« ForrigeFortsæt »
most brilliant results have been achieved in the election just elapsed, and since the Austrian party failed to convert the small proprietors in the same elections in which the Bohemians gained a general, and the Poles a partial victory, the discussion of this election should lead to far-reaching conclusions.
All the parties of Austria are united into one; all are socialist through and through, and all reached splendid successes in the last election, not excepting the smaller Italian, Slavonian, Ruthenian and Roumanian sections, which we shall leave out of this discussion. But a system of National Autonomy prevails in the United party of the Empire, and as a consequence there were wide differences in the tactics displayed by the Germans and by the Bohemians and Poles in the elections.
At first it would appear that the Germans had a greater success, since they secured 50, and the Bohemians only 30 seats in the parliament. But this is due to two facts,—(1) The Bohemians though numerically equal to the Germans were given many less seats by the Election law, so that 46 Germans have the same vote as 54 Bohemians. (2) The German Socialists were tacitly sup-ported by several bourgeois parties, and got a third of their seats through bourgeois votes in the second ballot, while the Bohemians were opposed by a "block" of all bourgeois parties, and got only two out of 50 re-ballots.
Notwithstanding this obstacle, and the comparative newness of their party the Bohemian Socialists got a larger percentage of the total votes cast by their nationality, than the Germans did of those cast by theirs. The explanation is that the Bohemians actually succeeded in getting a large proportion of the vote of the small agricultural proprietors.
Let us first examine the results achieved by the Austriam party. There is no doubt that they are excellent,—as good, if not better in a movement scarcely twenty years old than those achieved by their fellow Germans of the land of Marx. They organized the vast majority of the working men, both politically and economically, against overwhelming odds, while Austria still remained a semi-feudal regime. Finally, it is they, and they alone, that forced the Government to make Austria a parliamentary State. The Emperor was forced like Bismarck, to consider universal suffrage as an offset to the sectional strife of the privileged classes of the different races that compose the Empire. But it was the Socialist demonstrations and threat of a general strike that forced the privileged to cease their opposition to the epoch-making edict.
The Emperor had already issued a threat of universal suffrage to quell the nobility of his other dominion, Hungary; the Czar had already promised the Duma,-the Socialists paraded
the example of these neighbor countries, and their agitation did the rest. But, of course, the Emperor granted universal suffrage with malice aforethought. His calculation was that another International party than the Socialists, that is, the Catholics, would get the upper hand, and owing to the failure of the Austrian Socialists to get any hold among the small proprietors, Franz Joseph was not disappointed.
Austria furnished nearly half the seats in the new parliament. Of these, the Socialists got 50, but the Clericals got nearly twice that number, and the related International group, the Agrarians, obtained 29 seats. Among the Bohemians also, these groups outnumber the Socialists, but not in the same proportion. The Socialists secured 25 seats against the Agrarians 21, and the Clericals only 16. And in Bohemia the Clericals and Agrarians combined with the city bourgeoisie against the Socialists, while in Austria the large majority of the other bourgeois parties voted for the Socialists.
The Clericals and Agrarians will not quite control the new parliament. This result is due almost entirely to the Bohemian and Polish Socialists who forced their Clericals and Agrarians to share their seats in the second ballot with more democratic bourgeois parties in order to gain the latter's support in other doubtful districts. Therefore, in the new parliament also the Clericals and Agrarians will be forced to share their power with some more democratic party, probably the Polish people's party, which while composed of Catholic peasants is opposed both to conservatism and reaction.
If the German Socialists of Austria had gained the vote of the small proprietors, as did the Bohemians, they would have forced the Agrarian Clericals into a combination with the nationalistic city liberals, either at the second ballot, or in the parliament. The combined Socialist party in Austria might in that case have gained less seats in parliament, but it would have doubled the German Socialist vote, and made the Socialists not the third, but the second political group in the Empire, the place now occupied by the German and Bohemian nationalist and liberal parties.
What is the cause of the lamentable failure of the Austrian Germans among the peasant proprietors? It is not far to seek. The Austrian Socialists have inherited from their Prussian, German comrades, a tradition of hostility to the peasantry. Through Kautsky the German theorists have long tried to make the Prussian misfortune the rule for other lands. The stupidity, loyalty and servility of the Prussian peasant are proverbial. But these qualities are nowhere else so highly developed, not in Russia, not in France, not even in Bavaria, which has already cast off
Kautsky's doctrine of waiting for the increase of large estates and of the landless agrarian proletariat before expecting success in the country districts. Meanwhile the small proprietors continue to increase in nearly all countries, either naturally, or by laws naturally enacted by the ever alert bourgeoisie for their own protection against the rising tide of socialism in the towns.
There can be little doubt that the German party in Austria is improving in this respect, but it is still hostile to the propertied peasantry. When in the recent campaign, the Christian Socialists (Catholic, agrarian, anti-semitic demagogues) read in public. meetings, statements they said had been made by socialists against the farmers, the Socialists, or course denied the accusations. But the peasants, from what they knew of the German Socialists naturally believed what they heard, and the Socialists' own defense bore them out, for the Arbeiter-Zeitung replied to the attacks, not with an assertion of their friendliness to the small proprietors, but merely with a statement of their interest in the landless peasant proletariat, which, doubtless, no one had ever denied. In a later number it is said in reproach of the catholic priests that they in their country environment actually became peasants,“verbauern," as if it were the depth of degradation to become a "bauer," plough man, or peasant. Do American Socialists use the word "farmer" as a term of reproach?
The Christian Socialists stand out frankly as first of all the party of the small peasant proprietors, and they get his vote almost to a man. The Socialists consoled themselves with the idea that Austria is, or soon will be, an industrial country with comparatively few farmers. But this is hardly true, even of German Austria, since the vote obtained by the Christian Socialists, Clericals and Agrarians in the country alone largely outnumbers the total socialist vote, and the Socialists have three-fourths or nine-tenths the city proletariat. In the Greater Austria, as in the United States, the farmers will long continue to outnumber the workingmen.
The Clerical and agrarian parties are accused by the German Socialists of Austria, of doing things of which Socialism cannot approve; for instance, of legislating to increase the price of agricultural products, and so of bread and meat. But how can any party expect the support of any part of the agrarian population if it does not promise either the increase or the maintenance of good prices for agricultural products? The Socialists accuse the agrarians of keeping up a high tariff, but here the Socialists of Austria are simply standing for the principles of our Democratic party, and classifying themselves with J. R. McDonald's Socialist, no-class-struggle party of England, or the checkmated German party. Socialism favors the discontinuance of tariff wars, as
well as wars with guns, but it does not demand that the most socialistic nations should disarm themselves in either respect. This is the liberal democracy of industrial lands, taken up by the German party, only because in Germany there was no democratic party in existence worthy of the name.
What are the arguments used by the Socialists against the party that in this question, at least, truly represents the interests of the small propertied peasants. Why this, that the high tariff brings "little or no profit" to the small proprietors, and much to the big? But a little profit is much for a poor farmer. Farther, the Socialists accuse the Agrarians of trying to "hetzen", arouse, the bourgeois against the Socialists. But have not the Socialists already done this as true class-conscious fighters must? It seems not, for the Socialists everywhere, in the second ballot, supported their employers, the financiers, the officials and the shop-keepers against the Agrarian. This lets the cat out of the bag; the German Socialists prefer the vote of their so-called enemies in the city to those they call their friends in the country. Throughout the whole Austrian literature is found this setting of the city against the town, the elevation of industry, the degradation of agriculture. No wonder they dont get the farmer's vote.
Of course, some of the Socialist accusations against the present agrarian parties are true. These parties do not, on the whole, truly represent the small proprietors, and this is just the reason why the Socialists should step in as they have across the border of Bohemia, and fulfil this profitable function.
Like our Democratic and Republican parties, the Austrian and Bohemian agrarian parties have themselves an impossible task. In their fight for more power they want the powerful, as well as the numerically important classes in their party, and so they have bid for the support of the large landlord employers who, though they are certainly for the interests of agriculture, are utterly against those of the small proprietor. The small proprietors' first interest is a democratic state, the landlords are for the feudal system. The small farmers' second interest is for the compulsory purchase by the government, and sub-division among themselves of the landlords' estates.
The Bohemian party occupies a totally different position. After capturing the city proletariat, it went out like the German party, after Agricultural laborers. But it did this in a more aggressive manner, centering a large part of its attention on the Agrarian strikes against the large landlords of South Bohemia, who were a very important factor in the old semi-feudal state. Having once taken up the fight of the landlords it continued it all along the line with such fervor that it attracted the favorable attention of the landlords' other enemies, the small proprietors,
and finally, secured a large part of their suffrages. On the other hand, it drove all those middle-class peasants who hire one or more laborers for the season into the Bohemian agrarian party.
Here is the class-struggle in the country as it is now sought for by all the socialist parties with a very few exceptions. On the one side, the landlords, and those farmers with whom the wagebill is an important item; on the other, the agricultural laborers, and those farmers who work with their own children, when they have them, or with the aid of some young prospective farmer when they have no children. These are the people who make up the co-operative farmer socialists of Denmark, and who composed a majority of the voters at the last Russian election, so that when the suffrage is equal they will control a majority of the parliament of the greatest agricultural country in the world.
The Polish results reinforce the lesson given by those of Bohemia. The industries of Bohemia occupy nearly as many people as its farms. Galicia is the most agricultural country in the world except Roumania. Moreover, in the towns, the Ruthenians and Jews have parties of their own, in order to resist the dominant Poles, who though they are less than half the population are able by an unjust political system to control everything. Even the working people are drawn into this Nationalistic fight, and not only is the overwhelming majority of the population rural, but it is also Catholic. So in Polish Austria (Galicia) the Socialist party, against whatever odds, has been compelled to go out after the small proprietors from the outset. It was the peasant that sent the first Socialist to the Austria Parliament from Galicia, and it is to the peasants that they owe a majority of the hundred thousand votes they secured in the recent election and half of their seats in parliament.
The Polish Socialist Party of Austria has not only kept the division of the large landlords' estates in the foreground, but like the Polish party of Russia, it has proposed the co-operative plans. by which this small proprietorship shall lead to Socialism. It is as much opposed to the tactics of the Prussian Socialist party as the Poles generally are opposed to all things Prussian.
But there is hope in the future, even for the German section of the party. Already in the elections the Bohemians and the Poles have obtained more votes than the Germans. This should sooner or later lead to their predominance in the party of the Empire, the adoption of progressive Agrarian ideas by the Germans and the ending of the latter's tacit co-operation with the bourgeois parties at the second balloting against the peasant parties.
Moreover, when Hungary leaves Austria in 1917, and sets up a tariff against Austrian manufacturers, Austria will retaliate by