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GEOGRAPHY AND HISTORY DEPARTMENT.

IES FRAY PEDRO DE URBINA

THE WORLD FROM 1945 TO THE PRESENT DAY


The CONSEQUENCES of the Second World War were disastrous: 55 million dead and millions injured and maimed, not only on battlefields but also in the bombed cities. Cities and infrastructure destroyed, mostly in Germany, Poland and Russia. Economic losses were astronomical, except the United States because it suffered no war on its territory. 20 million people displaced by the new borders that were established. They hurt more than anyone else in Germany, which lost Pomerania and Silesia and was divided into two states. The Baltic Republics lost their independence to the Soviet Union and Japan had to return their conquests in the Pacific. The winners of the war, the U.S., the UK and the USSR, met at Yalta and Potsdam and then drew a world divided into two opposing blocs, capitalist and communist, who threaten to use nuclear weapons. The United Nations Organization will be born in San Francisco in 1945, in order to avoid a new world war. This time the United States engaged in this new League of Nations. COLD WAR (1947-1991): "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain" has descended across the continent. W. Churchill, 1946. The two superpowers that won the war, with economic and political systems radically different, organized the world into two antagonistic blocs of allies. Politically, the United States barred the Communist from the governments in Western capitalist countries. The Soviet Union instead led to government control by the Communists in Eastern Europe. It was very difficult to remain neutral: Switzerland, Austria (capitalists), Yugoslavia (communist). Economically, the U.S. helped to rebuild the capitalist countries of Europe with the Marshall Plan of 1947 (40 billion dollars in loans and aid to buy American products, which benefited greatly its industry). The Soviet Union responded by creating the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA or COMECON) in 1949, which coordinated the markets of the communist countries and made their industry to specialize. On the military level, the two great defensive military alliances, NATO (1949) and the Warsaw Pact (1955), undertook a costly arms race. The fear of mutual destruction by nuclear weapons avoided direct confrontation of the two superpowers. In return, they fought in local conflicts: -Berlin Blockade by the Soviet Union (1948-49). United States supplied West Berlin with an airlift. - Korean War (1950-53). The peninsula was divided in two after the

Japanese defeat. The communist North invaded the capitalist South, but ultimately became the division into two countries separated by the parallel 38 . - "Peaceful coexistence" set between Kennedy and Khrushchev did not prevent new conflicts: in 1961, East Germany (GDR) built the Berlin Wall; in 1962 the USSR attempted to ride ramps for missiles in Cuba after the triumph of the Fidel Castros revolution and the U.S. said blocking the island. The worst was the Vietnam War (1963-73): the communist North managed to reunify the country despite the brutal U.S. support for South Vietnam. - The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, USA supported the Taliban (Islamic radical students) against the Communists. The Space Race was another source of conflict: the USSR had the first astronaut (Gagarin), but the U.S. reached the moon. The superpowers did not allow any country in their orbit of influence passed to the other side: U.S., through the CIA and the Marines, toppled governments of left and supported anti-communist dictatorships in Latin America (Pinochet in Chile, for example, in 1973), Soviet tanks crushed the Hungarian (1956) and Czech revolts (1968, the "Prague Spring"). CAPITALIST BLOC: United States and its allies: Canada, Western Europe, Japan and Oceania. It exerted influence in Latin America (except Cuba) and several Arab and African countries. It enjoyed democratic government, unless U.S. interested otherwise (Latin American dictatorships). Individual rights and political pluralism were strengthened. The capitalist economic system is based on private ownership of the means of production, free markets and no government intervention. The neoliberals (neocons) argue that the government should not intervene at all, Keynesians say that you must correct the mistakes and abuses of the system. More in Europe than in America, and especially in the Nordic countries, the workers' struggle since the nineteenth century and the social-democratic governments have managed to mitigate the consequences of the crisis and capitalist exploitation, and to establish the so-called "welfare state": the state guarantees basic services (education, health, pensions, social assistance) through taxes. Western society is dominated by middle class with broad access to consumer goods. It has achieved great development of individual freedom, thanks to moves like the struggle for black civil rights in the U.S. (60', Martin Luther King), the feminist, gay or green movements in Europe. There was also a huge scientific and technical development linked to the Third Industrial Revolution (decades from 1970 to 1990): alternative energy, biomedical techniques, computers, telecommunications, Internet. This, coupled with improvements in transport, has extended the globalization of world economy, dominated by large multinational corporations with serious impact on the environment.

Peace and economic integration in Europe have led to the European Union: it now consists of 27 countries. The bloc has suffered from capitalist cyclical crises, the most serious have been in 1973 (energy crisis, the Arab oil producing countries decided to raise prices by U.S. support for Israel in the war against Egypt and Syria) and in 2007 (financial crisis on the stock exchange by speculation with subprime mortgages and other risky investments, huge public subsidies to the banking, housing bubble, unemployment ...). COMMUNIST BLOC: Primarily the USSR and its Eastern European allies. Also Vietnam, Mongolia, North Korea and Cuba. In Africa, Angola, Mozambique and Ethiopia. Yugoslavia and Albania were communist, but not allies of the USSR. China experienced a civil war and communist revolution after the Second World War, with more weight to the peasants than to the workers, but the leader Mao Zedong never got along with the Soviet leaders. At the political level, all state institutions were controlled by the Communist Party, there was little internal criticism and very little personal freedom. Citizens could participate in the assemblies (soviets), but the pyramid structure prevented the leaders were not Communists. The economy was planned and controlled by the state, which owned the means of production (land, factories, capital) and fixed prices. Forced by the arms race, its development was based on heavy industry and not on consumer goods. The communist state redistributed the surplus that the entrepreneur gets in the capitalist system, offering almost free services for citizens in education, health, housing, transport and culture, without taxes. The more egalitarian society was well, but the bureaucrats and officials were always "more equal than others." There was no crisis or unemployment, but productivity was very low. Agricultural production has always been deficient, the peasants had no interest in cultivating lands that belonged to cooperatives and state farms. In the mid 80's, the Soviet economy was stagnant, lacking food and consumer goods in households, production was little and badly, the country was losing the war of technological innovations (computers) and could not cope with an arms race increasingly costly. The lack of internal criticism prevented improvements. Since 1985, a new president, Mikhail Gorbachev, will try to reform a policy based on three pillars: 1. Economic reform or Perestroika: Industry was modernized, it improved quality and allowed some private companies. 2. Transparency of information or Glasnost: Freedom of expression, multiparty system, free elections, more autonomy to the republics. 3. Disarmament agreements with the U.S. But there was no time, the hardest Communists staged a coup. They failed, but the Liberals took the opportunity to seize power from Gorbachev (1991) and

implement the wild capitalism (Boris Yeltsin). The USSR was dissolved. Without the threat of Russian tanks, everything fell apart very quickly, the socialist countries of Eastern Europe conducted their own processes of reform and democratization: In April 1989, Poland's communist government acknowledged for the first time a Catholic trade union, Solidarity, which won elections in June. In September 1989 the Hungarian reformers opened its border with Austria and took the fences of the Iron Curtain. Thousands of East Germans went through Hungary to the West. The Berlin Wall was opened on November 9, 1989, the two Germanys were reunited the following year. Not all was peaceful: Yugoslavia bled into civil war by the intransigence of the Serbian Communists and the Chinese communists crushed the student protests in Tiananmen Square. THIRD WORLD AND DECOLONIZATION: After the Second World War, the weakness of the old colonial empires facilitated the independence of their colonies in Asia and Africa. American Liberalism and Russian Marxism were anti-colonial and influenced the awareness of ruling minorities of these countries and their leaders: Gandhi and Nehru in India, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Sukarno in Indonesia, Nasser in Egypt or Lumumba in the Congo. UN also defended the right to self-determination in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1955, met in Bandung (Indonesia) a conference of 29 Asian and African countries that condemned colonialism and supported the independence process. There also emerged the Non-Aligned Movement, which favored neutrality between the two blocs organized by the superpowers. Decolonization was sometimes violent and others peaceful. Britain chose to give independence to their colonies and organize the Commonwealth, to continue with them economic and political ties. But in British India Gandhi was assassinated and the tense relationship between Hindus and Muslims ended in an armed conflict that divided the country (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh). Algeria and French Indochina and Dutch Indonesia gained independence after bloody wars. The UN, Britain and the U.S. decided to divide Palestine between Jews and Palestinians, they lost half their land. This conflict remains unresolved after three wars and an increasing loss of land by Palestinians. Things have gone much worse in sub-Saharan Africa: illiteracy, arbitrary borders, brutal exploitation of raw materials, military dictatorships, corruption, debt, hunger ...