Homage to Britannia: An HOI4 Kaiserreich AAR | Part One: Heirs to the Revolution

Published: 2017-08-05

Part of the campaign:

Homage to Britannia: An HOI4 Kaiserreich AAR

[Welcome to my new AAR featuring the Kaiserreich mod for Hearts of Iron 4! For those familiar with my previous series, "California Dreamin'," allow me to take a moment to apologize for its abrupt end, which came about due to save file corruption. I know this probably won't fill the void in your heart yearning for California-based imperialism, but I hope you'll enjoy nonetheless!
The Union of Britain stands at the edge of the world in 1936, as the forces of international syndicalism stare down the German behemoth. France champions the workers revolution through the Third International, and beats at the British door for aid in the coming war, while across the sea and in Africa the monarchists and reactionaries plot their return to the homelands. At the center of it all are the Trade Unions who make up the TUC, who's most radical of personalities are still feuding for control over Britain's destiny.

We enter this world through the eyes of a woman who witnesses the coming of the Second Weltkrieg first-hand, a stranger in a land of constant revolution. Without further delay, allow me to introduce the narrator, Mary Webber.]
Before we begin this tale, allow me a small moment of introduction into my life, which, although not the inspiration for this fable, serves as a decent enough tablet upon which the experiences and history of the Second Weltkrieg were carved. I am an imperfect historian, tainted by bias, hatred, love and other human traits, but it is a story that deserves telling, if only to confirm that it has happened.

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to kind parents who worked in the publication industry. Like many a studious person, I became interested in politics at a young age, and would find myself drawn, along with hundreds of other black men and women in the south, towards radical trade unionism, as these organizations adopted a stance against the racial oppression that was codified law in the southern United States.
The terrible working conditions, coupled with collapsing economy in the wake of the Great Depression, led me and many other young people to align with organizations such as the Combined Syndicates, which championed workers rights, and by extension the rights of black people in America. Unlike others in my circle, I tired of waiting for a revolution that seemed distant: radical actions in New York rarely filtered down to the actively oppressed in the South, especially compared to the revolutionary atmosphere that we gleamed from European visitors.
It was my desire to witness the revolution in person, and so I obtained journalists credentials from Atlanta's CSA publication: I was officially being sent to 'learn and report on the happenings of the Trade Unions Congress,' as my introductory letter to the London correspondents stated. What was meant to be a short three-month study and work term quickly became a preferably permanent (though unfortunately temporary) transition as I became absorbed in the revolutionary life of British republicanism.

In this testament to the Republican Britain I have come to love so dearly, I shall endeavor to communicate my great appreciation for its people and its history with an even hand, serving neither as critic nor sycophant: this story is not one of propaganda, but of honest reflection, and I desire not the glorification of the Union's past nor to lament its present or future. That, I shall leave to the reader.
Britain had embraced socialism in its fullest in its decade of worker rule, to the point that the ideals and beliefs once thought theoretical had transitioned completely into practical action and societal development. Women staffed factories and carried guns in the street, and everyone referred to each other not as "ma'am" or "sir," but as "comrade" or "brother" or "sister," breaking down hierarchy even at its most basic of forms. Racism, sexism and classism were nonexistent where I traveled, and though some said it still existed in pockets of British life, I personally felt no mistreatment in all my time in Britain.
What was present was a tense factionalism, that dominated the political landscape: no matter their dedication to politics, everyone knew whether they were a Maximist, Autonomist, etc. Though united by the goal of the revolution and the restructure of British society, their was little to agree on otherwise, as each individual and the wings they populated had radically different understandings of what that would entail.

I, a newcomer to Britain, was unsure of what to make of these cliques, and intended to absorb my knowledge naturally rather than academically. In hindsight, I wish I had payed more attention in these early days, as they form a clear path towards the future in my mind now as I reflect upon them. I shall, for the sake of narrative, keep my observations chronological to their discovery by myself.
At the helm of Britain's future, for the moment, was Philip Snowden, a man who, according to the word of those I lived with at the time, was ready to retire at any moment. Though respected by revolutionary society, Snowden epitomized the 'old guard,' and several forces opposed him in the Trade Unions Congress.
The 1936 Congress was a contentious one, as the factions that vied for the political power necessary to shape Britain's destiny bickered and in some cases fought over the issues of the day: direction and centralization of the economy, home rule, and the military action to be taken against reactionary prime among them.
This was not to say that Britain was a mess of competing interests: to the contrary, what I saw in London during the Congress was perhaps the most politically conscious population in the western world. Miners and tailors and candlestick makers each had their own union to represent their interests, and represent they did: in every tea shop and market lively debates about the TUC could be heard, increasing in volume as the meetings drew closer, all in the spirit of improving their theory rather than tearing down those belonging to others. Indeed, this open discourse and political whirlwind would open the door for myself and others to discover more radical ideologies easier than we might have otherwise.
Shortly after the announcement of the 1936 Congress, an enigmatic figure from the British Revolution rose to prominence as a revolutionary figure: his friends and allies called him Comrade Mosley, while his detractors referred to him as the "Baron of Ancoats."

Calling for Sorelians, Bolsheviks, National-Syndicalists and his own Maximists to unite their ideologies, Mosley would come to define my political development in Britain like no other single individual, a fact I loathe to admit now, a decade later.
To describe Mosley is to describe a hurricane: an ever-present figure in British politics since the Weltkrieg, Mosley seemed an implacable force, who would not rest until his mission was fulfilled. Formerly a Conservative and then Labour member of the British Parliament before fighting the army in the 1925 Revolution, Mosley has held on to power through several changing of the guards in the Congress, only increasing it with each successive administration.

Now, he served as the Commissary for the Exchequer, as well as the head of his freshly founded Maximist wing of the TUC. Advocating for centralization, nationalization and militarization, Mosley was a controversial figure at the time, but not an unlikable one: many, including myself, were swept up by his rhetoric calling for a strike against the imperialists and support for the worldwide revolution by any means necessary.
In his corner, and far more important to the political history of Britain in my opinion, was the young Eric Blair: seven years Mosley's junior, too young to have fought in the Weltkrieg, Blair's political development occurred under revolutionary conditions, and his opinions and beliefs reflected this. A staunch supporter of Mosley, Blair was a rising star of Maximism for his reasoned arguments as to why centralization was necessary, tempered by his experience with the militias he called his comrades. There were many young people who saw him as Mosley's heir apparent or protege, for wherever Mosley went, Blair was not far behind.
January saw the wedding of the Sorelians, Maximists, National-Syndicalists and Bolsheviks into a loose ideology that its opponents deemed "totalism," a name Mosley would leap to claim for his own. Though seemingly a small event in world history, the publishing of the Totalist Charter solidified the fear that the left wing of syndicalism had been harboring for some time: authoritarianism was not limited to monarchists alone.
I say that the event was seemingly small because, not long after, news arrived like a shock wave from across the Atlantic: the old enemy of the people, George V, alleged King of Great Britain, passed away peacefully in his sleep, leaving the Empire, and more importantly Canada, to his son, Edward VIII.
A revanchist and would-be authoritarian the likes of which Britain had not seen in some time, Edward made the solemn vow that before he was put in the ground, the Windsors would occupy London. Though the Union feared little at the time from the king across the sea, his promise would not disappear into time, like so many did during the age of the Weltkrieg.
Fortunately for the boisterous king, tragedy struck the world from Berlin, a catastrophe that would unleash havoc upon the world. Berlin's stock market, the largest and most powerful in the world, came crashing down on the 3rd of February, 1936, a day that would become known as Black Monday.
As stock brokers and executives scrambled to make ends meet at the end of the day, it became apparent that the crash was far worse than what was seen in New York in the previous decade: millions were lost overnight, and the crash did not seem to slow at the closing of the market, with even the Kaiser stepping out from his seclusion to make announcements calling for calm.
There would be no calm, though: rioters took to the streets in major cities not only across Germany, but across the world, as the effects of the crash hit home. Prices were rising and wages falling, with workers fired from factories in droves at the mere hint of strikes in retaliation. Though Germany was able to quell the violence, similar actions in America were not so easily disrupted, as the Combined Syndicates rallied to both help and radicalize the affected workers.
In France, unaffected by the market crash like most syndicalist nations, the election of the Travailleurs to power again was a blow to Mosley and his Maximists, who were hoping against home for a Sorelian victory. Famously, Mosley promised that his totalist movement would carry on without their French counterparts, and his policy shifted away from Sorelianism towards Mussolini's National-Syndicalism.
The first act of the new Communard government under Leon Jouhaux was the creation of the First International Congress, a body representing the interests of the Third International and socialism worldwide. Topics of discussion would range from socialism in America and Spain to the development of syndicalist economics at home. Britain was, of course, invited, though the question at the time was of who to send to represent Britain's interests abroad.
At home, debates of a similar sort on a smaller scale were occurring, as the 1936 Congress raged on. Mosley, ever the schemer, was well-placed as Commissary of the Exchequer to advocate for his policy of economic centralization, which won out easily when he gave each member of the Congress a detailed, fifty-page report on the status of the British economy and his hopes for refining it.
Similarly, Mosley was effortless in swaying the will of the people to his side in the foreign policy debates: with the new threats from King Edward and the rise of militarism on the continent, Mosley found many allies in his call for a worldwide fight against reactionaries wherever they were to be found. It was unsurprising that the Autonomists, led by the Welsh Niclas y Glais, lost considerable favor when they unanimously called for reconciliation with the royalists in Canada.
The one area that Mosley was unable to break ground in was the status of the militias that guarded Britain from reactionary forces: Mosley's call for their absorption into a national Republican Army were met with disdain, and even accusations of treason.
To understand British republicanism, one must understand the system of disorganized workers militias that served as their military since the 1925 Revolution. Formed from volunteers during the year-long struggle against the monarchy, these militias elected their own officers, were democratic in nearly all respects, and maintained that hierarchies such as those that existed between generals, officers and enlisted were poisonous and counter-revolutionary. Mosley was forced to concede the point in the interest of maintaining his popularity: there was no separating the militia identity from British syndicalism.
Mosley's willingness to step back from his military proposals allowed him to secure his next major victory: since the revolution, Britain had functioned as a loose federation of trade unions that existed separately under the Trade Unions Congress. Mosley argued that this was not practical in the slightest, and advocated for a system of 'democratic centralism,' inspired by Lenin's work, in which all local unions would fall in line with decisions made by the TUC.
With the Third International's First Congress under way in Paris, it was expected that a representative from Britain would attend for the sake of unity across the channel. Though Mosley had succeeded in undermining their power, Snowden's Federationists maintained enough power to send Arthur Horner, foreign secretary, as Britain's representative in the meeting of worldwide socialists.
Socialists, syndicalists and other leftists gathered in Paris for festivals, debates, lectures and events centered around the development of the international movement of workers. Though I could not attend - my work in Britain heating up greatly during the events of the First International Congress - I heard from those that did that it was an event unlike any other: Italians, Frenchmen and Britons under one roof, united under the cause of socialism.
In London, the events of the Congress were overshadowed by the shock resignation of Philip Snowden from the Chairmanship: citing ideological divide and his own age, Snowden called for new elections to be held to decide Britain's fate. His resignation immediate, the factions of the Congress scrambled to find their candidates for the post before the others could organize themselves.
At the head of the pack was, of course, Comrade Mosley: now both a hero from the revolution and an experienced and respected policy-maker, Mosley nominated himself for Chairman, a move widely supported by the Maximist wing of the TUC. In a speech before his supporters, he called for a "new era of British industry, wealth and power." It was during this time that I naively threw my lot in with the Maximists, who saw the future as I thought I did at the time: a future of unity against reactionaries.
Shortly after Snowden's resignation, a number of army and navy officers from Canada defected to the Union: treated with suspicion immediately, they were placed under house arrest until a decision could be made regarding their future.
Though elements of the army had sided with the militias during the 1925 Revolution, many officers chose to flee with parliament and the monarchy to Canada, leaving behind devastation and a terrible reputation for choosing to fight their countrymen. Mosley wished to use these men for their expertise to revitalize the armed forces of the Union, though he was met with staunch opposition from the left wing of the TUC, who wanted to hang them as traitors to the people.
Across the world, Syndicalism was on the rise in response to the unity shown in Paris. Representatives from Spain spoke at length to the assembled dignitaries to extol on the horrors facing Spanish workers, begging for aid from the established Syndicalist nations of the continent. With France and Italy promising aid, the isolationists were forced to concede support to save face, a move Mosley celebrated at home: arms and equipment were sent en masse to the CNT, who promised revolution in the future.
The CNT-FAI were radical trade unionists, much like those that seized power in Britain, but notably of a more anarchist strain. In Barcelona and the eastern coast they were organized and in control of factories and armories, ready to launch a violent revolution against their own monarchy, a situation that pulled at the strings of Britain's collective heart.
Perhaps the greatest event of the First International Congress, however, was the speech by Jack Reed, leader of America's Combined Syndicates. Speaking for an hour or more, Reed proclaimed the inevitability of a second American revolution in our lifetimes, and called for the working-class people of the world to support the American worker in its struggle to defeat capitalism. It was an event I regret missing every day of my life, for it was the last chance I had to see Reed alive before his return to New York.
Reed, the implacable author of American syndicalism, was an astounding personality. He documented and reported on the 1917 Revolution in Russia in great detail, and without him records of the Bolshevik Revolution might have disappeared forever in the west. Though gaining in age and losing in health, Reed was without question the quintessential American revolutionary, to whom the revolution there owes its existence. His speech to the Congress led to unanimous support from the Syndicalist nations of the world for the then-coming revolution in America.
When the votes were tallied, cries of both joy and frustration went out as Comrade Mosley was announced the victor, to be sworn in immediately as Chairman of the Trade Unions Congress.
Mosley took the time to march through London to greet his supporters, who flooded the streets in party uniform to salute their leader. Comrade Mosley, now Chairman, adorned in his old militia uniform from the Revolution, made his way to the former parliament to announce his vision for the future of the Union of Britain. I have recorded below his speech for posterity, as I have been unable to find a recording that can suitably convey the tone of his message:

"People of London, of England, Scotland and Wales, of Britain and of the world, I greet you today not only as your comrade, but as your duly elected chairman. Though I think it unnecessary to remind you of my dedication to the eternal revolution, I shall promise to you today, as I have done every day, that soon, Britain and the world will be free of the reactionaries that beat at our doors. The time is soon upon us where all must choose their fate: liberation, or death!
"Break the chains that bind you, Britons! You are the heirs to our collective revolution! The world is yours to take!"
With Mosley's victory at home secure, attention was returned once more to the proceedings of the First International Congress, still trotting along in Paris at the time. At Mosley's insistence, perhaps with some goading from moderate elements of the Maximist wing, Helen Crawfurd, a Scottish syndicalist and revolutionary, took the stage to speak on the necessity of women in the worldwide revolution.
Her argument was that without the support of women seeking political and social equality, the revolutions of the world thus far would not have succeeded, and any future revolutions would be hampered by unnecessary sexism. Her arguments found great support in Britain, and though Mosley could have been described as right wing or conservative in certain respects, his support for Crawfurd's agenda seemed motivated by practicality.
Women were encouraged to join Maximist militias and organizations, which competed with Congregationalists for their support, eroding the voice of moderate syndicalists in the government more with every woman enlisted. Though full equality for women in the militias was still some years away, I myself was able to secure a spot in the Maximist Greenwich Workers Battalion, which I would remain in for the duration of my time in Britain as a welcomed member of society.
German and Spanish revolutionaries made the French and British dignitaries aware of the so-called 'white terror,' the government response to syndicalist agitation. Strikes against revolutionary groups and organizations were common in monarchies, but their severity was growing with each passing day, and it seemed at the time that the revolution would either be immediate or put down inevitably in these countries.
All was not hopeless for developing syndicalist nations, however. Bharatiya, the agrarian commune of eastern India and Bengal, was organizing itself in preparation for its struggle against the reactionaries and imperialists to its west in Delhi and the Deccan. Seeking assistance from the developed military of Britain, Mosley was all too happy to spread his message to the subcontinent through military advisers.
In India his men made contact with Chandra Bose, a local military officer who had formed his own Maximist party based on Mosley's ideas. Though not as popular or well organized as Mosley in Britain, his attempts at power were appreciated by the new Chairman, who immediately gave his support to the Indian Maximist movement.
With the 1936 Congress drawing to a close, Mosley was forced to choose a General Secretary to assist him in piloting the British ship to safe harbor. Though there were many who pushed and shoved each other for the honor, it was clear to some who the choice would be before he made it.
Eric Blair, his loyal ally and confidant, was given the post by Mosley with a lavish ceremony, in which young Blair was given a moment to speak about a range of topics, from his belief in the future of Britain under Mosley to his own ideas for their collective destiny. This would be the first time I heard Blair speak, and not the last, as I followed his rise in British politics closely and with great interest.
Shortly after Blair's appointment, he took up the cause of the Maximist-supporting artists in their mission to form a "Union of Arts," something Blair was only too happy to endorse as it lined up with his own political views.
Socialist artwork had developed as a wide field since the revolutions in Britain and France, with new pieces produced daily to reflect the revolutionary atmosphere. Though there was criticism abound that such unionization might damage the ability of artists to pursue their own desires in the arts, they were shouted down by the Maximists, who used their clout to unionize themselves. Those outside the union were punished by those within in the form of negative criticism and publicity until they capitulated. Few were able to resist.
With Blair's encouragement, Mosley offered a compromise to the Federationists and Autonomists who desired to keep the militias as they were, independent and democratic: reforms would be implemented to ensure that the election of officers were maintained, in exchange for Mosley's reforms later being implemented to ensure that some semblance of organization could be achieved. The compromise was an astounding success, earning Blair much favor with his Chairman.
In Italy, the second major victory for Totalism was achieved with the election of Benito Mussolini's National Syndicalists. Mussolini, a hardliner against peace with their northern brothers loyal to the Papacy, called for the unity of the Italian people against imperialism and religious oppression.
Mosley, an ally of Mussolini since their meeting in Birmingham to discuss the Totalist Charter, flew to Naples to congratulate his victory: their, we learned later, he promised to support the Italian Union in their coming war to reclaim the north, an "unholy war" as they referred to it at the time.
With the threat of syndicalism growing, Spanish authorities chose in June 1936 to ban the CNT-FAI, opting to imprison its leaders for trial as enemies of the state. Those same leaders, promised support by the British and French, crossed the Pyrenees into France and found passage to Britain, with the hope that they might train in secret for the liberation of their homeland from monarchism.
Mosley was all too happy to house these foreign revolutionaries for a time. A number of Spaniards were given to each militia in London, including my own Greenwich Battalion. They were to be trained in warfare of all sorts, something I found mildly amusing considering most of them had more direct experience with conflict than the enlistees like myself that they trained with, but they welcomed the experience of learning the tactics officers told them won the 1925 Revolution.
In July, the news of the death of Pope Pius XI reached Britain, and with it the news of a new election for the Holy See. The results were expected to be grim, with the cardinals fearful of Mussolini's aggressive stance against them.
It was not the south that contested the results, however, but the north: Austria had hoped to secure the Papacy for an ally of theirs, to secure peace on their southern border, but the interference was detected, and in response the cardinals elected Theodor Cardinal Innitzer, former Archbishop of Vienna and violent opponent of syndicalism. His victory shocked the Catholic world, and many syndicalist Catholics chose to abandon their faith formally with his succession.
Innitzer, though Austrian himself, balked at the idea of being controlled by Vienna, and relations broke down immediately between the Italian Federation and their northern neighbor. War was seen as imminent, with fighting on the border worsening by the night. Few knew the reason for the open hostility between the two nations at the time, but many suspected it was an Austrian push to secure a permanent Italian puppet against Communard France and the socialists in the south of the peninsula.
With war becoming increasingly likely, Mosley made the decision to hasten the reformation of the militias into a cohesive military apparatus: ranks and positions were formalized and standardized across the militias, while maintaining the democratic roots that were a necessity for the members. Though still a rabble in at least one sense of the word, the reorganization of the militias saw Mosley hailed as the new Marius, bringing order to the chaos of yesteryear.
Functionally, the militias seemed different, and those that enlisted before Mosley's reformation could tell. No longer were the militiamen able to disobey their 'superiors' without reason, though votes of no confidence often resulted from poor leadership. Comradeship and morale were still high, though I wonder today if centralization could have succeeded better in organizing the militias into a fighting force.
Across the Atlantic, my homeland cast its vote for a new president to lead them in the trying times ahead of it. They chose, in the end, John Nance Garner, a Democrat from Texas known for his vehement opposition to both Reed's CSA and Huey Long's America First. The decision rocked both the north and south, who had hoped for change of any sort and received a reactionary instead.
Garner, once the running mate of deceased reformist Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was staunch in his hatred for compromise: famously, he proclaimed that the future of America lie "not in syndicalism nor populism, but in opposition to those terrible ideologies." His plans called for the expansion of police jurisdiction and the breakup of parties hostile to his vision of America.
Of course, this led to rioting in the north and south, where the CSA and America First clashed in the streets both with one another and against the federal government that Garner represented. Reed called for mass strikes and action against the state in preparation for its oppression, with workers militia seizing control of factories and strategic points in the Rust Belt. For their part, the Minutemen commanded by Long were lynching blacks in the south and enforcing the rule of law, or their interpretation of it, after federal forces abandoned towns to syndicalist mobs. Anarchy was everywhere, and it looked to the world that America was at the breaking point.
Seeing the writing on the wall, Mosley began his push for increased British militarism, with the American situation propelling his ideas forward into law.
On the 17th of February, America officially collapsed, with the Rust Belt states seceding, coincidentally at the same time as the former Confederate states abandoned the Union as well. Mosley, not patient enough to wait for Reed's permission, deployed soldiers and equipment in the form of "Volunteer Divisions" to support the American uprising.
In Chicago, Reed declared an end to American capitalism and federal tyranny in the "Chicago Address." He called for oppressed peoples from California to Maine to rise up in support of the workers revolution, in what he called "the second, last, and eternal American revolution." Militias that had once been used to patrol working class neighborhoods donned the red and black flag of the CSA and marched at Reed's command. I considered for some time volunteering for the international forces heading to America, but was advised against it by my peers: rather, they found a use for me writing pro-CSA propaganda for the people of Britain, to encourage more to take up arms in Reeds cause.
Not to be outdone by his hated enemy, Huey Long gave an address out of Atlanta, announcing an end to the fat-cat enabling democracy of the United States. "Unanimously" elected President of his newly formed American Union State, Huey had aligned himself with racists, corporatists and fellow populists in what was quickly becoming a cult of personality around the Kingfish himself. Though many attempts, I have learned, were made to bring Long into the syndicalist fold, or at least to keep peace between the two rebellions, Long's most hated enemy was syndicalism, and he could not be convinced.
A final nail in the coffin, the states of Alaska, Oregon, Washington and California seceded from the Union, fearing that war with the radicals on the east coast would damage their way of life. Not willing to see four more states slip from his control, Garner declared war on the PSA, and in that moment, the fate of America became unavoidable: the Second American Civil War was on.
In brazen move of imperialism, Canada, under the orders of King Edward, seized control of New England and non-metropolitan New York. Mosley, as well as the rest of the syndicalist world, condemned this interference into American politics, but could no nothing to halt the occupation. Reed himself chose to ignore the existence of Canadian troops at his border, though he promised that one day workers would rule from Boston to San Francisco.
With Canada brazenly acting on the world stage, Mosley announced to an assembled TUC that the time had come to safeguard the British revolution against capitalist and reactionary forces that threatened their peace. In true Mosley fashion, before the debates even began he had a target in mind for their first show of force...
A fine, emerald jewel to add to the Union's crown.

Next chapter:

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