Feeble Constitution - A Red-and-Green Russia 1917 Timeline

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Salvador79, Jan 8, 2019.

  1. Some Bloke Well-Known Member

    Jun 13, 2008
    A small village in Arkhamshire.
    I think the 20s and 30s will be even more confusing and volatile than OTL.
  2. Threadmarks: Thirty-Three: UoE Presidential Elections (1): Choosing the Candidates (September/October 1918)

    Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    Here's another authorial overview - the next update is going to be a newspaper article again, though, I promise!

    Elections of the President of the Union of Equals 1918 – Round One: Choosing the Candidates

    Given the circumstances, it was no wonder that the elections of December 1918 were – and still are to this day – among the most contested polls in history. This potential for controversy stemmed from its combination of unstable, fluid and often violent circumstances on the one hand side, and the immense influence they had on shaping the largest polity on the planet (at least territorially) for the rest of the 20th century, and arguably also the history of other countries, too.

    This was already true for the preliminary proceedings, in which a large field of potential candidates was narrowed down to a mere few, through decisions taken by the various parties of the numerous federative republics, in assemblies, in back chambers, and in even murkier contexts. Most of it took place while the Great War still raged, while poverty and diseases haunted the countries of the Union, while armed conflicts took place both within the country and at the fronts with the Central Powers, while the lines between political opposition and insurgency often blurred as much as the lines between maintaining a frail order and oppressing the political opponent. There were few traditions on which the great democratic endeavor could build – together with the formation of the soviets in the spring of 1917 and the elections to the Constituent Assembly in the summer of that same year, the elections of December 1918 brought forth new traditions on which, hotly contested as they were, the new polity would draw in the future.

    Let’s take a look at the constitutional framework and the electoral laws first:
    • the President of the Union is elected by an electoral college whose composition is determined by the outcome of the election (which is held simultaneously everywhere) in each oblast of the Russian Federative Republic, each okrug of the Ukrainian Federative Republic, and each other federative republic;
    • nomination lists can be submitted by any group comprising more than 10,000 signatures;
    • the ballots are identical across the entire Union and comprise all nominated candidates;
    • Electors are bound to vote for the nominee whose list they stood for;
    • in the first round, a candidate needs a majority of the members of the college to be elected.
    • in the second round, the candidate with a relative majority of votes is elected.
    • each federative republic, each Russian oblast and each Ukrainian okrug sends a number of electors which corresponds to its relative population according to the most recent census
    • suffrage is free, secret, and equal. The further details of the electoral laws are a matter of the respective federative republics. Thus, for example, in Russia and in Ukraine, there is first-past-the-post-system according to which all electors for one oblast / okrug go to the list with the most votes, while e.g. in the Northern Caucasus, electors are spread out among the lists according to proportional representation.
    The process by which the nominations are aggregated is left undefined. Therefore, theoretically, various different factions of a single party could all nominate their favourite candidates. Practically, though, it was clear to everyone that this would reduce their candidates’ chances in the second round. Therefore, “agglomerations” occurred across the Union. The most natural process of nomination agglomeration occurred among the parties and factions which had formed in the Constituent Assembly and in the respective parliaments of the federative republics – but there were other forums in which such agglomerations occurred, too.

    The first Russian party represented in the Constituent Assembly which held a party convention on the matter of the presidential elections was the Popular Socialist Labour Party, usually just called Trudoviks. The Trudoviks – certainly one of the smaller parties in the CA and aware of this status – held their conference on August 25th, and they decided to back the candidacy of Nikolay Avksentiev, who was not even a Trudovik, but an SR, even if a moderate one. Trudovik support for Avksentiev was, basically, Kerensky’s idea. Alexander Kerensky was still by far the most pronounced voice in the small party, and he easily organized a majority for the deal he had struck with Avksentiev (one or two Trudoviks, depending on the exact outcome, would join an Avksentiev government, among them Kerensky himself as Shadow Foreign Minister). The only outspoken opposition against the pact with Avksentiev within the PSLP came, once again, from Alexander Zarudny, who, in a speech full of zeal and pathos, reminded his comrades of Avksentiev’s accompliceship in the oppression and civil rights violations committed by the VeCheKa and upheld the party’s platform of structured federalism and compensations for expropriations. Nevertheless, by the end of August, Avksentiev had pocketed the endorsement of a clear majority of the Trudoviks, long before his own party, the Russian SRs, had made their choice. Disappointed but disciplined, Zarudny refrained from collecting signatures for a rivalling candidacy and accepted the endorsement of Avksentiev.

    In early September, the Constitutional Democrats met in Moscow. The congress of the Kadets was a display of utter disunity among Russia’s leading liberal party. Pavel Milyukov sought to obtain his party’s nomination – he was the only one who tried, and yet he managed to fail. A numerous group of party delegates was in favour of boycotting the election – with a long list of reasons, from the inclusion of voters on territory whose adherence to the Union was legally very questionable (e.g. in Armenia) over the – anticipated – practical exclusion of other voters in occupied territories (the Kadets could not exactly foresee in early September that, by December 1918, no Union territory would be occupied by official military forces of a Central Power anymore), to the oppression of their own and other non-socialist parties in the waves of VeCheKa internments both after Kamkov’s accession in November 1917 and after Markov’s fall in August 1918. The boycot strategy was not endorsed by a majority, though – it was criticized to have failed once already in the context of the constitutional referendum. Others, on the left wing of the party, who favoured participation in the elections, did not support Milyukov, though, whose attempt to balance between the nationalist and the more cosmopolitically liberal wings had not satisfied anyone and whose slogan of “neither socialism, nor Markov’s puppet dictatorship” had practically led the Kadets into political irrelevance over the course of the last year. They favoured supporting Avksentiev’s candidacy, like the Trudoviks had done before, as the lesser evil, compared to Kamkov or, God forbid, Trotsky. Thus, the only thing a majority in the congress could decide on was not to hold a vote on a presidential candidate. Frustrated, Milyukov shortly considered collecting signatures outside of the party, running as an “independent” candidate, but then abandoned the idea when he saw that it failed to gain momentum.

    Throughout September, the Russian SRs held provincial assemblies, in each Oblast at a different time, with the goal to mirror, in their selection of a candidate, the process which would unfold on the election weekend, like it was the case in the United States of America, after whose model the Union’s presidential elections were undoubtedly designed. While candidates like Maria Spiridonova or Ilya Fondaminsky dropped out early after disappointing defeats, both Boris Kamkov and Nikolay Avksentiev scored in a number of oblasts, gathering delegates for their party’s conference and keeping the race within the Socialist Revolutionary Party open. – While this does sound like the coverage of US presidential primaries, one must not overemphasize the analogies. While the amorphous “public opinion” does play a part on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, within the Russian SRs, the chances of a candidate did not so much depend on how much money he could mobilise. Kamkov and Avksentiev were the two candidates who remained in the race because they had the support of different segments of the emerging new politico-administrative-military apparatus. Avksentiev’s powerbase were the peasant soviets and their militia, because they grew more and more uneasy with Kamkov’s alliance with a radicalizing Social Democracy who demanded, ever more loudly, more power for the predominantly urban state organs and the unions over agricultural matters and thus the countryside in general, demanding to “end hoarding and speculation” and provide “affordable bread for every workman’s family”. Kamkov’s powerbase was exactly this emerging centralized socialist state apparatus, and most of all the VeCheKa, who feared that Avksentiev might not only revoke the special powers transferred to the temporary special investigative commissions and their tens of thousands of helpers across the country, but also dissolve them and, in the worst case, have them put on trial for their often brutal abuses of their powers.

    While this pre-electoral process, like the entire ironically named “Union of Equals”, was heavily centered on Russia, what happened there and what the two largest parties in this largest federative republic did, sometimes the periphery could create an important momentum, too. This was certainly the case with the All-Ukrainian Congress of Socialist Revolutionaries, which was held in Kiev on the 21st and 22nd of September 1918. Here, where the SRs were markedly more moderate than in Russia while the radical left was entirely concentrated in the IRSDLP(u) and the remaining Bolsheviks and anarchists, and where the provisions of the special powers act did not apply and thus there was no VeCheKa nor an equivalent of it, but there certainly were peasant soviets and many hundreds of thousands of militiamen, most of whom aligned with the SRs, Avksentiev landed a decisive coup. He pocketed the overwhelming endorsement of the Ukrainian SR congress, while his rival Kamkov only came in third position with a disappointing single-digit result, after an autochtonous candidate.

    While the Ukrainian decision did not directly affect the balance of delegates for the Russian SR congress, it fanned the fears within the Kamkov camp that more and more Russian Esery in the remaining open oblasts would tend towards Avksentiev as the only SR candidate with a good chance to win the final elections. Then, on September 28th, Ilya Rozmberg, a 26-year-old purportedly unemployed dock worker from Sewastopol attempted to assassinate Nikolay Avksentiev while the latter was on an electoral tour of the Southern European oblasts. Rozmberg fired five shots at Avksentiev from a close range, of which one hit his left shoulder, another one scratched his left arm, while the rest missed, before Avksentiev’s personal guards were able to fire back and killed Rozmberg on the spot. On the next morning already, the SR-centrist Muscovite newspaper Trud, which backed Avksentiev, speculated about a possible VeCheKa background of the wannabe-assassin. The Temporary Special Commission vehemently rejected any such allegations (and popular contemporary jokes ran along the lines that the poor marksmanship of the assassin was clear and sufficient evidence of his not being a VeCheKist), but the assassination attempt, and Avksentiev’s quick recovery, only increased Avksentiev’s momentum and cast doubts on who Kamkov’s backers were and what their agenda was.

    On October 5th, while everything seemed to point at the SRs nominating Avksentiev as their candidate in their congress which would be held in three weeks’ time, the other major party held their nomination congress – for symbolic value, not in Moscow, but in Petrograd. As if Trotsky’s appeals had resonated with the Russian proletariat, the Congress of the International Revolutionary Social Democratic Labour Party (unification faction) was accompanied by a wave of strikes and industrial conflicts, which were caused (or at least exacerbated) by an acute food crisis, with cereal, potato and turnip prices going through the ceiling. The main reasons behind this crisis, we can reconstruct today, were war-induced devastations and the disruptions of 1918’s harvests caused by the first wave of the influenza pandemic which IOTL is called “the Spanish Flu”. Contemporary discourse, on the other hand, blamed everything and everyone for it, from “hoarding kulak speculators” to “Markov’s secret agents selling out all the reserves to the Germans”. Whatever the presumed reasons, the urban working class only saw one possible response to the skyrocketing food prices: they needed more money, too. Or, depending on how deeply one was immersed in communist utopianism, one could call for bread to be distributed freely. The unions channeled this desperation, discontent and energy and funneled them into a strike campaign for their agenda, which prioritized food price caps, an “organized exchange between town and countryside” under their own supervision, no restrictions of soviet-backed worker takeovers and communalizations, and wage raises in the remaining privately owned enterprises. The strikes of the first week of October 1918 were among the largest in Russian history, in spite of the war – although it must be admitted that it is often difficult to differentiate between striking workers and protesting, freshly unemployed workers from factories who have gone bankrupt in the disastrous economic situation of 1918.

    The wave of strikes, the looming SR nomination of the notably centrist Nikolay Avksentiev, and the advances and breakthroughs of the UoE’s various military formations against the crumbling German enemy were the background of the IRSDLP(u)’s nomination congress. While throughout September, it had looked as if Leon Trotsky was on an absolutely certain path to gaining the nomination, and with an overwhelming majority, too, now the moblisation of the unions provided an unexpected momentum to the campaign of David Ryazanov, the candidate of the trade unions. In contrast to the SRs, the IRSDLP(u) had not committed itself to mimicking the US Primary system. Instead, its various branches had simply chosen delegates, who were now free to decide which candidate they would back – which meant that everything depended on the dynamics of the congress.

    And these dynamics all pointed at Ryazanov’s trade unionist campaign gaining more and more steam as time went on, and delegation after delegation of striking workers was greeted with loud cheers by the delegates, and leading figures of the Bread Mensheviks endorsed Ryazanov’s candidacy, too. Ryazanov and Trotsky were not divided by deep ideological rifts – in terms of domestic (primarily economic) policy, both favoured faster steps towards establishing worker control over the means of production, both called for the collectivization of agriculture and the planned distribution of food among the entire population, and both pronounced themselves in favour of ending any coalition with the SRs if the latter chose Avksentiev as their candidate. With regards to foreign policy and the war, Ryazanov had long taken an isolationist and pacifistic stance, while Trotsky had accumulated fame for his Baltic adventures and his alleged liberation of Petrograd and was widely credited as a credible and staunch revolutionary internationalist. As the war looked more and more winnable in October 1918, though, Ryazanov abandoned his isolationist calls for immediate peace and participated in the congress’s triumphant celebration of the liberation of Riga. In short, both men stood for rather similar ideological agendas.

    The one big difference between Ryazanov and Trotsky was of course which support groups they based themselves on – and, consequently, which political methods they stood for. With Ryazanov, the IRSDLP would be on its way to becoming the parliamentarian arm of a powerful federation of trade unions, and the next battles of socialism would be fought on the economic scene and with the means of industrial conflict. Trotsky, on the other hand, enjoyed the support of many in the Republican Guards and was associated with military adventurism and bold initiatives. Trotsky’s supporters derided Ryazanov as an ideologically loose cannon and a “bazaar haggler”, while those who supported Ryazanov denounced Trotsky as a “Bonapartist".

    The situation on the congress was tense, and the race between the two seemed open for a long while, until the third candidate withdrew. Grigory Zinoniev, the candidate of those Social Democrats with a formerly Bolshevik background mostly, had been convinced by Joseph Stalin, whose network of connections within the formerly Bolshevik ranks was still vast and impressive, to leave the race and endorse Trotsky instead, in exchange for guarantees that Trotsky would provide the ex-Bolsheviks with influential positions in his government.

    With Stalin’s and Zinoniev’s endorsement, Trotsky won the nomination of the IRSDLP(u) with 937 votes against 686 for Ryazanov.

    But there were, of course, many Social Democrats in the UoE to whom neither Trotsky, nor Ryazanov, nor Zinoniev had appealed. And I am not talking about the small faction which, once again, rallied behind Julius Martov, whose conviction that a bourgeois democracy had to be built first before socialism could be implemented in Russia looked more and more ridiculous with every day of the UoE’s existence and who was not even endorsed by the otherwise orphaned left wing of the Kadets, the likes of whom Martov’s platform promised to prop up, because even these Kadets saw that supporting Martov was as hopeless as running a candidate of their own.

    No, there were other, much more powerful socialists with much better hopes of obtaining seats in the electoral college, who found Trotsky an entirely unpalatable candidate. The first one to react was the Social Democratic Party of Georgia, who nominated one of their own, Noe Zhordania, as presidential candidate on October 11th. Over the next two weeks, the central committees of social democratic parties in other federative republics, who had not even planned to hold nomination congresses, endorsed Zhordania’s candidacy, too: the Social Democratic Hunchakian Party of Armenia, the Ukrainian Social Democratic Labour Party, and the Social Democratic Party of Finland. To all of them, Trotsky’s disdain for national autonomy, his unpredictability, and his radical socio-economic platform were unsupportable. And thus, awareness began to grow of the similarities between these parties. Before, they and the RSDLP with all its confusingly numerous factions had all been members of the Second International, they were all socialists, weren’t they. Now, it became more and more evident, many social democrats who had risen to positions of power in the smaller federative republics, or aspired to them (in the case of Ukraine, where the SRs were dominating), realized that their focus on national self-determination, on building progressive but also solid and defiant national republics with moderate and inclusive political strategies instead of pressing on with vague radical concepts of worldwide revolution, set them apart from what appeared to have become the position of the mainstream in Russia’s Social Democracy. The elections of December 1918 were, thus, also the birth of the Federation of Independent Social Democratic Parties in the UoE. (Not to be confused with the independent social democrats in Germany, the USPD, who were ideologically much closer to the IRSDLP(u).)

    When the Socialist Revolutionaries finally held their nomination congress on October 26th, the worldwide situation had dramatically changed from three weeks ago when the Social Democrats had nominated Trotsky. The war was over. Boris Kamkov, the Hero of the Motherland, was cheered and celebrated with minute-long applause. Yet, most oblast delegates had been elected before the armistice, and while the war (and its increasingly positive course) did play a role in the candidates’ race, other, internal conflicts often dominated the discussions within the SR Party. Especially the wave of industrial and railroad strikes and the Social Democrats’ endorsement of an enforcement of collectivization and an increased emphasis on channeling Inter-Soviet credit towards propping up the ailing industry were highly controversial among the SRs and viewed with considerable anxiety by the rural electoral base. All of this had influenced the “primaries” in the oblasts against Kamkov, who was seen as the candidate of SR-SD coalition policies, and it had played into Avksentiev’s hands, who intended to position the SRs more as an alternative to the Social Democrats. All in all, as Kamkov enjoyed the enthusiastic reception by the delegates, he already knew that a majority of them was bound by obligations to their oblasts’ party members to vote for Avksentiev – which they ultimately did, with a clear-enough majority of 934 over 712 delegates. (Other candidates received 143 votes altogether.)

    And this was it… almost, for one organization in the broader orbit of the Kadets did not decide to abstain from nominating a candidate of their own. It was the Ittifaq al-Muslimin, who held their congress in Kazan. The small party – by far not the largest party not even within the Muslim camp – nominated Alimardan Topchubashov with overwhelming majority as their own candidate.

    The candidates were chosen – now the elections would have to be held. They were scheduled to take place during the entire weekend of December 14th and 15th, 1918.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2019
  3. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

    Aug 3, 2009
    It's worth pointing out that in 1918 the United States didn't have party primaries, not in the sense that we know them today. Instead, all of the important action came from persuading important political leaders in each state to support or oppose a given candidate, with primaries, at best, being a kind of "beauty contest" to prove to those figures that candidate X could win a real election as opposed to being an actual (much less the main) method of selecting delegates. For instance, as late as 1968 Presidential election only thirteen states--13!--held primaries for the Democratic nomination, and in at least one of them, Illinois, the primary was totally irrelevant as far as delegate allocation at the actual convention. Instead, Mayor Daley basically controlled the Illinois delegation and ensured they supported Humphrey even though McCarthy had actually won the plurality of votes in the primary.

    It's no surprise that this (combined with the complete meltdown of the 1968 Democratic national convention) resulted in the McGovern reforms that centered primaries as the way to get delegates in the Democratic Party, and in turn in the Republican Party. But that was fifty years in the future at this point in time.
  4. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    While I was aware that the present system of primaries was created by deep Transformations in the post-ww2 era, I thought Parties still Held some Sort of party assembly / convention / congress in each state, determining the delegates they would send to the national convention, even If they were free to Vote there whichever way they wanted (as is the Case with the IRSDLP(U) Here)?
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  5. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    ...because if this is the case, then it's only the SRs who are really trying something which is closer to the US primary system. If they should be truly innovative in this regard, then that should not be entirely surprising. After all, the ideology on which the SRs build has often been described as emphasising grassroots democracy, and one could even argue that the whole "council / soviet" twist to the concept of a nation-wide class-based revolution was deeply imbued with Narodnik spirit.

    I thought the UoE could turn to the US system, as a mere structure, not in the way politics are done, because it's the only model of a presidential system at the time which is not rooted in the (French-based) centralised model, but is genuinely federal, something which the non-Russian members of the UoE would find eminently important. The same is also what is behind Russia (and the Ukraine) voting on an oblast (okrug) basis: if, for example, Russia would award all her electors on a Russia-wide winner-takes-it-all system, then there is no point in the rest of the Union going to the voting booth at all: Russia's unified electoral bloc would always decide who is elected. Hence the split-up. Even just the Ukraine awarding all her electors on a winner-takes-all basis would make this bloc way more powerful within the UoE presidential voting system than California, Texas, New York or any other large US state ever is going to be within that of the US.
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  6. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

    Aug 3, 2009
    I believe this is the case, yes.

    Well, I never said the SRs couldn't do something like that, just that they wouldn't be basing it on the American primary system because it didn't really exist yet. That being said, they could certainly look at the "spirit of reform" that was driving the adoption and creation of primaries in the United States at the time and extend and deepen it, following the ideological basis you outline here.
  7. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    Thank you for your insightful comments! I think you are right that I should have worded the update differently.

    (A quick wikipedia check, btw, tells me this:
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  8. The Galaxy Member

    Sep 7, 2019
    Good stuff. I have only read the first few pages but this is some excellent writing.

    Fisticuffs for all!

    One comment about a thing that may or may not happen is that currently, after the first few pages there is a hint that there will be some type of larger right wing coup even after Kornilov. I see this as almost impossible since how will they get soldiers and supplies, where is the industrial might backing such a thing, where would the soldiers come from. If it is the "Cossacks" then they are no different then any other people why would they aid anyone who is going to take land away from the common man and give it to a privileged few, that all Cossacks would just be mindless right wing drones doing anything and everything a right winger says just because he is a right winger I see as implausible.

    Basically what is the incentive for this hypothetical war for the average soldiers to fight.

    Also there are a few lines about officers deserting. That all officers would be right wingers and landed elite is also not how it was, by 1917 many officers had risen through the ranks from very humble beginnings. And many officers where not right wing at all.

    And that whole comment is IF it even happens, as I wrote I am only a few pages in, good stuff!
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  9. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    @The Galaxy
    As you shall find out, I share your views
    and none of this happens (so far it's October 1918, and there hasn't been a post-Kornilov coup).
    The newspaper articles are intended to convey things from a particular, partisan, contemporary perspective, including the schemata, fears, hopes, stereotypes etc. of its authors; I know they can sometimes be confusing, which is why I've come to balance them (with ample footnotes, or with authorial overviews), but I still also like the idea of trying to express something in the terms and from the (necessarily limited, and in a different way from how we're limited today) standpoint of an ATL contemporary.

    There has indeed been a right-wing dictatorship installed in parts of Western Russia, Belarus and the Baltics, the so-called "Markov government", but this one has been installed by the German military command (Ober Ost) as a puppet government, like their Polish Regency Government or its Lithuanian equivalent after the temporary German conquest of Petrograd in April 1918. It rests its power on German support, and falls after little more than three months.

    As for the Cossacks, they're a mixed bag, of course. Among the leftist revolutionaries, both IOTL and ITTL, there were great fears that "the Cossacks would come" because that had happened in the past; sure it was a cliche, but cliches can be powerful. As for what really happens ITTL: when TTL's equivalent of a Kornilov coup happens and fails, one group of Cossacks declares their independence from revolutionary Russia and establishes a Cossack state along the Don under the leadership of Alexey Kaledin. Other Cossacks elsewhere don't secede. Enthusiasm for the new system isn't too great among them, either, though: the new system's policies on land ownership, its mobilisation of peasant militia (which are basically what the Cossacks had historically been once, but that's long ago) and frankly quite a number of views vehiculated among the revolutionaries don't fit too well with the (limited) privileges various Cossack communities enjoyed under the tsars, with the agricultural structures which have evolved in their lands, or with their often very conservative cultural models. Therefore, support for the new constitution in the plebiscite has been relatively low in regions with big Cossack minorities or even Cossack majorities. But apart from Kaledin's Don Cossacks, there are no further insurgencies or secessions.

    When Markov - a crazy ultra-right-wing anti-semite, by the way, if you ask me - is installed by the Germans, he hopes that the Don Cosssacks will unite forces with him, so that they can attack and destabilise the socialist Union enough for it to collapse. This doesn't happen. (The Cossacks have not been antagonised to the extent of OTL, so there is no point for them in fighting a battle with low chances of success.) Instead, in summer 1918 Kaledin is deposed, and a different leadership group among the Don Cossacks negotiates about cultural, social, military and economic aspects with the Ukrainian Federative Republic, and they come to some sort of agreement which means the Don Cossacks integrate into Ukraine just in time for the great Union offensive against the Central Powers to be able to start without having to guard its back.

    As for officers deserting - both simple conscripts and officers of all kinds of sorts deserted, "resigned" or in any other way left the Russian Army after OTL's February Revolution in large numbers (the numbers increased even more after the failed Kerensky Offensive, of course, which doesn't happen ITTL, so the army holds together better, but it's implausible to assume that there are no desertions at all). Conscripted peasants and officers had their reasons to leave - some of them were similar, others were different. They did not want to die - whether killed by the Germans or shot by their own subordinates. But while IOTL, many peasants deserted because they had become disillusioned with the Provisional Government and some sought to participate in the wild repartitions which occurred across the countryside , ITTL even more officers than IOTL leave (to some extent, this is even encouraged by the government, which seeks to transform the army into a military force loyal to the new republic, whose officers would be respected by those they commanded). Some were associated wit the botched coup attempt. Others were disgruntled because the new state was taking away their estates from them. Or afraid that the VeCheKa (TTL's somewhat more limited in its power, but still brutal equivalent of the Cheka) would apprehend and torture them or their families as counter-revolutionaries if they did not leave. Yet others thought the new top layers of the command hierarchy (interspersed with political leaders of the soldiers' soviets) militarily incapable and doomed to lead Russia into defeat. Not all officers thought this way, though - and that is what the new, reformed Union Armies could build upon. ITTL, the Union Armies show considerably more personal continuity to the imperial army than OTL's Red Army (and even there, some former tsarist officers served). If that had not been the case, a military success like TTL's Autumn Offensive 1918 would not have been conceivable, even against a crumbling enemy.
    (This is, of course, not a spoiler for those who have read the entire TL so far, just for @The Galaxy .)
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  10. The Galaxy Member

    Sep 7, 2019
    I am on page 4 now.

    I have not read the spoiler will do so when I reach page 17.

    A few comments

    It seems now that the chance of a right wing coup has diminished and the problem is now that there are two power bases the elected government and the "soviets".

    Interesting stuff!

    On the war you made it so that there was an armistice which is interesting. I personally think such a thing would never be agreed upon, because it allows the rotation of troops, bringing up supplies and digging in.

    You write about how soldiers with bad morale are being replaced with soldiers that have better morale, which would happen.

    On thing that you may not know is that the USA was contracted to build 3,3 million Mosin - Nagant rifles and by January 1917 had delivered about 350,000 and built 1,6 million. That leaves about 3 million that could have been delivered additionally. Now if there is a democratically elected government then they may be able to pay for these rifles or possibly get a line of credit or loans from the USA to acquire these rifles.

    These almost 3 million rifles would help the Russian performance in the war, and with an armistice the Russians should be able to deliver them to the soldiers even with the diminished transport capability because now you do not have a shooting war going on which greatly will relieve the transport needs.

    Depending on how many loans and how much the US is willing to give the Russians would possibly be able to order even more. With the assembly lines and know how created the Russians could possibly order enough Mosins to cover all their military needs.


    On the domestic front it seems that there were speculators hoarding grain and your solution is to increase prices so that grain would be sold, and your land reform of course.

    Very interesting stuff, good job.
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  11. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    Thank you, glad you still find it interesting. On the dual power structure: with the constitution, it is somehow regulated: soviets oversee economic matters mostly, Dumas, CA etc. do the rest. Conflicts occur, of course, both within and between institutions. Particularly complicated in parts of the Military.

    A ceasefire occurred IOTL, too, while the parties negotiated in Brest-Litowsk. Why would it not ITTL?

    About the rifles: I don't know if the *Russians can afford them... Maybe a small part of them in spring 1918 when Russo-American relationships look rather good, on credit.

    As for speculators hoarding: this is how urban socialists viewed it IOTL and ITTL. What really occurred was that the tsarist government had already installed price caps on grain etc. for the time of the war, and with inflation rampant, this rendered grain production for sale unprofitable often. Producers reacted by keeping stuff for themselves, waiting for the next price adjustment, exchanging on a black barter market, or in the worst of all cases by simply producing less. This is OTL and TTL by 1917. The SRs were very aware of this Situation, and because peasants are their Powerbase, they don't Go for forcible requisitioning of course. They knew that only increased prices could Bring more grain to the market, both short- and long-term. Now, that Made matters worse for the urban population, of course, and Kamkov reacted to that by exproproating landlords again, this time owners of houses which were rented Out to tenants, the logic behind that being that If you have to pay no Rent, you can afford Higher food prices.
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  12. The Galaxy Member

    Sep 7, 2019
    Yes it is very interesting.

    You should consider writing fiction, perhaps sci fi with human civilization expanding, perhaps different human civilizations going to war. Become a famous author and make millions. Make sure no one steals your texts when you publish, be super careful about that so that it is you who is publishing not some scammer.

    I did not know about the armistice in the real world.

    Interesting detail about the rent, a clever solution that may or may not create problems in the future.

    I have completed page 6 now.

    On the military side I think that if the Russians / Union of equals had 10 weeks of non fighting to dig in and rotate troops etc, that if such a thing had happened then there could have been no quick advance by the Germans. But that is just my opinion.

    On the US made rifles, I definitely think that the Entente would have given loans to Russia. The US, France and Britain would obviously want the Russians equipped because that means the war would end faster and that their own troops and forces would suffer lower losses and that they themselves would suffer less economic stress.

    So not only do I think that the whole 3,3 million contract would have been completed, but at least another million would have been ordered as well maybe even more, which would greatly change the balance of power. In addition other military and non military equipment would be sent as well. And with the assembly lines now completed with the workers now knowing how to make the rifles production would be much faster.

    What I know about Russia in ww1 is that all industries except the military industry suffered decline during the war, however in 1917 the Russian army was the most equipped it had been since possibly the start of the war. The October revolution changed all that, but this is now a different timeline.

    So in this timeline you would have domestic production, plus even larger foreign imports which translates into a stronger military. So I do not think there could have been such an aggressive advance by the central powers and that the central powers would be suffering larger internal stress now.

    Just my opinion of course.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2019
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  13. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    Thank you for your very flattering feedback! I had the help of @Betelgeuse who edited quite a few of my chapters. He is too busy to do that now, but otherwise I'm OK with my job and I don't plan on switching to become a writer, neither in my native German language, nor in English... Thank you nevertheless for the big compliment!

    The Germans had time to bring in more material and rotate their troops as well, especially since the Western Front was rather quiet, too. Also, their army is still very stable in late winter / early spring 1918, with a high degree of discipline. The UoE armies, on the other hand, have just underwent a major restructuring. They are vulnerable to destabilisation, and the series of lost battles they've suffered makes people afraid.

    On the weapons: I mentioned at some point that the Russians are sending weapons to the Finns in their civil war, so probably they do receive a significant number.
  14. The Galaxy Member

    Sep 7, 2019

    Do writing and take your time, you have the rest of your life to release your first book.

    On the military, I did not know that the Germans were in such a good position, if that it is then yes they may be able to push quite far, it depends on what the Russians do of course. But this is your scenario so what you think is what happened.

    Now on the weapons and other supplies. My line of thinking is this. In the original timeline the companies who were given the Russian Mosin contracts almost went bankrupt and the US government had to step in and buy some of the weapons and help out to prevent the bankruptcy of the companies. Now if they did that then for me that signals that the US government would provide loans because not only does it save the companies the money may also come back with interest.

    On other military equipment my line of thought is that each bullet, each artillery shell fired by US forces costs money and that money is gone. The money is being spent to kill and destroy the military of the central powers. The US can also help with that goal by giving loans to Russia / Union of Equals and has a chance of getting the money back.

    But obviously this gives a lot of potential variables and you may not have considered all of this when you wrote your version. And you have done some excellent work and I will continue read it when I am less busy and give comments of course.
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  15. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    @The Galaxy
    From 1915 on, it was a disaster for the Russians. Just look at how far the Germans advanced pre-Revolution, and how many Russians had died in battle. And 1917 wasn't better: although ITTL the Kerensky Offensive is avoided, the Germans still took Riga, the Estonian Islands... The last Russian success IOTL and ITTL before TTL's summer of 1918 was the Brusilov Offensive in 1916, and even that was damn costly.

    Your reasoning makes sense although throughout 1917 and perhaps Up to the decision to Honor the debts of the tsarist Regime, outside observers like Wilson's Administration may have viewed Russia as a very unsafe and instable place where both Money and weapons could soon end Up in very weird peoples' hands and stay there. But I guess some Arms Sales make sense.

    @ all,
    the next Update is going to be a Newspaper Sunday special from Leipzig. I hope to be able to Upload it on monday.
    Btw, sorry for the false capitalizations, my mobile's autocorrect is doing that.
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  16. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    I'm sorry, I won't be able to finish the update today. I'm still working on it.
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  17. Threadmarks: Thirty-Four: The USPD Congress (November 1918)

    Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    Leipzig (German Empire): Leipziger Volkszeitung, [1] November 3th (Sunday special!), 1918, p. 1:

    Whither the USPD?

    by Hans Block

    Looking at the swift takeovers in Dresden last week [2], and watching enormous crowds gathering under red flags in our city, forming brigades and erecting barricades against whatever Berlin might send against them [3], one could be induced to think of the Revolutionary party as a solid bloc, a massive wave crashing against the remnants of the old Empire’s rotten remnants.

    Those who were able to witness the hastily convened Members’ Assembly of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) from within the walls of the Volkshaus yesterday, though, could not help but realize that there is not one Revolutionary party, but a disunited array of rivalling factions. After the first day of the Congress, it has not become clear yet who will come out on top.

    Heated controversies began already over the question of who should have the right to speak and vote. The gathered party members of the USPD had not been delegated by their district chapters, and so districts like Leipzig, Dresden, Halle and Berlin were grossly overrepresented. Worse than that, large swathes of USPD members sought to consolidate their weight by claiming to speak for other Revolutionary groups partly or entirely outside the party, like the Revolutionäre Obleute, and so the order of business soon escalated into the fundamental question of whether this should be a mere party congress of the USPD, or a Convent of all Revolutionary forces [4].

    The decisive momentum against extending the party congress into a general revolutionary convent was not so much the stubborn obstructions by the USPD chairman Hugo Haase, but a speech from the ranks held by Johann Knief for the Bremen group of Internationale Kommunisten Deutschlands, who rejected the legitimacy of the congress to represent the revolutionary movement anyway. Just when the decision had been reached that only USPD party members would vote, and the decisions taken would bind only them, while guest groups would be granted the right to speak, so as to maintain a dialogue between the party and revolutionary groups outside of it, new factions clashed over the next major organizational question. Franz Mehring submitted the proposal that the USPD join the Russian-based International Revolutionary Social Democratic Labour Partyt’s unification faction as its German section.

    This motion gained momentum when Karl Kautsky, who, in contrast to Mehring, did not belong to the Revolutionary faction, also expressed his support for it. The USPD is an internationalist party, he argued, and the German proletariat can make the most out of the current fluid situation if it enjoys the firm support of the Union of Equals, whose true democracy, economic transformations, and cultural renewal can provide a model for Germany’s post-war development, he argued.

    Along the same lines, Kurt Eisner saw improved opportunies and alluded to talks between the Bavarian Free State’s Provisional Government and members of the Union of Equals’ Foreign Policy Committee.

    Kautsky and Eisner were not only contradicted by Eduard Bernstein from the USPD’s right wing, though, who argued that the German proletariat is faced with its own historical challenge which is structurally fundamentally different from Russia’s, and also that the Union of Equals’ policy with regard to Germany could be clearly seen in its support for the Polish revolt in Posen, Pommerania and Silesia [5].

    An important Russian guest spoke against this unification, too: V.I. Lenin, whose speech was translated by his close associate Karl Radek, denounced the IRSDLP(u) as spineless revisionists led by a wannabe-Napoleon who support the populist rebirth of agrarian-based capitalism over the interests and even the lives of revolutionary workers.

    Lenin’s speech was not only influential in the congress’s striking down of Mehring’s motion. He also set the tone for the following debate, which centered around the more pressing questions in our troubled country: should the USPD participate in the elections to a new Constituent Assembly for Germany? Should they continue to work with other revolutionaries in their attempts to overthrow old regimes in German territorial states, or should they refrain from violent action and prepare to join a wide democratic coalition in the Constituante? Should general strikes be stopped under the given miserable material situation of the population, or continued and widened to pressure Berlin into releasing political prisoners like Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and prevent it from moving against the Revolutionaries in Saxony, Bavaria, and Bremen?

    Given their previous confrontations in the past weeks over these issues, it was expected that Haase’s position – to end the strikes, condemn violent action, and set one’s hopes on electoral victory – would be supported by Bernstein, Kautsky, Adolf Hofer, Robert and Margarethe Wengels and other moderates and centrists, while Ledebour’s position – continued general strike, overthrowing the monarchic and corporatist regimes in every member state of the Reich, and boycotting the elections if Berlin does not free all political prisoners, end its obstruction of socialist activities, and recognize the leading role of the workers’ and soldiers’ soviets in demobilization and socialist transformation of the economy – would be supported by the Spartakus group and members more directly involved in the Revolutionary council movement.

    Following Lenin’s speech, though, in which he denounced electoral boycotts as futile, citing the example of Russia’s Otzovists, and exhorted the German comrades to use any and every tool available to further the cause of the proletarian revolution, the motion to participate in the elections and to nominate lists of candidates for them on this congress found some degree of support on the radical left wing of the party, too, and was ultimately adopted by a clear majority. [6]

    After this decision was made, Carl Herz argued in his passionate speech, it was only logical for the USPD to openly accept Scheidemann’s offer [7] – but the Left, both within the USPD and, even more vocally, those from outside of the party who attended the congress as guests, vehemently rejected what they dubbed, in the terms of Radek’s translation of Lenin’s expression, as a “surrender policy”. Instead, Hermann Duncker, Leo Jogiches, the Thalheimer siblings and a number of other radical speakers called for the transformation of as many soldier council-demobilized units as possible into Red Guards and the recruitment of new ones from among both male and female politically revolutionary factory workers, for the preparation against military attempts to overthrow the Revolutionary governments in Munich, Dresden, Bremen and possibly elsewhere, for the immediate transformation of economic management structures and property relations in the territories under socialist control, and for a grassroots-elected unified Supreme Command of Red Revolutionary Guards to coordinate the resistance from Vienna to the Ruhr, from Württemberg to Wilna [8].

    The heated debate continued into the night, and no side has prevailed so far.

    Today, though, it is expected that the USPD will either find a way forward with which all sides can live – a prospect which appears much less realistic after yesterday’s events –, or that one side prevails, possibly at the cost of yet another division, which is certain to weaken our country’s labour movement.

    [1] The Leipziger Volkszeitung was a social democratic newspaper at this time, and a left-leaning one at that, too. It sympathized with the USPD and embraced the Revolution IOTL – ITTL, where the Revolution in Germany is much more endangered and controversial, it takes a differentiated stance.

    [2] ITTL, the establishment of a Free People’s State of Saxony (Freier Volksstaat Sachsen) is not part of an all-encompassing wave, like OTL, but one of the few exceptions. The reason behind this is that the German November Revolution could only succeed as smoothly as it did IOTL because the MSPD decided it was best to “spearhead” the movement if it couldn’t be stopped, and other democrats followed their logic. This is why king after king, prince after prince fell / abdicated, and free states were established everywhere across Germany within a mere week IOTL. ITTL, the MSPD is more closely embedded in the monarchy’s government, and the rifts between them and the revolting workers and soldiers and the USPD are a lot deeper because the January strikes had been more widespread and repression against them had been much more intense. Thus, there is no November Revolution like we know it from OTL. Where princes and oligarchic governments fall ITTL, it is solely the work of the radical left, the USPD and those to its left, helped by the all-engulfing chaos as streams of soldiers flow back into the empire, and hunger and the deadly second wave of the Spanish Flu ravage the population. So far, only three “old” states have fallen: the Kingdom of Saxony, the Kingdom of Bavaria (like OTL) and the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen (where IOTL there was a short-lived council republic, too, but somewhat later). All three places (well, in the case of Bavaria mostly the large cities only) are strongholds of the radical left in Germany 1918 IOTL and ITTL (in Munich the USPD as well as anarchist groups, in Saxony mostly the USPD, in Bremen a mixture of USPD and even more leftist IKD). The USPD congress has, therefore, been convened rather spontaneously to Leipzig, a Red stronghold.

    [3] Following from [1], the “Red islands” within Germany, where a Revolution has taken place, are now threatened from the start, as the Imperial government in Berlin is still in place and can attempt to send forces to crush them, and so can other anti-Revolutionary forces.

    [4] Remember that the workers’ and soldiers’ soviets have not yet been able to hold any sort of “All-German Council Congress” ITTL.

    [5]The situation in Poland needs a lot more background explanations. I’ll explain this and that in different footnotes, but if things don’t become clear to you, please ask, and I’ll sum things up in a separate little authorial Poland update. So, what has happened in the Poznan province and in other majority-Polish regions of the German Empire (Pommerania and Silesia, as has been stated) is that the Poznan chapter of the POW has begun uprisings, taking over city halls and controlling militarily relevant infrastructure like telegraph and telephone lines, railroads etc. in a great number of places beginning with the last week of October. The few German forces in the region have already been withdrawn further to the West to be demobilized there, like the Armistice of Absam demands. But there are a lot more German forces, farther to the East, who are also mostly on their way Westwards, but this way would lead them straight across the insurgents’ territory, which formally belongs to Prussia and the German Empire, and which some of them might be interested to defend if they see that it has been occupied by Polish nationalists. Also, members of the German minority here – like elsewhere – have begun to form “Heimatwehren”, militia who attempt to resist the Polish takeovers (as well as combatting socialist revolutionaries). Therefore, the Naczelna Rada Ludowa in Poznan has asked for military assistance by its Polish conationals. Highly relevant in the intra-Polish context is that the NRL, which is dominated by the NDs, has not asked newly-minted Marshall Pilsudski for help – Pilsudski is busy elsewhere anyway, as footnote 8 will reveal. Instead, it has asked Musznicky-Dobor’s Polish Legions of the UoE, who control the formerly Austrian Partition of Poland, for help – and the UoE has condoned the Polish Corps setting themselves in motion towards Poznan. The latter is what Bernstein refers to: he views the UoE leadership as hostile vis-à-vis Germany’s vital interests and territorial integrity, and he does not believe that a USPD-led government, Revolutionary or not, would be treated significantly better by Moscow / Petrograd.

    [6] Ironically, IOTL it was Lenin’s example of “soviet power” and dismissal of Russia’s Constituent Assembly which motivated the left wing of the USPD to reject the idea of such elections for Germany. ITTL, he is convincing the German radical left, which considers boycotting the election as a sign of protest, to go ahead and participate in the elections because the bourgeoisie is not going to be impressed by a boycott anyway.

    [7] What is described here as “Scheidemann’s offer” is a mere declaration of the leader of the SPD Reichstag faction that it would be “most beneficial if the USPD distanced itself from acts of sedition and corrosive general strikes, so that the party could be invited to join a wide coalition for a truly democratic constitution in the new Constituent Assembly”. There is no substantial promise in this remark. Note that Scheidemann has stepped down as Foreign Minister only weeks before, so even if he had made any promise towards the USPD, it would have been unclear if he could deliver on it.

    Why does the right wing of the USPD ITTL nevertheless perceive it as an offer? That has a lot to do with the see-sawing course of the policies pursued in Berlin: as things went from bad to worse over the last months, there has been a constant back-and-forth (to call it a “dual strategy” would be to overstate its plannedness and to underestimate the divisions between the conservative army leadership, the emperor, and the SPD’s bourgeois coalition partners in the Reichstag and the government on the one hand, and the radical Left, with the SPD caught in the middle, with Ebert, like IOTL, attempting to guard the right flank while Scheidemann, like IOTL, but with much less success, attempts to overwhelm the left by embracing it) between concessions and repressions. A lot has been set in motion, and the right wing of the USPD genuinely believes that, if they play by the rules now, they’re just a couple of steps away from introducing socialism through parliamentary means.

    [8] Wilna / Wilno / Vilnius was, if you remember, where the great wave of mutinies, revolutionary upheaval etc. in the formerly German-controlled territories started, with the “Wilnaer Kommune”. The existence of said Vilnius Commune, which has begun to build up alternative power structures under the leadership of radicalized soldiers, SDKLP members and fresh local supporters, has not remained uncontested throughout the past month, though. Lithuania’s German-installed Taryba has repeatedly asked them to defer to them and let themselves be integrated into a nascent national army, which the Communards have refused. Panic among Lithuania’s old elites is running high, and violence has erupted both in the town and across the surrounding countryside, too, where a variety of groups are preparing for their “defense”. In this context, the Taryba is beginning to splinter. A group of conservatives has called Poland’s Marshall Jozef Pilsudski for help. And Pilsudski is complying – he has currently set thousands of Polish soldiers of various military traditions and backgrounds in motion towards Vilnius, to help “restore order” there.

    I’ll leave it up to you to decide on the fate of the USPD! I will rule out the option of both wings finding a compromise – so one side is going to win. But which one – the moderate, parliamentarist or the radical, militantly revolutionary?

    I’d be glad if you could share and exchange a few thoughts of yours on the matter first – tomorrow evening, I’ll start a proper poll which will be open throughout the rest of the week and post the link here.
  18. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

    Jun 23, 2014
    I am sympathetic towards the Moderate Parliamentarians, a radical uprising will only hurt the populace and general anger is not that high in Germany owing the various concessions the Monarchy has already offered.
  19. The Karavoka Man Well-Known Member

    Apr 3, 2013
    I support the right-wing, as with the incredible instability in Germany, and the SPD largely discrediting itself in the eyes of the worker's they've been repressing, they've effectively handed their own ass on a plate to the USPD, to overtake them as the major voice on the left not just in discourse, but in the Reichstag.
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  20. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    While one of you states that the "Kaisersozialisten" of the SPD have already brought forth a lot of concessions, the other one denounces their repression of the striking and protesting workers - and you are both right. Your combined argument - that the SPD has lost enough credibility to allow for impressive USPD gains, yet not enough to cause the German proletariat to wholeheartedly support revolutionary overthrows - for the moderate cause looks good to me.

    There hasn't been anyone defending the cause of the revolutionaries here - which is why I'll present one of their, in my view, strongest arguments here: You never know how far you can trust the Wilhelmine Prussian state apparatus to let you join in a fair (electoral) game. If you find out that you're being sidelined somehow by some dirty tricks next spring, it's going to be too late. You've laid down your weapons and given yourselves in. Now is the moment when the monarchy is weakest, neither army nor police are really working anymore, the apparatus of repression is malfunctioning. If you're losing this opportunity, the next one may not come quite so soon.

    And, just to make matters more complicated:
    If the moderates prevail in the USPD, this doesn’t immediately stop the uprising which is more or less already going on, with strikes and protest marches and all sorts of groups forming and snatching all sorts of weaponry and assailing this or that target. As the army is being demobilized and the old princely states’ police forces are often refusing to shoot on their own populace, there is currently not a lot of state monopoly on violence in Germany.

    But if the moderates prevail in the USPD, this does mean that the violent uprising is ultimately doomed to failure. The USPD controls Saxony and (parts of) Bavaria – without even this pool of manpower and resources and this degree of territorial depth, other islands of revolutionary fervor will ultimately get drowned, even if the radicals who walk out of the USPD do form some coherent revolutionary organization (which is not certain, of course). How Eisner’s Bavarian government and Richard Lipinski’s Saxonian government arrange themselves with Berlin is another question. (And what happens to Bremen…)

    On the other hand...
    If the radicals prevail on the congress, I’m not sure that the hierarchical, Leninist “fighting party” really comes to pass, either: at least Eisner in Bavaria must seek to broaden his new government’s support base, and he can’t do that across the conservative Catholic Bavarian countryside if he goes all in for communism (which doesn’t suit his own political leanings, either, anyway). Even if Eisler is removed from the picture even earlier than IOTL, then the USPD council republican guys in Munich are a rather anarchist bunch and neither prone to integrate themselves well into a fighting party commanded by someone like Georg Ledebour, nor able to lead others in that very same function.

    Decisions... I'll leave them to the majority of my readers, and I promise to play fair and give you no cause to revolt ;-)
    Here is the poll.