TL/Discussion: The Red Century (Post WW1 Communist Germany)

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Aidan Todd, Feb 19, 2019.

  1. Aidan Todd Well-Known Member

    Nov 26, 2017
    The Red Century


    An Alternative History of the German Revolution and the 20th Century

    In our timeline, undoubtedly the biggest factors in the failure of the German Revolution was the murder of Karl Liebnecht and Rosa Luxemburg in January 1919. These were unifying figures, who were admired across the revolutionary left due to their tireless opposition to SPD revisionism and German involvement in the war. Their deaths made the communist movement lacking in unifying leadership at a critical moment in 1920 in the aftermath of the Kapp Putsch, where potentially the KPD could have taken power. You instead had a number of leaders, Paul Levi, Heinrich Brandler, and Karl Radek, who were lacking in experience and political skill, and who were not well known enough to gain the trust of the rank and file. Paul Levi was needlessly antagonising towards the KPD left, and this led to a split in 1919 which then meant that in the aftermath of the Putsch and the general strike and workers insurrections that followed, there was no unified direction.

    So, in an alternative scenario, lets simply say that for whatever reason, Luxemburg and Liebnecht (or even just one of them) manage to escape from the Freikorps, maybe by leaving Berlin in the aftermath of the Spartacist Revolt like they were advised to. They gather their forces throughout the remainder of 1919, and because of their popularity, are able to get the USPD left to unify KPD that year, and avoid the breakaway Communist Workers Party (KAPD).

    By March 1920, when the Kapp Putsch happens, it is the same as in our timeline. 12 million workers go on strike to put an end to the military coup, and in it's aftermath, the workers of the Ruhr rise up and form an army 80,000+ men strong. But because the left is less fragmented, the Ruhr Red Army is properly led by a unified command and is to hold off the Freikorp advance. Meanwhile, with the iron of struggle still flaming hot, Luxemburg and Liebnecht call on the workers of Germany to refuse to lay down their arms, and to overthrow the government which has fired upon them and capitulated to capitalism. The Ruhr Red Army is accompanied with risings in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Munich, and the government of Ebert and Schidemann is toppled.

    PS: This is sort of mixture between a timeline and typical discussion thread. I am not knowledgeable enough nor have the time and patience to be able to write a fictional history book in pure prose, but I do want to get my ideas about this scenario across in a more dramatic and aesthetic way than just a typical thread. Hence the pictures, titles, and font. I also think a lot of timelines spend far too much time on the minutiae, and therefore don't ever get to the point of explaining their fictional world.


    Of course the reactionary right attempts to stop this with everything they have. Freikorp units are sent as death squads to murder workers. However, despite all of their murderous terror, I think they would be limited with what they could do. The vast majority of the cities would have been in favor of the uprising, as they had been strongly associated with the left OTL, so the right would only have be able to rely on the most reactionary rural areas, which are lacking in wealth.

    Between 1920 and 1923, Germany is in a state of civil war, but the left, having more popular support, prevails against the reactionary right, who are extremely divided and unpopular. By 1923, the last white forces surrender in Bavaria and East Prussia to form a government in exile, and Karl Liebnecht announces the victory of the German Democratic Republic against bourgeois counterrevolution

    So, what would this new communist Germany look like, how would it relate to the Soviet Union? This is what I've been thinking...

    The 1920s in Germany


    Areas of Communist Control - Red

    Germany leaves the
    German Civil War a profoundly weakened country. France and Britain, whom with which the new government had refused to comply by the Treaty of Versailles, cut off all trade links. Due to war fatigue from the general population, as well as the outbreak of the deadly Spanish Flu, the Entente cannot restart the war with Germany without risking revolutions in their own countries. They had supported the whites in the German Civil War, as the Ebert government had signed the peace treaty in 1919, but this meant they were seen as unpatriotic and stooges of foreigners. By the wars conclusion in 1923, 50,000 have been killed.

    Poland also remains a thorn in the backside. The USSR and GDR had defeated Pilsudski's forces in what was known as the Eastern War, and had set up a puppet government under communist control. This further increases the tension between the communist forces of Russia and Germany, and the allies powers of Europe.

    The communist government since coming to power nationalised all banks and industry and had workers run these institutions via democratic committees, collectivised all forests and large estates, abolished the remnants of the Prussian aristocracy, formally separated church and state, created a single payer, universal healthcare system, and gave equal rights to women. The state had control over the commanding heights of the economy and could plan according to need.

    Rosa Luxemburg, a profound believer in multi party democracy, calls another constituent assembly in 1923 to draft a new constitution. Whilst united in their desire for revolution and opposition to bourgeois reaction and invasion by foreign powers, the KPD begins to fragment when it comes to domestic policy into two main factions.

    Left: Want to focus on fomenting revolution in other countries, a pure soviet democracy constitution, pro collectivisation of agriculture, total collective ownership, in favor of Germany joining the USSR. Key Members: Rosa Luxemburg, Otto Ruhle, Paul Mattick, Anton Pannekoek,

    Right: Want to focus on building up Germany, parliamentary democracy with strong role for workers committees and soviets, majority collective ownership (aside from small businesses), in favor of Germany remaining an independent country aligned with the USSR, want to attempt to reach some kind of temporary settlement with the west. Key Members: Karl Liebnecht, Paul Levi, Heinrich Brandler, Karl Radek, August Thalmier, Ernest Thalman

    After the conclusion of the war, the KPD splits into the left-communist KAPD (Communist Workers Party of Germany) and the centrist marxist SAPD (Socialist Workers Party of Germany). The SAPD, representing the right faction, wins a plurality of the vote in the 1923 constituent assembly elections. This is due to mainly two factors.

    1. The German people are tired of war. After the devastation the country by both the Great War, German Civil War, and Eastern War, most members of the German working class do not want to engage in revolutionary adventurism which may get them dragged into another conflict, but want to focus on building a brighter, better, and more peaceful future where the promises of socialism can finally be realised.

    2. The bulk of the German socialist movement recognised the practicalities of governing as well as the overwhelming mood of the populace. They knew that joining the USSR would for the German people essentially mean the annexation of Germany by Russia, its historic enemy, and believed that Germany now needed a unifying force, to get initial opponents of the new regime to accept its legitimacy, such as artisans, shopkeepers, and sections of the petite bourgeoisie.

    Approximately, these are the results:

    SAPD: 32%
    KAPD: 22%
    SPD: 18%
    Democratic Party: 16%
    Zendrum: 6%
    German People's Party: 6%

    The constitution of 1923 is by far the most democratic constitution in the world. It proclaims the German Democratic Republic a 'free socialist republic' and as a 'workers state' and contains many quotations from the Communist Manifesto and tributes to Karl Marx. It recognises the role of the workers councils in the direct running of industry and the common ownership over the means of production, exchange, and control. The legislative consists of two houses, the National Assembly, elected directly via universal suffrage for all those over the age of 18 using proportional representation, and the Congress of Workers Councils, elected indirectly from workplace representatives in a bottom up fashion, elected by all those who work. The country also has a president, much to the distaste of the Left Opposition, elected via universal suffrage. The flag remains the black, red, and gold tricolor, and the national anthem Deutschlandlied is still the official state anthem, played alongside the Internationale.

    August Thalmier becomes the first President of the GDR, with Karl Liebnecht becoming Chancellor, and Emil Barth as Chairman of the Congress of Workers Councils.

    A comparison with the GDR from OTL would be Red Vienna, a period in the history of the City of Vienna from the early 20's to early 30's under the Austro-Marxists, and Sweden in the 1970s under the premiership of Olof Palme.

    Overall, throughout the 1920s the new government implemented major reforms benefiting the working classes.

    - Over 1 million new council houses were built, provided with full electricity, running water, central heating, and radios. Many were built as communal apartments, (Like Karl Marx-Hof in Vienna OTL)

    - New urban planning created a comfort, cleanliness, and convenience to residents

    - Hundreds of theatres, cinemas, and concert halls sprung up. Germany throughout the decade had a vibrant culture unique to the world. It's contributions to the fields of cinema were widely applauded, particularly films like Fritz Lang's Metropolis, which revolutionised the medium.


    - The German economy grew at an average of 10% per year throughout the decade, doubling the size of the economy and overtaking the United States in terms of GDP per capita by 1929, despite the blockade.

    - The government opted for a system of decentralised planning. Market mechanisms remained to determine the scale of supply and demand, but all banks 100% publicly owned, allowing the state to plan how to allocate resources for the benefit of the people

    - Contraception was made widely available, and homosexuality and abortion was legalised.

    - As aforementioned, universal single payer healthcare was implemented throughout the country, leading to greatly increased life expectancy, and greatly decreased infant mortality.

    By 1927, the German government was in talks with France about trying to negotiate a settlement to the war. Paul Levi, the German foreign minister, believed that 'everyone lost the war' and that Germany should have to pay no more than it had already lost in the way of lives. Committed to peace across the continent, and determined to avoid another war, Germany accepted certain conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, such as demilitarisation of the Rhineland, and the withdrawal of troops from Poland, but refused to disarm until other nations did the same or accept responsibility for the war. Talks eventually resulted in progress however, and in 1928 France recognised the GDR and eased the blockade of German goods.

    The GDR was a key ally of the Soviet Union, and the 1924 German-Soviet Friendship Pact virtually abolished all tariffs and restrictions on freedom of movement between the two nations. Faced with an economic blockade by the west, the Soviet Union was Germany's prime market during the 1920's, exporting automobiles and heavy machinery in exchange for grain.

    To be continued, when I discuss the Soviet Union during this time period.....
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2019
    marcus23, Salvador79 and RedTerra like this.
  2. RedTerra Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2017
    Ooooo, followin' :T
  3. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    I'm certainly interested!
    I am somewhat skeptical both of your electoral results (how did the bourgeois forces get marginalised so effectively? Election rigging?) and of the growth rates of your socialist Germany, especially under the conditions of trade embargoes...
  4. Cregan Well-Known Member

    Jul 20, 2008
    Surely Stalin won’t come to power here
    Taimur500 likes this.
  5. Aidan Todd Well-Known Member

    Nov 26, 2017
    Well, in the Russian constituent assembly elections of 1918, various leftist parties gained almost all the votes, with a plurality being Socialist Revolutionaries. In Portugal in 1975 the left had an overwhelming majority of the power in drafting the constitution. Even in areas which in the 1920 German elections voted for non leftist parties, workers partook in mass strikes and occupations of factories in the immediate aftermath of the Putsch. The Ruhr was not a region which had a leftist majority in the 1920 election, but yet still experienced a mass uprising, probably the most impressive of the period. I think history shows that when the heat of struggle calms down, even if its by just a couple of months, people will be more likely to vote for the right, take May 68. However, in this timeline, with the left victorious and the workers being at the height of struggle, I think the left would win.

    As to the growth rates, the Soviet Union during the first five year plan grew an average of 30% per year, and China during the first half of the 1950's grew by around 20% also. I think 10% is within the realms of possibility given they a superior economic planning system than those two countries.
    Taimur500 likes this.
  6. Aidan Todd Well-Known Member

    Nov 26, 2017
    The 1920s in the Soviet Union
    The Soviet Union was devastated by the impact of the war. Over 3 million citizens had starved to death in the Great Russian Famine, hundreds of thousands had been executed by the red and white armies, and as a result, industrial production was less than one tenth of what it had been prior. Conditions such as these were hopeless for any regime attempting to establish socialism.

    The revolution in Germany did wonders to boost the morale of troops, although Russia received little aid from the German Red Army, as they were busy fighting their own civil war. However, they did manage to encircle Poland, which allowed the Reds to connect Germany and the Soviet Union.

    Now, most people would expect that after Lenin's death in 1924, Leon Trotsky would replace him in the event of a revolution in Germany. The orthodox Trotskyist position is that Trotsky was only robbed of leadership due to the objective isolation of Russia and to rising bureaucracy. However, this was not the only reason. We must look in detail as to the reasons why in OTL Trotsky did not become leader of the USSR, to determine whether or not he would in this alternative timeline.

    First off, contrary to Trotskyist dogma, Lenin's Testament was not overall kind to Trotsky. Whilst he admired his intelligence and leadership skills, he also called him hopelessly
    arrogant, and was worried that he could alienate other members of the Politburo, leading to a split in the Communist Party. Therefore, he advised for a future leader to be a unifying, compromising force who would keep the party together.

    Also, he was offered the title of leadership in 1921, but rejected it due to his Jewish heritage and the effect that may have on the USSR's international reputation. Him being leader would strengthen the Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy theory.


    In addition, the reason why Lenin's Testament was not revealed to the Central Committee until years later was because Trotsky was so detested by the majority of the Communist Party. He was seen as unfriendly, arrogant, humourless, and joyless by Zinoviev and Kamenev, and even Krupshkya didn't take too warmly to him. As Stalin was the one who had the most to loose from the Testament, and whilst they disliked Stalin, they disliked Trotsky more, they thought that with the extreme desperation of the economic and political circumstances, they would withhold the Testament and allow Stalin to rule 'temporarily' whilst order was restored, as he was seen as a good organiser and administrator. We all know how that turned out...

    Trotsky had ample chance to be leader had he wanted, but he was hopeless at politics and at winning people over. The fact that he missed Lenin's funeral, despite some accounts saying he did know of the date, gave other officials such disgust at his lack of respect for the father of the revolution, that they wanted to avoid him leading at all costs. To be a leader, you need to have internal support, as no man rules alone, and whilst Trotsky did have a loyal base, they were not the people in key positions of authority.

    So, if the German Revolution had happened, and the new communist state had delivered millions of tons worth of aid to the USSR to ease the suffering, would Zinoviev and Kamenev still feel pressured to withhold the Testament from the Central Committee?


    I think initially yes. Internal power struggles would have made it so that the presence of a socialist Germany not have made too much of a difference to Soviet politics, and throughout the majority of the 1920s, Stalin would remain active leader. However, after the Testament is revealed, Stalin would not be able to rely on the objective difficulties to persuade people to give him the benefit of the doubt like he did in OTL, and he would likely withstand greater scrutiny. The Grain Procurement Crisis of 1927 might give him a slightly longer run, but the improved economic situation, and the morale boost of the revolution spreading to Europe, would eventually isolate him and lead to his removal at some time during the early 1930s, when his aggressive calls for de-kulakisation would have been me with significantly more opposition. Lenin's position was that Russia was premature for full socialism, as it was not a fully developed capitalist economy, and that socialism would be introduced gradually via the guiding role of the CPSU. This aligns most closely with the views of the Right Opposition, rather than the Left.

    I believe that Nikolai Bukharin is the most likely candidate for leader. A charismatic and popular figure across the party, and whom Lenin lavishes with great praise, would take power after the success of the first Five Year Plan but the subsequent disaster of collectivisation attempts in the early 1930s, succeeding Stalin. Believing in a slower, more humane road to socialism, Bukharin would allow peasants to keep their land and restore the NEP, whilst using state subsidies to keep the price of grain low and enforcing a minimum quota of grain that must be sold to the state.


    Relations with Germany:
    Unlike in OTL, where the Soviet Union held enormous international prestige and completely controlled the European communist movement through the Comintern, this is greatly reduced. Of course, the USSR is still admired, but it is completely overshadowed by Germany, who in the short term are able to make much more success with the socialist project being a developed country. Germany is seen by the world as a realisation of the socialist dream, the idea that all can have a decent standard of living and a job, whereas the USSR is more-less a poor, backwards, peasant country, who's democratic institutions are far weaker than the German Democratic Republic, and seen as Germany's backyard.

    Germany and the Soviet Union are staunch allies, but Germany is the leading partner, due to the large amount of aid it sends to the USSR, far more than the Soviets trade with Germany.

    The split of the KPD in Germany leads to the weakening of the Comintern, with many national Communist parties, such as the German SAPD, instead joining the Marxist Revolutionary Center, a centrist International. The divide between the Communist International and the Marxist Revolutionary Center leads to a lot of sections behaving in a far more independent manner, with a mixture of different traditions and orientations, united by a common goal to overthrow capitalism.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2019
  7. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    So we are to assume the German Red Revolution's elections go like the CA elections after the Bolshevik coup with liberal and conservative newspapers shut down...? Portugal is indeed interesting, but I don't think Germany's situation is comparable to the 1970s feeling that a takeover of the Authentic anti-Salazar Opposition was long overdue.

    As for measurement of GDP during Stalin's rule, I'm slightly skeptical.

    Thanks for a new chapter! I agree in Trotsky's dim chances, although I'm also Not sold on Bukharin...
  8. Aidan Todd Well-Known Member

    Nov 26, 2017
    Of course, we can't know for certain, this is just a guess. But I have a strong feeling that in the event of a revolutionary war, the vote for the left would be very high. Of course, a revolution needs the majority of people to support it, or else its not a revolution, its a coup.
  9. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    I agree with you that election results would certainly lean more to the left than OTL's from the same years, it's just a matter of degree here that we're having different opinions. But of course it's your TL!
    Regarding the support of the majority of people... well... I think it's safe to say that both IOTL 1918 - and even more so ITTL's Second Revolution, which no longer has the universally appealing question of "Stop the war!" at stake to mobilise the populace - revolutionary activities were mostly taking place in urban centres, and it was here that their fate was decided either way. The countryside was comparatively quiet in 1918, and I suppose it's even quieter in 1919-1923 ITTL. Even in the towns and cities, people don't all have to take to the streets and protest against the new soviet government if they have divergent worldviews. Come election day, those quiet villagefolk and townspeople might yet cast their lot with parties who are not standing for very radical change. You took this into account with regards to the Zentrum, which I liked. There were other stable affiliations, too, though. Even if, say, an outright junker-conservative, industrial-capitalist party would be considered out of the question after a bloody civil war, I'm sure that conservative social attitudes, traditional economic ethics especially in the countryside, nationalism etc. would mirror itself at the ballot box in some way or other. If you think the parties from OTL are not suited for that, you may be right. You could think outside the box, though... a new system creates new groupings, in which slow long-term trends still ascertain themselves. So, what about, say, a Populist party (officially OK with socialism, but aiming to protect rural structures, perhaps with a twist towards voluntary co-operatives and government support for independent mutual credit unions; with socially conservative views - e.g. rejecting the legalisation of homosexuality you mentioned, standing in for the "traditional German family" or whatever - and a few ugly antimseites among their ranks, too)?
  10. Aidan Todd Well-Known Member

    Nov 26, 2017
    Okay, well what would be the results in 1923 for you? Maybe this void could be filled by Strasserism?
  11. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2015
    I would think probably more like this:
    SAPD: 27%
    SPD: 16%
    KAPD: 16%
    Zentrum: 13 %
    various liberal, conservative and populist parties: at least 28 %