An Alternate Second World War
by Eric Oppen
Point of Departure: In 1918, two unnoticed deaths: Adolf Hitler dies of gas and complications in a German military hospital, and Josef Visarionovich Stalin dies of typhus during the Russian Civil War.
November 11, 1918: End of the Great War. At the news of Germany’s defeat, an Austrian-born corporal in a Bavarian regiment, Adolf Hitler, loses his will to go on living and succumbs to the complications of having been gassed.
December, 1918. In Russia, a louse bites a high-ranking Bolshevik of Georgian birth, Josef Stalin, and infects him with typhus. He succumbs to the disease.
1919: Great unrest in Germany, as the Freikorps fight against leftist rebels. The Russian Civil War grinds on. The Hungarian communist government is destroyed, to be replaced by a "monarchy without a monarch" under Admiral Horthy.
1920: The Kapp Putsch. Right-wing attempt to take over the German government foiled by strike by Social-Democratic government workers; the putschists have no way to run things without these people.
1922: The Russian Civil War comes to an end, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is declared.
1924: Vladimir Ilich Lenin dies of cerebral haemorrhage. Leon Trotsky uses his position as the leader of the Red Army to ensure that he is named the new leader of the USSR. Anti-Trotsky members of Politboro purged. Doctrine of "permanent revolution" and "export of revolution" made official. Border incidents with Finland, Estonia, and Poland.
1925: Under Trotsky, the Red Army is built up. Contacts among workers in defense industries outside the USSR are exploited to gain data about the latest wrinkles in tanks, machine-guns, and aircraft. Border incident with Finland near Petsamo; both sides suffer casualties.
1926: Nationalist unrest in Germany leads to crackdown on extremists of both wings. Many German communists flee to USSR, notably a well-known leftist firebrand, Josef Paul Goebbels. Many right-wing leaders taken into custody or "shot while escaping." General Ludendorff placed under informal house arrest, and informed that any further agitation from him will lead to his tragic demise. "Border incident" on Latvian-USSR border when Soviet border patrols cross into Latvia in "hot pursuit" of alleged defectors, and are fired on by Latvian troops.
1927: Communist International, led by Trotsky and the CPSU (Communist Part of the Soviet Union) foments unrest in regions bordering the USSR. Ethnic Ukranians riot in eastern Poland, and are put down by the Polish Army. Finland and the Baltic states report increased activity along their borders.
1928: Stating that this does not mean that its neutrality is being abandoned, only that it is resuming its former position as a protector of all the Baltic peoples, Sweden signs an agreement for mutual defense with Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. USSR protests against the "Baltic Treaty," stating that "it is a clear threat to the motherland of workers and peasants everywhere." Soviet overflight of Petsamo, Finland met by elements of the Swedish Royal Air Force, and forced to retreat.
1929: Worldwide economic crash. Extremists gain strength everywhere. Communist-backed uprisings in eastern Romania (Bessarabia/Moldavia), eastern Poland, and easternmost Czechoslovakia. German communist party begins openly drilling a militia. Communist revival in Hungary; "Bela Kun" brigades begin to form.
1930: Low-level civil war in Poland, between Poles and minority populations (ethnic Germans, Ukranians, Jews). Germany begins building up its armed forces, explaining that unrest in Poland is a direct threat; the Versailles powers do nothing, being preoccupied with trouble at home. Communist deputies call for general strike in France, and rioting in Denmark is traced to people in the pay of the local Soviet embassy. Denmark breaks off relations with the USSR, and begins secret talks with Sweden on the subject of mutual defense. Norway joins the talks at the end of the year. Conscription and universal military training introduced in Norway and Denmark. President Herbert Hoover assassinated by a disgruntled unemployed man.
1931: Communist "workers’ militias" begin operating openly as paramilitary groups in Germany and France. Various right-wing groups attempt to counter-organize, but Communist infiltrators manage to keep them from being very effective, for the most part. Communists do very well in French, German and British elections, becoming the balancing party in the British Parliament.
1932: German President von Hindenberg dies. When his will is read, it includes a request that the former German monarchy be restored. Many in Germany are agreeable to this, since the Republic has proven quite ineffectual in keeping the peace, and is associated in people’s minds with the Versailles "diktat." The son of the former crown prince is contacted, and agrees to serve. The passions of the Great War have now more or less died down, and the victors are willing enough to see Germany become a monarchy if that is what the Germans want; a plebscite brings in results more than 65% in favor of a constitutional monarchy. The new Kaiser is crowned as "Frederich IV," and the joke in English-speaking countries goes "Better Fred than Red." A constitution is written in which the Kaiser reigns but does not rule, and local autonomy is preserved, pleasing the Bavarian separatists, who also restore the house of Wittelsbach as a subordinate monarchy in the German Reich. Many other former royal houses resume their titles.
1933: Franklin D. Roosevelt elected to US Presidency by overwhelming majority; disillusion with Republicans over Depression and their reluctance to admit that Prohibition had failed are the main causes. Right-wing and left-wing extremists growing greatly in power; Ku Klux Klan merges with several other groups and re-forms as the Knights of the Camelia. Infighting and intrigue between Communists and Socialist groups; Communists aided by Comintern agents. FDR escapes assassination attempt mounted by die-hard Prohibitionists. Prohibition Enforcement Agency disbanded; many members tried on charges of violation of citizens' rights during Prohibition years.
1934: Austria holds plebscite on question of joining Germany, and the results are greatly in favor. The Western Allies accede to the Anschluss, since it is clearly the will of the people of Austria itself. The head of the House of Hapsburg returns to Austria, and takes the title of Duke of Austria, one of the highest-ranking nobles in the new German Empire. Communists attempt to disrupt the ceremonies of investiture, and are put down ruthlessly by the police. Border incidents on Russo-Polish border, involving "hot pursuit" of defectors, and shots exchanged between Soviet and Polish border troops. In Russia, Leon Trotsky takes the title of "Supreme Comrade," and institutes a secret all-out armaments program, under the name "Liberation of Europe." Soviet agents and loyal Communists abroad are instructed to do all in their power to obtain samples or information about the latest developments in weaponry.
1935: Border clashes between Lithuanian and Soviet border patrols; Communists demonstrate outside Lithuanian diplomatic outposts in London, Paris, Washington DC, and Berlin. Attempts by Communists to demonstrate in Warsaw suppressed, with dead on both sides.
1936: Communists assassinate the new King of the United Kingdom, Edward VIII, at his father's funeral. The assassin gets away, but his identity is known and he pops up in Moscow, proclaiming that he did the deed for the Revolution. The UK breaks off relations with the USSR. Communists suppressed after "Riot Week" in which hundreds on both sides die. Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Communist Party, is arraigned for treason and sentenced to death. France protests death sentence on Mosley, and is told to mind its own business. Communists attempt coup d'etat in Spain, triggering civil war when anti-Communist military units refuse coup leaders' orders.
1937: Anti-Communist repression continues in Britain, with recurrent scandals at the depth of Communist penetration into British institutions. French government votes to aid pro-Communist Spaniards; anti-Communists appeal for foreign assistance. France takes over Spanish Morocco, incorporating it into French North Africa. CPUSA declares May 1-7 "Strike Week," setting off clashes between strikebreakers, strikers and police. British government votes to re-arm, offers assistance "short of war" to anti-Communist forces in Spain.
1938: Large Soviet spy organizations exposed by Swedish counter-intelligence in Baltic States. Jessica Mitford, leader of the outlawed Communist Party of the British Isles (the amalgamated Communist Parties of Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland) arrested in Little Whinging, Surrey, following an attempt on the life of the Labour Party leader Aneurin Bevan. After she is found "not guilty by reason of insanity," an angry mob of workers surrounds the van that is taking her to a mental institution and burns it; she dies in the fire. "Border incidents" along the Soviet-Finnish, Soviet-Estonian, and Soviet-Polish borders; the last involves Soviet armor entering Polish territory "due to a mix-up with the maps." Germany offers treaty of mutual assistance to Poland on the condition that the Corridor is placed in "co-dominium" status between them, with its final status to be determined by plebscite; Polish Sjem considers the offer. France denounces Poland's "cozying up to the bloody-handed Germans."
1939: Germany and Poland agree on "co-dominium" status for former Polish Corridor, and sign German-Polish Mutual Assistance Pact. Kaiser Friederich visits Warsaw, where he makes an excellent impression, giving speeches in good Polish hailing a new era of German-Polish cooperation against "the forces of evil, crouching and preparing to spring." Kaiser's speeches vehemently denounced in French General Assembly by leftist Deputies; mass fistfight breaks out when rightist Deputies denounce leftists as "Trotsky's cat's-paws." Border incidents all along USSR's western frontier; Romanians report signs of large-scale infiltration. Massive Red Air Force overflights of Baltic cities, Petsamo, and western Poland.
Late 1939: Huge Soviet offensive breaks out, with incursions into Finland (held at the Mannerheim Line by Finnish forces), Romanian Bessarabia, and Poland. Appeals for help by Finland, Romania and Poland responded to mainly by Germany, which declares war on USSR because of German-Polish Mutual Assistance Pact, and Sweden and Norway, which send help to Finland. UK, France, Spain and Italy break off relations with USSR, denounce "Soviet aggression." French government paralyzed by infighting between pro-Soviet elements and everybody else.
Early 1940: Assassination attempt on French President; assassins captured and quickly identified as Comintern agents. France and Britain declare war on USSR. French Foreign Legion dispatched to Warsaw in response to Polish appeals for aid (Soviet forces are less than fifty miles away) to link up with Polish and German armies. Kaiser Friederich and the Polish and French Presidents present at huge parade in Warsaw, with the German Army marching side-by-side with the French Foreign Legion and the Polish Army---political commentators find the contrast with the bitterness of the Great War irresistibly ironic. Joint French-German-Polish counteroffensive drives Soviets back, relieving pressure on Warsaw.
Middle 1940: Stockholm bombed by elements of the Red Air Force. Sweden declares war on USSR, shortly followed by Norway. Pro-Soviet elements in Scandinavia attempt sabotage, slowing Swedish mobilization. Romanian Army thrown back out of Moldavia (OTL Moldova), Romanians appeal for aid from Germany. Deep-cover Comintern agents in Germany begin campaign of systematic sabotage and terrorism. Attempted coup in Italy suppressed; Socialist Prime Minister Benito Mussolini asks King for declaration of war on USSR, and begins channelling aid to Romania after war is declared. Italian Expeditionary Force is sent to Romania by air, arriving in time to reinforce Romanian army.
Late 1940: Joint Scandinavian counter-offensive in Karelia brings front lines to within a few miles of Leningrad. At this threat, massive Communist-inspired protests erupt in Germany, Italy, the Scandinavian capitals, and especially France; France is convulsed by strikes, and a large mutiny erupts in the French Army. A "Soviet Republic" is established in the Midi region of France, and the French government sends for aid from Algeria, landing Algerian troops on the Mediterranean coast of France. Deep-cover agents are uncovered in the British Trade Unions Council, and treason trials are begun at the Old Bailey.
Winter 1940: In a surprise move, Leon Trotsky signs a pact with Imperial Japan, praising Japan as a "progressive force in Asia, lifting the yoke of Western colonialism." Japan begins joint operations with Soviet forces in China, and Japan begins large-scale resupply of USSR via Vladivostok and Manchuria, since the Royal Navy and Scandinavians are cutting off Soviet ports at Arkhangelsk and the Baltic. US denounces "Soviet-Japanese aggression in China" and threatens to cut off Soviet and Japanese access to US markets. Protests ensue on college campuses and in "intellectual" circles, alleging that stopping the Japanese "objectively props up the archaic feudal-colonialist regimes suppressing the workers’ and peasants’ movements in Asia." Wildcat strikes break out in Western US cities, with strikers fighting AFL and CIO-led workers. Fierce struggles break out in CIO unions between pro- and anti-Soviet factions. Leningrad besieged by Finnish-Scandinavian forces.
January 1941: Soviet forces counterattack in Poland.