Literature / 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
. 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, but it is currently over a year out of date.
Not to be confused with Reds
, a movie by Warren Beatty
about Red October
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 Nineteen Eighty Four) 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.
- Greta Garbo: Never changes her name from Gustafsson and becomes first lady of the UASR in the late 40s.
- Ron Paul: Secretary General of the Democratic-Republican Party (a social-democrat party on center of the USAR political spectrum) in 2009.
- Sean Hannity: A pundit and writer in the same style as in real life, except a hardcore Marxist.
- Henry Ford: Flees America to join with Nazi Germany when he sees the writing on the wall in America, teaming up with Albert Speer to build up the economies of the Axis to be better suited for total war. Ends up executed following a guilty verdict at the Nuremburg trials.
- Phillipe Le Clerc: Off handedly mentioned as being a future president of France
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. Some of them include that Henry Wallace thinks he would remain a "simple farmer" without the influence of communismnote , the support by the right-wing of the Workers' Communist Party to appoint MacArthur as secretary of war note and that the United States government is exiled to the island of Cuba note
- 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. The in universe poster "Mental Omega" is also based on another of the Authors (The Red Star Rising).
- 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.
- Canada, Eh?: Averted. Canada is stated to become a front of the future Cold War between the FBU and the UASR, with a heavily guarded border, nuclear weapons pointed at the UASR, and a Quebec secession crisis causing this timeline's Cuban Missile Crisis in 1979.
- 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.
- Played straight with Joseph Stalin and much of the USSR government, though it's mainly because they're more totalitarian than communist.
- 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.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: A Soviet diplomat is dumbfounded when the UASR government doesn't shoot Robert Taft for not taking his oath of office, and this pisses off Joseph Stalin to no end.
- Face–Heel Turn: Macarthur's betrayal of the US government. Henry Ford himself flees to Nazi Germany and becomes a fierce supporter of Adolf Hitler.
- 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.
- Gauls with Grenades: France makes up an important, if less talked about part of the capitalist bloc in its union with the United Kingdom. Notably, in this timeline, when the Nazis push west; they mostly only overrun France because they're moving in support of far-right coup in what amounts to a brief French Civil War.
- General Ripper: General Douglas MacArthur lives up to this during the Second American Civil War and subsequent dictatorship in exile in Cuba.
- Good Is Not Soft: The UASR is a nation of people devoted to social equality and individual liberty. But their early history is marked by political repression, including Kangaroo Court and summary execution against a junta that tried to destroy American democracy. World War II is described as having been even bloodier, and even though how much of the carnage was produced by the army of the UASR has not been specified, it's clear that they put up one hell of a fight.
- 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.
- Hate Sink: The in universe posters Ritter Stahl, Cheka, Rule Britannia and Cyber Doctor are generally thoroughly dislikable people, being a dyed in the wool West German Wehraboo, a Stalin apologizing Tankie, a hardliner Franco-British conservative, and an Ayn Rand worshipping objectivist respectively. While not actually dumb, they tend to be rude, abrasive, and hostile to those they disagree with.
- 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.
- Henry Ford, after fleeing to the US, joins up Hitler and becomes an armament minister. His arrogance and belief in Nazi superiority leads him to put his marque on everything he's built, including weapons he built including slave labor. When Germany is defeated, he is unable to deny his highly visible role in Nazi atrocities, as gets about much mercy as you would expect at the hands of the UASR.
- 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, D.C. 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.
- Katanas of the Rising Sun: While not nearly as focused on as their German allies, Imperial Japan still constitutes a major threat to the Allies and Comintern in world war two, and still prosecutes a *brutal* war against China.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: While the persecution of political rivals in the beginning of the UASR is clearly inexcusable both in and out of universe, many of the victims of the old Kangaroo Courts were many people who tried to stifle American democracy, like the KKK and George Marshall.
- 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.
- Oppressive States of America: Backfires, as it was this oppression that led to the creation of the UASR. This timeline runs several variations of this trope:
- The suppression of dissidents that occurred during our World War I is slightly worse, resulting in the arrest of socialist politicians, and even respected statesmen like Robert La Follette.
- When a Worker's Party wins the 1932 election in a landslide, Douglas MacArthur successfully pressures Herbert Hoover to suspend the Constitution, and to arrest the Worker's Party members. The so-called Freedom Corps attempt to put down any opposition, notably massacring Huey Long and disloyal members of the Louisiana State Legislature. This is the final straw sets the stage for the UASR.
- The remnants of the US government and their supporters flee to Cuba and establish a new government, with Douglas MacArthur as President Evil. He proceeds to oppress the Cuban population. It's implied that this will be subverted in the later years of the Cuban-US nation.
- The early years of the UASR are a downplayed version of this trope. Many people are dealt with by Kangaroo Court and firing squads, but it is nowhere near the scale of the Soviet Union, many of the sentenced were responsible for suppressing American democracy, and it did stop eventually. These actions are seen in-universe as a black spot on the history of the UASR, but none of the UASR leaders are portrayed as evil for them.
- 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 Reason You Suck" Speech: Winston Churchill gives one over Britain for burning bridges with America and going to bed with fascist regimes.
: "So it comes to this. Britain and France, who had every power to stop the Hun from arising in a new and more terrible form than ever; stand by and let the jackboot tread the steppes of Russia and damn hundreds of millions to certain annihilation and slavery. In our fear of Red America, China, and Russia, we have once again consigned millions to the fascist crocodile in hopes that they will be satisfied. And in their hopes to destroy Stalin, Jinwei, and Sinclair they forget that creatures like Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy, Hirohito's Japan and Salgado's Brazil will never be satisfied. Ever shall they look for more to devour, until the whole world is theirs, and even then I doubt that they will not lust for more.
We fear and hate America and the other red states so much that we can no longer see the true threat. The new system that America has created is far from beyond reproach, that is true. They accept their state's involvement in all things and have surrendered a right to free enterprise in the search of equality. They recklessly go forwards in hopes of finding Utopia without ever looking back and considering the path they are taking. Many have perished in their enthusiasm to break with the past and create their new system. And yet America remains a place where Liberty is cherished. There are open and fair elections in a multiparty system. You would not find Stalin's strongmanship there, nor Jinwei's lack of certainty for the future. Though we may disagree on economics and many moral policies, we still cherish liberty and democracy, and perhaps through America's influence, the rest of the comintern can be guided away from the Stalinist model to something better.
And yet thanks to our short sighted folly, we would risk allowing vast portions of the world fall into the darkness of hateful and greedy men. I am no friend of Communism, anyone who knows me is aware of that, and earlier in my career I have indeed made comments in favor of the Fascist system as a bulwark against Marxism, comments I now deeply regret. And yet when I think about the war engulfing Russia and China and the war that looms over South America and the war that the Americans are committing themselves too, I can only think about how millions are suffering or shall suffer. I can only see people rushing to defend their homes, people gathering around any source of news they can to see what future awaits them, human beings receiving the letter that all families dread to hear and looking over the horizon with terror of what may come from it.
- 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.
- The UASR government subverts this, refusing to fill legislative seats with their own men after the Supreme Court rules against them, and refusing to kill Robert Taft in spite of his opposition. This dumbfounds a Soviet diplomat, and pisses Stalin off to no end.
- 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.
- Take a Third Option: The Vatican opposes the new regime as godless, and orders the Catholic priests in America to either disavow the UASR or be excommunicated. Some Catholics instead form their own church.
- Those Wacky Nazis: As hinted by in-TL historical discussion, played depressingly straight.
- Token Evil Teammate: George Orwell belives William Z. Foster and Earl Browder are this to the UASR. From what we know they are both noticably more purge-happy and power-hungry than many of the other government officials in the UASR.
- 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.