February 21

1848 Marx publishes Manifesto:

On February 21, 1848, The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx with the assistance of Friedrich Engels, is published in London by a group of German-born revolutionary socialists known as the Communist League. The political pamphlet—arguably the most influential in history—proclaimed that "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles" and that the inevitable victory of the proletariat, or working class, would put an end to class society forever. Originally published in German as Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei ("Manifesto of the Communist Party"), the work had little immediate impact. Its ideas, however, reverberated with increasing force into the 20th century, and by 1950 nearly half the world's population lived under Marxist governments.

Karl Marx was born in Trier, Prussia, in 1818—the son of a Jewish lawyer who converted to Lutheranism. He studied law and philosophy at the universities of Berlin and Jena and initially was a follower of G.W.F. Hegel, the 19th-century German philosopher who sought a dialectical and all-embracing system of philosophy. In 1842, Marx became editor of the Rheinische Zeitung, a liberal democratic newspaper in Cologne. The newspaper grew considerably under his guidance, but in 1843 the Prussian authorities shut it down for being too outspoken. That year, Marx moved to Paris to co-edit a new political review.

Paris was at the time a center for socialist thought, and Marx adopted the more extreme form of socialism known as communism, which called for a revolution by the working class that would tear down the capitalist world. In Paris, Marx befriended Friedrich Engels, a fellow Prussian who shared his views and was to become a lifelong collaborator. In 1845, Marx was expelled from France and settled in Brussels, where he renounced his Prussian nationality and was joined by Engels.

During the next two years, Marx and Engels developed their philosophy of communism and became the intellectual leaders of the working-class movement. In 1847, the League of the Just, a secret society made up of revolutionary German workers living in London, asked Marx to join their organization. Marx obliged and with Engels renamed the group the Communist League and planned to unite it with other German worker committees across Europe. The pair were commissioned to draw up a manifesto summarizing the doctrines of the League.

Back in Brussels, Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto in January 1848, using as a model a tract Engels wrote for the League in 1847. In early February, Marx sent the work to London, and the League immediately adopted it as their manifesto. Many of the ideas in The Communist Manifesto were not new, but Marx had achieved a powerful synthesis of disparate ideas through his materialistic conception of history. The Manifesto opens with the dramatic words, "A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of communism," and ends by declaring: "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!"

In The Communist Manifesto, Marx predicted imminent revolution in Europe. The pamphlet had hardly cooled after coming off the presses in London when revolution broke out in France on February 22 over the banning of political meetings held by socialists and other opposition groups. Isolated riots led to popular revolt, and on February 24 King Louis-Philippe was forced to abdicate. The revolution spread like brushfire across continental Europe. Marx was in Paris on the invitation of the provincial government when the Belgian government, fearful that the revolutionary tide would soon engulf Belgium, banished him. Later that year, he went to the Rhineland, where he agitated for armed revolt.

The bourgeoisie of Europe soon crushed the Revolution of 1848, and Marx would have to wait longer for his revolution. He went to London to live and continued to write with Engels as they further organized the international communist movement. In 1864, Marx helped found the International Workingmen's Association—known as the First International—and in 1867 published the first volume of his monumental Das Kapital—the foundation work of communist theory. By his death in 1884, communism had become a movement to be reckoned with in Europe. Twenty-three years later, in 1917, Vladimir Lenin, a Marxist, led the world's first successful communist revolution in Russia. (History.com)

1916 World War I: Battle of Verdun begins:

At 7:12 a.m. on the morning of February 21, 1916, a shot from a German Krupp 38-centimeter long-barreled gun‑‑one of over 1,200 such weapons set to bombard French forces along a 20-kilometer front stretching across the Meuse River‑‑strikes a cathedral in Verdun, France, beginning the Battle of Verdun, which would stretch on for 10 months and become the longest conflict of World War I.

By the beginning of 1916, the war in France, from the Swiss border to the English Channel, had settled into the long slog of trench warfare. Despite the hard conditions in the trenches, Erich von Falkenhayn, chief of staff of the German army, believed that the key to winning the war lay not in confronting Russia in the east but in defeating the French in a major battle on the Western Front. In December 1915, Falkenhayn convinced the Kaiser, over the objections of other military leaders such as Paul von Hindenburg, that in combination with unrestricted submarine warfare at sea, a major French loss in battle would push the British‑‑whom Falkenhayn saw as the most potent of the Allies‑‑out of the war . . . . 

Ignoring intelligence that warned of a possible German attack in the region, French command had begun in 1915 to strip its forces at Verdun of the heavy artillery essential to defensive warfare, choosing instead to focus on an offensive strategy masterminded by General Ferdinand Foch, the director of the army's prestigious War College, and dubbed Plan XVII. Thus the German attack of February 21 caught the French relatively unprepared.

From the beginning, the Battle of Verdun resulted in heavy losses on both sides. Falkenhayn famously admitted that he did not aim to take the city quickly and decisively, but to bleed the French white, even if it meant an increased number of German casualties. Within four days of the start of the bombardment on the Meuse, the French forward divisions had suffered over 60 percent casualties; German losses were almost as heavy. After a few quick German gains of territory, the battle settled into a stalemate, as casualties swiftly mounted on both sides. The newly promoted French commander in the region, Henri-Philippe Petain, was determined to inflict the maximum amount of damage on the German forces, famously pledging to his commander-in-chief, Joseph Joffre, that, "They shall not pass."

By the latter half of 1917, German resources were stretched thinner by having to confront both a British-led offensive on the Somme River and Russia's Brusilov Offensive on the Eastern Front. In July, the Kaiser, frustrated by the state of things at Verdun, removed Falkenhayn and sent him to command the 9th Army in Transylvania; Paul von Hindenburg took his place. Petain had been replaced in April by Robert Nivelle, who by early December had managed to lead his forces in the recapture of much of their lost territory. From December 15 to 18, the French took 11,000 German prisoners; on December 18, Hindenburg finally called a stop to the German attacks after ten long months. With a German death toll of 143,000 (out of 337,000 total casualties) and a French one of 162,440 (out of 377,231), Verdun would come to signify, more than any other battle, the grinding, bloody nature of warfare on the Western Front during World War I. (History.com)

Erich Ludendorff on the Battle of Verdun:

Verdun from the viewpoint of general strategy was well chosen as the place for our attack; for Verdun was a particularly threatening starting-point for a French counterassault. It very seriously threatened our main line of railroad communication with Germany. This was disastrously proved by the attack launched from there in the fall of 1918. Had we been able to drive the French wholly from the east bank of the Meuse, our victory would have been complete, as this would have materially strengthened our position along the whole western front. The first days of the Verdun assault were very successful, made so by the brilliant qualities of our men. The advantage, however, was insufficiently exploited and our advance soon came to a standstill.

At the beginning of March the world was still under the impression that the Germans had won a victory at Verdun . . . Verdun had exacted a very great price in blood. The position of our attacking troops grew more and more unfavourable. The more ground they gained, the deeper they plunged into the wilderness of shell-holes, and apart from actual losses in action, they suffered heavy wastage merely through having to stay in such a spot, not to mention the difficulty of getting up supplies over a wide, desolate area. The French enjoyed a great advantage here, as the proximity of the fortress gave them a certain amount of support. Our attacks dragged on, sapping our strength. The very men who had first fought so heroically at Verdun were now terrified of this shell-ravaged region. The command had not their hearts in their work. The Crown Prince had very early declared himself in favour of breaking off the attack. That offensive should have been broken off immediately it assumed the character of a battle of attrition. The gain no longer justified the losses.

1918 World War I: Jericho captured by British troops and Australian mounted cavalry after a three-day battle with Turkish troops:

Commanded by British General Edmund Allenby, the Allied troops began the offensive on Tuesday, February 19, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Despite battling adverse weather conditions and a determined enemy in the Turks, the Allies were able to move nearly 20 miles toward Jericho in just three days. On the morning of February 21, it was apparent that the Turkish line had been broken, and the Allied forces entered the holy city of Jericho without much resistance at just after 8 a.m. Upon realizing they had lost control of the city, Turkish troops chose to retreat rather than fight. During the three-day battle, Allied troops captured 46 Turkish prisoners.

The capture of Jericho proved to be an important strategic victory for the Allies, who now controlled some of the most important roads in the region, including the main road to the coast and the mountain highway leading to Jerusalem, and had reached the northern end of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth at 1,290 feet below sea level. (History.com)

1919 Weimar: Kurt Eisner, the Socialist Prime Minister of Bavaria, is assassinated:

An aspiring law student named Anton, Count von Arco-Valley, confronted the revolutionary leader Kurt Eisner on the street in Munich and shot him dead. Munich was then in the grip of a socialist revolutionary government which had largely been organized by Eisner, a Jewish theater critic and journalist from Berlin, who had been in prison for inciting anti-war sentiments and strikes during The Great War. The assassination unleashed a storm of violence in the Bavarian capital . . . . ironically, a draft resignation document was discovered in Eisner's pocket. The assassination had been completely pointless. Political turmoil engulfed Bavaria over the next weeks and months, and when news of a communist revolution in Hungary reached Munich, organized Communists under the Russian Bolsheviks Max Levien and Eugen Levine pushed aside the Socialists and anarchists and declared a Bolshevik regime.

1921 Iran: Reza Khan seizes Tehran to make himself the most powerful person in Iran, which eventually led to the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty. [For further information, click here]

1924 Birth: Robert Mugabe, later president of Zimbabwe: "Let me be a Hitler ten-fold."

1927 Countdown to Infamy: The US Supreme Court unanimously rules that the laws passed by the Hawaii Legislature to control the Japanese Language Schools are all unconstitutional. The Territorial government is compelled to refund $20,000 in fees collected from the schools, in addition to removing the laws from the books. (Niiya) [See: Countdown to Infamy: Timeline to Pearl Harbor.]

1933 Weimar: The German Union of Red Fighters exhorts the Young Proletarians to disarm the SA and SS. (THP)

1939 Holocaust: German Jews are ordered to surrender all gold and silver, except wedding rings. (THP) [See: What Was the Nature of Hitler's Anti-Semitism?]

1940 Holocaust: Work begins on the German concentration camp at Auschwitz. (THP)

1941 Various:

Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov—former ambassador to the US—is dismissed from the Central Committee:

Litvinov was perhaps the best-known and, by some criteria, the most successful diplomat in Soviet history. He was quick to perceive the importance of Hitler's accession to power in Germany in 1933 and to guide a reorientation of Soviet foreign policy to cope with the threat. Under his guidance the Soviet Union finally established diplomatic ties with the United States in 1933 and in the following year joined the League of Nations. Proclaiming the mutual interest of all antifascist powers, capitalist or Communist, in containing fascism, Litvinov became world-famous for his policy of Collective  Security.

Franco confers with Mussolini in Bordigherra, then meets Petain in Montpellier:

There was only ever one fascist state: Italy. Mussolini tried to fund anyone in Europe who would cause trouble/revolution/statism (he was the first socialist to capture a state outside Russia). He helped fund Adolf, and he is strongly believed to have helped fund Mosley in Britain. A fair, if simple, summary is that Franco was essentially a reactionary traditionalist, whereas both Mussolini and Hitler (in different ways) wanted to overthrow the old order.

1942 Death: Mykhailo and Olena Teliha, Ukrainian artists:

On this date in 1942, poet Olena Teliha and her husband Mykhailo were shot by the Nazis at Babi Yar for their Ukrainian nationalist activism.

Having lived in Czechoslovakia (where they met and married) and then Poland during the interwar period, the Telihas weren't present for the worst of Soviet depredations in Ukraine. Mykhailo, a bandurist, might have been in an especially bad way, since his musical genre of choice harkened to subversive themes of Cossack insurrection, and was therefore heavily persecuted.

Instead, they moved to Kiev as the German invasion opened the prospect of returning to their ancestral homeland. There they found their affiliation with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists quite unwelcome to the new occupiers.

Olena kept writing for a prohibited nationalist paper, and Mykhailo gamely stuck by her . . . . Their execution this date is not to be confused with the mass execution of thirty thousand-plus Jews in September 1941, the atrocity with which Babi Yar is most frequently associated. This ravine continued to be used for Nazi executioners throughout the occupation of Kiev, including for more than 600 Ukrainian nationalists —who are today honored at the site with this monument. (ExecutedToday.com.)

1944 World War II: Tojo makes himself "military czar":

Hideki Tojo, prime minister of Japan, grabs even more power as he takes over as army chief of staff, a position that gives him direct control of the Japanese military.

After graduating from the Imperial Military Academy and the Military Staff College, Tojo was sent to Berlin as Japan's military attache after World War I. Having earned a reputation for sternness and discipline, Tojo was given command of the 1st Infantry Regiment upon returning to Japan. In 1937, he was made chief of staff of the Kwantung Army in Manchuria, China. When he returned again to his homeland, Tojo assumed the office of vice-minister of war and quickly took the lead in the military's increasing control of Japanese foreign policy, advocating the signing of the 1940 Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy that made Japan an "Axis" power.

In July 1940, he was made minister of war and soon clashed with the prime minister, Prince Fumimaro Konoye, who had been fighting for reform of his government, namely, demilitarization of its politics. In October, Konoye resigned because of increasing tension with Tojo, who succeeded him as prime minister. Not only did Tojo keep his offices of army minister and war minister when he became prime minister, he also assumed the offices of minister of commerce and industry.

Tojo, now a virtual dictator, quickly promised a "New Order in Asia," and toward this end supported the bombing of Pearl Harbor despite the misgivings of several of his generals. Tojo's aggressive policies paid big dividends early on, with major territorial gains in Indochina and the South Pacific. But despite Tojo's increasing control over his own country—tightening wartime industrial production and assuming yet another title, chief of staff of the army, on February 21, 1944—he could not control the determination of the United States, which began beating back the Japanese in the South Pacific. When Saipan fell to the U.S. Marines and Army on June 22, 1944, Tojo's government collapsed. Upon Japan's surrender, Tojo tried to commit suicide by shooting himself with an American .38 pistol but he was saved by an American physician who gave him a blood transfusion. He was convicted of war crimes by an international tribunal and was hanged on December 22, 1948. (History.com)

1945 Various:

Last Days: During a second meeting with Himmler's intelligence chief, Schellenberg (above), Count Bernadotte gets word from Himmler that he accepts the proposal to assemble the Scandinavian prisoners in one camp. (Read) [See: The Last Days of the Third Reich.]

World War II: While Himmler continues to relax in the hospital, his Chief of Staff and the man who is actually in charge of Himmler's Army Group, General Wenck, falls asleep at the wheel while driving back to headquarters from an all-night conference with Hitler. His car is smashed into the side of a railroad bridge, trapping him inside as it busts into flames. He is pulled from the fire with five broken ribs and a fractured skull, barely surviving. Without his leadership, the counter-attack against Zhukov's Army breaks down and Himmler's stock with Hitler further plummets. (Read)

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: State Counsellor of Justice of the Second Class Raginsky's Opening Statement on Crimes Against Culture:

The Hitlerite conspirators considered culture of the mind and of humanity as an obstacle to the fulfillment of their monstrous designs against mankind, and they removed this obstacle with their own typical cruelty. In working out their insane plans for world domination, the Hitlerite conspirators, side by side with the initiation and prosecution of predatory wars, prepared a campaign against world culture. They dreamed of turning Europe back to the days of her domination by the Huns and Teutons. They tried to set mankind back. [For the full text of today's proceedings, Click here.]

1958 The first US submarine to circumnavigate the world returns to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

After leaving the harbor on 8 Jul 1957, the Gudgeon (SS 567) had spent 228 days traveling about 25,000 miles while visiting ports in Asia, Africa and Europe. The 269-foot-long submarine and its crew of 83 were under the command of LCDR  John O.  Coppedge. It was first launched on 11 Jun 1952, and commissioned on 21 Nov 1952, at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

The Tang class of submarines was a product of the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY), which incorporated German U-boat technology into the United State Navy's submarine design. They comprised the state of the art in post-World War II conventionally-powered submarine design; a design that was incorporated into and replaced by the nuclear-powered submarines of the 1950s and beyond.

1994 Double agent Aldrich Ames is arrested:

CIA operative Aldrich Ames is arrested for selling secrets to the Soviet Union. Ames had access to the names and identities of all U.S. spies in Russia, and by becoming a double agent he was directly responsible for jeopardizing the lives of CIA agents working in the Eastern bloc. At least 10 men were killed after Ames revealed their identities, and more were sent to Russian gulags.

Edited by Levi Bookin (Copy editor)

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