The New Europe/Volume 3/The Austrian Premier's Swan Song

3879072The New Europe, vol. III, no. 37 — The Austrian Premier's Swan Song1917

The Austrian Premier’s Swan Song

[We print below a condensed report of the speech delivered by Count Clam-Martinić, ex-Premier of Austria, on the eve of his fall.]

After praising and asserting (for the benefit of foreign opinion) the Monarchy’s unimpaired power, he emphasised the indissoluble solidarity . . (Zusammengehörigkeit) of the Austrian people, and “the firm foundations of the Empire, which have survived the political confusions of recent years.” “Only a well-knit State organism can meet the demands of the time. Well-tried foundations must not be undermined. The Government must above all resist every proposal to interfere with the sovereignty of allied powers or of the other state of the Monarchy”—a direct rebuff to the Czech demand for Czecho-Slovak unity, which can only be realised at the expense of Hungary. . . . The Austrian peoples must not “exhaust their forces in endless and hopeless struggles.” “The peculiar conditions of distribution under which races and racial fragments dwell in this inmost kernel of Europe, have necessarily led to the formation of our State, and history has in this war provided the proofs which justify its creation. That is a fact that cannot be ignored if we are to consider possible developments on a basis of Realpolitik, and that imposes upon the Austrian peoples a renunciation of the Summum of national activity.”

“Instead of conflicting and unrealisable programmes, the Government offers you another programme, which perhaps combines and harmonises whatever in those proposals is realisable and in accord with popular needs. This programme shows you what is firm instead of what is tottering, the whole instead of the parts; and instead of nebulous state-formations, the real State, proved and powerful. It contains an attainable reality, a common factor (ein Gemeinsames), which, despite many bitter words uttered in this House, you certainly all love at the bottom of your hearts—not with the enthusiasm of national fanaticism, but with the love of devoted, grateful and trustful sons. (Loud German applause and prolonged Czech interruptions.) The Government’s Programme is, Austria—the Austria which has grown during a glorious historic .development, and which has, during this war, become convinced of its indestructible forces, the Austria which is preparing to be a powerful factor in the future economic and social development of the world—Austria, the venerable, proud and eternal fortress of her peoples. The Government could never, never tolerate rash hands being laid upon her proved foundations. . . . We have, perhaps, exhausted our forces too long already with national problems, and if we once succeed in bringing them to rest, we should then have to make up the leeway which the nationally-united States have gained. . . . It is a question of collecting, not dividing, one’s forces. . . .

Two days later, before the Herrenhaus, Count Clam-Martinić was more explicit: “Neither a one-sided Centralism nor a one-sided system of Autonomy (Autonomismus—it is extremely significant that he expressly avoids the word Federalism, which for generations past has been the alternative to Centralism in Austrian political theory), “but an autonomist Centralism would lead to our goal. . . . The fact that our races and fragments of races live under special territorial conditions, has led by historic necessity to the formation of our State, and thus has arisen its historic task of creating for them a home at this dangerous meeting place (Schniittpunkt) of national worlds, of protecting them externally and assuring to them internally free development. Thus, in all questions bearing on our ‘State Idea,’ we must neglect neither the inner essence of the State as consisting of races (Völkerstaat), nor its historic territorial genesis (Länderstaat), nor, above all, the necessary conditions of existence of the whole. Austria would certainly lose touch with its historic foundations, if she trampled on the rights of the provinces, or would not act up to her great European mission, if she thwarted her peoples in their national and cultural development; but she could be true to her task in neither direction, unless she could combine her various parts in an unitary whole, inspire that whole with a single will (Staatswille), and secure prestige abroad. The need for unity must not attain the degree which is natural in a State politically and nationally homogeneous, but it must also not rest satisfied with less than is by the necessities of the whole and of that whole’s position in the world (Machtstellung). . . . The Government upholds with all the tried foundations of our constitution. It does not hesitate, in the face of exaggerated wishes such as are due to exceptional conditions of national psychology caused by the world-war, to declare its resolve to defend these foundations against every onslaught. But it recognises the need of an organic repair of our constitutional institutions. . . . Its idea is to strengthen and extend these institutions, with a view to safeguarding the State as a whole, and its functions, but, at the same time, to give the State the power and the freedom, while preserving its historical structure, to do fuller justice than hitherto to the wishes and needs of the peoples in the direction of natural and cultural development.”

Reduced to simple terms, the theme of this speech is that the federal solution is not the programme of the “new men” of Austria. So our Austrophils must try another tack.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1932, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 91 years or less. This work may 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.

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