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For All Nails #114: Party On

by Johnny Pez

Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, Inner German Empire
21 August 1974

"What are we going to do?" asked Acting Chancellor Angela Bitterlich, and Science Minister Heinrich Kausler knew just what she meant. The Germany Party and its coalition partners had lost their majority in the Imperial Diet in the special elections two days before, a fact made visibly apparent by the absence of Labor Minister Karl Bemmler, who had lost his own seat in the Diet. Now, by the provisions of the Constitution of 1945 they had two weeks to assemble a new majority; and if they couldn't, then the opposition Democrats were free to try.

"As I see it," said Kausler, "we have four options. One, bring in the Polonia Party."

"Unacceptable," stated Defense Minister Horst Voth.

"Concur," added Exterior Minister Joshua Merkel. "Not to mention the fact that it would be political suicide."

Kausler nodded in agreement. The Polonia Party were made up of ethnically Polish citizens of the Inner Empire, FN1 mostly in the eastern section of Prussia that was once part of the old pre-partition FN2 Kingdom of Poland. The Polonia Party sought to carve a new Kingdom of Poznan out of the Polish-majority areas of Prussia, an idea to which Prussia's ethnically German citizens were understandably opposed.

Still, sooner or later the Empire would have to do something about the Poles. They refused to assimilate, and they kept winning more and more seats in the Imperial Diet as demographics triumphed over gerrymandering. FN3 There was a steady flow of immigrants from Poland to Prussia, and although the immigrants themselves could not become citizens, FN4 they frequently married into the families of ethnically Polish citizens. Add in the Poles' higher birthrate, and what you had was a recipe for trouble. If the demographers' predictions were correct, by the year 2000 ethnic Poles would outnumber ethnic Germans in the Kingdom of Prussia. It was no coincidence that the National Party had picked up a dozen seats among Prussia's alarmed Germans.

Dismissing demography from his thoughts, Kausler returned to democracy. "Our second choice would be to bring in the Socialists."

"Ach, they're worse than the Poles!" exclaimed Justice Minister Gerhard Pritzker. "The Poles just want to break up Prussia. The Socialists want to break up the whole Empire!"

It was, Kausler knew, a fair assessment. The Socialists were avowed anti-imperialists with strong republican sympathies. They would grant complete independence to the kingdoms of the Outer Empire and convert the Inner Empire into a Neiderhofferian state. Not even the Democrats would dare to form a government with them. At least, they probably wouldn't dare.

After a pro forma pause to allow anyone who wanted the opportunity to disagree with Pritzker, Kausler continued. "Our third choice would be to bring in the National Party."

"Unacceptable," pronounced Merkel.

"I disagree," said Voth. "While their program may be more extreme than we'd like, they certainly have the best interests of the Empire at heart, which I find to be a refreshing change of pace compared to most of the other minor parties. We must also consider the fact that they are the fastest growing party in the Empire, and are now the second largest of all the minor parties. Far better, as Herr Skinner likes to say, to have them inside the tent pissing out."

"I do not consider incontinence to be any sort of basis for an alliance," Merkel responded sardonically. "And their program is more extreme than any sane person would like. They make no secret of their admiration for the Madman Bruning, and their calls for a resumption of the Global War exhibit a dangerous indifference to reality. The Nationals need to be opposed, not supported."

Kausler knew that Merkel had left unspoken another reason for his opposition to the Nationals. During the election campaign, their Party Leader, Herr Dressler, had blamed Merkel personally for every reversal the Empire had suffered for the last six years, from the riots in Moscow to the suicide attack in Beirut. Of course, Markstein had been responsible for the Empire's foreign policy, but no one dared to cast aspersions on the martyred Chancellor, so Dressler had chosen to make Merkel the villain. The National leader had all but accused the Exterior Minister of treason, and Kausler had no doubt that his price for joining the government would be Merkel's dismissal.

"Move the question," said Communications Minister Marko Kranjec.

"Which question?" wondered Bitterlich.

"Herr Voth's proposal to invite the Nationals into the government," said Kranjec with a straight face.

"Oh, I didn't know it was a question," said Bitterlich. Kausler reminded himself once again that choosing Angela as Party Leader had actually been a good idea. She was the most popular member of the Cabinet, and the polls showed that they would have lost even more seats without her. God help them all.

"All in favor of Horst's proposal?" Bitterlich continued.

Kausler held his breath while the usual suspects raised their hands. Voth seemed to be counting on Merkel to stoically accept his expulsion from the cabinet and support the new coalition out of party loyalty. Kausler strongly suspected that it wouldn't be too long before Merkel became fed up with a cabinet dominated by Voth and defected to the Democrats, along with as many of his supporters in the Diet as he could manage. Did Voth know that he was putting the unity of the party at risk? Who could say? Being a physicist, Kausler understood the most abstruse conceptions of time and space that modern science had produced, but he had never understood Voth.

"All opposed?" Kausler raised his hand, as did Merkel's other supporters.

"Motion denied," Bitterlich announced. But only by a single vote, Kausler noted uneasily. Interior Minister Hans Steiner had abstained, and so, surprisingly, had Kranjec.

The Communications Minister now said, "And what was our fourth choice, Heinrich?"

Fourth choice? Ah, yes. "Form a government of national unity with the Democrats."

"Those cretins?" Pritzker said in amazement. "I wouldn't trust them to run a church raffle, much less a government."

"They don't seem to have any trouble running the provincial governments in Mecklenburg and Bavaria," Merkel observed. "It's true that they've been out of power at the federal level for sixteen years, but I'm sure they'll have no trouble picking it up."

"I don't trust them, period," said Voth. "They're little better than the Socialists, with their talk of 'loosening the bonds of Empire'. Cutting the bonds is more like it. Move the question."

Now quicker on the uptake, Bitterlich spoke. "All those in favor of a national unity government?"

Kausler raised his hand, along with the rest of the Exterior Minister's faction. He saw to his dismay that they had less than half of the cabinet with them.

"All opposed?" Not only Voth's people, but also Social Welfare Minister Klaus Klima and Commerce Minister Ludwig Ratzenberger. With a sinking feeling, Kausler understood. Ratzenberger was a Liberal, and Klima was a Bohemian-Moravian. If a national unity government was formed, there would be no need to include them, and every reason to exclude them.

"Motion denied," said Bitterlich.

Which left them right back where they started. There was silence in the cabinet room for a few moments before Kranjec, with a slight smile, remarked, "I notice that nobody has mentioned the Peasants Party."

"Nobody has mentioned them," Pritzker pointed out, "because they only have 26 seats in the Diet. Even if they joined the government, we'd still be eight seats short of a majority."

Suspicion dawned within Kausler. "Unless," he said, "you happen to know where we can find an additional eight seats."

"God help us," exclaimed Pritzker, "you're not talking about the Bloc Français, are you?"

True, the Bloc controlled twelve seats, but ... "I don't think Marko is referring to the Bloc Français," said Kausler. "I think he's got something else in mind."

Kranjec smiled his tiny smile at Kausler. "Quite right, Heinrich. The eight seats I'm referring to are currently controlled by the Democrats, but I think they might be persuaded to join us -- if we were to offer them the proper inducement."

The number eight, plus the fact that it was Kranjec talking, made it easy for Kausler to guess at his meaning. "Do you mean Pavlin's faction?"

"I do," said Kranjec. Kausler could see what the Communications Minister was implying, and he was sure the rest of the cabinet could as well. Unlike the Poles and the Bohemians, the Slovenians didn't go in much for ethnically-based parties, tending to vote for the national parties such as Germany, Democratic and Liberal. Tomaz Pavlin, Member for Celje, was the senior member of the Democratic Party's eight-person Slovenian delegation.

"And what sort of inducement," Voth said, glaring at Kranjec, "would Herr Pavlin be looking for?"

"Oh, nothing outrageous, I assure you," said Kranjec soothingly. "Nothing unprecedented. Merely that Carniola-Gorica be upgraded in status to that accorded the Kingdom of Lorraine."

"Wonderful," Voth said sourly. "So instead of one Lorraine and one Bloc Français, we'll have two."

"Still," said Merkel, "better them than the Polonia or the Socialists. If a second Lorraine is the price for a new majority, then so be it. Move the question."

Voth, predictably, voted nay, but the motion passed by a comfortable margin. Perhaps it was Voth's earlier mention of Skinner, but Kausler found himself thinking of the recent elections in the CNA. Skinner had brought down Monaghan's government by luring members of the governing party over to his side (carving a tiny slice from a roast hog, as the new Governor-General put it in his odd rural vernacular). FN5 Now, the Germany Party were going to do the opposite: keep the government from falling by luring members of the Opposition to their side, sustaining themselves with a thin slice of the Democratic hog.

As the cabinet meeting adjourned, Kausler noted uneasily that Kranjec was still smiling.

Forward to FAN #115: Come and See the Show, It's a Dynamo.

Forward to 26 August 1974: Between the Rivers.

Forward to Germany: The Mancunian Candidate.

Return to For All Nails.