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If a single death can change the world, the death of two powerful men can completely alter the course of history forever. In 1917, a different world emerges as a train carrying Vladimir Lenin across Germany to Russia derails, killing all aboard whilst, across the Atlantic, a stroke ends the life of President Woodrow Wilson just as the question of peace or war is coming to a head in the United States. Without these two men, the world takes vastly different courses.
In Europe, as the First World War rages on, pleas for the United States to enter the war in 1917 fall on the deaf ears of to former Vice President and now President Thomas R. Marshall, who refuses to commit the United States to war until sufficient troop strength has been built up. He proclaims the United States will join the war in 1918, but it proves to be too late. The Russian communists, without an erstwhile leader, gain only token amounts of power from the democratic Duma, who, as in our history, allow Germany to swing a heavy blow against the Western Allies in early 1918. Without a United States entry into the war, and victory far from certain, the governments in France and the United Kingdom watch helplessly as their armies are ground down by fresh, veteran German soldiers from the Eastern Front. French soldiers in particular put up a staunch fight against the Germans while at the same time spread discontent against their government. By the time President Marshall declares that the United States is ready to enter the war in Europe, peace talks have already begun between the Germans and Western Allies.
The Peace of London, signed by diplomats in late 1918, gives what is, in comparison to our own history, a fair deal to all powers involved. Germany receives token pieces of French territory and Belgium as a puppet in the West while the European nations hold on to German colonies they had taken, with Germany unable to get them back through peace or war. Italy receives, even, token territory along the Adriatic Coast, in a bid to cause further problems to the rebellions that have broken out across the dying Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the East, Germany controls a series of puppet states to encircle the new Russian Republic. In all, it is a fair treaty toward the Western Allies, but a damaging one all the same.
With finances broken and unable to pay their debts, the economic problems of Britain and France drag the United States down with them, and the 1920 US Presidential election erupts in chaos. In a stunning move, Socialist Eugene V. Debs seemed to be pulling towards a shaky lead in the election over the unpopular incumbent Marshall and Republican favorite Warren G. Harding who, despite favorable opinions toward African-Americans and support of a restless working class, was mired in scandals that drove down his rankings. With the possibility of socialists taking the White House a very real specter in the minds of American big businesses, a cabal of corporatists threw together a number of soldiers who had trained for Europe but never gone, with the intent of taking the ballot box by storm and getting a candidate who would bow to their will. The working men of the United States, however, would not take kindly to such an act.
Lead by Charles LaFollette, a populist politician from Wisconsin more or less thrown into the role against his will by his supporters, unionists and working class American bloodily clashed with corporatist soldiers in the nation's capital and throughout her major cities, spilling American blood in numbers not seen since the American Civil War. The Second American Civil War, thus, had begun. In what was to be a short conflict, populist Senators, Congressmen, Governors, and others led a growing wave of working class men in a fight against rich yet unpopular corporatist blocs that, in what seemed to be an almost incomprehensible flurry of violence, wreaked havoc across the United States from late 1920 until early 1922. By that time, the alliances of populist politicians had become a union: a council of men representing working men and women across the United States who sought a new form of government to replace what had clearly not been working. Decades of working class ill will had finally reached a boiling point.
By 1923, a new government had been formed: the Union of American Worker's Republics. Reorganizing the 48 states, many of which were ill-suited to serve the modern American, new republics were formed that better fit the people within them, including autonomous republics for African-Americans and Native Americans in a bid for a "separate but equal" racial policy. The new industrial giant sat astride North America, and though not the first Leftist nation--that distinction would belong to France's new socialist government inaugurated in early 1922--it was certainly the most influential, and over the next 50 years would inspire many more nations to fall alongside the UAWR in solidarity of the working man. With so much history, it would be difficult to sum up in simple paragraphs, and so will be broken up into major points by geographic area below.
-The UAWR, by 1974, has the world's second-largest economy, fighting with Russia for the top spot as the Americans lead the Leftist nations all across the Earth. Since coming to power, the UAWR has refined its place in the world, taking part in the Second Great War which toppled German hegemony in Europe and led to a swelling of communist and socialist support in southern Europe. The UAWR--often referred to in poor terms as the "United Soviets" by Canadians, Brits, and Russians--has developed into the world's most modern and advanced industrialized economy, and American-made goods from across the nation can be seen around the world. However, as the electronic age has begun to take hold on the world, the UAWR finds itself beginning to fall behind, as a nation built on the principles of industrial labor is not as well-suited for switching to a post-industrial service economy. Nonetheless, the UAWR remains one of the world's scientific, industrial, and manufacturing giants.
While before GWII the UAWR mostly only interacted with its fellow Latin American Leftists, the UAWR in 1974 leads a world council of Leftist nations, called the Supreme Worker's Council, based out of Wagner (formerly New York City, renamed in honor of Robert F. Wagner, first Council Chairman of the New York Worker's Republic and martyr to the cause of American communism after an assassin's bullet struck him down in 1931) which has enabled the Leftist nations of the world to organize together and stand in solidarity against the democratic nations as well as China and her allies. Americans, unlike in our own world, still primarily reside in cities that have grown denser and richer, at the cost of further pollution and urban squalor that is a constant battle for the various republics and their committees on urban renewal.
In general, the UAWR is a world leader in many areas, with its flag on the Moon and space stations in orbit around the Earth, but faces many challenges in the years to come as the democracies of the world continue to press against the Leftists on every front in an international Cold War that is going on 2 decades of tension and unease.
-Canada, meanwhile, is the UAWR's primary competition in North America, as a liberal market democracy who stands as a bulwark against further Leftists expansion across the North Atlantic. Though not nearly as conservative as some on the democratic side, Canada has long stood in contrast to the UAWR, including taking in many American refugees who were quick to reestablish themselves under Canada's banner, thus spurring the development of Canada's industry, trade, and domestic markets to lofty heights out of proportion to her population size.
Because of this, Canada was the first British Dominion to gain independence, doing so in 1930 and being followed shortly thereafter by South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, and later India and the other imperial dominions as Britain, to handle her monetary crisis following the First Great War, broke up her empire into a Commonwealth of Nations to preserve what was left. After independence, Canada resigned many of its treaties with the UAWR, allowing for, once again, a peace to settle on the world's largest contiguous land border, despite the doctrinal differences. In this way, Canada was able to prevent the Cold War from going hot before the Second Great War could even start.
Following the Second Great War, Canada grew both population-wise with a great influx of Europeans and economically as devastated markets in Europe began to shift across the world, many of the democratic markets finding themselves at home in Canada. With the UAWR able to always outclass Canada in heavy industry and manufacturing, Canada instead became world renowned in luxury goods, complex light manufacturing, and entertainment. By 1960, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had surpassed the BBC in worldwide radio listeners and television viewers, and films produced in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver were shown on screens all around the democratic world.
By 1974, Canada has far and away taken the world lead in the new electronic markets, with the Canadian Prairie, particularly the areas around the rapidly-growing Winnipeg, gaining the nickname "The Silicon Prairie" for the number of technology startups developing across the area. While Canada certainly faces challenges to compete with its red neighbor to the south, the future looks bright for the chilly democracy to the north.
-While North American relations between democracies and Leftists are cordial, if cold, the rivalries in South America can be downright chilly. Throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s, many of the nations in northern South America went to the left, led by Colombia and with help from the UAWR far to the north. While Brazil had some Leftist tendencies of its own, it served as a country-sized barrier between the new Leftist nations and the democracies of the Southern Cone, led by Argentina and receiving aid from the unlike sources of Canada, the United Kingdom, and Russia. Unlike the nations of North America, which had started off the century rich in comparison, it took years for the South American nations to begin to come to their own as major states, primarily helped by emerging world markets following the Second Great War and foreign assistance. Colombia and Venezuela led the way for the Leftists while Argentina was the leader of the democracies, though only begrudgingly, with Chile sticking with Argentina only to stem the tide of Leftism in the country.
One interesting facet of the Cold War as it has been in South America has been the political battles that have been a facet of the Cold War since its beginning. Leftist candidates for office in the Southern Cone find themselves suddenly endowed with money from the great Leftist powers, while democratic rebels and their supporters find friends among the British and Russians. It has created an uneasy situation across the continent, and one that has only become more magnified as the nations of South America grow more populous, richer, and more influential on the world stage. Brazil has, by 1974, still managed to keep its neutral line, but nobody knows how long it may last, especially as Brazil has the largest population and economy on the continent, making it a target for both major sides in the Cold War who would love to get their hands on the massive country.
-The traditional battleground of Leftists and Rightists was left scarred by a half-century of war, revolution, counterrevolution, economic slumps, and more. The Europe that had begun the First Great War in 1914 was not the same as what has emerged by 1974, and in some ways the Europe of the present still has not yet caught itself back up to pre-GWI heights. Germany, once the mightiest nation in Europe, came crashing down following the Second Great War, as its successful war against France and Italy came to a crashing stop as American forces in the West and Russian forces in the East ripped apart the great power, and sewed it backed together again to suit their own needs, in the process splitting Europe into two primary camps in the north and south.
In the north, the German Federal Republic is backed by the Russian Federation and United Kingdom, who have helped at least repair some of the damages wrought by the war, though Berlin's pre-war population of 5 million has fallen to a mere 1.5 million. Silesia, Mecklenberg, and East Prussia, as planned during the First Great War, were given to Poland to make up for its brutal puppet regime between the wars. With the loss of its major industrial areas along the Ruhr and Rhineland to the Leftists, the GFR has had to adopt similar stances as Canada toward its economy, building back up and focusing on newer, modern ideas rather than pure manpower-fueled industry, especially as the largest segment of the German population resides in the south.
Not all is bad in democratic Europe, however. Germany has recovered well, and the other allies of Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary have benefited greatly from the new alliance system, retaining much of their pre-GWI glory that had been sorely missed. Even as the cultural, economic, and political power of Central Europe has shifted--for the democratic states at least--away from Berlin to Prague, Budapest, and Warsaw, democratic Central Europe is strong and bolstered by two major world powers on either side to protect them against the Leftists, who are as great a common foe as the democratic nations will ever get, and holds them together in fear of being overrun by the red menace.
-South of the democracies is the German People's Republic, a production of French and American warfare that was forcibly split from Germany following the Second Great War. Receiving the lion's share of population and industry, the GPR was quick to get back on its feet, with Vienna achieving its pre-war beauty within a decade after the war, and the Rhineland and Ruhr Valley up and running within 5 years of the war's end. With France now a friendly power, and the top dog of the Leftists in Europe, the GPR and allies have been spurred along while working to stem the tide of the democracies in northern Europe.
France, as stated, leads the charge of Leftism in Europe, with Paris the axis with which the European socialists and communists revolve around. Spain and Italy were already allies before the Second Great War started, but new to the party are Yugoslavia, Belgium, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania, who were freed from the German boot heel by French, Italian, Spanish, and American blood during GWII. With this freedom came some, admittedly harsh, enforcing of Leftist regimes, though over the years France's hold on the continent has mellowed some, in order to maintain a hold on their fellow Leftists that doesn't betray their own values. Not that it completely matters, however, as the fear of the Russian colossus leaning over them is enough to keep the Balkan Leftists together and accepting all the money and help they can. Few, even in 1974, forget what happened to the areas the Russians "occupied" during the war, and thus are willing to do anything to keep themselves from falling to the Russians, even if it were to mean democracy.
Economically, the Leftists have an edge over the democracies when not counting Russia, as the varied industry, manufacturing, craftsmanship, artistry, and more of southern Europe has greatly improved in the past few decades as, freed from industrial capitalist tyranny, the nations of the region have taken up their roots and sought to expand themselves both in Europe and on the world stage, and have thus far been successful. Yugoslavia, Italy, and Spain in particularly are the "Big Three" rising powers in Europe, set to challenge the economies of France and the German People's Republic by Purchasing Power Parity by the end of the century if all holds well, and few doubt that a Cold War so intense could end before 2000.
-The true battleground of Leftism vs. Democracy, Africa has spent much of the century suffering, yet is the region rapidly coming into its own by the second half of the 20th century, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa as resource exploitation has begun to be turned on its head and taken advantage of by native Africans to set their resources toward their own common good. While much of formerly British Africa remains firmly democratic (with the main exception being the United Arab States, a hodgepodge nation held together by patriotism, pan-Islamicism, and Chinese money), the rest has been a vast grab-bag of power, with the Federal Republic of the Congo and African People's Community coming across as the two primary rivals for dominance in sub-Saharan Africa.
On the side of democracy is the Federal Republic of the Congo, a creation born of resentment against French rule of the entire Congo, taken over after the Belgians fell to Germany following the First Great War. While the French did, at least, make attempts to follow their Leftist dogma in the Congo, it was all too easy to simply continue to use the power structure set in place by the Belgians to exploit the vast resources of the country, and so often did for the nearly three decades of French rule. However, the weakness of the French was in allowing greater freedom to the Congolese who, instead of thanking their "kind" masters as the French hoped, took the logical course and led a devastating rebellion when the French were at their weakest, shortly after GWII. Born from African-born but Paris-educated intellectuals, the Federal Republic of the Congo faced rocky beginnings in its first years of independence, and only began to bloom once its first generation of politicians, workers, intellectuals, and soldiers were raised under independent rule, beginning to contribute to the growing economy and strength of the nation, whose richness in resources and alliance to the democracies allowed it to begin exploiting some of its natural riches.
By 1974, Congoville (a combined city making up the territory of former Brazzaville and Leopoldville) grew to be the center of democratic power in Central Africa, under a government that had managed, despite great odds against them, to craft a modern city (and modern state) out of what was once the most exploited and cruelly-run state in the entire world. The nation is not without its problems, as even its federal nature cannot keep away the infighting between the Congo's many minority racial and ethnic groups, but it is a step up of what was once looked to be a failed state. Growing foreign investment, particularly for many of the valuable resources needed for modern computers, has guaranteed that development in the region will not slow, and only allow the Congo to grow ever stronger against its rival to the west.
-Though similar in many ways to the FRC, the African People's Community began its life as a direct product of French intervention, without a nasty war of independence to mar its early years. Rather, it was a creation of French Leftists in an attempt to do what the British had done, in letting their former colonies become new, powerful allies. In this way, the APC began with many advantages that the Congo did not, and should have, by all accounts, risen to be Africa's top power by 1974, but it was not to be. For the first years of its existence, the peoples of the APC had simply traded colonial dictators for native ones, who used the masses of power, money, and resources to make themselves rich while many West Africans continued to live life in ways little changed since the French took power in the 19th century.
The APC likely would have fallen apart by the late 1950s were it not for the "Student Revolution" that occurred when, spurred on by rhetoric from America, the first generation of African-born and African-educated students in the APC took power into their own hands, helping to start a relatively bloodless revolution that, in only a couple years, managed to topple the dictatorship in Dakar and create a new, truly communal government in Bamako, on the River Niger. Together, the Student Revolution and politicians sympathetic to their cause helped create an alarmingly-strong government, one that has since managed to keep the distant parts of the APC together, sometimes through violence but often through negotiation and economic agreements spurred on by the developing national economy. An economy that has grown enough, in fact, that by 1974 a canal has broken ground that will one day link the Niger and Senegal Rivers at Bamako, heralding a new age of African prosperity not seen since European colonialism. The great West African nation has far to go, and much of its people still need to be risen from abject poverty, but it is a start, and as the Cold War rages, money poured into both the APC and FRC guarantee that they will not cease in their efforts to rise above the systems that once held them down.
-Unlike much of the rest of the world, which is a fight between Leftists and Democracies, Asia features a third player in the world: China. An aggressive Japan who attacked China in the early 1930s became a bit too aggressive and, to their great misfortune, incited the UAWR to join the war against Japan. While the early war would be marked by American failures on a such a magnitude that gave Germany the confidence to invade France without fear of American retribution (for which they later regretted), the Americans quickly became adapted to the war, turning the full might of their economy against Japan, who had only managed to take Indochina and the Philippines (failing to take Malaysia in 1936) before they began to be pushed back by American sailors, airmen, and marines. It took years of effort, and left the Red Marine Corps battered, but the American colossus won out, taking Japan for itself while Russia intervened, saving Hokkaido from Leftism, or so it claimed anyway.
However, though Japan would prove to be rather amenable to communism, and even benefit greatly from it, the UAWR eventually figured China was simply too large to turn to their side, and left them to their own devices as the largest country in the world by population began to recover from the war. Despite the devastation Japan had wreaked, the Chinese were also opened to new markets, new technologies, and a new opportunity as a middle ground between the democracies and Leftists. Though technically a republic, the Chinese leadership following the war resembled what the 19th century French would have called a "Napoleonic dictatorship" led by great military leaders left over from the war who guided China along on a path toward economic self-sufficiency.
In the wake of GWII, China filled the power vacuum in East Asia, swiftly gaining allies in Korea, Indochina, Malaysia, and Indonesia, with observing partners in Thailand and Burma. In contrast to what the Chinese sneered at as "neo-colonialism" on the part of Leftists and democracies, China offered a "middle path" for the other nations of the world to walk, and began to have the power to throw its weight around.
By 1974, China's place on the world stage has been cemented as a future world power, and current great power that is only rising. Massive natural resources, a colossal country and booming population have given China advantages that few other nations have. Chinese cities rise toward the stars and are flooded with the smell of industry and production, while the countryside is abloom with genetically-enhanced crops enough to feed the population like never before. With famines in the past and riches in the future, China is the world's greatest rising power, an "Awakening Dragon" that might just upset the two-sided dynamic of the Cold War for the past two decades, a fear which drips into the hearts of democrats and Leftists everywhere.
-If the Second Great War had a true winner, it would have to be Russia. Going into the war, the Russian Republic was a weak, divided nation barely holding on to what territories it had left after a disastrous defeat and civil war following GWI. In fact, Russia was so weak the Germany turned an almost blind eye toward it in its bid to rid France of communism and create true hegemony over Europe. Luckily for Russia, and unfortunately for Germans everywhere, the Russian people proved much more resilient than that. Overthrowing their weak government in a short revolution midway through the Second Great War, the Russians established the Russian Federation, a more federal and organized collection of the many nations and peoples making up Russia, all working toward the common goal of restoring Russia to greatness.
Mobilizing its population and industry, Russia swept down on the German superpower from the East, and battered its way through Eastern Europe, coming as a savior from Leftism to millions of people who could otherwise only watch as the French, Italians, and Americans marched through their countries. It was the Russians who captured Berlin, Russians who took Vienna and gave it back to the Leftists, and Russians who fused together the brutally-managed puppet states of Eastern Europe into the Russian Federation, making themselves a superpower in the process. It wasn't always pretty, but the Russians were the true power that stood against the Americans, and it was against the Russians that the Leftist wave broke and rolled back across Europe.
Though the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth remain the public face of democracy, it is the Russians who are the real muscle. The Russian Federation has the world's largest economy, a liberal marketplace from where all goods of the world flow into and out of as the capital in Petrograd and cultural capital in Moscow direct world markets. Russian pop culture, from novels to plays to movies to television dominates much of the world, and the Russian language is one of the most-learned secondary languages in the world, after only English. The Trans-Siberian Railway is called the "Artery of the World" in many places, creating a link between the East and West with Russia as the great mediator between them.
Russia is, of course, not without problems, as its government has often drifted dangerously close to dictatorship on more than one occasion in the tumultuous years since GWII, but the Russian state is more than resilient enough to take a few punches. What ultimately matters is that Russia, as the world's strongest democracy, is the democratic answer to the UAWR and the way to the future, where the likes of the UK, France, Japan, and the like fade and the new powers take their place and move past 1974 and into the next century and beyond.