Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/72

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The Bohemian Question.

An Address Delivered by Charles Pergler at the 21st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, held in Philadelphia, April 20–21, 1917.

The exit of Turkey from Europe is now a question of short time. Russia is no more an autocracy, and henceforth will be a democratically governed country. Thus remains unsolved only one major international problem involving the rights of small nations, speaking of nations in the ethnical sense and as distinguished from states.

The Allied note to President Wilson demands the liberation of Italians, Slavs, Roumanians and Czecho-Slovaks from foreign domination. The Czechs and Slovaks ask for the reconstruction of an independent Bohemian-Slovak state. All this postulates the dissolution, or at least a very serious diminution, of Austria-Hungary. The federalization of the Austro-Hungarian empire has become impracticable, if not wholly impossible. The case of Switzerland is hardly in point. Mr. Toynbee defines nationality as a will to co-operate, and a nation as a group of men bound together by the immanence of this impulse in each individual. The Swiss have developed this will to co-operate, while in Austria it always has been unknown, and conditions are such that to hope even for its inception would be wholly Utopian. Nor can we point to the United States of America as an example, because we are after all a nation formed by the free will of immigrants of various origins, and with an underlying basis of language and uniformity of outlook, uniformity of culture, furnished by the original settlers in this country, who came from England.

Nationality is the modern state-forming force. To disregard it is to stand in the path of an ultimately irresistible force. The historical process of unification of various nationalities, which began with the German and Italian aspirations for a national state, ultimately will be consummated. If it is not completed now, the world is due for another convulsion within a relatively short time. When this consummation takes place, that Austrian territory inhabited by Italians will be joined to Italy, the Roumanians will be gathered in one state, there will come into being a Jugo-Slav (South-Slav) state, and Poland will be independent or autonomous. If Austria then remains in existence, the only nations left within it will be the Germans, the Magyars and the Czecho-Slovaks.

In this “small Austria” the Czechs and Slovaks would constitute a minority; the Germans and Magyars would again combine to dominate and oppress the Czechoslovaks. Austria even so mutilated would continue to be a source of strength to Germany, and would form a basis for another attempt to realize Pan-German plans of Middle Europe, and the consequent conquest of the world. The internal conditions of such a state would necessarily be volcanic, and Austria would continue to be a menace to European peace. We should thus be confronted with a situation which President Wilson in his address to the Senate described as the ferment of spirit of whole populations fighting subtly and constantly for an opportunity to freely develop. To paraphrase another of his statements, the world could not be at peace because its life would not be stable, because the will would be in rebellion, because there would not be tranquility of spirit, because there would not be a sense of justice, of freedom and of right.

The Austrian question is the Turkish problem in another form. Austria can be no more federated than European Turkey. To permit Austria to exist in any form when this war is concluded, is merely to delay the solution of a problem that will never down; and in the life of nations, as well as individuals, delay and procrastination, the tendency to postpone a final decision, is a crime for which penalties are sure to follow. We have seen what this penalty is: A war devastating civilized countries.

The suggestions made in certain quarters that a federal constitution in Austria be one of the conditions of peace show the futility of the hopes to federalize Austria. Those knowing Austro-Hungarian conditions are convinced that the empire’s ruling classes would never carry out such conditions in spirit, and perhaps not even in letter; the world would not go to war immediately to force Austria to comply with such a condition of peace, and thus the germs of a future war, brought about by