Who should win the 1920 election?

  • Charles Evans Hughes (Republican)

    Votes: 36 87.8%
  • James Cox (OTL Democratic nominee)

    Votes: 4 9.8%
  • Other Democratic nominee (please specify who!)

    Votes: 1 2.4%

  • Total voters
    41
Trentino and Istria are Italian!
Trentino and Istria are under Italian control. Tyrol is not.
This is canon in the TL... so much so that I gave it a threadmark!


Please disregard any and all comments made by me which imply anything else.
My apologies for the confusion.

Additionally, I've posted a skeleton for chapter 17 in my test thread... it's the most recent post by me.
If you want to hop over there and tell me how plausible or implausible you find it, that'd be appreciated.
-Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth
 
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Trentino and Istria are under Italian control. Tyrol is not.
This is canon in the TL.


Please disregard any and all comments made by me which imply anything else.
My apologies for the confusion.

Additionally, I've posted a skeleton for chapter 17 in my test thread... it's the most recent post by me.
If you want to hop over there and tell me how plausible or implausible you find it, that'd be appreciated.
-Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth
hope i could helped u :)
 
Chapter 17- Roots of the Second French Revolution
Chapter Seventeen- Roots of the Second French Revolution

"All across France that spring, there was a great discontent. People went about their business, picking their lives up as best they could from the war. There was no starvation, as Caillaux and others had feared there might be, and a new way of life was taking place. Yet, beneath the ostensible normalcy, there was a certain feeling that it wasn't all over yet; that France had more to go through. Such pessimists would soon be proved right..."
-William Crampwell, Robespierre's Heirs: The Second Revolution (1976)

"People of Dijon! You have seen the frantic efforts with which the government attempts to suppress you- now, in the name of your proletarian interests, rise up and seize power for victory! It will not fall into your lap; but if you believe, at this critical hour, then you can do it!"
-Georges Sorel to the people of Dijon, 21 October 1917

Joseph Caillaux’s government lasted four days after the signing of the Treaty of Dresden. A mob greeted him on the train station platform, and his guards had to form a protective square around him. That same day, the French Senate ousted him in a near-unanimous vote of no confidence. The man who signed the dishonourable peace was a perfect scapegoat for everyone’s political failure. With rioting in the streets, families going hungry, and the country weeks away from horrible inflation, the wonder is not that Caillaux lost his government- it’s that he didn’t lose his head. Parliament tapped Émile Loubet of the centrist Democratic Republican Alliance to head a coalition government. Loubet’s task was unenviable; he somehow had to craft a functioning state out of the mess given to him by his predecessor.

France was in chaos, with no prospect of anything improving. Losing approximately half the country’s natural resources had debased the currency, and the cripplingly high reparations being shipped east threw salt on the wound. By Christmas Day, the franc was down to a thirteenth of its prewar value; when the first 250 million francs went to Germany three weeks later, that went down to a thirtieth. Loubet sought to turn this hyperinflation to the country’s advantage, and he met with the German ambassador a few weeks after taking office, asking if France could pay off its reparations in cash. One didn’t need an economics degree to figure out that if so, the country could throw 65 billion francs’ worth of paper at the Kaiser and be done with reparations by the end of the decade. The German ambassador all but laughed in Loubet’s face. Germany had hoped to create this hyperinflation and wasn’t about to squander its advantage. The ambassador reminded Loubet that the Treaty of Dresden stipulated that the reparations had to be in specie or raw materials, before dismissing him with a wave of the hand.

Summer 1917: A Frenchman carts almost a hundred million francs to the shops to buy some ordinary goods.
frenchhyperinflation.jpeg


There was no escape for the French economy, which was swallowed up in a wave of worthless bills. Suppliers had to figure out how to make do without their prewar trade patterns, driving many out of business. Inflation forced the survivors to raise their prices by absurd amounts; the cost of a loaf of bread increased four hundredfold in the first six months of 1917. Since employers had so much worthless money on their hands, they could afford to raise wages, but income never caught up with the costs of living. Ironically, the average household spent more money since before the war in the start of 1917- since last week’s salary couldn’t buy a few potatoes, it only made sense to covert one’s francs into more tangible goods. In places, the French people de facto reverted to a barter economy, as a loaf of bread was filling regardless of whether it cost half a franc or half a million. In the last weeks of 1916, some borrowed money in the expectation of hard times; while the loan quickly lost value, at least it was easy to pay off. By the time of the New Year, however, those who had loaned money realised that things wouldn’t be getting better soon and kept a tighter hand on their pocketbook. Frenchmen lucky enough to have stable foreign connections converted their holdings into American dollars, Spanish pesos, or any other stable currency. Some wasted their coins in the first weeks of the New Year; they lived well for a little while before running out of valuable money. The wiser Frenchmen buried their coins for the day they’d really be worth something and made do with bills for a time. However, the government, desperate as it was for valuable currency, declared this practice a crime.

Tax collectors went to people’s homes accompanied by discharged ex-soldiers looking to put their physical talents to civilian use. They turned houses upside down and dug up gardens in search of coins, and if they couldn’t find any, the tax collectors would make off with picture frames, jewelry, and even mirrors. Of course, these men were just as hungry as anyone else, and they often had families to feed- thus, they frequently nicked foodstuffs along with valuables. Bands of discharged soldiers, especially those whose homes now lay under German rule, roamed the countryside, living off the land. The average French farmer fought them just as vehemently as he did the tax collectors- they were out to steal the goods he needed to survive just like the tax collectors. Farmers banded together for a common defence, and some small, rural towns of a few hundred people formed local militias to defend their fields from intruders, regardless of whether or not they came from Paris. The government had taken their sons, lost them a war, and ruined their economy- why should they give it still more? Of course, many peasants and country folk remained firmly loyal to the state, but the precedent set was ominous.

The central government’s control over the state was loosening, and anarchy seemed perilously close.

Conditions only worsened throughout the summer. Inflation reached four thousand percent in September, and landlords tossed more and more families onto the streets as last week’s wages couldn’t cover the week’s rent. Although one cannot blame Loubet for the conditions in his country- he was just as surprised as everyone else and had next to nothing to work with- his government’s helplessness laid the groundwork for his undoing. As Marcel Cachin, a far-left politician who had kept his head down during the war, remarked, “that summer, the city of Paris was a tinderbox. All that was needed was to lift the lid and let the people explode.” The truth was that Loubet feared the people. The French proletariat had been told they were on the cusp of victory; that same government then threw up its hands and admitted that they had been wrong. People had been taught to hate for the past three years, and their attempts to direct that hate against the Germans had met with frustration. Now, they turned their hatred on their government, which had raised their hopes all for nothing and had made their lives a misery. Some downtrodden circulated the works of two authors: one a homegrown radical from Cherbourg, the other- ironically enough- a certain German philosopher.

The Revolution of 1789 has, like all political movements, a certain set of associated imagery. The guillotine is of course the most common, to rank alongside the caricature of Marie Antoinette and “let them eat cake!” Yet, the storming of the Bastille is equally well-remembered. Popular imagination has distorted it beyond the bounds of fact, but the image of the workers of Paris storming the evil king’s dank dungeon and liberating the innocents inside has a great deal of appeal. The Revolution of 1917 had a much more humble trigger, but the popular imagination- to say nothing of the revolutionary government- inflated it just as much as the fall of the Bastille.

On the night of 30 September- 1 October, a greengrocers in Dijon burned to the ground. It could have been an accident, but it could also have been arson- there is insufficient evidence to make a definitive statement. A groggy fire brigade spent the night battling the blaze, waking up half the town in the process. During the small hours, three homeless teenage boys- David LaRoc, Edouard Joubert, and Georges Sassoin- crept to the smoking ruins under cover of darkness, looking to scrounge whatever they could find. Their search was fruitless, and they left with only two million francs between them. As they crept away, they bumped into the dispossessed greengrocer who was also trying to salvage what he could. He drew a knife and wounded David LaRoc before the police arrived. They threw the three boys in jail and confiscated their two million francs; a doctor patched David up the next day.

From left to right: David LaRoc, Edouard Joubert, and Georges Sassoin
streeturchins.jpg


Thus far, nothing about this story stands out or is in any way remarkable. Looting and lawlessness were on the rise all across France and young men were the most common offenders. However, word spread around town of what had taken place. As it is wont to do, rumour distorted the truth beyond all recognition, and before long a crooked businessman had murdered a young person for the two million in his pocket; the police had helped him commit the heinous crime and were holding the young man’s friends in a squalid cell. (1) With people already living on a knife-edge and sick of their government’s seemingly pointless extractions, news of this was enough to send a few over the edge. On the night of 5 October, a group of twenty armed men- mostly jobless veterans- gathered what weapons they could find and headed for the local jail. They fought their way inside, clashing with the guards and killing two before kidnapping one; the mob forced him at gunpoint to unlock the cells and release the prisoners. Regardless of what French far-leftists will say, the Dijon jailbreak was a grubby, simple affair seeing a few dozen angry citizens fighting a few tired prison guards looking forward to a change of shift. France’s government post-revolution tremendously exaggerated the scale of the affair, with a plaque where the jail once stood commemorating the “revolutionary martyrs” who died there and commissioning a great mural of the event.

By now, word of what had happened reached the city mayor, a man named Charles Dumont. Unsurprisingly, he ordered every policeman in the city to punish these men. The Dijon Mounted Police galloped in and, billy clubs and pistols swinging, dispersed the crowd. They took captured criminals to a much higher-security prison on the outskirts of town, and several people- including, unfortunately, the three boys who started this whole mess- died in the fighting. And that should have been the end of that.

However, Dumont made a profound miscalculation. To him, it was impossible that the arrest of three young men could’ve caused such anger amongst the people of his town. It simply wasn’t the done thing for people to raid jails after hearing of an arrest. The mayor didn’t understand the level of popular revulsion towards the government in France and how these jail-breakers wanted nothing more than to give the government a poke in the eye to vent off some of their anger. No, to him, this unprovoked attack on a symbol of government order was the start of something very ominous.

There was a revolutionary plot in Dijon, and if Dumont struck fast, he told himself, he could strangle it in the grave!

The next day, the sixth, the police in Dijon were jumpier than usual. They patrolled the streets in their twos and threes, all armed and some on horseback. That was odd but nothing unheard of; however, what was unusual was their barging into cafes and factories and demanding that people turn out their pockets. Confused, people stepped away from their machines and showed a scowling constable a picture of their wife and several million francs in change. Besides the usually violent raids by the tax-collector, people had to put up with the police coming in and searching for… something. “Subversives” was the usual term, but that could mean anything. The police made no on that first day, but when workers came home after being harassed at work to find the place in a mess… many unkind things were said about the government that night. Mayor Doumont, seeing that his sweeps had been unsuccessful, doubled down. The next day, he sent out the police again, and this time something went wrong. A workman in a foundry (2) was on his lunch break when a policeman overheard him grumbling about these searches and the inflation. The policeman accused him of being a “subversive”, and hauled him off to the station, where they unjustly accused him of being in connection with the jailbreak. There was nothing in it but the policeman wanted his promotion and was unencumbered by a sense of justice. Of course, the poor steelworker’s mates knew something was wrong when he didn’t come back after lunch, and that afternoon the police stationed armed men in the foundry just in case things went wrong. Working under gunpoint is seldom pleasant, and the men were left exhausted and embittered at the end of the day. They promised one another that they wouldn’t put up with this tomorrow. As 8 October dawned, the workers at the foundry bumped into each other on their way in, as always… and they didn’t go to work. When the foreman went onto the foundry floor at nine AM, he found only a handful of armed policemen ready to ward off trouble. Cursing a blue streak, he telephoned his supervisor, who telephoned the city chief of police. The city chief of police was all too aware of the mayor’s paranoia and saw a way to curry favour with his boss. He gave orders that the striking workers were to be tracked down and thrown in jail, along with anyone helping them. This was of course flagrantly illegal, but France in autumn 1917 was a chaotic place, and people paid less attention to such things than they would’ve before the war. The rumour mill distorted the truth, and by the end of the day the workers of Dijon were under the impression that striking had just been declared illegal. And, with cynicism of the sort only experience could bring, they assumed that this was the prelude to a wage cut. People met in the privacy of their homes to discuss this and formulated a plan to get their own back.

In jumping at shadows and overreacting to events to an extreme degree, Dumont had given root to a leftist conspiracy where none had existed before.

When the sun came up on the fifteenth, a strange thing happened. Workmen stayed at home, visited each other, or went to church- but not to work. All over Dijon, foremen and business owners turned up at work to find the place empty. People were sick to death of the jittery police trying to sniff out subversion, and sick of working jobs for money that wouldn’t be worth the paper it was printed on in a month’s time. By ten AM, word had reached the mayor that a general strike was in place. He was furious and knew that he had to tell Prime Minister Loubet- if he didn’t, someone else would and that would be the end of his political career. However, since his aggressive tactics had flopped in the past, the mayor tried something else, and at lunchtime announced his willingness to negotiate with the leader of the strikers. However… no one put themselves forward. This strike had of course been planned and there were leaders, but no one wanted to stick their neck out, as the mayor had shown no willingness to compromise until now. This seemed like a trick to lure them out and then have them tried as Marxist swine. Dumont was now in a tight bind. He didn’t see how fearful and angry the people were, nor why they’d refused to negotiate with his authority. In his eyes, this only confirmed the fact that a leftist conspiracy was afoot. So, he sent the police patrolling in the streets once more while telephoning Prime Minister Loubet. Communist infiltrators “of the Julius Martov type” (3) had created a general strike in Dijon, and the local police weren’t enough to root out the perpetrators and get the city back to work. He needed the muscle only the Regular Army could provide. Of course, there were no Communist infiltrators, but creating a scapegoat when talking to one’s superior was always better than pinning the troubles on one’s own overreaction. For his part, Loubet was terrified of the far-left, fearing- not without reason- that the abysmal economic conditions within France were fertile soil for a revolution. In his eyes, Mayor Dumont had done the patriotic thing by clamping down hard, and it was his job as Prime Minister to back him.

Meanwhile… things were about to go from bad to worse.

The Verdun Mutinies had doomed the French war-effort in the spring of 1916. They had started with one unit refusing to pointlessly advance into the teeth of German machine-gun fire; when the brass tried to suppress them and shove them forward, the situation only escalated. Once the mutineers had survived the first few days, the conflagration spread until almost all the French Army was infected with the rot. Although one can only say this with hindsight, Mayor Dumont ought to have studied how the battle went wrong, for he was about to make the same mistakes Joffre and Petain did.

At five PM on 15 October, fifteen hundred Regular Army troops marched into Dijon. They declared that they were here to stamp out “Martovist activity” and end the general strike. If the workers didn’t get back to it tomorrow, there would be trouble. Things could’ve stopped there, but once again the fog of confusion threw a wrench in the works. From the perspective of the working classes, the paranoid mayor was so determined to lord it over them that he needed to impose martial law and treat them like an enemy. Instead of going to bed, a handful of men decided enough was enough. If the government was going to treat the people of Dijon like an enemy… then they were bloody well going to act like an enemy! That night, locals mugged a Regular Army corporal on patrol, making off with his rifle and the five million in his pocket. This only confirmed Mayor Dumont’s belief that there was an enemy amongst the people, as no patriotic Frenchman would kill a French soldier if he didn’t have a higher loyalty to the far-left ideology of his choice… surely. As he was wont to do, he massively overreacted. At sunrise the next day, he met with the colonel commanding the occupying forces and conveyed his fears. Doumont wanted to take hostages to force the left-wingers pulling the strings to give themselves up; the colonel complied. Thus, on the morning of 16 October, ten innocent men in Dijon were woken up with rapid-fire knocks, and found a squad of burly armed men at the door. As their wives and children screamed and cried, the stunned hostages were led away, their protestations of innocence ignored. The colonel declared that the men who mugged the corporal had forty-eight hours to give themselves up; otherwise the ten hostages would meet their Maker. This naturally terrified the populace, but the man behind the mugging, not wanting to die, remained silent. Two days passed, and at sunrise on 18 October, the troops gave the hostages blindfolds and cigarettes.

Firing-squad duty has got to be one of the hardest parts of occupation duty. As trained soldiers, such men cast aside their personal feelings and do the dirty job. The popular image, immortalised by The Third of May 1808 of faceless men butchering civilians “because of orders” may have some truth to it, but there are always human beings pulling the triggers. Ten men were assigned to do the bloody work and it was expected that all would go smoothly. Yet… these men were veterans. They had been through the Great War, the disappointments of 1915, the hellish meatgrinder that was Verdun, and had taken part in the Springtime Mutinies. Their unit had laid down its arms and been amnestied by Joseph Caillaux’s government, yet postwar Army service wasn’t a gratifying job. The food and living conditions were awful, discipline was as tight as ever, and the wages- never high to begin with- were as worthless as everyone else’s. And now, they were to execute ten innocent men whose only crime was going on strike? No, the firing squad declared, they weren’t going to do it. The apoplectic colonel ordered the men to be seized and court-martialled… but the men sent to arrest the firing squad somehow couldn’t find them. Word of the incident quickly spread, and soldiers formed “councils” to discuss the situation independently of their officers. The colonel, like Petain at Verdun, saw a mutiny in the making, and like Petain, he was determined to nip it in the bud. He fled the city and telephoned his brigade commander, requesting men to put down what he termed a “serious mutiny”- words which the postwar French Army lived in dread of. A fresh two thousand men were summoned and reached Dijon on the morning of 19 October.

No actual violence had taken place in Dijon since the debacle with the firing squad- the men, incidentally, were now being sheltered in someone’s home- and everyone was still obeying their superiors. However, everyone knew something was amiss. And when the two thousand soldiers marched in, they were under orders to treat the men already there as mutineers. The defenders were extremely confused, since they hadn’t declared themselves in a state of mutiny or done anything treasonous. Yet… there were armed men attacking their comrades, and they fought back. 20 October saw Frenchmen fighting Frenchmen in Dijon. The defenders, sensing that the die was cast, turned on Mayor Dumont before issuing weapons to the civilians. Naturally, many loathed the occupiers, but others felt that if other Frenchmen were attacking the garrison, they wouldn’t be too picky about attacking civilians. Thus, some in Dijon decided they had nothing to lose and fought alongside the garrison. Like in spring 1916, some of the attackers refused to go forward. These were their fellow countrymen, they protested, and they weren’t going to throw their lives away over what had to be a misunderstanding. Thus, many of the attacking troops went over to the defenders. By the end of 20 October, the attack on Dijon had been beaten back, and the town was in the hands of mutineers.

Of course, this only confirmed Loubet’s fears of communism. Once the Prime Minister received reports that the mutineers had ejected Regular Army forces from Dijon, he formally declared it to be in a state of rebellion, and ordered the Army to crush it. Loubet decided against a full-scale mobilisation for fear of wider unrest, which could escalate into civil war.

In Dijon itself, everything was confused. For a start, there was no clear leader- just a handful of soldier’s councils. The prospect of being put down as traitors, when all they had done was repulse an attack which- in their eyes- had been unprovoked, terrified the men. If they could’ve peacefully surrendered they would’ve, but it was too late for that now. The people naturally weren’t happy about what had just occurred, and many were fearful that the government would roll in and punish them all. However, since the mutineers occupied the town and held the guns, collaboration seemed like the best of bad options. The Army of Dijon, as it came to be known, prepared to repulse whatever attacks came its way. The men knew they couldn’t win in the long run, but what did they have to gain by throwing their arms down and surrendering? A blindfold and a cigarette, that was what. However, another man slipped into Dijon on the 21st, who would end up having a tremendous effect on the course of events- a certain Georges Sorel.

Georges Sorel: the man about to infiltrate Dijon and take control over the Second French Revolution
georgessorel.jpg


Things were about to go from bad to worse and Emile Loubet’s reputation was soon to become a casualty of the Second French Revolution…

Comments?

  1. One would have to be crazy to fret over two million francs in the autumn of 1917.
  2. Steel is actually doing okay at the moment because the government can give it to Germany as part of the reparations; ie, Germany will accept 50 million 1914 francs worth of steel in lieu of 50 million 1914 francs worth of cash.
  3. Right now, Martov is kind of the face-on-the-poster for all leftist revolutionaries; he’s the only quasi-successful one (and he’s still alive, which only makes people fear him more).
 
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For some reason, I was inspired to re-work a bit of Tennyson.

Was there a man dismay’d?
Yes, and the soldier knew
Many had blunder’d:
Their’s was to make reply,
Their’s was to reason why,
Their’s was to fight and die:
Into the city of Dijon
Walked the two thousand.
Phantom rebels to the left of them
Overeager politicians to the right of them
Confused officers to the front of them
Shouted and thundered.

It may not have the emotional weight of the original, but I think it captures the mood :)
 
For some reason, I was inspired to re-work a bit of Tennyson.

Was there a man dismay’d?
Yes, and the soldier knew
Many had blunder’d:
Their’s was to make reply,
Their’s was to reason why,
Their’s was to fight and die:
Into the city of Dijon
Walked the two thousand.
Phantom rebels to the left of them
Overeager politicians to the right of them
Confused officers to the front of them
Shouted and thundered.

It may not have the emotional weight of the original, but I think it captures the mood :)
Nice one!
:)
 
Chapter Seventeen- Roots of the Second French Revolution

"All across France that spring, there was a great discontent. People went about their business, picking their lives up as best they could from the war. There was no starvation, as Caillaux and others had feared there might be, and a new way of life was taking place. Yet, beneath the ostensible normalcy, there was a certain feeling that it wasn't all over yet; that France had more to go through. Such pessimists would soon be proved right..."
-William Crampwell, Robespierre's Heirs: The Second Revolution (1976)

"People of Dijon! You have seen the frantic efforts with which the government attempts to suppress you- now, in the name of your proletarian interests, rise up and seize power for victory! It will not fall into your lap; but if you believe, at this critical hour, then you can do it!"
-Georges Sorel to the people of Dijon, 21 October 1917

Joseph Caillaux’s government lasted four days after the signing of the Treaty of Dresden. A mob greeted him on the train station platform, and his guards had to form a protective square around him. That same day, the French Senate ousted him in a near-unanimous vote of no confidence. The man who signed the dishonourable peace was a perfect scapegoat for everyone’s political failure. With rioting in the streets, families going hungry, and the country weeks away from horrible inflation, the wonder is not that Caillaux lost his government- it’s that he didn’t lose his head. Parliament tapped Émile Loubet of the centrist Democratic Republican Alliance to head a coalition government. Loubet’s task was unenviable; he somehow had to craft a functioning state out of the mess given to him by his predecessor.

France was in chaos, with no prospect of anything improving. Losing approximately half the country’s natural resources had debased the currency, and the cripplingly high reparations being shipped east threw salt on the wound. By Christmas Day, the franc was down to a thirteenth of its prewar value; when the first 250 million francs went to Germany three weeks later, that went down to a thirtieth. Loubet sought to turn this hyperinflation to the country’s advantage, and he met with the German ambassador a few weeks after taking office, asking if France could pay off its reparations in cash. One didn’t need an economics degree to figure out that if so, the country could throw 65 billion francs’ worth of paper at the Kaiser and be done with reparations by the end of the decade. The German ambassador all but laughed in Loubet’s face. Germany had hoped to create this hyperinflation and wasn’t about to squander its advantage. The ambassador reminded Loubet that the Treaty of Dresden stipulated that the reparations had to be in specie or raw materials, before dismissing him with a wave of the hand.

Summer 1917: A Frenchman carts almost a hundred million francs to the shops to buy some ordinary goods.
View attachment 588711

There was no escape for the French economy, which was swallowed up in a wave of worthless bills. Suppliers had to figure out how to make do without their prewar trade patterns, driving many out of business. Inflation forced the survivors to raise their prices by absurd amounts; the cost of a loaf of bread increased four hundredfold in the first six months of 1917. Since employers had so much worthless money on their hands, they could afford to raise wages, but income never caught up with the costs of living. Ironically, the average household spent more money since before the war in the start of 1917- since last week’s salary couldn’t buy a few potatoes, it only made sense to covert one’s francs into more tangible goods. In places, the French people de facto reverted to a barter economy, as a loaf of bread was filling regardless of whether it cost half a franc or half a million. In the last weeks of 1916, some borrowed money in the expectation of hard times; while the loan quickly lost value, at least it was easy to pay off. By the time of the New Year, however, those who had loaned money realised that things wouldn’t be getting better soon and kept a tighter hand on their pocketbook. Frenchmen lucky enough to have stable foreign connections converted their holdings into American dollars, Spanish pesos, or any other stable currency. Some wasted their coins in the first weeks of the New Year; they lived well for a little while before running out of valuable money. The wiser Frenchmen buried their coins for the day they’d really be worth something and made do with bills for a time. However, the government, desperate as it was for valuable currency, declared this practice a crime.

Tax collectors went to people’s homes accompanied by discharged ex-soldiers looking to put their physical talents to civilian use. They turned houses upside down and dug up gardens in search of coins, and if they couldn’t find any, the tax collectors would make off with picture frames, jewelry, and even mirrors. Of course, these men were just as hungry as anyone else, and they often had families to feed- thus, they frequently nicked foodstuffs along with valuables. Bands of discharged soldiers, especially those whose homes now lay under German rule, roamed the countryside, living off the land. The average French farmer fought them just as vehemently as he did the tax collectors- they were out to steal the goods he needed to survive just like the tax collectors. Farmers banded together for a common defence, and some small, rural towns of a few hundred people formed local militias to defend their fields from intruders, regardless of whether or not they came from Paris. The government had taken their sons, lost them a war, and ruined their economy- why should they give it still more? Of course, many peasants and country folk remained firmly loyal to the state, but the precedent set was ominous.

The central government’s control over the state was loosening, and anarchy seemed perilously close.

Conditions only worsened throughout the summer. Inflation reached four thousand percent in September, and landlords tossed more and more families onto the streets as last week’s wages couldn’t cover the week’s rent. Although one cannot blame Loubet for the conditions in his country- he was just as surprised as everyone else and had next to nothing to work with- his government’s helplessness laid the groundwork for his undoing. As Marcel Cachin, a far-left politician who had kept his head down during the war, remarked, “that summer, the city of Paris was a tinderbox. All that was needed was to lift the lid and let the people explode.” The truth was that Loubet feared the people. The French proletariat had been told they were on the cusp of victory; that same government then threw up its hands and admitted that they had been wrong. People had been taught to hate for the past three years, and their attempts to direct that hate against the Germans had met with frustration. Now, they turned their hatred on their government, which had raised their hopes all for nothing and had made their lives a misery. Some downtrodden circulated the works of two authors: one a homegrown radical from Cherbourg, the other- ironically enough- a certain German philosopher.

The Revolution of 1789 has, like all political movements, a certain set of associated imagery. The guillotine is of course the most common, to rank alongside the caricature of Marie Antoinette and “let them eat cake!” Yet, the storming of the Bastille is equally well-remembered. Popular imagination has distorted it beyond the bounds of fact, but the image of the workers of Paris storming the evil king’s dank dungeon and liberating the innocents inside has a great deal of appeal. The Revolution of 1917 had a much more humble trigger, but the popular imagination- to say nothing of the revolutionary government- inflated it just as much as the fall of the Bastille.

On the night of 30 September- 1 October, a greengrocers in Dijon burned to the ground. It could have been an accident, but it could also have been arson- there is insufficient evidence to make a definitive statement. A groggy fire brigade spent the night battling the blaze, waking up half the town in the process. During the small hours, three homeless teenage boys- David LaRoc, Edouard Joubert, and Georges Sassoin- crept to the smoking ruins under cover of darkness, looking to scrounge whatever they could find. Their search was fruitless, and they left with only two million francs between them. As they crept away, they bumped into the dispossessed greengrocer who was also trying to salvage what he could. He drew a knife and wounded David LaRoc before the police arrived. They threw the three boys in jail and confiscated their two million francs; a doctor patched David up the next day.

From left to right: David LaRoc, Edouard Joubert, and Georges Sassoin
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Thus far, nothing about this story stands out or is in any way remarkable. Looting and lawlessness were on the rise all across France and young men were the most common offenders. However, word spread around town of what had taken place. As it is wont to do, rumour distorted the truth beyond all recognition, and before long a crooked businessman had murdered a young person for the two million in his pocket; the police had helped him commit the heinous crime and were holding the young man’s friends in a squalid cell. (1) With people already living on a knife-edge and sick of their government’s seemingly pointless extractions, news of this was enough to send a few over the edge. On the night of 5 October, a group of twenty armed men- mostly jobless veterans- gathered what weapons they could find and headed for the local jail. They fought their way inside, clashing with the guards and killing two before kidnapping one; the mob forced him at gunpoint to unlock the cells and release the prisoners. Regardless of what French far-leftists will say, the Dijon jailbreak was a grubby, simple affair seeing a few dozen angry citizens fighting a few tired prison guards looking forward to a change of shift. France’s government post-revolution tremendously exaggerated the scale of the affair, with a plaque where the jail once stood commemorating the “revolutionary martyrs” who died there and commissioning a great mural of the event.

By now, word of what had happened reached the city mayor, a man named Charles Dumont. Unsurprisingly, he ordered every policeman in the city to punish these men. The Dijon Mounted Police galloped in and, billy clubs and pistols swinging, dispersed the crowd. They took captured criminals to a much higher-security prison on the outskirts of town, and several people- including, unfortunately, the three boys who started this whole mess- died in the fighting. And that should have been the end of that.

However, Dumont made a profound miscalculation. To him, it was impossible that the arrest of three young men could’ve caused such anger amongst the people of his town. It simply wasn’t the done thing for people to raid jails after hearing of an arrest. The mayor didn’t understand the level of popular revulsion towards the government in France and how these jail-breakers wanted nothing more than to give the government a poke in the eye to vent off some of their anger. No, to him, this unprovoked attack on a symbol of government order was the start of something very ominous.

There was a revolutionary plot in Dijon, and if Dumont struck fast, he told himself, he could strangle it in the grave!

The next day, the sixth, the police in Dijon were jumpier than usual. They patrolled the streets in their twos and threes, all armed and some on horseback. That was odd but nothing unheard of; however, what was unusual was their barging into cafes and factories and demanding that people turn out their pockets. Confused, people stepped away from their machines and showed a scowling constable a picture of their wife and several million francs in change. Besides the usually violent raids by the tax-collector, people had to put up with the police coming in and searching for… something. “Subversives” was the usual term, but that could mean anything. The police made no on that first day, but when workers came home after being harassed at work to find the place in a mess… many unkind things were said about the government that night. Mayor Doumont, seeing that his sweeps had been unsuccessful, doubled down. The next day, he sent out the police again, and this time something went wrong. A workman in a foundry (2) was on his lunch break when a policeman overheard him grumbling about these searches and the inflation. The policeman accused him of being a “subversive”, and hauled him off to the station, where they unjustly accused him of being in connection with the jailbreak. There was nothing in it but the policeman wanted his promotion and was unencumbered by a sense of justice. Of course, the poor steelworker’s mates knew something was wrong when he didn’t come back after lunch, and that afternoon the police stationed armed men in the foundry just in case things went wrong. Working under gunpoint is seldom pleasant, and the men were left exhausted and embittered at the end of the day. They promised one another that they wouldn’t put up with this tomorrow. As 8 October dawned, the workers at the foundry bumped into each other on their way in, as always… and they didn’t go to work. When the foreman went onto the foundry floor at nine AM, he found only a handful of armed policemen ready to ward off trouble. Cursing a blue streak, he telephoned his supervisor, who telephoned the city chief of police. The city chief of police was all too aware of the mayor’s paranoia and saw a way to curry favour with his boss. He gave orders that the striking workers were to be tracked down and thrown in jail, along with anyone helping them. This was of course flagrantly illegal, but France in autumn 1917 was a chaotic place, and people paid less attention to such things than they would’ve before the war. The rumour mill distorted the truth, and by the end of the day the workers of Dijon were under the impression that striking had just been declared illegal. And, with cynicism of the sort only experience could bring, they assumed that this was the prelude to a wage cut. People met in the privacy of their homes to discuss this and formulated a plan to get their own back.

In jumping at shadows and overreacting to events to an extreme degree, Dumont had given root to a leftist conspiracy where none had existed before.

When the sun came up on the fifteenth, a strange thing happened. Workmen stayed at home, visited each other, or went to church- but not to work. All over Dijon, foremen and business owners turned up at work to find the place empty. People were sick to death of the jittery police trying to sniff out subversion, and sick of working jobs for money that wouldn’t be worth the paper it was printed on in a month’s time. By ten AM, word had reached the mayor that a general strike was in place. He was furious and knew that he had to tell Prime Minister Loubet- if he didn’t, someone else would and that would be the end of his political career. However, since his aggressive tactics had flopped in the past, the mayor tried something else, and at lunchtime announced his willingness to negotiate with the leader of the strikers. However… no one put themselves forward. This strike had of course been planned and there were leaders, but no one wanted to stick their neck out, as the mayor had shown no willingness to compromise until now. This seemed like a trick to lure them out and then have them tried as Marxist swine. Dumont was now in a tight bind. He didn’t see how fearful and angry the people were, nor why they’d refused to negotiate with his authority. In his eyes, this only confirmed the fact that a leftist conspiracy was afoot. So, he sent the police patrolling in the streets once more while telephoning Prime Minister Loubet. Communist infiltrators “of the Julius Martov type” (3) had created a general strike in Dijon, and the local police weren’t enough to root out the perpetrators and get the city back to work. He needed the muscle only the Regular Army could provide. Of course, there were no Communist infiltrators, but creating a scapegoat when talking to one’s superior was always better than pinning the troubles on one’s own overreaction. For his part, Loubet was terrified of the far-left, fearing- not without reason- that the abysmal economic conditions within France were fertile soil for a revolution. In his eyes, Mayor Dumont had done the patriotic thing by clamping down hard, and it was his job as Prime Minister to back him.

Meanwhile… things were about to go from bad to worse.

The Verdun Mutinies had doomed the French war-effort in the spring of 1916. They had started with one unit refusing to pointlessly advance into the teeth of German machine-gun fire; when the brass tried to suppress them and shove them forward, the situation only escalated. Once the mutineers had survived the first few days, the conflagration spread until almost all the French Army was infected with the rot. Although one can only say this with hindsight, Mayor Dumont ought to have studied how the battle went wrong, for he was about to make the same mistakes Joffre and Petain did.

At five PM on 15 October, fifteen hundred Regular Army troops marched into Dijon. They declared that they were here to stamp out “Martovist activity” and end the general strike. If the workers didn’t get back to it tomorrow, there would be trouble. Things could’ve stopped there, but once again the fog of confusion threw a wrench in the works. From the perspective of the working classes, the paranoid mayor was so determined to lord it over them that he needed to impose martial law and treat them like an enemy. Instead of going to bed, a handful of men decided enough was enough. If the government was going to treat the people of Dijon like an enemy… then they were bloody well going to act like an enemy! That night, locals mugged a Regular Army corporal on patrol, making off with his rifle and the five million in his pocket. This only confirmed Mayor Dumont’s belief that there was an enemy amongst the people, as no patriotic Frenchman would kill a French soldier if he didn’t have a higher loyalty to the far-left ideology of his choice… surely. As he was wont to do, he massively overreacted. At sunrise the next day, he met with the colonel commanding the occupying forces and conveyed his fears. Doumont wanted to take hostages to force the left-wingers pulling the strings to give themselves up; the colonel complied. Thus, on the morning of 16 October, ten innocent men in Dijon were woken up with rapid-fire knocks, and found a squad of burly armed men at the door. As their wives and children screamed and cried, the stunned hostages were led away, their protestations of innocence ignored. The colonel declared that the men who mugged the corporal had forty-eight hours to give themselves up; otherwise the ten hostages would meet their Maker. This naturally terrified the populace, but the man behind the mugging, not wanting to die, remained silent. Two days passed, and at sunrise on 18 October, the troops gave the hostages blindfolds and cigarettes.

Firing-squad duty has got to be one of the hardest parts of occupation duty. As trained soldiers, such men cast aside their personal feelings and do the dirty job. The popular image, immortalised by The Third of May 1808 of faceless men butchering civilians “because of orders” may have some truth to it, but there are always human beings pulling the triggers. Ten men were assigned to do the bloody work and it was expected that all would go smoothly. Yet… these men were veterans. They had been through the Great War, the disappointments of 1915, the hellish meatgrinder that was Verdun, and had taken part in the Springtime Mutinies. Their unit had laid down its arms and been amnestied by Joseph Caillaux’s government, yet postwar Army service wasn’t a gratifying job. The food and living conditions were awful, discipline was as tight as ever, and the wages- never high to begin with- were as worthless as everyone else’s. And now, they were to execute ten innocent men whose only crime was going on strike? No, the firing squad declared, they weren’t going to do it. The apoplectic colonel ordered the men to be seized and court-martialled… but the men sent to arrest the firing squad somehow couldn’t find them. Word of the incident quickly spread, and soldiers formed “councils” to discuss the situation independently of their officers. The colonel, like Petain at Verdun, saw a mutiny in the making, and like Petain, he was determined to nip it in the bud. He fled the city and telephoned his brigade commander, requesting men to put down what he termed a “serious mutiny”- words which the postwar French Army lived in dread of. A fresh two thousand men were summoned and reached Dijon on the morning of 19 October.

No actual violence had taken place in Dijon since the debacle with the firing squad- the men, incidentally, were now being sheltered in someone’s home- and everyone was still obeying their superiors. However, everyone knew something was amiss. And when the two thousand soldiers marched in, they were under orders to treat the men already there as mutineers. The defenders were extremely confused, since they hadn’t declared themselves in a state of mutiny or done anything treasonous. Yet… there were armed men attacking their comrades, and they fought back. 20 October saw Frenchmen fighting Frenchmen in Dijon. The defenders, sensing that the die was cast, turned on Mayor Dumont before issuing weapons to the civilians. Naturally, many loathed the occupiers, but others felt that if other Frenchmen were attacking the garrison, they wouldn’t be too picky about attacking civilians. Thus, some in Dijon decided they had nothing to lose and fought alongside the garrison. Like in spring 1916, some of the attackers refused to go forward. These were their fellow countrymen, they protested, and they weren’t going to throw their lives away over what had to be a misunderstanding. Thus, many of the attacking troops went over to the defenders. By the end of 20 October, the attack on Dijon had been beaten back, and the town was in the hands of mutineers.

Of course, this only confirmed Loubet’s fears of communism. Once the Prime Minister received reports that the mutineers had ejected Regular Army forces from Dijon, he formally declared it to be in a state of rebellion, and ordered the Army to crush it. Loubet decided against a full-scale mobilisation for fear of wider unrest, which could escalate into civil war.

In Dijon itself, everything was confused. For a start, there was no clear leader- just a handful of soldier’s councils. The prospect of being put down as traitors, when all they had done was repulse an attack which- in their eyes- had been unprovoked, terrified the men. If they could’ve peacefully surrendered they would’ve, but it was too late for that now. The people naturally weren’t happy about what had just occurred, and many were fearful that the government would roll in and punish them all. However, since the mutineers occupied the town and held the guns, collaboration seemed like the best of bad options. The Army of Dijon, as it came to be known, prepared to repulse whatever attacks came its way. The men knew they couldn’t win in the long run, but what did they have to gain by throwing their arms down and surrendering? A blindfold and a cigarette, that was what. However, another man slipped into Dijon on the 21st, who would end up having a tremendous effect on the course of events- a certain Georges Sorel.

Georges Sorel: the man about to infiltrate Dijon and take control over the Second French Revolution
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Things were about to go from bad to worse and Emile Loubet’s reputation was soon to become a casualty of the Second French Revolution…

Comments?

  1. One would have to be crazy to fret over two million francs in the autumn of 1917.
  2. Steel is actually doing okay at the moment because the government can give it to Germany as part of the reparations; ie, Germany will accept 50 million 1914 francs worth of steel in lieu of 50 million 1914 francs worth of cash.
  3. Right now, Martov is kind of the face-on-the-poster for all leftist revolutionaries; he’s the only quasi-successful one (and he’s still alive, which only makes people fear him more).
Well, that escalated quickly
 
The rise of the Nazis was greatly aided by the increasing strength of the communists frightening people into thinking the Nazis were the only ones who could deal with the threat, so having increased communist activity in France seems like a perfectly logical step on the way to an eventual far right takeover there.
 
Well, that escalated quickly

Indeed! I tried when writing this update to convey a sense of confusion amongst all the parties and show how both sides made miscalculations which exacerbated everything.

The rise of the Nazis was greatly aided by the increasing strength of the communists frightening people into thinking the Nazis were the only ones who could deal with the threat, so having increased communist activity in France seems like a perfectly logical step on the way to an eventual far right takeover there.

It won't be the only time such a dynamic occurs ITTL...

Wow, that was infuriating to read. Especially because things like that did happen in real life

Glad you liked it.
No PoD can butterfly away paranoia and miscalculation...
 

Sabre77

Banned
So basically France is going to go through a Bavaria/Hungary type situation(where a short period of local or widespread communist rule leads to a far right backlash and securing of power)?
 
Great stuff--escalation is normal in a situation like this, and France in OTL has had how many different governments since the meeting in the tennis court?
 
I can't help but feel sorry for the French here. The country has lost some integral territory - Rheims is where the monarchs of the ancien regime went for their coronation, after all - a potent propaganda piece if there ever were one. I am a little surprised that the Germans took this much land, though - unlike OTL France and Poland, which already had friendly populations in the land they gained post-Versailles, here, all the Germans have are a bunch of angry French speakers and an even angrier, desperate, revanchist France. The resulting internal conflict will make the Troubles look pretty by comparison.
 
I am confused can somebody explain Sorels ideology? I looked him up and I can't tell if he was a commie or a protofacist. Or was a follower of National syndicalism.
 
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Indeed! I tried when writing this update to convey a sense of confusion amongst all the parties and show how both sides made miscalculations which exacerbated everything.



It won't be the only time such a dynamic occurs ITTL...



Glad you liked it.
No PoD can butterfly away paranoia and miscalculation...


Can you explain Sorels Ideology I looked him up I can't make heads or tales of it?
 
I can't help but feel sorry for the French here. The country has lost some integral territory - Rheims is where the monarchs of the ancien regime went for their coronation, after all - a potent propaganda piece if there ever were one. I am a little surprised that the Germans took this much land, though - unlike OTL France and Poland, which already had friendly populations in the land they gained post-Versailles, here, all the Germans have are a bunch of angry French speakers and an even angrier, desperate, revanchist France. The resulting internal conflict will make the Troubles look pretty by comparison.

AFAIK, the German military occupation outside of Lothringen (Elsass-Lothringen + Briey-Longwy) is analogous to the OTL French occupation of the Rhineland, i.e. a means to enforce reparations payments. The Germans won't be staying forever, only either until all/a certain proportion of reparations are paid.

On a related note, though, I imagine the French are really hateful of the British and the Belgians right now. Both of the latter might as well have sold France out to save their hides from Germany, neither having to pay reparations, the White Dominions and their Japanese ally able to keep territory they took from Germany, and in Belgium's case, actually had a slice of former French territory (French Flanders) given to them as compensation for both the Congo and the German invasion.
 
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Can you explain Sorels Ideology I looked him up I can't make heads or tales of it?

Sorelianism could probably be described as something akin to what fascism wound up being. Sorel in both IOTL and ITTL , like Mussolini IOTL was originally a Marxist, though in the case of Sorel, he believed in victory of the proletariat in class struggle would be achieved by myth and general strike. When it became clear that the Syndicalist movement was going to fail, he abandoned communism in favor of Maurrassime Integralism, essentially going so far to the left, he wound up far to the right.

Now, I understand why you're confused, given that Georges Sorel himself flip-flopped between far-left and far-right issues here, to the point where no one really knows which side of the political position he falls into. For the case of TTL however, he is most definitely of the far-right ideology, given that the far-left re-alignment he would have after this stint occurred after France won in WWI, which they do not here.
 
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