My talkiest map yet, this is one of my "covers" or "redos" of other people's maps.
This is a cover of Uriel's rather fun Deisel-Punk sort of map here [link]
which I thought had a bunch of cool ideas, and perhaps my talkiest map yet. Honestly, it reminds me of those medieval religious texts where the interpretation dwarfs the original writing: not only is there a typical wall-o-text, but reading the notes on the map will require substantial scannin' and pannin'. I hope it's not too much.
In this world, things diverged from OTL after the US Civil War. Progressive politics failed to get as much traction as OTL, with an extended gilded age/robber baron era in the US, sharper and more confrontational left-right divisions in European societies. The Socialist movement split into several streams, generally more radical than OTL and often less than respectful of Marx’s ideas. Both Britain and Germany saw the conservative elites come down harder on the “many-headed hydra of chaos and revolution”, the “respectable” faces of Socialism (the SPD, British Labor) unable to domesticate the left. And then came the Great War.
Breaking out in 1910, the US stayed out, and it dragged on even longer than OTL, finally coming to an end in a wave of revolutions in 1916. The consequent global economic collapse spread unrest and violence ever wider, and even the US suffered such instability that an “emergency” government backed by the military and corporate interests came to power – and stayed in power.
It is now 1969. The initial chaos of the revolutionary era, in which revolutions came to power, fragmented due to different interpretations of How To Run a Socialist Revolution, fought each other, were attacked by counterrevolutionaries, briefly joined to fight those again, etc, etc. has ended, but military clashes and internal troubles remain frequent problems. There has been a bit of an evolutionary process, in which the more wildly radical (those who immediately eliminated money without really considering What Next, the expulsion or extermination of the entire bourgeoisie, etc.) generally were steamrollered by those with a more functional agenda, and the purer anarchists have either compromised or gone to the wall: things remain fragmented , but not quite as badly as they were forty years ago.
Europe is divided between several types of socialist states, which cooperate to a greater or lesser degree depending on ideology, proximity, and who looks scarier. Theoretically they are all united in a great Federation of Soviets, but it’s almost as meaningless as OTL’s League of Nations.
Standards of living tend to be low: trying to figure out how to make anarchist economics work in practice proved to have a steep learning curve, and given wars, revolts, failed efforts by the former ruling classes to make a comeback from overseas and multiple changes of plan, it’s probably not surprising that the general standard of living isn’t much of an improvement on the OTL USSR 1969, and in some places rather worse than that. At least without an overall “plan” and trade between the various socialist states, food shortages are fairly rare.
Militaries tend to be mass militias: there is usually a universal draft, or at least the social and legal expectation of universal service in case of conflict, and in a few of the more radically anarchic states, everyone has their own gun as a matter of course (which, oddly enough, leads to shoot-y societies rather than polite ones): generally the states are weak in terms of heavy armaments, planes, tanks, etc. due to lack of economies of scale and societies generally less regimented than the OTL USSR.
Some areas, as a result of long and bloody struggles and disputed control are essentially no-man’s land, which both sides stay out of lest an observed presence restart the fighting. A chunk of East Prussia remains unclaimed, while the core of old Switzerland (destroyed as a Last Bastion of Capitalism: the fight lasted nearly a decade) is wasteland plagued by bandits and supposedly the location of hidden underground cities of cannibal Swiss. Northern Scotland and western Ireland are virtually ungoverned. And then of course there is the chemical-burned Demilitarized Zone (or “death zone” as locals call it) between the Rhinelanders and the Union of Prussian Cooperatives…
Most prominent are the Anarcho-Syndicalist Communes, which tend to go for federal structures and a great many small tyrants than one big tyrant, and rule theoretically by collective choice but in actuality mostly through shady back-room deals, majority tyranny and relentless Minding Other People’s Business: they vary from bureaucratic tyranny hardly more pleasant than the USSR to relatively democratic states in which you can lead a pretty civilized life as long as you aren’t one of those people with Minority Views (lynch law is hardly unknown): in some of the larger federal structures, local communes can be better (or much worse) than the average. Traditional marriages are frowned on in most cases, although there are local variations: in some states Free Love is mandatory, which is to say there is no legal state of marriage, and trying to claim that one owns ones wife or husband (see, Breakfast at Tiffany’s) or, worse, enforce that claim, can lead to serious legal repercussions. (In practice, variable levels of state enforcement and good old fashioned sexism means that the arm of the law or public opinion often falls rather more heavily on women than men).
Then there are the Agrarian Communes, countryside-based “peasant confederations”, generally divided into “secular” and “Tolstoyist” types (the count had a rather different life ATL, but still loved them peasants) where religion is an important social element (indeed, Tolstoyists have this whole complicated theoretical structure of their own, most of which doesn’t actually make much difference in practice). The fact that the communes are run by the peasants themselves and allowed to make a certain amount of profit (although excessive profit can lead to accusations of your commune having been “infiltrated” by Capitalism) means that they actually produce rather more than the more mechanized but generally subordinated-to-industrial-areas farms of the Syndicalists, and export food to the Syndicalists in exchange for manufactured goods their often strangulated cities don’t produce.
Finally, there are the “Futurists” (an Italian-originated movement) and the Russian Klopovites, which advocate a more centralized Socialism closer to that of OTL Communism, but in one case are rather more technocratic and in other more fanatically committed to Continuing the Revolution than the USSR ever was. Given their centralized nature, only lack of resources and a tendency of the Agrarianists and the Syndicalists to close ranks against them have so far prevented them from spreading their credos by force across Europe.
In fact, a major new military outbreak is underway as the Futurist Lombard People’s Republic and the Futurist/Klopovite United Rhinelands Soviet are launching a joint attack on the Syndicalist Union of Northern France, which the Rhinelanders blame for interfering with their effort to forcibly reunite the Germans some years back (although Syndicalism claims to be post-nationalist, in practice….). The likely outbreak of a new wave of wars has thrown all of Europe into a tizzy: and further complicating the issue, the Kings Over the Water have decided that the new war will provide a useful distraction as they launch an effort to “liberate” as much of Europe as possible…
The Kings Over the Water are the old pre-revolution regimes which have managed to reestablish themselves abroad in their colonial possessions, although in some cases it’s more “hereditary strongman” than king. These regimes vary from relatively democratic to fat, graceless Draka. The French, Portuguese, Germans, and, in an impressive historical turnabout, the Spanish are the leading nations, while the British have had a rather hard time of it, and the Italians and Habsburgs are little more than a footnote.
The Germans in Africa have suffered serious dieback due to tropical disease, but “Germanness” has successfully indoctrinated into a sturdy hybrid race born of German fathers and African mothers: with German “pure breeds” only about 5% of the population, the ruling class is increasingly mixed by necessity, and racial Germanness is being replaced by a cultural version, a rather appalling mix of Prussian militarism, fanatical dedication to order, Conservative Christendom, worship of a harsh and literally interpreted law, knee-jerk political reaction, neo-Feudalism, science and technology worship, a mélange of mysticism both Aryan and African, and a soupcon of nihilism.
Germans lead the war effort, with iron-rich Liberia being a major industrial center in this world, the vast Stahlsdadt industrial complex churning out tanks, jet planes, and portable rockets. French Algeria and Portuguese Brazil are also major centers of military production: still more hardware is purchased from the US.
The British overseas Empire has fallen on hard times: India was lost to rebellion, the United States took advantage of a labor revolt to occupy most of Canada, and the rest pretty much fell apart when the legitimate king of England, King David (of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, no real point in being non-German anymore), who had moved from India to Egypt when things got too hot, fell under the spell of Anglo-Judaism (the chaps who think the British are the descendants of the Lost Tribes), converted to Judaism, declared himself the descendant of the original King David of Israel, and began rebuilding the Temple. (A few bits and pieces declared themselves the legitimate British Empire – Britain-in-Exile, officially - and picked a Jacobite pretender as king – he was at least a sane and sensible chap, if a bit common.) David’s religious move has not been very popular with his Muslim subjects, and his invitation for all the world’s Jews to move back to Israel has not been widely accepted, but at least he’s been sensible enough to build the new temple (still a work very much in progress) next to the Dome of the Rock rather than right on top of it.
Spain, which in this world never fought a war with the US, still had territories in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Morocco, and the Philippines to relocate to, and through fishing in troubled Latin American waters picked up Santo Domingo and a chunk of isthmus which interestingly enough the US also had some interest in keeping under a nice, repressive and capital-friendly government. The Viceroyalty of the Philippines now holds equal status to the American territories, and Filipinos are increasingly part of the ruling class of the New Empire. Spain has also established a close alliance with the hereditary Peruvian dictatorship, to strengthen their influence in South America: the Heir Apparent has married a minor Spanish Princess. They are allies of convenience with the Americans, but ultimately hope to pry more of Latin America out from under the “Iron Heel.”
The Statholders of Batavia have largely gone native in Indonesia, really have no organized plan for the liberation of the Netherlands, and mostly remain good bros with the other Kings Over the Water to discourage Japan’s rough embrace.
Imperial Russia, with Japanese help, managed to hold out in Siberia (and Alaska, never sold to the USA) against a divided red foe, and is currently more worried about developments in Asia than in joining the Kings Over the Water in the Liberation of Europe: Japan is an alarmingly strong neighbor, the Realm of the Death-Buddha looks like it may soon crumble, there are new developments in China, and then there is the old Turkish enemy..Russia is currently ruled by a Czarina, although her rather badass spinster sisters almost form a separate branch of the government, and the military is in turn almost a law unto itself. Truly a law unto themselves are the Cossack Hordes of the southwest: although the royals are happy for their aid in holding the Revolution west of the Urals, they are much less happy that the price for their loyalty is a lack of interference in their internal affairs. As the Cossacks say, if the Czar/Czarina won’t play ball, into the mud with them. The power of the Cossack Hetmans varies widely from state to state, the Crimean Hetman ruling like a Czar of old, while the Astrakhan Horde is pretty close to anarchy. (It’s not too bad a place to live, as long as you are neither female nor Jewish and can hold your vodka).
The Realm of the Death-Buddha is actually a Russian ally: although the founder of the nastiest tyranny in Asia and self-proclaimed incarnation of Buddha in his Demon-slayer mode was a convert to an exceedingly esoteric version of Buddhism, he was also of old Russian noble stock, and his heirs have always happily sent aid to Russia when some red unrest needed stamping out. The fact that the demented theocracy is now threatening to crumble into civil war (well, wars actually: there are about nine different factions involved) is therefore a worry.
(The Dalai Lama is currently in Japanese exile: his failure to agree with the second Incarnation as to the validity of his version of Buddhism – in particular the part about the “extermination of the demon-inspired” – in the end led him to depart the Potala Palace in a hurry, one dark if not stormy night).
Aside from Reds and exiled monarchies, there are what are what might be called “technocratic oligarchies”, societies in which the (one-party controlled) government presents itself as a rational, scientific system for good government and universal benefit, but in actuality is generally under the control of a narrow oligarchy of financial and industrial interests. Such states arose as a reaction against the revolutionary movements which failed to master the Americas and Asia as they had Europe, but still deeply shook the local institutions, and disillusioned many about the prospects of mass democracy. Much of the US was in chaos for years, and the reestablishment of “legitimate” authority, no matter how harsh, was welcomed by many.
These states vary, with some (like the US) being essentially a thin mask over corporate rule, while in places like Turkey and Japan the ruling class is wider and genuine technocrats have real influence, although in all cases actual scientists are more on tap than on top.
The most prominent is what still calls itself The United States of America, but is generally referred to by those who dislike it (most of the world’s population) as The Iron Heel. The business of America is business, and the rest of the world’s business will be Americas business, if the Oligarchy has its way. (“Free trade” means “you buy, we sell”). At least this state doesn’t outsource jobs (so far). Unions and anything that smacks of leftism is brutally repressed: the military, in spite of heavy indoctrination of the officer corps, is kept fairly small, the Oligarchs fearing the possibility of a coup: separate and powerful “corporate police” also exist. The situation is not exactly stable, the population as yet not well indoctrinated into acceptance of the system, and large chunks of the US west still being outside Oligarchy control: the great cities are places of excess and splendor, but it is a nervous splendor.
US power is widely distributed abroad, and much of Latin America is ruled by oligarchies which dance on US strings, while huge swaths of territory belonging to such weak states as Recife or the Australian Federation have been “leased” by the US corporatocracy, the better to exploit. (Such things are sold by local governments to their people as a profitable partnership, but in the end most of the profit, after an initially heavy palms-greasing of local oligarchs, ends up in US pockets).
In the east it competes for influence over the wreckage of China (warlord states kept disunited by the efforts of their neighbors) with the Nipponese Technate, a more science-happy if equally oligarchic state: not having much of a tradition of democracy and a homogenous population in its home territory, Nippon is a more stable affair than the US, although there are internal stresses between the more commercial-minded and the military minded, some of which feel that an outright conquest of the interior of China will be necessary to prevent things from becoming…difficult. That is, when they aren’t calling for the conquest of Batavian Indonesia.
(The Chinese are acting up again: a pair of inland Warlords, isolated enough to be hard to control, have teamed up to create a regional block. This looks worrisomely like yet another effort to Unify the Nation, Eject the Barbarian).
The third most powerful Techno-Oligarchy is the Panturanic Directorate, successor to the old Ottoman Empire, which has not only managed to keep the Russians from regaining southern Central Asia but has also regained control over some large chunks of the old Empire in the Arabian peninsula. It has scared the Socialists in the Balkans into creating a new regional grouping lest it repeat the conquests of the 15th and 16th centuries, and currently threatens “New Israel’s” dominance in Damascus.
Neutral in the Great War, the Scandinavian States banded together to hold off revolutionary hordes: although most of Denmark and quite a bit of Finland were lost, in the end they survived. The Wallenberg Combinate is a paranoid, heavily armed sort of place.
Existing in an odd space between Techno-Oligarchies and Socialist states, the Scientific Rayon of Bialystok is unique in Europe. A product of continued post-1916 chaos, the failure of the Revolution (and the several that followed) to sweep away local anti-Semitism, and the very large number of armed Jewish revolutionaries bouncing around Europe in the tumultuous first decade of the Revolutionary Era, a Jewish statelet was carved out in the area with the densest Jewish settlements, and by being better organized and perhaps by being more desperate than its neighbors, survived and grew. The Rayon can be best understood as a socialist-technocratic state with a healthy dollop of small-scale capitalism to help pay the bills, but is seen more as a member of the Techno-Oligarchic block by foreigners because, well, they’re Jews, right? Relations with neighbors are cold but correct: the Rayon’s armies are the best equipped and best organized in the area, and in the bucket of crabs which is Eastern Europe, is one nation that can be trusted to live up to its treaties. They also have absolutely no interest in helping out the Kings Over the Water.
There are various other groups with distinct agendas. Here and there remain pockets of genuine anarchists, hostile to even the limited government of the Anarch-Syndicalists or the Agrarians, and to their often harsh (“but necessary”, they say) laws and publically enforced customs. Humans being humans, such areas generally are not so much lacking in government as being overrun with innumerable tiny governments, shifting and quarreling and overlapping, as local power-brokers strive for their piece of the action: such places are dangerous, but often useful to outsiders.
The Sennussi Brotherhood has grown into a powerful international Islamic movement directed at liberating Islam from foreign control and creating a new Islamic way of life that allows for technology but maintains the old virtues (they are not happy with the Turkish model of modernity, either). Originating in the Sahara, the movement has gained influence across the Islamic world, and Sennussite movements have come to power among the mixed Arab-Berber population of the Emirate of Goulmina and even in distant Afghanistan.
In this world, a young man much like Adolph Hitler grew bored with life in Vienna, and moved to India, where he became fascinated by the more esoteric forms of Hindu thought and the even more esoteric takeoffs on it produced by European charlatans for the gullible. He went native, ended up inventing his own brand of “Aryan Hinduism”, which in turn cross-fertilized with the more radical revolutionary strains of Hindu Indian thought to produce a rather abominable hybrid which became the philosophy of the ruling Revolutionary Party after the overthrow of British rule (the whole Peshawar Lancers bit having miscarried badly). The Austrian guru was honored as one of the Founding Fathers of the revolution, and to the considerable relief of the Party died of cholera before his insistence that the Revolution had got his ideas all wrong became too audible. India is a theocratic, racist totalitarianism in which Untouchables are firmly at the bottom and dark-skinned Dravidian south Indians, although good enough to be puppet states, aren’t good enough to actually contaminate the north with their blood. (Northern Muslims, although somewhat discriminated against because of their religion, are still considered “Aryans” and will probably reincarnate as Hindus the next time around if they keep their noses clean in this life). The expansionist regime is currently looking north with interest as the situation in the Death-Buddha’s realm, shall we say, ripens.
The League of the Free South is as yet un-reclaimed US territory, the independent-minded (and well armed) locals having banded together to forcible refuse reunification until free and fair elections are held. Not being particularly valuable pieces of real estate, the US Oligarchs have crunched numbers and have decided that – so far – it would be more trouble than it would be worth to crush the League. (Also, it provides a bit of a safety valve – somewhere the discontented can run off to rather than staying in the US and maybe turning revolutionary). The anarchy zone known as the Chihuahua Cooperative or less flatteringly as Villa’s Horde (a somewhat different chap than OTL’s Pancho, but with similar flair) is not officially allied to the League (lacking a government capable of keeping long-term promises), but it is a widely accepted fact that if the US invades the League, the Cooperative’s forces will sally to their aid, and the League will respond in kind if Mexico (effectively the US, really, given its puppet status) invades the Cooperative.
Currently, all eyes are on Europe, where the Spanish, the Portuguese, and the French, heavily backed by the Germans, are busy launching an invasion of Western Europe. Already they have established firm coastal lodgings in several areas, driving back poorly organized Socialist militias: victory disease is already setting in, perhaps in folly, since there is a lot of continent still out there and tens of millions of hostile locals with guns and bombs. The US Oligarchy is a bit worried: they really don’t like the Reds, but if the Kings Over the Water manage to reestablish control over their homelands, it will badly upset the balance of power, and force them to fork out a lot more for the military. Therefore, secret backdoor contacts are being made with Socialist regimes: if the US funnels money and resources their way, they can make sure the Kings don’t win too much-ideally, the conflict might be prolonged for many years.
Technology is a bit behind, although the technocratic tendencies of the oligarchic states and the necessity for technological advancements in the exile kingdoms has led to a lot of investment in basic research. Military tech is late 40s or early 50s, although nobody has built the Bomb yet (too expensive for most, and the powerful Techno-Oligarchies don’t really see the need to spend that much on theoretical stuff (although both the US and the Japanese are seeing if something can be done on the cheap – and so are the Scandinavians…). Civilian stuff is as much as a decade further back. Rockets into Space is something out of the pulp magazines. (Which are still doing rather well in this world’s America, TV not having overwhelmed free time yet).
It’s a sexist world, outside of Europe, where women are usually at least theoretically equal: few of the oligarchies and none of the monarchies save Britain-in-exile give them the vote. It’s a religious-minded world, outside of Europe (some of the Agrarian regimes are a bit backwards in both these aspects). It’s a world in flux, a world where change is feared but expected, a world where revolution may break out at any time and the status quo seems fragile. It is a world of corporate kingpins richer than kings, private armies and mercenaries and Japanese Ninja assassins, slavers and adventurers, state-builders and state-destroyers, a thousand revolutionary leaders struggling to once again reshape Europe into something more akin to the hopes and dreams of generations past, and another thousand planning to put a bullet in their heads at the nearest opportunity. It is a world of chaos, a world of darkness, a world of insane hope and folly and heroism.