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

I do wonder how the Shandong Question will play out in this universe. China obviously has less of a case that Jiaozhou should have been given back to them, but people will still be angry about it.
If Japan still goes after Manchuria would the germans back the KMT if they're in power? By backing I'm mean equipment and training like they did OTL.
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If Japan still goes after Manchurai would the germans back the KMT if they're in power? By backing I'm mean equipment and training like they did OTL.
This is still 1919, that's quite a big if. At this point Duan Qirui's Anfu Club totally dominates the government and the GMD is in the process of being reduced to irrelevancy as the Guangxi Clique shunts them out of power in Guangdong. Without Soviet support, a distinct possibility given that we can't predict what happens to Russia, the GMD could never gather enough power to launch a successful Northern Expedition. The changes in the factors leading to the Shandong Question TTL could very well make it less of an impact on Duan Qirui's legitimacy and therefore keep the Anfu Club in power, too, which would mean a reunified China under the Anfu Club.
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This is still 1919, that's quite a big if. At this point Duan Qirui's Anfu Club totally dominates the government and the GMD is in the process of being reduced to irrelevancy as the Guangxi Clique shunts them out of power in Guangdong. Without Soviet support, a distinct possibility given that we can't predict what happens to Russia, the GMD could never gather enough power to launch a successful Northern Expedition.
I see, this TL is just a Chen Jionming wank in disguise
Interesting results so far, curious to see which direction France I quite like that it's obviously questioning itself and so no communists or rightwing dictatorship will instantly happen.

By the way TheReformer

You might be interested in this.

It's about the Russian civil war and interestingly points out about mobilization effected it, for example the red army had five million soldiers in 1920 but close to half where in training and otherwise occupied when the war with Poland began and the ''white'' cause it can be argued was rather illusionary as a political force given how most of it's forces where conscripted, rural uneducated peasants.

Just for when you get to the Russian part for how it might impact the political calculus of the newly founded USSR even if it's unknown to the Germans.
The Italian Civil War (December 1918 - January 1919)

The Italian Civil War
December 1918 - January 1919

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus as Italy approached the end of January she had become the another of the eight major world powers involved in the war to fall into civil disorder and political violence. While Russia burned and Italy’s north ran red, both could take solace in the fact that while the revolution had not spread worldwide as the bolsheviks had hoped - plenty more were picking up their own banners across Europe.
Awesome update as always - I'm tempted to suggest calling the monarchists "the Greens" instead of the whites (you know, because funny flag colors of red and green reference), but Green was actually the color the Radicals and Republicans used during this time so not sure if they would actually use it.
Some hints of Charles I Stuart's wishy-washy political intransigence in Victor Emmanuel III.

I'm rooting for the reds in both civil wars, but having two socialist powers would probably grease the skids for an Anglo-German rapproachment before a possible round 2...
Curious, that Mussolini looks to be staying on the left in this TL, rather than going right. Quite interesting.

Excellent update.
Two things: One, I admire the way you condense so much into so few words. It sometimes takes me a moment to absorb the implications and I like that. Here is an example of what I mean:
TheReformer said:
“Here you had a nominally western, modern, industrial state, yet equally a state that like Russia hosted millions of poor, low income peasants relying on their own labour not for a substantial income but for the basic income needed to survive.”
Two, I enjoy learning about people and concepts I was unaware of. Some examples from the Italy chapter: “Errico Malatesta, the ‘Italian Lenin’ “ , “meridionalism - the study of the economic and social challenges of southern Italy” and the heretofore unknown fact to me that D’Annunzio was “a terrible public speaker”.

This compliment also goes for your earlier chapter on France. Both were deep dives into history which had to involve countless hours of research and reading. The wealth of detail on your part is astonishing.

And greatly appreciated. Thank you TheReformer.
I got to ask, is Quentin Roosevelt still alive? I remember reading something about a letter he sent to his father after France surrendered dated July 10th and he dies four days later on the 14th so is he alive or not?