Conflicts arise for a myriad of reasons that are often a
combination of politics, economics, and differing cultural
identities. This page is devoted to exploring the impact
conflict has had on the people themselves. Whatever the
reasons for a conflict beginning, whether it is two political
parties or two social classes at each other's throats, it is the
people who will ultimately pay the price. Nigerian author Chinua Achebe explained this with an old African proverb that says,
"When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers."
Industrial Revolution of the 1800's was not a conflict in
and of itself, but it did create
This social stratification created the ideological
socialism which, in turn
the catalyst for a number of wars between the
superpowers of the
The Industrial Revolution itself was a
combination of new inventions and the presence of a
huge labor supply caused by a population explosion. The high
population was the result of better farming techniques developed
Revolution altered every aspect of life for people. People
flooded cities in search of work in the growing
factories. The results of this were
dangerous working conditions, extremely low wages, child labor, women working for less than men, poor housing,
sanitation, and a widening of the gap between rich and poor.
These problems led to a variety of social, economic, and political
including the idea of socialism.
Socialism is the
concept that the nation should control all aspects of
production with the people making all decisions.
This is directly opposite of capitalism which promotes
competition among individual owners. One version of socialism,
communism, came to the forefront.
(seen here) and
in the book
Communist Manifesto, believed that
history was the story of the class struggle of the lower
class against the upper class. Marxism called for the workers
of the world, called the
proletariat, to rise up and unite against the
capitalist, called the
bourgeoisie, in bloody
socialistic thought was instrumental in the rise of the
Union and China.
Living Under Stalin
in the Soviet Union
Josef Stalin assumed control of the Soviet Union after the death of
Lenin by murdering all possible rivals. In his
Stalin falsely accused many fellow communists of treason and
executed thousands. "Iron Joe" changed many of
the social and economic policies
Lenin, taking complete central control of all industrial and
His economic policy, called
Plans, forced the people of the Soviet Union were to work
without pay on state farms called
Conditions were deplorable and any complaint was harshly
put down using execution or deportment to Siberia, itself a death
sentence. Despite the consequences, many peasants revolted
against collectivization. To end this, Stalin instituted a
genocide for any group speaking out against the
Soviet state. By the beginning of the
World War II, Stalin
had murdered nearly 20 million people. This is not considered
ethnic cleansing because they were Stalin's own people.
Social Instability in
Mao Zedong, upon establishing the communist People's Republic
of China, set out to transform his country into a modern state.
Politics and economics were state controlled in what is referred to
Mao also attempted to control the very minds of the people.
Beginning with the education of school children, communist thinking
was indoctrinated. Mao's
Little Red Book was required
reading and any former members of the intelligentsia, the educated
class, were forced into schools that re-trained their minds to fit
Taoism, the traditional
religions of China, were banned. However, women did
receive more equality as
culture was suppressed.
Any opposition to Mao's authority was quickly and harshly put down.
In the late 1950's into the 60's, Mao's opponents, despite the
consequences, began demanding changes in Mao's policies. Mao
responded by unleashing the Red Guard, a mob of students who
attacked and brutalized any who spoke out against Mao. This
period was known as the
The ensuing chaos brought China to a grinding halt in terms of
industrial production. Finally, a harsh military-enforced
crack-down ended the Cultural Revolution by the late 1960's.
the 1970's, China and the Western world gradually increased
economic, social, and
political contact. The thawing of the
resulted in democratic
principles seeping into China. In 1989, students filled
Tiananmen Square, protesting for more democratic
reforms. China strained relations with the West by brutally
putting the demonstration. Many were killed and thousands were
arrested as Chinese tanks and soldiers stormed into Tiananmen
Square. This famous image shows one lone student stopping an
entire line of Chinese tanks.
The Role of Mahatma
Gandhi in India
Great Britain had colonized the country of
India during the 1700's. Indian
nationalistic movements, such
as ones led by the
Indian National Congress, had made
attempts at self-rule but had never been
successful. The great proponent of a free India,
Mohandas K. Gandhi, was instrumental in the
Nationalist Movement. Known as the Mahatma, or the
Great Soul, Gandhi forced change and an end to British
imperialism through a strict policy of non-violence, or
Following the Mahatma's example, thousands
of common people across India employed
disobedience, which included boycotts such as the
and hunger strikes. He also forced change at home by
attempting to do away with the Hindu
caste system. The
rigid caste system separated religious and political classes
from lower classes of laborers and outcasts with no hope at social
Violent episodes, such as the
plagued India's movement to be come free. Great Britain, weakened by its efforts in World War II, finally conceded to Indian nationalist demands in 1948.
Despite the influence of Gandhi, India
fell into disorder. Hindu people wanted an
all-Hindu state and Muslims, led by the
wanted a separate state. Gandhi was assassinated because of this conflict.
was formed as a separate Muslim state. Therefore,
the strength and will of the common people both achieved Indian independence and tore
India apart. The story of Mahatma Gandhi and Indian
nationalism is one of history's greatest ironies.
The Role of Nelson
Mandela in South Africa
The most famous
of all African nationalist leaders was
The situation in South Africa was different from that in India. It had
experienced imperialism, but the country had gained autonomy at
the turn of the century. White setters called
had control of the South African government and had imposed a
social structure known as apartheid.
consisted of two social classes, upper white and lower
black. The races were
kept separate and unequal, with the black population suffering
terrible abuses. Examples of this abuse include pass cards for blacks
only, voting rights for whites only, and segregated
reservations called Home Lands. Mandela, due to speaking out against
apartheid, was imprisoned for 27 years and not released until
the early 1990's. South African president
F.W. De Klerk
freed Mandela and ended the racist institution. In 1994,
South Africa had its first free election and Mandela was
elected president. Mandela and De Klerk earned the
Nobel Peace Prize together for their efforts.