Events continue to unfold

I continue to be distracted from my First World War blogging endeavours. One day I will return to them, but in the mean time here is a list of things that happened since my last post. I am particularly sorry to have missed the anniversary of the Irish parliament’s first meeting, but it could not be helped.

8/1/1919 Expanding into territory abandoned by the Germans, the Red Army reoccupies Vilnius, which is separately disputed between Poland and Lithuania.

09/1/1919 Fearful of the Red Army, the Latvian government begins to recruit a mercenary force from demobilised German soldiers.

10/1/1919 Fahreddin Pasha surrenders Medina to the Arab followers of King Hussein of Mecca, more than two months after the Turkish armistice. The two and a half year siege is now over.

11/1/1919 Ebert‘s government sends the army and the Freikorps militia into Berlin against the uprising by the far left Spartacists.

11/1/1919 Russia’s Bolshevik government begins draconian grain seizures from peasants in the territories it controls.

12/1/1919 Elections in Bavaria see Kurt Eisner‘s socialist government routed.

12/1/1919 The peace conference in Paris begins with a meeting of Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceau and Orlando, together with their foreign ministers.

13/1/1919 Despite their country’s almost non-existent contribution to the Allied war effort, the Japanese delegation to the Paris Conference joins the American, British, French and Italian delegates on the conference’s supreme council.

13/1/1919 Amidst great bloodshed, the Germany army and the Freikorps crush the Spartacist uprising in Berlin.

15/1/1919 Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, leaders of the failed Spartacist uprising, are captured, tortured and murdered. Luxemburg’s body is dumped in a canal.

15/01/1919 21 people suffer a squamous death when Boston’s North End is flooded by molasses.

16/1/1919 Influenza claims a high profile victim, as President Alves of Brazil succumbs to the epidemic.

18/1/1919 The Paris Conference holds its first plenary session, on the anniversary of the 1871 proclamation of the German Empire in Versailles.

19/1/1919 Germans vote in elections to a constituent assembly, with women voting for the first time. The Social Democrats and the Centre Party win a majority for their brand of moderately reformist republicanism.

21/1/1919 Sinn Féin MPs elected to the British House of Commons assemble in Dublin and declare themselves to be Dáil Éireann, the national parliament of an independent Ireland. On the same day members of the Irish Volunteers coincidentally kill two policemen in an ambush in Soloheadbeg in County Tipperary.

23/1/1919 A border dispute between newly independent Czechoslovakia and Poland turns violent as Czechoslovak troops attack Polish forces in Silesia.

24/1/1919 At the Paris Conference, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia present their claims to German overseas territories they have occupied since early in the war.

26/1/1919 Independent Poland holds its first general election. The new parliament will draw up a constitution for the nation.

images:

Freikorps paramilitaries in Berlin (Wikipedia: Freikorps)

Inaugural plenary meeting of the Paris Conference (Guardian: The Paris peace conference begins – archive, January 1919)

Newspaper report of Dáil Éireann’s first meeting (Dáil100: The inaugural public meeting of Dáil Éireann)

Holding the line

I am a bit tied up with Important Things right now and so am falling a bit behind in this important Great War endeavour. These are some of the things that happened since the my last post, which I hope to return to shortly.

29/12/1918 The Independent Social Democrats leave Ebert‘s coalition in protest at the German Chancellor’s decision to send troops against the People’s Navy Division on Christmas Eve.

31/12/1918 In less than two months flu has claimed the lives of 20% of Western Samoa‘s population.

2/1/1919 Criminal investigations open into atrocities ordered by Turkey’s leaders during the war.

3/1/1919 Emir Faisal reaches an agreement with Zionist leader Chaim Weizman to support Jewish immigration into Palestine.

3/1/1919 The Red Army occupies Riga. In response to the Bolshevik invasion, Latvia’s government seeks to form an armed force of German volunteers.

4/1/1919 A bizarre and ultimately unsuccessful attempt by an American officer to kidnap the Kaiser.

5/1/1919 Demonstrations in Berlin by the far left Spartacists escalate into an armed uprising against Ebert’s government.

image source:

Spartacists (Wikipedia: Spartacist uprising)

28/12/1918 Ireland’s election results: Sinn Féin landslide and the first woman elected to the House of Commons #1918

Ireland voted on 14 December as part of the United Kingdom’s first general election since 1911. Today the votes are finally counted and the results reveal that Sinn Féin has definitively supplanted the Irish Parliamentary Party as the voice of Irish nationalism, with the IPP winning just 6 seats to Sinn Féin’s 73. John Dillon, the IPP’s leader, loses his East Mayo seat to Sinn Féín leader Éamon de Valera, who is currently in prison in England after being arrested earlier this year on suspicion of involvement in an outlandish German plot to invade Ireland. Unionist parties meanwhile dominate in the north east of the country, where many Protestant voters fear the consequences of self-rule in mainly Catholic Ireland. This is also where the Irish Parliamentary Party wins most of its seats; IPP candidates are more used to battling on against adverse circumstances here.

Apart from the north east, the electoral map of Ireland is now a sea of dark green, representing Sinn Féin victories. The only exceptions to the Sinn Féin sweep are Waterford City, where William Redmond is elected to the seat previously held by the late John Redmond, his father and the former leader of the IPP, and Rathmines in Dublin, where Unionist candidate Maurice Dockrell is elected.

Two women ran for Sinn Féin and one of these, Constance Markievicz, is elected. Like De Valera she played a leading role in the 1916 Rising and like him she is also currently in jail in England.

Sinn Féin candidates have secured election on an abstentionist ticket: they have promised not to take their seats in Westminster but instead to assemble as an Irish parliament in Dublin. Now those elected Sinn Féin representatives who are not on the run or in jail prepare to meet in January as the first sitting of a sovereign Irish parliament, to be known in the Irish language as Dáil Éireann.

images:

Sinn Féin election poster (RTÉ: Election 1918 – what you need to know about how Ireland voted)

Constance Markievicz (Wikipedia: Constance Markievicz)

24/12/1918 Berlin’s Christmas Eve Battle #1918Live

It is Christmas Eve. Across Europe people are preparing for the season of goodwill to all men. But not in Berlin, where rival groups of men are today trading gunshots.

The German revolution first stopped the German navy from launching a suicidal attack on the British fleet, before overthrowing the Kaiser and hastening the end of the war. Now Friedrich Ebert leads a coalition government of his own Social Democrats (the SPD) and the slightly more radical Independent Social Democrats (the USPD). Preparations are underway for fully democratic elections to be held early next year.

No one really knows whether the German revolution is now essentially over, with the future being one of gradual reforms improving the lives of the SPD’s working class supporters, or if this is just a transitional phase akin to the rule of Kerensky‘s Provisional Government in Russia. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg of the Spartacist League hope that Ebert’s government will soon be replaced by a government based on workers’ councils, as supposedly is the case in Soviet Russia. Ebert meanwhile fears that any sign of unrest has been whipped up the Spartacists as a prelude to a coup attempt by them.

The Volksmarinedivision (People’s Navy Division) is a unit of revolutionary marines that were stationed in Berlin in the early days of the revolution, currently billeted in the former royal palace. Now a dispute has arisen between them and the commander of the city garrison, Otto Wels. Wels held back the marines’ pay; in return they have now mutinied, abducting him and roughing him up.

Ebert fears that the marines are preparing to spearhead a Spartacist putsch. He may also be coming under pressure from Groener, the army’s quartermaster-general, to do something about the unruly marines. So he orders regular troops to attack the palace and suppress the marines.

The assault on the palace begins with an artillery bombardment and then a fire fight erupts between the two sides. However the attack turns into something of a fiasco. The marines easily repel the army’s assault. They find themselves being assisted by armed civilians and members of the police force. There are even reports of soldiers switching sides and joining the Volksmarinedivision.

At the end of the day Ebert’s attempt to crush the marines has proved an embarrassing failure. His coalition partners in the USPD meanwhile are furious, as he launched the attack without consulting them. But the Volksmarinedivision makes no move to overthrow Ebert’s government; perhaps they are not actually in league with the Spartacists after all?

image sources:

Soldiers of the People’s Navy Division (LeMo – Lebendiges Museum Online: Die Weihnachtskämpfe 1918)

Members of the Volksmarinedivision defending the Neptune Fountain (Wikipedia: Skirmish of the Berlin Schloss)

24/12/1918 Striking back against the Bolsheviks: Kolchak routs the Red Army and storms Perm #1918Live

With the defeat of Germany on the Western Front the main threat to the established order of Europe is now Bolshevism. Lenin and his Bolsheviks have taken power in Russia and overturned the prevailing order of society there, executing the royal family, seizing property and reversing traditional hierarchies. Across Europe and beyond the fear of those in power is that something similar might now happen in their own countries. Consequently their policemen are on guard for any sign of Bolshevik contagion spreading to their own disgruntled working classes.

The end of fighting on the Western Front and the Middle East has freed up large numbers of Allied troops. Large stocks of war materials are no longer needed for the struggle against Germany and Turkey. Could some of these soldiers and some of this materiel be sent to aid the White armies fighting against the Bolsheviks? Allied troops have already established themselves in ports on the periphery of the former Russian Empire: Archangelsk and Murmansk in the north, Vladivostok in the far east, and Odessa, Sevastopol and Novorossiysk in the south. The Allied forces thus far deployed are too small to seriously affect the outcome of the Russian Civil War, but White leaders hope that they are just the advance guard of larger intervention forces. Allied material aid to the Whites has also been relatively modest thus far, but again, the anti-Bolshevik leaders hope that more is on its way.

Trotsky‘s reorganisation of the Red Army had seen it win a number of victories but now perhaps the pendulum is swinging in the other direction. Admiral Kolchak has reinvigorated White forces in the Siberian theatre, with his troops no longer needing the backing of the Czechoslovak Legion to take on the Red Army. Today Kolchak’s men capture Perm, an industrial city in the Urals. In the fighting large numbers of Red Army troops surrender to Kolchak; they appear to have been sent into the battle without adequate training or winter clothing. The Red Army troops appear also to be suffering from food shortages, a consequence of disorganisation in the Bolsheviks’ rear and the alienation of the peasantry by the Red Terror. This is all very promising for Kolchak, as it suggests that the Red Army might just be on the brink of disintegration.

image source:

Kolchak reviewing troops (Wikipedia: Russian Civil War)

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.

images:

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.