Discuss all of the following questions using several different examples from the text, or video, and original analysis of your own.What were the causes of the Cold War?How did the outcome of the Second World War factor into the Cold War?What role did communism play in the Cold War?What role did nationalism play in the Cold War?What was life like for people in Eastern Europe during the Cold War?What was life like for people in Western Europe during the Cold War?What was life like for women during the Cold War?How did the Cold War affect European culture and society?Attached is the reading assignment to assist this week. Shubert, A. & Goldstein, R.J. (2012). Twentieth-century Europe. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Your initial post should be at least 250 words in length. Support your claims with examples from required material(s) and/or other scholarly resources, and properly cite any references5
From World War II to the Age of
Prosperity, 1945–1973
Drink A Toast to the Great Russian Nation, 1947,
Mikhail Ivanovich Khmelko. This 1947 painting is an
example of Socialist realism, which sought to
glorify the socialist state and advance the goals
of Communism.
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
orld War II exacted a brutal toll on Europe. The human carnage and material
destruction were immense. The horrors of the Holocaust put an end to any lingering claim for Europe’s cultural superiority, and with it the right of Europeans
to rule over others. Military, economic, and cultural power seemed to lay elsewhere. Yet,
starting from this economic and moral wilderness, Europe, or at least the part of it that
was not under Communist control, would stage an astonishing and rapid comeback.
5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
hile Hitler’s Empire was at its height during World War II, Europe experienced
an unsought near-unity imposed from above, like that of Napoleonic times. An
equally imposed division followed this unity: During the Cold War, external
powers effectively divided Europe into spheres of influence, with the United States dominating the West and the Soviet Union dominating the East. (See Figure 5.1.) Although the
United States never treated the Western European nations as satellites, as the Soviet Union
did in Eastern Europe after 1947, the destruction of the war and the reliance of Western
Europe upon the Americans for investment, trade, and military defense made it an effective dependency of the United States.
The term cold war refers to the fact that, although the United States and the Soviet Union
never engaged in direct military conflict—that is, their own armed forces never actually
fought each other—the relationship between them was frozen into one of deep hostility.
In the view of both of the main antagonists, the relationship threatened to turn into a
fighting, or “hot,” war at any moment. After the Soviet Union developed its own atomic
bomb in 1949, and during the subsequent arms race that saw each side build some 25,000
nuclear weapons by 1990, such a war threatened the annihilation of humankind in what
became known as “mutually assured destruction.”
In retrospect, fears of outright war probably were exaggerated, partly because neither
party was willing to risk such utter devastation and partly because they each tended to
hold paranoid views of the other. There is no evidence that the Soviet Union seriously
contemplated an invasion of Western Europe, which was a fear repeatedly expressed by
the United States. In turn, it is clear that no matter how unhappy the United States was
that the Soviet Union turned Eastern Europe into a region of satellite states, an invasion for the purpose of challenging Soviet supremacy in the region was never seriously
considered. Since Soviet troops who had been fighting the Nazis were in occupation of
virtually all of the capitals of Eastern and Central Europe, only an enormous military
action could have fundamentally challenged Soviet power there. By 1948 the domination was complete, and Eastern Europe’s 90 million people (nearly half as many as in
the Soviet Union itself) were firmly attached to Soviet economic, political, and military
systems (Paxton, 2005).
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
Figure 5.1: Cold War Europe
500 miles
500 kilometres
NATO states
Warsaw Pact states
Other communist states
Non-aligned states
The Cold War polarized much of Europe, separating it into the largely U.S.-dominated West and the Sovietdominated East.
The Deep Roots of the Cold War
The Cold War was deeply grounded in tensions that had long existed in the U.S.–Soviet
relationship. While both countries had generally been rather minor players on the world
political stage before World War II, the economic and physical devastation of much of
Europe during the war left them standing as the only two true world superpowers. This
new reality brought old tensions to the forefront. Early American fear and mistrust of
Marxism had been demonstrated when the United States, along with many other Western
powers, sent troops to the Soviet Union briefly in 1919–1920 during the civil war that followed the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Although this half-hearted attempt to overturn the
new Communist regime was virtually forgotten in the United States by the time of World
War II, it was well remembered in Russia. According to the Marxist ideology that comprised the official doctrine of the Soviet Union, capitalism, represented after World War II
in its highest form by the United States, was the primary enemy of communism and was
doomed to collapse. Similarly, hostility to Marxism had deep roots in the United States,
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
and Americans resented the constant anticapitalist propaganda pumped out of the Soviet
Union as well as the Soviet spy rings uncovered in the United States during the late 1940s.
Another source of tension in the American-Soviet relationship was that the Soviet Union
believed the United States and the Western allies had unnecessarily delayed the opening
of a second front in Europe during World War II, thus leaving the Russians alone to face
Germany for three years. The Soviets also felt, both at the time and afterward, that their
absolutely critical contribution to the war effort—the Soviet Union lost more soldiers than
all other countries combined—was downplayed in Western accounts.
The Immediate Causes of the Cold War
The most immediate cause of the Cold War was concern about Soviet intentions and actions
in Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union had been attacked through Poland and Eastern Europe
during both world wars and, in each case, not only Germany but most of the other states
bordering her western frontier had been hostile. Stalin was determined that in the future,
Eastern Europe would be, at the least, politically “friendly,” and he repeatedly brought
up this subject during the war. Finally, in 1944 and 1945 agreements were reached in an
attempt to settle this question in way that Stalin interpreted as favorable. In 1944, British
Prime Minister Winston Churchill informally agreed that in return for predominant British
influence in Greece, the Soviet Union would have dominance in Eastern Europe; and in the
February 1945 Yalta conference it was agreed that there would be both free elections and
states “friendly” to the Soviet Union in Europe in the wake of World War II. While the West
stressed the “free elections” part of the agreement, Stalin focused on the “friendly” aspect.
In the end, putting troops in place underlined and reinforced Stalin’s interpretation, since
by the time of Yalta, Soviet troops had pushed the Germans out of most of Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania and were only 100 miles from Berlin. Soviet
troops were also in Yugoslavia, though there it was local resistance that was responsible
for liberating the country from the Nazis. Thus it was virtually a foregone conclusion that
Stalin would dominate Eastern Europe after the war, and that the West could change that
outcome only at the inconceivable cost of another war. As historian David Mason notes,
just as the Western powers “swept the Germans out of the western part of Europe and
initiated Western-style democratic governments in those countries, the Soviets occupied
Eastern Europe and established ‘people’s democracies’ that were ‘friendly’ to the Soviet
Union” (Mason, 2005, p. 164). Stalin himself was quoted as privately saying, “This war is
different from all earlier ones; the conqueror of a region imposes his own social system on
it” (Stromberg, 1988, p. 301).
What followed was a spiral of action and counteraction in which each of the superpowers
viewed the other as violating the wartime agreements and seeking to dominate Eastern
Europe. The April 1945 death of President Franklin Roosevelt and his succession by Harry
Truman, who was far more skeptical of Soviet intentions, was a major contributor to the
general deterioration of U.S.–Soviet relations. Despite their dire economic situation, Truman
cut off American aid to the Soviets immediately upon Germany’s surrender. And whereas
Roosevelt had told Stalin to “make it look good” if he insisted upon imposing Soviet control
in Eastern Europe, Truman declared in 1946 that he was “tired of babying the Soviets,” who
understood only “an iron fist and strong language” (Stromberg, 1988, pp. 306–307).
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
In short, whenever the Soviet Union took an action interpreted in the West as seeking to
impose domination on Eastern Europe, the United States responded with an action that
the Soviets interpreted as part of a master plan to surround them with hostile states. The
biggest source of conflict was the future of Poland and Germany. The United States also
feared an expansion of Soviet influence into Western Europe, especially France and Italy,
where Communist parties had won much popular appreciation through their leading role
in the Resistance, and where terrible economic conditions threatened to weaken democratic governments in the wake of the war.
The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, 1945–1947
Between 1945 and 1947, Soviet actions in Eastern Europe could be viewed as consistent
with a desire to have “friendly” but not necessarily satellite regimes on her borders.
Soviet leaders excluded the Western powers from any significant role in the government of these countries, and their troops remained in occupation—save in Czechoslovakia where they were withdrawn in 1945. Stalin allowed non-Communist parties to
share power with dominant Communist parties in what became known as “national
front” regimes, and there were reasonably free elections and other political freedoms.
In general, the prewar regimes in Eastern Europe had been discredited by their authoritarianism and their collaboration with the Nazis, and thus significant political changes
were welcome.
Such change above all meant support for Soviet foreign policy, land redistribution, and
nationalization of key sectors of the economy such as major banks and the steel and coal
industries. A total of six million acres of land were expropriated from wealthy landowners and handed out to three million peasants across Eastern Europe (Paxton, 2005). In
Czechoslovakia all large companies were nationalized, a policy supported more enthusiastically by the socialists than by the Czech Communists, who like Communists elsewhere in Eastern Europe were eager to maintain a broad political coalition. Another
major development of the 1945–1947 period was the expulsion, with the blessing of the
Western allies, of almost 15 million ethnic Germans from their homes in Poland (including land formerly belonging to Germany) and Czechoslovakia (Stromberg, 1988). Many
of these policies had broad popular support, especially in Czechoslovakia where the
Communists received 38 percent of the vote in free elections in May 1946. In Hungary,
the Communists won 17 percent of the vote in November 1945, in what were the freest
elections in Hungarian history.
Soviet rule in its occupation zone of Germany was very different, though. With Western
approval, German assets were systematically stripped to support Soviet reconstruction.
This policy also reflected Stalin’s tremendous fear that Germany might quickly recover
and pose a military threat once again. Until 1946 the Western powers also allowed the
Soviets to take reparations from their occupation zones in western Germany. When this
policy ceased, it aroused Soviet fears and suspicions that the West was determined to
encircle Russia with hostile powers and was planning to supervise the rise of a powerful,
re-united Germany. Altogether, the Soviets extracted an estimated $3 billion worth of German industrial plants between 1945 and 1950. They also exerted considerable pressure on
Poland to ensure that a friendly government remained in power there, especially in connection with weakening socialist and peasant groups.
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
The West and the Cold War, 1946–1950
If Soviet domination of Eastern Europe was relatively gentle in the years immediately
following the war, it still amounted to dominance, especially in matters related to foreign
policy. In a famous speech delivered at Fulton, Missouri, in 1946, former British Prime
Minister Churchill, citing some historic European cities that were now part of the Soviet
sphere, warned, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has
descended across the continent.” Virtually every development across the world that
seemed to undercut Western influence was attributed to Soviet subversion. This included
the civil war in Greece where, in fact, Stalin had kept his promise not to intervene; the Chinese Revolution where the Communists gained power in 1949 without significant Soviet
help; and various anticolonial struggles around the world, including in French Indochina,
which included Vietnam. Soviet efforts to exclude anti-Communist Poles from power
especially resonated in the United States, which contained a significant Polish population,
as did Soviet bullying in her German occupation zone to weaken the German socialists
and strengthen the Communists.
The Truman Doctrine
In retrospect, it is clear that developments in 1947–1948 were decisive in freezing the Cold
War into place. Fearing the growth of Communist influence in Greece and pressure on
Turkey to allow a Soviet military presence near the Bosporus Straits, as well as the power
of Communist parties in Western Europe during the terrible winter of 1946–1947, when
hunger stalked the continent, the United States
announced two major initiatives: the Truman
Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Both reflected
the enormous influence of George Kennan, a U.S.
diplomat based in Moscow, who, in a famous
“Long Telegram” (1946) and subsequent article in
Foreign Affairs (1947), recommended the “containment” doctrine, in which every perceived act of
Soviet aggression would be met by an active U.S.
response. Kennan wrote,
The civil war between royalists and
Communists created many refugees. It
also provided the newly created UNICEF
an opportunity to assist. In the photo,
children sing Greek folk songs as they sit
around the barrel of UNICEF milk waiting
for its distribution.
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Soviet power is highly sensitive
to logic of force. For this reason it
can easily withdraw—and usually
does—when strong resistance is
encountered at any point. Thus, if
the adversary has sufficient force and
makes clear his readiness to use it, he
rarely has to do so. If situations are
properly handled there need be no
prestige-engaging showdowns. (Kennan, 1947)
The Truman Doctrine, announced in March 1947,
described the world situation as
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
[one in which] nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways
of life. . . . One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections,
guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression. The second way of life is based upon the
will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror
and oppression, a controlled press and radio, fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.
Although specifically pegged to Greece and Turkey, the doctrine announced an openended policy of providing American help to “free people who are resisting attempted
subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures” (Mason, 2005, p. 166). Truman
never mentioned the Soviet Union, but his speech was so clearly aimed at the Soviets that
it has been widely viewed as the “opening gun of the Cold War” (Richards & Waibel, 2005).
The Marshall Plan
The Marshall Plan, announced by Secretary of State George Marshall in June 1947 and
enacted by Congress in the European Cooperation Act of April 1948, offered massive
economic support to European countries to help
ensure their return to prosperity. It also benefitted the United States: The U.S. economy needed
export markets in Europe, and economic prosperity would reduce the appeal of Communist Parties in Western Europe. In theory, the Marshall
Plan was open to all European countries, East and
West, but its terms ensured that any country that
accepted aid would become highly dependent
upon the U.S. economy in terms of planning decisions, markets, and investment. Czechoslovakia
at first agreed to take part, and Poland and Hungary also expressed interest, but the Soviet Union
vetoed the participation of any eastern bloc countries and walked out of an early conference to
influence the plan, viewing it as simply a means
by which the United States could extend its political and economic interests throughout Europe.
Under the Marshall Plan, or the European Recovery Program as it was formally known, the
United States provided $17 billion to 16 western
European countries between 1948 and 1953. This
period witnessed an astonishing economic boom
in that part of Europe, and economic cooperation among the 16 nations helped pave the way
toward future experiments in European unity.
For a long time, historians credited the Marshall
Plan aid with playing a major role in the amazing
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In 1950, the Marshall Plan ran a poster
contest on the theme of cooperation and
economic recovery. This poster, one of
10,000 submitted, shows a chef dressed
in the flags of the European countries
receiving aid stirring a pot with the initials
ERP, for European Recovery Program. The
text, in German, reads, “Intra-European
Cooperation for Better Living Conditions.”
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
economic recovery in the region. More recently, however, the dominant view is that while
the Marshall Plan did contribute, it played a smaller role than previously believed. Recovery was already underway before Marshall aid reached Europe, and while it gave Europeans resources to help transform their economies, the impact varied from country to
country according to the nature of local economic policies.
The economic impact of the Marshall Plan was less important than its contribution to
consolidating the division of Europe. The Soviets’ view of the world was embodied by
the so-called “Two Camps” doctrine elaborated by Andrei Zhdanov in 1947, which stated
that the world was divided into an imperialistic camp headed by the United States and a
democratic one headed by the Soviet Union. In this context, the Marshall Plan—and the
Truman Doctrine—were part of a general attempt to encircle them with hostile powers
dominated by the United States.
The Berlin Airlift
Western policies in Germany stoked Soviet suspicions. While the Soviets wanted to keep
Germany weak and divided, the United States had decided that an economically strong
Germany was necessary for the recovery of Europe as a whole. In 1948 the United States,
France, and Britain announced their intentions to create a common German currency and
a united economic area in their three Western occupation zones. The Soviets reacted by
cutting off Western access to Berlin.
Standing amid the wartime ruins, West Berliners watch a
U.S. transport plane carrying supplies.
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The West responded with the Berlin Airlift: Between June 1948 and
May 1949, when the Soviets lifted
the blockade, 270,000 flights delivered 2.3 million tons of supplies,
mostly coal, to the western zones
of the city. (See Figure 5.2.) In May
1949, the Western Allies announced
the formal creation of the Federal
Republic of Germany from their
three occupation zones, to which
the Soviets responded by turning their zone into another new
country, the German Democratic
Republic. By the early 1950s, the
United States was, much to Stalin’s
grave concern, actively supporting
rearmament in West Germany.
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
Figure 5.2: The Berlin Airlift
Air C
Bueckeburg Air Corridor
United Kingdom
Soviet Union
The United States, Great Britain, and France responded to the blockade of West Berlin by flying in millions
of tons of supplies between June 1948 and May 1949.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization
In 1949 the United States and its allies—Belgium, Great Britain, Canada, Denmark,
France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal—inaugurated
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a formal military alliance committing
each member to the defense of each of the others. One scholar has called this “empire
by invitation,” as European leaders “were positively begging for an assertion of U.S.
military power” in Europe (Broadberry & O’Rourke, 2010, p. 169). U.S. policy was further concretized by National Security Council Paper No. 68 (1950), which committed the
United States to opposing the Soviet Union anywhere in the world where it was seen
as acting aggressively, since the latter power was seen as “animated by a fanatical new
faith” and seeking to “impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world” (Richards
& Waibel, 2005, p. 132). When West Germany joined NATO in 1955, the Soviet Union
responded within five days by forming a similar military agreement with its satellites,
the Warsaw Pact.
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
The Soviet Crackdown in Eastern Europe, 1947–1956
If the Soviet-dominated regimes in Eastern Europe were quite tolerant from 1945 to 1947,
this was no longer true by early 1948. There were signs of growing harassment of opposition groups even before the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plans were announced, for
example in the elections in Romania in late 1946 and Poland in early 1947. However, the two
U.S. initiatives provoked a dramatic change in Soviet policy: Increasing crackdowns beginning in about mid-1947 ended with the creation of Soviet satellite regimes, known as “people’s democracies,” in every Eastern European country except Yugoslavia by early 1948.
New Governments
Stalin feared the appeal of the West, as reflected by interest among some Eastern European
countries in participating in the Marshall Plan, and he also felt a need for more direct rule
to assure control of economic resources to aid in Soviet reconstruction. Thus, during a sixmonth period beginning in late summer 1947, the national front coalitions that had previously governed the Eastern European states were all replaced with one-party Communist
governments. (Shortly before, the Italian and French governments had forced Communist
ministers to resign from coalition governments under U.S. pressure, so to some extent the
Soviet action mirrored that in Western Europe.)
The so-called Communist “coup” in Czechoslovakia in February 1948 had an especially
profound impact in the West, since that country alone in Eastern Europe had maintained a
democratic system throughout the interwar years. Faced with the prospect of elections in
which they were expected to lose significant support from the 38 percent level reached in
1946, the Czech Communists and trade unions occupied government buildings in the capital of Prague and physically prevented the elections from being held. They then forced
the creation of a single-party Communist regime. Partly because of Czechoslovakia’s
democratic past and partly because the 1938 western surrender of Czech independence
to Hitler at Munich had been a keystone in Hitler’s plotting of World War II, the Czech
“coup,” perhaps more than any other single act, helped to convince Western leaders that
Stalin was bent on the expansion of Soviet communism (Paxton, 2005).
In September 1947 the Soviets established the Communist Information Bureau (COMINFORM) as a means of coordinating control of other Communist parties; its predecessor
organization, the Comintern, had been dissolved as a good will gesture during World
War II. Two years later they created a parallel organization for economic coordination,
the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON). Partly due to the creation of
the COMINFORM, the United States increasingly viewed any sign of Communist influence anywhere in the world as part of a monolithic master plan directed from Moscow.
Thus, when the Communists triumphed in the Chinese civil war in 1949 and when North
Korea invaded the South in 1950, the role of the Soviet Union was vastly exaggerated in
the United States, partly feeding the rapid emergence of the domestic “red scare” that is
today known as “McCarthyism.” Largely due to this exaggerated and simplified view,
the United States, which had been an opponent of imperialism, began to support military
operations against Communist-Nationalist movements in many parts of the world.
The Soviet view of the United States was similarly simplified and paranoid. The Soviet
Union saw itself as a weakened and battered power in the wake of World War II, and it
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
was desperate to protect its perceived vital national security interests in Eastern Europe in
the face of U.S. hostility. Soviet fears of a reunited and re-emergent Germany were especially intense, and its leaders viewed the United States as a wealthy and powerful nation
that hypocritically denied security to the USSR while it defended its own right to act as
it saw fit (Richards & Waibel, 2005). Each power believed that the other was engaged in a
relentless quest to destroy its whole way of life (Paxton, 2005).
Stalinism at High Tide
The Soviet crackdown in Eastern Europe was accompanied by an ever-increasing imposition of the Stalinist model: Cults of personality were created around Communist Party
leaders, and opposition and church leaders, and even Communist Party officials who were
deemed insufficiently pliant, such as Imre Nagy in Hungary and Wladislaw Gomulka in
Poland, were purged, sentenced, and jailed or executed in clearly faked trials. The secret
police and censorship now became dominant in the satellite states. By the 1950s, these
states were being run by leaders known as “little Stalins.”
The most notorious case of persecution was the so-called “Slansky trial” of 1952, in which
Rudolf Slansky, the second most powerful person in Czechoslovakia, was convicted of
working for the CIA and, along with ten others, was executed. (Slansky was Jewish, and
his trial also revealed the growing anti-Semitism in Soviet and other Communist circles.)
The Eastern European economies were increasingly oriented toward Soviet needs. Thus,
the Soviet share of Czech trade increased from 6 percent to almost 35 percent between
1947 and 1956, and in Poland trade with Russia increased from about 7 percent before the
war to 58 percent in 1951. Russia paid below-market prices for raw materials from Eastern
Europe while charging above-market prices for its industrial exports to the region. Altogether, it is estimated that such unfavorable trade terms amounted to a total extraction of
$20 billion in favor of the Soviet Union, one of a number of measures that kept down living standards in Eastern Europe.
Small farms and businesses were collectivized and central economic planning was introduced, with heavy industry stressed, and always with an emphasis on quantity rather
than quality. By 1962, only 3 percent of East German industrial production remained in
private hands, while in Hungary the percentage of agriculture in private hands decreased
from 85 percent to less than 5 percent between 1956 and 1961. All aspects of the Eastern
European economy, including how much of each product would have to be produced and
at what price, was determined by the government; and virtually all workers became state
employees. Consumer goods were relatively neglected; there were constant shortages and
complaints about their low quality. Only Communist elites were given ready access to
high-quality consumer goods from the West via special stores.
On the other hand, Eastern Europe made tremendous gains in the fundamentals of health,
literacy, and education; and a comprehensive welfare state was introduced in which
unemployment was eliminated and basic goods were heavily subsidized. Considerable
advances were also made in urbanization and industrialization nearly everywhere. Living standards remained well below those in the West, but the long-standing historical
gap between the two halves of Europe was reduced. Industrial progress was often quite
remarkable. By 1952 annual production in Poland and Czechoslovakia had reached double
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
their prewar levels (Gilbert & Large, 2002), while East Germany became the most industrialized country in the east via a policy focused on construction of large-scale chemical,
electrical, coal, and steel enterprises.
The Soviet Union
The Soviet Union itself, with the considerable aid provided by its economic exploitation of
Eastern Europe, reached prewar levels of industry and agriculture by 1950, a remarkable
feat given that about 25 million Soviet citizens had been killed in World War II and much
of Western Russia emerged from the fighting in ruins. It is estimated that the country
lost 30 percent of its total national wealth (including 26 percent of its tractors), over 1,700
towns were obliterated, and over 30,000 factories were bombed or blown up (Williamson,
2007). During the 1950s, the Soviet rate of overall growth was about 7 percent, similar to
that in Western Europe. Thereafter it fell increasingly behind the West with the result that
by 1972 total Soviet production was no more than one third the U.S. figures and substantially less than those in Western Europe.
As in Eastern Europe, after World War II the production of consumer goods was neglected,
and quality was often shoddy. Top-quality and imported goods were available only in
special stores open to privileged party members. The Soviet Union also suffered from a
terrible housing shortage, substantially due to the destruction of about five million homes
during World War II, so that shared kitchens and one-room apartments were virtually the
norm. In Belorussia and the Ukraine, people lived in caves, dugouts, or ruined buildings
for years after the war. Domestic political freedoms were virtually nonexistent, and suspected dissidents were subjected to a steady stream of arrests and trials in a police state
atmosphere. In early 1953, an estimated five million Soviets were confined to labor camps
and prison colonies. Meanwhile, the cult of personality surrounding Stalin reached almost
inconceivable new heights in the post–World War II period: Stalin was credited personally
for all the country’s achievements and his birthday became a major national celebration.
Khrushchev and De-Stalinization
In early 1953, the Soviet Union appeared to be on the verge of a vast new round of purges,
but Stalin’s sudden death in March cut this short. In the power struggle that followed,
Stalin’s secret police chief, Lavrenty Beria, was executed, and Ukrainian Communist Party
chief Nikita Khrushchev emerged as Stalin’s successor. Khrushchev was selected as an
apparent compromise candidate, partly due to his own political skills and partly because
he was underestimated by other possible candidates.
Khrushchev’s reign, which lasted until 1964, was marked by an easing of the police state—
although by no means its elimination—and an increasing focus on consumer goods and
the needs of ordinary citizens. In a secret speech at the February 1956 Congress of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the first since Stalin’s death, Khrushchev shocked
his audience with a denunciation of Stalin—”a very distrustful man, sickly suspicious”—
and his way of ruling, which involved “a whole series of exceedingly serious and grave
perversions of party principles, of party democracy, of revolutionary legality.” He even
called Stalin a coward: “Not once during the whole war did he dare go to the front”
(Khrushchev, 1956).
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
Khrushchev’s speech, which was
soon leaked to the West, opened a
period of so-called “de-Stalinization” in the Soviet Union. Stalin’s
preserved body was removed
from the Lenin Mausoleum in
Red Square to a small spot in the
Kremlin Wall in 1961, and his
name was erased from places all
over the country, including Stalingrad, which was renamed Volgograd. The novelist and former
labor camp detainee Aleksandr
Solzhenitsyn’s brilliant exposé of
Stalinist prison camps, One Day Khrushchev (right) worked his way up the Communist power
in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, was structure under Stalin (left), but after succeeding him, he
allowed to be published. For the denounced Stalin’s crimes in a famous speech in 1956.
first time, Soviet citizens could Khrushchev oversaw a lessening of Stalinist repression but
read about a prisoner’s horrific he was pushed from power in 1964.
experiences in the gulags. Previously, the most writers were allowed to do was mention the existence of these camps;
they could not describe them in any way. The labor camps did not disappear, but their
population declined sharply and the use of torture and summary execution ended.
Under Khrushchev, the Soviets invested heavily in high technology and made major
advances. The most spectacular, and one that caused great consternation in the United
States, was the launch of the first space satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Four years later, Russian
astronaut Yuri Gagarin pioneered manned space travel.
This period was also marked by a modest easing of the Cold War, as reflected by an end to
the Korean War in 1953, by the signing of a treaty providing for the withdrawal of occupation troops by all sides from Austria in 1955, and by the first post–World War II Soviet–
U.S. summit conference in Vienna in 1961. On the other hand, it was under Khrushchev
that the Berlin Wall was constructed and Soviet nuclear missiles were sent into Cuba,
touching off the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Khrushchev’s colleagues ousted him from
power in 1964, partly due to his perceived failure in the Cuban Missile Crisis and in bringing out agricultural reforms. He was allowed to live out his retirement in peace, and even
to write his memoirs.
The relative openness of the Khrushchev era was replaced by a new period of cultural
and political repression under Leonid Brezhnev, who was in power from 1964 until 1982.
Although dissenters did not face execution, as during the Stalin era, they did regularly
risk arrest, forced exile in the provinces or outside of the country, and even detention in
psychiatric hospitals. Thus, the leading physicist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, father of Russia’s hydrogen bomb, was forced into a six-year internal exile, while
novelist Solzhenitsyn, cellist Mistislav Rostropovich, and poet Josef Brodsky were forced
to leave their homelands. Soviet citizens even were forbidden from owning copying
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
machines. When a movement for major political reform erupted in Czechoslovakia in
1968 (see “The Prague Spring” later in this chapter), Brezhnev sent Soviet troops to crush
it and announced his intention (“the Brezhnev doctrine”) to similarly intervene whenever
events threatened Communist rule in Eastern Europe. Despite such restrictions, Russians
in ever-increasing numbers expressed their dissent clandestinely via the circulation of
“underground” newspapers, books, and periodicals known as samizdat (“self-published”).
The one Communist-ruled country to escape the fate of Stalinization was Yugoslavia. There
the Communist leader Josip Broz Tito led the only national resistance movement in the
region that (with Soviet aid) defeated the Nazis, and he won a massive majority in elections
held in November 1945. This gave the Yugoslavs a special status within the Communist
world, and when Stalin tried to assert increased control over them in 1948, Tito resisted.
Stalin punished him by expelling the Yugoslavia party from the COMINFORM, imposing
an economic blockade and launching a propaganda war. There was also the threat of an
invasion; from 1948 until 1953, there were almost 8,000 “border incidents” between the two
countries, some of which were quite significant (Broadberry & O’Rourke, 2010).
Despite the pressure on his regime, Tito resisted and got assistance from the West. Yugoslavia even cooperated with NATO, although Tito always refused to join, and it received
$1.5 billion in economic and military assistance from the United States and other countries
between 1949 and 1955 (Broadberry & O’Rourke, 2010). Yugoslavia’s excommunication
from the Communist bloc also allowed it to develop its own distinctive form of communism, with an emphasis on self-management and workers’ councils. In addition, collective
farms were abolished and market mechanisms were permitted to function.
Tito also played a leading role in building the Non-Aligned Movement, a large association
of states that remained outside the two cold war camps. He participated in the Bandung
Conference, the meeting of Asian and African states that took place in Indonesia in April
1955, and then worked with Jawaharlal Nehru of India and Gamal
Abdel Nasser of Egypt to develop
what was called the “Third Way.”
The Non-Aligned Movement was
formally created at a meeting of 25
heads of state in Belgrade in September 1961.
Although a Communist, Tito kept Yugoslavia independent
of Soviet control. This picture shows Tito (right) and Soviet
leader Nikita Khrushchev (second from right) during the
latter’s visit to Belgrade in 1955 to normalize relations
between the two countries.
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Relations between Yugoslavia and
the Soviet Union were normalized
only after Stalin’s death. Khrushchev’s “Belgrade Declaration” on
June 2, 1955, was a public statement that the Soviet Union would
treat Yugoslav Communists as
equals. Even so, Tito retained his
independence: He refused to join
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
COMECON or the Warsaw Pact, and in 1956 he encouraged Polish and Hungarian Communists who tried to overthrow the Stalinist system.
Unrest in Eastern Europe, 1953–1968
The combination of widespread arrests and trials, secret police, intense censorship, the
continued presence of Soviet troops and the general lack of strong democratic traditions
made political protest difficult to organize in Eastern Europe. There was sporadic resistance to the nationalization of land and private businesses, but it was generally suppressed
with little difficulty. For instance, in Bulgaria, where such resistance was widespread in
the early 1950s, it was crushed by detaining thousands of peasants in labor camps (the
number of detentions reached over 100,000 between 1946 and 1956) (Fowkes, 2000). The
1953 death of Stalin was followed by riots in Czechoslovakia and East Germany; in the latter they were severe enough that they had to be suppressed by Soviet tanks. About 25 East
Germans were killed in the disturbances of June 1953, and about 600 executions followed.
Despite the repression, one unexpected result of Khrushchev’s secret speech was to
severely delegitimize Soviet rule in Eastern Europe. Significant unrest followed in Poland,
where, quite unusually, peasants had been allowed to keep small private plots and the
Catholic Church had been allowed to function reasonably freely. The Polish unrest forced
the authorities to replace the sitting Polish leader with the “reform” Communist Wladyslaw Gomulka, who had been purged earlier. In Hungary, a full-scale revolution broke
out in October 1956. Its leaders started out by
calling for reforms but ended up demanding an
end to Soviet domination. It was brutally crushed
by Soviet tanks. Reform Communist leader Imre
Nagy, another victim of the purges of the late 1940s
who had returned to power, was executed. Two
hundred thousand Hungarians fled the country,
20,000 were jailed, and 2,000 were executed. However, after 1960 there was a considerable relaxation
of tension in Hungary, including a broad political
amnesty, a general easing of censorship, and an
increased stress on consumer goods production,
which became known, in reference to the famous
Hungarian stew, as “goulash communism.”
In Romania, dictators Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
and his successor Nicolae Ceausescu ruled with
iron hands but were able to express some independence from the Soviet Union, especially after
Russian troops were withdrawn in 1962. Thus, at
the 1963 COMECON meeting Ceausescu successfully resisted Russian efforts to impose a comprehensive economic plan throughout Eastern
Europe, and Romania also retained relations with
Yugoslavia and China after Soviet ties to those
nations grew enormously strained.
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Rebels in Budapest burn books and
portraits of Stalin looted from the Soviet
propaganda office during the Hungarian
Revolution in 1956. The Soviet military
brutally crushed the uprising.
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Section 5.1  The Division of Europe and the Cold War
The Berlin Wall
East German citizens could express their discontent in a way unavailable in other Soviet
satellites: They could simply leave the country by crossing from East to West Berlin. By 1961,
3.5 million of them, including many highly educated young people, had done so, threatening the viability of the state itself.
On August 13, 1961, the Soviets and
East Germans “solved” this problem by building a wall that encircled West Berlin and divided the
two parts of the city. The wall had
302 watchtowers, permanently
manned by soldiers with orders to
shoot to kill anyone trying to cross.
Between 150 and 200 people were
killed during the wall’s existence,
but some 5,000 managed to cross.
The Berlin Wall became a literally
concrete manifestation of the Cold
War and the division of Europe.
Children in West Berlin play alongside the Wall, 1965.
The “Prague Spring”
Unlike in Hungary and Poland, de-Stalinization had had relatively little impact in Czechoslovakia. The country had been rigidly ruled by Antonin Novotny, whose policies of centralization, stress on heavy industry, and brutal repression of dissent increasingly alienated
Czech intellectuals, Slovak nationalists, and ordinary citizens. Novotny’s replacement by
Alexander Dubcek (1921–1992) in January 1968 was an attempt to respond to pressures for
change, which arose in the one country in Eastern Europe that had traditionally had the
strongest democratic traditions and ties with the West.
Without seeking to abandon one-party rule or Czechoslovakia’s strong ties with the Soviet
Union, Dubcek set about a comprehensive reform program: Political repression was considerably eased, and an attempt was made to incorporate more democratic procedures
in the internal functioning of the Czech Communist Party. These developments quickly
spawned an explosion of dissent reflected in wide-ranging discussions in the press and
other cultural arenas and the emergence of a burgeoning civil society in which students
played an especially important role.
As the “Prague Spring” deepened between April and August 1968, Soviet leaders grew
increasingly alarmed at what they saw as a trend toward defiance and independence,
despite Dubcek’s assurances that Czechoslovakia would remain a loyal member of the
Warsaw Pact. When Dubcek resisted Soviet demands that he renounce his reforms and
purge the Communist Party, the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies invaded. The invasion led to some 500 deaths and brought the brief Prague Spring to an end on August 20.
Dubcek was allowed to remain in power until March 1969, when Czechs rioted en masse
to celebrate the victory of their national team over the Soviet Union in the World Hockey
championships. Full censorship was subsequently restored, and the police, army, administration, and Communist Party were thoroughly purged.
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Section 5.2  The Golden Age of European Capitalism
The developments of the Prague
Spring were carefully followed
throughout the world, especially
in the United States and the rest
of Europe. The “Brezhnev doctrine” and the Soviet occupation
of Prague severely disillusioned
many Communists and leftists,
for whom it marked the end of
both de-Stalinization and any serious hopes that the Soviet system
could reform itself from within.
Thus, French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre resigned
from the French Communist Party,
denouncing Russia’s actions in
Czechoslovakia as “pure aggression” and a “war crime” (Gilbert &
Large, 2002, p. 447).
The Soviet Union responded to the reforms taking place in
Czechoslovakia by sending troops from Warsaw Pact nations
to invade on August 21, 1968. The photograph shows Soviet
tanks in Charles Square in the heart of the Czech capital.
5.2  The Golden Age of European Capitalism
conomic recovery after World War I was stuttering, fragile, and cut short by the
Depression that began in 1929. The experience after World War II could not have
been more different, especially for the countries of Western Europe. These economies not only recovered rapidly, they entered a period of nearly 30 years of uninterrupted
growth at historically unprecedented rates—the Golden Age of European Capitalism.
The French call this “the thirty glorious years.” One country after another—even Spain,
which for twenty years after its Civil War had suffered under the incompetent policies of
the Franco regime—experienced what were called “economic miracles” that left them and
most of their citizens more prosperous than they had ever been.
Productivity and Economic Growth
As Figure 5.3 shows, between 1950 and 1973, the countries of continental Western Europe
had annual growth rates ranging from 3 percent in Sweden to over 6 percent in Greece,
with an average of 4 percent for Western Europe as a whole. This compares to annual
growth rates between 1.5 percent and 2 percent per year during the period of industrialization in the 19th century.
One of the factors responsible for this growth was increased worker productivity. This was,
in large part, the result of a major structural change in the Western European economy: the
decline of agriculture. Workers moved from agriculture, where productivity and wages
were low, to industry and the rapidly growing service sector where both were higher.
Between 1950 and 1975, the number of Europeans working in agriculture decreased: from
23 percent to 10 percent of the labor force in France, from 22 percent to 9 percent in Norway,
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Section 5.2  The Golden Age of European Capitalism
from 16 percent to 6 percent in Sweden, from 33 percent to 17 percent in Italy, and from 42
percent to 22 percent in Spain (Broadberry & O’Rourke, 2010). At the same time, the productivity of those who remained in agriculture increased.
Sw tes
De den
No rk
th way
Be ds
Fr m
rn anc
Eu e
Au e
Po aly
Sp l
G in
GDP % growth/year
Figure 5.3: Percentage annual growth of GDP, 1950–1973
A decline in agriculture and an increase in worker productivity contributed to high rates of economic
growth in many countries after World War II.
Migration and Economic Growth
A second major factor behind this sustained economic growth was the availability of plentiful, inexpensive labor for industry and services. This labor was provided by migration.
By 1973, foreigners made up 11 percent of the workforce in France and 12 percent in West
Germany. This compares to just over 1 percent of the West German population who were
foreigners a decade earlier.
Overall, some 40 million people moved to or within Western Europe in these years.
Migrants can be classified into three categories: (1) those who moved within their own
country, usually, as in Italy and Spain, from poorer agricultural regions to more developed industrial ones; (2) those who moved from poorer countries such as Italy, Portugal,
Spain, Turkey, or Yugoslavia to wealthier ones such as Belgium, France, the Netherlands,
Switzerland, or West Germany—these people usually sent money to their relatives in their
homeland where their remittances contributed to local economic growth; and (3) those
who arrived from Europe’s colonies or former colonies. This last group was the smallest:
The 600,000 Algerians in France in 1969 were outnumbered by both the Italians and Spaniards living there.
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Section 5.2  The Golden Age of European Capitalism
In West Germany, immigrant workers were known as gastarbeiter (guest workers). Between
1955 and 1968, the German government signed treaties with Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey,
Morocco, and Yugoslavia to govern the recruiting of immigrants. (Switzerland had a similar system.) The centrality of this immigrant labor was stressed by Labor Minister Theodor
Blank when he welcomed the one millionth guest worker to the country in October 1964:
One million people from other countries help keep our economy in gear
and running at full throttle. From
year to year, our economy has become
more and more dependent on the help
of guest workers. Today they are an
essential prerequisite for the success
of the German economy. These one
million people in German workplaces
contribute to the continued growth of
our production, the maintenance of
stable prices, and the preservation
of our prestige on the world market.
(Blank, 1964)
“Guest workers” from Turkey arrive
in Munich. Their first stop will be the
dispatching center in a bunker beneath the
train station where they will be told where
they are going to work.
The idea was that these workers, who numbered
four million by 1975, would be a temporary resource
at a time of labor shortage and that they would
eventually return home. The reality was that many
soon brought their families and became permanent
residents. By 1973, one of every six children born in
the Federal Republic was the child of immigrants.
Without intending it, West Germany had become a
country with a multicultural population.
Mass Consumption
Rapid economic growth was accompanied by full employment: By the mid-1960s the
unemployment rate in Western Europe was a miniscule 1.5 percent (Judt, 2005). It was
also accompanied by a rapid increase in real wages, the amount that people could buy
with what they earned. In 1950, Europeans spent more than 40 percent of their income
on food; in some countries it was more than 50 percent, and in Italy it was 60 percent. By
1971, the average in the 10 most developed countries was only 27 percent (Berend, 2006).
Having to spend less on food meant that Europeans had much more disposable income,
money they could spend on things that were not necessities. By the beginning of the 1970s,
it had become normal for Western Europeans to own such former luxuries as refrigerators, washing machines, telephones, and cars. To take just one example, in 1953 in Italy—
which had been one of the poorer countries in Western Europe before the war—almost no
families owned a television, only 4 percent of families owned a washing machine, and only
14 percent owned a refrigerator. By 1971 the percentages were 82 percent, 63 percent, and
86 percent respectively. There were only 10 cars per thousand Italians in 1950; by 1970 the
figure was around 170 (Ginsborg, 1990). Overall, 1.6 million cars were sold in Europe in
1950; in 1973, the number was 13.3 million, more than 8 times as many (Vinen, 2001).
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Section 5.2  The Golden Age of European Capitalism
Another manifestation of this new consumer society was the emergence of mass tourism. By
1960, most Europeans received at least four weeks paid vacation, and they began to spend
their new leisure time away from home. The rapid expansion of the French resort chain,
Club Med, which had begun in 1951,
was one indicator. The emergence of
Spain as a major tourist destination
for Northern European sunseekers
was another. The number of tourists who went to Spain jumped from
2.8 million in 1959 to 19 million a
decade later. In fact, tourism quickly
became Spain’s leading industry and
one of the drivers behind its economic miracle in the 1960s and early
1970s. Many of these tourists went
to Spain on package holidays that
included airfare; travelling by plane Mass tourism was one indicator of the new level of prosperity
was another formerly rare luxury in Western Europe. In this photo, tourists at the Club
Méditerranée in Corsica do exercises on the beach, 1969.
that became normal in these years.
The Beginning of European Unification
Until 1945, any attempt to create a unified Europe had been made by force. The postwar
years saw the first peaceful attempts to bring European nations together. For example, in
May 1948 a Congress of Europe was convened. Its most important decision was to create
the Council of Europe. The goal of the Council, which still exists today, was to “achieve a
greater unity among its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realizing the ideals
and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social
progress” (Statute of the Council of Europe, 1949). Similarly, political leaders bandied
about a plan for a united European Defense Community, but without much result.
The European Coal and Steel Community
The first concrete accomplishment for advocates of unification was the European Coal
and Steel Community (ECSC). The idea was developed by French bureaucrat Jean Monnet. Faced with the U.S. decision to rebuild the German economy, something French
leaders feared, Monnet decided that the best way to prevent renewed German aggression was to create joint institutions to oversee crucial economic sectors. The idea was
taken up by French foreign minister Robert Schuman and announced in the Schuman
Declaration of 9 May 1950, which is seen as the founding statement of the process of
European unification:
The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of
the age-old opposition of France and Germany.
Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries.
With this aim in view, the French Government proposes that action be
taken immediately on one limited but decisive point:
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Section 5.2  The Golden Age of European Capitalism
“It proposes that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed
under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open
to the participation of the other countries of Europe. . . . By pooling basic production and by instituting a new High Authority, whose decisions will bind France,
Germany and other member countries, this proposal will lead to the realization of
the first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace.” (Schuman, 1950, p. 12)
This led, in 1952, to the creation of the ECSC, involving Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, and
the Netherlands, as well as France and West Germany. The ECSC operated until 2002,
when its functions were taken over by the European Union.
The Treaty of Rome and the European Economic Community
The success of the ECSC led the six member states to broaden their economic cooperation.
In March 1957, they signed the Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic
Community (EEC). (See Figure 5.4.) The six agreed to phase out and ultimately abolish
internal tariffs on all goods and to create a common external tariff. Between 1962 and 1972
total production of goods and services in the EEC nearly tripled, with trade among the
member states increasing 720 percent between 1957 and 1969, compared to 305 percent
with nonmember states.
Figure 5.4: The European Economic Community
The European Economic Community was created by the Treaty of Rome, 1957. The map shows the original
six members.
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Section 5.2  The Golden Age of European Capitalism
Economic historians have debated the extent to which the creation of the EEC contributed to economic growth. One recent analysis states that the upsurge of trade among
the member states was already underway before 1957, and that unification did not
cause economic growth. It did, however, further the process, helping make economic
growth some 5 percent greater than it would have been in its absence (Broadberry &
O’Rourke, 2010).
In Their Own Words: Charles de Gaulle Vetoes British Entry into the EEC
Charles de Gaulle during the speech in
which he vetoed Britain’s application
to join the EEC, May 16, 1967.
If the Six have been able to build this famous edifice it is
because it concerned a group of continental countries,
immediate neighbors to each other, doubtless offering
differences of size, but complementary in their economic
structure. Moreover, the Six form through their territory a
compact geographic and strategic unit. It must be added
that despite, perhaps because of their great battles of the
past—I am naturally speaking of France and Germany—
they now find themselves inclined to support one another
mutually rather than to oppose one another. Finally, aware
of the potential of their material resources and their human
values, all desire either aloud or in whispers that their unit
constitute one day an element that might provide a balance
to any power in the world. . . .
Compared with the motives that led the Six to organize
their unit, we understand for what reasons, why Britain—
who is not continental, who remains, because of the Commonwealth and because she is an
island, committed far beyond the seas, who is tied to the United States by all kinds of special
agreements—did not merge into a Community with set dimensions and strict rules. . . .
[B]efore changing what exists, [we should] wait until a certain internal and external evolution,
of which Great Britain seems already to be showing signs, is eventually completed, that is to
say, until that great people which is endowed with tremendous ability and courage has itself
accomplished first and for its part the necessary profound economic and political transformation so that it can join with the Six continental countries. (Hanhimaki, 2004, p.335)
The United Kingdom originally stood aloof from the EEC for fear of infringements upon its sovereignty
and upon its special relationships with the British Commonwealth, the organization of former colonies,
but it twice applied for membership in the 1960s. Each time French President Charles de Gaulle vetoed
the British application. In this speech delivered on May 16, 1967, he sets out his reasons for doing so.
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Section 5.2  The Golden Age of European Capitalism
The Welfare State
The rapid economic recovery and subsequent unprecedented prosperity that Western
Europe achieved in the 30 years after the end of World War II was accompanied by the
creation of the welfare state. Probably the definition of the welfare state cited most often
is the one made by British historian Asa Briggs:
A state in which power is deliberately used (through politics and administration) in an effort to modify the play of market forces in at least three
directions—first, by guaranteeing individuals and families a minimum
income irrespective of the market value of their property; second, by narrowing the extent of insecurity by enabling individuals and families to
meet certain ‘social contingencies’ (for example, sickness, old age and
unemployment) which lead otherwise to individual and family crises; and
third by ensuring that all citizens without distinction of status or class are
offered the best standards available in relation to a certain agreed range of
social services. . . . The third objective brings in the idea of the ‘optimum’
rather than the older idea of the ‘minimum.’ . . . It is concerned not merely
with the abatement of class differences . . . but with equality of treatment
and the aspirations of citizens as voters with equal shares of electoral
power. (Briggs, 2006)
Across Western Europe, democratic governments extended the social services and benefits
provided by the state to its citizens far beyond anything that had previously existed. These
included expanded secondary and post-secondary education, health care, housing, pensions, unemployment insurance, paid maternal or parental leave, family allowances, and
paid vacations.
This could not have happened without a significant increase in government spending
that, in turn, demanded high rates of taxation. (See Figure 5.5.) Overall government
expenditures increased from an average of 10 percent to 12 percent of GDP before World
War I to a range of 20 percent to 33 percent in 1935 and to between 38 percent and 45 percent in 1975 (Judt, 2005). As government spending increased overall, its makeup changed
considerably: The place of social transfers that effected a redistribution of income became
much more prominent. From an average of 6 percent to 10 percent of GDP in 1950, they
jumped to an average of 15 percent to 20 percent in 1975, and considerably higher in countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden (Berend, 2006). Even the dictatorial
regime of Francisco Franco in Spain followed the trend, though at lower levels: Between
1950 and 1974 social expenditure jumped from 4 percent to 12 percent of GDP (Broadberry
& O’Rourke, 2010). Moreover, these changes took place at a time during which the GDP
per capita of European states itself tripled in real terms.
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Section 5.2  The Golden Age of European Capitalism
Figure 5.5: The welfare state
West Germany
United States
A general rise in GDP after World War II allowed many European countries to see a significant increase in
government spending on social services and benefits.
There was broad political consensus across Europe that this was desirable. As historian
Tony Judt put it, most Europeans agreed that “the state would always do a better job than
the unrestricted market . . . in designing and applying strategies for social cohesion, moral
sustenance and cultural vitality” (Judt, 2005, p. 361). On the one hand, Europeans decided
that the rise of Nazism and the subsequent catastrophe were due in large part to the failure
of the state to respond effectively to the crisis of the Depression. On the other, politicians
felt the need to rebuild the legitimacy of the state after the experiences of the war as well as
to attract voters. The Cold War also provided a stimulus: In the competition between social
systems, the welfare state made capitalism much more appealing to Europeans.
Divergent Models
All Western European democracies created a welfare state in the years after 1945, but
despite many similarities among them, there was no single model (Broadberry &
O’Rourke, 2010). Rather, the services provided, the levels at which they were provided,
and how they were funded all varied from country to country. That said, the European
welfare states can be separated into two broad categories. In one, consisting of Ireland,
Great Britain, and Scandinavia, welfare rights are universal and each individual has a
right to a form of social protection by the simple fact of being a citizen. In this system,
known as the Beveridge welfare state, services are funded primarily through taxes. In
the other, present in the rest of Europe, social protection rights are awarded to those who
work and to their families. Social contributions paid by employees and employers fund
this system, known as the Bismarck welfare state after the 19th century Chancellor of
Germany who introduced the first welfare measures in Europe.
In many countries, such as Belgium, France, and Great Britain, governments created welfare states at the same time that they nationalized important industries, such as railroads,
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Section 5.2  The Golden Age of European Capitalism
electricity, utilities, automobiles, and banks. It is important to realize, however, that no
connection was necessary between these two developments, and that nationalization and
other significant interventions in the free market were not an essential part of the welfare
state. The best evidence for this comes from Sweden. Governed by the Social Democratic
Party from 1932 to 1976, Sweden was long seen as the poster child of the welfare state: With
the most comprehensive set of services anywhere in the capitalist world, Swedes enjoyed
one of the highest standards of living and life expectancy anywhere. All this was achieved
without nationalizing any industries and without interfering in the market; instead, it was
the work of a state that “ruthlessly and progressively tax[ed] and redistribute[d] private
profits for public ends” (Judt, 2005, p. 367).
The welfare state succeeded in reducing economic inequalities within individual European
countries by decreasing the importance of salary and income and replacing them with free
or subsidized state services. The share of income held by the top 5 percent of the population
in countries such as Denmark, Great Britain, and Sweden decreased significantly while the
share held by the bottom 60 percent increased. Once again, the changes were most marked
in Sweden: Between 1939 and 1964, the share of the bottom 60 percent went from 23 percent
to 33 percent while that of the top 5 percent fell from 28 percent to 18 percent (Berend, 2006).
The combination of economic growth and the welfare state produced a significant increase
in the quality of life enjoyed by Western Europeans. This can be seen in the evolution of the
Human Development Index (Figure 5.6), a measure developed by the United Nations that
includes income, life expectancy, and education. All nine countries shown on the graph
improved their scores significantly over the 25 years between 1950 and 1975. At the same
time, the degree of difference among them decreased, as the level of development of poorer
countries such as Spain and Italy increasingly converged with that of wealthier countries.
50 75
50 75
50 75
50 75
50 75
50 75
50 75
50 75
50 75
Degree of Inequality
in a Society
Figure 5.6: Europe: Human Development Index, 1950–1975
The Gini Index measures the degree of inequality in a society. A score of zero means that a society has no
inequality; a score of one indicates maximum inequality.
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Section 5.3  Culture
In Their Own Words: Carolyn Steedman: Beneficiary of the Welfare State
The 1950s was a time when state intervention in children’s
lives was highly visible, and experienced, by me, at least as
entirely beneficent. . . . [W]e spent a lot of time . . . picking
up medicine bottles of orange juice and jars of Vitriol from
the baby clinic for my sister. I think I would be a very different person now if orange juice and milk and dinners at
school hadn’t told me, in a covert way, that I had a right to
exist, was worth something. . . .
It was a considerable achievement for a society to pour so
much milk and so much orange juice, so many vitamins
down the throats of so many children, and for the height
and weight of those children to outstrip the measurements
A mother brings her baby to a clinic to of only a decade before. . . . Within that period of time more
be checked by a doctor, 1958.
children were provided with the goods of the earth than had
any generation before. What my mother lacked, I was given . . . the sense that a benevolent
state bestowed on me, that of my own existence and the worth of that existence . . . demonstrates in some degree what a fully material culture might offer in terms of physical comfort
and the structures of care and affection that it symbolizes, to all its children. (Steedman, 1986)
Carolyn Steedman is one of the most prominent historians of Great Britain writing today. Born in 1947,
the daughter of a working-class mother, Steedman was also part of the first generation of British children to benefit from the welfare state that had been created by the Labour Party after it won a massive
majority in the elections of July 1945. It was the educational component of the welfare state that made it
possible for Steedman to attend university, get a PhD at Cambridge, and eventually become a university
professor. Before the existence of the welfare state, such a trajectory would have been almost impossible
for someone from her background. In this excerpt from her book about her mother’s and her lives, Steedman describes the benefits, both material and psychological, of the new system for a young child.
5.3  Culture
orld War I had provoked a strong cultural response in Europe, one focused on
the novel horrors of the battlefield. It focused on the experience of ordinary
soldiers, and in many ways it could be shared by Europeans from all combatant
countries. World War II was a very different matter. There had been some highly lethal
military innovations, such as strategic bombing and the atomic bomb, but these were
experienced more by civilians than by soldiers. Beyond this, for many nations, the war
brought quick military defeat, occupation by a foreign power, and the choice of collaborating, resisting, or simply trying to get by. Most shockingly of all, of course, it brought
the Holocaust, the Nazi’s attempt to exterminate the Jews of Europe. The experiences of
1939–1945 were much more fragmented—and in many cases more embarrassing—than
they had been in 1914–1918 and as a result would be much harder to integrate into postwar European culture. That said, the difficulty would be much greater in Western Europe
than in Communist-ruled Eastern Europe, where cultural responses to the war were dictated by regimes that often rewrote history for their own purposes.
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Section 5.3  Culture
The philosophical position that came to be known as existentialism had existed since
the 19th century, starting with the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1850).
Despite its long history, existentialism achieved broad prominence only in the aftermath
of World War II. This was due primarily to the influence of two French thinkers: Albert
Camus (1913–1960) and Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980). This popularity derived in part
from the fact that both wrote novels, plays, and stories as well as works of philosophy.
Camus won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 for a body of work that included novels
such as The Stranger (1942), The Plague (1947), and The Fall (1956). In 1964 Sartre also won
the Nobel Prize but he rejected it; he felt that writers should not accept official awards and
should exert their influence through their names and their work alone, without the help
of the power of a prize. The prominence of existentialism in the 1940s and 1950s was also
due to its relevance, as the French—and Europeans more broadly—struggled to come to
terms with the experiences and choices presented by the war and the occupation.
Simply put, existentialism proposes that reason, natural science, and morality cannot
provide the meaning of human existence. This requires the concept of authenticity: that
individuals act in certain ways and not others because that is what they want to do and
not because it is what is expected of them. Men and women confront a world in which
universal norms do not exist; how they act determines who and what they are. Recognizing what Camus called “the benign indifference of the universe” gives individuals the
freedom—and the often-painful responsibility—to make decisions and take responsibility
for one’s actions. “Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first
principle of existentialism,” claimed Sartre.
Although she was overshadowed by her two male countrymen in her time, Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986) may well have been the existentialist thinker with the greatest long-term
influence. Her book The Second Sex (1949) combined existentialism with feminism in a way
that would provide the intellectual basis for second-wave feminism of the 1960s and after.
De Beauvoir’s book brought the
question of the gendered body into
philosophy. It also introduced two
concepts that are now commonplace. The first was the concept of
the “Other,” the categories of people who are measured against what
is taken as the norm. The second,
set out in the famous sentence “One
is not born but becomes a woman”
(de Beauvoir, 1973, p. 267), was the
distinction between sex and gender.
De Beauvoir argued that women
did not have to accept their socialization passively and that they
Jean-Paul Sartre (left) and Simone de Beauvoir (right) were
could become independent beings
married as well as being intellectual allies. They were also
without becoming like men. This
activists. Here they are selling the newspaper La Cause
liberation required that women act
Du People, which the government had banned. Paris,
to claim their freedom.
October 16, 1970.
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Section 5.3  Culture
The Theatre of the Absurd
The existentialist theme of human beings confronting a meaningless universe was taken
up by several playwrights whose work was given the name the Theatre of the Absurd. The
concept of the absurd came from Camus’s 1942 essay, The Myth of Sisyphus: “The absurd
is born out of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of
the world.” In plays such as Waiting for Godot (1949) and The Bald Soprano (1950), dramatists such as Samuel Beckett (1906–1989) and Eugene Ionesco (1909–1984) used unconventional techniques—nonlinear plots, illogical language, and unrecognizable settings—to
convey the bewilderment and anxiety felt by people facing a universe without meaning
and the new threat of nuclear holocaust. As critic Martin Esslin, who invented the term
Theatre of the Absurd, described it, previous playwrights, including Camus himself, had
addressed the same themes but they did so
[. . .] in the form of highly lucid and constructed reasoning, while the
Theatre of the Absurd strives to express its sense of the senselessness of
the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the
open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought . . . trying to
achieve a unity between its basic assumptions and the form in which these
are expressed. (Esslin, 1968, p. 24)
The Holocaust in Culture and Memory
There was one major aspect of the war that European culture was unable, or unwilling, to
integrate in the three decades after 1945: the Holocaust. This situation is well captured in
the history of a now-classic memoir, Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. Written immediately after the war, the book, whose original title was If This is a Man, was rejected by the
major left-wing Italian publisher; Levi had to settle for a minor publisher, a small print
run, and very few sales. It was first published in English in 1959, but it was only at the
end of the 1970s that it began to sell well. Giuliana Tedeschi, another Italian who had survived Auschwitz, described the indifference that was so common in Europe at the time: “I
encountered people who didn’t want to know anything, because the Italians too had suffered, even those who didn’t go to the camps. . . . They used to say ‘For heaven’s sake, it’s
all over,’ and so I remained quiet for a long time” (Judt, 2005, p. 807). The unwillingness
to come to terms with the Holocaust was particularly strong in Germany. Children born
after 1945 usually found that their parents were unwilling to answer their questions about
what had happened during the war.
Reasons for Silence
Saving the Jews had never been a major Allied war aim, so in some respects it was not
surprising that the Nazi attempt to exterminate them should not loom large in postwar
culture. Even more important was the fact that as Europeans struggled to come to terms
with the war, they did so in ways that emphasized their experience as members of specific
nations. Across the continent, governments created official “collective memories” of the
war. In many cases, such as in Austria, which portrayed itself as the “first victim” of the
Nazis, these collective memories centered on local claims to suffering. This was particularly
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Section 5.3  Culture
true in Eastern Europe, even in Poland where many of the extermination camps had been
located. The Polish Communist regime established a museum at Auschwitz, where more
than 90 percent of the 1.5 million people killed were Jews, but it “listed the victims only
by nationality: Polish, Hungarian, German, etc.” (Judt, 2005, p. 822). Jews were not mentioned. In this context, the suffering of Europe’s Jews, which crossed all national borders,
was not part of the story.
Changing Consciousness
In Western Europe, this “universal . . . neglect” of the Holocaust would not begin to change
until the end of the 1960s, and especially in the second half of the 1970s (Judt, 2005). Only
after that would the Holocaust find its place at the center of European cultural consciousness. (In Eastern Europe, the process of rethinking the Holocaust would not begin until
after the fall of Communism in 1989.) One of the major contributors to this change was the
maturing of a new generation that had not experienced the war. Another was the showing
of the U.S. television miniseries, Holocaust, which aired in the United States in April 1978
and in much of Europe the following year. European film directors denounced it as trivializing or distorting the Holocaust, as did the famous survivor and writer Elie Wiesel, but the
miniseries brought the Holocaust unprecedented public attention. In West Germany, half
the population watched at least one of the four episodes (DW-World.DE. Deutsche Welle).
These collective memories also sought to portray each country in the best possible light,
which often meant ignoring the actual experiences of many of their citizens, especially when
these were not especially edifying. This process was particularly marked in France, which
had been humiliated on the battlefield in May 1940 and then lived with the collaborationist Vichy regime until British, Canadian, and U.S. troops liberated it in 1944. Rather than
come to terms with the unflattering reality that collaboration was not limited to only a
handful of zealots or that Vichy took the initiative in deporting French Jews, the French
lived with what historian Henry Rousso has called the “Vichy Syndrome.” After an initial period of “mourning,” the government, supported by the Communists, promoted the
myth that Vichy was unimportant and that France had been united in resistance to the
Germans (Rousso, 1994).
The importance of this myth was made clear by the experience of The Sorrow and the Pity,
a 1969 documentary about daily life in the French town of Clermont-Ferrand during the
years of the Vichy regime. This four-and-a-half-hour film showed a range of people, collaborators as well as resisters. It also showed Vichy as a French phenomenon; Germans
have only a very small role. Although it had been commissioned by state television, the
French government did not allow The Sorrow and the Pity to be broadcast until 1981. Until
then, it was shown only in cinemas and provoked a wide range of reactions: “hostility,
self-flagellation, shame, indignation, surprise, disbelief” (Rousso, 1994, p. 100).
Youth Culture
In this period, and especially after the mid-1950s, an unprecedented combination of demographics and economics produced something new: the emergence of a fully fledged youth
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Section 5.3  Culture
Demographics and Economics
After the war, Europe experienced a baby boom. Combined with a significant decline in
infant mortality due to better medical care, housing, and nutrition, this produced a major
increase in overall population. It also produced a population in which, by 1960, young
people had a large place. In countries such as the Netherlands and Finland, 30 percent of
the population was under 15 years old; in France, one third of the population in 1967 was
under 30 (Judt, 2005). At the same time, Europeans started to stay in school longer. High
school, and even university, which had been limited to small numbers of elites before
1939, became available to more young people than ever before. Students, and especially
university students, were still a minority—between 7 percent and 15 percent of 18 to 24
year olds—but there were more of them than ever before.
The increasing prosperity of postwar Europe provided the economic basis for a youth culture. Previously, most Europeans had lived in what historians Louise Tilly and Joan Scott
call the “family wage economy”: When children went to work, they turned over all their
wages to their parents because everything earned by all family members was required for
subsistence. As real wages rose after the war, this was no longer true, and young people
who still lived at home were able to keep more of their money for themselves. In 1965,
62 percent of French 16 to 24 year olds who lived at home kept all the money they earned.
Adolescents had become what marketers now call a “demographic,” and advertisers took
aim at them: Spending on magazine advertisements aimed at French adolescents, for
instance, rose by nearly 400 percent between 1959 and 1962 (Judt, 2005).
Style and Music
Youth culture manifested itself in numerous ways but the most important were personal
appearance and music. The first youth styles in Europe were the leather outfits of the
gangs of the 1950s, but these were soon surpassed by what would become the universal
style of young people around the world, jeans and T-shirts. When Levis jeans first went on
sale in Paris in 1963, they flew off the shelves. There were also distinctive youth hairstyles,
especially for young men. These too changed rapidly between the late 1950s and the early
1960s, from quiffs and pompadours to long hair.
By far the most important component of youth culture was music. New technologies such
as the 33 rpm record (1948) for albums, the 45 rpm (1949) for singles, the home stereo and
the transistor radio (1954)—the iPod of its day—made music much more accessible, and
young people had the money to buy it. Soon there were magazines, radio programs, and
even television shows devoted to young people and their music. The first open-air rock
concert in Europe, the Concert des Nations, was sponsored by a popular radio program,
Salut les copains; it took place in Paris on June 22, 1963, and was attended by 150,000 people.
Youth culture was international, with young people in Western Europe dressing the same
and listening to the same music as their counterparts in North America and other parts of
the world. (Young people in Communist countries had a much harder time, as the authorities there tried to shield them from such Western “capitalist” influences.) Elvis Presley
and Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were the musical icons of youth almost
everywhere; that few young Europeans knew enough English to understand the lyrics was
no obstacle. But there were also local stars in each country, like Johnny Hallyday and Sylvie
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Section 5.3  Culture
Vartan in France and Adriano Celentano in Italy. They sang their in own languages, but
their music was influenced by international, usually American, fashions. Hallyday even
changed his name to sound more American; his real name was Jean-Philippe Smet. (There
were also singer songwriters whose music came out of older local traditions, like Jacques
Brel in Belgium and Joan Manuel Serrat in Spain, but their songs were usually more political than rock and roll.) A few rockers from non-English speaking countries sang in English,
trying to enter the international market. The Spanish group Los Bravos had an international hit in 1966 with “Black is Black,” but the only one of these groups to become a major
international sensation was Abba from Sweden, which had its first hit, “Waterloo,” in 1974.
Youth culture led to the creation of a new concept, the teenager. Invented in the United
States, it arrived in Europe in the mid-1950s. In West Germany, the term, in English, was
first used to describe female fans of Elvis Presley, but was soon applied to all young women.
Youth culture also provoked concerned, often hysterical, responses
from older Europeans. The Paris
newspaper Le Figaro responded
to the Concert des Nations with,
“What difference is there between
the twist . . . and Hitler’s speeches
in the Reichstag, apart from the
leaning toward music?” And when
Elvis Presley toured Europe, commentators described the audiences
as “wild barbarians in ecstasy”
and “haunted medicine men of
a jungle tribe governed only by
French rock idols Johnny Hallyday and Sylvie Vartan, 1963.
music” (Poiger, 1996).
May 1968
The emerging youth culture also contained a significant element of alienation from older
generations. This was nicely captured by one young Dutchman when he described his
parents’ Saturday evenings when he was off at “happenings” in Central Amsterdam:
[They] were watching the TV with their left eyes and the cars in front of
the houses with their right, seated on refrigerators and washing machines,
with mixers in the one hand and copies of [the conservative newspaper] De
Telegraaf in the other, and the children went to the Spui.” (Collin, B., 2009, p. 1)
There were also more specific complaints. In the mid-1960s, university students began to
emerge as a political group. Access to higher education had increased significantly, but
this had been done without making major investments in universities. As a result, facilities were poor and overcrowded. In addition, universities remained extremely hierarchical and intellectually old fashioned. Starting in 1965, groups of student radicals, adopting
tactics from the Civil Rights movement in the United States, began to stage strikes and
sit-ins demanding changes. Many students, led by activists such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit
(1945– ) and Rudi Dutschke (1940–1979), from France and West Germany respectively,
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Section 5.3  Culture
saw their demands as part of a broader democratization of society. A sit-in at Berlin’s Free
University in June 1966 passed the following resolution:
We are fighting not only for the right to study for a longer period of time
and to have a greater voice in expressing our opinions. That is only half of
it. We are more concerned that decisions affecting students be made democratically and with student participation. What is going on right now in
Berlin is a conflict, like that in society at large . . . it is about dismantling oligarchic rule and implementing democratic freedom in all areas of society.
(Brown, A., p. 1)
The most important—and famous—episode of student radicalism came in May 1968 in
Paris. Incidents at the new University of Nanterre, including a threat to discipline CohnBendit for insulting a government minister who was visiting the campus, had led to the
organization of a formal Movement. On May 10, students from the Movement occupied
the Sorbonne, the city’s historic university, and soon clashed with police. The students
were divided politically and their demands were vague; after the initial clash, the government felt it was safe to withdraw the police and left the students in control of the university district. However, the events in Paris prompted French workers to engage in a spontaneous general strike that involved 10 million people and virtually shut down the country.
All this took place beyond the control of the political Left, including the Communist Party,
which disdained the students as pampered “daddy’s boys.” In the end, the movement
dissipated after a second round of
street fighting on May 24–25 and
the government won: President de
Gaulle called an election that gave
him a massive majority.
The atmosphere of the student revolt of 1968 was best
expressed in the graffiti that appeared in the center of Paris.
This one says, “It is forbidden to forbid.”
Although they were the high-water
mark of protest in Western Europe
and have achieved epic status
in the memory of the European
left, the events of May 1968 actually accomplished nothing. Other
movements such as feminism and
environmentalism would have a
much greater impact on European
society and politics.
Americanization and Anti-Americanism
The most important elements of youth culture, such as jeans and rock and roll, came from
the United States. European youth eagerly adopted all things American—movies were
also extremely popular—and showed few signs of anti-Americanism until the emergence
of opposition to the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. Older Europeans were another matter,
especially if they belonged to the cultural elites, and especially if they were French.
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Section 5.3  Culture
World War II had established the
military dominance of the United
States; the immediate postwar
years established its economic
dominance. They would also present Europeans with another facet
of U.S. power, its culture. This
was not a matter exclusively, or
even primarily, of high culture,
although these were the years
in which New York supplanted
Paris as the international capital of art. “Americanization,” or
“Coca-Colaization” as it was also The U.S. involvement in Vietnam generated significant anticalled, referred to the appeal of U.S. American feelings among European youth. This image shows
popular culture, and even more a demonstration in Stockholm in 1971.
broadly to an imagined “American
way of life” embodied in mass consumption generally as well as in specific products such
as Coca Cola. In the view of European elites—and it was a view that was held on both the
left and the right—this was an insidious threat to European culture and traditions.
They responded with denunciations of the danger. The United States was a “civilization of bathtubs and frigidaires,” wrote French poet Louis
Aragon in 1951. In 1960, critic Jean-Marie Domenach made the following reflection:
Ten years ago we could still look
down on the snack bars, the supermarkets, the strip-tease houses and
the entire acquisitive society. . . .
Now all that has more or less taken
hold in Europe. . . . The United States
is a laboratory exhibiting life forms
into which we have entered whether
we like it or not. (Kuisel, p. 109)
Europeans often took and reworked
aspects of American culture. The Good, the
Bad and the Ugly (1966), which gave Clint
Eastwood his first starring role, was the
first of a series of westerns made in Spain
by Italian director Sergio Leone.
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Three years later, Le Monde, the leading newspaper in France, was much more agitated about
the appearance of Coca-Colaization, and in this
it had the support of the Communist Party. The
following year, only three years after Cuban Missile Crisis and the erection of the Berlin Wall,
Maurice Duverger could write that “There is
only one imminent danger for Europe”; it was
not Communism but “American civilization”
(Judt, 2005, p. 353).
12/22/11 11:25 AM
Section 5.4  The Death of European Empire
Although overshadowed by cultural concerns, there were also worries that Europe risked
being colonized economically by the United States. These coincided with a dramatic
upsurge in U.S. investment in Europe; from just over $4 billion in 1956 to $24.5 billion
in 1970 (Judt, 2005, p. 351). The most notable expression of these fears was Jean-Jacques
Servan-Schreiber’s bestselling book, The American Challenge (1967). There was a fundamental difference, however, between Servan-Schreiber’s attitude toward the United
States and that of the critics of U.S. cultural dominance. Where the latter looked down
on the U.S. culture, Servan-Schreiber admired the economic developments that made
the “American challenge” possible. He also believed that Europeans could fight back.
To the question, “What shall we do?” he replied, “In a nutshell, achieve a real economic
union and build giant industrial units capable of carrying out a global economic strategy”
(Servan-Schreiber, 1967, p. 116). As it turned out, the economic challenge was a transient
one. European investment in the United States soon came to equal U.S. investment in
Europe, and only four years after publishing his book, Servan-Schreiber would write that
“the problem is not any more the American challenge because the Americans have the
same problem” (Wallace, 2002, p. 24).
5.4  The Death of European Empire
n 1942, Winston Churchill declared that he had not become the Prime Minister of Great
Britain “in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire” (Parker, 1997,
p. 300). Political leaders in the other major imperial nations would have echoed that
sentiment. Yet, the war had seriously undermined the basis of European imperial rule; the
contrast between democratic values in Europe and the maintenance of empire was too
great to ignore. By 1965, most of the territories that had been colonies in 1945 were independent states, and by 1975 only scraps of formal empire remained. (See Figure 5.7.) The
once-imposing empires of the European states had disappeared within only thirty years.
Decolonization meant more than the end to formal imperial rule, as important as that
was. It also meant “the demolition of a Europe-centered imperial order in which territorial empire was interlocked with extra-territorial ‘rights.’ The bases, enclaves, garrisons,
gunboats, treaty ports and unequal treaties . . . that littered the Afro-Asian world were as
much the expression of this European imperialism as were the colonies” (Darwin, 2007,
pp. 441–442). So too was the belief in the racial and cultural superiority of the Europeans;
and this also was a casualty of the decolonization process.
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Section 5.4  The Death of European Empire
Figure 5.7: Empire and decolonization
1960 D
(To Ethiopia
2000 Miles
2000 Kilometers
(From Malaysia, 1965)
Colonial Affiliations Before 1945
(To China, OCEAN
Br 1960
1961 COAST
1960 TOGO
(Kinshasa) Br
(United as
before 1945
states, 1968
This map shows the empires that existed before 1945 and the dates in which the various territories
became independent.
The Causes of Decolonization
A number of factors combined to end the European empires so rapidly. The first was the
impact of the war. In Asia, the initial Japanese military victories over the European imperial powers undermined the myth of white superiority and provided new opportunities
for local nationalists. In Africa, many colonial subjects fought in the French military; in
fact, Africans constituted 9 percent of French military manpower during the war (Shipway, 2008). In addition to witnessing the barbarism with which Europeans treated each
other, many became literate and learned new skills. Wartime demands for food and other
commodities from Africa also generated increased exploitation and discontent.
The war also left the imperial powers—Britain, France, and the Netherl…
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