Liberalism is an important part of societal development and this is obviously part and parcel of the history of Europe in the early part of the 20th century. Perry is insistent that liberalism comes together from a variety of sources but is especially espoused in the left wing doctrines of socialism and communism.
After the First World War, Europe was swept through with what could have deemed to be a wave of liberal ideas. With the fall of the monarchy in various countries, old ideas went out of the window and this also meant that more liberal ideas were invading European society. In Germany which had been defeated in the war, hardship and reparations meant that there was a rise in liberal ideas from those who wished to oppose the old order which was proving to be both politically and socially incompetent in various respects.
The article on Encarta focuses on the importance of liberalism as an idea which brings about greater freedoms for those on the lower rungs of society. Universal suffrage, an increase in the rights of women, more liberal policies at the workplace as well as a higher rate of cultural participation became the hallmark of liberalism across Europe. The situation in the United States also helped to liberalise certain sections of European society although this is also very much debatable.
An immediate reaction to the rise of liberalism on the continent was the rise of totalitarianism and fascism which permeated the decade of the 1930’s. In Italy, the rise of one dictator by the name of Benito Mussolini saw to it that fascism infiltrated every part of Italian society from the lowest to the highest levels. This oppressive authoritianism demonstrated that great things could be achieved by a hitherto rather weak people especially with regards to foreign colonial conquests which became part and parcel of Italy’s policy in those years.
The same could be said for the revival in the cultural mileau which also meant that life for the Italians revolved around a vast section of cultural initiatives which might have appeared boring at first glance but which actually helped in quite an important way to revive the nation’s pride. However this came at the cost of liberalism being crushed in the sand and left by the wayside with a one party state dominant throughout.
In Germany the situation was practically the same especially with regards to the rise of the Nazi Party. Civil liberties and the relative liberal ideas were completely discarded and suppressed with the focus of authority revolving around power and that power was practically vested in one man who was Adolf Hitler. This also meant that Hitler was the arch point and the focus of important decisions taken by the military and which came with his blessing. Religious freedom was also curtailed and ethnic minorities were suppressed, imprisoned or even eradicated. The creation of concentration camps to imprison communists and other political prisoners is a classic example of the suppression of liberal ideas. The wheel had turned full circle by 1939 when the second World War started.
Totalitarianism Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totalitarianism
Mussolini Retrieved from: http:// www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/mussolini-fascism.html
Perry M; Western Civilisation Vol 2; New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007, Print