Saturday, April 2, 2011

France in Space: 1889

The world of Space: 1889 has changed a bit in recent years and those changes are reflected in upcoming Space: 1889 works currently in preparation. I promised you a look at those changes and France is a fun place to start.

The Paris Commune of 1871, instead of falling within two months, prevailed and replaced the provisional government with “La Republique Democratique et Social.” The government is still colloquially refered to as The Commune, and its most ideological adherents are called Communards. The National Guard, whose ranks provided the original armed resistance to the provisional government, became La Garde Rouge, the elite shock troops of the Commune in the fighting which followed. La Garde Rouge remains the armed bulwark of the government, controlling the best-equipped units of the army and fleet as well as the intelligence services. They fly a distinctive blood-red ensign in addition toi the tricolor of the republic.

France’s progressive policies bring it into constant conflict with the more traditional and autocratic regimes of Europe, particularly the German and Russian Empires. Traditional Franco-German rivalry is aggravated by unrest among German workers as well as ties between industrial labor organizers and the Commune. Germany and France went to war briefly in 1885 over a border dispute between France and Belgium. British intervention forced France to give up its territorial gains and accept the pre-war boundaries. Tensions remain high between France on one hand and the Anglo-German alliance on the other. France also opposes growing Russian influence in the Balkans, and intelligence agent play an elaborate and sometimes deadly game in the cities of Europe as well as the colonies and native kingdoms of Mars. The Commune supports reform movements throughout Europe and maintains covert contacts with labor unionists, so loyalties increasing break along political and class lines instead of simply national ones.


  1. Frank,
    Very interesting...very interesting indeed. It would seem then that not only does the Tricolor fly over Idaeus Fons but also the Red Ensign as well. Would the Red Guard also have military units up there on Mars?
    I can see where the French would definitely be aiding the anti-Belgian forces in the Coprates.
    In my version of S1889, The Tossian Empire would be in something of a quandary. On one hand they would welcome the help in throwing the Belgians out of the Coprates. On the other, the revolutionary fervor and the whole communard philosophy is a worrisome complication.
    I can't wait to see what has happened in the US.
    Frank Frey

  2. Frank F,
    The leaders of the Tossian Empire would be in a quandry. Now consider how commoners might feel, or low-level nobles, or merchants. And opinions don't break simply along self-interest lines, do they? The richest noble may be moved by admiration for the common man, and the poorest peasant may place his loyalty to his monarch above all else. Some follow their faith. Some just want to end up on the winning side, thatever that turns out to be. It gets complicated.

    Complicated is good.

  3. Frank,
    Complicated certainly is a good thing. It makes for a far richer setting for storytelling.
    When I first read the small section on the Tossian Empire in the rule book, I was intrigued by the description of it as a "genuine empire". So I sat down, rolled some dice, and brainstormed what would constitute the Tossian Empire. I then ran the ideas past my 1889 player group, many of whom were History or International Studies majors, for their input. What came out of it was the following.
    The Tossian Empire is the largest native political entity on Mars. It boasts a population of 12.5 million distributed among 11 city states(provinces). It has an effective administrative system as well as a strong military force. The merchant sector is quite strong with a healthy economy and thriving trade. Chattel slavery has been outlawed for several centuries.The average Tossian sees himself as part of a strong, proud nation state. The relations with several of the Earth nations are very good. The US especially enjoys a very good trading partnership with the Tossians. Humans are generally treated with courtesy throughout the empire. The Tossian Empire is a dynamic, forward looking, rapidly modernizing state with a bright future ahead of it.
    At least that's what the official travel and trade publications say.
    The reality is considerably more complicated but I will save that for another post. I am looking forward to reading what is happening with the US as that will probably impact some of the publications.
    Frank Frey

  4. France. Well, if they can be a power in 2300 AD and Twilight 2000, why not 1889? :)

    I like the thought of worker unrest in Germany spurred on by the Commune. Shades of "Liberté, égalité, fraternité," maybe?

  5. Anthony,
    It is a bit like the wars of the revolution, but with some twists. I remember someone once saying that history doesn't repeat itself, but historians do.

  6. May I ask if Communard France still has acquired its African colonies? IIRC, in 1870 they only owned Algeria and a few places near Dakar.

    Especially, what happened to the French interest in the Suez Canal, did they lose their influence as in our history or were the British too involved in Martian affairs?

    And did de Lesseps manage to build "his" Panama Canal?

  7. Max,
    Yes, they still acquire them, although in 1889 most of them were not actual colonial possessions. At this time French influence was extended by treaties of protection and trade, for the most part, and it was not until nine years later (1898) that France embarked on a genuine military conquest of the area.

    The French do lose their interest in the Suez -- British involvement in Egypt trumps it.

    They do not build their own Panama canal -- the James Eads-designed Tehuantepec Ship Railroad obviates its need.

  8. Hi Frank,

    French here and old GM of S1889 (Well I was in 1989-91). If it can help, "La Republique Democratique et Social" doesn't sound good in french (as probably my message in English). If you want to say it correctly, it's "La Republique Democratique et Sociale" (Republique is a "she") and if you want it to "sound" good, I think that "La Republique Sociale Democratique" is better or even better "La République Socialiste Démocratique" : but that last one may go too far from your idea ? (it means Democratic socialist Republic). Let me know if I can help with french words. You can contact me at :


  9. Gloranthan Army,
    Welcome aboard!

    Yes, sorry about dropping the e from Sociale, but my typing sometimes leaves a bit to be desired. As I understand it, "La Republique Democratique et Sociale" was the actual popular slogan at the time, awkward as it may seem on our tongues. I like your suggestions, but I am inclined to stick with the original. Sometimes when you are changing so much, there is a value in retaining some details unaltered.

    I appreciate the offer of help, and I will almost certainly take you up on it down the road a bit.

  10. Ouch ! What an idea ! (sorry but I'm french) => Imagined the victory of "la commune de paris" in France, and an instauration of Communal gouvernment in all France is like imagine victory for confederate and restorated of slave in all USA...
    (like "la garde rouge, imagine Ku Kux klan patrol to track old slaves"...awful idear isn't it ? )
    The Paris Commune wasn't marxiste but almost anarchist which refused all formes of government highter than municipale (local council) : each arrondissement of Paris taken most décision unilateraly for their own concerns.
    That explains that Thiers with one third of troop less than the defender of Paris win battle in taken arrondissement after arrondissemnt of Paris without great opposition (excepte some cases)
    No, the Paris Commune was a will-o'-the wisp of the history, it had no chance of survies in long, or even short term, and it was pratically impossible to it to be exported in the reste of the France, almost conservatory with 80% of paysans hostile to all formes of changement.
    In this time, France was royaliste,bonapartiste, republican, colonialiste, militariste, pround of its army, its navy and almost its "french legion" but not ready to pass to a marxiste or anarchiste powwer, that was too soon for that.
    Again sorry for my poor english, but I have to explain the point of view of a french.


    1. Sarlin,

      Thankyou for your comment and I assure you your English is much better than my French. I understand your argument and I'm sure many would agree with you (although I doubt that this, or any opinion, is held universally). For me the issue is whether the thing in question was possible, not whether it was likely. When I read history I am often struck by how unlikely so many of its incidents were.

      In the specific case of the Commune's success or failure, it's demands were not -- as I have always understood them -- for every municipality to be completely autonomous, but rather that Paris be granted the same degree of municipal self-government which most smaller towns and cities enjoyed at that time. As to the issue of a broader democratic and socialist republic, the commune began with a reaffirmation of the legal sanctity of private property and its reforms (length of the work week, limitations of child labor, etc.) would, I think, strike most folks today as surprisingly moderate. France was hardly immune to revolutionary social movements, as the revolts of the 1830s and 1848 demonstrated.

      The Commune certainly lacked strong leadership, and in that lies the greatest barrier to its success. On that point I think you and I are in agreement. But I do not see that problem as insurmountable, particularly as so many of the prominent leaders of the Commune recognized the need for a strong leader and made efforts (unsuccessfully) to gain the freedom of Louis Auguste Blanqui, who might very well have had the authority and strength of character to unite the squabbling factions. Thier (wisely) refused to release him from prison.

      But what if Thier had himself been among the many hostages taken in that panicked rout from Paris by the Provisional Government, instead of slipping away safely to Versailles? Surely that would have been enough to secure Blanqui's release, and I do not believe Blanqui would have made the mistake of allowing the cash assets of the National Bank to be removed from Paris to Versailles, where they ultimately financed the army sent to crush the Commune.

      It may be that we will simply have to agree to disagree on this, and there's no harm in that. But my most important point is that alternate history offers opportunities for exploration of different possibilities which should not too lightly be discarded.

      Frank Chadwick