Chapter 7 - Chapter 7 Overview The devastations of the war...

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Chapter 7 Overview The devastations of the war and the depression had the effect of polarizing the societies of the capitalist powers along lines of class. The appearance of a communist nation on the world stage frightened a significant portion of the middle classes; worker risings in Germany and strikes there and in France, Britain, and Italy convinced many people that workers might indeed take over their countries. Conservative parties took advantage of the rising sense of panic to sharpen their ideologies and make overstated claims about the threat of communism. Businesses, in turn, reading the political tea leaves in their favor, hardened their stance against striking workers. In Britain, the General Strike of 1926 seemed to validate conservative fears and enabled them to pass legislation that restricted the ability of unions to operate on behalf of their members. The Liberal party, traditionally the center party bridging the gap between left and right, lost its capacity to seriously contest elections: the middle classes moved right and found a home in the Conservative party, while working-class men and women flocked to the Labour party. In France, class conflict took on the aspect of two diametrically opposed political groupings. On the right, semi-fascist parties faced the Popular Front, a coalition of moderate and leftist parties. In Italy and Germany, fascist parties came to power with the aim of recuperating national greatness through war. The belligerence of Hitler and the Nazis during the 1930s proved so provocative that the European powers found themselves once again preparing for war against Germany. Fascism and the Rise of Hitler In Italy, a variety of middle-class interests gave their support to the fascist party. Italy had been hurt badly by depression as early as 1919, and a rash of strikes exacerbated middle-class fears of revolution. Under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, the Italian fascists promised to defend against working-class revolution; blackshirted fascists attacked socialists and impressed many with their willingness to take action where others seemed merely to shrug their shoulders. Business leaders appreciated their anti-strike stance, and supported their efforts. After winning a number of local elections by promising to end class conflict through the creation of national unity, Mussolini felt strong enough to force the issue. In September 1922, he began to demand a role in government. In October 1922, at the head of some 50,000 blackshirts, he marched on Rome and took the city. When the prime minister resigned, the king, Victor Emmanuel III, asked Mussolini to form a government. Quickly he moved to establish a dictatorship, abolishing parliamentary government and eliminating opposition through violent means. German fascism took longer to take hold. Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist party enjoyed little
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This note was uploaded on 03/18/2009 for the course HIST 1020 taught by Professor Vavara during the Fall '07 term at Colorado.

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Chapter 7 - Chapter 7 Overview The devastations of the war...

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