Friday, 22 November 2013

LIBERALS IN AUSTRIA

 OUR VIENNA LETTER.

VIENNA, March 17.

Hardly any country has over witnessed such queer party strife and party self-denial as those observable at the general election just taking place in Austria. Now for the first time in the history of this country is there universal suffrage —the working classes never before had votes. And that has happened which never happened previously—all the wealthy bourgeoisie, all the liberal and enlightened portions of the nation, have voted for the Socialists, whose bitterest and most implacable opponents they were until a short time ago. Who but the middle class is the natural enemy of the Socialists? But Vienna has afforded us a spectacle without parallel, and has made possible what seemed impossible. All the literary and scientific men, all the possessing classes, the capitalists, merchants, bankers, manufacturers, and the like, unanimously polled for the candidates of the proletariate.

Just these classes used to form the pillars of the Liberal party in Austria. But during the last few years that party sinned much, in many cases proving untrue to the principles of real Liberalism, or at least lukewarm in its defence of them. As a consequence it lost greatly in numerical strength, and its candidates had no prospect of being elected. So they practised self-denial and joined the labour party against the Anti-Semites. Thus the two fighting parties were practically the Socialists and the Anti-Semites. These latter consist chiefly of the aristocracy, clergy, small tradesmen, petty officials, badly-paid clerks, servants, cabdrivers, porters, and all the unmoneyed and uneducated elements in the metropolis except the workmen. Their party is something like the Boulanger party once was in France. Led by a few unprincipled demagogues, but actually directed by the nobility and the Catholic clergy, this retrogressive party is daily growing stronger and stronger, and has thus become a formidable instrument of reaction. At no previous elections in Austria was there so much at stake. The reactionary party is preparing to attack the most important remaining achievements of the Liberal era small as they are, particularly the free school, liberty of conscience, and the equal rights of all citizens. And that is the reason why the Liberal party backed up the Socialists ; why capital and labour, the possessing and the wage-earning, joined hands. There is a world of difference between the Liberal and the Socialist ; but just now they are like two men who must walk together for some distance before separating. Rudimental liberties equally indispensable to Liberals and advanced Radicals are endangered. Their common watchword was : "Against reaction ; forward towards progress." But the great election battle in Vienna has ended badly for the friends of progress. The Anti-Semites have won all along the line. All the leaders of the labour party in Vienna have been defeated—men like Dr Victor Adler, Angelbert Pernersdorfer, Reumann. On the other hand the victory has fallen to the Anti-Semitic candidates, whose names a week before the election no one in Vienna knew—they are obscure and ignorant men.

. . . . Under universal suffrage Paris turned out to be Socialistic, Berlin Progressive and Liberal, while only Vienna, formerly always Liberal, proves retrogressive. But strangely enough the Austrian provinces, which formerly were rather Conservative, and where no Socialist had ever been elected, voted largely for the labour party. Cracow and Lemberg, the two chief towns in Galicia, returned each one Socialist deputy by enormous majorities, despite the fact that there is very little industry in that agricultural country, the Austrian part of Poland. Socialists have been elected at Bruenn, the Bradford of Austria, and several other manufacturing places in Moravia and Silesia. In Bohemia seven Socialists have been successful.

That rich Crown land has again proved itself the most cultured, the most advanced province in Austria. The elections there have resulted in returning to Parliament not one single reactionary member, but only Liberals and Socialists. All the Alpine countries, however—Styria, Salzburg, Carinthia, Carniola, and Tyrol—have proved veritable strongholds of reaction and obscurantism. They have elected only clerical and reactionary members without exception. The people there are still entirely in the hands of the priests, who stifle all desire for liberty or independence. "In the mountains dwell liberty," sings the German poet! . . . . .

 The Sydney Morning Herald  24 April 1897,

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