While Ludendorff had fallen from his role as effective military head of the state alongside Hindenburg much earlier in the year, he had slowly recovered from his stroke and by October was largely back on his feet - even if he was not fit for command. His aide and ally Max Bauer instead acted as his emissary to the OHL, while Hindenburg listened to both the Quartermaster Max Hoffmann and Ludendorff for advice.
Chaos in Germany
The German Interfactional Committee Reorganises
The Kaiser, despite being firmly allied to the OHL, remained his own man and even in 1917 had considered peace with the allies that would have seen Alsace Lorraine returned in exchange for Luxembourg being annexed. This had failed though on account of British disinterest in a peace. Now though, Britain had effective naval supremacy and France had fallen - thus the two sides were at a stalemate neither could easily escape.
For the German people, and particularly the deputies in the Reichstag, this proved far too much to abide by. Peace was being negotiated in Brussels and Vienna, but upon highly expansionist lines Britain would no doubt reject, and ultimately it was Britain who now seemed motivated to continue a blockade - having begun to wrap up their war in Arabia. Essentially, Germany’s Parliamentary leaders, ignored for so long, now worried Germany was sleepwalking towards disaster.
This was not an unfounded concern. After the failure of the Hochseeflotte to sally and the threat of mutiny, the OHL essentially became rudderless. Unclear exactly what to do, but determined to achieve the maximum war aims for Germany, the clique chose to try and impose the harshest terms upon France they could get signed on paper, while aiming to feed the empire with French tribute supplies demanded in the coming treaty.
For Friedrich Ebert and Philipp Scheidemann of the SPD, both growingly popular politicians, the OHL’s direction of the country was growingly difficult to tolerate.
Locked out of influence by the restrictive German electoral franchise and unable to force an election to take place, the SPD felt unable to influence the negotiations with the allies and unable to end the growing economic crisis triggered by the British blockade. The SPD too were concerned that the state may not just fall to revolution if the current policy was kept - but that it’d fall to bolshevik revolution. Particularly after mutineers of the Hochseeflotte pledged their support for the USPD - not the SPD. Exhausted from the conflict, the SPD was also buoyed by a growing confidence from their rising support among the German populace, which sat at least 40% of the country’s voters by late 1918.
The biggest party in Germany, and joined by a gang of other parties who also felt locked out of negotiations such as the Zentrum and FVP, the group ultimately decided that they needed to take action.
On October 5th, just two days after the German fleet failed to deploy, delegates in Brussels announced that a draft resolution of terms had been agreed in principle by the German delegation.
This agreement would see Belgium lose half of its territory to Germany - while also becoming a ‘vassal’ of Germany, while a further strip of French land in the Alsace region would be annexed as a ‘military zone’, Luxembourg would be annexed and a large strip of French territory from Nancy along the Meuse to Charleville would be annexed, along with the port of Dunkirk.
This outraged the Reichstag, who saw it as an inevitable trigger for a prolonged conflict with Britain and thus economic collapse. Particularly as by the 5th, news of the mutiny had begun to spread among Parliamentary leaders even if it had largely been contained from the general public. Worse still the proposal, combined with the discovery that the Kaiserliche Marine had failed to sortie by the French Government, triggered the immediate collapse of France’s self-destructive Government under Joseph Caillaux and the return of Aristide Briand’s more self-assured Ministry.
France, emboldened by the British belief that Germany’s fleet had essentially been neutered, and with the backing of the US, rejected the proposal and issued an ultimatum demanding more lenient terms along the Wilsonian principles, even going so far as to promise a continued war if the Germans did not agree. This was echoed by the US and British Governments, who aimed to force Germany into agreeing to the independence of Belgium and limited border changes.
Finally, the SPD saw an opening and organised a meeting of the leaders of the Interfactional Committee under Frederich Ebert, Matthias Erzberger, Vice Chancellor Friedrich von Payer, and even radical socialist Hugo Hase of the USPD. Here the faction agreed, with the crucial backing of the FVP that would give them a majority in the Reichstag, to demand immediate new elections along the principles of universal suffrage or the resignation of the Government and it’s replacement with a Government with the confidence of the Reichstag.
Issuing their demand to the Kaiser on November 4th in the morning papers, the group warned that failure by the Kaiser’s Government to agree to these basic terms would lead to the advocation of an immediate general strike across Germany.
Great update. Yikes, things are escalating quickly for Germany (albeit not as bad as OTL). If the interfaction forces a government resignation, I think the most likely candidate for Chancellor is Max von Baden. He was recommended by several SPD members after Bethmann-Hollweg's fall in 1917 and was appointed Chancellor in October 1918 in OTL. Other candidates I'd also consider likely would be Vice Chancellor von Payer, Wilhelm Solf and even Ebert. I'm interested to see where you take German politics in this timeline.
I'd also largely agree with redfire's assessment of realistic peace terms. I'd argue that a free hand in Eastern Europe is basically guaranteed for Berlin.
In the west, I could see them annexing all of Luxembourg, Briey-Longwy from France, and Belgian Luxembourg (the latter being the absolute max the Brits could allow for). But Britain is likely going to insist on a neutral Belgium to compensate for a weakened France. I could see Belgium given Dunkirk as compensation for any loss to Germany.
Regarding the colonies, I see some French losses to Germany as basically inevitable, likely Dahomey & most of Equatorial Africa. If Germany wanted to be really mean, they may insist on France leaving Morocco, not to take it for themselves but just out of spite for the Tangier and Agadir crises, but I think that would depend on who's in charge of Germany by then. The Belgian Congo is a tossup, I think it depends on how Britain would react if Germany took it. I think South Africa is likely to insist on keeping Namibia. In the Pacific, I don't see Japan giving up their new conquests or Australia giving up New Guinea.
What do you think?
But of course, this timeline is yours and you can take it wherever you wish, a good story will always have my attention. I keenly await what you have planned next.