Echoes of A New Tomorrow: Life after Revolution in the Commonwealth of Britain

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DensleyBlair

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If you can get hold of it I might recommend John Major's history of early cricket More Than a Game. If you are not already aware of it.

No I cannot say I was aware of it. Will keep an eye out. I do like a good “history via sport” book. (My dissertation was, in part, “Thatcherism via football”.)
 

Le Jones

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Wow, @DensleyBlair, very compelling. I'd echo an interest in understanding external pressure / scheming in the not-quite-Empire.

And just to give some idea of where we're ending up at the end of all this, as it stands I've got something like 8 chapters marked out still to write on the state of the world in the mid-Sixties, which will take in most of the usual topics. To repeat @Le Jones's generous offer in his outstanding A Royal Prerogative, if there are any fan favourite figures from the Sixties you'd like to see woven into the timeline between 1965–7, I'll happily do my best.
Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
Roald Dahl.
Everyone from the 'british invasion', both generations.
Bertrand Russell.
David Attenborough.

Well, you asked, and @TheButterflyComposer decided to become the kid who goes nuts when he meets Father Christmas.

My list would be:

David Niven.
Donald Campbell (I can imagine his feats getting Party approval).
Bernard Lovell (again, I can imagine Jodrell Bank going down well)
 

DensleyBlair

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Wow, @DensleyBlair, very compelling. I'd echo an interest in understanding external pressure / scheming in the not-quite-Empire.

Thank you, my friend. I'm hoping more of the nature of the former empire will come out over the next decade, particularly as the US starts to involve itself a bit more.

Well, you asked, and @TheButterflyComposer decided to become the kid who goes nuts when he meets Father Christmas.

The handy thing is that a few of the names coming up I've already got plans for, so it's nice to have my own fascinations confirmed as being sort of broadly interest.

David Niven.

Niven I have tried to work in before, flirting with having him turn up as a villain in The Red Adder, but I could never quite make it work. He's a fascinating character though so I won't be too deterred. Possibly not the role you had in mind when suggesting him, but being partial to The Pink Panther I may well look to work him in that way.

Donald Campbell (I can imagine his feats getting Party approval).

Absolutely, I would say this is a safe bet (although I have to admit not to have known Donald Campbell by name, even if I vaguely knew of his feats).

Bernard Lovell (again, I can imagine Jodrell Bank going down well)

On this front, I am already ahead of you. :)
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Well, you asked, and @TheButterflyComposer decided to become the kid who goes nuts when he meets Father Christmas.

Father Christmas is a good idea. Definitely going to be changed by revolution.
Agatha Christie is still alive and publishing. What's she up to?
The Railway series was written as a reaction to diseal and defunding the services so what does that look like if written?
All the british sci-fi and fantasy writers are not only alive but aboit to publish their best works (including Tolkien so Definitely need to give something there about his books in the 50s).
 

DensleyBlair

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Father Christmas is a good idea. Definitely going to be changed by revolution.

At least now we have an excuse for him being red that doesn't involve Coca-Cola.

Agatha Christie is still alive and publishing. What's she up to?
The Railway series was written as a reaction to diseal and defunding the services so what does that look like if written?
All the british sci-fi and fantasy writers are not only alive but aboit to publish their best works (including Tolkien so Definitely need to give something there about his books in the 50s).

I think at this point the safest bet is to introduce a sort of South Bank Show-type thing on the CBC so that we can do weekly film, book and music reviews. I would suggest Monitor in its Jonathan Miller configuration – even if Miller was not just a Cambridge man but a bloody Apostle to boot.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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At least now we have an excuse for him being red that doesn't involve Coca-Cola.

Santa Claus was always red and white, comes from the Dutch Bishop (who is still wandering around). Father Christmas got assimilated at some point in the late 19th century or after, since he's a much older figure. The ghost of Christmas present is a stand-in for him. As a pagan-ish spirit he's mostly naked except for sometimes a big green or gold robe and some Holly wreaths etc. I absolutely expect some committee to declare war on commercial holidays like Christmas and take it back to victorian classic times.
 

DensleyBlair

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Now you mention it I think I did know that about the red and white. I do like the idea of bringing back the pagan-ish stuff, though. Last year I had half a mind to write a syndie version of A Child's Christmas in Wales, but I ended up spending the Christmas vacation trawling through home office files from the national archives so it never happened. Maybe this year we'll get ourselves a seasonal special after all…
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Now you mention it I think I did know that about the red and white. I do like the idea of bringing back the pagan-ish stuff, though. Last year I had half a mind to write a syndie version of A Child's Christmas in Wales, but I ended up spending the Christmas vacation trawling through home office files from the national archives so it never happened. Maybe this year we'll get ourselves a seasonal special after all…

They're certain to go big time into a Christmas Carol if nothign else, and canonise Dickens even more than otl. I imagine something much like last Christmas' adaption actually, where scrooge is less of a money lender and more a speculator shark that destroys things to make money. Much more on the nose.
 

DensleyBlair

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Yeah lots of fun to be had there. With any luck I’ll be done writing everything I’ve already got planned by the time advent rolls around so this will all make some nicely timed research when the time comes.

Would be interesting to think about how Christianity comes back into the equation, considering the likely state of the CofE. I’ve always had half a mind to do something on Anglican/Anglo-Catholic socialism, but I’ve never really sound the excuse. A little bit creeps in where John Groser turns up with the CND stuff, but nothing that substantial.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Yeah lots of fun to be had there. With any luck I’ll be done writing everything I’ve already got planned by the time advent rolls around so this will all make some nicely timed research when the time comes.

Would be interesting to think about how Christianity comes back into the equation, considering the likely state of the CofE. I’ve always had half a mind to do something on Anglican/Anglo-Catholic socialism, but I’ve never really sound the excuse. A little bit creeps in where John Groser turns up with the CND stuff, but nothing that substantial.

Major shift at the top level, crisis of purpose, core tenants irrevocably gone etc etc.

Locally, nothing really changes except they pay tax now. Indeed, parishes might get a little more relevant again with local collectivism etc being ran along those boundaries for logistical convenience.
 

DensleyBlair

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Locally, nothing really changes except they pay tax now. Indeed, parishes might get a little more relevant again with local collectivism etc being ran along those boundaries for logistical convenience.

I could see some sort of revival happening where a socialist-inclined priesthood in the Conrad Noel tradition emerges across the country and becomes almost the first point of contact a lot of people have with the revolution. (I’ve got Thaxted in mind, if anyone ever read that.)

________

Quite happy to let the divergences spitballing carry on for a bit if there’s more anyone fancies bringing up. Otherwise thinking of putting up the 1956 prelude update tomorrow some time.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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Well I suppose we should discuss the NHS since it hasn't come up much in the AAR yet...
 

DensleyBlair

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So as per Class Against Class (CPGB, 1929), Mosley inherited a pretty comprehensive system that was no doubt in the process of being cobbled together when the Troubles hit and the Communists left power. Variously this system has been called the National Health Syndicate and the National Hospital Syndicate, but I've since renamed it the Syndicated Health Service. The headline reform was that along with its establishment c. 1930 all of the great houses of Britain were taken into worker-state control and a number were turned over to become hospitals, convalescent homes and rehabilitation centres. Healthcare is evidently free at the point of use, and there is a generous and comprehensive system of insurance; non-contributory old-age pensions; disability support; childcare and maternity support; and community care. In the Thirties I was of a mind that community clinics along the lines of the Peckham Experiment would begin to develop as a more comprehensive sort of GP.

This is all still in place by the Sixties, but aside from piecemeal adjustments and the occasional hospital being built the system has been more or less left alone. Conveniently, just what Bevan has to do to it is something I'm trying to write at the moment. This will likely involve more funding for medical science, a general increase in nursing/medical training and the wholesale renovation/expansion of the SHS estate as necessary. But I've also been stuck writing for the past couple of weeks so this is subject to change.
 

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Goodness me, the population in the UK without the blitz and ww2, and with immigration, an all encompassing NHS a decade early and plentiful employment and housing...its probably 5 to 10 million more than otl every decade. France is presumably much the same. The two are going to be the largest nations in europe by population well into the 20th c.
 

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Not to mention that people are retiring earlier and with better old-age care, so presumably the demography is shifting upwards. And fertility rate I guess would decline or plateau – it wasn't that high anyway in the Thirties. UK population in 1931 was about 46M, which tended to increase by about 2M between each census, and life expectancy in 1930 was about 61. Meanwhile France was in a period of very low populating growth in the Thirties and everyone from the far-right to Thorez were hawking pro-natalist policies, so I guess these would be continued to some degree by the syndicalists. The population in 1936 was 41.5M France had a life expectancy in 1935 of about 58.

So by 1960 with all mentioned benefits Britain is probably home to something like 60M people (compared to 52M) and France is maybe about the same (compared to 45M). Life expectancy I'd imagine would be similar at around 75 (69/70 OTL). This is all on the basis of some fairly crude interpolation/extrapolation.

For comparison, Germany–Austria in 1939 was about 75M already in 1939, so a conservative estimate for 1960 might be 80M. Eurosyn as a whole is going to be head and shoulders above Central and Eastern Europe, but Germany is still an absolute powerhouse.

Of course, the fact that Germany does still include Austria (and therefore has a nice ~8M population boost) is a pretty big bone of contention even with Germany's allies. Anschluss will be coming back onto the agenda in the Sixties.

Anyway we're once again down in the doldrums on this page so will see how the discussion plays out and then put the next chapter up.
 
1956: The Road to Bucharest

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1956: THE ROAD TO BUCHAREST
ERIC HOBSBAWM
1976



Although Soviet Russia intends to spread her influence by all possible means, world revolution is no longer part of her programme and there is nothing in the internal conditions of the Union which might encourage a return to the old revolutionary traditions. Any comparison between the Fascist menace before the wars and a Soviet menace today must allow for … fundamental differences … There is, therefore, infinitely less danger of a sudden catastrophe with the Russians than with the Germans.
—British Embassy, Moscow, to the International Department,

London, 1946

The enemy is the communist system itself – implacable, insatiable, unceasing in its drive for world domination … This is not a struggle for supremacy of arms alone. It is also a struggle for supremacy between two conflicting ideologies: freedom under God versus ruthless, godless tyranny.
—Senator Estes Kefauver, Democratic presidential nominee,

Utah, 1956




In the view of hindsight, it may be said that 1956 was the conclusion, long overdue, to the series of diplomatic manoeuvres and sudden shifts in the balance of power that had characterised international relations in Europe since the outbreak of civil war in Spain twenty years earlier. Yet it might also be said that nothing about the events that shook the world in the first six weeks of that year was inevitable. While the United States took a firm line against communist ‘incursion’ into their zone of influence in East Asia during the first half of the decade, Washington was never sufficiently motivated to back up its fiery anti-communist rhetoric with action in Europe. Meanwhile, even at the nadir of German–Soviet relations in the later Forties, there never seemed any threat of active war.


How then are we to explain the fifteen years of political and diplomatic confrontation between Western and Eastern Europe in the years after the end of the wars against fascism? Had Europe witnessed more total ruin during the war years – perhaps on the scale of the destruction visited upon Japan by the US forces in 1944 – it is possible to imagine a post-war situation characterised by radicalism, taken up by hungry, desperate peoples inhabiting ruined states. This, evidently, was not the case; it was not a broken Europe haunted by the spectre of social revolution in the late 1940s, but instead a Europe where the possibility of social change remained violently open – and was therefore infinite in its appeal.


Revolution in Italy in 1945 spelled the end of the dominant fascist power in the West and heralded a relatively seamless transition towards syndicalist government. The establishment of syndicalism in Italy confirmed the borders of of the anti-capitalist bloc in Western Europe. The peaceful accession to power of the Communists in Yugoslavia under Tito the following year provided what appeared to be one final twist, suggesting the possibility – soon refuted after 1948 – of a Soviet resurgence in the Balkans. In the years after 1948, the independent minded Tito emerged as a neutral leader in the Balkans, and was instrumental in preserving the balance of power in Eastern Europe while Germany and Russia fought for influence in the region.



1948%20TITO.jpg

Marshal Tito playing chess, 1948.


Between 1945–53, the momentum in the Cold War was centred in East Asia. This was a result of the informal division of global influence worked out by the Big Three powers – the United States, the British Commonwealth and the Soviet Union, allied against Imperial Japan – at the end of the Pacific War in 1944. According to this arrangement, Washington would stay out of Europe and take over management of the Pacific. This was both a declaration against the spread of communism into Asia, and against the persistence of the European colonial presence in the region. Both factors at play during the incipient conflict in Vietnam that flared up 1952, following the hasty admission of the state of South Vietnam into the American sphere of influence after the installation of CIA-backed emperor Bao Dai.


Bao’s accession was perhaps the first indicator of a discord between the United States and the European syndicalist powers. European decolonisation in Indochina had been complicated by the French government’s sponsorship of communist leader Ho Chi Min as the leader of the newly-independent Vietnamese state in January 1950. In power, however, Ho soon gravitated away from the European sphere and towards the influence of Cominform. This marked the second fault line between the Allied powers of the Pacific War; Stalin’s growing influence in Asia, achieved through the establishment of sympathetic governments in Korea (1948), China (1949) and Vietnam (1950), tested the patience of the Byrnes administration in Washington.


The rolling out of the ‘Red Carpet’ from Siberia to Saigon alarmed no one more pressingly than Supreme Allied Commander Douglas MacArthur, who above all Americans during the Byrnes years believed in the necessity of the dominance of the United States in the Pacific. Although ousted from his command by the time of the Korean War, which broke out with the North’s invasion of the South in June 1950, MacArthur was the most prominent voice preaching against the Asian communist menace. Having made his name in Japan, MacArthur established his political reputation during Korea. He secured the Republican presidential nomination in 1952 on the strength of his aggressive stance against “the Three C’s” (Communism, Corruption and Korea), and in November of that year he cashed in his popularity for victory at the ballot box. The threat of “President MacArthur” so spooked Mao, Stalin and Korean leader Pak Hon-yong that the warring powers agreed a provisional peace before the end of the year. Thus MacArthur took up office having already secured a considerable victory of foreign policy.



RHEE%20MACARTHUR%201950.jpg

General MacArthur with Korean President Syngman Rhee, 1950.


While the eyes of the world looked to the Pacific, the relative calm of the battle for influence in Eastern Europe went almost entirely unnoticed, except by the murkier cadre of special attaches and security service assets who were increasingly coming to make up the combatant class in the European Cold War. Unlike in Asia, there was little suggestion that the question of influence would be settled by recourse to armed conflict. While relations between the various blocs remained tense (some of this tension externally produced, a great deal fomented by national anxieties) by 1948 it was not overly idealistic to hold the opinion that Europe had dispensed with the need for war. As a century before, after the dust had settled on the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna, Europe looked forward to a generation of peace – even if it was yet to entirely master its nerves.


In 1949, after strategic defeat in mainland China, President Byrnes founded the American–Pacific Treaty Organisation as an international bulwark against communism in Asia. Including all non-communist aligned East Asian states, as well as Australia and Canada representing the Windsor Monarchy, APTO defined the limits of American influence. Further, it made clear to the world America’s commitment to defending its “honour and ideals”.


Two years after the founding of APTO, the Atlanticist Kaiser Louis Ferdinand acceded to the throne in the German Reich following the death of his father, the nationalist Wilhelm III. Louis Ferdinand inherited a country still plagued by the memory of its fascist past, only thirteen years removed from the assassination of Adolf Hitler and the military coup against the Nazi regime. Kaiser Wilhelm had not been altogether opposed to the fact of nationalist government in Germany, and made little effort to purge anything but the darkest elements of Nazi rule from German society. Wilhelm’s first chancellor, the aristocratic Ernst von Weizsäcker, remained committed to the Nazi-era doctrine of Lebensraum, which mandated German expansionism in continental Europe. Hitler’s demise had been the result of his volatility rather than his basic ambitions for Germany, and until his retirement in 1946 Weizsäcker upheld the necessity of German influence over Central and Eastern Europe. Many within the ruling National People’s Party – epitomised by the militaristic foreign minister Gerhard Ritter – refused to give up wholesale on the dream of securing Lebensraum by force of arms, although the practicality of waging war in Poland was vastly diminished by the time the German Army had recovered from the chaos of ’38. Thus increasingly the Reich turned towards securing for itself economic hegemony within Eastern Europe. In this goal its chief rival was the Soviet Union.


Upon coming to power, Louis Ferdinand inherited the conservative ministry of Carl Friedrich Goerderler. Although a member of the DNVP that had dominated politics in the Reich since the restoration, Goerderler’s appointment as Weizsäcker’s successor evidenced a greater shift away from the continuity nationalism of the Nazi era. Like his predecessor, Goerderler had held office under the Nazi regime. Nevertheless, his rehabilitation was made easier by his stronger record of opposition to Hitler’s rule; he had resigned from the regime in 1936, unable to stomach neither its persecution of German Jews nor Herr Hitler’s taste for autarkic economic models. After 1938, Goerderler served as Weizsäcker’s Minister of the Interior, and in this role he was responsible for the lifting of the anti-Semitic Nazi-era Nuremburg Laws, an achievement of which he was very proud. An austere Lutheran, he disliked the Kaiser, whom he considered a womaniser and a playboy, and favoured moving the Reich away from the pre-1918 authoritarianism to which it had returned after 1938 towards a system more influenced by pre-1929 British constitutionalism. He was, in all respects, a moderniser.



1944%20GOERDELER.jpg

Carl Friedrich Goerderler, architect of liberalisation in the German Reich, 1944.


Goerderler’s greatest contribution to the Cold War came, unwittingly, upon his appointment as Minister of Finance in 1943. Here, aided by his friend and colleague Walter Eucken, Goerdeler implemented a series of economic reforms that opened up the German market to vast liberalisation. In effect, this marked the Reich as the first European power to return to a system of capitalist economics since the Great Depression. Goerderler’s reforms were a statement of intent: Germany could not only survive, but thrive independent of totalitarian systems of socio-economic control. At the heart of the new, rehabilitated Germany – the moral foundation upon which the modern Reich would be constructed – one found the free market.


This new policy would become most evident only after Goerderler’s accession to the chancellorship, after which his deputy Eucken took over as Minister of Finance and pressed home the programme of economic reform. By the time of Kaiser Wilhelm’s death, the steady growth encouraged by this new programme threatened to sweep away all memory of the mean years of die Nazi-ekonomie. Symbolically, Goerderler completed this historical forgetting act in September 1951 by dissolving the DNVP and forming a new conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union. Thus Louis Ferdinand’s reign began at a time of good feeling in Germany of a type unknown since before the Great War. The new Kaiser was an enthusiastic supporter of his chancellor’s programme, and, only months after his coronation in the summer of 1951, sought to elevate Germany’s status as Europe’s premier capitalist economic power by making common cause with the United States, whose society made a similar equation between economic liberalism and moral virtue. President Byrnes received the Kaiser’s entreaty at the nadir of his popularity. The war in Korea was creeping towards a stalemate, and his administration was being beset from both right and left. Positive signals from Germany, and the accompanying invitation to expand America’s influence to encompass Central Europe, would have given his position a much needed boost. Yet Byrnes rebuffed Berlin’s advances, wary of upsetting Washington’s former allies in London, Paris and – paradoxically – Moscow. The global order delineated at Biarritz in 1944 left no room for American involvement in Europe, and Byrnes was sufficiently wedded to President Roosevelt’s conciliatory world system not to overturn its legacy.



1951%20LOUIS%20FERDINAND%20KIRA.jpg

Kaiser Louis Ferdinand with his wife Kaiserin Kira, a cousin of Tsar Nicholas II, shortly after his accession to the throne in 1951.


Two years later, President MacArthur held no such scruples. Doggedly enigmatic, it would be reductive to characterise MacArthur’s foreign policy outlook on the basis on anti-communism alone. Equally strong in his mind was an attachment to progressive, liberal democracy (he was the man who had forged a left-of-centre Japan, after all), and this attachment was balanced by a highly moralistic conception of politics and diplomacy. In this regard, he was well suited to the devout Goerderler, who had embarked upon something like his own private crusade in undertaking to liberalise the German economy. Unfortunately, Goerderler retired only three months into the MacArthur presidency, leaving the future of US–German cooperation to his protégé Eucken, now chancellor. Eucken formally submitted a German request to join APTO in April 1953, and the Reich was admitted as a full member by the end of the year.


In January 1954, private negotiations took place in Berlin to discuss the formation of an economic bloc, with Germany as the prime mover, that would cement the position of liberal economic orthodoxy within Central and Eastern Europe. Eucken’s government wished to secure American support for the enterprise, and by extension American funding. Presenting the argument to State Secretary Richard Nixon, aged German foreign minister Konrad Adenauer made bold claims for ‘the new Reich’, and expressed a hope that close economic cooperation with the Western powers might erase the lingering traces of ‘Prussianism’ in German society that threatened to stoke old antagonisms in Europe. Adenauer’s policy of ‘Westpolitik’ was astutely formed; if Germany were to take up, at long last, a position of power in Europe, it would have to be achieved through consensus. While the Americans were not overly concerned with Europe so long as MacArthur remained in the White House, backed as he was by isolationist Republicans and ‘Pacific First’ anti-communists, having the support of Washington would go a long way towards silencing any potential murmurs of discontent from voice closer to home – in London, Paris and Moscow.


Unlike many in his party, Nixon was no crusading free marketeer. For him, economics in its raw form was not a question of morals, but a simple question of management and control. Nevertheless, as state secretary he welcomed the chance to expand America’s influence without recourse to direct confrontation with the communist bloc. As he put it in a memo to the CIA concerning the situation in Eastern Europe, “If the United States is to be an influence for enlightened change, it must present the ‘carrot’ and eschew the ‘stick’.” Thus Washington’s support for Eucken’s plan was assured, and the Eastern European Economic Cooperation Zone (ECZ) was inaugurated with the Treaty of Frankfurt, ratified by Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia on 1 September 1954. German capital put towards mutual assistance was supplemented by US dollar deposits quietly channeled into the Zone in return for an agreement pegging ECZ currencies to the dollar-gold standard. The formation of the ECZ was a major coup for German diplomacy, at once signalling the return of the Reich to a principal position in European affairs and, momentously, heralding the emergence of liberal free market economics as a political force in Europe. It also gave the first hint of Washington’s willingness, albeit tentatively, to involve itself in the fight against communism in Europe.



1956%20NIXON%20ADENAUER.jpg

Secretary of State Richard Nixon with his German counterpart Konrad Adenauer, 1953.


From the Kremlin, Khrushchev met the ECZ with a distinct froideur. Denouncing the economic zone as a capitalist “annexation” of nations considered key to Soviet interests in the region, the Soviet leader warned that any attempts to expand “Germany’s Washington-backed zone of influence” would be taken as an act of hostility against the Soviet sphere. In reality, the ECZ represented the latest in a line of setbacks to Soviet foreign policy in Eastern Europe that went back at least as far as the Stalin–Tito split in 1948. Soviet activity against the Americans and their allies in East Asia had taken Moscow’s focus off its western border, and in the mean time rival powers had profited. By the middle of the 1950s, Marshal Tito had well established himself as a ‘neutral’ powerbroker able to maintain the stability of Eastern Europe from his position in the Balkans. More acceptable to the Western powers than Stalin, particularly from the Syndicalist point of view, he was also able to attract partisans in many Eastern European Communist Parties, laying the groundwork for a minor proliferation of ‘Titoism’ in the Eastern Bloc after the conclusion of the Belgrade Accords in February 1956.


But this was all still to come. In the winter of 1954–55, Eucken’s leadership in Germany – and within Eastern Europe more widely – seemed secure. He was undone, shockingly, in May 1955, when his Christian Democratic Union lost their majority in the German general election. His successor as chancellor was Klaus Bonhoeffer, a jurist who had been an associate of Goerderler’s during the anti-Nazi resistance, who became the first Social Democratic German leader since the end of Otto Braun’s third term in 1932. By 1955, the SDP still included a Marxist wing, although Bonhoeffer himself was an anti-communist. He did not contest the generally held idea that the route to German influence was through the cultivation of a democratic tradition, both domestically and regionally. While he was receptive to calls within his party for the scaling back of Transatlantic collaboration (he had led the SDP in voting against APTO membership in 1953), he remained vigilant against Soviet interests in foreign affairs.


In spite of this, Khrushchev was encouraged by Bonhoeffer’s election and expressed a desire to work with the Chancellor to resolve the question of German and Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. By the 1950s, Moscow was no longer overly concerned by Germany on its own as a European power. It was only with the arrival of American cooperation that the Kremlin was given reason to suppose that an escalation of the Cold War in Europe was imminent. In the event, Khrushchev’s invitation for the two leaders to meet came to nothing, and in June Bonhoeffer publicly reaffirmed Germany’s commitment to the democratic cause in Europe. This statement was greeted with unease by the Soviets, who began to assume a defensive mentality. If the capitalists were intent on setting their stall at the Soviet gates, the Soviets would be ready to defend their position.



1955%20BONHOEFFER.jpg

Chancellor Klaus Bonhoeffer, 1955.


The point of conflict came quickly. In July, German foreign minister Erich Ollenhauer met with Hungarian prime minister Gyula Kelemen to begin talks that would lead to Hungary’s entry into the ECZ. Ollenhauer, sceptical of American involvement in the Zone, sought to go beyond Adenauer’s ‘Westpolitik’ and create a new order (given the convenient name ‘Ostpolitik’) based upon the common security of independent, democratic states in Eastern Europe. He hoped to build upon the partnerships formed between ECZ nations in order to make this vision of collective security a reality, and on a subsequent trip to Budapest in August he told a Hungarian journalist that he wished to see the creation of a trans-European security alliance “before the decade is out”.


Although it is highly unlikely that Ollenhauer intended his words to be heard in Moscow as a provocation, this is how they were received. His comments were initially criticised by Hungarian communist leader Imre Nagy, who was soon joined in his condemnation by Khrushchev. The Soviet leader sent an urgent message to Berlin, asking for assurances that Germany did not wish to “violate Soviet interests in the West”. Ollenhauer refused to back down, although Bonhoeffer sent a conciliatory, pointedly diplomatic reply to the effect that Germany desired only “the peaceful co-existence of democratic states”. On 1 September, Gyula Kelemen announced that Hungary was to begin the process of joining the ECZ on 1 March 1956. Bonhoeffer gave a statement shortly after reaffirming his commitment to peace. The Soviets would not be mollified.


After a testy winter, with the coming of the new year the crisis finally erupted. On 10 January 1956, Soviet troops positioned on the Romanian border crossed over into Bessarabia. The following day, they arrived Chisinau, greeted by rioting amongst the Romanians. Khrushchev declared that the Soviet Union was moving to secure its interests in Europe “in the face of persistent anti-communist aggression”. His statement sent shockwaves across the Western world, attracting denunciations from countless democratic leaders. Romanian King Michael II and his populist prime minister Ion Mihalache appealed to Bonhoeffer for urgent support, and on 12 January the German Chancellor sent an alarmed note to the Kremlin demanding that Soviet troops stand down. But, so long as the capitalist bloc advanced, there would be no retreat. Having enjoyed over a decade of peace, out of nowhere sprung the very real threat of war on the Continent. The European Cold War was to endure its first major crisis.
 
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Always awkward for syndicalism to have stalinism on the opposite side of europe muckong everything up. Then again, a capitlaist kaiser led germany backed by the pentagon seems even worse...
 
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99KingHigh

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We are monitoring events in Europe.

-RN
 
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stnylan

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I wonder if this move will drive some of the other nations right into the arms of the Germans, as it were. Or scare them into quiet?
 

DensleyBlair

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Always awkward for syndicalism to have stalinism on the opposite side of europe muckong everything up. Then again, a capitlaist kaiser led germany backed by the pentagon seems even worse...

And led by cold-warrior social democrats, too…

As @99KingHigh keeps reminding me, a Germany that never went through the trauma of a Second World War, even with its (abortive) Nazi past, is an altogether more alarming proposal in the postwar world. Lots of unfinished business in the east, even if Lebensraum has more or less disappeared.

We are monitoring events in Europe.

-RN

Oh, to have Nixon and Brandt in charge, falling over each other to see who can détendre the fastest…

I wonder if this move will drive some of the other nations right into the arms of the Germans, as it were. Or scare them into quiet?

The balance of power, particularly moving from the northern Slavic world into the Balkans, sort of justifies Khrushchev's gambit (at least, suggests why one might think it at all sensible). So not everything will fall one way, if that makes sense. More to come on all of this very shortly. :)
 
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