Austria's Complicated Political Currents
Insidious Influences Affect
AUSTRIAN POLITICS HAVE BEEN VERY MUCH TO THE FOREFRONT IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS, LARGELY DUE TO THE RECENT VISIT THERE OF THE NAZI GERMAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, BARON VON NEURATH.
As a consequence of the official Nazi visit and the. demonstrations in Vienna, Nazi and anti-Nazi, that accompanied it, rumours of every description were speedily buzzed across the frontiers of Europe to find form in the less particular.
After investigating the position of Nazi Austria, Our Austrian Correspondent is able this week to provide the fasts of the case, front which it can be seen that the National Socialist movement in that country has got a firm .hold, though the complexity of national feeling and the appearance of a strong leader may yet save the country from falling into the hands of Hitler.
From Our Austrian Correspondent While it is true that Austria is ostensibly a totalitarian state, devoid of party formations or political currents, it is no less true that such currents and formations actually swarm sub rosa.
Officially there is but one political organisation—the Patriotic Front. Perhaps for that very reason it is interesting to survey the many developments that lie beneath the apparently smooth surface.
It is a fact today that the once powerful Socialist movement has been driven corn
pletely underground. Socialist cells undoubtedly do exist within the Government's own official trade unions, but cannot function openly.
In its palmy days the Socialist movement in Austria was renowned among the Socialist parties of Europe for its remarkable degree of unity; today, even in its underground existence, it is split into fragments. Revolutionary Socialists, democratic Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, independent Socialists—all these exist, but do not flourish.
It would be idle to deny the touching devotion of the Viennese masses to their old party—a devotion that is as alive as ever, and can 'fie:i4i,„0y day when Dr. Seitz, the former Socialist Burgomaster, takes his morning constitutioaal. But both the illegal " Rote Fahnc (Communist) and " Arbeiter-Zeitut4:',Zevo1ptionary Socialist) distributors are constantly being discovered and jailed.
The Socialist movement is a negative and powerless organisation today, clinging to its memories. but having lost less strength perhaps than some of its opponents imagine.
Nazi Leaders The Nazi, or pro-Nazi, camp is in a
very different position. To begin with, there is a group of open and unashamed Nazis, led by Captain Leopold. This gentleman, who was in the army until he was expelled for Nazi activities, has spent a considerable period in a concentration camp, but is still the recognised Nazi leader and appears, despite the ban on the Nazi party, to hold a semi-official position.
Other openly Nazi leaders are General BardoIf and Neubacher, who formerly collaborated with the Viennese Socialists' settlement schemes, and Berghhamer, of Linz, who is associated with Neue Zeit, a local pro-Nazi paper.
Another (and more dangerous) group is composed of " nationalbetont " or " em
phatically national " personalities. They do not go quite the whole way with the Nazis, but stand for full collaboration with them. Among these are Baron Neustaedter-Stuermer, a Cabinet Minister and former Minister of the Interior, Znidaric, a former Under-Secretary of State and now an official of the Metal Workers' Union, and Lengauer, Vice-President of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce. (Trade Union officials are appointed by the Government, not elected). These are all connected with the former "Heimatschutz," a para-military patriotic organisation.
Anti-Semitism and the Clergy
There is also a group of " nationalgesinnte or nationally-minded " Catholics, the leading figures of which are mostly University professors. Among them are Srbik, Eibcl, Menghin, Verdross and Spann.
There are few signs that the clergy, even the younger clergy, have been infected by this virus, even Mgr. Hudal's example having few followers. There is a certain .measure of anti-Semitism to be found among the ranks of the clergy, but this dates back many years to the time of the old Empire and is a counter-move to Nazi anti-semitism rather than a step in that direction.
In addition there are various pro-Nazi
papers. Besides the Neue Zeit in Linz, there are various provincial papers (particularly in Carinthia) of minor importance, but in Vienna there are the Neueste Wiener Nachrichten and the Deutsches Volksblatt, the latter of which has recently become almost wholly and openly Nazi.
There is also the illegal Nazi organ, the Osterreichischer Beobachter, which is sent through the post even to leading Government partisans and has a circulation of many thousands. Much indignation has been expressed in Government circles at the failure of the police to solve the comparatively easy problem of where and by whom these thousands of copies are sent through the post week by week with unfailing regularity. Some think that secret Nazi sympathisers among the police have no inten
tion of solving this mystery, while others consider (a more likely theory) that, in view of the agreement of July 11, 1936, with Germany, there is a kind of gentleman's agreement not to press the Nazis too hard.
Provincial Nazi Sympathisers Of the various provinces, Carinthia and Upper Austria are particularly infected. From the first Carinthia has always shown Nazi sympathies, and curiously enough the considerable Slovene minority in Carinthia (as is often the case with the many other Austrian Slays) also contains a very large number of Nazis. Upper Austria, on the other hand, has always had the reputation of Austria's most politically-conscious pro vince. Socialists and Nazis have invariably shown themselves extremely active and there have been several minor Nazi demonstrations in Linz and elsewhere.
Contrary to expectation, Salzburg, despite the many German tourists, is less infected than might he thought the case, while the two provinces where it can be said that the Government has some popular support are Vorarlberg and Lower Austria. The former is somewhat isolated from the rest of Austria and is more-Catholic than the other provinces. Catholic and democratic traditions. are still very strong in the Vorarlberg. In Lower Austria the peasantry arc well organised and, if not completely satisfied with the Government, are at least loyal to the new Austria, and taken as a whole, are solid behind the Government. The same applies to a lesser extent to the peasantry all over Austria.
In general, it may be seen that the situation is very difficult. There is, however, no doubt that, particularly since von Neurath's visit and the coming into the open of the Nazi " cultural society, the astmarkischer Volksverein, there has been a marked swing away from these insidious influences. A firm hand may yet render them powerless to do any more harm.