14/12/1918 Portugal’s President assassinated

Portugal joined the Allies in 1916 but the country played a relatively minor part in the war against Germany. In Africa Portuguese troops assisted in the containment Lettow-Vorbeck while a small contingent of Portuguese troops went to the Western Front, where they were mangled by the second of Ludendorff‘s offensives earlier this year.

At home Portuguese politics has become increasingly unruly. Sidónio Pais has promoted himself from prime minister to president and has been ruling in an increasingly authoritarian manner. However he faces many opponents and the country is now wracked with unrest.

Pais survived an assassination attempt earlier this month but today he is not so lucky. When he arrives in a Lisbon train station, on his way to the north of the country, leftist agitator José Júlio da Costa is waiting. After penetrating the security cordon, Da Costa produces a hidden pistol and fires two bullets into the President. Pandemonium breaks out, with wild shooting by the presidential bodyguard killing four bystanders. Da Costa is arrested, to face torture and imprisonment, while Pais dies on his way to hospital.

The incident may have no significance beyond Portugal’s borders as it indicates merely the disordered state of that country. But it could also be a warning to Europe’s leaders that with the end of the war against Germany they now face a new threat from violent revolutionaries.

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President Sidónio Pais and a postcard of his assassination (Wikipedia)

14/12/1918 Ireland also votes #1918Live

Ireland is also voting today, as part of the British general election. Politics is different on this island, however, with the issue of the country’s future relationship to Britain exercising voters greatly. The previously dominant Irish Parliamentary Party is now under threat from the insurgent Sinn Féin, whose advanced nationalism strikes a chord with many. The Irish Parliamentary Party’s candidates hope that if elected to Westminster they will be able to press Ireland’s interests there. Sinn Féin however has declared that if elected its candidates will not take their seats in the House of Commons but instead will meet in Dublin as an Irish parliament, thereby paving the way for Irish independence. Many of Sinn Féin’s leaders are still in jail after being arrested earlier this year over an alleged plot to assist a German invasion, so if elected they will not be able to take seats in either London or Dublin. Nevertheless the party hopes that it will see enough candidates elected to be able to assemble an Irish national parliament.

Unionists are also contesting the election, but mostly in the north east of Ireland where they are strongest. They favour Ireland’s continued membership of the United Kingdom and their mainly Protestant supporters fear the consequences of self government in a predominantly Catholic Ireland. The Irish Labour Party meanwhile has opted not to field candidates, in order to allow voters a straight choice between the IPP and Sinn Féin. A number of Unionist Labour candidates are standing for election in the north east; this group is essentially an offshoot of the Unionists, designed to keep Protestant workers on the Unionist straight and narrow and to prevent their succumbing to the temptations of socialism or Bolshevism.

Like their British counterparts, Irish women are now able to vote (if over 30 years of age and meeting certain property requirements) and run for election. Sinn Féin is the only party putting forward women candidates, Winifred Carney in Belfast and Constance Markievicz in Dublin. Markievicz is currently in prison in England.

As with the rest of the United Kingdom, although Ireland is voting today it will not be until the 28th of December that the results are known. This is because of the large numbers of voters who are still serving abroad with the British armed forces.

10/12/1919 Ebert hails the undefeated German army #1918Live

As per the terms of the armistice, German forces have now withdrawn from all the French and Belgian territory they occupied at the start of the war; Luxembourg‘s independence has also been restored. Now Allied forces are moving into western Germany, occupying the Rhineland and preparing to establish bridgeheads across the river.

In Berlin meanwhile German troops evacuated from the Western Front today march through the city. The event almost has the characteristics of a victory parade, with Chancellor Ebert greeting the returning soldiers with the words “No enemy has vanquished you! You return undefeated from the field of battle.”

Any German soldier who has fought this year on the Western Front knows that the German army has been defeated by the Allies, who first contained Ludendorff‘s spring offensives and then broke the Germans’ ability to resist in the hundred days of offensives that preceded the armistice. Ebert knows this too, but he has his reasons for indulging the army’s pride. He fears that the fragile new republic is under threat from leftist extremists like Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and from reactionary elements who want to establish a conservative dictatorship. If flattery is the price of the army’s support for his government, then so be it.

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Rhineland occupation zone map (Big Think: The Free State of Bottleneck, a Bizarre By-product of Allied Occupation)

Ebert waves his hat (deutschland.de, how Germany ticks – Germany’s greatest revolution: Why the German November Revolution has often been underestimated)

18/11/1918 Meanwhile in Russia…

Peace is descending on Western Europe but in Russia the civil war between the Bolsheviks and their opponents continues. The terms of the Western Front armistice oblige the Germans to abandon the gains of the Brest-Litovsk treaty, so now German and Austro-Hungarian troops are withdrawing from Ukraine, forcing the client regime there to stand on its own two feet and face off a likely Red Army invasion. Meanwhile the Germans are also withdrawing from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where liberal nationalists are now establishing independent administrations.

The anti-Bolshevik forces within Russia itself hope that the armistice means that they will receive more assistance from the Allies, who have promised the Whites that Russian military stores captured by the Germans will be shipped to them; there is even talk of sending troops to occupy Ukraine. For now though the military situation remains confusing. Baron Wrangel is leading a White army in the northern Caucasus and is successfully clearing the Red Army and Bolsheviks from there. Elsewhere though the Red Army seems to be getting stronger and stronger and is no longer the ineffectual rabble it once was. The White are also suffering from the increased lack of interest by the Czechoslovak Legion in the Russian Civil War; the emerging independence of Czechoslovakia means that the Czechoslovaks do not see why they should remain in Russia any longer.

In southern Russia Denikin is the preeminent leader of White forces, particularly since the recent death by heart attack of Alexeev. In Siberia the situation is more complicated. The Komuch had attempted to establish a liberal and socialist regime but never attracted much popular support and increasingly became puppets of more reactionary military figures; the Komuch also finds itself consumed by infighting between different factions. Now the pretence of democracy is abandoned and a purely military regime is established under Alexander Kolchak, previously the commander of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

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Pyotr Wrangel (Wikipedia)

Alexander Kolchak (Wikipedia)

10/11/1918 Ebert tells Erzberger to agree the Allied armistice terms #1918Live

Germany is in a state of flux. Ebert is now the Chancellor of a republic, the Kaiser having fled to Netherlands this morning. In the Chancellery he receives a telephone call on a secret line from Groener at army headquarters in Spa. Groener promises to support Ebert’s government; Ebert in turn promises to suppress the more extreme revolutionary elements and to respect the prerogatives of the army’s officer corps.

Ebert also receives the armistice terms that Foch presented to Erzberger in the Compiègne forest. The terms are harsh but Ebert knows that Germany cannot continue the war. He authorises Erzberger’s signature of an armistice on whatever terms he can obtain. The armistice negotiations now enter their final lap.

9/11/1918 Germany overthrows the Kaiser #1918Live

A revolutionary wind is blowing through Germany but the Kaiser is facing increasing calls to abdicate but remains determined to hold onto his throne. Nevertheless even in conservative circles some are now thinking that the Kaiser must go in order to take the sting out of the revolution. At military headquarters in Spa the Kaiser is joined by his son, the Crown Prince, and he meets with senior military leaders to make plans for the future. He talks of leading the army back to Germany to restore order, but Groener, the army’s quartermaster-general, administers the death blow: he informs the Kaiser that he no longer enjoys the confidence of the army. “The army,” he says, “will march back to Germany peacefully and orderly under its commanders and commanding generals, but not at the command of your majesty, because it no longer supports your majesty”.

To support Groener’s proposition, the views of a group of officers who have just arrived at Spa are canvassed. Of the thirty-nine, just one is in favour of marching behind the Kaiser. Even without the Kaiser they see an armistice as a vital precondition before any attempt to restore order in Germany can be attempted.

The Kaiser is shocked. He resolves to resign as Emperor of Germany but remain as King of Prussia. Then he goes for lunch while this news is cabled to Berlin. But then comes disturbing reports from Berlin. Prince Max, the Chancellor, has announced the Kaiser’s complete abdication as both emperor and king. And Scheidemann, a leading Social Democrat, has gone further: to cheering crowds gathered outside the Chancellery he announces the abolition of the monarchy. Germany is now a republic.
The Kaiser attempts to send messages to Berlin informing them that he his only abdicating as Emperor and not as King of Prussia, but no one is listening. Rumours begin to spread that the Kaiser’s personal safety cannot be guaranteed and that his personal guard are no longer reliable. He finally bows to the inevitable and agrees to go into exile in the Netherlands.

Meanwhile in Berlin the situation remains chaotic. Prince Max has resigned as Chancellor, handing power to Ebert, but Ebert is furious with Scheidemann for declaring a republic, feeling that only a constituent assembly could make this change. Scheidemann is unrepentant. His spontaneous declaration has taken the wind out of the sails of Karl Liebknecht, the Spartacist leader, who had planned to proclaim a socialist republic on the Bolshevik model.

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Philipp Scheidemann declares the Republic (Wikipedia: Philipp Scheidemann)

8/11/1918 Bavaria becomes a republic but the Kaiser insists that Germany will not lost its Emperor nor Prussia its King #1918Live

Revolution is spreading through Germany with the masses turning against the royal families that have long ruled them. Yesterday the King of Bavaria fled to Austria; today in Munich the monarchy is declared abolished. Bavaria is now a socialist republic with Kurt Eisner of the Independent Social Democrats (USPD) its first premier.

The position of the Kaiser as head of Prussia and Germany meanwhile is increasingly under threat. The Social Democrats have called for his removal, a move calculated to prevent their support ebbing away to more radical rivals like the USPD or the Spartacists of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Prince Max, the Chancellor, fears that the country will descend into a civil war if the Kaiser does not go. From Berlin he telephones the Emperor at Spa, warning him that he should resign to prevent the country descending into chaos. The Kaiser is again furious, railing at Max that he has no intention of abdicating and will restore order to Germany at the head of his army if needs be. The Chancellor offers to resign, but the Kaiser will not let him go; he wants Prince Max to stay on so that blame for the armistice terms will attach itself to him.

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Celebrating the Bavarian Republic (German History in Documents and Images: The Proclamation of the Bavarian Republic (November 8, 1918))