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in Europe at that time of how, when Clemenceau was
charged by some of his insatiable fellow-countrymen
with having made a peace bad for France, he replied :
" But how could I do better, with a fool on one side
who thought he was Napoleon, and a damned fool on
the other who thought he was Jesus Christ ? "

Another good story which was going the round of
the Vienna cafes deserves to be repeated. In one of
the cafes, years before the war, a young Jew sat sipping
his coffee day by day. Nobody was in the least interested
in him, and he was distinguished for nothing except a
shabby dress and a wild mop of tangled hair. His
name was Trotsky.

In those days everybody was talking about the
Russian Revolution. Many were fearful of it. The
Vienna Foreign Office was constantly being warned
about its coming, and worried to death about the
consequences upon Vienna of its coming.


A Political Pilgrim in Europe

Exasperated beyond endurance by the endless fears
of his colleagues, and full of contempt for them, one
of the higher officials exclaimed : " But what nonsense
is this talk of a Russian Revolution ; who is to make
the revolution ? There is nobody. Perhaps " and here
came a gesture of superb contempt " Mr. Trotsky of
the Cafe Centrale ! "

A trip to Semmering was one of the excursions which
consoled one a little for the desolate spectacle of empty
markets and idle factories, of a disintegrating civic
life. Semmering is a four hours' motor drive from
Vienna, beautifully placed near the Styrian frontier.
It is a health resort full at that time of rich refugees.
At a simple guest-house on the slope of one of the hills
President Seitz and his wife, with a few members of his
Cabinet, recuperated during the week-ends for the arduous
duties of the week. His secretary took me out there
for the day. We were again a curiously mixed group.
The overworked and courteous secretary was a baron
of the old regime. Professor Leon Refiner, hearty in
manner and ruddy of complexion, the famous Shake-
spearean scholar, was there ; Otto Grockney, Minister
for Education, gravely peering through spectacles at
the new-comer ; and Dr. Seitz.

Of this first President of the Socialist Republic of
Austria, Karl Seitz, I have written before. He is a kind,
amiable, benevolent, distinguished-looking man with a
keen sense of humour. Someone hearing him thus praised
exclaimed : " But what else do you expect from a
President of Austria ? " Looking at this polite and
suave man of the world, every inch a president, it is
with difficulty that one realizes that he was once on a
time the fiercest leader of the Socialist Opposition in
the turbulent Austrian Parliament. He started his
career as an elementary school-teacher, became the fire-
brand of the Lower Austrian Diet and ended as


Dying Austria

the President ! He is a speaker of very great elo-
quence and power. He was always well liked, even
by his opponents, and is extremely popular. Very few
of the new type of potentate have the heart, the mind,
the manners so ready to fit the new position.

Dr. Max Winter, the kind-hearted Vice-Burger-
meister of Vienna, is the man to whom I owe most of
my acquaintance with the civic life of the city. Day
after day he or his secretary or his son, who had been
a prisoner of war in England, took me out to see in
particular what was being done for the children. Dr.
Winter is always spoken of as " the children's Mayor,"
for the children are his very serious concern. In his
company I saw the public feeding centres of the Americans,
the clinics supervised by the Friends, the children's hospi-
tals so sadly lacking funds, the open-air play-centres
in the public parks, and the country schools. The houses
of rich nobles who have fled and the palaces of the ex-
Kaiser were used for this purpose. There was a par-
ticularly attractive little hospital and feeding centre in
a corner of the Schonbrunn Palace for those children
whose parents could afford to contribute a little towards
their keep, I think two crowns a day, worth at that time
about one penny. At the holiday camps in the parks
the children ran about all day in bathing suits, and very
brown and jolly they looked with the exposure to the
sun and the regular, if scarcely sufficient, food. " Freund-
schaft ! Freundschaft ! " they cried, running to kiss
my hand after the custom of the country. Sometimes
they sang their little songs and danced their pretty
dances. Beautiful brown-eyed Viennese children danc-
ing in paper dresses, and crowned with wood flowers
in the Wiener Wald ! I see them now in the mind's
eye, waving their thin arms and smiling sweetly, with
not a thought of the bitter, cruel thing which is robbing
them of health and life in their innocent young hearts.


A Political Pilgrim in Europe

After a sad excursion one day to the market, where
little girls of twelve lay all night with their baskets
waiting for the opening of the butcher's shop, and the
scramble for the ration of meat for the family dinner,
I found waiting for me in the hotel about twenty women
and one child all robed in deep black. They had come
with a petition. It was to ask me to help them to get
their husbands out of Russia, prisoners of war there.
Some had not been heard of for four years. Terrible
stories of their sufferings had come through. The
women were frantic with grief. They had been to the
Mayor ; he could do nothing. They had been to the
Government ; the Government had made promises but
done nothing. They had been to the Allied Missions
and had been sent away empty. They were beginning
to believe that the Government and the Allies were in
concert to keep the men in Russia because of their fear
of Bolshevist infection afraid that the men had
become converts. Someone had suggested that perhaps
I could help. They begged with quivering lips that I
would do something. Suddenly the child, a little fair-
haired thing, sprang from her mother's side, and falling
on her knees at my feet, clasped her tiny hands and said
in lisped English : " Dear kind English lady, do bring
my daddy back to me." The women burst into tears,
such a sobbing and a wailing as would have melted a
stone. It was deeply painful. What could I do ? I
promised to interest the women's organizations of
England and the Labour Party, and immediately wrote
to both. Alas ! when the relief came, thousands, tens
of thousands, had died in exile, destroyed by hunger
and disease.

The journey back to Berne was much quicker and
more comfortable. By special permission I returned
by the children's train. Six hundred small victims of
the famine came every six or seven weeks to hospitable


Dying Austria

Switzerland ; I travelled with one train load. I can add
nothing to the description of the sufferers I have already
given ; but I can add a word of praise of the Swiss.
They have raised for themselves a lasting monument
in the affections of the Austrian people, and have set
an example of practical internationalism which should
shame all those whose faith in blockades and tariffs
and embargoes and prohibitions is not yet dead. But
for the Swiss and the Americans Austria's plight would
have been beyond hope, and the world would be the
poorer by the loss of one of the most cultivated, artistic
and lovable races which have contributed to the happiness
and elevation of mankind. Very late in the day the
men of Paris have moved towards the relief of Vienna.
Perhaps it is not quite too late to save the remnant.
But the martyrs have been many, and the agony long.




AT the first meeting of the International in Berne in
1919 I was very much interested in a lively little man
from Alsace-Lorraine. His name was Grumbach, and
he had a house in Berne, and a handsome wife with bright
hair and a plump figure. In appearance he reminded
me a little of an English coachman. He was smooth-
shaven, with a bit of hair left on either cheek in the
old-fashioned way. His face was round, and he had
a sweet and rather childlike mouth. His eyes were very
merry, and his manner kind. But the roar of him when
he spoke was like that of a mad bull. He was very angry
with the Germans, and could not contain himself on
the platform, foaming at the mouth almost, as he lashed
out at those unfortunate men on the front row. He
made an excellent double bass to Renaudel's tenor and
Thomas's baritone, whenever the wild music got going.
And just as suddenly he melted into the utmost amia-
bility. He disliked their past, and suspected the future
policy of the Germans in relation to his own country.
I have not seen him since the early days in Berne ; but
I have heard that his present discontent is with French
administration and French behaviour in the restored
provinces and that he favours an independent Alsace-
Lorraine within the French orbit. I wonder what is
true ?

Another Alsatian of a different type was Rene"
Schickele, one of the leaders of the younger German
poets. I met him also in Berne, but not at the Con-
ference. This young and distinguished dramatist was


After One Year

introduced to me by Annette Kolb. He impressed
me as shy and diffident ; but that may have been the
embarrassment of not knowing English. There is no
barrier like that of not knowing the language of an
acquaintance. He promised to learn English for our
next meeting, and I promised myself to learn enough
German to be intelligible. But how can one learn
foreign languages when everybody abroad wants to
practise his English ?

During the war Schickele placed himself in oppo-
sition to the German Government. He was a German
citizen then. Now he is in opposition to France. He
is a French citizen now. The cynic would smile and talk
of the passion for self-advertising ; but I think there
is a reasonable case for this position in a pacifist, who
is out to smite the ugly spirit of militarism whenever
and wherever it raises its offending head.

His play Hans in Schnakenloch was an attempt
to give a just exposition of the psychology of French
and Germans in Alsace-Lorraine. The Germans called
it Francophile, the French considered it pro-German.
It had an immense success in Germany in 1917, until
it was suppressed by the military censor. Schickele
belongs to the Clarte group. Fried, who died a short
time ago, the kindly sentimentalist, but courageous
Austrian pacifist, so long exiled in Switzerland, who
won the Nobel prize, was another member of the band.
Rene Claparede of Geneva, Barbusse and Anatole France
belong to the same group. Their policy is very much
the same as that of the Union of Democratic Control
in England. The poet's ultimate aim in politics is the
friendship and conciliation of Germany and France.

When I was invited to attend the French Socialist
Congress in Strasburg in January of 1920, exactly
one year after the first meeting of the Second International,
I thought of these two personalities, the only human


A Political Pilgrim in Europe

connexion I had with Alsace, and hoped to meet again
in their capital city of ancient fame and modern inter-
est these two able men. Neither, however, was

But Renaudel was there, and Longuet and Marquet,
and all the hosts of fighting French Socialism.

The battle of the two Internationals was by this
time waxing fast and furious. The Italians had split
in two, the French were about to follow, the British
were threatened. My commission to the French con-
gress was to convey greetings from the British Labour
Party to the delegates ; but also to make it clear that
the Labour Party intended to cleave to the Second
International in spite of the efforts of a few voluble
intransigeants to draw it into the Third.

These various Internationals must be confusing to
the average reader. The First was founded by Karl
Marx and Professor Beesly in 1866, and dissolved in
the wars of 1871. The Second was re-established in
1889, and discontinued its activities during the world-
war. Its meeting in Berne I have already fully described.
The success of the Revolution in Russia filled with arro-
gance the souls of the dominant Bolsheviks who deter-
mined to unite the entire world-Socialist Movement
under their flag. They would dominate, command,
discipline from Moscow every country in the world.
They drew up twenty-one theses which they insisted
should be accepted by all who would join them the
Third International. These included dictatorship instead
of democracy, revolution by violence, and the abolition
by force of the whole institution of private property,
as against other methods of securing a just social and
industrial order.

Round these two sets of proposals and methods the
conflict has raged. Every Socialist Movement in Europe
was split from top to bottom. America copied. New
and ever new Internationals threatened to be born
of the dissident sections. Capitalist Europe rocked


After One Year

with laughter. To keep the working-classes divided
amongst themselves has always been the wisdom and
the joy of the intelligent in the possessing classes. The
Socialist Movement began to look ridiculous. It has
not yet got back to common sense and sweet reasonable-
ness. In the various national movements, arrogant and
conceited young men are continually making fresh
" caves." Offshoots of bumptious young people and
venerable idiots, who think that wisdom will die with
them, keep the general movement in a turmoil of quarrel-
someness whilst the enemy consolidates his ranks. The
pity and the folly of it !

So far as I could discover there were at least five
sections in the French Conference apparently hating
one another far more keenly than the outsider. There
was the Extreme Right, which had supported the war
without question. There was the Extreme Left which
had opposed it without tact. There was the following
of Renaudel who opposed the Moscow International.
There were the adherents of Vaillant-Couturier who
supported it. There were the friends of Longuet, who
did both. I do not mean that these last belonged to
the cult of the jumping cat ! They were not mean and
" discreet." They simply wanted to leave the door
open for a future reunion of the two bodies of disputants.

I spent the first day listening to the eloquent wranglings
of the sections, and then went to view the city of Stras-
burg. The old parts are French, but the solid new parts
of the city are German. It is a quiet old city of cafes
and quaint streets and houses. It is dominated by its
wonderful cathedral with the historic clock. The small
hotel where I stayed, with its German proprietor, was
a model of cleanliness. In front ran the canalized river.
Bands of troops, black and white, marched through the
streets, but the citizens paid little attention to them.
Only once did I see a touching thing. A few bold boys
marched singing a tune with a familiar sound about it.
I stopped to look and listen. Near me was a student,

"3 1

A Political Pilgrim in Europe

a boy of twenty-three or four, with a broad round face
and rather long fair hair. He had tears in his eyes,
and held his cap in his hand. What had moved him ?
Not that simple, boyish singing ? Was it the song ?
I caught the word " Heimland " as the lads marched
past, and yes there was just one phrase in the song
which brought to mind the English melody, " Home,
sweet home ! "

On the second day I made my speech. The gallant
Frenchmen received it well, and I left the platform in
a storm of cheers. But that was for the woman and
not the speech ; for they did not understand a word,
and they voted heavily for the Third International at
a subsequent meeting ! The split was inevitable.

The next day I left for Berne en route for Geneva
and the conference of the Save the Children Fund. I
had to spend several hours at Basle and arrived
in Berne at six in the evening. But what was the matter
with the place ? The station was as quiet as a church
on weekdays. And the Hotel Belle Vue was like a
huge crypt, cold and clammy and empty. In that
great lounge and immense drawing-room capable of
holding comfortably a thousand persons, there were
not three people ! The drawing-room was dark ; and
the lounge lit by only a few dim lights. Were all the
people in their rooms, or what was wrong ?

' You are very quiet, aren't you ? " I asked the
hotel clerk as I signed the register.

" Yes, madam," he replied. " Most people are
leaving Berne. Here are several letters for you which
are probably from some of your friends."

I tore open the letters one after the other. Mr.
Rudolf Kommer had gone to Berlin. Mrs. Lord was
in Lugano. Prince Windischgraetz was in Paris. His
wife had left for Prague. The group of German pacifists
had returned to Berlin. Dr. de Jong was in Basle.


After One Year

M. Zalewski, the Polish Minister in Berne, whom I
had met in England, and with whom I had renewed
my acquaintance in Switzerland, was rumoured to have
gone as Minister to Athens. Madame de Rusiecka,
another Polish friend, was living in Geneva. Baron
Szilassy and his sister were in Bex. Mr. de Kay was in
Lucerne. Mr. Savery had been sent to the Legation
in Warsaw all, all had gone, the old familiar faces !
And what a desolation they had left !

I gathered up my letters and prepared to take a
walk to discover if there were anybody left. Was the
Assyrian giant with the Gargantuan appetite still
sitting in the Wiener Cafe ? I have referred before to
Dr. Ludwig Bauer, but he deserves another word. For
he was a truly remarkable journalist. From the early
days of the war he wrote every day, without exception,
the leading article on politics for the Basle National
Zeitung. His articles were always marked ^ so ne
became known as the " Kreuzlbauer." They were
read all over the country, a thing which happened for
the first time in the journalistic history of Switzerland,
it was said. The little Basle paper became suddenly
an organ of national importance. The international
representatives, diplomats, foreign correspondents, pro-
pagandists read the articles with great care. It is a
curious fact that this Austrian was spoken of as " the
only neutral in Switzerland." The French Swiss were
more French than the French. The German Swiss
were more German than the Germans. The Swiss
Government tried to steer an equal course between the
two sets of belligerents. There the Austrian journalist
was useful. He expressed neutrality day by day. His
articles were quoted in Paris and in Berlin. Occasionally
his paper was excluded from one or the other, he himself
being bitterly attacked by both sides. Most of all was
he attacked by his Swiss colleagues who resented the
great success of the foreign intruder, with a mentality
more Swiss than their own. Another and a greater

J i33

A Political Pilgrim in Europe

alien, Friedrich Schiller, whose " Wilhelm Tell " is
the classic reading of Swiss youth, never saw Switzerland,
but had caught the Swiss spirit better than some of the
sons of the soil !

Dr. Bauer was not at the cafe. Neither were the
jewelled and fragrant women who used to sip its sparkling
wines, whilst they waited in the ante-chamber to Paris
for their visa for the Heaven of their dreams. The war
produced large numbers of this feminine type. I knew
several of them. Sometimes beautiful, often wealthy,
in spite of fallen money values, they played their game
of coquetry in Berne to while away the time till better
things came in sight. The ghastly tragedy of famine
passed them by. The sufferings of the war left them
cold. The colossal spectacle of Europe's downfall was
nothing to them. Clothes, jewels, fine furniture, a
good social position were the only things which counted
with them. Their lovers from the broken countries
they flouted. They had just enough practical sense
to see that the things they wanted were not to be found
in the land of their birth. Their men had become
ineligible. They would take husbands from the lands
of the conquerors. The " Entente husband " became
an institution and the fair husband-hunters a joke.
Beauty, wealth maintained by gambling in exchanges,
in return for an " Entente husband " and a visum for
Paris and the glory of silks and scents and a place with
the conquerors ! I know one such woman, a beautiful
Pole but let me be merciful !

On my return to the hotel I found a note from an
American friend asking me to dine and saying she would
call for me at eight. This was cheering. How it is
known so quickly that one is in a place passes my
comprehension ! Punctually at eight she burst into my

After One Year

room, looking as radiant as the May, although she is
nearly forty.

" Tell me," I asked. " How do you keep yourself
so young, you amazing woman ? "

" Simple enough," she retorted. " Massage and a
blameless life, my dear."

We dined with several members of the Hungarian
Red Cross, gone crazy with hate of Bolshevism, who
talked themselves hoarse about the iniquities of the
Jews and ate so many oysters that I began to be nervous
for their constitutions. And so ended the last of my
days in Berne.

I was too late for the Geneva Conference. The
delegates had had their last sitting, and only a social
function to say farewell remained. There I met a number
of dear friends full of good works. I have written of
Mrs. Buxton and her sister. These and their like com-
pensate the world for the idle and mischievous butterflies
waiting for their Paris visa and frocks and jewels.

At the theatre that evening a curious little international
group talked of their many adventures of travel, with
the difficulties of getting passports as a conspicuous item
of conversation. One spoke of the amount he had had
to pay in bribes in Rumania, another of having lost
his passport. " But I had a receipted tailor's bill in
my pocket. The Austrian Royal Arms were at the head.
It was an old bill. And they accepted it as my passport
without a question. It looked important and the fellow
who looked at it couldn't read a word, so there was no
trouble ! " A little picture of Balkan Europe which tells
a story one can read only too well.

Baron Ofenheim is reputed to be one of the wealthiest
men in Austria. I only know him as the kindest of
friends and the most tender-hearted of men. He has a
connexion of many years' standing with England and
is a man of great business capacity, which he has


A Political Pilgrim in Europe

devoted to helping his unfortunate country out of her
terribly trying situation. He was one of the most
helpful delegates to the Fight the Famine Conference
in London. He attended the Geneva Conference urging
a better organization than he believed the Save the
Children Fund had then achieved. He favoured activity
on a larger scale by a more representative body of people
than he considered the organizers of the Fund to be at
that time. Doubtless the much superior organization
that the Fund has achieved under the able secretaryship
of Mr. Golden would satisfy the most severe critic,
including the Herr Baron. With him was Sir Cyril
Butler, at one time a British official in Vienna. With
the opinion of these two distinguished men that Vienna
would be a far more useful centre for the League of
Nations than Geneva, I heartily agree.

Seven months later, in July, 1920, was held in this
same city of conferences the second full gathering of
the Second International. A further description of its
proceedings is not necessary. Controversy followed the
same lines as before. But there was a new tone, a better
spirit. Germans, French and Belgians grew amicable
once more, friendly without being effusive. The British
Delegation numbered this time a few delegates of the
" extreme left." They were attending an international
conference for the first time. They found the quiet unity
too tame. They spoke of the Conference, in private, as
dead if not damned. They turned their eyes, if not towards
Moscow, away from the work in hand. With the mis-
taken judgment of the new-comer they made fiery pro-
paganda speeches, forgetting that they were not talking
at the street corners, but to a body of Socialists, many
of whom were of the best and most intelligent minds in
Europe, some of whom had suffered long years of imprison-
ment and exile for their political faith. They wanted
a demonstration and welcomed the interruptions from


After One Year

the gallery which made Huysmans threaten to close
it. The interrupters were a band of very young men
with wild hair and red ties. A foolish business.

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Online LibraryEthel SnowdenA political pilgrim in Europe → online text (page 11 of 23)