Generally speaking a man should not publicly take part in politics before he has reached the age of thirty, though, of course, exceptions must be made in the case of those who are naturally gifted with extraordinary political abilities. That at least is my opinion to-day. And the reason for it is that until he reaches his thirtieth year or thereabouts a man’s mental development will mostly consist in acquiring and sifting such knowledge as is necessary for the groundwork of a general platform from which he can examine the different political problems that arise from day to day and be able to adopt a definite attitude towards each. A man must first acquire a fund of general ideas and fit them together so as to form an organic structure of personal thought or outlook on life – a Weltanschhauung. Then he will have that mental equipment without which he cannot form his own judgments on particular questions of the day, and he will have acquired those qualities that are necessary for consistency and steadfastness in the formation of political opinions. Such a man is now qualified, at least subjectively, to take his part in the political conduct of public affairs.
If these pre-requisite conditions are not fulfilled, and if a man should enter political life without this equipment, he will run a twofold risk. In the first place, he may find during the course of events that the stand which he originally took in regard to some essential question was wrong. He will now have to abandon his former position or else stick to it against his better knowledge and riper wisdom and after his reason and convictions have already proved it untenable. If he adopt the former line of action he will find himself in a difficult personal situation; because in giving up a position hitherto maintained he will appear inconsistent and will have no right to expect his followers to remain as loyal to his leadership as they were before. And, as regards the followers themselves, they may easily look upon their leader’s change of policy as showing a lack of judgment inherent in his character. Moreover, the change must cause in them a certain feeling of discomfiture vis-à-vis those whom the leader formerly opposed.
If he adopts the second alternative – which so very frequently happens to-day – then public pronouncements of the leader have no longer his personal persuasion to support them. And the more that is the case the defence of his cause will be all the more hollow and superficial. He now descends to the adoption of vulgar means in his defence. While he himself no longer dreams seriously of standing by his political protestations to the last – for no man will die in defence of something in which he does not believe – he makes increasing demands on his followers. Indeed, the greater be the measure of his own insincerity, the more unfortunate and inconsiderate become his claims on his party adherents. Finally, he throws aside the last vestiges of true leadership and begins to play politics. This means that he becomes one of those whose only consistency is their inconsistency, associated with overbearing insolence and oftentimes an artful mendacity developed to a shamelessly high degree.
Should such a person, to the misfortune of all decent people, succeed in becoming a parliamentary deputy it will be clear from the outset that for him the essence of political activity consists in a heroic struggle to keep permanent hold on this milk-bottle as a source of livelihood for himself and his family. The more his wife and children are dependent on him, the more stubbornly will he fight to maintain for himself the representation of his parliamentary constituency. For that reason any other person who gives evidence of political capacity is his personal enemy. In every new movement he will apprehend the possible beginning of his own downfall. And everyone who is a better man than himself will appear to him in the light of a menace.
I shall subsequently deal more fully with the problem to which this kind of parliamentary vermin give rise.
When a man has reached his thirtieth year he has still a great deal to learn. That is obvious. But henceforward what he learns will principally be an amplification of his basic ideas; it will be fitted in with them organically so as to fill up the framework of the fundamental Weltanschhauung which he already possesses. What he learns anew will not imply the abandonment of principles already held, but rather a deeper knowledge of those principles. And thus his colleagues will never have the discomforting feeling that they have been hitherto falsely led by him. On the contrary, their confidence is increased when they perceive that their leader’s qualities are steadily developing along the lines of an organic growth which results from the constant assimilation of new ideas; so that the followers look upon this process as signifying an enrichment of the doctrines in which they themselves believe, in their eyes every such development is a new witness to the correctness of that whole body of opinion which has hitherto been held.
A leader who has to abandon the platform founded on his general principles, because he recognizes the foundation as false, can act with honour only when he declares his readiness to accept the final consequences of his erroneous views. In such a case he ought to refrain from taking public part in any further political activity. Having once gone astray on essential things he may possibly go astray a second time. But, anyhow, he has no right whatsoever to expect or demand that his fellow citizens should continue to give him their support.
How little such a line of conduct commends itself to our public leaders nowadays is proved by the general corruption prevalent among the cabal which at the present moment feels itself called to political leadership. In the whole cabal there is scarcely one who is properly equipped for this task.
Although in those days I used to give more time than most others to the consideration of political question, yet I carefully refrained from taking an open part in politics. Only to a small circle did I speak of those things which agitated my mind or were the cause of constant preoccupation for me. The habit of discussing matters within such a restricted group had many advantages in itself. Rather than talk at them, I learned to feel my way into the modes of thought and views of those men around me. Oftentimes such ways of thinking and such views were quite primitive. Thus I took every possible occasion to increase my knowledge of men.
Nowhere among the German people was the opportunity for making such a study so favourable as in Vienna.
In the old Danubian Monarchy political thought was wider in its range and had a richer variety of interests than in the Germany of that epoch – excepting certain parts of Prussia, Hamburg and the districts bordering on the North Sea. When I speak of Austria here I mean that part of the great Habsburg Empire which, by reason of its German population, furnished not only the historic basis for the formation of this State but whose population was for several centuries also the exclusive source of cultural life in that political system whose structure was so artificial. As time went on the stability of the Austrian State and the guarantee of its continued existence depended more and more on the maintenance of this germ-cell of that Habsburg Empire.
The hereditary imperial provinces constituted the heart of the Empire. And it was this heart that constantly sent the blood of life pulsating through the whole political and cultural system. Corresponding to the heart of the Empire, Vienna signified the brain and the will. At that time Vienna presented an appearance which made one think of her as an enthroned queen whose authoritative sway united the conglomeration of heterogenous nationalities that lived under the Habsburg sceptre. The radiant beauty of the capital city made one forget the sad symptoms of senile decay which the State manifested as a whole.
Though the Empire was internally rickety because of the terrific conflict going on between the various nationalities, the outside world – and Germany in particular – saw only that lovely picture of the city. The illusion was all the greater because at that time Vienna seemed to have risen to its highest pitch of splendour. Under a Mayor, who had the true stamp of administrative genius, the venerable residential City of the Emperors of the old Empire seemed to have the glory of its youth renewed. The last great German who sprang from the ranks of the people that had colonized the East Mark was not a ‘statesman’, in the official sense. This Dr. Luegar, however, in his rôle as Mayor of ‘the Imperial Capital and Residential City’, had achieved so much in almost all spheres of municipal activity, whether economic or cultural, that the heart of the whole Empire throbbed with renewed vigour. He thus proved himself a much greater statesman than the so-called ‘diplomats’ of that period.
The fact that this political system of heterogeneous races called Austria, finally broke down is no evidence whatsoever of political incapacity on the part of the German element in the old East Mark. The collapse was the inevitable result of an impossible situation. Ten million people cannot permanently hold together a State of fifty millions, composed of different and convicting nationalities, unless certain definite pre-requisite conditions are at hand while there is still time to avail of them.
The German-Austrian had very big ways of thinking. Accustomed to live in a great Empire, he had a keen sense of the obligations incumbent on him in such a situation. He was the only member of the Austrian State who looked beyond the borders of the narrow lands belonging to the Crown and took in all the frontiers of the Empire in the sweep of his mind. Indeed when destiny severed him from the common Fatherland he tried to master the tremendous task which was set before him as a consequence. This task was to maintain for the German-Austrians that patrimony which, through innumerable struggles, their ancestors had originally wrested from the East. It must be remembered that the German-Austrians could not put their undivided strength into this effort, because the hearts and minds of the best among them were constantly turning back towards their kinsfolk in the Motherland, so that only a fraction of their energy remained to be employed at home.
The mental horizon of the German-Austrian was comparatively broad. His commercial interests comprised almost every section of the heterogeneous Empire. The conduct of almost all important undertakings was in his hands. He provided the State, for the most part, with its leading technical experts and civil servants. He was responsible for carrying on the foreign trade of the country, as far as that sphere of activity was not under Jewish control, The German-Austrian exclusively represented the political cement that held the State together. His military duties carried him far beyond the narrow frontiers of his homeland. Though the recruit might join a regiment made up of the German element, the regiment itself might be stationed in Herzegovina as well as in Vienna or Galicia. The officers in the Habsburg armies were still Germans and so was the predominating element in the higher branches of the civil service. Art and science were in German hands. Apart from the new artistic trash, which might easily have been produced by a negro tribe, all genuine artistic inspiration came from the German section of the population. In music, architecture, sculpture and painting, Vienna abundantly supplied the entire Dual Monarchy. And the source never seemed to show signs of a possible exhaustion. Finally, it was the German element that determined the conduct of foreign policy, though a small number of Hungarians were also active in that field.
All efforts, however, to save the unity of the State were doomed to end in failure, because the essential pre-requisites were missing.
There was only one possible way to control and hold in check the centrifugal forces of the different and differing nationalities. This way was: to govern the Austrian State and organize it internally on the principle of centralization. In no other way imaginable could the existence of that State be assured.
Now and again there were lucid intervals in the higher ruling quarters when this truth was recognized. But it was soon forgotten again, or else deliberately ignored, because of the difficulties to be overcome in putting it into practice. Every project which aimed at giving the Empire a more federal shape was bound to be ineffective because there was no strong central authority which could exercise sufficient power within the State to hold the federal elements together. It must be remembered in this connection that conditions in Austria were quite different from those which characterized the German State as founded by Bismarck. Germany was faced with only one difficulty, which was that of transforming the purely political traditions, because throughout the whole of Bismarck’s Germany there was a common cultural basis. The German Empire contained only members of one and the same racial or national stock, with the exception of a few minor foreign fragments.
Demographic conditions in Austria were quite the reverse. With the exception of Hungary there was no political tradition, coming down from a great past, in any of the various affiliated countries. If there had been, time had either wiped out all traces of it, or at least, rendered them obscure. Moreover, this was the epoch when the principle of nationality began to be in ascendant; and that phenomenon awakened the national instincts in the various countries affiliated under the Habsburg sceptre. It was difficult to control the action of these newly awakened national forces; because, adjacent to the frontiers of the Dual Monarchy, new national States were springing up whose people were of the same or kindred racial stock as the respective nationalities that constituted the Habsburg Empire. These new States were able to exercise a greater influence than the German element.
Even Vienna could not hold out for a lengthy period in this conflict. When Budapest had developed into a metropolis a rival had grown up whose mission was, not to help in holding together the various divergent parts of the Empire, but rather to strengthen one part. Within a short time Prague followed the example of Budapest; and later on came Lemberg, Laibach and others. By raising these places which had formerly been provincial towns to the rank of national cities, rallying centres were provided for an independent cultural life. Through this the local national instincts acquired a spiritual foundation and therewith gained a more profound hold on the people. The time was bound to come when the particularist interests of those various countries would become stronger than their common imperial interests. Once that stage had been reached, Austria’s doom was sealed.
The course of this development was clearly perceptible since the death of Joseph II. Its rapidity depended on a number of factors, some of which had their source in the Monarchy itself; while others resulted from the position which the Empire had taken in foreign politics.
It was impossible to make anything like a successful effort for the permanent consolidation of the Austrian State unless a firm and persistent policy of centralization were put into force. Before everything else the principle should have been adopted that only one common language could be used as the official language of the State. Thus it would be possible to emphasize the formal unity of that imperial commonwealth. And thus the administration would have in its hands a technical instrument without which the State could not endure as a political unity. In the same way the school and other forms of education should have been used to inculcate a feeling of common citizenship. Such an objective could not be reached within ten or twenty years. The effort would have to be envisaged in terms of centuries; just as in all problems of colonization, steady perseverance is a far more important element than the output of energetic effort at the moment.
It goes without saying that in such circumstances the country must be governed and administered by strictly adhering to the principle of uniformity.
For me it was quite instructive to discover why this did not take place, or rather why it was not done. Those who were guilty of the omission must be held responsible for the break-up of the Habsburg Empire.
More than any other State, the existence of the old Austria depended on a strong and capable Government. The Habsburg Empire lacked ethnical uniformity, which constitutes the fundamental basis of a national State and will preserve the existence of such a State even though the ruling power should be grossly inefficient. When a State is composed of a homogeneous population, the natural inertia of such a population will hold the Stage together and maintain its existence through astonishingly long periods of misgovernment and maladministration. It may often seem as if the principle of life had died out in such a body-politic; but a time comes when the apparent corpse rises up and displays before the world an astonishing manifestation of its indestructible vitality.
But the situation is utterly different in a country where the population is not homogeneous, where there is no bond of common blood but only that of one ruling hand. Should the ruling hand show signs of weakness in such a State the result will not be to cause a kind of hibernation of the State but rather to awaken the individualist instincts which are slumbering in the ethnological groups. These instincts do not make themselves felt as long as these groups are dominated by a strong central will-to-govern. The danger which exists in these slumbering separatist instincts can be rendered more or less innocuous only through centuries of common education, common traditions and common interests. The younger such States are, the more their existence will depend on the ability and strength of the central government. If their foundation was due only to the work of a strong personality or a leader who is a man of genius, in many cases they will break up as soon as the founder disappears; because, though great, he stood alone. But even after centuries of a common education and experiences these separatist instincts I have spoken of are not always completely overcome. They may be only dormant and may suddenly awaken when the central government shows weakness and the force of a common education as well as the prestige of a common tradition prove unable to withstand the vital energies of separatist nationalities forging ahead towards the shaping of their own individual existence.
The failure to see the truth of all this constituted what may be called the tragic crime of the Habsburg rulers.
Only before the eyes of one Habsburg ruler, and that for the last time, did the hand of Destiny hold aloft the torch that threw light on the future of his country. But the torch was then extinguished for ever.
Joseph II, Roman Emperor of the German nation, was filled with a growing anxiety when he realized the fact that his House was removed to an outlying frontier of his Empire and that the time would soon be at hand when it would be overturned and engulfed in the whirlpool caused by that Babylon of nationalities, unless something was done at the eleventh hour to overcome the dire consequences resulting from the negligence of his ancestors. With superhuman energy this ‘Friend of Mankind’ made every possible effort to counteract the effects of the carelessness and thoughtlessness of his predecessors. Within one decade he strove to repair the damage that had been done through centuries. If Destiny had only granted him forty years for his labours, and if only two generations had carried on the work which he had started, the miracle might have been performed. But when he died, broken in body and spirit after ten years of rulership, his work sank with him into the grave and rests with him there in the Capucin Crypt, sleeping its eternal sleep, having never again showed signs of awakening.
His successors had neither the ability nor the will-power necessary for the task they had to face.
When the first signs of a new revolutionary epoch appeared in Europe they gradually scattered the fire throughout Austria. And when the fire began to glow steadily it was fed and fanned not by the social or political conditions but by forces that had their origin in the nationalist yearnings of the various ethnic groups.
The European revolutionary movement of 1848 primarily took the form of a class conflict in almost every other country, but in Austria it took the form of a new racial struggle. In so far as the German-Austrians there forgot the origins of the movement, or perhaps had failed to recognize them at the start and consequently took part in the revolutionary uprising, they sealed their own fate. For they thus helped to awaken the spirit of Western Democracy which, within a short while, shattered the foundations of their own existence.
The setting up of a representative parliamentary body, without insisting on the preliminary that only one language should be used in all public intercourse under the State, was the first great blow to the predominance of the German element in the Dual Monarchy. From that moment the State was also doomed to collapse sooner or later. All that followed was nothing but the historical liquidation of an Empire.
To watch that process of progressive disintegration was a tragic and at the same time an instructive experience. The execution of history’s decree was carried out in thousands of details. The fact that great numbers of people went about blindfolded amid the manifest signs of dissolution only proves that the gods had decreed the destruction of Austria.
I do not wish to dwell on details because that would lie outside the scope of this book. I want to treat in detail only those events which are typical among the causes that lead to the decline of nations and States and which are therefore of importance to our present age. Moreover, the study of these events helped to furnish the basis of my own political outlook.
Among the institutions which most clearly manifested unmistakable signs of decay, even to the weak-sighted Philistine, was that which, of all the institutions of State, ought to have been the most firmly founded – I mean the Parliament, or the Reichsrat (Imperial Council) as it was called in Austria.
The pattern for this corporate body was obviously that which existed in England, the land of classic democracy. The whole of that excellent organization was bodily transferred to Austria with as little alteration as possible.
As the Austrian counterpart to the British two-chamber system a Chamber of Deputies and a House of Lords (Herrenhaus) were established in Vienna. The Houses themselves, considered as buildings were somewhat different. When Barry built his palaces, or, as we say the Houses of Parliament, on the shore of the Thames, he could look to the history of the British Empire for the inspiration of his work. In that history he found sufficient material to fill and decorate the 1,200 niches, brackets, and pillars of his magnificent edifice. His statues and paintings made the House of Lords and the House of Commons temples dedicated to the glory of the nation.
There it was that Vienna encountered the first difficulty. When Hansen, the Danish architect, had completed the last gable of the marble palace in which the new body of popular representatives was to be housed he had to turn to the ancient classical world for subjects to fill out his decorative plan. This theatrical shrine of ‘Western Democracy’ was adorned with the statues and portraits of Greek and Roman statesmen and philosophers. As if it were meant for a symbol of irony, the horses of the quadriga that surmounts the two Houses are pulling apart from one another towards all four quarters of the globe. There could be no better symbol for the kind of activity going on within the walls of that same building.
The ‘nationalities’ were opposed to any kind of glorification of Austrian history in the decoration of this building, insisting that such would constitute an offence to them and a provocation. Much the same happened in Germany, where the Reich-stag, built by Wallot, was not dedicated to the German people until the cannons were thundering in the World War. And then it was dedicated by an inscription.
I was not yet twenty years of age when I first entered the Palace on the Franzens-ring to watch and listen in the Chamber of Deputies. That first experience aroused in me a profound feeling of repugnance.
I had always hated the Parliament, but not as an institution in itself. Quite the contrary. As one who cherished ideals of political freedom I could not even imagine any other form of government. In the light of my attitude towards the House of Habsburg I should then have considered it a crime against liberty and reason to think of any kind of dictatorship as a possible form of government.
A certain admiration which I had for the British Parliament contributed towards the formation of this opinion. I became imbued with that feeling of admiration almost without my being conscious of the effect of it through so much reading of newspapers while I was yet quite young. I could not discard that admiration all in a moment. The dignified way in which the British House of Commons fulfilled its function impressed me greatly, thanks largely to the glowing terms in which the Austrian Press reported these events. I used to ask myself whether there could be any nobler form of government than self-government by the people.
But these considerations furnished the very motives of my hostility to the Austrian Parliament. The form in which parliamentary government was here represented seemed unworthy of its great prototype. The following considerations also influenced my attitude:
The fate of the German element in the Austrian State depended on its position in Parliament. Up to the time that universal suffrage by secret ballot was introduced the German representatives had a majority in the Parliament, though that majority was not a very substantial one. This situation gave cause for anxiety because the Social-Democratic fraction of the German element could not be relied upon when national questions were at stake. In matters that were of critical concern for the German element, the Social-Democrats always took up an anti-German stand because they were afraid of losing their followers among the other national groups. Already at that time – before the introduction of universal suffrage – the Social-Democratic Party could no longer be considered as a German Party. The introduction of universal suffrage put an end even to the purely numerical predominance of the German element. The way was now clear for the further ‘de-Germanization’ of the Austrian State.
The national instinct of self-preservation made it impossible for me to welcome a representative system in which the German element was not really represented as such, but always betrayed by the Social-Democratic fraction. Yet all these, and many others, were defects which could not be attributed to the parliamentary system as such, but rather to the Austrian State in particular. I still believed that if the German majority could be restored in the representative body there would be no occasion to oppose such a system as long as the old Austrian State continued to exist.
Such was my general attitude at the time when I first entered those sacred and contentious halls. For me they were sacred only because of the radiant beauty of that majestic edifice. A Greek wonder on German soil.
But I soon became enraged by the hideous spectacle that met my eyes. Several hundred representatives were there to discuss a problem of great economical importance and each representative had the right to have his say.
That experience of a day was enough to supply me with food for thought during several weeks afterwards.
The intellectual level of the debate was quite low. Some times the debaters did not make themselves intelligible at all. Several of those present did not speak German but only their Slav vernaculars or dialects. Thus I had the opportunity of hearing with my own ears what I had been hitherto acquainted with only through reading the newspapers. A turbulent mass of people, all gesticulating and bawling against one another, with a pathetic old man shaking his bell and making frantic efforts to call the House to a sense of its dignity by friendly appeals, exhortations, and grave warnings.
I could not refrain from laughing.
Several weeks later I paid a second visit. This time the House presented an entirely different picture, so much so that one could hardly recognize it as the same place. The hall was practically empty. They were sleeping in the other rooms below. Only a few deputies were in their places, yawning in each other’s faces. One was speechifying. A deputy speaker was in the chair. When he looked round it was quite plain that he felt bored.
Then I began to reflect seriously on the whole thing. I went to the Parliament whenever I had any time to spare and watched the spectacle silently but attentively. I listened to the debates, as far as they could be understood, and I studied the more or less intelligent features of those ‘elect’ representatives of the various nationalities which composed that motley State. Gradually I formed my own ideas about what I saw.
A year of such quiet observation was sufficient to transform or completely destroy my former convictions as to the character of this parliamentary institution. I no longer opposed merely the perverted form which the principle of parliamentary representation had assumed in Austria. No. It had become impossible for me to accept the system in itself. Up to that time I had believed that the disastrous deficiencies of the Austrian Parliament were due to the lack of a German majority, but now I recognized that the institution itself was wrong in its very essence and form.
A number of problems presented themselves before my mind. I studied more closely the democratic principle of ‘decision by the majority vote’, and I scrutinized no less carefully the intellectual and moral worth of the gentlemen who, as the chosen representatives of the nation, were entrusted with the task of making this institution function.
Thus it happened that at one and the same time I came to know the institution itself and those of whom it was composed. And it was thus that, within the course of a few years, I came to form a clear and vivid picture of the average type of that most lightly worshipped phenomenon of our time – the parliamentary deputy. The picture of him which I then formed became deeply engraved on my mind and I have never altered it since, at least as far as essentials go.
Once again these object-lessons taken from real life saved me from getting firmly entangled by a theory which at first sight seems so alluring to many people, though that theory itself is a symptom of human decadence.
Democracy, as practised in Western Europe to-day, is the fore-runner of Marxism. In fact, the latter would not be conceivable without the former. Democracy is the breeding-ground in which the bacilli of the Marxist world pest can grow and spread. By the introduction of parliamentarianism, democracy produced an abortion of filth and fire 6), the creative fire of which, however, seems to have died out.
I am more than grateful to Fate that this problem came to my notice when I was still in Vienna; for if I had been in Germany at that time I might easily have found only a superficial solution. If I had been in Berlin when I first discovered what an illogical thing this institution is which we call Parliament, I might easily have gone to the other extreme and believed – as many people believed, and apparently not without good reason – that the salvation of the people and the Empire could be secured only by restrengthening the principle of imperial authority. Those who had this belief did not discern the tendencies of their time and were blind to the aspirations of the people.
In Austria one could not be so easily misled. There it was impossible to fall from one error into another. If the Parliament were worthless, the Habsburgs were worse; or at least not in the slightest degree better. The problem was not solved by rejecting the parliamentary system. Immediately the question arose: What then? To repudiate and abolish the Vienna Parliament would have resulted in leaving all power in the hands of the Habsburgs. For me, especially, that idea was impossible.
Since this problem was specially difficult in regard to Austria, I was forced while still quite young to go into the essentials of the whole question more thoroughly than I otherwise should have done.
The aspect of the situation that first made the most striking impression on me and gave me grounds for serious reflection was the manifest lack of any individual responsibility in the representative body.
The parliament passes some acts or decree which may have the most devastating consequences, yet nobody bears the responsibility for it. Nobody can be called to account. For surely one cannot say that a Cabinet discharges its responsibility when it retires after having brought about a catastrophe. Or can we say that the responsibility is fully discharged when a new coalition is formed or parliament dissolved? Can the principle of responsibility mean anything else than the responsibility of a definite person?
Is it at all possible actually to call to account the leaders of a parliamentary government for any kind of action which originated in the wishes of the whole multitude of deputies and was carried out under their orders or sanction? Instead of developing constructive ideas and plans, does the business of a statesman consist in the art of making a whole pack of blockheads understand his projects? Is it his business to entreat and coach them so that they will grant him their generous consent?
Is it an indispensable quality in a statesman that he should possess a gift of persuasion commensurate with the statesman’s ability to conceive great political measures and carry them through into practice?
Does it really prove that a statesman is incompetent if he should fail to win over a majority of votes to support his policy in an assembly which has been called together as the chance result of an electoral system that is not always honestly administered.
Has there ever been a case where such an assembly has worthily appraised a great political concept before that concept was put into practice and its greatness openly demonstrated through its success?
In this world is not the creative act of the genius always a protest against the inertia of the mass?
What shall the statesman do if he does not succeed in coaxing the parliamentary multitude to give its consent to his policy? Shall he purchase that consent for some sort of consideration?
Or, when confronted with the obstinate stupidity of his fellow citizens, should he then refrain from pushing forward the measures which he deems to be of vital necessity to the life of the nation? Should he retire or remain in power?
In such circumstances does not a man of character find himself face to face with an insoluble contradiction between his own political insight on the one hand and, on the other, his moral integrity, or, better still, his sense of honesty?
Where can we draw the line between public duty and personal honour?
Must not every genuine leader renounce the idea of degrading himself to the level of a political jobber?
And, on the other hand, does not every jobber feel the itch to ‘play politics’, seeing that the final responsibility will never rest with him personally but with an anonymous mass which can never be called to account for their deeds?
Must not our parliamentary principle of government by numerical majority necessarily lead to the destruction of the principle of leadership?
Does anybody honestly believe that human progress originates in the composite brain of the majority and not in the brain of the individual personality?
Or may it be presumed that for the future human civilization will be able to dispense with this as a condition of its existence?
But may it not be that, to-day, more than ever before, the creative brain of the individual is indispensable?
The parliamentary principle of vesting legislative power in the decision of the majority rejects the authority of the individual and puts a numerical quota of anonymous heads in its place. In doing so it contradicts the aristrocratic principle, which is a fundamental law of nature; but, of course, we must remember that in this decadent era of ours the aristrocratic principle need not be thought of as incorporated in the upper ten thousand.
The devastating influence of this parliamentary institution might not easily be recognized by those who read the Jewish Press, unless the reader has learned how to think independently and examine the facts for himself. This institution is primarily responsible for the crowded inrush of mediocre people into the field of politics. Confronted with such a phenomenon, a man who is endowed with real qualities of leadership will be tempted to refrain from taking part in political life; because under these circumstances the situation does not call for a man who has a capacity for constructive statesmanship but rather for a man who is capable of bargaining for the favour of the majority. Thus the situation will appeal to small minds and will attract them accordingly.
The narrower the mental outlook and the more meagre the amount of knowledge in a political jobber, the more accurate is his estimate of his own political stock, and thus he will be all the more inclined to appreciate a system which does not demand creative genius or even high-class talent; but rather that crafty kind of sagacity which makes an efficient town clerk. Indeed, he values this kind of small craftiness more than the political genius of a Pericles. Such a mediocrity does not even have to worry about responsibility for what he does. From the beginning he knows that whatever be the results of his ‘statesmanship’ his end is already prescribed by the stars; he will one day have to clear out and make room for another who is of similar mental calibre. For it is another sign of our decadent times that the number of eminent statesmen grows according as the calibre of individual personality dwindles. That calibre will become smaller and smaller the more the individual politician has to depend upon parliamentary majorities. A man of real political ability will refuse to be the beadle for a bevy of footling cacklers; and they in their turn, being the representatives of the majority – which means the dunder-headed multitude – hate nothing so much as a superior brain.
For footling deputies it is always quite a consolation to be led by a person whose intellectual stature is on a level with their own. Thus each one may have the opportunity to shine in debate among such compeers and, above all, each one feels that he may one day rise to the top. If Peter be boss to-day, then why not Paul tomorrow ?
This new invention of democracy is very closely connected with a peculiar phenomenon which has recently spread to a pernicious extent, namely the cowardice of a large section of our so-called political leaders. Whenever important decisions have to be made they always find themselves fortunate in being able to hide behind the backs of what they call the majority.
In observing one of these political manipulators one notices how he wheedles the majority in order to get their sanction for whatever action he takes. He has to have accomplices in order to be able to shift responsibility to other shoulders whenever it is opportune to do so. That is the main reason why this kind of political activity is abhorrent to men of character and courage, while at the same time it attracts inferior types; for a person who is not willing to accept responsibility for his own actions, but is always seeking to be covered by something, must be classed among the knaves and the rascals. If a national leader should come from that lower class of politicians the evil consequences will soon manifest themselves. Nobody will then have the courage to take a decisive step. They will submit to abuse and defamation rather than pluck up courage to take a definite stand. And thus nobody is left who is willing to risk his position and his career, if needs be, in support of a determined line of policy.
One truth which must always be borne in mind is that the majority can never replace the man. The majority represents not only ignorance but also cowardice. And just as a hundred blockheads do not equal one man of wisdom, so a hundred poltroons are incapable of any political line of action that requires moral strength and fortitude.
The lighter the burden of responsibility on each individual leader, the greater will be the number of those who, in spite of their sorry mediocrity, will feel the call to place their immortal energies at the disposal of the nation. They are so much on the tip-toe of expectation that they find it hard to wait their turn. They stand in a long queue, painfully and sadly counting the number of those ahead of them and calculating the hours until they may eventually come forward. They watch every change that takes place in the personnel of the office towards which their hopes are directed, and they are grateful for every scandal which removes one of the aspirants waiting ahead of them in the queue. If somebody sticks too long to his office stool they consider this as almost a breach of a sacred understanding based on their mutual solidarity. They grow furious and give no peace until that inconsiderate person is finally driven out and forced to hand over his cosy berth for public disposal. After that he will have little chance of getting another opportunity. Usually those placemen who have been forced to give up their posts push themselves again into the waiting queue unless they are hounded away by the protestations of the other aspirants.
The result of all this is that, in such a State, the succession of sudden changes in public positions and public offices has a very disquieting effect in general, which may easily lead to disaster when an adverse crisis arises. It is not only the ignorant and the incompetent person who may fall victim to those parliamentary conditions, for the genuine leader may be affected just as much as the others, if not more so, whenever Fate has chanced to place a capable man in the position of leader. Let the superior quality of such a leader be once recognized and the result will be that a joint front will be organized against him, particularly if that leader, though not coming from their ranks, should fall into the habit of intermingling with these illustrious nincompoops on their own level. They want to have only their own company and will quickly take a hostile attitude towards any man who might show himself obviously above and beyond them when he mingles in their ranks. Their instinct, which is so blind in other directions, is very sharp in this particular.
The inevitable result is that the intellectual level of the ruling class sinks steadily. One can easily forecast how much the nation and State are bound to suffer from such a condition of affairs, provided one does not belong to that same class of ‘leaders’.
The parliamentary régime in the old Austria was the very archetype of the institution as I have described it.
Though the Austrian Prime Minister was appointed by the King-Emperor, this act of appointment merely gave practical effect to the will of the parliament. The huckstering and bargaining that went on in regard to every ministerial position showed all the typical marks of Western Democracy. The results that followed were in keeping with the principles applied. The intervals between the replacement of one person by another gradually became shorter, finally ending up in a wild relay chase. With each change the quality of the ‘statesman’ in question deteriorated, until finally only the petty type of political huckster remained. In such people the qualities of statesmanship were measured and valued according to the adroitness with which they pieced together one coalition after another; in other words, their craftiness in manipulating the pettiest political transactions, which is the only kind of practical activity suited to the aptitudes of these representatives.
In this sphere Vienna was the school which offered the most impressive examples.
Another feature that engaged my attention quite as much as the features I have already spoken of was the contrast between the talents and knowledge of these representatives of the people on the one hand and, on the other, the nature of the tasks they had to face. Willingly or unwillingly, one could not help thinking seriously of the narrow intellectual outlook of these chosen representatives of the various constituent nationalities, and one could not avoid pondering on the methods through which these noble figures in our public life were first discovered.
It was worth while to make a thorough study and examination of the way in which the real talents of these gentlemen were devoted to the service of their country; in other words, to analyse thoroughly the technical procedure of their activities.
The whole spectacle of parliamentary life became more and more desolate the more one penetrated into its intimate structure and studied the persons and principles of the system in a spirit of ruthless objectivity. Indeed, it is very necessary to be strictly objective in the study of the institution whose sponsors talk of ‘objectivity’ in every other sentence as the only fair basis of examination and judgment. If one studied these gentlemen and the laws of their strenuous existence the results were surprising.
There is no other principle which turns out to be quite so ill-conceived as the parliamentary principle, if we examine it objectively.
In our examination of it we may pass over the methods according to which the election of the representatives takes place, as well as the ways which bring them into office and bestow new titles on them. It is quite evident that only to a tiny degree are public wishes or public necessities satisfied by the manner in which an election takes place; for everybody who properly estimates the political intelligence of the masses can easily see that this is not sufficiently developed to enable them to form general political judgments on their own account, or to select the men who might be competent to carry out their ideas in practice.
Whatever definition we may give of the term ‘public opinion’, only a very small part of it originates from personal experience or individual insight. The greater portion of it results from the manner in which public matters have been presented to the people through an overwhelmingly impressive and persistent system of ‘information’.
In the religious sphere the profession of a denominational belief is largely the result of education, while the religious yearning itself slumbers in the soul; so too the political opinions of the masses are the final result of influences systematically operating on human sentiment and intelligence in virtue of a method which is applied sometimes with almost-incredible thoroughness and perseverance.
By far the most effective branch of political education, which in this connection is best expressed by the word ‘propaganda’, is carried on by the Press. The Press is the chief means employed in the process of political ‘enlightenment’. It represents a kind of school for adults. This educational activity, however, is not in the hands of the State but in the clutches of powers which are partly of a very inferior character. While still a young man in Vienna I had excellent opportunities for coming to know the men who owned this machine for mass instruction, as well as those who supplied it with the ideas it distributed. At first I was quite surprised when I realized how little time was necessary for this dangerous Great Power within the State to produce a certain belief among the public; and in doing so the genuine will and convictions of the public were often completely misconstrued. It took the Press only a few days to transform some ridiculously trivial matter into an issue of national importance, while vital problems were completely ignored or filched and hidden away from public attention.
The Press succeeded in the magical art of producing names from nowhere within the course of a few weeks. They made it appear that the great hopes of the masses were bound up with those names. And so they made those names more popular than any man of real ability could ever hope to be in a long lifetime. All this was done, despite the fact that such names were utterly unknown and indeed had never been heard of even up to a month before the Press publicly emblazoned them. At the same time old and tried figures in the political and other spheres of life quickly faded from the public memory and were forgotten as if they were dead, though still healthy and in the enjoyment of their full viguour. Or sometimes such men were so vilely abused that it looked as if their names would soon stand as permanent symbols of the worst kind of baseness. In order to estimate properly the really pernicious influence which the Press can exercise one had to study this infamous Jewish method whereby honourable and decent people were besmirched with mud and filth, in the form of low abuse and slander, from hundreds and hundreds of quarters simultaneously, as if commanded by some magic formula.
These highway robbers would grab at anything which might serve their evil ends.
They would poke their noses into the most intimate family affairs and would not rest until they had sniffed out some petty item which could be used to destroy the reputation of their victim. But if the result of all this sniffing should be that nothing derogatory was discovered in the private or public life of the victim, they continued to hurl abuse at him, in the belief that some of their animadversions would stick even though refuted a thousand times. In most cases it finally turned out impossible for the victim to continue his defence, because the accuser worked together with so many accomplices that his slanders were re-echoed interminably. But these slanderers would never own that they were acting from motives which influence the common run of humanity or are understood by them. Oh, no. The scoundrel who defamed his contemporaries in this villainous way would crown himself with a halo of heroic probity fashioned of unctuous phraseology and twaddle about his ‘duties as a journalist’ and other mouldy nonsense of that kind. When these cuttle-fishes gathered together in large shoals at meetings and congresses they would give out a lot of slimy talk about a special kind of honour which they called the professional honour of the journalist. Then the assembled species would bow their respects to one another.
These are the kind of beings that fabricate more than two-thirds of what is called public opinion, from the foam of which the parliamentary Aphrodite eventually arises.
Several volumes would be needed if one were to give an adequate account of the whole procedure and fully describe all its hollow fallacies. But if we pass over the details and look at the product itself while it is in operation I think this alone will be sufficient to open the eyes of even the most innocent and credulous person, so that he may recognize the absurdity of this institution by looking at it objectively.
In order to realize how this human aberration is as harmful as it is absurd, the test and easiest method is to compare democratic parliamentarianism with a genuine German democracy.
The remarkable characteristic of the parliamentary form of democracy is the fact that a number of persons, let us say five hundred – including, in recent time, women also – are elected to parliament and invested with authority to give final judgment on anything and everything. In practice they alone are the governing body; for although they may appoint a Cabinet, which seems outwardly to direct the affairs of state, this Cabinet has not a real existence of its own. In reality the so-called Government cannot do anything against the will of the assembly. It can never be called to account for anything, since the right of decision is not vested in the Cabinet but in the parliamentary majority. The Cabinet always functions only as the executor of the will of the majority. Its political ability can be judged only according to how far it succeeds in adjusting itself to the will of the majority or in persuading the majority to agree to its proposals. But this means that it must descend from the level of a real governing power to that of a mendicant who has to beg the approval of a majority that may be got together for the time being. Indeed, the chief preoccupation of the Cabinet must be to secure for itself, in the case of’ each individual measure, the favour of the majority then in power or, failing that, to form a new majority that will be more favourably disposed. If it should succeed in either of these efforts it may go on ‘governing’ for a little while. If it should fail to win or form a majority it must retire. The question whether its policy as such has been right or wrong does not matter at all.
Thereby all responsibility is abolished in practice. To what consequences such a state of affairs can lead may easily be understood from the following simple considerations:
Those five hundred deputies who have been elected by the people come from various dissimilar callings in life and show very varying degrees of political capacity, with the result that the whole combination is disjointed and sometimes presents quite a sorry picture. Surely nobody believes that these chosen representatives of the nation are the choice spirits or first-class intellects. Nobody, I hope, is foolish enough to pretend that hundreds of statesmen can emerge from papers placed in the ballot box by electors who are anything else but averagely intelligent. The absurd notion that men of genius are born out of universal suffrage cannot be too strongly repudiated. In the first place, those times may be really called blessed when one genuine statesman makes his appearance among a people. Such statesmen do not appear all at once in hundreds or more. Secondly, among the broad masses there is instinctively a definite antipathy towards every outstanding genius. There is a better chance of seeing a camel pass through the eye of a needle than of seeing a really great man ‘discovered’ through an election.
Whatever has happened in history above the level of the average of the broad public has mostly been due to the driving force of an individual personality.
But here five hundred persons of less than modest intellectual qualities pass judgment on the most important problems affecting the nation. They form governments which in turn learn to win the approval of the illustrious assembly for every legislative step that may be taken, which means that the policy to be carried out is actually the policy of the five hundred.
And indeed, generally speaking, the policy bears the stamp of its origin.
But let us pass over the intellectual qualities of these representatives and ask what is the nature of the task set before them. If we consider the fact that the problems which have to be discussed and solved belong to the most varied and diverse fields we can very well realize how inefficient a governing system must be which entrusts the right of decision to a mass assembly in which only very few possess the knowledge and experience such as would qualify them to deal with the matters that have to be settled. The most important economic measures are submitted to a tribunal in which not more than one-tenth of the members have studied the elements of economics. This means that final authority is vested in men who are utterly devoid of any preparatory training which might make them competent to decide on the questions at issue.
The same holds true of every other problem. It is always a majority of ignorant and incompetent people who decide on each measure; for the composition of the institution does not vary, while the problems to be dealt with come from the most varied spheres of public life. An intelligent judgment would be possible only if different deputies had the authority to deal with different issues. It is out of the question to think that the same people are fitted to decide on transport questions as well as, let us say, on questions of foreign policy, unless each of them be a universal genius. But scarcely more than one genius appears in a century. Here we are scarcely ever dealing with real brains, but only with dilettanti who are as narrow-minded as they are conceited and arrogant, intellectual demi-mondes of the worst kind. This is why these honourable gentlemen show such astonishing levity in discussing and deciding on matters that would demand the most painstaking consideration even from great minds. Measures of momentous importance for the future existence of the State are framed and discussed in an atmosphere more suited to the card-table. Indeed the latter suggests a much more fitting occupation for these gentlemen than that of deciding the destinies of a people.
Of course it would be unfair to assume that each member in such a parliament was endowed by nature with such a small sense of responsibility. That is out of the question.
But this system, by forcing the individual to pass judgment on questions for which he is not competent gradually debases his moral character. Nobody will have the courage to say: "Gentlemen, I am afraid we know nothing about what we are talking about. I for one have no competency in the matter at all." Anyhow if such a declaration were made it would not change matters very much; for such outspoken honesty would not be understood. The person who made the declaration would be deemed an honourable ass who ought not to be allowed to spoil the game. Those who have a knowledge of human nature know that nobody likes to be considered a fool among his associates; and in certain circles honesty is taken as an index of stupidity.
Thus it happens that a naturally upright man, once he finds himself elected to parliament, may eventually be induced by the force of circumstances to acquiesce in a general line of conduct which is base in itself and amounts to a betrayal of the public trust. That feeling that if the individual refrained from taking part in a certain decision his attitude would not alter the situation in the least, destroys every real sense of honour which might occasionally arouse the conscience of one person or another. Finally, the otherwise upright deputy will succeed in persuading himself that he is by no means the worst of the lot and that by taking part in a certain line of action he may prevent something worse from happening.
A counter argument may be put forward here. It may be said that of course the individual member may not have the knowledge which is requisite for the treatment of this or that question, yet his attitude towards it is taken on the advice of his Party as the guiding authority in each political matter; and it may further be said that the Party sets up special committees of experts who have even more than the requisite knowledge for dealing with the questions placed before them.
At first sight, that argument seems sound. But then another question arises – namely, why are five hundred persons elected if only a few have the wisdom which is required to deal with the more important problems?
It is not the aim of our modern democratic parliamentary system to bring together an assembly of intelligent and well-informed deputies. Not at all. The aim rather is to bring together a group of nonentities who are dependent on others for their views and who can be all the more easily led, the narrower the mental outlook of each individual is. That is the only way in which a party policy, according to the evil meaning it has to-day, can be put into effect. And by this method alone it is possible for the wirepuller, who exercises the real control, to remain in the dark, so that personally he can never be brought to account for his actions. For under such circumstances none of the decisions taken, no matter how disastrous they may turn out for the nation as a whole, can be laid at the door of the individual whom everybody knows to be the evil genius responsible for the whole affair. All responsibility is shifted to the shoulders of the Party as a whole.
In practice no actual responsibility remains. For responsibility arises only from personal duty and not from the obligations that rest with a parliamentary assembly of empty talkers.
The parliamentary institution attracts people of the badger type, who do not like the open light. No upright man, who is ready to accept personal responsibility for his acts, will be attracted to such an institution.
That is the reason why this brand of democracy has become a tool in the hand of that race which, because of the inner purposes it wishes to attain, must shun the open light, as it has always done and always will do. Only a Jew can praise an institution which is as corrupt and false as himself.
As a contrast to this kind of democracy we have the German democracy, which is a true democracy; for here the leader is freely chosen and is obliged to accept full responsibility for all his actions and omissions. The problems to be dealt with are not put to the vote of the majority; but they are decided upon by the individual, and as a guarantee of responsibility for those decisions he pledges all he has in the world and even his life.
The objection may be raised here that under such conditions it would be very difficult to find a man who would be ready to devote himself to so fateful a task. The answer to that objection is as follows:
We thank God that the inner spirit of our German democracy will of itself prevent the chance careerist, who may be intellectually worthless and a moral twister, from coming by devious ways to a position in which he may govern his fellow-citizens. The fear of undertaking such far-reaching responsibilities, under German democracy, will scare off the ignorant and the feckless.
But should it happen that such a person might creep in surreptitiously it will be easy enough to identify him and apostrophize him ruthlessly. somewhat thus: "Be off, you scoundrel. Don’t soil these steps with your feet; because these are the steps that lead to the portals of the Pantheon of History, and they are not meant for place-hunters but for men of noble character."
Such were the views I formed after two years of attendance at the sessions of the Viennese Parliament. Then I went there no more.
The parliamentary regime became one of the causes why the strength of the Habsburg State steadily declined during the last years of its existence. The more the predominance of the German element was whittled away through parliamentary procedure, the more prominent became the system of playing off one of the various constituent nationalities against the other. In the Imperial Parliament it was always the German element that suffered through the system, which meant that the results were detrimental to the Empire as a whole; for at the close of the century even the most simple-minded people could recognize that the cohesive forces within the Dual Monarchy no longer sufficed to counterbalance the separatist tendencies of the provincial nationalities. On the contrary!
The measures which the State adopted for its own maintenance became more and more mean spirited and in a like degree the general disrespect for the State increased. Not only Hungary but also the various Slav provinces gradually ceased to identify themselves with the monarchy which embraced them all, and accordingly they did not feel its weakness as in any way detrimental to themselves. They rather welcomed those manifestations of senile decay. They looked forward to the final dissolution of the State, and not to its recovery.
The complete collapse was still forestalled in Parliament by the humiliating concessions that were made to every kind of importunate demands, at the cost of the German element. Throughout the country the defence of the State rested on playing off the various nationalities against one another. But the general trend of this development was directed against the Germans. Especially since the right of succession to the throne conferred certain influence on the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the policy of increasing the power of the Czechs was carried out systematically from the upper grades of the administration down to the lower. With all the means at his command the heir to the Dual Monarchy personally furthered the policy that aimed at eliminating the influence of the German element, or at least he acted as protector of that policy. By the use of State officials as tools, purely German districts were gradually but decisively brought within the danger zone of the mixed languages. Even in Lower Austria this process began to make headway with a constantly increasing tempo and Vienna was looked upon by the Czechs as their biggest city.
In the family circle of this new Habsburger the Czech language was favoured. The wife of the Archduke had formerly been a Czech Countess and was wedded to the Prince by a morganatic marriage. She came from an environment where hostility to the Germans had been traditional. The leading idea in the mind of the Archduke was to establish a Slav State in Central Europe, which was to be constructed on a purely Catholic basis, so as to serve as a bulwark against Orthodox Russia.
As had happened often in Habsburg history, religion was thus exploited to serve a purely political policy, and in this case a fatal policy, at least as far as German interests were concerned. The result was lamentable in many respects.
Neither the House of Habsburg nor the Catholic Church received the reward which they expected. Habsburg lost the throne and the Church lost a great State. By employing religious motives in the service of politics, a spirit was aroused which the instigators of that policy had never thought possible.
From the attempt to exterminate Germanism in the old monarchy by every available means arose the Pan-German Movement in Austria, as a response.
In the ’eighties of the last century Manchester Liberalism, which was Jewish in its fundamental ideas, had reached the zenith of its influence in the Dual Monarchy, or had already passed that point. The reaction which set in did not arise from social but from nationalistic tendencies, as was always the case in the old Austria. The instinct of self-preservation drove the German element to defend itself energetically. Economic considerations only slowly began to gain an important influence; but they were of secondary concern. But of the general political chaos two party organizations emerged. The one was more of a national, and the other more of a social, character; but both were highly interesting and instructive for the future.
After the war of 1866, which had resulted in the humiliation of Austria, the House of Habsburg contemplated a revanche on the battlefield. Only the tragic end of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico prevented a still closer collaboration with France. The chief blame for Maximilian’s disastrous expedition was attributed to Napoleon III and the fact that the Frenchman left him in the lurch aroused a general feeling of indignation. Yet the Habsburgs were still lying in wait for their opportunity. If the war of 1870–71 had not been such a singular triumph, the Viennese Court might have chanced the game of blood in order to get its revenge for Sadowa. But when the first reports arrived from the Franco-German battlefield, which, though true, seemed miraculous and almost incredible, the ‘most wise’ of all monarchs recognized that the moment was inopportune and tried to accept the unfavourable situation with as good a grace as possible.
The heroic conflict of those two years (1870–71) produced a still greater miracle; for with the Habsburgs the change of attitude never came from an inner heartfelt urge but only from the pressure of circumstances. The German people of the East Mark, however, were entranced by the triumphant glory of the newly established German Empire and were profoundly moved when they saw the dream of their fathers resurgent in a magnificent reality.
For – let us make no mistake about it – the true German-Austrian realized from this time onward, that Königgrätz was the tragic, though necessary, pre-condition for the re-establishment of an Empire which should no longer be burdened with the palsy of the old alliance and which indeed had no share in that morbid decay. Above all, the German-Austrian had come to feel in the very depths of his own being that the historical mission of the House of Habsburg had come to an end and that the new Empire could choose only an Emperor who was of heroic mould and was therefore worthy to wear the ‘Crown of the Rhine’. It was right and just that Destiny should be praised for having chosen a scion of that House of which Frederick the Great had in past times given the nation an elevated and resplendent symbol for all time to come.
After the great war of 1870–71 the House of Habsburg set to work with all its determination to exterminate the dangerous German element – about whose inner feelings and attitude there could be no doubt – slowly but deliberately. I use the word exterminate, because that alone expresses what must have been the final result of the Slavophile policy. Then it was that the fire of rebellion blazed up among the people whose extermination had been decreed. That fire was such as had never been witnessed in modern German history.
For the first time nationalists and patriots were transformed into rebels.
Not rebels against the nation or the State as such but rebels against that form of government which they were convinced, would inevitably bring about the ruin of their own people. For the first time in modern history the traditional dynastic patriotism and national love of fatherland and people were in open conflict.
It was to the merit of the Pan-German movement in Austria during the closing decade of the last century that it pointed out clearly and unequivocally that a State is entitled to demand respect and protection for its authority only when such authority is administered in accordance with the interests of the nation, or at least not in a manner detrimental to those interests.
The authority of the State can never be an end in itself; for, if that were so, any kind of tyranny would be inviolable and sacred.
If a government uses the instruments of power in its hands for the purpose of leading a people to ruin, then rebellion is not only the right but also the duty of every individual citizen.
The question of whether and when such a situation exists cannot be answered by theoretical dissertations but only by the exercise of force, and it is success that decides the issue.
Every government, even though it may be the worst possible and even though it may have betrayed the nation’s trust in thousands of ways, will claim that its duty is to uphold the authority of the State. Its adversaries, who are fighting for national self-preservation, must use the same weapons which the government uses if they are to prevail against such a rule and secure their own freedom and independence. Therefore the conflict will be fought out with ‘legal’ means as long as the power which is to be overthrown uses them; but the insurgents will not hesitate to apply illegal means if the oppressor himself employs them.
Generally speaking, we must not forget that the highest aim of human existence is not the maintenance of a State of Government but rather the conservation of the race.
If the race is in danger of being oppressed or even exterminated the question of legality is only of secondary importance. The established power may in such a case employ only those means which are recognized as ‘legal’. yet the instinct of self-preservation on the part of the oppressed will always justify, to the highest degree, the employment of all possible resources.
Only on the recognition of this principle was it possible for those struggles to be carried through, of which history furnishes magnificent examples in abundance, against foreign bondage or oppression at home.
Human rights are above the rights of the State. But if a people be defeated in the struggle for its human rights this means that its weight has proved too light in the scale of Destiny to have the luck of being able to endure in this terrestrial world.
The world is not there to be possessed by the faint-hearted races.
Austria affords a very clear and striking example of how easy it is for tyranny to hide its head under the cloak of what is called ‘legality’.
The legal exercise of power in the Habsburg State was then based on the anti-German attitude of the parliament, with its non-German majorities, and on the dynastic House, which was also hostile to the German element. The whole authority of the State was incorporated in these two factors. To attempt to alter the lot of the German element through these two factors would have been senseless. Those who advised the ‘legal’ way as the only possible way, and also obedience to the State authority, could offer no resistance; because a policy of resistance could not have been put into effect through legal measures. To follow the advice of the legalist counsellors would have meant the inevitable ruin of the German element within the Monarchy, and this disaster would not have taken long to come. The German element has actually been saved only because the State as such collapsed.
The spectacled theorist would have given his life for his doctrine rather than for his people.
Because man has made laws he subsequently comes to think that he exists for the sake of the laws.
A great service rendered by the pan-German movement then was that it abolished all such nonsense, though the doctrinaire theorists and other fetish worshippers were shocked.
When the Habsburgs attempted to come to close quarters with the German element, by the employment of all the means of attack which they had at their command, the Pan-German Party hit out ruthlessly against the ‘illustrious’ dynasty. This Party was the first to probe into and expose the corrupt condition of the State; and in doing so they opened the eyes of hundreds of thousands. To have liberated the high ideal of love for one’s country from the embrace of this deplorable dynasty was one of the great services rendered by the Pan-German movement.
When that Party first made its appearance it secured a large following – indeed, the movement threatened to become almost an avalanche. But the first successes were not maintained. At the time I came to Vienna the pan-German Party had been eclipsed by the Christian-Socialist Party, which had come into power in the meantime. Indeed, the Pan-German Party had sunk to a level of almost complete insignificance.
The rise and decline of the Pan-German movement on the one hand and the marvellous progress of the Christian-Socialist Party on the other, became a classic object of study for me, and as such they played an important part in the development of my own views.
When I came to Vienna all my sympathies were exclusively with the Pan-German Movement.
I was just as much impressed by the fact that they had the courage to shout Heil Hohenzollern as I rejoiced at their determination to consider themselves an integral part of the German Empire, from which they were separated only provisionally. They never missed an opportunity to explain their attitude in public, which raised my enthusiasm and confidence. To avow one’s principles publicly on every problem that concerned Germanism, and never to make any compromises, seemed to me the only way of saving our people. What I could not understand was how this movement broke down so soon after such a magnificent start; and it was no less incomprehensible that the Christian-Socialists should gain such tremendous power within such a short time. They had just reached the pinnacle of their popularity.
When I began to compare those two movements Fate placed before me the best means of understanding the causes of this puzzling problem. The action of Fate in this case was hastened by my own straitened circumstances.
I shall begin my analysis with an account of the two men who must be regarded as the founders and leaders of the two movements. These were George von Schönerer and Dr. Karl Lueger.
As far as personality goes, both were far above the level and stature of the so-called parliamentary figures. They lived lives of immaculate and irreproachable probity amidst the miasma of all-round political corruption. Personally I first liked the Pan-German representative, Schönerer, and it was only afterwards and gradually that I felt an equal liking for the Christian-Socialist leader.
When I compared their respective abilities Schönerer seemed to me a better and more profound thinker on fundamental problems. He foresaw the inevitable downfall of the Austrian State more clearly and accurately than anyone else. If this warning in regard to the Habsburg Empire had been heeded in Germany the disastrous world war, which involved Germany against the whole of Europe, would never have taken place.
But though Schönerer succeeded in penetrating to the essentials of a problem he was very often much mistaken in his judgment of men.
And herein lay Dr. Lueger’s special talent. He had a rare gift of insight into human nature and he was very careful not to take men as something better than they were in reality. He based his plans on the practical possibilities which human life offered him, whereas Schönerer had only little discrimination in that respect. All ideas that this Pan-German had were right in the abstract, but he did not have the forcefulness or understanding necessary to put his ideas across to the broad masses. He was not able to formulate them so that they could be easily grasped by the masses, whose powers of comprehension are limited and will always remain so. Therefore all Schönerer’s knowledge was only the wisdom of a prophet and he never could succeed in having it put into practice.
This lack of insight into human nature led him to form a wrong estimate of the forces behind certain movements and the inherent strength of old institutions.
Schönerer indeed realized that the problems he had to deal with were in the nature of a Weltanschhauung; but he did not understand that only the broad masses of a nation can make such convictions prevail, which are almost of a religious nature.
Unfortunately he understood only very imperfectly how feeble is the fighting spirit of the so-called bourgeoisie. That weakness is due to their business interests, which individuals are too much afraid of risking and which therefore deter them from taking action. And, generally speaking, a Weltanschhauung can have no prospect of success unless the broad masses declare themselves ready to act as its standard-bearers and to fight on its behalf wherever and to whatever extent that may be necessary.
This failure to understand the importance of the lower strata of the population resulted in a very inadequate concept of the social problem.
In all this Dr. Lueger was the opposite of Schönerer. His profound knowledge of human nature enabled him to form a correct estimate of the various social forces and it saved him from under-rating the power of existing institutions. And it was perhaps this very quality which enabled him to utilize those institutions as a means to serve the purposes of his policy.
He saw only too clearly that, in our epoch, the political fighting power of the upper classes is quite insignificant and not at all capable of fighting for a great new movement until the triumph of that movement be secured. Thus he devoted the greatest part of his political activity to the task of winning over those sections of the population whose existence was in danger and fostering the militant spirit in them rather than attempting to paralyse it. He was also quick to adopt all available means for winning the support of long-established institutions, so as to be able to derive the greatest possible advantage for his movement from those old sources of power.
Thus it was that, first of all, he chose as the social basis of his new Party that middle class which was threatened with extinction. In this way he secured a solid following which was willing to make great sacrifices and had good fighting stamina. His extremely wise attitude towards the Catholic Church rapidly won over the younger clergy in such large numbers that the old Clerical Party was forced to retire from the field of action or else, which was the wiser course, join the new Party, in the hope of gradually winning back one position after another.
But it would be a serious injustice to the man if we were to regard this as his essential characteristic. For he possessed the qualities of an able tactician, and had the true genius of a great reformer; but all these were limited by his exact perception of the possibilities at hand and also of his own capabilities.
The aims which this really eminent man decided to pursue were intensely practical. He wished to conquer Vienna, the heart of the Monarchy. It was from Vienna that the last pulses of life beat through the diseased and worn-out body of the decrepit Empire. If the heart could be made healthier the others parts of the body were bound to revive. That idea was correct in principle; but the time within which it could be applied in practice was strictly limited. And that was the man’s weak point.
His achievements as Burgomaster of the City of Vienna are immortal, in the best sense of the word. But all that could not save the Monarchy. It came too late.
His rival, Schönerer, saw this more clearly. What Dr. Lueger undertook to put into practice turned out marvellously successful. But the results which he expected to follow these achievements did not come. Schönerer did not attain the ends he had proposed to himself; but his fears were realized, alas, in a terrible fashion. Thus both these men failed to attain their further objectives. Lueger could not save Austria and Schönerer could not prevent the downfall of the German people in Austria.
To study the causes of failure in the case of these two parties is to learn a lesson that is highly instructive for our own epoch. This is specially useful for my friends, because in many points the circumstances of our own day are similar to those of that time. Therefore such a lesson may help us to guard against the mistakes which brought one of those movements to an end and rendered the other barren of results.
In my opinion, the wreck of the Pan-German Movement in Austria must be attributed to three causes.
The first of these consisted in the fact that the leaders did not have a clear concept of the importance of the social problem, particularly for a new movement which had an essentially revolutionary character. Schönerer and his followers directed their attention principally to the bourgeois classes. For that reason their movement was bound to turn out mediocre and tame. The German bourgeoisie, especially in its upper circles, is pacifist even to the point of complete self-abnegation – though the individual may not be aware of this – wherever the internal affairs of the nation or State are concerned. In good times, which in this case means times of good government, such a psychological attitude makes this social layer extraordinarily valuable to the State. But when there is a bad government, such a quality has a destructive effect. In order to assure the possibility of carrying through a really strenuous struggle, the Pan-German Movement should have devoted its efforts to winning over the masses. The failure to do this left the movement from the very beginning without the elementary impulse which such a wave needs if it is not to ebb within a short while.
In failing to see the truth of this principle clearly at the very outset of the movement and in neglecting to put it into practice the new Party made an initial mistake which could not possibly be rectified afterwards. For the numerous moderate bourgeois elements admitted into the movements increasingly determined its internal orientation and thus forestalled all further prospects of gaining any appreciable support among the masses of the people. Under such conditions such a movement could not get beyond mere discussion and criticism. Quasi-religious faith and the spirit of sacrifice were not to be found in the movement any more. Their place was taken by the effort towards ‘positive’ collaboration, which in this case meant the acknowledgment of the existing state of affairs, gradually whittling away the rough corners of the questions in dispute, and ending up with the making of a dishonourable peace.
Such was the fate of the Pan-German Movement, because at the start the leaders did not realize that the most important condition of success was that they should recruit their following from the broad masses of the people. The Movement thus became bourgeois and respectable and radical only in moderation.
From this failure resulted the second cause of its rapid decline.
The position of the Germans in Austria was already desperate when Pan-Germanism arose. Year after year Parliament was being used more and more as an instrument for the gradual extinction of the German-Austrian population. The only hope for any eleventh-hour effort to save it lay in the overthrow of the parliamentary system; but there was very little prospect of this happening.
Therewith the Pan-German Movement was confronted with a question of primary importance.
To overthrow the Parliament, should the Pan-Germanists have entered it ‘to undermine it from within’, as the current phrase was? Or should they have assailed the institution as such from the outside?
They entered the Parliament and came out defeated. But they had found themselves obliged to enter.
For in order to wage an effective war against such a power from the outside, indomitable courage and a ready spirit of sacrifice were necessary weapons. In such cases the bull must be seized by the horns. Furious drives may bring the assailant to the ground again and again; but if he has a stout heart he will stand up, even though some bones may be broken, and only after a long and tough struggle will he achieve his triumph. New champions are attracted to a cause by the appeal of great sacrifices made for its sake, until that indomitable spirit is finally crowned with success.
For such a result, however, the children of the people from the great masses are necessary. They alone have the requisite determination and tenacity to fight a sanguinary issue through to the end. But the Pan-German Movement did not have these broad masses as its champions, and so no other means of solution could be tried out except that of entering Parliamcnt.
It would be a mistake to think that this decision resulted from a long series of internal hesitations of a moral kind, or that it was the outcome of careful calculation. No. They did not even think of another solution. Those who participated in this blunder were actuated by general considerations and vague notions as to what would be the significance and effect of taking part in such a special way in that institution which they had condemned on principle. In general they hoped that they would thus have the means of expounding their cause to the great masses of the people, because they would be able to speak before ‘the forum of the whole nation’. Also, it seemed reasonable to believe that by attacking the evil in the root they would be more effective than if the attack came from outside. They believed that, if protected by the immunity of Parliament, the position of the individual protagonists would be strengthened and that thus the force of their attacks would be enhanced.
In reality everything turned out quite otherwise.
The Forum before which the Pan-German representatives spoke had not grown greater, but had actually become smaller; for each spoke only to the circle that was ready to listen to him or could read the report of his speech in the newspapers.
But the greater forum of immediate listeners is not the parliamentary auditorium: it is the large public meeting. For here alone will there be thousands of men who have come simply to hear what a speaker has to say, whereas in the parliamentary sittings only a few hundred are present; and for the most part these are there only to earn their daily allowance for attendance and not to be enlightened by the wisdom of one or other of the ‘representatives of the people’.
The most important consideration is that the same public is always present and that this public does not wish to learn anything new; because, setting aside the question of its intelligence, it lacks even that modest quantum of will-power which is necessary for the effort of learning.
Not one of the representatives of the people will pay homage to a superior truth and devote himself to its service. No. Not one of these gentry will act thus, except he has grounds for hoping that by such a conversion he may be able to retain the representation of his constituency in the coming legislature. Therefore, only when it becomes quite clear that the old party is likely to have a bad time of it at the forthcoming elections – only then will those models of manly virtue set out in search of a new party or a new policy which may have better electoral prospects; but of course this change of position will be accompanied by a veritable deluge of high moral motives to justify it. And thus it always happens that when an existing Party has incurred such general disfavour among the public that it is threatened with the probability of a crushing defeat, then a great migration commences. The parliamentary rats leave the Party ship.
All this happens not because the individuals in the case have become better informed on the questions at issue and have resolved to act accordingly. These changes of front are evidence only of that gift of clairvoyance which warns the parliamentary flea at the right moment and enables him to hop into another warm Party bed.
To speak before such a forum signifies casting pearls before certain animals.
Verily it does not repay the pains taken; for the result must always be negative.
And that is actually what happened. The Pan-German representatives might have talked themselves hoarse, but to no effect whatsoever.
The Press either ignored them totally or so mutilated their speeches that the logical consistency was destroyed or the meaning twisted round in such a way that the public got only a very wrong impression regarding the aims of the new movement. What the individual members said was not of importance. The important matter was what people read as coming from them. This consisted of mere extracts which had been torn out of the context of the speeches and gave an impression of incoherent nonsense, which indeed was purposely meant. Thus the only public before which they really spoke consisted merely of five hundred parliamentarians; and that says enough.
The worst was the following:
The Pan-German Movement could hope for success only if the leaders realized from the very first moment that here there was no question so much of a new Party as of a new Weltanschhauung. This alone could arouse the inner moral forces that were necessary for such a gigantic struggle. And for this struggle the leaders must be men of first-class brains and indomitable courage. If the struggle on behalf of a Weltanschhauung is not conducted by men of heroic spirit who are ready to sacrifice, everything, within a short while it will become impossible to find real fighting followers who are ready to lay down their lives for the cause. A man who fights only for his own existence has not much left over for the service of the community.
In order to secure the conditions that are necessary for success, everybody concerned must be made to understand that the new movement looks to posterity for its honour and glory but that it has no recompense to offer to the present-day members. If a movement should offer a large number of positions and offices that are easily accessible the number of unworthy candidates admitted to membership will be constantly on the increase and eventually a day will come when there will be such a preponderance of political profiteers among the membership of a successful Party that the combatants who bore the brunt of the battle in the earlier stages of the movement can now scarcely recognize their own Party and may be ejected by the later arrivals as unwanted ballast. Therewith the movement will no longer have a mission to fulfil.
Once the Pan-Germanists decided to collaborate with Parliament they were no longer leaders and combatants in a popular movement, but merely parliamentarians. Thus the Movement sank to the common political party level of the day and no longer had the strength to face a hostile fate and defy the risk of martyrdom. Instead of fighting, the Pan-German leaders fell into the habit of talking and negotiating. The new parliamentarians soon found that it was a more satisfactory, because less risky, way of fulfilling their task if they would defend the new Weltanschhauung with the spiritual weapon of parliamentary rhetoric rather than take up a fight in which they placed their lives in danger, the outcome of which also was uncertain and even at the best could offer no prospect of personal gain for themselves.
When they had taken their seats in Parliament their adherents outside hoped and waited for miracles to happen. Naturally no such miracles happened or could happen. Whereupon the adherents of the movement soon grew impatient, because reports they read about their own deputies did not in the least come up to what had been expected when they voted for these deputies at the elections. The reason for this was not far to seek. It was due to the fact that an unfriendly Press refrained from giving a true account of what the Pan-German representatives of the people were actually doing.
According as the new deputies got to like this mild form of ‘revolutionary’ struggle in Parliament and in the provincial diets they gradually became reluctant to resume the more hazardous work of expounding the principles of the movement before the broad masses of the people.
Mass meetings in public became more and more rare, though these are the only means of exercising a really effective influence on the people; because here the influence comes from direct personal contact and in this way the support of large sections of the people can be obtained.
When the tables on which the speakers used to stand in the great beer-halls, addressing an assembly of thousands, were deserted for the parliamentary tribune and the speeches were no longer addressed to the people directly but to the so-called ‘chosen’ representatives, the Pan-German Movement lost its popular character and in a little while degenerated to the level of a more or less serious club where problems of the day are discussed academically.
The wrong impression created by the Press was no longer corrected by personal contact with the people through public meetings, whereby the individual representatives might have given a true account of their activities. The final result of this neglect was that the word ‘Pan-German’ came to have an unpleasant sound in the ears of the masses.
The knights of the pen and the literary snobs of to-day should be made to realize that the great transformations which have taken place in this world were never conducted by a goosequill. No. The task of the pen must always be that of presenting the theoretical concepts which motivate such changes. The force which has ever and always set in motion great historical avalanches of religious and political movements is the magic power of the spoken word.
The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. All great movements are popular movements. They are the volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotions, stirred into activity by the ruthless Goddess of Distress or by the torch of the spoken word cast into the midst of the people. In no case have great movements been set afoot by the syrupy effusions of æsthetic littérateurs and drawing-room heroes.
The doom of a nation can be averted only by a storm of glowing passion; but only those who are passionate themselves can arouse passion in others. It is only through the capacity for passionate feeling that chosen leaders can wield the power of the word which, like hammer blows, will open the door to the hearts of the people.
He who is not capable of passionate feeling and speech was never chosen by Providence to be the herald of its will. Therefore a writer should stick to his ink-bottle and busy himself with theoretical questions if he has the requisite ability and knowledge. He has not been born or chosen to be a leader.
A movement which has great ends to achieve must carefully guard against the danger of losing contact with the masses of the people. Every problem encountered must be examined from this viewpoint first of all and the decision to be made must always be in harmony with this principle.
The movement must avoid everything which might lessen or weaken its power of influencing the masses; not from demagogical motives but because of the simple fact that no great idea, no matter how sublime and exalted it may appear, can be realized in practice without the effective power which resides in the popular masses. Stern reality alone must mark the way to the goal. To be unwilling to walk the road of hardship means, only too often in this world, the total renunciation of our aims and purposes, whether that renunciation be consciously willed or not.
The moment the Pan-German leaders, in virtue of their acceptance of the parliamentary principle, moved the centre of their activities away from the people and into Parliament, in that moment they sacrificed the future for the sake of a cheap momentary success. They chose the easier way in the struggle and in doing so rendered themselves unworthy of the final victory.
While in Vienna I used to ponder seriously over these two questions, and I saw that the main reason for the collapse of the Pan-German Movement lay in the fact that these very questions were not rightly appreciated. To my mind at that time the Movement seemed chosen to take in its hands the leadership of the German element in Austria.
These first two blunders which led to the downfall of the Pan-German Movement were very closely connected with one another. Faulty recognition of the inner driving forces that urge great movements forward led to an inadequate appreciation of the part which the broad masses play in bringing about such changes. The result was that too little attention was given to the social problem and that the attempts made by the movement to capture the minds of the lower classes were too few and too weak. Another result was the acceptance of the parliamentary policy, which had a similar effect in regard to the importance of the masses.
If there had been a proper appreciation of the tremendous powers of endurance always shown by the masses in revolutionary movements a different attitude towards the social problem would have been taken, and also a different policy in the matter of propaganda. Then the centre of gravity of the movement would not have been transferred to the Parliament but would have remained in the workshops and in the streets.
There was a third mistake, which also had its roots in the failure to understand the worth of the masses. The masses are first set in motion, along a definite direction, by men of superior talents; but then these masses once in motion are like a flywheel inasmuch as they sustain the momentum and steady balance of the offensive.
The policy of the Pan-German leaders in deciding to carry through a difficult fight against the Catholic Church can be explained only by attributing it to an inadequate understanding of the spiritual character of the people.
The reasons why the new Party engaged in a violent campaign against Rome were as follows:
As soon as the House of Habsburg had definitely decided to transform Austria into a Slav State all sorts of means were adopted which seemed in any way serviceable for that purpose. The Habsburg rulers had no scruples of conscience about exploiting even religious institutions in the service of this new ‘State Idea’. One of the many methods thus employed was the use of Czech parishes and their clergy as instruments for spreading Slav hegemony throughout Austria. This proceeding was carried out as follows:
Parish priests of Czech nationality were appointed in purely German districts. Gradually but steadily pushing forward the interests of the Czech people before those of the Church, the parishes and their priests became generative cells in the process of de-Germanization.
Unfortunately the German-Austrian clergy completely failed to counter this procedure. Not only were they incapable of taking a similar initiative on the German side, but they showed themselves unable to meet the Czech offensive with adequate resistance. The German element was accordingly pushed backwards, slowly but steadily, through the perversion of religious belief for political ends on the one side, and the Jack of proper resistance on the other side. Such were the tactics used in dealing with the smaller problems; but those used in dealing with the larger problems were not very different.
The anti-German aims pursued by the Habsburgs, especially through the instrumentality of the higher clergy, did not meet with any vigorous resistance, while the clerical representatives of the German interests withdrew completely to the rear. The general impression created could not be other than that the Catholic clergy as such were grossly neglecting the rights of the German population.
Therefore it looked as if the Catholic Church was not in sympathy with the German people but that it unjustly supported their adversaries. The root of the whole evil, especially according to Schönerer’s opinion, lay in the fact that the leadership of the Catholic Church was not in Germany, and that this fact alone was sufficient reason for the hostile attitude of the Church towards the demands of our people.
The so-called cultural problem receded almost completely into the background, as was generally the case everywhere throughout Austria at that time. In assuming a hostile attitude towards the Catholic Church, the Pan-German leaders were influenced not so much by the Church’s position in questions of science but principally by the fact that the Church did not defend German rights, as it should have done, but always supported those who encroached on these rights, especially then Slavs.
George Schönerer was not a man who did things by halves. He went into battle against the Church because he was convinced that this was the only way in which the German people could be saved. The Los-von-Rom (Away from Rome) Movement seemed the most formidable, but at the same time most difficult, method of attacking and destroying the adversary’s citadel. Schönerer believed that if this movement could be carried through successfully the unfortunate division between the two great religious denominations in Germany would be wiped out and that the inner forces of the German Empire and Nation would be enormously enhanced by such a victory.
But the premises as well as the conclusions in this case were both erroneous.
It was undoubtedly true that the national powers of resistance, in everything concerning Germanism as such, were much weaker among the German Catholic clergy than among their non-German confrères, especially the Czechs. And only an ignorant person could be unaware of the fact that it scarcely ever entered the mind of the German clergy to take the offensive on behalf of German interests.
But at the same time everybody who is not blind to facts must admit that all this should be attributed to a characteristic under which we Germans have all been doomed to suffer. This characteristic shows itself in our objective way of regarding our own nationality, as if it were something that lay outside of us.
While the Czech priest adopted a subjective attitude towards his own people and only an objective attitude towards the Church, the German parish priest showed a subjective devotion to his Church and remained objective in regard to his nation. It is a phenomenon which, unfortunately for us, can be observed occurring in exactly the same way in thousands of other cases.
It is by no means a peculiar inheritance from Catholicism; but it is something in us which does not take long to gnaw the vitals of almost every institution, especially institutions of State and those which have ideal aims. Take, for example, the attitude of our State officials in regard to the efforts made for bringing about a national resurgence and compare that attitude with the stand which the public officials of any other nation would have taken in such a case. Or is it to be believed that the military officers of any other country in the world would refuse to come forward on behalf of the national aspirations, but would rather hide behind the phrase ‘Authority of the State’, as has been the case in our country during the last five years and has even been deemed a meritorious attitude? Or let us take another example. In regard to the Jewish problem, do not the two Christian denominations take up a standpoint to-day which does not respond to the national exigencies or even the interests of religion? Consider the attitude of a Jewish Rabbi towards any question, even one of quite insignificant importance, concerning the Jews as a race, and compare his attitude with that of the majority of our clergy, whether Catholic or Protestant.
We observe the same phenomenon wherever it is a matter of standing up for some abstract idea.
‘Authority of the State’, ‘Democracy’, ‘Pacifism’, ‘International Solidarity’, etc., all such notions become rigid, dogmatic concepts with us; and the more vital the general necessities of the nation, the more will they be judged exclusively in the light of those concepts.
This unfortunate habit of looking at all national demands from the viewpoint of a pre-conceived notion makes it impossible for us to see the subjective side of a thing which objectively contradicts one’s own doctrine. It finally leads to a complete reversion in the relation of means to an end. Any attempt at a national revival will be opposed if the preliminary condition of such a revival be that a bad and pernicious regime must first of all be overthrown; because such an action will be considered as a violation of the ‘Authority of the State’. In the eyes of those who take that standpoint, the ‘Authority of the State’ is not a means which is there to serve an end but rather, to the mind of the dogmatic believer in objectivity, it is an end in itself; and he looks upon that as sufficient apology for his own miserable existence. Such people would raise an outcry, if, for instance, anyone should attempt to set up a dictatorship, even though the man responsible for it were Frederick the Great and even though the politicians for the time being, who constituted the parliamentary majority, were small and incompetent men or maybe even on a lower grade of inferiority; because to such sticklers for abstract principles the law of democracy is more sacred than the welfare of the nation. In accordance with his principles, one of these gentry will defend the worst kind of tyranny, though it may be leading a people to ruin, because it is the fleeting embodiment of the ‘Authority of the State’, and another will reject even a highly beneficent government if it should happen not to be in accord with his notion of ‘democracy’.
In the same way our German pacifist will remain silent while the nation is groaning under an oppression which is being exercised by a sanguinary military power, when this state of affairs gives rise to active resistance; because such resistance means the employment of physical force, which is against the spirit of the pacifist associations. The German International Socialist may be rooked and plundered by his comrades in all the other countries of the world in the name of ‘solidarity’, but he responds with fraternal kindness and never thinks of trying to get his own back, or even of defending himself. And why? Because he is a – German.
It may be unpleasant to dwell on such truths, but if something is to be changed we must start by diagnosing the disease.
The phenomenon which I have just described also accounts for the feeble manner in which German interests are promoted and defended by a section of the clergy.
Such conduct is not the manifestation of a malicious intent, nor is it the outcome of orders given from ‘above’, as we say; but such a lack of national grit and determination is due to defects in our educational system. For, instead of inculcating in the youth a lively sense of their German nationality, the aim of the educational system is to make the youth prostrate themselves in homage to the idea, as if the idea were an idol.
The education which makes them the devotees of such abstract notions as ‘Democracy’, ‘International Socialism’, ‘Pacifism’, etc., is so hard-and-fast and exclusive and, operating as it does from within outwards, is so purely subjective that in forming their general picture of outside life as a whole they are fundamentally influenced by these a priori notions. But, on the other hand, the attitude towards their own German nationality has been very objective from youth upwards. The Pacifist – in so far as he is a German – who surrenders himself subjectively, body and soul, to the dictates of his dogmatic principles, will always first consider the objective right or wrong of a situation when danger threatens his own people, even though that danger be grave and unjustly wrought from outside. But he will never take his stand in the ranks of his own people and fight for and with them from the sheer instinct of self-preservation.
Another example may further illustrate how far this applies to the different religious denominations. In so far as its origin and tradition are based on German ideals, Protestantism of itself defends those ideals better. But it fails the moment it is called upon to defend national interests which do not belong to the sphere of its ideals and traditional development, or which, for some reason or other, may be rejected by that sphere.
Therefore Protestantism will always take its part in promoting German ideals as far as concerns moral integrity or national education, when the German spiritual being or language or spiritual freedom are to be defended: because these represent the principles on which Protestantism itself is grounded. But this same Protestantism violently opposes every attempt to rescue the nation from the clutches of its mortal enemy; because the Protestant attitude towards the Jews is more or less rigidly and dogmatically fixed. And yet this is the first problem which has to be solved, unless all attempts to bring about a German resurgence or to raise the level of the nation’s standing are doomed to turn out nonsensical and impossible.
During my sojourn in Vienna I had ample leisure and opportunity to study this problem without allowing any prejudices to intervene; and in my daily intercourse with people I was able to establish the correctness of the opinion I formed by the test of thousands of instances.
In this focus where the greatest varieties of nationality had converged it was quite clear and open to everybody to see that the German pacifist was always and exclusively the one who tried to consider the interests of his own nation objectively; but you could never find a Jew who took a similar attitude towards his own race. Furthermore, I found that only the German Socialist is ‘international’ in the sense that he feels himself obliged not to demand justice for his own people in any other manner than by whining and wailing to his international comrades. Nobody could ever reproach Czechs or Poles or other nations with such conduct. In short, even at that time, already I recognized that this evil is only partly a result of the doctrines taught by Socialism, Pacifism, etc., but mainly the result of our totally inadequate system of education, the defects of which are responsible for the lack of devotion to our own national ideals.
Therefore the first theoretical argument advanced by the Pan-German leaders as the basis of their offensive against Catholicism was quite entenable.
The only way to remedy the evil I have been speaking of is to train the Germans from youth upwards to an absolute recognition of the rights of their own people, instead of poisoning their minds, while they are still only children, with the virus of this curbed ‘objectivity’, even in matters concerning the very maintenance of our own existence. The result of this would be that the Catholic in Germany, just as in Ireland, Poland or France, will be a German first and foremost. But all this presupposes a radical change in the national government.
The strongest proof in support of my contention is furnished by what took place at that historical juncture when our people were called for the last time before the tribunal of History to defend their own existence, in a life-or-death struggle.
As long as there was no lack of leadership in the higher circles, the people fulfilled their duty and obligations to an overwhelming extent. Whether Protestant pastor or Catholic priest, each did his very utmost in helping our powers of resistance to hold out, not only in the trenches but also, and even more so, at home. During those years, and especially during the first outburst of enthusiasm, in both religious camps there was one undivided and sacred German Empire for whose preservation and future existence they all prayed to Heaven.
The Pan-German Movement in Austria ought to have asked itself this one question: Is the maintenance of the German element in Austria possible or not, as long as that element remains within the fold of the Catholic Faith? If that question should have been answered in the affirmative, then the political Party should not have meddled in religious and denominational questions. But if the question had to be answered in the negative, then a religious reformation should have been started and not a political party movement.
Anyone who believes that a religious reformation can be achieved through the agency of a political organization shows that he has no idea of the development of religious conceptions and doctrines of faith and how these are given practical effect by the Church.
No man can serve two masters. And I hold that the foundation or overthrow of a religion has far greater consequences than the foundation or overthrow of a State, to say nothing of a Party.
It is no argument to the contrary to say that the attacks were only defensive measures against attacks from the other side.
Undoubtedly there have always been unscrupulous rogues who did not hesitate to degrade religion to the base uses of politics. Nearly always such a people had nothing else in their minds except to make a business of religions and politics. But on the other hand it would be wrong to hold religion itself, or a religious denomination, responsible for a number of rascals who exploit the Church for their own base interests just as they would exploit anything else in which they had a part.
Nothing could be more to the taste of one of these parliamentary loungers and tricksters than to be able to find a scapegoat for his political sharp-practice – after the event, of course. The moment religion or a religious denomination is attacked and made responsible for his personal misdeeds this shrewd fellow will raise a row at once and call the world to witness how justified he was in acting as he did, proclaiming that he and his eloquence alone have saved religion and the Church. The public, which is mostly stupid and has a very short memory, is not capable of recognizing the real instigator of the quarrel in the midst of the turmoil that has been raised. Frequently it does not remember the beginning of the fight and so the rogue gets by with his stunt.
A cunning fellow of that sort is quite well aware that his misdeeds have nothing to do with religion. And so he will laugh up his sleeve all the more heartily when his honest but artless adversary loses the game and, one day losing all faith in humanity, retires from the activities of public life.
But from another viewpoint also it would be wrong to make religion, or the Church as such, responsible for the misdeeds of individuals. If one compares the magnitude of the organization, as it stands visible to every eye, with the average weakness of human nature we shall have to admit that the proportion of good to bad is more favourable here than anywhere else. Among the priests there may, of course, be some who use their sacred calling to further their political ambitions. There are clergy who unfortunately forget that in the political mêlée they ought to be the paladins of the more sublime truths and not the abettors of falsehood and slander. But for each one of these unworthy specimens we can find a thousand or more who fulfil their mission nobly as the trustworthy guardians of souls and who tower above the level of our corrupt epoch, as little islands above the seaswamp.
I cannot condemn the Church as such, and I should feel quite as little justified in doing so if some depraved person in the robe of a priest commits some offence against the moral law. Nor should I for a moment think of blaming the Church if one of its innumerable members betrays and besmirches his compatriots, especially not in epochs when such conduct is quite common. We must not forget, particularly in our day, that for one such Ephialtes 7) there are a thousand whose hearts bleed in sympathy with their people during these years of misfortune and who, together with the best of our nation, yearn for the hour when fortune will smile on us again.
If it be objected that here we are concerned not with the petty problems of everyday life but principally with fundamental truths and questions of dogma, the only way of answering that objection is to ask a question:
Do you feel that Providence has called you to proclaim the Truth to the world? If so, then go and do it. But you ought to have the courage to do it directly and not use some political party as your mouthpiece; for in this way you shirk your vocation. In the place of something that now exists and is bad put something else that is better and will last into the future.
If you lack the requisite courage or if you yourself do not know clearly what your better substitute ought to be, leave the whole thing alone. But, whatever happens, do not try to reach the goal by the roundabout way of a political party if you are not brave enough to fight with your visor lifted.
Political parties have no right to meddle in religious questions except when these relate to something that is alien to the national well-being and thus calculated to undermine racial customs and morals.
If some ecclesiastical dignitaries should misuse religious ceremonies or religious teaching to injure their own nation their opponents ought never to take the same road and fight them with the same weapons.
To a political leader the religious teachings and practices of his people should be sacred and inviolable. Otherwise he should not be a statesman but a reformer, if he has the necessary qualities for such a mission.
Any other line of conduct will lead to disaster, especially in Germany.
In studying the Pan-German Movement and its conflict with Rome I was then firmly persuaded, and especially in the course of later years, that by their failure to understand the importance of the social problem the Pan-Germanists lost the support of the broad masses, who are the indispensable combatants in such a movement. By entering Parliament the Pan-German leaders deprived themselves of the great driving force which resides in the masses and at the same time they laid on their own shoulders all the defects of the parliamentary institution. Their struggle against the Church made their position impossible in numerous circles of the lower and middle class, while at the same time it robbed them of innumerable high-class elements – some of the best indeed that the nation possessed. The practical outcome of the Austrian Kulturkampf was negative.
Although they succeeded in winning 100,000 members away from the Church, that did not do much harm to the latter. The Church did not really need to shed any tears over these lost sheep, for it lost only those who had for a long time ceased to belong to it in their inner hearts. The difference between this new reformation and the great Reformation was that in the historic epoch of the great Reformation some of the best members left the Church because of religious convictions, whereas in this new reformation only those left who had been indifferent before and who were now influenced by political considerations. From the political point of view alone the result was as ridiculous as it was deplorable.
Once again a political movement which had promised so much for the German nation collapsed, because it was not conducted in a spirit of unflinching adherence to naked reality, but lost itself in fields where it was bound to get broken up.
The Pan-German Movement would never have made this mistake if it had properly understood the psyche of the broad masses. If the leaders had known that, for psychological reasons alone, it is not expedient to place two or more sets of adversaries before the masses – since that leads to a complete splitting up of their fighting strength – they would have concentrated the full and undivided force of their attack against a single adversary. Nothing in the policy of a political party is so fraught with danger as to allow its decisions to be directed by people who want to have their fingers in every pie though they do not know how to cook the simplest dish.
But even though there is much that can really be said against the various religious denominations, political leaders must not forget that the experience of history teaches us that no purely political party in similar circumstances ever succeeded in bringing about a religious reformation. One does not study history for the purpose of forgetting or mistrusting its lessons afterwards, when the time comes to apply these lessons in practice. It would be a mistake to believe that in this particular case things were different, so that the eternal truths of history were no longer applicable. One learns history in order to be able to apply its lessons to the present time and whoever fails to do this cannot pretend to be a political leader. In reality he is quite a superficial person or, as is mostly the case, a conceited simpleton whose good intentions cannot make up for his incompetence in practical affairs.
The art of leadership, as displayed by really great popular leaders in all ages, consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention into sections. The more the militant energies of the people are directed towards one objective the more will new recruits join the movement, attracted by the magnetism of its unified action, and thus the striking power will be all the more enhanced. The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to the one category; for weak and wavering natures among a leader’s following may easily begin to be dubious about the justice of their own cause if they have to face different enemies.
As soon as the vacillating masses find themselves facing an opposition that is made up of different groups of enemies their sense of objectivity will be aroused and they will ask how is it that all the others can be in the wrong and they themselves, and their movement, alone in the right.
Such a feeling would be the first step towards a paralysis of their fighting vigour. Where there are various enemies who are split up into divergent groups it will be necessary to block them all together as forming one solid front, so that the mass of followers in a popular movement may see only one common enemy against whom they have to fight. Such uniformity intensifies their belief in the justice of their own cause and strengthens their feeling of hostility towards the opponent.
The Pan-German Movement was unsuccessful because the leaders did not grasp the significance of that truth. They saw the goal clearly and their intentions were right; but they took the wrong road. Their action may be compared to that of an Alpine climber who never loses sight of the peak he wants to reach, who has set out with the greatest determination and energy, but pays no attention to the road beneath his feet. With his eye always fixed firmly on the goal he does not think over or notice the nature of the ascent and finally he fails.
The manner in which the great rival of the Pan-German Party set out to attain its goal was quite different. The way it took was well and shrewdly chosen; but it did not have a clear vision of the goal. In almost all the questions where the Pan-German Movement failed, the policy of the Christian-Socialist Party was correct and systematic.
They assessed the importance of the masses correctly, and thus they gained the support of large numbers of the popular masses by emphasizing the social character of the Movement from the very start. By directing their appeal especially to the lower middle class and the artisans, they gained adherents who were faithful, persevering and self-sacrificing. The Christian-Socialist leaders took care to avoid all controversy with the institutions of religion and thus they secured the support of that mighty organization, the Catholic Church. Those leaders recognized the value of propaganda on a large scale and they were veritable virtuosos in working up the spiritual instincts of the broad masses of their adherents.
The failure of this Party to carry into effect the dream of saving Austria from dissolution must be attributed to two main defects in the means they employed and also the lack of a clear perception of the ends they wished to reach.
The anti-Semitism of the Christian-Socialists was based on religious instead of racial principles. The reason for this mistake gave rise to the second error also.
The founders of the Christian-Socialist Party were of the opinion that they could not base their position on the racial principle if they wished to save Austria, because they felt that a general disintegration of the State might quickly result from the adoption of such a policy. In the opinion of the Party chiefs the situation in Vienna demanded that all factors which tended to estrange the nationalities from one another should be carefully avoided and that all factors making for unity should be encouraged.
At that time Vienna was so honeycombed with foreign elements, especially the Czechs, that the greatest amount of tolerance was necessary if these elements were to be enlisted in the ranks of any party that was not anti-German on principle. If Austria was to be saved those elements were indispensable. And so attempts were made to win the support of the small traders, a great number of whom were Czechs, by combating the liberalism of the Manchester School; and they believed that by adopting this attitude they had found a slogan against Jewry which, because of its religious implications, would unite all the different nationalities which made up the population of the old Austria.
It was obvious, however, that this kind of anti-Semitism did not upset the Jews very much, simply because it had a purely religious foundation. If the worst came to the worst a few drops of baptismal water would settle the matter, hereupon the Jew could still carry on his business safely and at the same time retain his Jewish nationality.
On such superficial grounds it was impossible to deal with the whole problem in an earnest and rational way. The consequence was that many people could not understand this kind of anti-Semitism and therefore refused to take part in it.
The attractive force of the idea was thus restricted exclusively to narrow-minded circles, because the leaders failed to go beyond the mere emotional appeal and did not ground their position on a truly rational basis. The intellectuals were opposed to such a policy on principle. It looked more and more as if the whole movement was a new attempt to proselytize the Jews, or, on the other hand, as if it were merely organized from the wish to compete with other contemporary movements. Thus the struggle lost all traces of having been organized for a spiritual and sublime mission. Indeed, it seemed to some people – and these were by no means worthless elements – to be immoral and reprehensible. The movement failed to awaken a belief that here there was a problem of vital importance for the whole of humanity and on the solution of which the destiny of the whole Gentile world depended.
Through this shilly-shally way of dealing with the problem the anti-Semitism of the Christian-Socialists turned out to be quite ineffective.
It was anti-Semitic only in outward appearance. And this was worse than if it had made no pretences at all to anti-Semitism; for the pretence gave rise to a false sense of security among people who believed that the enemy had been taken by the ears; but, as a matter of fact, the people themselves were being led by the nose.
The Jew readily adjusted himself to this form of anti-Semitism and found its continuance more profitable to him than its abolition would be.
This whole movement led to great sacrifices being made for the sake of that State which was composed of many heterogeneous nationalities; but much greater sacrifices had to be made by the trustees of the German element.
One did not dare to be ‘nationalist’, even in Vienna, lest the ground should fall away from under one’s feet. It was hoped that the Habsburg State might be saved by a silent evasion of the nationalist question; but this policy led that State to ruin. The same policy also led to the collapse of Christian Socialism, for thus the Movement was deprived of the only source of energy from which a political party can draw the necessary driving force.
During those years I carefully followed the two movements and observed how they developed, one because my heart was with it and the other because of my admiration for that remarkable man who then appeared to me as a bitter symbol of the whole German population in Austria.
When the imposing funeral cortège of the dead Burgomaster wound its way from the City Hall towards the Ring Strasse I stood among the hundreds of thousands who watched the solemn procession pass by. As I stood there I felt deeply moved, and my instinct clearly told me that the work of this man was all in vain, because a sinister Fate was inexorably leading this State to its downfall. If Dr. Karl Lueger had lived in Germany he would have been ranked among the great leaders of our people. It was a misfortune for his work and for himseif that he had to live in this impossible State.
When he died the fire had already been enkindled in the Balkans and was spreading month by month. Fate had been merciful in sparing him the sight of what, even to the last, he had hoped to prevent.
I endeavoured to analyse the cause which rendered one of those movements futile and wrecked the progress of the other. The result of this investigation was the profound conviction that, apart from the inherent impossibility of consolidating the position of the State in the old Austria, the two parties made the following fatal mistake:
The Pan-German Party was perfectly right in its fundamental ideas regarding the aim of the Movement, which was to bring about a German restoration, but it was unfortunate in its choice of means. It was nationalist, but unfortunately it paid too little heed to the social problem, and thus it failed to gain the support of the masses. Its anti-Jewish policy, however, was grounded on a correct perception of the significance of the racial problem and not on religious principles. But it was mistaken in its assessment of facts and adopted the wrong tactics when it made war against one of the religious denominations.
The Christian-Socialist Movement had only a vague concept of a German revival as part of its object, but it was intelligent and fortunate in the choice of means to carry out its policy as a Party. The Christian-Socialists grasped the significance of the social question; but they adopted the wrong principles in their struggle against Jewry, and they utterly failed to appreciate the value of the national idea as a source of political energy.
If the Christian-Socialist Party, together with its shrewd judgment in regard to the worth of the popular masses, had only judged rightly also on the importance of the racial problem – which was properly grasped by the Pan-German Movement – and if this party had been really nationalist; or if the Pan-German leaders, on the other hand, in addition to their correct judgment of the Jewish problem and of the national idea, had adopted the practical wisdom of the Christian-Socialist Party, and particularly their attitude towards Socialism – then a movement would have developed which, in my opinion, might at that time have successfully altered the course of German destiny.
If things did not turn out thus, the fault lay for the most part in the inherent nature of the Austrian State.
I did not find my own convictions upheld by any party then in existence, and so I could not bring myself to enlist as a member in any of the existing organizations or even lend a hand in their struggle. Even at that time all those organizations seemed to me to be already jaded in their energies and were therefore incapable of bringing about a national revival of the German people in a really profound way, not merely outwardly.
My inner aversion to the Habsburg State was increasing daily.
The more I paid special attention to questions of foreign policy, the more the conviction grew upon me that this phantom State would surely bring misfortune on the Germans. I realized more and more that the destiny of the German nation could not be decisively influenced from here but only in the German Empire itself. And this was true not only in regard to general political questions but also – and in no less a degree – in regard to the whole sphere of cultural life.
Here, also, in all matters affecting the national culture and art, the Austrian State showed all the signs of senile decrepitude, or at least it was ceasing to be of any consequence to the German nation, as far as these matters were concerned. This was especially true of its architecture. Modern architecture could not produce any great results in Austria because, since the building of the Ring Strasse – at least in Vienna – architectural activities had become insignificant when compared with the progressive plans which were being thought out in Germany.
And so I came more and more to lead what may be called a twofold existence. Reason and reality forced me to continue my harsh apprenticeship in Austria, though I must now say that this apprenticeship turned out fortunate in the end. But my heart was elsewhere.
A feeling of discontent grew upon me and made me depressed the more I came to realize the inside hollowness of this State and the impossibility of saving it from collapse. At the same time I felt perfectly certain that it would bring all kinds of misfortune to the German people.
I was convinced that the Habsburg State would balk and hinder every German who might show signs of real greatness, while at the same time it would aid and abet every non-German activity.
This conglomerate spectacle of heterogeneous races which the capital of the Dual Monarchy presented, this motley of Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, Ruthenians, Serbs and Croats, etc., and always that bacillus which is the solvent of human society, the Jew, here and there and everywhere – the whole spectacle was repugnant to me. The gigantic city seemed to be the incarnation of mongrel depravity.
The German language, which I had spoken from the time of my boyhood, was the vernacular idiom of Lower Bavaria. I never forgot that particular style of speech, and I could never learn the Viennese dialect. The longer I lived in that city the stronger became my hatred for the promiscuous swarm of foreign peoples which had begun to batten on that old nursery ground of German culture. The idea that this State could maintain its further existence for any considerable time was quite absurd.
Austria was then like a piece of ancient mosaic in which the cohesive cement had dried up and become old and friable. As long as such a work of art remains untouched it may hold together and continue to exist; but the moment some blow is struck on it then it breaks up into thousands of fragments. Therefore it was now only a question of when the blow would come.
Because my heart was always with the German Empire and not with the Austrian Monarchy, the hour of Austria’s dissolution as a State appeared to me only as the first step towards the emancipation of the German nation.
All these considerations intensified my yearning to depart for that country for which my heart had been secretly longing since the days of my youth.
I hoped that one day I might be able to make my mark as an architect and that I could devote my talents to the service of my country on a large or small scale, according to the will of Fate.
A final reason was that I longed to be among those who lived and worked in that land from which the movement should be launched, the object of which would be the fulfilment of what my heart had always longed for, namely, the union of the country in which I was born with our common fatherland, the German Empire.
There are many who may not understand how such a yearning can be so strong; but I appeal especially to two groups of people. The first includes all those who are still denied the happiness I have spoken of, and the second embraces those who once enjoyed that happiness but had it torn from them by a harsh fate. I turn to all those who have been torn from their motherland and who have to struggle for the preservation of their most sacred patrimony, their native language, persecuted and harried because of their loyalty and love for the homeland, yearning sadly for the hour when they will be allowed to return to the bosom of their father’s household. To these I address my words, and I know that they will understand.
Only he who has experienced in his own inner life what it means to be German and yet to be denied the right of belonging to his fatherland can appreciate the profound nostalgia which that enforced exile causes. It is a perpetual heartache, and there is no place for joy and contentment until the doors of paternal home are thrown open and all those through whose veins kindred blood is flowing will find peace and rest in their common Reich.
Vienna was a hard school for me; but it taught me the most profound lessons of my life. I was scarcely more than a boy when I came to live there, and when I left it I had grown to be a man of a grave and pensive nature. In Vienna I acquired the foundations of a Weltanschhauung in general and developed a faculty for analysing political questions in particular. That Weltanschhauung and the political ideas then formed have never been abandoned, though they were expanded later on in some directions. It is only now that I can fully appreciate how valuable those years of apprenticeship were for me.
That is why I have given a detailed account of this period. There, in Vienna, stark reality taught me the truths that now form the fundamental principles of the Party which within the course of five years has grown from modest beginnings to a great mass movement. I do not know what my attitude towards Jewry, Social-Democracy, or rather Marxism in general, to the social problem, etc., would be to-day if I had not acquired a stock of personal beliefs at such an early age, by dint of hard study and under the duress of Fate.
For, although the misfortunes of the Fatherland may
have stimulated thousands and thousands to ponder over the inner causes
of the collapse, that could not lead to such a thorough knowledge and deep
insight as a man may develop who has fought a hard struggle for many years
so that he might be master of his own fate.