Karl Schreiber

The July Insurrection in Vienna, its Purport and its Lessons.

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 7, No. 44, July 28, 1927, pp. 922-925.
Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski.
Online Version: 2023.

We now stand at the fearfully long row of graves in which there have just been interred a portion of the 150 blood witnesses of the 15th and 16th July. Infinite grief weighs upon the working class of Austria; but there is awakening in it the clear, and therefore in the last resort, victorious consciousness that from the course of and the issue of the Vienna July insurrection, lessons are to be drawn in order that the bloody sacrifices borne by the Vienna proletariat shall be atoned for by the victorious Austrian revolution.

We do not hesitate to say with perfect clearness that the Vienna working class has suffered a defeat. Yes, this time we have been beaten. Today the Austrian bourgeoisie is holding its triumph, and is now proceeding with cynical deliberation to gather in the rich fruits of its victory.

But why the defeat? The Austrian proletariat was defeated this time because it had no revolutionary leadership. The young and small Communist Party of Austria has borne itself like a good battalion of the Communist International. It has stood the test, but it was not and, is not yet a mass Party which could have led the proletariat organised for victory. The Communist Party of Austria was not yet the leader of the proletariat. The Austrian Social Democracy was still the leader of the Austrian working masses. Hence the defeat. For in the moment of the immediate and open collision of the classes the Austrian proletariat was, under such circumstances, without a fighting leadership.

The bourgeoisie and its government have a firm grip of the whip-handle. On the 15th July Seipel made use of the situation in order to cut through at one stroke the celebrated "balance of class forces". The government is master of the situation. It is possible that the fascist bourgeoisie in the provinces will go still further in their attacks than did the government. But it is quite certain that the Austrian bourgeoisie has already today become strong enough in order to end even that policy of sham concessions and parliamentary bargaining. It is quite certain that the Austrian bourgeoisie will now pocket the profits, will carry out without much ado the customs robbery which it has long planned, will finally abolish the Rent Restrictions Act and attempt brutally to reduce the standard of living of the working masses of Austria. There exists the great danger that the Austrian proletariat will pay for the defeated July revolt not only with blood, but also with unbearable hunger.

Yes, on the 15th of July the Austrian proletariat was plainly confronted with the choice: either courageous continuation of the fight up to the armed revolt, or defeat. The Communist Party of Austria was for continuation of the fight. The social democratic leaders desired defeat and made it inevitable.

In the unbounded campaign which in the historical July days had been directed by the social democratic leaders exclusively against the "small" and "weak" Communist Party of Austria, the social democratic leaders twisted and distorted even this question. They declared in a hundred thousand leaflets that the Communists want a general strike and arming of the workers, which would mean civil war. And civil war would mean increased bloodshed, famine, the handing over of the workers in the provinces to the fascists, foreign military intervention.

In his truly despicable graveside speech, Friedrich Adler formulated this idea in the words "tragic contradiction between revolutionary motives and revolutionary possibilities".

The Communist Party of Austria was clearly aware of its tasks and of the tremendous consequences of revolutionary continuation of the fight. On Monday the 18th of July the defeat was an accomplished fact, and the Central Committee of the C. P. of Austria adapted itself to this fact. But up to that day the Communist Party increased its forces up to the last limits of possibility in order to lead the Austrian proletariat to revolutionary victory.

Civil war would have meant more bloodshed? Shameless hypocrisy! The civil war was there; only the workers had no weapons and were compelled to reply to the civil war conducted against it by a bestial State apparatus with wooden palings! The Austrian Communists wanted not more but less bloodshed. The gigantic outbreak of force on the 15th of July proves that the 600,000 workers of Vienna could have easily settled with their own bourgeoisie and the 6,000 Vienna police - 80 per cent. of whom are organised in the social democratic Party!

The arming of the proletariat would have meant famine? If the workers of Vienna had fought victoriously, then they would have succeeded in concluding a revolutionary alliance with the masses of the peasants and drawing them into the powerful front against the common exploiter.

The victory of the Vienna proletariat would have delivered the workers in the provinces over to fascism? No, the defeat of the Vienna workers has left their brothers in the provincial towns exposed to the attacks of the rural bourgeoisie which has become insolent and domineering beyond all bounds.

The victory of the Vienna workers would have meant military intervention by foreign States? Chicken-hearted "Statesmen", who with this "European" argument force the Austrian working class to defeat! This sort of leaders understand by "foreign States" the capitalist cliques, and in the best case the Stivins, Noskes, Renaudels and Vanderveldes! But they do not know the tremendous force of the foreign working masses who would have come to the aid of the Austrian workers in a gigantic solidarity fight, which, in fact had already begun to break out in an elemental form!

The European situation is certainly not as Bauer and Adler like to represent it to the Austrian workers. An occupation, a dividing up of Austria? By whom? Can Hungary attempt an extension of its sphere of power without coming into the most serious conflict with the Little Entente? Can Italy, before all, undertake an attack on the North without coming into irreconcilable conflict with France which is fighting for its European hegemony, and with Yugoslavia which is seriously threatened by Italy? No, the occupation and dividing up of Austria would have proved less simple than it was to allow the Austrian proletariat to be defeated by its own bourgeoisie!

The Communist Party of Austria was too weak to lead the spontaneous outbreak of the masses to a conscious, purposeful fight. The Austrian working class found itself leaderless, and therefore it was defeated.

We Austrian Communists stood and still stand in the midst of the fighting working class. We have learned from Marx and Lenin that the working masses, when they fight against their class enemy, are always in the right. What pitiable juggling to impute to the Communists of Austria "lack of all responsibility" as the guiding line of their action. Who is responsible for the defeat? We, who endeavoured to lead the Austrian working class to victory, or the social democratic leaders who, in the November days of 1918, placed power into the hands of Schober who today vies with Gallifet for the first place as mass murderer? Who has been responsible? We Communists who in our Open Letter before the elections and a year ago, placed in the forefront the disarming of fascism and the arming of the proletariat, or those social democratic leaders who, on May 17th 1927, delivered over to Seipel and Schober the weapons from the Vienna arsenal? The very same rifles with which on the 15th and 16th of July the workers of Vienna were mowed down by the forces of law and order!

The Vienna July insurrection has been crushed. But its force and its importance for the working class of the world are tremendously great. Austro-Marxism has been broken and shattered into its miserable elements: reformist betrayal of the workers, disbelief in the power of the proletariat, empty phrases, "statesman-like" cowardice, and unconditional renouncement in all circumstances of the revolutionary application of force. The Austrian proletariat and the proletariat of the whole world have learnt that only those can be victorious who are determined on victory, who do not hesitate and who are prepared to fight with Lenin's courageous belief in the enormous power of the revolutionary masses.

At the graves of the murdered victims, the Communists of Austria have sworn to exert all their forces to organise the Austrian revolution. It is their task now to make of the Communist Party of Austria the strong, the revolutionary leader of the Austrian working masses. In these July days the Austrian Communists, and with them the Austrian working class, have been able to feel the inspiring enthusiasm of international fighting solidarity.

The Austrian bourgeoisie has gone over to the attack. We must use all means in order to break this offensive. In this fight we will, in a united fighting front with the social democratic workers, contest every inch of ground. We will not tolerate that the social democratic leaders, seized with panic, abandon the positions of the proletariat without a fight. In this fight we shall remain firmly at our post. It is here that we must win the first victories which must be the starting point for further victories.

The world revolution lives, you Seipels and Schobers! and you too, you Bauers and Adlers! Its eternal fires will flare up again in this or that country. We do not know in which country it will first appear; but we are preparing everywhere in order to be ready when the revolution calls. The Austrian working class will also prepare. After its defeat will come its glorious victory. And this victory will be organised by the Communist Party of Austria!