[Latest Update/Revision: 2/27/17 ]
Greetings. This is a timeline I’ve been working on for some time, based on the popular Kaiserreich game modification. The focus of this timeline will be on the socialist syndicalist movement within the United States, leading up to revolution and the aftermath.
I will be attempting several different writing styles in this timeline; some entries will be merely narrative, while others will take the form of excerpts from in-universe sources. While this is based on Kaiserreich, the lore of this setting is in constant flyx and there are some blank spaces, so I will be filling them up as I go along and might even change a few things around to fit the narrative. This timeline will be continuously revised and updated.
Table of Contents
- Introduction to “The Beauty of Our Weapons”.
- The early Socialist movement in the United States (1876-1914)
- Neutrality of the United States during the Weltkrieg.
For more information on the Kaiserreich setting, you should visit the official wiki. While other countries are not the main focus of this timeline, sometimes they will come to the forefront regardless.
Introduction to “The Beauty of Our Weapons”.
[Latest Update/Revision: 2/27/17 ]
The exact point of divergence would be President Woodrow Wilson unable to convince the US Congress to declare war against the Central Powers, giving the German Empire enough time to defeat the Russian Empire and build up their forces in the western front, beginning their final offensive against France and Italy until 1919.
With the French completely exhausted and spent, the Germans march largely unopposed into Paris – the Third Republic ends just as it began, under German fire and facing revolution from within. A general strike is called by the CGT, paralyzing the country and causing the downfall of the bourgeois government, forced to flee after a brief but brutal civil war. The Federation of French Communes is proclaimed in 1920 much to the consternation of its neighbors, while the German Empire is unable to intervene due to its involvement in the Russian Civil War in behalf of the White generals and it continuing war with the United Kingdom in the Middle East.
Similar events transpire in the italian peninsula the following months, where the Austrians have organized the Italian Federation in the aftermath of the Weltkrieg. A Syndicalist uprising overruns the southern states of the Italian Federation before they are stopped by Austrian forces, but unwilling to spend more resources and manpower in the penninsula after barely surviving the previous conflict, the Austrians resign themselves to accept the existence of the Italian Socialist Republic.
The United Kingdom, however, remains in the fight even after all her allies have been defeated, but the German Empire understands that invasion is impossible, and instead continues waging an inconclusive war thorough the next twenty-four months, a time when the guns in Europe have largely fallen silent while both sides shift their attention to the Middle East instead. In 1920 the two countries agreed to a “Peace With Honor”, essentially a general ceasefire with both countries acknowledging and accepting each other’s current standing.
Despite this, the United Kingdom would not save itself from “the red menace”. A minor labour dispute in the coalfields of South Wales quickly escalates after troops are sent in to restore order. A general strike is called by the Congress of Trade Unions to cripple the economy, inspired by the succesful revolution in France – when the government sends orders for the military to quell the unrest, many troops desert to the side of the strikers, and after six weeks of revolutionary chaos, the government and most capitalists are evacuated to Canada.
A provisional government of revolutionary groups dissolves both Houses of Parliament, and proclaims all political authority in Britain has rightfully passed to the Congress of Trade Unions – the Union of Britain is officially proclaimed in 1926.
Through all these events, people in the United States watch with great attention – the successes of Syndicalism in Europe shock most, and lend strength to revolutionary syndicalist socialism in North America. At the same time, economic downturn caused by the collapse of the United States’ largest and most important trade partners strike the working classes the hardest, and millions begin to radicalize and join syndicalist organizations such as Industrial Workers of the World, at a time when the U.S. government is increasingly turning more and more authoritarian and repressive against such movements.
All it would take to allow the United States of America to fall into a syndicalist socialist revolution would be the right sequence of events….
The Early Socialist Movement in the United States (1876-1914)
[Latest Update/Revision: 2/27/17 ]
The Socialist Labor Party and Daniel de Leon
The Socialist Labor Party (SLP) was officially founded in 1876 at a convention in Newark, made up overwhelmingly of immigrants who had brought socialist ideas with them to America in the aftermath of the 1848 revolutions. In its nascent years the party encompassed a broad range of socialists philosophies, but two factions came to dominate internal politics within the party, one which called for political action in order to subsume the state, and the other which supported trade union organization as preliminary to direct action . It would be through the work of the organization’s foremost theorist and lecturer, an immigrant professor called Daniel De Leon (1852-1914), that the different factions of Socialist Labor would finally come together and allow it to become the largest marxist organization in the United States by the turn of the century.
Possessing tremendous intellectual grasp of socialism, De Leon had combined the rising theories of trade-unionism in his time with orthodox marxism, believing socialist industrial unions serving the interests of the working class should be organized and prepared for immediate direct action while the party would continue engaging in political action until its program was given a mandate from the people through electoral success; triumph at the polls would be followed by the collectivization of the means of production by the socialist industrial unions with the support of the state, an endgame referred to as the “general lockout” of the bourgeoisie.
Even though the membership and influence of the Socialist Labor Party would rapidly decline thorough the very first decade of the 20th Century, its legacy would live on and De Leon’s ideas would shape the syndicalist movement in the United States thorough the following decades.
The big-tent Socialist Party and Eugene V. Debs
It was under the leadership of Eugene Debs, however, that the socialist movement in the United States gained national prominence.
One of the founding members of the American Railway Union, Eugene V. Debs had defied a court ruling against the Pullman Strike (1894) and had been incarcerated for six months in the aftermath, in which federal intervention suppressed the strikers and forcefully dissolved the union; Debs came out of the experience a committed socialist, and in 1898 created the organization that would evolve into the Socialist Party (SP). The socialist movement became coherent and energized under his brilliant direction, and although not such a gifted theorist as some of his predecessors, he was by all accounts a charismatic orator — inflammatory and controversial, but at the same time, modest and inspiring.
The Socialist Party expanded aggressively during the months and years following its creation, rapidly overtaking all other marxist organizations in the country. While the SP organized primarily in the political realm, it also formed strong alliances with numerous labor organizations, further developing some of De Leon’s ideas about the relationship between parliamentary socialism and the socialist industrial unions.
In the years leading up to the Weltkrieg, the Socialist Party had become a grand coalition of socialist movements, usually rooted in ethnic communities and based in industrial cities, though also enjoying limited support within mining and farming communities across the country. The party claimed upwards to a thousand locally elected officials in more than thirty states, and Debs had run for president four times, winning six percent of the popular vote in 1912.
The success that the Socialist Party had achieved through political action had vindicated the democratic socialists within the organization and had allowed them to monopolize leadership positions, but at the same time had alienated the syndicalist socialists at a critical moment. The growing syndicalist wing had come to consider political action to be inimical towards the stated marxist goal of overthrowing capitalistic society, citing the leadership’s lack of support to industrial trade unions thorough numerous labor disputes, and claiming the leadership was selling out the working class out of political expediency; the entire syndicalist wing of the party would finally split in the aftermath of the 1912 Socialist National Convention, following a public dispute between democratic socialist Morris Hillquit and syndicalist William Haywood, predominantly to labor organizations under the umbrella of Industrial Workers of the World.
In the aftermath of the schism, the democratic socialists continued their dominance of the Socialist Party, but the stream of incoming members declined greatly with many marxists joining non-political labor organizations instead, and the party´s influence with the industrial trade unions practically dissapeared overnight.
While the schism would not be crippling, it would prove to be a harsh blow regardless, which would greatly weaken the socialist movement of the United States going into the Weltkrieg.
Industrial Workers of the World and the One Big Union
In 1905, more than two hundred anarchist and marxist leaders joined together with the foremost industrial trade unions in the country in Chicago. To organize a common front against all those opressing and exploiting the working class became their undertaking during the so-called Continental Congress of the Working Class, the largest and most important gathering of socialists that had ever existed in the United States.
In the aftermath, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was formed. It was organization to promote the idea that all workers should be organized into one big union such that it could most successfully fight the battles and protect the interests of the workers in their struggles, which posited all workers had to come together as a class to supplant capitalism and wage labor with industrial democracy, and emphasized rank-and-file organization as opposed to empowering leaders who would bargain with employers on behalf of workers.
Industrial Workers of the World was not meant to be a political organization, instead existing as a confederation of socialist industrial trade unions which advocated actions such as industrial sabotage and the formation of trade union self-defense militias, while also attempting to wreck local unions that refused to be subsumed. The members of the confederation came to be known as wobblies, and they would become the first members of the syndicalist movement in the United States.
Being a militant syndicalist organization, Industrial Workers of the World would be opposed at every turn by a growing antisyndicalist coalition — members of this alliance included the bourgeois government at all levels, their capitalist assistants, reactionary trade unions, and pro-establishment individuals. Despite the resistance it faced, the confederation would accomplish most of its short term goals in decade between its creation and the start of the war, cutting across traditional guild structures to organize workers in a variety of trades and industries. One of the organization’s most important contributions to the labor movement and to human rights would the fact that it was the only union to welcome all workers without distinction; many of its members were immigrants and women, and some would rise to prominence in the leadership before too long.
The Socialist Party itself would finally turn against the syndicalists during the 1912 Socialist National Convention, with the democratic socialists amending the party constitution to expel any socialists who favored syndicalism. This event would be a turning point for socialism and syndicalism in the United States, which came at a critical moment, just two years before the Weltkrieg changed the world forever.
Neutrality of the United States during the Weltkrieg
[Latest Update/Revision: 2/27/17 ]
The Weltkrieg began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip [Sarajevo, 6/28/1914 ]. The war drew in most the world’s economic great powers, and ended up being the deadliest and most destructive conflict humankind had ever experienced; in the aftermath of the conflict, nations had fallen into ruin and empires had collapsed, and a new world order had arisen from the rubble.
President Woodrow Wilson attempted to keep the United States neutral as the conflict began, and public opinion mostly supported such a stance — opposition to intervention came from all sides in the political spectrum, with Socialists denouncing what they called a ‘bourgeois war’, and important members of both the Democratic and Republican parties criticizing the war as a conflict between British imperialism and German militarism in which America had nothing to do.
However, over the course of the war, people in the United States increasingly came to see the German Empire in an antagonistic manner, especially following reports of its atrocities in Belgium, and its unrestricted submarine warfare campaign against commercial shipping thorough the North Atlantic which directly lead to the [5/7/1915] sinking of the british luxury-liner HMS Lusitania and the death of 128 American nationals aboard.
During late 1915, American intervention into the Weltkrieg on the side of the Entente seemed inevitable, and leading the charge of those who called for the United States to involve itself in the Weltkrieg were the atlanticists. This indefinite coalition of politicians and capitalists, which included figures such as Leonard Wood, were strongly pro-Entente and repeatedly called for the United States to prepare for conflict against Germany — the atlanticists argued that U.S. banks had made massive loans to the Entente at great profit so American finance and economic stability were closely tied to the expectation that they would be reimbursed, and that unrestricted submarine warfare threatened transatlantic trade and risked another recession. While these assessments would prove to be accurate, it would be later found that most atlanticists had personal financial interest in the U.S. joining the Entente’s war.
However, it would be the right combination of events and situations allowed the anti-interventionist forces to gain momentum and perhaps change the course of history forever. One of these forces materialized itself in the form of famous media magnate, William Randolph Hearst, who owned the nation’s largest newspaper chain, and began to use his influence in order to rally against intervention and atlanticists — himself a noted progressive, his papers were read by a considerable fraction of the working class.
Another important consideration was the German Empire’s suspension of unrestricted submarine warfare, which resulted from extensive negotiations with the U.S. government in the aftermath of HMS Lusitania incident, and which was followed by a shift in German intelligence activities in the United States, which from 1916 onward were focused on propaganda rather than terrorism or sabotage.
With the ‘He kept us out of the war!’ campaign slogan, President Wilson would go on to narrowly defeat his Republican opponent, [former Governor of New York] Charles Hughes, in the 1916 Presidential Elections — with this ultimate failure of atlanticists to convince the public or the government that joining the Weltkrieg was in the United States’ best interest, their movement soon faded into obscurity.