In France, unrest in the army, among workers and the public, began in January 1917. Soldiers complained about poor nutrition, the terrible conditions of trench life and complete disorder in the country. The wives of the soldiers in the letters complained about the lack of products and the queue for them. The movement of discontent began to spread among the workers. The centers of opposition propaganda were committees of left-wing parties, which were associated with the International, and syndicates (trade unions). Their main slogan was to end the war, because “only the world will solve the problem of lack of fuel, food and curbing galloping prices.” Soldiers who received leave, then arrived in the trenches and told about the plight of families in the rear. At the same time there was propaganda about the profit of capitalists on military supplies and on the military industry. For reasons of moral character added a cold, with rain, snow and strong winds winter. Without that hard life in damp trenches, in frozen ground like stone, it became unbearable. In such conditions, preparations were made for the offensive of the French army in the spring of 1917, which was envisaged by the joint plan of the Entente. Already in early March, propaganda from the Russian front began to take its toll. It penetrated into the Russian units on the French front. Most of the Russian troops in France refused to continue the war and demanded a return to Russia. Russian troops were disarmed, sent to special camps and isolated from communication with units of the French army.
Fig. 1. Russian corps on the French front
The ministers of security, internal affairs and defense in these conditions should have taken measures to restore order in the country and the army, but each tried to blame responsibility on the other. In the end, the responsibility for restoring order in the army was assigned to the commander of the troops, General Nivelles. On April 6, he convened a meeting of command personnel in Compiegne about preparedness for the offensive, in the presence of Commander-in-Chief President Poincare. Those present identified many problems and did not express confidence in the success of the upcoming offensive. However, in pursuance of the agreed plan of the Allies, a decision was made on the offensive in mid-April. A telegram was soon received that the US Congress decided to declare war on Germany on April 6th. The common efforts of the command and government in the country brought order, and discipline was restored in the army. All of France had hopes for success and the end of the war, General Nivelle did not skimp on promises to the troops: "You will see that you will enter the line of the Bosch trenches, like a knife in butter." The offensive was announced on April 16 at 6 a.m. 850 thousand troops, 2300 heavy and 2700 light guns, tens of thousands of machine guns and 200 were prepared for the offensive tanks.
But parts of the Germans, foreseeing massive enemy artillery preparation before the offensive, left the first lines of the trenches. The French fired millions of shells at empty trenches and easily occupied them. But unexpectedly advancing units were subjected to heavy machine-gun fire from the next line of trenches. They were stunned that the machine guns of the enemy were not destroyed by artillery during the most powerful artillery bombardment, and demanded help from the artillery. Light artillery launched a massive fire on the enemy, but due to poor communication and coordination, part of the fire also fell on its troops. The Senegalese divisions were particularly affected, deeply wedged into enemy defenses and caught in the crossfire of German machine guns and French artillery. Everywhere on the part of the Germans, desperate resistance was met. The attacks of the French were accompanied by adverse weather conditions, heavy rain and wind. Meanwhile, the headquarters of the High Command hastened to report on the occupation of the first lines of German defense, "filled with thousands of corpses of German soldiers." But in the afternoon, trains with wounded began to arrive in Paris, telling terrible details to reporters. By this time, the defeated advanced Senegalese divisions had rushed back, filling hospitals and ambulances. Tank units suffered a complete fiasco, out of 132 tanks that reached the front line and entered the battle, 57 were hit, 64 went out of order and were abandoned. Parts of the French in the occupied trenches were under heavy fire from German artillery and aviation and suffered huge losses, never reaching the main line of defense of the Germans. The lack of communication excluded any possibility of interaction between the advancing chains and artillery; as a result, the French constantly fell under the “friendly fire” of their own artillery. Rain and wind did not stop.
The situation in the rear and in transport was no better. Chaos in the supply and evacuation of the wounded reminded a worse past, as under Verdun. So, in the hospital for 3500 beds there was a whole 4 thermometer, no lighting, not enough heat, water and food. The wounded remained for several days without examination and bandaging, at the sight of the doctors shouted "murderers." The unsuccessful offensive lasted a week, and from the rostrum of parliament began the demands for the issuance of the head of General Nivelle. Called to parliament, he continued to insist on continuing the offensive. In the army, among the commanders, disobedience to the orders of the stakes, which they considered criminal, began to be observed; in response, Nivelle began repressions. One of the disobedient generals who had been removed from office made his way to the reception of Poincare, after which he canceled the offensive with his power. Such interference of the authorities in the affairs of the front control led to a collapse of the order of subordination, the conviction in the hopelessness of the war dominated among the commanding staff.
On April 27, an army commission was assembled to ascertain the situation at the front. The commanders of the armies and the heads of the divisions were blamed for the losses suffered, after which the demoralization of Nivelle’s army became universal. Entire divisions refused to execute combat orders. Fighting at the front in some places continued, but in most cases with a sad outcome. Under these conditions, the war ministry decided to save the army by removing Nivel from it, and on May 15, General Petain replaced Nivelle. To intimidate the rebel units took decisive measures, the instigators were identified and in some parts were shot right in front of the system under martial law. But Peten saw that the army could not restore order by execution of orders alone. Unrest spread to Paris, during the dispersal of the protesters there were several wounded. In the parts, protests began under the slogans: “Our wives are dying of starvation, and they are being shot.” Organized propaganda began and the proclamations were heard to the soldiers: “Comrades, you have the strength, do not forget this! Down with war and death to the perpetrators of the world slaughter! ”Desertion began, and the propaganda slogans became wider. “Soldiers of France, the hour of the world has struck. Your offensive ended in hopeless failure and enormous losses. You have no material strength to lead this aimless war. What should you do? Prospects for hunger, accompanied by death, are already evident in cities and villages. If you do not get rid of degenerates and arrogant leaders leading the country to death, if you can not get rid of the yoke of England to establish an immediate peace, all of France will plunge into the abyss and irreparable ruin. Comrades, Down with the War, Long Live the Peace! ”
Propaganda was carried out within the country by syndicates, defeatists and Marxists. The interior minister wanted to arrest the syndicate leaders, but Poincaré did not dare. Of the 2000 identified defeatists, only a few were arrested. Under the influence of agitators, several regiments went to Paris to carry out the revolution. The cavalry units loyal to the command stopped the trains, disarmed the rebels, and several were shot. Throughout the military units, field courts were introduced that passed death sentences for recalcitrant soldiers. Meanwhile, the leaders of the destruction remained unpunished and continued their destructive work, although they were well known to the ministries of security and internal affairs.
The army was increasingly turning into a rebellious camp. The commander-in-chief of the Allied forces, Marshal Foch, held a meeting in Compiegne with the top military leaders. The general opinion was that the insurrection was the result of the propaganda of socialists and syndicates and the connivance of the government. The highest military ranks hopelessly even looked at the near future. They did not doubt the further active actions of the Germans at the front and the complete absence of the means and forces to counter them. But further political events helped France to safely get out of this hopeless situation. 5 May 1917, the United States announced the entry into the war against Germany, not only at sea, but also on the continent. The United States immediately expanded the scale of economic and naval assistance to the allies and began preparing an expeditionary force to enter the fighting on the Western Front. According to the law on limited conscription adopted by 18 in May 1917, 1 million men between the ages of 21 and 31 were drafted into the army. Already 19 June, the first American military units landed in Bordeaux, but only in October the first American division arrived on the front line.
The emergence of America on the side of the Allies with its unlimited material means quickly raised the spirits in the army, and even more in the ruling circles. The decisive persecution of those involved in the demoralization of the army and the destruction of public order began. From June 29 to July 5, hearings on responsibility for the disintegration of the army began in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Up to 1000 people were arrested, including not only opposition public figures, but also responsible public security officials and some ministers. Clemenceau was appointed war minister, the army was put in order, and France avoided an internal disaster. History, apparently, was pleased that the greatest unrest of the XX century occurred not in France, but at the other end of Europe. Probably, this lady considered that five revolutions were too many for France, enough for four.
This description exemplifies parallel events and the morale of the armies of the warring countries, and shows that the military and various shortcomings in a three-year positional war were inherent not only in the Russian army, but, even more so, in the armies of other countries, including the German and french. Prior to the abdication of the sovereign, the Russian army did not know major disturbances in military units, they began only closer to the summer of 1917, under the influence of the general demoralization in the country, which began from above.
After the abdication of Nicholas II, the leader of the Octobrist Party, A.I. Guchkov. His competence in military matters, in comparison with other organizers of the overthrow of the monarchy, was determined by his stay as a guest performer during the Anglo-Boer War. He turned out to be a "great connoisseur" of military art, and with him they changed the 150 top commanders, including the 73 commander, comcor and commander. When it appeared the order number XXUMX on the Petrograd garrison, which became the detonator of order destruction in the capital garrison, and then in other rear, reserve and training units of the army. But even this veteran vrazhina of Russian statehood, who arranged a merciless purge of commanders on the fronts, did not dare to sign the Declaration of the Rights of the Soldier imposed by the Petrograd Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Deputies. Guchkov was forced to resign and on May 1 of 9, the new military minister Kerensky signed this Declaration, decisively launching the most powerful tool for decomposing the active army.
Despite these destructive measures, the State Duma and the Provisional Government were afraid of front-line units as fire, and it was precisely to protect revolutionary Petrograd from the possible raid of the front-line soldiers that they themselves armed the Petrograd workers (who overthrew them later). This example also shows that revolutionary propaganda and demagoguery, no matter in which country it is conducted, is built according to one pattern and is based on the excitement of human instincts. In all sections of society and in the ruling elite, there are always people who sympathize with these slogans. But without the participation of the army, revolutions do not happen, and France was also saved by the fact that in Paris there was no congestion, as in Petrograd, spare and training battalions, and also managed to avoid the escape of units from the front. However, its main salvation was in the entry of the USA into the war and in the appearance on its territory of the American armed forces, which raised the morale of the army and the whole of French society.
She survived the revolutionary process and the collapse of the army and Germany. After the cessation of the struggle against the Entente, the army disintegrated completely, the same propaganda was conducted inside it, with the same slogans and objectives. Fortunately for Germany, inside it there were people who started fighting with the forces of decomposition from the head. One morning, the communist leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were found murdered and thrown into a ditch. The army and the country were saved from the inevitable collapse and the revolutionary process. Unfortunately, in Russia, the State Duma and the Provisional Government, which received the right to govern the country, in their activities and in revolutionary slogans did not differ in any way from the extreme party groups, as a result, they lost their authority and prestige among the masses Army - with all the ensuing consequences.
And the United States of America turned out to be the real winner in the First World War. They profited unspeakably on military supplies, not only swept clean all the gold reserves and budgets of the Entente countries, but also imposed on them huge and enslaving debts. Having entered the war at the final stage, the USA managed to grab not only a substantial share of the laurels of the winners and saviors of the Old World, but also a bold piece of reparations and indemnities from the vanquished. It was America's finest hour. Only a century ago, US President Monroe proclaimed the “America for Americans” doctrine, and the United States entered into a stubborn and merciless struggle to squeeze the European colonial powers from the American continent. But after the Versailles Peace, no single power could do anything in the western hemisphere without the permission of the United States. It was a triumph of visionary strategy and a decisive step towards world domination. And in this highest political pilotage of the American power elite of that time there is something to analyze the geopolitical mind and there is something for us to learn.
Gordeev A.A. History of the Cossacks.