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During the subsequent session of the Reichsrat, various Czech deputies,
representing all the Czech parties, made declarations, some of which we
will quote in order to show the remarkable unanimity of the Czechs in their
opposition to Austria and in their demand for independence. _It was chiefly
this unanimity of all Czech parties and classes in Bohemia and the absolute
harmony between their action and the Czecho-Slovak action abroad which
formed the real strength of the movement_.

_Dr. Stránský_, leader of the Moravian People's Party, delivered a long
speech in the Reichsrat on June 12, 1917, from which we quote the following
significant passages:

"The Germans say that germanisation is not carried out except where it
is in the interests of the state. We do not think that the interests of
the state should go first. If the interests of a state are not
identical with the liberties and interests of a nation, then _such a
state has for that nation no right to exist_.

"If Clam-Martinic thinks that we will enter the Reichsrat which the
Polish deputies would not attend in their present strength, then he is
greatly mistaken. We heartily wish the Poles to achieve their national
independence, but should we be denied an equal right, then it would
mean an end to this Reichsrat. We want to enjoy the same happiness as
the rest, _we want to be free from all oppression, from all foreign
domination. We want to decide for ourselves the form of our political
existence_. We want to choose our own laws, we want to govern
ourselves. _We claim the restitution of our political independence and
of the supreme historic right of the Czech nation in the lands of the
Bohemian Crown. The time is ripe also when the Austrian fortresses of
St. Peter and St. Paul will open, and when their prisoners will change
places with their persecutors. The state and dynasty have lately taken
away the rights and liberties of our nation and trampled them

On June 15, the National Socialist deputy _Stríbrný_, openly demanded the
creation of a Czecho-Slovak Republic:

"The German annexationist plans are doomed. The Czechs greet with joy
the new era of equality and fraternity, an era in which a _democratic
republic_ is considered as the best form of government. The Czechs
demand the creation of a Bohemia in which they will possess their own
independent government. _Too long have they been oppressed by Austria,
and now they are determined to achieve their national liberty_."

On June 26, _Dr. Soukup_, the leader of the Czecho-Slav Social Democratic
Party, made an equally remarkable statement:

"As a Social Democrat I say that we, the Czecho-Slovak nation, have
also a right to a place in the sun, and we want to be seen. Do you
consider that a nation numbering over ten million and boasting of a
highly developed civilisation can continue to breathe under such
oppressive conditions, seeing what an important role is being played by
four million Bulgars, two million Greeks, two million Danes and other
small nations? _We welcome the resurrection of the great and united
Polish State, we witness the great Yugoslav nation shaping its
boundaries along the Adriatic, and we also see Ukrainia arising. At
such moments we want to live as well, and we will live_!"

_(c) After the Amnesty_

The political amnesty of July, 1917, intended to appease the Slavs, had
just the opposite effect: it only strengthened the Slav resistance which
acquired fresh strength and impetus by the return of the old leaders.

Kramár was hailed like a sovereign when he entered Prague again. He now
became the recognised leader of the whole nation. The _Národní Listy_
became the mouthpiece of all the most eminent leaders of the nation without
party distinction. Its issue of October 31, 1917, contained a map of the
future independent Czecho-Slovak State and a series of articles. We will
quote only a few passages from an article written by deputy Rasín which
read as follows:

"The war has brought our problem home not only to us but to the whole
world. Nothing could have better expressed our situation than the
propaganda of Mitteleuropa. Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria had to form a
bridge for the imperialistic march of Germany to the Persian Gulf _via_
Constantinople and Bagdad. The Czechs and Yugoslavs were to be crushed
and become the victims of those plans. This was the ideal that the
German nation considered as its war aim and as a war aim of
Austria-Hungary. They could not have obtained a better reply than was
given to them by the Czechs and Yugoslavs in their demand for their own
independent states, which would be able to form a permanent bulwark
against the _Drang nach Osten_ as planned by the Germans and Magyars.
Even if Herr Naumann ceases to promote the idea of Central Europe, in
reality _a new programme which would do away with the old evils and
assign a new mission to Austria-Hungary is inconceivable_. All the
declarations of the government are only destined to conceal their real
intentions. The German-Magyar hegemony is as strong as ever, and the
Polish question is to be solved only according to the Pan-German
programme. During this war Austria's real face has been unmasked before
the whole world by her persecutions, arbitrary decrees and the
Pan-German propaganda.

"The Czechs, who in their policy always went hand in hand with the
Yugoslavs, saw all this, and consequently the only thing left for them
to do is to insist on their attitude, constantly to reveal Austria's
insincerity, to reject all pretty phrases without any meaning in them,
and all compromises, which we know would never be kept. _We also must
reject a compromise peace which would lead to fresh wars_.

"_The policy of the Czechs cannot but aim at the absolute independence
of the whole Czecho-Slovak nation_, and all our action at home and
abroad must tend towards persuading the world that only thus can a
stable peace in Europe be achieved."

It was about this time also when Seidler made desperate attempts to induce
the Slav leaders to participate in a special commission for the revision of
the Austrian Constitution. Dr. Stránský, speaking in the name of the
Czechs, openly refused the proposal, declaring that the Czech problem could
not be solved by Austria, but only by the Peace Conference, that is after
the victory of the Entente. A joint committee of representatives of the
Young Czech, National Socialist, Progressive Independence and Moravian
Progressive Parties issued a proclamation protesting against any
participation of Czechs in Austrian politics, and declaring that since the
Czech question is an international one and can therefore be decided only at
the Peace Conference, the duty of the Czech deputies is not to assist in
the revision of the Austrian Constitution, but to insist upon the creation
of an "_independent Czecho-Slovak State with all the attributes of

Simultaneously also the Czech Agrarian deputy, _Zahradník_, made the
following remarkable declaration in the Reichsrat on September 26:

"In view of the prevailing policy directed against the Czech people,
can any one wonder that _they have lost all confidence in Vienna_ and
that they refuse to let this parliament decide their fate? _It is
necessary to secure for all peoples, great or small, the right to
decide their own destinies_. This applies also to the ten million
Czecho-Slovaks who, moreover, cannot rightly be considered merely as a
'small' nation: the Czechs, too, do not desire anything more than
peace, but it must not be forgotten _that our men did not shed their
blood merely for imperialism or for Pan-Germanism. We do not want
anything but an honourable peace which would bring equality to all
peoples_, a peace assuring liberty and equality to all, and not a peace
which would leave our fetters unbroken. We regret that the Pope omitted
to mention the Czechs in his peace offer although he mentioned the
Poles. _But we shall obtain our right without alien support. The Czechs
will never swerve from their demand for an independent Slovak State
with all the attributes of sovereignty. The Czechs are convinced that
the question of Bohemia is too great to be solved in Vienna. It must be
decided at the Peace Conference_."

On November 9, deputy Stanek made it clear that the Czecho-Slovaks expect
the resurrection of their independence only from the break-up of Austria:

"We cannot conceive of peace or of the transformation of Europe except
when _on the ruins of the Dual Monarchy_ new national states shall
arise. The German-Magyar misrule must be destroyed."

And when on November 21 Seidler talked about the peace conditions of the
"enemy," Dr. Stránský interrupted him by exclaiming, "Our enemies are here,
in Vienna and in Budapest!"

_(d) During Peace Negotiations with Russia_

When peace negotiations were opened with the Bolsheviks, the
Austro-Hungarian delegations were also summoned, for the first time during
the war, on December 3, 1917. During the speech from the throne the Czechs
demonstratively left the hall. On the same day the Bohemian Union, the
Yugoslav Club and the Ruthenes issued a protest against the government
having published a distorted version of the Russian peace offer. In this
protest the Slav deputies asked:

"How can the government answer for having purposely distorted such a
highly important document as the Russian Note of November 28, and why
did the government suppress just the paragraph out of it containing
guarantees for national self-determination?"

Their declaration naturally exasperated the Germans and the government. The
organ of the Austrian Foreign Office, the _Fremdenblatt_, expressed regret
that the Slav parties in the Reichsrat "place obstacles in the way of
peace." It also regretted that "some parties in the Austrian Parliament
should take up an attitude incompatible with our state's
self-preservation." On the next day, M. Stanek made a declaration in the
delegations in the name of Czechs and Yugoslavs, saying:

"We Czech and Yugoslav delegates declare that it is our deep conviction
as well as the firm will of our respective nations that a lasting peace
is possible only on the ground of the full right of self-determination.
_The Imperial Government deliberately and wilfully distorted the most
important part of the Russian peace offer_, viz. the demand for the
self-determination of nations. It is still more surprising that the
prime ministers in both halves of the monarchy should try to deceive
the public opinion of the world by a false interpretation of the right
of self-determination. The Austrian Premier, Dr. Seidler, declared that
the Viennese Parliament is a forum through which the nations could
obtain self-determination, while the _Hungarian Premier had the
impudence to describe the conditions in Hungary, which are a mockery of
all civilisation, as the ideal of national liberty._ We, therefore,
declare in regard to any peace negotiations: _Our national development
can only then be secured when the right of self-determination of all
nations shall be fully, clearly and unreservedly recognised_ with
binding guarantees of its immediate realisation."

At the same time the Slavs made a proposal in the Austro-Hungarian
Delegations, insisting that the peace negotiations with Russia should be
conducted by a committee selected from both parliaments on the basis of
nationality, and consisting of twelve Germans, ten Magyars, ten
Czecho-Slovaks, seven Yugoslavs, five Poles, four Ruthenes, three Rumanians
and one Italian.

Finally, on December 5, the Czech Socialist deputy Tusar declared in the

"We want to be our own masters, and if it is high treason to ask for
liberty and independence, then let us say at once that _each of us is a
traitor, but such high treason is an honour, and not a dishonour_. As
regards the negotiations with Russia, we declare that _Count Czernin
does not represent the nations of Austria_ and has no right to speak in
our name; he is merely the plenipotentiary of the dynasty. _The old
Austria, based on police, bureaucracy, militarism and racial tyranny,
cannot survive this war_. We also want peace, but it must be a just
peace. The Czecho-Slovaks will under all circumstances defend their

In conjunction with this declaration we may quote two other Czech
Socialists showing the opinion of the Czechs on the Russian Revolution.

On November 29, deputy Modrácek declared in the Reichsrat:

"The Revolution of the Bolsheviks is a misfortune for the Russian
Revolution, the Russian Republic and all the oppressed nations of
Europe. _So long as the German Social Democracy permits the working
masses to be brought to the battlefield in the interests of
Imperialism, the action of the Bolsheviks is not the work for Socialism
but for German Tsarism_. I do not undervalue the significance and the
greatness of the Russian Revolution: it is the German Social Democrats
who fail to perform their moral duty in this war and do not comprehend
the Russian Revolution."

Still more outspoken is the declaration of deputy Winter, who said in the
Reichsrat on February 21, 1918:

"The workers of the whole world will never forget that the Russian
Revolution was the first social revolution on a large scale. And on
this revolutionary movement Germany has directly and Austria-Hungary
indirectly declared war. _Perhaps Austria-Hungary wants to repay the
Romanoffs in_ 1918 _for the aid which they rendered to the Habsburgs
in_ 1848.... Austria-Hungary once before engaged in the European
reaction by crushing revolution in Italy. She gathered the fruits of
this act in 1848, 1859, 1866, and in the present war. Formerly France
and Russia participated in the Holy Alliance, but _to-day the Central
Powers are the only refuge of reaction in Europe_."

_(e) The Constituent Assembly of Prague on January_ 6, 1918

The most important manifestation of Czecho-Slovak national will took place
in Prague on January 6, 1918, when all the Czech deputies assembled in
order to give expression to their deep gratitude for the French recognition
of the constitution of a Czecho-Slovak army on the side of the Entente. At
the same time it was a protest against Austria-Hungary and a demand for
representation at the Peace Conference.

As to the resolution unanimously adopted by this constituent assembly,
there is no doubt about its meaning: in it the Czecho-Slovaks no more act
with Austria but demand full liberty. This even the Austrian Premier, Dr.
Seidler, had to admit, when he declared in the Reichsrat on January 22:

"This resolution, in which we in vain look for a distant echo of
dynastic or state allegiance, adopts to a certain extent an
international standpoint, and shows that this people is ready, at any
rate on the conclusion of peace, to accept international support with a
view to obtaining the recognition of foreign states. Such a standpoint
is calculated to encourage our enemies and to prolong the war.

"The resolution demands the right of self-determination in order to
dissolve the existing unity of the state, and to assure full
independence and sovereignty. _The resolution gives the impression of
having been conceived in a sense absolutely hostile to the state_, and
must be indignantly rejected by every Austrian and resisted by every
Austrian Government with all the means in its power."

The Czech declaration of January 6, which is the most important of all
declarations of the Czechs and which has been suppressed in the Austrian
press, reads as follows:

"In the fourth year of this terrible war, which has already cost the
nations numberless sacrifices in blood and treasure, the first peace
efforts have been inaugurated. We Czech deputies recognise the
declarations in the Reichsrat, and deem it our duty emphatically to
declare, in the name of the Czech nation and of its oppressed and
forcibly-silenced Slovak branch of Hungary, our attitude towards the
reconstruction of the international situation.

"When the Czech deputies of our regenerated nation expressed
themselves, during the Franco-Prussian War, on the international
European problems, they solemnly declared in the memorandum of December
8, 1870, that 'only from the recognition of the equality of all nations
and from natural respect of the right of self-determination could come
true equality and fraternity, a general peace and true humanity.'

"We, deputies of the Czech nation, true even to-day to these principles
of our ancestors, have therefore greeted with joy the fact that all
states, based upon democratic principles, whether belligerent or
neutral, now accept with us the right of nations to free
self-determination as a guarantee of a general and lasting peace.

"The new Russia also accepted the principle of self-determination of
nations during its attempts for a general settlement and as a
fundamental condition of peace. The nations were freely to determine
their fate and decide whether they want to live in an independent state
of their own or whether they choose to form one state in common with
other nations.

"On the other hand, the Austro-Hungarian delegate declared, in the name
of the Quadruple Alliance, that the question of the self-determination
of those nations which have not hitherto enjoyed political independence
should be solved in a constitutional manner within the existing state.
This point of view of the Austro-Hungarian representative is not our
point of view, because we know, from our own numberless bitter
experiences, that it means nothing but the negation of the principle of
self-determination. We indignantly express our regret that our nation
was deprived of its political independence and of the right of
self-determination, and that by means of artificial electoral statutes
we were left to the mercy of the German minority and of the government
of the centralised German bureaucracy.

"Our brother Slovaks became the victims of Magyar brutality and of
unspeakable violence in a state which, notwithstanding all its apparent
constitutional liberties, remains the darkest corner of Europe, and in
which the non-Magyars who form the majority of the population are
ruthlessly oppressed by the ruling minority, extirpated, and
denationalised from childhood, unrepresented in parliament and the
civil service, and deprived of public schools as well as of all private
educational institutions.

"The constitution to which the Austro-Hungarian representative refers,
nullified even the right of general suffrage by an artificial creation
of an over-representation of the German minority in the Reichsrat, and
its utter uselessness for the liberty of nations was clearly
demonstrated during the three years of unscrupulous military absolutism
during this war. Every reference to this constitution, therefore, means
in reality only a repudiation of the right of self-determination for
the non-German nations of Austria who are at the mercy of the Germans:
and it means an especially cruel insult and injury to the non-Magyar
nations _in Hungary, where the constitution is nothing but a means of
shameful domination by the oligarchy of a few Magyar aristocratic
families_, as was again proved by the recent electoral reform proposal.

"Our nation longs with all the democracies of the world for a general
and lasting peace. But our nation is fully aware that _no peace can be
permanent except a peace which will abolish old injustice_, brutal
force and the predominance of arms, as well as the predominance of
states and nations over other nations, which will assure a free
development to all nations, great or small, and which will liberate
especially those nations which are still suffering under foreign
domination. That is why it is necessary that this right of free
national development and of self-determination of nations, great or
small, to whatever state they may belong, should become the foundation
of future international rights, a guarantee of peace, and of a friendly
co-operation of nations, as well as a great ideal which will liberate
humanity from the terrible horrors of a world war.

"_We deputies of the Czech nation declare that a peace which would not
bring our nation full liberty could not be and would not mean a peace
to us_, but would only be the beginning of a new, desperate and
continuous struggle for our political independence, in which our nation
would strain to the utmost its material and moral forces. And in that
uncompromising struggle it would never relax until its aim had been
achieved. _Our nation asks for independence_ on the ground of its
historic rights, and is imbued with the fervent desire to contribute
towards the new development of humanity on the basis of liberty and
fraternity in a free competition with other free nations, which our
nation hopes to accomplish in a sovereign, equal, democratic and
socially just state of its own, built upon the equality of all its
citizens within the historic boundaries of the Bohemian lands and of
Slovakia, guaranteeing full and equal national rights to all

"Guided by these principles, we solemnly protest against the rejection
of the right of self-determination at the peace negotiations, and
_demand that, in the sense of this right, all nations, including,
therefore, also the Czecho-Slovaks, be guaranteed participation and
full freedom of defending their rights at the Peace Conference_."

_(f) The Oath of the Czecho-Slovak Nation_

It will be remembered that Count Czernin delivered a speech to the Vienna
Municipal Council on April 2, 1918, which caused his downfall. In this
pronouncement he also attacked Czech leaders and blamed them for the
failure of his peace efforts. This interesting passage of his speech reads
as follows:

"What terrible irony it is that, while our brothers and sons are
fighting like lions on the battlefield and millions of men and women at
home are heroically bearing their losses and are sending up urgent
prayers to the Almighty for the speedy termination of the war, certain
leaders of the people and the people's representatives agitate against
the German Alliance, which has so splendidly stood the test, _pass
resolutions which no longer have the slightest connection with the
state idea, find no word of blame for the Czech troops which criminally
fight against their own country_ and their brothers-in-arms, would tear
parts out of the Hungarian State, under the protection of their
parliamentary immunity _make speeches which cannot be considered
otherwise than as a call to enemy countries to continue the struggle_
solely in order to support their own political efforts, and ever anew
kindle the expiring war spirit in London, Rome and Paris. _The wretched
and miserable Masaryk is not the only one of his kind. There are also
Masaryks within the borders of the monarchy._ I would much rather have
spoken on this sad matter in the delegations, but, as I have already
mentioned, the convoking of the committee has at present proved to be
impossible and I cannot wait."

Thereupon he attempted to absolve the Czech "people" from the charge of
high treason.

The Czech leaders did not resent his charge that they were "traitors" like
Masaryk. Indeed, the _Lidové Noviny_ openly declared: "We are proud to be
called traitors." But they resented his subsequent allegation that the
Czech people do not stand behind their leaders. In order to refute this
allegation and to assure the Czech soldiers fighting on the side of the
Entente of their solidarity, the Czechs summoned a meeting at Prague in
which some 6000 _delegates of all Czech parties and classes took part_, as

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Online LibraryVladimír NosekIndependent Bohemia An Account of the Czecho-Slovak Struggle for Liberty → online text (page 9 of 13)