The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/Will there be a Revolution in Austria?

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The Bohemian Review, volume 2, no. 7  (1918) 
Will there be a Revolution in Austria?

Will there be a Revolution in Austria?

As the papers bring day by day sensational reports of dissatisfaction and internal trouble in Austria-Hungary, the question is asked by every one: Will Austria go the way of Russia? Can we look for an uprising that will overthrow the Hapsburgs, as the Romanoffs were overthrown a year ago? Will Austria be lost to Germany, as Russia was lost to the Allies?

There are startling resemblances between the events in Russia leading to the revolution of March 1917 and the present situation on the Danube. Like Russia, Austria has been defeated over and over again, in fact far more disgracefully than Russia. Twice little Serbia inflicted a disaster on the Hapsburg armies, while the Russians and the Italians proved times without number that they were far superior to Austrians unsupported by the Germans. The morale of the Austrian army is poor, because the soldiers realize that they belong to a beaten army.

Then there is the hopeless financial situation of Austria-Hungary. The state is far more deeply involved than Russia was before the revolution. The state debt has grown from 12.5 billion to 72 billion crowns—and paper money, the issue of which amounted to 2.5 billion, is now outstanding to the amount of 23 billion. No hard money circulates any longer in Vienna, with the exception of the smallest coins; there is only paper, Geldersatz (money substitute), as the people have christened, it. When the finance minister is called upon by the army to produce more money, he goes to the Austro-Hungarian Bank, and orders another issue of a few billion paper crowns. The state is bankrupt, and the citizens know it. Bank-notes may buy you luxuries, but the necessities of life can be had only by barter.

Austria resembles Russia also in the inefficiency and incompetence of its officials. This inefficiency produces its worst results in the vital matter of provisioning the population. The analogy between Austria and Russia is particularly striking at this point. The immediate cause of the Czar’s overthrow was hunger in Petrograd. Russia, could not fill the hungry bellies of the workingmen in Petrograd and Moscow, and so finally hell broke loose. Austria-Hungary too, if not in quite the same degree, has been an agricultural country. The dual empire has a density of population far below that of Germany, while a much larger percentage of its people were engaged in agriculture. Yet while Germany has enough to hold out till the next harvest, Austria is compelled to reduce the rations to the point where actual starvation sets in. While it is well to accept with caution sensational reports about Austria, this much is established beyond all doubt: the people of Vienna, Prague and the smaller cities of Austria are so desperately hungry that they are ready for anything.

In all these respects Austria of July 1918 resembles Russia of March 1917. But the empire of the Hapsburgs is threatened by a danger which was absent in the Petrograd revolution, namely the hostility of the majority of the people to the state itself. The revolution of Petrograd was not caused or even contributed to, by the hate of the Poles, Finns, Ukrainians, Caucasians to the Russian rule. But the German-Magyar rule on the Danube is hated by 60% of the subjects. The Dual Monarchy is a state which the majority of its subjects desire to see smashed, broken up, divided. Czechoslovaks, Jugoslavs and Italians, and in a lesser degree the Poles and Roumanians, are ready to overthrow their tyrants. German socialists and even Magyar workingmen are indifferent to the fate of the hybrid monarchy, and the army would promptly do, what the Russian army did—throw away arms and go home.

Why, then does not revolution break out on the Danube? The analogy between Austria and Russia stops here. There is a factor in the situation that worked one way in Russia and another way in Austria. That factor is Germany. The Kaiser favored the Russian revolution, because he knew that it would result to his benefit. But he is sure to use all his strength to put down any attempts at revolution in Austria. A successful revolution in Austria would mean his own downfall. The rebellious elements in Austria do not fear the army of Charles, but they are not ready to measure their strength with the legions of Germany.

Shall we then look upon the possibility of a successful revolution in Austria-Hungary as a chimera? The Allies would be overlooking a strong trump, if they did not count with this possibility. The Kaiser had made good use of smouldering elements in Russia, such good use that he came within sight of a complete victory. The Allies may make use of the tinder lying ready to their hands in Austria and build up a fire in the Kaiser’s rear that will bring about a decision. It will not do to watch with folded hands the growth of discontent in Austria and be resigned beforehand to the failure of any possible outbreak. The democratic governments must take an active part in fomenting an insurrection against the Hapsburgs, an insurrection which will result in taking Austria out of the war and opening a new way into Germany. The Allies should get busy. The Allies should take full advantage of the known hostility of the Slavs and Latins to their German-Magyar overlords. They can strengthen this enmity by pledging their word in an unequivocal manner that the defeat of Germany will bring full freedom to the oppressed. And what is equally important, they should take steps to organize the discontented elements in the Hapsburg dominions from the Adriatic to the Bohemian mountains, smuggle in arms and dynamite, and time the outbreak so that it would coincide with the expected great Allied offensive in the West. Should revolution break out in Austria as soon as Germany suffers the first defeat and will have its hands too full to spare any divisions for Austria, then we may hope to see the war end suddenly. Austria will collapse and Germany will follow close right after it.

During the last three months the Allies have taken steps by authoritative pronouncements to assure the revolutionary elements in Austria-Hungary, the Slavs and the Latins, that they would get full freedom after Germany is defeated. Whether the governments of France, Italy, England and the United States are doing anything in a material way to make the coming revolution successful, is something that we will not know, until it is all over. We sincerely hope that the governments of the Allies are alive to their opportunity.

This work was published before January 1, 1927 and it is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 95 years or less since publication.