The New Europe/Volume 3/Austria Infelix

Austria Infelix

Since the accession of the new Emperor of Austria-Hungary a part of the British Press has expressed hopes of a separate peace with Austria. These hopes have no real foundation, but they are characteristic. The last few weeks have witnessed a rising tide of these expectations, although Austria has given a good enough answer by following Germany and breaking with the United States.

To give a fair exposition of the situation we quote a passage from the Westminster Gazette (21 April), speaking of the political significance of Anti-Germanism in Austria:—“Neither the dynasty nor the mass of the people, excepting a few German fanatics, have any desire to play the part assigned to them, and the perpetual insistence on it has awakened them to the fact that this war is in all its Mid-Europe and Eastern Europe aspects a war of Germanism against Slavdom, in which a victory, if it could be obtained, would be a German and not an Austrian or Hungarian triumph. We cannot say at present what the issue will be, but we are certain that these events require very careful watching by the statesmen of the Allies, and that the wise handling of them by the Allied Governments may be of immense importance in the last stage of the war. We have always doubted the wisdom of making it appear that an Allied victory meant the destruction of Austria-Hungary, and we doubt it even more now. In the meantime, the experience of the Mittel-Europa scheme is a warning to ourselves. All these premature exploitings of future commercial plans threaten trouble between Allies and partners. . . .

Recent history shows clearly that Pangermanism in Austria is not the policy of “a few fanatics,” but that of the whole German people and of the dynasty. Austrian Pangermanism dictated the policy against Serbia and the Slavs in general; the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina was accomplished under the direct protection of Germany and the Kaiser’s “shining armour”; the same burgomaster of Vienna, whose audience with the new Emperor is now reported, spoke to William in the name of the population of Vienna and of the Germans in Austria, accepting Bismarck’s policy of making Austria the German vanguard in the Balkans. It was this very policy that provoked the war; Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia knowing quite well that her action meant war against Russia and the Entente. But this very provocation of the world conflagration—with England neutral—was the aim of Vienna and Berlin. In Austria-Hungary and in Germany the merest child in politics was aware of the fact that “this war is in all its Mid-Europe and Eastern Europe aspects a war of Germanism against Slavdom, in which a victory . . . would be a German triumph”; that was the reason given by William and the Chancellor for waging this war. The Westminster Gazette is greatly mistaken in fancying that this meaning of the war is only now revealed to the Austrian-Germans. The author of the renowned pamphlet “Berlin-Bagdad” is an Austrian-German; and all German parties in Austria, even the Catholic Christlich-Soziale, have accepted the Pangerman programme which assigns to the Germans and Magyars the immediate leadership of the Balkans.

This war is the war of the Germans and Magyars; the Poles and Ruthenians in Galicia were divided, but all other nations of Austria-Hungary have been on principle against the war. The Czechs, with the Slovaks, the Southern Slavs, the Italians, and Roumanians were against the war. Bohemian regiments have surrendered to Russia to facilitate the victory of the Allies; and others have been punished by “decimation’’; thousands of civilians in the Bohemian countries have been sentenced to death, and all the leading Bohemian deputies have been imprisoned or exiled and sentenced to death; and the same bloody persecution is known to have been carried out in the Southern Slav and Italian countries, even as in the Roumanian districts. These are known facts, whose political significance can escape none but the wilfully blind.

It is well known that the Austrian Parliament has not been summoned since March, 1914, that war was decided and declared without its consent; only the chauvinistic and oligarchical Hungarian Parliament accepted and ratified the Emperor’s autocratic declaration of war. The majority of the Austro-Hungarian nations were—and are—against the war; the German and Magyar minority forced the whole Empire to serve as the obedient slave of Pangermanism.

The late Emperor Francis Joseph accepted the Pangerman policy. To strengthen the German minority in the Reichsrat he promised autonomy to Galicia, and the Germans were to be further rewarded by the disintegration of Bohemia into administrative departments, and by the proclamation of German as the language of the State; the Magyars were to retain their dominion in Hungary, even if the Southern Slavs were united in a trialistic body. The fate of Croatia—nominally self-governing under the Compromise of 1868—is a clear indication of what would be the meaning of this Southern Slav formation under Magyar and German rule. Meanwhile a new Poland was created as a tool of Berlin and Vienna against Russia; and, since Poland is Catholic, an Austrian or Bavarian prince on the throne would play in the East the rôle of Ferdinand and Constantine in the South.

Francis Joseph died. The new Emperor continued the old policy, but as he has used some new methods, he is believed by ingenuous politicians to be changing the entire Austrian policy and tradition. He appointed as his ministers two Bohemian aristocrats, who are Bohemian only in name, both of them staunch Conservatives and Clericals, not national Bohemians at all. Yet there can be no doubt about it that the new Emperor was setting out to win the lost confidence of the Bohemians. The Bohemian question is life and death to Austria. Without Bohemia there is no Austrian Empire; so Counts Martinic and Czernin toil and travail to reconcile Bohemia to the Habsburgs. But the Bohemian nation has expressed its feelings and convictions since the outbreak of the war clearly enough to show the futility of the Martinic-Czernin negotiations as long as the political leaders of the Czechs remained in exile or in prison. Meanwhile the new Emperor pursues the old Emperor’s path of unredeemable promises. Francis Joseph gave pledges to the Germans against the Bohemians; the new Emperor gives promises to both. Galicia’s autonomy and the proclamation of German as the State language are postponed, and Bohemia is tempted with a promise of autonomy, but what kind of autonomy we are not told. Peculiar news from Vienna suggests that the Emperor and his two ministers have succeeded in framing a compromise between the Bohemians and the Germans; but what compromise can it be if the Bohemians are deprived of their political leaders? Who negotiated on behalf of the Bohemian nation?

The Emperor, it is said, wishes to summon the Parliament; and we read that the Emperor himself points to the Russian Revolution as proof of the necessity of such a step. The Bohemian situation was dangerous enough in itself; but now comes the new Russian peril. A free and democratic Russia is the gravest possible threat to Austrian and German absolutism; the Slavs of Austria-Hungary, like the Italians and Roumanians, never loved Russian absolutism; but they could not successfully fight Austrian absolutism so long as the greatest Slav country itself was absolutist. Tsarism was for the Slavs the heel of Achilles; free Russia is the end of Austrian absolutism, and that means the death of Habsburg Austria. The Emperor Charles sees this and tries, therefore, by convoking Parliament, to give his régime a new democratic air. But no one is deceived. A Parliament sitting under the military pressure of Vienna has no democratic significance; more than half the political representatives of the Czechs and Jugoslavs are in prison or exile, and a Reichsrat without them is merely a packed jury. The whole is only a bluff for Neutrals and the Allies, or, perhaps, more truly, for that part of the political public in Europe that is willing to accept words for realities.

The Germans and the Magyars now begin to realise the results of their Pangerman policy in raising vast racial obstacles, and hence their attempt to save Austria. They will even be ready to sacrifice some territory to save essential Austria. The New Europe has already shown what a reduced Austria means (“The Fate of Austria,” No. 21). The Austrian peace-offers consist of abandoning the Poles to Poland, the Trentino to Italy, and perhaps a part of Bukovina to Roumania; Vienna is even merciful to Serbia, which “can be restored”—on condition of a change in the Serbian dynasty—says Count Czernin. But these sacrifices, which are the price Austria is willing to pay for peace, are no sacrifices at all. Supposing Polish Galicia is ceded to Poland, what constitution will Poland have, and what dynasty? Austria and Germany will not establish a Republic, and in that they will be met by the powerful Polish aristocracy; that goes without saying; and a Poland with an Austrian or even a Bavarian king is nothing more than an autonomous province of Austria and Germany; the more so, if the Poles in Germany are to remain where they are.

The cession of Trentino is in the interest of Austria. Austria “loses” a recalcitrant province, whose strategical maintenance was a very heavy burden on her budget; but in giving it up she will be the more determined to keep Trieste, which is for Austria, and, therefore, for Germany, the sea-base for the Near East. There have been disclosures in Swiss papers, however, that Austria is willing to cede Italy more than the Trentino; even Trieste and Pola. Austria and Germany in extremis may agree even to that; for in that case the coast of Dalmatia would be the naval base of Austria; but in ceding Trieste, Austria and Germany will not promise not to re-take it when the next occasion offers! And what are the plans of Austria and Germany with Bulgaria and Turkey? There can be no separate peace with Austria without a separate peace with Turkey and Bulgaria; and any tendency towards the preservation of Turkey and the strengthening of Tsar Ferdinand’s Bulgaria is travailler pour le roi de Prusse. Even if at the same time it is reported that Tisza means to leave the Hungarian ministry, it would be very naïve to think that the Magyars changed their policy. Andrassy, Karolyi, or any other gentlemen of the Opposition, are no less Magyar then Tisza; and Magyarism is a principle which is above party in Hungary.

We know, of course, that the Austrophils and Magyarophils among the Allies talk of Anti-Prussianism in Austria; and they tell us “Austria is awakening and turning against Germany.” Emperor Charles, no doubt, sorely feels his dependence upon Germany, but Francis Joseph felt it even more, for he waged a war against Prussia; yet he became the executor of Bismarck’s policy. The Emperor Charles cannot and will not change the Germans of his empire, and he will not change the Magyars. For the moment he cannot even liberate his army from the Prussian grip, since it now consists of regiments in which Prussian and Austrian troops are closely interlocked. The Allies must not forget that Germany has saved Austria so far, inasmuch as Germany’s army succeeded in forcing the Russians to retreat from Galicia. This is known not only to the Germans of Germany, but also to those of Austria-Hungary; and this knowledge is a great moral force for the near and for the more remote future. Let us see things clearly, and let us speak as politicians. What would the Allies say if Italy made a separate peace with our common enemy? Why are those people, who desire a separate peace with Austria, so nervous if the possibility of Russia making a separate peace is suggested? If Austria made a separate peace, that would mean an Austrian betrayal of Germany; Austria provoked the war; Germany used the occasion for her political aims, and, incidentally, saved Austria by forcing the Russians to retreat. How, then, would the German nation accept Austria’s treachery? For treachery it is, since twice two make nothing but four, whether in Germany, Austria, Britain, France, Russia or Italy!

To work for Austria’s salvation is to work against Italy, against Roumania, against Serbia and the Southern Slavs, against Bohemia and against Russia. The Allies proclaimed solemnly that they were fighting for the principles of democracy and nationality, for the re-construction of Europe, for the restoration and liberation of Belgium, Serbia, Poland, the Czecho-Slovaks, Southern Slavs, Roumanians, Italians; and if this is still their aim, it is irreconcilable with any attempt to save the Habsburg dynasty. Either the Habsburgs, or free democratic Europe; that is the question. Any compromise between these two is bound to be an unstable condition. Austrophilism in Entente circles can only be explained by the excessive Westernism of those who cherish it and take no account of the essential features of the Habsburg Dynasty and the turpitude of its most distinguished servants. The New Europe has already proved how in this country the Magyarophils have operated by forgery; and the Austrian side is little better; it is essentially anti-democratic and distasteful to the British mind. In fine, any kind of Austria-Hungary, ruled by the Habsburgs, is the German vanguard for an advance into Asia and Africa. On these terms, Austrophilism, if conscious, is political perversity; if unconscious, political naïveté.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927.


The author died in 1937, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.