1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 35

“The real military threat lies elsewhere,” continued Constantin. “First and foremost, in the provincial armies — real armies, those are — that can be raised by the provincial rulers. Stop worrying about Freiherr Feckless and Reichsritter Holes-in-His-Boots. Start worrying about the Landgravine of Hesse-Kassel and the Duke of Brunswick and the Prince of Westphalia, instead.”

“They never made that Danish bastard a prince,” said Keller sullenly.

Rebecca wondered how long Constantin could keep that sneer on his face.

“Who didn’t?” sneered Ableidinger. “They didn’t make him a prince because Gustav Adolf put his foot down. But what do you think are the odds that Oxenstierna won’t hand him the title, if Frederick gets pissed at us and makes friendly noises toward Berlin?”

There was silence in the room. Ableidinger maintained the sneer right through it.

“Then there’s the other serious threat,” he went on. “Those are the town militias, especially the ones from the bigger towns. They won’t fight in the countryside, but they’ll keep their towns solid against us –”

“Not Hamburg!” protested its mayor.

“No, you’re right. Not Hamburg. Not Luebeck or Frankfurt, either. But they’ll hold Augsburg and Ulm, won’t they? And probably Strassburg, too — and what’s more important, they’ll hold at least three-quarters of the smaller towns in every province except Magdeburg, the SoTF and Mecklenburg. All right, fine. Only two-thirds of the towns in the Oberpfalz. How parochial can you be, Albert? You think the world begins and ends in Hamburg?”

Rebecca decided to intervene before Ableidinger’s abrasive manner set off a pointless eruption.

“I think we need to consider Constantin’s points carefully,” she said. “He’s right that if there’s a full-scale civil war most of the official militias will be arrayed against us — and that’s especially true if they believe we are the ones who started the war. If they hold the towns against us and our CoC contingents have to face regular provincial armies in the field, we will lose. It is as simple as that.”

Achterhof scowled and crossed his arms over his chest. “In effect, you’re saying we’ve lost the war already.”

“She said a full-scale civil war, Gunther.” That came from Ulbrecht Riemann, who had been silent up until this point. He was a central figure in the Fourth of July Party in Westphalia, although he held no post in government.

“As opposed to what?” asked Keller.

Riemann shrugged. “There are lots of different kinds of wars, Anselm. So why shouldn’t there be different types of civil wars? The thing some of you don’t seem to grasp is that Oxenstierna has to win this conflict outright. We don’t. Why? Because we’re winning every day as it is, day in and day out. Week by week, month by month, our cause advances and his cause retreats. That’s why he’s taking this opportunity, for all the risks involved. I don’t know if he realizes it consciously or not, but on some level Oxenstierna — all those reactionary swine — have to sense they’re losing.”

Achterhof was staring at him, practically cross-eyed. Rebecca had to stifle a smile.

Riemann was right, though, whether Achterhof understood his point or not. Her husband had said much the same thing to her, many times. He’d used different words, but the gist was the same.

The aristocracy and the city patricians needed formal power in order to maintain their control over the Germanies. The democratic movement didn’t — although holding such power was certainly helpful. Its influence spread everywhere, every day, down a thousand channels. Schools, unions, insurance associations, all manner of co-operatives and granges. Steadily, if sometimes slowly, the strength of the reactionaries faded.

Constantin could see it also, probably because he came from Franconia. Achterhof and the other Magdeburg militants suffered from a perhaps inevitable myopia. Say rather, tunnel vision. Everything in the nation’s capital was clear, crisp, sharp. Magdeburg was a place of factories and working-class apartments. Over here were the toiling masses, who constituted the city’s great majority. Over there, in the palaces, were the class enemies.

There were not many of them, either. So why not just sweep them aside?

Franconia — still more so, Thuringia — was a very different place. The USE’s most populous province had many political shadings, and well-nigh innumerable layers in its populace. The Americans and their allies had been able to politically dominate it since the Ring of Fire primarily because they had provided stability and security. They had put a stop to mercenary plundering, fostered the economy, built and maintained roads, schools and hospitals.

Whether or not they agreed with the Fourth of July Party’s program — and a great many of them didn’t — the majority of the population of the State of Thuringia-Franconia kept voting for them, election after election. For some, out of radical conviction. But for just as many, for the opposite reason — a conservative reluctance to upset the applecart. The very full applecart.

It helped a great deal, too, that the president of the SoTF was Ed Piazza. He was not a flamboyant, exciting, romantic — and rather scary — figure like Mike Stearns. Rather, he exuded steadiness and stability. He governed his province much the same way, as a high school principal, he had governed his teaching staff and his students, with relaxed confidence and equanimity.

So, despite the many features of Thuringian and Franconian society that resisted the democratic movement, even resented it bitterly, that movement continued to broaden and deepen its influence.

“Don’t give them a clear target,” Michael had told her. “Let them wear themselves out for a while. They haven’t got the wind for a long fight. As long as you keep them from winning by knockout, you’re staying ahead on points.”

Her husband was fond of boxing analogies. She decided to share one of them with the group.

“We’ve been discussing this for hours,” she said. “I think we are ready to take a vote.”

She looked around the table and was greeted by nods. From Gunther, Anselm and Albert, also. They’d been the most intransigent of her opponents.

“Very well. All in favor of Gunther’s proposal to seize official power in Magdeburg, raise your hands.”

The number was clearly short of a majority.

“Very well. All in favor of my approach — which, following my husband’s guidance, I shall call ‘rope-a-dope’ — raise your hands.”

The jest was perhaps unwise, since there was an immediate outcry to explain it that delayed the vote. But in the end, her viewpoint was adopted.

Afterward, Achterhof grunted and leaned back in his chair. “Easy for us to say ‘rope-a-dope.’ But it’ll be Gretchen and her people in Dresden who have to take the punches.”