The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/Premier Seidler on the Declaration on Jan. 6, 1918

The Bohemian Review, volume 2, no. 3 (1918)
Premier Seidler on the Declaration on Jan. 6, 1918 by Ernst Seidler von Feuchtenegg
3226338The Bohemian Review, volume 2, no. 3 — Premier Seidler on the Declaration on Jan. 6, 19181918Ernst Seidler von Feuchtenegg

Premier Seidler on the Declaration on Jan. 6, 1918.

From the proceedings in the Austrian Parliament, Jan. 22, as reported in the Prague daily “Národní Listy” of Jan. 23, 1918.

Premier Dr. Von Seidler, answering the interpellation of German deputies with regard to the declaration adopted January 6 in Prague by the convention of all Czech deputies, as well as in reply to the Czech interpellation about the confiscation of the declaration (Cries from the Czech benches: Read the declaration; contrary cries from the left: Shut up) says that he considers it absolutely necessary to state clearly and plainly, how the government looks upon the declaration. (Deputy Soukup: What is the text of the declaration? Why do you confiscate it? Contrary cries from the left: You will hear why. Cries from the Czechs, noise. Deputy Iro: Do not confiscate the answer.) Speaker rings and calls to order.

The premier: “I am sure that I am not guilty of racial partiality(!). I have declared that I honor every political conviction. But the condition must be that the adversary must have a regard for what must be most sacred to us all, the wellfare of our common fatherland, our principal consideration. (Deputy Kalina: That is what the Czech deputies did! Loud denials and laugh from left.) The declaration of May 30 did indeed step outside the bounds of the actual constitutional facts and called for most severe censure for this special reason that it attacked the sovereign rights of the Holy Hungarian Crown. But it still contemplated a community of interest with the dynasty and the whole empire, it aimed at something within this state, although a much looser state, and as far as its foreign aspects and tendencies were concerned, it could still be harmonized with the dynastic and patriotic bases of Austria. I need not emphasize that I do not approve of the ideas contained in it, but still I could, in spite of our fundamental difference and the necessity of emphasizing it, consider feasible the co-operation within the sphere of practical political problems between the government and the parties upholding the constitution on the one hand and the adherents of that declaration on the other.

But the Prague declaration has a different character. It originated of course from the same national tendencies as the declaration of May 30; but it would be vain to look in it for even the most distant echo of a connection with the dynasty and the empire. The political sentiment which it manifests seems to have been controlled by suggestions from that world of ideas which we combat so successfully in our struggle for existence. The declaration takes to a certain extent an international standpoint and follows its own particularistic aims between Austria and her enemies, ready to accept, at least during peace negotiations, international support to gain the recognition of foreign powers for its sovereignty which it treats as an actual fact. Our enemies can find in it encouragement to maintain principles aimed at the integrity of our state. (Loud approval. Deputy Dr. Soukup: Why don’t you make order in Austria?) It tends to interfere with the success of our negotiations for peace now going on. It combats peace, (Deputy Soukup: That is a lie. The speaker calls Dr. Soukup to order) if peace does not bring with it the principle of the self-determination of nations, artificially twisted for the benefit of its own special aims. For not only is this principle to be applied to the Sudeten (Bohemian) lands, namely to territories whose political connection cannot possibly be a war question or subject to peace negotiations; but this principle is to be applied so that against the equal right of the German people in the Sudeten lands they should secure complete independence and sovereignty regardless of the fact, whether they would still have any connection with Austria or not.

The declaration therefore contemplates eventualities, and methods to bring them about, that have nothing further in common with the Austrian idea. (Approval at the left.) It is plain that the declaration tends thereby to trespass on extremely dangerous ground and is based in a sense hostile to the state on a conception that every Austrian must angrily repudiate and that every government must fight with all the means at its disposal. (Loud approval and applause from the left, cries from the Czechs, noise.) That is assured by the firm attachment to the state idea of the masses of the people faithful to the emperor and the empire; that is assured—and this I state upon the all-highest authority—by the will of the highest factor in the state, one who places the government in their offices.

But politics aiming at these ends would not only deserve of condemnation! it would also be a blunder, for it would be playing the game that the whole world considers a lost one. (Very good, from the left.) It would be asking for help from a side where there is no help to be had, it would be a step into the void, a step that might have bitter results. Without any hope to achieve its own aims this political tendency could at most give the jingo elements in the enemy’s camp new material for agitation, (loud approval from the left), it might interfere with our desires to gain a speedy peace and especially with the present negotiations at Brest Litovsk, and in that way it might have an effect on the war—not to decide it, but to protract it. (That is true, from the left.) We are trying to bring about peace, an honorable peace that would gain for us and our faithful allies a secure existence for all times. We are trying to bring about peace in a spirit of justice and conciliation, but also with a firmness and unitedness that will demonstrate to the enemies, how hopeless are their plans of spoliation.

It would be unbearable to have this horrible war prolonged merely in order that the program of the Prague declaration might be realized. (Loud approval and praise from the left. Cries from the Czechs.) That will not happen. Even such evil tendencies cannot prevent the indestructible life strength of Austria from defeating all the external enemies. Whatever she needs for her internal peace and the peaceful existence in common of her peoples she will do herself by constitutional means.”

After several German protests against the Prague declaration Dr. Korošec spoke for the Jugoslavs, first in the Slovenian language and then in German. He discussed the right of nations to self-determination and spoke of the promises given by Count Czernin to the Ukrainians. He declared in the name of the Jugoslavs that the Jugoslavs stood firmly on their program which aims at the creation of an independent Jugoslav state.

Deputy Klofáč declares in Bohemian that the Czechs have no confidence in any factor in the empire. The declaration of January 6 may be suppressed, but the Bohemian nation cannot be silenced. The nation desires a real, general peace, but does not want to deceive the Russian democracy and transfer the war to the Western front. (Loud approval from the Czechs.) The speaker points to the efforts of the Czechs to have their own independent state, repudiates any responsibility for the Brest Litovsk negotiations, conducted not in a desire for general peace, but for a separate peace with Russia, and protests against the premier’s charge that the Czechs are protracting the war. As against the statement of the government he declares for a new, free Europe, a free Czechoslovak nation and the right of nation to self-determination.

Every nation has the right to declare its cause for a matter of international concern.

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