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Workers and Immigrants During the World War I and II

The expectations of labor workers, arising out of propaganda from the first World War, were too high to be fulfilled. The revolution in the Soviet Union inspired American workers to strike, resulting in the steel strike in 1919 when thousands of workers (some of them immigrants) demanded higher wages and fewer working hours (p. 759). The strike collapsed, but the consequences of this, as well as of the earlier war-time propaganda of “100% American,” arrived later in a form of a second KKK movement that bred racism in American society (p. 791). The consequences of World War I, the restriction of immigration, and the fear of immigrants led to the isolation of the United States during the 1930s. The country had no involvement in the conflicts in the Old World and ignored the looming war.

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The ideas President Wilson expressed in the Treaty of Versailles, in his Fourteen Points, with regard to the liberty, independence, and equality of nations were taken seriously by many nations around the world. The Eastern European peoples, the Chinese, and the citizens of Japan addressed Wilson in petitions and letters about his ideas (p. 762-763). Germany, in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, had not only taken moral responsibility for the war and paid reparations but was also occupied by France (p. 761); it is clear that both of these factors were the cause of the uprising of nationalism in Germany. It is also possible that the German nationalists were influenced by Wilson’s appeal to the equality of all nations. The Treaty of Versailles had almost ruined the economy of Germany (p. 761); if Wilson had not agreed with some parts of it, Germany’s nationalist uprising might have gone completely differently.

With the rising civil rights movement and the pro-business policies of the 1920s, the “Roaring Twenties” had begun. Both Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge supported employers in their fight against the unions, although work hours were reduced from twelve to eight (p. 779-780). American isolationism continued, but it was a reaction against the failed diplomatic pursuits of President Wilson. The government encouraged exports and investments in Europe because they brought profit to the country (p. 784). Many factories and plants were built in Europe and Latin America due to the cheap labor they offered (p. 786). Ironically, New York banks loaned Germany money to pay the reparations it otherwise could not handle.

President Herbert Hoover promised to sustain the prosperity of the 1920s; however, the approach of the Great Depression was clear, although not to everyone. Land in South Carolina and Florida was abandoned, the banks closed, there were no jobs, and mortgages were canceled (p. 800). On Black Tuesday, the stock market crashed, and this catastrophe resonated throughout the whole world. For example, Germany was not able to pay reparations, so Britain and France did not return the debts to the United States (p. 800). Unemployment rates rose drastically, not only in the United States but in Europe as well, especially in Germany. If the United States was filled with hungry and unemployed citizens, Germany’s inability to pay reparations due to the Great Depression must have hit its citizens even harder, resulting in the victory of a leader who promised to save the land.

The New Deal, a program developed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was both an answer to the Great Depression and to the regimes established in Europe. While Congress aimed to help unemployed young men and created the Civilian Conservation Corps, the New Deal that was supposed to bring economic recovery was also an alternative to socialism and Nazism. The Agricultural Adjustment Act, as a part of the New Deal, helped to benefit farmers (p. 816). In 1935, the Second New Deal was launched and proved to be more successful for the landowners and migrants (p. 825). If the Second New Deal had not helped the United States overcome the consequences of the crisis, the outcome of World War II might have been different.

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