The fascist powers started their conquests in the 1930s which ultimately led to the Second World War. Italy and Germany were the major fascist countries. They procured a partner in the warmonger system which came to control Japan viz. fights China and Russia, the success of Korea, and her procurement of the German circles in China after the First World War.
Fascist Aggression Between the Two World Wars
- These three started series of aggression in Europe, Asia and Africa
- They claimed to be fighting against Communism
- They got united in 1937 under the Anti-Comintern Pact
- Germany, Italy and Japan were together known as Axis powers
- When the series of aggression began, the aggrieved countries, Soviet Union & many other countries around the world demanded collective action against it
- The Communist International put the idea of the formation of Popular Fronts consisting of Communists, Socialists, and other antifascists to counter the danger of fascism
- Soon after this, the formation of Popular fronts took place in many countries
- Its policies also inspired the uprising of many anti-imperialist forces in the colonies
Why Fascist aggression succeeded
The contract of the League of Nations contained an arrangement for financial and military authorizations and aggregate activity against hostility. Be that as it may, the Western governments, rather than opposing the hostilities, followed a strategy of conciliation of the forceful forces.
The axis powers claimed that they were fighting against communism. Hitler also declared its ambitions to conquer vast resources and territory of the Soviet Union. After the success of the Russian Revolution, the western countries were haunted by communism and hoped that fascist powers will end communism.
All the major players like the landlords, aristocrats, industrialists, bankers, high churchmen, army leaders, etc. had a fear that soon a revolution will break out for social revolution by their workers and peasants led by the communists. That is why they supported fascism to deal with communism and leave their interests with them.
Japanese Invasion of China
After the First World War, this was considered as one of the major acts of aggression when Japan invaded China in 1931. A minor incident involving a railway line owned by the Japanese in Manchuria, the north-eastern province of China, was made the whole point of the invasion.
China was a part of the League of Nations. So, it appealed to them to take actions against Japan to stop the aggression but major countries of LON like Britain and France were in favor of the aggression. Japan conquered Manchuria and installed a puppet government. After this, it proceeded to conquer more areas. The USA also didn't do anything to stop Japan.
Japan left the League of Nations in 1933 and started seizing the property of US and Britain in China. However, still, the western countries were happy as they thought that Japan is weakening China and the Soviet Union. Britain also had a different reason to not stop Japan, Britain didn't want to lose its territories in Asia.
Germany was made a part of the League of Nations after some time of its formation but soon after Hitler came into power, he quit the league and took on a program of massive militarization. According to the treaty of Versailles, it was not allowed to have much military but still, Hitler didn't stop. It created tensions and a sense of insecurity in many countries and mainly France.
Keeping this situation in mind, Soviet Union was made a member of LON in 1934 but nothing was done to stop Germany's militarization. German area bordering France called the Rhineland had been demilitarized to make a German attack on France difficult but Hitler troops marched into Rhineland in 1936. It was a complete violation of the Treaty of Versailles but still, nothing was done against Germany.
Italian Invasion of Ethiopia
Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. Ethiopia appealed to the LON to take action against Italy. The LON passed a resolution that mentioned Italy as an aggressor and banned the sale of arms to Italy. However, no actions were taken against Italy, and soon in 1936, Italy completed its conquest of Ethiopia.
The Spanish Civil war
The Spanish Civil war became the next event that marked the beginning of the alliance of Italy and Germany.
- Spain became a republic country in 1931.
- Popular Front comprising Socialist, Communist and other democratic and antifascist parties came to power in 1936.
- A section of the army under General Franco revolted against the government
- It had armed support from Italy and Germany
- Italy and Germany openly intervened in the civil war that followed after this
- They supported the rebels and sent tanks, forces and warships for their help
- German aircrafts carried out strikes on Spanish towns and villages
- The government appealed for help but only Soviet Union came forward
- Britain and France stood for non-intervention and didn't offer any aid to Spain
- The cause of the Spanish government inspired a tremendous response from all over the world
A lot of antifascist volunteers from many parts of the world including Germans that were against fascism reached Spain and fought against the fascist powers and even some of the best writers and artists supported the Spanish Government. Thousands of them were killed in Spain and it was one of the prime examples of Internationalism in history as thousand of non-Spaniards were killed in Spain's fight for freedom and democracy.
The Civil war continued for 3 years and ended in 1939 after Fascist powers under the leadership of General Franco succeeded in destroying the Republic. Nearly a million people lost their lives in this civil war. Soon, the new government got recognition from western countries and this victory only resulted in more aggression from fascist powers.
The Munich Pact
Munich pact was the final act of appeasement of fascism by the Western powers. Hitler's troops marched in Austria in 1938 and occupied it. It was a clear violation of peace treaties but western powers did nothing about it. Hitler also claimed a part of Czechoslovakia called Sudetenland which was densely populated with the German population. This area was around 1/5th part of the country and had one of the largest munition factories in the world.
Instead of confronting Germany, the prime ministers of Britain & France met Hitler & Mussolini at Munich in Germany and agreed to the terms of Hitler without the consent of Czechoslovakia. By 1939, the entire country was occupied by the Germans.
The only way to stop fascism and the second world war was the alliance of Western powers with the soviet union but the western policies of appeasement made the Soviet Union believed that western powers are diverging German expansion towards the Soviet Union. The Munich pact was also an indication to the Soviet Union of western powers' plans.
The Soviet Union signed a pact of non-aggression with Germany in 1939 which shocked antifascists all over the world. Thus, Britain & France promised to come to the aid of Poland, Greece, Rumania & Turkey if their independence comes under any danger.