The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 1/Two Memorable Speeches
Two Memorable Speeches.
Dr. Adolf Stránský, deputy for Moravia in the Vienna parliament, delivered a bold speech on June 12th immediately after a wordy and empty declaration of program by Premier Clam-Martinic. It is, in part, as follows:
“If I arise to set forth the attitude of Czech deputies, I do so with feelings of regret and pain. For I think of the man who in political debates used to reply first for the Bohemians—Dr.. (Stormy applause and shouts from Czech benches.) Others of his colleagues, Dr. Rašín and leaders of the national socialists, , Choc, Buřival, Vojna, Netolický, are not here today. (Shouts.) They were branded traitors, and their place is in various penitentiaries, instead of in parliament.
“But since the absolutist government set aside the competent judge and put in his place a so-called court with orders not to judge, but to condemn, and since the condemnation was effected in an illegal manner, through barefaced violation of the constitution, by means of the most infamous political crime that Europe has ever seen (stormy applause on the part of Czechs), we need not pay any regard to such judgment and may confidently acclaim the condemned as friends and colleagues, the more so, since we knew very well that their crime consisted in faithfulness to their nation and to their country.
“I firmly believe that not only will these representatives of the people come out free from their jails, but that the time will come when the Austrian Petro-Pavlovsk prison will open its doors wide and the places of the political prisoners will be taken by their present enemies.
“We want to be a free and happy nation, free of every foreign domination. We want our children to be brought up in our own national culture. We want to rule ourselves, our officials must speak with our own tongue. We alone must determine our international alliances and we will not allow such alliances to be made without us and regardless of us. Above all we demand our own state. We want to see a society of free states created. This empire and this dynasty have in recent years dishonored and trodden under foot all rights and guarantees of our nation.
“The cold attitude of the Bohemians toward the Reichsrat may be explained chiefly by this that in reality we have no constitution and that this assemblage is only a fictitious and fragmentary parliament. Not only are the imprisoned deputies missing, but the places of the deceased members have not been filled. By-elections for the vacant seats have not been ordered, because the government does not want any elections. As to parliamentary immunity, the degree of its observance can best be judged by the fact that bills and interpellations are confiscated. As for personal immunity, we have no assurance that upon the adjournment of parliament we shall not be called to answer for speeches that were delivered in this place long before the war, for that is what happened to the condemned deputies. When we go away from here, the proper parting salutation will be: Goodby, fellow-representative, don’t land in jail. (Laughter, applause.)
“All these arguments persuade us that in this assembly none of the great problems shall be decided that are now agitating Europe and the entire world. What is anyway the Reichsrat with its debates and controversies compared to the bloody argument that is being settled on the battlefields? Not even our reservation of the historical rights of Bohemia will solve anything; that we know. But the rights of Bohemia are not out of date, as deputy Pacher thinks; they cannot be the object of a war of words. We live in a great time, when realities cannot be held back, while appearances and lies are uncovered.
“Even the speech from the throne had its source in a bureaucratic inkwell and not in the blood of present serious realities. The speech is at fault when it seeks to set mere words against the spirit of the times which is creating a new world out of blood and iron. At a time when all forms of constitutional life are challenged, responsibility of the crown is not limited to the responsibility of the chief of cabinet. The premier should cover the crown and not expose it to attacks and hide behind it his own political and moral weakness. We are persuaded that the day is coming when no one will come between our nation and our king, when the nation and its king will face each other. The future may be obscure, but the world labors to the end that the interests of rulers should bow to the interests of the nations and that crowns should depend on the will of peoples.
“In the address from the throne the only thing of interest for the Czechs is the declaration that the emperor will not swear fidelity to the existing constitution. That means the bankruptcy of this constitution, its complete eclipse. For the matter of that the constitution long ago became empty and meaningless, because the fundamental laws of the state were systematically violated, jury trials were abolished and provincial diets not allowed to meet. Bohemians have for many years fought the constitution in order to win independence, democracy and freedom; they suffered in numerable persecutions that culminated in the sentences of Dr. Kramář and others. But now we say: The interests of the state do not come first. When the interests of the state and of the people are not identical, then the people will not recognize the right of the state to existence.
Deputy Waldner cries: “Aha, now we know it.”
“The whole world is now convinced that this view is right. But in the address from the throne we find the same old principles from the days of Joseph II., namely that the state comes first and the people follow, while in the declaration of the premier we heard today the same ideas. Modern democracy stands on a very different basis: The people are first and the state second. State is only a means for the attainment of the aims of the individual nations. Therefore we see the world ready to conclude only such a peace as will rest on the sure foundation of satisfied peoples. For such peace only will be lasting.
“As far as the Polish problem is concerned, we will not examine into the question how far today when the political ressurrection of Poland is in the air can the autonomy of Galicia be squared with the right of nations to self-determination. It is of course possible that Galicia will be granted this larger share of self-government. But if Count Clam imagines that we would ever sit in a parliament in which Polish deputies would not participate in their full number, he is greatly mistaken. We will not submit to force. Should the Poles attain independence—and we hope from the bottom of our hearts that they will—and we should be left here at the mercy of greater numbers, it would be the end of this Reichsrat.
“We demanded in our formal reservation that when new political forms are created, regard should be had to the closely related Slovak branch of our nation, living across the boundaries of our historical fatherland. We have done that upon the supposition that here also the final word lies with the free and untrammelled decision of three million of Slovaks and not with our own ardent desires and interests.
“We should be faithless to the moral foundation of our program, if we thought of its realization upon any other basis than the complete, unambiguous, and secured guarantees that full racial freedom and autonomy of Germans in our country shall be safe and their national honor unimpaired.
“What we ask for the Slovaks, applies to Poles, Little Russians, Roumanians, Jugoslavs and Italians. There is only one political program for them all—the free determination of these nations.”
Newspapers in this country have displayed prominently what to them must have been a startling pronouncement of a former Austrian minister, namely quotations from a speech by Karel Prášek, Czech agrarian deputy and formerly the Czech representative in the Austrian cabinet. He said, as quoted in American papers: “How can we obtain peace, if we continue to cling to Germany? The hatred of the entire world is directed not against Austria, but against Germany. Shall we continue to sacrifice our interests for German expansion? Shall we continue to support German militarism which drew us into this war? Czech deputies are still in prison for struggling for an alliance of Austria with France and Russia. Their viewpoint is at present ours. If you call them traitors, you should call us too traitors. We are all traitors.”
These were bold words to be uttered even in parliament, when that parliament is dependent on German bayonets. But lest it should be thought that Prášek cared for the interests of Austria, rather than of Bohemia, when he advocated a separation from Germany, let us quote the remainder of his speech, as given in the Echo de Paris. Speaking of the Seidler cabinet, deputy Prášek said:
“This ministry admits that it is provisional and transitory. It is in effect a pitiable makeshift, an eloquent expression of the difficulties in which the Austrian bureaucracy finds itself. But when the cabinet calls itself the national ministry, we have to declare that a majority of the people are not represented therein. The Bohemian nation takes good care not to ask for a place in the cabinet. It has definitely given up all thought of sending one or two of its deputies to play the role of fools in a German centralist ministry. The Bohemian nation is grown up and it holds together all its forces in order to conquer independence. For that task she needs every one of her children. It will support no Austrian government that will not declare for the destruction of dualism and the complete autonomy of all its oppressed nations, in Austria and Hungary alike. We shall fight to final victory to bring down a regime by which two minorities, the Germans and the Magyars, oppress all other nations. God be thanked; those two nations will not stop the progress of the world.”
A short quotation from the speech of a priest deputy may be of some interest. Father Zahradník, a Czech agrarian deputy and member of the Order of Premonstratensians, related in parliament a conversation he had with Premier Stuergh three weeks before his assassination by Dr. Adler. “I reproached him for all the evil he had done to the Czech people and to the whole monarchy. Your Excellency, I asked, do you believe in God? Do you believe in His justice? I call you before his tribunal, you and the other members of the government. God whom I serve will punish the guilty; He will defend and protect my people and will give them final victory and deliverance.”
This speech called forth applause and enthusiasm from all the Slav benches and violent protests from the ranks of the Germans.