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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Meadow

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‘Imagine our Union stands for a millennium. When our descendants look back on these first fifty years of its history,
will there be any man or woman who can say that they were not our finest hour as a people?’

Jack Jones, Chairman of the Congress of Trade Unions, 24 October 1975

The People’s Flag: A History of the Union of Britain, 1925-2010




Introduction

It is perhaps an example of our nation’s exceptionalism that until now, no complete history of our Union has ever been attempted. Historians like Taylor and Kershaw found their efforts frustrated and instead focused on different parts of its history, most prominently the Second Great War, while the closest anyone has come to producing a complete history is the former Commissary for Education Eric Hobsbawm, whose death prevented his work ever being completed. Some of his completed essays and notes are present in this collection.

For that is what this is – a collection. Perhaps where Comrades Taylor and Kershaw went wrong was attempting to write an entire history of such a remarkable nation on their own. Here, I serve as both contributor and humble editor, accompanied by many of the finest minds of our scholarly generation. Even so, the task of chronicling such a long period is not without difficulty – the structure of this publication is that of a series of essays, some narrative and some analytical. The hope is that together, my colleagues and I can create an accurate picture of the Union, from the trials and tribulations of the 20s through to the 50s, through the prosperous yet tumultuous 60s and 70s, and into the reformist 80s, 90s and modern age. Here, we hope you will agree, can be found an uncensored and scholarly picture of the entirety of our Union’s history, ‘warts and all’.

- John Durham, Senior Lecturer in History, Ruskin University


Contents

Volume I: The Road to 1936
Volume II: The Triumph of Maximism
 
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Meadow

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Volume I: The Road to 1936

'Revolution? My dear Rudyard, this is not France.'
George V, last King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Nothern Ireland, 20 October 1925​

The Violent Death of Illiberal England
John Durham


British Army armoured cars, Liverpool, October 1925. Hours later they would open fire on picket lines

It is hardly necessary to describe the circumstances which led to the proclamation of our Union, for it is the first thing taught to us in school and the subject of a great many works of literature, from the classic novelisation The men that shook the world published in 1930 to the 2006 film Deepest Red. It is impossible to remain on this island for more than a month and not learn in detail of the brave struggle of the Welsh miners in 1925, the escalation into a General Strike and the failed government’s catastrophic miscalculations of how to deal with it.

What is perhaps less well-known, and is only coming to light after the archives of that tumultuous period are being opened to us now, is the political intrigue among the revolutionaries. Far from the united front that school text books espouse at length over, different factions, led by men and women who would (in most cases) eventually form a government of compromise, vied for control. The Autonomists of Niclas y Glais started as Welsh nationalists seeking a Commune of Wales. Horner and Snowden’s Federationists came from far less Trade Union-friendly roots than their later actions would have you believe. Annie Kenney’s Congregationalists began as little more than an even more militant form of the Suffragettes, believed by some historians to sprung from the ‘Women’s Shelters’ that were quickly established in abandoned churches as the chaos of revolution and the collapse of the rule of law led to fears of mass rape. And the Maximists, so notoriously personified by Oswald Mosley’s iron-fisted rule ten years after the Revolution, were by far the most violent of the revolutionaries. Many of the bloodier acts that school textbooks choose to avoid – the Burning of the Ritz, the Covent Garden Massacre[1] – were perpetrated by hard-line Maximists whose experiences in the Russian Bolshevik Rebellion had closed their eyes to such concepts as cruelty.

In addition to the problems among the revolutionaries, there are a number of myths about the Revolution itself that persist to this day. The ‘Glorious Six’ as the weeks between the proclamation of the General Strike and the storming of Parliament have been known have entered our Union’s mythos and have, as such, gathered a fair few urban legends behind them. One regards the infamous deployment of a platoon of Territorials against a pamphleteers’ march on 14 September. The story goes that the pamphleteers, a massed group of about 500 men and women (their political affiliation within the Revolution is never stated in the popular version of the story) were peacefully marching through the streets of Brixton carrying placards and distributing Revolutionary pamphlets. The story goes on to say that the Territorials’ commander, the unfortunately named Lieutenant Scruton, was so enraged by the sight that he ordered his men to open fire. When the smoke had cleared, forty-one lay dead in the street, and many of the Territorial soldiers would desert later that day.

The truth is not so picturesque. Like the Boston Massacre before it, the politics of the occasion eclipsed the facts of it. It is never said, for instance, that those marching were English Autonomists, calling for the proclamation of an English Republic. Nor is it pointed out that the marchers, far from marching peacefully, were armed with clubs and the occasional firearm and were chanting threats to those citizens who did not agree with their position. Finally, the greatest injustice is always done to the Territorials themselves, who, far from obeying unquestioningly the orders of the admittedly ruthless (and jumpy) Scruton, refused to fire until it became clear that, due to a miscommunication (believed to be Scruton firing his revolver at a nearby marcher) the marchers intended to charge them. To say that some of the Territorials deserted later that day is also an understatement – almost all of them defected to the Revolution and Scruton himself was found hanged on a lamppost, a .303 round in his heart. The ‘Marching Martyrs’ as the rhyme goes, were not quite the victims of reactionary zeal and bloodlust, more the catastrophic consequence of one man’s possession of absolute power in a high-pressure situation.

But this article’s aim is not to give the reader an impression of revisionism and deliberately controversial history. These are just some facts to bear in mind when studying those that all the Union knows; that in 1925, the Stand of the Miners became the General Strike, and that after six weeks of attempted reaction, including the lamentable (and ultimately self-defeating) decision to deploy troops against pamphleteers, the establishment had no choice but to give in as Parliament itself was stormed by the massed workers of London[2]. With London and all centres of communication in Revolutionary hands, it was only a matter of time before popular proclamation led to the inaugural Congress of the Trade Unions in February of 1926.

[1] Still relatively unknown because of the alleged involvement of Mosley himself, the massacre involved a group of Maximist agitators opening fire on a crowd leaving the Covent Garden Opera House, killing 17 and wounding dozens more. Among the dead was the then-recently elected MP for Warwick and Leamington, Anthony Eden.

[2] One verifiable example of the United Front is found here – it is not merely an urban legend that Maximist Eric Blair gave his later sworn enemy, Niclas y Glais, a ‘leg-up’ over the fences surrounding Parliament Square. Blair documented it in his diaries, but it was removed when they were published, and the unedited versions only came into public hands in 2001.​
 
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Meadow

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...well, hello. If you've read this far it means you're somewhat interested in my first AAR, The People's Flag. As the above hopefully indicates, it's going to be a lengthy narrative history of my favourite fictional nation and the world of Kaiserreich as it stretches far beyond 1964. As such, there'll be no direct gameplay pictures or reports, as this is more based on my experiences from a number of games as the UoB that I have had.

My thanks go to Kami888, for writing the AARs that first lured me here, to Faeelin for his inspirational 'history book AARs' and of course Sarmatia and the rest of the Kaiserreich community for creating this world. And, it goes without saying, thank you to you, for reading this far in the first place. I hope you stick around and enjoy.
 

Asalto

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Nice! Will follow.
 

Kurt_Steiner

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Me too. Let's hope you manage to fulfill your daring quest.
 

Meadow

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Thanks for the support! It is pretty daring, I admit. It's going to take a while, but I do already have the plan for what 'happens' up to 2010 on a skeletal level, and have properly planned out the way things are up to about 1960 already. Updates will be as frequent or infrequent as my History degree at uni permits!
 

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I really like projects like these, wonder why ;)
 

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Looks very nice - UoB is indeed a fine country for an AAR. It has as much potential as Russia, but is not so exploited. Plus, well... It's kinda inspiring to see a socialist country that is only one slider move away from being a democratic one ;)
 

unmerged(174159)

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Cool. Love it. If you need a graphical mumbojumboer I'll humbly offer my technical services under article six of the Socialist Free Trade Act of the Union of Britain (1967)
 

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Thanks for all the support! I hope to update again tomorrow or the day after, depending on progress on my essays.

@KaiserMuffin - many thanks for the offer, there might be some juicy ideas I can send your way, actually. As the introduction indicates, this is the latest in a line of scholarship on the UoB's history, so I might want some older book covers for some of them. Will let you know, Comrade ;)

@Jedrek - exactly! My love for the UoB stems partly from its softer form of Socialism (something that I retain in this version - Mosley doesn't quite go as far as you can interpret him going in some KR AARs) and my own love of my fellow Britons. I hope you stick around, for there's plenty of cheeky British Socialism and our timeline's Socialists popping up here and there. You'll have to wait a while for democratic reform, however - not wanting to give too much away...

@Onni - thank you for reading! I hope you keep doing so.

@Karelian - another of my inspirations, commenting on my first AAR! My my, this is an honour. I love the 'alternate scholarship' that one can create in ATL worlds as you have done, you'll see me borrowing that technique a lot in this. John Durham is far from the only contributor to this book - expect biographers, political theorists and military historians to make an appearance too.
 

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CTU delegates arriving outside Congress House, 1 February 1926

The Inaugural Congress
John Durham

The first Congress of the Trade Unions, as it soon became known, was a turning point in British history. It was here that all thoughts of Royalist reconciliation were thrown away and that the last vestiges of so-called ‘democratic liberalism’ were cast aside. Beginning on 1 February 1926, a date much publicised on pamphlets, posters and by word-of-mouth across the country since the fall of the government on 24 October 1925, the delegates from Trade Unions across the country filed into Congress House on Eccleston Square with optimism in the air. The agenda for the day was as follows:

  1. Apologies for absence
  2. Acclamation of the Union of Britain
  3. Election of Officers
  4. Any other business

While point one resulted in the most wads of paper being passed to the front of any CTU in history (the process delayed proceedings by a full two hours) point three is of most interest to the historian. As no elections among the CTU had been held until this meeting, the question of who should chair the first meeting itself had led to a bitter struggle among the organisers of the event. The chairman of the TUC (Trade Union Congress, the spiritual predecessor of the CTU), Alonzo Swales, had been elected by that body the previous year and fully expected to take up the leadership of what he considered to be an ‘extraordinary general meeting’ of the TUC. Very much representing the most reactionary segment of the Trade Union movement, he found his plan deeply unpopular and, as such, his candidacy untenable. Among the contenders for the chair were lifelong socialist and ‘candidate of conciliation’ Tom Mann and John Maclean, at this time a famously powerful speaker who had invigorated the dockers of Clydeside into some of the most explosive actions of the General Strike and Revolution. Eventually, it would be Tom Mann who was ‘elected’ as interim chair, though no election took place. Mann was simply proposed as a candidate to the assembled TUC and Revolutionary heads, and no-one raised an objection. The Congress was to be chaired by Tom Mann, and this would not be the last the Union heard of him.

When the Congress eventually came underway, the factions of the Revolution that had hardly been friends during it now turned upon one another savagely, though admittedly only verbally. There is no question that all of them wanted Socialism for Britain and had their people’s interests at heart, but there is equally no question as to how vehemently some of them disagreed over the best way to achieve this. To quote a contemporary edition of The Chartist – then a recently established radical pamphlet rather than the state newspaper it would become:

Of the multitude of factions present on the first day of the Congress, the four largest have been established to be the following:

The Federationists believe in giving local Syndicates and Trade Unions a great deal of power over local policy, similar to the local councils of the recently failed state. However, the key difference is the popular support and membership of the worker in each of these Syndicates. National policy would largely be with reference to overseas matters if these men have their way. They believe industry and all practically all domestic matters (barring the ‘Key Aims’ of each year of the Union’s life) should be decided by these local Syndicates rather than the central government. The key figures within this movement include John Maclean, GDH Cole and Philip Snowden.

The Congregationalists are a feminist oriented group, headed by Annie Kenney. Economically they are similar to the Federationists, but believe the path to Socialism must be quickened through greater involvement of women in the Revolution. Isolationism is the core of their philosophy, believing Britain suffered enough trying to maintain an Empire and presence overseas. ‘Socialism in one country’ is their motto.

The Autonomists believe in further decentralising the Union, arguing for the home nations to have greater autonomy, possibly even total independence for England, Scotland and Wales. Instead of the more widely-accepted ‘Union of Britain’, they believe in establishing a Federation of the British Isles with its capital in Birmingham, while each nation would be a full and independent member of this federation. They are led by the Welsh Poet Niclas y Glais, who has described his plans as ‘the independence of the States in the United States of America combined with true Socialist freedom’.

The Maximists favour an approach similar to the Commune of France's system - a strong central government and full state control of the economy. Controversially, they are also heavily nationalist, and support an immediate expansion of the military so that Britain may not only defend herself but also project and expand the Revolution. They are led by Revolutionary hero Arthur James Cook.
As the experienced student of history will notice, the factions thus remained very similar to the state they would be in by 1936. But the factions would need to form powerful voting blocs if they wanted to achieve anything at the Congress, something they immediately set about doing.

The second point on the agenda, planned by Tom Mann himself, was a very careful piece of wording. The Union of Britain itself had already been ‘proclaimed’ per se by the red-banner waving revolutionaries on top of the Houses of Parliament. The new constitution, drawn up by, among others, GDH Cole, Victor Gollancz and John Maclean, had been widely circulated as a pamphlet for the last two months. To proclaim the Union again, therefore, would be irrelevant and potentially dangerous. What Mann proposed instead was that the assembled members would, on behalf of those local people they represented, show their support for the Union of Britain through acclamation and thereby cement its status as the accepted way forward for Britain. Unsurprisingly, the motion was met with great enthusiasm. Margaret Cole wrote in her diary: ‘There were whoops and cheers and goodness knows what else. All around me were men and women stamping their feet and throwing their hands into the air. Gradually, a chant began to emerge, and as soon as I heard what it was I too felt compelled to join in. “Onwards Britain!” we cried, “Onwards Britain!”’[1].

This successfully set the mood for the Congress to be highly jubilant and assuaged any fears of a bitter or violent contest. Point three of the agenda could now be advanced to. The election of officers had been accepted as the turning point of the Congress already. Whichever faction got its people elected would be in de facto control of the Union already, given the Chairman and General Secretary’s power to decide the agenda of the Congress, and the simple fact that whoever won a majority in this election was likely to do the same on the matters of policy that the constitution required voting on over the coming days.

The four candidates who gained the sufficient nominations for Chairman were, unsurprisingly, all representatives of a major faction. Representing the Maximists was coal miner and union leader Arthur James Cook. The Congregationalists put forward Victor Gollancz as their candidate, apparently believing (with perhaps some accuracy) that at this stage in the Revolution a woman stood no chance of being elected. Niclas y Glais, a poet and natural orator, stood for the Autonomists. The Federationists nominated John Maclean, seen by many as the natural leader.

The candidates were each permitted to give a six-minute speech on why they sought this office. Many memoirs of those present have thought it important to note that Victor Gollancz spoke somewhat quietly and in a far more subdued manner than his opponents, with one delegate noting that ‘he could have been proposing the finest implementation of Marxist theory ever put forward by man or beast, I just couldn’t bloody well hear him’. Cook chose to give a fiery speech (he is said to have been trained in oratory by his close ally, Oswald Mosley) about the need for ‘Permanent Revolution’ and used examples from his time leading miners against the army in the Revolution. It was a strong speech, but contained few sustainable ideas, according to those present. Niclas y Glais, arguing for by far the most complex of the four factional proposals, found his audience uninterested and even appeared to detect that his views were not widely shared, declaring at the end of his speech ‘and if my message is not heeded here in the towns and cities, I shall take it to the hills and valleys, where it might be better understood!’[2].

The final speech came from John Maclean of the Federationists. Cutting a massive figure as he strode towards the podium, he spoke without notes for the full six minutes, promising a small central government that acted in the interets of local Syndicates and Trade Unions, the right to local autonomy for workers’ groups, and socialist reform of the armed forces. His conclusion was greeted with thunderous applause from all sides of the chamber, notably a great number of women and Congregationalist supporters. When the voting took place, there was already a clear idea of who would be the first elected Chairman.

As expected, Maclean won the Chair by ‘a clear majority’, believed to have been achieved through the support of Congregationalists who supported many of his views while sensing Gollanz’s inability to win. In his acceptance speech, he urged his assembled comrades to elect his choice of General Secretary, Philip Snowden, something they promptly did (the closest competitor was Arthur Cook, who stood again in an attempt to create a ‘balanced government’).

With the two major offices elected, the first day of the inaugural Congress drew to a close. The ‘any other business’ almost turned into a lengthy debate on the exact role of the CTU and its officers in running the country, until Tom Mann, in his final act as interim Chairman, banged his gavel and declared such discussions were for the following days of the Congress, not now. As the delegates parted ways for the first time, there was still a feeling of optimism in the air. The Federationists were arguably the least controversial choice, and Maclean was personally popular with almost all the delegates. It would remain to be seen how effective this unofficial ‘Federationist majority’ would be in deciding the major questions of the coming days – the role of the constitution, the army and the other officers (now named ‘Commissaries’) that would serve as the equivalent of ‘ministers in cabinet’ under the old regime. The only tension detectable in the atmosphere of the departing delegates was how much of a split would occur if some choices proved unpopular, or there were serious disagreements over how important the ‘federal authority’ should be. As they left, Oswald Mosley is said to have remarked to a young Eric Blair who was by his side, ‘Today we have seen the end of the beginning. Let us hope tomorrow is not the beginning of the end.’

[1] Margaret Cole, Living for Britain: My Diaries (London: Penguin Publishing Cpv., 1945) p.73

[2] Though a poetic phrase and one he is much-remembered for, y Glais' hopes never came true. His politics were not much more popular in the valleys of Wales than they were in the town halls of England. That he and the Autonomists survived as a political entity for so long is an historical oddity that is examined later in this book in an article by Terry Pollitt.​
 
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Meadow

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Phew, that's a much longer update than I expected to produce. No prizes for guessing where the middle quoted section is 'inspired' by!
 

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My love for the UoB stems partly from its softer form of Socialism
Hehe that was the plan :D

I will follow it, even if you are using Zucker's deviationist political groupings - which are the canon, and about which I feel like the Trotsky to their Stalin... ;)

EDIT: BTW the Bolshevik revolution in K-R's timeline is supposed to be viewed as a heroic might-have-been struggle and Lenin et al are socialist martyrs. Lefties in the K-R word regret that the anarchistically inclined Bolsheviks didn't succeed in their endeavours to establish rule by decentralised commune. It's based on the initial reception of the revolution by the Left in Britain and is a bit of a joke :)
 

Meadow

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Thanks for Reading, Evans. Yes, I know the factions are not perhaps the most true to life but as you say they're canonical and my plans for the UoB rely on them for the next couple of decades. Did you like the insertion of a few more OTL socialists like the Coles?

As for the Bolsheviks, yes, it is indeed viewed as a shame, but remember this book is being written in 2010 - so long after the event that historical perspective is permissable. As for whether the British regime has liberalised enough to permit such true history... well, you'll have to wait and see.
 

Kurt_Steiner

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Wonderful update, no matter if it's long, it's worth reading it.
 

Jedrek

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  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Magicka
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
A jolly good piece of text, indeed! ^^ It seems we have a bit different vision of the first days of the Union, but well... Licentia poetica it is, isn't it? :)
 

Meadow

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@Dannyboy - me too, glad to have you aboard!

@Evans - don't worry, I have big plans for GDH Cole, at least.

@Kurt_Steiner - I'm flattered! Thank you for your kind words. I hope I can keep up this standard of quality, then.

@Jedrek - thank you for the compliment! And yes, I recall we do, but you're right - counterfactual authorship is wonderful because we can all make history go exactly how we want it to ;)

Now some bad news: I'm not sure when I'll next be able to update, having got 4000 words to write for Monday and having spent all of last night writing that update ;) Worst case scenario I will have something up by Monday evening (GMT) but I hope I can get the time and inspiration to give you all a quick update before then. Thank you for your support and patience.