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By Joni Lovenduski
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Extra resources for Politics and Society in Eastern Europe
The Great Depression of the 1930s hit such strategies hard. As all the successor states except Czechoslovakia were exporters of primary goods, the rapid world-wide fall in the prices of agricultural relative to industrial goods was damaging. Industrial strategies based on large-scale foreign investments, backed by international financial systems, had also to be abandoned. Existing debts were serviced by borrowing as international interest rates rose. Problems were compounded as the depression took hold and its effect on trade balances worsened.
There, traditional aristocracies survived loss of independence but with important effects upon the social and cultural framework. There, gentry attitudes included a disdain for trade and industry, and a belief that service to the state and agriculture were the only careers worthy of a gentleman. Such attitudes permeated these societies, where the country squire way of life enjoyed considerable prestige and formed an important image in the nationalist sub-culture. Under such circumstances it is hardly surprising to find that liberal capitalism was to a significant extent introduced by non-native groups, notably Germans and jews.
Efforts by the right-wing Nationalist Party to gain peasant support made little headway. The Polish peasant's political experience was one which produced and encouraged a deep political cynicism, but which also gave to the peasantry a sense of itself as a nation. This feeling survived World War Two, from which the peasantry emerged with its traditions more or less intact (Lewis, 1973, pp. 36-8). Elsewhere, however, peasant organisations became incorporated into the right, leaving the poorer peasantry to seek political redress via the industrially based parties of the left.
Politics and Society in Eastern Europe by Joni Lovenduski