To the Victor, Go the Spoils (Redux): A Plausible Central Powers Victory

The Middle East: The Smyrna Question & the Adana Offensive (October 1918)
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    The Middle East
    The Smyrna Question & the Adana Offensive
    October 1918

    While the defeat of Ottoman forces at Megiddo had been dramatic and bountiful for Britain, the capture of large swathes of what was essentially arabian tundra occupied by a people resistant to any foreign interference left Britain unwilling to simply sit back and allow the Ottomans to continue to ride out the war. Britain desired not just battlefield victories, but a capitulation of a Central Powers state to legitimise their continued war and justify the conflict in the eyes of their people.

    What had become clear to Prime Minister Bonar Law was that the Ottomans, despite being heavily defeated in Arabia, cared little for their Arab provinces and instead sought to seize territory in the Caucuses as compensation for projected losses. This created a strategic dilemma; Britain could not easily compel the Turks to surrender, nor could she easily march forces into the Turkish heartland to compel their capitulation due to the natural defences of the Taurus mountains and Dardanelles straits. This left British forces stuck either marching along the rail line over the Taurus Mountains to Afyonkarahisar, or having to complete a naval landing at Smyrna.

    An attack on Smyrna presented a strategic dilemma too though. Since the fall of Greece to anti-British Royalists, the country had firmly fallen into the backing of Germany and would be sure to alert the Germans of any major British naval movements into the Agean. Further, any landing would surely be faced with resistance from Ottoman forces in strength, and thus any attack would require significant force being landed in Aydin vilayet. Britain meanwhile had only recently withdrawn troops six divisions from Macedonia and three from Italy. With some sent home or now in Palestine, this gave Britain essentially five divisions able to be deployed at Smyrna for a landing.

    This left Britain essentially with three choices; either to expend large amounts of time and resources driving by land towards Afyonkarahisar, to land at Smyrna in a risky operation that might prompt Turkish capitulation and better terms, or to negotiate a conditional peace securing lands in Arabia from the Turks.

    Britain ultimately decided that Smyrna was too risky and a total victory over the Ottomans not necessary - provided that the Turks prove willing to accept British terms. In the meantime, British forces continued to drive towards the Taurus mountains and Adana.

    The Adana Offensive
    The main target of British offensive operations was the city of Adana. A vital railway junction and the first at least partially Turkish city in the empire that would fall under attack, Adana presented the perfect chance for a morale victory and also to drive the nascent Turkish army north of the Taurus mountains.

    Defeated at Aleppo, the Ottoman army under Mustafa Kemal Pasha barely struggled to re-form a force in strength in the wake of the British advance, but after becoming slowed in the mountain passes between Aleppo and Alexandretta Mustafa Kemal Pasha was able to form a defensive line and slow the British advance.

    Heaped with praise for his impromptu planned defence, Mustafa Kemal Pasha did not halt the British advance, but slowed it enough to prepare a defence of Adana, which soon fell under attack from both air, ground and even sea as the Royal Navy Fleet in the Med launched minor landing operations against the port of Mersin south of the city.

    Ultimately the city would fall in early October, providing the impetus for talks between the British and Turks over the future of their relations and the war. But this proved too slow to stop Turkish forces from locking down the Taurus Mountains into the Anatolian Plateau - greatly slowing the British advance and forcing both sides to consider terms.
     
    Protest and Rebellion: Italy Unfolds (July - September 1918)
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    Protest and Rebellion
    Italy Unfolds
    July - September 1918

    Meanwhile in Italy the reaction was, much like in France, initially one of confused shock - followed by fury.

    For many Italians the war was not one against Germany, but against Austria. Very few Italian soldiers had fought on the western front regardless, and while German forces had driven the breakthrough in the Battle of Caporetto, German forces had long since left Italy - returning only to prevent Austrian collapse. The victory in the Second Battle of the Piave River and then the subsequent Battle of Portogruaro further galvanised Italian public opinion into a naive belief that even despite France being repeatedly battered by Germany, Italy could crush Austria single-handedly and secure its own separate peace.

    Ultimately this was just idealism though; while Diaz’s Italian forces had defeated the Austrians they would not easily defeat the Germans - and Diaz was a cautious man. Unwilling to risk Italy’s hard fought positive current position in exchange for a potential but uncertain victory, Diaz firmly had recommended a truce which had now since been accepted by the Giolitti Government.

    The signing of an armistice at the start of August thus prompted apoplectic outrage across Italy. Having joined the war reluctantly in a divisive move ultimately decided by King Victor Emmanuel III and bribed with Austrian land, the prospect of the entire conflict being for nothing immediately lit a revolutionary match in the largely agrarian country.

    Across the north of Italy, factory councils were formed and industrial work ground to a halt. While in the Padan Plain workers immediately threw down tools and ceased agricultural production in enormous peasant strikes. Faced with an existential crisis and fearful of a bolshevik uprising, Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti found that suddenly the Government had lost control on the ground of Romagna province.

    Here, the socialist left had found a particularly strong base of support and strikers essentially prompted the collapse of civil control. Policemen were overwhelmed or joined protesters, perhaps some out of fear, others out of agreement with their goals. Peasants stormed wealthy landowners properties and took them by force, having lost faith that they would receive land reforms promised to them in 1916. While this was hardly a revolution or an uprising aimed at wresting control of the country, it was undoubtedly a dangerous descent into anarchy within part of the country.

    Having come to power after the resignation of Prime Minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando a day prior to the armistice, Giolitti had been against the war since the outset and was the man who had formed the original Triple Alliance pact between Germany, Austria and Italy.

    Picked as the man who could get Italy the best terms in the peace, Giolitti had taken up the challenge too as the man who had backed universal suffrage publicly in 1912 - an attempt to show the Italian public they now had a leader back at the reins that cared about them.

    Unfortunately for Giolitti though, he inherited an Italy beyond the pale of furious and confused about their nation’s surrender. Of course, Italy had seen much of Veneto occupied, and further it had occupied virtually no hostile territory since the war began - but in the eyes of Italians the victory at Portogruaro proved they could win the war. This left many Italians seeing the likes of Orlando and Giolitti as traitors to their national cause, having given up too early.

    Giolitti further had the issue that the political elite had already seen this play out before in Russia; there the country had been thrown into chaos and now Bolshevism had conquered it. Italy would not repeat that mistake.

    Giolitti’s first effort was to attempt to convince King Victor Emmanuel to abdicate in favour of his son. He was a popular figure, but had ultimately made the decision to go to war rather than sit out the conflict after a national political schism, and thus in Giolitti’s eyes proved to be both an ideal scapegoat, but also a popular enough ‘scalp’ to remove that would allow the people to move on.

    Yet, the King would not abdicate - partially out of pride but primarily out of his feeling of lacking responsibility. Instead he delivered a public radio address explaining the conflict and why Italy must bow out, he affirmed his desire to see Italians achieve a better settlement through unity and strength, condemned Italy’s ally France, and announced that elections would soon be held.

    For Giolitti this was an inadvertent disaster. By announcing the intent to call elections, his Government immediately lost all credibility as a force capable of delivering land reform -the key offer to the peasants, and the credibility of Giolitti’s claims to be able to deliver a settlement were undermined by the King’s apparent lack of faith in his Prime Minister - even if the opposite was true.

    Further, and arguably worse, the announcement of elections provided justification for mass political meetings; the worst being the long planned 15th Congress of the Italian Socialist Party taking place in Rome from September 1st-5th.

    The announcement of elections also made worse the peasant unrest, which now spread to also encompass Appennine regions of Tuscany, Marche and Umbria. In some areas soldiers would even be ordered to protect landed property, but with 80% of Italy’s soldiers being former or current peasants this rarely met any success. Even in the southern territory of Apulia and central Sicily peasant strikes and attempted forcible seizure of property began, though in these cases many of the more radical groups were successfully suppressed by southern, loyalist troops.

    The King’s planned elections, in Giolitti’s eyes, provided two concerns; first it was a challenge to the authority of the state as the conference was presenting an alternative political establishment in the nation’s capital at the end of a war Italy had lost that the Socialists had long opposed. Secondly though; since the moment the end of the war had been announced, the ‘maximalist’ faction urging a bolshevik style takeover had become ascendent within the Socialist party led by Nicola Bombacci.

    While the current Socialist leader Costantino Lazzari himself was cautiously a supporter of revolution, he was interned in jail and thus the party was essentially rudderless, potentially open to revolutionary approaches which even if released Lazzari may endorse. Thus just days before the conference, after much deliberation, Giolitti’s Government officially prohibited the meeting of Socialist deputies, and in doing so opened the floodgates.

    The Socialists had prepared for this eventuality, with temporary party leaders Egidio Gennari and Oddino Morgari having planned not to even travel to Rome until the day of the conference out of an expectation they would be arrested. Instead they had remained in Milan where the Socialists had a significant base of support and access to the city’s major rail infrastructure systems and political institutions.

    With their conference cancelled, the Socialists then sought to play for time - fearing an intended Government crackdown. Calling for the meeting to be held in Milan, the Socialists quickly endorsed a broader workers strike across the country. This triggered the social unrest’s spread into the cities, particularly those in the industrialised north where workers now lay down their tools too for good at the behest of their council’s orders. This in effect brought the country to an economic stand still.

    This was arguably for a time the Socialists best and only chance at surviving the period, as the party had no military or paramilitary forces even with a large contingent of supporters among the Army. Through these soldiers, combining with militias of armed peasants and workers, small units did start to be established though - but while these were far from regular troops they were enough to deter an immediate armed crackdown of the party.

    Milan in the meantime became somewhat of a hub for radicals. Thinkers and extremists from the political left and in some cases even the right assembled in the city fuelled by a sense of nationalist hatred of the Government, and socialist revolutionary drive. Individuals like the depressed and pessimistic Gabriele D'Annunzio would emerge in the city as one of its many thinkers, addressing crowds in the occasional speech but generally gaining a following through the writing of pamphlets.

    Other radicals such as Bombacci, head of the revolutionary faction of the party, and even expelled individuals such as Mussolini would enter Milan throughout september. The two sides found little in common though, with the nationalists and socialists often hurling abuse at one another or even fighting militia battles in the streets in north Italy as peasant farmers and workers fought peasant veterans of the conflict - both sides furiously blaming the other for the armistice in the war.

    Among Italy’s elite meanwhile the social conflict across the country was a source of growing panic. The army, once motivated by the offensive into Veneto, had now grown tired and many officers reported revolutionary sentiments among the peasant soldiers from the north.

    Prime Minister Giolitti thus sought to act prior to planned elections in October, while the legislature would not consult legislation on the matter prior to the poll, Giolitti issued a decree in effect handing all seized lands to the peasants in the north - despite its illegality. This alienated the right of the Liberal Union under Orlando, but ultimately was seen as a necessary move in order to contain the spread of socialist radicalism.

    While this did to an extent temper some frustrations of the more moderate peasants, it would also motivate peasants to seize yet more land across much of the afflicted territories. It seemed Italy, despite its efforts to stave off domestic chaos, would be forced to reckon with the political chaos unleashed after its decision to enter the conflict.
     
    Winning the Peace: Early Negotiations (September - November 1918)
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    Winning the Peace
    Early Negotiations
    August - October 1918

    Two months after the surrender of every allied state besides Japan, Brazil, China, Britain and Portugal, Central Powers negotiators finally sat down to begin talks over the official end of the conflict.

    At a glance one might assume that negotiations between a victorious Germany and her foes would be a matter of dictating terms, especially as ultimately Germany was the main power in the Central Powers and the opinions of the Austrians and Bulgarians, and especially Ottomans, mattered relatively little. This would be a misunderstanding of the nature of the relationship between Germany and the Allies though.

    Despite the war being over on the continent, Germany was still under total naval blockade by the British. This left her vulnerable and with a massive clock hanging over her head. While Germany had slightly delayed this clock by removing her continental rivals, none were compelled to trade with her and having fought literally all of her neighbours she would only be able to relieve her starving people from the sea.

    While Germany was no longer having shipping sunk by the majority of allied states, that mattered little if the British continued to do so in every passageway to their homeland. Additionally, the United States seemed eager to imply they would make things worse if they were not listened to.

    Thus Germany had won the war, but much like at the Congress of Vienna they were hardly in a position to dictate unreasonable terms to the allies and the Americans - like the French in 1814 - had considerable sway.

    A Shift In Priorities
    While Germany could force France, Greece, Belgium, Serbia, the other minors and even Italy to an extent to sign anything, being too punitive might incite revolution and continued necessity for police actions - and more importantly may lead to a further blockade by Britain or the United States if dissatisfied.

    Additionally, Germany lacked economic liquidity as the value of the Mark had dropped dramatically throughout the war through Germany’s policy of printing money to pay for the conflict. She was now deeply in debt, and worse still had stripped her country bare of it’s economic value through taxation which would make recovery doubly difficult. German currency in circulation rose 599 percent over the course of the war, and this meant that the mark would need to be brought back to normal levels to prevent hyperinflation - something that could only be done with significant foreign capital. This meant the war would have certainly been lost by the end of 1919, but also meant the peace could yet still be lost by then too.

    As such, Germany entered negotiations with two factors in mind; the punitive desires of their own population and military leaders, and their own economic future relationship with the world.

    Still led by the ‘extremists’ who sought to secure a peace in line with the ideas of the Alldeutsche Verband in Hindenberg and Ludendorffs’ protege Max Bauer though, negotiators found themselves pushed into demanding significant compensation from France, Belgium and Luxembourg in particular when talks began at Laeken Palace on September 5th.

    Italian Demands
    The first nation to negotiate with the Central Powers would be Italy, somewhat ironically given that the two powers had been the last to call truces. The different structure of the Italian ‘capiculation’ meant that negotiations kicked off within a week of the armistice, with both sides meeting in Geneva on August 12th to hash out a deal.

    The German position was simple; accept a status quo conclusion to the conflict immediately with neither side extracting payment or territorial concessions, or face the threat of a second Caporetto. This position was further enforced by the deployment of the German 11th Army (von Steuben) to the border from the Macedonian front, with additional forces being prepared to move from the French front to prepare for an assault.

    Italy for its part had other plans. Giolitti was willing to consider a status quo peace, but was aware that his current position was the strongest it likely would ever be, and thus sought to gain any meaningful symbol of Italian success in the war to justify it to the country.

    Italy thus proposed several key demands. First, they sought to demand the annexation of the entirety of Tyrol, along with the city of Trieste and the Austrian Littoral. This was a non-serious proposal aimed at setting a higher bar than a plain status quo outcome for Italy, as well as some red meat thrown to the nationalists to allay tensions temporarily.

    For Germany and Austria this was a non starter. Trieste at the very least would without a doubt stay Austrian - it was the main export port of Austria proper, and hosted a deeply multicultural population including a large population of Germans. The Austrian Littoral meanwhile featured few Italians, and thus in the most ironic and condescending tone Germany immediately invoked Wilson’s 14 points to reject such a proposal.

    This left two areas in contention; Tyrol, and a small strip of land east of the existing Venetian towns of Palmanova and Cervignano, to the Austrian towns of Gorizia and Monfalcone. These would become the focal point of negotiations over the remainder of August and into early September. In reality though, both sides were somewhat playing for time.

    In Italy, the Government sought to calm the domestic situation and strengthen the army on the front either in case of a rapid Austrian collapse, or in case of a German assault. While a truce was in place, both sides would almost certainly be willing to breach it to gain improved terms - particularly Germany who sought to play for time until France and the Balkan states were officially out of the conflict so as to crush Italy and thus render it a revolutionary unstable state that would never again threaten Austria’s security.

    Early Demands at Brussels
    German initial demands were enormous; envisioning a border on the Somme stretching to the Meuse for a protectorate in Belgium under total German political domination, with the German border stretching from the Meuse to Verdun and then south, seizing Nancy, Epinal and Belfort from France. Further, Luxembourg would be annexed as a state of Germany while Belgium and France would be forced to enter a new ‘Mitteleuropa’ economic community, and France would be required to repay indemnities of 100bn reichsmarks, so large that France would never economically recover, and never repay them.

    The terms hit left Belgium and France outraged, and if it were not for their complete inability to continue the conflict immediately may have left the table. However, the United States had explicitly demanded as a part of their agreement to a truce that they attend both the Brussels and Vienna negotiations, and soon roundly condemned the Germans terms - announcing that if they were not softened, the US would continue to prosecute the war.

    Hungary was determined that the war must end rapidly, and that Austria must not seize any territory from Italy or Serbia, while unrest across the eastern parts of the Empire and Bohemia was growing by the day.

    With the surrender of France, Germany had also invented a new ‘genius’ plan to resolve their conundrum with Britain. Rather than immediately dictate terms to the capitulated Allies, they would play for time and prepare for a final, desperate attempt to destroy the British Home Fleet, and in doing so prevent Britain from extracting concessions from Germany for a separate peace.

    Britain for it’s part had already made clear that it would not permit a totally German dominated continent, and it knew it could starve Germany into chaos if needs be - potentially for an entire year longer or more if they so wished.

    Germany’s initial demands thus were rejected, after all - France had literally nothing to lose. If Germany left the talks, they would be forced to fight through the remainder of France against the weakened and partially demobilized but still threatening French Army, all while being militarily exhausted. This meant Germany was forced to start to slowly whittle down their demands - at least until the British fleet was defeated. Beginning a slow climb down, the Germans first began to soften demands over the northern provinces of France, and eventually dropped all pretence of expanding Belgium altogether.

    Despite this German goals remained threefold; that France pay enormous reparations and publicly acknowledge that they, not the Germans, began the war in Belgium by deploying troops into the country - thus fulfilling German propaganda claims. Secondly, they were determined that the Briey-Longwy iron ore mines be surrendered - thus imposing upon France economic hegemony furthered by the Mitteleuropa organisation. Ideally too seizing a special economic zone in the Calais-Flanders region to abuse the large French coal basin. Thirdly, they aimed to politically dominate Belgium and procure naval access to French and Belgian northern ports to force the Royal Navy into a defensive posture.

    These aims were realistic, but they would undoubtedly have to be reneged upon if there were ever to be peace with Britain - a necessity to end the economic blockade of Germany. Britain’s friendship with Belgium meant that any deal with the British would require either them to be defeated at sea, possibly throwing the country into revolution, or for Belgium to be given political independence from Germany - undermining her national security against France in the long term.

    Thus, at the beginning of talks at the Laeken Palace on August 26th, Germany sought first to satiate the Americans through tongue in cheek promises about respecting the 14 terms. In particular Germany focused on the policy of freedom of navigation, playing Wilson’s demand against the British for their blockade, while also playing on the idea of Luxemberger ‘Germanhood’.

    By removing the Americans, the OHL hoped that this would at least marginally weaken the British Grand Fleet which currently featured several American dreadnought class destroyers which could, in a pitched battle, tip the balance.

    Demands in Vienna
    In Vienna a different story would play out. Here German diplomats sat down with diplomats from Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Italy, Greece and the United States - who were choosing to negotiate directly in Vienna rather than Brussels so as to strengthen Wilson’s 14 points and the right to self determination.

    Meeting in the Habsburg Schönbrunn Palace on September 9th, diplomats from all sides quickly found that German proposals were equally as severe as they were in Brussels - albeit with different benefactors. Serbia for its part would be essentially cut in half in favour of massive Bulgarian expansion, relegating the country to a territory barely larger than its original 1833 borders with just the Podrinje, Posavina, Raska and parts of Sumadija remaining. Bulgaria intended further to implement Bulgarization, eradicating every sense of Serbian nationhood from the region and ultimately relegating it to Bulgarian territory. Blamed for instigating the war, the Kingdom would be forced to accept complicity for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, along with overall guilt for the triggering of the war.

    Montenegro for its part would surrender only one tiny sliver of territory in the Kotor district of the southern coastal territory on Mount Lovćen, a key strategic position overlooking virtually the entirety of Montenegro’s southern coast and access to that territory. Danilo, Crown Prince of Montenegro, would also accede to the throne after the abdication of his father Nicholas, who was seen as a destabilising influence over the region thanks to his irredentist policies.

    Albania meanwhile would restore King Wilhelm, Prince of Albania, a German supported by the Bulgarians and condoned by the Austrians, to prevent a power struggle between the two allies over the small nation’s future. The nation would lose some territories in eastern Albania though to the larger Bulgarian Military Inspection Area of Macedonia where Bulgaria intended to Bulgarize the population and annex it. Besides this, the country would remain territorially identical.

    Greece, having ‘flipped’ sides at the last possible second with their Royal restoration, would be punished remarkably lightly by the Germans. Losing northern territories to Bulgaria, Greece would be punished enough simply by the loss of territories claimed with such effort in the Balkan Wars. This was a bitter pill to swallow for many Greeks, but ultimately was a low price for their participation in the war compared to the losses of her allies. Thessaloniki, Greece’s vital northern port, would remain Greek, while Bulgaria would realise its irredentist dreams by annexing entirely all of Vardar Macedonia.

    Having set out terms to both major parties, the Central Powers now had to tread carefully. The war might be ‘over’, but in practice it continued at sea and elsewhere. Britain and the United States remained dangerous, yet demotivated foes - and just as with Napoleon, Britain had no plans to allow Germany to dictate the new order of Europe. Not alone anyway.
     
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    The Ottoman Armistice (September - October 1918)
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    The Ottoman Armistice
    September - October 1918

    By November Britain was on the precipice of more dramatic political upheaval. The country had been due an election since 1915, with the planned vote having been suspended due to the war. By December, the British people would have been waiting nearly four years since the previous election - almost an entire Parliamentary term without a say in their governance.

    For many in the UK this was growing increasingly tiresome, especially since the War Cabinet had collapsed and the Conservatives now governed alone with the support of some Coalition Liberals under Lloyd George. A politically exhausted H. H. Asquith, who had proven to be a weak war leader and now continued to prove a man beyond his time politically, remained leader of the Opposition while most Britons looked to Labour’s William Adamson as the real alternative.

    With the war over in Europe and peace literally being discussed as Britain fought on, many ordinary Britons increasingly viewed the conflict as pointless. The military gains in the middle east had raised the hopes of many that there would soon be a settlement, but yet the fall of Adana had taken place a month prior and still fighting raged in the Taurus Mountains.

    The Ottomans, to their credit, seemed determined to fight on with German arms despite their rapidly declining strength. While the Ottomans had initially had a large army in 1914, by 1918 the country had essentially been in a non-stop war since 1911, first with Italy, then the Balkan powers twice, and then the world war.

    Unfortunately though, having successfully seized Baku and its vital oil fields and established the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, the Ottomans had inadvertently infuriated the German Government who had been locked in a ‘race’ with the Turks to the city. Germany, for its part, was determined that Azerbaijan would become a neutral state with a German supported Government and full oil extraction rights being held by Germany.

    In this they were of course willing to be conciliatory to the Turks, however the Turkish Government - determined to control Azerbaijan and the oil themselves, had undermined German claims to provide security to the Georgian Government after the Army of the Caucuses engaged Georgian units in June at Vorontsovka. In the aftermath of the engagement, Hans von Seeckt had been dispatched to meet with Enver Pasha, and Vehip Pasha had been fired from his role in the army. Worse still, Germany had briefly threatened to withdraw all support from the Turks, leaving the Turks concerned that Germany would not be a reliable partner in the future.

    This was a fair assumption, and the Germans in fact were so determined to prevent the Turks from advancing that they even sought out the Soviets to stop them. In August, having recognized they lacked the strength to directly seize Azerbaijan, the Germans and the Bolsheviks agreed that if Germany were able to prevent the advance of the Army of Islam, they would annex Azerbaijan and permit the Germans to receive 25% of all oil extracted from the oil fields.

    Germany then insisted that Enver Pasha cease his advance - but he intentionally ignored the request, and instead seized the city on September 15th. This infuriated the German Government, who promptly refused to provide military aid to the Sublime Porte unless concessions were agreed and German industry were given access to Baku’s fields. On this, the Turks were at the very least open to discussions and negotiations opened shortly after - much to the frustration of Enver Pasha.

    Despite this diplomatic uncertainty, the Ottomans now felt they had now achieved their main strategic goal in the war and thus their incentive to remove Britain from the conflict grew significantly. Britain, after all, was the only state besides Germany with forces near Baku, and thus the only state capable of threatening Ottoman control of its oil.

    Further, the Ottomans were plainly running out of manpower and ammunition, and would benefit from a force to balance the influence of Germany in Europe and Bulgaria in the Balkans. With Germany seeming an intimidating continentally dominant power now, and German diplomatic pressure visibly bullying the Ottoman Government over matters of economic policy, the Government decided to act. On October 30th the Ottoman Government dispatched captured British General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend to request a negotiated, conditional armistice.

    Ottoman terms were simple; the British would receive limited territories in the Ottoman Arabian territories. In exchange, Britain would cease its conflict with the empire and would not demand any financial indemnity for the conflict, and would recognise Ottoman suzerainty over conquered territories in the east, and make no demands regarding Armenia.

    For Britain, this was a divisive offer. The territorial claims offered to her excluded Mosul and northern Mesopotamia, and even excluded Aleppo, with the border being drawn in a nearly diagonal line towards Kirkuk from Aleppo. Despite this limitation though, Britain would achieve virtually all of her war aims by seizing Transjordan, Palestine and most of Mesopotamia, while only the French segment of the Sykes-Picot agreement would be lost.

    While Britain lost little by simply waiting the Ottomans out as Turkish forces could not easily re-conquer the Arab provinces, the idea of a final peace did carry significant attraction. By forcing a Central Powers state out of the conflict for good, PM Bonar Law could show the British public that the conflict was worth it, and could also secure significant territorial concessions, and deliver for Britain’s Arab allies without a painful mountainous campaign.

    Despite this, Britain would not commit to exact borders in an armistice agreement. Responding to the Ottoman Government through an envoy in Switzerland, the British nonetheless agreed to negotiate under the principles of a southern British zone and maintaining Turkish territorial integrity up to and north of the Taurus Mountains - maintaining intentionally vague positions regarding exact borders. Additionally, Britain required that the Empire immediately evacuate their conquered Persian holdings.

    The two sides would announce an armistice agreement along the lines of those principles by October 10th, which would be signed by Ottoman Marine Affairs Minister Rauf Bey and British Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe on board HMS Agamemnon in Kaleköy Harbour on the island of Imbros.

    Consequences
    The Ottoman armistice agreement with Britain marked the first and only case of a Central Powers partner agreeing to unilaterally end hostilities with any single member of the Allied powers. It almost immediately triggered a split with German leadership, who excluded the Ottomans from any further negotiations with the Allies at Vienna and Brussels, prompting a flurry of background treaties between the other allied powers and the Ottomans later.

    The British agreed to the Ottoman armistice on the behalf of the entire Allied force, further emphasising a split between Britain and France over the peace as Britain reneged upon the Sykes-Picot agreement, no longer offering the French any middle eastern holdings.

    This was in part out of concerns that the Turks would simply never offer territory to a power who had not defeated them, but was more so out of a genuine long standing competition between Britain and France. Even prior to and during the negotiations for Sykes-Picot, the Foreign Ministry had sought to exclude France from territorial influence in the middle east and, seeing their opportunity, chose to ignore the agreement under the pretext that France had not contributed to the Ottoman defeat.

    This came as a bitter blow to the French Government who quietly had been urging Britain to finish the Ottomans off and thus secure France territories that could translate into somewhat of a ‘victory’ in the conflict - though in reality this was a deeply naive hope.

    The German-Ottoman split would further trigger animosity over the future of Baku also, which remained occupied by Turkish forces with the Azeri Republic in the region remaining a close partner of the Turks. Germany, while still de-facto allied with the Ottomans, would continue to press for economic concessions, but with the Ottomans out of the conflict, the nationalist Government had relatively skillfully removed the pressure of a British advance and their dwindling supplies from Germany. Without a war, what could Germany offer but later economic investment - investment that now the Turks could themselves secure through the sale of oil, perhaps even to Britain.
     
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    Winning the Peace: A Battle at Silver Pit? (29th October - 2nd September 1918)
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    Winning the Peace
    A Battle at Silver Pit?
    29th September - 2nd October 1918


    Brief Disclaimer: I am not an expert in the internal mechanics of the Kaiserliche Marine (Something I shall endeavour to read more into), so please forgive any implausible interactions or decision making processes here. After analysing the various contributions here and reading further into the mutinies/naval strategy of the Kaiserliche Marine during the war, this is what I've concluded with. It won't be changed - so if it's not perfect, it's staying nontheless.

    The German negotiating position in Europe was vulnerable on account of their economic and resource starvation by Britain that had been ongoing since the war began. Unable to easily import food and ‘pinned’ by a much larger British fleet ever since 1916, the German High Command had last truly fought the British at Jutland in 1916 in an ultimately failed attempt at killing a section of the Grand Fleet without fighting against the entire fleet.

    This disparity between Hochseeflotte and Grand Fleet strength, with the British fielding 30 dreadnought battleships and 11 battlecruisers to the German 18 and 5 respectively, plus a further three British Carriers and nearly three times more destroyers, meant that Germany was stuck eternally incapable of escaping it’s blockade.

    This left Germany forced into making haste with negotiations, and forced her to accept limited terms in order to satisfy the British into agreeing a later truce, and the Americans into agreeing to whatever terms Germany imposed on France.

    Thus for Germany the single action that could resolve virtually all of its woes was the defeat of the Royal Navy in a decisive fleet battle. In doing so they could break the blockade, dispatch ships into the Atlantic and force the British to focus naval forces there rather than the north sea. In doing that, they could demand the maximum war aims desired by Hindenberg, Bauer and Ludendorff, and in doing that they would economically dominate the continent. Or at least so the OHL were convinced.

    In practice it wasn't that simple. This was of course something the Naval command knew, but something that the OHL were not overly willing to accept. For example, while one could blow open the blockade into Germany, the Foreign and Trade ministries had no idea who would even ship in food to aid them. Not to mention, British cruisers and trade interdiction convoys were deployed globally, not just in the north sea, and thus ships from far flung places would fare poorly in their efforts to make it to Germany’s hungry ports.

    Further, the Kaiserliche Marine had little interest in a sally forth to confront the British. Sure, they had made changes to their fleet since Jutland and even replaced their losses - but Britain had done that and then some. Britain’s fleet strength was now considerably greater than at Jutland - though primarily in light vessels where they held a three to one advantage over the Hochseeflotte. The one advantage that the Germans had, was that due to the terms of the truce the United States had detached its naval squadron from the Grand Fleet. While still ready to deploy from the Firth, the US Navy would not join any British sortie to confront the High Seas Fleet. This narrowly improved the odds and left the Germans mildly optimistic.

    Chief of the Naval Staff Scheer, an aggressive commander but hardly a foolish one, had accepted the German doctrine that a living fleet was better than a dead one, and thus was broadly opposed to the plan to sally out. While publicly he would never deny that Germany stood a chance against the British, he knew that in the balance of probabilities his force would more likely be obliterated than succeed in their narrow operational aims.

    The Kaiser too had doubts about the prospects of the engagement, but equally was aware that Germany had now broken the French - but had not won the war. In fact the one state he particularly despised, the British, were still denying Germany it’s domination of the continent. Thus, while he gave the Kaiserliche Marine complete planning autonomy, he ultimately did concur with Hindenburg and Ludendorff that a sortie could potentially improve the chance of a total German victory over the French.

    Scheer could not be ordered to give battle by the OHL, but nonetheless when it was demanded he would be forced to at least consider the plan. They may not be his superior officers, but by 1918 the OHL undeniably had significant influence over state administration and to reject their advances would no doubt trigger consequences after the war eventually wound to a close.

    Thus, Scheer prepared for such an operation. German naval strategy hinged on pitching a battle in a specific place at a specific time. Outnumbered, their best hope was to fight a section of the Grand Fleet, eliminate it entirely, and then flee back to Germany to repair. In this, they would be able to reduce the force strength of the Royal Navy without great losses on their own part. They also aimed to whittle down British ships with U-Boat attacks and mine traps.

    This had been the aim of the Battle of Jutland too, but when it came down to it the German trap had failed. Here, Scheer would make an effort to at least do some, any damage to the British before heading home at pace.

    German Preparations
    While Scheer was willing to placate the OGL’s demand to at least consider an attack on the British fleet, Hipper was unconvinced. Still the commander of the Hochseeflotte, Hipper was ordered to prepare for operations as early as July with the surrender of France, but neglected to do so on any significant scale.

    Hipper was a realist. An aggressive realist and a proud German fleet Admiral, but a realist nonetheless. He knew that an attack on the Grand Fleet would be suicide, and he was unwilling to see the fleet annihilated for the sake of an unconvincing attempt to try and blunt British negotiating strength in the future. After all, surely if Germany were to be a convincing global power after the war, she would need to have a fleet that she could deploy to counter British threats - or else whenever Britain felt affronted, she could just yet again impose a blockade.

    Scheer was himself very aware of this fact, but had become convinced nonetheless that a battle could achieve results. This was because he remained convinced that a German fleet action, if well executed, could attack specific elements of the Grand Fleet, cripple them, and then retreat. This might, he reasoned, deliver enough of a blow to the Grand Fleet that their sailors may later be less willing to engage with the Germans, and Germany therefore might be able to break the blockade later in January or February.

    Provided losses were kept at a minimum, primarily through the aid of U-Boats and torpedo salvos, Scheer wagered that he could satisfy the requests of the OHL while not annihilating his surfare fleet. He need only slightly dent the British, and they might see the conflict was fruitless and bow out sooner rather than later.

    To say Scheer was overly confident of success though would be a lie. Still holding reservations, Scheer confided in Hipper in August that any such attack still carried grave risk, and thus the pair concluded that the best course of action would be a highly limited sally with specific objectives.

    The plan thus would be as follows: The High Seas Fleet would deploy in strength at the start of October. Over the preceding weeks a large fleet of U-Boats would be deployed in specific locations across the North Sea, thus allowing for attritional attacks on the Grand Fleet prior to any engagement. Hipper would then dispatch raiders towards the mouth of the Thames. This would be an intentional target aimed at drawing the Grand Fleet south, creating an impression that the Hochseeflotte had moved south along the coast of Holland.

    The High Seas Fleet though in reality would move north over Dogger Bank and aim to engage the Grand Fleet from its rear near Silver Pit. This was an intentional choice by Hipper, who aimed to launch an aggressive assault on the fleet before immediately breaking off and moving to return back to port.

    In doing so, Hipper hoped to be able to outmanoeuvre the large and untested Grand Fleet which had until now not yet engaged in conflict in its current size and structure.

    British Preparations
    The British were, unbeknownst to the Germans, completely prepared for a major German action. On high alert for several weeks, an operation to try and force Britain out of the conflict had been clearly on the cards since the loss of Amiens back in March, and Room 40 had perfectly identified the buildup of the German fleet at Schillig Roads on the evening of 29 September.

    So accurate in fact was British intelligence, that Vice Admiral Sydney Fremantle, the Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff, had even informed Beatty that the Germans intended to sail on October 1st. Beatty had accordingly positioned the Grand Fleet at high Steam pressure in the Firth of Forth in preparation for action, and his men seemed motivated. News of the Ottoman armistice had buoyed their morale, and while the Americans would not join their sortie, the Grand Fleet still held a massive advantage over the Germans.

    Capable of leaving harbour and being at full sail from the Firth within four hours, the Grand Fleet had no clear idea where the Germans intended to go, but standing orders would see the Fleet head directly towards the centre of the North Sea - this maximising the chance of intercept and preventing a return of the fleet back to Germany. Following pre-established paths of known German mine laying formations and submarine forces, the fleet assumed that the Germans would sail towards either the British south coast, or towards Dogger Bank.

    Early Issues
    By October 30th the High Seas Fleet had been successfully assembled off the Schillig Roads in Wilhelmshaven Harbour. The assembly had, however, seen some difficulties. Several vessels, notably the two battleships SMS Thüringen and SMS Helgoland, had seen crews refuse to weigh anchor in the early hours of October 1st.

    This happened for a few reasons. First, due to the absence of any intended deployments of the High Seas Fleet since Jutland in 1916 many of the valuable and reliable sailors and officers had been transferred to the submarine service and other frontline fleet services. Poor rations and mundane orders between 1917-1918 left the sailors bored numb and frustrated at their living conditions, prompting the formation of some sailors councils aboard several of the Fleet’s major vessels.

    German sailors plainly did not want to leave port on a risky mission against an enemy they now knew to be stronger than their own force. Having experienced the extremely indecisive battle of Jutland, and aware of the British expansion in naval capacity since 1916, German sailors had been overjoyed by victory over France and it had left them confident that they would not again be asked to engage the Grand Fleet.

    Why, after all, would they be asked to fight a superior enemy when peace with such an enemy was surely just a matter of time. Many of the sailors too had been inspired by socialist slogans and the efforts of President Wilson in advocating a peace aimed at providing peoples with their national independence and self determination. Thus, for many sailors the idea that Germany ought to send forth it’s fleet in order to compel France into surrendering French speaking territories seemed both illogical and unnecessarily imperialistic.

    Many sailors therefore rejected the plans, but some, motivated by the prospect of securing a victory at sea for the Empire and having gained some faith in German chances in the war, gave credit to the naval high command and reluctantly accepted the planned sortie.

    The Thüringen and Helgoland’s mutinies thus came as a surprise to naval officers, who quickly brought the vessels into firing range of torpedoes and threatened the ships with destruction. The sailors promptly surrendered, were led off their vessel, and reservists ordered into service. The fleet were stood down for 24 hours during this process, but German officers nonetheless remained confident that the morale of the remainder of the fleet would be good enough to continue the operation.

    The Sortie
    Setting off on October 2nd, the fleet dispatched its strike forces at 0700 hours, with the main body of the fleet set to follow an hour later. Within two hours, British naval intelligence and maritime patrols indicated that the High Seas Fleet had been put to sea, and signals were dispatched to the Grand Fleet to deploy - which they did shortly after.

    Yet the report was misleading. The initial assault formations had indeed put to sea - the main body of the fleet though had not.

    Upon being ordered to weigh anchor and move out to sea, the initially small mutiny had spread to numerous other vessels. Refusing to deploy, the Battleships Baden, Bayern and Markgraf were so vital to the operation that it was immediately cancelled by Hipper who was himself hesitant to deploy.

    The initial strike forces were then recalled back to Wilhelmshaven, and almost as quickly as it had started the operation was at an end.

    The Grand Fleet meanwhile would be recalled by 1300 hours after it became evident that the German sortie had failed. Having correctly estimated the positions of German U-Boats, no incidents of mine strikes or U-Boat torpedo attacks were reported. British commanders, perplexed by the incident, correctly attributed the failed sortie to a mutiny, and thus concluded Germany now had no willing Naval force.

    Aftermath
    The failed sortie German leadership concluded several things. Firstly, the navy would have to be reformed to prevent similar incidents happening in the future. Secondly, a Naval Sortie under current conditions would not be a viable operation. Finally, that Britain was far better prepared for a naval engagement that Scheer had immediately assumed.

    The speed at which the Grand Fleet put to sea proved to the Germans that while their fleet might have been able to execute the planned operation successfully, in practice the most likely outcome would have been that the fleet would have been identified by the Grand Fleet and, with such low morale, likely destroyed. While the mutiny never amounted to a wider political revolt against German leadership, the fleet would never again be deployed against the British throughout what remained of the conflict.

    This broke the resolve of the Kaiserlichte Marine, who now resolved to firmly reject any plans for a sortie and instructed the German Government under von Hertling that it should seek an accommodation with Britain. The British Government, for their part, were greatly emboldened by the failed sortie and concluded that Germany could now be effectively pressered into a position where they would accept British terms for a conclusion to trhe conflict. For Prime Minister Bonar Law this was the ideal outcome as it allowed an end to the conflict, and thus the opportunity for recovery, along with justifying his continuation of the war - now being able to sell himself as the man who forced a victorious Germany into terms.

    The OHL, accepting the new reality, thus moderated their approach to peace terms with the French - but would not have the chance to negotiate with Britain.


    If you want to see how a real fleet engagement may have turned out in 1918, I highly recommend the following video:
     
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    Chaos in Germany: The German Interfactional Committee Reorganises (October 1918)
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    Chaos in Germany
    The German Interfactional Committee Reorganises
    October 1918

    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.

    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.

    Demanding Power
    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.
     
    Chaos in Germany: The General Strike (October 1918)
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    Chaos in Germany
    The General Strike
    October 1918

    Faced with the threat of a general strike in the midst of negotiations with their war foes, the German Government under the military clique of Hindenburg, Ludendorff, Bauer and Hoffman, under the implicit leadership of Chancellor Georg von Hertling, initially dismissed the threats by the interfactional committee.

    Continuing on with their planned path forward to dominate Europe and dismantle France, which involved foisting hostile peace treaties upon their former enemies and using force where necessary to crush any anti-German revolutionary movements in France and Italy, von Hertling rejected the suggestion that elections were needed. Calling into question the loyalty of the interfactional committee and harking tones associated with the Fatherland Party, von Hertling labelled the SPD and peace group as anti-German traitors who wished to throw away all of Germany’s war gains.

    Ironically, they met with little friendship from the Fatherland party. While supportive of Hindenberg and Ludendorff, the Fatherland Party by the end of 1918 was quickly coming apart as competing personalities within the group tore it apart. Having won the war, a nationalistic zealout of a political party seemed increasingly less necessary, and thus while it’s membership remained high it’s actual voting potential was quite low.

    Tirpitz, who had formed the party with the backing of the Pan-German League alongside Heinrich Claß, August von Dönhoff and Wolfgang Kapp, had himself grown disillusioned with the party and did not see it as a likely governing party. Further still, the party had grown to draw similar conclusions to the German left by concluding that German imperial throne would be better suited by Wilhelm II’s son the Crown Prince rather than the Kaiser.

    Being torn apart politically between an extreme left and an extreme right, Germany’s populace in the centre - happy with the victory but desperate for improvements in their daily life, generally took the view that by now the war should be over.

    Germans felt content to have defeated France, Russia and the Italians - and thus despite Britain having been billed as Germany’s main foe throughout the war, most middle class Germans familiar with the circumstances the country found herself in understood that the Kaiserliche Marine would not be magically defeating the Royal Navy any time soon.

    This left many Germans sympathising with the SPD and the liberal bloc far more than the militarists who seemed keen to continue the conflict no matter the cost, while the political right disagreed on a path forward and thus took no immediate action. The liberals had the opening move.

    Thus when Ebert, a highly respected monarchist socialist who had backed the war despite his political leanings and also personally worked to end earlier strikes in January 1918, told workers to lay down their tools - they did.

    Within a day the call had been reiterated by not just the parties of the left, but the rest of the peace group too, along with all of Germany’s unions. Involving over twelve million workers, the country was completely and instantly paralysed.

    In Berlin, the gas, water and power supply all stopped overnight, leaving the Kaiser’s palace suspended in darkness until sunrise - the monarch remarking that morning that it ‘were as if all of Germany had in an instant abandoned him’.

    Still refusing to believe that the country could be brought to such a total stand still by the Reichstag, who passed a motion calling for new elections under universal suffrage that same morning on October 6th, the Government initially sought to crack down on protests.

    Deploying a force of thousands of soldiers into Berlin to contain protests that now had swelled into the tens or even hundreds of thousands, the soldiers in many cases simply joined protestors or refused to fire upon demonstrating families and veterans.

    Rapidly losing control of the situation, the Kaiser met with the military high command of the OKL in the early hours of November 6th to establish a solution. Wary of the impact of a general strike on the country in the midst of peace talks, the Kaiser expressed both his shock and confusion over the protests.

    Vice Chancellor Friedrich von Payer, an actual backer of the strike, faced a crescendo of angry voices in the Government furious at his intransigence, but remained stalwart that the solution to the crisis simply was to call new elections and appoint a Government with the confidence of the Reichstag. In the end, after significant discussion, the cabinet failed to come to any agreement and the strike continued for another day.

    Between the 7th and 8th, the Kaiser came under growing pressure to stabilise the situation. Emboldened by the size of the strike, members of the Independent Social Democratic Party, extremist leftists, had begun to organise factory councils and even military councils in some districts of the Empire - particularly at Wilhelmshaven where partly mutinous and temporarily confined High Seas Fleet had moored after their failure to give battle, many crews refusing to move their boats or leave their barracks

    Overwhelmed by events but aware something must be done, the Kaiser was even approached by his sons urging him to break the political instability in the country by agreeing to new elections and appointing a new transitional Chancellor to buy time for the signing of peace treaties.

    Ultimately, on October 10th after a further day of deliberation, Chancellor von Hertling chose to resign and proposed that Friedrich von Payer, who clearly had the support of the peace faction, take over as Chancellor.

    Accepting the role initially with some hesitation, von Payer became Chancellor on the 11th and was officially backed in the role by the Reichstag on the 14th. In the role, he announced his intent to pass limited reforms in a twenty day window to amend the German constitution with the Kaiser’s blessing, aiming to provide greater legislative control over Government, while calling for elections to be held soon after.

    While this was undoubtedly a delaying tactic agreed by von Payer, who sought to satisfy both the Kaiser, OKL and German people at once with the aid of Ebert, the strike was brought to an immediate halt and the country set back on track.
     
    Winning the Peace: British Negotiations (October 1918)
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    Winning the Peace
    British Negotiations
    October 1918

    With the general strike over and the Military Government having been partially toppled at least, Chancellor von Payer sought to establish order in the country while satisfying his partners in the SPD and Zentrum. It should be made clear though, while Germany was now politically in the hands of the interfactional committee, they did not have total control over the state - and had no direct control over the military.

    A liberal aimed at reforming the state, but unwilling to act directly against the monarchy or limit German war aims, von Payer straddled both the nationalist military clique and the pacifist socialists bloc and aimed to establish a lasting peace that would satisfy all parties. First and foremost though, this required securing talks with the British.

    Contacting German ambassador to Denmark Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau and instructing him to approach the British delegation with a proposal for talks, von Payer made clear to the stalwart liberal but proud patriot von Brockdorff-Rantzau that he should approach Britain for serious negotiations for an armistice.

    Von Brockdorff-Rantzau, the man instrumental in delivering Lenin to Russia and close with SPD leader Ebert, made the approach on October 19th. He was a cautious man, but equally a very pragmatic one. Widely considered an option to become Germany’s Foreign Minister, Von Brockdorff-Rantzau would be a trusted figure able to negotiate an amicable deal with Britain - provided he was left to his own devices and interference from the OHL was kept to a minimum.

    The meeting with the new British ambassador in Copenhagen Sir Charles Marling took place in a ‘chance encounter’ at near Frederiks Kirke. Of course in actual fact Marling had received a memo from an assistant to Von Brockdorff-Rantzau asking that the two meet nearby the castle, prompting both men to set out on midday walks nearby the church and ‘bump into one another’ without the constraints of their extensive staff.

    Von Brockdorff-Rantzau’s proposals were simple; Germany was willing to agree to a conditional armistice with Britain immediately provided that Britain accept guarantees that the blockade would be lifted upon the completion of peace negotiations in Copenhagen.

    Building on preliminary discussions about peace in 1917 by then foreign secretary Kühlmann, Von Brockdorff-Rantzau’s immediately conceded that there would be no German bases in the channel. Further, Germany would surrender to British demands for a politically independent Belgium under King Albert. This would however require border adjustments, and the Ambassador made clear that Germany in surrendering control of Belgium would be forced to seize what it labelled as ‘forward defences’ from both France and Germany to assure Germany’s longer term security. This would primarily be focused around the Ardennes region.

    This peace would be negotiated between the two parties in Copenhagen, with issues such as the future of Germany’s colonies being open for discussion - albeit with great hesitation on the part of Germany. The German Government would also would insist that Britain respect the terms of the new settlement in eastern Europe, while Germany would honour British arrangements with the Turks.

    Finally, Germany would agree to surrender her pacific territories - often seen as a burden more than a benefit - after a period of peace to either Britain, the United States or Japan.

    Taken aback by the proposals in a position so unfamiliar to the war cabinet, Denmark Minister Sir Charles Marling immediately relayed the offer to the British Government and Prime Minister Bonar Law.

    Aware of the political strife in Germany, the British cabinet had become divided between two new peace and war parties.

    The war party, led by War Minister Alfred Milner, 1st Viscount Milner, firmly believed that to prevent later German expansionism, Germany must be pushed to the brink of catastrophe before any peace could be negotiated by economically isolating her, potentially for years.

    The peace party meanwhile, led by Foreign Minister Austen Chamberlain, believed firmly that Germany could be contained using international treaty obligations and organisations such as the American-backed League of Nations, and that without peace soon Britain would be susceptible to major social unrest.

    Bonar Law for his part straddled the two groups. His priority was political unity in the country and providing the British people with ‘compensation’ for their immense sacrifice in France. However, like Lloyd George and Asquith before him, he feared that a Germany unleashed upon the world would create an irrevocably unstable influence in Europe and would threaten British national security.

    For Bonar Law two questions stood out though; how long could Britain realistically resist Germany without herself appearing the aggressor, and if the new German Government failed to secure peace, what would replace it?

    Both questions were vital for British interests. If Britain continued to prosecute the war alone, it may alienate the overwhelming trade and navigation focused Americans and paint Britain as the belligerent state. While it is unlikely America would ever demand Britain withdrew the blockade, she risked being seen as an obstacle in the way of peace, rather than the side attempting to limit German demands. This would isolate her during a period where she would need allies to isolate Germany.

    Further, if Britain rebuffed the Germans now when they were offering Britain influence over the final European settlement, would Germany’s new more liberal regime survive, or would it be replaced by nationalists who would further dominate the continent by force? Or even, if Germany failed to do that, might she herself fall to Bolshevism in the longer term?

    Ultimately, the Prime Minister chose to walk a steady and specific line towards peace. This was not controversial among the cabinet or Parliament, in fact Britain had very seriously considered a settlement with Germany in 1917 with assurances over Belgium. Her main priorities, after all, were preventing German naval access to positions that would undermine British security, even in the worst case a weakened France would be preferable to German control of Belgium.

    Agreeing to begin negotiations in Copenhagen between British and German delegates, the two parties officially opened talks at Denmark’s Christiansborg Palace on October 21st. This would be a negotiation where there was no armistice, both sides would merely have to agree on terms, or there would be no peace.

    While British warships and German submarines would pull back to an extent to avoid dramatically damaging the morale of either Government, with Germany suspending unrestricted submarine warfare on October 20th, both sides would fight until the moment the ink was on the paper.

    For Germany, Britain’s agreement to the plan was bitter sweet. News of the talks in Copenhagen instantly electrified the German public after it was revealed in the monday morning papers on the 21st. Carefully worded, the Government had ‘guided’ the papers on how to present the story, aiming to spin it less as a British capitulation and more as a British admission of futility in a longer term conflict.

    The German public quickly took to the streets to celebrate, while German diplomats continued their exhaustive work drawing up fine print for the Germans to present Britain in the initial proposals on both sides. Discussions would no doubt take months as both sides haggled over the fate of western Europe, but for a moment the world all at once celebrated - the war was at last coming to a close.
     
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    Chaos in Germany: Revolution From Above (October-November 1918)
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    Chaos in Germany
    Revolution From Above
    October-November 1918

    While discussions over the future Anglo-German relationship began, Germany was undergoing its own domestic changes.

    Forming a cabinet involving the Zentrum, SPD and a collection of non-partisan independents, Chancellor von Payer first sought to make minor reforms prior to the calling of fresh elections. These aimed at changing the electoral franchise in the country, while also providing more accountability for the decisions of the Chancellor and military.

    Despite harbouring hopes for more ambitious plans in the long run, something he would certainly be too old to oversee, von Payer opted not to challenge the military clique ruling the country in the immediate term. Even Ludendorff himself, along with Hindenburg, now realised after just a few days of a general strike that in the short term at least Germany needed radical change to provide stability.

    The OHL and von Payer’s administration had somewhat closed ranks in the weeks following the beginning of negotiations with the British. While debating the terms, the two factions had largely come to rely on one another, with von Payer growing in confidence in the role and relying on military endorsement for parliamentary reforms, while Hindenburg and Ludendorff relied on von Payer for stability and legitimacy.

    Unlike the OHL though, von Payer’s eye was on the horizon. He knew that provided he could get Germany out of the war, he would in the long run assure the demise of the German military autocracy. This was for the simple reason that the German right was poorly coordinated and unpopular, and the country was increasingly demanding popular legitimacy behind it’s Governments.

    Further too, he knew that the Kaiser himself was extremely unpopular, while the Crown Prince was younger, more popular, but also a supporter of the Fatherland Party. As such, placating the Kaiser and the OHL seemed the sensible move to ensure elections took place in the short term under rules that he under his Chancellorship could shoe-horn into place prior to the poll.

    These came through the ‘October Reforms’. These would restrict the Emperor’s right to declare war unilaterally, requiring the consent of the Reichstag to both declare and end a conflict. Further, it would provide the Reichstag with the ability to force the resignation of a Chancellor by a majority vote, though appointments of the Chancellor remained the Emperor’s prerogative.

    In agreeing to a softer than desired set of reforms, not stripping the Kaiser of his role but merely reducing it and making it legally easy for the Reichstag to remove an unpopular Chancellor, while limiting the power of the Kaiser to declare war, von Payer sought to provide legal obstacles to the military. He did not challenge the Kaiser’s unique ability to make military appointments, a non-starter with the OHL, but he did include in the package that members of the Reichstag could now be ministers while holding their seats.

    These reforms could be built on over time, for example by removing the five year funding guarantee for the military in the longer term, but despite his virulent hatred for that financial structure von Payer accepted he was too old to oversee it’s removal.

    Further, in order to prevent the rise of extremist factions on the country’s left that became a concern after the mutiny of the Hochseeflotte, von Payer and the OHL agreed in line with the Kaiser’s promised Easter reform proposals of 1917 that the Prussian Landtag and it’s House of Representatives would be reformed. This would aim to end the three-tier prussian voting system, institute secret ballot voting and allow for universal democratic suffrage in the province.

    This would ensure parity throughout the country on electoral structures, while retaining the bicameral nature of the Landtag and further weakening the power of the Conservatives over the country, who only had any significant legislative influence in Prussia where they dominated the legislature. Due to this dominance though, von Payer would be unable to immediately change the franchise, certainly not before elections. Instead the interfactional committee would arrange to coordinate their candidate slates for the Prussian landtag elections to strengthen their influence over the legislature, aiming to then abolish the system form within after the poll - or all else failing, to circumvent the constitution by using the influence of the Kaiser to prompt reform.

    Yet throughout October repressive actions, just as much as reform, were taking place across the country.

    Emboldened by the protests and seeing the pre-reform period as their sole opportunity, the radical leftists of the Communist and Spartakist Parties sought to make their move. Their goal, not trusting the Social Democrats and the monarchist Ebert, would be to trigger the total downfall of the monarchy and military clique, the parliamentarization or even socialization of Germany, and to secure a peace without any annexations through a radical revolution.

    In this, they first sought to establish control over local military forces around Berlin in anticipation of a second general strike aimed at toppling the moderate Government. Emboldened by the Hochseeflotte’s mutiny, popular political leaders in the Spartacists such as Paul Levi sought to capitalise on the situation. Effectively leading the Spartacists due to Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht’s continued imprisonment, Levi sought to encourage the establishment of various national councils within industrial centres and military facilities to gain influence over the populace.

    Despite their lofty aims though, the Spartacists found that there was little appetite for an anti-monarchist revolt and the momentum of revolutionaries was rapidly eroding following the strike and beginning of negotiations with the British. Even the Independent Social Democrats, who had split from their main party over the goals of the peace and the left’s district for the pro-war SPD stance, had begun to look at the SPD with dwindling contempt.

    The party was, after all, in Government now. Further, it was willing to cooperate with the USPD, even if its policies would be greatly reduced. Overall the sense of urgency for the USPD simply had started to erode - which itself left the Spartacists with a feeling of growing desperation as returning soldiers and paramilitary groups attacked spartacists campaigning in the street.
     
    The Peace Conferences: Treaty of Brussels & Copenhagen Negotiations (November 1918)
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    The Peace Conferences
    Treaty of Brussels & Copenhagen Negotiations
    November 1918

    By early November the negotiations at Brussels had now gone through two distinct cycles and were entering a third.

    The first cycle, the ‘maximum goals’ cycle, involved the demand that France cede enormous territories from the far north of the country from the mouth of the Seine to verdun on the Meuse, and south towards Nancy and Belfort. This failed when American representatives made clear that any imposition of these demands would lead to a continued conflict with the United States. This was something Germany could not afford while also fighting Britain, and thus proposals had to be amended.

    German negotiators then softened their tone marginally, while retaining the goal of destroying French resistance. In the second cycle, setting out their ‘extended’ goals, German negotiators demanded the same territorial expansion excluding territories east of the Meuse, but abandoned their attempts to annex the Calais region north of the Somme into Belgium, instead demanding only Dunkirk for their planned Belgian client state and a demilitarized done north of the Aisne and Somme.

    This plan again failed due to the fall of the Caillaux Government in France and return of Aristide Briand’s more optimistic administration, who responded to the German failure to sortie - which aimed to break British morale and thus allow Germany to dictate war terms without fear of the US - by refusing their demands and threatening a total war. This would have meant the probable collapse of social order in Germany, and likely France too, but the threat alone was enough that the Germans had to take it seriously - even if they knew the French would be essentially committing suicide.

    The third cycle of the negotiations at Brussels, now entering their third month, would see Germany issue her final ‘British’ goals, determined almost entirely by negotiations between Germany and Britain somewhere hundreds of miles away; Copenhagen.

    Copenhagen Discussions
    Negotiations at Copenhagen began on November 17th between the two parties with talks focusing first and foremost on the British red lines when it came to peace in France. The mood among both parties was tense, but equally somewhat candid. While British negotiators, led by Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour, deeply resented the German side after years of conflict, the two sides looked upon each other as adversaries deciding the fate of the world, but as worthy ones.

    Led by new German Foreign Minister Wilhelm Solf, with representatives from the Kaiserliche Marine, Germany for its part did not totally lack cards to play, and they were in the stronger position to dictate terms to the French. But, Germany required at least some degree of approval by Britain so as to avoid sabotaging potential peace with Great Britain and re-open trade lanes.

    In essence, Germany had won the war, but would not in the immediate term win the peace. For the OHL and the nation’s conservatives this meant setting her position to be as strong as possible so that in the next war, Germany would be in striking distance to defeat the Royal Navy.

    This stuck well with the growing sentiment in Germany, and one particularly proliferated by the Conservatives, that this war had not been a ‘war to end all wars’, but a war to dictate the next chapter of the global balance of power. Many German conservatives now felt that the country had been foolish and perhaps naive to think that they could defeat both France, Russia and Britain in a single conflict - and thus instead satisfied themselves with having beaten two of the three.

    Thus, German conservatives believed that any peace should focus on dismenbering the French into a position of long term economic dependence, while preventing any attempt by Britain to limit potential German naval rearmament, and the economic future of the continent Germany wished to impose.

    For the German liberals meanwhile the peace talks had essentially one goal in mind; at all costs lift the blockade, prevent a second anglo-german arms race at sea, and limit annexations to only those core territories with significant German populations that the militarists insisted upon. This was built under the premise that the liberals sought a long term position of stability in Europe, not conquest or subjugation. To this end, the interfactional committee aimed primarily to uphold the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, while rebuilding if not cordial then stable relations with the British.

    This was so that Britain would agree to the peace at all for one, but secondly because the interfactional committee feared that in five or ten years time Britain could strike back again if Germany overstepped the mark. This, they feared, would fuel the fires of German nationalism and push them out of power. Thus, establishing an economic and influence structure primarily focused on Europe, while restricting naval expansion, seemed the logical aim of the liberals.

    The first area of discussion with Britain would focus on providing security for Germany’s western border and securing the vital economic interests it had in northern France. This area had become a key part of Anglo-German negotiations because, as tentatively agreed to in Copenhagen, the final settlement would not include a German controlled Belgium. Due to the war, this left the militarists convinced that in the future Belgium would not be able to be relied upon for good relations and thus the Ardennes presented a potential forward advance point for a french war of retaliation of Belgium aligned with France.

    The original intent by Germany had been that Belgium would be either split into two entities; Wallonia and Flanders, and that this would either be a total split or an internal divide aimed at weakening the state irreparably even if they retained a mutual monarch. With the British factored in, Germany instead took to a new proposal; the annexation of the eastern part of Belgium. This, the OHL believed, would allow a considerable ‘forward base’ for the German military in any second conflict and would make any threat posed from Belgium redundant. It would, naturally, infuriate the Belgians who had entered the war against their own will and had been occupied almost entirely for much of it, but it would be the price they would have to pay for retained independence.

    Rather than joining the planned German ‘mitteleuropa’ economic bloc, and rather than annexing the Congo which Solf increasingly recognized would be politically impossible due to British hostility to continued German rule over any colonies, Belgium would lose some core territory to secure the long term interests of German security.

    Britain firmly disliked the demands to annex a significant portion of Belgium, but ultimately though both sides had to agree on something. Britain recognized that any German territorial grab from Belgium would infuriate the Belgian people and lock her in as an ally of the British, and would also create concern in the Netherlands over their future security due to the presence of the Limberg and Peel coal basins on the border and overt German plans to subjugate the Dutch in the long term. This meant that it was likely if Germany seized territory from Belgium, it would create a strong bloc of states along the channel exposed to and thus opposed to German expansionism - strengthening Britain’s position in the long term.

    As such, Britain eventually relented that Germany could annex territory up to the Meuse - with the exception of the city of Liege that would remain Belgian on both sides of the Meuse. This border was chosen due to the security advantages posed for both sides by the river, with Belgium being able to fortify the river’s western bank to prevent a German advance in the future, while the Germans would be satiated by their annexation of the eastern half of the territory and the capture of the Ardennes which acted as a giant blocking wedge to any rapid advance. Further too - Britain made clear that Germany in seizing the east of Belgium would surrender any claim over the Congo, not that Britain would have ever conceded it anyway.

    For Germany, the annexation was something of a win - albeit not one that they had initially aimed for. This allowed Germany access to a good portion of Belgium’s coal mines in the Luttich region without dominating Belgium’s coal industry, while allowing Belgium to retain a unified, now largely Flemish-led state. For the conservatives, whose Fatherland party had proposed annexing these territories anyway, the annexation would be seen as a win and it would be felt by the German people to be a ‘land grab’ that might satiate some fears that the war had been over nothing. The now dominant Flemish population in Belgium also left some German leaders reconciled with the idea that Belgium might in the long term move to neutrality or friendship with the German neighbour despite their animosity.

    Further, for Britain, there would be no channel ports for the Germans - Britain’s number one demand - and Germany was forced to commit to acceding to the total independence of Belgium west of the Meuse. The German liberals reconciled this with their plans for a secession of the arms race with Britain long term, and they agreed to the territorial annexation too in order to satisfy the OHL and because the annexed territories would certainly vote for local partisan politicians in the Reichstag as the French in Alsace Lorraine did - which would further dilute the strength of the German conservatives in the Reichstag.

    On the issue of France, Britain’s main priority was ensuring that France remained economically viable and politically independent. This meant limiting German expansionism and economic demands to permit only border changes in the Lorraine region and prohibiting German influence in the north of the country near the coast. German ideas of an economic exclusive zone in the Nord Pas-De-Calais and Borinage coal basins would be a non-starter - as would French entry into Mitteleuropa.

    Other than these demands relating to British influence over Belgium and French economic independence though, there was little else Britain was able to dictate. Still, having secured Belgian independence, Bonar Law felt comfortable to address Parliament on November 20th and affirm that Britain had achieved its primary aims in the negotiations while Germany, still victorious on the continent, had been greatly restricted.

    Instead, the world would enter a period of tension - but not immediate continued war.

    The Final Draft
    The Treaty of Brussels itself made few major alterations to the map. France, defeated but not crushed, would be forced to hand over Germany’s main territorial goal of the Briey-Longwy pig iron mines in the Lorraine basin.

    This might seem a small territorial grab, but amounted to German capture of exactly 50.1% of Europe’s entire known iron ore tonnage, rising from just 22%. The Lorraine basin alone produced 26.5% of Europe’s entire iron tonnage, making up 80% of France’s total annual output. This put Germany in an extremely powerful position to set Iron prices in Europe, and particularly in western Europe where the vast majority of the iron ore output would now take place in German territory.

    Further territorial changes would be the annexation of a small strip of land approximately 5km deep in front of the entire border between Alsace and France, ending at the western ‘bend’ in the Alsace Lorraine Reichsland. Here the border would continue as pre-war boundaries dictated, before tacking along the Meurthe river towards the city of Nancy. The city would be annexed wholesale by Germany and become the city of Nanzig, before the border cut across towards the Moselle river at the village of Aingeray.

    The small scale territorial expansion of the Reichsland Elsaß–Lothringen was taken almost entirely for security reasons demanded by the OHL. The territory featured vital hills and passes that would make Alsace a more defensible territory for any subsequent conflict with France, which was necessary as Germany had rather rudely discovered holding the territory was more difficult than anticipated during the war. In fact, parts of Alsace were the sole German territory occupied throughout the war.

    Nanzig’s southern iron mines, which were an exclave of the Lorraine basin, would not be directly annexed by Germany but would serve as a special German economic zone where German steel and iron companies alone could extract ore - thus solidifying their control of the basin. This was totally inviable in the long term, but was a demand issued upon France after it became clear Britain would not permit German economic domination of France, and due to fears that the now largely bankrupted France would prove incapable of paying reparations to Germany that were absolutely needed for continued German state financial liquidity.

    From here the new border would cut across the Lorraine basin towards Lac De Madine, then north to Chateau de Hattonchatel and along the top of the Woëvre and the Forêt Domaniale de Verdun up to Louvemont-Côte-du-Poivre, where the border would tack north towards the southernmost point of Belgium near Velosnes. The border would then follow the Belgian boundary up to the river Semois where it would follow the river until it met the Meuse at Monthermé.

    The boundary would then follow the Meuse up to the town of Revin, where the new Franco-Belgian-German boundary would meet. The territories in Lorraine seized by Germany would be annexed into the Alsace–Lorraine Reichsland, extending its size while not ‘infecting’ the other German Kingdoms with French citizens.

    Luxembourg, as expected, would be annexed by Germany as a constituent state of the Empire, with Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde becoming a subordinate to the Kaiser akin to the monarchies of Bavaria, Baden and Saxony. German negotiators would smugly justify this by pandering to Wilson’s 14 points, claiming that Luxemberg sought German annexation and that the territory was primarily German, prevented only by French hostility throughout history.

    Luxembourg too would be greatly expanded, annexing it’s pre-1839 borders from the seized Belgian territory except for a small strip along the south-eastern bank of the Meuse that would, along Verviers region, become the ‘Reichsland Luttich’. While Luttich was entirely Walloon and Flemish and thus was clearly a territorial land grab, the reversal of the 1839 partition of Luxembourg was a convenient policy again aimed at Wilson’s 14 points, which Germany played upon in the global press - convincing precisely nobody while they did so.

    Belgium meanwhile, as discussed with the British, would lose the aforementioned territory but would not lose its independence. King Albert I, the leader of Belgian forces, would remain on the throne and while ‘officially’ neutral, the country would remain in practice a close ally of the British - and thus the French.

    France would be required to pay an indemnity of 10bn Marks (ℳ) as economic compensation for the war, with the option to pay a portion of this in assets such as food, fuel, weapons etc, however would not be forced to join a Mitteleuropa economic sphere. For many negotiators this number was actually seen as quite low, but was landed upon due to its initial selection by the German Government during the Septemberprogramm and after the intervention of British economist John Maynard Keynes who was called to Copenhagen by the British delegation to impress upon the German delegates - particularly Solf - that France would never be able to repay anything more than ℳ10bn. Not that repaying that amount was ever a guarantee either.

    Belgium, as expected, would pay no compensation to Germany nor be forced into an economic treaty. Nor would she be forced to demilitarise, something the British fervently opposed, with British National Liberal politician Winston Churchill even calling in the house from the Government backbenches for the establishment of a permanent military mission to Belgium.

    France too would not be forced to admit guilt for ‘invading Belgium’ - given Belgium’s Government themselves rejected the prospect and Britain opposed the proposal. They would however be forced to demilitarise a strip east of the Marne river in Lorraine and including the Burgundian gate as a ‘prevention’ measure aimed at limiting French ability to launch a war of aggression against Germany. Britain in fact opposed this measure, but Germany was firm on the issue and given their significant economic concessions Britain and France both agreed, albeit with amendments. Expecting this was likely un-enforceable in the long term regardless, the British insisted upon a five year ‘cap’ on the demand, with the three parties ultimately agreeing to a 5 year cap with the exception of the greater Nancy region where Germany was to take an economic stake. This would be returned to France and remilitarization would be permitted at an undefined ‘later date’ in something of a fudge by both sides.

    The Colonies
    Finally, in the colonies there would be remarkably few changes. While Germany coveted the annexation of the Congo, Britain had firmly rejected such a proposal - in fact Britain was of the opinion that Germany should not keep their colonies at all.

    Throughout the war British propaganda efforts had led the nation’s people to believe Germany to have imposed upon their colonies brutal suppression, and while in some cases that had been true, German colonial policy in fact was often seen as a more favourable model by some British leaders and their colonial policy was largely modelled off an amended British style of colonialism. Despite the brutality of both parties.

    While Britain of course wanted to annex the colonies, securing such annexations would not be as easy as just refusing to give them back. Despite having defeated the German fleet, the German people and Government considered their colonies to be a mark of pride and status. They had no intention of giving them up, and would not agree to a treaty doing so. This clashed with both sides, who had bigger priorities; namely France and Belgium.

    The divide in fact also set off a more visceral debate between the two ‘halves’ of the German negotiating team, with the Reichstag liberals being more than happy to rid themselves of the colonies entirely on a global scale, while the OHL and Conservatives were appalled at the notion - believing Germany only to be relevant while she was a colonial power. In the end the disagreement would have to be settled by Solf who, as the former Secretary for the Colonies.

    Solf, while undoubtedly a member of the interfactional committee’s left wing and disliked by the German pan nationalists, fervently disagreed with the prospect of the loss of Germany’s colonies. Having built Samoa from the ground up, and having seen through significant reforms in the pre-war period aimed at encouraging greater self-rule, respect and tolerance for the natives, and greater financial self-sustainability, he despised the idea of severing such colonies.

    Solf’s issue was simple, he believed fully that a peace which saw annexations in Europe would lead to a second conflict and animosity between the nations of Europe. He instead thought that any peace treaty would have to be agreed between Britain and Germany, and that both sides could placate one another by essentially dividing Africa between them. Unfortunately though, this hit a heavy roadblock when the OHL insisted on the capture of the Ardennes, and the annexation of Briey-Longwy.

    This left Solf incapable of issuing demands against the British for the division of French colonial holdings, and the potential splitting of the Congo. Yet despite this, he felt strongly that he could at the very least secure the return of Germany’s existing colonies. In fact in his initial proposal he went further.

    Harking back to a treaty with the British prior to the war in 1913 that Solf, had personally negotiated, the now Foreign Minister proposed that peace in Africa be made by not just annexing new lands for Germany - but also for Britain.

    He suggested that Britain ought to annex Katanga and areas of the northern Congo, while the Portuguese colonies would be split between Germany and Britain - as would several French colonies. While no doubt some in the British colonial and foreign offices were tempted by such assertion, in practice this was a naive request though.

    British post-war focus would be on a policy of containing German expansionism, and would dictate a firm move towards anti-submarine warfare which meant securing Britain’s global trade lanes. The idea that submarines would be allowed to base in Germany’s african colonies terrified the Royal Navy, and thus there was a firm belief that Britain should seize all of Germany’s colonies.

    As such, Solf’s proposals were rejected. Instead Britain asserted she would annex all of Germany’s holdings, prompting outrage from both Solf and the OHL. Despite this initial demand though, when Germany made clear she may simply throw out the treaty entirely and ignore British demands on France and Belgium, Britain somewhat relented.

    Germany by 1914 had two self-sufficient colonies; Togoland and Samoa. While even Solf admitted, much to his chagrin, that Samoa would never return to German control after the war, he was determined to at the very least keep hold of Togoland. As such, Britain and the Germans eventually agreed on a compromise peace.

    Germany would surrender Namibia to South Africa, with Jan Smuts having said he would never leave anyway. Additionally, Germany would surrender the entirety of German East Africa in order to satiate British desires to build a giant red line between Alexandria and the Cape for a future railway advocated by British business rail magnate, ironically named Rhodes.

    Germany, in compensation, would expand their Kamerun territories by seizing parts of south western French Equatorial Africa, while the Gabon and Middle Congo provinces would also be annexed by Germany as part of a new ‘German Gabon’. Togo would remain in German hands, but Germany would be forced to compensate Britain through another means.

    Ultimately Britain’s concerns mainly focused around military vulnerability. The threat posed by the German colonies was that if there were a second large war with Germany, Germany might learn from her doctrine of unrestricted submarine warfare and deploy it across the entire world. For Britain, which was an empire that relied on global trade and could not afford to deploy anti-submarine task forces at every stretch of its thousands of naval lanes, this was an unacceptable risk.

    Germany thus would be forced to commit herself to future naval arms talks to prevent rapid German naval re-armament. This would involve voluntary naval capacity limits for all sides, and would aim to include Britain’s allies as well.

    Secondly, Germany would be forced to commit to restrictions on the passage of naval forces to her colonies; namely U-Boat deployments. These would be prohibited entirely, a step down from Britain’s desired mandatory destruction of Germany’s entire boat fleet but an acceptable compromise. Indicators of German expansion of naval facilities in Africa would be taken by the British as a sign of intended deployment, and thus would be considered a breach of the treaty - justifying a further naval conflict.

    Among the German leadership this result was taken tepidly. In losing half of her colonies, particularly East Africa which was a vital staging zone for trade with the Pacific, Germany was essentially surrendering her pacific territories too - and in exchange was retaining only a financially inviable Kamerun and Togoland, which German negotiators had several times offered to both Britain and France in exchange for expanding their ‘mittelafrika’ idea.

    The Naval restrictions too were seen as constraining and an assault on the nation’s sovereignty, but equally fell in line with an expanded form of the Congo Treaty of 1885, which prior to the war had aimed to restrict excessive military deployments in Africa - a policy firmly endorsed by Solf.

    Overall though, ultimately the aims of the German OHL were concentrated around Europe, not Africa, and thus the result was relatively positive for Germany overall.

    Analysis
    Signed on November 29th 1918, the Treaty would enter effect by January 1st 1919 - officially ending the conflict between the Central Powers and France, Belgium and Luxembourg. The treaty would follow the German tradition of naming treaties in the identity as the signing city, as opposed to the palace, and thus would be known as the Treaty of Brussels, rather Laeken.

    While undeniably a German victory, the treaty and its terms ultimately are remembered as one of the last major acts of imperialism in Europe - and as a demonstration of German fallibility. In essence drawn up between two great powers without a great degree of consultation with the French, the British involvement in the treaty’s final form left France feeling embittered but reliant on the British, alienated from both Germany and the UK as future friendly powers.

    In France itself the Treaty was met with a sort of unsurprised and exhausted disgust. Having lost enormous amounts of natural resources in Lorraine, the French economy would either become reliant on the German economy within a year to rebuild the country, or would be forced to ship in enormous amounts of iron from abroad at greater expense, prompting economic inflation and a near permanently negative balance of trade.

    The Treaty was greatly opposed among the US public, who saw it as a complete defiance of Wilson’s 14 points and subsequently crushed his waning popularity. It did however serve to re-shape the boundaries of Europe.

    The clauses negotiated between Germany and Britain too served to alienate the US State Dept from Britain, who Wilson quickly developed a begrudging contempt for after Britain in essence ignored the 14 points in favour of an imperialist’s war aims - all while using the US as a negotiating chip. By negotiating without US consultation, Britain maximized her influence over the conflict’s outcome, but did so without any American say, and left the US being forced to accept whatever the Anglo-German negotiators agreed on as without Britain the war was over globally.

    Worse still, the treaty at Brussels did not conclude the situation in the Pacific - one of America’s main focuses throughout the war. The US disapproved of Japanese expansionism into the pacific as a result of the war, and while Britain and the Germans had not yet signed anything on paper at Copenhagen it seemed certain that Britain and Japan would be the main benefactors of any peace treaty - providing the US with fresh Pacific security concerns.

    While many of the new people in the German Empire were not very… German, they brought with them enormous amounts of key resources that would allow her to become master of the continent - albeit with many opponents.

    Britain for its part too came out of the treaty as something of a hostile but convenient partner to Germany. Far from friendly and deeply dissatisfied with German successes, many in Whitehall felt content that Germany had been halted, and the Channel and Lowlands had been isolated from German influence, despite the immense cost. Now all that was left was to negotiate the final terms between Britain and Germany at Copenhagen.
     
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    The Peace Conferences: The Treaty of Vienna (November 1918)
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    The Peace Conferences
    The Treaty of Vienna
    November 1918

    The Treaty of Vienna, despite involving by far the most powers, in reality involved very little real negotiation or haggling, unlike the Congress just over a century prior.

    Involving the entire Central Powers bloc, along with the United States, Italy, Greece, Albania, Serbia and Montenegro, the Treaty would essentially end the conflict broadly in southern Europe.

    Stabilising the Balkans
    German demands were relatively simple. German geostrategy relating to the Balkans emphasised the idea of a strong Bulgaria as a stabilising influence on the Balkans, along with a weakened Italy, a nearly eradicated Serbia and a friendly Greece. This was in line with German desires to see a conclusive solution to the eternally divided and warring Balkans, aimed at protecting German trade interests on the Danube.

    Poor Serbia, completely occupied by Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary since 1916, bore the brunt of these strategic goals. Central Powers negotiators, without concerns relating to Britain or any other power interfering besides the United States, demanded their maximum demands.

    Britain for its part did not want a powerful Bulgaria in the Balkans, primarily due to the threat posed by Bulgaria to the historic British ally of Greece and potential for Bulgarian conquest of Constantinople. While the British had long been the principal arbitrator on the ‘eastern question’ during the 19th century, by the 1890’s Germany had largely seized this position.

    Britain now was largely willing to entirely concede that role to Germany. While the Balkans were no doubt resource rich and Britain preferred a balanced series of near equally sized and competitive states in the region, Britain had little interest in arbitrating further conflicts in the region and had no capacity to dictate a settlement. This was particularly after the exhaustion of British political capital with Germany over the western front settlement.

    As a result, Serbia would be more than halved; being returned to a size barely larger than her 1813 borders at Independence from the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria, seeking to ‘pacify’ the country, would annex her maximum claims over the territory - setting the new border at the Velika Morava River and annexing the entire south of the country, including the largely Bulgarian ‘vardar Macedonia’.

    Serbia further would be prohibited from unifying with Montenegro in the treaty’s terms, a policy that ended the threat of Yugoslavism that Austria-Hungary had grown to fear by the end of the war.

    Additionally, Serbia would be subject to Austrian and German economic domination through the amendment of the Danube Commission to exclude Britain and only admit Black Sea and Danubian states, along with the mandatory repayment of significant reparations and declaration of Austria-Hungary as Serbia’s most favoured nation for trade. This had largely been established in the Treaty of Bucharest in May, but now would be firmly set in place by the Central Powers.

    Finally, Serbia would be forced to admit guilt for the war, in effect admitting blame for a conflict after they were themselves attacked - albeit due to tentative complicity in the asssassination of Frans Ferdinand. King Paul, already having been in effective retirement since the start of the war, would also be required to abdicate, and his second son and regent Alexander was forced to abandon his claim to the throne.

    This left Serbia in a precarious and constitutionally bizarre position, as now both of Peter's sons had abandoned their claims to the throne. With neither son having had children yet, this in theory left Peter’s younger brother Arsen as heir to the throne, however Arsen was a known member of the Black Hand organisation, and thus vetoed in Austria - not to mention his war service, nationalism and current exile in France after having fought in Russia and being tried by the Bolsheviks. The final candidate, the nephew of King Paul, would be Arsen’s son - Paul. Prince Paul, whose military service in 1914 had been described as ‘undistinguished’, had lived in London for the last year and thus was an acceptable candidate to the British, and was both young and largely irrelevant politically.

    For Germany Paul proved a ‘perfect’ candidate, even if he was far from perfect for Serbia itself - particularly due to his sympathies with Croatian nationalism and opposition to the Yugoslav project. Reluctantly taking the role, Paul would be acclaimed as King of Serbia shortly after the signing of the Vienna Treaty in early December as leader of a greatly demoralised nation.

    Greece meanwhile suffered relatively little for her participation in the conflict on account of it’s political reversal and British opposotion to excessive consequences. Losing its northern territories along with direct access to southern Macedonia and the city of Thessaloniki, it would not be forced into any kind of unfavourable economic relationship and largely left to its own devices. This was part of a German aim to stabilise the country in the direction of pro-German Monarchism over the Venizelist nationalism that had seized the country in 1916.

    Albania, for its part, would see their Prince Wilhelm of Wied restored to his position, proclaiming himself as its King and ceding some small eastern territories to the Bulgarians. This was aimed at balancing the Bulgarian, Greek and Serbian claims in the territory and stemming competing desires to install a pro-Bulgarian or pro-Austrian monarchy in the country after the war. This also was an effective means of applying pressure on Italy, whose control of the mouth of the Adriatic could now be challenged by a pro-German Albania.

    Finally, in Montenegro the situation would remain largely the same. Crown Prince Danilo, son of the reigning King Nicolas of Montenegro, would inherit the title after his father’s abdication. In reality though upon the signing of the treaty the prince would in the space of a week refuse, accept, re-refuse, re-accept and then refuse the title on an almost daily basis - ultimately passing the throne to his brother Marko at age 13, who subsequently was overthrown in a crisis-triggering revolution later.

    Bulgaria as such ascended to the most powerful role in the Balkans, doubling in size and dooming much of the new territories to a period of Bulgarization and brutality at the hands of their new occupiers.

    A Fragile Italy
    The situation in Italy by November 1918 was verging on anarchy. While there was not a state of civil conflict in the country, much of the country’s north and parts of the south had essentially become resistant to government authority as councils established by workers and peasants largely began to ignore their local administrations.

    One might assume the Government would just send in police or army forces, but while there were some examples of this taking place - particularly around Rome and in isolated southern Italian regions - the police were no longer reliable in areas such as the Padan valley. The fact was, police largely sympathised with or were numerically incapable of opposing the tens of thousands of politicised trade unionists throughout the country who continually executed disorganised wildcat strikes.

    The army too was no longer seen as reliable. While Italian army forces had advanced through Veneto with high spirits, the announcement of a truce had seen many peasant soldiers immediately decide that the conflict was essentially over and go AWOL. While the initial tide resulted in harsh crackdowns by officers, with dozens of soldiers being shot for desertion, by early October the Italian army was fraying at the edges and beginning to quickly dissolve.

    Germany by contrast was in an increasingly stronger position. While negotiating additional German forces had been deployed to the rear of the Austro-Italian frontline, creating an ominous pressure in Rome on the Italian Government under Giolitti that Germany could at any day launch a second Caporetto.

    Despite this, Italian delegates continued to negotiate optimistically at Zurich. The delay in the negotiations had led to the Prime Minister and King ultimately agreeing to suspend the planned elections expected in October, aiming to wrap up negotiations during November and then go into a full democratic debate over the path forward.

    Increasingly fraught over the potential outcome of negotiations though, Italian negotiators at Zurich led by Foreign Minister Sidney Sonnino, who had remained in post under Giolitti, had rapidly begun to soften demands.

    While initially Italy had demanded the seizure of significant territories in the Austrian Littoral and Trent regions, Sonnino by the start of November had essentially been whittled down to “we’ll take whatever you’ll give us” while desperately trying to make clear the threat of revolution to the Germans.

    To an extent the Germans were sympathetic to this, particularly after the general strike and the accession of the von Payer administration. However, this was a double edged sword.

    The SPD in particular were firmly against the idea of territorial annexations where there were not nationalities seeking to be brought into a new state along the lines of a wilsonian peace. Worse still, the SPD firmly believed that annexations would likely lead to an upsurge in nationalism in Austria or even outright revolution - the worst outcome. They also disliked the idea of handing German territories over to the Italians at all, which in effect ruled out the annexation of all of Trent province.

    While it could have been worse, the Government could have opposed any territorial changes at all along a socialist ‘peace without annexations’ doctrine, in the end what Germany was willing to offer was small and simple; Southern Trent.

    This was a tiny concession, and would no doubt infuriate the Italian people, but it was equally the only territory currently occupied by Italy besides some territory west of the Isonzo. Italian delegates had spent virtually all of October attempting to secure additional concessions in the Austrian Littoral, with Italian military leaders even suggesting a naive and almost certainly vain attempt at a twelfth battle of the Isonzo - but this was ultimately scrapped after desertions became too prevalent.

    As such, by the time the Treaty of Vienna was signed in late November, Italy was just about ready for peace.

    Dealing with the United States
    The US had decided to negotiate at Vienna for two reasons. First; she saw Vienna as the weaker front for the Central Powers and aimed to emphasise the self-determination clause of the 14 points here both to weaken Austria and to limit Central Powers demands. Secondly, she sought to negotiate at Vienna as it allowed the United States to observe the treaty without binding her hands in Brussels before Vienna was completed - limiting her ability to steer German demands.

    Despite the intention though, the United States quickly found that her moral authority at Vienna was essentially ignored. While often referring to the principles of self determination, Central Powers negotiators often fell back on flashy lines vaguely speaking in favour of the 14 points, while in reality ignoring them. This included the many times re-iterated claim that Vardar Macedonia had to be protected by Bulgaria, along with the claim that Croatia must be protected from the Serbs.

    This left Wilson in an embarrassing and rapidly weakening position, which became far worse as soon as Britain and Germany began negotiating. Germany, while threatened by the United States naval power, was far more concerned with the threat of the British blockade compared to potential American merchant raiding. Trade being harassed after all was far less threatening than no trade at all - particularly if the bases for that trading were across an ocean.

    As such, by November with the signing of the Treaty of Brussels the American negotiating position had largely collapsed and the US congress in practice withdrew all support for any Treaty dictated by Wilson. This crushed the President, who became relegated to quickly declining political relevance at home - blamed for a foreign, valueless war seen only as costly to the American public, even if he refused to accept it.

    This meant that come the time to sign the Treaty, the United States had achieved only two things. She had secured theoretical free passage of American ships through the Bosporus straits into the Black Sea from the Turks in an independent treaty agreed after Turkish exclusion from the Central Powers, and she had been required to pay nothing in compensation to Germany besides returning her seized merchant vessels.

    For the United States this was satisfactory, with the same being held for the Germans who sought little from the US other than an end to hostilities. In theory, the United States did also secure some potential openness from Germany over joining an eventual League of Nations - but this was in practice just a pipe dream.

    Analysis
    The Treaty of Vienna was ultimately signed on November 23rd, while the Treaty of Zurich would be signed just days later. This ended the conflict in Europe for good just before Christmas - albeit four years after the public of most states had assumed.

    The Treaty of Vienna is remembered primarily for two things; for essentially denying the Serbian people a relevant state of their own and triggering decades of unrest in the Balkans as a result, and for the utter failure of the United States to extract anything of value from the conflict at all.

    The treaty in the United States is further remembered with deeply mixed feelings. For American isolationists, the treaty proved the death knell for Wilsonian interventionism, with the entire political culture regressing quickly into isolationism once more after the war. Wilson himself would struggle on in his presidency until 1919 when he suffered a major health decline, while the American political system would see a distinct split in it’s approach to geopolitics.

    While ascendent in both parties after the war, factions within the GOP in particular, and particularly Progressives, viewed the war as a completely missed opportunity to reshape the world for the better in an American limelight.

    Individuals such as Theodore Roosevelt, Leonard Wood and former commander of American Forces Pershing viewed the conflict’s loss as a key indicator that the United States needed to be better prepared to engage in a conflict abroad, subsequently providing ample justification for a post-war preparedness movement rebound in opposition to the growth of isolationism.

    As such, overall the treaty has become a hallmark of Imperialist underestimation of the new era of social nationalism across Europe, particularly among the younger states in Europe. It is often blamed by historians for causing later instability, and ultimately instability in the Austro-Hungarian empire as well.

    But the treaty ultimately paled in comparison to another treaty in terms of it’s immediate social consequences - that signed in Zurich.
     
    The Peace Conferences: The Treaty of Alexandria (November 1918)
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    The Peace Conferences
    The Treaty of Alexandria
    November 1918

    One of the first major treaties to be signed at the end of the war was that between the British, acting largely but unofficially for all the Allied powers, and the Ottoman Empire. This followed the earlier negotiated truce between the two parties that among the Allied world had largely been portrayed as an Ottoman surrender when in reality there were a number of conditions attached aimed at preserving Turkish sovereignty.

    Meeting in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, chosen for its relative neutrality between both sides and as a means of allowing both sides to save face rather than experience negotiations in a hostile capital, the two sides sat down to negotiate within weeks of agreeing an armistice on October 10th at Kaleköy.

    The two sides, in contrast to what you would expect, had relatively agreeable terms from the outset. Aware of their growing rift with Germany over the Baku oil supply, and having already built a vague framework for a negotiated peace in order to achieve a truce, Ottoman and British diplomats had already laid the groundwork for what both sides expected.

    In the Arab world the Turks intended to completely cut off their hostile and belligerent neighbours. Interested in a Turanist rather than Arab-imperialist future, the Ottomans were a burgeoning modern state with aims at industrialising and creating a ‘western’ Empire able to stand up to great powers in their own right.

    This meant that they had little need for the Arab world, which it should be remembered at this time had very little oil, and very little else other than a lot of angry people of a different ethnic background to the Turks. Despite this, Turkey was keen to retain a border that encompassed much of Turkish civilization, and retain as much of Arabia’s natural resource wealth as possible. In this, they aimed to keep hold most of northern Mesopotamia - particularly Mosul.

    Britain by contrast desired as much land as possible to demonstrate that her Imperial might was not yet dead, and to maximise their political authority over Mesopotamia. Having abandoned their back hand agreements with the French to divide the middle east, this meant they now felt able to honour their agreements with the Arabs themselves who had rebelled against the Ottomans in exchange for their own homeland.

    Cutting out the French
    The Sykes Picot agreement, while theoretically enforceable, in practice was not entirely approved of in Whitehall. While France had been an ally in the war, her surrender had stirred already continuing centuries-old rivalries between the two Governments and in an act of spite and distrust Britain had opted to simply cut France out of the deal. While a debate did kick off among the cabinet over potentially strengthening France through their annexation of Lebanon, which was rich in coal deposits, in practice the British Government saw little gain in doing so.

    On the one hand of course, a minor territorial claim may boost the morale of the French people and strengthen the footing of the wobbling French Government. On the other hand, France looked certain to experience significant financial woes following the conflict. While their balance of trade would no doubt be helped by additional coal fields, they would not be able to be exploited in the immediate term and profits from such coal would be minimal. Additionally, the greatest ‘loser’ financially in this conflict would almost certainly be Britain, who had hedged a significant bet upon victory by financially backing most of Europe to continue the fight.

    As such, Britain ultimately concluded that France would not benefit enough, nor could Britain afford to lose potential financial gain in the long term through Lebanon’s concession. As such, France would not be involved in the deal - much to the chagrin of the French establishment who felt betrayed once again by Britain.

    Bargaining
    While an initial sketch of what the final conclusion of the conflict would look like had already been drawn, in practice both the Ottoman and British diplomats had very differing views over what that future Arab homeland would look like. For now Britain intended to simply get out of a conflict with the Turks so that they could resolve the Arab question at their own direction without the military threat of the Turks, and thus the negotiations would not involve Arab delegates. Much akin to the Treaty of Brest Litovsk - Britain would draw a line, the Porte would agree to it, and what was done with said land would then be up to the British.

    The main discussion between both parties ultimately fell to the fate of one city; Aleppo. A key rail hub for the part-built Baghdad railway, the Ottomans and British both considered the city vital as which ever power owned it would essentially be owed control over the rail link to Ras el Ain and Nisibin.

    These towns were otherwise poorly connected to the Turkish anatolian heartland, and thus would be extremely hard to secure and control should the Subline Porte not control Aleppo, in turn meaning that Mosul Province would ultimately go to whichever state held control over Aleppo.

    In the end though what decided the dispute was de-facto control. Britain, having seized the city and advanced significantly further, simply refused to relinquish it. This in effect crushed Turkish aims to maintain broad control over most of northern Mesopotamia, and while the border would ultimately be set south of Aintab, this would still sever Turkish control over the Turkish-claimed Kurdish regions south of the Taurus Mountains, and particularly Mosul province.

    For the Turks the issue was simple; they did not have the military capacity to advance, nor could they financially afford to do so. Further, the British had nothing they needed to concede - after all, what could Turkey possibly demand in exchange? As such, when Britain drew the red line they did so knowing it would more than likely define Anglo-Ottoman relations in the future, rather than threatening that the Ottoman delegation may simply leave the talks.

    The border ultimately would be drawn along a the northern border of the Mosul Vilayet from the east, before cutting clean in half the Diarbekr Vilayet with a new border set at the town of Amudia, before meeting the Euphrates river south of Bierjik. Here it would cut south west in a straight line to the town of Kilis, where the border would swing south in order to keep the town in Ottoman hands, before cutting across to Antakya (Antioch) and following the Orontes to the coast.

    This was a great win for the British, if perhaps an inevitable one. Mosul was the home of a small but burgeoning oil industry that Germany had sought to exploit prior to the war. British surveyors, and in particular David Lloyd George’s ministry, had pressed hard for British forces to seize it in the conflict. Now, for their effort, they had won the oil - while Turkey, for its own efforts, had won the Baku oil.

    Finally, one important concession would be that Britain and the Ottomans would conclude some minor territorial amendments to the Ottoman-Persian border.

    Persia, a Kingdom heavily under British influence, by 1918 had essentially collapsed as a state. While of course the Government still existed and there was still a ‘Persia’, the country was in all but name a colony of Britain by the end of the war with British forces traversing its territory at will and imposing upon it any political, economic or military decision it saw fit. The Persian army was a backwater non-entity, and the greatest resistance in the state to British occupation essentially came in the form of a small band of Luri tribes in the southern Fars region of the country who rejected British occupation - something that did little to impact the political situation in the country.

    Ottoman troops had occupied a strip of territory on the north and western side of Lake Urmia and along the border territory with the Caucuses near Tabriz during the war, and now set on securing easier passage east to Azerbaijan. While the Ottomans had no intention of seizing all of this territory, they did seek to secure several key road passes through the highly mountainous terrain by annexing the town of Khoi.

    This being an extremely minor concession, Britain acceded to the demand and thus slightly ‘rounded’ the Ottoman-Persian border, further amending the map of the middle east. This, along with both sides agreeing on a long term discussion on the future of the Bosporus straits and an Ottoman commitment to uphold the London Straits Convention, concluded the Treaty.

    Analysis
    The signing of the Treaty of Alexandria on November 13th 1918 proved to be the conclusion of what in many people’s eyes was somewhat of a seperate war to the general ‘great war’ seen in Europe. While the Ottomans had proven an irritant throughout the conflict, most of their involvement in the war had essentially been to prevent Britain aiding Russia via ownership of the Bosporus more than engage in any offensive action - excluding in the caucuses.

    For Britain, the defeat of the Ottomans proved a solid propaganda victory, especially following Germany’s failure to contest the Royal Navy at sea. While politically at home the country had become extremely tense as social relations between labour and the establishment rapidly weakened, the successful defeat of a foreign power and reassertion of British power at sea demonstrated to many that while Britain had been unable to stop German victory on the continent, she was still undoubtedly master of the seas - and the colonies.

    The actual terms of the new borders in the middle east would have to be determined in the future in negotiations with the Arab leadership, but what was clear was that whatever the future held for the Middle East, it would be dictated almost exclusively by Britain who now had achieved if not total but implicit control over the entire middle east, from Aden to Aleppo, and Alexandria to Balochistan.

    In the Ottoman Empire itself, the actually quite positive treaty was poorly received by the public. While the country’s political leaders understood that Britain would, eventually, have crushed the Empire and could have done far greater damage - especially if the Ottomans wanted Baku’s oil fields - most people did not understand the intricacies of geopolitics. For Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha this proved politically damaging, but not fatal. While Talaat would struggle on for some time later, the new era of a Turanist Turkey required new leadership, and eventually it would be delivered.
     
    The Peace Conferences: The Treaty of Zurich & the Revolt of the Bersaglieri (November 1918)
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    The Peace Conferences

    The Treaty of Zurich & the Revolt of the Bersaglieri
    November 1918

    With the opening of negotiations in Vienna had come great danger for Italy. The path she chose to tread down was one of peace - not continued war. This was in reality her only real choice, but nonetheless did not satisfy the revanchists and irredentists who had been so key in pushing Italy towards war in the first place. It is worth noting, for example, that Italy was a rare case where its Socialist party had actively opposed the conflict from the offset and maintained that policy.

    This was a sharp contrast to Britain, France and Germany where in all cases Socialists backed war credits and the war effort, even if on principle they disagreed with it. This had divided the Italian socialist movement, but equally created an adversarial nature between the socialist interventionists and the socialist pacifists. This hostility would play a key part in determining how Italy would react to the conclusion of the conflict as a whole.

    The issue for Italy’s Government is that they were essentially doomed to dissatisfy not just the pacifists, but the nationalists too. Territorial acquisitions by Italy would anger the pacifists, who sought a status quo peace on all fronts, while the nationalists would not be satisfied with even minor territorial annexations. While their leaders were of course pragmatic, and interventionist politicians were accepting of minor border changes given the circumstances, the real sense of anger was felt among the Italian people themselves. They had bought into this war on the idea that they’d see real national change - and yet by the end of negotiations at Zurich in November all they could see was a lot of dead sons, brothers and fathers.

    Ending the War
    The bigger threat in negotiations for Italy was actually the negotiators in Vienna, not those in Zurich. The Austrians and Germans had sent to Zurich their ‘C-team’ of negotiators. Individuals without enormous credibility, many of whom were replaced after the ascension of the Interfactional Committee to power in Germany. Once the war was over at Vienna, the Italian hand would massively weaken. After all, the entire German army would be free to operate on every front as it chose to do so, demobilization or not - she would still no doubt have the continent’s strongest army.

    This was reflected more and more on a daily, not monthly, basis along the Italo-Austrian line. German forces from the Balkan Western Fronts poured into the region, joined by troops of the Austrian army corps in Albania and Hungarian forces in Romania. By now the Treaty of Bucharest had been long signed, and thus Hungary was free to move as she saw fit.

    While the domestic mood and financial system in Austria was certainly waning, and the political instability across the Empire was absolutely growing, financial strength and economic security is largely defined by a single factor; stability. With the war clearly at an end, and clearly to Austria’s benefit, the financial system of the Empire survived - albeit only just. This gave Austria some wiggle room, and would allow the Imperial Government one solid chance at holding together the mess - but more on that later.

    In the buildup to the peace at Vienna Italy had, as aforementioned, sought a few specific terms. These were concentrated around the Austrian Litoral and Trentino; but as discussed in the previous update, Foreign Minister Sidney Sonnino had largely abandoned this policy as the terms at Vienna came closer to conclusion.

    Thus when Vienna was signed on November 23rd, Italy’s final conclusive offer to Germany was this; give us Trentino and South Tyrol and we can call it a day. Unfortunately, the Austrians would not condone that. At many points throughout this process the idea that Germany has been leading negotiations has been alluded to, with Germany being the ones to dictate who gets what and what land Austria might surrender. This was not an unfair description - but came with caveats. Germany’s position in the conflict had led her ultimately to be the main determiner of terms, but throughout negotiations Austria had, ultimately, been given a fair say. Austrian refusal to adjust the borders in their littoral for example had prevented Italian seizure of land, because Germany accepted Austria would not willingly surrender it. Here with South Tyrol it was the same.

    The northern, primarily German speaking territory of South Tyrol was simply too naturally part of Austria for the Habsburgs to ever accept the loss of - and thus Germany would not accept it’s loss. The southern, primarily Italian speaking territory of Trentino, or Austrian Tyrol, would however be permitted to join Italy. This was convenient for Germany in several ways, as it allowed her to claim wilsonian principles had dictated the peace, placating domestic left wing critics of the SPD’s part in negotiations, while Austria accepted the territorial loss as something of a fait accompli. While Austria had no doubt that if negotiations collapsed Germany could retake Trentino, Germany had no desire to do so and Emperor Karl had no real incentive to want to hold the territory - particularly as from the outset of the war with Italy, Hungary had made clear that Cisleithania should not expand territorially - particularly into Italy. This made holding Italian territory less inherently valuable, and Habsburg officials feared that an Italian region in Trentino would only serve to further divide the empire in the long term as the Emperor sought to introduce his ‘people’s manifesto’ later in the year.

    Offered Trentino for their trouble, Italy’s negotiators solemnly took what they could get and on November 26th 1918 signed peace with the Central Powers of Austria, Bulgaria and Germany, before agreeing to a normalisation of relations with the Ottomans several days later conditional on Ottoman acceptable of Italian ownership of the Italian Islands of the Aegean.

    Some might ask, in hindsight, why Italy essentially agreed to fall back from key Italian speaking cities like Gorizio in the Austrian Littoral that they had seized in their advance. The answer to this is simple; it might seem an easy solution to just refuse to leave and force Germany and Austria to take it back - but should this have happened it is extremely unlikely that German forces would have accepted any territorial concessions at all. It is important to remember that for Italy to refuse to return this territory it would have forced the Austrians to leave the negotiations if they were unwilling to concede the territory - which they were. If they had left, the negotiations would have broken down, and conflict would thus resume.

    German forces, while tired, were motivated to get over the red line and complete the conflict on their terms. Had negotiations broken down, this would have certainly meant the re-capture of the occupied cities, and the potential for a further advance into Veneto and whatever consequences would come of that. For Prime Minister Giolitti therefore the optimal outcome was minor territorial concessions wherever he could grab them, followed by a rapid transition to a post war focus on domestic politics to calm down the ever changing political situation.

    Of course, no plan though when dealing with high stakes tends to go as expected.

    Striking the Match
    At home in Italy things had already further degraded. On November 4th a new organization had entered the political frontline, the National Combatants Association. This group was dedicated to the protection of the rights of veterans, having emerged from a similar group dedicated to protecting disabled war veterans. While in hindsight some have been quick to label this organisation as some kind of extremist political group of rabble rousers, in reality it was led by remarkably liberal, moderate men.

    While Mussolini and his followers no doubt had influence over the group from his business-sponsored magazine Il Popolo d'Italia, men such as Gaetano Salvemini in actual fact led the organisation and spoke for it. A dedicated Republican and moderate on the political centre-left, Salvemini had a cordial relationship with both the nationalist camp led by Alceste De Ambris, and the socialist camp in the organisation. Dominated by peasant veterans of the war who made up approx 90% of all serving frontline troops, the NCA tended towards the political left - triggering fears that the ‘red guard’ units of militia currently occupying much of the country’s north unofficially were organising.

    This in actual fact was far from the truth. The Red Guards in fact were largely just peasant militias formed by frustrated left wing peasant farmers who wanted the land they had been promised during the war and reform to Italy’s long suffering peasant land system. They were often lightly armed, and rarely organised, but simply acted as something of a threatening force to local Government administrations that allowed factory and peasant councils to de-facto control much of the north of the country.

    This was not without contest, and in fact Mussolini’s own Fascio d'Azione Rivoluzionaria, or ‘fasces’ tended to end up brawling with them in the streets of cities such as Milan over differing priorities. For the revolutionary right, the priority was if not kick starting the war then at the very least refusing to evacuate conquered lands in Istria. For the left, the priority was domestic reform and political change. But the peace treaty changed this.

    Infuriated by the news that Italian forces would be ordered to withdraw to pre-war boundaries within just a matter of days, besides the tiny territory of Trentino, many troops of the Italian Army in Istria in particular simply refused to leave. The war had been hard fought, and after such a massive advance and some real progress the idea that they would now be forced to abandon cities like Udine and Gorizia infuriated the nationalists among the rank and file of the army - particularly elite units such as the Arditi and Bersaglieri.

    One unit in particular would prove impervious to the order to withdraw; the 11th Bersaglieri Regiment. Decorated for their service in the Italo-Ottoman war of 1912, and having served with distinction throughout the war, the 11th Regiment were one of Italy’s most capable and most elite units, and even at one point included Mussolini himself in their ranks. On November 28th though they were ordered out of the hard-won city of Gorizia and back to pre-war boundaries, and miraculously they refused.

    This triggered a bizarre and politically confusing period in the city that would last well over a week, as the nationalist-leaning Bersaglieri found immense support among the local populace in the city itself, along with the vital southern cities of Veneto. Overthrowing their commanding officer Colonel Gino Graziani, the regiment called on the resignation of the Government and the continuation of general war with the Germans and Austrians in a naive attempt to hold onto their gains.

    The NCA soon backed the decision, calling on the resignation of the Government and the election of a new Parliament to debate the Treaty of Zurich. When the Government refused to resign and dispatched loyal forces to crush the rebellion the next day, they called on the King to remove the Government entirely and began arranging veterans marches in the capital and protests.

    On the Socialist side meanwhile, while the goals of the Bersaglieri and the PSI did not match up at all, the idea of the Government crushing the rebellion ignited a fear that any such later attempt at revolution by the people may itself be crushed by the military unless the trade unions were to take a stand now. This was further escalated when Red Guard militias throughout the Veneto region who took the revolt as an invitation to seize total control.

    On the first day of the revolt socialists militias in Gorizia seized much of the city alongside the Bersaglieri, however by the second day the revolt had quickly spread. Behind the lines, socialist militias and left-leaning units seized the cities of Monfalcone, Udine and Lignano Sabbiadoro, while frontline units established control along the Istrian frontline. Popular writers such as Gabrielle D’Annunzio spurred the army into revolt, writing a well publicised piece calling on the military to remove the Government and fight to defend ‘rightful’ Italian territory to the bitter end.

    While the larger trade union blocs hesitated, paralyzed between their extremist wings on the left demanding strike action and those on the right who sought to avoid direct confrontation with the Government, the rail workers unions in Ancona, Tuscany and Veneto took direct action alone. Declaring a general strike of all workers, rail transport by day three of the revolt in those regions ceased to operate. Military units dispatched by the Government to forcibly remove the Bersaglieri and now other revolting units were forced to travel by road, with elements of the Royal Guard itself being used in the effort.

    Venetian socialist Giacomo Matteotti, a major force in the success of the PSI in Veneto, would be the first to issue a national rallying call in favour of the Bersaglieri. Calling on the workers of Veneto to resist the advancing Royalist force, he attempted to rally a significant resistance against the Royalist forces in the province - but ultimately failed to make a significant impact. This was largely on account of Veneto’s lack of significant industrialization - and thus lack of workers. Peasants across the countryside did respond, joining the peasants in the Padan valley in protesting the military action, but this made no direct impact on the outcome of the incident. By day four, the Bersaglieri had been brought back under control and the general withdrawal was in order.

    In the end, the Revolt of the Bersaglieri would prove somewhat less dramatic than some may have hoped. But for the ordinary soldiers on the frontline it was a major lesson - it was a clear indication that the Italian Government was not to be trusted. With Matteotti’s rallying cry too, many socialists across the country had seen that the soldiers, if pushed, would rally to the cause of the left - even with differences of opinion over the war. Zurich had left nationalism empowered in the minds of ordinary soldiers, but had left the nationalists with no clear path forward - while the Socialists carried a popular, clear message.

    The Government must go.
     
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    Map of Europe as of the signing of the Treaty of Zurich
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    Map of Europe as of the signing of the Treaty of Zurich
     
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    The Peace Conferences: The Treaty of Copenhagen (January 1919)
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    The Peace Conferences
    The Treaty of Copenhagen
    January 1919

    In many ways the Treaty of Copenhagen was the final peace in the First World War. While there had been several more territorially significant documents, the negotiations in Copenhagen were significant for three main reasons. It finally ended the period of stagnation and negotiation that followed the war, it provided a ‘reset’ (of sorts) for Anglo-German relations, and most importantly; it greatly shifted the political dynamics of both states.

    The negotiations at Copenhagen were extremely broad. Involving discussions that ranged from Anglo-German views on the negotiations in Brussels, Vienna and even Alexandria, the negotiations set out that Britain ultimately was the state that would in the immediate term define the balance of power in Europe. This was a key difference between negotiations at the end of the Napoleonic Wars; the last time a continental state had attempted to dominate the continent, and negotiations at Copenhagen.

    In foreign policy there is a term known as ‘balancing’. This is essentially the endless setting of ground rules and red lines between states that consider each other hostile, but reluctantly accept without condoning the position that both states are in as a form of settlement. Britain at Copenhagen set out heavily to balance against Germany as a delaying mechanism against German continental domination.

    While Germany had ‘won’ the war in Europe, she most certainly was not able to dictate the terms of such a victory as easily as she might have assumed. This was almost entirely due to the Royal Navy, which was the gun pointed directly at Germany’s head. While retaining naval authority, Britain would have few concerns over the threat of Germany to its island security and imperial trade lanes.

    British negotiators even played on German fiscal difficulties for some time, dragging out negotiations into January 1919 despite coming to the table months earlier, long after the other treaties on Europe’s future were concluded. For context, the majority of discussions over the future of Romania at Bucharest, for example, were completed in just three days. Britain though had bigger priorities and was willing to wait Germany out until they got what they wanted.

    Britain's main priorities were maintaining her naval supremacy, guarding western Europe and the lowlands against potential German influence, and preventing Germany from influencing the outside world. In order to achieve all of these, Britain needed to prevent Germany from gaining the capacity to deny Britain economic influence on the continent, and needed to prevent Germany from building a larger fleet that could potentially challenge the Royal Navy.

    As previously negotiated, Germany would commit herself to negotiations for a naval arms limitation treaty, seen by the militarists as somewhat of a dead letter that would come to nothing while the German civilian Government were receptive to the proposal. This was primarily because even before the war Germany had largely abandoned their arms race against Britain - though this had been due to a resurgent Russia which was now defeated.

    Britain would also demand that U-Boats and large naval formations would not be permitted to travel to the remaining German colonies. This was a strategic necessity for the Royal Navy, but equally something of an affront to German leadership. It in essence asked that Germany be denied naval access to her own territory, which to any country could only be seen as an excessive demand. The alternative though in the eyes of the Royal Navy was that Germany should have to surrender her entire submarine fleet, which was even more of an affront to the Kaiserliche Marine.

    This issue would strain negotiations almost from their opening, but by January 1919 the Germans would largely have consigned themselves to the fact that they had to choose one of two options; the end of their submarine fleet, or the restriction of their submarine deployments. Given that submarines currently struggled to deploy to the German imperial territories anyway, largely due to range limitations, and given that the Germans had constructed little in the way of infrastructure to fuel large submarine forces from these colonies regardless, one option seemed obviously better.

    As such, Germany by January accepted that she would have to consent to a written accord with the British Government to limit naval deployments to their colonial possessions. This would form the basis for part of the Copenhagen Treaty, and would become known as the Müller-Geddes accords after First Lord of the Admiralty Eric Geddes and Georg Alexander von Müller - Chief of the German Imperial Naval Cabinet.

    Von Müller for his part was a naval veteran and a close ally of the Kaiser who, while having greatly favoured the war, was politically aware enough that by January 1919 he had recommended accepting the British proposal to the Kaiser and the Government. He had been hesitant to restart unrestricted submarine warfare regardless, and like the Kaiser viewed Germany’s future as being to the east - not the south.

    Geddes meanwhile was an imperialist who grew up in India and placed great weight on ensuring British trade access, while also being the man who essentially rebuilt the Admiralty in the face of German submarine warfare. His accord would mostly come after a general decision of the Admiralty to focus on the prevention of German submarine power accessing other parts of the empire. This calculation was simple; Even were Britain to destroy Germany’s entire submarine fleet, there would in practice be no means to prevent them from rebuilding it. Thus, to Britain the logical alternative was to place diplomatic restrictions on Germany to prevent their use in other theatres in a later war.

    Geddes and Müller ultimately resolved the disagreement in a side room in Copenhagen in January, concluding that Germany would not be permitted to deploy submarines to her overseas colonies during peacetime, while in exchange both Germany and Britain would consent to the beginning of naval arms talks after the war. This was in order to allow Germany to rebuild her navy slowly and within British approved limits while not risking further conflict or blockade, while preventing the ‘runaway’ spending on naval arms seen before the war.

    One might sense that Britain got the better end of the deal from this aspect of the negotiation - and that would be a fair assumption. In fact among the German people it was largely seen as the Government’s greatest concession.

    Meanwhile, Germany’s Asian provinces had also come into the fore of discussion. While seen as a friendly ally and partner by the British Government, Japan’s conquest of Germany’s asian provinces had alarmed Australia and the United States who considered the prospect of a Japanese Pacific empire threatening to their trade interests and sovereignty. As such, discussions with Britain additionally affirmed that Kaiser-Wilhelmsland and the Solomon Islands would remain occupied by Australian forces and annexed as an Australian territory.

    The remainder of Germany’s Asian provinces would remain undisturbed, though German means of expelling Japanese forces from their holdings were seen as impossible by Britain, who saw the likely outcome as being a Japanese refusal to leave and a subsequent peace at a later date. This suited Britain perfectly, who had already consented to Japanese annexation of the pacific islands in 1914, and held strong ties with the empire of the rising sun.

    Outside of negotiations over colonial holdings, Britain was keen to demand the rapid de-mining of territorial waters and both sides agreed to mutually ‘write off’ any planned war reparations to one another after initially intense debate over the matter. Britain did consider reparations vital in order to raise the nation’s financial liquidity, but in Germany’s fragile economic state she refused to provide any compensation and threatened the peace talks. Thus it was concluded reparations would be an unrealistic demand to levy upon Germany.

    This was in part why Britain opted for territorial annexations in Africa and Asia, particularly as every indicator suggested that Germany’s financial system would struggle for the next decade to recover after the destruction of their economy during the war. Thus, denying them colonies through direct and indirect means would starve their economy. Further, British planners had begun to prepare for the ‘next war’.

    Annexing all of German East Africa as planned, Britain in doing so forced Germany to essentially abandon her pacific holdings that would now be too far away to travel to with ease regardless. Renamed ‘Tanganyika’, the territory would complete Sir Arthur Rhodes' long sought after dream of a British ‘red line’ from Cairo to the Cape and would allow him to now pursue the construction of a railway line to cover the entire journey - but more on that later. The abandonment of East Africa was a bitter pill for the German populace to swallow and greatly elevated the stature of General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck who had so staunchly defended it.

    The loss of South West Africa would also be a point of irritation for the German public. Occupied since 1916 by the South African army, South African general Jan Smuts had gained significant political leverage during the conflict and ultimately became a figure in the Imperial General Staff. A firm anti-German, Smuts was determined to see Germany robbed of all her colonies in the aftermath of the war, and thus when the time came he made it clear he would heavily oppose returning the region to Germany.

    Given Smuts was on track to lead South Africa in the aftermath of the war given his political popularity, the British Government thus opted to persue annexation of the German South West Africa territory alongside the capture of East Africa, further strengthening the Royal Navy's control of the Cape and Indian Ocean. This, yet again, was a fait accompli that German negotiators would ultimately accept - after all, South West Africa was almost valueless.

    Britain did not accept German hegemony over continental Europe, but also because having felt alienated from France, cut off by Italy and Greece, and detached if more friendly with the United States, Britain seemed to be increasingly alone on the world stage politically. Thankfully, this state of play was far worse for the Germans, but British High Command had come to the conclusion that war with another major power was not just likely but inevitable due to British foreign interests, and thus denying Germany - the greatest threat - bases in Asia suited Britain’s long term strategic needs.

    Analysis
    Signed on Friday 17th January 1919, the Treaty of Copenhagen was met with a largely muted reception both in Germany and Britain. With the war having been over on the continent for a month, and Britain having ceased fighting everywhere besides the North Sea, many people had begun to feel the treaty was somewhat of an afterthought.

    Sold as more of a piece of paper reaffirming what most Britons already knew were Britain’s terms, many in the British public left the conflict feeling somewhat underwhelmed. On the list of terms, outlined in the press that morning, where was the so demanded confiscation of all of Germany’s colonies? Where was the financial punishment of Germany they so deserved?

    For many in Britain thus it felt somewhat of a disappointing ‘victory’, and the signing of the Treaty while positive for Britain left the public with mixed feelings about the war in the run up to the coming elections. Regardless, this was met better than in Germany where the mood was very much one of frustration and betrayal. Sure, Germany had her Empire in Europe - but was she truly a global power without colonies?

    So, finally, the war was over. Now was the time to win the peace.
     
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    Social Conflict & Elections: Britain (January 1919)
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    Social Conflict & Elections
    Britain
    January 1919

    British society had emerged from the war profoundly changed. Strengthened by the need for constant and high-output industry, key sectors of the economy had become vital to the war effort in the absence of many men fighting, and thus the power of mining and manufacturing unions had greatly increased.

    Unlike most states in Europe at the time, Britain’s experience with political socialism had not been built off the back of academia, but unions. In France for example, there were multiple Socialist parties. This was also true of Germany where their unions had, on instruction of their political leaders, just forced Germany into political concessions. In Britain though, Labour was a party that was made up of a collection of political bodies including the trade unions, and intellectual ‘think tank’ groups like the Independent Labour Party and the Fabians.

    Far from a revolutionary party, Labour had supported the Government during the war but had left the coalition when it became clear that the loss of Amiens had proven too much for the British war effort on the continent. Party leader William Adamson, a firm trade unionist from Scotland, led a party that still felt deeply divided over the value of the war. What they were united on though was the belief that Britain should end the war and that she should not engage in imperialism any further.

    For most working class Britons these policies seemed very reasonable, if the war in Europe was essentially lost, why continue to lose soldiers elsewhere? This after all was a war against Germany, who had attacked Belgium. Everyone else, in their eyes, was an afterthought. Even after Gallipoli the British public had learned to hate the Turks, but only as much as they despised the men who screwed the pooch on the operation’s plans.

    Despite this, the war had continued and relations between Britain’s social classes had rapidly declined. By the time negotiations for peace with Germany began, there were very real signs of unrest in the Rhondda valley, Manchester and the Clyde. These were the heartlands of the ‘triple alliance’ trade unions; the National Transport Workers' Federation, National Union of Railwaymen and the Miners' Federation of Great Britain.

    These three unions alone had the capability to cripple British infrastructure if they had wished, but despite the more revolutionary attitude of the Independent Labour Party, who had opposed the war and were spurred on by Italy’s strife, direct action never took place. This was in part precisely because of the fears of an Italian style state schism.

    This changed though in January 1919. Since the defeat in France, many British soldiers had been simply demobilised and returned to Britain. This had prompted a rapid rise in unemployment as these soldiers returned to a nation where their jobs had been filled by other men or even women. Unions thus proposed that the working week be reduced to 40 hours for every worker to provide more hours overall for more workers and share the burden.

    This policy was widely supported in the ‘red’ regions of Britain, notably on the Clyde, in Manchester and Rhondda valley in Wales. In Glasgow though, this would take a bad turn. On January 27th, around 3,000 striking workers opted to meet at the St. Andrew's Halls. Just three days later though these numbers would swell to the tens of thousands as the city’s shipbuilding and engineering workers joined.

    Police soon sought to crack down on the protesters, and thus when on January 31st a large congregation of tens of thousands of protesters met on George square, police immediately charged the workers to disperse them. In what became known as the ‘Battle of George Square’, the workers in their anger and frustration at the war and the further declining economic situation, actually fought back and ‘won’ the battle. Police forces were driven off and the fighting spread into the surrounding streets.

    During the fighting, representatives of the workers had been meeting with the Lord Provost of Glasgow at the city chambers. Immediately upon hearing of the violence they went to leave, but were set upon by police after leaving the building. CWC leaders David Kirkwood and Emanuel Shinwell, along with Trade Unionist leader Willie Gallacher, were all arrested and detained - enraging the protesting workers who soon descended upon the city council building where they were being briefly detained.

    Here, the protesters eventually managed to storm the building and compel the release of their leaders. Gallacher, who had been jailed repeatedly, then turned the strikers to march on the barracks in the Maryhill district of Glasgow. Here, thousands of workers surrounded the complex and began calling on the soldiers to join them.

    Demoralised and generally sympathising with the strikers demands on better hours and pay, the soldiers of the barracks remarkably arrested their commanders and joined the now armed protest. Thankfully, by then the Government had already met and ordered the dispatch of 12,000 soldiers to Glasgow to prevent any ‘bolshevist incident’ from taking place.

    Joined by six tanks, the large force quickly took control of Glasgow railway station in the night and deployed in force. While strikers had been furious, and soldiers at the local barracks had gone over to the other side, the reality was this protest had never been an attempt at revolution. Overnight the rioters had, unsurprisingly, gone to bed - save for a few radicals - and thus the crisis came to an abrupt halt.

    Simply getting ahead of themselves and acting to protect their own interests, the protesters soon abandoned the idea of actually fighting for control of the city even if they implicitly controlled it for several hours and their mutineering soldier allies largely just slowly melted back into their barracks in the face of the overwhelming army presence.

    The close call of the strike sent shockwaves through the British establishment. Genuinely confident that a major strike by the triple alliance of British trade unions would topple the Government, the Prime Minister soon met with the heads of the three unions together to discuss the political situation.

    Not revolutionaries, railway workers union leader Jimmy Thomas even spoke in Parliament against unofficial and wildcat strikes, saying: “However difficult an official strike may be, a non-official strike will be worse, because there is always the grave danger in unofficial strikes of no one being able to control them”. Such was the strength of feeling against action that could undo the stability of the state that even Trade Union leaders cautioned against it.

    Fearful of similar or even worse incidents elsewhere, Bonar Law finally felt compelled and comfortable enough to end Britain’s wartime measures and call fresh elections set for February 1919. This allowed the unions to deliver a rallying cry for major financial and time committed support for Labour at the polls, lessening the chance of strikes and thus reducing the chance of a revolutionary incident. In this backdrop, the country entered a rather tense and uncertain election season.

    The 1919 Election
    The first election in over eight years, the 1919 election was a woefully overdue poll that would reshape British politics.

    The Tories under Bonar Law entered the voting with 271 seats - 53 short of a majority having been propped up by the weakened National Liberals (now Coalition Liberals) out of a desire for self preservation more than anything else. Despite the chaotic period of his premiership, Bonar Law was widely sympathised with among the middle classes and elite cadres of society, winning over swathes of Liberal voters who were impressed by Law’s victory over the Ottomans and deft negotiations with Germany where both Asquith and Lloyd George had failed.

    Labour meanwhile looked set to win their greatest number of seats yet - and were very genuinely touted in the press as possibly being on the verge of taking power altogether. This was either scaremongering or naive optimism though among the media establishment. Sure, one would not struggle to find a labour voter on the streets, but in reality the country was ready for change - but not that much change.

    Ironically though this worked against the party, who were unfairly portrayed as being bolshevik adjacent with their platform aiming at nationalising the mines and railways under leader William Adamson.

    The Liberals meanwhile looked set to be decimated. Deeply alienated from their voters by Asquith and Lloyd George’s double flunking of the war, many Liberal voters had abandoned the party for the Tories. Still headed by a naive Asquith who sought to ‘ride out’ the near-certain defeat at the coming poll, the party stood on a platform aimed at more radical political and social reform in a bid to win over wavering middle class Labour voters, but in reality few trusted the party anymore. Ironically they expected poor results - with Asquith’s close ally Donald Maclean actually favouring the idea of a pact with Labour to shore up voters, though Asquith didn't believe the effect of a ‘khaki’ election would be so severe and rejected the idea.

    The formerly National Liberals meanwhile still propping up the Tory ministry under Bonar Law, notably including figures like Churchill and even Lloyd George - though politically he remained a shadow of his former self. Identified mainly as ‘Coalition Liberals’, this bloc generally campaigned on the Tory platform and piggybacked off their voters. Now led by Churchill, who was frankly one of the last prominent National Liberals left, the party initially sought reconciliation with Asquith’s liberals for a united campaign but ultimately proved unable to dislodge Asquith from his position in the party. While the rift was healable, that would have to wait for the end of the war.

    The overwhelming sense among the public was that a change was needed, but the most important change needed was stability. After years of mixed coalitions of various parties and blocs, the country needed one party in power with a clear agenda and competence in Government - and the obvious choice therefore was the Tories.

    The Tories also benefited from the unexpected and remarkable rise of Britain’s ‘lost boys’ - roving bands of demobilised soldiers named for their similarity with the characters of 1911 classic ‘Peter Pan’. These troops had escaped confinement upon disembarkation in Britain’s ports and service in the army still with their uniforms and/or arms, and used them to engage in criminal activity and begging on the streets of Britain’s cities.

    Somewhere between brigands and beggars, they were reported across the country but were particularly concentrated in the south and major ports of the country where demobilised troops often disembarked. Often pushed by a lack of jobs and general apathy or uncertainty, the lost boys became a political issue during the buildup to the election after the roaming groups caused a steep rise in crime throughout Britain’s cities.

    Seen as not easily controlled by police and technically out of the army, and where not armed therefore not the army’s problem, the mobs could be found in ‘units’ as large as whole platoons in some cases. This was primarily because the troops often had not found work and found the prospect of a return to normal civilian life daunting or difficult.

    While the lost boys tended to be unofficial criminal mobs, some soldiers and veterans mobilised their own politically oriented groups during late 1918 to early 1919. Groups such as the Labour allied National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers (NADSS), which excluded officers, and Conservative allied anti-socialist Comrades of the Great War could often be found ‘sparring’ in the streets in debate - or more often just straight yelling matches.

    These were not paramilitaries or militias, but they acted as increasingly large, politically hostile bodies of men attached to their respective parties. Their disagreements mostly stemmed over the continuation of the war and the terms of the peace. The NADSS and Labour primarily opposed the terms with the Ottomans as an entrenchment of imperialism, along with the annexation of German colonies, while the Comrades of the Great War tended to back Bonar Law’s seeing through of the conflict to the end and the focus on the middle east.

    A debate also raged over the role of Britain in Russia’s ongoing civil war. British troops had landed in Arkhangelsk in Northern Russia in March 1918 as part of an attempt to prevent Bolshevik troops from seizing one of the allies’ major arms dumps in the city. Now nearly a year on, a debate continued to rage over what exactly the allies were doing there. While the National Liberals under prominent jingoists like Winston Churchill still called on a British intervention in Russia to establish a ‘stable friend to the east’ as a check on Germany by installing the Russian whites, the Government had grown increasingly ambivalent about the whole situation.

    In some cases the emergence of these groups even directly affected the ballot box, with the left-liberal National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers (NFDDSS) becoming the most cohesive political bloc and standing thirty candidates in the election.

    Focused on military pensions, opposed to re-conscription and tentatively allied with the Labour Party, the group drew a remarkable number of left-Liberal Party MPs backing including prominent Asquith-ite Liberals James Hogge, William Wedgwood Benn and William Pringle. Hogge was a rising player in the Liberals and save for Asquith’s endless determination to go on and on, he may have become sooner party leader. This allowed the group to gain some considerable support from frustrated former Liberal voters and propelled them into a position where they could win multiple seats.

    Alongside these ‘soldiers parties’ also came a slew of other new parties, most notably the National Party under Henry Page Croft which entered the election with 7 MPs due to Conservative Party defectors. Page Croft, a protectionist imperialist with a military record who despised Germans, led the party on a policy of ‘total victory’ over Germany and a bizarre working class ‘patriotic’ appeal in a party largely dominated by the aristocracy. Supporting ‘no limits on wages’ in exchange for ‘no limits on production’, the party even briefly offered to back Labour, seeing it as the future of politics - despite its deeply divergent political views.

    There was also Ireland of course. Now one might have initially assumed that the ‘defeat’ to Germany would have ignited some kind of powder keg in Ireland immediately, but in actual fact the buildup to the Irish revolutionary period was slow, gradual and far less dominated by the radicals in Sinn Fein than one might assume. If anything, Sinn Fein was marginally weakened by Germany’s victory indirectly.

    The sudden rise in the popularity of British Labour in fact convinced the party that it could win seats in Ireland. As such, where before leader William Adamson had planned to let Sinn Fein run free in Ireland without splitting the worker vote, he now chose to try and bolster his own party’s seat count and take the position of the official opposition. As such, Labour would run candidates in Ireland, putting Irish working class voters in something of a bind.

    Nationalism in Ireland was without a doubt a minority view. While very popular, there was no landslide majority for independence in 1918 even after the conscription crisis. Working class voters in many of Ireland’s cities for example put more emphasis on the class struggle than that of the national struggle with the British, and thus where historians have speculated Sinn Fein may have won as many as 73 seats without Labour, in actual fact by election day they were looking at around ten fewer.

    Naturally, the nationalists had not sat on their hands throughout this period. Sinn Fein had made clear that the path forward for Ireland was independence, or at the very least its own Parliament - and thus they promised exactly that. Come election day, they would promise not to take any of their seats in Westminster, and instead to form their own Parliament in Dublin.

    The Results
    The results after a short and somewhat tense campaign were clear. The Liberals, the party of Government at the start of the war with 272 seats, were reduced to just 37 seats after suffering a heavy split between Lloyd George’s and Asquith’s camps. The former ‘national’, now Coalition Liberals of Churchill and Lloyd George would take 43 seats. Embarrassingly, Churchill himself actually lost his seat to Edwin Scrymgeour of the Scottish Prohibition party - leaving the leadership open yet again. Asquith too was ousted in his Fife East seat by Scottish Unionist Alexander Sprot.

    Labour meanwhile performed the best of any poll to date, but unsurprisingly failed to suddenly take power as some papers and political ‘observers’ predicted. Taking 119 seats and with it the mantle of the official opposition, along with over 25% of the national vote share. Quite the shock to some in the country, Adamson himself hailed that the result would “produce a different atmosphere and an entirely different relationship amongst all sections of our people”.

    The biggest winner of the election though were, unsurprisingly, the Tories. Winning a total of 391 seats in the Unionist Camp, including the Scottish, Irish and Labour Unionist parties under the Tory umbrella. Bonar Law was now unquestionably the Prime Minister of the country for the time being - and held the largest majority since Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s premiership in 1906.

    Now no longer in need of support from the Coalition Liberals, it quickly became clear to everyone that despite their best hopes, David Lloyd George’s half of the party would not be involved in this Government - sealing his political demise for good. Together still on 80 seats, the two Liberal halves would begin the process of healing the national rift soon after thanks to the demise of Asquith, though naturally this would take some time.

    Elsewhere there were some surprising victors. The Nationals in their limited numbers managed to maintain five of their seven seats prior to the poll, demonstrating surprising staying power. Christabel Pankhurst, daughter of women's suffrage movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst, won the election in Smethwick and became Britain’s first ever woman MP - joined by Constance Markievicz of Sinn Fein, who never took her seat and is thus discounted. The NFDDSS too would snag seats, winning in Ashton-under-Lyne, Clapham and Liverpool Everton.

    Meanwhile in Ireland, Sinn Fein would win overall with 63 of Ireland’s 102 seats. This would have two main effects; it would greatly enlarge the Government’s de facto Parliamentary majority, and pivot Irish politics towards eventual independence. The Irish Parliamentary Party meanwhile would take 15 seats, down from 74 prior to the election. Still alive, but barely clinging on, albeit without their leader John Dillon who would be defeated in his East Mayo seat.

    In all, the results would greatly re-shape British politics and return some normality to the country after the war. While the country faced many challenges, particularly financial, the Government’s large majority would provide the country with stability and give Bonar Law a solid opportunity to re-establish Britain’s place at home and abroad.
     
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    Social Conflict & Elections: Germany (January 1919)
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    Social Conflict & Elections
    Germany
    January 1919

    Post-War Germany was a state extremely politically divided, and economically weakened. Unlike western Governments, which had largely issued bonds and mobilised their economic industries or taken on foreign loans to keep the war economy functioning, German economic strategy was to essentially create new sources of currency. This meant that in many spheres, while the German Government did issue a large number of war bonds and encourage investment, the German economy was essentially printing money and cannibalising it’s economy, while devaluing the spending power of that currency.

    Essentially Germany had encouraged its citizens to give their wealth to the state on the promise of later repayment, while making the money of all of their citizens less valuable.

    For ordinary Germans this, combined with the blockade, meant that spending power in the state rapidly declined and the cost of goods - particularly luxury goods - skyrocketed. By the end of the war though due to the removal of working men from the agricultural sector and the stress on the food economy due to Germany being a net importer of foodstuffs pre-war, Germany’s necessities market was also inflating and basic goods were becoming increasingly scarce.

    For Germany’s domestic political scene this was extremely divisive. Not helped further by Germany’s constitutional division that had grown throughout the war.

    Prior to the war, Germany had been seeing the rise of increasingly left leaning and socially liberal political power blocs. This was especially notable in the Reichstag, but much less prevalent in the actual Government itself. This was partially the fault of a rebound growth of the party after years of being banned, while the absence of socialist ministers was simply the consequence of the Kaiser refusing them entry into power. The rise of the SPD after the end of the party’s ban also meant that the working classes - long denied significant political rights in Germany - were slowly becoming a relevant voting bloc in the country. This again boosted SPD poll numbers, particularly after the introduction of universal male suffrage.

    During the war meanwhile the Reichstag’s hesitation to continue the war on account of its ‘liberal’ and ‘peace’ majority meant that there was a growing divide in the political institutions of the Empire. The Civil Service and office of the Chancellor, which were both beholden to the Kaiser rather than the Reichstag, were dominated by Prussian militarists and supporters of the Kaiser’s Government. This became particularly prevalent too as the war reached its zenith in 1916 when Hindenburg and Ludendorff were appointed to lead the army and established a de-facto military state. This cut the Reichstag out of political relevance entirely, not just in practice and further divided the state and elected institutions of the state.

    Politically this meant that by the time of the General Strike in late 1918 and the appointment of the von Payer Government comprised of the liberal parties of the Reichstag, the country was in a deep constitutional split. The civilian Government and Civil Service were now directed by the Reichstag, who carried the power to paralyse the state through direct civil action, while the military and constitutional apparatus were governed by the Kaiser and the military clique.

    This was an unsustainable split, and was reflected in the public forum of debate too. The Fatherland Party, under Alfred von Tirpitz, by January 1919 had started to fragment and collapse, leaving Tirpitz himself considering it unfit for Government. Beset by Radicals and incompetent or inexperienced officials and former soldiers, the bloc seemed destined to make the mark that it's members expected to make - a fact recognized by some of its leaders. This most notably included civil servant Wolfgang Kapp who, partly in a bid to unify the party and right, had sought to take the mantle of party leadership through making hopeless promises to defeat the British and complete German hegemony over Europe.

    With the signature of the Treaties in Brussels and Vienna though, this dream fell on deaf ears among the public. This was only made worse though when Kapp near enough called on the Kaiser's son and heir, also Wilhelm, to remove the Kaiser who the radicals on the right felt was too weak and feeble to lead the country and protect it against socialism. He had already called on Ludendorff and Hindenburg to remove the interfactional committee from power by force and install a military stratocracy, so this was just another grand exaggeration.

    This view was particularly supported by members of the upper middle class, the aristocracy and parts of the nationalist working classes - many of them soldiers, particularly those who served on the eastern front. The support of the interfactional committee parties meanwhile largely rested in the working classes, lower middle classes, women and the soldiers who had served on the highly stagnant western front who now had largely become influenced by Socialism and thus backed the SPD.

    Elections would eventually be set for late January 1919. This was intentionally picked to immediately follow the peace with Britain, and was agreed to by the Kaiser in hope to play on patriotic fervour, and by the liberals in order to create legitimacy for continued democratic ‘rule’ of the state.

    Prior to the vote the liberal bloc had also sought to strengthen the power of the Reichstag to prevent political uncertainty after the election. While the prospect of a group of laws called the ‘November Proposals’ aimed at greatly weakening the OHL’s political authority and undermining the Kaiser were considered, ultimately only one major change was made by von Payer’s Government. This change strengthened the influence of the Reichstag by dictating that all future Chancellors should be beholden to a confidence vote by the legislature, even though the Kaiser would continue to nominate a candidate for the role.

    This mildly reduced the power of the Kaiser but in practice did not actually change the constitutional order, and frankly the rule was itself relatively unenforceable. A confident anti-Reichstag group led by the Kaiser would likely be able to circumvent it by launching a constitutional crisis and governing by decree, but for now that was not an immediate concern for the Reichstag had the backing of the German public and the Kaiser was greatly weakened politically - and alienated from the OHL.

    While von Payer may have been able to abuse the upcoming elections to attempt to sneak through greater political change in the short term, ultimately the breadth of the coalition in power and the strength of the militarists among the state apparatus limited his options.

    The Red Winter
    While the war was won and political violence in Germany was growing, but limited, the use of direct action through the general strike had left the door to revolutionary direct action not open, but ajar for some more radical political figures after the war.

    Many revolutionaries remained in jail; individuals like Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg were never released as neither the moderates who seized limited power through the Reichstag and strike, nor the militarists, had any reason or desire to unleash them on the country. There were however notable extremists, particularly among the revolutionary shop stewards movement and the internally divided USPD, the Independent Social Democrats.

    The USPD, while having formed an alliance during and prior to the strike, quickly found that the Majority SPD cared little for more radical action in Germany and simply desired to form a part of a liberal German political system after the war. For many in the USPD this was not enough, wanting the total removal of the military leadership, military councils, the abdication, if not total removal of the Kaiser and Monarchy, and the abandonment of Germany’s war gains in the west - along with Alsace Lorraine.

    This, remarkably, was not fully endorsed by the USPD though and the party had become far more fractured after the end of the war. Like before the war and in Britain, the left constantly battled over the issue of how to attain power; revolution or democracy. This left the USPD, which represented the most extreme elements of the former SPD, the most fractured of the two successor blocs from the party - as the MSPD was unified in its view that it could both attain and hold power following the general strike. Bolshevik sympathisers for example made up a small minority of the USPD’s leadership and rank and file, while the majority of the party wanted to compete in direct elections independently of the MSPD as a more politically radical alternative. A revolution simply seemed too dangerous and unlikely to succeed in absence of any clear revolutionary moment yet to emerge in Germany - no matter how close the strike came.

    The extremists though stubbornly and accurately recognized that direct action against the military clique would become harder the longer that the country was at peace. Further, they recognized that the election of an assembly would greatly undermine the legitimacy of any radical attempted overthrow of the Kaiser.

    Thus emerged the red winter. Between late November 1918 and late January 1919 revolutionary groups attempted to stir up major discontent among the populace in order to trigger a second, more aggressive strike and subsequent revolution. The continuing blockade prior to the end of January also was an effective driver of this action, though a single trigger event to justify a major strike refused to emerge throughout the period.

    Led by the revolutionary shop stewards under USPD leader Emil Barth, sporadic wildcat strikes, street marches and attacks on Government property and offices rose rapidly throughout the winter - as did an effort to form both workers and soldiers councils nationally. This culminated in the January 5th march on the Reichstag by a column of roughly ten thousand workers.

    Met by over a thousand armed soldiers of the local Berlin garrison and the Berlin police, the march was set upon by the soldiers who beat protesters relentlessly - some to death. This finally gave the USPD an excuse to attempt something of a justified trigger for a second general strike aimed at overthrowing the Kaiser prior to elections and breaking the OHL.

    The march created an extremely varied and confused reaction in Germany’s new ruling ministry, with Chancellor von Payer being more than willing to look the other way against the violence by police, and the MSPD failing to protest the crackdown under pro-Kaiser leader Ebert. The event triggered the immediate exit of any remaining pro-government USPD legislators from the liberal bloc, and calls by party Chair Hugo Haase for a second general strike.

    The attempted January general strike was significantly less effective than the first. Condemned by the MSPD as an attempt at revolutionary agitation, Germany’s trade unions opposed the strike on their request and as a result only three of the previous twelve million strikers turned out, and that, frankly, was a good turnout. The public, it seemed, felt that the political polarisation and marches, strike action and aggressive campaigning by the left felt damaging to the state just as it finally achieved peace - not constructive as most Germans sought.

    Despite the lower turnout though, fear did spread throughout the German Government and even internationally that Germany may be on the brink of political collapse. Among the bolsheviks figures such as Nicolai Bukharin, the leading opponent of the Brest Litovsk treaty among the party, even began to question whether now would be the ideal time for the recovery of the vital territories in Ukraine and the Caucuses from the Germans and a repudiation of the treaty. This ultimately fell on deaf ears among the Sovnarkom, particularly Lenin, who had firmly remained against a break with Germany since the end of the war.

    Faced with continued strikes primarily in the Berlin, Hamburg, Lusatia, Saxony and Thuringia regions, the economy continued to slow throughout January 1919, adding to the financial difficulties Germany could expect after the war. Largely involving the occupation of factories by far-left leaning workers, the German Government turned to violence in the period leading up to the election to prevent any kind of insurrection. A large-scale workers’ march in Hamburg on January 15th for example was equally aggressively repressed as the one ten days prior in Berlin. Police and local military units once again deployed and met the march, this time controversially resorting to gunfire to halt advancing crowds killing 21 and injuring nearly 200.

    Then came the signing of the Treaty of Copenhagen, and suddenly the tension eased. On January 18th the treaty was in effect, and suddenly thousands of idle port workers in Germany’s northern ports were faced with the possibility of work, food and security. The failure of the strike to deliver a clear revolutionary moment in effect rendered it a failure, and with peace and elections due on January 31st the MSDP sought to end the threat to state security.

    Arrests of prominent far left figures such as the radical Richard Müller of the council movement and revolutionary shop stewards such as Emil Barth meant that the extreme fringe of the USPD were decisively defeated politically. The USPD would continue on in Germany, but its far left anti-state fringe would find itself isolated and near enough persecuted by the regime and even to an extent within their own party. The mood was clear; this was not the time for revolution, even if one may come in the coming years.

    This further allowed the socialists to crack down on the workers councils that were established by the extreme left during the original general strike, and created a more ‘legitimate’ look for the SPD and liberal bloc in the eyes of the military and Kaiser who saw that the grouping were less of a threat to their influence than assumed.

    Domestically this left the two political elites battling for control over the Reich being the military clique, who favoured the Conservative Party of Ernst von Heydebrand and Lasa and the Fatherland party of Kapp, against the interfactional committee of Ebert and von Payer and the SPD-FVP-Zentrum bloc.

    The 1919 Election
    Held on January 31st, the elections of 1919 proved extremely chaotic, often violent and politically divisive. With such high stakes, the situation was made worse by the continued existence of politically motivated subversive elements within the state; particularly paramilitary units continuing from the war who would patrol the streets to attempt to break up socialist meetings.

    While these paramilitaries were rarely organised and were not permitted to engage in police action on account of the continued existence of a large, organised German army uninhibited by war term restrictions, they nonetheless presented a destabilising factor and engaged in political gang violence on an unacceptable scale across the country.

    Despite disruption though, the election and voting itself went largely as planned by the civilian Government. Consent to the vote by the military ensured that in practice there was no disruption of voting, even if in some areas the aforementioned nationalist mobs sought to influence the result.

    The result in the end though was decisive. Of the two main ‘blocs’, the liberals would end up with around 66.1% of the vote, with the SPD far out front as the strongest party within the liberal bloc under a determinedly moderate Ebert. Winning a record 164 seats, the SPD won 37.50% of the vote - just 36 shy of an overall majority.

    The FVP, under still Chancellor von Payer, also racked up some modest gains. Prior to the poll their closest ideological rivals, the National Liberal Party, had suffered their own ideological split over the war. The party itself had drifted firmly to the right during the first years of the 20th century on account of their pro-business attitude in competition with the SPD, but the war had also left them as a party of the right in a country dominated now by the centre and left. This left the party’s left wing vulnerable, allowing the FVP to recover some seats from the NLP.

    The FVP ultimately landed with 47 seats and 10.6% of the vote, a gain of six seats. The NLP meanwhile were all but annihilated, winning just 14 seats and 4.40% of the vote as their left wing voters went to the FVP, and their right went to the Fatherland Party who the NLP had allowed their members to hold joint membership with.

    The moderate Conservatives in the Zentrum, or Catholic Centre Party, would take something of a hit in the election, losing sixteen seats down from their 1912 total of 90 to 74. This represented the party’s worst result since its formation besides its first ever competitive election in 1871 where it won 58 - but was not actually a terrible result. The party had led the Government throughout the war and had suffered significant internal dispute over the direction of the war and the cooperation owed to the military, with Chancellor Georg von Hertling being a particularly convinced puppet of the OHL regime, while Bethmann Hollweg and Michaelis were both technically independents.

    meant that come election time in 1919 the party had become somewhat ‘squeezed’ between the Conservatives and Fatherland Party on the right, and the popular FVP and SPD on the left - in the end being seen more as a ‘continuity’ pro-Kaiser and pro-stability party vote. This had it’s benefits and its negatives, ultimately seeing the party retain a fair vote share of 18% - up 1.7% on their 1912 result but down on seats.

    The Conservatives on the right overall won around 22% of the vote, with the German Conservative Party (DKP) winning 35 seats and 8.3% of the vote - a moderate fall on their pre-war results of around 41 seats and continuing the party’s fall from relevance. They were closely followed by the Fatherland Party (DVLP), whose chaotic leadership and politically irrelevant stand on seeking a more aggressive peace treaty with Britain left the party seeming backwards and desperate to continue a war at an end. The party would win 22 seats and 10% of the vote - a fair result for their efforts, but would gravely underperform compared to their initial expectations of uniting the entire German right.

    The party’s biggest shock was it’s failure to win many traditionally military districts, instead largely winning east of the elbe and among rural junker estates while the SPD swept seats associated with ‘soldiers districts’ on account of Germany now having a largely conscripted ‘peasants’ army rather than the crack professional military force it once had.

    On the opposite fringe, the USPD would land a small but still relevant result with 15 seats and 6.1% of the vote - ironically being outvoted by the National Liberal Party but becoming the larger party in the Reichstag.

    Other results included a boost for the Polish People’s Party, winning 7 seats and 1.5% of the vote after a consolidation of the Polish nationalists through absorbing the pre-war Polish Catholic Party, while Independent Polish candidates would retain their 10 seats prior to the war and 2% of the vote.

    Finally, the Alsace Lorraine caucus, a collective bloc of independents from the region - particularly the Lorrainian north endorsed individually by the SPD, Zentrum and other national parties for their individual views, won 7 seats in their home region, while the Bavarian Peasants' League held onto their 2 seats in Bavaria proper.

    Government Formation
    Despite the landslide victory of the liberal parties, seizing the mantle of Government would not prove something easy for the liberals - and especially the SPD. Now able to nearly govern alone, the SPD’s position in German politics was essentially unassailable. Alone the party had over twice the seats of the next party, the Zentrum, who themselves were uncertain about a continued deal with the SPD. Governing together during wartime was one thing, but the Zentrum were both a religious, moderate conservative and anti-statist party - not the natural allies to the statist, atheistic, socialist SPD.

    The war had also dramatically shifted how almost all of Germany’s political parties were viewed, and viewed each other. The SPD prior to the war for example was seen by Germany’s ruling elite very much as a party that would destroy Germany’s militaristic and aristocratic Junker ruling caste. Yet by the end of the conflict the SPD had proven themselves to be firmly dedicated to the German imperial system - even if with limitations rather than unquestioning loyalty.

    As a result, even the Kaiser no longer felt as averse to the idea of a SPD led Government, though the military hierarchy remained bitter about the SPD and liberal parties’ ‘defeatism’ in their peace resolution. However, now the war was near enough won, these concerns suddenly seemed less serious. Hindenburg and co were able to say ‘we told you so’ and the SPD were happy to let the period slide by in exchange for getting the keys to the Government.

    Further, the SPD had proven themselves loyal to the military in their willingness to suppress the more radical socialists during the red winter. This had left the military leadership willing to work with the new civilian Government and for the first time was an example of the two actively cooperating, with the SPD playing a pivotal part by condemning the planned general strike advocated by the revolutionary shop stewards.

    Despite all this though, the Kaiser and military clique still wanted to try and avoid an SPD led Government for the time being so that the post-war period could be steered in a manner acceptable to the ruling elites. For this they turned again to Chancellor Friedrich von Payer in an attempt to form a coalition with the conservative parties, which Payer at 72 years old refused , having been reluctant to take the job the first time.

    The Kaiser then sought out alternative candidates to lead a Government, offering the Chancellorship to the Zentrum’s Adolf Gröber if he were to form a Government with the right. While Gröber himself was receptive to the idea, his party was not. Buoyed by fears that exclusion of the SDP would not be viable due to the left’s willingness to use strikes to secure political influence, most of the Zentrum’s elected members preferred the prospect of an SPD coalition Government under Ebert.

    The bigger issue too was that there simply were not the numbers for a Government of the right. Even with an alliance of the Zentrum, the FVP, DKP, the Fatherland Party, the NLP and the Bavarian Peasants there would still be only 194 of the 199 necessary seats involved.

    In a final bid to find an alternative to the SPD, the Kaiser then turned to former Chancellor Georg von Hertling’s suggested candidate Prince Max von Baden. While a relatively obscure figure, Baden had made a name for himself in recent years as he campaigned to take the reins of power. Something of a grey eminence, Prince Max was a liberal who didn't want a parliamentary Germany, but who had close ties with the SPD, FVP and Zentrum liberal bloc. This made him an ideal ‘Kaisers candidate’ for the Chancellorship who could build a coalition without giving the SPD total power.

    Prince Max was quickly called upon to form a Government, which he accepted on February 4th. Opening discussions with the liberal Interfactional Committee, the new Chancellor unlike usual would have to be subject to a confidence vote of the Reichstag after the passage of the November laws. This meant totally locking down the SPD would be necessary, and thus talks with the Interfactional committee began on the 5th.

    What immediately became clear was that any von Baden Government would require the SPD to hold a significant number of seats in the cabinet. Demanding the Foreign, Interior, Justice, Treasury and Economy ministries, the SPD would dominate virtually all of the major offices with the exception of the military, which the SPD insisted should gain its own War Ministry but were willing to grant to the FVP.

    Baden, for his part, was open to heavy SPD inclusion in Government. However the SPD’s policy of industrial nationalisation alienated and concerned many in the high echelons of German power. Ultimately a cabinet would be agreed, with SPD politicians Gustav Noske, Otto Landsberg, Rudolf Wissell and Frederich Ebert taking the Interior, Justice, Treasury and Vice Chancellorship ministries respectively. Popular politician Philipp Scheidemann meanwhile would become minister without portfolio, Gustav Bauer would head a new Labour ministry and Robert Schmidt would lead a new ‘food’ ministry.

    The FVP meanwhile would take the economics ministry under former banker Bernhard Dernburg under the conditions that the SPD would have influence in the expansion of a German welfare state and a more aggressive economic policy. The Independent and SPD leaning Ambassador to Denmark, Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau, would then take the foreign ministry due to his familiarity with the British. FVP politician Georg Gothein and Chancellor von Payer would then become Ministers without Portfolio.

    Finally, the Zentrum would also join the Government with Matthias Erzberger as Minister for the Army - a newly established office intended to be used as a civilian liaison between the OHL and the civilian Government, while Johannes Bell would become Colonies minister. Johannes Giesberts meanwhile would become Postal minister, with Adolf Gröber becoming a minister without portfolio.

    The new Army ministry, or Office as it was known, was a novel concept. Initially being met with hostility by the OHL - particularly due to the Government’s choice for the role being Erzberger who Ludendorff and Hindenberg disliked - the role was designed to allow a civilian to sit on the so called ‘military cabinet’. This was aimed at increasing the cooperation between the two governing councils of the country, particularly given the new peacetime conditions, while giving the von Baden Government a trusted man on the inside of the military leadership.

    Of course the military were under no legal obligation to include Erzberger in their dealings at all, and the Zentrum politician had no vote on military matters, but simply by gaining the blessing of Kaiser Wilhelm to have the role exist at all it sent a message throughout the Government that the Kaiser wanted stability - not hostility - among his governing bodies.

    Despite having reservations about the radical Scheidemann and not knowing how well equipped the inexperienced von Baden would be for the role, Wilhelm and Hindenberg were initially hesitant to give the new Government their blessing. However, keen to balance the two warring political blocs in the country and wary of alienating the populace, particularly given the economic weakness of the country, Kaiser Wilhelm gave his consent to the Government on February 7th. A vote by the Reichstag quickly endorsed the Ministry on February 10th and the Government immediately took office to the broad support of the general public.

    While not the revolutionary ministry some in the SPD might seek, it was clear that for the time being at least the traditionally conservative and military-led Germany would be taking a more reformist, liberal path forward... reluctantly.
     
    1919 German Federal Election Results Graphic
  • 1919 German Federal Election

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    MSPD: 164 Seats (+54)
    Zentrum: 74 Seats (-16)
    FVP: 47 Seats (+6)
    DkP: 35 Seats (-6)
    DVLP: 22 Seats (New Party)
    USPD: 15 Seats (New Party)
    NLP: 14 Seats (-31)
    Ind. Polish: 10 Seats (=)
    Ind. Alsace: 7 Seats (-2)
    PSL: 7 Seats (+4)
    BB: 2 Seats (=)


    (I couldn't resist :p )
     
    Last edited:
    Social Conflict & Elections: France (August 1918 - May 1919)
  • wSZs4v6.png

    Social Conflict & Elections
    France
    August 1918 - May 1919

    While the immediate post-war period after the Franco Prussian war in 1871 was marked by turmoil and revolution in France, culminating in the ultimate betrayal as the Germans and French collaborated to crush their own people, the period after the great war was remarkably stable. While the Government remained immensely unpopular, there was no other popular alternative to take power besides Philippe Petain who remained by far the most popular man in France. As such there would be no revolution, or uprising. There would be no coup, or mass strikes. There would merely be paralysis, depression and denial.

    Peace came to France while the country was basically in a state of ruin. She had suffered approximately 1.7mn military and civilian dead and 4.3mn wounded, 27% of young men between the ages of 18 and 27 had also been killed. 120,000 hectares of its territory was also classified in the ‘red zone’ - denoting very significant destruction. Further, 812,000 buildings, factories and mines had been completely or partially destroyed. While a large part of the road network was unusable, the rail network was disorganised and in many places damaged, and many bridges were destroyed.

    More importantly though, France had approximately 46.9 billion gold francs of annual revenue, and expenses amounting to 56.6bn Francs - a deficit of 9.7bn, or nearly 20% of all Government expenditure. Debt after the war meanwhile now sat at an estimated 170% of GDP compared to just 66% prior to the war, an estimated 125 billion gold francs. France had quite literally expended more wealth fighting the war than the entire collective value of the state prior to it.

    Not to mention, France had now agreed to pay Germany 10bn Marks in reparations - approximately 5bn Francs (and rising), putting her at approximately 38bn Francs in debt to foreign powers, and owing around 213bn in debts in total. By the end of 1919 this was expected to reach 250bn, putting France in excess of 200% debt to GDP as the Franc began to implode and inflation began to bite.

    In simple terms, this left France broke not just once, but nearly twice over. For every franc a Frenchman owned, they would owe three to some select banks and foreign governments by the end of the year. This of course meant labour and military unrest was rampant, even if political unrest was minimal.

    After the ceasefire much of the army had all but ceased to function, soldiers went AWOL regularly, equipment was stolen and sold on the black market, ‘red’ troops and nationalists, or even royalists, regularly clashed in towns while on leave or even while armed. Workers meanwhile regularly protested, some factories striked, but most labour organisations opposed direct action against the Government out of fears of a second German offensive that would occupy the country.

    Yet despite general unease, among the populace there was more than anything a sense of dreadful relief. The country had borne the brunt of awful and extensive warfare, occupation and political turmoil for four years. 90% of all the buildings in the ten northernmost departments of the country were destroyed. Yet France was not starving, nor was it about to surrender huge swathes of land. She had failed in her attempt to break Germany, but she had not been destroyed - not at least in the eyes of the French people immediately.

    Joseph Calliaux, who had led the country prior to the war in 1911-1912 and had subsequently become the leader of the ‘peace’ faction had initially led the country out of the war by being the man who was willing to ask for an armistice. Yet his Government had eventually collapsed due to the weight of German demands in the initial phases of negotiation, and the revival of the British death grip over the Germans following the Hochseeflotte’s failed sally.

    Caillaux, a cautious, but not unwise man of the last century - unable to see the long term threat posed by Germany - was one of those men who saw no shame in surrender. In every war there is a cadre that believe that defeat is inevitable, and thus say ‘why fight at all’, Caillaux epitomised that role. Yet by requesting the armistice, he inadvertently had left himself near valueless to the political order. They needed only a man to admit defeat for them, and thus let him take the fall. He resigned in disgrace during the negotiating period, reviled by his country, his party and his own ministers, and was replaced by stronger men.

    This had allowed France to rally and had strengthened their hand in negotiations, restricting German power to make demands for extensive annexations which had initially shocked the French people when announced. Aristide Briand, who had briefly attempted to negotiate a status quo peace with Germany, then had taken the reins of the Premiership and negotiated the Treaty of Brussels. This was horrendously damaging for France economically in the long term, but survivable in the short term - and on paper maps at least looked almost as though Germany had taken nothing at all. The devil, though, was always in the detail - and the loss of the Briey Longwy iron basin was a disaster that everyone in the political establishment recognized would haunt them later.

    For most frenchmen this was something vile, but something they could stomach. Psychologically battered after the war, the middle class French largely swallowed what was given to them and accepted it as a fait accomplis. But despite accepting defeat, the French people had lost faith in the system. The Republic, it seemed, was deeply flawed; with a revolving door of Prime Ministers, an ailing economy and a deeply conservative military. It was no surprise therefore that the country and its people began to look for alternatives, with more than 100 political parties emerging in France within six months, incorporating all kinds of weird and wacky policies and usually involving no more than a few hundred members.

    While revolution no doubt was an attractive prospect for some, those who remembered the Paris Commune and the brutal crackdown against its participants were sober enough to realise that in a revolt the military would never back them and they would likely fail - even if some soldiers themselves could be won over.

    Understanding the French
    While French politics has always been somewhat confusing, it’s important to understand the context behind the political parties in France in 1918. In France after the fall of the monarchy in 1871 the country’s political order mostly revolved around three questions. First, the never ending battle between the generally secular republicans, and the historically monarchist catholics.

    After Napoleon III fell from power and the Paris commune was crushed, the country had fallen into chaos and confusion, and a political divide emerged between these two camps. By 1902 this had become disruptive enough that a concerted effort by the French political establishment had been made to stabilise the country - even appealing to the Pope for aid. This was granted by Pope Leo XIII, who called on French catholics to integrate themselves into French republican institutions and eventually excommunicated the leaders of Action Francais - the main monarchist organisation.

    This over time led to the gradual establishment of several pro-catholic, but also pro-republic parties; namely the Popular Liberal Action party (ALP). Others included the Republican Federation, who primarily were established by more conservative Republicans opposed to the strict secularism of the French state, and the socialists, but supportive of the Republican system.

    The second issue was over what kind of socialism a party sought to follow. The ‘radical’ parties, such as the PRRRS, Clemenceau’s Independent Radicals and the Democratic Republican Alliance, had once been liberal parties, often influenced by socialist thought. These had gradually been pushed more and more rightward over time though as increasingly more socialist parties emerged, arguing for greater state action, and by 1919 even the most left wing of the ‘socialist’ labelled parties, the SFIO, was also embroiled in a battle over its identity. This was a consequence of bolshevism, which had left the party undecided over whether a dramatic, aggressive capture of absolute power, or a slow and democratic use of existing state institutions were the better paths for socialism.

    While some like Fernand Loriot and Charles Rappoport favoured close ties with the Bolsheviks and even revolution if it could be bloodless, the majority of the SFIO was against direct action against the Government. That being said, the prospect of eventual revolution remained an attractive one, and by 1918 had become prominent among the SFIO’s rank and file, giving the extremists the edge.

    Finally, the last question was over the issue of the Union Sacree. The union was essentially a national front of all the main French political parties and even trade unions who had agreed that the war effort had to come first and that political battles should be fought after the war. This had begun to wane by 1916 and come 1918 was staggering on, waiting for the end of the war to finally put it out of it’s eternal misery.

    On the left, the minority faction of the SFIO was against the union sacree and were no longer willing to cooperate with the Government - even without a revolution. Radicals such as Pierre Monatte inside the General Confederation of Labour quickly gained control of the union’s delegates and galvanised a division within the SFIO who’s own left bloc leader Fernand Loriot, along with radicals such as Alexandre Blanc, René Bureau and Amédée Dunois, demanded a more militant platform for the party.

    The move was vehemently opposed by the right wing of the party under Léon Blum, while the party's centrists’ under Ludovic Frossard remained largely ambivalent over the issue. By the time peace with Germany had been signed in December 1918, the party had essentially split apart over the issue though.

    The SFIO’s left, under Loriot, were driven increasingly towards policies associated with the Russian bolsheviks; advocating an aggressive capture of power through democratic ballot or revolution if one emerged naturally. The issue over the party’s relationship with bolshevism finally took hold over the party as a consequence of the union sacree debate, leaving SFIO delegates debating whether the party could be both revolutionary and truly socialist in the bolshevik sense, all while essentially writing the Government a blank cheque to do whatever it wished. Ultimately, much like British Labour concluded, with the war drawing to a close it seemed illogical for the centrists among the party to remain part of the union, prompting a true split in the SFIO as the right wing of the party under Blum sought a new home, unwilling to reconcile themselves with the radicalism of the party’s left.

    Joining with the centrists, Blum and his cadre joined and endorsed the Republican-Socialists under Briand, who had gained significant political capital for his party which was nominally the smallest in the French Assembly. Confusingly, while the PRRRS, or Party for Republicans, Radicals and Radical-Socialists under Edouard Herriot was actually the larger party, the Republican-Socialists were historically more closely tied with the SFIO.

    The PRS were essentially what was left over of the historically fractured Republican-Socialist left who had merged into the SFIO in 1910, preferring to remain something of a party that bridged the divide between the liberal Radicals and the SFIO’s socialists. Blum, essentially leaving for near identical reasons to the PRS’s original dispute with the SFIO, naturally preferred the relative political independence of the PRS, over more radical leaning PRRRS.

    Despite this, the PRRS and the PRS cooperated often and maintained good relations. Benefitting from being one of the larger parties in the French centre, Radical leader Herriot and current PM Briand in a strong position to retain power in the next election. This was aided by a desire from the centre right Democratic Republican Alliance (ARD), led nominally by President Poincare and former Foreign Minister Louis Barthou, to continue the union sacree.

    A National Bloc
    It’s easy to see why one would sympathise with the idea that, given the circumstances, France probably needed stability above all else after the war and thus many in the centre and primarily the right wanted to continue the union sacree.

    The consequence of this would be the establishment of the National Bloc. This centrist bloc posed a significant threat to the parties on either wing of the political divide, incorporating the newly strengthened Republican-Socialist Party (PRS), the Radical Party (PRRRS), the Democratic Republican Alliance (ARD) and Clemenceau’s Independent Radicals (IR).

    Fearful of the slow and relatively insignificant but still noticeable number of pro-monarchist paramilitaries throughout the most catholic areas of the country, the National Bloc would soon also be joined by the Popular Liberal Action Party (PLA) under Jacques Piou. Piou and monarchist Charles Maurras had been opposed to one another for decades, and thus by 1919 Piou sought to pour water over any potential rise in monarchism to ensure stability in the country.

    The ‘true right’ meanwhile was largely led by the Republican Federation, an (obviously) pro-Republic, anti-secular and largely conservative party that had participated in the union sacree. The party, which had advocated in favour of women’s suffrage since its creation is generally understood to have been an institutionally liberal, but socially conservative bloc that throughout the war had seen a steady rise in the influence of it’s right wing. By 1919 though this right wing, which were opposed to continued cooperation with the radicals on the grounds of their secularism, were not yet dominant.

    Instead, party bosses had installed political outsider Augustus Isaac as the head of the party by late 1918. Isaac, a moderate within the party who fought back vocally and loudly against the party’s rightward drift, willingly joined the National Bloc soon after his appointment. This created a significant stir within the party which would return later, however for now this essentially ensured that the entire centre left, centre right and true centre of the political spectrum were to cooperate come election day.

    Immediately upon the signing of the Treaty of Brussels on December 2nd 1918 the French Government under Briand announced plans for new elections on Sunday 5th January. The poll would be the first since 1912, and the campaign would be brutal.

    The Spring of Strikes
    Inspired by the events in Germany, the now left dominated SFIO recognized that despite having widespread popular support the party would be very unlikely to seize power by ballot. This was simply because France used a proportional elective system by department, meaning the party simply would not be able to win over enough voters. The country was still, after all, more rural than it was urban, and the rural population were not keen on the left - let alone their new more aggressive stance.

    Instead, the head of the Syndicalist wing within the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) Pierre Monatte quickly contrived a justification for a general strike. One of the more radical politicians in the country, Monatte desired a revolution and was willing to push the country towards one - aiming to do what both the Paris Commune and the German left had failed to achieve.

    Rallying the bakers of all people, Monatte pressed for an immediate strike among bakers in order to prohibit the late night work that many French bakeries demanded from their employees and that many bakers across France wished to be banned. This actually was a quite popular policy, and the overworked bakers quickly took to the plan, announcing their intent to strike two days after the peace treaty was signed with over 500,000 joining initial protests on December 1st.

    Unexpectedly though, Briand and the National Bloc were in no mood to fight protesters and immediately caved to all demands. Promising an immediate law abolishing night work in bakeries and 8-hour day laws. Briand was more than happy to make concessions to strengthen his political position for the elections, particularly while benefiting from their continued union sacree.

    The promises quickly broke the first strike, but unleashed a floodgate of other strikers. On December 5th the railway workers announced their intent to strike too, capitalising on the Government’s weakness and apparent willingness to make immediate concessions. Demanding a nationalisation of the railways, this strike was arguably more damaging as the first and brought the country to a standstill. Unwilling to nationalise the railways, the Government offered alternative concessions in pay rises and greater investment in working conditions for rail workers, but the revolutionary aims of the workers quickly began to snowball.

    While most railway workers would likely have been satisfied with better pay, their leaders were not, and the now radicalised General Confederation of Labour quickly endorsed a general strike in support of the railway workers on December 10th after failed weekend talks. Demanding the nationalisation of major public utilities, an end to all colonial expeditions and total general disarmament, two million workers would come out for the strike by the 16th.

    The move was disastrous for the country, particularly the rapidly falling Franc which now went into freefall and triggered hyperinflation. For four months strikers paralyzed the country, briefly breaking for Christmas, before returning until early April. Some cities such as Marseille would see nearly universal worker strikes, while marches in Paris led to the death of several workers and violent clashes with nationalist militias.

    Chaos in Italy too acted as a driver for violence in the south, especially when on January 15th sailors of the French Fleet led by André Marty in Marseilles mutinied and demanded democratically elected military leadership.

    Ordered to move to the port of Toulon away from the striking workers, a brief standoff ensued when Government torpedo boats trained their weapons on several major French capital ships flying the red flag, who themselves aimed at the boats. Ultimately part of the fleet would leave port, while several vessels remained in the city and joined with the tens of thousands of workers in the city. Something of a compromise in a deeply uncomfortable and dangerous situation. This mutiny would eventually be put down by loyalist troops in an effort directly led by General Henri Mordacq, who threatened to shell the Naval base into oblivion in February.

    This created an atmosphere that could very well have led to revolution, yet somehow, despite the genuine threat to the state that the strike posed, the Government clung on. Instead, the radicals and would-be french bolsheviks faced the wrath of the furious and exhausted french public. The strike itself was extremely unpopular across the country and served to alienate an enormous cadre of middle class and even working class voters nationwide who felt the timing and demands levied by the unions were particularly poor, and obviously politically motivated.

    Faced with an election that, unlike other countries, was actually still scheduled to be held on normal time thanks to France’s extension of their legislative terms from four to five years in 1914, many saw April’s planned polls as a chance to decide the country’s direction. Along with a now deepening economic crisis, the threat of German aggression and images of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia fresh in the mind, many Frenchmen quickly grew to resent the strike. This did not aid the SFIO’s campaign, and thus left the French left in a truly dreadful position when election day approached.

    As popular opinion began to show, with violent clashes between strikers and not just right wing, but everyday demonstrators in cities, sometimes armed, sometimes leading to bloodshed, strike leaders began to realise the situation.

    Come March, numerous unions would slowly begin to call off their strike action - often placated by less aggressive alternative concessions by Briand. Some workers simply started to cross pickets, by March they had endured months without pay, and the expense of the winter months combined with the rapidly inflating price of the Franc left many without the means to sustain themselves. By April the general strike would be abandoned after worried SFIO leaders called for its end. In some parts of the country the strikes would continue on as individual factories took the ‘Italian example’ and simply took over factories by force, continuing operations to generate sales but refusing to pay their bosses. This was an option in some of the hotbeds of the country - but not in most of it. By April it was clear that there would be German style socialist capture of power.

    January to April
    The period between January and May 1919 is largely seen as a period of flux for France. While the strikes went on, the Government waited patiently, legislating where it could with the aid of their massive parliamentary majority.

    Areas of particular attention included the issue of labour relations, with the aforementioned ban on late night work in bakeries being introduced, alongside the introduction of an eight hour work day and a six day working week. Limits on agricultural working hours were also introduced, with farm workers being prohibited from working for more than 2,900 hours a year - the equivalent of 8 hours a day, every day. This, while at a glance quite a relaxed policy, actually was welcomed by farmers as being not too restrictive on their often lengthy working days, while providing greater legislative oversight over working hours and pay for labourers.

    Demobilised workers were also swiftly returned to work, partly in an effort to stem the effects of the general strike, but also to ensure a restoration of stability in France and to avoid any potential disruption from soldiers returning to ordinary life. Briand further made an effort to reform the civil service, aiming to introduce a number of ‘gifted’ administrators from military backgrounds. France, while still operating under a politicised Napoleonic system of civil administration, generally left administration to men appointed by Governments from a variety of political backgrounds.

    This was largely backed by the radicals, but during the war had been seen as having created a caste of capable but often unserious and ineffective civil servants who while often inventive were ineffective at delivering the results expected from wartime administration. Incorporating elements of the military, often in the form of discharged military logistics officers, therefore created a new clique of administrators uneducated in the traditional French civil service schools and thus focused on new ideas and military style administrative discipline.

    Reform was also sought for the military, who the civilian Government had partially feared since almost the first day of armistice negotiations. Philippe Petain, who was made Marshal of France, quickly was allowed significant leeway to introduce stricter rules of conduct around military discipline. Additionally, efforts were made by the top brass to root out and crush the spread of mutineerism and socialism within the ranks, discharging suspected sympathisers and surveilling military units through informants.

    Thankfully, no right wing militarist coup emerged through this period, and extremist tendencies were largely kept for the discharged men - though the rank and file had by the end of the war taken to the view that while Petain was to be respected, the Government was not.

    Finally, and most importantly, a concerted effort was made by the new Government to seek out new lines of credit and - most importantly - secure new import rights for vital natural resources like iron and coal. Thankfully coal was relatively easy; having seized Lebanon, the British had both reneged on their deal with the French in the Sykes-Picot agreement, and taken the spoils for themselves. Unwilling to hand over the surprisingly coal-rich Lebanese province, the British instead opted to provide France, after some persuading, with the extraction rights in the territory once a new political order had been established there.

    While this was not the same as owning the territory, and of course French companies would be taxed on their output by the British rather than French Governments, this importantly allowed France an additional source of coal - thus limiting price rises for French companies and citizens for energy and heating.

    Iron proved a more difficult area. While some small deposits had been identified in French North Africa, which the Government would aggressively investigate and encourage extraction, any such mines would take years to establish and would require credit to establish that the Government could not spare. In this France instead turned to the Americans and, bizarrely, the Japanese Governments.

    While America had already proven itself a very generous lender, something that would quickly change come the exit of the Wilson administration, by 1919 US banks such as JP Morgan who had provided enormous amounts of capital for the allied war effort required additional collateral for their investments. France thus sought to create a cyclical relationship between the US banking sector, US steel manufacturers and the French manufacturing industry.

    Dubbed the Koltz-McAdoo Deal, the French Government, borrowing money from US banks, would greatly slash import tariffs on steel and iron ore. This would allow French companies, with some limited Government backing, to purchase American steel at a reduced rate domestically, while still providing US companies with increased revenues and also a return of capital invested by US banks into France back to the US market - thus avoiding capital extraction from the US.

    This worked for US banks, who received better rates, good return on their investment, and the US Government whose steel markets received a boost and their capital would not be totally extracted from US coffers - being returned to the state in the form of taxation on the steel companies. It also provided French companies with a source of steel and iron ore for industrial use while French mines in north africa were established - which American banks now got a large stake in. The downside was that this did little for the French steel industry who, without access to the great swathes of ore they once received, quickly began to implode.

    While some companies would survive, the steel industry’s struggle would prove catastrophic for the job markets in the greater Calais area and northern France, along with various steel-funded settlements in the Alps.

    The April & May 1919 Election
    Held in two rounds, as was custom in France at the time, the result when the votes were counted was never really in doubt. From the moment the National Bloc was formed, it was rather obvious who would win. Such a combination of parties simply consolidated too many voters and too many resources. Yet, in some ways, the election did trigger some unexpected and alarming results.

    First and foremost, turnout was down - a lot. Participation in the poll fell from 77% in 1914 to just 64% in 1919 as nearly 4.2mn French voters simply did not turn up on the day. This was indicative of the rapid decline in faith in the Republican system since the end of the war, but also represented the anger at the increasingly ideological and radical views of the left.

    The National Bloc, naturally, won the poll. After winning the first round relatively convincingly on April 27th, by the time of the final poll on May 11th the block stacked up 63.3% of the vote, winning 477 of the 612 seats up for grabs. The PRRRS would ultimately secure 114 seats, a net loss of 78 on their pre-election numbers and winning 17.1% of the vote. However, party leader Herriot took solace in the comfort that his close allies in the PRS under Briand won a remarkable 46 seats, a gain of 20 on their 1914 result - nearly doubling their numbers and securing 10.5% of the vote.

    The biggest party in the bloc, the Republican Federation, would stack up an impressive 138 seats - near enough restoring their 1910 figure of 131 and gaining 50 seats on their disappointing 1914 result and winning 19.3% of the vote. Their allies in the Popular Liberal Action party (ALP) though were less lucky. Fractured by the war and seeing voters absorbed by Poincare’s democrats and Briand’s radicals, the party won just 24 seats and 8.9% of the vote - losing over half of their 50 seats prior to the vote.

    President Poincare’s democrats meanwhile remained relatively steady, absorbing some votes from their ally to stack up with 11.2% of the vote, a 1.5% rise since 1914, and wining 115 seats, up from their previous 77. Finally, the last of the national bloc’s members, Clemenceau’s Independent Radicals, would secure 64 seats - a slight decline on the party’s last result of 66 seats, but a surprisingly strong result given the party fell from 16.6% of the vote to just 5.2%. While this may seem bizarre, this was largely the consequence of pre-agreed lists for the national bloc vastly over estimating the party’s expected results, while the fall likely represented a collapse after the party’s voters moved to other allied parties in the Bloc, and a loss of faith after the war defeat.

    The fringe right too experienced a boost, but never officially. The monarchist Action Française party for instance began to gather more support behind their anti semitic nationalist and ultra catholic leader Charles Maurras, but the right also suffered a slow splintering as smaller ‘splitter’ parties began to form behind charismatic officers and would be dictators. Maurras for his part did find an elevated level of support, but the infrastructure of Action Française remained so weak and its influence over key institutions so small that in practice it was never expected to win many seats in the subsequent elections - but would prove to be a growing cancer on the fragile republic.

    It’s inability to even compete in elections legally also was a great inhibitor to the party’s success, instead relying on friendly independents in the ‘right wing independents’ bloc nominally led by Hyacinthe de Gailhard-Bancel. This unofficial alliance would win 42 seats in the poll and 8.2% of the vote, but would remain too fractured throughout 1919-1924 to ever achieve anything, let alone form a united policy platform to be competitive in the subsequent election.

    The biggest and most expectedly unexpected flop of the election though were the SFIO. Split by Blum and the right of the party’s defection to Briand’s Radical Socialists, and having alienated many potential voters with their unequivocal backing of the much despised strikes, the party would secure just 48 seats in the legislature - despite winning 15.2% of the vote. This was largely reflective of the party’s isolation within France’s metropolitan areas, and was met with deep frustration within the party’s moderate, now arguably ‘right’ wing under Frossard.

    Finally, various independents across the country would secure 21 seats, winning around 4.1% of the vote for a total of 612 seats in the legislature - one having been severed totally by the Germans.

    Ultimately it seemed that France had survived its brief flirtation with chaos. While the state was undeniably unpopular, racked with domestic and economic issues and at this point just staggering on - it seemed France’s republican experiment would survive as it always had; with a bit of protest along the way.
     
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    The Italian Civil War (December 1918 - January 1919)
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    The Italian Civil War
    December 1918 - January 1919

    ‘The Government must go’ had been the words that defined the two days between November 28th upon the failure of the revolt of the 11th Bersaglieri regiment in the Veneto Region and the start of December when, remarkably, it did. Faced with the overwhelming collapse of civil order in the entire north of the country, on December 1st Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti decided that he had done his duty, he had seen the country through the peacemaking progress, and thus his role in this sad saga was complete.

    “We have borne the weight of the cross” he noted in his diary the day prior to his resignation “and now we must die upon it to save the souls of the next men”. The resignation of Giolitti delivered mixed results in Italy. Of course, many rejoiced - another bourgeois felled by the masses, yet his departure also created an air of uncertainty about Italy’s future.

    Here you had a nominally western, modern, industrial state, yet equally a state that like Russia hosted millions of poor, low income peasants relying on their own labour not for a substantial income but for the basic income needed to survive. While it might be easy to look back now upon Europe and assume it was a wealthy place thanks to its centuries of empire, especially the supposedly cosmopolitan and historically wealthy northern Italy, that would be a misunderstanding of the social breakdown of wealth in Europe at the time.

    Italy, like Germany and France, hosted thousands of rural towns poorly connected to the cities and lacking much but a subsistence, agricultural economy. Ruralities where people would spend well over half of their incomes on necessities like food, leaving little in the way of savings to enjoy life. This was only made worse by the fact Italy continued to cling to ancient practices regarding land ownership.

    This all exploded in 1918, and was the main contributor to the instability in the Padan valley, one of the most fertile plains in Europe and the home of much of Italy’s agricultural industry - and many of its problems. Peasants here had occupied their landlords homes and local aristocrats lands for months now, sometimes murdering them or forcing the families to flee and creating a hostile environment between local law enforcement throughout the country’s north and the peasantry.

    The motivations of the bolsheviks, who quite publicly had pronounced the establishment of a nation run by workers, soldiers and peasants, were deeply felt by the Italian people - and their success in establishing a socialist republic acted as something of an inspiration. Thus, since the peasants had begun taking control of their homeland - so had the workers. While slow and drawn out, by the time of Giolitti's resignation in December the workers had largely taken over most of the north, essentially ignoring the local authorities and establishing their own factory councils - and then even their own city Soviets in some cases. The most notable three being the Milan and Turin soviets, established in November by a collection of factory councils and soldiers councils in each city.

    The issue Italy's revolutionary left had was that it was deeply divided politically. The peasants had the backing of anarchists like Errico Malatesta, the ‘Italian Lenin’ who despite being in exile was still indirectly overseeing roaming gangs of anarchists throughout northern Italy. They had spent the last two months organising the peasantry into ‘proletarian defence forces’ to defend their newfound farmland.

    The workers meanwhile had the Socialist Party and their Maximalists. The Maximalists had dominated the PSI since the start of the war and were die-hard advocates of a city-led revolution who had spent the last few months establishing factory and city soviets to oversee their new socialist style rule, along with red guard units to defend it. Giacinto Menotti Serrati, a determined Maximalist, headed the maximalists at this time, while Nicola Bombacci - another maximalist - was technically party leader due to the imprisonment of Constantio Lazarri, the official leader and yet another Maximalist.

    Serrati though, despite being a firm revolutionary voice, had long held back from encouraging a violent takeover due to the role of Filippo Turati, head of the reformist bloc in the PSI. Turati was a naturally hesitant man in his early 60’s who had been a senior figure in the socialist movement since his youth. He had at numerous points been the main figure in the party, and being a determined pacifist he opposed a direct and bloody revolution - instead following the perhaps naive logic of the French socialist radicals and believing a revolution would come naturally over time, and democratically.

    Finally, you had the nationalists and the veterans organisations. While not firmly allied to the socialists, it’s important to note that in early 1919 the veterans blocs, notably led by the largest ‘National Association of Combatants and Veterans’ group, were quite friendly with the socialist party. Despite the socialists having opposed the war, the NACV itself was led by a left-liberal socialist, Gaetano Salvemini, who like many of the rank and file of the group felt that the path forward was to develop Italy into a stable, possibly Republican democracy, limit the powers of the king and provide for the millions harmed directly or indirectly by the war.

    The veterans organizations did of course also feature a nationalistic wing, but the nationalists were deeply fragmented. On the one hand you had the irredentist Mussolini, a former socialist who had been expelled from the Maximalist wing and the party altogether for his support of entering the war. Then on the other you had the revolutionary syndicalists of Alceste de Ambris. Both men cooperated and appreciated one another’s views, but neither had fully formed their ideological platform yet and in early 1919 the concept of revolutionary fascism had not yet been firmly established, nor was Mussolini at its head.

    This left the would-be revolutionary bloc in something of a bind, especially when the resignation of Giolitti took away the last semblance of stability in the country. The chaos of the revolt in November had already re-aligned these various disparate groups behind one idea; the idea that the Government as it was had become unsuitable and unreliable. Yet that Government had now gone and all that remained was one final ace up its sleeve - the Republicans.

    It seems almost unfathomable that the best chance for a constitutional but still powerful monarchy lay in the party who would remove him, but yet on December 1st the first man King Victor Emmanuel III turned to for the re-establishment of order was Francesco Saverio Nitti.

    A member of the Radical Party and an expert in meridionalism - the study of the economic and social challenges of southern Italy - the man was perfect for country’s top job on account of his membership of the Italian Radical Party.

    Primarily finding their support base among Italy’s north, the Radicals were a deeply secular, socially liberal party with their hands in both the socialist and liberal constituencies of the country. While Republicans, Nitti himself was a southerner and put his republicanism as a low priority compared to national unity, liberalism and stability. A former cabinet minister in charge of industry, trade and most importantly agriculture, Nitti had long cooperated with the country’s long-ruling Liberal party and was the perfect fit to try and drag the country into stability and overcome the socialists.

    Nitti’s Noose
    Nitti accepted his new role with mixed enthusiasm. Pessimistic about the chances of the regime’s survival, but determined to try and carve a place for radicals as the new main governing party and secure his political future. Nitti was in effect a liberal of the leftist form and a liberal economist with a deep belief in democracy and pluralism.

    His first actions were not dissimilar to Giolitti’s first efforts. He debated a fresh election to re-balance the country’s ruling order, which had been rather effective in France and Germany at suppressing civil unrest. The issue he found though was that the King opposed elections during a time when the stability of the country was gravely in question, especially where the elections could probably be quite easily won by the socialists - making things worse before they got better.

    Instead, he turned to a second alternative plan; to introduce proportional representation and replace the country’s stale single-member electoral system. This would be effective in two ways, first it would mean that when elections came within the next six months he would have solidly democratic credentials to campaign off, and second it would mean that even if the socialists came first they would find forming a Government far more difficult.

    This proposal was acceptable to the King and thus legislation was introduced in the first week of December to amend the electoral laws. Additional legislation too was introduced aimed at reforming land ownership. Nitti, aware of the situation, sought a radical solution - proposing to allow the seizure of all land occupied by peasants throughout the country, with the Government repaying the landowners in kind. This would, in theory, allow for repayment via taxation of the peasantry over time, but nobody was convinced this would ever take place.

    News of the new proposal deepened the scourge of the peasantry, with the land seizures spreading across the country into the south and into Sicily - but it did boost support for the Government in the north, albeit to a position of apathy rather than outright hatred among the peasants.

    The issue Nitti really faced though was that while the peasants were slowly being placated, it was the veterans and the workers who now were becoming the prime issue. Work stoppages in the north had left the manufacturing economy of Italy in tatters, and having gone on for several months now the wildcat strikes of the major trade unions (the General Confederation of Labour, Unione Sindacale Italiana and Italian Labour Union) seemed far from ending.

    While of course the workers were somewhat suffering from the strike, with incomes having collapsed, where workers faced a genuine threat of poverty they had simply occupied their factories, removed their managerial staff and owners, and continued to operate under elected leadership in factory councils.

    These councils had become increasingly radicalised, with overarching ‘city councils’ having been established in some cities in the north on the Soviet model - often directly encouraged and set up by the Socialist Party’s most extreme mayors and leaders. Figures such as Gramsci in Turin had become leading voices among these councils calling for a final, determined overthrow of the Government and the establishment of a socialist state in Italy.

    By far the loudest and most dangerous voice though was that of Gabrielle D’Annunzio. While a terrible public speaker, D’Annunzio had used his popular platform as a veteran and poet to publish eloquent and brutal pamphlets viciously condemning the King and Nitti, who he despised as a turncoat loyalist to the King who had betrayed his radical ideals.

    D’Annunzio had since the revolt of the Bersaglieri repeatedly called for coordination between the National Combatants Association - a primarily left leaning veterans group - and the socialists. Something of an enigma politically, D’Annunzio hoped to work to establish a council Government of socialists and nationalists in opposition to the national Government with the aim of rebuilding the Italian military and state in order to capitalise on the weakness of the Habsburg Empire and seize Italy’s hard-fought territories in Illyria.

    Nitti’s struggle was this; the socialist councils only grew stronger by the day and were far beyond following Government instruction or even negotiating with the state apparatus. This made them a threat that had to be contained, with no real ‘carrot’ option being available to him. Giolitti had hesitated to use force to restore order, wary that an open conflict could well lead to civil war in Italy, but Nitti recognized that force was now essentially the only option available.

    In Milan a meeting between the leadership of the various people’s councils and representatives from the Socialist and Anarchist blocs had been set for December 9th. Worse still, even some of the more radical and aggressive Republicans from other parties also planned on attending the conference, threatening to build a broad, not even exclusively socialist political bloc against the Government.

    This would in theory be the perfect opportunity to officially declare a new Government - even if not from Rome. Any delay to this or disruption Nitti could impose on this new ‘alliance’ would greatly benefit the Government’s position, with Nitti essentially having decided on the first day of his premiership that civil war or some kind of violent political upheaval was now inevitable and acting accordingly.

    Nitti quickly unleashed whatever force he could muster to attempt to secure the city and destroy the ‘heart’ of the socialist bloc. The Government, encouraged by the likes of General Armando Diaz - commander of Italian military forces - who the King had repeatedly considered installing as dictator during this period, figured that the lesson that should be learned from both the Russian and French revolutions was that a Government that hesitated usually was destroyed. Nitti would not make the same error.

    Royalist forces from the southern provinces, including even the King’s own guards, were deployed in force on the 5th, quickly finding themselves hamstrung again by wildcat strikes of the national railway workers union and the erection of roadblocks in Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. As expected, the army instead drove - sweeping through Tuscany and establishing martial law in the province over a period of just a few days.

    The crackdown was unexpectedly brutal, leading to the phrase ‘Nitti’s Noose’ being used to describe the method of execution for arrested radicals - though the vast majority were just shot. Fearful of the far more populous local socialist sympathisers, royalist commanders engaged in brutal fear tactics - rounding up known agitators and engaging in firefights with anarchist proletarian defence organisations and red guard units throughout the province, killing those who were captured.

    The concept of the crackdown was that while Royalist forces were limited in number, relying on just four divisions of the much larger and now largely demobilised Italian army, these forces could move quickly and crush popular dissent before it fomented into actual armed revolt. Royal forces quickly spread into Emilia-Romagna and Liguria where a somewhat shocked populace braced for a crackdown, while the population of Lombardy started to mobilise to resist.

    D’Annunzio himself would be the first man to publicly call for the creation of a militia to be formed to defend the region from Royalist brutality, and the socialist conference was quickly called off as Royalist guards entered the cities of Modena, Parma and Reggio Emilia to find a mess of barricades and occasional armed militia units to resist.

    A Socialist Government?
    Abandoning the idea of a more formal meeting in Milan on the 9th, the leaders of the various socialist blocs would instead hurriedly meet in Turin to discuss a path forward. Typically the convinced democrat Turati heavily cautioned against a violent response, demanding negotiations be sought with the Government. This came to the dismay of Serrati, who as Maximalist leader had always sought to maintain the unity of the Italian Socialist Party rather than allow a division into factions which most Italian Socialists considered the most dangerous path - dividing the movement and leaving them doomed.

    Amadeo Bordiga, the suave, glasses wearing most senior figure in the southern part of the Socialist Party, also attended. Sporting his typically dark, slicked back hair he made it clear that while he personally had reservations about their chances, a socialist revolt surely had to come now or never. An insurrectionist at heart, Bordiga had come to the conclusion that any action was better than dithering - a view that was shared among an increasing number of his colleagues.

    Fearing the loss of their beloved new Factory Councils and the nascent socialist councils that they had established in Turin and Milan, young party idealogues like Gramsci and Togliatti also urged a more determined response, but Serrati was unable to come to any single conclusion out of fear of dividing the party.

    In the end it would be down to de-facto party leader Nicola Bombacci to make the call. Having quietly considered the options, Bombacci, nicknamed by Mussolini as the ‘Kaiser of Modena’ for his absolute control of the party apparatus in the Emiliano region, ultimately was moved by the plight of his home city. With Modena facing an onslaught of Royalist troops, he concluded that the only way forward was to allow for a more organised effort to defend the proletariat from bourgeois aggression, and finally endorsed an official revolt.

    For Turati this was an aberration, and he and other moderate socialists stormed out of the meeting, but this would matter little. Seizing the moment, it would be Gramsci, the young, enthusiastic ideology and party theoretician who would go first to the Torino Soviet and call for a vote among the delegates on the party’s path forward. Eloquently proposing a motion calling for ‘armed resistance’ to defend the ‘beating heart of the Italian revolution’ he met thunderous applause from the local workers, and the motion was easily carried.

    Bombacci meanwhile famously emerged front the balcony of the Torino city hall soon after, his unkept beard and long hair waving in the wind, joined by prominent anarchists and maximalists alike, and proclaimed; “the defence of the people is the first priority of any true people’s government - and to that end we say Nicci has forfeited that role to us”.

    The revolt was on, and a new ‘Italian Socialist Republic’ was born.

    A Veterans Dispute
    By November 9th it had become clear that Italy was essentially in a state of civil war and that key cities in a ‘bloody arc’ from Tuscany to the Padan valley such as Florence and Parma were both in Government hands.

    The Nitti Government had attempted to stem the worst of the damage, ordering that cities be placed under martial law and that arrests be made but cautioning against violence and dispatching more disciplined officers to oversee the army’s response to civil unrest. Faced with a true and genuine revolt now, the Government further ordered the establishment of martial law nationwide, and dispatched additional forces north - speeding up the royalist advance towards Milan and Turin.

    While Bombacci quickly convened a Revolutionary Council of State, appointing several prominent socialists, anarchists and even syndicalists to positions of importance, the socialist camp were betrayed by Turati who quickly travelled south to Rome, cap in hand, to ask for a peaceful resolution. Arrested but given due consideration, Turati was able to extract from Nitti promises that socialist figures who surrendered themselves and publicly condemned the revolt would be spared and allowed to participate in the national democratic process after the conflict was over.

    Nitti made this offer very public by December 11th, but this only served to decimate the support of the moderate socialists among the PSI’s rank and file, finally achieving what Serrati and Lazarri had long attempted to avoid; a full purge of the party’s moderate wing. All that remained now were the bloc’s revolutionary cadre. Turani also severely suffered from the consequences of his choice, with a large cadre of the moderate wing of his part of the PSI opting to back Salvamini’s growing faction of veterans rather than follow his leadership behind the divisive Nitti.

    The King himself also took to the radio waves, with the text being later issued to the national press, to urge calm among the Italian people, the rejection of the new socialist administration that claimed authority in Turin, and promising fresh elections. Unfortunately though all this really served to achieve was to further spread the word of the PSI’s long awaited uprising and spreading the violence across the country.

    Rome, typically a stronghold of Nitti’s own Radical party, now even saw thousands of protesters waving red banners emerge onto the streets, leading to dramatic photographs in the international press as Royalist cavalry charged crowds and chaotic looking infantry formations drove back civilians with rifles.

    The immediate protests were quickly quelled and a sense of tense calm soon fell on the city, but this would be upset by the decision of the National Association of Combatants and Veterans under the moderately pro-socialist Gaetano Salvemini to hold a congress in the city on December 19th.

    Salvemini had suddenly found himself in a very significant position of authority, even being given an audience first with Nitti and then the King over political concessions to the NACV. A democrat more than a syndicalist at heart, and a liberal more than a socialist, Salvemini sympathised with the Nitti Government and its impossible position. However, he would not back the Nitti Government in the growing conflict without solid concessions, demanding that Italy be transformed into a more constitutional, federal state in the aftermath of the conflict and that there be no repercussions for the moderate socialists. For Nitti this was satisfactory, for the King this was less so.

    King Victor Emanuelle III was of the view that this revolt was a consequence of political weakness among the country’s elite. He liked and was impressed by Nitti, but had never been particularly impressed by the democratic leadership of the country and destained their failure to first decide whether to enter the war at all and then their inability to lead the war effectively.

    While genuinely a man who loved and appreciated his people, King Victor Emanuelle III was a complicated figure who did on occasion turn to violence and authoritarianism when needed to assert authority. This was likely a consequence of the murder of his father by Italian-American anarchist Gaetano Bresci, along with a desire to maintain the prestige and honour of his dynasty who had, through great toil and sacrifice, unified Italy and thus in his mind deserved to govern it. The King liked men like Salvamini who had served and now served the interests of their patrons in the veterans association, but he disagreed that the solution to the political chaos of the last four years was more autonomy and democracy - instead preferring a more headstrong Government.

    Unable to meet a conclusive agreement, Salvamini instead put the question to the National Association of Combatants and Veterans congress. Delaying the issue and allowing for the growth of deep rooted factionalism within the group. While of course the overall sympathies of the group lay with the socialists, there was a significant and growing constituency of right wing nationalists.

    These ‘right veterans’ blamed the socialists for the chaos, particularly due to their hostility to the war in the first place and the natural socialist opposition to territorial irredentism. Veterans organisations slowly began to emerge in early december led by charismatic men offering angry veterans the chance to ‘bash the reds’ in ‘Volontari’ regiments.

    One prominent such unit would be the ‘Mazzini Legion’ under Italo Balbo, an anti-socialist Republican from Ferrara who rallied nationalist veterans on the right to resist the Socialists during the battle for Reggio Emilia. With the nationalists split between both sides, Balbo quickly gained a significant prominence among the pro-Government militia movement, claiming ideological inspiration from Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini, who both sides would claim inspiration from throughout the brief conflict.

    Individuals like the determined trade unionist Alceste de Ambris had also quickly become prominent figures amongst the bloc’s nationalist left faction calling for the bloc to back the reds alongside Mussolini who, while a popular figure, remained lower in stature and largely focused on his efforts on building a left wing but also irredentist alternative militia, or ‘fasci’. Salvamini himself remained in the middle, but was still nonetheless something of a radical figure. Beset on both sides by extremists who would have him endorse one Government or another, Salvemini was undeniably a moderate, but spoke positively of Lenin, and did seek more radical solutions for the state than were being offered by Nitti and the Royalists.

    In Napoli, an attempt by the local socialist party to seize power from the city council was brutally suppressed after just three days by royalist troops who easily cut their way into the city centre through the sparse defence of a few good socialists who resisted to the end with makeshift weapons and rifles. Riots in Rome and the erection of barricades in some districts of the city, primarily the most socialist and most anti-socialist districts, also further showed the degradation of the political order in the country.

    When the somewhat hurriedly organised congress of the National Combatants finally came on the 19th though the meeting failed to reach any conclusion. Aided by the congress being located in Rome, thus strengthening the anti-socialist camp, the pro-socialist wing stormed out of the meeting en masse after the congress failed to decide on whether to side with Nitti or Bombacci.

    Opting for a show of strength of sorts, the socialist wing instead arranged a march through Rome - encouraged and organised partly by D’Annunzio who had focused his efforts on trying to win support for the socialists. This was looked upon poorly by the King who ordered that the march be dissolved by Royal Guards, prompting further scenes of bloodshed in Rome and alienating the moderate majority of the congress from Nitti’s offer.

    The Nitti Plot
    Seeing the King’s constant intransigence as the primary roadblock to the ‘white’ cause in the conflict, Nitti then made a calamitous error and approached General Diaz about the possibility of establishing an emergency Government under Diaz’ leadership, and in effect neutering the King’s political authority - possibly even asking him to abdicate to his young son Umberto.

    For Nitti this was a gamble, fervently against any kind of authoritarianism, Nitti was unwilling to see the state become dominated by a King who seemed only capable of disrupting the work of his Government. This was likely heavily inspired by the republicanism of his party and his belief that without building a ‘winning constituency’ of veterans, middle class Italians and the peasantry the state could not be saved from a long and bloody civil war - or worse.

    Unfortunately though for the well meaning Prime Minister, Diaz did not bite and the King soon heard about it - albeit not through Diaz who intentionally kept the matter quiet. Upon the discovery of the plot, the King soon dismissed Nitti - appointing in his stead the former Minister for supply and prominent Liberal Party politician Silvio Crespi.

    The dismissal of Nitti on St. Stephen’s Day (Boxing day 26/12) 1918 did little to aid the white cause, triggering angry protests yet again among the Roman populace, now growing to include some Radical party voters who agreed with Nitti’s solution to the ever-expanding problems faced by the country.

    While Nitti was not arrested, his dismissal marked the effective end of civilian Governance in Italy as the King now ceded significant powers to the military under Diaz - prompting Diaz to be accused of having fabricated the entire ‘plot’ for his own personal political gain. This theory has often been tested and no evidence has been found of Diaz’ complicity, though how the King came to know of the Nitti Plot remains a historical mystery lost in the years following.

    Crespi, while a competent politician and a more than capable supply minister with extensive experience of military logistics from the war, inherited a political position in the country that was immeasurably ruined. While he immediately made overtures to Salvamini and his National Combatants, the congress had dissolved by December 23rd in preparation for Christmas celebrations and, unimpressed by attacks ordered by the King on it’s left wing members, Salvamini instead opted for neutrality.

    While a further congress would be planned for early in 1919, this would never ultimately take place as the group fractured between the two halves of the conflict - ending the last chance of the whites to secure the loyalties of the experienced and often armed veterans needed by the socialists to win the war.

    A Revolutionary Army
    On the socialist side, Malatesta, that now very grey anarchist who had been leading revolts while much of the new Revolutionary Council were in their infancy, or not even born in some cases, was quickly invited back from his exile in London to assist their revolt.

    While the council called on their comrades to resist the Royalists, their plan was not clear and as a group primarily dominated by lifelong pacifists who had opposed the war, the new would be Government struggled to organise a military wing to defend their revolution.

    This led to nearly a month of complete chaos and vague, ineffective resistance against the advance of Royalist forces throughout the country. Assisted only by the logistical difficulties and numerical limitations of the Royalists, the anarchist proletarian defence units, joined by the red guards, mounted a determined but slowly failing defence throughout the Padan valley and ligurian Alps.

    The biggest failing of this force was similar to the difficulties that the bolsheviks had faced early on, their ‘military’ was too incoherent, disorganised and poorly led. While in some cases they were remarkably well armed, sporting machine guns and even occasionally artillery, the militias operated under elected leadership that tended to favour withdrawal over prolonged fighting, and struggled to command authority over the men.

    Units largely operated on an ad hoc basis, with generals being appointed to lead armies of disparate militias - usually popular socialist figures who were elected to the roles despite lacking much military experience. Ironically these commanders were reasonably competent with logistics, owing to often holding experience in railways and transport union leadership in their past lives, but a lack of overall strategy left the army constantly on the backfoot.

    Some of the most successful militias however were those led by the National Syndicalists. These groups were often populated by veterans, formed from the creme of the Italian Army by men from the Arditi who followed the call by D’Annunzio in the early days of the revolt to establish a military to defend the Republic. Mussolini, for example, was one of the early successes - leading his ‘Fasci’ as these groups became known into battle, while individuals such as Michele Bianchi and Cesare Maria De Vecchi would soon follow Mussolini’s example and establish their own branches of the growing Fasci movement.

    For Mussolini the new socialist regime he was fighting for was something of an anathema, being led by the men who had removed him from the party just years before and being largely hostile to his irredentist views. He had ultimately chosen to back their side though in the hope that in the chaos of the revolutionary moment he would be able to gather and maybe seize power, where after the war with Germany and Austria had ended he saw little opportunity to do so under the Royal and Parliamentary system.

    He also felt in a sense like his whole reason for entering the war had been proven right - having said prior to the war that he hoped the war would “put the bayonets in the hands of the people”, thus enabling a Revolution. He now aimed to lead that revolution, and played on his something of an ‘I told you so’ moment to gather new recruits and make a name for himself - aiming to force his way into frontline politics of the new revolutionary state, even if the Maximalists still hated him.

    By January 1919 the military frontlines had essentially become stagnant. Cold, tired and beset by constant attacks from albeit poorly organised but determined and increasingly more well armed militia units, the Royalist advance shunted to a halt before Christmas just south of the Po river.

    This allowed the socialists some breathing room, but equally created a likely inaccurate view that this was the consequence of the effective fighting methods of the militias. This view was further engrained when in the second week of January some militia forces actually managed to achieve success while attacking royalist positions - the first real advance of the war.

    Encouraged, the Revolutionary Council soon ordered a full advance along the line, leading to some limited breakthroughs but generally just a large swathe of casualties among the red militias. Furious at the disorganisation of the socialist military, D’Annunzio would write a scathing condemnation of the Revolutionary Council on January 20th, demanding the establishment of a more ‘professional’ military.

    This was not an attractive prospect to the revolutionary council though, seeing a professional army as inherently untrustworthy and being hesitant about empowering the National Syndicalists politically. As such, the council instead followed the Bolshevik model and began to formulate the establishment of a ‘Arditi del Popolo’ on the same lines as the Russian Red Army model. This would be headed by reliably socialist officials, perhaps including anarchists where they were willing to contribute. Though Malatesta, now back in Italy to the jubilation of many in the peasantry, was deeply hesitant to permit the establishment of a centrally controlled military system inconsistent with anarchist beliefs.

    Thus as Italy approached the end of January she had become the another of the eight major world powers involved in the war to fall into civil disorder and political violence. While Russia burned and Italy’s north ran red, both could take solace in the fact that while the revolution had not spread worldwide as the bolsheviks had hoped - plenty more were picking up their own banners across Europe.
     
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