Bentley 34 Part 2 The Age of Anxiety

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Bentley 34 Part 2

The Age of Anxiety

  1. Stalinism: Stalin less oriented to goals of international communism, more tied to "socialism in one country;" more direct intervention in economy  collectivization of agriculture, five-year plans for industrial development; more ruthless elimination of political or economic enemies; created totalitarian government  secret police, purges of enemies, total control of bureaucracy.

  1. Mass culture: In the 1930s, fascism and Stalinism seemed to embody the threat of a mass culture channeled to reflect the will of a single man. In Germany under the Nazis and in the Soviet Union under Stalin, the state used the tools of mass media to control and manipulate public opinion.

  1. Soviet Socialist Realism: Soviet cultural policies deviated most dramatically from the past in religion; Orthodox Church strictly limited in influence, lost cultural leadership; opposed Western orientation of nineteenth century elite; modern Western styles of art condemned; traditional Russian arts retained  classical music, ballet; creation of new artistic style"socialist realism."

Soviet Women Build Socialism by A.I. Strakhov

  1. Soviet Film: Art in the service of the state: Example: Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin

Impact of Eisenstein on American film

Untouchables (3:41)

  1. Nazi Propaganda: Example: Leni Riefensthal’s Triumph of the Will (Hitler Youth Rally)

Impact on American film – Star Wars Medal Scene

  1. Nazi racism and eugenics: Eugenics (“the good birth”) claimed to solve social problems by regarding them as basically biological or medical issues. It was argued that the genetic stock of a society needed to be improved by vigorous state intervention. Eugenics achieved remarkable popularity worldwide and across the political spectrum. It included laws for the sterilization of the mentally ill in Sweden and the United States. In Germany, soon after coming to power, the Nazis would pass eugenics laws and enact ambitious programs.

  1. Kristallnacht: The official goal of the Nazi regime was Jewish emigration. Throughout the 1930s thousands of Jews left Germany, depriving the nation of many of its leading intellectuals, scientists, and artists. The exodus gained urgency after what came to be known as Kristallnacht (“ the night of broken glass”). During the night of 9– 10 November 1938, the Nazis arranged for the destruction of thousands of Jewish stores, the burning of most synagogues, and the murder of more than one hundred Jews throughout Germany and Austria. This pogrom ( Yiddish for “ devastation”) was a signal that the position of Jews in Hitler’s Reich was about to deteriorate dramatically. Although they had difficulty finding refuge, approximately 250,000 Jews left Germany by 1938. Those staying behind, especially the poor and the elderly, contemplated an uncertain destiny.

  1. Causes of Great Depression: “The stock market crash of 1929, which marked the beginning of the Great Depression of the United States, came directly from wild speculation which collapsed and brought the whole economy down with it. But, as John Galbraith says in his study of that event (The Great Crash), behind that speculation was the fact that "the economy was fundamentally unsound." He points to very unhealthy corporate and banking structures, an unsound foreign trade, much economic misinformation, and the "bad distribution of income" (the highest 5 percent of the population received about one-third of all personal income). A socialist critic would go further and say that the capitalist system was by its nature unsound: a system driven by the one overriding motive of corporate profit and therefore unstable, unpredictable, and blind to human needs. The result of all that: permanent depression for many of its people, and periodic crises for almost everybody. Capitalism, despite its attempts at self-reform, its organization for better control, was still in 1929 a sick and undependable system.” (quoted in Zinn A People’s History of the United States)

  1. Herbert Hoover: Hoover believed primarily in local and individual initiative and urged voluntary action as the main means for dealing with the problems of the Depression. While he increased federal action, he refused to in any way impinge on the power of state government or provide direct federal relief, for fear of disturbing traditional state-federal relations and undermining individual initiative. He did encourage passage of the Agricultural Marketing Act and establishment of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to make loans to businesses.

  1. Hoovervilles: These are American slums – the fact that the press tagged these shanty towns with the Hoover’s name spelled political disaster for the president.

  1. Bonus March: Many of the veterans of World War I who found themselves and their families suffering during the depression wanted the government to pay their bonuses early. Many of them became dissatisfied with congressional and presidential action on this matter and decided to demonstrate in favor of the desired action by joining in a march on Washington. Frightened and threatened by this group, Hoover had them attacked by federal troops under General Douglas MacArthur. They resented Hoover and felt he did not understand their problems.

  1. Election of 1932: Roosevelt actually ran on a balanced budget platform. It was Hoover who began the more activist “pump priming” policies that would characterize the New Deal. All Roosevelt had to do to win was not make a major gaff, remain vague and not be Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt wins in a landslide.

  1. Franklin Roosevelt’s pragmatism: Roosevelt's approach to dealing with the problems of the Depression was pragmatic, flexible, and experimental. He set about creating a welfare state while maintaining the essentials of capitalism. On his first day in office, he declared a banking holiday to prevent total collapse of the banking system. He also began structuring welfare programs. He attempted to revitalize industry through the National Industrial Recovery Act and agriculture with the Agricultural Adjustment Act. The Tennessee Valley Authority represented an experiment with regional planning.

  1. John Maynard Keynes and “pump priming”: Keynes was the British political economists who’s theories transformed the government policy and the capitalist system. Keynesian policy formed the backdrop for the New Deal. Deficit spending was seen as a way to stimulate the economy out of depression. The PWA, WPA, CWA and other public works construction programs were intended to prime the pump of economic recovery. All were designed to provide jobs (and thus spendable income) to the unemployed. They built hospitals, schools, dams, roads, and other public works.

  1. Fireside Chats: President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke directly to, and enlisted the support of, "the people" in his numerous "fire-side chats."

  1. Scottsboro boys: Roosevelt did not take a public position on this case which involved the false accusation of rape. Nine African American teenagers were falsely accused of raping two white women aboard a railroad car. They were apprehended near Scottsboro, Alabama. This is another example of American injustice when it came to the rights of Black people in the South. Roosevelt took no position for fear of alienating Southern Democratic support for the New Deal.

  1. WPA: The Works Progress Administration, established in April 1935, represented a massive attempt to deal with the effects of unemployment. Ten million Americans held WPA jobs.

  1. Social Security: The Social Security Act was designed to provide a variety of benefits, especially to the elderly, to prevent extreme suffering in the future.

  1. Federal Theater Project: The most obvious illustration of "the people" as the dominant cultural motif of the depression is in the work of the WPA. Its Federal Writer's Project and Theater Project celebrated the resilience of the American people through government aided research and production projects.

  1. Dies committee hearings (HUAC): House UnAmerican Activities Committee closed down the Federal Theater Project – accusations of “subversion” and “communism” – Mark Blitzstein’s Cradle Will Rock was closed as a result of the Dies HUAC hearings.

  1. American writers in 1930s: Wrote of how the American dream was ringing hollow for more and more Americans. Examples include Langston Hughes (poetry – Let America be America Again), and John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

  1. John Steinbeck: Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath became international best-seller after being endorsed by Eleanor Roosevelt. The novel suggests the potential for revolution in America. The film waters down the revolutionary message but is still quite powerful.

  1. Margaret Mitchell: Gone With the Wind – Also made into a Hollywood film. A racist recasting of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The novel and film strike another chord in the American dominant culture – quite different than Grapes of Wrath

  1. New Deal Critics (from the political/conservative right): Conservatives charged President Roosevelt with usurping too much power into the hands of the president and the federal government. They hated the New Deal's deficit spending and its expanding bureaucracy. Radio figures like Father Charles Coughlin also detracted from the New Deal as being too pro-business. Coughlin mixed anti-semitic commentary with his visions of a society without bankers and corporations. New Deal Critics (from the political liberal left): Pressed by his critics on the left, Roosevelt promoted more acts designed to achieve social justice and reform after 1935. The left thought the New Deal did not go far enough in redistributing wealth, providing for the needy, or reforming the system. On the left, socialists like Upton Sinclair ran for governor on the EPIC platform (End Poverty in California) which promised to pay everyone over the age of 60 a pension. Echoing Sinclair's ideas of elderly pensions was Dr. Francis Townsend who wanted to give all those over 60 a monthly pension of 200 dollars on the condition that they spend it all before their next pension check arrived. The most threatening of attacks to FDR came from a charismatic politician in Louisiana, Huey Long. His Share the Wealth program suggested that wealthy individuals and corporations be taxed excessively to provide for all. Responding in part to popular discontent and to head off these utopian schemes, Roosevelt moved in programs towards social reform and social justice in his second New Deal of 1935.

  1. American movies: Escapism

  1. Orson Wells War of the Worlds: Panic across America – The Martians have landed! Wells responded to a congressional committee hearing “that’s entertainment”

  1. Spanish Civil War: The Americans do not sell arms to Republican Spain (Neutrality Laws) but do allow for the sale of oil – this actually aided the fascists.

  1. Italy invades Ethiopia: United States takes no action. Italians occupy Ethiopia (1935)

  1. Neutrality Acts: A response to WWI – makes it illegal for American corporations to sell weapons to any nation that is at war.

  1. Balance of power: The United States remains a keen observer of the balance of power equation in both Europe and Asia. Neutrality laws will be amended as the balance of power shifts.

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