Liberation and Loot in Austria
Austria has had another liberation—the fifth in this generation, i.e. since the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which in its time and turn had itself played the role of “liberator” of other nations) became the simple Republic Austria. That was in 1918 when it was liberated from the Hapsburg Dynasty. In 1934 the country was liberated from the “Reds,” in 1938 from the Dollfus-Schuschnigg dictatorship, in 1945 from Hitler-Germany’s “national Socialism” and in 1955 we record the liberation from the Four-Power occupation. Although every one of these previous “revolutions” had at the time been declared by the respective engineers and managers and their Press as decisive and final (at least for a thousand years), who would have the temerity in the face of the almost general acclamation to assert that the present (1955) liberation was not a more outstanding event than the others? Does it not only bring final “freedom, independence, sovereignty, peace and social justice” to Austria, but also augur well as an example of good will and pacification returning to a greatly troubled world in general? In hundreds of articles and broadcasts this was impressed upon the people. The Vienna Press this time was unanimous. Nationalistic Press hysteria celebrated veritable orgies. After more than 260 futile conferences in these last 10 years, and another 9-day conclave behind locked doors this month of May, the foreign Ambassadors finally arrived at an agreement to be submitted to and signed by the proxies of the Four Big Concerns concerned, plus Austria. At long last, freedom and independence had been secured.
The ceremonies which included of course receptions and banquets took place in the Palace of Belvedere and the Castle of Schönbrunn (which latter had seen within its walls such other one time liberators as Napoleon, and subsequently housed the famous Vienna Congress in 1815). Workers had to work overtime to give an extra shine to the historic places for the occasion. The delegates were feted and profusely photographed—their pictures must have gone round the whole world. Crowds called for the repeated appearance of the ministers on the balcony, just as they had done at the Hotel Imperial in 1938 after the entry of yet another liberator in Vienna. All the church bells rang out; a special thanksgiving service was celebrated in St. Stephen’s Cathedral by H.E. Cardinal lnnitzer himself, who, like the late great “Socialist” statesman Dr. Renner, had in 1938 voted for Hitler and the Anschluss. If the Holy Trinity of Press, Radio and Pulpit, were unanimous in jubilation, it cannot be said that the people as a whole justified the exuberant enthusiasm with which they were credited by the publicity directors. Not only cynics, jesters and sceptics, but earnest and thoughtful folk generally) many doubtless pondering over the distressing and uncertain fate of their husbands, sons and brothers still behind the iron curtain, did not seem to be able to forget their cares and worries or get themselves to believe in the bright future that was said to be ahead.
Was it that after all these boasted achievements of freedom and independence the mass of the people discovered that, as a witty Frenchman said: “The more it changes, the more it is the same thing”; was it that people’s thoughts turned to the Monday morning when those who were dependent on an employer or, worse still, dependent on the dole or public assistance, would start the “new era” of freedom and independence not in abundance and security, but in the same penury as yesterday? Or was it that when Austria’s minister showed from the balcony of the castle the signed document to a waiting crowd, another historic episode sprang to people’s minds—the picture of Mr. Chamberlain (back from a conference with Hitler—flourishing the “Peace in our Time” document from another balcony a twelve-month only before the outbreak of World-war II? Or was it the knowledge that the liberators did not give freedom and independence as a free gift, but exacted a high price for it and imposed a heavy burden to meet? Was it that the people could already hear the well-known call for increased production, and sacrifices to be brought for the blessing of freedom and sovereignty? Was it the constant consciousness of all these wretched, harassing and depressing things that did not allow the people as a whole to justify the universal enthusiasm alleged to stir one and all?
The fact is that, though there certainly is general and well justified relief here at the prospective departure of not only the Muscovite, but of all the other occupation elements from Austria, the working-class have become more or less tired of promises and sceptical of Treaties and Pacts made by statesmen and politicians on behalf of their masters. Socialists hope that the truth we keep hammering in, namely that all the freedoms in capitalism put together still leave the mass of mankind shackled and unfree, will soon be realized in wider circles and that the workers will at last strive for the ONE FREEDOM which is not a farce: the emancipation of the working-class of the world from the thralldom of the exploiters of labour.
Now what credentials had and have all these liberators, past and present, for their actions? What cause have they served? Have they served the all-important cause of ridding the world from poverty, insecurity, class-conflict and war? What problem have the 45 wars and “revolutions” in the last 100 years solved for the mass of the people—the working-class? Have the unspeakable tragedies, the untold ruins and rivers of blood and tears been justified that accompanied “liberations” down to this day? Has the fundamental status of the world’s wealth-producers as mere objects of exploitation been altered or even advanced one iota towards one of free men? Is it no longer a condition of the workers’ very existence that they have a job in some profit-making enterprise? Have they even secured the miserable enough right to work? Ask the young who left school, or those whom Capitalism calls old, too old at 45 or even at 35, and they will tell you heartrending tales of woe of their difficulties in securing that indispensable thing: a job with some employer, i.e. with some exploiter! “Collier’s Magazine” (7.1.1955) brought a revealing picture of a queue of “old people” lined up at a Chicago Labour-Exchange with an article headed: “Shocking as it is, people in the prime of life are denied jobs because of their age.” And what was the solution offered by secretary Mitchell of the Department of Labour in this “freedom and independence” enjoying U.S.A.? “Find places for old workers and MAKE PROFITS from their production, or be taxed much more heavily than now in order to sustain them as non-workers.” (As if you helped a man by sustaining him in idleness and casting him out of society.) No sentimentalities here about human dignity. “The only solution,” says Mitchell bluntly, “is to HIRE the older worker and MAKE A PROFIT from his production.” Just about the same time a debate is raging in a Vienna Trade-Union paper (Solidaritat) on the very same subject of the “too old for a job.” Among a number of letters reproduced in the paper was a mournful but otherwise courageous epistle from a woman saying, among other things:
“Science endeavours to prolong man’s life. What for? You are hardly 40 years of age—willing to work, with sense of duty and with much experience in life, but practically cast out of human society.”
We are often told that we must wait for Socialism because of the lack of understanding and of human dignity of the millions of workers in the “backward” countries. Well, since Capitalist spokesmen in advanced and cultured countries can insult the workers by, for instance, distinguishing between them and “intellectuals,” and telling them to their face with brutal bluntness that they are nothing but HIRED objects to make profit from, and since these spokesmen can get away with it with impunity, we ask, where is the difference between the cultured and the uncultured slaves, as far as enlightenment on their social position and a sense of human dignity is concerned? With all your greater experience and opportunities, you have not yet learned that it is the damnable system of Capitalist exploitation that is the cause of your and their misery and degradation! Indeed, in Russia and in China the need of repressive measures and an all-penetrating secret police, the terror the purges and forced labour camps (not to speak of the massacres) by which the Bolsheviks established and maintain their regime of State-Capitalism, would show that there was and is as much opposition in these backward countries as in the Western World. Neither the frequent frank and outspoken confessions in avowed Capitalist publications of the shocking features of modern society, nor the evident humbug and hypocrisy, the lying, deceit and cant of “Socialist” and “Communist’’ leaders seem to stir you to intelligent action in opposition to the horrible system they all serve and want to perpetuate.
But to revert to our latest “world sensation.” In order to illustrate by concrete example the difference between facts and fiction (which differences are often blurred these times), here is what one of the actors in this sensation, the Soviet Union, pretends to stand for, as stated in the organs of the Russian occupation forces and the Communist party in Austria:
“All that oppressed humanity has ever dreamt, all that the founders of scientific socialism had predicted in their works, has here (on one-sixth of the earth) been realized. A new era in the history of mankind began in 1917.”
Now many of the Baltic and Balkan countries, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, half of Berlin and part of Austria, have had the “new era,” the Soviet dream of humanity brought to them.
Speaking for Austria, most people here will, when the “new era” apostles are gone, think of their experience with the latter as a nightmare rather than as a dream of paradise. And this even though this country has not seen the Bolshevik’s blessings on the same scale as their own people and others have. Some people even speak of a Soviet “weak spot” for Austria and point to the “sudden” (after ten years!) decision to let the Austrian government take a turn in establishing their own “new era.”
No more convincing proof of the Russian liberators’ disinterestedness and generosity could be given than this “sensational” State-Treaty. After having for ten years had the onerous job of controlling and collecting the profits from no fewer than 454 large and small Concerns (including the Danube Steamship Co.) with some 63,000 workers, the Russian liberators will hand them back to Austria on payment of a paltry 150 million dollars, plus delivery of one million tons of crude oil annually for ten years, plus the right to seek for oil in various parts of Austria during eight years and in the event of the discovery of new sources to exploit them for 25 years, and plus other trifles. Then there is the renunciation of the further use of the prisoner-of-war labour-force. Considering the loss of profits which this entails for the Soviet government, they insist that Austria should make compensation by at least paying henceforth for the prisoners’ keep and eventual return home. Further proof of Soviet “chivalry” is also provided by their readiness to readmit into the paradise the 30,000 to 40,000 people who had for incomprehensible reasons forsaken the land where the age-long dream of humanity had been realized. (For equally incomprehensible reasons these refugees have declined the noble offer).
Why then, you may ask, were the negotiations conducted behind locked doors, and why this delay in releasing the full text of the Treaty? Could it be that, after all, the delegates had misgivings or pricks of conscience? Were they afraid that if all the articles were published unvarnished, people might discover discrepancies and disparity between professions and reality before the Press had done their preliminary doctoring and explaining away? (The Arbeiter Zeitung for example did their share of sugaring the pill by assuring the public that though the ransom Austria has to pay was no small amount, it was by no means too high a price for the full economic independence. . . .) Could it be that the delegates were ashamed of finding themselves in the same position as all their forerunners:—the negotiators of treaties after all the 45 odd wars of liberation in the last 100 years, of which the world now knows that it never was a question of liberation or lofty ideals, but of grab and loot? Had the hitherto fact of the grab of the goldmines in S. Africa by the British Capitalists, or the Treaty of Versailles (or any other of the dozens of liberation cum grab-crusades) been present in the delegates’ minds? Did they perhaps become aware—as they studied the instructions received from their masters for the negotiations—of the manifest analogy of their position with that of thieves (having fallen out over the division of the loot) trying to come to at least a partial and temporary understanding after a ten year quarrel between themselves? Anyway, since another party of burglars, the German Capitalists, are now bitterly protesting against the confiscation of all their loot from the war, and with the thieves’ quarrels continuing unabated elsewhere, anything beyond registering with relief the withdrawal of occupation forces from this theatre of operations—Austria— would be misplaced and unwarranted. For, getting rid of foreign occupation Powers does not mean getting rid of oppression as the people also of many other lands in Europe in Asia and Africa must have learned to their bitter disappointment. So far liberations and revolutions have always meant the exchange of one bunch of exploiters for another, while native rulers of backward countries have often proved worse tyrants even than the foreign exploiters and oppressors they ousted.
The fact is that rulers and leaders all stand for the appropriation and accumulation of wealth by a world privileged class, wealth that is produced by and filched from the mass of the people through the modem wages-system. Asiatic and African leaders have not studied for nothing at the European and American universities.
If war is loot for all to see, it is not so dear and evident in peace-time, though loot is the pivot of the whole mechanism of Capitalism in war and peace. In peace, the robbery taking place, as it does, in the complex process of production, is obscured by the wages-system. Glaring proof of this legalized robbery is. however, the fact that a 100 years of marvellous technical achievements and tremendous increase of wealth produced by the working-class, have left them in a condition of poverty and insecurity. Once the worker comes to understand this crucial fact and recognizes it as the cause of his predicament, he will realize that all these fine words about “liberation. freedom and independence, peace and social justice” are but so many bourgeois slogans and illusions to hide the brutal facts of their thieving system. Already in the French Revolution which put the Bourgeoisie into power, it was “Liberté, égalité, fraternité ” which gulled the destitute masses into fighting the feudal enemies of their enemies, the rising Capitalist class, with the result that down to this day the above mentioned fine words mock the poverty-stricken French workers from every public building. It is certainly remarkable that it should still be possible for politicians to dispense and find listeners to these old outworn hollow phrases.
Enough has been said on the preposterous Nazi—and Bolshevik claim of having inaugurated a new social order, a “people’s democracy’’—this swindle is now too obvious and well known. But how little “freedom, independence and democracy” etc., mean to the working-class under Capitalism even in the “free world” countries: the U.S., Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, is shown by the fact that the status of the workers there is likewise that of property-less wage-slaves, dependent for their very means of existence, on the precarious chance of securing a job with some employer. Such a status does not and cannot make for the enjoyment of life. Work under such circumstances can never be identified, as it ought to and will be under Socialism, with real satisfaction and pleasure; it is only done to keep the wolf from the door. And wherever people have to work for wages, to make profit for an employer, any accident, illness, or other physical or mental disability—not to mention the factor of age—becomes something akin to a family catastrophe. The employers, even of the Welfare State, will quickly make you understand that they are not a welfare institution; but mean to make the Concern for which they have hired you, pay—the shareholders want their loot all the time.
Unfortunately, in so far as workers have not become altogether apathetic towards politics, they are, despite all disillusions), failures and frustrations still putting their trust in leaders and falling for the day to day affairs that invariably are only concerns of their enemies: the Capitalist class. It is a commentary on the policy and activity of the so-called “Socialist Party of Austria,” the “Communist” party and their fellow travellers everywhere that so far from getting the workers interested in, and educated to Socialism, they are busy assisting the Capitalistic state in building up still more devastating armaments. Not to be left behind by their big brother in England, who is all for the production of A-H-bombs, the Austrian Socialist Party and Communist Party, are now debating the form of the new army with at least “conventional weapons.” No doubt, the S.P., having a quarter of a century ago organized the Schutzbund with a view to opposing by force of arms the power of the state, and thus invited the disaster and terrible fate it met in 1934. have learned a lesson. It is. however, not a lesson Socialists teach, but a lesson for leaders how to keep their jobs. The red colour of the banners carried by the ill-fated Schutzbund, with the inscriptions Freiheit, Gleichheit, Bruderlidikeit, Freundschaft,” etc., will be replaced by different dyes and inscriptions. It will be the red-white-red variety and perhaps the Double-Eagle. Sure, it will warm the cockles of the hearts of many an old Austrian soldier and general, though other people will contemplate the spectacle of trooping the colour, philosophically saying to themselves : Well, the more it changes, the more it is the same thing.