Sunday, June 12, 2016

If you are reading this series of blog entries on the Paris Pear which I wrote some years ago, you are probably reading and researching the war and its aftermath in other ways too. This is wonderful, and certainly fulfilling as we plow through the Centennial of this massive event.

But if you want to take a break in the action (and some of you may well have battle fatigue at this point!), I would like to suggest checking out my new novel. It is a historical novel, but set well before World War I, in 1883. You can find out more by heading over to the listing at Smashwords.


 It is called Anima and the Goat, and it is some history, some adventure, some mystery, and a somewhat unusual take on the British Empire.

The electronic book is on pre-order right now with Smashwords, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, etc., and it will be available on June 20, 2016.

The hard copy will be a paperback offered at Amazon. The listing will be there in a day or two, and will also be available on June 20.

A little history, but maybe a relief from the flamethrowers, white feathers, munitions plants, and financial manipulations of World War I!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June 28 A Century Ago

Franz Ferdinand was a difficult person in many ways. Dark. Angry at times. He became heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary when his cousin, Rudolf (whose tutor was the father of the Austrian School of Economics, Carl Menger) died in an apparent murder-suicide with his young mistress in 1889. The death of Rudolf was only one of many tragedies in the Habsburg family in the two generations leading up to World War I. Besides the cases of consecutive heirs to the throne, Franz Josef’s glamorous wife, Elisabeth, died at the hands of an assassin in 1898. There was also the rancor over Franz Ferdinand’s marriage in 1900 to Sophie Chotek, whose prestigious pedigree was not quite prestigious enough for the House of Habsburg. The two married in 1900, but only on the condition that Sophie not appear as Franz Ferdinand’s consort on occasions when he was appearing in the capacity of heir to the throne. She would not receive the title of Empress, and any son would not be eligible to succeed to the throne.
So, Franz Ferdinand was facing somewhat more than normal family pressures. Political issues also lay heavy on his mind. To his thinking the transformation that had given Hungary autonomy within the Empire in 1867 had allowed the Hungarians to impose “magyarization” on the nationalities who came under their control--in effect nationalizing the minorities in the way that the Russians were "russianizing" their minorities. In an Empire which had grown by marriage alliances and had kept strong by means of negotiation and compromise, the 1867 compromise represented permission to introduce a new tone of bitterness into politics. Franz Ferdinand advocated peace with the bothersome southern neighbor Serbia, in part because he needed to have the cooperation of all Habsburg Slavs. He hoped to revamp the Empire from a Dual Monarchy into a Monarchy presiding over a federation of regions, and the various Slavic nationalities were crucial in overwhelming the Hungarians.
So he had enough on his mind to appear dark and angry. At times, he was capable of charm—for example in the center of his family or when he was with friends and close aides.
As Inspector-General of the Habsburg Army, Franz Ferdinand must have found the occasion of visiting Sarajevo, in recently annexed Slavic Bosnia, a special moment. Not only could he confer special attention on the picturesque capital with a parade and a visit to civic institutions, but since he was there in his capacity as Inspector-General of the Army, Sophie was allowed to sit by his side.
Would this apparently cold personage have been able to change the course of nationality conflict in the Empire?  Could he have withstood the more more general Leviathan trends of the growing state, the manipulation of currency for wealth transfer, growing collectivism, and the legal plunder that characterized his times? His “dark” public persona is probably irrelevant here. Indications are that he had strong ideas and a willingness to push for them.
Whatever Franz Ferdinand might have achieved or not achieved, Gavrilo Princip and his backers in Bosnia and Serbia made sure that none of us will ever know.
A hundred years ago today, Sophie and her husband were murdered in an open automobile in the streets of Sarajevo. Five weeks later, the major powers of Europe and many minor ones had jumped into a conflict that has created the backdrop, scenery, and stage props for our times.  
(also posted at the Mises Economics Blog)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Border Issues and the Paris Peace--Ninety Years Ago

We will be doing quite a bit more of looking into the border changes upon which the Paris Peace decided. Much German territory was given to neighboring states. In several cases, however, the local people were given a hand in the decision--even though these lands represent a small percentage of all the territorial changes on Germany's borders.

Today, I want to get this issue on the board by means of short list, really. We will have to keep this border issue on our radar for some time to come.

The Versailles Treaty provided for many border changes in the case of Germany, all of them detaching regions from Germany and giving these regions to a neighboring country. In five or six cases, depending on how one counts it, the Treaty provided for referenda, border plebiscites, in which voters would vote for Germany or for Denmark, for example. I have already discussed a couple of these earlier this year on the blog, but for today, I just want to do some listing.

The Saarland, a district on the Franco-German border

Eupen-Malmédy, a small district on the Belgian-German border

North Schleswig/South Jutland, a sizeable region on the Danish-German border

Upper Silesia, and large and industrially significant region on the Polish-German border

Allenstein (southern East Prusssia)
a county on Germany's northeast, continguous to Marienwerder

Marienwerder, (eastern West Prusssia)
a county on Germany's northeast, continguous to Allenstein

In each of these cases, the Allies occupied the district for some amount of time and oversaw the "vote." In the Eupen-Malmédy case, the region was actually transferred provisionally to France, and a "consultation of the population"--in the event, not really a vote--took place in the period from January 26, 1920, to July 23, 1920. The vote was not secret, and indeed, represented a kind of individual objection collection: individuals were required to fill out forms with their name on them, often under the threat of expulsion and other disadvantages. Not surprisingly, the "consultation of the population" confirmed the Allied decisions to give the region to Germay.

As everyone knows, the Saarland was also a different sort of case, since the plebiscite was postponed. This sizeable region (a whole German Bundesland today, though a small one) was occupied by the British and actually ruled by the French as a mandate for a stated term of fifteen years. This mini-powerhouse of coal, steel, and ceramics production was obviously quite attractive to the French, but fifteen years of French administration seems to have made few inroads. The referendum was finally held in the Nazi years (1935) but under strict obversation by the Allies. The Saarlanders voted overwhelmingly in favor of Germany (90.3%).

The other four regions were all settled from 1919 to 1922. In these cases, there was a clear Allied occupation, much interaction with the opposite country (Poland or Denmark), and fairly clearcut votes. The two neighboring East and West Prussian districts went in excess of 90% for Germany. In Schleswig and Upper Silesia, the vote was much more even, with results we will looking at carefully.

OK. With that short overview, I will stop. More later.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Diktat III--Imposing the Treaty on the Republic

When I left off speaking of the "Diktat," I mentioned that it took the new republic a few historical moments to absorb what was happening. I would like to expand on that point for a few moments. Let us discuss just was going on politically in the new republic that received the treaty conditions in late spring and was being coerced into signing by mid-summer.

Back to the last weeks of the war. When Ludendorff started sending his hysterical (perhaps, literally hysterical) telegrams to the German cabinet in the late summer of 1918 (under the tremendous stress of the Allied Hundred Days advance) demanding that the government figure out how to surrender to the Allies.

All responsible German statesmen saw that the United States was the key to the problem of how to surrender. The United States was powerful—had not felt the German knife at its throat (with "backs the wall" as Field Marshal Haig had actually put it). The United States was apt to be at least somewhat forgiving, since over a third of its population had some connection to German ethnicity. The United States was headed by Woodrow Wilson, who of all the Allied heads of government was the only one who had produced anything like a peace plan, the famous Fourteen Points, with their various additions and interpretations. Hence, the central role of the United States in German thinking about how to stop the war before the Allies drove German armies back to Germany's own borders.

Wilson's verbiage looked more like a lifeline than a noose to German party leaders, bureaucratic officials, and royal councilors. The President's verbiage therefore carried enormous weight. And what the Germans saw was that he wanted "open governments, openly arrived at," "self-determination," etc. He was a political scientist who had thought a great deal about democracy. And indeed, from the standpoint of Germany's largest party, the Social Democratic Party, Wilson's scholarly comments from years before to the effect that "democracy IS socialism" were crystal clear.

Hence, in Berlin, September produced an intensive discussion of how to create a reformed government with whom Wilson would deal and with which he would sympathize. Certain liberal and democratic elements within the government were quite ready to offer plans. The liberal heir to the throne of the German state of Baden, Prince Max, emerged as a compromise solution—a personality with whom the Allies would work. Max was appointed Chancellor on October 3, 1918. He made his first peace overture to Wilson on October 5.

At the same time, liberal reform ideas from within German political life came to life. There was a great deal of discussion about the form of a new German constitution, much of it aimed at the undemocratic structures of the Federal German bureaucracy and some of it at the state constitutions, especially that of Prussia (a German state which covered three-fifths of the whole territory of Germany). There was also much discussion about the nature of what the coming German democracy would be.

It was some days before the German government realized that Wilson was really insisting on the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II. But when this became clear, many in Max's government were quite willing for Wilhelm to abdicate in favor of his thirty-six year old son, Crown Prince Wilhelm, who had served as a general during the war. The Kaiser resisted abdication, even when his closest advisors came to the conclusion that he must go. And indeed, in the end, he was almost "abdicated for," once the Revolution started.

Yet as things developed, neither Wilson nor the other Allied leaders saw much profit in negotiations on the basis of a new Germany. Naturally, they had little inclination to welcome a new government of the German as liberal co-equals and pass up the distinct advantages they would have if Germany were in fact laid low. Hence, in the Armistice negotiations begun in October at Spa, the Allied representatives were hard, insisting that Germany, in effect, disarm before any peace conference should start.

During the last days of October, however, sailors mutinied at Kiel and other German naval bases, refusing to put to sea for a climactic battle with the British. The mutiny spread to workers in all major German cities, and the streets filled both with militant workers and returning soldiers. Sides formed quickly, and there was widespread street violence. Crowds in Berlin were enormous, demanding radical changes in the government. The Armistice was set for November 11, and the Kaiser left Germany, but on November 9 Prince Max resigned and handed power over to Philipp Scheidemann and Friedrich Ebert, the leaders of the moderate and majority branch of the SPD, the idea being that only these politicians from the left end of the political system and with direct connections to the militant workers in the streets could master the situation.

These two quickly formed a government of socialists, made deals with the military to help restore order, called for a national constituent assembly (an assembly whose purpose would be to write a new constitution) to be elected in January. After clashes with the radical socialists in the cabinet, and more street fighting, the Ebert and Scheidemann kicked out the radical socialists and began making more overtures to the middle class parties. Indeed, the January 1919 nationwide election for the Constituent Assembly returned an array of parliamentarians from the full political spectrum, but really inclined toward the liberal values and democratic processes. The nationalists and the monarchists were marginalized, and the new Communist party the related Independent socialists were likewise in a parliamentary wilderness.

The complexion of the German political system dealing with the Allies was therefore decidedly in the direction of democratic processes. A majority of voters supporting the "Weimar Coalition" parties probably favored some kind of democratic state, many of them some kind of welfare state. The Constitution they hammered together was finished at nearly the same moment as the Treaty. It featured a system of representation which its makers considered "the most democratic system in the world." There was universal suffrage (far ahead of Britain in this regard), proportional representation (much more responsive, one might argue, than the systems of any of the Allies), pure republic status (from Wilson's theory itself, better than Britain), etc. No class system hindered rising in the political system. The first Chancellor of the German republic was the son of a saddle-maker. Some high officials of the Weimar Republic had been in jail for political activity under the Kaiser, many years before.

This is long essay for the existing road conditions of the blog. But it is important. The Allies handed the Treaty to a Germany run by individuals who were on the whole much more "democratic" in every sense than the elites who ran their countries.

My mentor, the fine historian of Europe, Hans A. Schmitt, used to say, "Philipp Scheidemann refused to be a part of the government which gave approval to the Treaty. He said, 'The hand that signs this Treaty will shrivel.' And he was right. The socialists and democrats led the signing of it, and their hand shriveled."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Where did August go?

OK, here I am, guilty again (but at least not guilty of the war!).

Probably any readers have given up on me, but I have--he said boldly--not given up on myself!

Actually, there is much good historical material pertaining to August 1919. And more about September. So in the days to come, I intend to finish the consideration of War Guilt, talk about the King-Crane Commission a good bit (and hence the Middle East), get back to the prickly issue of the eastern German border (especially Upper Silesia), and more!

For now, I will just include one item from August 1919. It is an important speech signaling the campaign about to be led by Henry Cabot Lodge and others against the American participationthe postwar order, the new "Wilsonian" world. The most important objection is against the project nearest and dearest to Wilson, the League of Nations. It is a speech worth looking at:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Diktat II

We continue here a consideration of the "dictated" nature of the Versailles Treaty. Many scholars of the issue today, perhaps most, will bridle at descriptions of the Treaty as dictated. Indeed, since the period of historiographical "revisionism" that began even before the Peace was concluded (see the NY Times article of May 10, 1919 on the conference, for example), American and other Western observers have periodically reassessed the Peace, usually to show that the Versailles Treaty was not as harsh as it seems, that the Allies were justified in the one-sided nature of this case of peacemaking, that the Germans really were guilty of the whole war, etc. A number of these reassessments have been associated with the American opposition to Hitler's regime and of course World War II itself. Hitler was after all a "revisionist" of a sort himself, meaning that he wanted to revise the Paris Peace settlement and indeed did so quite spectacularly. At the same time, two World Wars in which the United States and the British Empire fought Germany have left their mark: the wartime expressions of hatred for the Germans by politicians, soldiers, literary figures, clergymen, and many other kinds of people were not simply forgotten when Hitler was gone and West Germany became a close ally in the Cold War. The emerging knowledge of the Holocaust too contributed too to thinking about Germany in the twentieth century. And finally, many historical studies, more or less free of bias, have supported the nature of the Treaty as being a beneficial advance in modern international relations, based on various theories of security, international cooperation, and so forth. Or, they have exposed bad behavior by leaders of the new German republic in 1919 and skullduggery of various kinds. Or even plans by Weimar Germany's leaders to negate or escape various aspects of the Treaty.

In this essay, I feel no need to deal with each of these favorable assessments of the Treaty. My central theme is the dictated nature of the Versailles Treaty. The simple fact is this: it was dictated. Regardless how one evaluates the points of the Treaty, the Treaty negotiations were dictated.

In brief, here is how. The Allies, as we have seen in this blog many times over, met in Paris beginning in January 1919 to make the Treaty. Official Allied bodies and committees met continuously until the Treaty was signed at the beginning of July 1919, and indeed, beyond that, since they were working on the other treaties too.

Throughout this period of time, Germans were allowed to come to Paris three times, each time for a limited period of a few days. The first time was to receive the Treaty terms. The second time was to hand over a "reply" to the Treaty terms. The third was to sign the Treaty.

Doing research in the Political Archive of the German Foreign Office some years ago, I ran across a document which was quite telling as to extent German isolation from Peace Conference. An influential German private individual had suggested to the Foreign Office that he had contacts which might help the Allied leaders see how much Upper Silesia was really an integral part of Germany, an important part of the existing European network of coal, steel, zinc, etc. The individual wanted to travel to Paris to share his knowledge of the region with his contacts, who might, he thought, have influence in Allied circles. The Foreign Office looked favorably on this proposal, but found almost immediately that France was not issuing visas or any other passes for German nationals. it appears that for the duration, Germans were for the most part kept out of France altogether.

So Germans could not contribute much to the Peace Conference, since they were not allowed in France. Hence, in the period from January to April 1919, there was plenty of negotiation regarding the Versailles Treaty, but Germany was not involved in any of it. All negotiations were in one way or another Interallied negotiations.

There is more to be said about this subject, but to keep these posts manageable, I will end here. Any fair-minded person will admit that if the Germans were not allowed anywhere near the negotiating table until time to "receive" the "conditions," then the peace terms were in fact dictated by the other side. It is hard to conceive how even the blindest Germanophobe would not be able to admit this plain truth. But of course the phrase "dictated peace" is loaded with all kinds of connotations of political and moral import. We will look at some of these aspects in the coming days, ninety years after the new German political system was absorbing the fact that it was saddled with the Kaiser's defeat.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Diktat I

Today ninety years ago, the Versailles Treaty was signed in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Ninety-five years ago today, a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Prinzip, assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand to precipitate the crisis that led a few weeks later to the unthinkable war whose settlement was supposed to be provided by the Paris Peace. That was some five years! A half-decade that was itself a kind of microcosm of the twentieth century. So I take today as an auspicious time to start considering the "dictated peace."

The characterization of the Versailles Treaty as a "dictated peace," a Diktat in the German usage, was the object of bitter pronouncement and debate in 1919 and, with crescendos and diminuendos, ever since. Lurking behind any discussion of the issue since the 1930s is enormous role that the "dictated peace" played in Hitler's political and social campaigns of the 1920s and 1930s. In the twenties, of course, he was just one more commentator in a country which almost unanimously rejected the treated as a Diktat—the only real debate being whether Germany should have signed in order to survive, or whether a bitter end resistance against the Allies in 1919 would have provided the kind of mass martyrdom upon which great futures are founded.

Actually, of course, voices in both neutral places and in the Allied countries decried the dictated nature of the Versailles Treaty almost immediately. John Maynard Keynes, later one of the twentieth century's most influential economists, was a delegate from the British Treasury at the Peace Conference, and he argued there against the harsh and non-negotiated nature of the Versailles Treaty. Indeed, with lightning speed, within months he had written a book which would become the first classic writing about the Peace Conference: The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919). In it, Keynes argued that the Treaty was a "Carthaginian Peace," likening it to the utter destruction visited on Carthage by the Romans after their victory in the Third Punic War. Keynes argued instead that there should be no reparations, or at least very small ones, to set the stage for European recovery.

Of course the whole economic aspect of the reparations loomed large for him, and in some ways in the whole question of the "dictated peace." As we saw in the last blog post, one of the first treaty terms which the Germans—nearly powerless—tried to reject was the famous, or infamous, "war guilt clause," as Article 231 came to be known. The article does not mention "guilt" at all, but it comes close enough:

The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.

Now, some explanation is required. Significantly, this is one of clause of fifteen in the "Reparation" section (not "reparations") of the Versailles. The term reparation was specifically used among the Entente peacemakers to avoid the older idea of "indemnity" in a treaty—meaning, more or less, financial punishment for losing. Reparation, as a kind of ethical-sounding noun (like "mandates") fit the preferences of Wilson much more closely. In any case, since the major characteristic of the "new" warfare of weeklong bombardments, million-shell bombardments, and shell "crises" mounted in costs to absolutely unthinkable amounts for all belligerents, war finance had been in the minds of most war leaders the priority issue. Now that the war was done, as British Conservative politicians said, Germany had to be made to pay.

So the Reparation section of the treaty outlined this process. Actually, no one thought that Germany could pay for all the damages caused by the war, all the pensions of soldiers, etc. But an American with the peace commission at Paris (John Foster Dulles, later American Secretary of State under Eisenhower) suggested the structure of the "Reparation" section: first, in Article 231, make the Germans financially responsible for everything. Then limit this a bit in the following articles. In fact, this was the way it laid out. Except that the bill is left unspecified, the whole thing is tagged to international loans taken out by the Allies, and other problems we will examine later.

So one point to make here is that the "war guilt" clause was actually a financial clause. In fact, "responsibility" is not necessarily "guilt." But on the other hand, one has to ask: how could the Allies have thought that it would be acceptable to lay all the financial burden of the war on the Germans? Were the Germans the only sinners? Was autocratic Russia, with its outrageous official brutality as official policy right up the war and its highly questionable "partial mobilization" in 1914 guiltless? Or should we say "not responsible." Indeed, every thinking person in a leadership position in Europe understood that every power was responsible in some part for the coming of the war. The person who started the ball rolling was a Bosnian terrorist in the pay of Serbian intelligence, and yet Serbia turned out to be one of the biggest winners at the Peace Conference. Was none of these countries in the least "responsible"?

But in a larger sense, the Allies had to figure out quickly that the clause would become known to history as the "war guilt" clause because the Germans protested it almost immediately as such. It was simply unacceptable to a mass public.

Moreover, the new German government which was coming into being at Weimar was the most democratic in the world. It was the enemies of the Kaiser who now ran Germany. So why were they being punished? What allowed this situation to arise?

Well, in effect, it was the dicated nature of the peace. So since I have come full circle, I will end this post in mid-air.

Was the Peace a Diktat? In the second part, I will finish answering that question with some specific points of evidence.

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Design of a Violent Century by Hunt Tooley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.