Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Today -100: January 23, 1918: Of peace strikes and anthracite pools

Maxim Litvinov, the former revolutionary exile from Russia who is now serving as unofficial ambassador to Britain (because Britain doesn’t recognize the Bolshevik government), attends the annual Labour Party congress in Nottingham. He calls for revolution in Britain to end the war.

There’s a big peace strike in Austria. Some of this is standard dissatisfaction with the endless war, some of it is resentment that expansionist Germans are running the Brest-Litovsk negotiations with complete disregard for Austria.

Headline of the Day -100: 

He’ll stick to plain ol’ water.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Today -100: January 22, 1918: No longer necessary in a socialist state

The Romanovs are to be tried for treason. With lawyers and everything.

Idle Monday yesterday not only shut down factories but offices in skyscrapers whose elevators were not operating.

Woodrow Wilson denies that there is any inefficiency in the military establishment and says he will fight the moves in Congress to correct that inefficiency, such as creating a Director of Munitions and a streamlined War Cabinet.

Wilson “desires and enjoins” members of the military to follow the sabbath.

The decree dissolving the Russian Constituent Assembly issued by the Executive of the Congress of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Delegates says that after the February Revolution, the Congress “perceived the illusion of an understanding with the bourgeoisie and its deceptive parliamentary organization”. Lenin says, “The Constituent Assembly is the highest expression of the political ideals of bourgeois society, which are no longer necessary in a socialist state.”

The Supreme Court rules that Puerto Rico is not a territory of the United States and the Constitution does not apply there.

The NY Philharmonic will no longer play music by living German composers. Beethoven is still okay, but sucks to be you, Strauss.

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Today -100: January 21, 1918: At 4:00 this morning the Constituent Assembly was dissolved by sailors

The conscription authorities in the UK accidentally discover a female factory worker “masquerading in male attire,” one Ellen Harriet Capon (!), or Charles Brian Capon as she’s been calling herself. She says she did it in order to earn more money, although she was also dating a woman, so make of that what you will. That phrase, “masquerading in male attire,” is actually what Capon is charged with, because that’s actually a crime (I think the police court just called her a naughty girl and let her off, and she went back to work).

Lenin dissolves the Constituent Assembly, invoking authority that he pulls out of his ass, as was the custom. His decree reads in part: “At 4:00 this morning the Constituent Assembly was dissolved by sailors. Today a decree dissolving the Assembly will be published.”

The US War Dept will run psych evaluations on all soldiers.

Italy is pissed off at a speech by British Prime Minister Lloyd George in which he mentioned Alsace-Lorraine, Belgium, Palestine, and Mesopotamia, but did he mention Italian territorial aspirations? No he did not.

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Today -100: January 20, 1918: Of constituent assemblies, idle Mondays, and peace talks

The Russian Constituent Assembly meets and elects Viktor Chernov of the Social Revolutionary (SR) Party chair rather than the Bolshevik candidate. Chernov tells a reporter he doesn’t think the Bolsheviks will dissolve the Assembly. The Bolsheviks and Left SRs pull out after the Assembly refuses to give the Lenin government veto power. Armed sailors posted by the Bolsheviks loom threateningly and occasionally tell the delegates to go home.

Fuel Administrator Garfield agrees to allow theatres, cinemas, pool halls, bowling alleys and other places of amusement where booze is not sold to remain open on Idle Mondays – but they have to close on Tuesdays.

The Best-Litovsk peace talks are suspended, again. Germany is willing to commit to referenda in Poland, Lithuania and Courland about whether they want to be absorbed into Germany, within a year after the end of the war, but won’t commit to not occupying those areas militarily while the referenda are conducted.

Would you like to read an article in the Sunday NYT Magazine section entitled “Vivisection’s Many War Achievements”? Yeah, me neither.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Today -100: January 19, 1918: Of free passage, gas masks, and income taxes

Russia (actually the Revolutionary Committee of the 9th Army) gives an ultimatum to Romania demanding free passage through Jassy.

The US army is (according to the Providence Journal, so who knows if it’s true) sending back 200,000 gas masks because they’re “useless.” Soldiers are borrowing British and French gas masks, which smell respectively of... nah I’m not doing that joke. (Update: tomorrow the government will deny this story, but admits 20,000 gas masks were replaced by better ones.)

Headline of the Day -100: 

Headline of the Day -100:  

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Today -100: January 18, 1918: Of the disappointing American spirit, and kings

The Senate passes a resolution asking for the delay of Fuel Administrator Harry Garfield’s order to shut industries east of the Mississippi for the next 5 days and the following 10 Mondays to save on coal. So he signs the order while they’re still voting (Dems block a vote in the House).  Garfield says he doesn’t think employers will stop their workers’ wages during the idle days or “I shall be disappointed in the American spirit.” US Steel says it will disappoint Garfield in the American spirit.

Lenin orders the arrest of King Ferdinand of Romania. This follows the arrest a couple of days ago of the Romanian ambassador, from which Russia had to back down after the concerted opposition of all the other ambassadors in Petrograd. The story about the inciting incident keeps changing: the arrest by Romania of Austrian officers who wanted to fraternize with Russians during the current cease-fire, or the capture by Romania of Bolshevik irregulars doing god knows what.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Today -100: January 17, 1918: Of idle Mondays, Armenias, and assassination attempts

Fuel Administrator Harry Augustus Garfield responds to the coal shortage (really more a distribution problem than a supply problem) by ordering non-essential industries east of the Mississippi to close for 5 days and then for every one of the following 10 Mondays. No one is happy about this. Some congresscritters are wondering from where Garfield thinks the legal authority for this order derives. Garfield, who is the son of Pres. James Garfield and president of Williams College but is basically unknown, issued this far-reaching order with no advance notice.

It’s not just factories either, and Broadway theatres are pissed off, as, presumably, are the people whose jobs will be shut down on Monday but won’t be able to take advantage of the day off.

The Hungarian Cabinet resigns after Emperor Charles refuses their request for a separate Hungarian army.

Russia supports a free Armenia, including territory now held by both Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

A break (or even a coup) between German military and political leaders is averted, reports say, by a compromise in which there will be no annexations in the east that might screw up a peace with Russia but Hindenburg retains full authority to grab whatever land he wants in the West. Provided he wins the war, of course.

Someone shoots at Lenin’s car in Petrograd, breaking the windshield.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Today -100: January 16, 1918: Of religious maniacs, Polish Jews, and the tango

Russia arrests the Romanian ambassador and his staff, for reasons they will not disclose. The other ambassadors are worried/pissed off.

According to “news” that has reached Geneva, the former Czar Nicholas now “seeks only oblivion and silence” while Mrs. Czar “has become a religious maniac.” Become?

Officials from the Polish puppet regime meet with Jewish leaders, who are demanding that special laws and taxes applying only to Jews be abolished as they have been in Russia. The officials reply that instead, they might want to get all the Jews the hell out of Poland.

Supposedly, former French Prime Minister Joseph Caillaux was arrested because US Secretary of State Lansing informed France that Caillaux was in contact with the German Foreign Office when he visited Argentina in 1915. Also supposedly, the documents found in his bank deposit box in Italy show that in 1916 he was planning, if he became prime minister again, to order the arrests of several politicians and soldiers, including current Prime Minister Clemenceau. Also, everybody’s making a big deal about a supposed order by German censors for the press not to mention Caillaux at all.

The Vatican bans the tango.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Today -100: January 15, 1918: Of treason, annexations, and juries of one’s socialist peers

France’s former Prime Minister Joseph Caillaux is arrested (the police held off for a day when they found he was having a dinner party, because France). Evidently... something... was found in a bank vault in Italy under his wife’s maiden name.

The NYT thinks the German military establishment is about to force out Foreign Secretary Richard von Kühlmann and Chancellor Georg von Hertling. The military is grumbling at the possibility that peace talks won’t result in Germany annexing major territory and placing other areas (the Baltics, the Ukraine) under German “influence.”

Russo-German peace talks break down as Germany refuses to remove its troops from Lithuania, Courland, Riga, etc.

The US Supreme Court affirms that aliens in the US are subject to the draft. In another case, it rules that socialists were not tried unconstitutionally because jury members from other political parties were prejudiced against them. The Court says, hey we’re okay with black people being tried by all-white juries, so...

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Today -100: January 14, 1918: Of curtseying to Bolshevist authority and cussing out mules

At the Brest-Litovsk conference, the Germans complain that while the talks were recessed, Russians officials were talking about their hopes for a revolution in Germany. The Germans say they’ve very politely refrained from talking about internal conditions in Russia. Go ahead and talk, Trotsky responds.

Izvestia says Wilson’s 14 Points speech is “a great victory in the great struggle for democratic peace”. Pravda, on the other hand, calls Wilson a representative of capitalism and says the 14P are a mask for the old war formulas and for “plundering under the mask of self-definition of nations”; “the American Bourse found it necessary not only to reckon with the Bolshevist authority, but to make its curtsey to it.”

US Army muleteers are ordered to stop cussing out lazy mules.

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Today -100: January 13, 1918: Wilson is seeking a way out of war

German newspapers are interpreting Wilson’s 14 Points speech in different ways. The Frankfurter Zietung, for example, thinks it shows that Wilson realizes the Allies can't win the  war; “Wilson is seeking a way out of war, although he is doing it in a manner not yet quite acceptable to us.” The paper seems to think the US has given up on getting Alsace-Lorraine back for France, which is very much not what Wilson said.

Russia gives in to Germany’s refusal to remove the peace talks from occupied Brest-Litovsk to a neutral country (which many think was a Germany ploy to force a break in talks). The armistice is extended a month.

Lithuania declares independence. Well, a bunch of Lithuanians in Stockholm declare independence anyway. They have rather expansive ideas about what constitutes Lithuania, including areas presently part of Germany such as Königsberg (Kaliningrad), the capital of East Prussia, as well as all of Russian Lithuania. They point out that they have names in Lithuanian for the territories they’re claiming, and if that doesn’t prove they rightfully belong to Lithuania then they just don’t know what more proof you need.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Today -100: January 12, 1918: Morally dished

Germany withdraws its Christmas offer of a peace without annexations or indemnities, since only Russia was willing to talk to them about it.

Former NYC Boy-Mayor John Purroy Mitchel joins the Army Aviation Service. Don’t forget to fasten your seatbelt, Mr. Boy-Mayor!

Spoiler Alert: He will totally forget to fasten his seatbelt.

Food Czar Herbert Hoover calls for still more food savings in the US so meat exports to France, Britain and Italy can be doubled. While he’s not proposing rationing, he does plan to send out thousands of agents to prosecute hoarders – regular consumers as well as wholesalers.

On Feb. 4, the US will start registering all Germans in the Southern District of New York, which means photographing and fingerprinting all males 14 and older.

Christabel Pankhurst says women’s suffrage will be used in Britain for “disciplining democracy.” Kinky!

Mary Kilbreth, acting president of the New York Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, says “representative government has been wrecked” by Congress’s vote for the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, and a “woman autocracy” established. She hopes the American people won’t “tamely submit to the yoke.” Kinky! Anti-suffragist women will have to use their ballots to elect men who have not yet lost “all the male instincts of domination and sovereignty.” JUST. SO. KINKY!

George Bernard Shaw writes a letter to the Daily Chronicle about the recent proliferation of statements (from Wilson, Lloyd George, etc) about war aims: “The bidding for peace took a long time to start, but now that it is started it is bewilderingly brisk. It seems only yesterday that to have any war aims at all was denounced as the blackest pro-German treason. Victory, a smashing, triumphant victory, without any ulterior object whatever except ‘the crushing of Prussian militarism,’ (the same thing in other words,) was the whole aspiration of the pugnacious patriot.” It suited Germany’s rulers that “we should keep declaring that we were out to crush them. That was precisely what they had been telling the German people”. But with the Russian Revolution there is a new situation “in which it was extremely important to all belligerents that they should appear in the character of grievously molested Quakers, reluctantly forced to defend their countries against imperialist aggression.  To take up the pacifist position in the moral tug-of-war that goes on between Governments in their appeals to the conscience of civilization the Germans suddenly let go the rope, and we sat down with a crash. We were morally dished.” Wilson backed down from demanding a complete democratization of Prussia and set out the 14 Points (which no one is calling that yet , by the way), and “any sort of definite war aims must seem so clear and reasonable in contrast with the crude ravings they replace, that we are for the moment cheated into believing that the Germans must think them as moderate as they seem to us.” Shaw declines to “join the ranks of those kindly people who cry peace when there is no peace.” Rather, “When both sides become convinced that neither of them can both win and survive the effort, then it will be time to talk of peace.”

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Today -100: January 11, 1918: A question of evolution

The House of Representatives votes 274 to 136 in favor of the women’s suffrage amendment to the Constitution, which is exactly the 2/3 vote required. All very dramatic. Democrats were 104 to 102 in favor, Republicans 165 to 33 in favor. A proposal for a 7-year deadline for ratification, such as the one attached to the prohibition amendment, fails. The opening speech is made by the first and only woman congresscritter, Jeanette Rankin (R-Montana). “We are facing a question of evolution,” she says. She argues that during the war, when American soldiers are dying for lack of a woolen shirt, women, who unlike men think in terms of human needs, might have something to contribute.

The House of Lords, which is usually firmly against evolution, rejects Lord Loreburn’s amendment to remove women’s suffrage from the Representation of the People Bill by an astonishing 134 to 71, despite warnings from Lord Curzon that it would lead to socialism and disturb home life and that in a future war men might resist being conscripted by the female vote. The Lord Chancellor added that pacifists might work on politically inexperienced women and force an inconclusive peace. Every bishop and archbishop who voted supported the women’s suffrage provision.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Today -100: January 10, 1918: Of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, ex-villages, and mutinies

Woodrow Wilson reverses his previous position that women’s suffrage should be determined at the state rather than the federal level, and comes out in support of the federal constitutional amendment “as an act of right of justice.” He was evidently influenced in part by the granting of suffrage to women in Britain. And by the fact that the Republican Party came out in favor of it first. The NYT, anti assholes to the end, accuses the Democrats of chicken-heartedness.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Gen. Hindenburg is reported by Matin to have ordered the destruction of 130 French villages behind the Western front.

Headline of the Day -100: 

Boy is that headline  over-selling the story. The crew of the Portuguese battleship Vasco de Gama mutinies and fires on a fort, which fires back, the government retakes the ship, the end.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Today -100: January 9, 1918: Didn’t your mother teach you that it’s not polite to point?

Woodrow Wilson, as is his wont, calls Congress into session with almost no advance warning so he can make a speech at them. This is the 14 Points speech, in which he lays out the basis for peace and the post-war rearrangement of the map of Europe. These are:
1. Open peace treaties established by open diplomacy with no secret bits.
2. Freedom of navigation of the seas.
3. Free and equal trade conditions (Republicans are not so thrilled with the free trade bit).
4. Reduction of armaments.
5. Adjustment of colonial claims, with consideration of the interests of the colonial populations (guess who gets to decide what those interests are? not the colonial populations, that’s for sure).
6. Withdrawal of occupation troops from Russia.
7. The restoration of Belgium.
8. And France, to which Alsace-Lorraine will be returned.
9. Enlargement of Italy along lines of nationality.
10. “Autonomous development” of the peoples of the Austrian Empire (he’s being a bit vague on whether this means breaking up the Empire).
11. Restoration of Serbia, Romania, and Montenegro.
12. More autonomous development, this time for the peoples of the Ottoman Empire, which Wilson rather more clearly intends to break up.
13. An independent Poland.
14. A League of Nations.
This is the first time Wilson has publicly supported France and Italy’s aspirations to reclaim territories lost in the 19th century to Germany and Austria respectively.

George Creel, head the Committee on Public Information, decides that his remit now includes propagandizing abroad. Without asking the State Department, he sends Vira Boarman Whitehouse to Europe to spread the good news about the US’s war aims. Whitehouse’s previous experience in publicity was for the women’s suffrage movement in New York.

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Monday, January 08, 2018

Today -100: January 8, 1918: Of self-determination, soldiers & suffrage, and conscription

The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) says a lasting peace can only be based on the principle of self-determination, putting them at odds with the increasingly aggressive annexationists (encouraged by Hindenburg and Ludendorff).

Since soldiers voted by mail in November’s elections, it is possible to see how they voted in aggregate. Soldiers from New York voted 26,664 in favor of the women’s suffrage referendum and 15,760 against. Soldiers from New York City voted 17,428 for and 8,323 against.

The US Supreme Court rules in 7 cases that conscription is constitutional, saying that governmental power isn’t real without sanction, that is, sanction against non-consenting US citizens. “[T]he very conception of a just Government and its duty to the citizen includes the reciprocal obligation of the citizen to render military service in case of need and the right to compel it.” That’s... really weak logic. The problem is that the Constitution only gives the federal government the power to raise an army, it doesn’t say how, and World War I was the only the second time conscription was used. The 14th Amendment, which some lawyers argued invalidates the draft, on the contrary, the Court says, “broadened the national scope of the Government by causing citizenship of the United States to be paramount and dominant.” That... in no way follows. The Court doesn’t even bother making up more crap arguments about why the 13th Amendment’s ban on involuntary servitude doesn’t apply, saying the argument that it does is just “refuted by its mere statement.”

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Today -100: January 7, 1918: Of Frankensteins, Yugoslavs coming in, and bank accounts

NYT correspondent Harold Williams, who admits “I do not understand the Bolsheviki” but is sure that German secret agents created the Russian Bolshevik movement, or something, says of the peace negotiations, “The Germans, having created a Frankenstein for their own purposes, seem to be considerably perplexed by his antics.” And back then a NYT reader who wanted to say “ACTUALLY, Frankenstein was the MONSTER” would have to dip a pen in an inkwell, write it down on stationary, and mail it in. Who says civilization hasn’t progressed?

Headline of the Day -100: 

British Prime Minister Lloyd George gave a speech a couple of days ago, which I skipped, sorry, in which he added to the Allied war aims the breaking off from the Austrian Empire of any nationalities who wanted to do so, especially Poland, but also areas with large Italian and Romanian populations who might want to be annexed by Italy and Romania. Now the “Southern Slavs” (Croats, Slovenians and the like) are asking, Hey, what about us?

Russia and Ukraine have come to some sort of armistice deal.

Foreign Minister Trotsky forbids banks releasing funds deposited by foreign embassies until their home countries hand over deposits made by the Tsarist government in banks in those countries.

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Saturday, January 06, 2018

Today -100: January 6, 1918: Of peace talks, spelling, and electric chairs

For some reason, Russia is trying very hard to have the peace talks transferred from Brest-Litovsk to Stockholm, and Germany is resisting very hard.

A decree orders the adoption of phonetic spelling of Russian next week, eliminating 3 vowels and a consonant.

Headline of the Day -100: 

These are in fact electric WHEELchairs for wounded soldiers.

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Friday, January 05, 2018

Today -100: January 5, 1918: We can quietly wait and see how the incident will pass off

German Chancellor Georg von Hertling tells the Reichstag that Germany will refuse Russia’s request that it withdraw its troops from occupied territories in the east before holding referenda on whether they’d care to be annexed by Germany. “We can quietly wait and see how the incident will pass off.”

Rep. Jeannette Rankin introduces a resolution in favor of Irish independence, and another for equal wages for women and men.

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Thursday, January 04, 2018

Today -100: January 4, 1918: Of peace talks, ambassadors, and rice

Izvestia publishes, and denounces, Germany’s negotiating terms. Foreign Minister Leon Trotsky also denounces them. But everyone knows that Russia is in no shape to resume the war, so it is, as they say in Russian, fucked.

Trotsky is naming new ambassadors. The ones he names for Britain, Switzerland and Sweden were all political exiles under the tsar.

Ukraine demands that the Russian Bolsheviks withdraw their troops within 24 hours and say whether or not Russia and Ukraine are at war now.

There’s a war on, you know:

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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Today -100: January 3, 1918: Of peace talks, trusts, plots, and translations

The Russo-German peace negotiations are not going well. Germany is claiming that Poland, Lithuania, Courland and parts of Estonia and Livonia have all declared their desire to be free of Russia, and Germany accordingly recognizes them and won’t withdraw troops from them because they’re no longer Russia (Germany is clearly planning to annex them). Trotsky notes that since those areas are under German occupation they can hardly have expressed themselves freely. Since Ukraine has said it won’t be bound by negotiations to which it is not party, Germany wants to retain its troops in strategic points, including Riga. Russia has demanded that Germany release imprisoned German socialists, which Germany says is an internal matter.

Attorney General Thomas Gregory asks the Supreme Court to defer hearings on 7 anti-trust cases (including suits against US Steel, Eastman Kodak, and Quaker Oats) because of the war.

Albert Kaltschmidt, on his way to Leavenworth for plotting (before the US entered the war) to blow up munitions plants and the like in the US and Canada, says “Germany will bring the United States to its knees, which would all have been prevented had not German-Americans been inefficient, stupid, white-feathered, and cowardly” and not defeated Wilson in 1916. For example, he says, he organized a Bund in Detroit ostensibly to raise funds for widows and orphans of German soldiers but really to propagandize against the US entering the war, and those stupid literal-minded Germans insisted the money go to widows and orphans of German soldiers.

The editor of the St. Paul Die Freie Presse is arrested for giving the government inaccurate translations of articles in his paper, such as ones praising the Austrian offensive in Italy.

In The Tribunal, the newspaper of the (British) No-Conscription Fellowship, Bertrand Russell writes that if the Allies refuse Germany’s peace offer, it will “make it clear to all that they are continuing the war for purposes of territorial aggrandisement.” Further warfare will lead to mass starvation. “The American Garrison which will by that time be occupying England and France, whether or not they will prove efficient against the Germans, will no doubt be capable of intimidating strikers, an occupation to which the American Army is accustomed when at home.” For criticizing an ally, Russell will be sentenced to 6 months in prison.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Today -100: January 2, 1918: Of flags

Finland is the first of the bits of Russia which have declared independence to choose a flag: a lion with a weird sword on a red background.

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Monday, January 01, 2018