It well recalls the triumphs past,
It gives the hope of peace at last;
The banner bright, the symbol plain,
Of human right and human gain.
Then raise the scarlet standard high.
Within its shade we’ll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We’ll keep the red flag flying here.
–Jim Connel, “The Red Flag”
Beneath the Crimson Banner: A Novel of Alternate History
From Utah and the Great War: The Beehive State and the World War I Experience
Utah, in 1919, was in a constant process of becoming. Since the 1870s, the Beehive State’s non-Mormon population had grown steadily, while roughly 60 percent of Utah’s residents were still members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Most of the population resided in expanding urban centers. Salt Lake City and Ogden were the State’s two largest cities, with the capital featuring a rising skyline, an overall growth in its population, and the expansion of the capital’s neighborhoods.
Despite the collective, societal strength garnered from the surge of patriotism washing over Utah in the form of State and Liberty Bonds, victory gardens, and a rousing celebration by returning veterans and residents in SLC at the Great War’s end, people were afraid.
The production of zinc, silver, copper, and gold was 54 percent below 1918 levels, with major mining companies either closing their mines or laying off workers in large numbers. The price of wheat fell steadily throughout 1919, hurting farmers greatly.
Strikes hit hard. Prior to the seizure of political power by the SLC Council of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Sailors’ Deputies laws came forth from the State legislature which attempted to suppress the inevitable. These laws came in the form of the so-called Red Flag and Sabotage bills, passed by wealthy capitalist legislators.
The Red Flag bill was put forth by capitalist legislator J.E. Cardon, who asserted harshly that his bill was a “warning to agitators that there is no place for them in this State.” It passed easily, with only ten senators against. Twenty-four representatives voted for and only five against the accompanying Sabotage bill, with the former targeting the nascent SLC Council of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Sailors’ Deputies and the latter the syndicalist IWW.
The SLC Council of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Sailors’ Deputies met initially in February 1919, calling for “mass action to build up a real democratic government, a government of the workers, for the workers, and by the workers, to take control of politics and industry out of the hands of big business.” It would send letters to labor unions across the State asking them to join its cause.
Police were quick to act against radicals, using the two new laws to make arrests. The IWW offices in SLC were quickly shut down along with its press, resulting in IWW Solidarity editor Ralph Chaplin complaining to the SLC Council of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Sailors’ Deputies. Calls for a mass political strike were soon issued by the SLC Council of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Sailors’ Deputies followed by arrests made at one of its weekly meetings by plainclothes police officers. Despite the repression the mass political strike, slated for May 1st, 1919–May Day–moved ahead at breakneck speed as unionists, workers, Socialists, and Communists all worked to organize it.
On May Day, in the early morning hours, mail bombs ended up on the desks of attorney Frank K. Necker, reactionary Democratic Senator William H. King, and conservative Senator Reed Smoot, killing all three individuals; a bomb also killed Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, orchestrator of the national Red Scare, however the other thirty-two recipients were left unscathed. The mail bombs were likely delivered by a lone wolf murderer bent on causing mass chaos. The successful bombings pushed not just the Utah State government but also numerous other States and the Federal government over to the attempted brutal crushing of the May Day strike movement.
The Beehive State was gripped by the May Day strike soon afterwards.
The mass political strike brought the economy and government in Utah to a grinding halt. The progressive Jewish, non-Mormon Governor Simon Bamberger was forced to call out the National Guard in response to the unrest. The National Guardsmen, echoing what took place in other States on May Day, fired into crowds of striking workers, radicalizing them further. Many troops joined the strikers, allowing for the formation of a statewide workers’ militia, which soon began taking over whole towns and cities which was paralleled elsewhere in the country. New Social political and economic power became reality in SLC, with the SLC Council of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Sailors’ Deputies issuing a call to all revolutionary parties and movements to jointly create a Socialist State of Utah through the convocation of an All-Utah Congress of Councils of Workers’, Soldiers’, Sailors’, and Farmers’ Representatives.
The All-Utah Council Congress met on May 12th, 1919, just eleven days after the mass May Day political strike brought down the old bourgeois order in Utah. In the interest of unity, the Utah Socialist and Communist Parties agreed to form a working majority, governing jointly in a Socialist-Communist coalition government.
The formation of a Utahan Socialist Red Workers’ and Farmers’ Army was announced, while decrees on land and industry were read out to the delegates followed by much applause. Electing an executive committee to act as the supreme legislative and executive power between sessions of the Utah Council Congress and, starting work on a Socialist State constitution, representatives to the national Council Congress in Washington D.C. were sent as the Utah Council Congress’s last act on the first day of the convening of the sovereign Revolutionary Assembly.
Utah was now a Socialist State.
Eugene Victor Debs had been to Utah before, during his 1904 presidential campaign tour of the Beehive State. Then, the class struggle was hidden: Now, it had broken out into full-blown Social revolution. Arms outstretched, his lean, angular body bent forwards, Debs began speaking to the crowd of plain-clothed workers, soldiers, and sailors in the Salt Lake City Federation of Labor building. The SLC Council of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Sailors’ Deputies delegates whooped themselves hoarse as he did so.
His words broke through their throaty cheers, amplified by a microphone set up at the podium from which he stood: “There’s a new power in this great city, the combined political and economic power of the Salt Lake City Council of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Sailors’ Deputies–your power!” That produced yet more cheers, forcing him to wait for the crowd to grow silent again. He continued, saying “I declare this meeting of the Salt Lake City Council of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Sailors’ Deputies open!”
As the 1919 Socialist candidate for president of the Council of People’s Secretaries, he was given honorary chairmanship over the meeting. The actual council chairman banged his gavel at a nearby table situated below the stage he was on.
After some time, the council chairman adjourned the meeting. As Debs was about to leave the hall, a burly Socialist State workers’ militiaman came up to him. “Mr. Debs, sir, it was an honor to hear you speak for the first time. I’d heard from a fellow soldier in the trenches that heaven breaks when you speak, and boy did it break.”
“Good to know I broke heaven with my words, friend. It’s also good to know that you’ve stormed heaven. You have the looks of a miner. Did you work in the mines before fighting in the war?”
“Yes, I was a copper miner before our country’s bourgeoisie got us into that damned imperialist slaughter. Fought on the Western Front, against the stinking, baby-killing krauts.”
Debs frowned at the militiaman’s prejudiced words. Many a worker still thought not in internationalist class terms, but in terms of the old, racist bourgeois nation-state. Still, the veteran was doing his duty for the new Socialist State of Utah, as evidenced by the green militia uniform that he wore. The two men shook hands after having exchanged a few more words. Parting ways, Debs left the Federation of Labor building and melted into the large crowd filing outside of the entrance before catching a bus back to the train station.
Hopping onto the train, he settled into a hard-wooden seat. The train rolled on its way to Ogden. As it did so, he couldn’t help but smile, placing a bony hand onto the hat that he wore over his bald head and running his other hand down across his dapper tweed suit. The people’s revolution rolled on its way to victory, and so would he at its head.
International Affairs I
From the United Socialist Republic of Germany: A History, Chapter 1 “A Hopeful Beginning”
The Independent Socialists had decided, despite stark disagreements over the future direction of the German Revolution, to stay on the Council of People’s Deputies with the Majority Socialists. This gave them clout, allowing them to delay elections to the General Congress of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils from mid-December 1918 until late-January 1919.
Berlin was hit by a general strike led by the Spartacus Group on January 4th prior to the election. The Majority Socialist chairman of the Council of People’s Deputies Frederich Ebert had every right to feel nervous as he walked ceaselessly around his office. The streets were devoid of police, the guns from the local police headquarters distributed generously among liberated political prisoners by the Independent Socialist and new police commissioner Emil Eichhorn. While Karl Liebknecht rallied Berlin’s surging proletariat around the red banner of labor, Rosa Luxemburg worked relentlessly on The Red Flag to get the revolutionary word out with a captured printing press.
The Independent Socialists on the Council of People’s Deputies put pressure on Chairman Ebert to remain passive as the general strike spread from Berlin to the rest of Germany. The nationwide general strike pushed electors in the councils over to the side of the Independent Socialists. The result was an Independent Socialist-dominated Council Congress, which finally met in Berlin at the end of January, the troubled capital of Germany having become a labor commune under the radical administration of the Berlin Council of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.
At the congress, the Independent Socialist Ernst Däumig could proudly boast that “soon now you will belong to the Council System. And then you will have companionship, personally inaugurate a political Suicide Club.”
The Majority Socialist Max Cohen, finding his party’s position at the congress hopeless, warned against the immediate Socialization of the means of production, arguing that there was hardly anything left to Socialize due to the war-induced economic malaise. His appeal had fallen on deaf ears. The delegates voted in favor of accepting the Communist Karl Liebknecht’s decree on the Socialization of industry, followed by a decree on land to stormy applause. Rosa Luxemburg next read out a decree on the punishment of the officers who had led the proletariat into the imperialist slaughter, followed by the immense clapping of hands and much cheering.
The delegates then named an executive committee to govern between sessions of the Council Congress, beginning work on a constitution for the new United Socialist Republic of Germany, modeling the preamble after the Soviet Declaration of Rights of the Working and Exploited People before adjourning for the day.
The moderate Majority Social-Democratic Party of Germany, it’s cadre pushed further leftwards, merged with the Independent Socialists, effectively re-forming a single Social-Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) under the leadership of the radical left. The re-formed SPD would jointly govern the new revolutionary State with the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).
The German Socialist republic was off to a hopeful beginning.
March 4th, 1921 marked not just the inauguration of the first president of the United Socialist States of America (USSA), but also the inauguration of the era of direct proletarian democracy.
The political revolution, long ago recognized by revolutionary Marxists on both sides of the Atlantic before the First Great War as a necessary precondition for Socialism, had come to fruition in America through the council movement.
A side-note, a breaking-up of the narrative to give a few words on my research methods.
The author in this humble endeavor is of the Communist persuasion, and thus makes no bones about “impartiality,” of which there can be no such thing in the study of history. Historians inevitably come with their own prejudices, thoughts, opinions, and beliefs which are colored by the dominant mode of production.
Any errors furthermore found in the resultant narrative by the watchful, critical eye of the student-historian are hereby proclaimed to be the fault of the Social, revisionist historian who’s authored this scholarly piece and no one else’s but their own.
Now on to the story at-hand.
Our story at-hand brings us to SLC. Following its being put under martial law due to the failed Mormon uprising of 1919, the capital of Utah saw great Social change as the SLC Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC) aided immensely the Socialization of the municipality. This Socialization crusade started most potently with the local press.
The municipal government, prior to the revolution, had completely shuttered the leftist press be it anarchist, Socialist, Communist, or syndicalist, acting not unlike the Russian Provisional Government in Petrograd before Red October.
The Red Socialist Johnathan Stubbs, head of the MRC which since the revolution had operated out of the strategic Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School (“Our very own Smolny Institute” he was quite fond of saying, for it served as the HQ for the MRC, the multiparty SLC Workers’, Soldiers’, and Sailors’ Council as well as the Socialist and Communist Party offices post-revolution), was forced to not just shutter such “yellow, calumnious papers of reaction” according to him as the liberal, anti-Mormon Salt Lake Tribune and the conservative Deseret News but he would also issue a ban on the Republican and Democratic Parties; both decisions were subject to the approval of the All-Utah Council Congress’s Central Executive Committee (CEC), which would promptly ratify them despite much heated, fractious debate–and dissent–coming from the Socialist Party side of the benches.
As 1919 slipped into 1920, after the fizzing out of the ruling-class’s sorry attempt at waging civil war on the victorious SLC workers, the ban on not just the yellow, bourgeois press had been lifted by the CEC but also the ban on the “Republican-Democratic Party,” too.
“Let them talk. Better yet, let them work with us.” Stubbs was quoted by the Red Socialist press as saying, a quote swiftly snapped up by newly-freed reactionary journalists. “That’s council democracy in action.” With those words, after the flash of numerous camera-bulbs and the noisome rolling of film-reel, Johnathan Stubbs retired back to the Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School. He would continue to head Utah’s Social State security force until his premature death at 64 from lung cancer on January 21st, 1962: Around fifteen years before he’d served in the USSA’s Socialist Red Workers’ and Farmers’ Army during the Second Great War in a Social State security army detachment, wherein he would fight on the shores of fascist Spain and later help liberate Paris in 1945 from the die-hard French Popular Party’s Protection Squadron (the feared, battle-scarred, and genocidal armé–escadron de protection or armé–EP) units.
His last words uttered weakly on his deathbed according to his son years after his father’s death were “all is right, I believe, in the universe.”