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Literature: Reds
Reds! is an Alternate History series on AlternateHistory.com. The series is divided into multiple timeline arcs. The first, from which the series name is derived, is titled Reds! A Revolutionary Timeline, and focuses on the events leading up to a socialist revolution in the United States during The Great Depression. The second, A Red Dawn, chronicles the early development of the new Union of American Socialist Republics, and the alternate World War II.

The first depicts an alternate history in which President William McKinley was not assassinated, and in the resulting political climate (which marginalized Progressive reformers due to Theodore Roosevelt never becoming president), socialism becomes much more popular in the United States (additionally, several important schisms that occurred in the socialist movement in our timeline did not occur in this one). After a much more brutal World War One (made more brutal, ironically, by the well-meaning attempts of internationalists like William Howard Taft to build stable international alliances), the American populace is radicalized and heavily divided, a powder keg ready to explode, until the Great Depression sparks a revolution in the United States.

The first thread in the series, chronicling the events up to the establishment of the Union of American Socialist Republics' government, can be found here, and the second and third, chronicling post-Revolution events, can be found here and here. The scenario is in the process of being rewritten and the rewrites of the first part of the timeline can be found here. A collection of the canonical materials of the universe, which lacks the copious in-thread commentary from both the creators and other participants but probably makes for much easier reading, has also been compiled here, but it is currently over a year out of date.


Historical characters who appear or are referenced in the timeline:

  • Ayn Rand: This world is 100 percent guaranteed to make her squirm. After self-imposed exile from her adopted country, her work has become decidedly more dystopian than it would have been and, if possible, even more politically extremist.
  • Douglas MacArthur: The point man for the military junta that pressured outgoing President Hoover into suspending the constitution and crushing the commies for good. Currently, he's President Evil of the exile US government in Cuba.
  • George Orwell: Still hates the USSR, cautiously optimistic about Red America. His stories are less soul-crushingly depressing. The Last Man in Europe (this timeline's version of 1984) becomes less of a Shoot the Shaggy Dog story as Winston Smith escapes to America and witnesses a debate in Times Square.
  • George Patton: Old Blood and Guts has lived a very different life and had a very different military career. So different that he's one of the main military leaders of the revolution.
  • Richard Nixon: Revealed to eventually become head of government of the UASR, though currently he has only directly appeared in a short story, as a head of a local military committee drumming up recruitment, and has a conversation with the protagonist about her choice to sign up.


This work provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Jane Schafer, a young woman who grew up during the revolution, and after adulthood, made the jump from Plucky Girl to this by joining the army. Not much of her character arc has been revealed yet, except for her being highly decorated for her service in the Second World War.
  • Allohistorical Allusion: has been used liberally
  • Alternate History: Complete with excerpts of the universe's AlternateHistory.com.
  • Amazon Brigade: A very literal example. The all female combat units of the Red Army during the 30s and 40s are often called "the Amazon Brigades" colloquially.
  • Author Avatar: Word of God says the in-universe discussion board character "flibbertygibbet" most closely represents one of the authors' (Jello_Biafra) views.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Essentially describes Hoover and MacArthur's suspension of the Constitution and attempted power grab. It doesn't work.
  • Black and Grey Morality: The UASR is presented in a more positive light than most of the other governments of the time, but it is far from perfect. Amongst its abuses include the setting up of kangaroo courts and the execution of potentially innocent civilians (though nowhere near on the scale of Stalinist Russia).
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Subverted. Emma Goldman, aka Red Emma, is a powerful figure in the Revolutionary government. This causes much debate in the Anarchist Movement. Anarcho-syndicalism in particular plays a large part in the organisation that enables the Red May revolution and it has been hinted that Chicago may effectively become an anarchist commune.
  • Cincinnatus: The Marxist interpretation of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" is this, as enacted more-or-less successfully by the Workers' Communist Party. The principle was that during the revolution, the whole of the working class, organized by the party, would take complete control of the state in order to enact its transformative program. In-universe, how well they fit this ideal is less clear.
  • Dirty Communists: Subverted. The heroes are pretty clearly the UASR and communists in general, in spite of moral complexities. The ranks of Dirty Communists now includes Patton, Eisenhower, Nixon, and J. Edgar Hoover. Even good ol' Honest Lincoln gets an in-universe posthumous baptism as a good comrade.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: One of the consequences of the American Cultural Revolution in the mid-thirties is the liberalization of sexual mores. However, it's not entirely clear exactly how much sex constitutes "lots of sex" in this case; an in-universe discussion commenter castigates the in-universe version of Public Enemies for depicting so many threesomes, saying he can see "that sort of thing happening in the fifties, but not the thirties." The liberalization of sexual mores is not entirely without controversy; indeed, the opposition Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in this time gains a fair amount of converts by shifting radically to the left economically but to the right on moral values. A Second Cultural Revolution spanning from the late '50s through the 1970s (not yet written, but planned for future updates) results in even further liberalization of sexual mores.
    • It's also noted by a present-day member of a web forum from America that this is apparently exaggerated in-universe outside of America; in something corresponding roughly to the dominant cultural mores of contemporary American society in the actual timeline, places like New York and California tend to be very socially liberal (and thus closer to this trope) whereas places in the Midwest and the South, while perhaps more liberal in these ways, still tend to be more conservative.
  • Fictional Political Party: Played with; as the TL develops, new political parties form, but usually out of existing political parties. And the parties that have the same name tend to have diverged in radically different ways to become In Name Only versions of their OTL counterparts.
  • For Want of a Nail: Originally the timeline diverged entirely because a racist cop in Buffalo happened to pick on a certain Polish immigrant. While this remains probably the biggest inciting event for the divergence from our timeline, it is not the point of departure in the rewrite.
    • The new point of divergence is even less flashy. The divergence occurs initially from a slightly different outcome of the interaction between two minor socialist groups at the end of the 1800s, which ends up averting a split in both that weakened the whole movement, and thus setting off a cascade of butterfly effect changes.
  • Framing Device: The timeline is generally told through in universe historical documents, but also through glimpses of discussion by board members of the alternate world's AH.com.
  • General Ripper: General Douglas MacArthur lives up to this during the Second American Civil War and subsequent dictatorship in exile in Cuba.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: Implied to be the situation between the powers in the modern day; the former colonial powers remain imperialistic and ruthlessly capitalistic, but are suggested to have had to liberalise how they treat their colonial subjects in order to avoid mass socialist uprisings, and are not nearly as fascistic as the Cold War propaganda of the UASR would depict them. The UASR is in many ways a socialist worker's paradise, but is suggested to have still done nasty things in the Cold War (and, as one source notes rather ominously, is the only major world power to still maintain a secret police force, suggesting a certain level of oppression). And the Soviet Union, after Stalin, remains authoritative but has also loosened up in light of the competing socialist ideology in the UASR.
  • Heel-Face Turn: J. Edgar Hoover kind of qualifies; he goes from being a hardline reactionary to a hardline revolutionary, mostly because doing so allows him to maximise the amount of power available to him. His authoritarianism, however, remains essentially unchanged, if it doesn't increase in the transition.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Huey Long, among others. Long had good reason to suspect that standing up for the Constitution would have dangerous consequences; he chose to do so anyway.
  • Historical In-Joke: Also used liberally. Bank robber John Dillinger becoming a national security agent is one of the most obvious examples, as is William F. Buckley, Jr. (one of America's foremost conservative thinkers) becoming an orthodox Marxist and J. Edgar Hoover (the commie-busting head of the FBI) switching allegiances to the new communist government in order to preserve and expand his power. And apparently in this world, it's nearly impossible to think of actor Marion Morrison being in a western.
    • Not to mention Cuba becoming the seat of the capitalist US government in exile
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Trotsky suffers from this for the most part. While Stalin was bad, Trotsky was arguably just as bad as Stalin, but again, it depends on the teller of the story who was in the right in that event.
    • In-universe, the Ku Klux Klan appears to have benefited from this kind of treatment outside of America, in nations unfriendly to the socialist government.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: MacArthur's coup, intended to crush a potential socialist insurgency before it started, ended up creating such a storm of popular and political outrage amongst the military, politicians and the general public that it led to the revolution he was afraid of in the first place, which in turn ended up with him and the other remnants of the former United States finding themselves in exile to Cuba.
  • In Spite of a Nail: It's suggested that in spite of a socialist government in the UASR, the Soviet Union and America still end up in a Cold War, including a nuclear arms race, with each other. There's also some familiar names popping up in familiar positions, such as Richard Nixon.
  • Istanbul Not Constantinople: All of the government bureaus and branches are given new names under the new government. In addition, the Dominican Republic gets renamed to the People's Republic of Quisqueya, while Washington, DC becomes Washington-Debs, D.C.
  • Kangaroo Court: Many of the counter-revolutionaries captured by the UASR during the early days of its existence are given ludicrously unfair show trials. Granted, large percentages of them are probably guilty, but that doesn't make it any less unfair. That said, those who aren't executed all get pardoned after about eleven years.
  • Last Stand: The Battle of Moscow.
  • Lower Deck Episode: The short stories about ordinary people's lives, contrasting with the big picture narrative focused on nations and governments.
  • Nepotism: Sort of. Patton keeps his socialist views secret from his superiors and surrounds himself with sympathetic officers, presumably assuming that he can use a cadre of loyal officers to his advantage. When he receives orders to enforce the suspension of the Constitution, he leads a rebellion. This is unusual in that it's one of the rare occasions in which nepotism is presented as having led to a positive outcome, and also unusual in that the officers he surrounds himself with are not depicted as incompetent.
  • One-Federation Limit: Defied. In the post-WW2 world, the three superpowers are the Franco-British Union, the Union of American Socialist Republics, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. And that's just the three top dogs.
  • Please Select New City Name: A bunch of cities get renamed after the Revolution, most notably Washington, D.C. becoming Debs, D.C..
  • President Evil: General MacArthur, full stop.
  • The Purge: Stalin's Soviet Union and Foster's UASR both play it straight. In the latter case, it is treated historically as a What the Hell, Hero? moment.
  • Putting on the Reich: Integralist Brazil. Post-Second World War Britain and France get pretty close to this. Propaganda on all sides of the Cold War will feature this for enemies.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized/The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Employs both tropes to an extent; it's more like The Revolution Will Not Be Sunshine and Rainbows. The new government in America may be more democratic then the Soviet Union, but it is far from squeamish. Nonetheless, it pretty unambiguously has the moral high ground over the U.S. government, which was willing to suspend the Constitution and declare war on its own populace when an election went in a manner it didn't like. The UASR government isn't perfect about following its own Constitution in the early days either (in fact, it's quite authoritarian, although nowhere near as much as the USSR's government), but it doesn't suppress the electoral vote when an election goes awry. Anti-authoritarian currents in American society appear to have won out by the present day, as the Red Terror seems to be pretty universally regarded as a mistake.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!/Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Essentially the reaction of the capitalist powers and President Herbert Hoover after the Socialists win the 1932 election. They soon find out that no, they don't make the rules.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: One of the in-universe historical texts frames the Second Civil War and the American socialist revolution in this way, suggesting that in declaring the election void and seizing power by force against the will of the people, MacArthur and the other coup leaders ended up creating the very socialist uprising and revolution that they were afraid would overthrow them in the first place.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: George Patton. No, really; in this timeline the US ends up entering the First World War two years earlier and fighting in some of the bloodiest battles, taking much heavier losses. And Old Blood and Guts himself was on the front line for them. He may not have developed full-blown PTSD, but he came home a greatly changed man, and very bitter towards the politicians who'd sent a million of his comrades-in-arms to their deaths for no particularly good reason.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: As hinted by in-TL historical discussion, played depressingly straight.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Jane and Anna, respectively, from the alternate history timeline equivalent of a Lower Deck Episode.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Inherent with the framing devices. The presented sections of history books, journals, academic papers, and armchair discussions by alternate history enthusiasts come from a very diverse variety of perspectives, and each presents an understandably biased picture.
  • Utopia: Deconstructed. Is life in the UASR better? Perhaps. Is it very different? Absolutely. The authors seem to take a subjective approach. While communism is often seen as a utopian ideology, and the UASR has many of the facets of utopia (free love, classless society, great freedoms), this comes at a cost that people socialized to live in a capitalist, democratic republic might find quite uncomfortable, such as very great social pressures to participate in political and social life, and other duties that don't gel well with an individualistic society. The cultural and social values that developed over a century of tremendous divergence, revolution and the like are very much alien.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Subverted; both during the Civil War and the Cultural Revolution, the American socialist system's greater flexibility in dealing with ideological differences (both within the socialist parties themselves and in allowing the inclusion of right-leaning Democrats and Republicans who opposed the Junta into the political process) ultimately proves more durable than the Soviet system's rigid ideological inflexibility. Played straight with the relationship between the Soviet Union and the UASR, who despite both being socialist end up in a Cold War with each other anyway.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Practically the whole cast is made up of this. It's also generally an audience reaction, since most of those individuals are not considered extremists in-universe.

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