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60. The frontlines in 1923: the Western Front -3-
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    60. The frontlines in 1923: the Western Front -3-

    The constant fighting had cost a high toll to the Allies. In the Brisith 1st Army, which had suffered 32,700 casualties since the beginning of the counteroffensive, some units like the Guards Division and the 43rd "Wessex" were in sorely need of a rest. The remaining of the BEF were in no better shape, as the two other armies reported a total loss of 60,900 men in those days. Even if the German losses were even worse (143,403 casualties), Lord Hugh Cecil, the British Prime Minister, was very worried by the British losses, that he termed as "the Butcher's bill".

    Meanwhile, in France, Petain broke the German lines in the Third Battle of Champagne (May 2-10, 1923), which finally left open the way to Rheims. Foch considered that the German were to crack under the Allied pressure and urged Plummer and Wood to launch an offensive in Flanders. Plummer agreed: the BEF was to attack in a two-pronged offensive, aimed against Messines Ridge, which would provide flank security to a general advance towards the next objective: Passchendaele. Thus started the Third Battle of Ypres, on May 14. Plummer envisaged a breakthrough that would lead to the capture of Roulers that was to be followed by an advance to the north along the Belgian coast, capturing Ostend and Zeebrugge and forcing the Germans to withdraw. By that time, there had been a reorganization of the British Forces. Army Group Flanders consisted of the First (General Horne), the Second (General Maxse) and the Fourth (General Rawlinson) Armies. This formation, commanded by General Sir Charles Kavanagh, was responsible for the front line in Belgium and Artois. Army Group Picardy consisted of the Third (General Lomax), the Fifth (General Birdwood) and the Sixth (General Sir Julian Byng) Armies. This formation undertook responsibility of the line southwards to the River Aisne, and was commanded by General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien.

    As King Albert’s Belgian Army attacked at the Yser Canal, the First Army was to provide support by attacking Messines Ridge. After taking the the Wytschaete-Passchendaele Ridge, they would capture Passchendaele. Seeking to minimise casualties, they chose not to push their infantry too far beyond the range of artillery fire and specified to their artillery commander that the guns’ chief task was the support of infantry rather than the devastation of enemy ground. However, there was a problem with the plan. The short bombardment (six hours) surprised the German defenders, who had been greatly reduced, as most of his forces were sent south to help in the "Dash to the Channel". Supported by a creeping barrage, the Third Army pressed towards Passchendaele and the Second Army towards Messines and Wytschaete. The German line succumbed within 12 hours. The ANZACs, now commanded by an Australian, General John Monash, easily moved along the Ypres-Messines road by the end of the day while the First Army captured Messines Ridge. After the initial attack, German resistance strengthened enormously, and the British were unable to capture Wytschaete that day as planned. Nevertheless, the British had achieved great success. For the cost of just 22,000 casualties, they had advanced everywhere along the ridge and eased the pressure on Ypres.

    While this was taking place, the OHL was berating Generalfeldmarschall Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria and commander of the Heeresgruppe Kronprinz Rupprecht for his excessive rashness that had created a dangerous salient that was vulnerable to be cut from the German main force. Of course, both Rupprecht blamed the OHL for not listening to their petitions of reinforcements. Then, on June 3, after taking Lille, General Horne releashed his forces against Valenciennes, supported by French armies secondary attacks in the left flank of the belagered German troops. It took just four days to the Allied forces to reach the city and this forced the Heeresgruppe Kronprinz Rupprecht to withdraw in a hurry to avoid being surrounded. As most of Horner's divisions were exhausted, Rupprecht took the chance to take as many of his soldiers out of the closing trap. Then, Plummer made a mistake. Thinking that Horner and Petain were ready to finish the Amiens-Compienge Pocket, or ordered a general advance towards Belgium to destroy the enemy Uboat bases.

    What came after were the simultaneous Second Battle of Flanders and the Fourth Battle of Amiens, as Horner moved along the Belgian coast with ease and Rawlinson and Smith-Dorrien smashed the German pocket as Rupprecht fought his way out if it: the attack began on June 15, 1923. Three weeks later, sixteen German divisions were crushed and the exhausted Heeresgruppe Kronprinz Rupprecht was hardly capable of fighting. annhilated. as only five divisions were still able to man the trenches as the rest of units had suffered huge losses.
     
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    61. The frontlines in 1923: the Balkans and Middle East Fronts -1-


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    Ottoman officers and civil servants surrendering to the British


    61. The frontlines in 1923: the Balkans and Middle East Fronts

    On June 8, the British landed in the Dardanelles. The 29th Division (General Archibald Murray) landed at Bursa, faciong the weak resistance of small and understrenght Ottoman garrison which was brushed aside . Soon ot was joined by the 54th (East Anglian) Division (June 9), the dismounted 2nd Mounted Division (June 18) and the 11ème Corps d'Armée (3 infantry divisions) under General Maud'huy. Soon Murray and Maud'huy quarrelled about who was senior to whom, a question that was to have dire diplomatic consequences in London and in Paris . Some historians suggest that the split between the British Empire and France started there, in the Dardanelles. By June 24, under the cover of the guns of the Mediterranean Fleet, Murray took Izmit, on the Dardanelles, and Karasu, on the Black Sea, and he thus cut Istambul from of Asia, just as German troops raced to Istambul to steam the Allied tide.

    Meanhile, a protracted bombardment by the the bulk of the Greek artillery against the enemy lines in the Dedeagach (Alexandroupolis for the Greeks) front, created a huge hole in the Bulgarian defences and through it poured the Greek forces of General Panagiotis Danglis, plus a recently arrived French corps, and marched against Kavala while a diversionary action took place against Skopje at the same time (June 12, 1923). The Greek infantry initially faced great difficulties in carrying out the assault, as the Bulgarians dug in and stoutly defended their ground. After a day of brutal fighting, the Bulgarians were compelled to withdrawn. The Bulgarian defenders, the 9th and 11th Infantry Divisions and the Mountain Division (around 30,000 men), were unable to stop the enemy advance, with the Greek Seres Division leading the rush, which occupied Xanthi on June 21 as the Bulgarians were again forced back, despite the arrival of reinforcements. Even the Bulgarian front at Skopje broke down once the stronghold at the Pip Ridge was taken by the Greek forces. After this, thousands of Bulgarian soldiers surrendered to the Greek Army’s columns as they advanced, entering into Kavala on June 23. Apparently, Bulgaria had been taken by surprise and was unable to resist the Greek onslaught, and, outnumbered, it began a chaotic withdrawal to their next defensive line.

    Thus, sensing the weakness of his enemy, Danglis launched a new offensive: the Armies of Macedonia and Salonika attacked the weak enemy defenses of Skopje and Gorna Dzumaya, which collapsed almost at once. In a fortnight, Danglis claimed, Bulgaria would surrender. However, the arrival of reinforcements from Germany and the rough landscape began to slow down the Allied advance until it came to a stop outside Sofia. Tired and suffering from ammunition and supplies shortages, the Greek army chad to stop to resupply and to reorganize its forces. By breaking through the strong defensive lines of Monastir and Kavalla the Greek army had exhausted itself. Meanwhile, General Zhekov's (the CiC of the Bulgarian Army) demanded inmediate support to Berlin. Two German divisions, under the command of General Friedrich von Scholtz, were sent to Bulgaria. In this situation, all the Allied attacks failed miserably. Sofia proved too strong to be taken. Thus London chose a policy of "Turkey First", defusing the Balcanic front.

    Then, the Ottoman Empire surrendered without conditions.

    The developments in Europe and in the Middle East crushed the Ottoman's hopes. Grand Vizier Ahmed Izzet Pasha visited Berlin in early June 1923, and came away with the understanding that the war was no longer winnable. The Grand Vizier convinced the other members of the ruling party that they must resign, as the Allies would impose far harsher terms if they thought the people who started the war were still in power. He opened peace talks with the British Empire: an Ottoman emissary met a British embassy official in Bern and quietly raised the possibility of a separate peace deal between the Ottoman and British governments. No terms were mentioned, and the Foreign Office replied that any kind of agreement would have to be reached with all Allied powers, not Britain alone. Ahmed Izzet Pasha wanted to save as much as possible of the empire but the military situation created a feeling of urge in him. Thus, he answered back that he was willing to negotiate on the basis that Anatolia was remain Turkish whilst the Arab Middle East was to be ceded to the Allied Powers. London regarded the terms as a workable basis upon which to negotiate further, adding a further condition: that the Armenian population of the empire be protected. In London, the cabinet was too aware to avoid the Germans scoring a propaganda coup by the Allies dismembering the Ottoman Empire whilst Germany bestowed ‘self-determination’, however dubious, upon the people of Eastern Europe. In this, No 10 had a surprise ally in the form of the Greeks when Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos supported the scheme, as he believed that an adjournment of peace negotiations would allow time for Greece to increase their demands. Thus, France reduced her ambitions, too. From becoming the de facto rulers of Syria and Cilicia, in a fashion of the British rule in Egypt, Paris reduced her claim to just Syria. On July 1st, 1923, the Armistice of Mudros was signed, ending Ottoman involvement in the Great War.
     
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    62. The frontlines in 1923: the Western Front -4-
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    Men of the 11th Bn, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 109th Bde, 36th (Ulster) Div
    in captured makeshift German trenches in the outskirsts of Mons

    62. The frontlines in 1923: the Western Front -4-

    Having dealt a huge blow to the German army on the Western Front and not willing to wait too long for the next one, Plummerg began in late July to prepare for the big advance into Belgium that would utterly cripple the enemy. It first phase, the French armies under Petain broke the defences of Valencienness. Weakened by the hard fighting of the previous weeks, the German units could hardly hold their positions and simply broke under the Allied pressure (July 21, 1923). Then Plummer launched his offensive all along the line, with the British tanks, which had been used again in great numbers, leading the attack against Mons, which was retaken by the BEF on August 1st. To the south, General Petain, not willing to be just a sideshow in the final defeat of the German Reich, put his own plans to work as Plumer advanced to Antwerp facing a determined but weak enemy resistance. The French general ordered to the Tenth Army (General Georges Humbert) to attack Metz, aiming to capture the city at the earliest opportunity, while Generals Marie Fayolle's Sixth and Adolphe Guillaumat's Firth Armies advanced towards Longwy. At first, German resistance around Metz was notably solid, reflecting the crucial importance of the city. The defences surrounding it were solidly constructed and complimented by a complex trench system. The French attack began on August 4.

    Fayolle, an experimented artillery officer, proved that he was still a magnificient gunner who would have made Napoleon feel proud by releasign a thundering bombardment against the enemy trenches and, then, the most precise barrage ever seen to the date. In fact, the effect of Fayolle's artillery was such that his troops took the enemy trenches with light casualties. To the right, Humbert's army enjoyed the havoc caused by his neighbour, and just added their guns to the inferno that fell upon the German trenches. Then the only failure of the offensive took place, as the bulk of the French armored force was assigned to Humbert's and Fayolle's armies (25 FCM 2C heavy tanks) moved towards Metz and Logwy, they meet a a complete disaster as most of them were cut to pieces by German artillery that covered the withdrawal of the main force. Ironically, the other French tank, the Char B1, which barely 100 of them joined the offensive, was quite effective at destroying German gun emplacements. However, when movility was required, this tank also became a failure and the offensive bogged down in front of Metz.


    The first Char B1
    The German line surrounding Brussels was the most formidably defence in Belgium and Plummer had set grandiose objectives for the campaign: he was determined to expand the scale of operations and sought to make the Flanders campaign more than just a killing zone for the Germans. He wanted to give the knock-out blow to the German Army and to achieve that he took a heavier hand in planning the second phase than he had the first., outlinning a massive pincer movement around Brussels that would encircle 25 enemy divisions. The first stage of Allied offensive began on September 1st, 1923. The Battle of Namur developed with the British Fourth Army on the left, the AEF Second Army on the center and the French First Army on the right, and it included 450 tanks, and 200,000 men. A key factor in the final plan was secrecy. There was to be no pre-battle bombardment, only a creeping barrage by 1,386 guns and howitzers covering the advance of the allied forces forces. They advanced 12 kilometres into German-held territory in just five hours, capturing 13,000 prisoners.

    Once Namur was taken, the second stage began. The British Third and Fourth, the AEF First and Second and the French First Armies plus the Belgians attacked on September 6th, without delay or pause to recover. Ruined villages had been turned ino German strongholds and they had to be subdued to enable the troops to progress. Consequently, they were subjected to the same precision bombardment that had characterised the first phase of the campaign. By sheer luck, the weather was clear and the Allied infantry faced few difficulties in advancing. Supported by the Royal Flying Corps and the US Air Service, the tanks made excellent progress, despite the frequency of breakdowns and the fact that only 200 tanks were available to the BEF and 100 to the AEF at this stage of the battle. Even the cavalry made impressive advances, but eventually the Germans were able to bring some order to their shattered front line and successfully inflicted numerous losses on the troopers. It took almost two weeks to free Antwerp (September 17), and then the bulk of the Heeresgruppe Kronprinz Rupprecht von Bayern was trapped in Brussels. Rupprecht, prince of Bavaria and commander of the 27 divisions surrounded in Belgium, had to face the black reality. Most of his men were badly demoralized and the stocks of ammunition and food were too small for such a big force. Thus, on September 19th, 1917, he surrendered with his belagered army to General Plumer's forces. However, he had managed to win some time for the German Army.

    This defeat signalled the death's knell of the Imperial German army, or so it seemed, when the combined US and French forces broke the Front in Metz and flooded the city with their soldiers (September 30) with the outnumbered and demoralized German forces withdrew in disarray. Some German divisions, reliable during the whole war, now creacked and large numbers of troops surrendered or deserted. If one was to believe the reports of the British newspapers, the end was at hand.
     
    63. The frontlines in 1923: the Western Front -5-
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    During the last stages of the war, the raising number of
    German prisoners took by surprise the Allied authorities.

    63. The frontlines in 1923: the Western Front -5-

    As King Albert entered in Brussels and the planification for the next Allied offensive began, Lord Hugh Cecil and Theodore Roosevelt made public their plans to create an international order for peace. The British Prime Minister expressed his desire to eliminate war as a method of avoiding disputes by creating a formal structure, a “great international organisation [to settle] international disputes” to bring about this reformed, peaceful world. Next, he turned his attention to Germany. Cecil warned Germany that, as a base of any peaceful negotiation, the Reich would had to adopt a democratic constitution, Belgium was to be restored to full independence and Alsace-Lorraine to be returned to France. The Prime Minister then gave his support to a fully independent, sovereign Poland. Moving onto the subject of reparations, he announced that although they should not be punitive, they should help to repair the great damage suffered by France and Belgium. Thus, the message to Berlin was blunt: reform and surrender.

    In Paris, Raymond Poincaré was aghast by Cecil's proposal and warned that those terms would leave Germany as strong as ever. Then Roosevelt spoke. Apparently it was an address to his nation but, in fact, his words were directed to Berlin. He stated in his usual bully way that the United States were “defending civilisation against the forces of barbarism and tyranny”. If Germany surrendered, renounced to the Prussian miiltarism and democratized herself, she would be granted a place in the future of Europe. However, if she rejected these demands, the war would go on “until Germany is brought to her knees”. He also agreed with Cecil in the need of creating an international organisation for the promotion of global peace backed by military force, as only “naïve trust in fantastic peace treaties, impossible promises and scraps of paper without backing in efficient force.” However, several Republicans and Democrats senators opposed this idea. Internationally, reactions swere mixed. Cecil felt apalled by the bloodthirsty language of the President while Poincaré was very pleased with it, even if Roosevelt had not mentioned Alsace and Lorraine at all. In Berlin, General Groener, the new head of the OHL, stressed the need to resist and fight or face enslavement by the Allies while Georg von Hertling, the Reichschancellor, stated that it was time to negotiate a peace that would leave Germany dominant in Central and Eastern Europe. Colonel von Haeften, from the General Staff, stated that Germany could not hope to win the war.

    The unexpected death of Roosevelt on September 20th, 1923 was met with shock and grief across the USA and around the world. In Berlin, the news were received with joice by a small number of courtiers and politicians. For them, it was the "Mirakel von Brandenburg" all over again. They thought that the current situation of Germany mirroed the death of Czarina Elizabeth died in 1762, during the Seven Years War (1756-63), when Prussia was the only continental ally of the United Kingdom and had to defend itself against Austria, Russia and France, fighting on several fronts just like in 1923 and facing a sure defeat after the disaster suffered at Kunersdorf (1759). However, when the Czarina died, her successor Peter III, who was a big fan of Prussia and Frederick II, sued for peace and Prussia was saved. Thus, some voices were heard in Berlin pointing out that history was to repeat itself and that the new US-President, that many hoped it would be William Borah, who would sue for peace. It must be added that neither Kaiser Wilhelm II (1) nor the chancellor, von Bülow, were very optimistic about the chances of such unexpected turn of events.

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    AEF soldiers sniping from their trenches.

    The Germans' moral rose when the Allied forces struck at the lines of the Heeresgruppe Herzog Albrecht von Württemberg. Its commander, the duke of Württemberg, had had plenty of time to dig and to reinforce the defences of the so-called "Wotan Stellung", that ran from Aachen to Metz. Against it, the tired Allied troops were unable to overcome the enemy machine gun nests and barb wire without the support of the tanks and the heavy guns, that were still being moved to the front. Thus, the offensive stalled and died after two days of fighthing. Meanwhile, someone in London resurrected an old plan designed by Admiral Fisher: to land troops on the German Baltic Coast. In spite of the victorious defence of the "Wotan Stellung" and the end on the war on the Eastern Front, which allowed to move fifty divisions to the West, the string of defeats had depleted the German armies, which was exhausted and in exposed positions. In the last seven months, the strength of the German army had fallen from 5.1 million fighting men to 4.2 million. No one could deny that the manpower of the Reich was exhausted. The OHL predicted they would need 200,000 men per month to make good the losses suffered, but even calling the 1925 class, only 300,000 recruits would be available for the year.

    Field Marshal Plummer, General Lyautey and General Wood convened in Reims in late September 1923 to discuss their strategy for the Western Front in 1924. The eventuality of German reinforcements from the East meant a major problem for any Allied offensive. Consequently, the British Supreme War Council, in its capacity as an advisory body, recommended to carry out several secondary offensives in the Balkans and the Baltic to further debilitate the German reserves. Of course, Plummer was of different opinion and argued for a general offensive to be carried out on the Western Front as soon as possible. The German Army, he insisted, was evidently waning. He stated that the victory in Flanders must be exploited before the arrival of German reinforcements from the East. In this he was supported by Wood, but Lyautey was less certain, agreeing in principle that maintaining pressure on the Germans would be preferable but making light of his reservations about the ability of his forces to sustain protracted offensive operations.

    With the Belgian, the British and the American armies, plus the Spanish, Portuguese, Canadian, South African and ANZACs Expeditionary Forces concentrated in Belgium, Albrecht von Württemberg had a hard time to prepare its bealeguered forces to stop the incoming assault. For this he attempted to reinforce the dozen forts that surrounded Liège, although some of them were nothing but wrecked structures. At his disposal he had twelve divisions, three of them dismounted calvary forming a reserve to reinforce or to counterattack as required, and an assorted variety of artillery. His staff contained several extremely capable officers, notably Major Georg Wetzell, Colonel Max Bauer and Captain Hermann Geyer, who, until recently, had served in the OHL. Thus, he had a decent force under his command when the Allies attacked on October 19.

    The war did not limit itself to the ground battle. The RAF and the Luftstreitkräfte kept fighting in the sky. The RAF had been created in late 1923 when the RFC and the RNAS were amalgamated to form a new service. Dominance of the air space over Liège was essential for reconnaissance, and the British carried out many artillery spotting, photography of trench systems and bombing missions. These missions, an hazardous works due to the German AA defences, were made even more dangerous with the presence of the "Red Baron", Manfred von Richthofen, with his elite unit, the Jagdgeschwader 1, known as the "Flying Circus". The combined effort of the JG 1 and JG 3 led to an increased Allied casualty rates, although the RAF maintained a degree of air superiority, with heavily escorted artillery observation and reconnaissance planes operating effectively over the rapidly moving ground battle below. It was during one of those dogfights (October 20th) when von Richthofen was shot down and captured. Captain Eric Bets, DSC, Croix de Guerre, was officially credited with this victory. Von Richthofen had shot down 85 enemy planes but now he was to see the rest of the war as a prisoner (2).

    Then, on October 17, the offensive began in the Alsatian Front too, with the roar of the guns of two French Armies, plus two US army corps. Defending the area was German "Army Detachment C" (General Georg von der Marwitz ), consisting of ten divisions in the line and about four divisions in reserve. The Germans, now desperately short of manpower, had built many in-depth series of trenches, wire obstacles, and machine-gun nests, which also included many fortified villages, including the fortified city of Metz, part of the "Wotan Stellung". However, the huge superiority of the attackers blasted away any resistance that the weak German defenders could attempt to offer. By no means the Allied advance was easy and without troubles. It took a whole month to reach Strassburg and by then most of theAllied reserves had been sent to the frontline to keep the offensive going on. To the north, two days after the French offensive had started, Plummer attacked Liege, making use of all the available tanks against the well prepared German frontline. It was to be a long bloody battle.




    (1) Not that on, but OTL Wilhelm, Crown Prince, son of OTL Wilhelm II
    (2) Edward Rickenbacker (1890-1973, USA) ended this war with 61 victories, Georges Guynemer (1894-1953, French) with 57 victories, Max Immelmann (1890-1951, German) with 55, Wilfred Beeaver (1897-1926, USA) with 44, Godwin Brumowski (1889-1951, German) with 41, Francesco Baracca (1888-1925, Piamontese) with 39, William "Billy" Bishop (1894-1956, Canadian) with 35, Robert Little (1895-1923, Australian) with 32, Quentin Roosevelt (1897-1963, USA), with 31, Raymond Collishaw (1893-1976, Canadian) with 30, René Fonck (1894-1922, French) with 29, Ernst Udet (1896-1921, German) with 28, Edward Mannock with 27 (1887-1942, British), Alexander Kozakov (1889-1953, Russian) with 26, Gervais Lufbery (1885-1921, USA), with 19.
     
    64. The frontlines in 1923: the end of the war
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    Bulgarian forces leaving Varna (olater September 1923)
    64. The frontlines in 1923: the end of the war

    After the Ottoman collapse, the Allied attention turned again to Bulgaria. The combined Greek, French, American, British and Commonwealth Forces broke through the Bulgarian front at Plovdiv after two days of heavy figthing (21-23 August 1923) and ended in a huge defeat to the defenders. For a moment Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria and his government panicked. The arrival of German reinforcements managed to stall the Allied offensive at the gates of Sophia, but the damage was already done: the Bulgarians could see the war was lost - the Ottoman Empire had collapsed and the mighty German Army was beaten on the all-important Western Front. The Bulgarians were not willing to fight and die for a lost cause.

    Hardly two weeks later, the Allied offensive resumed and the Greek Second Army defeated the German Alpine Corps which, along two Bulgarian Corps, defended the Stip area and the Allied divisions marched towards Sophia, which was now threatened from the East and from the South. Then, General Franchet d'Esperey raced to Varna in a French rendition of Sherman's March to the Sea, aimed to bring havoc over Bulgaria and to damage further the Bulgarian will to fight. The Allied forces took four days to reach the Black Sea coast (September 22-26), following a demoralized Bulgarian army that fled in all directions while being straffed by the Allied air units present in the area. Then, on September 30, the Bulgarian government asked for a ceasefire. This led to the Armistice of Salonica, signed on on October 5.

    While this was going on, partisan rising took place in the northern part of east Serbia. Bulgarian garrisons either joined the partisans or deserted. The German forces kalaunched a strong attack agains Zaječar on September 8, and on September 11 defeated a Serbian attack against Negotin and Donji Milanovac at the same time. Volunteers were joining the patisans in large numbers and the Germans reacted by sending a Mountain Division. However, the defeat in Stip changed the strategic situation in Serbian and the Germans limited themselves to launch defensive attacks trying to deny the Serbian access to the Danube at Negotin. The Serbian Front would remain quiet until September 30, when the Serbian guerrilals began to attack the German columns as they were withdrawing from Bulgaria..

    Thus, as the Hungarian and German units faced the Romanian uprising (October 1st), the German units in Bulgaria and Greece towards Bosnia and Hungary, repelling with sucess the attacks of Allied and Bulgarian troops as well as the Serbian guerrillas. Thus, General Mackensen, the new German commander of the Balkan front, stopped the withdrawal on the Bosnian-Macedonian border, where he was able to establish a stable defensive positions, where they would hear about the end of the war.

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    German troops leaving Belgium
    If the German attack against Liège in 1919 lasted four days, the Allied onslaught conquered the city in thrity-six hours (October 19-20, 1923). It must be said that the German defenders were heavily outnumbered, outgunned and outwitted. In fact, it was not an isolated defeat, albeit an important one, as the whole German line had been broken: Arlon fell into French hand four days later (October 24). Facing the whole might of the combined BEF, PEF, CEF, SAEF, ANZAC, SEF (1) and Belgian army, the German defenders had no chance. However, we shall not be fooled by sheer numbers, as many Allied units had suffered great losses in the previous battles and had no time to fill the gaps in their lines. For the PEF, for instance, it was the last battle of the war, as the manpower of its two corps hardly gathered the combined force of three infantry divisions plus two brigades. As the replacements kept arriving too little and too late, the PEF was withdrawn from the frontline. The SAEF was also in tatters, and Plummer withdrew it force too.

    Such was the feeling of elation and victory, however, that not even the arrival of a new body of reinforcements (three whole armies strong) coming from the Eastern Front could damage it. On the French sector of the line, General Lyautey concentrated his advance against Luxembourg, facing three German corps defending the Bastogne area and the few bits of Belgium that Germany still controlled. At once General Maxse began to pound them, followed suit by the bulk of Plummer's forces. Now the British General decided to keep the German on the run, hitting here and there, opening gaps for the cavalry, which were, quite often, decimated by the machine guns of the Germans rearguards spo by the first week of November, the only cavalry units that were still actively attacking the German withdrawal were the ones that had replaced their horses with Rolls Royce, Austin (1918 Pattern) and Lanchester armoured cars. Then events began to unravel too fast for both Germans and Allies politicians and generals to keep track of them.

    As the advance to the Rhine began, Petain and his commanders faced the formidable defenses that the Germans had built from Saaarbrucken to the Swiss frontier and, bearing in mind the exhaustion of his American-French force after freeing Alsace-´Lorraine, decided that caution was the best course of action while reinforcements were still quite far on the rearguard. Then the end of the war took all by surprise. In Berlin, Wilhelm II, the Supreme Warlord, was shocked. He had suddenly been told the truth, which was worse than he thought. The Western Front was going to collapse in any moment. The OHL now demanded an armistice within 24 hours, otherwise the military catastrophe on the Western Front could not be avoided. There was no other way out. Then, on November 10th, the Allies conquered Aachen: the enemy had entered into the Vaterland; worse still, the counterattacks to retake the lost ground n Luxembourg were a complete failure. There were increasing rumours which talked about social unrest in some German cities tha resembbled what had hapepend in Italy and Russia. It was obvious that Germany could not kept figthing. Believing that an armistice was necessary to save Germany, Groerner, the new and last head of the OHL, suggested that the German government should accept the Allied peace proposals.

    However, the Kaiser hesitated once mor as the Allies commenced a general advance along the length of the front on November 11th. In spite of the spirited defence, the British and Canadian infantry kept an steady advance while the French and AEF pressed towards Saarbrücken. After a long week of bloody fights Cologne (November 18-25) was taken and the Allies washed their feet on the Rhine. Groener rushed reinforcements from other quiet parts of the front, but to no avail, as they could not stop the Allied steamroller. However, it was not until the Allied crossed the Rhine in strenght that Berlin finally gave up. In those savage days of relentless fighting the British and Commonwealth army had sufferend almost 350,000 casualties, plus 200,000 French, 150,000 American and 100,000 Spanish and Latin Americans. The German army had been bloodied: 550,000 casualties and 400,000 prisoners. No army in the world could stand this rate of loss. The proud German army was broken in the field. The Times wrote: "All the World awaits with equal desire the news that Germany has taken the next step towards peace. Each hour of delay increases her losses and her dangers".

    In Germany, many voices on the left called for the abdication of the Kaiser and even for a republic. Prince von Bülow, who had recently replaced Georg von Hertling as Chancellor leading a government composed of members from the SPD, the Catholic Centre Party and the National Liberals, saw that it was time to take a profound step towards democracy. Events had moved much too quickly for von Bülow, who had to take much hastier – and humbler – approach to the Allies. Thus Germany, send a note asking for an armistice to London, Paris and Washington on November 27th. It asked for a truce. It also stated that Germany would retreat to her 1919 borders and to adopt a democratic constitution. Upon learning about the Berlin appeal, Lord Cecil wrote that ‘Germany is badly shaken and has changed her tune…could it be the end?’ On November 29, London and Paris informed Washington that they were prepared to accept the peace offer. Meanwhile, in Germany the peace offer brought more discord at home and a breakdown of spirit and discipline in the German Army. Now that the prospect of victory had vanished, the Germans could tolerate any kind of hardship no longer. The news of the peace offer triggered a new wave of strikes in Hamburg, Lübeck and Wilhelmshaven. This worried the Allies, who interpreted the event as a purely Bolshevik venture, and prompted Lord Cecil to advocate pursuing the armistice negotiations with greater haste, declaring that “I would sooner negotiate with a reasonable statesman than a representative of the revolutionary mob.” Paris and Washington agreed at once. Germany was not to be pushed towards revolution.

    On November 30, the Hungarian Prime Minister, Baron István Burián von Rajecz, asked too for an armistice, just as Czech politicians peacefully took over command in Prague on December 1-2 and declared their independence from the German Empire. On the following day, the Slovaks did the same, rejecting their allegiance to Hungary. Only the German Austrian provinces remained loyal to Berlin. Upon receiving the first news of the Czech troubles, the German government was aghast. Pressure from the SPD to accept the Allied armistice terms increased with the outbreak of disturbances. As von Bülow refused to accept that the Kaiser should abdicate, the Foreign Minister, Lichnowsky, General Groener and influential figures such as Prince Max of Baden, all urged Wilhelm II to abdicate to save the dynasty and the country. This intervention caused von Bülow’s anger and he submitted his resignation on December 4th. His departure left no credible candidates willing to prolong the war. Wilhelm II had little choice but to ask Ebert to become Imperial Chancellor, hoping that he could keep his party away from revolution. One of Ebert's first actions was to present the Kaiser with a dire choice: abdication or revolution. Ultimately, the Kaiser opted to sacrifice himself for his country and the Hohenzollern dynasty. Thus, on December 6th he abdicated the throne and left for Sweden. Crown Prince Wilhelm Friedrich, who was 16 years old, ascended the throne as Wilhelm III. His oldest uncle, Prince Eitel Friedrich, was installed as Regent. As these arrangements were hurriedly made, Phillip Scheidemann proclaimed the Regency in the Reichstag as a victory for democracy.

    As soon as Wilhelm II abdicated, Ebert informed the Allies of Germany’s readiness to negotiate a settlement and sent a delegation headed by Matthias Erzberger to obtain a ceasefire at any price. Erzberger crossed the front line and was taken to a secret destination: Foch's private train parked in a railway in the forest of Compiègne, where Erzberger pleaded for a ceasefire. He was astonished when Fieldmarshall Ferdinand Foch, the Allied supreme commander, demanded that the German High Command had also to be present in the negotiations. Foch was quite clear about it: for him the presence of Major General Detlof von Winterfeldt, an army officer, and Captain Ernst Vanselow, from the Kaiserliche Marine, was not enough. First Sea Lord Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss, the British representative, agreed with Foch. Thus General Groener had to leave Berlin in a hurry. The considerations behind this demand were to prevent that, later on, it could be claimed that the High Command was not responsible for the defeat. There was no question of negotiation. The German delegates managed to correct a few impossible demands (for example, the decommissioning of more submarines than they possessed) but they were in no position to refuse to sign. Having read out the terms, and after discussing their details with the assembled officers and politicians, at 5:20pm, Fieldmarshall Wilhelm Groener, as Chief of the Großer Generalstab (German General Staff) and as the representative for the new Kaiser and the new Reich Chancellor, added his signature to the armistice. The terms would come into effect at 8am the next morning, December 8th, 1923.

    The Great War was over.


    (1) BEF = British Expeditionary Force, PEF = Portuguese Expeditionary Force, CEF = Canadian Expeditionary Force, SAEF = South African Expeditionary Force, ANZAC = Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. SEF = Spanish Expeditionary Force (included the Latin American forces figthing in Flanders/Belgium)
     
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    65. Spain (September 20, 1921 - March 2, 1923) -2-
  • 1582833957538.png

    Strikers in Barcelona during the riots of March 2.
    65. Spain (September 20, 1921 - March 2, 1923) -2-

    On January 20, 1923, the day of the inauguration of the Second Spanish War Cabinet under Maura, the new government faced the same troubles of its predecessor: the heavy burden of the Flanders, Morrocan and Libyan campaigns. The costly involvment in the Great War and in the Colonial Wars, the rising social and economic inequalities and the economic and political mismanagement that had loomed under Romamones lengthened its shadow over Maura. The rise of prices, which was not matched by the rise of wages, further increased the social unrest. While profits achieved extraordinarily important rates of growth, a significant decrease took place in the living standard of the masses, mainly the urban and industrial proletariat, who mainted constant pressure on the goverment for wage increases. All the attempts to control the prices and the budget deficit failed and the temper of Maura only worsened the situation. He vented his anger with this Treasury Ministers as they offered no pratical solution as long as the war was going on. Thus, From January 20 to March 2, Spain had four Treasury Ministers (Francisco Bergamín, January 20-February 7; José Corral, February 7-19; Juan José Ruano February 19-22; Carlos Vergara, February 22-March 2).

    The huge losses suffered by the Spanish troops in the Western Front further poisoned the social conflict. amidst the increasing pressure of the anarchist newspapers denouncing the situation and calling for a General Strike against the government. Thus, around late February 1923, the leaders of the UGT (the Socialist trade union) and the CNT (the Anarchist trade union) began to plan the General Strike all over the country. Finally, they agreed on a common action in the so-called Pacto de Zaragoza (Zaragoza Agreement). This was to cause troubles within the PSOE, as the moderate wing of the party, led by Indalecio Prieto, disagreed with the other moderate leader, Julián Besteiro, and the hard-liner Francisco Largo Caballero, as he considered that the situation was not ideal for a General Strike and it would only damage the chances of a political turnout. Of course, the strikes hardened Maura's stance and caused also the fall of several Interior Ministers, as it happened in the Treasury. Thus, on the same period of time, three Interior Ministers had to deal with Maura and the popular rage (José Bahamonde, January 20-February 9; Antonio Goicoechea February 9-26; Manuel de Burgos, February 26-March 2).

    When Maura heard about the General Strike, he called several infantry batallions from Soria, Toledo, Guadalajara and Burgos to the city to help the security forcess of Madrid to control the strike, and dismissed the Cortes. Then, Francesc Cambó, the leader of the Catalan autonomist party Lliga Regionalista, demanded Maura to call the Cortes again, but the Spanish Prime Minister ignored the demand and kept running the country through royal decrees. The answer of Cambó was to move with the Catalan MPs to Barcelona (February 27th) and to invite the other parties to gather there to open a new parliamentary season as Maura refused to do so. Giner de los Ríos and most of the Partido Republicano Radical (PRR - Republican Radical Party); part of the Liberal party leaded by Salvador de Samà; and Julián Besteiro, heading a group of twenty Socialist MPs, joined Cambó in Barcelona by March 1st. when two hundred MPs joined in the so-called Asamblea Nacional (National Assembly). On the following day, the General Strike hit hard: Barcelona, Sevilla and Madrid came to a sudden halt when the workers took the streets. Venting his anger, Maura had the MPs declared to be in rebellion, ordered the army to arrest them and to put down the strikers. As the strikes also paralysed Bilbao, Valencia and La Coruña, king Alfonso XII, worried by the reaction of Maura and the levels of popular dissent, forced Maura first to cancel his orders and then to resign from his post. Then, the send a message to Cambó asking to go to Madrid to to form a new government (March 3).

    By then, the Conservative Party was in crisis. The War Minister, Juan de la Cierva, opposed both to the Asamblea Nacional and to Maura, resigned from his post and left the party, creating the Unión Monárquica (UM - Monarchist Union) on March 2. On the following day, Joaquín Sánchez de Toca and Francisco Silvela also left the Conservatives ranks. It was the beginning of the end of the old party.
     
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    66. Spain (March 3 - October 12, 1923)

  • F..C. Barcelona, the winner of the
    first primary football competition of Spain,
    the one of 1923-1924.

    66. Spain (March 3 - October 12, 1923)

    With Francesc Cambó as president of the Asamblea Nacional (National Assembly) turned into the Asamblea Nacional Constituyente (National Constituent Assembly)., Spain seemed to settle down and return to peace and stabilty. The Asamblea began to work then into writting a new Constitution for the country. Its main strenght was also its main weakness, as it was formed by the Liberal party led by Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, the Consevative party led by José Sanchez Guerra after Maura left the party and retired from politics; and the still united PSOE of Julián Besteiro. Those who remained outside from the Assembly, either to the Right or to the Left, would later claim that the new Constitution was not theirs.

    The Constituent period went from March 3 to May 26. This resulting Constitution that departed from the fact that Spain was a democratic parliamentary monarchy with a legislature elected under proportional representation. Universal suffrage was kept, of course, but the minimum voting age was lowered from 25 years to 20. Every Spaniard was equal before the law and both genders had the same rights and obligations. Privileges based on birth or social status were abolished. Official recognition of the titles of nobility ceased, and further creation of noble titles was discontinued. The "national identity" of local language communities (Basque, Galician, Catalan) in Spain was protected, including the right to use their native language in education, administration, and the judicial system. However, the Constitution had a main problem: it allowed the king to dismiss the primer minister, even if he still retained the confidence of the Parliament. Similarly, the king could appoint a prime minister who did not have the support of the Parliament. Furthermore, there was no threshold to win representation in the Parliament, and hence no safeguard against a quick rise of an extremist party.

    However, the country was still under serious social, political, and economic conditions. To make it worse, the royalist factions of the Conservative and Liberal parties, the so-called "Royalist democrats", withdrew from the government on June 21 to show their opposition to articles 109 to 118 which set forth individual rights of Spaniards, as they believed that they damaged the status of the monarchy and the Spanish Catholic church. They were not aware that, by acting thus, they muted themselves and damaged the standing of the monarchy, which, from then on, would be only defended by the monarchist ABC newspaper, which bitterly denounced the "radicalism" of Cambo's Asamblea. To replace those factions, a group of very active MPs was formed around Antonio Maura, who were quite versed in parliamentary sabotage and used a most provoking and defiant language in their parliamentary speeches. This, in turn, led to increased tensions within the PSOE as Francisco Largo Caballero, the leader of the most radical wing of the party, countered Maura's group forming his own, much to the changrin of Besteiro and Indalecio Prieto, the leader of the "true" Socialist faction, who pressed Besteiro, who was moving towards Social-Democratic positions, following the example of the German SPD, to reprimand Largo Caballero for his outspoken manners. This was to accelerate the split of the PSOE, which had started when Largo Caballero and his supporters broke with party discipline during the debates about the Constitution of 1923. Then, in September 1923, the voting of an emergency budget in the Parliament, which was voted down by Largo Caballero's group, led to the break up of the PSOE.

    In a meeting of the leaders of the party, both Prieto and Largo Caballero presented a vote of no confidence to their leader, who not only resigned form his position but also left the party with his supporters to create the Unión Social Demócrata (USD - Social Democratic Union) on October 5, 1923. Hardly a week later Largo Caballero and his minority faction would follow suit and, on October 12, the Partido Comunista de España (PCE - Comunist Party of Spain) was born under his leadership. This events would, in turn, cause a gradual approximation of the Alcala-Zamora's Liberal Party and Prieto's PSOE (and, later on, Besteiro's USD) as a reaction to the radicalistion of the "Royalist democrats" and the PCE, This successfully forged consensus for some time between the political Centre and the Left, which led to the creation of a "Leftish" faction led by Santiago Alba within the Liberal ranks.

    In this situation, Francesc Cambó asked the king to dissolve Parliament and called for new elections to be held in November 25, 1923.
     
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    67. The "Revolución de Noviembre" (October - November 1923)

  • "The first day of the General Strike"
    "A state of war had been declared in Spain"

    67. The "Revolución de Noviembre" (October - November 1923)

    The electoral campaign which started on the following day to the dissolution of the Cortes soon became overheated with the news that were arriving from the trenches. The increasing number of casualties had weighed heavily on the political scene as the corpses of the Spanish soldiers fallen in Flanders were returning back to Spain by the hundreds. Francisco Largo Caballero, the leader of the PCE, used the popular agitation in his speeches to attack directly the monarchy. He demanded to purge the officers corps and to get rid of the monarchy, something that scared the moderate Liberals in favor of a constitutional monarchy. Romanones would said of him, with a deep contempt: "That man will go far—he believes everything he says." In this agitated situation, an event unrelated with the war in Europe was to bring havoc to the country.

    After the defeat of the Senussi Rebellion in April 1922, the only non-European front that remained active for the Spanish Army was the Morocco Protectorate. The Arab revolt and the German and Turkish troubles had left the Riffian rebels without the small foreign support they had. Even worse, the combined French and Spanish forces began a campaign in September 1922 that slowly strangled Abd-el-Krim's Republic of the Rif, which by March 1923 was reduced to its capital, Axdir, on the Eastern side of the Protectorate, and the surrounded and isolated Xauen, on the Western side. The Spanish newspapers boasted that the African campaign was an endless string of victories that soon would came to an end. Then a small incident took place on October 13 in Sidi Ifni, part of the Spanish Sahara. That day, violent demonstrations against Spanish rule erupted in Ifni, followed by civil strife and widespread killings of those loyal to Spain. In response, Madrid dispatched two battalions of the Spanish Legion, Spain's elite fighting force, to the area and readied more reinforcements that were to be sent from the Peninsula. By October 29, the rebel strongholds had been crushed by the Spanish garrison, but the rebel guerrillas kept ambushing the Spanish patrols until they were finally defeated by early November. Then, on November 11, two batallions of the 4th Infantry Brigade, part of the Spanish garrison in Málaga, were ordered to embark to Africa. These units were made up by reservists, were the only breadwinners for their families. As it had happened during the Melilla War in 1909, this caused riots in the city that were followed by a mutiny in the ranks of the Brigade as not only the members of the two batallions marked to be send overseas but the rest of the unit refused to bey their officers, and were soon imitated by the sailors of the naval base . Workers joined the mutineers and called a strike. By November 13, Malaga was in the hands of the rebellious sailors, soldiers and workers.

    On the three following days (November 13-16), the revolution would spread to Almería, Barcelona, Cádiz, Madrid, Ciudad Real, La Coruña, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, León, Madrid, Oviedo, Sevilla and Toledo, creating a state of chaos and disorder that forced the royal family and the government to flee from Madrid and to move to Burgos. Violent acts took place in many cities as strikers and mutiniers were shot by the police and the army in Ávila, Córdoba and Palencia and the loyalists put down the rebellion in La Coruña and León on November 18-19. However, the strikes and mutinies kept spreading all over Spain and Albacete, Badajoz, Cádiz, Cuenca, Girona, Guadalajara, Lleida, Murcia, San Sebastián, Santander, Tarragona, Valencia and Zaragoza joined the rebellion in those days, while Workers' and Soldiers' Councils were organized in the rebel cities. while the Moroccan Protectorate remained in loyalist hands and Libya slowly fell into chaos and as its garrison joined the rebels in the Peninsula.

    An emergecy meeting took place in Burgos with all the main political forces but for the "Royalist democrats" and the PCE. There, Cambó agreed with Besteiro and Prieto that a social revolution had to be prevented and that state order must be upheld at all costs. To do so, Cambó resigned and Besteiro, who replaced him as the new prime minister, returned to Madrid, with king Alfonso XII, to lead a coallition government which included the Liberals, the Socialists and the Social-Democrats. However, Largo Caballero had organized his own government, based on the soldiers and workers' councils and was on the way to announce the creation of the Second Spanish Republic. With the loyalist army units marching towards Madrid, a hurried meeting took place between Besteiro and Largo Caballero to avoid the bloodshed. An uncanny agreement was reached. Largo Caballero was to step aside and let Besteiro form his government (November 22), but keeping the local councils into place. On of the first measures of the new government was to pass an amnesty for all political prisoners and regulations for the freedom of association, assembly and press, as an expansion of the benefits for unemployment, social insurance, and workers' compensation as well. If Besteiro thought that with this he had put and end to the popular agitation, he was wrong. The "Revolución de Noviembre" (November Revolution, November 11-22) was indeed over, but the Revolutionary mood remained alive.

    Besteiro then attempted to put forward a moderate reform to solve the social and economical malaises of Spain and the General Elections were delayed until January 19, 1924. During his time in office, the cabinet embraced part of the anticlerical and antimonarchic moods of the time. The Prime Minister proposed to ammend the Constitution to deprive the king from his royal veto and the ability to select ministers, something that was supported by the Left and the Councils but bitterly opposed by the Conservative and the moderate Liberals. Besteiro was fortunate and could boast a victory when Xauen was taken on November 21. Abd-el-Krim, however, still resisted in Axdir, and, when thirty Spanish soldiers died in an ambush in the outskirst of the city, the popular anger exploded again in the Peninsula. Strikers returned to the streets as they claimed that had been lied and fooled by those who had claimed that the war was just but won. To appease them, Besteiro dismissed the War Minister. General Diego Muñoz Cobos, and the Interior Minister, Martín Rosales. This move not only damaged Besteiro's popularity, it also broke his authority over the country. Concluding that their goals could be met only by taking power for themselves, Largo Caballero and the PCE prepared to depose the government and to rule the country themselves.
     
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    68. From the Strikes of December to end of the Spanish Revolution (November 1923-May 8, 1924)

  • Barcelona, January 15, 1924
    68. From the Strikes of December to end of the Spanish Revolution (November 1923-May 8, 1924)

    The end of the Great War was met with relief in Spain. For the Spaniards it meant the end of the endless list of casualties from the front, the return of the soldiers and also of the rationing of food. However, food control was to last for some time as long as, the government warned, international trade and the national economy struggled to return to a "bussines as usual" situation. To counter this, the Workers' and Soldiers' Councils took over the distribution of food and the accommodation and provisions of the front-line soldiers that were gradually returning home, as well as the police force. To coordinate their work, a Central Council was created on December 19, 1923. Meanwhile, Largo Caballero proposed excluding the "Royalist democrat" deputies from the Cortes, but his proposal was rejected. This led to Communist accusations against the Liberals and Socialists of protecting the royalist faction, or, even worse, of conspiring with them to restore monarchy and to repeal the Constitution of 1923. At the end of December more than three thousand shops were plundered in the main cities of Spain. Protesters claimed that the profiteers were responsible for the high prices and that they were protected by the Royalists in high places, the Cortes included.

    Then, on January 4, 1924, the Communist uprising began as planned, with the PCE calling for a demonstration to take place on the following day. To the surprise of the organizers, the protest turned into a huge, massive show of anger which also attracted the support of many Socialists. On January 5, hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets of the main Spanish cities, many of them armed. In the afternoon the train stations and the newspapers of Madrid and Barcelona were occupied as disgruntled war veterans joined the rebels side. On the following day, Largo Caballero called for a general strike on January 7, which attracted about 500,000 participants. Strikers seized key buildings, which led to a standoff with the government. During the following two days the revolution won the Eastern and Southern provinces, the government declared the state of emergency. On January 9, Largo Caballero read the proclamation of the República Popular Española (People's Republic of Spain) in the Cortes. He was surrounded by a small armed retinue for his own protection. The transfer of power was not without disagreement. The Liberals and the Conservatives, as well as Besteiro's socialdemocrats, believed that Largo Caballero had not only illegally seized power but also was threatening them with his bodyguards. Thus, they walked out before the votation began. As they departed, they were taunted by a Communist deputy, Daniel Anguiano, who told them "You are leaving history! Your time is over!" Five days later (January 11), the Revolution had engulfed the rest of the country. Just Burgos, Huelva, Huesca, Lugo, Orense, Oviedo, Pamplona, the Canary Islands and the Protectorate of Morocco remained in Loyalist hands. That day, the first Popular columns departed Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia and Zaragoza heading to those cities as the Socialist Republic of Italy recognized the Spanish Republic and began to send supplies and weapons to Spain. By January 25, the last Loyalist strongholds had been secured by the Republican forces but for the Protectorate and Pamplona.

    At the same time, social revolution and collectivization began in earnest in the Popular Republic, mixed with a violent anticlerical violence. Soon a libertarian socialist economy appeared in the Eastern parts of the Peninsula (Catalonia and Valencia) based on coordination through decentralized federations of industrial collectives and agrarian communes, which led to another bout of violence (January 14-28) when rural unrest exploded and armed peasants manor houses, both in the diminishing Loyalist areas as in Republican ones. Personal revenges also caused bloodshed in both sides. For two weeks, blood streamed free as hatred consumed the cities and the countryside in an orgy of violence. This was to allienate many Spaniards in both sides, among them Prieto, who raised his voice in protest for the unlawful state of the country. As Pamplona held against the assaults of the Popular columns (February 4), the revolutionary committees of Madrid and Barcelona engaged in a policy of political repression of all suspected counter-revolutionaries, which led to the creation in every city of survillance committees (Comités de Vigilancia), which conducted searches and made arrests by the hundreds. It was mostly these committees, rather than the Government, which released the repression of February 1924. To ensure that legal process were applied to suspects accused of political crimes and treason to stop the arbitrary killings and to silence Prieto's criticism, Largo Caballero created a revolutionary tribunal with extraordinary powers on February 19.

    Then, on February 24, an armed mob stormed the Cárcel Modelo, the main prison for men in Madrid. That day, as other prisons in the capital were assaulted and its inmates murdered, the surveillance committees of Madrid, led by Daniel Anguiano, sent a circular letter to the regional authorities were he announced that "ferocious conspirators detained in the prisons had been put to death by the people" and asked them to eliminate counter-revolutionaries. By February 25 local councils were already passing motions demanding the death of conspirators. When the murder spree was over three days later, around 2,200-2,700 people had been murdered. By that day, half the prison population of Madrid had been executed and many members of the PSOE and the Liberal parties had been killed in personal vendettas. This was to lead to the murder of Anguiano (March 1) by Margarita Nelken, a Socialist sympathizer, who would be executed for her crime. This led to a purge of the moderate revolutionaries and Socialists, including Prieto, from the Central Council, and a vicious persecution of the few Conservative leaders who had been unable to flee to either France of the loyalist areas. Meanwhile, the bloodshed went on in the Spanish-held Libya, where the revolution had plunged their cities into chaos as the last remnats of order disappeared. Finally, London grew tired of all that madness and British troops crossed the border in the so-called Operation E on February 19. Supported by armored cars, the British troops (an army corps with RAF support) led by Major-General Sir Lee Oliver Fitzmaurice Stack captured Sollum and the Halfaya Pass by February 25 and then Stack by-passed the garrisons further south in the desert as it advanced westwards to Bardia. The chaotic state of the Republican troops only worsened with time and the city was conquered on March 3: 8,000 Spanish soldiers were captured at the cost of 60 British casualties. The remants of the Bardia garrison fled to Tobruk. Only 9,000 reached Tobruk, utterley demoralized, while 8,000 surrendered or died in the hot sand of Libya. Tobruk was completely surrounded by British troops by March 30.

    When the news of this disaster reached Spain in late February, a young Communist, Dolores Ibarruri, the leader of the "Comuneros" faction (Communards), part of the extremist wing of the PCE, pushed for a full mobilization of the country to fight war to the death and demanded the execution of all the traitors and a state-controlled economy, as the complete political unity of the Left as well. This, she claimed, was essential to the war effort. Initially, Largo Caballero recovered the moderate Prieto to use him against the radical Ibarruri, but Prieto resigned two days later and went into hiding. The tired population began to show the strain caused by the shortage of food and the war. When Tobruk was surrounded by the British, a frenzied mood ran through the Central Comittee. The "Comuneros" took the streets demanding stringent measures. On April 2, Ibarruri pressed for a decree confiscating the property of suspects and distributing it to the needy, which was approved that very day. After this, and seeing that Ibarruri was becoming too popular, Largo Caballero acted at once: Ibarruri was jailed on April 4 and his faction crushed as they were accused of being "Loyalist saboteurs". Ibarruri was executed on the 9th, and after this the group disolved or vanished in the jails of the surveillance councils. Seeing the writting on the wall, Prieto left Madrid and ran away to Zaragoza, which was an Anarchist stronghold, where he went underground again. Hardly had he done that, Largo Caballero turned against the PSOE and, after accusing its leadership of corruption and blatantly disregarding the parliamentary immunity of nine Socialist deputies, he had them tried and executed on April 14.

    Feeling securing after eliminating his rivals, Largo Caballero returned his attention to the war. but to no avail. Gibraltar had no troubles to resist the weak attempts of the Popular Army of the Spanish Republic and Tobruk had surrendered on April 2 and the British took Derna two days later. Largo Caballero began to muster all the available forces as the navy was reorganized and prepared to face the British Mediterranean Fleet, an enterprise that was considered foolish by the Republican Admirals. They were not the only ones who were critics of Largo Caballero. He had doomed his cause in his purge as he had caused many to be disilusioned, not only in the ranks of the two decimated groups, but also out of them. The survivors of the purge and those who had avoided Largo Caballero's wrath, horrified by his actions and the kangaroo courts, began to withdraw their support to him. To his shock, the Communist leader was called "dictator" in the Cortes by his critics on April 26, the very day that El Agheila fell to the British as its garrison deserted to the British and changed sides: the Spanish army of Libya simply melted away from that moment on, with the soldiers deserting or surrendering in mass. Largo Caballero's reaction was to free the reigns of the surveillance councils. The number of executions skyrocketed. If March had seen 155 executions, in the next weeks the butcher's bill rose to 354 (April 1-15) and then to 509 (April 15-31). With the fast fragmentation of the Committe ongoing at full speed, two Communist leaders, Antonio García Quejido and Manuel Núñez de Arenas attempted a reconciliation. Nevertheless, it was too late. On May 6, as it was known the loss of Tripoli two days earlier, an uneasy alliance of Communists and the few Socalist survivors demaned his resignation in the Cortes. His indictment was decreed. Largo Caballero was arrested in place. When he exited the building, to his surprise, he found it surrounded by soldiers, policemen and militiamnen. On the evening of May 8, Largo Caballero, García Quejido, Núnez de Arenas and nine membrers of Largo's group, were executed without a trial. On the following day, Prieto returned to Madrid. The PCE was outlawed, as many feared or hoped. and then Prieto surprised his enemies and friends when he offered the exiled Besteiro, Alcalá-Zamora and Sanchez Guerra (Maura had been one of the first victims of Largo Caballero's purges) to return to Spain to reconstruct the country together.

    It was time to heal the wounds.
     
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    69. The Provisional Government (May 8, 1924-June 21, 1925)
  • 1583609971632.png

    A massive celebration of the new Spanish Constitution
    Madrid, September 18, 1924

    69. The Provisional Government (May 8, 1924-June 21, 1925)

    Even the most loyal monarchist was aware that Alfonso XII was not loved by his subjects. His passive attitude since the beginning of the war and during the revolution along with his reluctance to inmediately return to Spain from his Cuban exile damaged his standing, even if his kingship had been always marked by his extreme reluctance to take part in politics. This habit of him, that was positively taken in the past, now played against it. On May 11, a Provisional Government was created in Madrid. Its president was Alcalá Zamora, and it included one Conservative (Sanchez Guerra), four Social Democrat (among them Besteiro), three Liberal (one of them Manuel Azaña -1-) and two Socialist ministers (Indalecio Prieto remained as leader of the PSOE but refused to join the cabinet), plus a minister without portfolio (Lluis Companys, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya - ERC, Republican Left of Catalonia). Its first measure was to dissolve all the councils, including the surveillance ones; their former members became part of the new city councils by a Decree of May 16. The next issue, to disarm the militas, was more delicate to solve and led to some street fights in Cádiz, Jerez and Málaga. Social unrest returned, as the farmers refused to abandon the occupied lands in Andalucia, Aragon, Castille, Galicia and Valencia, as the workers complained about their freezed salaries. Thus, to solve this, Alcalá Zamora began a land reform using the lands that were owned by the State. The trouble was that most of those propierties that were given to the farmers had been taken by force from their former owners during the terror released by Largo Caballero. This question would return to haunt the government in the future. Meanwhile, a reform of the Constitution of 1923 began.

    By early December, with the militias disarmed and the food shortages somehow solved with new trading agreements with Argentina, the United States, and the United Kingdom, Spain returned to bussiness as usual. Then. old troubles resufarced when the Radical Republican party demanded the abolition of the monarchy. During three days (December 5 to 8), there were Republican demonstrations and riots in every city. The Government had no other choice but to announce a referedum to decide the future of the monarchy in Spain. Two questions were to be asked in two different days: on November 20 and December 10. In the first referendum, the Spaniards would vote whether Spain was to be a Monarchy or a Republic, while the second offered them three options: the return of Alfonso XII, the coronation of a different prince or a Republic. Then, on September 18, the Constituent period came to an end: the new Carta Magna of 1924 kept the nucleus of its 1923 version but it featured several and momentous changes. Spain was to have an almost "federal" structure as it was to be divided into 16 regions plus the Protectorate of Morocco (2) as Libya was quietly and silently forgotten and left to its own devices (that is, the British ones). The new regions were to have their own constitutions, but in the case of contradiction, the National Constitution was to prevail. In all but in name, the resulting regions where federated states, all of them being equal in status. Each region would had its own constitution, and its own parliament, government, police and courts. However, there were considerable differences between the individual regions, most particularly in terms of population and geographical area. The Civil Code of 1902, rewritten in 1912, was to remain the same, being strongly influenced from the German and French ones; while the Criminal Code of 1903 was rewritten along with the Constitution.

    The first referendum was won by the pro-monarchists by a most surprising slandslide: 89.59% YES vs 10.31% NO. However, the second one delt a heavy blow to Alfonso XII: while 45.74% of the Spaniards voted for him, the second option won by a wide margin (54.26%) (3). Of course, Alfonso XII at first refused to accept what he called "the outrageous illegality" of the referendum, and took his deposition badly. He considered himself the victim of a coup d'etat. Then, on January 8, a letter the Cortes Provisionales (4 (Provisional Parliament) addressed to Friedrich von Hohenzollern, the second son of William, Prince of Hohenzollern (1864–1927) (5), offering him the Spanish Crown. The German prince accepted the offer on February 14, even if it France was puzzled by the Spanish election (it goes without saying that the Franco-Spanish relations were damaged by this move). (6). On March 1, Friedrich's candidacy was voted on the Spanish Cortes Provisionales -4-: 242 deputies voted for him, 149 against him and the remaining 7 casted a blank vote. With the support of the Liberal and Socialdemocratic party and the opposition of the Conservatives (who feared the French reaction) and the PSOE, Friedrich was elected King as Federico I on March 14, 1925.

    Then, Alcalá Zamora dissolved the Parliament and called for new Elections, that were to be held on June 21, 1925

    1583609024039.png

    King Federico I of España
    with his wife, Margarita Carola de Sajonia (7)​


    -1- ITTL the Communist Revolution leads Manuel Azaña to move away from the Partido Republicano Radical (PRR - Radical Republican Party) and to join the Liberal party.
    -2- Fifteen regions (Galicia, Asturias, Basque Country, Navarre, Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Castilla la Vieja -Old Castille-, Extremadura, Castillla la Nueva -New Castille-, Murcia, Andalucia Alta -Upper Andalucia-. Andalucia Baja -Lower Andalucia-, the Ballearic Islands and the Canary Islands) plus the Morocco Protectorate.
    -3-The third option was only voted for 6.01% of the Spaniards
    -4- A hotpotch of the pre-revolutionary one and the revolutionary cortes after being purged of extremists in both sides and refilled with Liberals and Socialdemocrats, plus some Conservative survivors, some Catalan deputies and even some Republican politicians.
    -5- ITTL, Augusta Victoria von Hohenzollern is born August Victor von Hohenzollern.
    -6- Call it a revenge from the ghosts of 1870. Yes, the grandson of OTL Leopold von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen became king of Spain 55 years later.
    -7- Margarethe Karola of Saxony.
     
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    70. The General Elections of 1925
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    70. The General Elections of 1925

    There is no doubt that the Conservatives went into the 1925 election knowing that they were going to suffer a humilliating defeat as the country went to the polls in June 1925 with the background of the war and the revolution. After the division of the party, Maura and his Unión Monárquica (UM - Monarchist Union) were viciously repressed -1- by Largo Caballero's regime. After that, and with the progressive radicalisation of its remnats towards Far-Right positions, the Conservative Party emerged as a more attractive option for the right-wing voters who were disgusted of the violent language and ideas of the UM, close ot Maurras' Action française, as the PSP was still an outsider in Spanish Politics. Nevertheless, the ill-fated role of Maura in the events that preceded the revolution was still casting a long shadow over the Conservatives. On their part, while the Liberals of Alcalá-Zamora went into the election convinced that their party was heading towards a landslide.

    On June 21st, the Conservatives were clearly the biggest losers, losing 91 seats (they only retained Galicia, Navarre, and Castilla la Vieja and 38 seats). Prieto's PSOE rose to 74 seats, which was far beyond the wildest dreams of the Socialist leader while the Liberals were the winners, even if their gain of 22 seats. which made them the biggest party in the Cortes with 192 seats and with a smashing majority . That very same day Sánchez Guerra resigned inmediately from the leadership of the Conservative Party. Ironically, Alcalá-Zamora went to see king Federico to advise him to ask to himself (that is, Alcalá-Zamora) to form a government. Now the question was: would the new prime minister move towards progressive positions or would he be too afraid of moving at all? Only time would tell.


    -1- ITTL UM suffered a further schism when the "Royalist democrats" withdrew from the government on June 1923 , and Maura's group began to sabotage the Cortes.This faction, led by Ángel Ossorio, was critical of both the anticlerical politics of the goverment and the proto-fascist tendencies of Maura. Ossorio was to create the Partido Social Popular (PSP - People's Social Party), having in its ranks Salvador Minguijón and, José Larraz López, With Maura remained Ángel Herrera, José María Gil Robles, Severino Aznar, José Ibáñez Martín, José Larraz, Santiago Fuentes Pila and José Félix de Lequerica. After Maura's execution (along with Herrera, Aznar and Larraz), Gil Robles became the new leader of the UM, which after the fall of Largo Caballero, returned to Spanish politics as a far-right monarchist political movement.
     
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    71. News of the World: A Peace to End All Wars.
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    71. News of the World: A Peace to End All Wars.

    The end of the war did not mean a return to peace for Germany. As soon as it was known that Germany had asked for an armistice to the Allies, the revolutionary enemies of the regime used the opportunity to bring it down. This was seen with a series of strikes and demonstrations and with the creation of the short-lived Bavarian Republic by Kurt Eisner. In Berlin, chancellor Ebert pushed forward the constitutional reform that would remodel Germany on a democratic basis while trying to avoid the spread of the revolutionary ideas that came from Italy. It was no easy task as the USPD insisted upon the abolition of the monarchy and, at the same time, Ebert had to deal with the soldiers’ and workers’ councils which had sprung up across Germany. Unable to appease the radicals, and with the worsening situation of Germany, Ebert turned to the OHL for support, which Chief of Staff General Hans von Seeckt promised in exchange for the government putting down Bolshevism. Even if the officers corps loathed supporting a socialist Chancellor, their commitment to maintain the monarchy in Germany made them to support Ebert.

    This course of events led the Spartacists led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg to regard Ebert and the SPD as pawns of the Hohenzollerns. On January 3, 1924, with Berlin in turmoil, they attempted to seize the centre of Berlin. Fearing an imminent revolution, Ebert turned to the Army The Spartacist coup attempt was poorly coordinated and the soldiers swept the revolutionaries aside. Liebknecht was arrested and Luxemburg fled to Sweden. Amidst the chaos, the Bavarian Republic collapsed when Eisner was brutally murdered as the army continued the offensive south throughout the month. In this chaotic situation, democratic elections follwed along with the process of re-establishing authority over the country. However, in spite of the program of progressive reforms that the SPD promised to the Germans, the voters supported Bernhard von Bülow in the Elections of April 1924. Ebert submitted his resignation to the Regent, Prince Eitel. Bülow, seen as a baluard against Communism and granting the constitutional reform, secured the support of the Centre Party, the German Democratic Party and the German National People’s Party to form a centre-right coalition.

    The Allies felt that it was crucial to force Germany to accept peace terms while they possessed military and economic superiority. Furthermore, nobody in London, Paris or Washington D.C. doubted that there was never any question that the conference would be held in Paris and there was no pretence of negotiations with none of the defeated nations were invited to send a delegation. It was a way of demonstrating the totality of the Entente’s victory.. The French government insisted that the suffering of France throughout the war warranted the destruction of the old militaristic Germany which had menaced France since 1870. In this, the Quai d'Orsay was supported by the White House. Thus, Clemenceau, ‘the Tiger’, arrived at the head of the French delegation, the first to arrive to the magnificent Palace of Versailles on February 18, 1924. The American delegation was leaded by the new president, Charles Evans Hughes, who was determined to force Germany to acknowledge not only that she was defeated, but that she was responsible for starting the war. Yet at the same time, Hughes did not want to totally humiliate and “destroy” Germany, foreseeing her as having an important part in the future of Europe, as stability in the Old Continent needed to balance France and Germany and that both could serve to counterbalance Russia if the need was ever to arise.

    Lord Cecil arrived to Paris at the head of the British Empire delegation to Paris, ready to consider all possibilities to solve the problems confronting the peacemakers gathered in Paris. With him there were several prime ministers: the Australian Stanley Bruce, the Canadian W. K. Mackenzie King and the South African Jan Smuts. Lord Cecil's attitude to Germany was a mixture of punishment and reconciliation. As Germany was the one to blame for starting the war, Lord Cecil wanted Germany to pay just reparations yet he was also wary of estranging Germany permanently and transforming her into a pariah, mindful that she was Britain’s principal pre-war trade partner and that harsh reparation demands could have economic repercussions for Britain. He agreed with Hughes that, without ultimate reconciliation between Germany and France, the ideal of a peaceful Europe would be doomed to failure. To the astonishment of the Allies, there was a last delegation to arrive: the German one. arriving to negotiate with the Allies over the peace settlement. Yet just days after his appointment as Chancellor, von Bülow prepared a delegation to attend the conference in Paris. No invitation to attend had arrived from Paris, but this did not prevent Bülow from trying. After all, for Bülow, Germany had not surrendered to the Allies, merely agreed upon an armistice. He intended to be present, just as Talleyrand had represented France in the Congress of Vienna of 1814. When Clemenceau wanted to send the German delegation back to Berlin, Lord Cecil and Hughes blocked his move. In the end, the Germans would stay, but they were not allowed to take part in the negotiations.

    The first issue was dividing of the German Empire in Africa and Asia. France was awarded Niger, Neukamerun and the German Equatorial Africa. Nigeria. the German East Africa and Ruanda-Urundi were awared to Britain and Kamerun went to Belgium as a compensation for the German invasion, while the German concessions in China and her possessions in the Pacific north of the equator went to Japan and those south of the equator to Australia, except for German Samoa, which was taken by the United States. From all his colonial empire, Germany only kept the German Congo (1). The next question were the territorial chances in Europe. France wanted revenge for the suffering and the destruction suffered during the war. Clemenceau was eager to dismember Germany, but this came into collision with Hughes and Ceil plans for Germany. In the end, the German Reich was to transfer Alsace-Lorraine to France, who also received the Saar region as a 10-year protectorate, and to cede control of the Eupen-Malmedy area to Belgium. Negotiations over the east were more complicated. Germany would recognize the independence of the Cezch and Slovak Republics and of the Republic of German Austria. The German province of Upper Silesia and the Hungarian districts of Silesia and Galicia-Lodomeria would be transfered to the Polish-Lithuanian Republic. Furthermore, Germany would recognize the independence of Latvia and Estonia and would withdraw its troops from the area. This would become the chore of the so-called "Baltic Betrayal" that would poison the international relations of Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Republic with France, Great Britain, the United States and Germany.

    In addittion to the lands lost to Poland, Hungary had to cede Bukovina and Transylvania south of the Mures river and east of the Somes to Romania; and Banat to Serbia. Greece was rewarded with Thrace and the Smyrna area. Bulgaria lost not only its Aegean coastline but also nearly all of its Macedonian territory to the new state of Yugoslavia. It also had to give Dobruja back to the Romanian. Finally, the Hejazi Kingdom was granted international recognition as a sovereign state. The last, question, the one of reparations, ended beeing the most difficult to solve. France was keen to extract as much money in reparations as possible from Germany. Washington and London were opposed to this, arguing that the Germany should pay some reparations, indeed, but they should be kept to a minimum. In the end, the price of reparations was set for Germany at 10 billion gold marks ($2,5 billion) in gold, commodities, ships, securities or other forms. If the "Baltic Betrayal" damaged the relations with Russia, the war reparations opened an abyss between London and Washington, in one side, and France in the other.

    Thus, when the final Treaty of Versailles was signed on July 14, 1924, many felt betrayed. Germany and Hungary (the Ottoman Empire was lost in turmoil by that time, as we shall see) would resent for a long time its clauses; Poland-Lithuania would feel abandoned and betrayed by the Western Powers and at the mercy of the bitter Russian and resented German neighbours; France was angry as her losses had not been avenged; the absent Russia felt ignored and despised by her former Allies, who still thought that Russia had stabbed them in the back when she signed their peace treaty with Germany and abandoned them in their darkest hour.

    Nevertheless, it was a peace, even if nobody then knew for how long.

    (1) OTL Belgian Congo.
     
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    72. Alcalá Zamora's Ministry (1925-1930)
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    The so-called "Padres de la Patria".
    Front: Lerroux, Azaña, Alcalá Zamora, Besteiro and Albornoz
    Back: Prieto, Domingo, Casares, de los Ríos, Nicolau, an unindentified clerk, Giralt and Martínez Barrios.

    72. Alcalá Zamora's Ministry (1925-1930)

    In his first speech as Prime Minister, Alcalá Zamora mentioned that it was time for “a return to normality” after the war and the revolution. Among the first measures of his cabinet there was a small cut in tax rates and new business regulations designed to improve efficiency. Also, in the area of public affairs, the Alcalá-Zamora`s government is considered a pioneer of public relations in Spain, as in this period there were the first regular meetings of the ministers with the press, albeit it did not result was expected as the experience was cut short by late 1926, even if it would be recovered by the next government. This period of Spanish history is remembered for the growth of its economy, stimulated by the end of the war and the recovery of international trade. Furthermore, the return to peace seemed to give new hopes and ideas that were applied to the Spanish industry and medicine, along with foreign technological improvements. It was around this year when radio and cinema began to arrive to the Spanish big cities, that grew and prospered as electrification spread quickly from Barcelona to Madrid, and from Bilbao to Sevilla, even if this new improvement was limited to the cities and some towns.

    As the global economy returned to its pre-war levels, the Spanish economy began to benefit from the repayments of the loans given to France during the war, which helped to heal to a certain degree the diplomatic relations with the northern neighbour, hit hard after the coronation of king Federico. Furthermore, the fast recovery of the Spanish economy was greatly invigorated by British credit pouring into the country to further reinforce its economic growth. Chamberlain's government was determined to avoid Spain falling into Communism and to help to turn it into a fortress against the Bolshevik Italian Republic. After all, and with the isolationist policies followed by the United States, which nevertheless grew to become the world’s leading industrial power in the next decades, the British Empire remained the largest economy in the world and her industries were still to dominate the world and notable advances were made in the new industries of automobiles and aeronautics.

    Once concern of the Spanish government was to find an alternative to coal as a source of energy. This was a hard lesson taught by the war and the blockade. For the moment, oil was to be the main alternative, even that meant depending either form the United States or the British-friendly Persian Gulf. In response to this, in 1926 the Instituto Geológico de España (the Spanish Geological Survey), that could trace its origins back to 1849 even if its present from was from 1910, began to investigate the possibility of domestic oil fields in Spanish territories. However, in spite of the best efforts of the Spanish technicians, success seemed to be actively avoiding them and it would take almost two decades to find any positive result in this field, as we shall see (1).

    Then, the government introduced a series of bills that removed restrictions on abortion in 1927. However, a similar attempt to clarify the situation of the homosexuals (homosexuality had been removed from the criminal code in 1848 -2- but it could and was persecuted using other laws, mainly those related with disturbances of the public order or offenses against honour and morals) and to ennact a divorce law, it found a vicious opposition campaign mounted by the Catholic Church, which cut short all the attempts to solve the issues until the government would be able to break the resistance and to legalize the homosexual relations (but for the army) between men in 1930 and lay the foundations for what it would be the Divorce Bill of 1931.

    This two laws would become the battlefield where Liberal and Socialists deputies fought bitterley during Alcalá-Zamora's tenure. Besteiro's attack would increase with the prime minister's hesitant ways aobut the divorce law and led to vicious attacks against him in the Cortes. Furthermore, as Alcalá-Zamora's position upon not only the divorce law but also on the homosexuality question was quite confusing, many in his party began to ponder about the way to remove him not only from the leadership of the Liberal formation but also from the goverment, as those critics felt that he was taking a Fabian policy not only in those two topics but also in all the government matters. Thus, from 1928 onwards, Alcalá-Zamora was attacked by the PSOE and by the Liberal rank and file, specially by the faction led by Manuel Azaña. This was something that Alcalá-Zamora would never forget nor forgive. However, his machiavellian (and failed) ways would in the end turn the party against him so, when he called for elections (to be held on May 30, 1930), he was forced from resign as leader of the Liberal Party and replaced by Azaña.

    (1) Just a bit of info: I'm going to advance the discovery of gas in Spain, thanks to the butterflies introduced along the TL.
    (2) It was reintroduced again IOTL 1928.
     
    73. The General Elections of 1930


  • 73. The General Elections of 1930

    The local elections of 1927 did not give any indication of what was to happen three years later. The crisis of the Conservative Party grew worse as they were only able to win in Galicia. Even worse, they could only claim the mayoralties of Salamanca, Segovia, Soria and Burgos. This debacle opened a period of turmoil within its ranks that led to the rise of José María Gil-Robles to the top, becoming a member of the unofficial group of the "barones" (the main leaders of the party). Finally, the "politically mediocre" (1) Sánchez Guerra resigned and was replaced by Juán de la Cierva. It was hardly a good move, as de la Cierva was too well known for his ties with the landlords, most of them exiled after the revolution but rooting to return, and his own network of political contacts. In the other side of the coin was the Liberal Party, who easily won in all the regions but for the mentioned Galicia and in Andalucia and Aragón, that went to the USD, and Catalonia, which voted in mass for ERC. However, this impressive victory had its own weakness, as the majors of the main cities of Castilla la Nueva and the Basque Country were either socialdemocrats or socialists.

    In the end, what determined the result of the elections of May 30, 1930, was the hapless meeting of the Mancomunidad Hispana, held in Madrid from April to May 1929, when the crisis of the institution came to the fore as, during and after the war, most of the former Spanish colonies and drifted towards the United States and had loosened their ties with Spain due to this approchement and the Revolution of November. Thus, by the end of the conference, the Mancomunidad Hispana was reduced to a shell of its former self, being now little more than a consultative body whose advice was going to be scarcely asked or heeded. Ironically, it was not the utter failure of the Spanish diplomacy what hit hard the government, but the anger of the population, that deemed the conference as an unnecesary waste of time and money and thus take its organization quite badly. The attention of the government should be in national matters, not in international ventures, it was claimed.

    Thus, while de la Cierva could rejoice at the unexpected recovery of his party and the USD celebrated that they had doubled their presence in the parliament, Azaña had to swallow the bitter defeat caused by a conference that had turned out to be the poisoned farewell gift of his predecessor, and to accept that he had the key for the next government. Finally, Besteiro and Azaña met in the hotel Victoria. In what the press termed as the "pacto del Victoria" (Victoria pact), the Liberal leader, Azaña, agreed to give his support and the one of his party to the Social Democrat Besteiro, who would be then the new prime minister, and to support his measures" that were not unreasonable.” Just in case, Azaña demanded (and obtained) that “unreasonable” was left undefined, which gave him a free hand to support the government. Howeer, unwillingly, this clause also included the posibility of further political rows that could threaten the stabilty of the government. Once the agreement was reached, Besteiro became, on May 9, 1930, the first Social Democrat Prime Minister of Spain, even if with a minority government.

    (1) Not my words, but the ones of Stanley Payne in his "A History of Spain and Portugal, Vol. 2": "José Sánchez Guerra, the new leader of the main group of Conservatives, was courageous and forthright but a political mediocrity". Of course, I agree with Payne.
     
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    74. News of the World (1923-30): Germany
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    74. News of the World (1923-30): Germany

    The cold shower of the treaty of Versailles deeply shook the Reich. Thus, von Bülow met with Ebert (SPD), Kuno von Westarp (DNVP), Wilhelm Marx (Zentrum) and Gustav Stresseman (DVP) to form a National Government to preserve the fragile German democracy and the monarchy. On August 1, 1924, the first "National Government" in German history was formed with those parties with Friederich Ebert acting as Chancellor. The General Elections of September gave a hung parliament (SPD 95 deputies; DNVP, 70; Zentrum, 54; 20, DVP, KPD, 7, DDP, 6) -1- and von Bülow's cabinet hardly lasted for a few months. A strike in the Rheinland brought it down and the Regent, Prince Eitel Friedrich, asked Ebert to form a government on December 20. That day, the Regent, furious, threatened to resign at once unless the political leaders came to an agreement. This lead to the "Second National Government" of Wilhelm Marx, that issued a general pardon to Karl Liebknecht, the exiled Rosa Luxemburg and the other Communist leaders jailed for the failed rising of 1924. Thus, they were able to seat in the Reichstag. However, the government crashed when the Budget Bill was voted down in February 1925. After this failure, new elections were called. For the next two years and a half Germany would have seven unstable governments (2nd Ebert, April 3 - September 22 ; 1st von Westarp, September 22 - December 5; 1st Stresseman, December 5, 1926 - April 15, 1927; 3rd Ebert, April 15 - August 20; 2nd von Westarp, August 20 - October 12; 2nd Stresseman, October 12, 1926 - May 5, 1927) that worsened not only the political scene but also the economy, damaged by the war reparations, which reduced the German financial capacities; by the "social war" between right and left that bloodied the streets of Germany and by the border clashes with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which began on December 1927 and soon turned into a viocious war.

    The crushing defeat suffered at Posen (March 12, 1928) caused a massive uproar in Germany that almost caused a Freikorps revolt. The 20-year-old Wilhelm III asked Stresseman to form a government on March 15. His Liberal-Conservative coalition lasted for eight months and it was replaced by a full Conservative cabinet led by Alfred Hugenberg (DNVP), who had to face the increasing interference of the Reichswehr. In October, just as the "social war" came to an end, Hugenberg reached an understanding with the Allies on the reparations issue that gave the breathing room that Germany needed to rebuild its battered economy. However the news from the front went from bad to worse. As the tide of the war turned against Germany, the government sacked sixteen generals and colonels along with the war minister. This led to the fall of Hungenberg and his replacement with Stresseman in December of that year. The new chancellor kept the tight control of the army, sacking Generaloberst August Wilhelm Heye, Chief of the German Troop Office, and managed to persuade the French to pull back from the Ruhr in return for a promise that reparations payments would resume. while attempted to convince London and Paris that the reparations bill was truly beyond Germany's capacity. The effort paid off; the Allies began modified the reparations scheme. However, his attempt to put the army under civil control and the rise of the KPD in the local elections of Berlin led to a coup d'etat on September 13, 1929 by General Erich Ludendorff, that put a temporary end to the German democracy. Ludendorff’s military government, with a few notable civilians in the cabinet, ruled by decree and aimed to end victoriously the Polish War while beginning to repudiate the Versailles Treaty.

    Ludendorff's prestige rose almost to godlike status after the crushing defeats inflicted on the Polish-Lithuanian forces, which brought the end of the war in April 1930. The defeated Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were forced to officially recognized the post-Great War eastern border in Treaty of Danzig. Then, his Finance Minister, Gustav Stressman, was able to negotiate the reparations bill and, in addition to this, receive huge British loans that helped Germany to reinvigorate its economy with a vast programme of industrial investment and modernization.



    -1- SPD : the Social Democratic Party of Germany; DNVP: the German National People's Party; Zentrum: the German Center Party; DVP: the German People's Party; KPD : The Communist Party of Germany; DDP: The German Democratic Party.
     
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    75. News of the World (1923-30): France
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    Paris, Boulevard des Italiens, 1926
    75. News of the World (1923-30): France

    After the war, France faced a host of daunting challenges: the terrible human cost in terms of lives lost, disabled veterans, ruined agricultural and industrial areas and, on top of that, the heavy borrowing from Britain. Even if postwar reconstruction was fast, healing the wounds caused by the war would take its time, as Prime Minister Frédéric François-Marsal (June 15, 1924-April 17, 1925) experienced during his term. He had been barely received by King Jean III and charged with the cabinet by his royal assent when Marsal had to deal with the Food Riots of 1924 and with the returning servicemen run that protested at the slow process of demobilisation and the lack of jobs, Forced by the circumstances, Marsal gave in to the demands, but, from then on, he was reluctant to take action as he moved slowly in a rapidly changing world post-war. It was him who approved the French military intervention against the Italian Socialist Republic that stalled at the gates of Firenze and forced his resignation. His replacement, Auguste Isaac (April 17- November 28, 1925), was trapped by the explosion of national pride and faced the wave of riots when the press published the unconfirmed rumors that he was contemplating to withdraw from Italy. As the military intervention went to nowhere and the Italian Socialist retaliated with a policy of bombings on France, the shaky situation of Isaac worsened with lightning speed. In this situation, a vote of no confidence brought him down in November.

    The chaotic situation led to king Jean III to ask Marshal Philippe Petain, Le Vieux Maréchal (The Old Marshal) to form a government and, thus, avoiding a new General Election. Initially, the "Petain solution" (November 28, 1925- June 15, 1926) seemed to work, as the strikes vanished. However, three months later, they returned. The press portrayed the strikers as "radical threats to France" inspired by "left-wing, foreign agents provocateurs ", "conspiracies against the government", and "plots to establish communism". In this tense chaos, Petain created a paramilitary millice, the so-called Franc Garde (Free Guard), with disgruntled army veterans and used it to crush the strikes. Furthermore, the bad relations with both the British Empire and the United States, that worsened with the unilateral Italian intervention, went to worse with Petain and marked the beginning of the post-war trade slump that further deteriorated the French economy. Then, in early March 1926, the prime minister pulled the French army out from Italy and negotiated a cease-fire with Rome to the ashtonisment of foe and friend alike. By May 1926, Petain had managed to calm the popular anger. Even if he oppposed female suffrage legislation, he completed the demobilization of the armed forces, dissolved the Franc Garde and tried to balance the budget, several scandals rocked his cabinet and tarnished the reputation of several ministers. The sudden death of Petain from a heart attack (June 15, 1926) saved the general from a complete disgrace and the popular hatred.

    The Liberal Edouard Daladier (June 15, 1926-June 4, 1928 led the temporary government that ruled France until the General Elections of September 12, won by his party with a few seats short of a majority. Thus, he was forced into a coalition with Louis Marin's Fédération républicaine (FR - Republican Federation), while the Socialists under Leon Blume became the third political force with 102 seats in spite of the new anti-socialism wave that shook the country since the beginning of Petain's tenure. Daladier, however, managed to stay in power and governed with some success. He brought full enfranchisement of adults of both sexes over the age of 21 along with some welfare reforms. Furthermore, his balancing of the budget by cutting down government spending and the end of the trade war were his biggest successes during his tenure. Howeer, it was not enough, as his failure to stabilise the economy finally brought his cabinet down. The victory of Raymond Poincaré (June 4, 1928-February 26, 1930) in the elections of June 1928 was followed by the death of king Jean III a few days later. In spite of such sad beginning, Poincaré managed to be succesful as prime minister almost unitl the very end of his tenure. He continued Daladier's budget policy an enacted a number of franc stabilization measures. The French Prime Minister also actively pursued an aggresive foreign policy, no hesitating to send military help (even expeditionary forces) to Portugal during the General Strike of 1928 and to Belgium during the strikes of 1929 (1), even if he accepted to pull out from the Ruhr, to everybody's surprise. He also restricted the freedom of action of the French Trade Unions but soon became a hostage of his own politics as the military began to have a say in politics. The Red Scare caused by the mere existence of the Italian Social Republic fuelled authoritarian ideas but Poncaré resisted the pressure to ban the French Communist Party and the SFIO with a single stroke. However, when a border clash was used by Brigadier General René Orly to launch a full raid into Northern Italy (January 12-February 2, 1928), Poincaré had to admit that he could not control the army and resigned.

    -1- In the late 1910s and early 1920s there was some Republican agitation in Portugal. OTL Revolution of October 1910 took place in 1922 but it ended like OTL Russian Revolution of 1905 with the added twist of Portugal having more success in his democratic reform, but not too much: they are using a local version of the Spanish "turnismo" and, for the while, it works. The mentioned General Strike of 1928 had some "Bolshevik" undertones that frightened Paris, thus the inervention. The Belgian strikes were hardly as dramatic, but still it scared the Quai d'Orsay out of any proportion.
     
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    76. News of the World (1923-30): Russia

  • The opening of the Duma on
    October 31st, 1926

    76. News of the World (1923-30): Russia

    After the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty, Czar Michael II saw with anguish that Russia was facing what he had trully attempted to avoid: a Bolshevik takeover. The first post-war elections of 1923 took place during a period of intense social conflict as the end of the war was followed by an economic crisis characterized by high unemployment and political instability caused by defeat and the territorial losses. Mass strikes, worker manifestations and land and factories occupations followed. In Saint Petersburg and Kiev workers councils were formed and many factory came under the control of the anarcho-syndicalists. The agitation also extended to the agricultural areas of Ucraine and were accompanied by peasant strikes and, rural unrest. In the general election, the fragmented right-center coalition lost the absolute majority in the Duma, due to the success of the Russian Social Democratic Labobur Party and the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. However, the Liberal-Reformist Alexander Protopopov became the next Prime Minister as both the RSDLP and the SRP stood aside with the hope that his tenure would propel the country towards revolution.

    The premiership of Protopopov (June 23, 1923 - June 15, 1924) was marked by the great social unrest and dissatisfaction over the results of not only the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, but also for the lack of Russian representation in the Treaty of Versailles, which embitered the Russians as they thought they were betrayed by their former allies (while forgetting that Russia had betrayed them first at Brest Litovsk), a notion that was widely believed and promulgated in right-wing circles and emphasized by Protopopov's cabinet, that Russia had not been defeated on the battlefield but was instead betrayed by her Allies. Particularly troublesome was the agitation over the Baltic States, Finland and Poland-Lithuania, as there were voices demanding the occupation and reannexation of the "rebel" countries. In adittion to this, the prime minister had great difficulty governing thanks to the lack of cooperation of the divergent political factions in the Duma. Thus, he resigned and was replaced by Prince Lvov, (June 15, 1924 - July 4, 1925) who was called because he was considered the only one who can solve that dramatic situation. However, even if he began a shy project of industrial modernization and agricultural reform that calmed slightly the social unrest, he was doomed to fall as he refused to accept the demands of the conservatives asking the government to intervene by force to put up the strikes and to invade the Baltic States, so he resigned and called for new elections. The measures taken by his government, in a political climate hardly favorable to them and beset by the extreme social tensions, turned out to be piecemeal, and like the economic policy of his predecessor, were far from achieving a decisive break with the past. The failure of the liberal ruling class was fuelled by the fears provoked by the political representation of social groups deemed to be dangerous.

    The National Coalition of right-center parties led by Alexander Fedorovich Kerensky had no better luck together in 1925 than its different members had in 1923 on their own. To make this worse, the Coalition was only the third most voted force, well behind the the winner of the elections, the RSDLP, and the Christian-Democrat Sebastian Dabovich's Russian People's Party (RPP). This time, however, the RSDLP could not stood aside and its leader, Julius Martov, became the next prime minister (July 4, 1925 - February 26, 1926), who, as his predecessors, proved unable to address the enduring problem of adapting the parliamentary system to fit the new multi-party democracy. The result was the exacerbation of the weakness of the governments, their loss of authority and, in the end, the complete paralysis of the parliamentary system. Admist general chaos, Martov was unable neither to put forward his reforms as they were constantly blocked in the Duma, nor to keep under control the riots that his followers were creating. Thus, after a year in power, he resigned too. The Liberal and former Chairman of the State Duma, Mikhail Vladimirovich Rodzianko, became the last prime minister of Russia (February 26 - October 31, 1926). As the chaos continued and the Duma stalled with the political strife, Rodzianko wanted to declare the martial law. Such a declaration needed to bear the monarch's signature before it could take effect and, then, the prime minister hesitated. When he finally dared to take such a step, Michael II simply dismissed him and, using the powers that the Constitution granted him during a critic situation, the Czar dissolved the Duma and began to rule Russia by himself,

    Michael II, however, kept the Duma, but reduced to an advisory role. When the RSDLP and the SRP protested, he had those parties dissolved. Once hundred Left-winged politicians ended up in Siberia, among them Martov, and the Duma thus lost one quarter of its members, hose places were left vacant. The remaining parties responded weakly or remained silent. A few liberals and moderates boycotted the Duma, hoping to force Michael II to reconsider his option. Thus, on December 24, 1926, he asked Count Pavel Nikolayevich Ignatiev to form a government which was devoided of any power and was nothing but another advisory body for the Czar, who used it as a mask to prove to Russia and the world that Russia was, still, a parlamentarian monarchy. However, in October 31st, 1927 Michael dropped all pretense of democracy and dissolved the Duma and dismissed Ignatiev. From then on, he would rule alone. Between 1927 and 1929 Michael progressively dismantled virtually all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power and recovered and massively reinforced the Okhrana, the secret police. From the man that the Czar had once been, the one who had deferred acceptance of the throne until ratification by the Duma, nothing remained.
     
    77. News of the World (1923-30): the United Kingdom
  • 1585137528836.png

    77. News of the World (1923-30): the United Kingdom

    The Khaki Elections of 1924 (October 12, 1924) saw the Conservatives being still the largest party in the House of Commons and the Liberal and Labour Parties united to defeat them. Lord Cecil attempted to govern without a majority until he was defeated in a vote of no confidence on 16 January. that cost him not only the premiership but also the leadership of the Tories. Thus, Herberth Asquith returned to No.10 heading a Liberal only government but with the unwritten support of the Labourt party, even if at the expense of Winston Churchill leaving the Liberal ranks. A small cut in tax rates, new business regulations designed to improve efficiency and the Representation of the People Act 1924 gave the vote to women aged 21 or over on the same terms as men at the next general election, much to the changrin of the Daily Mail. For the rest of Asquith’s tenure, the economies of Britain and the Dominions experienced a rapid growth, and the Empire remained as a world leader, not only in industry or trade levels but also in its standards of living.

    Asquith was dissatisfied with the result of the Versailles Treaty, which he view as arbitrary, unstable and the source of future tragedies. Furthermore, the chaotic situation of Germany worried him and the Foreign Office to no end and Petain's "military" cabinet deeply disgusted him (even if the "rebel" Churchill praised Petain as a bulwark against Bolshevism). However, before the Prime Minister could take a stance on the issue, health troubles forced him to withdraw from politics. However, before he had done so, Asquitd took all the possible measures to ensure that neither David Lloyd George nor Austen Chamberlain were to replace him but Sir Francis Acland, the Foreign Secretary. Once this was accomplished, on October 19, 1925, Asquith announced his resignation as leader of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister. This would mark the eventual return of Churchill to the Liberal party in 1927.

    One of the first successes of Acland was the London Treaty, signed on July 19, 1926. In it, Germany, Belgium, France and the UK agreed to settle all future territorial disputes by arbitration. Further reductions in Germany reparations would be negotiated in 1928, as we have already seen, with the Acland-Hungenberg Pact. Around that time, the Labour Party suffered a split when it left wing left the party to create the Independent Labour Party (ILP) -1-. Among those who departed was Oswald Mosley. Another of the successes of Acland was the expansion of the welfare state, which had started with Asquith in 1924 but that gathered speed with the new Prime Minister in 1926 and 1927. The first step, the Housing Act of 1926 was to ensure that new houses were built to replace old ones and that the Treasury would subsidize the low rents. The next question was unemployment. Between December 1925 and June 1926, unemployment doubled from one million to two million registered unemployed. Due to this, the Unemployment Insurance Act 1927 was passed. It set up the dole system that provided 25 weeks of unemployment benefits to practically the entire civilian working population except domestic service, farm workers, and civil servants. It was funded, in part, by weekly contributions from both employers and employed. Then, when an editorial was published in the Daily Telegraph on June 4, 1927 accusing the government of surrendering to the Labour Party, who were also accused of being in league with the Italian Bolsheviks, open warfare between the Liberals and the Conservatives began in earnest.

    The elections of May 30, 1928 resulted in a surprising Labour victory, that rose from 172 seats to 272 as the Conservatives went down from 229 to 145 and the Liberals from 207 to 181. On June 22, the Conservative leader, Stanley Baldwin resigned and was replaced by Edward Wood.

    -1- The ILP would merge with the Communist Party of Britain in TTL 1933.
     
    78. News of the World (1923-30): the United States

  • 78. News of the World (1923-30): the United States

    The Republican party seemed to turn its back to the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt when they endorsed the isolationist Bill Borah for the presidential nomination instead of the Secretary of War, William Howard Taft. In fact, the Republican were just trying to overcome the trauma caused by the slaughter of the finest generation of Americans in the European trenches. This mood seemed to be widespread all over the country when Borah won the election of 1924 by a comfortable margin. The first year of the Borah period was marked by thef laissez-faire economics, leading to the Roaring Twenties, with a rapid industrial and financial growth and rising consumer demand as well for its rigid isolationism which ennacted new laws to stop immigration; and a clear lack of interest in foreign affairs. Borah also worked hard to omprove the sanitary conditions of the United States with a series of measures to improve sanitary health in early 1925. Happy times, however, were soon over. Troubles started in 1926, when trade with Mexico ceased after the victory of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, which led to a ill-planned intervention, that ended in 1926, when, empty-handed, Borah called back the troops amidst the echoes of international derision. Also in 1926, the 'Open Door' with China was shut due to the restoration of the Qing Dynasty by the Japanese, which was followed by Tokio taking its prize: the colonization of most of the South of China. Borah, that had uttered such a terrible threats to Villa and Zapata, now remained silent, as Japan was not only one of the biggest trade partners of the United States but also a key factor to keep order in Asia as Russia seemed to be on the verge of falling in to the hands of the Socialist Revolutionaries (in the opinion of Borah). The erratic foreign policy of the White House was hardly better than its plans for the US economy and, two years after his election, the New York Stock Exchange limped on, and the American economy saw a modest economic retreat, but the second part of 1926 saw a mild recovery. If the economy held out, it was not thanks to Borah government's (in)actions.

    In 1927 the massively bloated American economy came to a sudden halt, as it had not yet completed all the adjustments in shifting from a wartime to a peacetime economy. However, Borah managed snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with the trade treaties signed that year with the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth who, with Japan, were still willing trade partners of the United States. Then Borah made matters worse by insisting that France and Russia had to repay their war loans, a bill that neither Daladier nor Michael II had neither the means nor the will to pay. The final nail in his coffin was the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 . Thus, when it came the time to vote in the next elections of 1928, many Americans were rightly sick of the Republican Party, and the Democratic candidate, John Davis, had good reasons to expect an electoral victory. His campaign was greatly helped by internal war of the Republican Party, which surprised all sides with the nomination of Charles Evans Hughes, who made the recovery of Roosevelt's legacy the main topic of his agenda ("Let's Make America Great Again!" was Hughes' motto). Well regarded by the big business, Hughes was considered as a safe, middle compromise between the other candidates, Frank Lowden, Charles Curtiss and Herbert Hoover.

    Even then Davis won the election with slightly over 55% of the vote. His victory told a lot about the growing discontent among the electorate over the recession gripping the nation and the Republican mismagement. However, Davis' administration wasted no time to become a huge disappointment for the voters. His budget cuts and rising tariffs only made matters worse; faced with hefty import duties, most Latin American countries turned instead to Europe. Any further attempt at reforms or economic relief were dashed in 1930 as the sharp deflationary recession that had been waiting to happen since 1926 hit hard the United States when a small panic made Wall Street to tremble on October 29, 1930. For the next eigtheen months, the US economy would be characterized by extreme deflation (around 15%), prices crashing down (36.8%, the most severe drop since the American Revolutionary War) and a sharp rise in unemployment (5.2% to 11.7%). Full employment would not return until 1933. During the recession, there was an extremely sharp decline in industrial production (total industrial production went down by 30%), and it would not return to its peak levels until late 1932.

    Davis' slow response to the depression was criticized by his own party and it would prove decesive in the Elections of 1932, as we shall see.
     
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