Events of the 20th Century Term Paper

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20th Century

The twentieth century had been tumultuous, particularly during the former half, the world witnessing two major world wars, many revolutions and nationalist struggles, each holding a significant bearing on the other. The major events being discussed are -- Chinese Revolution, Russian Revolution, India's independence, World War I and Treaty of Versailles and World War II. Though the events do not chronologically fall in order, each spanning over a few too many years, the developments and undercurrents of one has greatly influenced the other.

Chinese Revolution

Revolution in China began in 1911 with the National Party of China -- Kuo Min Tang -- playing the major role initially. The prime motive of Revolution was to solve the political and economic problems that plagued the Chinese society during the turn of the century --feudalism and semi-feudal patterns of relations in agricultural production, introducing agrarian reforms with modern methods of production, preparing the grounds for industrial development, putting an end to absolutism and replacing it with a State machinery. Kung Tsiang Tang -- the Chinese Communist Party-- emerged in the years 1920-21, under the leadership of Mao Zedong. The KTT was founded essentially in the same lines of the Russian Bolshevik Party, the Russian Revolution thus influencing the Chinese Revolution.

In the mid-1920s, both the nationalists and the communists joined hands in the Northern Expedition to fight the Chinese warlords, however the alliance broke in 1927 and Nationalists under the leadership of Chiang Kai Shek assumed Government in 1930. The Japanese invasion of China in 1931 and their acquisition of Manchuria in 1932 and Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing in 1937 redirected the course of the revolution. Chiang Kai Shek proved ineffective in responding to the Japanese invaders and even gave northeastern China to the Japanese. Despite differences the Communists again joined hand with the Nationalists in fighting further invasion with patriotic resistance that appealed to the locals. The defeat of Japan in 1945 in the Second World War was a favourable factor that led to the success of the Chinese revolution. The civil war between Nationalists and Communist resumed after Japan's retreat from China, and the poor performance of Nationalists during the war and their unpopularity among the peasant class, led to their defeat after four years of conflict in 1949.

The Nationalists were driven from the Chinese mainland, taking refuge offshore on the island of Formosa, Taiwan as it is called today. Mao emerged victories following his belief that "The revolutionary war is a war of the masses; it can be waged only by mobilizing the masses and relying on them" (Tse-Tung, 1934) and the Communist Party were finally in a position to proclaim the existence of the Peoples' Republic of China in October 1949 and to establish their rule over the whole of the country. It could be said that the Russian Revolution reinvigorated Chinese Revolution and developments of World War II facilitated its success. The end of the Revolution marked the victory of communism in China.

Russian Revolution

Though the Revolution in Russia, against the autocratic Tsars is supposed to have started in 1905, with the Bloody Sunday, it is in 1917 that revolution gathered momentum with Moscow joining the Revolution following the Petrograd fire. The background of the revolution is described by Trotsky as "The disorganised, compromised, disintegrated government at the top, the army shaken to the depths, the discontent, uncertainty and fear among the ruling classes, deep bitterness in the popular masses, the numerically developed proletariat tempered in the fire of events -- all this gives us the right to say that we are witnessing the beginning of the second Russian revolution" (Trotsky, 1917)

The defeat of ill-equipped Russian armies and rising poverty and starvation deaths in the Petrograd and Moscow made the Tsar to take command of war in 1915 after dismissing the commander-in-chief of the army. The situation became desperate in Moscow, the Tsarina being under the influence of Rasputin and Tsar Nicholas in Petrograd ill informed of the developments. Rasputin was murdered by Russian nobles in December 1916. The revolution regained force in February 1917 when workers in Petrograd went on strike and the soldiers who were sent to deal with the strikers refused to obey orders. The Tsar tried to return to Petrograd, enroute he was abdicated and Provisional Government took over rule in Russia.

The Provisional Government, being essentially a temporary arrangement until the general elections, declined to take major decisions like ending war with Germany as many Russians wanted. The Bolsheviks who were well organised, under the Military Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, and led by Lenin and Trotsky began to revolt against Alexander Kerensky, the leader of the Provisional Government, who was by then highly unpopular. In August 1917, the Provisional Government lost the support of the Army resulting in Kornilov Revolt. General Kornilov doubted that Alexander Kerensky, by then the elected prime minister, would seize power and in an effort to protect himself and tried to arrest him. Kerensky sought the help of the Bolsheviks, the majority party, who after a failed attempt of seizing power in July (the July Days), succeeded in assuming control of the Winter Palace in Petrograd on the night of 25th October 1917.

On assuming power Lenin issued the most revolutionary rulings of the time - the "Land Decree" -- land belonged to the people who farmed it - and the "Peace Decree" -- ending the war with Germany. Though the decrees were aimed as gaining support of Bolsheviks, they came only second to the Socialists-Revolutionaries during the general elections in November. When the Constituent Assembly of the new Russian Parliament, met on 5th January, it was dispersed and Lenin assumed power as a dictator. What followed was a vehement implementation of communism - all other political parties being banned, newspapers censored, enforcement of a secret police force, seizure of land and property from Russian Orthodox Church, seizure of businesses and banks etc. In March 1918 a peace treaty was signed with Germany and Russia resigned from the First World War. All the loans, which the Allies had given to Russia, were repudiated. By 1920, the Revolution ended and Bolsheviks began to rule Russia, marking the beginning of the Communist regime, which lasted for seventy-four years.

Indian Independence Movement

The success of Russian revolution greatly influenced and inspired the anti-imperialist movement and colonial forces across the globe. The Indian independence movement being the most significant of all, however, the success of India's independence being attributable to the developments of World War II. The movement for independence from British Raj, could be said to have started with the Indian (Sepoy) Mutiny of 1857 also called the First War of Independence, ignited by the growing resentment among Indians. The leaders -- Mangal Pande, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Rani Lakshmi-- were all ruthlessly overcome by the East India Company, the British rulers at that time. However, 1987 Mutiny brought the Company rule to an end, marking the beginning British Raj, under the direct control of British Crown, which lasted ninety years and ended in 1947, with the success of Indian Independence Movement.

England's new leaders formed Presidencies to govern India and essentially followed divide and rule policy in governance. The Indian Indigenous industries were ruined and the Indian economy was affected with changes being brought towards the progress towards an economy of colonialism. However, British government focussed adequately on the development of basic infrastructure. During the period between 1885 and 1905, the meetings held in various presidencies led to the formation of Indian National Congress, which thereafter led the fight for independence. Under the leadership of W.C. Banerjee, the first Congress meeting was held in Bombay. Between 1905 and 1914, the partition of Bengal came in as a blow and revolutionary leadership were formed against British. The ideas of ' Swadeshi' and 'Swaraj' became the slogans in the movement.

The period 1917 to 1948 could be considered the most significant period in the history of Indian independence, being marked by return of Ganghiji. With the Indian movement getting active, the British began to suppress the movement. Rowlatt Act, Jallianwala Bagh massacre were measures in that regard. With this Gandhiji started the non-cooperation movement, as a result of which British goods were boycotted. It was during this period that Congress passes resolution on 'Poorna Swaraj' and tri-colour flag was developed. Gandhiji's famous Dandi March broke the Salt law and triggers the civil disobedience movement. Following the failure of Simon Commission, in 1935, the Government of India Act was passed. The act was formed with the purpose of forming an All Indian Federation and the Congress won the polls. During this time Subhash Chandra Bose forms Forward Bloc opposing the non-violent measures.

In 1942 the Bombay session Congress passes Quit India Resolution and Gandhiji calls Indians to Do or Die for independence. In the meantime, the rights under the leadership of Netaji organizes the Azad Hind Fauj towards India from south-east, during the course of which Netaji…

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