Copyright
Vladimír Nosek.

Independent Bohemia An Account of the Czecho-Slovak Struggle for Liberty online

. (page 2 of 13)
Online LibraryVladimír NosekIndependent Bohemia An Account of the Czecho-Slovak Struggle for Liberty → online text (page 2 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


dismemberment of Hungary, according to the principle of nationality, is a
_sine qua non_ of a permanent and just peace in Europe.

5. The four strongest races in Austria-Hungary, then, are the Germans,
Magyars, Czecho-Slovaks and Yugoslavs, numbering from eight to ten million
each. The Austrian Germans and the Magyars occupy the centre, while the
Czecho-Slovaks inhabit the north (Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and Slovakia),
and the Yugoslavs ten provinces in the southern part of the monarchy. In
order to facilitate German penetration and domination and to destroy the
last remnants of Bohemia's autonomous constitution, the Austrian Government
attempted, by the imperial decree of May 19, 1918, to dismember Bohemia
into twelve administrative districts with German officials at the head, who
were to possess the same power to rule their respective districts as had
hitherto appertained only to the Governor (Statthalter) of Bohemia, legally
responsible to the Bohemian Diet.

But not only are the Czecho-Slovaks and Yugoslavs divided between both
halves of the monarchy and among numerous administrative districts which
facilitate German penetration. Dissensions were fomented among the
different parties of these two nations and religious differences exploited.
The Yugoslavs, for instance, consist of three peoples: the Serbs and
Croats, who speak the same language and differ only in religion and
orthography, the former being Orthodox and the latter Catholic; and the
Slovenes, who speak a dialect of Serbo-Croatian and form the most western
outpost of the Yugoslav (or Southern Slav) compact territory. It was the
object of the Austrian Government to exploit these petty differences among
Yugoslavs so as to prevent them from realising that they form one and the
same nation entitled to independence. At the same time Austria has done all
in her power to create misunderstandings between the Slavs and Italians,
just as she tried to create dissensions between Poles and Ruthenes in
Galicia, and between Poles and Czechs in Silesia, well knowing that the
dominant races, the Germans and Magyars, would profit thereby. Fortunately
the war has opened the eyes of the subject peoples, and, as we shall show
later on, to-day they all go hand in hand together against their common
enemies in Berlin, Vienna and Budapest.



II

AUSTRIA-HUNGARY AND THE PRESENT WAR

In order to understand fully what is at stake in this war and why the Slavs
are so bitterly opposed to the further existence of Austria-Hungary, it is
necessary to study the foreign policy of the Central Powers during the past
century. The "deepened alliance" concluded between Germany and
Austria-Hungary in May, 1918, resulting in the complete surrender of
Austria's independence, is in fact the natural outcome of a long
development and the realisation of the hopes of Mitteleuropa cherished by
the Germans for years past. The scares about the dangers of "Pan-slavism"
were spread by the Germans only in order to conceal the real danger of
Pan-Germanism.

1. The original theory of Pan-Germanism was the consolidation and unity of
the whole German nation corresponding to the movement of the Italians for
national unity. In fact it was a German, Herder, who first proclaimed the
principle of nationality and declared the nation to be the natural organ of
humanity, as opposed to the idea of the state as an artificial
organisation: "Nothing seems to be so opposed to the purpose of government
as an unnatural extension of territory of a state and a wild confusion of
holding different races and nations under the sway of a single sceptre." It
was this humanitarian philosophy recognising the natural rights of all
nations, great or small, to freedom which inspired the first Czech
regenerators such as Dobrovský, Jungman and Kollár.

The legitimate claims of the Germans to national unity became unjust and
dangerous for Europe when the Germans began to think of subduing the whole
of Central Europe to their hegemony, which meant the subjugation of some
100 million Slavs and Latins. At first it was Austria which, as the head of
the former Holy Roman Empire, and the traditional bulwark of Germany in the
east (Osterreich - an eastern march), aspired to be the head of the
Pan-German Empire. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Austrian Emperor
became the head of the German Confederation. Prussia at that time entirely
gave way and left the leadership to Metternich's system of absolutism.

By and by, it became obvious that Austria was, on account of her non-German
population, internally weak, condemned to constant employment of violence
and reaction, and therefore unfit to stand at the head of a strong modern
Pan-Germany. Prussia therefore, as the greatest of the homogeneous German
states, became Austria's rival and was accepted by the Frankfurt Assembly
as the leader of the Confederation. The rivalry between Austria and Prussia
ended in 1866, when after Austria's defeat the clever diplomacy of Bismarck
turned the rivalry between Austria and Prussia into friendship. Since the
Germans in Austria began to feel their impotence in the face of the growing
Slav power, a year later the centralising efforts of the Habsburgs were
finally embodied in the system of dualism which gave over the Slavs and
Italians in Austria to German hegemony and the Slavs and Rumanians in
Hungary to Magyar tyranny. For the support of this hegemony the Austrian
Germans and Magyars, whose ambitions are identical with those of Germany,
were entirely dependent on Berlin. Thus Austria-Hungary became inevitably
Germany's partner and vanguard in the south-east. Finally, the present war
was started by the Germans and Magyars with the object of achieving the
ambitious plans preached and expounded by Pan-German writers for years
past. The Germans wanted at all costs to become the masters of Central
Europe, to build an empire from Berlin to Bagdad, and finally to strike for
world domination.

2. In this turn of events Magyar influence played a greater part than might
be thought. Already in 1848 Kossuth defined the Hungarian foreign policy as
follows: -

"The Magyar nation is bound to maintain the most cordial relations with
the free German nation and help it in safeguarding Western
civilisation."

And while the Hungarian Slavs were prohibited from attending the Pan-Slav
Congress held in Prague in 1848, the Magyars sent two delegates to
Frankfurt in order to give practical expression to the above Magyar policy.

The value of Hungary for the Pan-German plans has been expressed by
Friedrich List who, in 1862, dreamt of "a powerful oriental German-Magyar
Empire," and declared:

"The way towards the realisation of this plan runs through Hungary, and
while without Hungary we can do nothing, with her aid we can do
everything. Hungary is for Germany the clue to Turkey and the Near
East, and at the same time a bulwark against a superior power from the
north."

The Magyars realised from the beginning the importance of an understanding
between themselves and Prussia, and they directed their foreign policy
accordingly. The setting up of dualism in 1867, which finally established
the German-Magyar hegemony in Austria-Hungary in the interests of Prussia,
was the work of two Magyars - Julius Andrassy and Francis Deak, who took
advantage of Austria's defeat at Sadova to further their interests. In
1870, when Vienna contemplated revenge against Prussia, the Magyars again
intervened in favour of Prussia. When questioned as to Hungary's attitude,
Andrassy, then Premier, declared in the Hungarian Parliament that under no
circumstances would he allow any action against Prussia, and exerted all
his influence in Vienna to that effect. It was also due mainly to Magyar
influence that all attempts of the Czechs to weaken German influence in
Austria were frustrated. Francis Joseph always promised to be crowned King
of Bohemia when he wished to placate the Czechs in times of stress for
Austria: in 1861, 1865, 1870 and 1871. But he never carried out his
promises. In this he was guided not only by considerations of dynastic
interest, but also by the advice of the Magyars.

But the most decisive and fateful exercise of Magyar influence upon
Austria's foreign policy occurred in 1879, when the Austro-German Alliance
was finally concluded. This was equally the work of Bismarck, who spared
the defeated Austria in order to make an ally of her, and of a
Magyar - Count Andrassy - who from 1871 to 1879 was the Austro-Hungarian
Foreign Minister. It was this Magyar help which made Bismarck utter words
of gratitude and declare in 1883:

"Our political judgment leads us to the conviction that German and
Magyar interests are inseparable."

It is true that there always was a Magyar opposition against Austria
(though never against Prussia). But this opposition was used as a weapon to
extort concessions from Austria. At the bottom of their hearts, however,
the Austrian Germans were always at one with the Magyars in their common
desire to oppress the Slavs. And the responsibility of Count Tisza for the
present world catastrophe is just as great as that of the Kaiser himself.

3. The Czechs saw clearly the progress of events. Bismarck was well aware
of the importance of Bohemia, for he declared that the master of Bohemia
would become the master of Europe. He did not desire to annex any Austrian
territory, since he knew that sooner or later Germany would swallow the
whole of Austria, as she has done in this war. Indeed, at the Congress of
Berlin in 1878, Bismarck did not conceal his intention of using
Austria-Hungary in Germany's interests. At the bottom of his heart he was
at one with the radical Pan-German writers, like Lagarde, Treitschke,
Mommsen, Naumann and others, who openly declared that the Slavs should be
subjugated and the Czechs, as the most courageous and therefore the most
dangerous of them, crushed.

The Slavs always bitterly opposed the encroachments of Germanism, and saw
in it their chief enemy. The Czech leader Palacký rejected the invitation
to Frankfurt in 1848 and summoned a Slav Congress to Prague. It is true
that Palacký at that time dreamt of an Austria just to all her nations. He
advocated a strong Austria as a federation of nations to counterbalance
Pan-Germanism. Yet at the same time Palacký has proved through his history
and work that Bohemia has full right to independence. He was well aware
that a federalistic and just Austria would have to grant independence to
the Czecho-Slovaks. But later on he gave up his illusions about the
possibility of a just Austria, when he saw that she abandoned the Slavs
entirely to German-Magyar hegemony, and declared that Bohemia existed
before Austria and would also exist after her. In 1866 he wrote:

"I myself now give up all hope of a long preservation of the Austrian
Empire; not because it is not desirable or has no mission to fulfil,
but because it allowed the Germans and Magyars to grasp the reins of
government and to found in it their racial tyranny."

Exasperated by the pact of dualism which the Czechs never recognised,
Palacký went to Moscow and on his return declared:

"I have already said that I do not cherish any hopes of the
preservation of Austria, especially since the Germans and Magyars made
it the home of their racial despotism; the question therefore as to
what will happen to the Slavs hitherto living in Austria is not without
significance. Without attempting to prophesy future events which for a
mortal man it is difficult to foreshadow, I may say from my inner
conviction that the Czechs as a nation, if they fell under the
subjection of either Russia or Prussia, would never rest contented. It
would never fade from their memory that according to right or justice
they should be ruled by themselves, that is by their own government and
by their own sovereign. They would regard the Prussians as their deadly
enemies on account of their germanising rage. But as to the Russians,
the Czechs would regard them as their racial brothers and friends; they
would not become their faithful subjects, but their true allies and, if
need be, vanguards in Europe."

Moreover, modern Czech politicians always clearly saw what the Germans were
aiming at. Dr. Kramár, for instance, foresaw the present situation with
remarkable perspicacity. In the _Revue de Paris_ for February, 1899, he
wrote on "The Future of Austria," declaring that her subject nationalities
should be on guard lest she should become a vassal of Germany and a bridge
for German expansion into Asia:

"The Austrian Germans wish to see Austria subordinated to German
policy, and with the help of a subordinated Austria, the sphere of
German political and economic activity would extend from Hamburg to
Asia Minor."

Similarly also he warned Great Britain in the _National Review_ for
October, 1902, that if Pan-German plans were realised,

"Austria would become an appanage of Germany as regards international
relations, and the policy of Europe would be obliged to reckon, not
with a free and independent Austria, but, owing to Austria's
unconditional self-surrender, with a mighty, almost invincible
Germany.... The Pan-Germans are right, the Czechs are an arrow in the
side of Germany, and such they wish to and must and will remain. Their
firm and unchangeable hope is that they will succeed in making of
themselves an impenetrable breakwater. They hope for no foreign help;
they neither wish for it nor ask for it. They have only one desire,
namely, that non-German Europe may also at last show that it
understands the meaning of the Bohemian question."

In 1906 Dr. Kramár wrote again in detail on the plans of German domination
in Central Europe, in the Adriatic and in the Near East. In a book on Czech
policy he declared that to prevent the realisation of these plans was the
vital interest of the Czech nation: "A far-seeing Austrian policy should
see in the Czech nation the safeguard of the independence of the State."
And then followed the famous passage which formed part of the "evidence"
quoted against him during his trial for high treason:

"If Austria-Hungary continues her internal policy by centralising in
order to be better able to germanise and preserve the German character
of the State, if she does not resist all efforts for the creation of a
customs and economic union with Germany, the Pan-German movement will
prove fatal for her. To preserve and maintain a state the sole ambition
of which was to be a second German State after Germany, would be
superfluous not only for the European Powers, but also for the
non-German nations of Europe. _And if, therefore, a conflict should
break out between the German and the non-German world and the definite
fate of Austria should be at stake, the conflict would surely not end
with the preservation of Austria_."

And on November 10, 1911, he admitted that his former hopes for the
destruction of the Austro-German Alliance and a rapprochement between
Austria and Russia proved to be in vain:

"... _I had an aim in life and a leading idea. The events of the
annexation crisis have proved calamitous for the policy which I
followed all my life_. I wished to do everything which lay within the
compass of my small powers, to render my own nation happy and great in
a free, powerful and generally respected Austria ... _I have always
resented the fact that when they talked about Austria people really
meant only the Germans and Magyars, as if the great majority of Slavs
upon whom rest the biggest burdens did not exist_. But now - and no
beautiful words can make me change my opinion on that point - an
entirely independent policy has become unthinkable, because the only
path which remains open to Vienna leads by way of Berlin. Berlin will
henceforward direct our policy."

4. To offer any proofs that the present war was deliberately planned and
provoked by the Governments of Berlin, Vienna and Budapest seems to me
superfluous. Who can to-day have any doubt that Austria wilfully provoked
the war in a mad desire to crush Serbia? Who can doubt that Austria for a
long time entertained imperialist ambitions with respect to the Balkans
which were supported by Berlin which wished to use Austria as a "bridge to
the East"?

No more damning document for Austria can be imagined than Prince
Lichnowsky's Memorandum. He denounces Austria's hypocritical support of the
independence of Albania. In this respect he holds similar views to those
expressed in the Austrian delegations of 1913 by Professor Masaryk, who
rightly denounced the Austrian plan of setting up an independent Albania on
the plea of "the right of nationalities" which Austria denied her own
Slavs. Professor Masaryk rightly pointed out at that time that an outlet to
the sea is a vital necessity for Serbia, that the Albanians were divided
into so many racial, linguistic and religious groups and so uncivilised
that they could not form an independent nation, and that the whole project
was part and parcel of Austria's anti-Serbian policy and her plans for the
conquest of the Balkans. Prince Lichnowsky admits that an independent
Albania "had no prospect of surviving," and that it was merely an Austrian
plan for preventing Serbia from obtaining an access to the sea.

He apparently disagrees with the idea of "the power of a Ruling House, the
dynastic idea," but stands up for "a National State, the democratic idea."
That in itself seems to indicate that he is in favour of the destruction of
Austria and its substitution by new states, built according to the
principle of nationality. He admittedly disagrees with the views of Vienna
and Budapest, and criticises Germany's alliance with Austria, probably
knowing, as a far-sighted and well-informed politician, that
Austria-Hungary cannot possibly survive this war.

Prince Lichnowsky frankly admits that the murder of the Archduke Francis
Ferdinand was a mere pretext for Vienna, which in fact had resolved on an
expedition against Serbia soon after the second Balkan war by which she
felt herself humiliated. In scathing terms he denounces the Triple Alliance
policy and thinks it a great mistake that Germany allied herself with the
"Turkish and Magyar oppressors." And though he says that it was Germany
which "persisted that Serbia must be massacred," he makes it quite clear
that it was Vienna that led the conspiracy against Europe, since on all
questions Germany "took up the position prescribed to her by Vienna." The
policy of espousing Austria's quarrels, the development of the
Austro-German Alliance into a pooling of interests in all spheres, was "the
best way of producing war." The Balkan policy of conquest and strangulation
"was not the German policy, but that of the Austrian Imperial House." What
better testimony is required to prove that Austria was not the blind tool,
but the willing and wilful accomplice of Germany?



III

CZECH POLITICAL PARTIES BEFORE AND DURING THE WAR

The Czech policy during the past seventy years has always had but one
ultimate aim in view: the re-establishment of the ancient kingdom of
Bohemia and the full independence of the Czecho-Slovak nation. From the
very beginning of their political activity Czech politicians resisted the
Pan-German scheme of Central Europe. They preached the necessity of the
realisation of liberty and equality for all nations, and of a federation of
the non-Germans of Central Europe as a barrier against German expansion.

The chief reason for the failure of their efforts was the fact that they
sometimes had illusions that the Habsburgs might favour the plan of such an
anti-German federation, although the Habsburgs always mainly relied on the
Germans and Magyars and could not and would not satisfy the Czech
aspirations. The Czechs were greatly handicapped in their political
struggle, because they had only just begun to live as a nation and had to
face the powerful German-Magyar predominance, with the dynasty and the
whole state machinery behind them. Moreover, the Czechs had no national
aristocracy like the Poles or Magyars, and their leaders lacked all
political experience and all sense of reality in politics which was so
marked in a state built on deceit and hypocrisy. They continually defended
themselves with declarations about the justice of their claims, satisfied
themselves with empty promises which Austria has never kept, and cherished
vain illusions of obtaining justice in Austria, while Austria was _via
facti_ steadily depriving them of all their rights. On the other hand, it
should be remembered that they were faced with a government that had the
whole powerful German Empire behind it, and that they had to struggle for
freedom in a state where genuine constitutional government and democracy
were unknown. The Czech efforts to obtain some measure of freedom by
struggling for democratic reforms were consistently opposed by the dominant
Germans. To-day, of course, the situation has greatly improved as compared
with the situation seventy years ago. The Czecho-Slovak nation, through its
own work and energy, is a highly advanced and economically self-supporting
and rich nation, and in its struggle for a just resettlement of Central
Europe it has the support not only of all the other non-German nations of
Central Europe, but also of the Entente on whose victory it has staked its
all. The Czecho-Slovaks are resolved not to let themselves be fooled by
Austria any longer and claim full independence from Berlin, Vienna and
Budapest, which alone will safeguard them against the possibility of being
again exploited militarily, economically and politically against their own
interests for a cause which they detest.

1. Although as early as 1812 the Bohemian Diet (then a close aristocratic
body) demanded the restitution of the rights of the kingdom of Bohemia, the
political activity of the Czechs did not really begin until 1848 when, on
April 8, the emperor issued the famous Bohemian Charter recognising the
rights of Bohemia to independence. It was that year which marked the end of
Metternich's absolutism and in which revolution broke out in Western and
Central Europe, including Hungary and Bohemia. Already at that time the
Czechs counted on the break-up of Austria. Havlícek, who in 1846 began to
publish the first national Czech newspaper, wrote on May 7, 1848, when
inviting the Poles to attend the Pan-Slav Congress in Prague:

"An understanding between us - the Czecho-Slovaks and the Poles - would
be to the mutual advantage of both nations, especially under the
present circumstances when everything, even the break-up of Austria,
may be anticipated. I am sure that if the government continues to
pursue its present policy, Austria will fall to pieces before next
winter and the Czechs are not going to save her. The Czecho-Slovaks,
Poles and Yugoslavs, united politically and supporting each other, will
surely sooner or later attain their object, which is to obtain full
independence, national unity and political liberty."

It is characteristic of Austria that during the present war she has
prohibited the circulation of this article written seventy years ago.

Similarly, also, Palacký in his letter to Frankfurt, explaining why the
Czechs would not attend the Pan-German Parliament, made it clear that he
had no illusions about the good-will of Austria to adopt a just policy
towards her nationalities:

"In critical times we always saw this state, destined to be the bulwark
against Asiatic invasions, helpless and hesitating. In an unfortunate
blindness this state has never understood its true interests, always
suppressing its moral duty to accord to all races justice and equality
of rights."

At the Pan-Slav Congress presided over by Palacký, Bakunin, the Russian
revolutionary, openly advocated the dismemberment of Austria in the
interests of justice and democracy, and proposed a free Slav federation in
Central Europe.

The Pan-Slav Congress, in which also the Poles and Yugoslavs participated,
issued a manifesto to Europe on June 12, 1848, proclaiming the "liberty,
equality and fraternity of nations." It ended prematurely by the outbreak
of an abortive revolt in Prague, provoked by the military, which resulted
in bloodshed and in the re-establishment of reaction and absolutism.


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryVladimír NosekIndependent Bohemia An Account of the Czecho-Slovak Struggle for Liberty → online text (page 2 of 13)