World War I contributed to the rise of dictators and anti-democratic leaders in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. Specifically, Italy witnessed the rise of fascism, Germany witnessed Nazism, and Russia and Japan had totalitarian governments. Before World War I, most of these countries embraced democracy; however, various conditions during and after the war led to the abandoning of democracy and the introduction of dictatorship (Hett 15). The paper examines these conditions, how the dictators mobilized the masses using mass technology, and how dictatorship affected the lives of ordinary people.
The economic instability in many countries after World War I gave rise to dictatorship. According to Merriman (n.p.), prosperity in most countries before the war ended abruptly during the 1920s, as stock markets crashed and the great economic depression followed. Many people’s livelihoods were threatened by the economic instability that followed World War I. A significant population struggled to understand their uncertain future. Anti-democratic leaders took advantage of the situation by offering simple solutions to their problems, such as reliance on a corporatist economic system. For instance, Germany’s Nazi leaders condemned the government and promised the people to unite them and work together to address economic instability (Hett 89). They promised the people that the political discord would end once they took power. Therefore, anti-democratic leaders exploited people’s fears, frustration, and hopes to promise them a better government, as economic instability had impacted many people’s lives.
The need to restore and expand territories after World War I contributed to the rise of anti-democratic leaders. Such a need was rooted in nationalism, as many people believed that their countries were superior and needed to show dominance by expanding their territories. Anti-democratic leaders used this opportunity to gain the support of the masses. For instance, Benito Mussolini took advantage of the growing urge for Italy to assert its superiority in the world by expanding its territories, which was rooted in the belief that Italy was the heir to ancient Rome (McKay, Hill, and Buckler). In Italy, fascists aimed at countering the support of socialists who had opposed the country’s intervention during the war, which made them gain the support of a significant population. Therefore, anti-democratic leaders used the opportunity presented by World War I to promote supremacist ideologies, which appealed to many people.
Dictators relied on mass technology in various ways to mobilize the masses. They used mass technology to spread propaganda to the masses to appeal to them (Merriman n.p.). For instance, Nazis used film, radio, newspapers, and posters to spread propaganda, which was aimed at influencing the German people’s feelings, thoughts, and actions. In particular, mass technology played a vital role in spreading propaganda aimed at mobilizing the people against existing governments. Some of the dictators were Adolf Hitler of Germany, Benito Mussolini of Italy, Joseph Stalin of Russia, and Hideki Tojo of Japan.
Dictatorship affected the lives of ordinary people in various ways. For instance, dictators waged acts of aggression against ordinary people while pursuing their ambitious goals to acquire more people (Neundorf and Pop-Eleches 1840). Many people were killed during the process, as it was common in Germany whereby Nazis murdered many Jews. Additionally, many people were forced to adopt political behaviors and attitudes of the dictatorial regimes to avoid being persecuted.
In conclusion, the significant factors during and after World War I that contributed to the rise of dictators and anti-democratic leaders in the 1920s and 1930s were economic instability and the need to restore and expand territories, fueled by supremacist ideologies. Dictators relied on mass technology to spread propaganda to the masses to appeal to them. Notable dictators were Adolf Hitler of Germany, Benito Mussolini of Italy, Joseph Stalin of Russia, and Hideki Tojo of Japan.
Hett, Benjamin C. The Nazi Menace: Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and the Road to War. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2020.
McKay, John P., Bennett D. Hill, and John Buckler. A History of Western Society, AP Edition, 8th Ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
Merriman, John. A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to the Present, 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004.
Neundorf, Anja, and Grigore Pop-Eleches. “Dictators and their subjects: Authoritarian attitudinal effects and legacies.” Comparative Political Studies, vol. 53, no. 12, 2020, pp. 1839-1860.