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

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Anuerin

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I liked the description of the capture of Clivenden very much, reminded me of the curiously anti-climactic actual storming of the Winter Palace.
 

stnylan

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And now the price to be paid, for if in Britain revolution is conducted with pipe and a cup of tea, blood still talks.
 

DensleyBlair

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A surprisingly quiet end to the UK.

A very British Revolution indeed.

After two years of bloodshed and turmoil eroding the foundations, it didn’t take much to bring the old house down. Cliveden almost had the character of a coup de grace.

Thinking about it, one could argue that the survival of the UK by this point would have required a far greater expense of violence. Or so the Churchill myth would suggest. :p

Thanks for the comment.

I liked the description of the capture of Clivenden very much, reminded me of the curiously anti-climactic actual storming of the Winter Palace.

Thanks, Aneurin. Good to see you. :)

As I was saying above, I think the sort of anti-climax felt natural after a protracted and costly struggle. Of course, the relatively light touch deployed in toppling the UK state in the first instance seems to suggest equally that more force will be needed further down the line.

And now the price to be paid, for if in Britain revolution is conducted with pipe and a cup of tea, blood still talks.

Absolutely. Vigorous work ahead for the new regime if it is to be successful in crafting the new tomorrow it has spent the last two years promising. :)

____________

Thank you all for the comments and feedback. In case anyone missed it hidden away at the end of the last page, the most recent update can be found here.

The next update will go some way towards detailing the make-up of the new state, as well as hinting at the conflicts and tensions to come over the next few years. I’ll be putting it up towards the end of the week.

In the meantime, any other comments are of course greatly welcomed. :)
 

avalanches

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Crazy update, less for the actual firefight itself (I agree that it resembles the Winter Palace in its anticlimax), but how the events played out - Churchill trying to enter the fray himself is a nice flourish, as it’s one of things that seems like myth superseding reality, but Churchill seems like the type of guy who would actually do that. Now I’m wondering if we get a Battleship Potemkin type film covering the Battle of Cliveden, that would be something.

The international reaction to the Revolution will be something to watch - while I think an outright intervention won’t happen given the likelihood of Soviet support, but how someone like Hoover (assuming he was elected President in 1928 instead of someone like Mellon or Hughes) reacts will be crucial to post-Revolution Britain.
 

DensleyBlair

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Crazy update, less for the actual firefight itself (I agree that it resembles the Winter Palace in its anticlimax), but how the events played out - Churchill trying to enter the fray himself is a nice flourish, as it’s one of things that seems like myth superseding reality, but Churchill seems like the type of guy who would actually do that.

I quite like that you get that impression – whether it’s actually God’s own truth or whether it’s been coloured by myth. In my mind, Churchill absolutely tried to take up position at one of the windows, but who knows for sure. :p

Now I’m wondering if we get a Battleship Potemkin type film covering the Battle of Cliveden, that would be something.

I’ve got some stuff coming a little down the line about film and cinema in the early Commonwealth. There’s a guy called Ivor Montagu who knew Eisenstein and did a lot to popularise (“popularise”) his techniques in Britain, so I think the chances of a Potemkinesque retelling of Cliveden are fairly high. Especially owing to the predictable position of the cinemas and the studios under the new regime.

The international reaction to the Revolution will be something to watch - while I think an outright intervention won’t happen given the likelihood of Soviet support, but how someone like Hoover (assuming he was elected President in 1928 instead of someone like Mellon or Hughes) reacts will be crucial to post-Revolution Britain.

I haven’t thought much about the US at this time, I will admit – though Roosevelt is in office by 1933. For now, whoever is in office in the US is presumably somewhat perturbed by the news from Westminster, but not so perturbed as to launch into an interventionist European policy at the start of the Depression.

I’d be interested if anyone has any thoughts about how this pre-Roosevelt period might be fleshed out, if not for a full update then just for the sake of the canon.
 

99KingHigh

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I’d be interested if anyone has any thoughts about how this pre-Roosevelt period might be fleshed out, if not for a full update then just for the sake of the canon.
Say no more.
 

DensleyBlair

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Say no more.

POD start of 1920, Wall Street crashes on schedule. Otherwise nothing is set (from memory).

____________

Update incoming!
 
Freedom From the Bottom Up: Political Organisation of the Early Commonwealth, 1929–1934

DensleyBlair

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ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg



FREEDOM FROM THE BOTTOM UP
POLITICAL ORGANISATION OF THE EARLY COMMONWEALTH, 1929–1934

MARIAN J. WOODS

1971


In 1920, George Hardy wrote an article offering a path for structural change to the International Workers of the World during a period of reconstruction in the history of the union. With much of the organisational and administrative leadership imprisoned on sedition charges, the following year Hardy was chosen to serve as general secretary–treasurer of the union, during which period many of his suggested reforms were put into practice. In overseeing this push for restructuring, Hardy brought the operation of the union into line with the demands of the contemporary economic world. His goal was the creation of an efficient movement, organised from the bottom up, capable of bringing about the abolition of the system of private ownership, and with it the capitalist class.

By the end of the decade, Hardy, returned to his native Britain, found himself the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress. Previously the Organisational Secretary of the National Minority Movement, his election to the leadership of the TUC in 1927 came in large part on the back of his reputation as a man able to marry a keen dedication to his cause with a canny administrative ability. During the General Strike, it was Hardy who masterminded the creation of the improvised national infrastructure network that allowed the circulation of people and supplies necessary for the survival of the workers’ movement. Following the surrender of the Cliveden Parliament and the return of legislative power to Westminster with the founding of the Workers’ Commonwealth, Hardy, as both an experienced organiser and the nominal leader of the trade unionist movement, was seen as the natural choice to lead the effort to craft a new mode of organising political power in Britain.

The Workers’ Council and the Constitution of 1929

At the inception of the Commonwealth, with legislative authority vested still by default in the House of Commons, it was generally agreed amongst the leadership of the unionist movement that an interim body needed to be empowered so as to draft the necessary articles to establish the legal existence of the new workers’ state. The Westminster Parliament was found to be inadequate for meeting the task at hand: of its 268 members, 259 were members of Oswald Mosley’s Provisional Labour–Unionist Alliance which, while unofficially endorsed by the TUC, did not reflect the full spectrum of opinion within the workers’ movement. Further, it was thought that 268 people was far too large a group to decide on the necessary constitutional framework within a short period of time; every day without an established system of government was a day with the shaky foundations of the new Commonwealth vulnerable to exploitation by enemies of the workers’ movement. Thus it was decided that a provisional workers’ council of 55 delegates would be elected from amongst the representatives of the constituent unions of the TUC. Balloting took place according to the organisational system used by the TUC’s General Council, whereby unions were formed according to industry into 18 groups. Each industrial grouping elected three delegates, with George Hardy appointed by acclamation as the fifty-fifth member of the council.

The Workers’ Council convened in a meeting room in the Palace of Westminster on the morning of February 27th. The idea of using the Commons Chamber was rejected, both on symbolic grounds – the Workers’ Council was after all a body unrelated to the former Westminster Parliament – and for practical reasons: it was thought that the oppositional arrangement of the seating in the chamber would not be conducive to the drafting of a democratic framework of government. The Council’s first act, after unanimously electing Hardy as its chairman, was to formally dissolve the Westminster Parliament and set a date for fresh elections in three months’ time, at the end of May. The Council then set the parameters of its task. It was decided that its job would be to formulate only the framework necessary for the establishment of a proper legislature and a proper executive, as well as a basic judicial system. It would then be for the first government of the Commonwealth to decide more complex questions, such as that of ownership.

Although not officially delimited by party, the 55 delegates naturally represented a breadth of opinion as to how the structure of the new state should function. Even within the TUC, which had throughout the revolutionary period acted in large part according to one, shared will, with the call to lay the foundations of the new Commonwealth came the revelation that, theoretically, the body was diverse. Broadly, one can speak of three main camps that emerged within the Council. While never organised as such, or even given names as groups, the trends can be identified as follows. Firstly, there was a tendency particularly amongst the part of the group most associated with the CPGB (and not just the Minority Movement) to favour a bureaucratic, multipartite government structure, drawn largely from the government of the USSR. This group advocated for a murky executive power, not strictly invested in one person or one body, but exercised by a wider apparatus on behalf of the workers. They were most stridently opposed by the second group, which might be called the Mosleyite group, who distrusted the idea of a large bureaucracy and favoured instead a streamlined executive with broad powers, capable of directing a fast effort of reconstruction. This was thought to be a necessary organisational response to the crisis of unemployment, and the parlous situation of the economy more generally, which after all had not been magically solved by the abolition of the United Kingdom. Between these two opinions sat a third tendency, which drew somewhat from Hardy’s reformation of the IWW, which proposed a system of largely devolved political power vested in regional and industrial councils, coordinated at a national scale by a limited executive body.

HARDY%20IWW%20CHART.png

The organisational structure of the International Workers of the World, as reformed during the general-secretaryship of George Hardy, first premier of the Workers' Commonwealth of Britain.

A Mongrel Collective

Ultimately, as was perhaps always inevitable, a compromise system emerged combining aspects of all three philosophies. In line with the devolutionist tendency, political power would be organised predominately at the regional level, with district and city councils invested with various powers to direct the management of local affairs. These councils were to be elected directly by the people using a system of proportional representation with closed party lists. Only anti-capitalist and anti-fascist parties were to be permitted to put candidate lists forward. From these district councils, a national Workers’ Assembly was to be elected once a year to coordinate the activity of the regions on a national level, and also to oversee the conduct of the Executive Committee (Exco), whose chairman the Assembly would also appoint. Hardy triumphantly declared that the system would give the people of Britain “freedom from the bottom up”.

The powers of the Exco were to be mainly concerned with economic management and coordination, as well as directing national diplomatic relations and matters of defence. The Exco was to be responsible for the coordination of the economy on a national scale, as well as the management of the relationship between the Commonwealth and the global economy. In practice, this meant the control of trade and monetary policy. It also meant coordination of the “commanding heights of the economy” at a national level: public utilities, natural resources (including coal), infrastructure and heavy industry. In addition to its direct role in managing the national economy, the Exco would be responsible for coordinating the provision of welfare and other state services, though the actual responsibility for material provision would fall to the regional councils.


Thus the new Commonwealth had its legislative and executive structures, and the relationship between the two had been delimited. Legislative power was to flow from the bottom up, with national bodies elected by the regions and regional bodies elected by the people. The national legislature was to be responsible for the appointment of the head of government – the Chairman of the Executive Committee – and also a head of state – the President of the Commonwealth, Britain’s chief representative on the international stage. It was a delicate balancing act of powers and responsibilities, to be tried and tested vigorously by the events of the coming years. Its task was fundamentally unenviable: at once to manage the operation of the Commonwealth as a material network of economic and social relations on the one hand, and as a collective of individual personalities and political egos on the other. Oswald Mosley was unfavourable, surmising in 1965 that the 1929 constitution outlined a “mongrel collective, designed in theory to satisfy as broad a section of the workers’ movement as possible, without in practice giving much consideration to the day-to-day operation of government.” Neither an endorsement of centralised bureaucratic management, nor of complete devolution of organisational power to the workers themselves, the system of government devised in 1929 was in many ways a best attempt at answering the urgent question of how the Commonwealth would function. On May 23rd, 1929, two years to the day since the start of the miners’ strike, the constitution was read out by George Hardy to an assembled crowd in Parliament Square and ratified by acclamation. The Workers’ Council passed a measure setting a date for its dissolution, also to be the date on which the first Workers’ Assembly would convene, on Monday 24th June. The first elections would take place the Thursday before, on June 20th.

The Fate of the 1929 Constitution

It was natural, as with any invented system, that difficulties would be encountered and failings exposed once theory was put to work in practice. The first years of the Commonwealth were marked by great periods of turbulence as Britain dealt with counter-revolutionary activity at home and trouble abroad. Economic recovery was complicated by the Great Depression beginning in late 1929, which sent much of Europe into a prolonged period of political unrest as the orthodoxy arrived at after the Great War was confronted by the volatility of market capitalism.


Domestically, the shortcomings and tensions that existed within the 1929 system were quickly discovered. The first election saw a turnout of only 36 per-cent as swathes of the bourgeoisie stayed away from the polls. Not once between 1929 and 1934 would turnout exceed half of the registered electorate, peaking at 49.6 per-cent in 1932. This gave great impetus to the counter-revolutionary movement, which greatly played up voting statistics as evidence of the “death of British democracy”. Its (predominately fascist) agents thus shunned the councils and the assemblies, instead preferring to organise rallies and demonstrations of strength. By 1933, when counter-revolutionary activity was at its peak, the Fascist movement was able to claim that it counted twice as many people among its ranks as voted for the Communist Party at that year’s election. Seeing as even the most generous estimates of the Bureau of Domestic Intelligence put the number of fascist agitators in 1933 as approaching 50 thousand, the claim is soon exposed as a desperate exaggeration (the Communist vote in 1933 was a record high at over 2 million). Yet the boast is indicative of a sense that the counter-revolution was on the ascendant, and fears ran high enough that the following year Oswald Mosley faced little opposition from the Workers’ Assembly when he enacted the first of the constitutional reforms that saw state power concentrated in a more centralised apparatus, supposedly less vulnerable to the threat of the counter-revolution.

Before Mosley’s consolidation of power, it is not hard to paint the political landscape of the Commonwealth as tumultuous. While the first governments were consistent in being dominated by leading figures of the revolutionary period, almost exclusively members of the CPGB, these governments were equally consistent in their tendencies for experimentation. Under the 1929 system, the Chairman of the Executive Committee was elected for a term of one year. Before Mosley’s accession to power, five different men served as chairman in as many years. Each appointed a largely unique committee, with only a handful of committee members serving in post for more than a year before moving elsewhere. The overall effect was mitigated by the fact that these governments tended to follow party policy, rather than individual whim (Arthur Cook, who had joined the PLUA in 1928, was the only non-CPGB premier before 1934). But the constantly rotating cast of men directing government policy nevertheless did little to contribute to the formation of a stable polity.

MOSLEY%20AT%20DESK.jpg

Oswald Mosley, Director of the Office of Economic Planning from 1929, shown at his desk c. 1932.


Notable among the exceptions to the one-year rule was Mosley himself, who was appointed by George Hardy, as the Commonwealth’s first premier, to direct the Office for Economic Planning in 1929 and stayed in post throughout the first period of the Commonwealth. As the foremost economic thinker amongst the revolutionary leadership, and certainly the most energetic, Mosley was appointed to fill the role as much on merit as in deference to the fact that he led a sizeable national political movement. Hardy never entirely trusted Mosley, and disagreed with his preference for a concentrated, powerful executive. Nevertheless, positioning himself in government – not entirely without justification – as the chief architect of the Commonwealth’s so-called “economic miracle”, Mosley’s popularity continued to grow after 1929, and it became increasingly difficult for the CPGB to hold onto its predominant position in government.


With the pre-1929 political parties entirely discredited, if not proscribed outright by the new restrictions on political organisation, a vacuum of party association emerged. Neither of the two surviving pre-1929 parties, the CPGB and the PLUA, had yet to develop a robust national organisational framework of the sort that would allow electoral dominance. As the main agents of the revolution, the CPGB hoped to claim what they viewed as their rightful reward at the ballot box. In a sense, their hopes were fulfilled – but it was a mixed blessing; while the CPGB vote share rocketed from 2.35 per-cent in February 1929 to 10.4 per-cent in June, it was hardly the sort of dominance Albert Inkpin and his comrades had been counting on. Similarly, while Mosley’s own popularity kept his party’s fortunes buoyant, the introduction of proportional representation left the PLUA short-changed. They too failed to fill the vacuum.

Instead, during the first years of the Commonwealth the political landscape was dominated by a loose group of notionally independent Leftist candidates drawn from the ranks of the trade unions. Neither committed wholesale to the Marxism-Leninism of the Communist Party nor the Mosleyite Keynesianism of the PLUA (rebranded for the new order as the Party of Labour and Unionist Action), these men were orthodox socialists motivated primarily by the material concerns of the workers’ movement. Even after organising as the United Socialist Front in time for the elections of 1930, their leadership was indistinct and they were quite content supporting Communist-led governments drawn from the revolutionary leadership. Thus while some might pinpoint Mosley’s reorganisation of government in 1934 as the end of truly representative workers’ democracy in the Commonwealth, from the start a trend existed for minority, ideologically-driven governments propped up by trade unionists less concerned with party differences than with the material necessities of government.


Conclusion: Freedom, or the image of freedom?

On June 29, 1934, Oswald Mosley gave a radio address to the nation via the CBC Wireless Service to explain various aspects of his governmental reforms. Talking about the extension of the period between elections from one to four years, Mosley opined that “a people cannot be judged to be free on the basis of how often they are allowed to elect their leaders”. He continued:

“It is only by the material quality of the life offered to the people by the actions of their government that one can begin to assess whether or not those people are free. A man cannot subsist on ballot papers alone. Similarly, a good government is not that which has the largest mandate, but that which works to produce, with the utmost efficiency of means, conditions under which its citizens can live free from want or fear. Such a government cannot be expected to work effectively if it operates with fundamental change as a constant companion, as has been the case over the last five years.”


In making this argument, that elections provided only a representation of freedom that was not the real thing, Mosley framed his central critique of the 1929 constitution. For him, its obsession with representative democracy was an obstacle to “efficient” government. Mosley viewed the annual elections stipulated by the constitution as bureaucracy which needed to be cut through, and moreover could not reconcile his given task of overseeing the reconstruction of the British economy with the uncertainty that came with having to be reappointed every year. Thus he came to see this aspect of the Commonwealth’s democratising efforts as not only excessive, but meaningless. What did yearly elections contribute to the well-being of the nation, except the feeling that its people were being listened to? And was this worth it when the price was, apparently, persistent fascist activity and delayed economic recovery?

The truth likely owes as much to the composition of the various governments of the early Commonwealth as it does to the fact of their annual election. The CPGB at the time was lead by proficient party organisers who were excellent organisers and activists, but who were on the whole too wedded to the dogmas of Marxism-Leninism to exercise the imaginative capacity needed to actually build life after revolution. There were of course exceptions: both George Hardy and Arthur Cook, the first two premiers of the Commonwealth, had gained invaluable knowledge of government working to oversee the informal economic networks that sustained the strike. But these were union men. The premiership of Harry Pollitt in 1932 saw a particular decline into more bureaucratic government, increasingly dominated by a Stalinist faith in the primacy of party doctrine over the material reality of state government. Under his long stewardship, the CPGB fell into an extended period of irrelevance during which it consistently championed the application of Soviet policy in Britain.

Thus while Mosley’s claims were devised according to a particular political mythology, they were not without truth. By 1934, George Hardy’s initial vision of “freedom from the bottom up” had devolved into a system of “confusion from the top down”, which at once was capable of organising massive economic reconstruction, and plagued by Fascisti violence and political unrest. It would be naive to suggest that the Mosley era was the inevitable consequence of the first period of the Commonwealth, but it would be an oversight not to recognise the extent to which the former was a direct reaction to the latter, sustained in power until in time it too succumbed to the transformation of innovation into dogma.
 
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stnylan

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Well to be fair to Mosley here the system that was invented was a complete hodge-podge mess. On the other hand, it worked our nicely for him as well as it ultimately generated the impetus for him to get something closer to what he doubtless desired.
 

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Alright, here are some of my thoughts. I don't really see any need for an American POD pre-1928/9 based on the text, so I think we can let history play out as designed by providence.

I see three principal ramifications from the strike and the Commonwealth; the delicate matter of war and interwar debts, the high likelihood of an early Second Red Scare/extension of the first, and whatever comes next for the empire (I make no comment on this yet, obviously). Strategic imitation of the TUC is another variable, but not as important given the comparative strength of British unionism against American unionism.

Britain and the United States struck their war debt agreement in 1923 with payments commencing in December 1925. The British owed nearly half of Europe's collective debt to the United States with a startling principal receipt of 11.1 billion dollars (in 1925 terms) and a long-term interest rate of about three percent. Anglo-US financial settlements underpinned the entire interbellum financial system of debts, transfers, and reparations. This was not always a happy relationship; the Exchequer fumed at every installation of American debts and the United States continued to challenge the legality of Britain's wartime blockade of Germany. MacDonald, of course, was an Atlanticist, so I doubt we see any real divergence before the strike really becomes concerning. This system famously collapsed after the depression with terrible effect, but here we might have a political trigger instead of an economic one (and recall that the debts were initially suspended by Hoover in 1931, and thereafter ignored by France and Britain at great cost to their relations with the United States). So this issue will need to be clarified almost instantly.

To make matters worse, the US had a combined private and government FDI of around 625 million dollars in the UK. You can imagine the amount of people on both sides of the Atlantic with considerable assets invested in British and American public/private securities. It is not ridiculous to imagine mass sell-offs until property rights are confirmed (or seized, I guess), but your damn sure that the Treasury and the State Dept are going scream like hell. One doesn't simply spite Andrew Mellon.

Speaking of...

So we know the situation in Britain is at least pre-revolutionary by early 1928, and clearly revolutionary by the summer. We might as well have some fun, get adventurous, and rejoice that this roughly coincides with the presidential nomination season. I think it's fair, given the contemporaneous industrial action of the time (New Bedford textile strike, the communist Passaic textile strike, etc) for some further strikes and unrest deliberately imitative of their worker brethren in Britain from at least 1927. But we can be confident that the only outcome from these incidents, and from the precedent of worker success in Britain, will be that the "counter-revolutionaries" will be much firmer. Expect business and state to enthusiastically and successfully repress any industrial action for the moment.

It is also not impossible to imagine this counter-action within a wider framework of a resurgent Red Scare, especially as the prospect of a successful socialist revolution in Britain dawns across the pond. We can throw in a new conservative tilt, reinforcing the already popular Coolidge government. At the time the conservative faction within the GOP was concentrated around Andrew Mellon, who wanted Hughes (technically back in private practice) to run because he believed he was too old to do it himself. Perhaps Mellon gets swept in the new conservative energy and throws his hat in the ring, or maybe Hughes gets convinced by Mellon to return to public life. Either way, you can think about throwing out Hoover as the ultimate winner, and replacing him in the 1928 GOP Convention with Mellon or Hughes, depending on how severe the Red Scare gets. Charles Curtis, more moderate, could also ride an anti-Hoover wave to the nomination if the progressive types go out of vogue. (We already aren't going to get the cutsie progressive McDonald-Hoover relationship, so what the hell.) As for the general election, it hardly matters, because the GOP is going to win. You might get more assertive conservative Democrats (maybe McAdoo gets a bounce), but Britain is probably (my emphasis, I think McAdoo could be fun in that really horrible sort of way) not enough to knock Al Smith off his pedestal.

I'll start with this and work forward on any feedback/new information to figure out how the US might react. Also once I know a bit more about how the Commonwealth handles the debt issue (among others, like the empire) I can build out a foreign policy. Or maybe if something else needs to be more fleshed out I'm happy to oblige.
 
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DensleyBlair

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Well to be fair to Mosley here the system that was invented was a complete hodge-podge mess. On the other hand, it worked our nicely for him as well as it ultimately generated the impetus for him to get something closer to what he doubtless desired.

Aye, that’s the problem with having a nice thing going running your own informal state within a state and then suddenly being forced to codify it. Blame the hodge-podge mess on me making myself sit down on Wikipedia for two hours flicking between pages trying to work out how the USSR’s government actually functioned. By contemporary standards, I think Hardy’s system is positively streamlined. :D

Naturally, the inherent kinks will help Mosley have his fun a little further down the line.

Alright, here are some of my thoughts. I don't really see any need for an American POD pre-1928/9 based on the text, so I think we can let history play out as designed by providence.

I see three principal ramifications from the strike and the Commonwealth; the delicate matter of war and interwar debts, the high likelihood of an early Second Red Scare/extension of the first, and whatever comes next for the empire (I make no comment on this yet, obviously). Strategic imitation of the TUC is another variable, but not as important given the comparative strength of British unionism against American unionism.

Britain and the United States struck their war debt agreement in 1923 with payments commencing in December 1925. The British owed nearly half of Europe's collective debt to the United States with a startling principal receipt of 11.1 billion dollars (in 1925 terms) and a long-term interest rate of about three percent. Anglo-US financial settlements underpinned the entire interbellum financial system of debts, transfers, and reparations. This was not always a happy relationship; the Exchequer fumed at every installation of American debts and the United States continued to challenge the legality of Britain's wartime blockade of Germany. MacDonald, of course, was an Atlanticist, so I doubt we see any real divergence before the strike really becomes concerning. This system famously collapsed after the depression with terrible effect, but here we might have a political trigger instead of an economic one (and recall that the debts were initially suspended by Hoover in 1931, and thereafter ignored by France and Britain at great cost to their relations with the United States). So this issue will need to be clarified almost instantly.

The debts are likely the biggest issue. CPGB policy in 1929 was for blanket disavowal, although with regards to political v economic trigger a likely timing of suspension in summer 1929 keeps it fairly close to US economic collapse anyway. My guess would be that the situation would no doubt be aggravated with reference to OTL, but it would remain a murky point as to whether the final trigger were political or economic. (Washington is within its rights not to see it with such nuance, of course.)

To make matters worse, the US had a combined private and government FDI of around 625 million dollars in the UK. You can imagine the amount of people on both sides of the Atlantic with considerable assets invested in British and American public/private securities. It is not ridiculous to imagine mass sell-offs until property rights are confirmed (or seized, I guess), but your damn sure that the Treasury and the State Dept are going scream like hell. One doesn't simply spite Andrew Mellon.

The next update is an economic one, albeit with a chiefly domestic focus from memory (I’m still away from my laptop), but some stuff will be clarified on this front. As for the international situation, my best guess would be mass sell-offs during the revolutionary period relative to the faith held by investors in the likelihood of a return to normality in Britain. But after 1929 seizure starts anyway do ownership becomes something of a moot point (or else a diplomatic one).

Speaking of...

So we know the situation in Britain is at least pre-revolutionary by early 1928, and clearly revolutionary by the summer. We might as well have some fun, get adventurous, and rejoice that this roughly coincides with the presidential nomination season. I think it's fair, given the contemporaneous industrial action of the time (New Bedford textile strike, the communist Passaic textile strike, etc) for some further strikes and unrest deliberately imitative of their worker brethren in Britain from at least 1927. But we can be confident that the only outcome from these incidents, and from the precedent of worker success in Britain, will be that the "counter-revolutionaries" will be much firmer. Expect business and state to enthusiastically and successfully repress any industrial action for the moment.

It is also not impossible to imagine this counter-action within a wider framework of a resurgent Red Scare, especially as the prospect of a successful socialist revolution in Britain dawns across the pond. We can throw in a new conservative tilt, reinforcing the already popular Coolidge government. At the time the conservative faction within the GOP was concentrated around Andrew Mellon, who wanted Hughes (technically back in private practice) to run because he believed he was too old to do it himself. Perhaps Mellon gets swept in the new conservative energy and throws his hat in the ring, or maybe Hughes gets convinced by Mellon to return to public life. Either way, you can think about throwing out Hoover as the ultimate winner, and replacing him in the 1928 GOP Convention with Mellon or Hughes, depending on how severe the Red Scare gets. Charles Curtis, more moderate, could also ride an anti-Hoover wave to the nomination if the progressive types go out of vogue. (We already aren't going to get the cutsie progressive McDonald-Hoover relationship, so what the hell.) As for the general election, it hardly matters, because the GOP is going to win. You might get more assertive conservative Democrats (maybe McAdoo gets a bounce), but Britain is probably (my emphasis, I think McAdoo could be fun in that really horrible sort of way) not enough to knock Al Smith off his pedestal.

I’ll settle things and go for a Mellon presidency 1929–33. What the hell, let’s have some fun.

I'll start with this and work forward on any feedback/new information to figure out how the US might react. Also once I know a bit more about how the Commonwealth handles the debt issue (among others, like the empire) I can build out a foreign policy. Or maybe if something else needs to be more fleshed out I'm happy to oblige.

If you really want to get into this, let me know and I’ll PM you some sketches of where things are going in the short term (and, if you want them, where I think they’re going in the medium term). You may be interested in pushing some ideas about, although if you’d rather wait to see how stuff develops at update pace no worries.
 

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What does this mean for the colonies?

I think they've been unfairly overlooked. While Canada and Australia might rally around the exiled monarchy, India and the African colonies might not be stable.
 

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Damn, I’m gone for a couple of days and I miss all the American talk? :p

I’m far from an expert in constutional law, but that last update was great as per usual (and hey, as weird as it may be, at least Britain actually has a constitution in this universe). Also, Pollitt as Premier is quite spooky, and even spookier is how quickly Mosley was able to capitalize on the chaos of the elections and use it to justify his own rise to power. The upcoming economic reforms ought to be interesting - while I doubt it’ll happen, the idea of Mosley trying to establish some semblance of autarky in Britain seems like a mad thing he would try.

The effects of a Mellon Presidency from just an electoral perspective is pretty interesting, as it could make or break FDR’s chances for the Democratic nomination in ‘32 - he was elected Governor of New York in ‘28 on the thinnest of margins, so you could make the case that either a) the conservative reaction to the events in Britain could be enough to keep New York in Republican hands, or b) Republican liberals who voted for Hoover in OTL stay home, allowing for FDR to win by a bigger margin than in OTL. If FDR loses, then the likely Democratic nominee is Al Smith which is genuinely horrifying for a multitude of reasons (although there is the silver lining of a catholic President thirty years before Kennedy).
 

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What does this mean for the colonies?

I think they've been unfairly overlooked. While Canada and Australia might rally around the exiled monarchy, India and the African colonies might not be stable.

CPGB policy in 1929 (as it had been for a while by that point) was for immediate independence of all colonies, with assistance offered to help development as independent states. This second point is relatively vague, so I’m interpreting it as a situation where the former colonies have self-rule but remain notionally tied to Britain via some sort of “Commonwealth International”. Metropolitan influence will likely be strongest in Africa.

India I haven’t entirely touched upon, but the Subcontinent will likely be organised as a federation. (And as an aside, Mosley, believe it or not, was a fan of Gandhi’s and spoke favourably of him after they met in 1924.) Asian geopolitics will become salient in time, so hopefully a clearer picture will emerge once I get those updates written up.

As for the former dominions, these remain territories of the rump “Windsor Monarchy”. I have an update in the pipeline on Newfoundland politics, so more detail is coming. But for now it’s safe to presume Canada and Australia remain crown subjects.

Damn, I’m gone for a couple of days and I miss all the American talk? :p

Don’t worry, stick around and there’ll be more coming soon. :p

I’m far from an expert in constutional law, but that last update was great as per usual (and hey, as weird as it may be, at least Britain actually has a constitution in this universe).

Thanks!

(And for the avoidance of doubt, this update was written before current affairs took over and the British state decided to start testing the flexibility of our own unwritten variety. :p)

Also, Pollitt as Premier is quite spooky, and even spookier is how quickly Mosley was able to capitalize on the chaos of the elections and use it to justify his own rise to power. The upcoming economic reforms ought to be interesting - while I doubt it’ll happen, the idea of Mosley trying to establish some semblance of autarky in Britain seems like a mad thing he would try.

Pollitt gets more of a look in as international secretary than as premier. I think in the latter role he’d probably just default to a sort of potboiler Leninist mode and keep things ticking over without really pushing much.

As for Mosley’s rise to power, I’ll discuss it in more detail later, but I think the key thing is how much of the chaos he succeeded in portraying after the fact. His rise to power is sort of inevitable once the Communists realise their own position is less secure than they’d hoped, but what is notable is the ease with which Mosley can remodel the state afterwards – and justify doing so.

The economic reforms don’t entirely swing towards autarky, but Mosley, as we have seen, is absolutely very much into stuff like “insulated economies”. A Mosleyite position can never be true autarky because he was fundamentally – however wrong the word feels applied to him – an internationalist. Any domestic economy he plans, however buoyed by controls and so on, is always backed up by the security of an equally controlled international market. (Predictably, this involves the self-ruling former colonies.) But there’s also trade with the Soviets and their spherelings, and Mosley can never entirely turn away from Europe. So yeah, audacious though his designs may be they never quite tip over into total self-sufficiency.

The effects of a Mellon Presidency from just an electoral perspective is pretty interesting, as it could make or break FDR’s chances for the Democratic nomination in ‘32 - he was elected Governor of New York in ‘28 on the thinnest of margins, so you could make the case that either a) the conservative reaction to the events in Britain could be enough to keep New York in Republican hands, or b) Republican liberals who voted for Hoover in OTL stay home, allowing for FDR to win by a bigger margin than in OTL. If FDR loses, then the likely Democratic nominee is Al Smith which is genuinely horrifying for a multitude of reasons (although there is the silver lining of a catholic President thirty years before Kennedy).

Friend of the thread @99KingHigh has kindly offered to flesh out the US situation, so we’ll have some juicy internal politics to get into shortly. Seeing as FDR is fixed to become president on schedule, I’d imagine in this case the effect of a Mellon victory were more the latter than the former.

_____________________

Thanks for all the comments so far, guys. As we get further into althistorical waters I’m always eager to hear ideas people have for how things might unfold. Looking forward to seeing the response as we go forward. :)

As the new academic year approaches I’m pacing things to keep the AAR ticking over until the next break, so expect the next update to arrive at the end of the week.
 

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As hinted yesterday, @99KingHigh has kindly gone to the effort of breathing a bit of life into what's going on across the Atlantic while the revolution progresses in Britain. What follows is the first in an auxiliary series expanding the canon into the United States, shedding some light on the reaction of the Capitalist world to the downfall of the United Kingdom.
 

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AXvteR1.jpg

CHAPTER 6: SELF HELP IN SMALL TIMES

1980

...when the twenties began, however, the situation appeared stable. The IWW was crushed and the Socialist Party on the verge of disintegration. The strikes were forcibly repressed, and the economy was humming along well enough for just enough people to acquiesce…

But prosperity was concentrated at the top, and while from 1922 to 1929 real wages in manufacturing went up per capita 2 percent a year, the holders of common stocks gained 16.4 percent. Five million families made less than $1,000 a year, and one-tenth of 1 percent of the families at the top owned as much income as 42 percent of the families at the bottom. Every year nearly 25,000 workers died at work and another 100,000 permanently disabled. Millions huddled in tenements long condemned as firetraps…F. Scott Fitzgerland described his era as the "borrowed time" when the whole "upper tenth of a nation" lived with the "insouciance of a grand duc and the casualness of chorus girls."

Only a handful of political figures spoke for the poor of the twenties. Among them was Fiorello La Guardia, a Congressmen from a district of poor immigrants in East Harlem (strangely enough, he ran on both Socialist and Republican tickets). In the mid-twenties he asked the Secretary of Agriculture William Jardine to investigate the high price of meat. When Jardine sent a pamphlet on the economies of meat, La Guardia wrote back: "I asked for help and you send me a bulletin.”

During the presidencies of Harding and Coolidge, the Secretary of the Treasury was Andrew Mellon, one of the richest men in the world. In 1923, Congress passed the "Mellon Plan" that lowered taxes on all income brackets, but with particular reductions for the upper class. Only a few Congressmen from working-class districts spoke against the bill, such as William P Connery of Massachusetts, who declared: "I am not going to have my people, who work in the shoe factories of Lynn and in the mills in Lawrence and the leather industry of Peabody...think that I am in accord with the provisions of this bill...when I see a provision in this legislation which will save Mr. Mellon $800,000 on his income tax and his brother $600,000 on his.”

After the war, with the Socialist Party devastated by the first scare, a Communist party was organized and concentrated around the Trade Union Education League, which tried to build a militant spirit inside the AFL. When a Communist named Ben Gold challenged the AFL union leadership at a meeting, he was knifed and beaten. But in 1926, he and other Communists organized a furrier strike until they won a forty-hour week and wage increases. It was in this riotous mood that the Communists drew new inspiration from abroad. Industrial unrest in Britain gave strength to unions at home, and in 1927 the workers movement launched its most aggressive campaign of industrial action in a decade.

It was in the Carolinas and Tennessee in late 1927 where the Communists played their leading part in the famous textile strikes. The mill owners had moved south to escape northern unions, but southern workers showed their solidarity by rebelling against long hours and low pay. The first of the strikes was in Tennessee, guided by five hundred women who protested their wages of $10 a week. Soon after, in Gastonia, North Carolina, workers formed a new union, the National Textile Workers Union, led by Communists and staffed with whites and blacks alike. Across the states textile strikes froze industry and terrified the southern elite. A poisonous mixture of anti-Communism, racism, and violence followed. Some strikes were settled, but not at Gastonia, where strikebreakers and police clashed with the unions in brutal gunfights. Twenty-five sympathizers were indicted for murder and imprisoned, but upon recieving bail they fled in various directions, including towards the paralyzed United Kingdom and the young Soviet Union.

If the Communists had established textile unionism in the South and claimed a great success what followed in the North was certainly their undoing. In the summer of 1928 the Communists, energized by fantastic British reports that seemed to prove the validity of orthodox industrial Marxism, embarked on a campaign of mass action. Beginning in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the Communist Party orchestrated the walk-out of 30,000 machine operators with the AFL-affiliated Textile Workers Union of America. They aggressively collaborated with left-organizations and unions, and by July 1928 achieved an extraordinary meeting of the Central Labor Union of the AFL in Boston for a state-wide general strike. But here enthusiasm met reality, and just as quickly as energetic strike action had dotted across the country it was crushed by apathy and coercion. The famous Boston general strike frightened the supportive classes, and by August the forces of reaction were firmly in control. State troopers guarded replacement workers from the suburbs and even mowed down a cadre of determined socialist policemen in one of the most infamous massacres in American history. The Communists never regained their swagger as America rediscovered her favorite pastime: red scares.

Supplementary industrial unrest mellowed, and the whole affair was appropriately concluded with Andrew Mellon’s presidential elevation. It was a miserable prelude to the worst economic disaster in American history...

--
Pardon the lack of flourish in the writing, it is Howard Zinn don't you know. :p
 
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I was checking my twitter feed this morning when I saw a picture of a familiar figure. It had been posted by Working Class History (a fantastic website, here for anyone who may be interested) and showed Oswald Mosley addressing a crowd in Leeds on this day, 27 September, in 1936.

Predictably, this was not an article about Mosley's singular talent for grand economic thinking – nor was that what he had gone to Leeds to promote. Along with one thousand of his Blackshirts, Mosley planned a march to drum up support in the city for the BUF. The original march route, vetoed by council, was to have taken the fascists right through the working-class Jewish district of Leylands. Despite the veto, on the night of 26 September Jewish-owned businesses in the area were defaced with anti-semitic slogans and swastikas.

Leeds didn't suffer Mosley gladly, and 30 thousand anti-fascists were organised to oppose the march by the local Communist and Labour parties. They amassed at Holbeck Moor, where Mosley was planned to speak, and sent a steady volley of stones and other projectiles into the fascist ranks. 40 people had to be treated for minor injuries, and Mosley himself had to leave the stage after being hit by a stone. You can read a present-day account of the event on the Yorkshire Post here.

360927%20HOLBECK%202.jpg

I think part of the reason it stuck with me, aside from the obvious, is that one of the things I've been grappling with continuously in this project is the extent to which Mosley sort of gets rehabilitated. Even if overall my aim is to present him as an ambiguous figure, there's a part of me that feels even the ambiguity gives him too much credit when you consider his historical reputation IOTL. Don't get me wrong: I fully trust any informed readers to come to their own conclusions about Mosley, both ITTL and in ours. But in the same way that I'll no longer ever be able to see, say, Arthur Cook as anything but a hero of the revolution, every time I see Mosley the fascist there's this process of first remembering that he wasn't actually a reforming chairman of the Office for Economic Planning. The cultural memory becomes a little muddier.

It's a favoured trope of alt-history, to take someone and show how in different circumstances their reputation could be flipped. And it would be simplistic to suggest that from the moment of his birth Mosley was conditioned always to become a fascist leader. Even if it is likely that his period and his upbringing would inform his worldview in certain ways, I evidently don't think it is unreasonable to suggest that with a 1925/9 POD Mosley could feasibly avoid falling under the influence of Mussolini. But I suppose what this thinking aloud boils down to is that it is important – I think, as a writer of alternate-history – not to lose sight of the fact that AH is first and foremost a sort of critique. An oblique one, certainly, and hopefully also entertaining – but, as a sort of warped mirror held up to our own history, a critique nevertheless. So all the mileage I might get out of knowingly painting Mosley as an anti-fascist leader is by the same score an open measure of how ridiculous that appears, and thus a paradoxical admission (no pun intended) that Mosley was actually very much a fascist – however much he tries to explain away his racism and his anti-semitism through his own means of self-promotion. The enjoyment of AH usually comes, if not simply from the writing itself, from the difference between one timeline and our own. Thus I think when AH is done well, a reader is invited to consider two timelines at once. Hence if I'm writing Mosley as a mainstream non-fascist leader, I am at the same time trying to highlight the degree to which fascist tendencies occupy the mainstream – both now and historically.

This was a little longer than I had perhaps imagined, but as I say it's an issue I've been toying with, and I think it's useful to try and articulate. More for my own sake than out of any desire to patronise my audience. I'd be interested to know whether anyone else has any thoughts on related issues.

(TL;DR: Writing Mosley as a non– or anti-fascist leader is not done uncritically, and can be approached as a way of engaging with the lasting tradition of far-right organisation throughout British history.)
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KH is working I think on another supplementary US update for us, so depending on when that's out I may slightly delay publishing the next Commonwealth chapter. It's my birthday weekend, so there would likely be a delay anyway. As mentioned before, the next update deals with Mosley's economic reforms. In any event, it will be out before too long.

Cheers!
 

99KingHigh

Supercilious Ivy League High Tory
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Aug 29, 2011
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No need to delay on my account!