The Vienna Trial
" Catholics Must Support Workers' Just Claims "
From Our A 'Istria'? Correspondent
It is natural that the gravity of the present European crisis should be reflected in Austrian politics, nor was it to be expected that Hitler's successful coup could fail to provoke enthusiasm and renewed activity in nazi circles in Austria; but, unfortunately, the domestic situation has worsened even beyond what might reasonably have been expected.
As will be remembered, a generous amnesty was proclaimed by the Austrian chancellor for almost all socialist political prisoners last Christmas and this was intended to be a gesture heralding an era of reconciliation between the government and the disgruntled socialist masses. It was made plain at that time that the government was prepared to go far to secure, if not the goodwill, at least the neutrality of the socialist workers in its struggle with the numerous pro-nazi elements, and it looked for a time as if this bid had reasonable hopes of success.
SOCIALISTS AND AUSTRIAN INDEPENDENCE
Unfortunately, however, the situation is now worse. than ever. It is calculaited that more persons have been arrested for underground work on behalf of the illegal socialist party since Christmas than were released in accordance with the general amnesty, and feeling has become increasingly bitter, especially in Vienna and St. Pollen.
Until recently a certain measure of toleration was granted to socialist activities. The socialist movement was still so strong and its adherents so numerous that certain of the authorities were willing to turn a blind eye, provided no open scandal was caused, and on this basis a modus vivendi was gradually being built up.
Indeed, open criticism of the government was expressed among the workers and little effort was made to suppress this save in cases, which frequently came to light, of attempts to build up the membership and organisation of the socialist party and trade unions.
Now all this appears to have changed. and no further latitude is allowed. Arrests have been increasingly frequent all over Austria and the anti-socialist drive has culminated this week in a mass trial of sonic thirty socialists being held in Vienna at the time of writing.
Great interest has been aroused by this trial both in Austria and abroad. Mr. Phillips Price, M.P., the Belgian Senator de Brouck'Cre, Madame Vandervelde, wife of the veteran Belgian statesman, and M. Jean Longuet are among the distinguished foreigners who applied for permission to attend the trial, but this was refused.
Many other prominent personalities, including Sir Walter Citrine, Sir Norman Angell, Mr. R. Boothby, M.P., and Mr. Pethick-Lawrence, M.P., have also intervened on behalf of the prisoners, many of whom have already been in prison for more than a year. Feeling is running high in the working-class districts of Vienna.
All the prisoners have
All the prisoners have during the trial affirmed their unshaken belief in the independence • of Austria and in democracy as well as their willingness to defend Austria against nazi aggression.
Cardinal Innitzer, Archbishop of Vienna, who has made such untiring efforts to bridge the tragic gap separating the Church from so many of the workers of Austria, in a speech made at a Catholic Action meeting held in Leopoldstadt, a workingclass district of Vienna, referred to the vital importance of the problem of social justice, and went on to say that when the workers make just claims it is the bounden duty of Catholics to support them—a statement the importance of which cannot be overestimated at the present juncture.
These circumstances provide an admirable opportunity for the nazis to fish in troubled waters. Already there are signs of a fresh wave of nazi propaganda, which had been comparatively restrained for some little time, especially in workingclass areas where feeling is acute. Expert agitators are known to have entered Austria secretly.
Hitler's recent move naturally encouraged these propagandists still further, and the police were only just in time to arrest a large number of nazis in Styria and Carinthia (two nazi strongholds) who were planning a series of murderous attacks.
Working-Classes Dangerous The great danger to Austria is this embitterment of the working-classes, coupled with the nazis playing upon this feeling. It must never be forgotten that a similar situation in the summer of 1934 immediately preceded the nazi putsch, in which Dr. Dollfuss and thousands of others lost their lives; and, although much has happened since, the same elements are still to be found—an embittered socialist working-class, a large body of active nazis, and a government based upon dictatorship, and supported by only a minority of the people.