Wednesday, 17 August 2016

REACTION IN AUSTRIA

VIENNA, Feb. 17.

This dual monarchy certainly is the most curious combination ever formed on earth. For centuries Austria and Hungary have been united, and yet these two countries are as strange to one another, are as heterogeneous as Russia and Australia. Not only is there a fundamental difference of race and of national character in the two halves of the empire, but the political and social life of the two States is moving in almost opposite directions. The views entertained, the ends striven after, and the desires felt in Vienna are diverse from those in Budapest. Nevertheless, the two countries continue their union, they are forced to; historical necessity binds them together.

That which is taking place in Austria-Hungary forms a chapter in history which might appropriately be headed : Re-action in Austria—Progress in Hungary. The Magyars are a stalwart race, and have always been a liberty-loving nation. Their development since they won back their suppressed constitution, 30 years ago, has been wonderful. At the beginning of that time Budapest at was an insignificant town, not even a bishop's see. To-day it is a large flourishing city, possessing all the attributes of a European capital. In all branches of national activity the Hungarians are proving their efficiency. The country is prospering greatly. Progress and Liberalism are the national watch-words. In their political activity and their social and economic legislation the Magyars have always taken England for their model. Their leaders and many of the nobles spent the years of their exile in England, where they made political friends and drank in the spirit of constitutional freedom. Now they are transplanting English ways and doings to the fruitful soil of Hungary. The lost general election there resulted in the return of an overwhelming Liberal majority to Parliament. The influence of retrograde Germany and Austria was unable to prevent it, although no stone was left unturned in order to put an end to the Liberal supremacy in Hungary.

But how different all is in Austria. Here everything is retrogressing. The constitution of 1867 is a sham. But the people do not make use of those rights which it granted them. Parliament agrees to all the Emperor and the court demand, while no reform is introduced against his wishes. In fact the aristocracy and the Roman Catholic Church rule the country, notwithstanding all the provisions of the constitution. During the last 30 years the Legislature has passed hardly a single bill for the benefit of the lower classes but, on the other hand, the power of the Government has been increased by many measures adopted, particularly by the nationalisation of the railways and other means of communication. Not only the upper classes, which exploit the lower ones, but also these latter themselves, are given over to clericalism and reaction. They do not feel the need of liberty, not even in trade and commerce. If any trade be depressed, or my branch of industry is stagnant, immediately an outcry is raised for the legislative restriction of competition and the creation of all sorts of monopolies.

Recently a trade law was passed, which even our forefathers in the Middle Ages could not have surpassed. No one is allowed to trade except in one particular line. He who sells cloth must not deal in hats ; he who makes umbrellas must not keep silver goods on sale. In the celebrated Vienna coffee houses hot meats must not be served, as doing so is the privilege of the hotels and restaurants. The man selling roast chestnuts at the street corner must not deal in roast potatoes. For each thing he has to obtain the right The people will have it so ; they hate competition. Enterprise is checked by often insuperable legal restrictions. Naturally such ligatures, so to speak, must terribly damage business. To all this is added a fearful burden of taxes, the result of the enormous military budgets. As a consequence the cost of production is increasing, and thus nations with free trade and light taxes are enabled to compete. Lately Austrian trade has suffered terribly.
Then comes the heavy blow dealt to agriculture by cheap Indian and American corn. Corn prices have now sunk beyond anything previously known and the value of agricultural produce in general has sunk by almost half. All these things render the conditions of life in this country more and more difficult.
All the distress suffered from a severe economical crisis has made the Austrians, who have so little common sense, only more stupid and superstitious.

Suddenly the cry was raised, particularly in Vienna, that it was all the fault of the Jews; they have most money, so runs the accusation, they produce most cheaply, they create hurtful competition, they are smarter and work longer than the Gentiles, spend less, and are satisfied with smaller profits. The movement was at once eagerly supported by the ruling aristocracy and the clergy. The social question was already at the door. The socialist agitation was already beginning to spread in the country, and anarchist crimes were following one another in rapid succession. By fostering the agitation they succeeded in diverting the movement which was actually directed against them and directing it against the Jews. As a consequence, socialism, which had made so promising a start, has made hardly any progress for the last five years. Anti-Semitism, however, is rapidly spreading. Vienna, the bulwark of liberalism only a few years ago, is almost entirely anti-Semitic. In the Vienna Town Council and in the provincial Diet of Lower Austria, in which the so-called liberal party used to preponderate, the Anti-Semites now have immense majorities.
There is no doubt that the general election next month will result in a considerable increase in the strength of that party.
The Anti-Semitic party has now been at work for several weeks. And what is its programme? Not the improvement of the condition of the working classes, not the abolition of the prerogatives of the nobility, nor of the oppressive militarism. Never a word was said by them about all this, or for the liberty of the press, or the right of combination. Government, Nobility, and Church were left untouched, unblamed. At all their thousand noisy meetings and in their daily papers nothing was to be heard or read except that the whole abominable Jewish race ought to be annihilated. But as that cannot well be, those strangers should be hunted out of the country that they and their ancestors have inhabited for the last 1200 years. If, however, that be impossible, at least they should be deprived of all their rights as citizens. First of all, they should be excluded from all public offices, and from the numerous chairs they occupy at the universities and other educational institutes. The celebrated medical faculty at Vienna they complain, is "tainted" by the Jews. The majority of the professors belong to the Hebrew people. But also the greater part of the big daily papers are written by Jews. Likewise the rest of the papers and books are tainted by the Jews. Wholesale and retail trade is mostly in their hands, they sell cheapest. Consequently the watchword constantly given to the multitude is "Do not buy of Jews do not read Jewish papers." Of the one and a half million of inhabitants of the capital about 120,000 are Jews. But of the 1000 doctors half are Jews, and of the 800 lawyers about 500 belong to Lord Beaconsfield's "superior race." So little, however, is this recognised by the anti-Semitic reformers, so much do they hate that race, that they preach to the Viennese that they ought to give up all trade dealings and social intercourse, even with Christians of Jewish extraction, and boycott them like they should the Jews.

The first man to start this theory was the original Anti-Semitic leader, the Chevalier de Schoenerer. However, a trifling but malicious accident put an end to his career. Someone found out that his mother's father was a Jew named Schmul Leeb Cohn. Since then nothing has been heard of that leader. The great Anti-Semitic tribune who took his place is Carl Lueger, LL.D., Vice Burgomaster of Vienna, a lawyer. He is a fine, tall fellow in the fifties. He is an admirable speaker, endowed with astounding lung power, and all those qualities that carry away an ignorant and unthinking audience. He is poor, but unbribable. So what he says is taken for law and gospel. The Viennese, particularly the women worship him. He boasts of not having read a book for 25 years, for during that time he has night after night been haranguing his knights of the round table in one or another of the thousand smoky beer halls or taverns of Vienna. After him come two other men of some prominence, Dr Pattai and Dr Geasmann. These three form the general staff of the Anti-Semitic party. Not one of them is remarkable for great knowledge or special talent. Hardly anyone distinguished by mental capacity, a knowledge of art, or moral earnestness has anything to do with the movement. With the exception of the three leaders all the anti-semitic members of the Town Council and the Provincial Diet are petty tradesmen, a few months ago utterly unknown.

Now as to their achievements. Their first act after obtaining the upper hand was to cut down in the Budget an item of £12,500 for "school requisites for poor school children" by £800. Just so the items for building new schools, for the supply of drinking water, for almshouses the feeding and nursing of the poor sick, and for widening the streets, were considerably reduced. Now they are about to reduce teachers' salaries. Workmen and teachers are refused the use of the rooms at the Town Hall where they used to hold their meetings. The Jewish shorthand writers to Diet were dismissed. Jews cannot get places in the municipal administration, and are excluded from supplying goods to, building, and doing other work for the municipality. It is proposed to make every cyclist pay an annual tax of about £1.

The Vienna Volunteer First Aid Society, a model philanthropic institution which has served most towns in Europe for a pattern, was refused its customary modest annual subvention of somewhat more than £1000 because most of the doctors were Jews, but they gave their services gratis, be it remarked. On the other hand, the Town Council has voted almost £20,000 for churches, conventual schools and church societies. Those are but samples. That is the spirit in which the administration of this metropolis is carried on. It is, in fact, a struggle against education and culture that this remarkable party, which calls itself Christian-Social, has inscribed on its banner. How long will this craze last, when will the scales fall from the eyes of these poor deluded people? Who can say?

Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 10 April 1897, page 7

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