6/12/1917 Finland declares independence again #1917Live

Finland’s parliament declared independence from Russia back in July, but Kerensky‘s Provisional Government was able to suppress the Finns’ dreams of freedom. But now the Finnish parliament is ready to try again.

Finland is internally divided between socialists and conservatives. The socialists were behind July’s declaration of Finnish sovereignty and were opposed then by the conservatives, who feared that without the restraining influence of Kerensky the radicals would lose the run of themselves. But now the wheel has turned: Finland’s conservatives are shocked by the Bolsheviksseizure of power in Petrograd and want to prevent the spread of Soviet power to their country.

After elections in the autumn the conservatives have a majority in the Finnish parliament. Today they pass a declaration of Finnish independence. Sovnarkom, the Soviet government in Petrograd, has already declared that the regions of the Russian Empire are free to choose independence if they want it, so the Finnish nationalists expect no trouble from that quarter. However the country’s radicals are determined not to let the conservatives have things their way. They see the Soviet government in Petrograd as an inspiration and are determined to bring something similar into being in Finland. And like Lenin‘s Bolsheviks, the socialists are prepared to effect their revolution through physical force if needs be. Finland is on the road to civil war.

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Finnish Senators drafting the declaration of independence (Robinson Library: Finland Declares Its Independence)

1/11/1917 A new German Chancellor #1917Live

Recent unrest in the German navy has been blamed on agitators from the Independent Socialists. Chancellor Michaelis took this opportunity to denounce the Independent Socialists in the Reichstag, hoping to separate them from the more respectable SPD and other parties. But the move backfires. Reichstag members are outraged, seeing Michaelis’ denunciations as an attack on their prerogatives. Losing the ability to manage Germany’s parliament, Michaelis resigns as Chancellor.

His successor is Georg von Hertling of the Centre Party, which represents Catholic interests. Hertling is old and conservative, but he consults with other party leaders before accepting the chancellorship. That he has taken office as a result of his predecessor losing the Reichstag’s confidence suggests that Germany may perhaps be on the road to parliamentary democracy.

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Georg von Hertling (in 1908) (Wikipedia)

12/9/1917 The Stockholm Conference: socialists continue preparations for a revolutionary peace #1917Live

While war rages across Europe, socialists have been meeting in neutral Stockholm to discuss how to bring the war to an end and to usher in the new world that is to follow it. Delegates attend from countries on both sides of the conflict, as well as from neutral states, as was the case at the https://ww1live.wordpress.com/tag/zimmerwald-conference/socialists’ previous conference in Zimmerwald in Switzerland.

Events in Russia have proved controversial at the socialists’ conference. Bolshevik delegates take the opportunity to criticise their Menshevik rivals for their support of Kerensky‘s recently dissolved government. The conference as a whole does not rule on this internal squabble of the Russians.

The socialists’ conference also rejects peace proposals put forward by any of the warring states or neutral governments, as these would lead to a capitalist peace that would pave the way for another war between the bourgeois powers. The Pope‘s recent call for peace is rejected on similar grounds. Instead the delegates decide that the war will have to be halted by mass proletarian action leading to the creation socialist republics.

The conference breaks up today. The delegates return home and prepare for revolution.

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Peace march in Sweden (Social History Portal: The 1917 Stockholm Peace Conference)

3/8/1917 The Green Corn Rebellion: Oklahoma rises up against the war #1917Live

Since the USA declared war on Germany it has been struggling to build a large army that can take on the Germans in France. Conscription has been introduced, so now men are being compelled to take part in the war whether they want to or not. This is not a development greeted with universal enthusiasm.

While some go on the run to avoid the draft, a group of farmers and rural folk in Oklahoma go considerably further. Motivated by anti-war sentiment and fear of the effects of conscription on their families’ livelihoods, several hundred (perhaps a thousand) of these anti-conscription activists come together and resolve to bring an end to the war. They stage a rebellion, planning a march on Washington where, joined by similar groups from across the country, they will overthrow Wilson and take America out of the war. On the way they will live off the land, roasting green corn, thereby giving their rebellion its name.

The Green Corn Rebellion proves to be short-lived. More law-abiding elements in Oklahoma quickly form a militia and face down the rebels. After a few shots are fired (killing three) the rebellion breaks. The authorities carry out mass arrests and prepare to send the rebels for trial. They also prepare to crack down on the various socialist and anarchist groups seen as being behind the unrest.

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Anti-war poster (Jane Little Bodkin: Frank Little and the IWW)

Newspaper cartoon accusing the anarchist IWW of being in league with Germany (Wikipedia)

21/10/1916 Vienna: an assassin strikes

Many European countries are feeling the strain of war. Austria-Hungary feels it more than most, with the empire’s defeats on the battlefield reducing it to little more than a client state of its German ally. People are increasingly going hungry, particularly in the industrial cities of Austria.

The empire’s unusual constitutional arrangement means that it effectively has two internal administrations. The Hungarian half of the empire (including many people who are not Hungarian) is ruled from Budapest by Count Tisza’s government. Count Stürgkh is the prime minister of Austria. Tisza’s government is responsible to the Hungarian parliament, but Stürgkh serves at the pleasure of the emperor, Franz Josef. There is notionally an Austrian parliament, but Stürgkh’s government has been ruling without it since before the start of the war, using emergency powers to rule by decree.

Stürgkh’s bypassing of parliament is not universally popular, with many feeling that this contributed to the mistakes in the July Crisis that preceded the war. That emergency rule has continued since then rankles with many opposition politicians. It underlines Austria’s internal problems and lack of cohesion, in contrast to the more pliant politicians of Germany’s Reichstag.

Today Stürgkh’s embrace of rule by decree proves fatal, for him. He is dining in a Viennese hotel when he is approached by Friedrich Adler, a socialist activist who is angered by his policies and authoritarian rule. Adler shoots him three times. Stürgkh dies and Adler is arrested.

21/12/1915 Germany’s pro-war consensus begins to fray

At the outbreak of war in 1914, Germany’s Social Democrat Party (the SPD) abandoned its longstanding pacifism. The party joins others in backing the war effort, a suspension of normal politics that becomes known as the Burgfrieden (castle peace). Some of socialists were intoxicated by the militarist tide sweeping Europe at the time while others feared government repression should they have protested against the war. Others still feared that conditions for German workers would be worse under rule by the Russian Tsar than the German Kaiser and the country’s semi-democratic system of government.

The SPD’s support for the war remains conditional. The party supports a defensive war against Germany’s enemies and opposes a war of conquest. Yet the war now is hard to portray as a defensive struggle for national survival. There are no enemy forces on German soil but German armies are campaigning in France, Belgium, Russia and Serbia. The reorganisation of territories in the East to suit German economic needs makes it look these territories are effectively being annexed to the Reich. Many of Germany’s socialists begin to wonder if they have been duped into supporting a war of conquest.

Today in the German parliament deputies vote to approve credits to finance the continuing war. Maverick SPD member Karl Liebknecht has previously voted against war credits, almost the only parliamentarian to do so. This time concerns about the war’s aims and progress sees him joined by 19 other SPD deputies. The vote is still carried, with a majority of SPD deputies voting in favour, but it shows that cracks are appearing in Germany’s pro-war consensus.

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Karl Liebknecht (Wikipedia)

8/9/1915 The Zimmerwald conference: socialists meet to oppose the war

In the Swiss town of Zimmerwald anti-war socialists have spent the last three days meeting to discuss how best to oppose the war. The conference has attracted delegates from many different countries, both belligerent and neutral.

Some of the attendees are people in Swiss exile as a way of avoiding conscription in their home country. This appears to be particularly true of the Russian delegates, which includes figures like Grigory Zinoviev, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky from the rival Bolshevik and Menshevik socialist parties.

Notable by his absence is the German socialist Karl Liebknecht. Despite his immunity as a member of the Reichstag, his opposition to the war has seen him drafted into the German army and shipped off to the Eastern Front. Refusing to fight, he has been put to work burying corpses. A message from him is read out to the conference, but his name is not recorded in the minutes, for fear of reprisals against him.

The Zimmerwald delegates are divided into left and very left factions, finding it hard to reach agreement on many issues. They are probably conscious of their current marginalisation in their home countries and their inability to bring the war to an end. But they agree at least to establish a temporary International Socialist Commission in Berne, which will publish the proceedings of the conference and coordinate affairs of the affiliated parties.

image source (International Institute of Socialist History)