Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Alfred D. Low
Thomas E. Hachey
J. Michael Phayer
John Patrick Donnelly
In an age in which political power was vested in unified nation states, the Austrian multinational empire of the nineteenth century was an anachronism. As the Habsburg rulers tried to weld their diverse national groups into a cohesive political unit, they received support from an unexpected ally--the Austrian Social Democratic party.
The Austrian socialists preferred to seek immediate political and economic gains within the structure of the Austrian state, even though they were dedicated to the orthodox Marxist goal of class struggle. Since the increase of national tension threatened the viability of this state, they developed a nationality program which promised cultural autonomy to all the national groups. Through their nationality program and parliamentary activity, they hoped to transform Austria into a democratic federation of nationalities.
Their concern for Austria's nationality problem led them to develop a specifically socialist approach to foreign policy. As long as Austria's subject nationalities were dissatisfied under Habsburg rule, they looked to their kinsmen outside the borders of the Dual Monarch for assistance. With the adoption of a federated system, ethnic groups outside the Austrian empire would be attracted to the benefits of Habsburg rule. Therefore, the socialist nationality program was designed to solve both the domestic and foreign policy concerns of the Habsburg realm.
The socialists rejected the independence goals of the subject peoples in their desire to maintain the Austrian state as a structure in which to realize economic and political goals. Influenced by the German orientation of their state, they supported the Dual Alliance with the German Reich and feared the expansion of czarist absolutism. With the outbreak of war in 1914, they supported the war aims of Austria's rulers. It was not until 1917 that the socialists adopted a radical internationalist position to support the independence of the subject peoples and called for the breakup of the Austrian Multinational state.
Even though the Austrian socialists never directly served in any of the ministries of the government, their ideas on national autonomy were widely respected by various government officials and formed the basis for the Moravian Compromise of 1906. A further implementation of this policy was forestalled by Austria's increasing involvement in the Balkans. If Austria's rulers had been able to transform the Habsburg realm into the federation of nationalities suggested by the socialists, the political vacuum that occurred in central eastern Europe in the 1918 and again in 1945 might have been avoided. In yet another sense, the socialist program for national autonomy continues to be of interest to nations having diverse ethnic or religious groups. The relationship of nationality and foreign policy in socialist thought, therefore, calls for a close examination.
Many studies within the last two decades have led to renewed interest in the problems of the Habsburg Monarchy. Unfortunately, there are few works which deal with the Austrian Socialist party. The only comprehensive history of the Austrian socialists is by Ludwig Brugel, Geschichte der österreichischen Socialdemokratie, 5 vols. (Vienna, 1922). This study includes many primary materials but suffers from a lack of interpretation. On the nationality question, the books by Hans Mommsen, Die Sozialdemokratie und die Nationalitötenfrage im Habsburgischen Vielvolkerstaat (Vienna, 1963), and Robert A. Kann, The Multinational Empire, 2 vols. (New York, 1950), provide excellent information. Mommsen's study, however, concerns Austrian socialist nationality thought only through 1907, and Kann's work handles the entire nationality problem of the Habsburg empire, with only one section devoted to the Austrian socialists. No comprehensive study of the foreign policy thought of the Austrian socialists has yet been attempted, although a number of papers presented at the Linz conferences of the International Historians of the Workers' Movement have pointed in this direction.