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The causes of totalitarianism

Historical, social and economic causes

Andrea Altomare - Edin Trebovic 26 May 2017


The following points contributed to the rise of totalitarianism in Europe between


The humiliating treatment meted out to Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. It

created a sense of hate and revenge among the Germans. The Treaty had mutilated
Germany phisically, It humiliated her emotionally, It suffocated her economically and
encircled her territorially. This has greatly offended the sense of nation of this state.
Furthermore the Weimar republic estabished after the First World War didn't succeded to
improve the bad situation in Germany, and It was also severely affected by the Great
Depression (1929). Hitler fully exploited these sentiments to establish his dictatorship in

Secondly, the Treaty of

Versailles greatly disappointed
Italy. Though she fought on the
side of the winners, She couldn't
get whatever had been promised to
her during the war. In fact the
italian state didn't obtain as the
allies said, some territory in the
Dalmatian peninsula. (In
particulary, the president of United
States of America, Thomas
Woodrow Wilson, didn't allow
Italy to annex these territories). In


the other hand Italy had to face poverty, discontent and general disorder. In these years
(1921), was founded by Benito Mussolini the Fascist National Party.

The Italian leaders felt that though They had won the war, They lost the peace.
Naturally, the Italians were in the look out for a man who could help them to achieve their
national ambitions, and they found in Benito Mussolini the right person to did this. This
climate of uncertainty permitted him to establish his totalitarian regine in Italy. In
addiction, we have to say that he didn' obtain the consensus only for these reasons, but
also for his personality and his character. Like the italian writer Elsa Morante asserts in
one of her diary page dated the 1st May 1945 (The day of Mussolini's shooting): the italian
people are guilty of the establishment of this regime, in fact a lot of them promote, and
encourage the leader of the Fascist Party. Moreover, He obtain a large consensus because
he reflects the italian people, in particular his mediocrity, his ignorance and his vulgarity
were some characteristics common to many italians.

In addition to the particular cause which helped the growth of totalitarian regimes in
various countries, there were some general causes which also contributed to the rise of

In the first place, the democratic governments established after the First World War
proved a miserable failure in so far as they failed to solve the social, economic and
political problems facing their countries in the post-war period. Their failure was fully
exploited to establish dictatorial regimes.

Finally, the failure of the League of Nations to check

aggression and preserve world peace also greatly
contributed to the rise of totalitarian regimes. Japan,
Italy, Germany etc. committed aggression with
impunity and the League of Nations failed to take any
action against them.



By 1914 Germany had become Europes most powerful economic and military
power, and it was second only to the United States in the world. Four long, terrible years
of warfare meant that, by 1918, Germanys economy was in ruins.

The effects of defeat

Warfare meant that Germany could not import or export industrial goods and to
have severely limited trade. Resources and food were diverted to the war. As a result of
the war, by 1919 Germany was no longer the second most economically advanced nation
in the world.
The terms of the Treaty of
Versailles ordered that
Germany had to pay huge
sums in reparations to the
Allies. In 1921, as Germany
could not pay, French and
Belgian troops invaded and
occupied the Ruhr to take
goods and raw materials.
During 1923 Germany printed more money to pay striking workers. Hyperinflation
resulted, wiping out the value of savings.

The 'Golden Years'?

The years 1924 to 1929 became known as the 'Golden Years' Germany became
increasingly prosperous and peaceful. The USA lent Germany huge sums of money. The
economy was rebuilt, unemployment was reduced and people began to feel secure.

The collapse of the American economy after the Wall Street Crash during the
autumn of 1929 had terrible consequences all over Europe. Between 1929 and 1933 there
was high unemployment and severe poverty in Germany.


In 1916, three-quarters of the Russian population was comprised of peasants who
lived and farmed in small villages. Most of them were serfs who were owned and could
be traded by their landowners.
The state of agriculture in central Russia was poor, using techniques deeply out of
date and with little hope of improving thanks to widespread illiteracy and no capital to

Families lived just above the subsistence level, and around 50% had a member who
had left the village to find other work, often in towns. As the central Russian population
boomed, land became scarce. Their life was in sharp contrast to the rich landowners, who
held 20% of the land in large estates and were often members of the Russian upper class.

In central Russia the peasant population was rising and land was running out, so
eyes were on the elites who were forcing the debt ridden peasants to sell land for
commercial use. Ever more peasants travelled in search of
work: to the cities. There they became urbanised and looked
negatively on the peasants left behind. Cities were highly
overcrowded, unplanned, poorly paid, dangerous and

As the urban culture was forming, new workers looked

negatively at their bosses and elites, so they started to prefer
socialists instead of liberals.

People like Vladimir Lenin took the control by getting

people trust, so two revolution took place in 1917 (in february and in october) in Russia.

History book: "MilleDuemila. Un mondo al plurale" written by Valerio Castronovo