Monday, October 25, 2021

Guest Post by Charles K. Alexander II: Trotsky and Mexico in World War II

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

 Four years and five months earlier to the day, the last words Joseph Stalin ever heard ("You f***ing idiot! Look what you've done!") were shouted at him by Lavrentiy Beria on the first night of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, June 22, 1941. These words came just before Beria and two other members of Stalin's inner circle, Georgy Malenkov and Andrey Andreyev, shot him to death. Stalin had been at least half-expecting such a move by his associates since he was informed of the Nazi invasion that morning, and Beria organized the assassination to cover up the fact that he had been as surprised by the German invasion as Stalin.

However, the transition to the collective leadership group of Beria, Malenkov, Viacheslav Molotov, and Kliment Voroshilov does not go smoothly, and the quartet quickly becomes semi-paralyzed. While Soviet forces in the field offer more resistance than the Germans had expected, the situation behind the lines, from industrial and agricultural production to the mobilization of new troops, slowly but unmistakably begins to break down. Unable to sort out the lines of authority within the party and government, a bold decision is ultimately made, one that literally could only happen over Beria's dead body: to invite Leon Trotsky, almost 62 and the hero behind the organization of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War twenty years earlier, to return to the Soviet Union and take charge of coordinating the Soviet war effort. Trotsky also happened to be the survivor of at least two well-known assassination attempts organized by Beria's espionage service, including a machine gun attack by a famous Mexican muralist and his associates, and an assault with an ice pick, of all things, by the "boyfriend" of one of his American secretaries.

To make the offer to Trotsky, the Soviets transfer their Ambassador to the United States of America, Konstantin Umansky, only 39 and not directly implicated in the attempts on Trotsky's life, to Mexico City. Escorted by Mexican police and officials, but only allowed into the Old Man's presence with three aides and after being thoroughly searched, Umansky lays out the shocking proposal to Trotsky, whose wife and associates are incredulous. Nevertheless, Trotsky accepts the offer, as long as he can bring a staff with him, the majority of whom will be members of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party, but he insists that Natalia Sedova and his grandson remain in Mexico City. While preparing for the trip home, Trotsky meets with both the outgoing Mexican President, Lázaro Cárdenas, the man who had granted the exile and his family sanctuary when the rest of the world's nations had closed their doors to him, and his more conservative successor, Manuel Ávila Camacho, who is frankly quite happy to see Trotsky go. Trotsky wants to recruit Mexican volunteers to come to the Soviet Union to fight in its defense - an idea which appalls the two former Mexican generals - but he assures the devoutly Catholic Camacho that they may bring priests with them. He also offers him a piece of advice: if Mexico is drawn into the war, Camacho could use the possibility of sending Mexican troops to the Soviet Union as a bargaining chip to get the US to pay for not just industrial development in Mexico to support the American war effort. A Mexican military build-up and the participation in the war of Mexican troops on various fronts, which would greatly benefit Mexico's standing in the international community, should result in profitable post-war connections for the capital-strapped country.

To the Mexican and international press, Trotsky speaks effusively of the Mexican people and asks for volunteers to join him in the USSR's fight for survival. He also notes that if Mexico itself is forced to join the anti-fascist fight, the geography of the country should allow it to send expert fighters to deserts, jungles, and mountains alike, a suggestion that is not particularly welcomed in Washington, D.C., and positively infuriates Berlin. Trotsky also off-handedly (or so it seems) remarks that, unlike those other terrains, Mexicans might have trouble fighting in a Russian winter, a not-so-subtle challenge that has the desired effects of immediately recruiting several hundred volunteers and planting the seeds for a future Mexican Expeditionary Force to join him on the Eastern Front.

Mexico is ultimately forced to declare war on the Axis Powers in May 1942 after the German sinking of two oil tankers, and Camacho plays the United States like a fiddle, with Trotsky doing his bit by welcoming Mexico to the fight in the press as if they are the feared Aztecs warriors of old. Hundreds of American-owned manufacturing plants are opened in northern Mexico, while dozens of camps are set up all over the country, each and every one of them paid for by the USA, to train Mexican soldiers to fight in the desert and mountains of North Africa, on the jungle islands, sandy atolls and volcanic mountains of the Pacific, and in the mountains, broad plains and cities of Europe. But Trotsky also puts Camacho on the spot by formally and publicly requesting a Mexican expeditionary force be dispatched to the USSR at Mexico's earliest convenience. A half-million Mexican recruits and conscripts will be outfitted, armed and offered basic training by the United States before they are transported by sea across the Pacific on Soviet freighters - safe from Japanese attack due to the peace between the two countries, never mind the heated protests of the German ambassador to Tokyo, but escorted by Mexican, American, and eventually other Latin American navies to protect them from German U-boats of the "Monsun Gruppe" operating out of Penang in Japanese-occupied British Malaya - or by train through Alaska to Siberia, to join America's and Mexico's Soviet ally, where most of them will get uniforms better suited to the climate they'll be fighting in. Accompanying every transport of Mexican troops to the Soviet Union, as with Trotsky on his own return, will be shipments of foodstuffs from Mexico, Central and South America, and the United States.

Mexico will eventually send roughly one million troops overseas, where they will fight in the following theaters:

• In the Western Mediterranean, approximately 20,000 Mexican troops participate in Operation Torch, the liberation of French Morocco and Algeria in November 1942. By March 1943, roughly 100,000 Mexicans are involved in the Tunisian Campaign, and a year later, almost a quarter of a million Mexicans are in Italy, before being pulled out to join the August 1944 Operation Dragoon amphibious landings in Southern France. But instead of continuing north with the French and Allied troops speedily liberating the south of France, the Mexican army turns east and successfully crosses the mountainous French/Italian border in early September. Racing across Northern Italy, they are able to cut off the retreat of the German forces on the Gothic ("Green") Line, which causes the Germans to withdraw from the Po and Adige Lines all the way back to their Alpine Line. The remaining, and encircled, German forces south of the Alps surrender in early November 1944.

• In the Pacific, starting with 1943's Operation Cartwheel, roughly 50,000 Mexican troops will eventually participate in the "Island Hopping" campaign that would bring the Allies almost to the shores of Japan, itself, while another 100,000 troops will join in the liberation of the Philippines (1944-45), much to the delight of their mostly Roman Catholic co-religionists and fellow former subjects of Spain, and a bit to the chagrin of the anti-clericalists still active in Mexican politics and the Mexican military.

• On the Eastern Front, the first Mexican troops will take part in the Battle of Stalingrad beginning in the summer of 1942, but the Mexicans will gradually be moved north, gathering new arrivals and gaining experience as they go. Under Supreme Allied Commander, Eastern Front, General, and later Marshal, of the Soviet Union, Georgy Zhukov, and fighting alongside Soviet and Polish troops - after nearly emptying out the Gulag system, one of Trotsky's first initiatives upon his return to the USSR was the reconstitution of Polish military forces from among the Polish prisoners of war in the Soviet Union, whom he first fed with some of the Mexican and American grain he'd brought with him - nearly a half-a-million Mexicans will eventually assist in breaking the German/Finn siege of Leningrad in January 1944, and then play a leading role in the liberation of the Baltic States. The presence of such a large body of non-Soviet Allied troops severely undermines German efforts to recruit or conscript Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians fearful of another Soviet occupation, as the Mexicans are seen as liberating the Baltic peoples from both the Germans and the Russians (and for the Lithuanians, from the Poles, for that matter). By April 1st, the Germans' "Narwa" front has collapsed, and German Army Group North has been driven all the way back to East Prussia, in the process compromising the northern flank of the already pressed Army Group Centre.

Thanks to the breakthrough along the Baltic and the subsequent retreats of both Army Groups North and Centre, the largest airborne assault in history to that point will be launched on June 8, 1944, two days after the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy. The operation was the fruit of discussions begun almost 18 months earlier between Trotsky and the military and religious leaders of the Mexican Expeditionary Force. By late December 1942, the Allies had been made aware of the essentials of the Holocaust going on in German-occupied Europe. Trotsky, though himself fully estranged from his Jewish heritage, and his staff of American and international Trotskyists, believe that something should be done about the genocidal campaigns against the Jews and the Romani, and to expose the Nazi plans for the enslavement and extermination of the Slavic and other populations of Eastern Europe, but he also argues that these revelations would be easier for the rest of the world to accept if the main source for them is not the Soviet Union. Via the MEF, stories, documents, photos and film are gradually released to the world's press representatives in Moscow, including photos of train tracks to the six Nazi extermination camps bombed by Mexican fliers, the so-called Aztec Eagles. Plans are also made for an operation that could only take place if the lines on the Eastern Front have reached a point where re-supply and, hopefully, timely relief are possible. The collapse of the German "Narwa" front in early 1944 makes Operation Monterrey - named for a Mexican city founded by Sephardic "Crypto-Jews" - possible.

On the first sunny day Soviet weather forecasters thought Auschwitz would see after D-Day, 20,000 Mexican, Soviet, and Polish troops are airdropped by parachute and glider in and around the Auschwitz concentration camp. Included are veterans of the Soviets' January 1942 attempted airdrop of 10,000 troops at Vyaz'ma (barely 20% made it to their drop zones before the operation was called off). They seize the camp and dig in for a siege. While the Soviets keep them supplied mainly through airdrops, brief landings take place every day so that the camp's liberators can send captured documents and evidence, and their own photographs, film footage and reports, back to Moscow. As planned, the photos and film shot by the Allied troops are distributed throughout the world and have a tremendous impact on public opinion, especially throughout the Americas and the Catholic world. A shot of a Mexican chaplain, in full Catholic vestments, covering his eyes while reciting the Shema, is the cover photo on an issue of Life Magazine sold internationally, and his recitation of the beginning of the El Malei Rachamim is transmitted by radio and seen in newsreels worldwide, delivering a body blow to public expressions of anti-semitism, especially Catholic anti-semitism. The Germans withdraw troops from the front to lay siege to the camp, but within weeks, a Soviet, Mexican, and Polish relief force fights its way through. By then, the gist and some of the details of "Generalplan Ost" has been worked out from documents captured in the seizure of the camp and the testimony of some of its command staff and medical personnel, and the Nazi enslavement, expulsion and extermination plans for the Slavic and non-Slavic populations of Eastern Europe outlined in the world's press.

Warsaw is liberated in September 1944, and the Mexicans and Poles will join the Soviets in the final campaigns to liberate Germany itself. Increasing numbers of German troops are transferred from the Western and Alpine fronts and the Balkans to the East, precipitating breakthroughs on those fronts so that, by Christmas 1944, Nazism is largely confined to Germany and Austria. As Hitler survives attempts to assassinate and overthrow him, Germany does not surrender until he takes his own life on January 30, 1945, during the coordinated multi-front Allied winter offensives, and with Soviet, Mexican, and Polish troops fighting in the streets above his bunker in Berlin. The presence of hundreds of thousands of Mexican and Polish troops, and several extreme and widely publicized examples made early in the campaign on the initiative of Trotsky and his lieutenants, help to limit the incidence of mass rape during the campaign, though it of course cannot be fully eradicated.

After the war, Mexico will become one of the occupying Allied powers in Europe. Trotsky has convinced the rest of the Soviet leadership to allow the restoration of independence to the Baltic states as a trade-off for an agreement with the other Allies that Germany, Austria, Bulgaria (due to its Black Sea shoreline) and every European state bordering the Soviet Union, from Finland and the Baltic states to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania, will be forced to adopt a constitution that sets strict limits on the size of its military and bars its use beyond their own borders. The United States would impose a similar constitutional provision on occupied Japan. The Soviets also get a corridor linking Soviet Byelorussia to the Baltic via the ports of Königsberg and Pillau, which do not freeze over in the winter, carved out of Lithuania and the former East Prussia. The Allies further agree to the Soviet plan to forcibly relocate East Prussia's German population to post-war Germany, while allowing the formation of an independent Jewish state there for those Jews who can't or won't return to their former homes. This satisfies those American anti-semites who don't want the US to accept Jewish refugees and takes advantage of a divided British establishment torn between those wishing to appease the Arabs in Palestine on the one hand and those wanting to establish a Jewish Belfast in the Middle East to serve imperial interests on the other. Mexico agrees to serve as the occupying power in the now-four Baltic states, and is able to convince the Soviets to allow the constitution of the new Jewish state to include greater expenditures on its military than its neighbors, though the ban on foreign deployment is retained. The Mexican government also opens its own borders wide for Europe's displaced Jews, with no restriction on the number welcomed, the idea being that Mexico would benefit from the economic, intellectual, technical, and agricultural skills of these migrants. And it will.

With Trotsky still able to exercise some influence in the post-war USSR, Soviet troops gradually withdraw from the occupied Eastern European states, but they leave many of their arms behind in the hands of Communist partisans (the Polish armed forces on the Eastern Front are especially divided between communists and loyalists of the Polish government-in-exile). While the northern half of the region - the four Baltic states occupied by Mexico, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary - disappoints Moscow, ultimately putting bourgeois republics back into power, the whole of the Balkans goes red by 1950, with Communist governments set up after civil wars in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, and Yugoslavia. War crimes trials of the Nazis and their collaborators are held across Europe, with judges appointed by the USA, USSR, UK, France, and Mexico (at Trotsky's urging) on every panel, supplemented by local or regional judges approved by the occupying powers, though they slow down as the civil wars in the Balkans bring the capitalist/communist conflict into the foreground.

Again on Trotsky's initiative, the USSR proposes and ultimately wins a permanent place on the Security Council of the new United Nations for Mexico, on which it hopes Mexico will serve as an independent actor, one not beholden to, and even sometimes hostile to, its northern neighbor. This streak of independence will be strengthened by the benefits Mexico accrues from its close economic and diplomatic ties with the four Baltic states, Poland, Italy, the Philippines, and the Soviet Union over the subsequent decades, said ties also serving to moderate the tendency of Mexico's presidents to move further and further, by Mexican standards, to the right and into the orbit of the United States. Italian and Soviet-owned manufacturing plants will replace some of the American ones moved back to the United States after the war, and by the 1960's, variations on the Fiat 124 can be found in the millions across the USSR, the Balkans, Mexico, Central America, and Cuba.

Author's Note:

In reality, Leon Trotsky succumbed to the assassination attempt involving the ice pick; Stalin was not, somewhat to his surprise, arrested and executed after the launch of Operation Barbarossa; and Mexico's contributions to the Allied war effort were mainly diplomatic (it marshaled support for the Allies among the nations of Latin America, whose navies protected the Panama Canal and Allied shipping, especially in the Caribbean and the South Atlantic), industrial (roughly as described above), and agricultural (the Bracero program provided for Mexican farmworkers to temporarily take the place of American farmworkers north of the border). On the military front, the Aztec Eagles did take part in the liberation of the Philippines, a Brazilian Expeditionary Force fought in Italy and may have actually taken the final surrender of the German forces in that country, and it is estimated that anywhere from 50,000 to 250,000 Mexican nationals served in the armed forces of the United States in return for a promise of American citizenship.
November 22, 1945, the United Nations Security Council meets for the first time in Church House, Westminster, London. Its six permanent members are the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Provisional Government of the French Republic, the Republic of China, and the United Mexican States.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Guest Post: Chronovisor

 This article first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

May 2, 1972 - World Learns of the Existence of the Chronovisor

Tthe Italian weekly news magazine La Domenica del Corriere published photographs of Christ's crucifixion in a sensationally controversial article titled "A Machine That Photographs The Past Has Finally Been Invented."

Within hours the world learned the existence of a functional time-viewer in the Vatican. Initial skepticism was swept away by recorded footage of the the final days of Jesus that was transmitted on terrestrial television later that eventful summer. This shocker triggered the release of further revelations. It was widely reported that Papal authorities supposedly held the device in a privatized cell within the Palace of the Government protected around the clock by Swiss Guards.

Built in the 1950s, The Chronovisor was reportedly a large cabinet with a cathode ray tube for viewing the received events and a series of buttons, levers, and other controls for selecting the time and the location to be viewed. It could also locate and track specific individuals. Development had been led by the Italian Benedictine monk Pellegrino Ernetti and the Nobel peace prize winning Italian physicist Enrico Fermi with assistance from famous rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. He had been able to contribute key technical lessons from his involvement in the failed development of Die Glocke a decade earlier.

Skepticism over its existence was replaced with a new cynicism after Ernetti warned of the emergence of the "most fearsome dictatorship the world has ever seen." This could only be by the Papal Authorities, and it was surmised that rogue elements in the Roman Catholic Church had been developing a secret agenda ever since the Second Vatican Council. That agenda would validate the teachings of the Bible in order to reverse the sharp decline in global faith since World War 2.

Oddly enough, one of the many implications of the whole affair was to draw attention to the role of Roman authorities in the Crucifixion. Combined with the acute problems of security in the Vatican City, the Papal Authorities were forced to relocate to Rio de Janeiro with a new enclave built in the shadow of the Art Deco statue Christ the Redeemer. This move had the consequential effect of rooting the Roman Catholic Church more deeply into the southern hemisphere, leading to a succession of Latin and African popes.

In 2002, Father François Brune would publish Petite Renaissance, a wide-ranging study of ecclesial transformation. Nevertheless, by the time of his death seventeen years later, no further recordings had been released, and the existence of the Chronovisor remained a mystery. Investigators routinely pleaded for access, hoping to solve murders and disappearances such as that of Amelia Earhart.

Author's Note:

In reality, the existence or functionality of the chronovisor has never been confirmed. The alleged existence has fueled a whole series of conspiracy theories but is widely debunked as an elaborate hoax.

OTL Father Pellegrino Ernetti six years after the Vatican issued a decree in which it warned that "anyone using, an instrument of such characteristics would be excommunicated" said, "Pope Pius XII forbade us to disclose any details about this device because the machine was very dangerous. It can restrain the freedom of man."

Monday, October 4, 2021

Guest Post: 28 December, 1913 - Brazilian Dreadnoughts sold to the Ottoman Navy

 This article first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

"It is no longer possible to force the Dardanelles, and nobody would expose a modern fleet to such peril" ~ OTL First Lord of the Admiralty Churchill in 1911; however, he would change his mind three years later.

On this fateful day in alternate history, President Hermes da Fonseca of Brazil negotiated the sale of two under-construction dreadnoughts to the Ottoman Navy. Because the shipbuilding was in a third country, the agents of the two parties had wisely taken the precaution of obtaining secret guarantees from the British government.

It was a prudent choice given the global uncertainty. Circumstances had radically altered in the two years since the order for the Sultan Osman-I Evvel and the Resadiye had been placed, and the Brazilian Republic could no longer afford, and actually did not need, them. This was because the rubber boom had collapsed due to the loss of monopoly to British plantations in the Far East. Also, as a nation she was far more secure having experienced warming in relations with her chief rival, the neighboring country of Argentina. Other financial priorities would prevail.

Following successful sea trials, the Ottoman crew duly arrived to collect the Sultan Osman-I Evvel and the Resadiye from the shipbuilding yard in Newcastle. The newly-constructed Ottoman battleships arrived in the Black Sea on the eve of the July Crisis. Evidence of the British government's secret guarantees were revealed by Sultan Mehmed VI unexpectedly declaring neutrality following the outbreak of war. In hindsight, this would prove to be a serious strategic error because the Entente Powers were prevented from re-supplying the Russians via the Black Sea. The Tsar, who wanted Istanbul for the Russians, fell from power long before the Central Powers were defeated.

Meanwhile, the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill had bitterly opposed this ruthless political horse-trading, wanting to abrogate the agreement and seize the vessels for use by the Royal Navy. Disgusted by the sickening cynicism of Westminster, he was drawn to the Royal Flying Corps' motto "Through Adversity to the Stars." Not yet forty, he decided to resign from the government and apply for a war-time commission in an aeroplane squadron.

It was during his wartime service that Churchill came to meet Oswald Mosley, a kindred spirit who had transferred from a British cavalry unit. Both men shared a common reputation for being brave and somewhat reckless, and their relationship continued strongly after the war. Due to his injuries experienced from a crash, Churchill became somewhat of a reclusive figure at Blenheim Palace, continuing to paint and write fiction and occasional journalism. With a great deal of time on his hand he also served as a mentor to the younger Mosley who entered the House of Commons in the general election of 1918. It was Churchill that discouraged Moseley from falling out with the Conservatives over the operations of the Black and Tans in Ireland against civilians.

Meanwhile, the tottering Ottoman Empire was experiencing a remarkable recovery following the discovery of vast oil reserves in the Middle East. The disgruntled heads of the former Royal Families of Austria, Germany, and Russia could only wonder how this weaker empire had survived their own fall from power. Like the blue-blooded Churchill, they would be mere spectators in the unfolding world crisis.

Rising to Party Leader, Mosley would eventually become Prime Minister in 1931 after the collapse of the second Labour government. As the Head of a Government of National Unity, he was largely free from the vagaries of the electoral cycle. A dominant figure, he would use his authority to form an unsavory relationship with the German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler. In this policy he was strongly supported by other members of the British Ruling Class who had lost many sons during the Great War, and preferred a working relationship that would avoid a repetition of that conflict.

Hitler would laud him as a world statesman for his diplomatic role in the peaceful resolution of the Sudeten Crisis. With the Czechs abandoned to their fate, it soon became apparent that Mosley's Britain would not stand in the way of a grand settlement of other territories disputed since the Treaty of Versailles. An even more embittered Churchill would slowly come to realize his error, in his biopic "The World Crisis" he would quote the figurative expression of Robert Southey who wrote, "Curses are like young chickens, they always come home to roost."

With the French Third Republic weakened by political crisis, the German Reich restored her 1914 border with the exception of Alsace-Lorraine and her African possessions.

While many actually believed in Mosley's false promise of "peace in our time," a phrase already familiar to the British public by its longstanding appearance in the Book of Common Prayer, the Soviet Union prepared for a final showdown with the capitalist powers. Stalin feared that he would have no Allies in this future conflict and was forced to fight his instincts to purge the Red Army. By the early 1940s, he was ready to invade Western Europe.

With the former victor powers disengaged from this existential struggle, the alignment of Ottoman Turkey would become a decisive factor in whether Hitler or Stalin would have access to the fuel necessary to power their mobile forces and navies. Writing in the Sunday Times, Churchill predicted that the future of Christendom lay at the whim of a Muslim, Sultan Abdulmejid II.

Author's Note:

In reality, sea trials were ongoing at the outbreak of war and the British government seized both dreadnoughts for use by the Royal Navy. This act caused resentment in the Ottoman Empire, as the payments for both ships were complete, and contributed to the decision of the Ottoman government to join the Central Powers. The seizure, and the gift of the German battlecruiser Goeben to the Ottomans, influenced public opinion in the empire to turn away from Britain, and they entered the war on the side of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire against the Triple Entente of Britain, France, and Russia on 29 October, after Goeben had attacked Russian facilities in the Black Sea.

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