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1918

Central Powers face rebellion on the home front

As the First World War draws to a close, angry rebels in both Germany and Austria-Hungary revolt on November 3, 1918, raising the red banner of the revolutionary socialist Communist Party and threatening to follow the Russian example in bringing down their imperialist governments.

By the last week of October 1918, three of the Central Powers—Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire—were in talks with the Allies about reaching an armistice, while the fourth, Bulgaria, had concluded one in September. On October 28, 1,000 sailors in the German navy were arrested after refusing to follow orders from their commanders to launch a last-ditch attack against the British in the North Sea. After immobilizing the German fleet, the resistance soon spread to the German city of Kiel, where on November 3 some 3,000 sailors and workers raised the red flag of communism. The governor of Kiel, Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, called on naval officers loyal to the government to suppress the revolt; eight rebels were killed, but the general resistance continued.

Meanwhile, revolution was breaking out in Vienna as well as in Budapest, where the former Hungarian prime minister, Count Istvan Tisza, was assassinated on October 31 by members of the communist-led Red Guard. With its empire in shambles, the Austro-Hungarian government secured an armistice with the Allied powers on November 3, ending its participation in World War I. That same day in Moscow, at a mass rally in support of the Austrian rebels, the communist leader Vladimir Lenin declared triumphantly: “The time is near when the first day of the world revolution will be celebrated everywhere.”

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