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[Illustration: Professor Thomas G. Masaryk]




Secretary to the Czecho-Slovak Legation in LONDON



In the following pages I have attempted to outline the story of our
movement for independence. The manuscript of this book was completed over
four months ago. Since then many important changes have occurred in the
international situation. Chapters in which we dealt with the then still
existing Dual Monarchy must of course be read in the past tense, since
Austria exists no more. And again, many things which we anticipated and
hoped for in the future have already become accomplished facts. However, I
trust that the story itself has not only lost none of its value thereby,
but has acquired an additional interest from a historical point of view.
Our aim of national independence, only quite recently declared by our
adversaries to be "an empty dream of moonstruck idealists," has become
to-day not only a practical proposition, but an accomplished fact. We have
our own army, which is by no means the smallest Allied army, and we also
have our own Provisional Government in Paris, recognised not only by the
Allies and by all Czecho-Slovaks abroad, but even by Czech leaders in
Bohemia, with whom we have since the beginning of the war worked in
complete harmony and understanding. The organisation of our independent
State is rapidly proceeding. Austria-Hungary, exhausted economically and
bankrupt politically, has fallen to pieces by the free-will of her own
subject peoples, who, in anticipation of their early victory, broke their
fetters and openly renounced their allegiance to the hated Habsburg and
Hohenzollern rule, even before Austria had actually surrendered to
the Allies.

Events have moved rapidly in Austria, especially since the momentous
British declaration of August 9, 1918, recognising the
Czecho-Slovaks - those resident in the Allied countries as much as those in
Bohemia - as an Allied nation, and the Czecho-Slovak National Council - in
Paris as well as in Prague - as the Provisional Government of Bohemia.
British statesmen already then foresaw the coming collapse of Austria and
acted accordingly. It is also no more a secret to-day that because of the
promulgation of the British and United States declarations our Council was
able to conclude special conventions with all the Allied Governments during
September last, whereby all the powers exercised by a real government have
been granted to it.

In the meantime Germany had been losing more and more control over her
allies, being herself hard pressed on the Western front, and the
consequence of this was a growing boldness on the part of the Austrian
Slavs. On October 2 deputy Stanek declared in the name of the whole Czech
deputation that the National Council in Paris were their true spokesmen and
representatives with whom Austria would have to negotiate. Soon afterwards
the Austrian Poles went to Warsaw, where they formed a new all-Polish
Government, and the Southern Slavs entrusted the government of their
territories to their National Council in Zagreb. Similar councils were
formed also by the Ruthenes and Rumanians. On October 14 the Czecho-Slovak
National Council in Paris constituted itself as a Government of which the
Council in Prague acts as an integral part. The latter took over the reins
of government in Bohemia a fortnight later. On October 19 the Czecho-Slovak
Council issued a Declaration of Independence which we publish in the
Appendix, and from which it will be seen that Bohemia will be progressive
and democratic both in her domestic and foreign policy. A glorious future
is no doubt awaiting her. She will be specially able to render an immense
service to the League of Nations as a bulwark of peace and conciliation
among the various peoples of Central Europe.

The break-up of Austria will, of course, affect enormously the constitution
of the future Europe, and in our last chapter we have tried to give an
outline of these impending changes of conditions and international
relations. The break-up of Austria was bound to come sooner or later,
whether some misinformed critics or prejudiced pro-Austrian politicians
liked it or not. We ourselves were always convinced, and we declared
openly, that Austria could not survive this war, because she was at war
with the majority of her own subjects, who wished for nothing more than for
her destruction. Unfortunately the fact that the sympathies of the thirty
million of Austrian Slavs and Latins were on the side of the Entente,
constituting such an incontestable moral asset for the Allies as it does,
has not always been fully appreciated by Allied public opinion. We
ourselves, however, never doubted for a moment that the Allied cause would
ultimately triumph and that we would achieve our independence, because we
knew that in struggling for this aim we were only carrying out the
unanimous will of our whole nation. Without waiting for any pledges,
without regard as to which side would be victorious, our nation has from
the beginning staked its all on the Allied victory and has contributed with
all its powers to hasten it. Despite all adverse circumstances, our people,
at first completely at the mercy of their enemies, ruthlessly persecuted
and tortured by them, nevertheless remained firm and resolute. Their
attitude was most outspoken and courageous at all times, and they have also
rendered the Allies active assistance, which is being duly appreciated by
them. It is chiefly due to the efforts of the subject peoples themselves,
of whom the Czechs have certainly been the most outspoken, that the
collapse of Austria has occurred, which finally sealed the fate of
Kaiserism and of the Pan-German plans of Mitteleuropa.

To-day our hopes for a better future are at last being fulfilled as a
result of the Allies' complete victory, assuring the creation of a new and
just international order. Our much-afflicted yet undaunted people already
consider themselves as independent. The Peace Conference, at which the
Czecho-Slovak Government will be represented, will only confirm the
existence of an independent Czecho-Slovak State.

In conclusion, we should like to express our deep gratitude to all our
English friends for their valuable assistance in our struggle for the
realisation of our ideals. We especially wish to thank once more the
British Government for the generous step taken by them in recognising us as
an Allied and belligerent nation. It was chiefly because of this
recognition and of the gallant deeds of our army that we achieved all our
subsequent diplomatic and political successes. We may assure Great Britain
that the Czecho-Slovaks will never forget what they owe to her, and that
they will endeavour to do their best to merit the trust so generously
placed in them.


_November_, 1918.

[Illustration: The International Position Of The Czecho Slovak Republic In
Future Europe]


_(a)_ Czech Deputies and Leaders imprisoned and sentenced to Death;
_(b)_ Monster Trials, Arbitrary Executions, Internment of Civilians,
_(c)_ Persecution of the Press;
_(d)_ Reichsrat Interpellations.
_(a)_ Czech Declaration of May 30, 1917;
_(b)_ Courageous Speeches delivered by Czech Deputies in the Reichsrat;
_(c)_ After the Amnesty;
_(d)_ During Peace Negotiations with Russia;
_(e)_ The Constituent Assembly of Prague on January 6, 1918;
_(f)_ The Oath of the Czecho Slovak Nation;
_(g)_ The Slovaks' Attitude;
_(h)_ The Czecho-Slovak National Council in Prague.
_(a)_ The Congress of Rome;
_(b)_ The May Manifestations in Prague.





1. The Habsburg Empire is built upon centuries-old traditions of reaction
and violence. Its present power is chiefly based on the alliance which
Bohemia and Hungary concluded with Austria against the Turkish peril in
1526. The Czechs freely elected the Habsburgs to the throne of Bohemia
which remained a fully independent state, its alliance with Austria and
Hungary being purely dynastic. But soon the Habsburgs began to violate the
liberties of Bohemia which they were bound by oath to observe, and this led
finally to the fateful Czech revolution of 1618. At the battle of the White
Mountain in 1620 the Czechs suffered a defeat and were cruelly punished for
their rebellion. All their nobility were either executed or sent into
exile, and their property confiscated. The country was devastated by the
imperial hordes, and its population was reduced from 3,000,000 to 800,000
during the Thirty Years' War.

In 1627 Ferdinand II. greatly curtailed the administrative rights of
Bohemia, yet he did not dare to deprive her entirely of her independence.
In his "Renewed Ordinance of the Land" Ferdinand declared the Bohemian
crown to be hereditary in the House of Habsburg, and reserved legislative
power to the sovereign. But otherwise the historical rights of Bohemia
remained valid, notwithstanding all subsequent arbitrary centralising
measures taken by the Habsburgs. Bohemia's rights were repeatedly
recognised by each succeeding Habsburg. Legally Bohemia is an independent
state to-day.

The heavy persecutions inflicted upon Bohemia had a disastrous effect upon
her intellectual life and national development which were completely
paralysed until the end of the eighteenth century, when owing to the
humanitarian ideals of those times, and as a reaction against the
Germanising centralistic efforts of Joseph II., the Czechs again began to
recover their national consciousness. This revival marked the beginning of
the Czecho-Slovak struggle for the re-establishment of their independence.
The movement was at first literary, and only in the forties became
political. It was a continuous struggle against reaction and absolutism,
and if the Czecho-Slovaks to-day can boast of an advanced civilisation, it
is only owing to their perseverance and hard endeavours, and not because of
any good-will on the part of the Austrian Government which put every
possible obstacle in their way.

2. _The present Austria-Hungary_ is primarily a dynastic estate, for the
crown was always its supreme political driving force, although at present
the Habsburgs are mere slaves of their masters, the Hohenzollerns. It is
this characteristic which justifies us in concluding that Austria is an
autocratic state _par excellence_. If there were no other reason, this
should be sufficient to make every true democrat an enemy of Austria.
Furthermore, it is this characteristic which makes us comprehend why the
Habsburg monarchy is fighting side by side with German autocracy and
imperialism against the allied democracies of the world.

Notwithstanding the so-called constitution which is a mere cloak for
absolutism, the monarch in Austria is emperor by "Divine Right" alone, and
is the absolute master of his subject peoples in virtue of his privileged
position which confers on him an inexhaustible amount of power and
influence. The internal as well as the foreign policy of the monarchy is
directed in the real or supposed interests of the dynasty. The principle
_divide et impera_ is its leading idea in internal politics, and the
increase of dynastic power in foreign policy. The question of war and peace
is decided by the emperor, to whom it also appertains to order matters
concerning the management, leadership and organisation of the whole army.
And though in Hungary the power of the monarch largely depends on the
Budapest Parliament, yet even here the constitutional power of the dynasty
is enormous, the King of Hungary being a governing and legislative factor
by no means inferior to that of the parliament.

Even when attempts were made at enfranchising the masses (as in 1896 and
finally in 1905), the motive again was purely dynastic. Such constitutional
measures as were taken, only strengthened racial dissensions and were
equally insincere and inefficient. The present constitution of 1867, as
well as the previous constitutions of 1849, 1860 and 1861, was granted by
the crown, to whom it was reserved to reverse or modify the same. The
parliament is absolutely powerless in Austria. It is a mere cloak for
absolutism, since the famous Paragraph 14 provides for absolutist
government by means of imperial decrees without parliament in case of
emergency. The dynasty took ample advantage of this clause during the first
three years of this war when absolutism and terrorism reigned supreme in
the Dual Monarchy. While since 1861 up to the beginning of the war 156
imperial decrees had been issued, fully 161 have been passed during the
first three years of the present war.

The arbitrary power of the dynasty is based: upon the organisation of the
army, the leadership of which is entrusted to the Germans; upon the feudal
aristocracy who are the only real Austrians, since they have no
nationality, though they invariably side with the dominant Germans and
Magyars; upon the power of the police who form the chief instrument of the
autocratic government and who spy upon and terrorise the population; upon
the German bureaucrats who do not consider themselves the servants of the
public, but look upon the public as their servant, and whose spirit of
meanness and corruption is so characteristic of the Austrian body politic;
finally, the dynasty relies upon the Catholic hierarchy who hold vast
landed property in Austria and regard it as the bulwark of Catholicism, and
who through Clericalism strive for political power rather than for the
religious welfare of their denomination. In alliance with them are the
powerful Jewish financiers who also control the press in Vienna and
Budapest. Clearly Austria is the very negation of democracy. It stands for
reaction, autocracy, falsehood and hypocrisy, and it is therefore no
exaggeration to say that nobody professing democratic views can reasonably
plead for the preservation of this system of political violence.

When we remember the enormous power of the dynasty and the political system
which supports it, we understand why in the past Austria has always played
the part of the most reactionary, autocratic and tyrannic state in Europe.
Hopes have indeed been expressed by some Austrophils in the good-will of
the new Austrian Emperor on account of his amiable character. The Slavs
have ample reason to distrust the Habsburgs who have proved to be
treacherous autocrats in the past, and whose records show them as an
incapable and degenerate family. As a political power Kaiser Karl is the
same menace to his subject Slavs as his predecessors. Above all, however,
he is of necessity a blind tool in the hands of Germany, and he cannot
possibly extricate himself from her firm grip. The Habsburgs have had their
chance, but they missed it. By systematic and continuous misgovernment they
created a gulf between the Slavs and themselves which nothing on earth can
remove. Every Habsburg believes he has a "mission" to fulfil. The only
mission left for Kaiser Karl is to abdicate and dissolve his empire into
its component parts. There is no reason whatever why Austria should be
saved for the sake of the degenerate and autocratic Habsburg dynasty.

3. Let us now examine the much misunderstood racial problems of the Dual
Monarchy. There is no Austrian nation, since there is no Austrian language.
Austria is a mere geographical expression. In fact the Slavs, constituting
the majority of Austrian subjects, would think it an insult to be called
Austrians. During the war they have been treated as subjects of an enemy
state, and to-day they have no part or lot with Austria. The Czech
statesman Rieger once declared that when the Slavs no longer desired the
existence of Austria, no one would be able to save her. And indeed, the
claims raised by the majority of Austria's population to-day mean the death
warrant of the Dual Monarchy.

To get a clear idea of the racial issue, we will quote the official
Austrian statistics, which tell us that in Austria-Hungary there are:

SLAVS: Million. Million. Million. Million. Million.

Czecho-Slovaks 6.4 2 - 8.4
Yugoslavs 2 3 1.8 6.8
Poles 5 - - 5
Ruthenes 3.5 0.5 - 4
- 24.2
Italians 0.8 - - 0.8
Rumanians 0.3 2.9 - 3.2
- 4
GERMANS 10 2 - 12
MAGYARS - 10 - 10
OTHERS 0.6 0.4 - 1

28.6 20.8 1.8 51.2

Thus it appears that the Slavs alone (without Italians and Rumanians) form
about 48 per cent. of the total population. The Germans form only 24 per
cent. of the population of Austria-Hungary, while in Hungary proper the
dominant Magyars do not form quite 50 per cent. of the population. The
predominance of the German and Magyar minorities is apparent not only from
the fact that they hold the reins of government, but also from their unfair
proportional representation in both parliaments. Thus instead of 310 seats
out of 516 in the Reichsrat the Slavs hold only 259, while the Germans hold
232 instead of 160. By gaining 83 Polish votes in return for temporary
concessions, the Germans have thus always been in the majority in the
Reichsrat in the past. In Hungary the proportion is still more unjust. The
Magyars hold 405 seats instead of 210 in the parliament of Budapest out of
the total number of 413, while the non-Magyars, entitled according to their
numbers to 203 seats, have in reality only five representatives in the
"democratic" parliament of Budapest.

All the above calculations are based upon official statistics which are
grossly exaggerated in favour of the Germans and Magyars. The picture would
be still more appalling if we took into consideration the actual number of
the Slavs. The Austrian census is not based upon the declaration of
nationality or of the native language, but upon the statement of the
"language of communication" ("Umgangsprache"). In mixed districts economic
pressure is brought against the Slavs, who are often workmen dependent upon
German masters and bound to declare their nationality as German for fear
they should lose their employment. From private statistics it has been
found that the percentage of Germans in Bohemia can hardly exceed 20 per
cent, as against 37 per cent, given by the official census. Still greater
pressure is brought to bear against the Slavs by the Magyars in Hungary,
who are famous for the brutal methods in which they indulge for the purpose
of shameless falsification of their official statistics. Thus the actual
strength of the rival races of Austria-Hungary may with every justification
be estimated as follows:

Czecho-Slovaks 10 million \
Yugoslavs 7-1/2 " |
> 27 million
Poles 5 " |
Ruthenes 4-1/2 " /
Italians 1 million \
> 5 "
Rumanians 4 " /
GERMANS 10 " \
> 18 "
51 million

4. The rule of the German-Magyar minority over the Slav and Latin majority,
finally established by the introduction of dualism in 1867, was made
possible only by the demoralising system of violence described above. One
race was pitted against the other in Austria and this enabled the Germans
to rule them better, while the Magyars in Hungary, by keeping their subject
races in the darkness of ignorance and by using the most abominable methods
of violence, succeeded in securing for themselves the entire monopoly of
government. The Magyars, who are a race of Asiatic origin, are truly the
faithful descendants of the ancient Huns, and true allies of the Huns
of to-day.

When Kossuth came to England in 1848, he was hailed as the champion of
freedom and liberty, and entranced his audiences in London and other
English cities by his remarkable oratory. As a matter of fact Kossuth,
though called "the father of the Magyars," was himself a denationalised
Slovak; instead of a "champion of liberty," he might with much greater
justification have been called the champion of the greatest racial tyranny
in Europe. For even then, while fighting for their own liberty and for the
independence of Hungary, the Magyars denied the most elementary political
and national rights to the other peoples living in Hungary.

In 1910 there were 2,202,165 Slovaks in Hungary according to the official
census. These two million Slovaks had only two deputies (Dr. Blaho and
Juriga), while the 8,651,520 Magyars had 405 seats, so that every Slovak
deputy represented one million electors, every Magyar deputy, however,
21,000. As regards administration, all civil service officials in Hungary
have to be of Magyar nationality. The cases of persecution for political
offences are innumerable: Slovak candidates were prevented from being
elected by being imprisoned. Corruption and violence are the two main
characteristics of all elections in "democratic" Hungary. Even to-day when
some Radicals in Budapest talk of electoral reform, they want suffrage to
be extended to Magyar electors only, and also stipulate that the candidates
shall be of Magyar nationality. No Magyar politicians will ever abandon the
programme of the territorial integrity of Hungary, their aims being
expressed in the words of Koloman Tisza: "For the sake of the future of the
Magyar State it is necessary for Hungary to become a state where only
Magyar is spoken. To gain the Slovaks or to come to a compromise with them
is out of the question. There is only one means which is
effective - Extirpation!" And this aim the Magyars have faithfully kept
before them for at least the last hundred years.

In the same way also the economic development of the non-Magyar
nationalities has been systematically hampered, because the Magyars know
that economic dependence means also political subservience. The Slovaks and
Rumanians are not allowed to found co-operative societies or banks on the
ground that such institutions "are opposed to the interests of the elements
which hold the Magyar State together."

But it is not only the non-Magyars who suffer. The Magyar working classes
and the majority of the Magyar country people themselves are deprived of
political rights, for Hungary is ruled by an oligarchy and scarcely 5 per
cent. of the population has the suffrage right.

We may say, therefore, without exaggeration that to-day Hungary is the most
reactionary country of Europe. Nowhere else (not even in Prussia) have the
people so little power as in Hungary, where the Socialists have not a
single seat in parliament. The "politics" in Hungary are the privilege of a
few aristocrats. Hungary is a typical oligarchic and theocratic state.

When the Magyars plead to-day for "peace without annexations" and for the
integrity of Hungary, they want to be allowed to continue to oppress and
systematically magyarise the Slavs and Rumanians of Hungary. The triumphant
allied democracies will not, however, stoop before autocratic Hungary. The

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Online LibraryVladimír NosekIndependent Bohemia An Account of the Czecho-Slovak Struggle for Liberty → online text (page 1 of 13)