The years we imagine the way we saw them through modern literature, jazz, surrealist painting, Charleston dance and some of the oldest sound films have at least once led many to think of it as of the most creative and productive part of human history, accept as true that it was an ideal time to enjoy civil liberties, small and large victories in the struggle for women’s rights and the products of the Second Industrial Revolution during which the mastermind of the time was transformed into useful inventions with which life became better and more beautiful.
The time immediately after the First World War, called the Great War at that time, as it was believed that it has ended all battles forever, and which took 10 million lives and left about eight million disabled, seemed to say that conflicts were persistently a thing of the past and that no one will have a reason to return to them anymore, because there was only one signpost at the crossroads of humanity – to move forward, but without warning that this path leads to deep crises, detachment, hatred and fascism.
Immediately after the WWI, the Spanish flu appeared – a strong epidemic of lung disease that spread for years and during that time killed more than 50 million people. Life in the United States at that time was marked by a ban on the production, sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages – prohibition.
However, the twenties saw a robust economic growth, which led to the modern form of consumption that was based on innovations – products and services that did not exist before, which were bought because of their competitive advantage and the way they were promoted. Radios and other gadgets were slowly entering homes around the Western world, and cars could be noticed on streets more and more often.
Besides all those items that had the real cost of production, there was also something that added value to everything – advertising and marketing, an industry inside an industry that then received clearly defined principles and brought a lot of money to those who knew it well and, combined with a sudden growth of demand for industrial products, as well as the dynamic development of new types of banking, the popularity of service trades and hospitality, helped create a modern American economy, turning the United States into a leading economic power, more and more different from European societies. While in Russia, almost seven decades after the publication of the Communist Manifesto, a party with an undisguised Marxist orientation – the Bolshevik Party – came to power, communist movements in Berlin and throughout Bavaria were increasingly suppressed.
The overseas connection was particularly hindered by the fact that the United States did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles, after which it would enter the League of Nations, which slackened this international project. Due to the impossibility to cover the postwar cost of reconstruction, former Weimar Republic faced a huge inflation of 21% on a daily basis, caused by the money printing. In just half a year, the US dollar has increased its value by as much as 117 times against the Deutsche Mark.
Hyperinflation, which was the key cause of dissatisfaction of millions of citizens, opened space for support for fascism. On the other side of the Atlantic, the value of capital was increasing at an unprecedented rate, and the purchase of securities was allowed with an extremely small percentage of coverage. Borrowing to trade on the stock market was extremely popular, which led to the creation of speculative bubbles when bursting followed in 1929 through a domino effect on the global economy after the outbreak of the Great Depression, which resulted in economic collapse, mass unemployment, drastic decline in consumption and strong deflation.
Whether this reminder of the time between the Great Gatsby and the Great Depression sounded like a description of an era whose contemporaries were blessed or you believe it was better to be lucky enough not to live in that time, no matter what impression you had of the twenties – still you live right in twenties. Only a decade or two ago, although those who could remember that time well are no longer with us, when we would say “twenties”, it would mark the third decade of the twentieth century, the period between the two world wars.
Today, the name “twenties” is just entering speech as a determinant of the time in which we live, which will later become more common. After the 1990s, which the rest of the world remembers for the first home internet connections, and we regret that they existed in this area, language constructions did not allow us to group the time we live in and the years within the last decades with common names without sounding like language stunts. The twenties are the first in this century whose name is simple, but in which everything is complicated.
As it was the case a century ago, today we are witnessing the spread of the infection that causes lung disease, market trends resulting from fictitious actions and reliance of the economy on the tertiary sector, money printing, enormous over-indebtedness and households and countries, fight for women’s rights from scratch, rising unemployment, pronounced intolerance, vampire fascism and undisguised anti-anti-fascism. Between those two twenties, the world saw several major market turmoil, of which today’s generations can remember the oil shock of the 1970s and, even closer, the financial crash of 2008.
All inter-war and post-war crises have shown that, sooner or later, an institutional response is always found to stop them, although at an advanced stage, and then create the conditions for recovery, increased productivity and reduced inequality. It has, to a greater or lesser extent, succeeded every time. The problem is that such methods were an introduction to new crashes and that, by constantly romanticizing the pre-crisis years, we set an unsustainable ratio of key parameters as a goal that should be (re)reached.