- Sep 13, 2008
Germany and the World in 1920
The World in 1920
Government Type: Republican Democracy
Since the creation of the Weimar Republic German politics have been dominated by various coalitions of Republican parties, even as a large anti-Republican right continued to oppose the regime throughout its existence. Following the election of the conservative leaning independent Paul von Hindenburg as President in 1919, the opportunity for a major alteration of the constitution, or even the abolition of the Republican has grown immensely.
One of the major goals of the Populist led coalition that came to power in 1905 was to forge greater balance between the different regions of Germany in terms of economic development, with the Centrists within the coalition emphasising their desire for growth in the South. They met with a degree of success. It is true that the gap between the different regions closed slightly – with virtually all parts of the country experiencing industrial growth. However, new inequalities have emerged between the most the regions where the new industries (automobiles, electronics etc) have been most successful – a strip of land in the South stretching from the Rhine to Vienna, and an area in the North encompassing Brandenburg, Eastern Hannover and Schleswig-Holstein – which have experienced rapid growth and prosperity, regions which have utterly failed to adopt the new industries and have stagnated – Silesia, Saxony, the Rhineland and East Prussia – and regions which have been moderately successful – the rest of the country.
Despite all this, Germany commands the world’s leading economy with a higher level of production than any other country, an impressive level of productivity, an almost totally literate society, a degree of balance between different regions incomparable to virtually any other major power.
Allied to the United Kingdom, Germany has no other friends amongst the Great Powers – instead maintaining frosty relations with France, Russia, Italy and Scandinavia. However, she is the dominant power in Central and Eastern Europe with the Baltic States, Poland, Bohemia, Serbia, Greece, Switzerland and the Ottoman Empire all being closely tied to German power.
Population: 302,080,000 (Metropolitan population, including Ireland, of 60,200,000)
Government Type: Constitutional Monarchy
Through the 19th century the reforming Liberals traded power with the Conservatives as the franchise was slowly expanded to ever wider sections of the population. From the start of the 20th century the Labour Party, the political wing of Britain’s impressive trade union movement, gradually grew in strength – replacing the Liberals as the main opposition to the Tories during the 1910s and entering power for the first time in 1918. Unlike Germany and a handful of other states the franchise in Britain remains restricted with women and the poorest parts of the population still barred from voting.
Industrial output expressed as a percentage of German output – 77.4%.
Britain has the second highest level of industrial production in the world. England, Scotland and Wales are amongst the most highly developed parts of the world – comparable to the most prosperous regions of Germany. Compounding upon Britain’s highly developed core lands she has pockets of industry throughout her Empire – notably in Ireland, South Africa, Hong Kong and the Caribbean. Whilst Germany has been forced to cope with the economic consequences of the loss of her colonial Empire (largely through a shift to modern industries and the expansion of her economic domination of Central and Eastern Europe), Britain has benefitted from a monopolistic grasp over her vast Empire. Including her dominions and regions under indirect control she has access to a captured market of well over ½ a billion – a very substantial part of the world’s population.
Since the dark years of revolution after the Great War Britain has reversed her previously anti-German policies to forge an alliance with her old enemy. Relying upon Germany to both prevent revolution and another general conflict on the European continent, Britain has been free to concentrate on maintaining her dominance over her vast colonial Empire.
Government Type: Republican Democracy
Since the Civil War, American politics have been dominated by the North East of the country. Whilst the vast areas to the West of the Mississippi remain largely barren, with only a limited number of settlers choosing to go West, the North East has experienced rapid development, a high degree of immigration and the development of two powerful political movements. The first of these, Republicanism, dominated the White House in the first decades after the Civil War before the American Socialist Party – built upon the power of the North-Eastern labour movement – began its rapid rise to prominence in the 1890s. In 1910 America elected its first Socialist President, the Republicans, finding an unlikely ally in the Southern Democrats, reclaiming the Presidency in 1914 before the Socialists retook office in 1918.
Industrial output expressed as a percentage of German output – 71.8%
The American economy is almost entirely geared towards the North-East of the country with the region stretching from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean contributing as much as 3/4s of the country’s industrial output.
The Republican Party’s long term commitment to laissez faire economics initially allowed the US to experience impressive growth rates through the 1860s, 70s and into the 80s. However growth gradually slowed thereafter – almost reaching a halt by 1910 as the country suffered severe economic woes. However, the American economy responded well to the Socialists’ programmes of industrial investment – allowing for strong economic growth over the past decade.
America’s brief experiment with participation in Great Power politics during the Great War was a disaster. Since then, the Americans have been content to hold strong to their economic Empire in Latin America – the lands to the South of the Rio Grande soaking up American exports and providing her with raw materials.
Population: 157,990,000 (Metropolitan population of 51,800,000)
Government Type: Republican Dictatorship
France was once the beating heart of Republican democracy in Europe. Experiencing a number of rapid regime changes starting from 1789 the country’s politics have remained in a state of constant flux. After the Great War, France developed Europe’s largest Communist Party – the PCF’s membership standing close to a million in 1910 with the party achieving around 35% of the vote in the elections of the 1911 elections. Overseas too the French Empire was threatened by Communism as a revolution in Siam (renamed Thailand) saw French clients in Cambodia, Burma and Laos defeated as the Thai Communists greatly expanded their territory and began a programme of rapid modernisation. With the shadow of Communism looming large over France the emergence of a wave of revolutions in the early 1910s led to a military coup in 1915, many fearing that the PCF intended to make a bid for power. Since then France has been ruled by a clique of military men and right wing political figures.
Industrial output expressed as a percentage of German output – 39.2%
Few countries have fallen so much in stature as France since the mid-19th century. Once Europe’s foremost military power and second only to Britain on the economic front, French industry has grown at a snail’s pace when compared with Germany, Britain or even the likes of Russia, Belgium or Scandinavia. Nonetheless, it retains one of the world’s largest economies, supported with an impressive Far Eastern colonial Empire.
Despite the rise of the Thai Communists in the Far East, France retains a powerful colonial Empire, second only to that of Great Britain. France’s troubles against domestic and colonial Communist movements mark the decline of Copenhagen’s control over the international movement. Unable to prevent the dissolution of the German party, nor discipline the French and Thai parties into supporting the French state (an ally of Scandinavia), the French remain allied to Scandinavia despite oppressing their domestic Communists. With the threat of German revanchist sentiment very real, French leaders, in spite of right wing inclinations, value their alliance with the Scandinavians very highly.
Government Type: Absolute Monarchy
Since the Meiji Restoration that saw the Emperor rise to absolute power and Japan begin a programme of rapid modernisation in the late 19th century the country has remained under the iron grip of the autocracy. Functioning under the principles of ‘Enlightened Despotism’ the Japanese regime’s suffocating power has been justified by the incredibly rapid development of the country. So long as Japan has enjoyed the most impressive rates of economic growth on earth, the autocracy has remained secure.
Industrial output expressed as a percentage of German output – 57%.
Incredibly, Japan has a larger portion of its workforce involved in industry (34%) than any other major power. Despite the late start to its industrialisation, Japan developed at a remarkable rate during the late 19th and early 20th centuries as it quickly emerged as the 4th largest economy on earth behind only Germany, Britain and the US – even if productivity is slightly lower in Japan than in those three countries. However, just as Japan appeared certain to overtake the stagnating American economy in the 1910s the fortunes of the two states reversed. As the US economy began to once again grow Japan has seen its growth rate plummet below those of the three larger economies. A lack of a colonial market, an economy based on more basic industries and struggles to find adequate supplies of raw materials have been blamed for the stifling of the once incredible Japanese economy.
Japan is diplomatically isolated and competes with Britain, France and Russia for influence in the Far East. Although Germany has frequently courted Japan during both the Kaiserreich and Republican eras, the Japanese have preferred to remain disentangled from European affairs.
Government Type: Republican Dictatorship
The Russian Tsar followed the German Kaiser and the Kings of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands in falling to the wave of revolutions in the aftermath of the Great War. The Russian Republic was established by a coalition of Liberals and moderate Socialists committed to modernisation and aligned with important parts of the military in opposition to both the revolutionary left, who sought social revolution, and the supporters of the Tsar. With the Civil War still being fought long after the Republic was proclaimed, elections were suspended and as the new government turned its back on the prospect of serious land reforms democracy was suspended indefinitely as the modernisers put Russia under a period of ‘tutelage’ until the country was ‘ready’ for democratic institutions. Two decades on and the ‘tutelage’ period is yet to come to an end, Russia effectively being a one-party state in the hands of a clique committed to its modernisation.
Industrial output expressed as a percentage of German output – 31.7%
The greatest success for the modernisers has come in the economy where Russia industry has grown rapidly since the Revolution. However, the regional inequalities remain extreme – most Russian industry is concentrated in large cities like Moscow, Petrograd and Kiev and is completely absent outside the Republic’s core territories in Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian heartland West of the Volga.
Russia’s attempts to challenge German hegemony in Eastern Europe alone have failed utterly – the humiliation of being forced to grant Armenia independence being the most painful reminder of Russia’s impotence. The new alliance with Italy marks an important step forward for the Russian Republic as it seeks to restore Russian power.
Government Type: Communist Regime
Since the Scandinavian Revolution, the lands of the North have been the beating heart of the international revolutionary movement. With a small population and a prosperous economy Scandinavia has been able to provide its population with a high standard of living whilst on a local level there is a degree of democratic action the country is run as a one party state with political freedom only extending within the bounds of the Communist Party. The further up the Party one travels the less democratic the institution appears as patronage of high ranking party officials being invaluable for anyone aspiring to influence.
Industrial output expressed as a percentage of German output – 13.9%.
Previously only very lightly industrialised, Scandinavia constructed a modern industrial economy (Scandinavia being second only to Germany in the production of electronics) from very little as the nation was transformed following the revolution. Thus far the Party has been mostly successful in providing the high standard of living it promised – the opening up of France and its Empire to trading links with Scandinavia and its fellow Communist states in the Low Countries playing an invaluable role in allowing the country to flourish.
With little international fanfare Finland ceased to be an independent country in 1919 when the Finnish Communist Party fused itself with the Scandinavian Party and proclaimed Finland to be a constituent Republic of Scandinavia alongside Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Shortly later, Iceland joined Scandinavia following the electoral victory of the local Communist Party (sponsored generously by Copenhagen) in a move disputed only by the British, few caring over the fate of Iceland.
Scandinavia’s control over the international Communist movement and its prestige as a revolutionary power is fading. The failure of Scandinavia or the other Communist states in the Low Countries, to lift a finger to protect Hungary, to support the Thai Revolution or denounce the brutality of their anti-Communist allies in France have all played a part in this fall from grace. As some Communist Parties have begun to look towards the liquidationist example of the KPD and others seek independence in order to pursue a more radical line the unitary nature of the Communist movement has clearly become a thing of the past.
Population: (including Italian Africa) 42,420,000 (Metropolitan population – 40,220,000)
Government Type: Authoritarian Constitutional Monarchy
Whilst Italy retains a parliamentary form of government with regular elections, the state remains authoritarian. With labour unions and socialist parties of all shades illegal, a restricted franchise and strict limits on freedom of speech it would perhaps be going too far to consider Italy a democracy. Just as during the 19th century governmental power has been traded regularly by Liberals and Conservatives – both parties having similar political visions.
Industrial output expressed as a percentage of German output – 15.2%
Italy is a nation in decline. At the dawn of the century Italy and Russian industrial output was roughly at the same level, with Japan only slightly more advanced. In 1920 Italian output lies at around ½ of Russian output and almost ¼ of Japanese. Enduring some of the worst standards of living anywhere in Europe (with exceptions only in parts of the Balkans and Russia) Italy has witnessed endless streams of its citizenry emigrating abroad to France, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and most commonly of all the United States.
Just as the 20th century has been a sad era for Italy economically, its diplomatic position has declined noticeably. In the aftermath of the collapse of the German and Russian Empires in the years after the Great War, Italy came to dominate South-Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. Yet the resurgence of Russian influence coupled with the twin catastrophes of the Young Turk Revolution and the Alpine War destroyed Italian power. Only Italy’s recently acquired friendship with Russia stems the tide of sorrow for the Italians as the new alliance seeks to challenge German power.