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Editorial Reviews. Review. 'The contributors to this volume explore the difficult challenges Memory and Theory in Eastern Europe (Palgrave Studies in Cultural and Intellectual History) - Kindle edition by Uilleam Blacker, Alexander Etkind.
Table of contents

This chronology broadly makes sense, and although the sections of this Handbook are not structured around it, they nevertheless confirm its appositeness. But by seeing these immediate postwar years as no more than precursors to the definitive postwar settlement, the radical contestation and openness that characterized them can easily be overlooked.

These claims can be tested by taking as an example the communist takeover of Europe, and the way in which that process has been interpreted by historians. One of the longest running debates in Cold War historiography has been the question of Stalin's role: did he set the pace with his threats of expansionism or merely react to western, especially American aggression?

But it is also clear that the Soviets did not intend to divide the continent in —45, and that, for the first years after the war, the countries of p.

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Stalin undoubtedly acted to secure the Soviet Union's new westward-shifted borders by installing friendly regimes in Poland and Romania. Yet it remains the case that elsewhere, notably Hungary and Czechoslovakia, Stalin was far more relaxed about the progress of communism. Thus, although one can trace its origins back to the Bolshevik Revolution, and tensions between the Allies began shortly after the German invasion of the USSR in June , the Cold War did not begin in earnest until The Treaty of Brussels created a military alliance in Western Europe, aimed at defending the region from the Soviet Union rather than Germany, and within a few years the new Germanies, which lay at the heart of Cold War Europe in all senses, had been relieved of their very short period of denazification purdah and, now functioning as independent states, were willingly incorporated into NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

The birth of the new German states and the reluctant French agreement to the rearming of West Germany in the context of NATO after the National Assembly first demanded and then eventually rejected a European Defence Community also help explain the emergence of another key postwar institution: the European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of today's European Union. This was a realization that the haughty British came to later. It would be strange to explain the readiness of states to enter into this sort of multilateral, international agreement if notions of federalism were wholly irrelevant.

The key moments of the union's development, from the creation and renegotiation of the Common Agricultural Policy to the Maastricht Treaty and the post-communist accessions, have been driven by national interests, especially French fear of Germany, far more than by federalism. In the context of the early Cold War, the rearming of West Germany, the establishment of NATO, and the creation of the EEC, what we see in Western Europe is a period in which the glimpse of the radical new political opportunities that briefly shone in the immediate aftermath of the war was gradually but surely snuffed out.

The centre-right governments in power and the institutions that took shape in the s and s helped to give a conservative cast to Western European political culture.

Intellectual History - Intellectual History

Stability through parliamentary democracy was certainly one result—though not in southern Europe—especially since it came nicely wrapped in shiny consumer goods. Christian Democrats succeeded where socialist parties did not in creating some cross-class participation. I consider the survival of National Socialism within democracy to be potentially more menacing than the survival of fascist tendencies against democracy. Infiltration indicates something objective; ambiguous figures make their comeback and occupy positions of power for the sole reason that conditions favour them.

Although many of the overseas colonies, such as Singapore, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies were occupied during the war, the European powers considered it their right to reassert their rule at the conclusion of the conflict. But the newly empowered colonial subjects disagreed and, in one of the more remarkable phenomena of postwar history, the decolonization process became an unstoppable force. Decolonization had taken place before World War II Brazil in , for example , but the year brought European colonial history—barring a few exceptions—to a close, at least in the formal sense informal empire and exploitative relationships did not end.

Here the European self-image was severely tried.

Editor's Introduction: Postwar Europe as History

The British decolonization process was neither as peaceful nor ordained from above as the official and popular narrative would have us believe. When the French army surrendered at Dien Bien Phu in , and lost Indochina, Algeria was the only remaining colony of significance for the French.

In fact, it was not formally a colony but part of metropolitan France, split into three departments and returning deputies to the National Assembly. Thus, it was all the more galling that the Algerians rejected the benefits of French civilization. These events help set Fanon's violent anti-colonial tirades into a meaningful context. When he wrote that p. In the period of decolonization, the colonized masses mock at these very values, insult them and vomit them up.

Fanon was merely echoing the reality of the decolonization struggle. Their actions began the process that saw the end of dictatorship in Portugal as well as independence for the Portuguese colonies although, for Angola especially, this would usher in several decades of vicious warfare. The same forces that oppressed the peoples of the former territories under Portuguese administration also oppressed the Portuguese people.

It is with great modesty and humility that we must say, without ambiguities, that the struggle of the colonial peoples against Portuguese fascism also aided our liberation from the same fascism. Thus, as well as contributing to European prosperity in general, both economically and morally, decolonization in Portugal also helped to bring about the passage from dictatorship to democracy in that country—though not in Lusophone Africa—at the same time as the dictatorship in Spain was also coming to its negotiated end. But it faced different problems altogether.


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First, in terms of defence, the communists were not only concerned to shore up their region against the perceived threat from the West by creating the Warsaw Pact, but had to face down considerable internal opposition too. In terms of economics, while Comecon was established to rival the Marshall Plan, and was not without achievements, it lacked the flexibility of the ERP system and failed to adapt. But if communism managed to sustain a standard of living comparable with the West for the first decade and half after the war, no such comparison can be made in the sphere of politics.

If, in Western Europe, the postwar atmosphere was fundamentally conservative, this was largely a reflection of popular will; in Eastern Europe, the suppression of national sovereignty, especially in the Baltic States, the Polish kresy , and other regions incorporated directly into the Soviet Union, and the elimination of opposition, at least in the public sphere, was centrally, and violently, imposed.

The sight of tanks on the streets of Budapest shocked western fellow travellers, whose image of the golden age being realized in the here and now was shattered, 54 and provided an echo of Brecht's comment on the uprising: that the leadership should elect a new people. Once the tanks had cleared the streets there was no opportunity for further reform and the period of gerontocratic stagnation set in.

An Intellectual History of the Imagination in the Early Modern Period

The conditions of —Tito's and Khrushchev's anti-Stalinist reformism—were not present in Thus although Prague marked the last chance for reform in the Soviet bloc, its real importance lay in its adumbration of Gorbachev. But there were exceptions. The year was not only a year of revolt in Eastern Europe. Conservatives trod a delicate balance between anti-communism as in the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom 59 and anti-Americanization, with the latter usually losing out, but not without generating a substantial repertoire of distaste for supposed American vulgarity and brashness, as if a continent that had recently destroyed itself had a claim to greater civilization.

Hence student leader Rudi Dutschke could argue that:. Our life is more than money. Our life is thinking and living.

It's about us, and what we could do in this world … It is about how we could use technology and all the other things which at the moment are used against the human being … My question in life is always how we can destroy things that are against the human being, and how we can find a way of life in which the human being is independent of a world of trouble, a world of anxiety, a world of destruction. The disjunction between the conservative cultural atmosphere of Western Europe in the s and s and the burgeoning consumer society, with its unheard-of excess wealth, was no longer sustainable.

The internal tension and limited effectiveness of the New Left were due to the fact that it could not assume power without destroying itself. In France, for example, the revolts certainly shook the Gaullist regime, but it ultimately came out strengthened. Apart from the fact that the radical actions of the extreme left split the left alliance—the Radicals could no longer cooperate with the Communists, and neither could the SFIO Socialists —de Gaulle's appeal to the people to choose between Gaullism and communism brought hundreds of thousands of pro-government demonstrators onto the streets of Paris.

The subsequent cleverly timed general election in June provided an opportunity for the shocked middle-classes to register their distaste for street action.

Female Philanthropy in the Interwar

And while a tiny minority of the rebels went on to careers as terrorists in the paranoid worlds of the RAF, the BR, or the extreme right, 66 most successfully negotiated the perils of the recessions and economic challenges that lay only a few years ahead. But if the students could never overthrow the postwar p. Somewhat ironically, however, the greatest impact of this liberalizing process was to be felt in the sphere of economics in the years after The postwar economic boom—which was in fact a continuation of interwar economic trends—could not be sustained indefinitely, and not just because of the inevitable loss of market share brought about by the rise to prominence of new capitalist economies, especially in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

From an average in OECD countries of 4. OPEC's decision to punish countries it deemed to have supported Israel during the Yom Kippur war simply exacerbated a trend that was already in train. And apart from the economic blows, the unseemly scrabble for oil exemplified the problem of Eurosclerosis that afflicted the EEC in the s, with individual states desperately trying to ensure their own continuity of supply rather than working towards a collective solution.

The response to the oil crisis and to the novel problem of stagflation—which combined the phenomena of high inflation and unemployment, thought to be mutually exclusive in orthodox Keynesianism—was, over a fairly short time frame and with dramatic social consequences, to shut down the industries on which postwar prosperity had been built and to turn the Western European economy into a high-tech service sector.

The process was carried through most radically in Britain under Margaret Thatcher, with her monetarist advisors, but applied also to West Germany, France, Italy, and even the Scandinavian countries, where the long-dominant Social Democrats saw their grip on power weaken and where, in a rare moment of excitement in Swedish politics, Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated in As well as increasing unemployment, the restructuring also saw conservative retrenchment in the social and cultural sphere: liberalization of the economy but control measures elsewhere.

This meant a new liberalism which de-emphasized the social contract that had been accepted in as a necessary component of reconstruction: guaranteeing health and education, and benefits to those unable to support themselves. But it owed little to traditional conservative values of probity, social order, and economic caution. The extraordinary changes that took place in the European economy in the s and s, which largely did away with heavy industry exceptions include the industrial belt of the Ruhr and car p.

The Rise of the West and Historical Methodology: Crash Course World History #212

Economics, however, is not in itself the main driving force of historical change. The decisions taken by OPEC reveal that clearly enough. And nowhere is this fact more evident than in the history of the collapse of communism. Although by the s living standards behind the Iron Curtain had fallen way behind those of Western Europe, vanishingly few commentators believed that that meant the end of the communist regimes. Daniel Chirot elegantly notes:. By the s the USSR had the world's most advanced late nineteenth-century economy, the world's biggest and best, most inflexible rustbelt.

It is as if Andrew Carnegie had taken over the entire United States, forced it into becoming a giant copy of US Steel, and the executives of the same US Steel had continued to run the country into the s and s. And indeed, not economic factors in the narrow sense—appalling though all the indicators were—but political ones hold the key to the collapse.

Much has been written, in the wake of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of communism, to try and explain a sequence of events that almost no one had been able to p. To a large extent, the collapse is overdetermined, and it is impossible to provide a definitive explanation of such large-scale, continent-wide events.

All of these factors Reagan included did have some bearing on communism's collapse. But none of them would have mattered were it not for the decisions taken by the CPSU's new General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, first to initiate reform in the USSR and, second, not to intervene militarily when the reform process took on a life of its own.

Uilleam Blacker, Alexander Etkind and Julie Fedor (eds.) (2013)

As Gorbachev noted, with more prescience than he knew, shortly after initiating the programmes of perestroika and glasnost that were to spiral irretrievably out of his control,. To threaten the socialist order, try to undermine it from outside, and tear one country or another from the socialist community means encroachment not only on the will of the people but also on the entire post-war order and, in the final analysis, on peace. We must bear in mind that there are a number of theoretical and practical deviations, both on the right and on the left.

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