Feeble Constitution - A Red-and-Green Russia 1917

Results of Constitutional Referendum
The governments of the United Kingdom, France, and Italy will not accept separate armistice negotiations with the Ottoman Empire, as long as Russia / the Union of Equals is not included, too!

In Istanbul, this has caused some severe haggling between factions of the Committee of Union and Progress - for the moment, Enver Pasha and his dreams of Greater Turan have prevailed over the more realistic views of e.g. Mustafa Kemal Pasha, who would have preferred armistice talks with Russia, too, before Entente troops would be in a position to attack and occupy the Turkish core lands in Anatolia. Before attacking on the Armenian front, though, Enver and his Turanianist allies have managed to incite a rebellion in Azerbaijan, where dissatisfaction with aggressive Armenian land-grabbing and an endless postponement of final negotiations on resp. the conclusion of a Compact had boiled over; the latter, many had hoped, would establish either an Azerbaijani Federative Republic, or a Federative Republic of (all) Turkestan, which would not only be able to establish laws based on Islamic tradition, but also give them a greater degree of control over the oil fields near Baku and a chance to defend themselves against Armenian encroachment, but with every month in which neither path was taken, resentment had grown, and in May 1918, the Musavat Party had finally openly embraced Young Turkic assistance, and called its supporters to the arms in a holy war to shake off the Russian yoke.

While the first flames of revolt are flickering on the Southern rim of the former Russian Empire, the Ottomans are also paying dearly for Enver Pasha's stubbornness: the British and their Arab allies are rolling on Northwards, and by the end of May, Damascus has fallen into their hands.

In the North, there is also no end to the war in sight for Russia. While Germany has de jure concluded a peace treaty with their puppet "Provisional All-Russian Government" in Petrograd, Boris Kamkov's People's Commission backed by the Constituent Assembly, now in Moscow, is gathering its strength for a desperate attempt to wipe Markov's puppet dictatorship off the face of the Earth and push the remaining German military presence to the West, too.

In the midst of war and turmoil, Supreme Commissioner Boris Kamkov has taken a controversial decision: He is not postponing the referendum on the constitutional draft any longer (it had been postponed from February to May; another postponement into August has been discussed among the majority factions of the Constituent Assembly, but Kamkov ultimately decided against asking the CA for another postponement). Therefore, on May 25th and 26th, 1918, the people living in the unoccupied territories of the former Russian Empire, plus the inhabitants of the new lands held by the Armenian Federative Republic beyond the former empire's pre-war borders, are asked to vote for or against the constitutional draft which the CA had taken almost a year to compose.


Overall turnout was not very high, but given the circumstances of war and internal turmoil, nothing else was to be expected.
With a majority - albeit not a very comfortable one -, the new constitution has been accepted, and the new federal state is now officially named "Union of Equals". Elections for the various institutions of the new state are planned by the Commission for summer 1918. Until they gather, the People's Commission remains in office.
Here is a map of how the different regions have voted:


Dark green: over 60 % YES
Light green: over 50 % YES
Orange: over 50 % NO
Red: Over 60 % NO

Finland is coloured in grey because in Finland, the referendum was not held; the Finnish Federative Republic's Senate has postponed Finnish participation in the referendum due to the events unfolding in the country. What exactly these events are, you'll learn in next week's update. I am very grateful to @Karelian for the massive amounts of valuable background information with which he has provided me in the preparation of that update, which will, like this week's, also not be in newspaper format, because it is going to include a bit of retconning with regards to the post-PoD developments in Finland.
Finnish Civil War pt. 1
Finland 1917-1918

The National Coalition does not break apart in 1917. The moderate Social Democrat Oskari Tokoi continues to lead the Coalition, in which his equally moderate party colleagues Vainö Tanner (Senator for Finances) and Matti Paasivuori (Senator for Industry and Commerce) work together with Young Finns like Antti Tulenheimo (Senator for Justice) and Agrarians like Kyösti Kallio (Agriculture). The Compact with Petrograd is negotiated like I have stated, but it is ratified in the Eduskunta by a very large majority stretching from the right to the left. And then land reform is tackled by the same parliament, and probably resembles OTL’s version greatly. When Russia drifts further to the left in November, Finland maintains its all-party Coalition in the Senate, even though radical Social Democrats like Otto Kuusinen or Kullervo Manner prefer to stay in touch with radicalized Southern Finnish proletarian activist groups, who demand bread and socialist reforms now and “soviet control over the economy” like in Russia.

Things are, thus, a lot calmer and more stable than IOTL until spring 1918, and the young Finnish Federative Republic is not only tackling the long-standing grievances of its rural population, but is also restoring public safety and order – well, not perfectly, but more so than IOTL – by building up a robust police force (a territorial defense force like Ukraine’s has not been made a part of the Compact, since, just like IOTL before the October Rev, few Finns – apart from the radically nationalist “Activists” and the Jääkäri movement – supported such an idea at that point in time). This force, named “Järjestyskunta”, is stitched together and includes both some experienced men from the old Tsarist apparatus and new recruits, drawing on militias both from the Right (Suojeluskunta) and the Left (Red Guards) and also on less politicized hires.

That preserves calm throughout the winter of 1917/18. But it is not enough by far to deal with what Finland faces when large numbers of Finnish refugees from Petrograd seep back into the country, followed by a very large number of Petrograders and retreating soldiers and sailors. Leon Trotsky organizes the latter into another Republican Guard formation tasked with securing the Karelian isthmus, and attempts to send the former into Southern Finland’s factories in order to take control of, redirect, and step up production of militarily relevant material.

The Tokoi Senate protests against these plans, assembles its security forces, and even mobilises additional factory militia to prevent any illegal takeover. The only problem is, these factory militia are not exactly loyal to the Coalition, and Trotsky’s ragtag, starving crowds can’t really back down because their meagre food reserves have run out and the Finnish authorities have nothing really to spare. Trotsky’s plan, when he heard of the defensive measures taken against his attempted takeover of Southern Finland’s industry, was to send only infiltrators – but instead, thousands upon thousands of Petrograders storm factories in Southern Finnish towns along the railroad line from Vyborg to Helsinki, and not everywhere are they met with resistance. In quite a few places, local worker guards join the new arrivals in taking over the factories and then pillaging the surrounding countryside in search of “hoarded foodstuff”. [1]

The Senate is almost brought to the breaking point by the question of how to deal with this situation. On the Right, Pehr Evind Svinhufvud leads those voices who demand to draft conscripts from among the rural Finnish population into the Republic’s security forces, and to confront the raiders and factory squatters, shoot all who oppose them, and restore order and the rationing regime. On the SDP’s left, protests are forming against a shooting order for the workers.

Tokoi wavers for a few days – enough for the wildfire to spread farther West and reach Helsinki. Heavily criticized by his bourgeois coalition partners, Tokoi meets Trotsky for direct talks on April 16th, and insists that he respect the Compact and Finnish laws. He urges him to turn back, confront the Germans and their puppet Markov, and restore control over Petrograd and thus Finland’s railroad connection to the rest of the country. Trotsky replies that it is not his intention to violate Finnish economic independence, and that the Soldiers and Disposed Workers’ Soviet, whose speaker he formally is, fully intends, in coordination with Voykom, to strike back against the Germans, but for that they need more ammunition and weaponry, and in the meantime they must eat.

Finland’s history has been, through much of the 20th century, marked by bitter debates about the real nature of this encounter, the intentions of both sides, and why any attempt to reach a compromise failed. What really caused the events unfolding in the following weeks, which would go on to shape the young nation so deeply?

The Finnish Right has argued that here a weak leader with no clear agenda (Tokoi) met a strong one with the wrong agenda (Trotsky), hence why any attempt to negotiate was a mistake from the start. Trotsky would have sought to impose himself anyway, and so the Finnish Senate should have used what time it had to build up a national defense so that they could disperse the Russian revolutionaries while they were still disorganized. Radical Left analysis shares some of these interpretations, only with an inverse evaluation: to them Trotsky stood for the Revolution, while Tokoi had already by this point given up on implementing socialism in Finland in any way. Tokoi’s indecision and the reactionary violence of the Finnish Right then coerced Trotsky into adopting more dictatorial measures out of pure self-defense. Those who view Tokoi as the real hero in this scenario see Trotsky not so much as a champion of socialism, but as an aggressive, power-hungry leader of a marauding mob, and they blame the Finnish Right for stabbing the Tokoi Senate in the back and sabotaging its defense as much as they blame Trotsky for pushing the Finns towards a militarization they had not wanted themselves.

The two men’s personalities, their cultural backgrounds, and their views on socialism were certainly not conducive to a compromise. It could also be argued, however, that the relevance of the encounter, which has even been immortalized in popular Finnish songs [2], was secondary at best because the underlying political, socio-economic and military dynamics could hardly have been stopped in their tracks.

Be that as it may – the negotiations failed. Immediately afterwards, Trotsky contacted Centrobalt and brought the sailors of Vyborg and Helsinki and the garrison at Kotka to his side, hoisting the banner of socialist revolution and managing to repeat his Petrograd performance by having himself invested with extraordinary emergency powers to defend the revolution. He travelled on the train - with seasoned revolutionary workers and sailors from Petrograd and Vyborg - Westwards. On April 20th, he held a fiery speech to workers and soldiers in Kouvola, where he called them the vanguard of the international proletariat entering the field of the last of all battles, in which the collapsing ruins of capitalist imperialism would be swept away for good. The cheering crowds were joined by detachments from Kotka and Hamina, who had secured control over their towns as well and brought arms and equipment with them on trains.

The fragile Finnish governing Coalition broke apart under the onslaught of the red tide, or rather, over the question of how to react. On April 17th, Oskari Tokoi gave a report to the Eduskunta regarding the negotiations, and informed the parliamentarians that he had appealed to Supreme Commissioner Boris Kamkov for assistance in calling Trotsky back and bringing the Union Armies to order again. The entire right wing of the Eduskunta frothed at Tokoi’s passive stance, with Svinhufvud denouncing Tokoi as “the Russians’ hapless running dog” and declaring that the threat with which the home country was faced required immediate action now.

Kamkov’s answer, which arrived on the 19th, did not help matters. He affirmed both the right of the Union Army, Republican Guard, and Baltic Fleet soldiery to elect their own soviets and commanders, including Trotsky if they so chose, and the right of the Finnish Federative Republic to organize its economic life autonomously and uphold its laws. He also clarified that Trotsky was only to act within Voykom’s common strategy for the defense of Finland, but otherwise left no doubt that he saw it not in his power to intervene in any more decisive way. He then appealed to all sides, asking them to remain calm, respect the Compact, and focus on the common enemy. Tokoi reacted by beginning the drafting of tens of thousands of citizens into the Järjestyskunta, but this was delayed by the various resignations of right-wing Senators, which left parts of the Tokoi administration temporarily without leadership. To the Right, which assembled behind Svinhufvud, all this was too little, too late. They had sought, and found, a different ally for what they saw as Finland’s safety and stability.

Accordingly, on April 23rd, the first shots in Finland’s Civil War were fired between the Järjestyskunta attempting to defend Lahti and local Red Guards aided by forces under Trotsky’s command, with the latter quickly prevailing and taking over control of factories and the railroad junction. As Lahti turned Red, the remaining Senate and the Eduskunta fled Helsinki – in two directions. The Social Democrats and Maalaisliitto members loyal to Tokoi relocated to Kuopio, while the last Right-wing nationalists boarded North-Westward Bound trains to Vaasa, where Svinhufvud was assembling his “Committee for National Salvation” and gathering nationalist former military officers and mobilizing Suojeluskunta units throughout Ostrobothnia.

On the same day the German Kriegsmarine landed on the Åland isles and took control of them, encountering almost no resistance.

On April 28th, Leon Trotsky presided over a triumphant gathering of soldiers and revolutionary workers in Helsinki, in which the establishment of soviet power in Finland was declared. As its leaders with far-reaching powers for the duration of militant revolutionary struggle, Trotsky and Eero Haapalainen were elected. One day earlier, the first German war ships anchored at the Ostrobothnian coast, bringing the first of more than 2,000 Finnish “Jäger” volunteers equipped and trained by the German army to Finland in order to intervene on the side of Svinhufvud’s Committee for National Salvation, which on the 29th, after hearing of Helsinki’s fall, restyled itself as the Senate of the Grand Duchy of Finland (Regency), as they declared that the Russian revolutionaries had annulled the Compact with their actions and that the Finnish Federative Republic had thus ceased to exist.

The Finnish Federative Republic’s Senate in Kuopio did not agree, of course. As news of the arrival of Germans and the Jääkäri reached Eastern Finland, Tokoi and his government bitterly accused the Right of betraying the national cause of Finland by calling in foreigners to turn Finns against one another. Conscription in the territorially largest, but less densely populated, Northern and Eastern regions of Finland still controlled by Tokoi’s Senate was in full swing, but compared to the other two parties in this fratricidal conflict, the Kuopio Senate had comparatively few weapons and ammunition at its disposal.

Throughout May, Finland is split three-way. In the first weeks, each side consolidates control over their strongholds: Vaasa and Ostrobothnia for Svinhufvud’s Senate, which bases its power on the Suojeluskunta, the Jääkäri and German assistance; everything east of Jyväskylä and north of a line from Mäntyharju to Raivola as well as Oulu, Kemi, Tornio, Kajaani, Lappland, and Karelia North of Sortavala is the territory in which Tokoi’s SDP-Maalaisliitto Coalition and its meagerly equipped conscript army built around the Järjestyskunta maintains control. The majority of Finland’s population lives in the much more industrialised South, though, where “soviet rule” is established in Tampere, Turku, Hanko, Helsinki, Lahti, Kouvola, Vyborg and on the Karelian isthmus. Its backbone is Russian soldiers and militiamen.

The first major movement in the civil war, with which Trotsky attempted to break out of the South and gain control over the railroad line up to Tornio, is the Battle of Haapamäki on May 11th, in which Vaasa units manage to encircle initially successful Red attackers, massacring hundreds and capturing more, thereby fending off the first Red attack on the territories controlled by Svinhufvud’s faction.

This failure was not the first crack which appeared in the image of a triumphant Trotsky and his irresistible radical revolution. The attempt to gain control over the railroad line had been induced by the horrible provisioning situation in which the South found itself – Trotsky had hoped to bring the country’s life-line under his control, thereby connecting the starving cities of the South with Sweden and access to American grain imports. With every week in which the conflict continued, the military nature of his socialism became more and more evident. Factory committees were brought in line with open brutality against dissenters. Resistance against Trotsky’s rule began to form in the South, too – almost none of it being of bourgeois nature, even though Trotsky and Haapalainen continued to blame and lambast the nationalist bourgeoisie for everything which went wrong. In the factories as well as among the soldiers, clandestine anarchist networks began to grow, waiting for the opportunity to rid their socialist experiment of the iron fist of Trotsky’s military regime. But more importantly, the Southern Finnish countryside began to consolidate into a solid block of stubborn resistance. Formerly landless torppari, most of them supporting the socialists or Santeri Alkio’s left wing of the Maalaisliitto, had gained their own tracts of land in last year’s agrarian reform, and their loyalty to Oskari Tokoi’s Kuopio Senate as well as their hatred of the foreign and urban regime of Trotsky, whose troops ruthlessly combed the countryside for supplies, was unbroken. On May 19th, the first raid against a Red detachment in Karkku, followed by a raid on a train, was conducted by peasant insurgents loyal to the Tokoi Senate, who escaped with their loot – food and weapons – on horseback.

In the last ten days of May fighting intensified, with all sides having completed their build-up. An offensive led by the forces of the Vaasa Senate Southwards against the Reds, aiming at Tampere, was rebuffed. For all its internal threats, the Finnish soviet state would not buckle quite so easily. Vaasa and Kuopio forces skirmished over control of the Northern portion of the railroad line to Tornio. Moscow urged the revolutionaries in the South and the democratically elected Senate of Oskari Tokoi in Kuopio to unite against the Vaasa Senate and their German allies – but while there was no major offensive taking place between the Kuopio forces and Trotsky’s, anyone who lived through these times in Finland was absolutely certain that such cooperation would never occur. And while the rest of the former Russian Empire – well, most of it – was casting their votes for or against the new democratic constitution, Finland remained in the grip of civil war and widespread hunger, which proved a fertile ground for yet another catastrophe: a disease which was beginning to spread across the globe…

[1] Karelian’s comment: “And since many of these people will be Ingrian Finns who speak a different dialect with a Russian accent, the horror images of right-wing nationalists of 'rampaging horders of lawless rabble' turn to reality.”

[2] Thanks to Karelian for pointing out this one – you must check YouTube etc. for OTL’s Finnish anti-Kerensky song, it was a hilarious experience for me.

And once again thanks to @Betelgeuse for editing this text!
Upon his suggestion, here is an attempt at visualising where the front lines ran in May 1918:


South of the Red line is where Trotsky's soviets rule. West of the Blue line is the Vaasa Senate, East of it the Kuopio Senate.
Finnish Civil War pt. 2
The Finnish Civil War, part two (June 1918)

Trotsky decided not to get bogged down in a protracted civil war, but to instead foster the spreading of the Revolution with the help of sailors and thousands of additional raiding and landing troops on board their impressive vessels. He launched a series of naval attacks which would restore the Gulf of Finland to the control of the Union of Equals’ Baltic Fleet, which would have massive repercussions in Finland, as stated in the last update.

The departure of so many soldiers and experienced revolutionaries, along with a lot of military equipment, tilted the balance between the three warring factions in Finland. It left the Red revolutionaries in the South vulnerable, but while some of them seemed acutely aware of this existential threat, other revolutionary socialists in Helsinki, Tampere, Kotka, or Wyborg rejoiced. Especially to those socialists with syndicalist or anarchist leanings, the end of the military regime meant the great chance for all the workers - Finns, Russians, Swedes and everyone else united - to truly take their fate into their own hands, to decide on their factories’ inter-relations without everything being geared by a military commissar with an iron fist towards sustaining the civil war effort. Now was the time for the real socialist utopia to materialize itself in Finland!

The enthusiasm of this group, whose leaders were the brothers Eino and Jukka Rahja, August Wesley and Yrjö Sirola, did not last long. Their more cautious comrades saw the writing on the wall when a division of the Vaasa Senate swept away contingent after contingent of poorly organized militia of volunteers before them on their march on Tampere. Recruitment in the countryside went from bad to worse, with entire villages across the South now successfully resisting both the draft and requisitioning attempts while declaring themselves “restored” to the legitimate rule of the Kuopio Senate. On June 13th, Kullervo Manner, heading a delegation of realistically inclined factory deputies, met with Oskari Tokoi in Mikkeli, to discuss terms under which the South could accept the full restoration of the authority of the Kuopio Senate and its Eduskunta.

Tokoi had previously made another attempt at reconciliation with the Vaasa Senate. Negotiations failed, however, when Svinhufvud insisted on independence from Russia, an alliance with Germany, and the Red rebels in the South feeling the full might of the sword of legal order as preconditions for the disarming of his troops. Given the radicalization of the previous weeks and months, it is questionable if the conflict could have been ended immediately even if Tokoi had given in. Indeed, just as rebels supporting the Kuopio Senate had emerged among the landless throughout rural Finland, militant anti-socialists, mostly of formerly landowning background, formed their own clandestine networks aimed both against Tokoi and the Reds in the South. The most extreme of them, the “Brothers of Hate”, or “Vihan Veljet”, began its insurgence on the very day of the fruitless negotiations between Tokoi and Svinhufvud. They became well known for burning down huts, massacring Tokoi-loyalist peasant leaders, and targeting local Järjestyskunta officers in often suicidal terrorist attacks. [1]

Turned down by Svinhufvud, Tokoi saw the meeting with Manner as the last chance to reunify his conflict-stricken country, with his situational disposition towards compromise and leniency proving vital to the formulation of the compromise which resulted from this meeting. The Manner-Tokoi Pact committed to the reversion of extralegal expropriations and the upholding of property rights, especially in the industrial sector, but it also acknowledged the newly formed factory workers’ councils and their local networks of cooperation, granting them a new role as bodies of arbitration for disputes between employers and individual employees and allowing them to participate in the planning and oversight of welfare and relief measures. They would work alongside representatives from local church parishes, professional organizations, and the chambers into which manufacturers were organised. It placed the organization of conscription in the hands of the regular elected local bodies of communal government, emphasizing an equality of draftees from urban and rural backgrounds, and while it promised amnesty to anyone who surrendered to the legitimate government before June 30th and who had no committed “atrocities” in the name of ideology, it also clarified that any decrees issued by the soviets which were in contravention of existing laws were null and void.

The Pact did not go down without opposition in the industrial centres of the South. Uncompromising radicals like the Rahja brothers and others with connections to Russian ultra-left opposition groups like the rump Bolsheviks (notably among them Ali Aaltonen, Adolf Taimi, and Alexander Schrottman) continued to organize those among the socialist workers who would not lay down their arms and renounce what they had gained for themselves, not even in the face of the threat of the Vaasa troops, who conquered Tampere on June 19th after over a week of bitter fights, in which the courage and bravery of proletarian militia proved no match against the superior weaponry and organization of the Vaasa army and its Jääkäri backbone.

But as news of atrocious retributions even against unarmed workers committed by Suojeluskunta in Tampere spread across the South, socialist resistance against the Manner-Tokoi Pact began to falter, and factory after factory, town after town switched sides, closing the ranks against the Vaasa Army, which in its turn had prevailed in Pori, Rauma, and Turku.

In the last week of June, the new front line ran from Oulu in the North to Tammisaari in the South, dividing a Vaasa-controlled West Coast from the rest of the Finland, in which Oskari Tokoi’s Senate struggled, with increasing success, to restore its legitimate power.

While there were still initiatives for renewed negotiations aimed at a national reconciliation, the Vaasa and the Kuopio Senate both prepared for the last round in this bloody struggle. The Kuopio Senate controlled over three quarters of Finland’s population and territory and comparatively high popularity, but the forces of the Vaasa Senate were both better-trained and had received superior equipment from the Germans, while the Kuopio Senate merely received a trickle of weaponry from Murmansk, carried across the green border by an eager Russian Commission, who had rejoiced at the conclusion of the Tokoi-Manner Pact and attempted to support their fellow leftist reformers in Finland as best they could – but even combined with the output of hasty production undertaken all over the South, that was not enough by far to provide sufficient supplies to the increasingly large military force which the Kuopio Senate had managed to raise.

June 29th, 1918 was a comparatively quiet Sunday. The country seemed to hold its breath. Tokoi and his fellow Senators had decided to make a tour to Helsinki and show themselves to their citizens in a public ceremony, both to make a show of normalcy and keep up civil courage, and to garner support for the compromise and the new order which had been negotiated in the Tokoi-Manner Pact. Thousands had gathered in the sun-bathed Kaisaniemi Park, many waving the banners of various political groups which had formed over the past months, shouting this or that demand, attending the ceremony to support or protest against the Senate, to cry out their demands, but many more simply to watch. They would all become witnesses of the suicide attack by a Vihan Veljet group which targeted the assembled Senators, and managed to kill Oskari Tokoi, Kyösti Kallio and three bodyguards, wounding four more and further Senators Väinö Tanner and Karl Wiik.

[1] And quite certainly also, as @Karelian has pointed out, engaging in the violent settlement of local grudges in a context of general lawlessness and unrest.
June 1918 - Central Powers Under Fire
New York City (USA): New York Times, June 9th, 1918, p. 1:



Now on its fifth day, Italy’s military offensive [1], bolstered by French and British support, continues to regain ground lost to the Austro-Hungarian armies after last year’s Battle of Caporetto. More and more divisions of the Italian Eighth Army are crossing the Piave River, and yesterday they succeeded in liberating the town of Conegliano. Meanwhile, the Fourth Italian Army continues to inflict heavy casualties on General Horsetzky’s Eleventh Austro-Hungarian Army on Mount Grappa. [2]


Fourteen days after its beginning, the German offensive along the Lys has been fought to a standstill. After the capture of Hazebrouck [3], any further advance was denied to the German Fourth and Sixth Armies by the bravery of the heroic British and Portuguese Expeditionary Forces, who are joined every day by French reinforcements arriving from Amiens. The French, under the command of General du Mitry, have been able to fend back a German attempt at capturing the coal fields of Béthune - with high losses for both sides. “Operation George”, it appears, has lost its steam, and an outflanking of General Haig’s British armies has been prevented.


After their victorious naval encounter and successful capture of the port of Reval, followed by a raid on the German-controlled city and then the landing of thousands of soldiers, the Baltic Fleet of the Union of Equals continues its offensive in the region by challenging German control over the Aland Islands. Heavy fighting has been reported across the archipelago over the course of yesterday. In the meantime, the last remnants of German authority seem to have disappeared in Reval, and the local branch of their puppet “United Baltic Duchy” is reported to have fled to Riga. [4]


Security forces loyal to Alim Khan have put down a revolt by groups affiliated with the Young Turks and killed a great number of insurgents in Bukhara. The Emirate, it appears, will not become a foothold for Ottoman Turanist infiltration of the region anytime soon. [5]

[1] This is not an OTL offensive. IOTL, the Italians had plans for such an offensive, but then General Diaz, who had been somewhat skeptical, received intelligence that the Austro-Hungarians were planning an offensive of their own, and so the Italian plans were changed. They began to prepare themselves for what would become the (for A-H disastrously fruitless) Second Battle of the Piave.

ITTL, Austria-Hungary cannot start an offensive because they still need all the forces they have on their Eastern Front where no peace has been negotiated. Therefore, the Italians go through with their offensive plans, possibly under political pressure from their Entente allies, who are hard-pressed by the Germans in Flanders (see below). They want to keep up the pressure on the Central Powers, lest Austria-Hungary send reinforcements to the Western Front (which IOTL it did).

[2] All in all, this is not yet a total collapse on the scale of OTL’s Vittorio Veneto, and although Austria-Hungary has problems with provisioning their army (to put it mildly), morale has not yet dipped to the ultimate low point which it had reached in late October 1918 IOTL. Thus, they’re resisting, and the Italians advance at a “normal” pace.
The ultramarine line superimposed on the map of OTL's Battle of Vittorio Veneto shows how far the Italians have advanced ITTL in five days:


[3] IOTL, the smaller “Operation Georgette” stopped a few kilometers east of Hazebrouck. Hazebrouck, on the railroad line connecting the Channel Ports with the Entente forces south of the La Bassée canal, is of considerable strategic importance, so this is a significant setback for the British especially. If the coal fields of Bethune are captured, too, in the following weeks then the Entente forces will face serious challenges in the provisioning of military materiel.

In contrast to OTL’s Spring Offensive, in which the Germans concentrated their attacks against mostly French positions in the Artois (Operation Michael especially), ITTL the Brits bear the brunt of the main attack (Operation George instead of Georgette). My reasoning behind this is as follows:

IOTL, the Spring Offensives were aimed at capturing Paris and knocking France out of the war. ITTL, not only do the Germans lack the necessary numerical superiority and provisions to even remotely hope to reach Paris, but Ludendorff has also learned from Operations Peter and Paul, which have captured Petrograd, that taking over a country’s capital does not necessarily result in that country’s government throwing in the towel. Therefore, his conclusion is to focus on more limited objectives. The political goal of this last-ditch offensive effort is the same as IOTL: to obtain a position of strength from which a white peace can be negotiated. ITTL, the targeted victims are not so much the French but the British. Hindenburg and Ludendorff are hoping to throw the British (and the last Belgian contingents too) out of Flanders, and maybe even capture the Channel Ports, from which they could break the stranglehold of the British naval blockade. Or, at the very least, they are hoping to cut the British forces in two and capture Bethune for the reasons outlined above.

The red line superimposed on the map of OTL's Operation Georgette shows how far the Germans have advanced ITTL's Operation George:


[4] The Baltic Fleet of the Russians had a great number of powerful ships, and they still have them ITTL, too, as they were all evacuated to Finland. If anyone could mobilise the sailors, who were not exactly a solid backbone for any of the regimes of OTL, to leap into action, it is probably the great revolutionary orator Trotsky. He has picked his fight well: the Germans did not have a massive naval presence in the region. And the timing was propitious, too, because the Germans have committed their manpower and materiel to the Western front.

This is just a bridgehead so far, and the attack on Reval was at least as much a desperate raid for, well, anything, as it was the beginning of the liberation of Estonia. Navally speaking, the logical objective is to make the Gulf of Finland a Russian lake again, with only Kronstadt remaining in Markov’s hands. This way, if the Russians are encircling his regime in Petrograd, the Germans cannot send in reinforcements by sea without overcoming the restituted sea fortress.

The implications of Trotsky’s departure to pursue naval adventures is probably greatest on the Finnish Civil War.

[5] It is really high time for Moscow to develop a Southern strategy. These are the results of not doing anything: the Emirate of Bukhara and the Khanate of Khiva continue policy not unlike when they were vassals to the Russian tsars – their autocratic powers are not openly challenged by Moscow, and they are still doing the Russians' dirty job in these cotton-producing quarters. Formally, they have not held the referendum on the Constitution, but they have not obstructed the soviets in organizing it in some places, either; now, the establishment has cracked down on those who seek reforms in the very moment when these reformers appear most suspicious to Moscow.

These are developments which must shame any Socialist Revolutionary or Social Democrat: with their lack of criticism, they condone the continued autocracy of the emirs and khans, and now, through negligence, they have bloodied their hands with the blood of people who screamed for freedom, democracy and a more modern society – we’ll see if the Russian Left still learns their lesson before it’s too late and the lumping in of all Muslim reformists with the Young Turks and the latter with supporting the Ottomans becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy...
June/July 1918 - Russian Counter-Offensive Announced
On the front pages of many Russian newspapers, June 30th, 1918:


The following message to all citizens has been urgently sent to us for publication by the People’s Supreme Commissioner and the People’s Commissioners for Defense and Foreign Affairs:

Comrades! Soldiers and toilers of the countryside and the towns! Citizens of our Motherland! Our time has come. Had another proof been necessary, then the massacre at Novolpolye would have certainly sufficed to convince every man and woman whose heart and mind can distinguish Right from Wrong that the liberation of our brothers and sisters can wait no longer. Markov’s tyranny is murdering unarmed peasants and workers, women and children by the thousands in order to squeeze out the last drop of lifeblood from them. All this in order to feed the beast which has ravaged our continent for four long years now [1].

Our peoples have not started this war; indeed, they have gone to their utmost to stop it. We have tried to merely defend ourselves, and confronted with reckless, brutal forces who threatened to stomp the frail flower of our democratic and socialist revolution, we have retreated and ceded. But Novopolye has dispelled our last doubts: the Germans and their lap-dogs have forced our Union's hand. We want nothing but to build our new free and equal society in our peaceful land - in our peaceful villages, towns and cities. We do not want to take up arms against fellow toilers suffering under the yoke of their military monarchies. But the choice we are faced with has become clear to us: sit still and become accomplices to the atrocities committed against our own peoples, or, reluctantly, take the weapons back into our hands and rise as one man to shake off the yoke which cuts into our flesh, to liberate our compatriots who suffer under the whip of the dictator whom the Germans allow to play tsar of Petrograd, to allow the millions who had to flee to return to their homes, and to drive off the ghosts of yesterday. We have not wanted to return to the battlefields of this horrible war – but now, when our decision has been made, we are utterly determined, and we shall lay all our force into this one final blow.

And one final blow it shall be – the blow which ends this conflagration, for the edifice of imperialist aggression has cracked. It has exhausted itself and the entire world it controls with four years of relentless, unfettered, self-devouring destruction.The majority of capitalist empires have convened to see reason and entrust their future to the cartels of ultra-imperialism [2]. If our revolution shall survive this struggle for life or death, then it will continue its course towards universal freedom, equality, and brotherhood within this new global framework, leading the liberation of the toilers of the world until others shall join their hands with ours. But before we can stride into this future we must deliver the blow which causes the last bastions of unregenerate backwardness to shatter.

And shatter they will. Slovenia’s soldiers mutiny; Poland’s workers are refusing to fight for the empires which subdue them; Rumania’s peasants rally to the call of the liberation of their homeland, where they shall ultimately enjoy what is rightfully theirs [3]. And soon they shall be joined by their Bulgarian brethren, whose rulers are trying to hold onto their privileges by pleading for a separate truce, but who will not be able to control either their armed forces or their toiling masses for very much longer. Freedom, democracy, socialism, and lasting peace are the words of the day in the half of the European continent which we share with many proud nations whose populations are rising to the call of revolution.

Bearing these irrefutable circumstances in mind, the People’s Commission has decided, in agreement with the Supreme All-Union Soviet of the Soldiers and Sailors and after consultation with the prime ministers of the Ukrainian, Estonian, Latvian, Georgian, and Armenian Federative Republics [4], that on this morning, by the dawn of the light, all front detachments shall move forward against the positions of the enemy on all sections of the Western Front [5].

The Commission and the brave comrades engaged in this last fight for liberation – in six Union Armies comprising fifty-five divisions, in thirty-seven divisions of the Republican Guards, and in the forces, over a hundred thousand men strong, which have prepared themselves well to defend or liberate the Federative Republics of Ukraine, Estonia, and Latvia [6] – have convened with those who carry the banners of the future free republics of the Czechs and Slovaks, and of the Poles, as well as with our ally, the government of Rumania, to coordinate our efforts in a unified supreme command of the Eastern Front. No-one shall drive a wedge between our nations, for we are ultimately united in our struggle for freedom and justice. Together, we shall overcome the oppressors of peoples, and end this war once and for all.

Four years of imperialist war have drained our forces and our stores. We are tired, we are hungry, we are desperate - but we are not quite so desperate and weak as to prostrate ourselves before backwards powers who would seek to enslave us in perpetuation of a long-obsolete system. These very same powers call us “Easterners”. They shall witness that the sun of revolutionary triumph has risen in the East and shall shine into even the darkest corners of the continent. We shall gather our forces for one last fight, and they shall most certainly suffice to land the decisive blow against the military monarchies whose apparatuses are about to collapse under the revolutionary pressure of their own populations. Over a million men have begun their march to victory together, and we have taken utmost precautions to prepare and equip them with the best of what our workers have forged. The new age has dawned on our battlefields, too – no longer shall the sons of our Motherland be sacrificed like pawns. Employing all tools and tactics of modern warfare to their utmost advantage, they will advance with determination, but not without caution. Providing them with everything they need has been a strenuous effort for all of us, but the reorganisations and reforms in our industries, and the good harvests which this year is promising across the entire country [7], are giving us reasons for confidence in these last weeks of the war [8].

In this struggle our newly-founded Union does not stand alone, and it does not fight for selfish gains or its own aggrandizement. At this juncture in history we stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who struggle to throw off the yoke of imperialist oppression, and we deliver this ultimate blow against the military aggressors together with the most advanced nations of the world who have seen that the time has come to establish a peaceful world order.

Citizens! Comrades! Only a few short steps lay ahead of us. After all our sacrifices, we may not find them easy. But united, and in the certain knowledge of the righteousness of our cause, we shall, for one last time, find the courage and strength to take them. For freedom, justice, and our communities! For our Republic! For our Motherland!

Boris Kamkov; Tobias Axelrod; Pavel Lazimir.

[1] Evidently, Markov’s puppet government must confiscate grain, partly because of German delivery demands. That is bound to cause unrest in the countryside at some point, and the autocratic “Provisional All-Russian Government” in Petrograd has reacted with violence.

[2] Ultra-imperialism is a theory advocated by Kautsky, which IOTL was overshadowed by Lenin’s rebuttal and his theory of imperialism. Basically, Kautsky stated that as the imperialist stage of capitalism has proven, with its destructive military competition, too unstable and detrimental to the nationally cartelized interests of industrial capital and their bourgeois governments, the most advanced capitalist empires are about to establish a cartel among themselves to prevent further overly destructive competition. Looking back at the further history of the 20th century, this may look like a pretty adequate description, but at the time, in the Marxist camp, it was eclipsed by Lenin’s theory which held that (competitive) imperialism was the last stage of capitalist development, and that imperial cartels could never be stable, that they would always slide back into self-destructive warfare, and that only socialist revolution and the overcoming of capitalism could bring peace. ITTL, ultra-imperialism may yet have quite a theoretical career ahead of itself.

[3] The Union of Equals has exerted quite a lot of pressure on the Bratianu government to ultimately legislate Land Reform in Romania, and Bratianu’s government and the parliament which has relocated to Iasi have complied; ITTL, land reform occurs a few years ahead of schedule. The Peasant Party (Partidul Ţărănesc) is criticizing the bill as too limited in scope, and they promise to extend it should they gain a majority in the next parliamentary elections which, also under UoE influence, will be universal and equal.

[4] Finland is missing because Tokoi has just been assassinated. The other heads of governments are:

  • Vsevolod Holubovych for the Ukrainian FR (who has followed Vynnychenko in this position, mirroring the superiority of the SRs both electorally, among local and regional soviets, and with regards to their numbers of militiamen, over the Ukrainian SDs),
  • Jüri Vilms for the Estonian FR (whose government and parliament have all relocated to Moscow temporarily since their country is occupied; Vilms, leader of the centre-left Radical Socialists / Estonian Socialist Travaillists, is heading a broad national coalition which also includes the Estonian SRs, the centrist Estonian Radical Democratic Party, representatives of the Swedish minority, and even the moderately conservative Estonian Democratic Party),
  • Pēteris Stučka for the Latvian FR (an actual Bolshevik leading a Federative Republic! But the Latvian SDs have not split ITTL, the party has many wings, its achievement of the autonomy agreement with the Constitutant Assembly in Petrograd has brought it immense popularity, and Stučka has moderated himself slightly in office, supported the November realignments in Petrograd, parted ways with Lenin and now Bukharin, served as supreme commander of territorial defense forces who fought valiantly but were forced to retreat… now he leads a leftist coalition government-in-exile of the Latvian SDs with various smaller socialist and left-agrarian parties)
  • Evgeni Gegechkori for the Georgian FR (a Menshevik with a solid parliamentary majority behind him)
  • and Hovhannes Kajaznouni for the Armenian FR (a Dashnak; the main opposition party, the Hunchaks, are also supporting the war, though).
[5] We tend to speak of this front as the “Eastern Front”, but to the Russians, it lay in the West, of course. And, of course, they're not attacking indiscriminately over thousands of kilometers of front line. But the military minutiae are not to be communicated through newspapers yet.

[6] The latter two operating very much from their exile in Russia, anyway.

[7] Unless the Spanish flu reaches the countryside at the wrong moment, that is…

[8] Or maybe not only weeks…
The Agricultural Question in Russia

In much of Russia, the last serfs were only emancipated in 1861. The overwhelming majority of them - as well as a good portion of peasants outside the Baltic and other Western regions who had been free even before 1861 - lived and now held their land in obshchina.

Throughout the last third of the 19th century, a very lively political debate centered around the reasons why the peasants' living standards did not improve after emancipation, or were even perceived to worsen. This was one of the key discussions in which Narodnik thought developed and deepened. The Narodniks and their political opponents, the so-called "Westerners", both agreed to some degree that under-development of Russia's agriculture was the root of the problem. But while the Westerners saw the obshchina system as part of the problem and proposed capitalist reforms, the Narodniks fervently defended the obshchina system, and blamed unfair and unproductive taxation, usurious rent, and the concentration of too much land outside the obshchinas in the hands of a small landowning group as the reasons why the obshchina-organised peasantry could not escape their abject poverty.

After the Peasant Revolts of 1905/6, the conservative reformer Pyotr Stolypin enacted a number of Westerner-style reforms, which incentivised individual farmers and families to leave the obshchina, to take out loans to improve productivity etc. Narodnik resistance against them began to splinter: on the one hand because a small faction agreed to play by the tsar's rules and participate in the pre-War Duma elections while the majority remained opposed to participation in them, on the other hand, and more importantly for our matter at hand, because the discourse on economic theory had developed dramatically, and both classical and Marxist thought seeped in and threw idealised views of the obshchina into question. Even among the SRs, which were the larger and more left-leaning party within Narodnichestvo, there were few who advocated a reversion to collective taxation, parcelling ever tinier pieces of land in the obshchina out to a growing population and swapping it again at the next repartition etc. That the large noble estates and the holdings of the church needed to be expropriated and partitioned among the peasantry was a position still held by all Narodniks, but while their right wing had begun to see wisdom in property rights and thus proposed expropriation with compensation, and also wanted to keep and strengthen Stolypin's very modest support for modern co-operative structures, the left wing had absorbed a dose of Marxist thought, which mostly confused them: it strengthened their resolve to reject calls for compensations, but it also weakened their resolve in resistance against overcoming old obshchina traditions, leaving them with the half-baked notion, or even: the mere hope that a society-wide socialist revolution would lead to modernisation and improvement, so that the old obshchina need not be restored, but should rather see a rebirth on a wider level.

This is still the wider domain-specific discourse we're finding ourselves in when the Great War begins. As it unfolds, a second and unprecedented crisis appeared: sinking supplies of agricultural products. Russia had always been a net exporter of agricultural products. Through 1916 and 1917, output fell dramatically. Various reasons are given with the benefit of hindsight: war-induced food price caps which disincentivised agricultural extra-work and the marketing of their produce and incentivised hoarding, war-induced personnel scarcity and a number of other war-related scarcities (in fertiliser, machinery, even in credit), or generally the (also war-induced) hyperinflation which damaged commercial relations across the board.

When ITTL the SRs almost obtain a majority in the Constituent Assembly and form two consecutive coalitions in which they are leading and various Social Democrats, Autonomists etc. play the roles of junior partners, they can and must go ahead with Land Reform, and they did. The way they did it was by defining rather loose general terms by national (Russian! this is important: Vikhliaev's Land Reform Act explicitly does not apply to the other federative republics) law: that there shall be no property in land, that possession of land shall not exceed what one can productively use, that the local ground rules how usufructuary / possession rights are to be awarded, transferred, revoked etc. shall be defined by Peasant Councils on the Uyezd Level, while actual parcelling, if it is to occur, still takes places in the mir / obshchina.

What does this mean? It means that, across Russia, the land reform takes all sorts of different shapes. In the Central Agricultural Zone, where poverty was worst and radicalisation most widespread, it certainly meant completely equal parceling (since even then it’s hardly enough for everyone to get by). In regions with a greater degree of Khutors, be they of Cossack descent or not, the transition may be much less sharp. How the church is treated will often depend on the charisma of its personnel and how well they interact with the new powerful people – from merely enforcing a “land use tax” on them over leaving e.g. monasteries with what they need to maintain themselves in a wider sense (i.e. including enabling them to do their clerical duties) to leaving them with nothing but what the clergymen need to subsist.

This is not just a product of the in-built localist strand in Narodnichestvo – it’s also an outflow of the weakness of any central institutions and the new-found power of a peasantry which has taken up arms, and an outflow of the insecurity in which the SRs found themselves in in terms of agro-economic theory.

And if we’re looking beyond Russia, the picture gets yet more diverse.

Even though the Land Reform Act provides such a great leeway and space for local adaptation – which also lends power to the groups and charismatic individuals in them which control the local peasant councils –, there are still parts of the Russian Federative Republic where they were bound to exacerbate tensions. And I don’t mean tensions between (former) landlords and peasants.

The provision that possession is tied to “direct productive use of the land” will have been like gas on the fire of ethnic/anti-colonial conflicts in the Central Asian steppe. Where a region is solidly inhabited only by non-Russian groups (like Semirechye), conflicts are maybe avoided, but wherever there are Russian settlers and cotton planters living side by side with nomadic Kazakhs or Kyrgyz, the former, who were IOTL much quicker to organize in soviets (the indigenous population used other forms, it’s not that they weren’t affected by the revolution), may well interpret this as a carte blanche for further enclosures. When such decisions become as-good-as-law, groups with an at least partly nomadic way of securing their livelihood will be torn between attempting to force their way into these soviets and reform them from within / overwhelm the settlers, or pushing for autonomy or independence, so that their own forms of organization will take the place of the Russians’ soviets (with the main difference between autonomy and independence being that the latter also allows you to expel the Russians and Cossacks, which was a common demand and enjoyed some popularity after the bloodbath of 1916).

Speaking about autonomy… the situation in Ukraine, Finland, and the Baltic is considerably different. The latter two have a long(er) tradition of a free peasantry, and in Ukraine, both old Cossack traditions and the modern co-operative movement were significant factors. Across the board, though, some type of agrarian reform was called for here, too, but it took or will take different shapes in each country. (I have no idea how things could be in Georgia and Armenia, to be honest – if there are any experts on this region in this thread, I’ll gladly listen to them…)

As for Finland, we have already discussed that the land reform must improve the lot of the “renters”, and this is what Tokoi’s Senate has done, too. In the Finnish Land Reform, there is no mentioning of uyezd soviets and the mir, of course; instead, legal provisions are uniform and clear-cut across the entire federative republic, including the preservation of private property in land and modest compensations for the expropriated.

The two Baltic federative republics established so far – Estonia and Latvia – have not yet legislated their land reforms, and now they’re under German occupation. If they are liberated and restored, the mood is going to have changed somewhat… taking on a more anti-German tone. Expect expropriations to very much target the Baltendeutsche nobility.

Ukraine is the most difficult candidate. In a number of regions, the situation is as desperate and radicalized as in the worst parts of Russia proper, but in the general picture, including the distribution of parliamentary seats in the Centralna Rada, even without Kaledin’s host of Don Cossacks resisting the Revolution and the incorporation into the Ukrainian Federative Republic so far, there is still a lot more Cossack influence, less agricultural communalism (or communalism of a different sort, one which doesn’t equate to negating individual property), and a stronger co-operative movement along Western lines. The Ukrainian SR leadership is, thus, rather centre-right, when compared to the wider SR family in the Constituent Assembly. On the ground, though, facts have been created by the peasants in some places – the Centralna Rada is in a difficult position here. Both the moderate SDs and the moderate SRs who have so far alternated in leading the young federative republic have sought to avoid openly taking sides in this class struggle because they rely on both nationalist-minded members of the privileged classes to enlist in their territorial defense forces, revolutionary-minded peasant militia to support the government’s course of defending against the Germans (and defiantly maintaining the independence should Petrograd/Moscow get second thoughts or any other funny ideas about Ukraine’s autonomy), and at least some Cossacks to back them over Kaledin, too. Therefore, Land Reform has not yet been completed in Ukraine; the bill is still being debated in the Rada’s sub-committees and in the plenary, again and again, and the SRs are torn among themselves as to how radical (i.e. how close to the Russian version) they want it to be. So far, the Rada has not been able to convince itself of the obvious solution – copying Russia’s leeway for local pluralism – yet, because its young nationalism means that dangerous illusions of “unity” are much more present. If things are to remain stable, this is probably where the country should head, though. If they don’t, then some part of the country is likely to split off and align with other powers soon…

Industrial Policies and Social Democracy

This section is somewhat short-ish, as I don’t aim to give you a portrait of Russian industrialization. I am merely trying to clarify one point – where hindsight is often blocking us from seeing how the situation looked to contemporaries.

The fact that there hasn’t been an all-out nationalization of Russia’s industry yet – in contrast to what happened after the October Revolution – is not a sign of “more moderate social-democrats” participating in the governing coalitions, or of the SRs favouring market economies, or whatever. I can only stress how difficult it is for me not to apply knowledge, categories, and models to the Russian situation which IOTL we have only gained AFTER the October Revolution and the economic Socialist Calculation Debate of the 1920s.

Today there is a near-consensus that a “centralized command economy” leads to very serious misallocations – this is how famines in North Korea and Venezuela, shortages in Cuba etc. are commonly understood, not only by people of a right-wing persuasion, but also by the vast majority of leftists. Although this is, in every individual case, a gross over-simplification (there are always more factors at play), the general tendency of the explanation is right. Running highly dynamic industrial economies without any sort of market mechanism appears to be an approach which has not yet yielded results which can compete with (more indirectly politically managed or “tamed”) markets anywhere. The few people who still advocate such policies are unregenerate communists, a very small radical fringe.

Now, all of this is because we have the benefit of hindsight, the Socialist Calculation Debate, and all sorts of alternative (“third way”) approaches (the welfare state / social security, various schools of monetary and fiscal policies etc.), which we have come to associate with “Social Democracy” (as opposed to "Communism"), but which all have only developed in response to the failures of both centralized command economies (in the Soviet Union) and laissez-faire capitalism (with the Great Depression as the last major shock in that direction).

In 1917/18, people could not have been aware of these consequences of a centralized command economy. There had been a few voluntary utopian experiments here and there with abolishing markets, which had mixed results, but which most socialists (and many non-socialists, too) interpreted, with regards to their shortcomings, in culturalist terms – explaining them either as results of religious bigotry, or too traditional / too modern social views – or in terms of scale (too small to survive and thrive in a competitive world). Anti-socialist opposition to such ideas were – again, very oversimplified – either from those who didn’t want to lose their wealth (even if it was just a few shares), or based on meritocratic (“But those who are frugal and industrious must be rewarded!”) or Darwinist (“Can’t treat lazy drunkards and clever, sober geniuses alike – or else we’ll all end up as the former and we don’t even have anyone to beg from!”) logic. Within Social Democracy, where there was opposition to ideas like Lenin’s, who had speculated long before October that a socialist state could very well function like the Post Office, it was not a rejection of the end result, but fear with regards to the way to get there. “Moderate” socialists in 1917/18 did not envision a mixed economy as their end goal (not even the staunchest Revisionists) – what made them “moderates” was that they didn’t want to have the blood of the class enemy on their hands (and this was what the unacceptable “radicalism” of the Bolsheviks was associated with from mid-1918 onwards, for quite a number of years to come).

Thus, when there is a “socialist” majority in the Constituent Assembly, and socialist-minded soviets are de facto in control of most of the country, Mensheviks, Mezhraiontsy, Bolsheviks, Vperedists, Gorkyists etc. did not differ much on the socio-economic structures they envisioned to emerge: capitalism was to be overcome, period. And at least the left wing of the SRs would agree.

So why have they not socialized the means of production across the board yet? (There have been some socializations, mostly in natural resources – which is another reason why the Commission is having such troubles with granting its Muslim South independence: that’s where the Baku Oil is, too, which they have only recently declared to be national property of the Russian Federative Republic… -, but also some industrial enterprises on a local level where provincial workers’ soviets have given their go-ahead to factory committees taking over their shops, often in the context of bankruptcies and the like, where the alternative to worker takeover would have been shutdown and unemployment.)

I see three reasons for this. The first is the same as in the case of the recognition of tsarist debt: The Commission is aware that they need to stay within the Entente, and they want to be in a good international position after the war, which allows for some degree of safety – and quite a lot of industrial ventures across Russia are fully or partly owned by foreign capital.

The second is the localist streak in Narodnik thought. The SRs are seeing the role of the soviets, now that a democratic CA and government have been elected and soon a democratic Duma, President, and Government will be elected, as macro-managing economic questions locally and regionally. Socialism based on such local soviet structures would either turn industry into public works like in a Municipalist system, or it could hand over individual factories to their individual workers’ committees, like in a Syndicalist system. To many Russian SDs, this is not how they envisioned socialism, and Lenin has already in the late summer of 1917 called the whole concept a “new and perverted version of capitalism”. Their thoughts look a lot more like OTL’s Gosplan – and why would they not, see above. The SRs, on the other hand, are not particularly happy with the idea of a top-heavy centralized office running everything – not because they think it would be economically inefficient, no, they have no way of anticipating that, but because they fear a Petrograd / Muscovite bureaucracy misunderstanding / not knowing what “the people” across the vast countryside do or want. Their crisis of identification with the old obshchina model has not made things easier for them, either, as they can certainly abstract and apply the whole debate about it to the question of common ownership of industries.

And the third reason, related to the second, is that there really isn’t the power structure yet to manage things centrally, and our Russian socialists, standing firmly on the ground of democratic structures and having to conduct a war, and especially those of a Narodnik background, are averse to throwing structures out the window without knowing how to replace them, given that they don’t particularly like to concentrate power in a top-heavy central administration (see above).

This is another area where Narodnik and Social Democratic policies might soon diverge more clearly, though (and especially when the war is over). Trotsky’s adventure in Finland was a hint at how some envision things could also go, and to some among the more impatient Marxist Social Democrats, he is a hero for having catalyzed worker takeovers of the Southern Finnish industry (although the more perspicacious are also observing that this adventure didn’t last very long…).
July 1918 - New German Military Leadership
New York City (USA): The New York Times, July 8th, 1918, p. 1:



General Wilhelm Groener will follow Erich Ludendorff in the position of Quartermaster General. Ludendorff had been dismissed by the Kaiser three days ago in his furious response to the loss of approximately half the German High Sea Fleet in the disastrous Sea Battle of Frisia [1]. Groener, who has not pushed himself to the fore so far, remains an unknown factor. Our usually well-informed sources have received ambiguous signals with regards to Groener’s realism or his view of the military situation. The change in military leadership has raised hopes in some quarters that a quick conclusion to the war may be possible.


General Oskar von Hutier has been ordered by the German General Chief of Staff, Paul von Hindenburg, to replace General Max von Hoffmann in the command of the North-Eastern Army Group and the oversight of the military administration of the Eastern territories under German occupation, as a consequence of the latter’s inability to suppress mutinies among regiments of the German Tenth Army [2]. Will Hutier be more successful? Reports are also reaching us regarding persisting and spreading mutinies among the 47th Reserve Division and fraternization between German soldiers and Belorussians [3] along with the formation of soldiers’ councils. In the meantime, the First and Second Union Armies are making good progress towards Petrograd, where four mobilized divisions of the Eighth German Army, better disciplined than their compatriots, are expected to confront them.


On Sunday Admiral Reinhard von Scheer committed suicide by self-inflicted gunshot and succumbed to his injuries. Scheer’s death has been attributed to the recent German naval disaster. After Scheer’s death, the German maritime warfare command [Seekriegsleitung], which he had gathered together, [4] has been dissolved, and Kaiser Wilhelm II has resumed direct command over the remainder of the German High Sea Fleet. The future of Scheer’s plans for a further German submarine build-up have as a consequence become uncertain. This may be good news for international commerce on the Seven Seas, which has already suffered greatly from German submarine attacks.

* * *


According to the Italian Army’s Chief of Staff, Armando Diaz, the offensive against Austria-Hungary has achieved all its strategic objectives and can therefore be considered successfully completed. Austria-Hungary’s Field Marshall Svetozar Boroević de Bojna has overseen a retreat of most of his Fifth and Sixth Armies, which had been plagued by the mutinies of Slovenian regiments in the 31st Infantry Division, back to the Belluno-Moggio-Line, while General Conrad von Hötzendorf had to retreat with the Tenth and Eleventh Army Northwards and abandon Trento [5]. Italian divisions have pursued them and taken back more territory than they had lost last autumn. Since Saturday, the Italians have halted their advance. Now Diaz has confirmed that the Italians will not pursue the Austro-Hungarian forces any further for the time being. He has dispelled allegations, however, that the Italians have received an Austro-Hungarian armistice proposal, and explained that the temporary conclusion of the offensive was dictated by logistical considerations.


Yesterday, intense fighting has continued for the fourth consecutive day in and surrounding the Rumanian town of Focşani, where the Sixth Union Army, over twenty Rumanian divisions and the Bessarabian Legion continue to press against the Ninth German Army and affiliated Austro-Hungarian divisions. [6]


The influenza epidemic which has ravaged much of the world over the past few months has apparently killed thousands in famine-stricken Bulgaria at such a speed that the survivors are presently digging shallow graves in which the deceased are unceremoniously dumped. [7] Various such graves have apparently been dug near the capital of Sofia as well as in Rasgrad and Velyko Tarnovo. The Bulgarian authorities appear utterly unable to contain the epidemic or provide the most basic care for the diseased.

[1] The German offensive in Flanders has continued to make progress, at a high cost in both men and equipment, throughout June: Ypres has been captured, and so have the coal fields of Béthune, and from the Kemmelberg heights the Germans are firing down with good visibility onto British positions over quite a distance. But for all these advances, the offensive has failed to knock the British out in Flanders. OHL has identified the naval continuation of the British chain of supplies across the Channel, with which the British are trying to make up for their being cut off from French provisioning ever since the loss of Hazebrouck, as the vital link which they need to sever. Because even the most concentrated U-boat war alone has not managed to achieve this, Ludendorff and Scheer have convinced Wilhelm to create the Seekriegsleitung, which then decided to deploy the High Sea Fleet in a massive combined naval and airborne strike against the Flemish Channel ports used by the British. The Royal Navy intercepted the HSF, however, and confronted them near the Dutch Frisian islands in a sea battle, in which British numerical superiority achieved what it had failed to achieve two years earlier at the Skagerrak: the complete annihilation of all deployed German ships.

The Kaiser was not at all amused. The High Sea Fleet had been his personal pet project, and its destruction enraged him. Heads must roll! Since Admiral Hipper died in the battle and Admiral Scheer killed himself, the next scapegoat is, quite logically, Erich Ludendorff, whom Wilhelm blames for the entire mad plan.

Needless to say that the air strikes alone have failed to cause significant permanent damage to the ports of Dunkerque and Calais.

[2] There were not many mutinies in the German land forces IOTL, but ITTL, considerable numbers of strikers from the January wave have been drafted into the Eighth and Tenth Armies, who at that time prepared for the Operations Peter and Paul against the Russians. These were revolutionary-minded, war-weary and disillusioned workers, many of them either with USPD or having even more radically leftist leanings. Months of being stationed in a revolutionary cesspool like the former Russian Empire have certainly exposed yet more men from all of these divisions leftist ideas.

So when Kamkov’s Offensive began with a push against the front line East of Petrograd on June 30th, and the units tasked with holding the front – thinned out and mixed with Russian conscripts and a few volunteers sent by Markov’s “Provisional All-Russian Government” – were overrun and captured, Markov called for urgent German reinforcements. Hoffmann ordered the mobilization of pacification forces and other reserves from the rear – and the unthinkable happened: German men refused to go back into the line of fire and sacrifice themselves for the goal of keeping the revolutionary Russians down for a few more weeks or months. Like with A-H’s Slovenians, this is not yet a full collapse of the army, and German forces are currently regrouping to present a new coherent front line to the advancing Union Armies.

[3] The Tenth Army is positioned further to the South, not where the brunt of the Russian counter-offensive falls, which is on the German Eighth Army and its crumbling (“White”? This epithet has not yet been claimed or given to Markov’s puppet government and its forces) Russian allies.

[4] It has taken the Italians a whole month, but they have ultimately done similarly good as at Vittorio Veneto. A sluggish advance suddenly gathered speed when the Slovenian regiments mutinied and the Italians seized on the ensuing temporary disorganization of their opponents. The A-H army has not experienced a full collapse, but it avoided it only at hair’s length and at the cost of abandoning most of the ground it had gained over the past years.

[5] Earlier than IOTL – this has to do with the entire plan of TTL’s Summer Offensive being geared towards dragging Britain to the negotiating table.

[6] This is not a lot of ground gained for the Entente here. I know you guys suggested a quick advance here, but I thought, given the admixture of very unwilling Russian conscripts in the Northern front portions, the weakest link in the chain would be up there.

[7] Starving populations are much more vulnerable to the Spanish Flu, of course. Bulgaria is certainly not the only part of Eastern Europe hit hard by the disease (and hunger) - Romania, Ukraine and other parts of the old Russian Empire are also hit, but it’s always good to focus on bad news for the enemy.
Finnish Civil War pt. 3
The Finnish Civil War, Part Three (July 1918)

The assassination of Oskari Tokoi [1] sent shockwaves through Finnish society and both camps in the civil war.

The remaining Senate, whose leaders had mostly witnessed the attack in Helsinki, escaped back to Kuopio, where they urgently called together the Eduskunta to counsel on a reaction and future course as well as on successors for the killed or incapacitated Senators. Panic and insecurity had to be avoided at all costs, everyone in Kuopio agreed, and this meant a further strengthening of the Järjestyskunta and the firm endorsement of a consensus candidate between the various factions of the Social Democratic Party and the Maalaisliitto as Tokoi’s successor.

The latter person turned out to be Matti Paasivuori, a Social Democratic Senator and former labour union leader with political experience who enjoyed credibility among various currents of the labour movement, but also strictly adhered to legalism and had condemned the revolutionary outbursts in the South from the very first day.

Paasivuori continued the coalition which Tokoi had begun, and saw to it that the deceased Agrarian Senator Kallio would be replaced by the leader of the Farmers’ Party, Santeri Alkio, with whom Paasivuori had developed a close political friendship over the past few months of escalating national crisis. Alkio would be given an increased portfolio of competencies, clearly marking him as Number Two on the Kuopio side, and Paasivuori oversaw a continued full mobilization of all the forces his government had at its disposal to stem the tide of terrorism washing over the country in the aftermath of the assassination in Kaisaniemi Park and to prepare against new offensives from the Vaasa Senate’s forces.

Such an offensive would have caught the Kuopio Senate’s forces in disarray – but it failed to manifest itself because the Vaasa Senate’s forces had been as much caught off guard by the assassinations as their Kuopio counterparts had been. Instead of overwhelming their opponents with the moment of surprise on their side, the Vaasa camp was riveted by deepening internal divisions.

Pehr Evind Svinhufvud was not enthusiastic about the terrorist attack. After all, he had sought to build the legitimacy of his counter-government on what he had denounced as the tolerance and sponsorship of anarchy and lawlessness by the Social Democrats. The German naval defeat in the Battle of Frisia and the initial successes of the Union of Equals’ counter-offensive in Eastern Ingria only made matters worse. Increasingly, voices from within the bourgeois parties who had supported his counter-government from the beginning began to call for reconciliation. Only few went as far as Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg from the Young Finns, who demanded an official condemnation of the Vihan Veljet and their terrorist attack by the Vaasa Senate, and proposed terms and tactics for renewed negotiations with the Kuopio Senate. When Svinhufvud ultimately turned him down, Ståhlberg left Vaasa and traveled East to approach the leadership in Kuopio on his own. Altogether, however, the hawks prevailed on the Vaasa side. Other moderate voices remained muffled in the background.

The Vihan Veljet, although not exactly a streamlined organization, were able to seize the momentum, and over the first week of July a wave of violence washed over Finland’s towns. Socialist sympathisers, not just in Vaasa-controlled Tampere and Oulu, but also in the towns and cities of the Eastern “half”, in schools and institutions of higher learning, and even among the Jääkäri were targeted and assaulted.

Frustrated but resolved, Svinhufvud saw no chance to spare his country the next round in this tragic carnage. Paasivuori’s Senate would certainly not offer anything which would satisfy the side which he led, and even if an acceptable offer were on the table, it was questionable to what extent he could really stop the forces his secession had set in motion. In response, he replaced a few of the more moderate politicians who no longer whole-heartedly supported his cause. It also became evident that the Vihan Veljet were gaining power on the Vaasa side – Svinhufvud attempted to contain their ascension, but since he desperately needed them as much as anyone else who would fight for the Vaasa side, these attempts were toothless. Slowly but certainly, the Finnish Civil War had become unambiguously an ideological war between a socialist and an anti-socialist camp.

On July 15th, the same day on which, not very far to the East, Trotsky’s Baltic Fleet began the attack with which they sought to take back the Kronstadt Fortress as the first step to the final liberation of Petrograd, the Vaasa Senate’s armies launched their offensive against Helsinki, encountering little resistance at first until they reached Kirkkonummi, where the Kuopio Senate had positioned the outer defensive perimeter of the country’s largest city.

[1] … and Kyösti Kallio, and the dangerous wounding of Väino Tanner and Karl Wiik, both of whom would survive their injuries but not return to the political centre-stage before the end of the Civil War…
August 1918 - Rosa Luxemburg's Letter
Letter by Rosa Luxemburg to Sophie Liebknecht, sent from Breslau prison:

Breslau, August 4th, 1918:

My dear Sonitschka, how long have I not written to you!
[... personal matters... ]
Once again we must witness how the leaders of Germany’s Social Democracy are sleepwalking through the most pivotal challenges posed to the labour movement, wasting unprecedented opportunities.

Very soon the imperialist war will have exhausted itself – that is, it will have exhausted the workers of all the nations involved and the accessible natural resources and the means of production and distribution to such a degree that empire after empire, like a chain of dominoes, will be overwhelmed by their rivals, be it that the victors march in, or that the weakest links in the chain sink into such an anarchic barbarity that they are no longer presenting a threat to their rivals, or both. The last empires standing, and thus those who emerge triumphant from this unprecedented slaughter and annihilation, shall undoubtedly be the most advanced industrial capitalist nations with the most world-spanning colonial empires; this much has become clear even to Hindenburg’s Junkers [1]. This is what lies behind the Krakow Communiqué and the sudden love of the emperors Wilhelm and Karl for Wilson’s Fourteen Points [2].

In this situation, the chief slaughterers have invited the leaders of the Social Democratic Party to join their sinking ship. And Gustav Bauer and Philipp Scheidemann [3] have gladly accepted their places at the side table of a government which holds the irrational hope of extracting itself from the avalanche of warfare which it has started. They think they have achieved a great success because they made the two monarchs promise autonomy to the various nationalities of Central Europe, and constitutional reform at home, and the recognition of the government of the Union of Equals – instead of their puppets who have been driven from Petrograd by the proletarian revolution [4]. They fail to see that all these promises are mere attempts to appease the masses, and that they shall be futile. They even fail to see the paradox in supporting a government which at the same time claims to seek a peace agreement with the Union of Equals, yet also attempts to create anti-Russian facts by building up their ridiculous Kingdom of Poland. [5]

But, alas, the Independent Social Democrats are not much better. [6] The Haases, Ledebours, and Kautskys are not objecting to the prospect of becoming subordinate accomplices in the atrocious barbarity which the ruling class’s last desperate attempts to suppress a proletarian revolution shall certainly turn out to be; they are not demanding an immediate and unconditional end to the war, they are not demanding the socialization of the means of production, they are not demanding immediate and complete freedom of coalition. No, they merely criticize the SPD for not insisting on the territorial integrity of the Union of Equals and on the strict adherence to Wilson’s Fourteen Points and the Lansing-Axelrod Agreement!

What fault can we found with supporting the Union of Equals, you will ask? The Union is, undoubtedly, the first state in which the revolution has truly succeeded, and for all the flaws it still possesses, I will not hesitate to recognize it as the first state of the proletariat and peasantry. But the Haases, Ledebours, and Kautskys still have not understood what the establishment of the Union of Equals teaches us in this moment, on this threshold of history. Recognizing the Union of Equals for what it is means learning from its example; it means to wage the revolution in our own countries, and everywhere around the world, now! It means to focus all the resources and all the talents of the party on the mobilization for a general strike, the general strike which will end the war and cause the old empire to collapse on itself in mere days! This is what the revolution in Russia teaches us – not to duck and cower and pray for a good republic to help us, but to devote all our energies to starting the revolution here, and everywhere.

Our leaders are still afraid of prison walls, of the draft, of the loss of their warm chairs – and so they prefer to play by the twisted rules of our rulers, a game which will soon be at an end regardless. They should be afraid of what we shall descend into if our socialist revolution does not succeed now! And it has already started. The refusals of the soldiers on the Eastern front to shoot on their proletarian comrades on the other side of the trench lines must be the sign for the entire German workers’ movement to lay down their tools and bring the machinery of death to a screeching halt, to march down the avenues of our grand cities and seize the power from the decaying ancien régime.

For mutinying soldiers can prevent a decaying empire from continuing its horrible battles, but only by returning to their homes and joining those who have not fought in taking over power from the capitalists and the junkers can they help bring about the great, unprecedented overthrow of all the structures of capitalist barbarity and start to build the new society of peace, freedom, and justice. And the Labour movement must start these events in all the factories across the land now – armies and their soldiers cannot bring the revolution on the barrels of their guns – this lesson we should have learned from the failure of the botched revolution in Finland. No, the Union of Equals cannot help us overcome our oppressors by the might of its army – but we can help them so that they can stop being soldiers and return to being workers of the town and countryside, if only our great inspiring leaders could finally manage to get off their chairs and discover their spines so that they could help others in their struggle to realize their own inherent dignity.

[1] We recently found out that Erich Ludendorff was sacked – but Paul von Hindenburg, who had much more of a hero’s appeal, was not, even though he was objectively just as responsible for the desperate situation Germany found itself in in 1918.

[2] The Krakow Communiqué of the two emperors mirrors Karl’s very late promise of autonomy and federalization of Austria-Hungary of OTL. In it, they offer “to each nation of our empires” autonomy to constitute themselves internally after their own wishes, which includes also the promise of parliamentarian reforms of the constitutions in the German states. They are now embracing the (formerly Zimmerwaldian Socialist) standpoint of a peace “without indemnities”, i.e. they no longer demand any from Russia, but they also do not offer any to the French or Belgians, and they embrace the idea of a “new Hague” treaty with “provisions fit to maintain lasting peace in Europe and the world”. They even offer to the French in Alsace-Lorraine, the Italians in Cisleithania, and the Poles in both empires plebiscites with the two options of either constituting themselves within the current empires, or secession and joining with their respective bordering nation states (though Wilhelm phrases this so ambiguously that it remains unclear whether the secession option applies only to the Poles living in Austria-Hungary, or to those in Prussia, too). In the case of Poland, this implies that a titular Polish nation state must exist on former imperial Russian soil currently occupied by Central Powers forces – a continuation and escalation of the “Regency Council” policy pursued so far, now with the bonus option of plebiscites in Polish Austria (and German Poznan province? or parts thereof? or maybe not? the audience is left in a state of confusion here) – and to help this along, the Krakow Communiqué is issued together with Jan Steczkowsky, the Prime Minister of the Polish Regency Kingdom.

This is a sharp turn away from previous annexationist positions – in my view, the consequence of the sacking of Erich Ludendorff. He was really leading the annexationist faction and had pushed annexationist policies especially in the East throughout the war. His replacement, Groener, was a much more pragmatic man. He has that faction in the military behind him which sees that the war is lost and clutches at the last straw to prevent the full disintegration of the old order, a possible revolution like in Russia, and the annihilation of Germany and Austria-Hungary on the international political stage. This last straw is to take the initiative with a bold step forward, which combines a serious peace offer to the Entente, substantial concessions to the democratic parties and nationalist groups internally, and the last attempt to influence the new Central and Eastern European nation states, which are beginning to form, in a pro-German-Austro-Hungarian, i.e. anti-Russian, way. Kaiser Karl has been open towards such moves for a while already. Wilhelm II was an erratic and often unpredictable person – his apathy in 1918 IOTL I can only explain with his shock over how fast things switched from looking really good (in April 1918) to looking absolutely hopeless (only 4-5 months later). ITTL, things never look quite as good as they did after Brest-Litowsk and the first gains on the Western front, and while the signs of defeat are unambiguous now (especially concerning Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottomans), Germany is still in a position from which it can keep its enemies off its territory for a long while, so after Wilhelm II has been shocked into action by the loss of his beloved navy, he sacks Ludendorff, and after his replacement Groener pushes for an active course of negotiations and compromises, Wilhelm II follows this new course, probably he even hopes to be able to restore his image as the “people’s emperor”. Hindenburg, by the way, does not like this turn of events, but he hesitates to criticize it because he can’t formulate an alternative, either, and his hesitation also instills a passive attitude among the more deluded annexationists and ultra-conservatives. The “craziest” part of this Communiqué is the part referring to Poland – both because of the internal opposition among the Prussian nobility and among German and Hungarian nationalists in A-H that this faces, and because it is not exactly the most promising way to curry favour with the Union of Equals' People’s Commission. But the rationale of people like Groener, foreign minister Kühlmann and even his new Social Democratic “minister without portfolio” competitor within the cabinet, Philipp Scheidemann, is that it is of vital importance for Germany and Austria-Hungary that, if they cannot keep the East under their own control, then at least they must make sure to have friendly or at least not all UoE-aligned neighbors there. (A modification of the “Mitteleuropa” concept which combines with the more pro-German interpretations of the “Intermarium” concept advocated IOTL by influential people in Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus. ITTL, many of its Polish advocates still simmer in German prisons (Jozef Pilsudski, Walery Slawek), but they shall be released soon; in the Ukraine and Belarus, the position is only shared by a portion of the right wing upper to middle classes. Its opponents are comparatively stronger than IOTL because the UoE appears less repulsive than the Bolshevik Red Terror regime and the German influence does not extend over Ukraine. The generous offer to Steczkowski is also meant to strengthen his faction in Poland against pro-Entente (and to some extent even pro-UoE) socialists and even more staunchly pro-Entente Nadeks.)

To make the Communiqué even more palatable to the Entente, Wilhelm II also offers to subject the future of Germany’s colonial possessions to the ruling of a “new Hague” settlement.

Will the Communiqué succeed?

If this is taken to mean: Will the Entente agree to an armistice and start negotiations without a prior German retreat and demobilisation? then the answer clearly is No. Lloyd George may think twice about it, but Clemenceau wants reparations and Germany defanged, and the US want their European partners to receive reparations so they can pay back their own loans, and the UoE cannot afford to rebuff its Polish and Czechoslovak contingents, who want more than what the two emperors offer, and Wilson also wants German leaders responsible for atrocities in the war extradited to an international court. The Germans find out that the price of peace has increased quite considerably. Giving up the Hindenburg Line as well as retreating over a thousand kilometers in the East without actually having been defeated in battle will not fly with the German Army leadership, though. Thus, it does not come to pass.

But if it means: will the Communiqué make big waves within both Empires and across Central and Eastern Europe, then yes, it certainly will… Rosa Luxemburg, in her cell, has not received all the latest news about war and peace and what has happened and what continues to happen across the Eastern half of the continent just yet.

[3] The same Social Democrats who also joined Max von Baden’s October cabinet IOTL.

[4] Or rather, Markov’s government has fallen and Petrograd is in a chaotic situation of epic dimensions. Here’s how I imagine this to have come about:

Towards the middle of July 1918, the major attack of the UoE armies towards Petrograd is fought to a standstill. Even with some mutinies occurring (drafted Russians at the front, some German units in the rear), the Germans still have enough men and munitions to form another coherent line and inflict such heavy losses on the attacking UoE forces that they – whose leadership is really seriously frightened of widespread mutiny and revolt, should the dying get too dire and the prospects look too dim – dig in before even reaching Petrograd’s outskirts and collect all their resolve to ward off the German counter-attack before the intensity subsides and the fighting becomes static again. But then, the naval attack on Kronstadt Fortress is begun by Trotsky’s Baltic Fleet. Kronstadt is not easy to take, and especially when, in contrast to OTL’s attack by Trotsky’s Red Army against sailors rebelling against Bolshevik rule in February/March 1921, the attackers are not coming over the ice, but over the sea. Thus, even though quite a lot of those who are now shooting at it know it probably better than its current (mostly German) defenders, I would not expect a military victory here, either.

But what this two-pronged attack would set in motion, I think, is absolute chaos. Nikolai Markov’s regime relies, for military power, mostly on the Germans, although it has scraped together a few field divisions of conscripted peasants with officers and guard regiments recruited from among tsarist or generally anti-socialist Russians liberated by Markov’s puppet regime from the political prisons. For civilian administration, the ratio is the other way around: there may have been some German advisors around here or there, but generally, Markov’s “Provisional All-Russian Government” had to rely on bureaucrats from what had once been “Ministries” which had been renamed “Commissions” during the revolution, more specifically on people returning to these jobs who had either been sacked before 1918, or on people who did not move with their new heads to Moscow but stayed behind for whatever reason. Among such people, you’d find unpolitical members of the old middle class, but also a lot of sympathisers with right-wing groups, or with more centrist bourgeois groups like the Octobrists or the Kadets. Thing is, much of Russia’s educated classes were not very Germanophile by this point, and the overtly exploitative relation between this puppet “Russia” and its German masters was not making it any better. Nor would Markov’s government record make things any better – he was violent and a nasty anti-Semite put into a position where even the most competent and well-meaning politician would have had no chance to garner support. Beyond violence, incompetence, German extortion, and a pandemic wave of disease, there was also the fact that the economy of Petrograd and its environs had not only suffered from the battles fought over it, but also from the exodus of most of its labour force (many people with rural ties back to the countryside on the other side of the front, and many from among the rest to Finland with Trotsky). Even before this exodus, Petrograd’s industry was not doing exactly well, what with the war, inflation, revolution, strikes, occupations and other labour conflicts, financial breakdown, etc.

Markov’s record in government is, quite inevitably, one of bloodshed, foreign meddling, utter economic breakdown, famine, disease, and despair. And the people he ruled over had just experienced a year of controversial, but also overwhelming, revolutionary enthusiasm.

So, when people on Petrograd’s Eastern periphery heard the sounds of front line artillery, and from the banks of the Neva could see proud Russian dreadnoughts like the Gangut and Poltava flying the red flag and firing at the Germans cowering in Kronstadt Fortress, it is not hard to predict what would happen in Petrograd. I’m going for a cabal of officers and senior bureaucrats seizing the moment to stab Markov in the back (almost literally – well, perhaps shooting is more likely) and then going on to recognize the authority of the People’s Commission, handing over power locally to whatever is left of the rayon administration, and ordering the divisions of the Provisional All-Russian Government’s army to join the forces of the UoE. The Germans in Petrograd would not let that pass, of course, and they would probably be able to restore control over strategic points without much difficulty. But there is yet more impulse for chaos and disorientation.

And let us not forget that the aim of Trotsky’s Baltic Fleet is not the same as that of the Red Army OTL’s Trotsky sent against the sailors in 1921. They’re not after annihilating any resistance – they just want to land in Petrograd, and they will have disembarked troops on the shore West of Petrograd, out of reach of Kronstadt’s guns, anyway. Their aim is just to kick in the door, not to hang all the gatekeepers. Maybe with all the chaotic orders and counter-orders flying around, the liberators manage to capture a fort or two on the Southern flank, allowing for direct amphibious landing. Maybe they don’t – I can’t really judge the military probability of such an event, and I tend to doubt whether it’s going to be realistic to circumvent Kronstadt’s defenders. But whether in the city centre or on the outskirts, Trotsky’s seaborne army is going to land, hell-bent on taking back their city from the German bloodsuckers and their Black Hundred type stooges. (Well, as long as they’re not running into an artillery barrage, that is…)

Again, this does not equate with an easy takeover of Petrograd. But it means the Germans can’t restore “order” in the city over a couple of days as they are caught in an increasingly absurd position. To this chaos I'd imagine events like new, uncontrollable strikes (more like: industrial desertions) to occur - Petrograd's industry can, at this point, only be operated with (more or less forced) labour from people recruited from the occupied countryside, since most experienced workers have left, and though these relocated peasants may have kept quiet under Markov's whip, they'll seize the first opportunity to break free. - And then, word of the Krakow Communiqué with its implicit German recognition of the UoE government and its initiative for peace with them reaches the commanders of the Germans in Petrograd. It is an offer for negotiations, not yet an unconditional plea for an armistice. But in the futile and frustrating situation he is in, General von Hutier takes some interpretive initiative (he was a bold guy anyway) and contacts the commanders of the First Union Army standing at a few miles’ distance from Petrograd’s outskirts, and they agree on a limited ceasefire as a first step to allow negotiations for a full, general cessation of hostilities to take place. (Such preliminary ceasefires occurred at various places and times between CP and Soviet forces IOTL before a front-wide truce was established and negotiations began at Brest-Litowsk, and ITTL there would have been already two such precedents – one with Chernov’s initiative, and one with Kamkov’s.)

Trotsky, on the other prong, may abide by such an agreement, or he may not. But even if he does, I can imagine plenty of ways in which his “army”, most of whom are actually displaced Petrograders, simply streams back into their city if they are not stopped at gunpoint. And this means there is little chance for Hutier to restore control. Trotsky’s men, though certainly only few professional soldiers (most of the latter sailors), have had their baptisms by fire in the Finnish Civil War and in the raids on Tallinn and the Aland Islands now. They may not be very disciplined, but they can probably shoot rifles. And they are many - and they don't need to form a coherent front, it is quite enough if they make Petrograd yet more ungovernable for the Germans.

Hutier can only hope that Berlin manages to start negotiations soon - which is a hope that will soon be disappointed. Which leaves him with the options of surrendering, or both his Petrograd garrisons and the detachments on the front having to fight their way out for a safe retreat back South-Westward.

[5] The USPD is Rosa Luxemburg’s own party, but it was a wide tent, spanning from revisionists like Bernstein over many members from the Marxist Centre like Kautsky to the Spartakusbund to which Luxemburg and Liebknecht adhered. Her OTL prison letters abound with invectives against “Haase, Ledebour, Kautsky”, the leaders of the party, who she considered too cautious, hesitant and bureaucratic and without confidence in the spontaneity of proletarian masses.
On Poland and Lithuania

There are currently Poles fighting in the Austro-Hungarian Polish Auxiliary Corps and in the Polska Siła Zbrojna under German command on the side of the Central Powers (the numbers vary greatly in different texts, I have no idea how many they were), and there are over 25,000 Poles in two Polish Corps fighting on the side of the Entente in the UoE as well as more than three times this number fighting in the "Blue Army" for the Entente on the Western front. And there are several thousand underground fighters in the paramilitary Polska Organizacja Wojskowa now mostly on German-occupied terrain. Politically, there is the Komitet Narodowy Polski in Paris, dominated by Dmowski's ND, and its affiliate Naczelna Rada Ludowa in Poznan, who are on the side of the Entente, closely aligned with France and with an ambivalent, but prevalently positive relation with *Russia. And the Rada Regencyjna, installed by the Germans in Warsaw under their loyal Prime Minister Jan Kanty Steczkowski, a very conservative and tame body obviously pursuing German-friendly policies, some probably out of conviction (they don't like what happens in the UoE), more probably out of opportunity. In Moscow, there's a Naczelny Polski Komitet Wojskowy, which is just as multi-party as the paramilitaries in Poland, but in contrast to the latter opportunistically committed to fighting along with the UoE on the Entente side. And then there are internationalistically minded Polish socialists scattered from Berlin to Moscow, operating outside these national-minded bodies. All much like OTL, except for the Polish Corps in Russia and the Naczelny Polski Komitet Wojskowy which IOTL were caught on the wrong foot by the October Revolution but which ITTL persist.

IOTL, Germany created (in some cases short-lived) facts on the ground in 1918 with Brest-Litowsk; also due to Brest-Litowsk, no single Polish force was still pro-Russian. With the Russian Civil War and especially its regional clusters, the Ukrainian Civil War and the Civil War in the Baltics, an ample window of opportunity arose for ambitious Polish politicians and military leaders to meddle in the East. It was in this climate that Pilsudski's vision of Miedzymorze developed and gained traction. With only half-hearted, tepid support from the Entente (because they fought against the Soviets, but they did not co-operate with the "White" Russian forces), the various factions soon coalesced at least militarily into one army on which one Second Polish Republic rested. ITTL, several circumstances have changed, creating a significantly difference context and atmosphere, with different opportunities.

As you have rightly pointed out, we do not know yet where the front lines will run at the moment of the armistice - even I don't know that yet. There is also the question, if the Germans have to retreat from the East in any form comparable to Compiegne terms for a retreat in the West, which troops on the UoE side are moving in to replace them. The Polish Corps and the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces will have fought side by side for well over a year, for example, but this is going to be a divisive issue for sure.

As for Lithuania, there is the Taryba in Vilnius, which, like IOTL, has both declared independence and declared "firm and special ties" with Germany in late 1917 / early 1918, but was not rewarded with much respect from OHL / Ober Ost. In contrast to OTL, as Germany does not look quite as strong in the East (even though they have taken Petrograd; they have not, for example, gained control over the Ukraine), there has not yet been an election of some Württemberg nobleman as King Mindaugus II. of Lithuania. Let us not forget, though, that many Lithuanians have fled Eastwards and live in the UoE now. Some of them have joined the Republican Guards. Resistance in Lithuania exists (the "men of the woods"), and in contrast to Poland it is quite unambiguously aimed against the German occupiers (and thus not exactly in sync with the Taryba's opportunistic policies), but also not such a big factor.

The new OHL and the new German government, who are willing to give a lot more leeway to their Central Eastern European puppets than before, are focusing on Poland because it's the much bigger factor, but they will soon recognise Lithuanian independence, too, especially when the UoE declines the armistice offer. The Taryba won't even have to elect a German king for that. This does create some facts on the ground which look similar to OTL, so Lithuania's joining the UoE is not guaranteed (remember, Chernov's blunder officially acquiesced to the Lithuanians "choosing their own path" once they're freed from German occupation). It might become an opportune option for the young Lithuanian Republic if Poland claims what they consider to be theirs - on the other hand, would a war-weary democratic Russia really go to war against Poland over Vilnius or Suwalki? Militarily, the Lithuanians are utterly helpless against the Poles who already have components for a national army at their disposal - if the different Polish factions can agree on a joint course of action. Politically, though, it's not a given that things won't be decided at the green table in *Versailles. ITTL, both the Western Entente and the UoE are at the table, and they will negotiate among themselves which representatives of Poland, Lithuania etc. they will accept as negotiating parties. There are considerably less loopholes (in the form of the geopolitical black hole the Soviet Union was IOTL) to circumvent any provisions agreed at the conference ITTL, and the conference will have to sort out the fate of Central Eastern Europe in much greater detail than IOTL precisely because, while allies during war, the UoE and, for example, the British are not likely to be political BFFs.

I fully agree on the fuzzy, essentially yet undefined boundaries of "Poland" and "Lithuania". The Germans will, over the next couple of weeks, probably try to initiate a straightening-out between their two puppet states, but all of that can be blown away by the German collapse all too soon. (Or it could outlive it, you never know.) What we should not carry over from OTL without questioning it, in my view, is the assumption of the great space of maneuvre in a political semi-void which existed IOTL and caused quick coagulations, "wars of the dwarves", and everything that followed from this nation-building...
August 1918 - Avksentiev's Candidacy
Moscow: Trud, August 16th, 1918, p. 2:


Nikolay Avksentiev, who served as Speaker for the Socialist Revolutionary Party in the Constituent Assembly, has announced his willingness to compete against People’s Supreme Commissioner Boris Kamkov in the race for the position of their party’s Federal Presidential candidate in the following speech which he gave before thousands of supporters in his home town of Penza:

“My dear comrades! I am honored by your trust and support, and I shall hereby follow your suggestion and humbly declare my intention to stand as our proud party’s candidate for the highest office in our wonderful young republic! You know that I am seeking neither glory nor gain, and that my sole intention is to serve this great new Union just like you, your brothers, sons, and husbands are serving it right now, undaunted by the risk to their lives. I believe that, in the function which I have filled for an entire year, I have shown the qualities required for this immense task: I have worked tirelessly in the formulation of a solid constitution and built alliances across party lines, and I shall continue to integrate yet more groups [1] and gather the best men and women [2] for the service of our Union.

Let no-one misunderstand my candidacy as an expression of criticism directed against Comrade Kamkov! I feel deep admiration for the colossal work he has achieved in safeguarding our Revolution, setting our young republic safely on the rails towards peace, justice and well-being, and steering our Motherland from its darkest moments to the doorstep of an equitable and just peace.

But I believe the immediate future poses yet more serious challenges to us, and I am convinced they must be addressed in new ways. Our Marxist coalition partners are forging alliances, day and night, with their political next-of-kin in every country of the world, and they are using the influence which positions in the Commission offer to them to foster their agenda and strengthen Marxist revolutionaries worldwide. We are not mounting a very convincing answer to this – neither are we consistently coming to the aid of our brethren beyond the Union’s borders, nor are we undertaking serious attempts to limit party-political instrumentalisation of the government.

I believe this has to change. The toilers of the Bulgarian countryside are rising against their militarist government, and their brethren in uniform who are sick of dying for nationalist ambitions have begun to come to their aid, and our comrades [3] stand prepared to take over the reigns of government and end their nation’s shameful participation in the aggression of the Central Powers. We must lend them our unwavering support, without hesitation [4], for else their Revolution might be drowned in the blood of their workers and soldiers. And Bulgaria is just one example. The Marxists look down on the Eastern half of our continent and call it underdeveloped and bemoan the absence of an industrial proletariat which could rise and carry their banner. We must not let ourselves be infected by this arrogant outlook, for the toilers of Europe’s East are looking to us for inspiration and guidance in their quest to build new, democratic and socialist nations in which the toilers of the countryside and the town can live together in dignity and justice, enjoying the full fruits of their labour and partaking in their equal and unrestricted political, cultural and social rights.

On the other hand, we must also draw a clear line as to how far even members of an elected government are allowed to pursue the particularist agenda of a single party, so that they may not bring harm to the general well-being and the interests of the entire Union. One such boundary is the building of a new Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the choosing of our future diplomats. We must be very clear about the opportunities and challenges posed to our Union in the negotiations brought about by the impending end of the war and the construction of a new global order of peace. Ensuring a fair and lasting settlement and securing the safety of our Revolution, our Republic and our Union requires prudence and experience. We must not affront our allies beyond necessity with an ideological agenda of the sort which Leon Trotsky, who looks to be the most promising candidate among the field of IRSDLP(u) contenders, wishes to pursue [5]. But we must also not sell ourselves cheaply by acting with naivety, like Julius Martov, the perennial candidate of the idealists, would have us do. I promise to deliver to all the nations of our Union the best possible deal, earned through hard but fair and principled but competent bargaining.

This requires us not to relent now that we have driven the Germans back to Narva in the North [6], and our Romanian allies have broken through at Galaţi [7]. In the West our allies have achieved a formidable victory together at Villers [8], and in Greece our five allied armies have weakened the Bulgarian tsar’s forces so much that his people have gained the opportunity to throw off his yoke. Even as far as the Bosphorus, Mehmet Talaat has stepped back and convinced the other pashas, whose hands are red with the blood of innocent women and children, to do the same, making it possible for the new sultan [9] to ask for an honorable peace [10], which he will undoubtedly do before this month ends. The end of this horrible carnage, in which our peoples have lost millions of human lives - young men who will not be able to stride with us towards the better future whose door has opened wide for us now - is in sight at last! We must not throw away our and their sacrifices now [11]. We must not relent now, for our brothers and sisters in Minsk and Riga and in Wilno and Warsaw are still awaiting the removal of the German yoke, and although we are and shall always remain the party of peace, this peace will come all the more quickly if we continue to pursue and firmly expel those who have murdered, plundered and raped our Motherland instead of leaving this task to others and abandoning half our continent to the sufferings of chaos and anarchy.

When external peace is achieved – and I have not the slightest doubt that it shall be achieved very soon if we only remain firm – our Union must find its internal peace, too, and I promise that my presidential agenda will be one of peaceful coexistence and balance. The unfortunate events in Finland have taught us not to entrust the Union to a reckless adventurer like Trotsky. Instead, we need more consensual and stable agreements like the Concordance which Tapa Tchermoev and I have submitted to the Constituent Assembly and to the popular council of the nascent Mountainous Federative Republic of the Northern Caucasus [12] for ratification.

The chances for such a inner peace have never been better than they are now, and we could not stand proud before our children and grandchildren if we were to waste this opportunity. The Cossacks of the Don have deposed Alexey Kaledin and appear determined to take up their proud roles in the construction of a free Ukrainian Federative Republic now – so when the worst collaborators of Markov and the oppressive German regime have been apprehended, we must end the Special Provisions immediately. I solemnly swear, should the peoples of our Union elect me as their president, to dissolve the VeCheKa within the first six months of my term in office.

Harmony must return to our towns and villages - our factories and homes. Therefore, whatever composition the new Union Council and the new Duma shall be, I promise to all of you that I shall not sign any law which reverts even a single letter of the Reform Acts with which the toilers of the countryside have received the land which is rightfully theirs, and which have made the former tenants of the cities the kings of their own castles. To the liberals who demand compensation, I have to say that there is not a single ruble in our coffers for such an undertaking. The war has left us with nothing, and the task of reconstruction shall demand from us every possible resource – promising compensation is irresponsible, I assure you, and I will not support it. But neither should we rock the boat even more now, like Trotsky and others from the left wing of the Social Democrats, who attempt to pressure our soviets into socializing the factories and workshops as well. Over the next few years, we must dedicate all our efforts to rebuilding the strength of our commonwealth. We must be equal to the task of employing all its productive forces, of undertaking the unprecedented effort of educating our entire populace and endowing our children with the best possible preparation, of rooting out urban and rural famine, poverty and epidemic diseases.

If this is the socialism you have struggled for in this Revolution, then I am your candidate to build it up in our hopeful and glorious Union. Thank you for your trust!”

[1] This is code for the electoral alliance with the Popular Socialist Labour Party (Trudoviks) and with several smaller centrist and centre-left parties in other federative republics which he has prepared. Avksentiev has risen to the position of the leader of the right wing of the SRs, and as such, he is attempting to reach out well into what used to be the Centre of Russia’s political spectrum, while Boris Kamkov (can we call him the “incumbent” although the position is not identical in name and competencies?) is going to be the candidate of the SR’s left wing. It comes as no surprise that Avksentiev’s candidacy is portrayed favourably in “Trud”, the newspaper edited by Vadim Rudnev, who is also from the SR’s right wing.

[2] For what it’s worth, in a few days, Alexander Kerensky is going to declare himself for Avksentiev and will be offered the position of foreign minister in Avxentiev’s shadow cabinet.

[3] The BANU. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarian_Agrarian_National_Union

[4] The UoE is still part of the Five Nation Army whose latest attacks on the Thracian front have caused mutinies on the Bulgarian side more than a month ahead of OTL’s schedule, which also means an earlier uprising of agrarian-affiliated rebels.

[5] We shall find out in a few updates whether this is an adequate prediction or rather simply scare-mongering aimed at winning over centrist votes.

[6] This was nothing to brag about. Given Hutier’s hopeless position, the fact that he was able to extract himself with more or less the entire Eighth Army unscathed after the preliminary armistice had run out does not attest to UoE military prowess at all – it was the best case Hutier could have hoped for given the circumstances.

[7] I have decided to retcon and swap the mutinies. In Italy, it would have been Czech regiments which mutinied. The Slovenes are mutinying in Romania instead now. I can’t find any sources stating that there were any Slovenian regiments deployed to Romania IOTL, but given the time which has passed since the PoD ITTL, I will handwave them into being there by virtue of the butterfly effect, unless someone argues that there is some serious implausibility in this.

[8] TTL’s equivalent to the Battle of Hamel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hamel , in which the Australians, the British and the US conducted a concerted attack using all the different branches of the Entente military. It was a sort of experiment in coordinated air, tank, gas and directed artillery overkill, which overwhelmed relatively weak German fortifications and earned the Entente territorial gains of more than ten miles and many prisoners with far fewer losses of their own. As a consequence, the coal fields of Béthune are back in Entente hands.

[9] Mehmet V has died on schedule, and Mehmet VI took his place a little over a month ago.

[10] I don’t think so.

[11] Oh yes, Avksentiev is a defencist through and through and has been long before peace talks with the Germans failed.

[12] The latest new autonomous member of the UoE, and the first one which is predominantly Muslim.
September 1918 - Attack on Turati
Rome: Il Messaggero [1], 7th September, 1918, p.1


This morning Professor Roberto Alessandri has finally declared L’onorevole Filippo Turati, Socialist congressman and one of the most prestigious leaders of the patriotic faction of the PSI, out of danger after the tragic events of the 4th, where he was severely wounded by a mysterious aggressor during the riots that had caused the closure of the Socialist Congress.

Messages of support for the wounded congressman have arrived from all Italy and His Excellency the Presidente del Consiglio Mr. Vittorio Orlando will come to the Santa Maria della Consolazione Hospital, where Mr. Turati remains under medical and police surveillance, to give his best wishes for a quick recovery and to assure him that those responsible for this great attack on Democracy and the integrity of the nation will be discovered and captured as quickly as possible.

From our correspondent's reconstruction of the calamitous event [2], the first days of the Socialist Congress were characterized by an extremely heated debate over the role of the socialist congressmen in Parliament and their open support of the government while the direction of the party clearly prohibited anything more than ‘no support and no sabotage’ in relation to the war effort and the defense of the country [3]. Mr. Turati and many of his companions, like Gaetano Salvemini, had been severely criticized by Nicolò Bombacci and others representative of the so-called Maximalist faction and were referred to as bourgeois wannabes, closet reactionaries, class traitors and fools.

A motion censuring Turati's efforts barely passed the first day, after others, demanding stronger punishment for him and the other rebels, were defeated again and again but always with a thinner margin every time.

The first day more important resolutions were approved, including one which put all the congressmen in Parliament under the direct control of the party and enforced total political discipline even at the cost of expelling anyone that went against the party directive; naturally many of the participants openly and loudly protested against such diktat, even threatening to leave the PSI and denouncing the promoters of such a directive as Kaiser wannabes more interested in their own power than in the betterment of the people.

With various representatives almost coming to blows and the mood extremely tense, these events were just an omen of things to come.

Another point of great contention was how to react and interpret the events happening in Russia and in the rest of Eastern Europe, with Serrati denouncing all collaboration with anyone whose intent was to defend the country and continue the war or even entertain the bourgeois tradition of elections. The Turati faction, however, approved of the continued cooperation between various sides of the revolution and moderation in the pursuit of their goals, and, more importantly, the continued defence of the country against the German oppressor.

The news of the declaration of the Hungarian Republic [4] inflamed the debate even further, with more and more representatives calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a recognition of the new nations born from the arthritic corpse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Amedeo Bordiga was the more vocal, and stated his own views just after having condemned, to great acclamation, the SPD leadership [5], and Avksentiev respectively [6], as tools of the capitalist warmongers and as false socialists. He proposed the immediate recognition of the new nations and the cessation of any act of war against them. Naturally, all possible support would be given to the modernizing socialist forces that would bring with them a new dawn for the now free countries. Immediately this was opposed by men like Modigliani who, while approving the fact that now people that just a day before had been under the Hapsburg tyranny were finally free, believed it was best to have a wait and see attitude and look at the various local developments before stepping in.

By the penultimate day there were two clear sides at the Congress, with various minor factions and the intransigenti pledging their support to the more moderate or the more extremist wing, with the last having a clear but not overwhelming advantage. It was just before the beginning of the Congress on the 4th that a group of so-called ‘Independent Socialists’ or ‘Renegades’, lead by Benito Mussolini (controversial editor of the Popolo d’Italia [7]), stormed the Casa del Popolo with the intention of disrupting the work of the Congress and gaining visibility.

Immediately Mussolini was face to face with Gramsci and Claudio Treves (the two had fought a duel in 1915 and never reconciled), who tried to block his attempt to speak to the crowd. This confrontation quickly escalated into a full fight between Mussolini's various supporters and the delegates. It was after many minutes of protracted fighting that a still unidentified man began to shoot into the crowd with a gun, hitting the honorable Turati in the right shoulder while causing massive panic in the palace, with many men being wounded by the mob in its attempt to flee. Only thanks to Divine Providence have there been no dead but only a considerable number of lightly wounded, due both to the fight and the sudden escape attempt of the participants.

The Questore of Roma, with the full approval of the Presidente del Consiglio and the Minister of the Interior, has decided to authorize both the immediate closure of the Congress for reason of public safety and an investigation to determine who fired the gun. Questions regarding which group was ultimately responsible for the fight have started once news of the event reached authorities, but for now no further information has been revealed.

From our sources, it would appear that informal reunions between socialist delegates are happening in private homes all over the city to decide the future of the party. It seems that all the vaunted ‘unity of the proletariat’ has been broken, as the numerous fights, all around Italy, between members of the different factions demonstrate. [8]

[1] – Founded at the end of the 19th Century, it’s one of the most important Italian newspapers and is also considered the quintessential Roman journal; due to its interventionist position it will not have a very good opinion of Bombacci, Lazzari and Gramsci and other Maximalist and Neutralist leaders.

[2] – The Congress as OTL was behind closed doors with only the Avanti (the official party newspaper) allowed to print a recap of the events of the day, so there were no journalists when the chaos started, and the participants had a tendency to keep their mouths shut that would make the Mafia proud.

[3] – The Minimalist faction lead by Turati was for supporting the government and the war effort to defend the nation, as he (rightly IMVHO) believed that Italy being defeated and subjugated by a much more conservative nation that also threatened to undo the Unification would result in the effort to better the living conditions of the proletariat becoming pointless and any changes also becoming more difficult to make. The Maximalists were for a ‘let the two kill each other and take what remains’ approach and a peace without border changes or indemnities. They also already declared the creation of a Socialist Republic of Italy and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

ITTL, they will not even support the CP proposal because they believe it validates the bourgeois conflict and that its goal is to simply buy off the more weak willed socialists. Now with the UoE still in the war and in the Entente camp and the idea of a general white peace not being supported by the revolutionary government, the Minimalists have more political currency and influence at the expense of the Maximalists, and the general liberal establishment, while still fearing and loathing the PSI, understands that the moment is extremely dire after the defeat of Caporetto and that any help is welcome. In addition, the continued presence of the UoE in the alliance helps to quiet some fears about how trustworthy the socialists are. Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, therefore, after some suggestion from Giolitti, in February 1918 decided to bring the Turati faction in the government to form something like the French Union Sacrèe. Naturally this action had an ulterior motive. Giolitti, as the great old man of the Italian politics that he was, even in his self-imposed exile at Cavour, understood perfectly that the PSI was in a crucial moment and that the two factions had reached a situation where the differences could not be healed, so by applying a little pressure be knew that the party would break.

If by all this you get the impression that I really don’t have a great opinion of Bombacci and all the other intransigents, regardless of political affiliation, who put ideology over everything to remain pure...well it’s the pure truth.

[4] [by Salvador79:] After the Entente dismissed what Willy and Karl offered them in the Krakow Communiqué, they started a major offensive on the Western front which has pushed, after heavy losses for both sides, the Germans out of Hazebrouck and Ypres again, and on the Italian front, there are slow advances in Southern Tyrol as well as faster advances towards Istria, too. Under these conditions, the German OHL has opted for a position of "safe distant defense", regrouping its forces behind the Hindenburg Line in the West and calling Mackensen back from Romania, all the way up the Danube and into Austria proper, so as to strengthen any weak spots in the Alpine defenses where breakthroughs could become dangerous for Germany herself, too. All of this, together with Bulgaria's collapse and surrender, have caused a state of disintegration of Austria-Hungary which is quite comparable to OTL's October 1918: all around, exile committees are declaring their new countries' independence: Masaryk for Czechoslovakia, the Yugoslav Committee for their namesake country including various bits and pieces of Austria-Hungary... and now in Hungary, something comparable to the Aster Revolution is occurring, too. By escaping from under the Habsburg umbrella and forming a coalition government of liberals and socialists, the Hungarian republican secessionists are also hoping for lenient treatment by the UoE and her allies.

[5] [by Salvador79:] The SPD is insecure about what to do next really. They have joined the government at the worst possible moment, they realize now, and Philipp Scheidemann, their more-or-less-Foreign Secretary of State, has communicated intensely with Moscow, but the impression he has received is that the Entente will accept nothing short of a surrender in which even large parts of Germany will be occupied by foreign troops, and that the only thing which is open for debate is probably the quantity and quality of reparations and territorial concessions, where Germany's best hope are the US and the UoE, both of whom would rather see a fully democratic (and the latter even a social-democratic) government in place. Scheidemann has, so far, not yet been able to convince Kaiser Wilhelm II. to draw any energetic conclusions from this. But Willy is really angry is Ludendorff whom alone he blames for concealing the true dire state of the war to him and the imperial government. The SPD is, against its own conviction, trotting along and publicly supporting the very costly defensive efforts especially on the Western Front as "without alternative". This is what is being criticised here.

[6] [by Salvador79:] Avksentiev, together with his close Ukrainian buddy Holubovich, has landed a great electoral campaign coup (and probably more than that) by inviting delegations of various Narodnik or Narodnik-like parties from Poland, the Croat, Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian parts of the decaying Habsburg monarchy, as well as members of the Bulgarian BANU and the Romanian Taranistii to Kiev (not Moscow!) to discuss "the future, peace, justice, and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe". While none of the parties has yet gained secure power in any of their countries, and their agenda and outlooks are wildly divergent, too, the gist of the conference was not at all "toilers of the world, you have no fatherland"... which is why the Italian Maximalists don't like the sound of it all.
Therefore, blaming Avksentiev here makes sense. But blaming the present Supreme Commissioner Kamkov makes sense, too, if you're only Maximalist enough...

[7] ITTL, with many of the most relevant socialist intellectuals and politicians still trying to determine their position and the exact significance of what’s happening in Russia/UoE, Benny tries again to gain relevance in the socialist world - more precisely, in a chaotic situation like this he is like a shark that smells blood. While the official Congress of the PSI is happening at the Casa del Popolo in Rome, Mussolini proclaimed a separate meeting of every other socialist that didn't identify with the ‘buffoons’ that prefer to talk rather than act; this anti-congress was held at the concert hall of the Mausoleo Augusteo - by mere chance quite near the original. His plan was to lead these men and women to the Casa del Popolo, forcefully enter and from the stage use his oratory skills to state his position and incite a revolt against the cowardly lot that he believed was strangling the socialist movement; all this in an attempt at a good publicity stunt mixed with truly believing what he was selling. By this time he has gone back to being the editor of the Popolo d’Italia and ITTL it is renamed Quotidiano dei Combattenti Socialisti or Newspaper of the Socialist Fighters; he has already published his ideas regarding a Trenchocracy where the soldiers are the new elite, and after seeing Trosky in action... well… let’s just say that was love at first sight. To describe his political position, imagine the Italian Social Republic with a very strong emphasis on nationalism and militarism. He also promotes the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic, and considers representative democracy a thing of the weak willed plutocrats.

[8] Even in OTL the contrasting positions of the Minimalists and the Maximalists were irremediable; but the latter had the advantage of the October Revolution as a ‘rally around the flag’ effect and Lenin seemingly supporting their view. ITTL things are different. From the Italian POV the Minimalists are the ones that have been vindicated, and the absence of the fervor for the revolution will be a great advantage for them. Therefore, they have much less reason to be passively accepting of Bombacci and co's political assault. Probably without Benny's attempt at showmanship the desire to keep party unity would have prevailed and some compromise been reached, but after the attempt at Turati's life things have gone too far and soon the PSI will be divided in three.
Finnish Civil War pt. 4
Finnish Civil War, part four and end:

Kirkkonummi was an easy victory for the Vaasa army – but it would prove to be a misleading one. What the Vaasa army encountered – and quickly dispersed – at Kirkkonummi was but more of an armed reconnaissance troop. Its retreating members reported about the location, size and weaponry of the attackers to the units which manned the massive fortifications of the Krepost Sveaborg.

The size of the Vaasa army exceeded the worst expectations of Helsinki’s defenders. Apparently, this was the last, desperate, all-or-nothing attack aiming at the heart of socialist Finland. Immediately, a sharp dispute broke out among the leadership of the Järjestyskunta stationed in and around Helsinki: while Oskar Rantala and Aksel Aarre insisted on mobilizing yet more volunteers from the country’s main city to stem the tide of such a massive Vaasa attack, Adolf Aminoff and other experienced but more conservative high-ranking officers taken over from the old Imperial Russian Army opposed this because they feared that such ad hoc militia could only be recruited in Helsinki from among those who had until very recently been Red Revolutionary fighters. As a consequence, reinforcements were being demanded from other parts of the Kuopio territory, but no immediate recruitment was ordered in Helsinki itself.

This would quickly turn out to be a mistake. The fortifications were strong and well-endowed with all sorts of artillery pieces, and by flexibly shifting and rotating militia units from MG nest to MG nest depending on where the onslaught was most intense, the defenders of Helsinki were able to inflict staggering losses on the Vaasa troops – so many dead and wounded indeed that, as night fell after the second day of the offensive, Jääkäri officers reported about a growing mutinous mood among their rank and file and openly questioned the chances of a breakthrough.

They were convinced to continue when the last secret weapon which the Germans had bestowed upon them reached the front section around Leppävaara. On the third day of the Vaasa assault on the Krepost Sveaborg, the attack was initiated with a bombardment of poison gas shells which immediately killed hundreds of defenders and incapacitated hundreds more - none of them had anticipated this, so nobody had worn masks of any kind. The attackers seized the opportunity and broke through the defenders front, with unit after unit streaming through the breeched defenses even when they came under heavy fire again by fresh defending militia drawn from other sections of the fortification line. Thousands upon thousands of Vaasa troops poured in through the gap, and now only a last line of fortifications, those built already in 1914 in the vicinity of Huopalahti, stood between them and the country’s largest city.

In this situation, Aksel Aarre decided to ignore all orders and decisions and began immediately to organize the distribution of arms to (indeed mostly formerly Red Revolutionary) volunteer units who, in many places, had already assembled at their own initiative. It was only their courageous, somewhat disorganized but desperately motivated counter-attack which ultimately prevented the attacking Vaasa army from breaking through the last line of defenses, too.

Now it was the attackers who were bottled up between the two defensive perimeters, with no escape in sight. They took refuge in civilian buildings across Helsinki’s outskirts, dug in and prepared for a street fight.

But this last stand did not happen. Armas Kohonen, commander of the Vöyri Battalion, initiated negotiations with Helsinki’s defenders – a very controversial decision taken against the will of a number of die-hard officers who preferred to “die standing rather than live on their knees” – and so, on July 20th, 1918, over 15,000 surviving Vaasa troops (almost as many men had already been lost in the attack so far, with the usual ratio of killed vs. wounded and the wounded being captured already) surrendered themselves at once to the Kuopio Senate’s Järjestyskunta. Helsinki’s defenders had suffered over 4,000 dead and twice as many wounded men – a high toll which is probably also attributable to the poor training which many defenders had enjoyed, and the maximum effect of the poison gas due to the absence of protective masks. But they had stood firmly, in spite of internal divisions and dangerous hesitations.

In Vaasa, the message of this failure was clear. Their army had lost more than half of their men – and the chaotic situation in Petrograd and the imminent collapse of German control over Ingria could only mean that, in the very near future, both reinforcements and supplies sent by Moscow would roll without impediment towards the Kuopio territory again. On July 24th, 1918, Pehr Evind Svinhufvud shot himself in the head and was found dead by his personal attendant. Over the course of the next week, several thousand people fled Finland across the Gulf of Bothnia to Sweden, among them the rest of Svinhufvud’s cabinet and some members of the Vaasa counter-Eduskunta. They were not exactly welcome in Sweden, where their arrival and the asylum granted to them proved a controversial issue between the partners supporting Prime Minister Nils Edén’s coalition government, but their fear of socialist retribution was great.

As the fate of those bourgeois politicians who had remained in Finland would prove, these fears were generally unfounded. Paasivuori and his Minister for Interior Affairs, Samuli Häkkinen, sought at least not to create new obstacles for the slow and painful process of reconciliation and healing which would begin in Finland’s villages and neighborhoods, and while the terrorists of Vihan Veljet and similar organizations, which continued to rock Finland throughout the next few years, too, were pursued with the full force of the law and its organs of public order, most members of the Vaasa Jääkäri and the Suojeluskunta were pardoned and the prisoners captured during the hostilities were released before 1918 ended.

As far as Finland’s relations with the rest of the UoE were concerned, Paasivuori took a decidedly more self-confident stance than Tokoi. The Concordance, he insisted in a lengthy communication with Kamkov, would have to be modified. Finland would not demobilize its Järjestyskunta, whose size stood at almost 80,000 by the end of July 1918, and instead transform it into a Territorial Defensive Force like the one Ukraine had. The country’s military ports would be controlled by a joint organization composed of Finnish Defense and the UoE’s Baltic fleet. Kamkov harbored no desire to keep Finland under the Russian thumb as long as it did not join a hostile camp and actually felt that the entire chain of events following the fall of Petrograd had been most unfortunate consequences of the German onslaught and the adventurousness of Trotsky, a man he increasingly saw as the greatest danger for a stable development of the UoE but whose popularity had skyrocketed after leftist SD newspapers credited him with the “liberation of Petrograd”, and so the renegotiations went rather smoothly. In the CA, which still operated as a kind of interim parliament until regular elections would be held, the revision of the Concordance was controversial primarily for procedural and technical reasons and not so much for its content, but it ultimately passed with a solid majority.

And as the long, dark, and cold nights of the winter of 1918/19 descended upon Finland, accompanied by the second and more deadly wave of the influenza which struck especially the heavily populated areas in the South, a badly-shaken but finally politically restabilised Finnish Federative Republic participated in the Union-wide Presidential elections and elected a new Eduskunta, too, which would have to lead the traumatized country into a common future. The landscape of its political parties had been deeply transformed by the Civil War. But more on that in a later update.

And so Finland's civil war has ended. ITTL, without much of a civil war in Russia or Ukraine, it is going to have the status of a model / a warning example and will acquire some degree of symbolic value this way, as we shall soon see - all sorts of people draw different conclusions from it, of course, but they are going to point at what has happened in Finland (thereby ascribing it significance beyond the country's borders) and draw lessons from it. We have already seen that SR leaders (both Avksentiev and Kamkov) have interpreted the Finnish Civil War as a warning against "adventurism" and a sign that Trotsky is not to be trusted. How Trotsky himself views it we shall probably find out after my summer break (I will be away for most of August and not post any update during that month). Other people in other countries are seeing Finland as the writing on the wall, too: for conservatives, it is a disheartening tale of failed resistance against socialism (and probably another source of legends of martyrdom?) and a reason for disquietude. By centrist bourgeois liberals, it can be interpreted in many ways: as an (ex negativo) encouragement of legalist co-operation over putschist resistance, or as a warning not to let hardship and social dissense escalate to such extents, or... For the wide family of agrarian parties, a precedent has been created of their alignment with social democracy and against conservative counter-revolution, and a second model of successful land reform, different from Russia's experiments, has been established. For moderate social democrats, this is a tale of costly and hard-fought victory, which could deter or encourage, depending on one's stomach, and which could become another core of an emerging identity delineated sharply both against conservative opponents and over-zealous revolutionaries. Radical revolutionaries will certainly draw different conclusions: either Finland was too rural for a socialist revolution, or the military nature of the Red Revolution marred it, or the moderate traitors ruined it, or internal divisions in the absence of clear structures and hierarchies wrecked it, or the absence of any reaction from Moscow doomed it, or ...
September 1918 - Trotsky's Candidacy
Petrograd, September 16th, 1918: Rabochy [1], p. 1:


by Leon Trotsky

This is a pivotal moment in history. The course of years and decades to come hinges upon our actions. Not a single man’s actions or the actions of a select few – if an age where such individuals mattered above all else has ever existed, it definitely ended long ago. It is the actions of the masses, of millions of men and women, which shape our future now. And here, at this moment, millions are standing at the crossroads: onwards with the revolution, or a slide into New Feudalism?

There is only one choice if we seek to escape the barbarity of counter-revolution and self-cannibalising terminal capitalism. A majority of the Narodniks appear to be unaware of this; they rally behind Avksentiev [2], who has coined the phrase that the "revolution must pause, catch its breath, and compose itself", who promises “stability” and the resolution of all global problems by international diplomacy among the ultra-imperialist power cartel. Either they are bourgeois enemies of the revolution at heart, or they are deluding themselves.

There can be no “stability” for the present economic conditions in Russia. In agriculture, we either leap forward towards productive collectives which alone are up to the challenge of full industrial mechanization required to lift the living conditions of our working classes, or fall back into landlordism and servitude under different names. The new kulaks are already preparing for the latter course, profiteering from their speculative hoarding, building up corrupt networks of patronage, and usurping control over otherwise disorganized peasant militia. With regards to our industries, there is no faith healing for the present anarchy and standstill. We will either finally take all the industries into our own hands and begin to organize them again, together, in democratic ways, or the capitalists will rear their ugly heads and reassert themselves over us, annihilating what we have paid for with our blood. There is no “centrist” third way out of the general industrial disorientation and decay. No constitutional provisions will protect us from the wrath of the expropriated expropriators – for constitutions are not safe walls of stone or concrete behind which impartial justice can reign, protected against the onslaught of the forces of class warfare; they are, at best, workable methods which the ruling class routinely and reliably applies in its exercise of absolute power. Do not misunderstand me – I am the most avid defender of our constitution, and I believe it can be a very practical instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat – but the constitution will not defend itself, and no class will defend it, either, if it no longer sees its value. And this is exactly the danger of Avksentiev’s platform: his industrial conservatism perpetuates our shortages, our hunger, our lack of everything, and the veto he has announced against decisions which belong in the exclusive domain of the volost, oblast and republican soviets shows that he is inclined to exorcise the socialism from our constitution as well as our country, leaving it as a meaningless hull of quasi-bourgeois republicanism. Nobody will defend that, for the new kulak strongmen in the territory on whose support he bases himself do not care for democratic procedures and rights. They will acclaim an SR Bonaparte or an SR Tsar at any time if he shows promise in protecting what they have grabbed and refuse to share.

And the same applies to international politics: you cannot protect the revolution through cunning diplomacy. Of course it is wise not to immediately antagonize without necessity those whose aid you need to free yourself from the yoke of present expansionist imperial tyranny. But from there to the plots which Avksentiev’s right hand Gots seeks to impose on the Inokom of the unsuspecting Axelrod, and the covert Panslavic imperialist overtones which have accompanied Holubovich’s gathering of so-called “popular socialists” from Central and Eastern Europe, there is a long and hideous way. Neither our revolution nor our republic will be protected by meddlesome midwifery in the creation of new states, or by blindly trusting the providential plans of Wilson, that nemesis of American socialists. The ultra-capitalist powers may not be inclined to participate in another world-encompassing conflagration, yes, but that will not stop them from short and easy expeditions against weak and unprotected victims, as the entire history of colonial imperialism has shown. The only thing which can save the revolution is if it spreads – if we spread it, and if it takes root in country after country, so that the international proletariat can finally join their hands together in peace. The only way for our revolution to survive is for it to move forward – both within our republic and beyond its not yet clearly defined borders.

This is what my application for the IRSDLP(u) candidacy for the office of President of the Union means: it means a reminder and an encouragement for all of us to move forward, to stir again, to continue our revolution. We are struggling to overcome the bourgeois farce of parliamentary democracy and fill democracy with real, proletarian life. Our elections, therefore, are not the exhaustion of our political will, to be dominated by rulers of our own choosing thereafter, no, they are a mobilizing call to industrial action, a mobilizing call to repoliticise our militia and our republican guards by joining them or by broadening the debates within them, a mobilizing call to defiantly gather in the streets! When we gather by the hundreds of thousands to support this person or that person, this party or that party, to debate and decide this question or that, we are demonstrating to all those who want to roll back the socialism we have struggled to build so far and who want to prevent us from continuing to build it up that we are not weak and passive, that we shall not lend our voices to others and become mute, no! The working classes have arisen, and they shall not let the reins of power slip through their hands.

Gather to support me and my candidacy – or gather and support those who will stand against me at the congress – for if you do so, you shall rediscover the spirit of last spring, the spirit of free deliberation and courageous action, of class solidarity and consciousness. And to those who favour other candidates because they stand for the union you belong to – let me assure you that, even if your first preference would be for a different Social Democrat, you will find the most avid supporter of the causes of the workers’ unions in me [3]. There must not be any extra-constitutional restrictions on industrial union activities in the soviets and on the decisions these soviets are taking. If soviets are deciding to socialise the means of production - and I explicitly encourage them to take this decision! - then it is not the president's place to stop them. And there is nothing socialist at all about the protection which the Narodniks are offering to the speculators and hoarders who make profits at the expense of the starving workers of our towns. Whether your fight is for wages or for taking over your company, whether it is against extortionate food prices or against restrictions on the freedom of coalition - I am fighting at your side.

And let me address in one short final comment what some voices are using to sow dissension and doubt among our movement – the question of Finland. Is it not paradoxical how they criticize me for “meddling in the business of an autonomous national republic", when all I did was to organize the survival of hundreds of thousands, who, by their own initiative, freely conversed and cooperated with our Finnish comrades (I am sure many of those who read this paper in Petrograd today have been among this number!)? And then they also criticize me for “abandoning” that revolution, too, when I merely organized, at the request of the supreme council of Centrobalt, the evacuation of tens of thousands threatened by starvation in beleaguered Southern Finland? If whatever contribution my actions have made to the emergence of the Finnish revolution is reprimandable, how is it also reprimandable to desist in these actions? There is nothing but sly bourgeois ambiguity in all these narratives. But what must we learn from the experiences we have made in Finland, you may rightly ask of anyone, let alone of someone who seeks a high political office? Here is the lesson I have drawn: the Finnish peasantry had been, until this year, affected by the war but indirectly. This is why, when we arrived as refugees and as conscious revolutionaries, they did not realize that we are the side which seeks to end the war, and instead perceived us to be the ones carrying on the war and bringing it to them. We should have made much greater efforts to explain the entire situation not only to those in our immediate surroundings, but also to those who, at a greater distance from us, were prepared to stand up and defend their republic – so that we could have joined our efforts instead of confusing ourselves and aiming at each other. This lesson is informing my actions – in whatever position I shall be – and the first examples to which this lesson, the realization of the utmost necessity to communicate and propagate the nature, aims, circumstances and plans of the revolutionaries, shall be applied are, without any doubt, the uprisings which have begun, over the course of the past few days, in the Latvian and Polish lands.

Only by learning from the experience of our struggles shall we be able to carry the revolution into its next stage. Trust me, this is the demand of the hour, posed to millions here and elsewhere: carry on the revolution! Vpered revolutsiony! [Onward/Forward the revolution!]

[1] This is the first newspaper I am making up out of whole cloth – the background being all established (pro-revolutionary) newspapers having left Petrograd before the Germans occupied it and Markov erected his short reign of reactionary terror. Imagine it as being centre-left within the International Revolutionary Social Democratic Party unification faction, with editors stemming both from a Mezhraionka background and from the left wing of the trade union movement, and overall it being a fairly new institution full of Trotsky fanboys (and -girls).

[2] This is not entirely accurate, again, for the race between Avksentiev and Kamkov within the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries is not yet decided at all: Avksentiev is doing well in the South and East, and the Ukrainian SRs have endorsed his candidacy, too, but regional SR assemblies in Minsk, Petrograd and Nishny Novgorod have endorsed Kamkov. It’s an open race – but Trotsky chooses to portray it as if the SRs had already decided for the more centrist and less SD-friendly candidate, which makes his aggressive stance look like the only feasible answer.

[3] Someone with solid backing by the trade unions and with great credibility in the domain of industrial struggle could indeed have the best chance at competing against Trotsky for the Social Democratic presidential candidacy. In TTL's 1918 Social Democratic electoral camapign, this someone is David Ryazanov.
September 1918 - Which Yugoslavia?
Zagreb (formally still Austria-Hungary): Novi List [1], September 23rd, 1918, p. 1:


by Ivan Meštrović [2]

Why did you resign from the Yugoslav Committee? I have been asked repeatedly by companions and fellow citizens. What happened to the great herald of South Slavic unity, that he has deserted his struggle, I have been asked. To all the querists I reply: I have not, and I never will! I am a South Slav, and I shall render my voice to the common liberation of all the tribes of our nation for as long as it has sound left in it! But I could not legitimize the unlawful, selfish and regressive actions of a clique of short-sighted relics of a perishing world.

The old empire is crumbling, and the freedom of the South Slavic nations has never been so close at hand. Yet, even before it comes into existence, our Yugoslav polity is beset on all sides by forces which seek to oppress its freedom. In this moment of need, it is an understandable impulse to throw yourself into the arms of a strong saviour. Which is, some will argue, what the Yugoslav Committee has done: they have set all their hopes on Serbia and its army, which alone, they argue, can liberate and save all Yugoslav peoples from foreign oppression.

But that is a mistake, and I believe that the partisans of the Croat-Serb Coalition have other, more obscure reasons for the blood sacrifice they force on their own conationals. They are afraid that the protest marches in the towns, the strikes in the factories, and the fraternisation of the Green Cadres with an unruly peasantry will cost them personal advantages. Instead of trusting the democratic judgment of their Croatian and Yugoslav brethren, and looking out for the best possible foundation upon which to build an entirely new state of all Yugoslavs, they cowardly grab their money bags and throw themselves into the arms of Pašić’s Radicals [3], who are gleefully pocketing territorial gains for a Greater Serbia left and right.

Yes, I, too, was once enthusiastic about Serbia’s development and potential. But I had to learn a bitter truth about the fickleness of history. King Peter is – no, we must say: was – a pioneer of Yugoslav freedom, but his son, Prince Regent Alexander, does not just slap little girls in the face. He has also sent his army into Bulgaria, where he has ordered his soldiers to fire on their South Slavic brethren who are trying to break free from the tyranny of a dynasty which has betrayed the common Yugoslav cause. The Radicals prefer to crush a revolution which is the expression of the most authentic Yugoslav sentiments of liberty and humanity, and ensure the survival of the tsardom which had so recently invaded Serbia – instead of reaching out to Stambolinsky [4], this Bulgarian Prince Marko [5] who genuinely desires to overcome the fratricidal strife of the recent past and unite his and the other South Slavic tribes in a greater union! And the girl-slapping Regent follows his lead because, unlike his father, he is not a Yugoslavist, he is a Serbian chauvinist who prefers to annex and conquer. This is why he and his government will not protect the Slovenes and Croats from Italian expansionism – I would not be surprised in the slightest if he and his government had already allied with the Italians and agreed to sacrifice Rijeka, Prekmurje and possibly even more of the Yugoslav coast. [6] It would only aid their plans for a new imperialist kingdom which calls itself Yugoslav, but which is nothing but Greater Serbia in disguise.

This is why I have left the Yugoslav Committee, whose members have voted with the most narrow majority [7] to seek, without any prior conditions, the unification with the Kingdom of Serbia, and to invite the Serbian Army to, as they have put it, “restore order” – which can only mean to strangle the rebellion of true Yugoslavists here as they are trying to do in Bulgaria as well.

Those who know me have no doubt that I am not a socialist. I have never been a socialist and I will never become one. But I cannot fail to see that the Union of Equals, in which the Lutheran Finns, the Catholic Litvins, the Uniate Ukrainians, the Moslem Tatars, the Jews, the Orthodox Russians and countless other nations and tribes are building a strong and democratic bulwark of peace together, on the basis of the self-determination of every nation, small or large, the principle of popular sovereignty, and the bitter lesson which this horrible carnage of a Great War has taught us, is the best model we can hope to emulate in our pursuit of a common Yugoslav realm of peace, freedom, justice, and prosperity.

Real Yugoslavism is federalist. Real Yugoslavism is republican. Real Yugoslavism does not stop at the Stara Planina. Real Yugoslavism is at the vanguard of the political endeavour to build a new and peaceful world order from the ruins of the Great War. Let us not fly like drunken geese into the fog [8], but reach out to all those who subscribe to these goals, and only to such goals. Let us build the real Yugoslavia together, instead of kissing the feet of someone whose only merit has been his birth as the great-grandson of Black George.

[1] Novi List was perhaps the leading Yugoslavist newspaper at the time, at least in Croatia. It is based in Rijeka / Fiume. ITTL, the Italian Army has taken Fiume two weeks before, and the leading voice of Yugoslavism has relocated, for fear of Italian censorship, to the largest Croatian city.

[2] The renowned Croatian artist / sculptor was one of the most ardent Yugoslavists. The anti-Djordjevic stance he is taking in his article is a divergence from OTL, but his preference for a great, inclusive Yugoslavia which encompasses Bulgaria, too, he exhibited IOTL, already at a time when such a position was very minoritarian in Croatia outside of the staunch left.

[3] This party.

[4] The leader of the agrarian BANU, which in turn leads the revolution in Bulgaria aimed at removing the tsar, achieving universal equal franchise, and repartitioning the land. He was a mild supporter of Yugoslavism IOTL, too, but when his party won the elections a year later, the ship for Bulgaria’s inclusion in a greater Yugoslav federation had sailed, and he never actively pursued it. ITTL, everything is still in the balance, and his fellow Narodnik Russian SRs are strongly supporting the idea of a greater Yugoslav Federation, ideally governed by a coalition of the Croatian Peasant Party, the Bulgarian BANU, Serbian and Slovenian agrarians, and the various socialist parties in the region, most of which also support the ideal of a peaceful Balkan Federation or the like to ensure peace in the region and overcome nationalist divisions. Thus, Stambolinsky, the BANU and most of the Bulgarian revolutionaries are indeed openly proclaiming adherence to the Yugoslavist idea ITTL – some of them probably in the hope that it is better to unite with the Serbian victors – if there are enough others to keep them in check – than to be threatened or squeezed out for reparations by them.

[5] IOTL, he liked to refer to this hero from Serbian / Yugoslavian mythology a lot.

[6] Probably not, but there is little anyone can do right now to stop the Italians, except maybe for popular revolt.

[7] IOTL, only Stjepan Radić voted against the merger plan. ITTL, with a Russian-backed and ideologically (Narodnik) underpinned alternative being widely discussed, there are more votes against, and Radić’s Croatian Peasant Party also doesn’t favour a separate Croatian state and actively subscribes to the idea of a greater and more federal Yugoslavia, too.

[8] OK, this one is shamelessly stolen from Radić.
October 1918 - The End of the Great War
Collapse in the East – The Last Two Months of the Great War

When Kaiser Wilhelm II and Kaiser Karl communicated their promise of national self-determination, they still hoped against all hope to be able to shape and steer this development towards a new architecture of power in Central Eastern Europe in which their empires still played an important role – or at least would survive the end of the Great War. After all, for all the unrest which brooded, all the scarcities which haunted army and civilian economy alike and for all the panic which the ultimate offensive engagement of US troops on the Western and Alpine Fronts caused, Germany still controlled vast territories East of its borders with over a million troops who had not been significantly beaten by the Russians in open battle since 1916; Austria-Hungary still had not experienced widespread revolution; and Bulgaria was still shielding the Balkan flank. It had become quite clear to the two monarchs and their respective governments that the military leadership had been misleading them with regards to the possibility of pushing inimical belligerent nations out of the war and enforcing a favourable peace treaty on the rest of the Entente through final offensives. Especially Ludendorff was widely blamed for this disastrous strategy. But, the modestly reshuffled leadership of both empires hoped, there would still be time to mend the mistakes one had made: Poland would be built up as an actually independent buffer state. The flabby Russian socialists would be offered the peace without annexations and indemnities which they had clamoured for. The disgruntled tribes of the Balkans and the Carpathians would be appeased with greater autonomy and thus motivated to hold the line long enough for the other Entente nations to realize that a frontal assault on the Hindenburg Line and the Alpine defenses was too costly, and the offer made to them in Krakow was not so bad after all.

Four breakthroughs in August 1918 would prove them wrong. While the collapse of Bulgaria was the militarily most important of them all, the Battle of Villers on the Western Front, the liberation of Petrograd, and the breakthrough in Romania all were immensely important, too, for a number of different reasons: Villers not only restored the Entente’s supply lines along the Western Front; losing the bulge in the front which had been announced as the final offensive to end the war and which had been paid for with almost a hundred thousand dead German soldiers was a demoralizing blow to the morale of the defenders of the Hindenburg Line. Petrograd was a pivotal point for public opinion in Russia – together with the successes of the Pyotr Baluyev’s Fifth Union Army and their allies in Romania, it helped swing public opinion from the fear that the new revolutionary army would not be able to hold its ground, let alone score offensive successes against its enemies, to a cautious optimism that the Union of Equals could really make its own contribution to bringing about the downfall of the invading Central Powers, and even a feathery hint of republican pride. After these breakthroughs, there was no doubt that the Entente would not accept anything even closely resembling the Krakow Communiqué’s offer, and that they would push on until total victory was achieved.

This would not take as long as a number of fearful contemporary commenters, who had grown accustomed to the horribly costly stalemates of the entrenched fronts, would anticipate. Throughout the second half of August, Entente forces mounted an onslaught against the remaining Central Powers of a massive scale, which produced very few concrete advances except in South-Eastern Europe, but which caused the war machine of their exhausted opponents to begin to buckle.

On the Western Front, primarily American, French, and British forces launched co-ordinated artillery, air and tank offensives against the Hindenburg Line and defensive positions in the Argonnes which inflicted such a high blood toll on the German defenders which, when news of it trickled back to the home front in spite of comprehensive censorship, caused such panic and protest against the mildly reformist government that Kaiser Wilhelm II. and Quartermaster-General Groener saw themselves forced to start a political offensive of popular concessions: Chancellor Hertling stepped down, and Wilhelm allowed the Reichstag to nominate the general secretary of the SPD, Friedrich Ebert, as his successor, bringing with him a majority of SPD ministers, along with reform-minded members of Zentrum and FVP. Wilhelm II. octroyed a new Prussian constitution (like his great-uncle had done in 1848), which reduced the Herrenhaus to a merely ceremonial institution and abolished census suffrage for the Abgeordnetenhaus. Without consulting his fellow heads of German states, he announced elections for a national assembly which would put the Reich on a new constitutional foundation.

What these measures achieved was to weld the MSPD firmly to the government and its desperate defensive military efforts, with its loyal party officials doing their utmost to prevent a general strike, which was now prepared across the entire Reich by the Revolutionäre Obleute, who certainly had closer ties to the USPD than to the MSPD, but who did not see themselves bound in any way by anything which that party would decide, either.

On the Italian Front, a renewed offensive managed to push as far East as and capture Fiume / Rijeka, from where General Diaz purportedly planned to push as far into practically undefended Istria and then Dalmatia as possible, but he was vehemently urged by his American, British and French allies to concentrate all his efforts on a Northward offensive instead, which, being a much more challenging enterprise, did not begin until the end of September. Both the Krakow Communiqué’s promise of national autonomy and the advance of the Italians contributed to hastening the supporters of Yugoslavism among the Slovenes, Croats etc. in their steps towards achieving independence and then unification with the Kingdom of Serbia. As the last update has shown, though, there is considerably more heterogeneity and dissent among the various anti-Habsburg groups among the Slovenes and especially the Croats than IOTL. Regardless of this lack of unity, Habsburg rule over its South Slavic lands collapses quickly: hundreds of thousands march through the streets demanding this or that new form of state and society, a wave of strikes and even more widespread desertions paralyse the land and leave it defenseless, unrest erupts in the countryside where the Green Cadres are helping peasants to emulate their Russian counterparts and oust their landlords. To all this, Kaiser Karl reacts with what can only be described as depressive apathy.

In the Balkans, Bulgaria’s surrender opens the path for an unprecedently fast Entente advance. British, French and Serbian divisions are pushing North-Westwards against k.u.k. armies who are merely putting up resistance when their orderly retreat across Serbia is endangered and they are threatened with capture. A predominantly Greek army group, with minor British, French, and Russian contingents, moves across the formerly Bulgarian parts of Thrace and attacks the last Ottoman lines of defense in Europe. On September 2nd, as the thunder of artillery can already be heard in Istanbul, Sultan Mehmet VI. accepts the humiliating terms which a delegation of the advancing Entente armies have offered him: the Ottoman Empire is to demobilize its army entirely, vast swathes of its territory shall be occupied “for the time being” by various members of the Entente, Constantinople and the Straits shall be controlled by a joint Entente mission, all ethnic and religious minorities shall be given utmost protection and freedom of expression, the Ottoman fleet is to be handed over to Entente control, and a long list of wanted war criminals, among them former pashas Enver, Djamal, and Talaat, are to be handed over into Entente custody, to be put on trial for their atrocious crimes.

As another member of the Central Powers has dropped out of the war, Bulgaria, which had been the first one to fold (like IOTL), is gripped by revolutionary unrest. Immediately after the surrender, Tsar Ferdinand has abdicated, and his son Boris has succeeded him on the throne. He and his bourgeois coalition government exert very little control over their territory, though: all over the countryside and within the armed forces, revolution has broken out, calling for the end of the monarchy, land reform, Yugoslav unification, universal franchise, court-martials against the generals, free bread for all the workers and, well you can imagine… The revolution is led by the agrarian BANU and supported by the Broad Socialists, although many who participate are not affiliated with any political party. Blagoev’s Narrow Socialists initially remained reserved (because they rejected the agrarian agenda as petty bourgeois and did not want to subordinate themselves to BANU leadership), but when their rank and file was swept by the tide of revolutionary fervor, they jumped aboard, too. The military is divided, but with demobilization fully under way, neither side manages to pull it onto their side successfully. Tsar Boris’s government, as Meštrovic has criticized in his last update, literally appeals to his yesterday’s enemy and today’s occupying force, the Serbian government, to assist him in putting down the revolution – and the Serbians comply, seeing as it is the tsarist government which has agreed to surrender to them and guarantees Bulgarian demobilization. They begin to commit a number of massacres among revolutionaries in Western Bulgaria, until outraged protests by their UoE allies – who are covertly sending in ideologically enthusiastic members of the Republican Guards to help assist and build up the BANU’s Orange Guards and socialist Red Guards – compel them to tread more cautiously. By the end of September, Tsar Boris dismisses his government and abdicates, too, and Bulgaria’s short civil war ends with a victory for the revolutionaries, causing an exodus of thousands of opponents of the revolution into neighboring countries or, in some cases, even as far away as France or the US.

The Romanians and Baluyev’s Fifth Army are breaking through to the Danube in the second half of August, allowing for both armies to send small contingents Southwards into demobilizing Bulgaria, where the Romanians are securing Southern Dobrugea for themselves while the UoE sends in more “aides” to help decide Bulgaria’s civil war in favour of the revolutionaries. The bulk of both armies, though, is pushing Westwards, where their advance is going to be facilitated to a great extent by two consecutive decisions taken in capitals farther to the West: Hungary’s declaration of independence, which causes irritation and moments of outright dissolution among Austrian regiments on the Romanian Front, and a week later the German OHL’s decision to recall the entire Army Group Mackensen upriver on the Danube to secure Germany’s new outer line of Alpine defenses.

Farther North on the Eastern Front, the line of Central Power defenses mostly holds throughout August, in spite of localized revolts and mutinies. North of the Carpathians, the Czechoslovak Legion and the Polish Corps, Ukrainian Territorial Defense divisions, the Third and Fourth Union Armies and a small number of Republican Guard units have probed the Austro-German defenses in several places with combined offensives, but found them too solid still to risk an all-out offensive. Yet farther North, the First and Second Union Armies, great numbers of Republican Guards and the Baltic Fleet are cautious, too: they are fully restoring infrastructural connections with Finland and establishing a number of bridgeheads in Estonia in the back of Hutier’s army group, but here, too, caution prevails, coming straight from the top, for Supreme Commissioner Kamkov is holding magnificent speeches about the brave citizens redeeming their comrades and liberating the republic at last, but in practice he is not willing to rock the boat by risking hundreds of thousands of new casualties in a massive offensive against a still solid enemy yet.

All of this changes in September. The SPD minister for Labour and the Economy, Gustav Bauer, manages to get the leaders of the congress of trade unions, Carl Legien, and industrialists, Hugo Stinnes, to agree on a pact which is immediately legally enshrined and encompasses the eight-hour workday, increased paid sick leave, the enshrining of free negotiations between unions and employers and their universally binding nature, co-determination on the basis of parity in the workplace and unemployment insurance financed on the basis of parity, too. (IOTL, this happens immediately after the revolution.)

But none of these reforms can stop the signs of disintegration on the Western Front when, at a staggering human cost on both sides, Entente forces are breaking through the Hindenburg Line in several places. As the military leadership attempts to reorganize the front, stop the numerically superior Entente troops from advancing too far and their own troops from disintegrating, Paul von Hindenburg concedes in a telegraph to Kaiser Wilhelm II., which leaks to the public almost immediately, that “we have all erred gravely in our judgments” and that “we have no choice now but to look the facts in the eyes”, which has been generally understood as a sign that defeat has become imminent and terms must be sought immediately – a conclusion which does not materialize yet for more than six tragical weeks, bitter truths sometimes take longer to sink in… but primarily yet another blow to the morale of the retreating defenders.

As the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, and just as importantly also the Czechs and Slovaks are declaring their independence from Vienna in early September, following Hungary’s lead, and German OHL orders the retreat from South-Eastern Europe, Austria-Hungary practically descends into chaos. This is the degree of weakness for which the generals of the Union Armies, and especially the Advisor to the Joint Command over the Western Front (to the CP, it is, of course, the Eastern Front) Alexey Brusilov, have waited for. On September 6th, Brusilov, egged on by the various ethnic legions as well as by news of an intensifying revolt in Latvia and encouraged by Hindenburg’s fatalistic message, finally gives the green lights for not one, not two, but three major offensives to be launched against the positions of the Central Powers.

The first one, in Southern Romania, cuts through the last disorganized defenders like a hot knife through butter, leading to the liberation of Bucharest on September 10th and the establishment of Romanian/Entente control over the entire rest of Wallachia only ten days later. (Imagine this as an equivalent to OTL’s Operation Faustschlag, only in reverse.) A sizable number of fleeing Austro-Hungarian soldiers is captured. Now, the Romanians and their Union allies have caught up with the Serbians, who complete the liberation of their home land by September 19th.

The second offensive, in the Northern piedmont of the Carpathians, does not advance quite as fast, for the German so-called “South Army” under General Felix von Bothmer had not been recalled, putting up spirited resistance to the combined onslaught of various Union, Polish, and Czechoslovak divisions. It took the attackers nine days before local breakthroughs could be transformed into a real walkover, capturing yet more prisoners and causing the remaining defenders to retreat and reorganize at a much deeper line, ceding Galician territory as far as Przemysl to the advancing coalition troops, who need a few days to rebuild infrastructure enough to maintain and extend their lines of supply before, on September 26th and 27th, the next two offensive waves wash against Central Powers positions: the Polish Corps are pushing North-Westwards towards Krakow, while Czechoslovak units penetrate into the mountainous forests of their Slovakian home land. Russian, Ukrainian and other Union regiments are mostly remaining in place for the time being, putting down the last pockets of closed-in defenders, restoring infrastructure and building up the new political structures of the revolutionary republic in Lemberg and its countryside.

In the third offensive, the Second Union Army and Latvian guards push Westwards along the Daugava against crumbling German resistance by units from the Tenth Army who are experiencing an unprecedented surge in desertions and who are thus soon ordered to withdraw Southwards, allowing the Union Army and the Latvians to liberate town after town along the river and drive a wedge between German Eighth Army holding out in the Estonian countryside to the North and the rest of the German forces. The Baltic Fleet contributed to this offensive through amphibious landings near Ventspils, from where Republican Guards marched almost unimpeded Eastwards to unite with their comrades.

The month ends with a big beat of the drum as, under the impression of the unstoppable breakaway of the Yugoslav, Hungarian and Czechoslovak lands, the renewed Italian offensive, the fast movement of Serbian and other Entente troops across Croatia, and new strikes and protests in Vienna, Kaiser Karl abdicates on September 30th and transfers his powers to the new Staatsrat elected by the recently convened Provisional National Council for German Austria. Instructed by the three equally footed chairmen of the Staatsrat, the nationalist Franz Dinghofer, the Christian Social Johann Nepomuk Hauser and the Social Democrat Karl Seitz, the Austrian generals Webenau and Straußenberg signed the Armistice of Aßling on October 2nd, with which all Austrian armies officially surrendered.

While this certainly weakened Germany’s defenses even more, it no longer meant as much as it would have done two months before: the Northern and Western parts of Austria had come, at this moment, under firm German military control, and were, over the next weeks, treated as occupied territory. Hungary, the last part of the old empire which had not surrendered nor aligned itself with the Entente, had been extending its feelers to all sides for over a month now, but had found no mercy, neither with the Czechoslovaks and their Union allies who insisted on Slovak secession and accession to the new Czechoslovak Republic, nor with the Romanians and their Union allies, who insisted on annexing Transilvania and joining it with Romania, nor with the Serbs, the Yugoslav Commission and their Anglo-French allies, who insisted on full secession of all Yugoslav lands and their unification with Serbia.

In Vienna, in the meantime, the nascent Republic of Deutschösterreich is torn apart from the beginning by ideological divisions concerning the questions of the relations with Berlin on the one hand, and the socialist council movement on the other hand. The German OHL had received news of the Austrian surrender with defiant fatalism; it had been anticipated over the course of the past few weeks. While they continued their withdrawal behind the Alpine Defense Line and its fortification, they also offered support to the emerging Heimwehren – German militia units, mostly officially demobilized soldiers – who prepared to take on Slovene-Croat-Serbian and Czechoslovak groups and organize resistance against a Slavicization of the border territories and their conversion into concentration areas for an attack on Germany’s heartland. In Vienna, and even more so in Carinthia, Styria and Western Bohemia, the Deutschnationals wanted to accept this arrangement and sought, in the middle term, German Austria’s accession to the German Empire. They also supported to employ, instead of demobilizing, loyal army units in a crackdown against radical councils who were beginning to take over factories and who violently opposed the formation of the Heimwehren. The Social Democrats, on the other hand, favoured a clear severing of all ties with the German Empire in its current belligerent state – including the explicit demand that the German Imperial Army withdrew from occupied Austrian territory –, and sought to rebuild a force for the protection and safeguarding of the republic from among the council militia, whom they sought to influence and steer into a moderate course of co-operation with the Staatsrat and the Provisional National Council. The council movement itself was divided between compromising left-wing Social Democrats like Julius Deutsch, Josef Frey, and the recently released Friedrich Adler, who sought to restart work in the factories across the country and supported co-operation with the Staatsrat under the condition of immediate universal, free and equal elections to a Constituent Assembly, and more radical revolutionaries around Franz Koritschoner and Elfriede Friedländer, who supported immediate worker takeovers of the factories, rejected the Staatsrat and the National Council for being based on the representation which had resulted from the unequal parliamentary elections of 1911, and favoured building up new state institutions emerging from the councils themselves. Austria’s third large party, the Christian Socials, were caught between a rock and a hard place: neither did they support submitting to “Prussian” Germany (whose anti-Catholic policies they kept in horrified memory), nor did they wish to tolerate a socialist upheaval of all social relations, and subsequently began to form “left” and right wings who favoured alliances with the Deutschnationals or the Social Democrats respectively, while the party leadership officially supported an all-party coalition of national emergency, officially stood by the full demobilization, while its members joined the Heimwehren, and officially distanced itself from Germany, while not supporting anything which would have made the German occupation of large parts of Austria any less comfortable, either.

Elsewhere, the first half of October looked terrifying for Wilhelm II., Ebert’s government and the Hindenburg/Groenen OHL, too. Desertions multiplied along the Western Front, where the Entente was advancing slowly but unstoppably and where still thousands died on every single day. In the first week of October, the Czechoslovak Legion wrestled control over Bratislava from Hungarian contingents, from where they could travel by train across friendly territory to Prague and onwards, so that on October 19th, the day which would go down in history as the day on which the Great War ended, they were able to threaten the unprotected Saxon border of the German Empire with invasion. Up to this moment, the Romanian Army had broken through Hungarian defenses and poured into Transilvania, while Serbian and Yugoslav Committee-loyal SHS (Slovene-Croat-Serb) as well as British and French troops had reached the South-Eastern fringes of German-speaking Austria unopposed and, with Greek and Italian assistance, completed taking over control over Albania in the South, logistically aided by the (formally joint Entente, de facto mostly Italian) takeover of the k.u.k. Adriatic Fleet, against which the SHS representatives put up meek protest, in which they were supported only by the UoE and the US, though, and even that only half-heartedly, for the UoE, too, had acquiesced to the Serbs, British, French and Italians sorting things out in the Western Balkans while they themselves had gained a new ally in revolutionary Bulgaria, and potentially another, should the radicals in the Austrian council movement prevail, and the US had their hands full with all the death certificates coming in from the Western Front.

But the death knell to Germany’s defense sounded in Vilnius / Wilna / Wilno. A few hundred kilometers South of this multi-ethnic historical capital of the Lithuanians, uprisings had broken out against the Polish Regency government in Warsaw. They were spearheaded by the Polska Organizacja Wojskowa, but very soon, the Workers’ Councils movement (for an OTL equivalent, see here) joined in, where the two didn’t already overlap. OHL and Ebert’s government had ordered Eichhorn to divert an entire division of his Tenth Army to the South to relieve Steczkowski’s Regency government and crush the anti-German revolts. Among the German soldiers receiving these marching orders – I have already mentioned how they are, in good part, politically motivated draftees with USPD and other revolutionary proletarian backgrounds from the striking towns of January 1918 –, resentment soon broke out. It was clear to anyone but the most blind that the war was lost and would soon be over, and now they, who had already hoped to be able to await this end of the war in their relatively calm pocket, should risk their lives to kill countless civilians, protesting fellow workers (and peasants), in order to give a puppet government, which would fall in less than a month anyway, a few more weeks in power? And all that while it was clear that Eastern Europe – and perhaps the world? – was turning towards socialism and national self-determination, and that they would soon, with great likelihood, be called to account for their deeds in these last, futile days of the war.

The first groups to mutiny were stationed in Vilnius. Fraternising with those whom they had oppressed for the past years, soldiers from the XXXVIII. Reserve Corps proclaimed the “Wilnaer Kommune” on October 5th. Their mutiny – helped along by news from Austria, too – spread like wildfire, and within a week, not only most of the Attack Group Arnold von WInckler, who had been ordered to march against the insurgents, but also most of the rest of the Tenth German Army was in open mutiny, helping in the emergence of countless local revolts and revolutionary takeovers all across Lithuania, Western Belarus, and Northern Poland (speaking in OTL’s present-day borders) instead of oppressing them. These mutinies and revolutions on the periphery were soon accompanied by a wave of strikes in great cities in the heartland of the Reich: in Bremen, Berlin, München, Heilbronn, Leipzig, Breslau and other places, protest marches brought hundreds of thousands, if not millions to the streets, and local strikes turned into a general strike. The protesters all demanded an immediate end to the war – but beyond that, they did not agree on much: there were anarchists, staunch radical socialists, moderate trade unionists, unpolitical townfolk and even people from the countryside joining. When attempts to appease them had failed, Ebert’s Minister for the Interior, Gustav Noske, ordered to shoot on protesters who aimed to take over government institutions in Berlin, on October 10th. One day later, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Philipp Scheidemann, resigned in protest, and immediately sought communications with moderate members of the USPD leadership like Bernstein, Haase, and Kautsky, drawing plans to steer the revolutionary movement safely into a constitutional republican direction and away from dangerous anarchist experiments. Ebert and Groener would soon realize themselves, though, that the (in their eyes) worst could only be averted if the war was ended immediately, regardless on what terms. Their last desperate attempt to steer the course of events in a more favourable way was to release Jozef Pilsudski from prison on October 13th and send him to Warsaw with a German capitulation which communicated that Eichhorn had been ordered to stop any attempts to curb the uprising, and in which the German government officially acknowledged the POW as part of Poland’s defensive force, withdrew its support for Steczkowski, and promised to a new Polish government under Pilsudski’s leadership that they would withdraw all their forces from “Poland” – whatever that meant. In exchange, they received nothing more than Pilsudski’s personal word of honour that he would not turn against Germany and invade the Empire.

But already two days later, on October 15th, it became clear that even this would not be enough to stem the tide of imminent military threats, near-universal general strike, and breakdown of public order within the empire, and Ebert sent a delegation of three generals, endowed with a carte blanche from Kaiser Wilhelm II., to negotiate the terms of Germany’s surrender with all Entente powers. The terms they received were shocking to them, so they sought reinsurance that they should really go ahead and sign them. The shock took more than a day to sink in in Berlin as well, but the reassurance was given, and on October 18th, the Generals Hindenburg and Groener and Admiral Ehrhardt Schmidt for the German Empire and military envoys from the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the French Republic, the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Serbia, and the Union of Equals signed the Armistice of Absam, in which the German Imperial Army committed itself to withdraw all its troops behind the Rhine in the West, the Bavarian border in the South, and the Oder in the East; to hand over all military equipment currently stationed in territories to be evacuated in an undamaged condition, to hand over its high sea fleet and u-boats, and to demobilize its military forces completely over the course of the next three months. The sea blockade of Germany’s ports would remain in place until a final peace treaty would be signed.

On Saturday October 19th, 1918, at 6:00 a.m., all guns fell silent along the long fronts between Germany and its enemies. The Great War ended. [1]

[1] Well, not entirely. Hungary, for all intents and purposes a member of the former Central Powers, is still fighting against Romania, a member of the Entente, in Transilvania. But just like mainstream OTL history, I’ll simply gloss over this…

Here is an attempt at a map showing the "front lines" at the armistice of October 19th, 1918:


The blue line was the front line in July 1918. Grey lines (between Bulgaria and Serbia as well as along the Oder) are where Bulgarian (since August, completed) and German troops are supposed to retreat behind in order to be demobilised there. The thin green line is probably inaccurate, it's meant to delineate the traditional Leitha border between Austria (Cisleithania) and Hungary (Transleithania). The light turquoise front lines are not really to be understood as "front lines" along the Western edge of the map because Austria has surrendered weeks before October 19th and various Entente troops have permeated farther North (while other Austrian troops are still on their way back home). Farther to the East, it is a rough "front line", for Hungary has not yet officially surrendered, but here, too, things are not yet very clear-cut, with units of various loyalties still caught on the other side of what emerges as a new line of division. The Romanian bulge in the Valea Jiului is probably also too small, but I didn't want to make the "Hermannstadt" inscription utterly illegible. With Romanian "gatherings" across Transilvania who declare their unification with the Kingdom of Romania, Hungarian control over Transilvania is questionable anyway. The Romanian army is marching Northwards, accompanied by a few UoE contingents - so far, they have demanded territories up to Satu Mare and Oradea, basically Romania's OTL North-Western border. There has not yet been any understanding, but there are still quite a few troops loyal to the Hungarian Republic left in Transilvania.
Last edited:
October 1918 - UoE Presidential Candidacies
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.
November 1918 - USPD Congress
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.
USPD Congress pt. 2
Leipzig (German Empire): Leipziger Volkszeitung, November 4th, 1918, p. 1:

Reconcilers Prevail – Spartakists leave USPD

by Hans Block

The USPD has concluded its party congress with a narrow triumph of the “reconcilers” [1]. Their triumph, complete with the election of a leadership solely composed of Revisionists and Marxist Centrists at the exclusion of the extreme Left, has been paid for dearly by another split in the labour movement, which materialized when over a hundred congress attendants, USPD members who were also organized in the clandestine Spartakusbund, announced to leave the USPD in protest over its “surrender policies”.

The second day of the congress began with the proposal for a revolutionary action plan, complete with instructions on how to co-operate with other revolutionary groups, how to behave in mixed councils, how to treat members who sabotage revolutionary efforts, as well as for the creation of a committee which gathers all militarily relevant intelligence. The action plan was presented by Heinrich Laufenberg, USPD member and Spartakist from Hamburg, and it was greeted with cheers and chants from the ranks. For a few minutes in the morning, it appeared as if the Independent Social Democrats had dedicated themselves to transforming Germany into a revolutionary Commune.

But then Kurt Eisner rose and spoke, calm but unwavering. He would not have any of this “secret party police nonsense”, and he would not have his government, nor himself nor his Bavarian comrades be subjected to “hectoring from Berlin”. In the party a simple member, but in Bavaria the Minister-President of the newly founded Free State, Eisner’s words had great pragmatic weight. Especially his informed judgment of the ratio of revolutionary to reactionary military forces in the South could not be ignored, and when he concluded: “Bavaria’s workers and peasants are tired of war. They will not let anyone force them back under the yoke of the military monarchy again, make no mistake. But neither will they will march to Berlin at the behest of a self-proclaimed Committee of Public Safety [2] to shed their blood on Prussia’s sandy fields in a fratricidal war which cannot be won. I will not command them to”, the option of the USPD throwing itself behind a revolutionary war for socialism and republican democracy was no longer realistic. It became even less so when Richard Lipinski, not just our Free People's State's Minister-President, but also a member of the old USPD presidium, concurred with Eisner’s position, and proposed a counter-motion: that the USPD demand the release of the political prisoners and the self-dissolution of the Bundesrat as preconditions for their work towards ending the wave of strikes and violent protests [3]. If Ebert’s government and the Bundesrat would comply, the USPD and the governments which it led should militate towards an oversight of the soldiers’ councils over the demobilization to prevent weaponry from falling into the hands of anti-socialist Heimatwehren [4], towards constituent assembly elections based on universal equal suffrage being held in each member state, too, and that the MSPD join the USPD in pressing forward socialist economic transformation and full democratic parliamentarisation on all levels in these constituent bodies. If the MSPD would reject these terms or not commit themselves credibly to them, the USPD would preserve for itself the option of mobilizing for renewed general strikes and other measures of popular protest.

Where Eisner’s speech had disheartened the radicals and emboldened the moderates, Lipinski’s proposals brought the moderate wing of the party back into the offensive with a plan behind which both Revisionists and Marxist Centrists could rally. Lipinski’s motion was accepted with a narrow majority of 574 over 532 votes. When Laufenburg’s counter-motion was struck down, again on the narrow margin of 519 to 580 votes, Leo Jogiches, August Thalheimer, Paul Lange, Willi Budich and Eugen Leviné [5] came to the fore together to announce that the Spartakusbund leaves the USPD immediately and would implement the agenda laid down in the Laufenburg plan instead.

More than a hundred members of the congress followed them, joined by groups from outside the party who had attended, too, and who sympathized with the Spartakist position more than with Lipinski’s agenda. Reduced and demoralized, the USPD’s left wing suffered defeat after defeat in the elections to the party’s new presidium. The new leaders of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany are Hugo Haase (chairman), Fritz Kunert, Wilhelm Bock, Karl Kautsky, Ernst Toller, Hermann Fleißner and Hans Brümmer [6].

Haase, the old and new chairman of the party, promised to dedicate himself immediately to the pursuit of the Lipinski plan, attempting to get in touch with Scheidemann’s more dialogue-friendly wing in the MSPD Reichstag faction as soon as possible. In his concluding speech, he promised that the USPD would continue to be the incorruptible voice for peace, democracy, and socialism, and that they would continue to fight against the power of the old militaristic elites, the backwards clergy, and the reactionary Heimatwehren. At the same time, he also warned the Spartakists against any dangerous and rash action which could only bring ruin over Germany’s working class, and distanced himself and his party in the clearest words from any “excesses” which might be perpetrated by the Spartakists who had now left the party.

On the streets of Leipzig, the reaction to the decisions of the congress have been mixed. While Lipinski enjoys the trust and support of Leipzig’s proletarian defenders of the Saxon Revolution, the further loss of unity among the labour movement was widely lamented. With these demonstrating workers and with all democratically minded citizens of our city and our country, we are hoping, at this pivotal moment in the history of our nation, that our new democratic house shall not prove so divided as to fall, and instead find onto the path of peaceful, equitable and prosperous development, away from the shameful crimes and oppression of the old order and into a better future, as a social and democratic nation joining our hands with other free nations in a new and lasting circle of peace.

[1] IOTL, the term „Versöhnler“ [=reconcilers] is not used for / by parts of the German radical left until the second half of the 1920s. But I thought those moderates and centrists who favoured participating in a parliamentary and electoral transformation of the country towards socialism would not want to call themselves “surrenderers”, as their rivals dubbed them, and nor would a USPD-friendly newspaper which is not part of the Spartakus network call them by that name. “Reconcilers” probably had ambivalent connotations and may not be their self-description, but it sounds OK as an outside description for them, given that their course of action would imply, at least to a certain extent, reconciling with the MSPD in one way or another.

[2] In the absence of a Bolshevik bugbear, the historical example of the French Revolution and the excesses of Robespierre’s “terreur” is still everyone’s no.1 bogeyman choice ITTL.

[3] The relevance of the Bundesrat stems from its being the organ which orders imperial execution. Its being unacceptable to the USPD has a lot to do with the representatives gathered in it.

[4] The Austrian term is on its way to become TTL’s equivalent of “Freikorps” in the German context, too.

[5] If you wonder why there are quite a few “backbench” Spartakists involved here (Laufenburg, too, by the way), well, they are not ITTL. The reason is that leading lights like Liebknecht and Luxemburg are still in prison, while others have been killed in the much more bloody repression of the January strikes ITTL.

[6] This presidium mirrors the new de facto power of the provinces and the weakened position of Berlin, with four members representing strong territorial sections: Saxony-Gotha (Bock), Bavaria (Toller), Saxony (Fleißner) and Baden (Brümmer), against only three Reichstag members.
November 1918 - UK General Elections
Manchester (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland): The Manchester Guardian, November 25th, 1918, p. 1:


By Sunday evening, not all votes have been counted yet. Yet, it is becoming clear beyond any doubt that Saturday’s general elections have broken all parliamentary records, possibly foreshadowing tremendous consequences for our political system.


Despite their percentage share of the vote having been reduced by approximately nine percentage points, Bonar Law’s Conservative and Unionist Party has apparently gained more than one hundred additional seats in Westminster. As political commenters had predicted beforehand, this outcome has resulted from the two factions of the Liberal Party, which had been triumphant in the last elections but split over the course of the Great War, competing against each other in many constituencies and, in their divided state, presenting no trustworthy offer to the electorate. Both Prime Minister Earl David Lloyd George’s and Earl Herbert Henry Asquith’s Liberals obtained roughly 13 % each, with Lloyd George’s so-called “Coalition Liberals” gaining over 120 seats, while Asquith’s faction was only able to secure 36 or 37, coming in fifth place, behind both the Labour Party and the Irish secessionist Sinn Féin Party. In the majority of constituencies, candidates who had received official endorsements by Lloyd George’s government (so-called “coupons”) have won. Apparently, the next Conservative and Unionist faction could muster a parliamentary majority of their own, but in accordance with previous understandings, it is expected that the national coalition with Liberal and Labour members will be continued, and Lloyd George once again be appointed as Prime Minister.


The fight for universal suffrage has been long – this Saturday, all adult male citizens and all women over thirty years of age have been able, for the first time, to participate in the elections, both as voters and as candidates. Predictably, total participation at the ballot boxes has more than doubled from almost five million to over ten million votes. Female participation has been reported to be overwhelming, and for the first time in its history, two women will sit in the House of Commons: Mary MacArthur (Labour) for Stourbridge and Constance Markiewicz (Irish Republican Revolutionary Socialist) for Dublin St Patrick’s. Also as a consequence of this electoral reform, the voting share of the Labour Party and other socialist parties has risen from less than 7 % to more than 23 %, now counting more than seventy seats altogether.


The Irish Sinn Féin Party, which advocates the immediate establishment of an independent Irish Republic, has won a landslide victory, gaining 56 of Ireland’s 105 seats. It remains to be seen if the young party really stands by their electoral manifesto, in which they promised not to take their seats in Westminster and form a revolutionary “assembly of Ireland”, which would create potentially insurmountable problems for the implementation of the amended scheme for Irish Home Rule, which, at this moment, is supported in Ireland only by the eighteen M.P.s elected for the Irish Parliamentary Party.

The results are, overall, not dramatically different from OTL’s December 1918 general election. In England, Scotland, and Wales, the results are almost identical, with less than ten seats which IOTL went to the Tories or Liberals going to Labour candidates instead, this minor change being on account of the British press publishing less aggressively anti-socialist articles than IOTL because of the UoE remaining a fighting member of the Entente instead of Soviet Russia becoming a defector and a brutalistic pariah. (One of these additional Labour gains is that of famous suffragette Mary MacArthur, mentioned in the article.)

In Ireland, though, the results are pronouncedly different. Sinn Féin is still considered to have won a landslide victory, but that is only because TTL’s Manchester Guardian cannot know OTL’s results, where Sinn Féin gained 73 seats instead of 56, out of which 25 went unopposed. Initially, I had considered an even lower result for Sinn Féin, but as I read up on Irish history throughout WW1, it became clear to me that the dynamics in favour of violent secessionist Sinn Féin had been irreversibly strong already before this TTL’s primary PoD in April 1917. The British response to the Easter Rising of 1916 had already driven Irish nationalists away from the traditional Home Rule movement parties and towards the more intransigent Sinn Féin umbrella movement, and already by 1915, a locally successful party like All For Ireland was more or less dissolving in favour of uniting behind Sinn Féin. Nevertheless, the absence of an Irish Conscription Crisis of 1918 must account for something, I thought. What I thought it might have caused is Sinn Féin not looking quite as successful as they did IOTL where they were accredited with having averted Irish conscription, leading to

a) the Irish Labour Party not refraining from nominating candidates of their own in favour of supporting Sinn Féin nationalists, which leads to 3 Irish Labour candidates being elected as M.P.s (D. D. Sheehan for Mid Cork, instead of Terence MacSwiney, Sinn Féin; William X. O`Brien for Cork City; and Thomas Farren for Dublin College Green instead of Séan T. O’Kelly, Sinn Féin) and Constance Markiewicz as well as as another candidate in Dublin Harbour being elected as M.P.s for a newly-founded “Irish Republican Revolutionary Socialist Party” instead of on Sinn Féin tickets; and

b) the Irish Parliamentary Party waking up late, but not too late, to the challenge of electoral battle, standing up for Home Rule as it had been ultimately legislated in 1912-14 instead of shedding more Irish blood in a secessionist war, thus not leaving quite as many as 25 constituencies uncontested for Sinn Féin, and making a slightly better performance in a number of other constituencies, thus leading to 18 of their candidates being elected instead of merely 7 as IOTL. (Which is still a horrible bashing after they had gained 83 seats in 1910.)

Plausibly contested constituencies which I thought could go to the IPP ITTL instead of Sinn Féin IOTL are Louth, Wexford South, Wexford North, West Kerry, East Kerry, South Kerry, Galway East, West Cork, South Donegal, South Dublin, North Sligo and North Tipperary.

The total results are as follows (OTL results in brackets): Conservative and Unionist: 377 (382), Coalition Liberal 123 (127), Coalition National Democratic 9 (9), Coalition Labour 4 (4), Coalition Independent 1 (1), Labour 67 (57), Sinn Féin 56 (73), Liberal 35 (36), Irish Parliamentary 18 (7), Irish Labour 3 (0), Labour Unionist 3 (3), Independent Labour 2 (2), Irish Republican Revolutionary Socialist 2 (0), Independent 2 (2), National 1 (1), Co-Operative 1 (1), Independent Conservative 1 (1), National Socialist 1 (1), NADSS 1 (1). This is still quite an overwhelming Coalition majority. If Sinn Féin remains true to their word and does not take their seats in Westminster and convenes as the First Dáil instead, there are only 19 of them to do so (compared to 26 IOTL, the rest is either in jail or otherwise impaired). That may not keep them from declaring Ireland’s independence, and with 56 out of 105 Irish seats, Sinn Féin still has a theoretical Irish majority. Nevertheless, ITTL the IPP is not going to suffer the Home Rule bill being buried quietly. Will that prevent the War of Independence from breaking out? Michael Collins surely has the underground divisions prepared for it…