Who should win the 1920 election?

  • Charles Evans Hughes (Republican)

    Votes: 37 88.1%
  • James Cox (OTL Democratic nominee)

    Votes: 4 9.5%
  • Other Democratic nominee (please specify who!)

    Votes: 1 2.4%

  • Total voters
    42
TTL, there's so much more confidence in the KLM because the war ended a week after Jutland- the notion is that they "won" that battle despite British numerical superiority, and that they can trounce the British if they have numbers.
Sure. But then it also won't be hard for lots of Germans to notice that ultimately, neither Jutland nor the High Seas Fleet actually had any serious bearing on the war's outcome...

Tirpitz had always been aiming at the creation of a Risikoflotte (Wilhelm was clearly aiming at even more). Well: The war demonstrated that he'd actually achieved it, albeit in part due to the revelation of how potent naval mines and torpedoes had become. The economy-minded folks in Berlin will be wondering why anything more is needed in the postwar. The Army will be happy to second the motion.
 
Last edited:
Sure. But then it also won't be hard for lots of Germans to notice that ultimately, neither Jutland nor the Hgh Seas Fleet actually had any serious bearing on the war's outcome...

Tirpitz had always been aiming at the creation of a Risikoflotte (Wilhelm was clearly aiming at even more). Well: The war demonstrated that he'd actually achieved it, albeit in part due to the revelation of how potent naval mines and torpedoes had become. The economy-minded folks in Berlin will be wondering why anything more is needed in the postwar. The Army will be happy to second the motion.
Fair enough. I see your point.
 
The economic situation seems kinda worrying, Russia, Austria, and France are in various stages of falling apart, and they all were big trading partners with Germany, the return of business with Britain and America and the reparations with prop things up, but the reintegration of millions of soldiers into peactime society will be costly, unemployment will rise, and the value of the Mark is probably still down compared to the Pound or the Dollar.

It’s less worrying than it could be. The Danubian Civil War means that Austria have to buy a lot of stuff from Germany, which mean that they borrow from Germany to fund their trade deficit. The result is in fact a kind of Keynesianism, where Germany in the short term pay German industry and farmers to produce products to Austria. This may in fact serve to stabilize the German economy. After the Austrian have won the civil war, they will need further investments to rebuild, which again leave Germany as the main investor (which will end a mini version of the Marshall Help). The main problem Germany will have is that food prices is likely to stay higher (through not as high as under the war), but after the Great War I think that will be a minor problem,
 
It’s less worrying than it could be. The Danubian Civil War means that Austria have to buy a lot of stuff from Germany, which mean that they borrow from Germany to fund their trade deficit. The result is in fact a kind of Keynesianism, where Germany in the short term pay German industry and farmers to produce products to Austria. This may in fact serve to stabilize the German economy. After the Austrian have won the civil war, they will need further investments to rebuild, which again leave Germany as the main investor (which will end a mini version of the Marshall Help). The main problem Germany will have is that food prices is likely to stay higher (through not as high as under the war), but after the Great War I think that will be a minor problem,
All sounds very plausible; I'll admit I'm far from an economist, though.
The German economy is in a slight postwar slump but nothing too serious; once the specie really gets rolling in from France things will improve substantially!
 
At the very least, the KLM will want to be able to rebuild to at least pre-war numbers, and maintain that. They'll also want to maintain quality, especially as by now the Germans should have the Bayern Classes in the water. Featuring speed and gun caliber on the British standard while keeping up with the KLM's high standards for armor and accuracy, those super dreadnoughts will be the new standard of the KLM, and they'll fight to get the rest of the fleet's dreadnoughts up to their level.

That said, Germany does seem amenable to a naval arms limitation treaty with Britain, and overall the mood in Berlin with regard to Britain seems to be that of that of respectful coexistence. Working on the OTL Washington Naval Treaty, Germany would fight to join Japan in the second category, and probably join them to get a 3:2:1 ratio instead of a 5:3:1.75 ratio. Germany would probably also push for no quantitative limitations for cruisers, as they'll need to rebuild their cruiser force both to support the fleet's reduced battleship core, while also being able to deploy cruisers to Mittelafrika. Also, no limits on submarines, as the KLM would see those as their counter to any British blockade.
 
How is the development of aircraft carriers going ITTL? IIRC work on the concept would already be occuring at this point.

Also I doubt that the naval treaties will be happening, so Britain and USA will soon have some monsters floating around the oceans and Japan may just fleece enough money out of their government to complete their 8 8 Plan
 
How is the development of aircraft carriers going ITTL? IIRC work on the concept would already be occuring at this point.

Also I doubt that the naval treaties will be happening, so Britain and USA will soon have some monsters floating around the oceans and Japan may just fleece enough money out of their government to complete their 8 8 Plan
I disagree, Britain should be quite receptive to any naval limitations, considering they lost the war and with it hundreds of thousands of men and tens if not hundreds of millions of pounds with nothing to show for it. They've also had to deal with uprisings in Ireland, and unrest in India. If anything, a treaty that would secure their interests at sea that would also save them plenty of money by downsizing their fleet would be very attractive to the people in charge at London.

The USA would also be receptive, if only because Congress can be so tight-fisted about money. They won't want any ships already with approved funding, to say of anything already on the yards, to be scrapped or canceled, but Congress would gripe and moan about more money for more ships. A treaty that fixes naval capabilities worldwide without needing huge sums from Congress would be a godsend.
 
I certainly hope that Germany is able to actually build a couple ITTL.
They don't need 'em. Ground-based aircraft would be sufficient for Germany's needs in the Baltic and the German Bight. Any more are a waste. Ditto for Mittelafrika; it's not like it has a large shoreline, whether on the Atlantic or the Indian Ocean. Germany would be better served building large air stations to support cruisers to control littoral waters, and provide support for Type-IX and Type-XXI U-Boats (or their TTL equivalents) wreaking havoc in the Indian Ocean/South Atlantic.
 
They don't need 'em. Ground-based aircraft would be sufficient for Germany's needs in the Baltic and the German Bight. Any more are a waste. Ditto for Mittelafrika; it's not like it has a large shoreline, whether on the Atlantic or the Indian Ocean. Germany would be better served building large air stations to support cruisers to control littoral waters, and provide support for Type-IX and Type-XXI U-Boats (or their TTL equivalents) wreaking havoc in the Indian Ocean/South Atlantic.
Logically speaking, I know you're right - but it would still be fun to see.
 
All sounds very plausible; I'll admit I'm far from an economist, though.
The German economy is in a slight postwar slump but nothing too serious; once the specie really gets rolling in from France things will improve substantially!

A few other thoughts, what I describe could serve to push a earlier European economic integration here with Germany and Danubia as the core. Whether France or Italy would also join depend on domestic policies in those countries.
 
All sounds very plausible; I'll admit I'm far from an economist, though.
The German economy is in a slight postwar slump but nothing too serious; once the specie really gets rolling in from France things will improve substantially!
Speaking of the economy and France: The troubles in France aren't that good for Germany actually. Back in 1913 Germanys biggest trade partner wasn't A-H as one might assume, but France. Loosing their biggest foreign market to a Civil War isn't a positive even if it's a rival tearing itself apart.
 
They don't need 'em. Ground-based aircraft would be sufficient for Germany's needs in the Baltic and the German Bight. Any more are a waste. Ditto for Mittelafrika; it's not like it has a large shoreline, whether on the Atlantic or the Indian Ocean. Germany would be better served building large air stations to support cruisers to control littoral waters, and provide support for Type-IX and Type-XXI U-Boats (or their TTL equivalents) wreaking havoc in the Indian Ocean/South Atlantic.

Why would Germany don't need them, they know that they don't have a real way of attacking the UK, with planes that changes, there would be no place to hide in the UK with carriers.

Also the idea that the success of a relative cheap airplane sinking a ship diden't have some strategic talks in high command is hard to swallow, u know like in OTL that was one of the reasons Japan/US build them..
 
Chapter 26: The German Election of 1917
Chapter Twenty-Six: The German Election of 1917

"Egal für wen Sie stimmen, die Regierung steigt immer ein." (No matter who you vote for, the government always gets in)

"If Hugo Hasse wishes to burn down the system, he can do it without me! I'll not play the Lvov to his Martov!"

-Friedrich Ebert, commenting bitterly on his split from Hugo Haase

In 1914, with Europe mobilising for war, all the major countries had put politics on hold. As patriotic fervour swelled in Berlin, Petrograd, London, and Paris, politicians put country before party and pledged their support for the war effort. There had been exceptions, of course- a few radicals had grown weary of war as time went on and refused to vote for war credits- but mostly the Great War brought had about unprecedented political unity.

It was too good to last.

Like all of Europe save Tsarist Russia, Germany in 1914 had been a multiparty democracy, and as such its political scene was deeply divided. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) held a third of the seats in the Reichstag, and its allies a similar amount, but they were in no way a unified bloc. Some, such as party chairman Hugo Haase (1), were were unabashed Marxists who viewed Germany as ripe for revolution, while others were moderates who wanted to work within the system, supporting a peaceful transition to a welfare state. Many in the SPD had viewed the war as amoral and were opposed to the extractions of the Treaty of Dresden, which earned them plenty of ire as unpatriotic from their foes. The war had seen tremendous hardships placed on the shoulders of the German workers, with intrusive rationing and longer hours. The SPD leaders had swallowed all this as a patriotic wartime expedient, but with the war won they were no longer willing to compromise. The war had brought about social change to Germany, and Haase viewed this as an open door to a host of worker protections- new labour laws, wage increases, etc. In a speech in Hanover in March 1917, Haase declared that, “now, German people, you have carried our flag to new heights- now win for yourselves that same glory which our Fatherland holds!” That line sums up the SPD’s position in the run-up to the general election quite well: barring a relatively small minority of serious Marxists, they were good and patriotic Germans who were proud of their country’s achievements- but they were also unwilling to compromise their economic beliefs any longer.

The arrival of a postwar recession considerably aided the SPD. (2) This was nothing out of the ordinary, but it still pinched. During the Great War, as the government had called more and more men to don Feldgrau, factory owners had hired women in ever-increasing numbers. They quickly realised that women were far easier to manipulate than their husbands and brothers had been, and paid their female employees a fraction of what they’d given their male counterparts. It was unfair and exploitative, but it drove up profits and that was what the managers cared about. When the men started trickling home in early 1917, those who found their old jobs waiting for them found their managers were paying them three-fourths or even half of what they’d been making in 1914- because that was what they’d been giving the women. Unsurprisingly, this led to excruciatingly bitter relations between workers and overseers, and the spring of 1917 saw many strikes. In one unfortunate incident in Munich, the owners of a steel plant hired a group of ex-soldiers to break up a strike; however, the strikers themselves were all veterans, and they fought back. Bloody street fighting continued for several hours before the police put a stop to it. There were fears- or hopes, depending on who one talked to- of more widespread action, possibly even a general strike, but none of those things took place.

The reason is simple: by summer 1917 demobilisation was proceeding apace. Millions of young men were returning to the Fatherland to find that the jobs they’d looked forward to before the war were now gone, or that someone was doing them for half pay. This left these returning soldiers out of a job, and they would’ve been willing to work for even less than what the bosses were giving out now. Disgruntled workers were aware of this, and knew that if they gave their employers the slightest excuse, they would toss them out and hire some ex-soldier for half the pay. The SPD saw all this and banked on unemployed veterans and dissatisfied workers alike voting for them. Leading members of the party called for a system of soldier's pensions or bonuses in gratitude. However, the Social Democrats were about to receive a blow from an unexpected quarter- France.

The Second French Revolution had a profound impact on German politics. A left-wing insurrection had risen out of nowhere and captured a city with not just the consent, but the active participation of the working classes. Critics charged that SPD policies looked an awful lot like what was going on in Dijon. If it could happen there, conservatives charged, it could happen in Berlin. These accusations quickly spiralled out of control until they were irrational, bordering on ludicrous- it might surprise one to learn that there was no vast SPD conspiracy to mount a coup the day before the election. Of course, France and Germany had very different political climates in the summer of 1917, and despite officially endorsing Marxism, the vast majority of SPD politicians and voters wanted nothing to do with revolution. Nonetheless, the news from Dijon would ultimately prove fatal to the SPD cause.

Six weeks before the election, on 1 September, the Social Democrats held a party conference in Berlin to determine the last-minute goals as the big day drew ever closer. They intended it to be a small, simple affair, but things soon went awry. A group of conservative hecklers turned up outside the meeting hall an hour before the conference was due to start. They chanted such slogans as, “what about Dijon?” and several cruder things, and generally made nuisances of themselves, but they didn’t attempt to physically harm any of the delegates and were reasonably orderly. However, their obnoxious behaviour had a profound effect on several of the delegates.

The SPD was broadly divided into two camps: the true revolution-seeking Marxists, and the more conservative group which wanted to work within the existing political structure to improve the workingman’s lot. The war had only increased the ever-present tension between the two groups. Chairman Haase belonged to the former camp, but he was most definitely in the minority. He’d taken a lot of flak over the preceding weeks about being an alleged revolutionary, and many within his party feared that his radical rhetoric might cost them seats. Therefore, when Haase began his speech by discussing ‘international worker’s solidarity’ and seeking ‘stable, equitable relations’ with France, many shifted uncomfortably in their seats. It wasn’t that they were fire-breathing nationalists, but with the German people up in arms following their victory in the Great War, the workers didn’t want to hear about solidarity with their Anglo-French counterparts. The moderates, led by Friedrich Ebert, said that the focus had to be on improving the German workingman’s lot within the newly strengthened system. Gesturing out the window where the conservative hecklers were still making a racket, he famously asked, “do you think these people will vote for revolution?” After the meeting broke up, Ebert stayed behind, and he had a long, tense conversation with Haase. If the party didn’t moderate, he said, they would be trounced in the election. Haase’s radicalism just wouldn’t sell. The Chairman replied that “Martov curried favour with the bourgeoisie and look what it got him”. (3) Ebert furiously stormed out, convinced that Haase was leading the party to ruin.

Chairman Hugo Haase and his more moderate deputy Friedrich Ebert
Hugohaase.jpg



Friedrichebert.jpg


As the SPD feuded, conservatives planned for triumph. The aptly named German Conservative Party, led by Ernst von Heydebrand, naturally assumed that the German people would be receptive to their message after a victorious war. As such, their campaigns focussed on a “rally-round-the-flag” effect, with them referring to themselves as the party of nationalism, glory, and of course the military. A poster of theirs, depicting a soldier standing tall and proud, rifle and bayonet in hand, the word Konservative! on the weapon, best illustrates this. That summer, the party spent thousands of marks holding celebrations and parades for returning soldiers, thanking them for making the Fatherland strong, hoping these men would vote their way. Their propaganda emphasised the similarities between the SPD and the Dijon Commune, playing on people’s fears that Haase would implement revolution were he to become Chancellor- palpable nonsense, but it was what many wanted to hear. Von Heydebrand’s party also enjoyed a boost when Erich von Falkenhayn, whose masterstroke at Verdun had made him one of the most popular men in Germany, and Count Alfred von Tirpitz, hero of Jutland, co-signed a memorandum endorsing the Conservative cause as the “patriotic and just path for the people of our empire”. The one major chink in the Conservative armour was of course the weakened economy; many of the veterans to whom they appealed were coming home to find themselves out of a job. Von Heydebrand went on record stating his belief that everything would smooth out in time, and that once the specie from France really got rolling in, it would be the boost the German economy needed. He then blamed the Dijon uprising for slowing the pace of reparations, before using that as a segway to fearmonger about revolution- which was what his constituents wanted to hear. And, for all the economic issues facing the country, the Conservatives enjoyed full coffers as the wealthy Prussian landowners generously funded the cause.

A Conservative propaganda poster targeting veterans. The text reads, "German Soldiers: You won the war for your country, now win the peace for your family with the Conservative Party!"
German Conservative poster.png


The Conservatives rode high on a great crest of jingoism and were ready to crush the fractured, stigmatised Social Democrats.

Election Day rolled around on 12 October 1917, with turnout rather high. Contrary to Entente propaganda about the “Kaiser’s dictatorship”, Germany enjoyed the broadest suffrage of any European country, second only to the United States; all males over the age of 25 were eligible to vote. While some territories directly annexed to the German Empire were already under civilian control (4), they would not be voting in this one. Polling was extremely heavy in all areas, with long queues forming in the major cities to vote- many peasants hopped in their wagons to make a day of their trip to the city. As is traditional in all elections, Germans spent 12 October boasting to one another about their party’s strength, teasing their friends of different political leanings, and constantly asking one another, “so, how do you think it’ll go?” Newspapers flaunted their ideological stance, enriching paperboys in the process, while know-it-alls explained to the poor chap sitting across from them on the train exactly why they were right. There was no outright voter suppression, and the election was not “managed” by the Kaiser or the Army, but several unfortunate incidents did take place. In Alsace-Lorraine, the regional party found itself harassed by armed nationalist gangs. Contrary to what some would claim, the government or the Conservatives had not organised these gangs; they were nothing more than groups of individuals collectively breaking the law. Such gangs targeted the homes of well-known Alsace-Lorrainian regional party voters and politicians, and in one instance a gang of three beat up some elderly Francophone men with pins denoting their support for the party in their lapels. However, the police weren’t about to let this get out of hand, and the thugs quickly found themselves behind bars. The violence in Alsace-Lorraine can be traced to Francophobia in the wake of the Great War and was never a serious issue, and subsequent elections in the province would be perfectly peaceful.

Thus, the German people went to bed that night with many hopes and many fears…

...and woke up the next morning with a Conservative-led government.

As many had foreseen, the split between Haase and Ebert had proved fatal to the SPD’s chances. Too many people had viewed the Social Democrats as the party of revolution and voted instead for the Conservatives or one of the minor parties. Meanwhile, the Conservatives had successfully minimised discussion of the sluggish economy and played the jingoistic card perfectly. Out of 397 seats in the Reichstag, the Conservatives now controlled 111. They had performed well in their traditional Prussian strongholds, but had also swept Posen and the area around Danzig, which had traditionally been under the sway of a Polish regional party. The dark backstory behind that party’s near-disappearance in the election shall be covered in due course… Elsewhere, the Conservatives had done well in the area surrounding Berlin, although the city itself- as usual- had gone for the SPD. Meanwhile, the Free Conservative Party had done reasonably well, picking up a few seats west of the Elbe River. The Free Conservatives and Conservatives obviously shared a very similar ideology and had worked together many times in the past; the reason they were two separate entities was that the former was more focussed on urban areas and concerns than the latter. The two parties collectively held 139 seats.

A parliament chart showing the new composition of the Reichstag.
Place In the Sun- Parliamentary DIagram.png
How, although over two hundred Reichstag seats eluded them, did the Conservatives dominate?

The answer lies in the existence of a plethora of smaller parties. Unlike the United States, with its two parties, or Great Britain with its three, the German Empire had well over half a dozen parties routinely taking part in their elections. Many of these were region-specific, and while they would never win a majority, their influence would not be small if they tilted to either side.The Bavarian Peasants Party denied thirteen seats to either side, while a Hanoverian regional party swept its home districts. Meanwhile, the National Liberals and Progressives siphoned votes off from the Social Democrats- many moderate SPD voters went for them because they saw them as a better option than Haase’s alleged revolutionary stance. Last, the Zentrum- Centre- performed strongly enough to be considered one of Germany’s three strongest parties. Its efforts to win the Catholic vote gave it most of the Rhineland and Bavaria. All this left the Social Democrats with little outside their traditional bases of Berlin and Saxony.

A badly made election map depicting the results by district of the 1917 Imperial German general election (5)

German Election Map 1912.png
On 14 October, Ernst von Heydebrand visited Kaiser Wilhelm II to accept his sovereign’s congratulations. He looked forward to collaborating with his monarch to pursue a fresh, conservative agenda in victorious Germany, and set about appointing a new cabinet. Of course, with only 139 seats, the two conservative parties lacked a majority and would have to cooperate with the Zentrum in order to accomplish any major work, but they certainly had the clout to mostly run things as they saw fit.

Defeat proved fatal to SPD unity. Friedrich Ebert blamed Chairman Haase for the defeat, claiming that his radicalism had- just as he predicted- turned off too many German voters, leading them to vote for the National Liberals or the Progressives. Ebert and his allies spent much time in discussion throughout the last weeks of 1917. Would it be possible for them to consider forming a party of their own? While Haase was admittedly not as radical as the Spartacists and similar groups, events had shown he was too far to the left for the man-in-the-street, and that left the Social Democrats out of power. Many of the party’s moderates agreed, and on 3 January 1918, Friedrich Ebert took the monumental step of forming the Worker’s Democratic Party (Demokratische Arbeiterpartei, DA). The reaction was immediate- within the first few months, thousands of the more moderate Social Democrats defected, leaving Hasse in charge of a crippled SPD. The now-disposessed Chairman was livid at Ebert’s betrayal, but the fact was that his erstwhile colleague commanded support, and when the next general election rolled around he would surely have great potential.

For now, despite the tumult of party politics, the German Empire marched on, still basking in the glow of victory...

Comments?

  1. Okay, this needs some explanation. IOTL, if I’ve got my facts straight, Haase was forced to resign as SPD leader after refusing to vote for an emergency budget in March 1916. This is butterflied ITTL, because my March 1916 the war was just about won, therefore the 1916 budget didn’t contain an absurd amount of funding for the war and German pacifists saw the end in sight, so to speak. Thus, by autumn 1917, Haase is SPD chairman, not Friedrich Ebert. This obviously leads to major butterflies down the road….
  2. I’ve mentioned before that economics isn’t really my thing; if I’ve gotten my facts wrong please do tell me and I’ll retcon!
  3. A reference to Julius Martov briefly allying himself with Prince Georgi Lvov during chapter 12.
  4. Luxembourg is a princely state; Neutral Moresnet has been annexed to Prussia. Both are under civilian rule. The Polish Border Strip, however, remains under martial law, as does the territory annexed from Belgium (that east of the Meuse River).
  5. This map is based off of one created by user Furfur at Wikimedia Commons, link to the original here. Used under the terms of the CC license, edited.
 
Last edited:
So the Social Democrats lost and have fractured, yet those returning Veterans are likely still a thing, and if they continue to be ignored, things could turn nasty
 
I don't think the conservatives would leave the veterans out to dry. Willy was no libertine, but he fancied himself a man of the people, and considering everything the men and boys in the trenches went through, he'd want to at least give them some measure of restitution for all their sacrifices for the Fatherland.
 
All sounds very plausible; I'll admit I'm far from an economist, though.
The German economy is in a slight postwar slump but nothing too serious; once the specie really gets rolling in from France things will improve substantially!

Couple thoughts:

1. I'm reading the new update, like what I'm seeing so far.

2. I *would* urge some caution on the economic state of Germany in these circumstances. I think it is easy to understate just how badly even two years of Great War can run up the red ink and disrupt the economy. Wiki has a decent pull from Economic History Review:

Total spending by the national government reached 170 billion marks during the war, of which taxes covered only 8%, and the rest was borrowed from German banks and private citizens. Eight national war loans reached out to the entire population and raised 100 million marks. It proved almost impossible to borrow money from outside. The national debt rose from only 5 billion marks in 1914 to 156 billion in 1918. These bonds became worthless in 1923 because of hyperinflation.​

Now that's with four years of war. Cut that in half, roughly, for a war that ends in 1916. That's still *horrific*.

And then, you have to pay to take care of millions of wounded soldiers....

Reparations is the hope here, but it's not one that can make the Germans whole anytime soon. The French will be paying on the installment plan, and struggling to do even that, since their economy is in even WORSE shape than that of Germany. Russians will have to pay largely in commodities, and they may struggle to do even that, what with political instability.

This is one more reason why I cannot see a vigorous naval armaments program. I think they probably still finish out the Bayern and Mackensen classes on a reasonable (not frenetic) schedule, but they likely retire (or if they can, sell) all the pre-dreads and some older cruiser classes to save money and manpower. They know their minefields and torpedo boats can keep Britain from Copenhagening them now anyway.
 
Last edited:
Top