Russia in Revolt, November 1917 - Source: NewSocialist
Mutinies by the French Army and the anticlimactic end of the Battle of Verdun indicated, at least to President Roosevelt and Kaiser Wilhelm, the inevitability of U.S.-German victory in the war. Air and naval development by these two allies was proceeding on schedule. Overall construction rates far outpaced anything the Entente could bare to muster in this late stage of the conflict. Enlistment rates were high in the post-St. Lawrence U.S. and the maintenance of German Army conscription presented the Central Powers a categorical, numerical advantage. Furthermore, by August, the ongoing Second Battle of Armentières appeared to exemplify a grand finale of sorts to the Entente's strategy of provoking thoughtless offensives. Time was of the essence, and everyone knew it.
Victory was right around the corner. Roosevelt was sure of it. Verdun's gratifying conclusion beckoned an approaching catharsis. With the Entente on its last legs, one final blow could end the 'war to end all wars' for good. Winning the geopolitical challenge was paramount to protecting the future of American prosperity, the president believed. He allowed other Cabinet officials to observe and contain domestic dissent while he primarily focused on these foreign matters. In that regard, Roosevelt green-lit a concerted effort by the United States Information Council to obscure news of the mutinies. The federal organization, spearheaded by the Progressive Party, ensured that any characterization of the events in Verdun kept descriptions of material conditions to a minimum. They would not allow the press to feed into the Socialist narrative of an evil and fruitless war, and as thus refused to print the words of insurrectionists who named their revolt a heroic rebuttal to an inhumane war. Instead, Americans learned through propaganda of innate cowards retreating from the sheer might of the German Empire and its American-made weaponry.
H. William Ackerman, Columbians in Washington: Great Expectations and the Hope of a Nation, 2013
The mutinies sparked by the 62nd Division greatly affected French morale at home. French military leadership wholly anticipated that the nation would turn against individual mutineers and cheer on their court marshalling, but accelerating losses made scores of Frenchmen empathize with the disobedient soldiers. Word of the flagrant insubordination sparked hearty protests in Marseille, Lyon, and Paris against the war. Now feeling as though the men at the front were on their side and willing to risk imprisonment to cease endless warfare, French workers likewise joined in a mutiny of their own. Marseille workers operating munitions factories collectively chose to introduce the first of many work stoppages. Unions proclaimed, "Not a minute more of labor until the war is over." Much of the anger at this juncture was directed at Philippe Petain and Robert Nivelle, the faces of the military establishment, but Poincaré dared not speak out against the only two figures able to withstand total subjugation by the Germans.
At the same time, pressure mounted on Prime Minister David Lloyd George to address the discouraging situation. Thousands of British men and women, furious with their leader's apparent aversion to reasoning with an unceasing class of generals and admirals (a total 180 to his predecessor's incessant tempering of the military leadership), voiced their displeasure via anti-incumbent protests of their own. Lloyd George also faced biting criticism in Canada, where incensed MPs at the behest of social activist J.S. Woodsworth penned a public declaration calling on the British prime minister to commit to a decision. Either provide the necessary supplies and men to fend off the Americans, the notice read, or else, ”face imminent defeat, and […] certain calls for independence.” The prime minister sent no firm reply to the Canadian plea, but did rightly recognize the danger of rising dissatisfaction with the war. Albeit ignoring the fundamental core of antiwar sentiment, as succumbing to the 'mob' was a branch too far, Lloyd George pledged to bring the conflict to a speedy end. "There is nothing so fatal to character as half finished tasks," he announced, "and this is a task we plan to finish."
Every egg was placed in the Armentières basket. In Lloyd George's mind, victory in Belgium would undoubtedly change the course of the war. His confidence was, as military historians often reflect, not materially based. Armentières was a bloodbath for all parties involved. Not unlike the campaigns that preceded it, this Western Front fight continued for months as Falkenhayn's elastic defense kept German casualties low and the Entente in shambles. The French manpower shortage may have doomed the offensive even prior to its beginning, but the fifty-four British divisions were thought to have been enough to tear apart German defenses. At the absolute height of the chaos, when no world power was willing to yet come to the peacemaking table, Pope Benedict XV issued a proposal pleading an end to the "horrors of the terrible war unleashed upon Europe." The Pope called for, "belligerent peoples and governments to become brothers once more," and peacefully resolve territorial and political questions. For a brief second, some pacifists optimistically (and naively) believed this could be the final straw. Yet, world leaders paid this declaration virtually no mind and kept at the war as hard as ever.
Any glimmer of hope from men like Raymond Poincaré and David Lloyd George that the war would miraculously turn in their favor was dashed away for good in the autumn of 1917. The Russian Provisional Government, a machine presided over by Minister-President Alexander Kerensky, stood firm in its favorable stance on continued engagement with Germany, Austria, and the Ottoman Empire. That position was so unbelievably unpopular with the workers of Petrograd, a working-class population left starving and radicalized, that it eventually fed into the bursting of a second revolution. This, the Great October Socialist Revolution, saw the overthrow of the provisional government by a collective uprising of Petrograd workers in conjunction with the leftist, antiwar Bolshevik Party on November 7th. Strengthened by the fast-fading war effort, the Bolsheviks were able to win the elected majority in the All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. Arisen to a position of authority in Russia, the radical party oversaw massive changes under the label of a new workers' state. Russians saw their lives change practically overnight, from the free distribution of food to equal access to healthcare, and the soviets supplanted the parliamentary Duma entirely. This experiment of direct democracy was the first ever instance in modern history in which the needs of the average worker and peasant overshadowed profitmaking interests.
The February Revolution failed to fundamentally alter the course of the war, but the October Revolution lived up to the hype. Russia's new, revolutionary government went to work organizing an armistice with the Central Powers. Prior to the end of the month, as wartime escapades endured across the planet, Russian emissaries signed the premier paperwork that soon cemented a definitive surrender of the Eastern Front. That was it. For all intents and purposes, the Entente's cause was relegated to the dustbin of history from the moment of Kerensky's resignation. However, the powers that be would not go so quietly.