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The Waterloo of Pseudo-Radicalism

Vienna: the Socialist ‘Millennium’

(February 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 9, 24 February 1934, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Except for the Fascist bloodhounds, who glory is the extermination of the militant proletariat, acclaim for the unbounded heroism of the Austrian social democracy has been universal. A casual reader of the newspapers is led to believe that die-hard conservatives have made common cause with revolutionaries in tribute to the immortal Austrian working class. Many have ho doubt been confused by the sympathetic treatment accorded to the Austrian workers by American capitalist journals. That society is no more than skin-deep this “united front” of extremes in will soon be proved.

It is out of no sympathy with the working class that the brass check press bemoans its bitter fate in Austria. Not many days prior to the Austrian bloodfest when the friction of social convulsion had burst into a menacing flame in France these self-same newspapers thanked their lucky stars that France had been “saved” from the “riotous Commune, dominated by the mob.”

The Capitalist Press

The capitalist press was the civilian field marshall and recruiting sergeant for the imperialist mass murder of fifteen years ago. They revelled in the sadistic White Terror of the post-war years.

The Wrangels and the Kolchaks were proclaimed heroes in their filthy pages.

Indeed wherever the proletariat has striven to power, wherever it has challenged the rights of private property it has found the jackal press barking denunciation at the enemies of “law and order”.

Austria is no exception.

The Austrian workers were not fighting an offensive battle. They were defending their institutions and organizations. While we have nothing but praise for this superb fight against the Fascist monster yet it must be said that both the party and the institutions defended by these workers had become a brake on their revolutionary struggle for socialism. It is only because the capitalist press appreciates the services of Austro-Marxism in maintaining bourgeois civilization that they now reproach Dollfuss. (Yesterday he was hailed as a “modern David”) The New York Times makes no bones as to its motives. Shepherd Stone says in a feature article on February 18th.

Bourgeois Praise of Austro-Marxism

“When the Hapsburg monarchy collapsed in 1918 and Austria became the ball instead of the bat in the European game, Socialists and Christian Socialists (the bourgeois Catholics) cooperated to salvage the rains of the Empire. The despised Marxists who barricaded themselves in their tenement houses last week saved Austria from Communism in 1919. At that time propagandists from Moscow and from Budapest, which was temporarily under Communist rule, preached the new faith in the streets of Vienna. But the activities of the Socialist leaders prevented a bloody conflict between proletariat and bourgeoisie. Last week some of the men who had rescued the country from Communism were dying because of their Marxism (sic!).”

Need we explain further that the destruction of Austro-Marxism meant the loss of a steadfast ally to the democratic and liberal capitalist class in Europe and America. Under the cloak of democracy and in the guise of a gradual peaceful evolution from Capitalism to socialism the Bauers, the Adlers, and the Renners stayed the tide of the proletarian revolution long enough for the Heimwehr to thrust it far out of danger.

Vienna the Symbol

“Red Vienna” was the symbol for Austro-Marxism. It was hailed by its supporters as living proof that it was possible to attain a great maximum of socialism without violence, without depriving the capitalist class of its wealth or privileges – without acting as Communists. They built apartment houses which the Times says “became models for city planners throughout the world. Rents were astonishingly low, and it was only natural that these blocks should become strongholds of socialism.”

And further:

“Under Socialist rule in Vienna utilities were taken over and in general income from taxation was employed for public improvements and social welfare. Socialist legislation provided for the citizen from a few months before his birth until bis burial. Health, housing, wages, unemployment dole, all came within the scope of municipal government.”

Reformist Utopia

Thus the utopia of reform socialism reached its pinnacle in Vienna and here too it ended in a horrible debacle. The achilles heel of the Austrian workers was the lack of state power. The treachery of its leadership lay in their harnessing the struggle for state power when the time was ripe and the proletariat ready. Between the Commune which lasted but two months, and “Red Vienna”, the socialist millennium there was this difference: state power. That is all the difference in the world. The capitalist press is thankful to Bauer and Co., because they did not follow the sure road of the proletarian revolution.

How clear is the difference in tactics and results between Communism and social democracy! The bombarded tenement houses in Vienna stand as demonstration of the futility of trying to reform capitalism out of existence. The thousands of proletarian corpses are dumb witnesses to the fact that the gradualism of the Vienna lackeys meant the gradual arming of the counter-revolution and the not-so-gradual annihilation of the flower of the working class.

“Red Vienna” is now red only in worker’s blood. The pride of “international” socialism has become its everlasting shame!

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