1930s

Article

January 23, 2022

The 1930s cover the period from 1930 to 1939. This decade is marked by famines, the amplification of the economic crisis resulting from the stock market crash of 1929, the rise of extremism, wars and international tensions, and finally the outbreak of the Second World War. The Soviet famines of 1931-1933 claimed over six million lives; the famines in China in the 1930s would have claimed at least as many victims. Totalitarianism develops: in Italy, Mussolini consolidates his power; in Germany, Hitler by becoming Chancellor of the Reich (propaganda, opening of concentration camps, invasions); Franco takes power following the Spanish Civil War. The policies are geared towards rearmament. In the colonies, the first independences are granted but the empires remain very important. In the West, in parallel with high unemployment, socio-cultural transformations are important, with the development of a popular, mass culture, oriented towards leisure (cinema, radio, first comic strips, etc.). In France, the Popular Front participates in these transformations: paid holidays, reduction of the working day to eight hours a day, etc.

Geopolitical and economic events

The crisis of 1929

While Europe as a whole experienced significant and diverse difficulties, the United States went through the 1920s in relative protectionist indifference. The Roaring Twenties mark the entry into mass consumption; the middle class is asserting itself as the engine of a society that is refocusing on industry and services. A certain discrepancy arises between new production methods and consumption rooted in 19th century reflexes. Taylorism and industrial support adapt somehow to outlets that remain limited. The general prosperity is accompanied moreover by a veritable slump in agriculture, in particular because of the withdrawal of European purchases. To support this key sector of the economy and social stability, the American government is implementing a policy combining subsidies and higher customs tariffs. Thus, if prosperity is real, part of it is of speculative origin. Moreover, in a context of shrinking international trade, only capital is massively exchanged, in particular through transatlantic loans and repayments. These financial movements engage a mechanism of speculation which favors the growing number of small investors, particularly in Europe. In the United States, speculation is first and foremost in the stock market and not, for example, in real estate; and although shareholders only represent a little more than 1% of Americans, this is enough to create a significant gap between the increase in the average price of shares (+200% between 1922 and 1929) and the increase in corporate profits (+ 50% at the same time). Speculation punctures the economy and deprives the real sphere of precious capital which only fuels a financial bubble. The month of September 1929 was marked by an interest rate war between the two major stock exchanges of the time, New York and London. From a minor crisis in the United Kingdom, American speculators engendered by a sudden turnaround in confidence a large-scale stock market panic. On Thursday, October 24, thirteen million titles are sold; on "Black Tuesday", more than sixteen million. The stock market index of Wall Street collapses, and this stock market crisis turns very quickly into a banking crisis. Since the banks have not been reimbursed for the money they have lent massively, they are limiting or even suspending their loans. Very quickly, the crisis crossed the Atlantic and more or less violently and rapidly affected European countries, depending on their

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