Sunday, November 13, 2011

January 13, 1950 – Soviet Union Remains Active in the United Nations

Upon the 6 to 3 defeat of his proposal to oust the Nationalist Chinese representatives in the United Nations in favor of the People's Republic, Soviet ambassador Jacob Malik walked out of the voting chamber and announced his boycott of the Security Council. He blamed the United States for "lawlessness" and noted that anyone could see the illegality of refusing to recognize the PRC. Until the Nationalist Chinese were removed, Malik vowed that the Soviet Union would not be bound by UN declarations.

Although Malik was willing to make the gamble, higher-ups in Moscow were not, and he was replaced as the Soviets determined to keep their power of veto that had been part of the original agreements to joining the UN in 1945. The early days of the UN were rife with difficulties as the Soviets initially balked at the inclusion of India and the Philippines, the former colonies who were believed to be just extra votes for the dominant UK and US. Further issues arose when the USSR wanted each of its republics within to gain recognition, but the US countered saying each of its 48 states would then, too. A compromise was met with recognition of Belorussia and Ukraine, and the United States was proposed two additional seats but declined rather than choose among its states.

With the balance of the Cold War thusly struck for the early days, the defining moment of the renewed troubles was the refusal to recognize the People's Republic of China after the Nationalist Republic moved its capital to Taipei. Malik hoped for a shut down of the UN by walking out and relying on the power of the Eastern European Bloc. However, the West had worked to create another political union, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It had begun with the Treaty of Brussels on March 17, 1948, as a mutual defense agreement and continued to expand from the original states of Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, France, and UK. As the Cold War heated up with the tense days of the Berlin Blockade, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Canada, and the United States were included by 1949. Seeing the potential for such an overwhelming position by the West, the Soviets decided to keep their veto with the UN to stymie the spread of renewed imperialism.

The resolute stance soon proved useful as the invasion of South Korea by North Korea arose in debate that June. Korea, which had been occupied by the Empire of Japan for years before its defeat in 1945, was split into occupation zones. The Soviets, who had invaded Manchuria and were much closer to the agreed upon 38th Parallel, held the north while the Americans stationed soldiers in the capital and south. North Korea came under the influence of communism and supported the People's Liberation Army during the Chinese Civil War. After the war ended with the Nationalists retreating to Taiwan and the formation of the People's Republic in 1949, some 70,000 Koreans who had volunteered for service returned to North Korea. North Korean leader Kim Il-sung gained Mao Zedong's blessing in May of 1950, and an invasion took place soon after in retaliation to provocative raids under "bandit traitor Syngman Rhee." They vowed to capture and execute the South Korean leader, who was evacuated, but not before he ordered the Bodo League Massacre in which hundreds of thousands of suspected communists were slaughtered by military and police.

Meanwhile, the invasion came to notice by the United States. Truman and his Secretary of State Dean Acheson agreed that appeasement could not be repeated and the expansion of Communism was a threat to the Free World. They knew that unilateral action would cause a massive upheaval, however, and so the matter was introduced into the United Nations on June 25 with a proposed demand that North Korea remove its forces, which would have been United Nations Security Council Resolution 82, had the Soviet Union not vetoed it. Arguing on the grounds of national sovereignty, the Soviets continued to veto potential resolutions, blocking the US's chance at stopping the flow of Communism. As the months passed and the ambassadors' hands were tied, Kim Il-sung's forces overwhelmed the peninsula, and it was all the US could do to organize a massive evacuation to the heavily militarized American bases in Japan.

Although many were frustrated, the primary mood of the West was one of conservatism. When the People's Republic of China occupied Tibet that November, again the United Nations sat with hands tied although the matter was widely debated. The nation most considered to have grave concern for the matter, India, held that the Chinese would be peaceful and refused to support military action. Truman's doctrine of "containment" seemed to largely fall apart on the impossibility of military action, though it had succeeded with its $400 million donation to support the government of Greece in its civil war. A new form of Dollar Diplomacy, famous from the Taft presidency, came into power during Eisenhower’s terms, fed by the vast economic expansion of the 1950s.

Instead of becoming militarily involved, the United States would invest heavily in surrounding nations, such as the famous New Society programs expanding support for Thailand and Cambodia after the fall of Vietnam under the Johnson administration. Meanwhile, covert CIA operations would aid enemies of communist influence, which would bring about the downfall of the cash-strapped Soviet Union after its invasion of Afghanistan. Despite its overall success, the policies were widely condemned by the often pro-USSR debates in the United Nations as "New Imperialism" and many countries such as Korea continued under what Truman called "totalitarian regimes", evident at night when the bright lights of Japan are compared with the darkness on the whole of the Korean peninsula.


In reality, the Soviet boycott lasted until August, absent from UN SC Resolution 82, 83, 84, and 85, which established the Korean War with peace-keeping forces from around the world, though largely American with General Douglas MacArthur as commander. Years of brutal fighting would return the demilitarized zone to the 38th Parallel, but further wars such as that in Vietnam would expand the fighting of the Cold War.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

January 12, 1904 – Automobile Enthusiast Henry Ford Dies in Crash

Atop the frozen Lake St. Clair near Detroit, Michigan, USA, automobile engineer Henry Ford died when his experimental Ford 999 broke through a spot of unseasonably thin ice. The car flipped at speeds estimated beyond ninety miles per hour, and Ford was instantly killed.

Ford had already built an illustrious career in engineering and was gathering investors for his newly incorporated Ford Motor Company. He had begun on his own farm and sawmill and, in 1891, accepted a job at the Edison Illuminating Company. In 1893, the same year as the birth of his son, Edsel, Ford was made chief engineer, which gave him the resources to experiment with gasoline engines and culminated in the invention of his Ford Quadricyle in 1896. With Edison's encouragement, Ford continued to develop his machine and in 1899 left to found his own company. The initial Detroit Automobile Company did not meet Ford's standards, and he later began again with Alexander Malcolmson, taking in a partnership with the Dodge brothers, whose company produced parts.

As part of his self-publicity, Ford drove his latest automobile design, the "999", which he had perfected from the old model created alongside bicyclist Tom Cooper. It had won races in the past, and Ford meant for it to be a display of his capabilities at setting a new land speed record far and above that made by William Vanderbilt in his internal combustion Mors at seventy-six miles per hour over one kilometer. Although the new record was estimated, it was partially considered out of respect of the late Henry Ford, though L'Automobile Club de France did not recognize it at all as the run had taken place on a frozen lake.

Despite Ford's disaster and numerous other birth pangs, the automobile industry blossomed across the world. Ford's company would shift ownership to the Dodge brothers, who eventually sold the automobile component and put in manufacturing with other Detroit automobile companies such as Olds and Buick before starting their own car line. Other countries such as France, Germany, and Britain manufactured their own automobiles, though America would take up a lead in numbers overall. The growing middle class in America was able to support more of the luxury of an automobile while much of the world transitioned from the horse and buggy to trains. The car remained a badge of wealth, costing between $2000 and $3000, a large amount as the average annual salary in 1910 was $750. Even more expensive luxury cars such as those from Cadillac would cost as much as $5000 by 1920.

Through the Twenties, manufacturing improved and many Americans purchased their cars on credit only to lose them as the Great Depression began. Much of the United States continued using horses, bicycles, and the cheaper motorcycle, but the manufacturing burst of the 1940s set the groundwork that after World War II just about anyone could afford an automobile. Just as prefabricated houses became widely available, so did the many varieties of American cars. Internationally, the American car would continue its lead into the rebuilding of Europe, though every nation seemed to have its own variety.

By the '50s when the industrial sector managed to cross over into mass production of cheap cars, however, the wartime perfection of the rail system and air travel did not leave much interest in long-range driving. President Eisenhower was able to secure some funding for his Interstate Highway System, but the roads would be rarely used by the public who preferred the ease of passenger travel. Cars, meanwhile, were typically saved for leisure on day-trips or commuting for those who lived outside of cities' widespread mass transit systems. Counter-culture beatniks and later hippies popularized the “road trip”, but it would be another generation before it could be considered a family activity.


In reality, Henry Ford's test run was impeccable, and the car went onto a racing tour that spread his name across the country. Ford would be instrumental in the making of the modern world with his Model-T, introduced October 1, 1908, as “a car for the great multitude.” At only $825 initially and as cheap as $360 in 1916, by 1927 over fifteen million Model-Ts had been produced. Ford also helped introduce the moving assembly belt, which revolutionized manufacturing. While severely anti-union, Ford believed in high wages and benefits for employees, hiring and keeping the best workers to maximize efficiency.

July 27, 1794 - Robespierre's Defense Published

At the height of the Reign of Terror, the French Revolution held its climax as forces loyal to the ideals of Maximelien Robespierre overwhelmed the Convention army arranged by men such as Billaud, Barras, and Barère. The loyalist soldiers had been rallied by the overnight and secret publication of Robespierre's speech defending himself from charges of tyranny. Instead, he warned France of a conspiracy to seize power in the Republic, which caused his enemies to leap to action and call for Robespierre's execution, bringing all cards to bear.

It was a harried time in the chaos that seemed to dominate Paris since the storming of the Bastille in 1789. Through the next five years, the National Assembly would attempt to create constitutions, women would march on Paris, property of the Church was publicly seized, the king fled, was captured, and eventually executed, and nearly every king in Europe declared war on the new Republic. Meanwhile, even the forces of revolution began to splinter, forming political clubs such as the Feuillants and the Girondins. Many of them encouraged the wars, hoping for war to be declared against Austria, but lawyer and political leader Robespierre said in 1792, "such a war could only favour the forces of counter-revolution, since it would play into the hands of those who opposed the sovereignty of the people. The risks of Caesarism were clear, for in wartime the powers of the generals would grow at the expense of ordinary soldiers, and the power of the king and court at the expense of the Assembly."

The war began anyway after the death of Leopold II of Austria, but France took major victories in Belgium and the Rhineland, cementing the position of the Republic on the continent. The fledgeling government turned inward to its problems of food shortages, insurrections, and outright treason. The Tribunal was established in 1793, leading to a Committee of Public Safety, and Robespierre was one of the nine elected. Here began a "Reign of Terror" during which Robespierre wrote, "...the spring of that government during a revolution is virtue combined with terror: virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible." The report of enemies of the state became a major part of clearing up the factionalism and counter-revolutionaries of the time, and it grew further with the Law of 22 Prairial on June 10, 1794. By it, the Tribunal could condemn an enemy of the state through direct order and without witnesses. Through the next eight weeks, nearly 1300 people would be guillotined.

Robespierre's system of purification nearly ricocheted back at him when he was called before the Convention, accused of treason. That July, Robespierre had recalled several envoys who had been accused of extravagance with their positions to Paris to account for their actions. One of them, Joseph Fouché, evaded arrest and sneaked from house to house of Convention members, explaining that Robespierre would come for them too. With the groundwork set for a coup d'état, the Convention called in Robespierre on suspicion of tyranny, and he delivered a two-hour speech giving already his knowledge of the conspiracy. The guilty members (though unnamed) hurried to act. The next day, Robespierre's ally Saint-Just (whom Robespierre had been before sent to the front to garner support from the army) was shouted down during his defense. Robespierre also attempted to speak, but the chaos and outright mockery closed him off. At the conclusion, the Convention ordered the arrest of Robespierre and many of his allies.

Commune soldiers under General Coffinhal marched in to defend Robespierre, aiming for the Convention itself, who ordered up soldiers of their own. The soldiers of the Commune began to falter, and it was then that copies of Robespierre's speech was delivered to them, printed in secret after the debate in the Convention had attempted to censor them. Instead, the soldiers realized that they must continue to fight for the good of the revolution against conspiracy and were joined by many free Parisians from the mob. The Battle of Paris raged for only a few hours initially, but when the conspirator's army broke in the early morning, the rioting spread to follow them. Barras, who led the Convention soldiers, was killed in the fighting, Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne was captured and executed, and Bertrand Barère (who had already come under suspicion of treason) managed to escape, eventually ending up in England before disappearing into the Caribbean as an adventurer.

After the Battle of Paris, Robespierre succeeded in his plans to end counter-revolutionary movements. By winter, the Law of 22 Prairial came to an end and the Terror expired. Instead, Robespierre continued his place maintaining the Committee of Public Safety and keeping the political elements of pure to his ideal of republic. Meanwhile, the wars with Europe (and even the Quasi-War with the United States until the matter of privateering was settled) continued until the Treaty of Lunéville with Austria in 1801 and the Treaty of Amiens with Britain in 1802. The war was finished by General Moreau as the great Corsican general Napoleon Bonaparte was dispatched to the West Indies as "punishment" for his lateness in returning from Egypt in 1799 due to poor communication, but also to get a potential tyrant away from the young republic as well as to organize the former slaves who had been freed under the Rights of Man.

Robespierre himself would retire from political office in 1815, but he would continue to lead the Jacobin political party and encourage the spread of Republicanism to other countries. After the success of the Society of United Irishmen liberating the Republic of Ireland and later the Republic of Australia, Robespierre was instrumental creating a Republican Bloc of nations such as Batavia and Saint-Domingue that spurred conservatism in the royal houses of Europe. In 1821, Robespierre left to observe General Simón Bolívar in his carving out of republics from the old Spanish Empire in the Americas, which rejected Robespierre's Cult of the Supreme Being. Elsewhere, primarily in Europe and then in French republican dependencies, the deist Le culte de l'Être suprême remains the state religion with its festival on June 8 as the largest holiday of the year. Robespierre himself led the festivities in Paris until his death in 1836.


In reality, Robespierre's speech was never published, though repeated and applauded at the Jacobin Club. According to Napoleon Bonaparte, "Robespierre was overthrown because he wanted to become a moderator and stop the Revolution. Cambaceres told me that the day before his death, he delivered a wonderful speech that was never printed. Billaud and other terrorists, seeing that he was weakening and he would invariably have their heads, conspired against him and stirred up the so-called decent people to overthrow the 'tyrant,' but in reality to take his place and extend the reign of terror."

*Special thanks to Nicolas Gregoire for idea and background

Site Meter