing governments to cope up with postwar problems, the helplessness of the League of Nations and failure of democratic forces to check fascism made the rise of dictatorship possible.
The German version of Fascism is known as Nazism. It was established by Adolf Hitler. He promised to reverse post-war settlements and restore German power and glory. His vision of rebuilding Germany into a great nation inspired many Germans to join him. It acted like a balm on the wounds caused by the humiliation after World War I.
Many people supported Nazism because it seemed to offer a way out of the economic decline. The success of the Nazis proved disastrous not only for the German people but for the entire Europe and many other parts of the world. It led to dictatorships being established in Hungary, Rumania, Portugal and Spain.
The growth of anti-democratic government in so many countries led to World War II.
England and France too had to face severe economic crisis, scarcity and unemployment but they continued with their democratic governments. Despite workers’ strikes and other disturbances in England, the problems were sought to be solved by forming a Coalition Government consisting of Labour, Liberal and Conservative Parties in 1931. In France, a Popular Front Government consisting of Left Wing Parties was set up in 1936.
Soviet Union emerged as the first Socialist State of the world. Under the new government, socialist principles were introduced in economy and it was the only country to remain unaffected while all the Western capitalist countries suffered due to the Economic Depression in 1929.
Though USA participated in World War I, the country did not suffer much material loss. Industrial prosperity, political stability and economic growth made it a super power. However, she suffered the worst economic crisis in 1929 due to overproduction.
Prices of commodities declined leading to the fall in share prices. The banks closed down and people lost their lifelong savings. The loan which USA had given to the European countries after World War I had to be withdrawn. It resulted in economic instability in the European countries also. The new government that came to power in USA under Franklin Roosevelt introduced a program of economic recovery called the New Deal. Under this, many reforms were introduced such as creating new employment opportunities, giving help to the farmers, etc.
Japan was the only country in Asia which emerged as an imperialist country. During the period between the two World Wars, Japan became a strong military power and supported Fascism.
She signed the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis with the fascist powers. She also signed the Anti-Commintern Pact to check the spread of communism along with Germany and Italy, indicating their hostility to Soviet Union.