Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/144

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Germany and Habsburg Problem.

By Edward Beneš.

The political situation in Austria-Hungary is singularly critical. The monarchy is economically on the edge of the abyss; the working classes are reduced to absolute want; the lower middle class (officials, employees, etc., particularly) are starving; whilst the upper middle class, manufacturers and tradespeople, are ruined. From the intellectual point of view there is complete demoralization: the nation is exhausted, its resistance broken; it is as incapable of moral elevation as of rebellion. Indifference and renunciation characterize it. Only the intellectual class, formerly occupied with politics, continues active—in so far as it is not threatened by imprisonment.

In this setting the Reichsrat met and presented a singular spectacle to the world. All that those acquainted with Austria had sedulously predicted for three years came to pass on the first day. The Czechs announced their programme for an independent Czecho-Slovak State, the Poles intimated their decision to separate from Austria in order to create a unified and free Poland, and the Jugoslavs expressed the desire to be united in a Jugoslav State. The solution of the Austro-Hungarian problem thus stated, signified that the Poles would definitely disappear from Austria, that the Czechs would become independent and would take with them almost a third of Hungary—the richest and the most important part—that the Jugoslavs would unite with their Balkan compatriots and the Italians with their co-nationals in Italy. The Germans in German Austria and the Magyars in Hungary alone would remain. This programme, then, signifies the definitive end of their domination. At a single stroke they would lose everything. What is especially important and absolutely decisive for the fate of the Monarchy is, that Austro-Hungarian governments during the war have succeeded in compelling absolute silence for three years by force. Clam-Martinic committed the supreme blunder of convoking Parliament and unchaining the tempest of all the elements hostile to the Monarchy, a tempest which it appears impossible to still. And the most serious factor of all is the wide popular support which the movement receives. In Galicia enthusiastic demonstrations have forced the Polish deputies to abjure their traditional Austrophil policy. In the Czech countries a genuine revolutionary movement, supported by all the political, economic, literary, and artistic organizations, by town and village, by the workmen and intellectuals, in a word, by the whole nation, threatens the deputies with pitiless severity if they do not state the full popular demand. Similar movements are taking place among the Ruthenes, Jugoslavs, Italians, and Rumanians.

The Empire is disintegrating. The internal situation is such that it is impossible for the Czechs, Poles, and Jugoslavs to withdraw their declarations in the Reichsrat which voice these popular movements. The fate of Austria is being decided. The Germans and Magyars cannot control this formidable movement. For, on the one hand, they do not understand the political psychology of their opponents, and did not believe that the process of internal dislocation was so far advanced. On the other hand, blinded by their insensate projects of domination, incapable of understanding that everything is irremediably lost, they continue as of old: centralist and Germano-Magyar “Austria” must be preserved solely in order that some profit may be drawn from its preservation. Thus they refuse to yield an inch. For the Germans, the loss of their predominance in Austria would mean the complete loss of their political position. And then there would be no object in their remaining in Austria, they would he happier in Germany. And for the Magyars to lose their political privileges in Slovakia, Croatia, and Transylvania would mean the end of Magyarized Hungary and the loss of everything for them. What interest would they have in fighting to preserve Austria for the Emperor? That is the whole problem. The fate of Austria-Hungary would be a matter of indifference to the Magyars from the moment that the monarchy became federalized. For they could lose neither more nor less whether it were federalized or dismembered altogether. In a certain sense they would be freer if it disappeared

*Reprinted from the New Europe, July 26, 1917.