Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Storm Before the New World Order

We start this Strikeback Saturday with an early cartoon by the great David Low, then 26 years old and drawing for the Bulletin of Sydney, Australia in a style very different from that with which he became best known.
"Bruin and the Brink" by David Low for Sydney Bulletin, October, 1917
Low's accession to the post of the Bulletin's resident cartoonist in Melbourne coincided with the start of World War I, and he soon achieved fame such that his face showed up in other cartoonists' work. Prime Minister Billy Hughes even once called up the Bulletin's editors to insist that a cartoon about him not be published. (Because of wartime censorship, Hughes had been able to see the cartoon prior to its publication.) When Low received his call-up notice for military service, the Bulletin successfully filed a claim to exempt him from the draft on the grounds of "national importance."
"Stop Him!" by William Donahey for Cleveland Plain Dealer, September, 1917
The war was not going well for Russia on the eve of Russia's October Revolution (November 7 in most of the Western World). The German army had routed Russian forces in Riga, in present-day Latvia, and worker strikes in Petrograd had spread to several other Russian cities.

To put down the strikes, Army Commander-in-Chief Lavr Kornilov marched his troops toward Petrograd. At first, he had the acquiescence of Provisional Minister-President Alexander Kerensky; but fearing a military coup, Kerensky rescinded Kornilov's orders and armed the Petrograd Soviet to stand against the army.
"Divided Against Itself" by Frank Holland for Reynold's Newspaper, London, October, 1917
It would be the Soviets who would be seen as having prevented the military coup d'etat, and when they did not disarm after Kornilov's arrest, the death of loyalty within the military to the Kerensky government meant that it was defenseless against well-armed foes.
"A Gentle Reminder" by Frank Holland for John Bull, London, October, 1917
The Russian government may have had friends in Japan, but they were a long, long way from Petrograd.
"No Rest" by Wilmot Lunt in The Bystander, London, September, 1917
Meanwhile, with its success in Riga, Germany was then able to send troops to bolster Austrian forces on the Italian front. Italy had enjoyed only modest success up to this point, but the Italian supply lines were stretched to their limits and the arrival of German forces tipped the balance in Austria's favor.
"Under the Test" by Lucius Curtis "Lute" Pease in Newark Evening News, October, 1917
The Italian army was forced to retreat to the Plave River. Opinion among the allies was split whether it was wiser to send troops to fight in Italy or to continue pressuring Germany on its Western Front in France and Belgium.

As worrisome to the Entente were workers' strikes in Italy and the possibility of Russia's troubles being replicated on the peninsula. A march by 40,000 Turin workers against the war in August expanded to general strikes, barricades in the streets, and attacks on factories and churches. The Army was sent in to crush the revolt on August 24, resulting in 50 deaths and 800 arrests. This pretty much put an end to revolutionary fervor in Italy's industrial north, but remained useful for German propaganda.
"Uncle Reuters's Collected Fairy Tales" by Thomas Theodor Heine in Simplicissimus, Munich, October 9, 1917
I've noted in previous posts the German knock against U.S. capitalist interests in the Great War. I'll close today's post with a cartoon from Spain, a country which remained neutral throughout World War I, taking note of the U.S.A.'s rise as a world power by virtue of its economic strength — with a hinted caveat that seems to predict Great Britain's decline. (Mendicity: n. the state of being a beggar; the practice or habit of begging. —MacMillan's)
"Mendicity in Europe" by S. Lleno for Blanco y Negro, Madrid, October, 1917

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