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World Politics

The National Question in Austria

(18 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 46, 18 November 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

One of the most significant, though little noticed, developments in Europe was the announcement a fortnight ago that the Austrian Parliament had adopted a resolution requesting the occupation authorities of the Big Three – Russia, the U.S. and Britain – to withdraw their troops from Austria and leave that country to its own fate. The resolution was adopted with the support of all parties, even the small Stalinist deputation being forced to go along with the motion though it was obviously directed in part against Russia.

What is significant here is not primarily the action of the Austrian parliament; that, after all, is largely a diplomatic gesture to be filed and forgotten. That neither Russia nor the Anglo-American bloc will now simply get up and leave may be taken for granted. But what is significant is that this parliament composed largely of the timid Social Democracy, its tongue well worn from licking the Anglo-American boot, and the reactionary Catholic party, should even have considered – let alone passed – such a motion. There must have been tremendous pressure from the Austrian masses below – revealed not in such dramatic gestures as demonstrations, but rather through the subterranean and atomic processes of mass expression which sooner or later reach the top politicians – to drive the Austrian political leaders openly to request the occupying “liberators” to get out. The masses of Austria must be thoroughly fed up with the occupation by now.

And not without reason! There is no country in Europe which has been so mutilated, its economy and national independence so violated, as has Austria. The Russians grabbed everything they could lay their hands on. At the beginning of the occupation, they looted directly from the people of Vienna. Later they organized their looting into a political-economic method, paying special attention to the crucial oil fields of Zisterdorff. They abducted, without even any attempt at secrecy, the few individuals who had enough courage to speak against their tactics. In,previous columns, we have reported the arrest and sentence to Siberian prison camps of Social Democratic editors who protested, ever so mildly, against the Russian occupation tactics.

Nor has the Anglo-American occupation been essentially better. It has been so inept, so full of bungling maladroits – the outstanding one being the butcher of Anzio and Cassino, General Mark Clark – that the economy of Austria has completely fallen apart. During the past year there have been times when the people of Vienna, while always on the brink of starvation, have sunk to a food standard as low as 800 calories a day, a level insufficient to sustain a normal human being.

Is it any wonder then that the people of Austria must be so completely disgusted with the occupation of their “liberators”? The motion adopted by the Austrian parliament is conclusive testimony of the degree of this disgust.

In this situation, we believe that the revolutionary socialists of Austria have a splendid opportunity to gain a foothold of support among the Austrian masses. Their aspirations toward national independence, which concretely means driving out the occupation, are extremely healthy symptoms. A revolutionary socialist party alert to the situation could appeal to the masses by saying along the lines of the position on the national question held by the Workers Party, something like the following:

You, the people of Austria are disgusted with the occupation of the Big Three. You wish to rid yourselves of this iniquitous burden. And we agree: you have every right to feel that way about it, every right to wish to drive these leech-like armies out of the land. So powerful are your sentiments that even parliament has heeded them by passing a resolution.

But – and this is essential – no resolution of parliament, no polite gesture can drive the occupation troops out of Austria. Only struggle can achieve that aim. Only the struggle of the Austrian masses themselves, through your mass organizations which means predominantly the trade unions, can reconquer the independence of the country. You cannot depend for leadership in this struggle on the Stalinists who are the agents of one of the occupying powers; the Stalinists, regardless of what they may occasionally say, are actually the cronies of our oppressors. You cannot depend on the Austrian capitalist class, or their subservient agents, the Social-Democracy, to lead in this struggle; for they are tied to Anglo-American imperialist oppresssors.

Only the masses themselves, through their own organizations and their mass militant activity, can drive these leeches out. We revolutionary socialists, whatever our present differences of political opinion with you, will fight side by side with you in this struggle.

In the present situation, to drive out the occupation oppressors is to conduct the class struggle in its most important arena, to find a means of establishing contact between the national-democratic aspirations of the masses and the as-yet isolated revolutionary vanguard. For that purpose, we believe the point of view of the Workers Party on the national question a powerful weapon.

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