Saturday, August 12, 2017

Today -100: August 12, 1917: The only way to win the war

The US will refuse to grant passports to the American delegates to the Stockholm socialist peace congress.

Russia will attempt to reimpose discipline on the army, replacing the commissars who were elected by the soldiers with appointed ones. The government is claiming that some of those elected commissars were the former czarist police (secret and otherwise) who were sent to the front and are now trying to undermine the war effort, using propaganda and vodka, as was the custom. Also blamed for the military collapse: German spies in Russian military uniforms, passing themselves off, with their perfect Russian, because Russian soldiers don’t have identity papers.

The Post Office revokes the second-class mailing privilege of the American Socialist.

Sinn Fein wins another Irish by-election, with William Cosgrave winning easily in Kilkenny.

Sen. Warren G. Harding says that to win the war the United States needs to have a “complete and supreme dictator” – his words – even if it’s that Democrat Wilson. He says the “system of legislation,” you know, Congress and all, is unsuited for wartime, because decisions need to be made instantly. But doesn’t that mean the complete abandonment of democracy? he is asked. “Call it what you will; it is the only way to win the war. However, it means that we abandon nothing except the incapacity of all legislative bodies in wartime.” Congress’s job would be “remain on the side lines, as it were, closely watching the great game, ready at any moment to rescind the powers it has delegated.” But wouldn’t that make us just like Germany? “Our advantage over the Germans is that we would put on autocracy as a garment only for the period of the war, whereas they wear autocracy as the flesh that clings to their bones.”

I know why this blog is giving space to a first-term senator, but I have no idea why the Sunday NYT devoted so much newsprint to Harding.

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  1. My guess is that the fix was already in and Harding was the choice of the party hierarchy for the next presidential election, much like now.

  2. I don't think they planned nearly as far ahead those days. At this stage, the Republican party didn't have a choice to run for mayor of New York in November.

    But I'll actually be interested in seeing exactly how they alight on an under-experienced not-too-bright candidate in 1920. Because that could never happen these days.