Looking at the different types of propaganda and political organization used by these radical groups during the inter-war period, discuss with your group what parallels do you see between these propaganda messages and ones you may experience today?
This week, we will be looking at the rise of extremism in Europe and examine its links to the start of World War II.
The period between the First and Second World War was a time of revolutionary change within Europe, but also part of the eventual drive to World War II. The post-World War I era was characterized by the rise of radical political movements across Europe. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the Italian Fascist Movement led by Mussolini, and the National Socialist German Workers Party of Germany, or Nazis (more on them next week) were all characteristic of a global rise of extremism. In Europe, the horrors of the First World War created a collective sense of loss that allowed for new, radical ideas to take root in almost every major country. Though Germany and Italy are the two most successful examples, radical ideas like fascism were viewed as viable alternatives to the old democratic orders that were seen to have failed Europeans. This idea that the enlightened world had caused such carnage during the First World War drove many people into the arms of even more radical and destructive ideals.
Orwell was very aware of this threat, as you see in his accounts of the social and political question in Road to Wigan Pier (which he echoed to a degree in his short writeup on the topic in 1944 on What is Fascism?). Mussolini, however, was even more blatant in his definition. Both men clearly articulate the appeal of these ideas, but also their underlining threat, which comes to full fruition with the rise of the Nazi state and World War II. Keep in mind, particularly regarding inter-war Germany, that Weimar German was one of the most technologically, culturally, educationally, and industrially advanced nations in the world, but a combination of economic weakness, post-war uncertainty, and the rise of political extremism globally allowed for the Nazi Party to become All Things to All People.
Fascism was a revolutionary idea. It called for a removal of many of the democratic institutions which had grown since 1848, while also harkening back to an older order. It was also attempting to act as a counter point to the rising fear of Communism/Bolshevism in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution.
These radical ideas became even more widespread with the use of new technology and propaganda techniques which illustrated how the role of the people and politics was evolving during the early 20th century. Ironically, these mass movements formed the foundation of many of the political philosophies that we still see to this day (though the messages, in some cases, are considerably less radical).
Looking at the different types of propaganda and political organization used by these radical groups during the inter-war period, discuss with your group what parallels do you see between these propaganda messages and ones you may experience today? Remember, propaganda can take the form of advertisement, political campaigns, or even the news.
Please do not be overly general, but instead illustrate specific details from the assigned material. Remember, your posts should be at least one to two paragraphs. Keep in mind a paragraph is three to five complete sentences.