The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 1/Can Austria Be Saved?

3026626The Bohemian Review, volume 1, no. 7 — Can Austria Be Saved?1917

Can Austria Be Saved?

The Allies are to meet in August at the invitation of the provisional Russian government to take up the discussion of their war aims and their possible revision. Germany and its partners have never stated specifically the concrete aims for which they were fighting. The Allies did so in their answer to President Wilson’s inquiry as to their peace terms.

It is well known that the aims of the Allies, stated in the note of January 10, 1917, involve the disappearance of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Not that the Allies demand it in so many words, not that they have vindictive feelings toward Vienna rather than toward Berlin, not that they consider the Hapsburgs more dangerous than the Hohenzollerns; but because the very existence of the hybrid Dual Empire is the negation of the principle upon which the Allies plan to reconstruct Europe—the principle of nationalities. For that reason the Powers of the Entente in January of this year declared “the liberation of Italians, Slavs, Roumanians, Czechs and Slovaks from foreign domination” to be one of the aims which they set for themselves. And the liberation of those races is equivalent to the disruption of the Hapsburg Empire.

This fact is fully appreciated in Austria and Germany. Peace on terms announced by the Allies in January is plainly impossible, until the Central Powers are decisively defeated or until exhaustion compels them to surrender unconditionally. At the opening of the fourth year of the war the defeat of Germany is still far away. Russia is in the throes of reconstruction and its military strength is seriously affected; western offensive seems to be at a standstill and America’s might has not yet made itself felt. What wonder that people who are appalled by the constant slaughter, by the terrifying growth of the expense bill, by the tremendous difficulties that must be faced before complete victory can be gained, suggest a compromise that might be acceptable to the two Central Empires—federalization of Austria-Hungary on a basis of equality of the races subject to the Hapsburg sceptre.

The basis for this suggested compromise is found in some of the acts of Emperor Charles. He called together the Austrian parliament for its first session since March, 1914; he moderated the barbarities of the military regime which took thousands of victims during two and a half years of the war; he granted pardon to the condemned Czech leaders and approached the Czech people with offers of concessions. His efforts have achieved one small bit of success; the Vienna parliament by a majority of three-fifths voted the budget. But as against that the stormy sessions of the Reichsrat have furnished one more proof that Austria cannot be saved.

The fundamental trouble with Austria is that it is an artificial creation held together only by the dynasty. Without the Hapsburgs and their army the races composing the empire will fly apart. Americans and all true democrats must view with suspicion and regret the continued existence of a political formation that is based on armed force. But granting the desirability of a compromise on Austria can the Hapsburgs be trusted to give their subjects of various races equal rights and to grant to each people full opportunity to develop their national individuality? Few people are aware of the fact that the present constitution of the Austrian half of the empire guarantees to all races equality before the
Workers in the case of Czecho-Slovak independence. From left to right: Prof. Aleš Hrdlička, Fr. Bielek, Alb. Mamatey, Chas. Pergler, Milan Štefánik, E. V. Voska, Dr. L. J. Fisher, Ivan Daxner, Prof. Ferd. Písecký.
Workers in the case of Czecho-Slovak independence. From left to right: Prof. Aleš Hrdlička, Fr. Bielek, Alb. Mamatey, Chas. Pergler, Milan Štefánik, E. V. Voska, Dr. L. J. Fisher, Ivan Daxner, Prof. Ferd. Písecký.

Workers in the case of Czecho-Slovak independence.
From left to right: Prof. Aleš Hrdlička, Fr. Bielek, Alb. Mamatey, Chas. Pergler, Milan Štefanik, E. V. Voska, Dr. L. J. Fisher, Ivan Daxner, Prof. Ferd. Písecký.

law; Bohemians and Poles and Slovenians and Ruthenians have the same rights in the empire as the Germans, according to the nineteenth article of the fundamental laws. What people everywhere know to be the fact is that in Austria Germans rule and the other races obey; yes, that the Slavs and Latins are sent to the battlefields to die in order that the lordly German race might conquer the world.

Francis Joseph did not keep his word to the Czechs, the Croatians, the Slovaks. His great nephew Charles gives promise of following in the footsteps of his predecessor. He has already given to the world one proof of the faith of the Hapsburgs, his attitude toward the Russian program of no annexations and no indemnities. April 14th the official correspondence bureau made this statement: “The government of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy has been informed of the declaration of the provisional Russian government, published April 11th. It has ascertained from it that Russia does not intend to conquer other nations, to take away from them their national heritage, to occupy by force foreign territory; that on the contrary it desires to bring about permanent peace on the basis of the rights of nations to determine for themselves their allegiance. The Austro-Hungarian government learned from this that the aims of the Russian provisional government are analogous to the aim which the imperial and royal minister of foreign affairs declared in his interview of March 31st to be the war aim of the monarchy”. Compare with this pronouncement the statement of Premier Seidler in the Vienna parliament, June 27th: “After conference with the minister for foreign affairs I have the honor to inform the house that the supposition contained in deputy Daszynski’s interpellation, to the effect that the imperial and royal government has recognized the right of nations to self-determination to be the basis of permanent peace is false. The imperial and royal government takes its stand on article five of the fundamental laws of December 21, 1867, giving the exclusive right to conclude peace to His Majesty. By that the defense of the interests and the aims of the nations of Austria at that decisive time is entrusted solely to the emperor. With this special reservation of the prerogatives of the crown the imperial and royal government is ready, in union with its allies, to take up negotiations with the enemy for an honorable peace. But it emphatically rejects any other basis for peace conference.”

Is there any wonder that the subjects of the Hapsburgs will not trust the royal word? When German deputy Redlich moved to go into secret session to take up the question of changes in the constitution made necessary by the war, deputy Stránský answered for the Bohemians that the Reichsrat was not the forum to determine that; the peace conference alone would settle the fate of Austria.

Amateur statesmen who have never lived in Austria imagine that federalization of this empire and its rapprochement to the Catholic states of South Germany would be the best counterpoise to the evil Prussian influence over the German empire. What a misconception of the realities. Austria is the vanguard of Germany toward the southeast. The Hapsburgs and their German subjects have ever looked upon themselves as the instrument for the Germanization of the inferior races bordering on the territory of the German people. They have not accomplished much, because the German element formed less than one-third of the population of Austria. But when Galicia is subtracted from the sum total of the Austrian provinces, as it will upon the restoration of Poland, Germans will have nearly half of the people and far more than a half of the deputies in what remains of the Austrian half of the empire. In such a case more than ever the issue in Austria would be the struggle of Czechs and Jugoslavs again Germanization, and the German dynasty with the German subjects would look for support to the German empire. Let it also be stated that no constitutional life would be possible in Austria, after Galicia became a part of the Polish state. The Czech deputies declared solemnly that they would never enter a parliament in which deputies from Galicia would not sit in their full number, for then the Bohemians would be altogether at the mercy of the Germans. Finally, there is one obstacle over which all attempts to reconstruct the Hapsburg empire on a just basis will surely be wrecked, and that is the Slovak question. There are nearly three million of them in northwestern Hungary. They are one branch of the race of which the Czechs and Bohemians are the more numerous part, and their territories form a geographical unit, divided artificially by the frontier of Hungary. In that memorable declaration of Czech deputies, made in parliament on May 30th, the most significant part is the demand for “union of all branches of the Czecho-Slovak people into one democratic Bohemian state.” That is absolutely irreconcilable with the pretensions of the Magyars, and nothing less than cannon can settle that dispute. For it is certain that the Magyar government of Hungary will hold out to the last, will throw over the Hapsburgs in favor of Kaiser William, will resort to any means, before it will consent to surrender its barbarous rule over the Slovaks of Hungary. The Budapest Hirlap says: “The Bohemian manifesto is a declaration of war to the Magyars, and every Magyar stands petrified at this insolence.” And Az Est, also of Budapest, wonders how it is possible that Czechs could speak so in the Austrian parliament. “With that plan,” says this journal, “the Bohemians have gone over bodily into the camp of our enemies, for they too, like our enemies, want to dismember us.”

The Chicago Journal summed up the Austrian muddle in these words: “They (Germans and Magyars) will remain in Austria only if they can run it; the Slavs will remain only if they can have fair play and equal rights. The young emperor is between the devil and the dark blue sea. However, he needn’t trouble to make a decision. The allies will do that for him.”

This work was published before January 1, 1929 and is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 95 years or less since publication.

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