When Stalin died, the stage seemed set for a full-scale anti-Semitic drive. But fear of the West and hatred of Zionism alone did not explain Soviet anti-Semitism. Despite long years of preaching cultural autonomy for nationalities, many Soviet leaders were personally antiSemitic and perhaps recognized the latent anti-Semitism of the population at large.
The Late Twentieth Century
The Soviet Union and the countries of eastern Europe were not exempt from the cycle of prosperity, growth, economic stagnation, and social and political unrest, even though they could prevent the unrest from getting out of hand or from being made known outside their borders.
Problems for the Soviet leadership proved to be fully as difficult as those faced by the Western democracies, but totalitarian states did not have to engage in divisive public debate over how to allocate resources.
One of the nations that briefly surpassed the United States in per capita income was its immediate neighbor, Canada. Exploiting its vast hydroelectric resources and oil and mineral wealth, Canada had become a major industrial nation.
Between 1954 and 1959 the United States and Canada built an extensive new seaway to join the Great Lakes with the St. Lawrence River, so that Canadian and mid-western goods could flow to world markets more readily. Yet Canada increasingly asserted an independent foreign policy—independent of both Britain and the United States.
Rather than reverting to isolation, the United States took the lead in 1945 in organizing both the United Nations and a network of alliances.
It put through vigorous programs of economic aid to other countries, first through the Marshall Plan, then by direct assistance to the newly independent former colonies, and also by massive assistance through internationally organized financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Nor could the largest and most populous of the Western democracies avoid instability even though it was to provide the leadership for the Western alliance and was clearly a superpower in trade and military terms.
Though racked by social tensions at times, the United States was markedly prosperous and politically stable for much of this period.
Nonetheless, significant new elements were introduced to the American sense.
The Low Countries shared the general European prosperity and the common problems. In Belgium, which enjoyed great material well-being, the chronic difficulties between the minority of French-speaking Walloons and the majority of Dutch-speaking Flemings continued to worsen and to threaten stability.