A dictator's apprencticeship
by Brigitte Hamann
The Social Democrats
were the ones most eager to reconcile the various nationalities.
The party itself was supranational: of its eighty-seven Reichsrat
deputies in 1908 : fifty were German, twenty-four Czech, six Polish,
five Italian" and two Ruthenian. The party consistently supported
the various minorities" for example the establishment of a Ruthenian
university in Lemberg and a Czech university in Brünn.
In return for their commitment
they were insulted as "Jew commies" and "friends of Slavs and Czechs"
who supported "the Slavs" desire to expand." The Christian Social
Brigittenauer Bezirks-Nachrichten wrote during the election
campaign: "Every Social Democratic deputy equals one Czech deputy"
and therefore every vote for the Social Democrats was one for the
Czechs. And: Social Democracy posed "the greatest threat to the
City of Vienna's German character." And: "Why would Dr. Adler and
his comrades mind, they are Jews and therefore insensitive to our
national feeling" which is why they couldn't care less whether Czechs
or Germans rule the roost in Vienna."
It was very difficult for
Adler to contain the battles between his Czech and German fellow
party members " and he finally found himself between all stools:
the Czechs withdrew their allegiance from Vienna's central party
office" feeling they were being patronized and "Germanized" whereas
the Germans accused it of being too Slavophile. According to historian
Hans Mommsen "this nationalism" even within Social Democracy, was
"a mass psychological phenomenon" "a collective hypnosis from which
even the more sensible among the Czech party leaders could not disentangle
At first things were fermenting
among the unions. The German union members accused their Czech colleagues
of keeping down wages and of being scabs, and the Czechs refused
to send their contributions to Vienna. Even when the Czechs achieved
a change in the national union statutes and thus, to a large degree,
independence, the conflicts did not let up.
As early as 1901 Adler complained
in a letter to Karl Kautsky [Karl Kautsky ( 1854-1938) , friend
of Friedrich Engels, main founder of the modem Social Democratic
Party in Germany. (Translator's note)] : "In Vienna &
all of Austria their understanding of 'national autonomy' is to
found local Czech chapters of all unions and, of course, their own
political organizations as well, & to nationally divide virtually
all companies. Since they are in a weaker position, it is difficult
to attack them, & they turn their inferiority into their very
strength. We are smarter and always give in! Then there's the financial
aspect: we pay for the whole international shtick without a thank
you, and even get the bad rep of being rich showoffs. I tell you,
it's unbearable. Just making it look like it's more or less working,
takes a lot of sweat and eating crow."
1910 the majority of
Czech Social Democrats left the party and founded the Czech Workers'
Party (also called "Autonomists"). Only a minority remained loyal
to Vienna's headquarters and formed the Czech Social Democratic
Workers' Party ("Centralists"). When Kautsky, at a loss, inquired
in Vienna why headquarters did not invest more energy in fighting
the separatists, Adler's son Friedrich replied helplessly: "Our
German comrades would be immediately ready to fight, on the contrary,
we need to restrain them, for within no time at all, this battle,
which would start out as a battle for internationalism, would be
nothing else but a battle against the Czechs. In Vienna.
..this constitutes an imminent danger, and it is very likely that
there will be very nasty conflicts, particularly among the metal
workers, which will probably lead to Czech workers being literally
whipped out of their factories. As horrible as we find this, there
is absolutely nothing we can do."
During the 1911 election campaign,
when the Autonomists and Centralists competed in Bohemia for the
first time, the separatists received 357,000 votes and twenty-six
parliamentary seats, but the Centralists, only 19,000 votes and
one seat. In the Dual Monarchy the ideal of socialist solidarity
among the peoples turned out to be unfeasible, much to the other
parties' glee. Franz Stein's Hammer jeered, saying that the
idea of "pacifying" the Czechs had remained "an empty illusion":
The Czechs, "heavy with loot, move into the house the Germans, good-natured
and hanging on to false ideals, have put together, spit on their
educators and benefactors, beat up their children and, whenever
possible, cut off their livelihood. In the German Ostmark
the Germans have sold their birthright for the bowl of lentils
of universal, equal suffrage - now let them watch the Czechs establishing
their army according to plan, from the bottom up!"
Neither were the pacifists'
attempts at mediation very successful. In 1909 some liberal
intellectuals around the writer Hermann Bahr and Nobel Peace Prize
winner Bertha von Suttner founded a Czech-German Cultural Committee,
"which publicly opposes both peoples' excesses and shall publicly
repeat at every opportunity that we belong together and don't fight,
but that we want to get along with each other and view each oppression
of the other nation as harm done our own." Yet this attempt did
not lead to anything either.
On the side of the Czechs,
there were appeals to tolerance and cooperation, mainly and repeatedly
from Tomas G. Masaryk. He tried to help the Viennese Czechs by voicing
dispassionate arguments and asking the Viennese to understand the
Czechs' situation. In Parliament he liked to quote German classicism's
ideals of humanity: "I am Czech, you are German, he is Ruthenian;
we have to make the policy of humaneness concrete and turn it into
practical political work." The empire's split, he argued, would
have to make way for a wider distribution of power in favor of the
non-Germans, in particular, that of the Bohemians, on the basis
of the "simple idea of equal rights,"the idea"that a people shall
have the same value as another one, whether it is larger or smaller,
whether it has more culture or less culture. You see how this idea
is breaking through and has to break through." Yet Masaryk's pleas
to respect equal rights were hardly appreciated within or outside
of Parliament. He was attacked by all parties, both Czech and German,
as a prototype of the liberal, a "Jew lackey," as well as an intellectual.
Among the integrating forces
was the Bohemian aristocracy, which followed a consistently supranational,
pointedly "Bohemian" line and, of course, raised its children bilingually.
Therefore the German-nationals accused them of forming "Czech colonies"
in German Bohemia with their Czech servants, with civil servants,
and the clergy.
The main target was Bohemia's
most powerful aristocrat, Prince Schwarzenberg. In 1910 he brusquely
rejected the demand of "hiring only German civil servants in German
areas," and curtly replied to his critics: " As far as filling my
civil service positions, I cannot for a moment entertain the notion
of taking their nationalities into consideration." Unperturbed,
he sold apiece of land for the construction of a Czech school, despite
German protests: "Why should. ..Bohemian children. ..not be allowed
to attend a Bohemian school!" On the other hand, the Czech radicals
criticized him for employing too many Germans on his estates.
Even years later Hitler would
complain that in the Dual Monarchy, the high nobility, just like
the Social Democrats, had agreed with the Czechs. When in
addition to that the Schwarzenberg family turned out to be self-confident
and after 1939, opposed him, he remarked that the Schwarzenberg
family had always been anti-German. In 1941 Hitler had the Schwarzenbergs'
property appropriated. Other aristocratic families in Bohemia suffered
a similar fate.
One enemy of the German-nationals,
even during Hitler's school years in Linz, was the Catholic church.
In Mein Kampf Hitler cites the example of the church's deliberately
sending Czech clergymen to German communities in order to attain
a general Slavization of Austria. The process took approximately
the following form : Czech pastors were appointed to German communities;
slowly but surely they began to set the interests of the Czech people
above the interests of the churches, becoming germ-cells of the
de-Germanization process. The German clergy, on the other
hand, had turned out to be completely useless for the national
struggle. Indirectly, by the misuse of religion on the one
hand, and owing to insufficient defense on the other , Germanism
was slowly but steadily forced back. And: Thus the Church
did not seem to feel with the German people , but
to side unjustly with the enemy.
Indeed, around 1900, more
clergymen of Slavic descent were appointed to German communities
in Cisleithania than the other way around. Yet contrary to German-national
propaganda, this had mainly a practical reason, in that the Slavs
had afar greater pool of young priests than the Germans. The church's
general stance was supranational and conciliatory toward Catholics
of all nationalities, with the major exception of its close ties
with the Christian Socials.
In their attempts to make
supranational contacts the universities too became the object of
much animosity. When the University of Vienna, for example, innocently
appointed a man named Dvorak as professor of art history in 1909,
the Pan-Germans protested. A "Czech," they said, should not be allowed
to teach "German" art history at a "German" university. They included
in their attack those German professors who had personally nominated
Dvorak, accused them of "betraying the people" and "mocking Germandom"
- for instance, Professor of Law Dr. Josef Redlich from Moravia,
who was also a German-Liberal deputy in the Reichsrat, and Jewish.