Saturday, March 10, 2018

My Lack of God! It's Trotsky!

If there is any one single biggest loser to be found in the Brest-Litovsk treaty ending Russian involvement in World War I, it is the Bolsheviks' chief negotiator, Leon Trotsky.
"Heute rot..." by P.H. in Ulk, Berlin, March 1, 1918
During negotiations, Germany's peace terms had included creating German-allied independent states in Poland and the Baltics, up to then parts of the Russian empire. Trotsky responded by suspending negotiations and recommending to Vladimir Lenin that Russia withdraw its forces from the fighting without signing a peace treaty: an approach he labeled "neither war nor peace"— "Ни война, ни мир." He fully expected that if he waited long enough, the German and Austrian working class and soldiers, weary of war, would rise up against their rulers just as the Russian people had.
"Brest-Litovsk" by Zislin in Le Rire, Paris, February 2, 1918
But Ukraine signed its Brest-Litovsk treaty with the Central Powers on February 9, 1918, and Germany renewed military action against Russia nine days later, ramping up the pressure on Russia to accept German terms for peace.
"Der Trotzkibengel und die Wandernde Glocke" by Arthur Johnson in Kladderadatch, Berlin, February 24, 1918 
German-American cartoonist Arthur Johnson's cartoon in Kladderadatch is based on a Goethe poem, "The Wandering Bell," about a boy who fails to heed his mother's admonition to go to church when the steeple bell rings, only to have the bell literally follow him everywhere until he changes his ways.
"Die Heimkehr vom Markt im Osten" by Richter in Kladderadatsch, Berlin, March 17, 1918
Russia signed the treaty on March 3, and ratified it on March 15. In addition to its Baltic losses, Russia recognized the independence of Ukraine, Georgia, and Finland and ceded territories to the Ottoman Empire that are now in easternmost Turkey— all told, ceding away some 1 million square miles of Russia's former territory; a third of its population or around 55 million people; a majority of its coal, oil and iron stores; and much of its industry.
"Trotsky Advances..." by Louis Raemaekers for Bell Syndicate, by March 13, 1918
As vilified in the Entente press as he had been in Germany's, Trotsky was spared the wrath of Russian cartoonists only because Russian cartoonists were not in the habit of drawing real, living domestic politicians in their cartoons. Dead people were fair game, but real people could send your ass off to the gulag. Russian cartoons throughout the Soviet era tended to limit themselves to archetypes and characters from folk tales.
"They Looked at the Little Bird" by Cy Hungerford in Pittsburgh Sun, March, 1918
Abroad, the most charitable view of Trotsky and, in Cy Hungerford's cartoon, Vladimir Lenin, was that they were unwitting, inexperienced buffoons, easily taken advantage of by the wily, expansionist Kaiser.

"Bear Steaks" by Bob Satterfield, by March 2, 1918
With his negotiating strategy thoroughly discredited, Trotsky resigned as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs.
"Trotsky's Good-Bye" by Percy H. "Poy" Fearon in London Evening News, March, 1918
Whether they thought of Trotsky as villain or fool, the general consensus of Entente cartoonists was that Russia had suffered an existential disaster of biblical proportions.
"Judas Bolchevik" by Nob in Le Rire, Paris, March 30, 1918

"Undertaken in the Name of Humanity" by C.R. McAuley in New York World, by March 7, 1918
The one outlier in its views on Russia's fate that I've come across is this drawing in the left-wing L'Asino of Rome, which appears to cast the Bolsheviks as David to Germany's Goliath. Since I haven't been able to locate the issue of L'Asino in which this cartoon first appeared, it is possible that it was drawn before the outcome of the Brest-Litovsk negotiations had been settled.

"Il Duello Tedesco-Bolscevico" (by Gabrieli "Rata Langa" Galanta?) in L'Asino, Rome, February or March, 1918
Certainly the editors of the Chicago Tribune, by the time they ran this cartoon on March 9, knew that David was not emerging from this duel with his (and Goliath's) head held high.

Yet even on the drawing boards of Munich's Simplicissimus there could be found some sympathy for Germany's vanquished foe. "Old metal bought [here]" reads the sign.

"Russischer Abendfriede" by C.O. Petersen in Simplicissimus, March 26, 1918
Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune finds the silver lining limning the "Russian catastrophe," now that the price of peace with Germany was on display for all to see.
"A Bad Jolt" by Carey Orr in Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1918
Wow, cars must've been a whole lot sturdier then. None of that namby pamby carbon fiber polymer crap, just good old American steel.

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