BECAUSE I’m evil, my middle name is misery, Well I’m evil, so don’t you mess around with me, I’m evil, evil, evil, as can be” – Elvis Presley, King Creole
Adolf, a World War 1 veteran of Germany wrote in September 1919 to another Adolf who was a soldier in the Reichswehr: “As a result there lives amongst us a non-German, alien race, unwilling and indeed unable to shed its racial characteristics, its particular feelings, thoughts and ambitions and nevertheless enjoying the same political rights as we ourselves do…Their dance around the golden calf becomes a ruthless struggle for possessions…”
The letter was for Adolf Gemlich from Adolf Hitler. And in Italy that September of 1919, another World War 1 veteran, Gabriele D’Annunzio (who was originally elected to the Chamber of Deputies as a rightwing nationalist) commanded a thousand black-shirted legionaries to assume control of the port city of Fiume, denouncing in words and deed the imperialism of the West: “From the indomitable Sinn Fein of Ireland to the Red Flag which unites cross and crescent in Egypt, rebellions of the spirit, catching fire from our sparks, will burn afresh against the devourers of raw flesh, and the oppressors of unarmed nations.” [Hakim Bey, T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism]
D’Annunzio’s urban mis-adventure was preceded by the 21 March 1919 formation of the Fascio di Combattimento di Milano (Milan Fighting Fascists) and Sansepolcrismo and it was succeeded by Hitler’s 12 September 1919 initiation into the German Workers’ Party.
Europe in 1919 was in the throes of a series of socialist revolutions triumphant (Russia) and unfortunate (Germany, Hungary, Poland); the reactionaries pushed back. The Romanian Army and the White Terror extirpated the Republic of Councils in Hungary, the French Army forced the Soviet of Strasbourg’s Republic of Alsace-Lorraine into the centralized system (départements of Moselle and Haut and Bas-Rhin), and the French-officered Czechoslovak Army in the Northern Campaign plus the two contending armies in the Hungarian–Romanian War undid the Slovak Republic of Councils. Although the Thule Society counter-coup fell flat, the Münchner Räterepublik and the “Bavarian Revolution of Love” was vitiated by the Freikorps (Rudolf Hess, etc.) and other elements of the “White Guards of Capitalism.” Leftists and anti-monarchists like Julius Schreck and Balthasar Brandmayer, respectively, who were disenchanted with the socialists and the republicans (Schreckensherrschaft), later became Hitlerites.
Regimes were harsh toward their own constituents: the Stamboliiski government with the Bulgarian Army and the quasi-military Orange Guard quelled the transport strike (December 1919-February 1920) and the power-grabbing Tinoco brothers (Federico and Jose Joaquin) unsuccessfully but brutally choked back the movement of teachers who protested their exploitation (being paid in tercerillas or “bank notes that represented a third of their salary to be redeemed at a future, unnamed time”) in June of 1919. [Reddebrek, “Costa Rican women teachers defend schools, help bring down a dictator,” libcom.org, January 25, 2017]
Class versus class, sector against sector? In Canada, Citizens’ Committee of One Thousand (led by local businessmen), the Mounties, and special constables like World War I veteran Frederick Coppins curtailed the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 (for union recognition and a living wage) with Bloody Saturday (June 21, 1919).
Civil wars erupted, as the monarchists busted guts to roll back the republicans (Sidonismo/Dezembrismo bore a Monarquia do Norte, c. January 1919, which could not overwhelm the Portuguese República Velha) or the royalists factionalized (sons and other close kin of Emir Habibullah Khan anointed themselves as heirs with Amanullah Khan besting Nasrullah Khan in March 1919, the crisis concluding with the Treaty of Rawalpindi or Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 08 August 1919 whereby Britain formally recognized the independence of Afghanistan).
Imperialism swedged against both the disaffected sectors of society and the modules of nativism in the colonies, as in the case of the Sultanate of Egypt where the campaign of Saad Zaghlul (arrested 08 March 1919) and the Wafd Party led to London’s unilateral declaration of Egyptian independence (22 February 1922) and the British smothering of the massive wave of peasant unrest. Sudan, however, remained as an Anglo-Egyptian condominium. [Kyle Anderson, “Whose Revolution? The Peasant Rebellion of 1918 and the Egyptian ‘nationalist’ Revolution,” https://centennial.ccny.cuny.edu/speakers.html]
Not all campaigns in the East and the colonies were progressive. Although the Simko Shikak revolt (1918–22) could be transcribed as a step to Kurdish tribal alliance in support of independence, the Ottoman-backed Kurdish chieftain masterminded the assassination of the Assyrian Nestorian patriarch, massacre of Assyrians in Khoy and genocide of 1,000 Christians in Salmas. Similarly problematic was the pan-Islamist, pro-Ottoman Khilafat (Indian Muslim) movement of 1919–24.
The second decade of the 20th century saw the birth of new nations, new states – a messy process.
The Transcaucasian Federation (declared in April 1918) decomposed into three not-so-neighborly commonwealths, which were targeted by Pan-Turkism, Turanism (which included the Nipponese), Pan-Iranism, even Prometeizm (which interested Italy and Japan), among others. The Free State of Fiume was short lived; yet in 1919 it had the company of the Emirate of Asir, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, Kingdom of Iceland, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Most Serene Republic of San Marino, Swiss Confederation, Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen, United States of Venezuela, Republic of Guatemala, and Principality of Andorra, among others. Like the March Movement of the Koreans, the Khanate of Khiva, Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus, Tibet, and the Commune of the Working People of Estonia, among others, claimed sovereignty.
What were the paths to nationhood and/or statehood in 1919? Workers’ Council system?
Spontaneity and isolated outbreaks? Putschism? Imperialist war → civil war? Second International evolutionism? Westphalian application?
The push for ethnic self-determination was paralleled by a new phenomenon: Fascism/National Socialism. By late 1919, Hitler was advocating Rational Anti-Semitism, agitating as a political officer of the young German Workers Party – and badly mauled, nearly lynched one evening by a Munich mob in the gymnasium (but saved by Michael Keogh, an Irish captain of the Freikorps Epp from the Turken Strasse barracks). [https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1300943/Could-WWII-avoided-Memoirs-uncover-Irishman-saved-Hitler-kicked-death-mob.html]
Trouble, big trouble, real trouble, was coming down hard and fast.