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well as twenty-three delegates of the Yugoslavs. The meeting was most
solemn and impressive. It was a new manifestation by the whole nation of
its unanimity in the struggle for independence. The Czecho-Yugoslav
solidarity was again emphasised. Finally, a solemn oath was unanimously
taken by the whole assembly. The following are some of its passages:

"To the Czecho-Slovak Nation!

"The terrible world war is approaching its culmination. In awe and
sorrow a great number of Czecho-Slovak men and women are standing here.

"The Czecho-Slovak blood has been and is still being shed in torrents.

"Unbroken, united in suffering, our nation believed and believes that
the storm of the world war will ultimately result in a better future
and that its humanitarian ideals will be sanctioned by a universal
peace which will forever guard humanity against a repetition of the
present catastrophe.

"We never asked for anything but to be able to live a free life, to
govern our own destinies free from foreign domination, and to erect our
own state after the manner of all other civilised nations. That is our
sacred right. It is the national and international right of a nation
which has done great service to civilisation and can proudly range
itself among the most civilised and democratic nations of Europe.

"This is the firm and unanimous will of the nation:

"_We have assembled here to-day as the legitimate representatives of
the Czecho-Slovak nation in order to manifest unmistakably that the
whole nation is united as it never was before, and that it stands like
a rock behind the memorable and historic declarations of its deputies_.

"_So we are standing here, firmly convinced of the ultimate victory of
Justice, of the victory of Right over Might, of Liberty over Tyranny,
of Democracy over Privilege and of Truth over Falsehood and Deceit_.

"At the cross-roads of history, we swear by the glorious memory of our
ancestors, before the eyes of the sorrow-stricken nation, over the
graves of those who have fallen for the cause of liberty, to-day and
for all eternity:

"_We will hold on and will never give way!_

"_We will be faithful in all our work, struggles and sufferings,
faithful unto death!_

"_We will hold on unto victory!_

"_We will hold on until our nation obtains independence_.

"_Long live the Czecho-Slovak nation!_

"Let our nation grow and flourish freely in the great family of
nations, for its own welfare as well as for the welfare of the future
liberated humanity!"

_(g) The Slovaks' Attitude_

The appalling terrorism prevailing in Hungary made it impossible for the
Slovaks to manifest their feelings as they would have liked to do. The
Slovaks abroad, of course, work hand in hand with the Czechs for their
common cause.

Nevertheless, even in Hungary the Slovaks showed their unanimity with the
Czechs.

According to the _Národní Listy_ of July 24, 1917, the Slovak political
leaders, especially their two deputies, Father P. Juriga and Dr. P. Blaho,
and the veteran leader of the Slovak National Party, M. Dula, have been
subjected to all sorts of persuasions and threats on the part of the
Magyars who were anxious that the Slovaks should disavow the declaration of
the Bohemian Club in favour of the union of all Czechs and Slovaks in an
independent state. The Slovak leaders, however, refused to become the dupes
of the Magyar Government.

According to the _Národní Listy_ of May 5, 1918, a great manifestation was
arranged by Slovak Socialists in St. Miklos on May 1 in favour of the union
of the Hungarian Slovaks with the Czechs of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia.
Several thousand Slovaks took part in the manifestation despite the
obstacles put in the way by the Magyar gendarmerie and police spies. A
resolution was carried unanimously demanding amongst other things a just
and lasting peace which would prevent the outbreak of fresh conflagrations
and assure liberty to all nations in Europe, and "_self-determination for
all nations_, including also that branch of the Czecho-Slovak nation which
lives in Hungary." Besides this manifestation, the Slovaks sent
representative delegates to the National Theatre celebrations in Prague,
with which we deal in our next chapter.

_(h) The Czecho-Slovak National Council in Prague_

On July 13, 1918, an important event took place in Prague. The
Czecho-Slovaks established an inter-party council which may well be
described as part of the _Provisional Government of Bohemia_, whose
programme is identical with that of the Czecho-Slovak Provisional
Government in Paris.

The inaugural meeting of the council in Prague was opened by the president
of the Agrarian Party, Mr. Svehla, who gave a report about the preparatory
work and principles which led to the constitution of the council. On the
proposal of M. Stanek, president of the Union of Czech Deputies, _Dr. Karel
Kramár_, the leader of the Independent Democratic Party, was elected
president of the council, _M. Klofác_, leader of the National Socialists,
and _M. Svehla_ vice-presidents, and _Dr. Soukup_, leader of the
Socialists, secretary. Dr. Kramár greeted the assembly in the name of the
presidency. Afterwards deputy Klofác delivered a speech in the name of the
Socialists, and the vice-president of the Czech Union, supported by deputy
Habermann, proposed that the presidency should itself select members of the
council. The proposal was unanimously accepted. Deputy Stanek greeted the
National Council in the name of the Czech Union as the supreme
representative of the whole Czecho-Slovak nation, of all its classes and
parties. Thereupon Dr. Soukup proposed a resolution which was carried
unanimously and the chief passages of which read as follows:

"To the Czecho-Slovak Nation!

"On the decision of all political parties, representing the united will
of our whole nation, the Czecho-Slovak National Council has been formed
to-day. The immense gravity of the present times and our common concern
for the future fate of the Czecho-Slovak nation have united us in a
national organisation.

"The ultimate aim of the Czecho-Slovak National Council in Prague is
postulated by the demand of these times: _to enlist for systematic
work, to organise and lead the great spiritual, moral and national
resources of the nation_ to that end which is the most sacred and
inalienable right of every nation and which cannot and will not be
denied also to our nation:

"_The right of self-determination in a fully independent Czecho-Slovak
State with its own administration within its own borders and under its
own sovereignty_.

"The Czecho-Slovak National Council wish to interpret this will of the
nation and to be the executive organ of all the common declarations of
its delegates which culminated in the solemn oath of April 13, 1918.

"Our work will not be easy. We shall have to suffer much more
opposition and _we shall have to undergo another great test._ But no
obstacles are able to arrest our nation's progress. In full mutual
agreement with our delegates and with the whole cultural and economic
Czech world, the Czecho-Slovak National Council will faithfully fulfil
its difficult and responsible task, so that it may be truly said before
the conscience of the nation that we did everything that was in our
human power.

"_We know that our whole nation stands behind the Czecho-Slovak
National Council_ as one united rampart. Full of joy at the great
political act which the constitution of the National Council
represents, and full of confidence in the victory of our common cause,
we address to-day to the whole Czecho-Slovak nation an urgent appeal to
support our work with all its strength, to obey all orders of common
discipline and to follow firmly our common national aim."

It is significant that the presidency of this council is composed of four
of the most eminent leaders of the four greatest parties in Bohemia: Dr.
Kramár, Klofác, Svehla and Soukup. All of these have been in prison during
this war, as well as the following members of the council: Dr. Rasín and
Cervinka, friends of Kramár; Cyril Dusek, former editor of Masaryk's organ
_The Times_; Dr. Scheiner, president of the "Sokol" Gymnastic Association;
and Machar, the eminent Czech poet. Besides these the members of the
council include: the Socialist leaders Bechyne, Habermann, Krejcí, Nemec,
Stivín, Meissner, Tusar and Vanek; the Clerical leaders Hruban, Srámek and
Kordác; the author Jirásek; Agrarians Stanek (president of the Czech
Union), Udrzal and Zahradník, Dr. Herben, of Professor Masaryk's party, and
others. _All Czech parties are represented on the council without
exception,_ from the Socialists on the extreme Left to the Clericals on the
extreme Right.

The council is the supreme organ of the Czecho-Slovak nation, and
represents all its classes and parties. It is a national organ and its sole
aim is to work for the welfare of Bohemia, without any regard to Austria.
It stands above all party politics and is the supreme organ to which all
disputes are referred that may arise affecting Czecho-Slovak national
interests. Its aim is, in the words of its proclamation, "to enlist for
systematic work, to organise and lead the great spiritual, moral and
national resources of the Czecho-Slovak nation." Its ultimate object is to
realise "the right of self-determination in a fully independent
Czecho-Slovak State with its own administration within its own borders and
under its own sovereignty." Its aims are obviously identical with those of
the Czecho-Slovak Government in Paris, who alone, of course, are able to
exercise the executive power as a government, especially to organise armies
fighting on the side of the Entente. On the other hand, the National
Council in Prague is organising the nation for the final blow which the
Slavs will, no doubt at an opportune moment, strike at the Dual Monarchy.

Immediately after this important event most significant declarations were
made by Czech deputies in the Reichsrat of Vienna. The Czech deputy _Tusar_
declared that "_the war must end with the creation of a Czecho-Slovak
State_, with the victory of democratic ideas and with the defeat of
militarism and despotism. We will obtain freedom, cost what it may."
Thereupon the Czech deputies sang the Czech national anthem.

The next day deputy _Stríbrný_ delivered a speech which we have quoted in a
previous chapter.

The most significant speech, however, was that of _Dr. Stránský_ in the
Austrian Reichsrat on July 23, which surpasses any of those we have quoted
hitherto in its frank anti-Austrian spirit and expression:

"We want to expose and show up before the whole world the _intolerable
state of foreign domination over us_. You cannot prevent us, not only
before a helpless curtailed parliament, not only before an illusory
high court, but before the whole world, raising our voice against the
Premier who is a typical representative of that _Austria whose mere
existence is a constant and automatic prolongation of the war. One of
the obstacles to peace is the oppression of nationalities in Austria_
and their domination by the Germans. _In this war the Germans, even if
they do not openly admit it, have come to the conclusion that the
German hegemony in Central Europe, and especially in Austria, is
standing on its last legs_. Since they see that their predominance can
no longer be maintained, they endeavour to translate all that they have
acquired into reality, so as to secure the spoils for themselves. Thus
the Germans conceived the idea of establishing a province
'Deutschböhmen' which must be prepared by the establishment of district
governments. From this a very interesting conclusion may be
drawn - _that the Germans themselves lost faith in the further existence
of Austria_, otherwise they would not be in a hurry to save their
province Deutschböhmen in the present Austria. Because they rather wish
for no Austria than for an Austria where they would not be able to
rule, _they are already counting upon the break-up of Austria:_ since
the Germans do not want to accept the solution of a free Danubian
confederation of nations, they prepare already their union with the
Hohenzollerns.

"But then we must ask the Germans to take nothing with them that does
not belong to them. It is more than questionable whether Deutschböhmen
really is German.

"There is another reason which speaks against the creation of a
Deutschböhmen. I am convinced that _if a plebiscite were carried out
among German people in Northern Bohemia, they would declare against
separation from Bohemia_. Why? Because the Germans are too clever not
to know that Bohemia forms not only a historical and geographical
unity, but that this unity has besides a historical basis, also a
practical foundation. The relation between the Czech part of Bohemia
and Northern Bohemia is to a large degree the relation of the consumer
and the producer. Where do you want to export your articles if not to
your Czech hinterland? How could the German manufacturers otherwise
exist? When after the war a Czecho-Slovak State is erected, _the
Germans of Bohemia will much rather remain in Bohemia and live on good
terms with the Czech peasant than be identified with Germany,
boycotted, opposed and hated by the whole world_, especially if we
guarantee, not only by promises, but by deeds and laws, full autonomy
to the German population within the Bohemian State.

"_The real question which puzzles us to-day is: How can Austria exist
at all?_ That is the question. And I again repeat solemnly Palacký's
word that _Austria may exist only so long as her nations wish for it_,
and that _she will cease to exist_ as soon as her nations do not want
her to exist. The Slav nations of Austria declared clearly and
emphatically their wishes and desires in their proclamations. If
instead of working for the conversion of the ruling factor in favour of
these wishes Dr. Seidler shows us Gessler's hat of Austria with a
German head and backbone, then let him remember that _we shall hate
this Austria for all eternity_ (loud cheers and applause) _and we shall
fight her, and God willing, we shall in the end smash her to pieces so
completely that nothing will remain of her_."

_The President:_ "I cannot admit such an expression about this state
and I call the deputy to order."

_Dr. Stránský_: "Excellency, I really do not deserve such a rebuke. It
would be sad if we could not speak freely and with proper emphasis
against a state form which has been imposed upon us.

"Let Dr. Seidler remember that _we regard Austria, whose integrity
according to him must not be questioned, as a centuries-old crime on
the liberties of humanity. Let him remember that it is not only our
political intention, not only our instinct of self-preservation, but
our highest duty and - do not hesitate to say so - our national religion
and our greatest moral mission to damage Austria wherever and whenever
possible, and that our loyalty to our own nation, to our native
country, to our history, to our future and to the Bohemian Crown,
prompts us to betray Austria which is backed up by Germany. We are
therefore determined faithfully to betray her whenever and wherever we
can_. I tell you further, gentlemen, that this state, this Austria
which Seidler talks about, is not a state at all. _It is a hideous,
centuries-old dream, a nightmare, a beast, and nothing else_. It is a
state without a name, it is _a constitutional monarchy without a crown
and without a constitution_. For what kind of a constitution is it if
it has not the necessary confirmation by oath and won the general
approval of nations because it was found to be untenable? _It is a
state without patriots and without patriotism_, it is a state which
arose by the amalgamation of eight irredents - the German one
included - it is a state which had no future and in which the dynasty
... (suppressed) ... in a word, it is a state which is no state at all.
_As a matter of fact, Austria no longer exists_, it is an absurdity and
an impossibility. If I spoke about Czech regiments which went to
embrace their 'enemies,' I must admit that personally I know nothing
about them except what I heard from my German colleagues who persist in
making complaints against us. We believe every word of what they say to
be true, but ... (suppressed by censor). Did you ever hear that a
husband conscious of his honour and respectability told the whole world
about the infidelity of his wife who left him because he ill-treated
her? No, because the husband knows that it is his shame and not hers.
_And if Czecho-Slovak brigades are to-day fighting against
Austria-Hungary it is only a proof that there is something very wrong
with Austria, that Austria is more rotten than Shakespeare's Denmark._
For what other state has soldiers who ran over voluntarily to the
enemy? You keep on saying that England has the Irish problem. _Did you
ever hear of Irish brigades, did you ever hear that any French legions
were fighting for the Central Powers against France_, or Russian
legions against Russia when we were at war with Russia? Indeed,
gentlemen, not even Turkey has any legions fighting with the enemy
against her. _There must therefore be some deep reason for
Czecho-Slovak, Polish and Yugoslav legions fighting on the side of the
Entente_."

We think that any comments on this explicit declaration, in which a Czech
deputy representing his whole nation openly expressed hope for the
dismemberment of Austria and praised the Czecho-Slovak troops fighting for
the Allies, are superfluous.



VIII

CZECHO-SLOVAK CO-OPERATION WITH OTHER NON-GERMAN NATIONS OF CENTRAL EUROPE

The Czechs have always clearly seen that one of the chief reasons which
enable the German-Magyar minority to rule over the Slav majority is the
lack of co-operation amongst the subject peoples. Already before the war
the Czechs were pioneers of Slav solidarity and reciprocity, wrongly called
Pan-Slavism. Thanks to their geographic position, they have no claims
conflicting with any nations except the Germans and Magyars who are their
only enemies.

In these efforts for promoting Slav solidarity the Czechs met serious
obstacles. In the case of some of their Slav friends it was lack of
internal unity which prevented co-operation. In other cases it was the
quarrels artificially fomented by Austria between her subject nations,
notably between the Poles and Ruthenes and between the Yugoslavs and
Italians. Finally, the Poles lacked a definite international point of view.
They were justly sceptical of Slav solidarity seeing that they were
oppressed by a government which claimed to represent a great Slav nation.

All these obstacles, however, have one by one disappeared as the war has
gone on. All the subject peoples of Central Europe saw that they were
persecuted and driven to be slaughtered by the same enemies in Berlin,
Vienna and Budapest. The oppressed races found at last that they have
common aspirations and interests, and the collapse of Russia to-day makes
even the Poles realise where their real enemies are. The Polish people may
to-day have only one orientation: against the Central Powers. It is an
inspiriting sign that even some Polish "Realpoliticians" begin to realise
that Austria is doomed and that it is bad politics to count upon Vienna, to
say nothing of Berlin.

_(a) The Congress of Rome_

In order to give practical expression to the growing sense of co-operation
amongst the oppressed nations of Austria-Hungary, their representatives
assembled in Rome at the beginning of April, 1918. In those days the great
spirit of Mazzini revived again in Rome, and from that moment Italy
definitely became the champion of the movement of the oppressed nations of
Austria-Hungary towards independence.

The congress was attended by numerous Italian senators, deputies, ministers
and other leading men. The Yugoslav Committee was represented by its
president, Dr. Trumbic, the Dalmatian sculptor Mestrovic, the Bosnian
deputy Stojanovic and others; the Czecho-Slovak Council by Dr. Benes and
Colonel Stefanik; the Poles by the Galician deputy Mr. Zamorski, and by
Messrs. Seyda, Skirmunt, Loret and others; the Rumanians by the senators
Draghicescu and Minorescu, the deputy Lupu and the Transylvanians Mandrescu
and De Luca. The Serbian Skupstina sent a deputation of twelve deputies and
a delegation of officers from the Yugoslav division at Salonica. Among the
foreign visitors invited to the congress were M. Franklin-Bouillon,
President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French Chamber of
Deputies, the ex-minister M. Albert Thomas, M. Fournol, M. Pierre de
Quirielle, Mr. H.W. Steed, Mr. Seton-Watson, and Mr. Nelson Gay.

The congress unanimously adopted the following general resolutions agreed
upon between the various nationalities and the special Italo-Yugoslav
Convention concluded between Messrs. Torre and Trumbic:

"The representatives of the nationalities subjected in whole or in part
to the rule of Austria-Hungary - the Italians, Poles, Rumanians, Czechs
and Yugoslavs - join in affirming their principles of common action as
follows:

"1. Each of these peoples proclaims its right to constitute its own
nationality and state unity or to complete it and to attain full
political and economic independence.

"2. Each of these peoples recognises in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy
the instrument of German domination and the fundamental obstacle to the
realisation of its aspirations and rights.

"3. The assembly recognises the necessity of a common struggle against
the common oppressors, in order that each of these peoples may attain
complete liberation and national unity within a free state.

"The representatives of the Italian people and of the Yugoslav people
in particular agree as follows:

"1. In the relations between the Italian nation and the nation of the
Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes - known also under the name of the Yugoslav
nation - the representatives of the two peoples recognise that the unity
and independence of the Yugoslav nation is of vital interest to Italy,
just as the completion of Italian national unity is of vital interest
to the Yugoslav nation, and therefore pledge themselves to employ every
effort in order that at the moment of the peace these decisions
_(finalita)_ of the two nations may be completely attained.

"2. They declare that the liberation of the Adriatic Sea and its
defence against every present and future enemy is of vital interest to
the two peoples.

"3. They pledge themselves also in the interest of good and sincere
relations between the two peoples in the future, to solve amicably the
various territorial controversies on the basis of the principles of
nationality and of the right of peoples to decide their own fate, and
in such a way as not to injure the vital interests of the two nations,
as they shall be defined at the moment of peace.

"4. To such racial groups _(nuclei)_ of one people as it may be found
necessary to include within the frontiers of the other there shall be
recognised and guaranteed the right of preserving their own language,
culture, and moral and economic interests."

The Polish delegates laid before the congress a special memorandum of their
own from which we quote the following:

"The Polish question admits of no cut-and-dried solution and of no
compromise. Poland will either be saved by the Allies or she will
become dependent upon Germany, whether the latter is associated with
Austria or not; above all, upon all-powerful Prussia.

"There is only one way of avoiding this latter alternative, and that is
by countering the plans of the Central Powers with regard to Poland by
the proclamation of the Polish programme, which is that of the Allies.


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Online LibraryVladimír NosekIndependent Bohemia An Account of the Czecho-Slovak Struggle for Liberty → online text (page 10 of 13)