Bela Kun

The Revolutionary Tide in Austria

First Published: Pravda June 8, 1918
Source: International Socialist Library No. 15, Revolutionary Essays by Bela Kun, B.S.P., London.
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The pulse of the Austrian revolution is daily beating quicker and quicker. The stormy tide of events is daily washing away more and more of the foundations of the existing order, constantly breaking off new buttresses. The governments rest within the country only on a thin crust. It has long lost all hope of the masses of the subject races: but it is now a question of lower middle-classes of the ruling races who are raising their voices against the new alliance with increasing energy. The Austro-Hungarian, and still more the Swiss, papers show us that, while the imperialist classes are closing their ranks around the German alliance, the mass of the lower middle-class is adopting a benevolent attitude towards the Entente Powers, trying to get rid of the war and of their ally, Germany.

The refusal of the war-weary soldiers on the Italian front to serve imperialist interests is a parallel phenomenon with that of the new orientation of bourgeois circles.

In Bohemia, and amongst the Jugo-Slav bourgeoisie, there has long been evident a current hostile to German imperialism. The same tendency is becoming more and more clearly marked in Hungary.

Count Karolyi, the leader of the most left bourgeois opposition and of the pacifists, has protested very sharply in the Hungarian Parliament against the alliance with Germany. In his speech he alluded to the whole dynasty in a tone unusual for Austria.

After this Parliamentary outburst, which found a wide echo in the country, Governmental circles have begun a campaign against him on the ground of alleged high treason. Proceedings have been begun in the Budapest Courts against Karolyi on the basis of a charge of having compromising relations with Italian statesmen. It is characteristic that materials for the case have been collected by the agents of the German General Staff.

The unreliability of the troops has increased by now to such an extent that, after Charles' visit to Constantinople, Turkish troops appeared in Austria-Hungary as the only trustworthy reserve against the internal as against the external foe.

Against the extremely unsuccessful attempt to introduce State Capitalism, after the manner of Germany, there is arising the opposition of not only the workers but also the lower middle-class, so numerous in Austria. Both in Austria and Hungary commercial conferences were recently held of the lower middle-class, whose existence is threatened by State capitalism. In spite of all attempts by official circles to moderate their fury, they more than once raised their voice against the Government, and protested against German colonisation of Austria.

On the other hand, the harvest has been requisitioned in advance, for the needs of the whole of Central Europe; a measure which has evoked from amongst the peasantry an unheard-of strength of resistance. This has determined largely the agitation amongst the troops on the Italian front, as they consist, for the most part, of peasant elements.

Side by side with this, the labour movement in Austria-Hungary is swinging more and more to the left. Even the party leaders, though badly infected with social-patriotism, have nevertheless become more radical than the German Social-Democracy. A regrouping is going on of the Left, the completely radical elements of the working-class movement, to a certain extent still acting as the opposition within the old parties. Both in Austria and in Hungary there are now in effect two party centres.

The illegal sections of the labour movement are fed by mass desertions of the workers at the front and in the rear. Those organisations are still further and further developed by returning prisoners of war. In reply to a question about the Hungarian Bolsheviks, asked in the Upper House, the Premier Wekerle replied that the Government was quite powerless in this respect, as the elements infected with Bolshevism were returning home by routes of their own choosing, and avoiding the moral aid of the military authorities. Bolshevism is causing governmental circles, both in Austria and in Hungary, more and more anxiety.

The last hope of the reactionaries is that Count Tisza, who occupies a foremost position in the political arena, may, together with his agents Burian and Czernin, supplant the Premier Wekerle.

What the Austrian papers do not mention may be gathered from the small leaflets which are being circulated in Austria in the old, pre-revolutionary, Russian style. On their basis we can state that, within the frontiers of the Dual Monarchy, there are already dauntless champions of the international revolution. "The first problem is to save the Russian Revolution," says one of these illegal leaflets. "Its destruction would mean the victory of pan-European imperialism: its victory will signify the defeat of the latter."

These and many other symptoms show that there is already some sort of connection between the different outbursts of the revolutionary masses.

The lower middle-class mass is now not in the least intoxicated by military victories. The Turkish troops; the trials for high treason of leaders of the bourgeois opposition — all this shows us that military revolts and revolutionary strivings on the part of the workers and the oppressed peoples will not meet with hindrance amongst the lower middle-class mass".