The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/Towards a New Central Europe
Towards a New Central Europe.
The Rome Conference marks a new period in the movement for the emancipation of the Slavs and Latins of Central Europe. The common action of the Poles, Czechoslovaks, Roumanians, Jugoslavs and Italians, is bound to be ultimately crowned with success, however great the obstacles and difficulties may at this moment appear. The agreement between the subject races of Central Europe means the death warrant to the Dual Monarchy, and the guarantee of a better Europe, assuring freedom and justice to all peoples, and safeguard ing the rights of humanity.
The agreement arrived at in Rome is the more important because it is accompanied by a similar movement within Central Europe itself. On Sunday, 11 March, a great manifestation took place in Prague attended by several Czech deputies, and representatives of all Czech parties as well as of Poles and Jugoslavs. The subject of the Conference was the recent peace in the East and the necessity of all Slav nations obtaining independence. The spokesman of the Jugoslavs, Mr. Palavicini, declared that the Jugoslavs would in all circumstances go hand in hand with the Czechs. A declaration of the students at Cracow was then read by two Polish delegates, saying that the Czechs and Jugoslavs were the natural allies of the Poles against the Germans. Speaking in the name of the Czech Club, Deputy Viskovsky declared that all the Western Slavs, numbering over 50 millions, desired national unity and independence. He expressed the hope that the manifestation would be the first step towards the formation of a united Slav block in the Reichstrat. The following resolution was then unanimously passed:—
“Relying upon the Czech declaration of 6 January in favour of Czecho-Slovak independence, we claim the right of self-determination for all the nations, including also the Western Slavs, because only thus can an honourable and lasting peace be established. Let this demand induce Czecho-Slovak, Jugoslav, and Polish nations to come to a common action.”
In the Austrian Reichstrat the Poles were for some time past contemplating common action with the other parties. It is true that at the last moment the Polish leaders again let themselves be bribed by empty promises and abstained from voting against the Budget, which led to the split of the Polish Club. Some Conservative organs like the Czas and Glas Narodu still advocate the Realpolitik of neutrality. Yet there is no doubt that the bulk of Polish public opinion is against any farther compromise with either of the Central Powers and sincerely desires co-operation with the other Slavs. So, for instance, the Lemberg Courier wrote on 4 March:—
“There is an urgent need of a close union with Bohemia. This union with the Czechs must be concluded as soon as possible by our Parliamentary representatives at the price of our formal recognition of the Czecho-Slovak demand for sovereignty. By a common and solid action the Poles and Czechs will create a force which no Power will be able to crush.”
The greatest Czech journal, Národní Listy, discussed the necessity of co-operation among Slavs in its issue of 6 March as follows:—
“The Czecho-Slovak nation would greet with joy the victory of the Slav idea in Polish politics, and the united front of the three Western Slav nations. We would greet it as a guarantee of a better future if the ‘Union of the Western Slav Nations’ proposed by the Polish National Democrats were accepted by the Polish Club. For the Western Slavs, the Poles, Czechs, and Jugoslavs, the only real policy is to form a united opposition bloc against Vienna. All these three nations have the same ideals: national unity and independence on the basis of self-determination. And as we have a common aim, we ought to have a common way to it; all nations longing for liberty will obtain it if they will support each other.”
This movement towards co-operation among the subject peoples of the Germanic Alliance may prove a formidable menace to the Central Powers. It is clear that it has the same aim in view as the League of Subject Peoples of Austria-Hungary, which is being formed in the Western countries, namely, the replacement of Pangerman Central Europe by a new international order, based upon the complete freedom, national unity, and alliance of Poland, Bohemia, Greater Roumania, Jugoslavia, and Italy, by which the Allied principles of justice and national self-determination would be vindicated and Germany prevented from repeating her present exploits.
The first condition of the proposed solution is the disappearance of the present Dual Monarchy. The realization of the national unity and independence of the Poles, Czecho-Slovaks, Roumanians, Jugoslavs and Italians, would reduce Austria and Hungary to their proper racial boundaries. Austria and Hungary would then be States of not more than about 8 million inhabitants each, and would be without any political, military, or economic value to Germany. A close alliance between united Poland and Bohemia would mean an economically and politically strong anti-German block of 40 million people. Incidentally it would provide Bohemia with a sea port (Dantzig). Germany would be barred from expansion in the Adriatic, in the Balkans, and in the Near East by an alliance between the two Adriatic nations, the Italians and Jugoslavs. The encirclement of Germany would be completed by an establishment of a united Roumania which would border both on the Czecho-Slovak and the Jugoslav State. Roumania and Jugoslavia would together number some 25 millions, while the Polish-Czecho-Slovak-Roumanian combination would mean a solid block of over 50 millions which would definitely prevent Germany’s expansion to the East and assure the nations of Russia a peaceful development. No third solution is possible: either Germany will succeed in preserving the Hapsburg Monarchy and creating the Pangerman Mittel-Europa or the Slavs and Latins of Central Europe will, with the help of the Allies, obtain national unity and independence. The growing courage and co-operation on the part of the subject peoples of Austria and the approaching Allied victory lead us to believe that the latter alternative will triumph.
- Reprinted from the New Europe, London, April 4, 1918.