Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Guest Post: President Pershing

This post appeared on Today in Alternate History in an original post and a follow-up.

July 15, 1948 - Passing of President John J. Pershing

It was a sad day when twentieth-ninth President of the United States John Joseph Pershing passed away in Washington, D.C. He was eighty-seven years old and had been treated at at the Walter Reed General Hospital for coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure for the past four years.

An incomparable general in the United States Army, Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) to victory over Germany in World War I, 1917-18. Famously, he rejected British and French demands that American forces be integrated with their armies, and insisted that the AEF would operate as a single unit under his command. Upon his triumphant return to the States, he won the presidency in 1920 with his own strong-minded view on the the enforcement of the peace settlement.

Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Orlando had all shared the understanding that Woodrow Wilson's hare-brained peace proposals had no domestic backing whatsoever. Going over his head, they met with Senator David Cabot Lodge to negotiate an alternative and permanent settlement that was eventually ratified after the election of President Pershing. The general's nomination had been sealed in a smoke filled room by Republican grandees from New England, Middle Atlantic states and the big new industrial cities of the Midwest. Their financial and commercials interest was finding some alternate way for the US to get the war debts owed to it paid and by avoiding an expensive naval arms race with UK and Japan that would send contracts westward to California, who had left the Republican fold with Roosevelt in 1912 and Wilson in 1916.

Warren Harding might have been the man chosen by the king-makers had it not been for revelations of his philandering. In any case, the war hero Pershing was ideally suited to oversee the implementation of the US offer: four US divisions based on the Rhine as a security guarantee in return for a payment plan from France and UK which saw Germany paying reparations directly to the US. Germany itself was moved eastwards, losing the entire Rhineland to France but retaining Danzig and East Prussia, gaining the Sudetenland and Austria with its capital moved to Vienna with a Hapsburg Kaiser. The shake-up caused riots in Berlin, but, with Pershing at the helm, the US was not going to back down. Pershing himself
announced, "I wouldn't decline to serve," despite vowing not to campaign for himself. All the Republican leaders needed was his confirmation of breaking with Wilson, which Pershing gave, and the election was a landslide.

At the state funeral on 17-18th July, 1948, dignitaries and soldiers sweltered in the summer heat of Washington D.C., queuing patiently to pay their final respects to the twentieth-ninth president. He would be remembered for his firm hand in command, views on race, and foreign policies.

The mourner's sombre mood suited the funereal demeanour of America's most famous dough-boy. In many ways a sad figure, three of his siblings had died during childhood and then in a terrible echo of this family tragedy his wife and three daughters perished in a fire. At a personal level he never recovered from this disaster and as the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces he demonstrated a terrifying disregard for life. His blood-thirsty ruthless caused unnecessarily high fatalities, both in terms of the full frontal assaults he himself had harshly criticized and then fighting on after the signing of the armistice at a cost of 3,500 casualties. He also exposed U.S. troops to danger by taking the honour of recapturing Sedan and even sent an unsolicited letter to the Allied Supreme War Council, demanding that the Germans not be given an armistice and that instead, the Allies should push on and obtain an unconditional surrender. Nevertheless, many who served under him still respected him professionally as a soldier. His status as a war hero assured his victory in the thirty-fourth quadrennial presidential election.

 Because of his strictness and rigidity, Pershing was unpopular with the West Point cadets, who took to calling him "[racial slur] Jack" because of his service with the tenth Cavalry Regiment, a now-famous segregated African-American unit and one of the original "Buffalo Soldier" regiments. During the course of his tour at the Academy, this epithet softened to "Black Jack," although the intent remained hostile. While earlier a champion of the African-American soldier (he created the Harlem Hell-fighters), he did not champion their full participation on the battlefield in the World War, understanding widespread racial attitudes among white Americans generally as well as Wilson's reactionary views on race and his political debts he owed to southern Democratic law makers.

The election saw Pershing criticized by both segregationists for going too far and integrationists for not going far enough. Nevertheless once in office, Pershing did make a number of important changes that improved conditions for African-Americans in the military, changes that would be reflected in other Federal institutions. Those who complained or interfered were dismissed or reassigned. There was some irony in the manner that Pershing overruled the armed forces leadership because TR had to use presidential authority to promote him through three ranks and appoint him Brigadier General.

In his foreign policy, Pershing was not alone in his opposition to an armistice; Ferdinand Foch famously predicted "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years." Pershing worked as president to prove Foch and his own fears wrong. He chose to enforce the Versailles agreement with the steel of the four US divisions based on the Rhine. Over qualms, German debt was transferred to the US directly through forgiveness of France and UK's payments, making reparations ultimately more lenient as Germany reshaped more easterly with principle possessions in Danzig, East Prussia, the Sudetenland, and Austria. The former imperial nation now served as the German capital in Vienna with a Hapsburg Kaiser outnumbered by northerly German.

Europe of 1948 was unrecognisable to what it was thirty years before at the end of the World War. With more passive German politicians in Vienna, demands for the return of the Rhineland routinely came from especially radical extremists in the Reichstag such as Adolf Hitler, but U.S. troops remaining in situ throughout Pershing's two-terms in office made it an impossibility until the war debt was repaid. Ultimately pieces of the Rhineland would be liberated from France by plebiscite, with another following to rejoin Germany.

A second Sino-Japanese War broke out shortly after Pershing left office, with many of his last actions being to prepare the Army for service in the Philippines if necessary. Economic sanctions were imposed, most importantly restrictions on the American oil that supported the island nation. A desperate Japan quickly emerged on the horizon as a new threat to regional security in the Pacific. Fortunately, though, this tension was dissolved when oil was discovered in Manchuria.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Three States of Alaska

This post is an extension of the timeline created by Allen W. McDonnell in his "Alaska Provision added to the Immigrant Act of 1929" on Today in Alternate History, in which the Last Frontier's gates are opened to a new generation of immigrants escaping the coming war in Europe.

January 3, 2009, celebrated the semi-centennial anniversary of the third state created from Alaska Territory to enter the Union. Two had already been created in the south, which was quickly populated after the 1937 "Opening of Alaska" to immigrants eager to flee increasingly fascist Europe. Valdez had exploded from a town of one thousand to one hundred thousand, and the efforts of hardworking immigrants with little property were combined with a large population of wealthy Jewish immigrants who readily invested in their new home. The maritime climate proved suitable for farming, reinvigorating the "160 acres" American dream that had settled the West.

Many Americans in the Lower 48 were suspicious of the influx of foreigners (even installing restrictions that immigrants remain in the Alaska Territory until they become citizens, although children born there were granted immediate citizenship), but the Alaskans proved their loyalty in the Battle of Dutch Harbor in June of 1942. The naval base there, along with the Army's Fort Mears, were well warned by fishermen (the largest industry in what would become known as Kodiak) before they came under the assault of two Japanese aircraft carriers along with support cruisers and destroyers. Over the following months, militia joined US troops in the Aleutian Campaign, which reversed the Japanese gains on the islands and threatened their empire's northern flank. Attention to Alaska competed with headlines of Guadalcanal, where newsmen nicknamed Alaska the "icicle in Tokyo's side."

After the war, the more peaceful eastern part of southern Alaska, now well populated for a decade, organized itself into America's 49th state in 1946. Thanks much to the military boosts in its economy during the reconstruction of the Pacific and increasing military standing against the Soviet Union, Kodiak gained statehood in 1949.

Cold War politics arguably rushed Seward to statehood, too, in 1959 despite being thinly populated. Few were dismissive, however, at seeing Seward's great natural resources better supported as a state than as a territory. The center of learning that had built up in the fittingly named College, near Fairbanks, featured physicists such as Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard, who championed the construction of a particle accelerator built on cheap land under a reindeer ranch. Seward proved itself invaluable to the energy requirements of the nation not only through experimental nuclear power and the established hydroelectric dam in Rampart Canyon, but also in the extensive oilfields discovered first in Prudhoe Bay and then throughout the North Slope.

Through the efforts of hardworking Americans who carved out a new life in a new world, his words proved true when U.S. General Billy Mitchell stated to the U.S. Congress in 1935, "I believe that in the future, whoever holds Alaska will hold the world. I think it is the most important strategic place in the world."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Karl Marx Gets a Raise

This is a companion piece to Today in Alternate History's "Passing of Horace Greeley" in which we explore a world where Marx wasn't radicalized.

While he spent his free time exploring new facets of scientific study into economics and social science, German-exile-in-London philosopher Karl Marx made his living (or what could be called one) as a correspondent for newspapers, most famously the New York Tribune, where Editor-in-Chief Horace Greeley defended him to critics with, "Mr. Marx has very decided opinions of his own, with some of which we are far from agreeing, but those who do not read his letters are neglecting one of the most instructive sources of information on the great questions of current European politics."

Greeley supported Marx's voice, but Managing Editor Charles Dana would later be described by biographer Franz Mehring as "a hard-boiled Yankee business man" in practice despite his socialist leanings. Their employer-employee relationship was largely one-sided in power: "not only did Dana immediately put Marx on half pay at the first sign of slacking sales, but he paid only for those articles which he actually printed as Marx’s work, nor was he bashful in throwing out whole articles when their general line did not suit his purpose. On occasions it happened that for three weeks, and even six weeks on end, all the contributions which Marx sent over found their way into the waste-paper basket."

Marx's frequent collaborator Friedrich Engels (who was independently wealthy and often helped out the Marx family), "In a fit of anger ... once declared that Dana’s socialism resolved itself into the lousiest petty-bourgeois cheating, and in fact, although Dana was well aware of Marx’s value as a contributor and did not fail to advertise that value to his readers, he showed Marx every form of ruthlessness which a capitalist exploiter feels himself entitled to show towards exploited labour-power dependent on him for its existence. By no means his worst offence was that he often stole the contributions Marx sent in and published them in a garbled form as editorial articles, a proceeding which caused their real author understandable annoyance." When he had calmed down, Engels decided to put his words on paper in a letter to Greeley. Feeling that he might lose one of his most fascinating voices (and knowing a goodwill story when he heard one), Greeley determined to rectify the poor payments and encouraged Marx to use his own position as an example to others in calling for fair wages.

The argument between Greeley and Dana proved to be the end of Dana's time with the Tribune; he left to join the war effort. While Marx was more in agreement with Dana's opinions that the Civil War should be fought and won as opposed to Greeley's calls for peace that would later be used as campaign fodder calling him treasonous in the 1872 election, Marx was forever grateful. His coverage of European perspectives of the war became ignored on the homefront, prompting Marx to move his family to New York in 1863. There he wrote extensively about the plight of newly liberated slaves during Reconstruction, making numerous tours of the South, as well as criticizing the early "Gilded Age" and routinely returning to Europe. When Greeley passed in 1872, Marx wrote his widely applauded obituary for the Tribune.

The relationship between reporter and editor was remembered by President John F. Kennedy a century after Marx's raise, speaking to the American Publisher's Association, "If only this benevolent New York newspaper had treated him less kindly, we would not have had one of our strongest voices among the cries for workers' rights; history might have been different. And I hope all publishers will bear this lesson in mind the next time they receive a poverty-stricken appeal for a small increase in the expense account from an obscure newspaper man."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Guest Post by Chris Oakley: Ill Wind

July 24th, 1588

The Spanish Empire's plans to conquer England were dealt a fatal blow when the armada carrying King Philip II's invasion force ran into a massive storm that lashed the armada's ships with torrential rains and hurricane force winds. Before the storm was over, more than three hundred vessels belonging to King Philip and his Italian ally Duke Alessandro of Parma would be sunk; fewer than a hundred would survive to limp home. When Philip was informed of the catastrophe, the shock proved almost too much for him to bear, and he would not be seen in public again for weeks as he went into seclusion to try and recover his nerves. The disaster would be an even worse shock for the Duke, whose physical health rapidly went downhill and who would die from a cerebral hemorrhage just two weeks after the storm.With the Spanish navy effectively neutralized and the Spanish government plunged into crisis after the catastrophe, a triumphant Queen Elizabeth I moved swiftly to capitalize on the strategic opportunity these developments had opened for her and assembled an armada of her own to occupy Spain's neighbor Portugal and subjugate Spain itself.

While the British couldn't quite take over all of Spain, they were able to seize control of most of the Spanish mainland's southern regions as well as the islands of Majorca and Minorca and maintain that control until the late 1690s. With Spain effectively kneecapped, Great Britain's only remaining challenger for supremacy among the European powers was her old neighbor and rival France; by the time King George III assumed the British throne in 1760, the Spanish had been shut out of most of the New World and were locked in a bitter three-way battle with the British and French for the rest of it. Not until after the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1782 would Spain be able to begin reasserting herself on the world stage. Seeking to avenge what many Spanish nationalists referred to as “the century of humiliation,” the Madrid government negotiated a military alliance with French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and assembled a massive invasion force with the goal of landing on the southern British coast and overthrowing the Hanover dynasty in London.

Right from the beginning, the invasion plans ran into trouble. Napoleon insisted on personally assuming command of the joint Franco-Spanish expeditionary force as well as having the last word on matters of strategy and tactics, something which didn't sit well with the Spanish army general staff or the admiralty of the Spanish navy. Complicating matters still further, all three nations had profitable and growing trade ties with the United States and there were concerns among the Spanish diplomatic corps that a “friendly fire” mishap might provoke the U.S. into joining forces with Britain. Last but not least, growing unrest among Spain's own few colonies in the Americas made it necessary for the Spanish army to shift many of its most experienced troops to the New World, leaving its contingent in the expeditionary force to Britain made up in the most part of ill-trained recruits. When the expeditionary force finally departed for southern England in June of 1803, it was confronted by a well-prepared Royal Navy coastal squadron who opened fire on the lead Spanish warship in the invasion force as soon as it was sighted; in an engagement lasting nearly three full days most of the expeditionary force was wiped out in the English Channel with its primary target. Folkestone, still over two hundred nautical miles away. In an eerie coincidence, the spot where the Royal Navy defense contingent confronted and ultimately turned back the would-be invaders was the precise location where the Duke of Parma’s own flagship had sunk back in 1588 at the height of what is now called “the Armada storm.”

By 1806, Napoleon’s empire was on the verge of collapse, and Spain was on the verge of the biggest internal revolt any European nation had experienced since the French Revolution of 1789. The Spanish Liberation War broke out in the spring of 1807 and would last nearly  fifteen years, ending in January of 1822 when the last Spanish king, Ferdinand VII, fled to Mexico as the rebel armies were advancing on Madrid. The Spanish Republic was established in 1823 by a constitutional convention in Seville; over the next century, under the Republican government, Spain’s old adversarial relationship with Britain would give way to a more cordial rapport. In the First World War Spanish naval power would play a crucial role in the success of the main Allied landing at the Turkish port of Gallipoli, and when right-wing extremists tried to launch a coup in 1920 to restore the Spanish monarchy, British marines aided the Spanish army in quashing the revolt. One of the Spanish regular army officers who worked with the British at the time, a  young captain named Francisco Franco Baramonde, would receive the Empire Medal for his heroism during the uprising and go on to serve as Madrid’s chief military liaison to the British army high command during the Second World War.


In reality the Spanish Armada fell victim not to storms but to the English navy’s ingenious use of “fire ships”(vessels packed with combustible materials and set adrift to burn enemy vessels). The Spanish monarchy would survive until 1931, when King Alfonso XIII went into exile after an electoral landslide by republican political parties in municipal elections. Spain would be neutral in both World Wars, although the Falangist regime that took over the country in 1939 leaned to a significant degree in favor of the Axis.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Guest Post: "Nixon Proven Right"

First appeared on Today in Alternate History:

May 12, 1976 - Nixon Proven Right

Having already delivered a bomb-shell in the most controversial report of his nine-year long career, CBS Evening News anchor Arnold Zenker ended the show with a low-key catch-phrase from his predecessor Walter Cronkite, "And that's the way it is." 
The explosive truth had been accidentally revealed during that messiest of divorce hearings George W. Bush vs Ms Tricia Nixon. Of course before this unfortunate break-up, the Bush and Nixon dynasties had gone back a long way, as did Bush Senior's involvement in the Agency. It was the accidental disclosure of private information from the CIA Director that was the topic of "Uncle Arnold's" show that night.

Surprisingly, the incredible accounts of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had passed largely unchallenged. Although they probably would make a great movie, the details of the mysterious meeting in the garage, the identity of "Deep Throat" etc. were worthy of their own close examination. And now the balance of evidence suggested that Bob Woodward might himself be a CIA Agent.

Gene Roberts, the former executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and former managing editor of The New York Times, had called the work of Woodward and Bernstein "maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time."

Zenker was the previously unknown Columbia Broadcasting System executive who shot to national fame when he replaced Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News for thirteen days during a television strike. When Cronkite returned, he opened the program by saying, "Good evening. This is Walter Cronkite, sitting in for Arnold Zenker. It's good to be back."

In 1967 at the age of 28, he was asked to sit in for anchor Walter Cronkite to deliver the nightly news. Zenker, working as a Manager of News Programming at CBS at the time, was chosen because a strike by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists left the network without an immediate substitute. Once the strike ended, Zenker returned to his former post.

It was too late for former president Richard Nixon, however, who had resigned rather than drag the nation down in a fight against the conspiracy that ended his career.

Author's Notes: George W Bush did date Richard Nixon's daughter but of course married Laura Welch.

Friday, May 15, 2015

May 15, 1932 – Japanese Civil War Begins

Eleven young officers in the Japanese Navy approached the home of Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi to replicate the assassinations by the League of Blood from two months before. Japan was at a turning point with the populace frustrated by a struggling economy, and extreme-nationalists determined that it was time to purify the nation of the weak liberal-leaning civil leaders that had been in power since the beginning of the Taisho Democracy, when the emperor was ailing and political parties moved the Diet into authority.

Since being opened to the West by American Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853, Japan had undergone radical change. The Meiji Period saw the restoration of the emperor as the central source of power, ending the local control of the shogun. Industrialization brought new technology, and the Japanese market was flooded with commercially produced goods. The flow of foreign ideals upset many, especially as communism trickled over the border from the Russian Revolution.

Even more resentful than the radical changes in the country and the inflow of alien culture was Japan’s treatment by other world powers. Despite its participation in World War I where the Japanese Navy seized German colonies in China and the Pacific, Japan was treated as an outsider in the agreements. The Five Power Naval Limitation Agreement in Washington, D.C., in 1922 promoted disarmament in Pacific, creating a ratio of 5 to 5 to 3 for the United States, United Kingdom, and Japan for major ships. In 1924, the United States closed off immigration with the Japanese Exclusion Act, even though it enforced open markets. The final straw for Japan came when its own colonial ambitions in China were frowned upon after the invasion of Manchuria after a Chinese attack on a Japanese railway in 1931, even though that proved to be a hoax.

Conservatives grew in power throughout the 1920s. The first base came as a reaction against the communists, leading to the Peace Preservation Law in 1925 that ensured private ownership and sentenced anyone trying to undermine Japanese cultural spirit with ten years’ imprisonment. The populace grew restless as the war-time boom in the 1910s turned into a general recession, only made worse by the collapse of exports in the Great Depression. Nationalism, which had been strong in the country for centuries, was especially strong in the military, which enjoyed successes against Russia and China. Some believed that the disciplined military, not elected officials, should be in command of the country under the authority of the emperor.

Secret societies grew up among the ambitious young officers of the military, which had become stunted by spending cuts. The Army had its Sakurakai (Cherry Blossom Society), which attempted coup d’etats in March and October of 1931, which ultimately led to the society disintegrating in exchange for light punishments. Instead of cooling the flames, the light punishments proved to encourage others to act. In February of 1932, the “League of Blood,” formed by mystic Buddhist Nissho Inoue, who had previously served as a Japanese informant in Manchuria and was given a vision that he was to be the reformer of the country. He instructed a team of twenty followers with the motto “one person, one kill,” planning a wave of assassinations of politicians and businessmen that would rock the Japanese status quo. Only two of the assassins actually acted, and Nissho turned himself in, becoming exalted as a patriot. Another group from the Navy readied to carry through their own coup d’etat in May, planning to strike right after actor Charlie Chaplin arrived from America.

The assassins were slow in assembling on a strangely rainy evening, which proved fortunate to their cause as Chaplin and Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi’s son attended a sumo wrestling match before the reception at Inukai’s home. They arrived shortly after Chaplin, charged inside, and gunned down Chaplin and Inukai Takeru, who threw himself in front of his father. The Prime Minister was wounded but survived, while the eleven went on a string of assaults later that night. In the end, they turned themselves in to the Kempeitai military police, expecting similar awe as Nissho had seen.

Instead, the Prime Minister ordered their trial for executions the next morning. The military balked, saying that the officers were under their authority and should be court-martialed. Inukai, who had been customarily diplomatic over his life, was hardened, saying that if the officers were acting under military authority, then the military was treasonous. He ordered civilian police to re-arrest the officers out of Kempeitai custody. The resulting firefight was considered the second battle of the civil war.

Desperate for support, the Diet appealed to the League of Nations. This turned the majority of Japanese against them, but the nations of Europe (particularly Germany) were eager to act. What might have been a short war in the military’s favor turned into a long and violent international occupation. Britain and France eventually dropped out of the effort, although Germany carried on to create a fascist client state by holding the emperor. Hitler’s attention was focused on the Pacific, which he seemed determined to reach through the USSR, strong-arming Japan’s Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto into striking Vladivostok with a sneak attack.


In reality, the civil government of Japan did little to stem the rising tide of militarism. The officers assassinated Inukai Tsuyoshi, who yet tried to reach out to them with his last words, “If I could speak, you would understand.” They replied, “Dialogue is useless.” The sensational trial furthered national zeal, which prompted Japan to walk out of the League of Nations after censure over Manchuria. Charlie Chaplin and Inukai Takeru avoided assassination by attending the sumo match.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

May 14, 1525 – Peasants Win the Battle of Frankenhausen

The end of the Feudal period brought widespread change through Europe, particularly Germany, which was ruled by hundreds of landholders of varying stature. The labor shortage through the Black Plague had ensured basic rights for peasants, but now princes were more interested in consolidating power through new civil law. Public lands became property of the prince, who outlawed poaching and charged fines for use. Taxes were increased for princely projects, such as wars on neighboring nobles. The growing middle class resisted such increases on themselves, hoisting the major burden onto the poor.

The lower class of peasants became increasingly resentful as they struggled through bad harvests with little to show for their work after taxes. Meanwhile, the princes seemed to live more and more luxurious lives. Although respite from religious coercion through indulgence payments had come in the Reformation guided by men like Martin Luther, the peasants were eager for economic change, especially the return of communal lands for the good of all.

The Peasants’ War began in the German south during the 1524 harvest season. Workers needing to focus on their fields were stopped and ordered to gather snail shells for the Countess of Lupfen, who wanted them to use as spools for her thread. The peasants refused, and soon more than one thousand angry serfs marched to show their complaints. Likeminded peasants joined the fight, and soon the entire region was in an uproar.

At Memmingen, elected leaders called for a Christian Association and published the Twelve Articles that outlined peasants’ demand for a new social order based in scripture. Communities would elect their own spiritual leaders, and tithes of harvests would be granted to the Church for its support, support of the poor, and for defense. Serfdom was to be eliminated, forests were to be open for all for game and wood, and commons would be returned to free use supported by the town. Inheritance taxes, enforced labor, and fines and fees had to be agreed upon by peasants as well as their lords.

The nobles of the League of Swabia saw that they did not hold much power in this new order and raised armies of mercenaries to put down the insurrection. Such rebellions had happened before, like the Poor Conrad revolt of 1514 when peasants seized the weights of the Duke of Wurttemberg and proved that he had been cheating them. The resulting revolution against the duke was broken up by soldiers, especially after only a fraction of the peasants stood to fight rather than slipping away as the battle approached.

Much the same was expected from this war. Peasants were able to make gains such as seizing Kempten, but the princely army overwhelmed the well-armed peasants at Leipheim. Another peasant army stormed Frankenhausen, attracting more from around the countryside to build a force some ten thousand strong. They nominated Thomas Muntzer as their leader.

Muntzer was a preacher and theologian whose radical ideals prompted him to flee one town to the next before the war. He bickered with Luther, whom he admired after the posting of the Ninety-five Theses but determined that he had not gone far enough. Luther, meanwhile, refused to make the Reformation a worldly revolution, keeping it strictly a spiritual matter. In 1524, Muntzer gave his Sermon to the Princes to the Duke of Saxony in Allstedt, citing the foretelling of the Old Testament prophet Daniel that the Kingdom of God would crush all human kingdoms. He led a revolt in Muhlhausen that eliminated the town council and established communal rule.

Philip of Hesse led an army of thousands of mercenaries against the peasants at Frankenhausen, who formed a wagon-fort, a mobile stronghold made of wagons chained together. Many in the crowd began calling for a ceasefire and negotiations, yet Muntzer recalled the words he wrote earlier to the citizens of Allstedt, “Let not kind words of these Esaus arouse you to mercy. Look not upon the sufferings of the godless! They will entreat you touchingly, begging you like children. Let not mercy seize your soul, as God commanded to Moses.... Forward, forward, while the iron is hot. Let your swords be ever warm with blood!”

Upon the first skirmishers to assault the wagon-fort, Muntzer led a huge charge, crying out a referencing the Magnificat of Mary, mother of Jesus, “Scatter the proud!” The numbers of the peasants overwhelmed the assaulting force. Other mercenaries began to desert Philip’s force when he ordered a full assault. Muntzer organized a continual charge, using the vast numbers of his haphazard soldiers against the remaining mercenaries like a torrent.

The action ignited the Peasants’ War’s appeal. It was shown that the Duke of Saxony was approaching with reinforcements the next day and negotiations were only a stalling tactic. Now the duke, too, retreated. Muntzer determined that massacres like that at Boblingen two days before, where three thousand peasants were cut down, happened primarily in retreat, and so he kept up the momentum of rebellion. Muntzer relieved encircled peasants at Konigshofen and joined with Hans Muller at Freiburg to defeat the imperial army under Gotz of the Iron Hand at Wurzburg.

Muntzer consolidated his power and encouraged dedication of his followers through spiritual rhetoric and enforcing new sets of order, saying, “Omnia Sunt Communia” (“all things in common”). His agents spread through Europe, encouraging rebellions against all nobles and the debased Church. Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain launched a campaign and Clement VII attempted to root out Muntzer’s agents with the Inquisition, but the heavy-handedness and taxation to support the expense of the army only caused more rebellion. Muntzer’s communist empire rolled over Europe, which he ruled through strict social control. Within two generations, however, corruption and apathy brought it into collapse and began a new era of feudalism between pseudo-socialist warlord nations, such as English True Leveller State under Digger Gerrard Winstanley.


In reality, Frankenhausen was a violent defeat for the peasants, who wished to negotiate but were crushed by the combined Hessian and Saxon forces on May 15. Muntzer was captured and soon beheaded; the rest of the Peasants’ War ended within weeks. His collectivist ideals were praised 450 years later in communist East Germany.

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