From New International, Vol.4 No.4, April 1938, pp.124-125.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Plot and Counter-Plot in Central Europe
by M.W. Fodor
xvi+317. Boston. Houghton Miflin Co. $3.50.
In recent years, the political literature of the bourgeoisie has been allotting an ever wider place to a distinct category of authors: the book-writing news reporter. Amidst the chaos of events and the concurrent, lightning-swift reevaluation of values in the world of politics, this species of writer has come to take upon his shoulders the mission of providing the disoriented bourgeois reader with a “line”. With a generous sprinkling of political witticisms and personal anecdotes he helps the reading public surmount the oppressive lack of perspective by means of improvised, snap judgments. In its essential features, the latest work of M.W. Fodor, for many years the central European correspondent of the Manchester Guardian – introduced to the American public by another reporter-writer, John Gunther – belongs to this very category.
Although the journalistic fustian of the book will impress the more serious reader as a shortcoming, it can impel a comprehensive, critical survey of the Central European situation, even if it is not, in itself, a key to it. Fodor introduces us to many details in the life of the Danubian and Balkan countries, recounts the rivalries of the great powers for the domination of the puppet states in post-war Europe, describes the plots and counter-plots of the conflicting and competing little nations, depicts the alternating waves of revolution and counter-revolution.
Before us arises the spectacle of a tattered Europe, where side by side with the few nations which have attained the level of modern capitalism, dozens of little nations compelled by imperialist interests to take up an existence as “independent” states painfully grope for a way out of their misery and backwardness. We see how these feeble nations shift the pressure of circumstances onto the shoulder of still feebler ones; the Czechs through a sort of imperialistic exploitation of five other nationalities; the Serbs through the oppression of the Croats, Albanians and Macedonians within the borders of Yugoslavia; the Rumanians through the strangulation of Magyars, Bessarabians, Germans, and Jews, etc., etc., ad infinitum.
Fodor, a liberal and an advocate of the League of Nations, whom, as Gunther writes, “both the Nazis and the Communists worry” equally, is far more outspoken, as a reporter for isolationist England, about some of the aspects of post-Versailles Europe than his French colleagues. He recognizes the “errors” of the peace treaties. He criticises Masaryk who betrayed the Slovaks and Pasitch who deceived the Croats. But since Masaryk was a democrat and humanist, his betrayal is “rather weakness than bad faith”. Pasitch, on the other hand, who employed the more uncouth Balkan methods, is regarded as a sort of devil’s apprentice who “never intended to keep” his agreements. That’s the logic of the liberal idealists.
A special chapter is devoted to the peasant problem. And rightfully so. The average reader is accustomed to look upon Central Europe as exclusively a center of modern industrial capitalism. However, the peasant is one of the most important factors in the economic and political life of Central and Southeastern Europe. Fodor contends that of the 98,000,000 inhabitants of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Poland, Bulgaria, etc., 68,000,000 are peasants. Immediately following the war they were the decisive instrument of the bourgeoisie in the suppression of the proletarian revolution. Land reforms were the means whereby the men of the sickle were played off against the men of the hammer. And yet, according to Fodor’s own data, land reform in all of Central and Southeastern Europe has taken care of only two million peasants, i.e., scarcely three per cent.
After Zinovieff’s abortive attempt to unite the Balkan peasants in a “red international”, their political organizations became once more pillars of reactionary and Fascist governments. But the peasant masses constitute, together with and as a part of the oppressed splinter nationalities in the Danubian and Balkan countries as well as in Poland, the most important reservoir for the future proletarian revolution.
Fodor is big-hearted. He admires the Viennese social-democrats. He also venerates Dollfuss, whose way to resist attacks “really commanded admiration”. One cannot help but smile sadly in reading that the pious Dollfuss, who had women and children mowed down with artillery fire “possessed the courage and fanaticism of a crusader”. This is easily enough explained. After the pacifists’ moral indignation at the Dollfuss barbarism of 1934 had subsided, they had to discover new “ethical” reasons for the defence of impotent Austrian Fascism against its more imposing Nazi rival. Only a few weeks ago we witnessed a similar example of gushing enthusiasm in the whole Versailles camp, reformists and Stalinists included, on the occasion of the “courageous” and “liberty-loving” stand of Kurt von Schuschnigg, the chancellor of clerical-corporative Austria.
The book abounds in such contradictions, in the great as well as in the lesser questions. Take, for instance, the Austrian Anschluss. Fodor writes:
“Many of my friends in England and America believe that the Anschluss is inevitable. Anschluss is inevitable only if and when the Nazi regime is no more and Berlin is returning to a less centralized and more federalistic regime. A federal Germany, in which the Southern Catholic States would enjoy a certain amount of autonomy, naturally would be an immense lure for Austria; and if Germany and Austria were then ruled by democratic governments all the power of the Western States could not prevent the Anschluss.”
But how does he explain the fact that the “Western democracies”, whose mouthpiece Fodor is, stubbornly continued to oppose Anschluss although, as he himself writes, ninety percent of the population of the Tyrol and Salzburg provinces favored Anschluss in a test vote held in 1921. This demand was backed up not only by the Catholic peasantry but also by the social-democratic workers. Mr. Fodor wastes a good deal of space and effort in presenting Fascism as an ideological offspring of Marxism. Doesn’t he realize even now that Austrian Fascism was raised in a country where there were practically no Communists but only one-hundred-percent democratic reformists, on the very yeast of the unscrupulous exploitation of the victory won by the “democratic” imperialists in 1918?
On the other hand, Fodor’s book involuntarily gives the foreign reader a vivid glimpse of the tremendous responsibility of the reformists for the Austrian catastrophe, now being paid by the workers with blood and humiliation. Fodor sees the reason for this defeat in the Austro-Marxists’ failure to make a timely “peace with honor” with Dollfuss. As though the policy of the “lesser evil” in Germany and the People’s Front in Spain were not likewise attempts at a timely “peace with honor”. However, it is evident from Fodor’s own story that Bauer, Deutsch, and the other Austrian Socialist leaders were prepared to renounce every shred of “honor” in order to make peace with Dollfuss. While the latter was preparing, together with Mussolini, the Pope and Major Fey, the plan for the annihilation of organized labor, these heroes literally ran after him like beggars. Fodor takes particular pains to describe in striking detail how Dollfuss obstinately refused to receive them and how he had his henchman, Karwinsky, give them the run-around. Let’s hear the extent of their self-degradation:
“... The Socialist leaders explained [to Karwinsky] that the corporative ideas of the Papal Encyclical, Quadrigessimo Anno, could be coupled with elements of the Swiss constitution, thus preserving at least some liberties in an authoritatively ruled state. Such a vigorous ideology could be matched against the Nazi ideology, explained the Socialists ...”
But in vain. Dollfuss answered with cannon. Once the courageous Austrian working class had been disarmed by the political capers of the liberals and the reformists, Hitler was able to take over Austria without firing a shot
Actually, Fodor’s book contains hundreds of facts to substantiate the contention that Europe knows only one alternative: Either liberation from its strangling state fetters by means of the proletarian revolution or irreparable collapse and disintegration as a result of new imperialist wars.
Last updated on 4.8.2006