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12: The Coalition Ministry of 1893

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THE event to which for fourteen years the Left had looked forward had now happened. Once more they could have a share in the government, which they always believed belonged to them by nature. Taught by experience and adversity, they did not scruple to enter into an alliance with their old enemies, and a coalition ministry was formed from the Left, the Clericals and the Poles. The president was Prince Alfred Windisch-Gratz, grandson of the celebrated general, one of Hohenwart's ablest lieutenants; Hohenwart himself did not take office. Of course an administration of this kind could not take a definite line on any controversial question, but during 1894 they carried through the commercial treaty with Russia and the laws for the continuance of the currency reform. The differences of the clubs appeared, however, in the discussions on franchise reform; the government, not strong enough to have a policy of its own, had referred the matter to a committee; for the question having once been raised, it was impossible not to go on with it. This would probably have been fatal to the coalition, but the final blow was given by a matter of very small importance arising from the disputes on nationality. The Slovenes had asked that in the gymnasium at Cilli classes in which instruction was given in Slovenian should be formed parallel to the German classes. This request caused great excitement in Styria and the neighbouring districts; the Styrian diet (from which the Slovene minority had seceded) protested. The Slovenes were, however, members of the Hohenwart Club, so Hohenwart and his followers supported the request, which was adopted by the ministry. The German Left opposed it; they were compelled to do so by the popular indignation in the German districts; and when the vote was carried against them (12th June 1895) they made it a question of confidence, and formally withdrew their support from the government, which therefore at once resigned.

After a short interval the emperor appointed as minister-president Count Badeni, who had earned a great reputation as governor of Galicia. He formed an administration the merit of which, as of so many others, was that it was to belong to no party and to have no programme. He hoped to be able to work in harmony with the moderate elements of the Left; his mission was to carry through the composition (Ausgleich) with Hungary; to this everything else must be subordinated. During 1896 he succeeded in carrying a franchise reform bill, which satisfied nearly all parties. All the old categories of members were maintained, but a fifth curia was added, in which almost any one might vote who had resided six months in one place and was not in domestic service; in this way seventy-two would be added to the existing members. This matter having been settled, parliament was dissolved. The result of the elections of 1897 was the return of a House so constituted as to make any strong government impossible. On both sides the anti-Semitic parties representing the extreme demagogic elements were present in considerable numbers. The United German Left had almost disappeared; it was represented only by a few members chosen by the great proprietors; in its place there were the three parties - the German Popular party, the German Nationalists, and the German Radicals - who all put questions of nationality first and had deserted the old standpoint of the constitution. Then there were the fourteen Social Democrats who had won their seats under the new franchise. The old party of the Right was, however, also broken up; side by side with forty-one Clericals there were twenty-eight Christian Socialists led by Dr Lueger, a man of great oratorical power, who had won a predominant influence in Vienna, so long the centre of Liberalism, and had quite eclipsed the more modest efforts of Prince Liechtenstein. As among the German National party, there were strong nationalist elements in his programme, but they were chiefly directed against Jews and Hungarians: Lueger had already distinguished himself by his violent attacks on Hungary, which had caused some embarrassment to the government at a time when the negotiations for the Ausgleich were in progress. Like anti-Semites elsewhere, the Christian Socialists were reckless and irresponsible, appealing directly to the passions and prejudices of the most ignorant. There were altogether 200 German members of the Reichsrath, but they were divided into eight parties, and nowhere did there seem to be the elements on which a government could be built up.

The parliamentary situation is best explained by the following table showing the parties:-

German Liberals - 1897. 1901.
Constitutional Landed Proprietors 28

---> 126

---> 141
German Radicals 49 41
German Popular Party 42 51
Schönerer Group 5 21
Kronawetter 1 . . .
Democrat 1 . . .
Social Democrats 14 10
German Conservatives -
German Clericals 30

---> 73

---> 60
Catholic Popular Party 15
Christian Socialists 28 23
Federalist Great Proprietors 16 16
Young Czechs 60

---> 63

Radical Young Czechs 1 4
Clerical Czechs 1 2
Agrarian Czechs 1 6
Polish Club 59


Stoyalovski Group 6 . . .
Popular Polish Party 3 11
Clerical Slovenes 11

---> 16
. . .

Radical Slovenes 5 . . .
Liberal Italians 14

---> 19
. . .

---> 19
Clerical Italians 5 . . .
Croatians 11 9
Serbs 2 2
Ruthenes -
Ruthenes 6

---> 11
. . .

---> 11
Young Ruthenes 5 . . .
Rumanians 5

. . .

---> 5
Young Rumanians 1 . . .
Total 425 425

The most remarkable result of the elections was the disappearance of the Liberals in Vienna. In 1879, out of 37 members returned in Lower Austria, 33 were Liberals, but now they were replaced to a large extent by the Socialists. It was impossible to maintain a strong party of moderate constitutionalists, on whom the government could depend, unless there was a large nucleus from Lower Austria. The influence of Lueger was very embarrassing, he had now a majority of two-thirds in the town council, and had been elected burgomaster. The emperor had refused to confirm the election; he had been re-elected, and then the emperor, in a personal interview, appealed to him to withdraw. He consented to do so; but, after the election of 1897 had given him so many followers in the Reichsrath, Badeni advised that his election as burgomaster should be confirmed. There was violent antipathy between the Christian Socialists and the German Nationalists, and the transference of their quarrels from the Viennese Council Chamber to the Reichsrath was very detrimental to the orderly conduct of debate.

The limited suffrage had hitherto prevented socialism from becoming a political force in Austria as it had in Germany, and the national divisions have always impeded the creation of a centralized socialist party. The first object of the working classes necessarily was the attainment of political power; in 1867 there had been mass demonstrations and petitions to the government for universal suffrage. During the next years there was the beginning of a real socialist movement in Vienna and in Styria, where there is a considerable industrial population; after 1879, however, the growth of the party was interrupted by the introduction of anarchical doctrines. Most's paper, the Freiheit, was introduced through Switzerland, and had a large circulation. The anarchists, under the leadership of Peukert, seem to have attained considerable numbers. In 1883-1884 there were a number of serious strikes, collisions between the police and the workmen, followed by assassinations; it was a peculiarity of Austrian anarchists that in some cases they united robbery to murder.The government, which was seriously alarmed, introduced severe repressive measures; the leading anarchists were expelled or fled the country. In 1887, under the leadership of Dr Adler, the socialist party began to revive (the party of violence having died away, and since then it has steadily gained in numbers; in the forefront of the political programme is put the demand for universal suffrage. In no country is the 1st of May, as the festival of Labour, celebrated so generally.

Badeni after the election sent in his resignation, but the emperor refused to accept it, and he had, therefore, to do the best he could and turn for support to the other nationalities. The strongest of them were the fifty-nine Poles and sixty Young Czechs; he therefore attempted, as Taaffe had done. to come to some agreement with them. The Poles were always ready to support the government, among the Young Czechs the more moderate had already attempted to restrain the wilder spirits of the party, and they were quite prepared to enter into negotiations. They did not wish to lose the opportunity which now was open to them of winning influence over the administration. What they required was further concession as to the language in Bohemia. In May 1897 Badeni, therefore, published his celebrated ordinances. They determined (1) that all correspondence and documents regarding every matter brought before the government officials should be conducted in the language in which it was first introduced. This applied to the whole of Bohemia, and meant the introduction of Czech into the government offices throughout the whole of the kingdom; (2) after 1903 no one was to be appointed to a post under the government in Bohemia until he had passed an examination in Czech. These ordinances fulfilled the worst fears of the Germans. The German Nationalists and Radicals declared that no business should be done till they were repealed and Badeni dismissed. They resorted to obstruction. They brought in repeated motions to impeach the ministers, and parliament had to be prorogued in June, although no business of any kind had been transacted. Badeni had not anticipated the effect his ordinances would have; as a Pole he had little experience in the western part of the empire. During the recess he tried to open negotiations, but the Germans refused even to enter into a discussion until the ordinances had been withdrawn. The agitation spread throughout the country; great meetings were held at Eger and Aussig, which were attended by Germans from across the frontier, and led to serious disturbances; the cornflower, which had become the symbol of German nationality and union with Germany, was freely worn, and the language used was in many cases treasonable. The emperor insisted that the Reichsrath should again be summoned to pass the necessary measures for the agreement with Hungary; scenes then took place which have no parallel in parliamentary history. To meet the obstruction it was determined to sit at night, but this was unsuccessful. On one occasion Dr Lecher, one of the representatives of Moravia, spoke for twelve hours, from 9 P.M. till 9 A.M., against the Ausgleich. The opposition was not always limited to feats of endurance of this kind. On the 3rd of November there was a free fight in the House; it arose from a quarrel between Dr Lueger and the Christian Socialists on the one side (for the Christian Socialists had supported the government since the confirmation of Lueger as burgomaster) and the German Nationalists under Herr Wolf, a German from Bohemia, the violence of whose language had already caused Badeni to challenge him to a duel. The Nationalists refused to allow Lueger to speak, clapping their desks, hissing and making other noises, till at last the Young Czechs attempted to prevent the disorder by violence. On the 24th of November the scenes of disturbance were renewed. The president, Herr v. Abrahamovitch, au Armenian from Galicia, refused to call on Schönerer to speak. The Nationalists therefore stormed the platform, and the president and ministers had to fly into their private rooms to escape personal violence, until the Czechs came to their rescue, and by superiority in numbers and physical strength severely punished Herr Wolf and his friends. The rules of the House giving the president no authority for maintaining order, he determined, with the assent of the ministers, to propose alterations in procedure. The next day, when the sitting began, one of the ministers, Count Falkenhayn, a Clerical who was very unpopular, moved " That any member who continued to disturb a sitting after being twice called to order could be suspended - for three days by the president, and for thirty days by the House." The din and uproar was such that not a word could be heard, but at a pre-arranged signal from the president all the Right rose, and he then declared that the new order had been carried, although the procedure of the House required that it should be submitted to a committee. The next day, at the beginning of the sitting, the Socialists rushed on the platform, tore up and destroyed all the papers lying there, seized the president, and held him against the wall. After he had escaped, eighty police were introduced into the House and carried out the fourteen Socialists. The next day Herr Wolf was treated in the same manner. The excitement spread to the street. Serious disorders took place in Vienna and in Graz the German opposition had the support of the people, and Lueger warned the ministers that as burgomaster he would be unable to maintain order in Vienna; even the Clerical Germans showed signs of deserting the government. The emperor, hastily summoned to Vienna, accepted Badeni's resignation, the Germans having thus by obstruction attained part of their wishes. The new minister, Gautsch, a man popular with all parties, held office for three months; he proclaimed the budget and the Ausgleich, and in February replaced the language ordinances by others, under which Bohemia was to be divided into three districts - one Czech, one German and one mixed. The Germans, however, were not satisfied with this; they demanded absolute repeal. The Czechs also were offended; they arranged riots at Prague; the professors in the university refused to lecture unless the German students were defended from violence; Gautsch resigned, and Thun, who had been governor of Bohemia, was appointed minister. Martial law was proclaimed in Bohemia, and strictly enforced. Thun then arranged with the Hungarian ministers a compromise about the Ausgleich.

The Reichsrath was again summoned, and the meetings were less disturbed than in the former year, but the Germans still prevented any business from being done. The Germans now had a new cause of complaint. Paragraph 14 of the Constitutional law of 1867 provided that, in cases of pressing necessity, orders for which the assent of the Reichsrath was required might, if the Reichsrath were not in session, be proclaimed by the emperor; they had to be signed by the whole ministry, and if they were not laid before the Reichsrath within four months of its meeting, or if they did not receive the approval of both Houses, they ceased to be valid. The Germans contended that the application of this clause to the Ausgleich was invalid, and demanded that it should be repealed. Thun had in consequence to retire, in September 1899. His successor, Count Clary, began by withdrawing the ordinances which had been the cause of so much trouble, but it was now too late to restore peace. The Germans were not sufficiently strong and united to keep in power a minister who had brought them the relief for which they had been clamouring for two years. The Czechs, of course, went into opposition, and used obstruction. The extreme German party, however, took the occasion to demand that paragraph 14 should be repealed. Clary explained that this was impossible, but he gave a formal pledge that he would not use it. The Czechs, however, prevented him passing a law on excise which was a necessary part of the agreements with Hungary; it was, therefore, impossible for him to carry on the government without breaking his word; there was nothing left for him to do but to resign, after holding office for less than three months. The emperor then appointed a ministry of officials, who were not bound by his pledge, and used paragraph 14 for the necessary purposes of state. They then made way for a ministry under Herr v. Körber. During the early months of 1900 matters were more peaceful, and Körber hoped to be able to arrange a compromise, but the Czechs now demanded the restoration of their language in the internal service of Bohemia, and on 8th June, by noise and disturbance, obliged the president to suspend the sitting. The Reichsrath was immediately dissolved, the emperor having determined to make a final attempt to get together a parliament with which it would be possible to govern. The new elections on which so much was to depend did not take place till January 1901. They resulted in a great increase of the extreme German Nationalist parties. Schönerer and the German Radicals - the fanatical German party who in their new programme advocated union of German Austria with the German empire - now numbered twenty-one, who chiefly came from Bohemia. They were able for the first time to procure the election of one of their party in the Austrian Delegation, and threatened to introduce into the Assembly scenes of disorder similar to those which they had made common in the Reichsrath. All those parties which did not primarily appeal to national feeling suffered loss; especially was this the case with the two sections of the Clericals, the Christian Socialists and the Ultramontanes; and the increasing enmity between the German Nationalists (who refused even the name German to a Roman Catholic) and the Church became one of the most conspicuous features in the political situation. The loss of seats by the Socialists showed that even among the working men the national agitation was gaining ground; the diminished influence of the anti-Semites was the most encouraging sign.

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