It’s DEJA VU all over again!
The world is starting to resemble the 1930’s, which ended in WWII.
1) ITALY may not seem important. But In 1922 the fascists came to power and Mussolini proclaimed a revival of the Roman Empire. That was the beginning of World War II in Europe. Fascism was a major force in a number of European countries in the thirties.
The country had an election last Sunday. The result stunned Europe — two populist parties got most of the votes. The two parties are widely seen as the equivalent of the fascist party that ruled Italy up to and during WWII.
This follows an election a few months ago that had a similar outcome in Germany. The AfD there is now the main opposition party. These parties in Germany, Italy and elsewhere in Europe are often labeled “far-right.” They are all “populist” parties that have gained support at the expense of mainstream political parties. They are anti-EU and anti-immigrant, as well as very nationalistic.
2) There is increasing talk of a TRADE WAR on both sides of the Atlantic. What started out as retaliation against unfair Chinese trade policies is spreading into a full-scale trade war between the US and the EU. The Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 followed the stock market crash and put high tariffs on US imports. It is considered a major development on the road to the GREAT DEPRESSION, which led in turn to WW2. It is difficult to see how the western alliance can hold together with increasing conflict over trade.
Historically, trade wars increase unemployment; while unemployment leads voters to turn to the right, becoming more nationalistic. A trade war will strengthen populist parties everywhere.
3) GERMANY REARMING — President Trump has been pushing for this to force Germany to contribute more to western defense. Germany now has a military presence in the Sahel, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and Baghdad. Germany is also at the forefront of calling for a united European military force.
4) UK & GERMANY AT LOGGERHEADS — In 1938 the British government was seeking to appease Germany; it still is, though this time there’s no talk of war. Just TALK, TALK, TALK over trade following Brexit. It does not look good for Britain as I write.
5) GROWING ANTI-SEMITISM. There have been a number of attacks on Jews in France, so many, in fact, that French Jews are leaving in record numbers for Israel; the Polish parliament has passed a law that forbids people from claiming Polish involvement in the Holocaust, even though it’s known that 200,000 Poles helped the Nazis round up Jews during World War II and assisted in the extermination camps; thirdly, Iceland has just banned male circumcision, while other countries are considering it. This action will affect Muslims as well as Jews.
6) RUSSIA IS MAKING THREATENING NOISES UNDER PUTIN, just as it did under Stalin. Could Russia and Germany repeat the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact? Both China and Russia now have dictators for life. A prominent spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church is calling for the restoration of the monarchy in Russia. He seems to have Putin in mind as Czar. Whatever happens domestically in each country, the US will likely be in confrontation with both in the future. In the 1930’s Stalin’s threats were ideological; now the threats are just plain old-fashioned nationalism.
7) AMERICA FIRST – in the 1930’s it was AMERICAN ISOLATIONISM, now it’s called AMERICA FIRST. And it’s not just Trump – America is focused on itself. There is little foreign news on TV and most people just aren’t interested in what’s happening overseas. It took Pearl Harbor to wake Americans up. What will it take this time?
History repeats itself. But it does not repeat itself exactly. It remains to be seen how future events play out. But the similarities with the 1930’s are definitely there.
There are, however, two big differences.
During the 1930’s the world’s only superpower was the British Empire. This no longer exists. There is also no Winston Churchill warning of the dangers ahead. Without a warning message it is doubtful nations will make the changes needed to change course and avoid the mistakes of eight decades ago.
The above is a speech I’ve prepared for Men’s Speech Club tomorrow. I decided to post it to my blog.