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The Long War For Democracy, 1914 - 1990

Some historical events need to be viewed after the passage of many years to be properly understood. For example, the dispute over claims by the kings of England to the throne of France that we now call the Hundred Years War was only named such by later historians to describe the series of events and to put them in context.

The Hundred Years War was punctuated by several brief and two lengthy periods of peace before it finally ended, but repeatedly flared up all the time the fundamental dispute remained unresolved.

Future historians may bring the same connected view to the conflicts of the 20th century. For the want of an alternative name, the Long War For Democracy would include the Great War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, as well as the Bolshevik Revolution, the Chinese Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, the Cold War and a series of other lesser conflicts that can be considered to all have been fought over a single set of issues, to determine which form of constitution – parliamentary democracy, fascism or communism took over from the previous world order.

Throughout the 19th century most of the European states had been governed by different shades of imperial, colonial and nationalistic ideologies.

For example, before the Great War, although Germany considered itself to be a democracy, the Kaiser retained most of the power. All the appointments to the bureaucracy, the armed forces, and the diplomatic forces were made at his sole discretion. It was common knowledge that the army strongly supported him and would arrest his opponents if he so desired.

Following the Great War, apart from parliamentary democracy (that had become discredited as an unrealistic utopia) other constitutional forms, mainly based upon fascism and communism, were considered attractive and viable alternatives.

Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology that considers the individual subordinate to the interests of the state and as such is opposed to democracy. Apart from Germany, Spain and Italy also had fascist governments in the 1920s and 30s.

Although communism contains elements of democracy, these are subordinated to an ideology of class struggle, common ownership of the means of production all within a permanent communist political structure, and therefore is fundamentally anti-parliamentary democracy.

We can view the Great War as the opening conflict in the dispute, with the Second World War as a flare-up that ended with the elimination of fascism. However, the parliamentary democracies had had to ally themselves with the USSR to win against Germany, and communism continued as a supposed viable alternative to parliamentary democracy.

It was only after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe that the 1990 Paris Summit, effectively the peace conference of the 35 year Cold War, adopted the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, signalling that – for the time being – parliamentary democracy was left as winner.

Did the Long War for Democracy last from 1914 to 1990?
Partly based upon ideas from The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History by Philip Bobbitt.

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