Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/124

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“We want to be a free and happy nation, free of every foreign domination. We want our children to be brought up in our own national culture. We want to rule ourselves, our officials must speak with our own tongue. We alone must determine our international alliances and we will not allow such alliances to be made without us and regardless of us. Above all we demand our own state. We want to see a society of free states created. This empire and this dynasty have in recent years dishonored and trodden under foot all rights and guarantees of our nation.

“The cold attitude of the Bohemians toward the Reichsrat may be explained chiefly by this that in reality we have no constitution and that this assemblage is only a fictitious and fragmentary parliament. Not only are the imprisoned deputies missing, but the places of the deceased members have not been filled. By-elections for the vacant seats have not been ordered, because the government does not want any elections. As to parliamentary immunity, the degree of its observance can best be judged by the fact that bills and interpellations are confiscated. As for personal immunity, we have no assurance that upon the adjournment of parliament we shall not be called to answer for speeches that were delivered in this place long before the war, for that is what happened to the condemned deputies. When we go away from here, the proper parting salutation will be: Goodby, fellow-representative, don’t land in jail. (Laughter, applause.)

“All these arguments persuade us that in this assembly none of the great problems shall be decided that are now agitating Europe and the entire world. What is anyway the Reichsrat with its debates and controversies compared to the bloody argument that is being settled on the battlefields? Not even our reservation of the historical rights of Bohemia will solve anything; that we know. But the rights of Bohemia are not out of date, as deputy Pacher thinks; they cannot be the object of a war of words. We live in a great time, when realities cannot be held back, while appearances and lies are uncovered.

“Even the speech from the throne had its source in a bureaucratic inkwell and not in the blood of present serious realities. The speech is at fault when it seeks to set mere words against the spirit of the times which is creating a new world out of blood and iron. At a time when all forms of constitutional life are challenged, responsibility of the crown is not limited to the responsibility of the chief of cabinet. The premier should cover the crown and not expose it to attacks and hide behind it his own political and moral weakness. We are persuaded that the day is coming when no one will come between our nation and our king, when the nation and its king will face each other. The future may be obscure, but the world labors to the end that the interests of rulers should bow to the interests of the nations and that crowns should depend on the will of peoples.

“In the address from the throne the only thing of interest for the Czechs is the declaration that the emperor will not swear fidelity to the existing constitution. That means the bankruptcy of this constitution, its complete eclipse. For the matter of that the constitution long ago became empty and meaningless, because the fundamental laws of the state were systematically violated, jury trials were abolished and provincial diets not allowed to meet. Bohemians have for many years fought the constitution in order to win independence, democracy and freedom; they suffered in numerable persecutions that culminated in the sentences of Dr. Kramář and others. But now we say: The interests of the state do not come first. When the interests of the state and of the people are not identical, then the people will not recognize the right of the state to existence.

Deputy Waldner cries: “Aha, now we know it.”

“The whole world is now convinced that this view is right. But in the address from the throne we find the same old principles from the days of Joseph II., namely that the state comes first and the people follow, while in the declaration of the premier we heard today the same ideas. Modern democracy stands on a very different basis: The people are first and the state second. State is only a means for the attainment of the aims of the individual nations. Therefore we see the world ready to conclude only such a peace as will rest on the sure foundation of satisfied peoples. For such peace only will be lasting.

“As far as the Polish problem is concerned, we will not examine into the question how far today when the political ressurrection of Poland is in the air can the autonomy of Galicia be squared with the