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Nation, State, and Economy
Ludwig von Mises

3. On the History of German Democracy

B. Austria

The teleological interpretation of history, by which all historical events appear as realization of definite goals set for human development, has assigned many kinds of task to the Danube state of the Habsburgs, which for four hundred years has maintained its position among the European powers. Now it should be the shield of the West against the threat from Islam, now the stronghold and refuge of Catholicism against the heretics; others wanted to see it as the support of the conservative element in general, still others as the state summoned by its nationally polychromatic character to promote peace among peoples by way of example. One sees that the tasks were multifarious; according to the shape of political affairs, people favored now the one and now the other interpretation. History goes its course, however, without regard to such chimeras. Princes and peoples bother themselves very little over what missions the philosophy of history assigns to them.

Causal historiography does not look for the "mission" or the "idea" that nations and states have to realize; it seeks the political concept that forms states out of nations and parts of nations. The political concept at the basis of almost all state structures of the last centuries of the Middle Ages and the first centuries of modern times was princely dominion. The state existed for the sake of the king and his house. That holds true of the state of the Austrian Habsburgs, from the Ferdinand who as German emperor was called the First to the Ferdinand who as Austrian emperor was the only one of that name, just as it holds true of all other states of that time. In that respect the Austrian state was no different from the other states of its time. The hereditary lands of Leopold I were fundamentally no different from the state of Louis XIV or Peter the Great. But then came other times. The princely state succumbed to the attack of the freedom movement; in its place appeared the free national state. The nationality principle became the bearer of state coherence and the concept of the state. Not all states could take part in this development without change in their geographical extent; many had to submit to changes in their territory. For the Danube monarchy, however, the nationality principle actually signified the negation of its justification for existence.

Far-seeing Italian patriots passed the death sentence on the state of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine as early as 1815; no later than 1848 there already were men among all peoples forming the Empire who agreed with this opinion, and for more than a generation one could easily say that the entire thinking youth of the Monarchy?perhaps aside from part of the Alpine Germans educated in Catholic schools?were hostile to the state. All non-Germans in the country longingly awaited the day that would bring them freedom and their own national state. They strove to get out of the "married-together" state. Many of them made compromises. They saw with open eyes how things stood in Europe and in the world; they had no illusions about the impediments that initially still stood in the way of realization of their ideals, and they were therefore ready to moderate their claims in the meanwhile. They came to terms with the provisional continuation of the Austrian and Hungarian states; indeed, even more, they used the Dual Monarchy as a counter in their own game. The Poles, the South Slavs, the Ukrainians, and in a certain sense the Czechs also, sought to make the weight of this great state, which despite everything was still powerful, serviceable for their own purposes. Superficial critics have sought to conclude from that fact that these peoples had reconciled themselves to the existence of the state, that they even desired it. Nothing was more wrong than this view. Never did irredentism seriously disappear from the program of any of the non-German parties. It was tolerated that official circles did not openly show the ultimate goals of their national strivings in Vienna; at home, however, people thought and spoke, with formal attention to the limits drawn by the paragraphs on high treason of the penal law, of nothing other than liberation and shaking off the yoke of the foreign dynasty. The Czech and Polish ministers, and even the numerous South Slav generals, never forgot that they were sons of subjugated peoples; never did they feel themselves in their court positions as other than pacemakers of the freedom movement that wanted to get out of this state.

Only the Germans took a different position toward the state of the Habsburgs. It is true that there was also a German irredentism in Austria, even if one may not interpret in this sense every hurrah for the Hohenzollerns or for Bismarck shouted at solstice festivals, student assemblages, and gatherings of voters. But although the Austrian government in the last forty years of the existence of the Empire was, with a few transitory exceptions, more or less anti-German and often draconically persecuted relatively harmless utterances of German national sentiments, while far sharper speeches and deeds of the other nationalities enjoyed benevolent toleration, the state-supporting parties among the Germans always kept the upper hand. Up to the last days of the Empire the Germans felt themselves the real champions of the state idea, citizens of a German state. Was that a delusion, was it political immaturity?

To be sure, a large part, even the largest part, of the German people in Austria was and today still is politically backward. But this explanation cannot satisfy us. We just are not satisfied with the assumption of an innate political inferiority of the German; we seek precisely the causes that made the Germans march politically behind the Ruthenians and Serbs. We ask ourselves how it then happened that all other peoples inhabiting the imperial state readily adopted the modern ideas of freedom and national independence but that the German-Austrians so much identified themselves with the state of the Habsburgs that, for the sake of its continuation, they finally readily incurred the immense sacrifices of goods and blood that a war of more than four years imposed on them.

It was German writers who expounded the theory that the Austro-Hungarian dual state was no artificial construction, as the doctrine misled by the nationality principle announced, but rather a natural geographic unit. The arbitrariness of such interpretations of course needed no special refutation. With this method one can just as well prove that Hungary and Bohemia had to form one state as the opposite. What is a geographic unit, what are "natural" boundaries? No one can say. With this method Napoleon I once argued France's claim to Holland, for the Netherlands are an alluvial deposit of French rivers; with the same method Austrian writers sought, before the fulfillment of Italian strivings for unity, to support the right of Austria to the lowlands of upper Italy.[66]

Another interpretation is of the state as an economic territory, which was urged above all by Renner, who, besides that, also considered the geographic interpretation of the state valid. For Renner the state is an economic community," an "organized economic territory." Unified economic territories should not be torn apart; thus it was foolish to want to destroy the continued territorial existence of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.[67] But this unified economic territory is just what the non-German people of Austria did not want; they did not let themselves be influenced by Renner's arguments either. Why did the Germans, precisely the Germans of Austria, create such doctrines, which were supposed to prove the necessity of this state, and sometimes even consider them right?

That the Germans always cared somewhat for the Austrian state, although this state was not at all a German state and, when it suited it, oppressed the Germans just the same as or even more than its other peoples?we must try to understand that fact by the same principle that explains the development of the Prussian-German political spirit of conservatism and militarism.

The political thinking of the Germans in Austria suffered from a double orientation toward the German and toward the Austrian state. After they had awakened from the centuries long sleep into which the Counter-Reformation had sunk them and when they began, in the second half of the eighteenth century, timidly to concern themselves with public questions, the Germans in Austria turned their thoughts to the Reich also; many a bold person dreamed, even before March 1848, of a unified German state. But never did they make it clear to themselves that they had to choose between being German and being Austrian and that they could not desire the German and the Austrian state at the same time. They did not or would not see that a free Germany was possible only if Austria was destroyed first and that Austria could endure only if it withdrew part of its best sons from the German Reich. They did not see that the goals they sought were incompatible and that what they wanted was an absurdity. They were not at all conscious of their halfheartedness, that halfheartedness that caused the whole pitiable irresoluteness of their policy, that halfheartedness that brought failure to all and everything they undertook.

Since K?niggr?tz it has become the fashion in North Germany to doubt the German sentiment of the German-Austrians. Since people equated German and Reichs-German without further ado and, moreover, true to the generally prevailing statist way of thinking, also identified all Austrians with the policy of the Vienna court, it was not hard to find a basis for this interpretation. It was nevertheless thoroughly wrong. Never did the Germans of Austria forget their national character; never, not even in the first years following the defeat in the Bohemian campaign, did they lose for even a minute the feeling of belonging together with the Germans on the other side of the black-and-yellow border-posts. They were German and also wanted to remain so; least of all should they be blamed for also wanting to be Austrians at the same time by those who subordinated the German idea to the Prussian.

No less wrong, however, is the opinion that was widespread in Austrian court circles that the German-Austrians were not serious about their Austrianism. Catholic-oriented historians sadly lamented the decline of the old Austria, that Austrian princely state which, from Ferdinand II until the outbreak of the revolution Of March 1848, had been the protector of Catholicism and of the legitimist idea of the state in Europe. Their complete lack of understanding of everything that had been thought and written since Rousseau, their aversion to all political changes that had taken place in the world since the French Revolution, caused them to believe that that esteemed old state of the Habsburgs could have endured if the "Jews and Freemasons" had not brought on its downfall. Their entire grudge was directed against the Germans in Austria and among them above all against the German Liberal Party, to which they attributed responsibility for the decline of the old empire. They saw how the Austrian state was more and more falling apart internally; and they dumped the guilt precisely onto those who alone were the champions of the Austrian state idea, who alone affirmed the state, who alone desired it.

From the moment when the modern ideas of freedom also crossed the boundaries of Austria, which had been anxiously guarded by Metternich and Sedlnitzky, the old Habsburg family state was done for. That it did not fall apart as early as 1848, that it could maintain itself for seventy years more?that was solely the work of the Austrian state idea of the German Austrians, that was solely the service of the German freedom parties, of precisely those who were more hated and persecuted by the court than all others, more hated even than those who openly threatened and fought the continuation of the state.

The material basis of the Austrian political thought of the German-Austrians was the fact of German settlements strewn over the entire extent of the Habsburg lands. As a result of centuries-long colonization, the urban bourgeoisie and the urban intelligentsia were German everywhere in Austria and Hungary, large landownership was in great part Germanized, and everywhere, even in the middle of foreign-language territory, there were German peasant settlements. All Austria outwardly bore a German stamp; everywhere German education and German literature were to be found. Everywhere in the Empire the Germans were also represented among the petty bourgeoisie, among the workers, and among the peasants, even though in many districts, especially in Galicia, in many parts of Hungary, and in the coastal territories, the German minority among the members of the lower strata of the people was quite small. But in the entire Empire (upper Italy excepted) the percentage of Germans among the educated and among the members of the higher strata was quite considerable, and all those educated persons and prosperous bourgeois who were not themselves German and did not want to acknowledge belonging to the German nation were German by their education, spoke German, read German, and appeared at least outwardly to be German. That part of the Austrian population that most strongly felt the intolerableness of the tyranny of the Vienna government and alone seemed capable of replacing the court circles in governing were the upper middle class and the members of the free professions and educated persons?just those strata that are commonly called the bourgeoisie and the intellectuals. But they were German in the entire Empire, at least in lands belonging to the German Federation. Thus Austria no doubt was not German, but politically it wore a German face. Every Austrian who wanted to take any interest at all in public affairs had to master the German language. For the members of the Czech and of the Slovene peoples, however, education and social ascent could be achieved only through Germanness. They still had no literature of their own that would have made it possible for them to do without the treasures of German culture. Whoever rose became German because precisely the members of the higher strata were German.

The Germans saw that and believed that it had to be so. They were far from wanting to Germanize all non-Germans compulsorily, but they thought that this would take place on its own. They believed that every Czech and South Slav would try, even in his own interest, to adopt German culture. They believed that it would remain so forever, that for the Slav the way to culture was Germanness, and that social ascent was bound up with Germanization. That these peoples also could develop independent cultures and independent literatures, that from their midst they could also bring forth independent national characters?they did not think of that at all. Thus the naive belief could arise among them that all Austria felt and thought politically as they did, that all had to share their ideal of the great, mighty, unified state of Austria, which could bear only a German stamp.

Those were the political ideas with which the German-Austrians went into the revolution. The disappointment that they experienced was abrupt and painful.

Today, as we look back in review over the development of the last seven decades, it is easy to say what position the Germans should have taken in view of the new state of affairs; it is easy to show how they could and should have done better. Today one can clearly show how much better the German nation in Austria would have fared if it had adopted in 1848 that program that it in 1918 then perforce made its own. The share that would have fallen to the German people in a splitting up of Austria into independent national states in the year 1848 was bound to have been far larger than the one that it acquired in 1918 after the terrible defeat in the World War. What held the Germans back at that time from undertaking a clean separation between German and non-German? Why did they not make the proposal themselves; why did they reject it when the Slavs brought it forth?

It has already been mentioned that the Germans then held the widespread opinion that the Germanization of the Slavs was only a question of time, that it would take place without external compulsion by the necessity of development. Even this interpretation alone was bound to influence the entire choice of positions on the problem of nationalities. The decisive factor, however, was different. It was that the Germans could not and did want to give up the national minorities sprinkled in the contiguous territories of settlement of the other peoples. They had blood brothers living everywhere in Slavic territory; all cities there were either entirely or at least in large part German. Of course, it was only a fraction of the whole German people in Austria that they would have given up in this way. But the numerical significance of this enclaved population in relation to all the rest of the German people in Austria hardly expresses the significance of the loss that they would thereby have suffered. These enclaved people belonged in greatest part to the higher strata of the nation. To give them up signified, therefore, a far heavier loss than the mere numbers indicated. To give them up meant to give up the best parts of the German people in Austria; it meant to sacrifice the University of Prague and the merchants and factory owners of Prague, Br?nn [Brno], Pilsen [Plzen], Budweis [Ceske Budejovice], 0lm?tz [Olomouc], of Trieste, Laibach [Ljubljana], of Lemberg [Lw?w, Lvov], Czernowitz [Cernauti, Chernovtsy], of Pest, Pressburg [Bratislava], Temesvar [Timisoara], etc., who were very significant for Austrian conditions. To give them up meant to wipe out the colonizing work of centuries; it meant to deliver up German peasants in all parts of the broad empire, German officers and officials, to being deprived of rights.

One now understands the tragic position of the Germans in Austria. With a bold, defiant spirit of rebellion the Germans had risen up to break the despotism and take the government of the state into their own hands; they wanted to create a free, great Austria out of the hereditary estate of the dynasty. Then they had to recognize all at once that the great majority of the people did not at all desire their free German Austria, that they even preferred to remain subjects of the Habsburgs rather than be citizens of an Austria bearing a German stamp. Then they discovered to their dismay that the application of democratic principles was bound to lead to the dissolution of this empire, in which, after all, they had been the leading elements intellectually and wished to remain the leading elements. Then they had to recognize that democracy was bound to deprive German citizens of territories inhabited predominantly by Slavs of their political rights. They had to recognize that the Germans of Prague and Br?nn [Brno] were indeed in a position to take the scepter away from the Habsburgs and establish a parliamentary form of government but that they not only had nothing to win thereby but much to lose. Under the despotism of the sovereign's officials, they could still live as Germans; although they might also be subjects, they were still subjects enjoying the same rights as other subjects. But in a free state they would have become second-class citizens; for others, foreigners, whose language they did not understand, whose train of thought was foreign to them, on whose politics they could have had no influence, would have harvested the fruits of their struggle for freedom. They recognized that they were without power against the crown, for the crown could always call up peoples against them to whom their voice could not penetrate; they recognized and had to feel it as painful, when Slavic regiments subdued the uprising of German citizens and students, that they had no prospect of shaking off the yoke that oppressed them. At the same time, however, they recognized that the victory of the old reactionary Austria still had to be more welcome to them than victory of the new freedom-oriented state; for under the scepter of the Habsburgs they still could live as Germans; under the dominion of the Slavs, however, there was for them only political death.

Scarcely a people has ever found itself in a more difficult political position than the German-Austrians after the first heady days of the March 1848 revolution. Their dream of a free German Austria had suddenly come to naught. In view of their national comrades scattered about in foreign territories of settlement, they could not desire the dissolution of Austria into national states; they had to desire the continued existence of the state, and then there remained nothing else for them than to support the authoritarian state. The Habsburgs and their adherents, however, did not desire an alliance with the anticlerical liberals. They would rather have seen the state collapse than share it with the German freedom party. They recognized only too soon that the Germans in Austria were bound to be a pillar of the state whether they wanted to be or not, that one could rule without danger in Austria without the Germans and even against them, because the Germans were not in a position to form a serious opposition; and they oriented their policy accordingly.

Thus every straightforward policy was made impossible for the Germans of Austria. They could not work seriously for democracy, for that would have been national suicide; they could not renounce the Austrian state because, despite everything, it still offered protection against the most extreme oppression. From this division the divided German policy developed.

The essence of the policy was maintaining the national patrimony, as it was called, that is, the effort to hold back the gradually occurring annihilation of the German minorities strewn about in territory of foreign settlement. From the beginning that was a hopeless undertaking, for these minorities were fated to disappear.

Only the peasant settlements had the possibility, where the German settlers were living together in self-contained villages, of still preserving their German character. Of course, even here the process of de-Germanization goes on uninterruptedly. Even mere economic contact with neighbors of foreign nationality, which becomes all the more active as economic development proceeds, wears away at their special character and makes it difficult for a small colony far removed from the main stem of its people to preserve its mother tongue. The effect of the school is added; even the German school in foreign land must include the language of the country in the curriculum if it is not to make the later advancement of the children all too difficult. Once the youth learns the language of the country, however, there begins that process of adaptation to the environment that finally leads to complete assimilation. What is decisive, however, is that a locality in the modern economic organism in which constant migrations must take place cannot long exist without immigration from the outside or without loss of population to the outside. In the first case the locality is exposed to being inundated by members of foreign nationalities and, in further consequence, to the native population's also losing its original national character; in the second case, the leftover part of the population remaining behind may well preserve its original nationality, but the emigrants become nationally alienated. Of the numerous peasant settlements that had arisen, strewn about and isolated, in the Habsburg lands, only those where modern industry or mining developed did become alienated from German character. In the remaining ones immigration from outside was lacking. But the better, more energetic elements are gradually moving away; they may gain economically thereby, but they lose their nationality. The ones remaining behind can preserve their national character but often suffer from inbreeding.

In short, the German minorities in cities strewn about in Slavic land were hopelessly fated to decline. With the abolition of the pre-1848 labor-rent system, the migration movement set in in Austria also. Internal migrations took place on a large scale. Thousands moved from the countryside into the cities and industrial centers, and the immigrants were Slavs, who quickly pushed the Germans into the numerical minority.[68]

Thus the Germans of the cities saw the Slavic tide rising all around them. Around the old center of the city, where German townspeople had dwelt for centuries, a garland of suburbs developed where no German sound was heard. Within the old city everything still bore a German stamp: the schools were German, German was the language of the city administration, and the Germans still held all municipal offices. But day by day their number dwindled. First the German petty bourgeoisie disappeared. Bad times had come for the crafts and trades, on whose golden base the German colonization of these lands had once grown up; they declined uninterruptedly, for they were not capable of competing with factory industry, just that industry that was attracting the Slavic workers. The German master craftsman sank into the proletariat; and his children, who went into the factory along with the Slavic immigrants, became Slavs through contact with their new comrades. But the German patrician families also became ever smaller in number. They became poor because they could not adapt to the new conditions, or they died out. Replacements did not come. Earlier, those who had risen from below became German. This was now no longer true. Slavs who had become rich were no longer ashamed of their national character. If the old German families shut themselves off from the upstarts, they formed a new Slavic society of the upper strata.

The German policy in Austria, which was based on maintaining the political power position of these minorities, became in this way a conservative, a reactionary, policy. Every conservative policy, however, is fated from the start to fail; after all, its essence is to stop something unstoppable, to resist a development that cannot be impeded. What it can gain at best is time, but it is questionable whether this success is worth the cost. Every reactionary lacks intellectual independence. If one wanted to apply here metaphors taken over from military thinking, as is usual for all lines of political thought in Germany, then one could say that conservatism is defense and, like every defense, lets the terms be dictated to it by its adversary, while the attacker dictates the terms of action to the defender.

The essence of German policy in Austria had become that of holding lost positions as long as possible. Here one struggled over the seats in the administration of a municipality, there over a chamber of commerce, there again over savings bank or even over only a government job. Little questions were puffed up to great significance. It was bad enough that the Germans thereby put themselves repeatedly in the wrong when, for example, they denied the Slavs the establishment of schools or when they sought with the means of power available to them to make forming clubs or holding meetings more difficult. But it was still worse that in these struggles they a]ways suffered and were bound to suffer defeats and that they thereby became accustomed to being always in retreat and being always defeated. The history of the German policy in Austria is a chain of uninterrupted failures.

These conditions had a devastating effect on the German spirit. People gradually grew accustomed to looking at every measure, every political matter, exclusively from the viewpoint of its local significance. Every reform in public life, every economic measure, every construction of a road, every establishment of a factory, became a question of national patrimony. To be sure, the Slavs also looked at everything from this point of view, but the effect on the political character of the nation was different with them. For through these ways of thinking the Germans became reactionaries, enemies of every innovation, opponents of every democratic arrangement. They left to the Slavs the cheap fame of being fighters for the modern European spirit in Austria and took it upon themselves again and again to support and defend what was out of date. All economic and cultural progress and especially every democratic reform that was carried through in Austria was bound to work against the German minorities in the polyglot territories. It was therefore resisted by the Germans; and if it finally triumphed, then this victory was a defeat for the Germans.

This policy also deprived the Germans of every freedom against the Crown. In the revolution of 1848 the Germans of Austria had risen against the Habsburgs and their absolutism. But the German Liberal Party, which had written the principles of 1848 on its banner, was not in a position to lead the struggle against the Dynasty and against the Court with vigor. It had no firm ground under its feet in the polyglot lands; it was dependent on the favor and disfavor of the government there. If the Court wanted, it could annihilate it; and it did so too.

The empire of the Habsburgs was erected by Ferdinand II on the ruins of the freedoms of the estates and the ruins of Protestantism. It was not only the Bohemian estates that he had to fight against, but also the Styrian and Austrian. The Bohemian rebels fought against the Emperor in alliance with those of Lower and Upper Austria; and the Battle on the White Mountain established the absolute rule of the Habsburgs not only over Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia but also over the Austrian lands. From the beginning the Habsburg Empire was neither German nor Czech; and when in 1848 it had to fight for its existence anew, Czech and German freedom movements alike were against it. After the establishment of sham constitutionalism in the sixties, the Court would much rather have relied on the Slavs than on the Germans. For years the government was carried on with the Slavs against the Germans; for nothing was more hateful to the Court than the German element, which could not be forgiven for the loss of political position in the German Reich. But all the concessions of the Court could not hold the Czechs and South Slavs firm to the authoritarian state. Among all other peoples of Austria the democratic idea triumphed over the authoritarian idea; it was not possible for the authoritarian state to work with them in the long run. Only with the Germans was it otherwise. Against their will they could not get loose from the Austrian state. When the state called them, they were always at its service. In the Empire's death hour the Germans stood loyal to the Habsburgs.

A turning point in the history of the German-Austrians was the Peace of Prague, which drove Austria out of the political structure of Germany. Now the naive belief was done for that Germanness and Austrianness could be reconciled. Now it seemed that one had to choose between being German and being Austrian. But the Germans in Austria did not want to see the necessity of this decision; they wanted, as long as they could, to remain both Germans and Austrians at the same time.

The pain that the German-Austrians felt in 1866 over the turn of events went deep; they never were able to recover from the blow. So quickly had the decision broken over them, so quickly had the events played themselves out on the battlefield, that they had scarcely become conscious of what was going on. Only slowly did they grasp the meaning of what had happened. The German fatherland had expelled them. Were they then not also Germans? Did they not remain Germans, even if there was no place for them in the new political structure being erected on the ruins of the German Confederation?

No one has given better expression to this pain than the aged Grillparzer. He who put into the mouth of Ottokar von Horneck the praise of the "rosy-cheeked youth" Austria and made Libussa proclaim a great future to the Slavs in obscure words,[69] he, who was totally an Austrian and totally a German, finds his equilibrium again in the proud verses:

Als Deutscher ward ich geboren,
Bin ich noch einer?
Nur was ich deutsch geschrieben,
Das nimmt mir keiner
[As a German I was born,
Am I one still?
Only what I have written in German
No one takes away from me.]

But the German-Austrians had to come to terms with the fact that no Germany still existed, only a Great Prussia. From then on they no longer existed for the Germans in the Reich; they no longer bothered themselves about them, and every day the facts belied the pretty words spoken at gymnastic and shooting festivals. The Great Prussian policy prepared to travel those paths on which it finally wound up at the Marne. It no longer cared about the Germans in Austria. The treaties that bound the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy with the German Reich from 1879 on were concluded by the Great Prussian authoritarian government with the Emperor of Austria and the Magyar oligarchy in Hungary. Precisely they took away from the Germans in Austria the hope of being able to count on the help of the Germans in the Reich with regard to irredentist strivings.

The defeat that the Great German idea had suffered at K?niggr?tz was at first papered over by the fact that precisely because of the unfortunate outcome of the war the German liberal Party for a short time acquired a certain, if limited, influence on state affairs. For a dozen years it could furnish ministers to the government; during this time it repeatedly furnished ministers, even the Prime Minister, and pushed through many important reforms against the will of the Crown, the feudal nobility, and the Church. With extreme exaggeration, that has been called the rule of the Liberal Party in Austria. In truth, the Liberal Party never ruled in Austria; it could not rule. The majority of the people never followed its banners. How could non-Germans also have joined this German party? Among the Germans it always, even when it was flourishing, met strong opposition from the Alpine peasants blindly following the clergy. Its position in the House of Deputies rested not on having the majority of the people behind it but on the electoral system, which in a subtle manner favored the upper middle class and the intelligentsia but withheld the right to vote from the masses. Every extension of the right to vote, every change in the arrangement of electoral districts or of the manner of voting, had to be and was damaging to it. It was a democratic party, but it had to fear the consistent application of democratic principles. That was the inner contradiction from which it suffered and from which it was finally bound to be ruined; it resulted with compelling necessity from that proton pseudos [basic fallacy] of its program, which sought to reconcile Germanness with Austrianness.

The German Liberal Party could exert a certain influence on the government as long as this was allowed to it from above. The military and political defeats that the old Austrian princely state had repeatedly suffered compelled the Court to yield temporarily. The Liberals were needed; they were summoned into the ministries not, as it were, because they could no longer be resisted but rather because only they could be expected to put state finances in order and carry through the defense reform. Since no one knew where else to turn, they were entrusted with the reconstruction as the only party that affirmed Austria. They were dismissed in disfavor when they were thought to be no longer needed. When they tried to resist, they were annihilated.

Then Austria gave up on itself. After all, the German Liberal Party had been the only one that had affirmed this state, that sincerely desired it and acted accordingly. The parties that the later governments depended on did not desire Austria. The Poles and Czechs who held ministerial portfolios were not seldom competent as specialists and even sometimes pursued a policy that benefited the Austrian state and its peoples. But all their thinking and efforts always concerned only the national plans for the future of their own peoples. Their relation to Austria was always guided only by regard to their peoples' strivings for independence. To their own consciences and to the fellow members of their nationality, their administration of office seemed valuable only for the successes that they obtained in the national emancipation struggle. Not because they had administered their offices well were they given credit by their fellow countrymen, on whose opinion alone they as parliamentarians laid weight, but because they had done much for national separatism.

Besides being filled by Czechs, Poles, and occasional South Slavs and clerical Germans, the highest positions of the Austrian authoritarian government were almost always filled by officials whose only political goal was the maintenance of the authoritarian government and whose only political means was divide et impera. Here and there an old Liberal still turns up in between, usually a professor seeking in vain to swim against the current, only finally, after many disappointments, to disappear again from the political scene.

The point at which the interests of the Dynasty and of the Germans seemed to meet was their aversion to democracy. The Germans of Austria had to fear every step on the way to democratization because they were thereby being driven into the minority and delivered up to a ruthless arbitrary rule of majorities of foreign nationality. The German Liberal Party recognized that fact and turned energetically against all efforts for democratization. The contradiction with its liberal program into which it thereby fell caused its ruin. Faced with a historic decision in which it had to choose between the wretched muddling along of the Austrian state for a few decades at the price of giving up the freedom-oriented principles of its program and the immediate annihilation of this state with sacrifice of the German minorities in the territories of foreign language, it undoubtedly made the wrong choice. It may be blamed for that. Yet nothing is more certain than that in the position it found itself in, it could not choose freely. It simply could not sacrifice the minorities any more than the German parties that succeeded it in Austria could do so.

No reproach is less justified, therefore, than that the German liberals had been poor politicians. This judgment is usually based on their position on the question of the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. That the German Liberal Party had spoken out against the imperialist tendencies of Habsburg militarism was much held against it, especially by Bismarck. Today one will judge otherwise about that. What was previously a matter of reproach against the German Liberal Party?that it had sought to resist militarism and that it went into opposition right at the beginning of the expansion policy that finally led to the Empire's downfall?will in the future redound to its praise and not to its blame.

The German Liberal Party had in any case a much deeper insight into the conditions of existence of the Austrian state than all other powers and parties operating in this country. The Dynasty, especially, had done its utmost to hasten the destruction of the Empire. Its policy was guided less by rational considerations than by resentment. It persecuted the German liberal Party in blind rage with its hate, even beyond the grave. Since the German Liberals had become antidemocratic, the Dynasty, which always wanted only to restore the old princely state and to which even the authoritarian state seemed too modern a form of state constitution, thought it could indulge in democratic antics from time to time. Thus it repeatedly pushed through the extension of the right to vote against the will of the Germans, each time with the result that the German elements in the House of Deputies lost ground and the radical-national elements of the non-Germans won ever greater influence. Austrian parliamentarianism was thereby finally blown apart. With Badeni's electoral reform of the year 1896 the Empire entered a state of open crisis. The House of Deputies became a place in which the deputies no longer pursued any goal other than to demonstrate the impossibility of the continued existence of this state. Everyone who observed party relations in the Austrian House of Deputies was bound to recognize immediately that this state could still drag out its existence only because European diplomacy was at pains to postpone the danger of war as long as possible. Already twenty years before the end of the war, the domestic political conditions of Austria were more than ripe for collapse.

The German parties that succeeded the German Liberals showed much less insight into political conditions than the much-reviled German Liberals. The German Nationalist factions, which energetically fought the German Liberals, behaved like democrats at the beginnings of their party activity, when they were still concerned with overcoming the German Liberals. Very soon, however, they had to recognize that democratization in Austria was identical with de-Germanization, and from this recognition they then became just as antidemocratic as the German Liberals had once become. If one disregards the resonant words with which they sought in vain to conceal the paltriness of their program, as well as their anti-Semitic tendencies, which from the standpoint of maintenance of German character in Austria had to be called downright suicidal, then the German Nationalists really differed from the German Liberals only on one single point. In the Linz Program they gave up German claims to Galicia and Dalmatia and contented themselves with claiming for Germanism the lands of the former German Confederation. In raising this claim, however, they clung to the same error that the German Liberals had committed, namely, underrating the capacity for development and the prospects for the future of Slavs of western Austria. They had decided just as little as the German Liberals to sacrifice the German minorities scattered in foreign-language lands, so that their policy incorporated the same irresolution as that of the old German Liberals. They did indeed play with Irredentist thoughts more often than the Liberals, but they never had anything seriously in mind other than maintaining the Austrian state under German leadership and German predominance. Faced with the same choice that the German Liberals had been faced with, they trod the same path that the Liberals had already embarked on before them. They decided for the maintenance of the Empire and against democracy. Thus their fate also became the same as that of the old German Liberals. They were used by the Dynasty in the same way as the Liberals. The Dynasty could treat them as badly as possible and yet knew that it could always count on them.

The greatest error that the German Liberals committed in judging their fellow citizens of foreign language was that they saw in all non-Germans nothing but enemies of progress and allies of the Court, of the Church, and of the feudal nobility. Nothing is easier to understand than that this interpretation could arise. The non-German peoples of Austria were equally averse to Great-Austrian and Great-German aspirations; they had recognized earlier than all others, earlier even than the German Liberal party, that Austria's support was to be sought only in the party association of the German liberals. To annihilate the German Liberal Party therefore became the most important and at first the only goal of their policy, and in so doing they sought and found as allies all those who, like them, were fighting this party to the death. Thus the serious error for which they paid dearly could arise among the liberals. They misunderstood the democratic element in the fight of the Slavic nations against the Empire. They saw in the Czechs nothing other than the allies and willing servants of the Schwarzenbergs and Clam-Martinics. The Slavic movement was compromised in their eyes by its alliance with the Church and the Court. How, also, could those men who had fought on the barricades in 1848 forget that the uprising of the German bourgeoisie had been put down by Slavic soldiers?

The mistaken position of the German Liberal Party on national problems resulted from this misunderstanding of the democratic content of the nationality movements. Just as they did not doubt the final victory of light over darkness, of the Enlightenment over clericalism, so they also did not doubt the final victory of progressive Germanism over the reactionary Slavic masses. In every concession to Slavic demands it saw nothing other than concessions to clericalism and militarism.[70]

That the position of the Germans on the political problems of Austria was determined by the force of the conditions into which history had placed them is best shown by the development of the nationality program of German Social Democracy in Austria. Social Democracy had first won ground in Austria among the Germans, and for long years if was and remained no more than a German party, with a few fellow travelers among the intellectuals of the other nationalities. At this time when, because of the electoral system, it was scarcely possible for it to play a role in Parliament, it could regard itself as uninvolved in the national struggles. It could take the position that all national quarrels were nothing more than an internal concern of the bourgeoisie. On the vital questions of Germanism in Austria, it took no position other than that of its brother party in the German Empire toward the foreign policy of the Junkers, of the National Liberals, or even of the Pan-Germans. If those German parties that were waging the national struggle reproached it, like the German clericals and the Christian Socialists, for harming its own people by its behavior, well, this was thoroughly justified at the time, even though the extent of this damage was only slight precisely because of the also slight political significance of Social Democracy at the time. The more, however, the significance of Social Democracy in Austria grew?and it grew above all because in Austrian conditions Social Democracy was the only democratic party among the Germans of Austria?it was all the more bound to acquire the responsibility that was incumbent on every German party in Austria in national questions. It began to become German-nationalist; then, no more than the two older German parties of Austria, could it get around the conditions that had brought Germanism and democracy into contradiction in Austria. Just as the German Liberal Party finally had to drop its democratic principles because following them was bound to lead to harming Germanism in Austria, just as the German Nationalist Party had done the same, so Social Democracy too would have had to do this if history had not forestalled it and shattered the Austrian state before this turn of events was fully completed.

After a series of programmatic declarations of merely academic value had been overtaken by the facts, Social Democracy at first made a try with the program of national autonomy.[71]

There is no doubt that this program rests on a deeper grasp of nationality problems than the Linz Program, on which, though, the flower of German Austria at the time had also collaborated. In the decades between these two programs, much had taken place that was bound to open the eyes of the Germans of Austria also. But there, too, they could not escape the constraint that historical necessity had placed on them. The program of national autonomy, even if it spoke of democracy and self-government, was also basically nothing but what the nationality programs of the German Liberals and the German Nationalists had really been in essence: namely, a program for saving the Austrian state of Habsburg-Lorraine dominion over the Imperial and Royal hereditary lands. It claimed to be much more modern that the older programs, but it was in essence nothing else. One cannot even say that it was more democratic than the earlier ones, for democracy is an absolute concept, not a concept of degree.

The most important difference between the program of national autonomy and the older German nationality programs is that it feels the necessity of justifying the existence and demonstrating the necessity of the existence of the Austrian state not only from the standpoint of the Dynasty and from the standpoint of the Germans but also from that of the other nationalities. And it does not content itself, moreover, with those showy phrases that were usual among the so-called black-and-yellow writers, as, for example, with a reference to the maxim of Palacky that one would have had to invent Austria if it had not already existed. But this argument, which was worked out particularly by Renner, is totally untenable. It starts with the idea that maintaining the Austro-Hungarian customs territory as a distinct economic territory is in the interest of all the peoples of Austria and that each one, therefore, has an interest in creating an order that maintains the viability of the state. That this argument is not correct has already been shown; when one has recognized the faultiness of the program of national autonomy, then one sees immediately that it contains nothing but an attempt to find a way out of the nationality struggles without destroying the Habsburg state. Not quite unjustifiably, therefore, the Social Democrats have occasionally been called Imperial and Royal Social Democrats; they did appear as the only pro-state party in Austria, especially at those moments of the kaleidoscopically changing party constellation in Austria when the German Nationalists temporarily set aside their Austrian sentiment and behaved irredentistically.

The collapse of Austria saved Social Democracy from going too far in this direction. In the first years of the World War, Renner, in particular, did everything in this respect that was at all possible with his doctrines that opponents called social imperialism. That the majority of his party did not unconditionally follow him on this path was not a merit of its own but rather the consequence of growing dissatisfaction with a policy that was imposing the most extreme bloody sacrifices on the population and condemning it to hunger and misery.

The German and German-Austrian Social Democrats could represent themselves as democratic because they were opposition parties without responsibility as long as the German people could not fully accept democratic principles, fearing that their application would harm the Germans in the polyglot territories of the East. When, with the outbreak of the World War, a part, perhaps the largest part, of the responsibility for the fate of the German people fell to them too, they also took the path taken before them by the other democratic parties in Germany and Austria. With Scheidemann in the Reich and with Renner in Austria they made the change that was bound to take them away from democracy. That Social Democracy did not proceed further on this path, that it did not become a new guard of the authoritarian state which, with regard to democracy, would scarcely have been different from the National Liberals in the Reich and the German Nationalists in Austria?that was due to the sudden change in conditions.

Now, with defeat in the World War and its consequences for the German position in the territories with mixed population, the circumstances have been removed that previously forced all German parties away from democracy. The German people can today seek salvation only in democracy, in the right of self-determination both of individuals and of nations.[72]


[65] A compendium of the various tasks that people have sought to assign to Austria is given by Seipel, loc. cit., pp. 18 ff.

[66] Cf. p. 79 above; further, the criticism in Justus, "Sozialismus und Geographie, "Der Kampf, vol. 11, pp. 469 ff. Today the czechs apply this theory to justify the annexation of German Bohemia.

[67] Cf. Renner, ?sterreichs Erneuerung Marximus, Krieg und Internationale (Stuttgart: 1917); on the other hand, Mises, :Vom Ziel der Handelspolitik," loc. cit., pp. 579 ff. (during the writing of this essay only the first volume of ?sterreichs Erneuerung was available to me), further, Justus, loc.cit.,; Emil Lederer, "Zeitgem?sse Wandlungen der sozialistischen Idee und Theorie," Archiv f?r Sozialwissenschaft, vol. 45, 1918/1919, pp. 261 ff.

[68] On the causes of the faster population growth of the Slavs, to which is to be ascribed the fact that the movement into the cities in Austria had a predominantly Slavic character, cf. Hainisch, Die Zukunft der Deutsch?sterreicher (Vienna: 1892), pp. 68 ff.

[69] "You who have long served will finally rule" (Libussa, fifth act).

[70] Note that Marx and Engels had also fallen into the same error; quite like the Austrian-German Liberals, they too saw reactionary doings in the national movements of the nations without history and were convinced that with the unavoidable victory of democracy, Germanism would triumph over these dying nationalities. Cf. Marx, Revolution und Kontrerevolution in Deutschland, German translation by Kautsky, third edition (Stuttgart: 1913), pp. 61 ff.; Engels (Mehring, loc. cit.), pp. 246 ff. Cf. in addition Bauer, "Nationalit?tenfrage," loc. cit., pp. 271 f.

[71] Cf. Marx, Revolution und Kontrerevolution in Deutschland, pp. 52 ff.

[72] The same causes that held the German people back from democracy were at work in Russia, Poland, and Hungary also. One will have to draw them into the explanation if one wants to understand the development of the Russian Constitutional Democrats or of the Polish club in the Austrian Imperial Council or of the Hungarian party of 1848.

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