Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Silent Night, Part 4

PART 4: Writing the Peace, Act I

Diplomats discuss the Strasbourg Peace, March 1915

WASHINGTON, JAN 21 - The American Vice President, Thomas R. Marshal, is en route to Europe, hoping to arrive by January 25 in order to attend the Strasbourg Peace Congress as an observer to the negotiations working to end the Great European War. After a request from the American Ambassador to Great Britain, the Three Consuls of the Christmas Army, along with Pope Benedict XV, issued an official invitation to the United States to attend as a non-participating observer. The American President, Woodrow Wilson, has been very supportive of the peace movement and the Truce Fighters. He has actually offered to mediate between the warring nations of Europe, but the Pope’s offer to do so was taken instead. The American government has stayed very outspoken in support of ending the war, and before a ceasefire was declared, the United States congress was taking up legislation that would have curtailed American shipping to those nations involved in the war. President Wilson told reporters that “sending Vice President Marshal, such a high ranking member of the American government, to the Peace Congress shows America’s commitment to peace around the globe.”
-”America Will Attend Congress,” The Times (London), January 22, 1915.

As the day of the start of the Congress approached, the world was abuzz with excitement. there were a great many hopes that people had for this meeting of diplomats and world leaders. In church meetings across Europe and America, people prayed for peace. The Christmas Army leaders secured Strasbourg and the surrounding area, and much of the province was under the control of the Christmas Republic. However, not all were thrilled about what was going on. In Germany, although somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of soldiers on the front lines had acted in support of the truce, the rest were very much loyal to the Kaiser, and were very upset about the actions of their fellow soldiers. The situation inside Germany was very tense. There were some that wanted to support the truce. While others wanted the army to reengage the French now that they were divided in Civil War. Wilhelm II was behind going to the Congress, but he did not have the full support of everyone in Berlin. 
In France, most civilians, regardless of who they were supporting in the Civil War,  supported the Truce. The news from the Front in the previous months had been disheartening, and support for the war had waned across the nation. It would be this factor that Clemenceau and his republicans underestimated in their attempt to undermine the socialist government in Paris that would ultimately lead to their downfall later in the year. However, as the statesmen gathered in Strasbourg, the outcome of France was anything but clear and this made some fear that the Peace Congress would be fruitless. 
Like in France, the English public was firmly behind the Peace Congress. However, what it was not behind was its government. Ever since King George V and Prime Minister Asquith had ordered loyal troops to fire on the troops that had joined the Christmas Army, there had been great unrest in the major British cities of London, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Glasgow and Edinburgh. There were calls for the Prime Minister to resign, and even some saying that King George V should abdicate and allow his younger son to take the thrown instead. The high levels of unrest would lead to a vote of no confidence in Asquith’s leadership in Parliament in February, and ultimately new parliamentary elections would happen in September. 
-Franklin, Dr. David. Peace on Earth: Christmas 1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.

STRASBOURG, JAN 24 - At the Cath├ędrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg, His Holiness Pope Benedict XV held a special Mass this Sunday evening in advance of the Peace Congress. The Cathedral was packed with diplomats that had already arrived in the city, including Comrade Juares, British Foreign Minister Grey, and German Foreign Minister von Jagow. The service began with a special performance of the song “Silent Night,” performed in both German and English, in tribute to the lives lost in the conflict throughout 1914. The song, which according to popular accounts was the song German troops started singing on Christmas Eve that sparked the truce, has become a sort of anthem for the Truce Movement. Following this and other songs, His Holiness spoke to those gathered in the Cathedral. 
“We gather in this city as a result of what can only be described as a Christmas Miracle, that men on opposite sides of a terrible conflict would lay down their weapons and join hand in hand to defeat this terrible war. It is now up to those of us here in Strasbourg to ensure that their Miracle does not go to waste. May our Lord in Heaven give us guidance and wisdom to put aside our differences so that our children will have a better world, and that there truly shall be Peace on Earth in our time.”
-”Pope Holds Special Mass in Strasbourg,” Le Monde, January 25, 1915. 

The first meeting of Strasbourg Peace Congress began at 10:00 a.m. on January 25, 1915 at the Palais Rohan, exactly one month after the start of the Christmas Truce. The nations in attendance included France, represented by Jean Juares, the head of the Council of State of the People’s Socialist Republic of France, Great Britain, represented by both Prime Minister H. H. Asquith and Foreign Minister Edward Grey, Germany, represented by Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow, Russia, represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov, Austro-Hungaria Count Leopold Berchtold, and the Ottoman Empire, represented by Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha. Two days later, American Vice President Thomas R. Marshal wold also arrive. With these movers and shakers was an army of staff members, advisers, and civil servants who’d accompanied the statesmen to Strasbourg. In the opening session, Pope Benedict XV addressed those assembled, and presented his now famous “7 Points for Peace,” which were:
1) Demobilization of all armies in Europe
2) General Pardon for all soldiers who joined the Christmas Army
3) Establishment of Barrier Nations between the Three main European Powers (one between Germany and France, the other between Germany and Poland)
4) Creation of the Congress of European States, which would meet annually to handle diplomatic disputes between European nations, and also manage Supra-national bodies set up by the Congress
5) Creation of the European War Relief fund, which would be managed by the CES leadership, and funded by all nations who participated in the war with the goal of helping the continent recover.
6) Creation of the European Disarmament Council, managed by the CES, to help work together between all European nations to see a draw down of armaments across the continent. 
    1. Official declaration that there was no single nation responsible for the start of the war.
As you can expect, these proposals caused quite a stir. It was obvious that one of the states referred to in Point 3 was Alsace-Lorraine, which Germany in particular balked at giving up (despite the fact that this proposal had originally come not from the Pope but from the Christmas Army leadership). Russia was also wary of giving up territory, even if it wasn’t to the Germans. Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov stated to an aide that “We haven’t lost, why should we give up territory?” Russia also wanted to place the war blame on Austro-Hungaria, and the Austro-Hungarians wanted to blame either Serbia or Russia. Though generally amiable to the proposals, Chairman Juares stated that he wasn’t quite convinced that every nation should share equally in the rebuilding costs, telling a French reporter that, “after all, most of the war in the West was fought on French soil. We should pay less and receive more, especially when compared to Germany.”
When the “7 Proposals for Peace,” were circulated in the press the following days, there was definitely a mixed reaction across the continent. George Clemenceau, who was preparing to lead his Republican faction on an attack on the Socialist government in Paris, stated, “giving up sovereign French territory up for any reason, even this proposed “buffer state,” is unacceptable.” Most Germans seemed more or less okay with the points, although in the military classes and the elites, the reaction was more varied and generally less supportive. While negotiations were early on, Kaiser Wilhelm II was attempting to remain quiet so as to not upset one faction or the other or interfere with the peace process. In what would become the Kingdom of Poland, when news of the proposed buffer state between Germany and Russia was heard, agitation for a new Polish nation started almost immediately. This was initially suppressed by Russian authorities, but eventually became overwhelming, and, worrying about agitation for reform closer to home and fearing further deterioration if they continued to clamp down, the Tsar would end up supporting this proposal. 
-Franklin, Dr. David. Peace on Earth: Christmas 1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.

PARIS, JAN 29 - The government has confirmed reports that the traitor Clemenceau and his fellow rebels holed up in Lyons are preparing an army to march northward in an attempt to take Paris. It is estimated that roughly a third of the French Army that was fielded during the War of 1914 have joined the ranks of the Christmas Army. Of the 2/3s remaining, approximately 1/4 have joined Clemenceau’s supposed “Free Republican Army,” the rest remaining loyal to the Socialist revolution that was proclaimed on January 8. At the request of the rest of the members of the Council of State, First Comrade Juares is returning from Strasbourg to oversee the coming battle with the rebel forces. Replacing him at the Peace Congress is the Council Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Paul Faure. 
Council Secretary for Defense, Albert Thomas, told the press that the French Revolutionary Army was being deployed south of the city of Paris to prepare for the oncoming rebel troops, and that conflict could occur by the beginning of next week. Some soldiers will be left behind in Paris itself as a second line of defense, augmented with members of the Red Guard. 
  • “Clemenceau’s Army on the March!” Le Monde, January 30, 1915. 

The first real battle of the French Civil War, and one of the largest, occurred on February 4, 1915, near the town of Auxerre. The French Revolutionary Army had moved in to the area on February 1 and taken up defensive maneuvers. The battle started just after 9 in the morning, with the FRA opening up artillery on the advancing Republican Army. The battle would go on for 6 hours, and the FRA forced the rebel army to retreat southwards, where they reformed and were able to stall the advance of the socialist soldiers. It is often speculated that had the Civil War continued on this course, that the war could have dragged on for months, or even into 1916. However, due to several major gaffes by Clemenceau, along with events that would happen in the south, the Republican resolve to fight would deteriorate by summer. 
The worst and most damning gaffe made by Clemenceau occurred on February 15, 1915, when he was interviewed by local reporters in Lyons and was asked what he intended to do after he defeated the socialists, answering, “Why, of course, defend French honor and reengage the enemy. The deserters who fled the ranks to join this so-called Christmas Army are why we are in this precarious situation. After our victory over the socialists, we must take that victorious momentum and strike against our enemy, Germany, and put an end to this truce nonsense.” This was hugely unpopular amongst nearly all the common people of France, and crippled the Republican’s support in many regions. 
-Nelson, Dr. Henry. Vive la Revolution 1915! Birth of the French socialist state. New York: Colombia University Press, 1980.

STRASBOURG, FEB 17 - The Russian Empire has agreed, in principle it says, to the idea of creating a buffer state between itself and the German Empire, the first major break the diplomats trying to hammer out a peace deal in Strasbourg have received. The Russians had initially balked at the idea of giving up so much territory in order to create this buffer zone, but has since had a change of heart. It is likely this has something to do with the increasing nationalist agitation occurring in the territory that would likely become that buffer state, which is home to large population of ethnically Polish people. In addition, there has been increasing agitation for reform in Russia proper, and it is believed that the Tsar did not want to wish spreading agitation throughout the Empire. 
So far, all parties have agreed to the First and Second Peace Points initially presented by Pope Benedict XV on January 25, and this is the first major headway given for Peace Point Three, calling for buffer states between Germany and Russia along with Germany and France (which would essentially be Alsace-Lorraine, the hotly contested territory that lies on the French-German boarder). So far, the French support creating an independent buffer state out of the Alsace-Lorraine territory that lies on the German side of the line. However, the German authorities have stated that these terms are not acceptable, and that France should have to give up some of it’s own territory as well. 
“Headway in Peace Congress: Russia Agrees to Buffer State,” The Times (London), February 18, 1915. 

LONDON, FEB 20 - A final vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Asquith has occurred today in Parliament, and was overwhelmingly in support of removing Asquith from power. The Prime Minister, who has been in Strasbourg at the Peace Conference with Foreign Minister Grey since the end of January, is expected to return to London within the next few days and formally resign. As for who is likely to become the next Prime Minister, the most likely candidates are David Lloyd George, currently the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or Foreign Minister Edward Grey. 
This move comes amid great political pressure throughout the country against what is perceived by many to be Asquith’s poor handling of the initial stages of the Christmas Truce crisis, including his signing off on the order to have loyal troops open fire on soldiers that had joined the Truce Army. Members of Parliament are hoping this will quell some of the protests, but it may be too little too late. There is a growing call for new parliamentary elections by the end of the year, led in large part by Liberal politician and former MP George Lansbury, who is a quickly rising star in the Liberal Party since the Christmas Truce crisis began. Lansbury is known as an outspoken pacifist, and has gained a huge following from those who want to see this war over and see to it that future conflicts are avoided. 
-”No Confidence in Asquith Government,” The Times (London), February 21, 1915. 

When Herbert H. Asquith returned from the Strasbourg Congress with Foreign Minister Earl Grey on February 23, 1915, he promptly resigned as Prime Minister, and the members of the Liberal Party met and voted on who would succeed him. David Lloyd George was one of the likeliest candidates, followed closely by Edward Grey. In a close vote, it was decided that Grey would become Prime Minister, and he was formally appointed on February 29, 1915. Grey tapped former Home Secretary Winston Churchill to serve as Foreign Minister. Grey and Churchill would head back Strasbourg on March 5, 1915. 
Grey’s government would only last until the next parliamentary elections in the fall of 1915. By then, George Lansbury and other pacifists had seen a huge rise in popularity and would become the new leaders of the Liberal Party that would see an increase in power after the 1915 election. 
  • Thomas, Dr. George, History of British Politics of the Early Twentieth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. 
STRASBOURG, MAR 27 - The delegates of the Strasbourg Peace Congress have hammered out a first draft of a treaty that they are now sending out to the capitals of Europe, attempting to find a settlement to bring about the end of the Great European War. If accepted by all parties, the treaty could be signed sometime in mid April, bringing the war to an official close. The official text of the treaty draft has not been released to the press, but from several sources we have learned that the treaty essentially meets the 7 Points for Peace that Pope Benedict XV proposed back in January. Now, whether all these terms will be acceptable to the major powers of Europe or not remains to be seen. There had been a lot of discussion about the proposals, and not everyone was happy with the different items of the proposal. People in France and Germany have both voiced qualms about giving up Alsace-Lorraine, and there are those in Russia who are appalled at giving in up Poland, though the Russian government has officially endorsed such a proposal. There are also those in the military establishments across Europe that think that some sort of punishment should be laid against the soldiers who mutinied and deserted their posts to join the Christmas Truce Army. Vice President Marshal, who has been in Strasbourg for the duration of the discussions to provide an American opinion, stated he had serious concerns about what sort of precedent it would set if the soldiers weren’t reprimanded. He told American reporters in Strasbourg that, “if the soldiers who joined the Christmas Army are let off the hook, what’s to keep other soldiers in future conflicts from hijacking those wars and threatening their governments with revolution.” 
-”First Draft of Strasbourg Treaty Now Under Review,” The New York Times, March 28, 1915. 

After the failure to push forward against the French Revolutionary Army at Auxerre, the Republicans consolidated their forces and control over the region around Lyons and south. It was Clemenceau’s plan to start setting up a functioning government in Lyons and consolidate total control over southern France before striking against the revolutionary government in Paris. At first this went well for Clemenceau, with the area around Lyons supporting the Republicans enthusiastically, and parts farther south remaining fairly loyal. All this would unravel, however, after the Emergency Governing Council of the Fourth French Republic (the official body that governed the anti-Socialist forces in France), passed the now infamous Order 413 on March 1, which authorized large scale mandatory conscription of men ages 16-40, to “help save our nation from the horde of revolutionaries.” Army units were sent out to enforce this Order, and that’s when the once patriotic support of the Clemenceau resistance began to unravel. People were upset that the army was being sent out to essentially arrest all able bodied men and drag them into the army. 
In Marseilles, local socialists, who’d stayed mostly in hiding once the city declared allegiance to Lyons, came out of the wood work and rallied the citizens, a vast majority of whom opposed Order 413. This would lead to the birth of the Marseilles Commune, which overthrew the city government on March 17th, and prepared the city to resist the Republican troops that were headed their way. On March 26, the Battle of Marseilles began. After day of street fighting, the army retreaded, having lost too many men. Word of this victory spread quickly, and towns and cities across the “Free French Republic” rose up against the the Republican Army. With this momentum, the FRA mobilized and planned to attack. The Revolutionaries and the resisters would meet for the Second Battle of Auxerre on April 12, 1915. 
-Nelson, Dr. Henry. Vive la Revolution 1915! Birth of the French socialist state. New York: Colombia University Press, 1980.

PARIS, APR 16 - The Socialist French government of Jean Juares has reported that forces loyal to anti-socialist leader George Clemenceau have been defeated at the Second Battle of Auxerre and are retreating towards Lyons, which is reportedly preparing for a siege. Early casualty reports are hovering above 70,000 troops in total. Socialist Leader Juares, who has been in Paris while the French government deliberates over the proposed Strasbourg Treaty, told reporters that, “this is an encouraging day for the People’s Revolution. The forces of reaction and capitalism are on the run, and I am optimistic that by summer, France will be unified under the red banner of socialism and freedom and equality. 
The French War Minister, Albert Thomas, reportedly said that he believes the Revolutionary Army will reach Lyons within a few days, and could defeat the Republicans in a number of days. “The War in France should be over by May.”
-”Clemenceau’s Army on the Run,” Frankfurter Zeitung, April 17, 1915. 

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