Washington’s Missing China Strategy
To Counter Beijing, the Biden Administration Needs to Decide What It Wants
SMALL wonder that Austria's name is on every tongue, and that the prolonged argument of the four Powers over her future echoes around the world. The tenacity with which the parties to the dispute hold to their positions seems in strange contrast to the agreement on general aims which preceded the negotiations. It was announced at the Moscow Conference in 1943 that Austria, the first of Hitler's victims, was to be reëstablished as a sovereign state with political and economic security; but agreement upon particulars now appears impossible, and the failure offers the threat of war. Is this small country worth such trouble? Are the details of the treaty which is meant to restore Austria to a place in the community of nations so important that they should be allowed to disquiet the world?
The answer is brief and simple: the Powers are negotiating over Austria -- but they are dealing with Europe. The question of the political independence of Austria is a question of the freedom of all the medium and small nations of the Continent. The disposition of Austria's economic resources raises the problem of the expansion of the Soviet Union, which apparently seeks to incorporate other lands and peoples in the Russian empire. The effort to safeguard Austria's intellectual and spiritual freedom points the choice between two ways of life for all the peoples of the earth -- between the omnipotent state and human rights, one-party rule and parliamentary government, dictatorship and democracy. History and geography make this small country the crossroads at which Europe takes one of two paths.
Austria bears a name which once stood for the greatest Power in continental Europe. The capital city, Vienna, was for centuries the seat of the emperors of the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation." It was at Vienna, in 1529 and again in 1683, that the vanguard of the attack of the Orient upon Europe -- of Islam against Christianity -- was hurled back. Up to 1918, the House of Austria, as the Hapsburg dynasty called itself, ruled over a family of peoples or, if one may apply a modern term, an internationale. The fact not only left its mark on the Imperial Palace in Vienna, but gave the population of Vienna its special characteristics. There was a period when Spanish was the court language. For a time, the Earldom of Burgundy and the Austrian Netherlands were part of Austria, and then the language of the court was predominantly French. The masterpieces of the Netherlands painters today enrich the Vienna Art History Museum with untold splendors. The greater part of present Italy belonged to the Hapsburgs; Italian architecture immortalized itself everywhere in Austria, and the masters of Italian music were supreme there until Gluck, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven displaced them. In the government, the army and in the schools Frenchmen, Netherlanders, Italians and Germans mingled with the natives. The aristocracy of all nations flocked to Vienna, and even today many of the aristocratic houses of Austria bear Spanish, Italian, Netherlands and French names. Imperial military leaders -- the descendants of many nationalities -- were made fief holders of large estates in Hungary wrested from the retreating Turks; they founded the great Hungarian and Croatian families and became Magyar patriots.
The political and intellectual center of this organism -- which, of course, was semi-feudal and semi-absolutist -- was in Vienna, and from these varied national strains the population of Vienna derived the cosmopolitan characteristics which it retains to this day. An American will easily understand what this means if he thinks of New York. Not even in Paris is such a mixture found elsewhere in Europe.
In 1789, the French Revolution began to create European national states based on the separate linguistic and cultural communities which had grown up since the end of the Middle Ages, and ushered in the bourgeois epoch. Neither aristocracy nor Church, neither feudal lords nor the monarch "by the Grace of God" were to rule any longer; representatives of the people were to be elected and all power put into their hands. The fixed economic relationships established by the old class system were to give way to free competition and freedom of movement for individuals. The ideal was political, economic, intellectual and personal liberty within the framework of closed language and cultural communities.
The citizen of the United States can scarcely imagine the conditions from which European society had to liberate itself in the nineteenth century. The old system was explicitly intended to withhold physical and intellectual liberty from the people -- an ideal so strange to Americans that they find it hard to believe that it is still held in many quarters. This spirit is ancestral to Fascism. According to it, no human society is possible which does not provide degrees of rank and subordination, and separate men into those who command and those who obey. Herbert Spencer characterized the advance from the feudal into the bourgeois world as the transition from status to contract. In the old hierarchical view, agreements with the people are not made to be kept, but are a means devised by the cunning to hold others in subjection; for, according to this concept, nothing but force will bind society together. The contrast between the two continents of Europe and America was early characterized by no less than Goethe:
Amerika, Du hast es besser Als unser Kontinent, der alte: Hast keine verfallenen Schloesser und keine Basalte.
Indeed, America is fortunate to be without the ruined castles and the marble columns of the old Continent, the relics of the feudal tradition from which the European people have even now not emancipated themselves. How wonderfully fortunate to be born free citizens and to have economic and political liberty to take for granted! Even the latest among the liberating movements of Europe, Socialism, has in its Communist manifestation been gripped by the hereditary evil, and cannot divest itself of the superstition that society can be built only on a foundation of unconditional command and absolute obedience; in short, that totalitarianism and dictatorship are unavoidable. Democratic Socialism, which believes in human and civil rights, still has serious training to undergo, and much educational work to accomplish.
The political driving force of the nineteenth century, then, was the movement for unity and freedom of the nations. It tore down the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation piece by piece and, in its stead, erected sovereign national states. But after the Peace of Nikolsburg in 1866, when Bismarck exhibited wise statesmanship in preventing the Prussian king and his generals from annexing the German-speaking provinces of Austria, Emperor Francis Joseph I still remained as monarch over a family of ten nations -- Germans, Czechs, Poles, Ruthenians (today's Ukrainians), Rumanians, Magyars, Slovenes, Croats, Serbs (the last three known today as Jugoslavs), and Italians in southern Tyrol, Trieste and along the Adriatic coast. They differed greatly in political and economic maturity, but all strove, within the frame of the Hapsburg monarchy, to achieve national self-government as member states of a federation. The Revolution of 1848 achieved the draft of such a federation (the Kremsier Constitution), but, after the victory of the imperial forces, aided by the Russian tsar, it was discarded in 1851.
Partition under a democratic, federal constitution of course presented difficulties. These nations had been thrown together and torn apart in the course of centuries. The main groups with historical and political individuality, were: 1, the hereditary Austrian provinces, chiefly stocked by Germans, but also with Slovenes and Italians; 2, the provinces of the Bohemian Crown, with the Czechs, but also with Germans and Poles, though not including the Slovaks (who were of similar extraction, but vegetated under Magyar domination); 3, the provinces of the Hungarian Crown with the Magyars, but also with Germans, Slovaks, Rumanians, Croats and Serbs; 4, those Polish provinces of Galicia and Bukovina which had fallen to Austria, mainly Poles, but also with Ukrainians and Rumanians. The Croats, who were annexed to the Kingdom of Hungary, also regarded themselves as an entity and laid claim to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had been acquired in 1878. Each group boasted the proud title of kingdom, grand duchy, duchy, earldom or the like.
The Austrian statesman, Beust, and the Hungarian Deák hit upon the fateful expedient of dividing the empire into two parts. The eastern half was incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary, under the leadership of the Magyars. The name Austria applied only to what was left over -- a state under the leadership of German-speaking people which circumscribed Hungary as the crescent of the rising moon lies around the darkened center, from Bukovina in the northeast to Dalmatia in the south. "Austria" contained seven nations, and "Hungary" five. This did not dispose of the problem of nationality; it merely inflamed it. Instead of a truly international constitution, it grouped what should have been ten autonomous states in two despotic régimes. Moreover, of the eight peoples thus forced into subjection, five were torn asunder among both halves of this empire (Germans, Czechoslovaks, Ukrainians, Rumanians and Jugoslavs). Nevertheless, this Dual System, as it was called, lasted from 1867 to 1918, for the economic arrangement was ideal. The empire was a large self-sufficient territory, without internal customs barriers, in which all the peoples experienced economic progress; but five decades of repression brought the national differences to the point of combustion, and the blaze set fire to the world.
The First World War destroyed the Dual System and removed the dynasty, and the peace treaties sliced the unified economic territory into purportedly national states. The peoples of the west believed that they had solved the problem of the Danube region and of southeastern Europe, but that was legend pure and simple, as the subsequent tragic developments of the Second World War have made plain.
In retrospect, what lessons can we draw from the lost opportunities of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919-1920? The Conference might, I think, have proceeded in one of two other ways. If it desired to adhere strictly to the principle of the creation of national states, under the slogan of the Self-Determination of Nations, it might have permitted the Italian territories to seek annexation to the Kingdom of Italy, the Jugoslav territory to Serbia, the Rumanian to the Kingdom of Rumania, and the German territory to the German Reich. This would have resulted in the dissolution of the Danubian monarchy, but would have checked the formation of international states. The prohibition of Anschluss was intended as a safeguard against German aggression. But had the Catholics and the Socialists of Austria voted in the German Reich in 1925, Hindenburg would almost certainly not have been elected President; and German democracy would not have capitulated to Hitler.
The other possible course for the Peace Conference would have been to decide that this well-balanced economic territory with its unified system of money and credit and communications should remain an entity. That would have meant that the national components, while not enjoying complete sovereignty, would have the highest possible measure of national autonomy within a federal constitution, after the example of the Kremsier Draft, and would continue to work and to live together as they had for centuries. Such a commonwealth would have been a Great Power of the small nations, located between the hostile Powers of the great nations. It could have formed a dam against expansionist appetites from the northwest (Greater Germany), from the northeast (Russia), from the southeast (Pan-Slavism), and from the south (Italy), making Austria a larger Switzerland. Happily, it could not have entertained offensive ambitions, but it would have been eminently well made for defense, and a prototype for a Balkan Federation in the eastern Mediterranean.
But under the fateful influence of the Quai d'Orsay, whose leaders were preoccupied with thoughts of revenge for Sedan and safety from new attacks, the Powers chose a third way which magnified all the dangers of the old Danubian monarchy. The Conference created a pseudo-Czech national state -- not the first, and alas! not the last time that the west tragically misjudged the Czech people and the problem of their statehood. This quasi-national state, burdened with 3,500,000 Germans, also contained Slovaks, some Poles, 1,000,000 Magyars and, finally, Ukrainians (Ruthenians) -- the latter having been assigned a special province, Carpatho-Russia. The northeast part of the old monarchy was given to Poland, and this national state harbored a considerable number of Germans and a powerful bloc of Ukrainians. The Rumanians of Transylvania were annexed to the Kingdom of Rumania, but the German stock (who had been settled in that country for two-and-a-half centuries longer than the Europeans had been in America) and a considerable number of Magyars from the Banat were subordinated in the new Greater Rumania. The Catholic Croats and Slovenes were subjected to the Greek-Orthodox Serbs, peoples of entirely different mentality: for a time the new empire was called the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, but these illusions of equality and autonomy soon gave way to the idea of a united Jugoslavia, which meant the unconditional domination of the Serb element. Against the will of this country, moreover, a considerable number of Magyars were incorporated in it.
Trieste, the Adriatic port built and maintained jointly by the Danubian peoples, was annexed to Italy; but, though this was uneconomic, it was at any rate in keeping with the nationalist principle. The Italian regions of Austria were joined to Italy; but so also was the indisputably German South Tyrol as far as the Brenner Pass. In other words, new states were created in the north, east and south on the principle of nationality and Anschluss. But federation with the German Reich was forbidden to the Germans in Austria. The purpose was to safeguard France against a new attack, but the effect was to pave the way for it.
What remained of the Dual Monarchy were the German-speaking parts of the eastern Alps, a population of about 6,500,000, and the capital city of Vienna, with a population of about 2,000,000. It was a mountainous country with little arable land, without a sufficient domestic market for its industries, no outlet to the sea, and surrounded on three sides by hostile neighbors. It was, indeed, a land without a name -- for this area had never been a separate state. It was treated as a vanquished enemy, and had to take over the name of Austria and the inheritance of the House of Hapsburg, with all its glory and also its ill repute. It likewise gathered in an unfortunate heritage of passé Hapsburg officers and monarchists from all quarters of the old empire.
No sensible person believed that this new state named Austria could exist without aid, or that it could withstand any shocks. It was, in fact, made viable first with credits from the League of Nations, and then by years of intense toil on the part of this handful of people, who organized a democratic republic and buckled down to their task. The writer was the leader of the Austrian peace delegation at St. Germain, and, on returning to Vienna in September 1919, reported to Parliament and recommended acceptance of the Peace Treaty. I did so in express reliance upon the League of Nations as the guarantor of our independence, and described Austria as "an autonomous province of the League." Both major political parties -- the Social Democrats and the Christian Socialists -- took the verdict quietly, and there was no resistance among the people. The German-Bohemian and German-Tyrolese representatives in the Vienna National Assembly placed the red-white-red cockade solemnly upon the president's dias and left the building and the province, with an uncertain future, but not without confidence in the League's promise to protect minorities, and in the attitude of Czechoslovakia and Italy, then enjoying democratic régimes.
In the years that followed, the cultural life of Vienna and Austria underwent a notable revival. The Austrians began to accustom themselves to the idea that, despite the common tongue with the German Reich, the region had in it the stuff that made a separate nation. The historical traditions came to life, cultivated especially by the conservative part of the population. The Social Democrats took up their international relations, through the Second International, and played an important rôle internally through the trade unions and the coöperatives. The League of Nations proved a friend in the hour of need, and was probably more highly esteemed in Austria than anywhere else in the world. Though the Succession States banded together as the Little Entente, and Austria was isolated, an election based on universal suffrage and true proportional representation showed the German National Party to be only a tiny minority. Anschluss with Germany ceased to be a political issue.
But the world economic crisis of 1929 shook Austria to her foundations, revived the worry over the country's viability, and produced serious threats from abroad. First Mussolini conspired with the reactionary government in Hungary to transport arms secretly over the Austrian railways. The Social Democrats uncovered the smuggling, and the railroad workers stopped it, but Mussolini was furious, and from then on did everything possible to undermine democracy in Austria. He forced acceptance of Italian participation in Austrian industry, encouraged the beginning of a Fascist movement, helped to arm it, and corrupted influential government officials. It was now that the influence of the many former imperial officers and civil servants was gravely harmful, for they had not taken the decisions of the First World War as final, and they looked upon Mussolini as the champion of Restoration in the whole Danubian region.
The democratic sentiment of the conservative Christian Socialists was still in the formative stage, and the party proved unable to stand up to the monarchists within its own ranks. The warnings of the Social Democrats went unheeded. When no vigorous measures were taken by the government against the Heimwehr (Home Guards) -- a private military organization of monarchists and rural conservatives -- the Social Democrats in self-defense developed their own military organization, the Republican Protective Federation (Republikanischer Schutzbund). Now some of the large industrialists thought that the opportunity had come to repeal the social welfare laws and to get rid of the trade unions. They dismissed Social Democrats who were union representatives and endeavored to force the workers to support the Heimwehr, to turn out for parades, and so on. The hierarchy of the Church, especially the Episcopate, took no part in anti-democratic activities, and the great majority of the Catholic population maintained an attitude of detachment. Nevertheless, some Church circles felt called upon to aid the reaction, and the Austrian Chancellor, Seipel, a Catholic priest who had done much to help the country's economic reconstruction, declared himself in accord with the Heimwehr's objectives. Some western statesmen admired his stand. How little they understood what this abandonment of democracy meant, and how difficult they would find it to stop Fascism once it was well started!
Now Adolf Hitler and his National Socialists came to the fore in the German Reich, and streams of propaganda poured over Austria. A nationalist minority took up the cry of Anschluss again, and the nationalist youth were organized with undercover support from Hitler. This Fuehrer had a very different kind of recruiting power than did the superannuated Hapsburg officers, the estate managers of the Austrian nobility, and the country lawyers who clamored against the "inflated" power of Vienna; and to the industrialists who wanted to overthrow the trade unions, one kind of Fascism was as good as another. The small middle class in the little country towns listened in fascination to the new evangelism of the Reich that was to last a thousand years; and the leaders of the Christian Social Party, alienated from democracy by Seipel, lost the courage of their convictions.
I recall these events with reluctance, but for a necessary purpose. Few people abroad yet realize what really happened in Austria, and hence do not understand how little blame attaches to the majority of Austrians for the catastrophe. The decisive blow was struck by Dollfuss at the instigation of Suvich, Mussolini's Minister to Austria. Instead of unifying the anti-Fascists who formed the great majority of the population, he abolished representative government, overthrew the Social Democrats by a coup d'état in the bloody days of February 1934, and set up a dictatorship on the Italian model. Thus, against the desire of more than three-fourths of the Austrian people, he opened the door to Nazism.
The end is known: the murder of Dollfuss; a sorry interim régime under Schuschnigg; and the irruption of Hitler -- with the masses of Austrians standing by, vexed, helpless and speechless. What was there to stop Hitler's march through Central Europe? Instead of the Great Power of the small nations there existed only a collection of small sovereignties, each of which had to stand up to him alone. The idea of the national state, the Leitmotif of the Paris Peace Conference, put into his hands the most effective means of agitation from within, and gave him a plausible excuse to offer to the outside world; and the annexations round about offered precedents. He split off Czechoslovakia, isolated the Sudeten province and caused the Slovaks to revolt. By suggesting an overturn of the settlements of 1919, especially in Transylvania, he captivated the Magyars. He played up the oppression of the Catholic Croats and Slovenes to mobilize them against the Serbs. And the U.S.S.R. capped the climax with the short-lived treaty with Hitler which enabled it to split off the Ukrainians from the Poles and advance the borders of the Soviet Union to the line of the Bug and San (thus appropriating the crude oil in Galicia).
With these events which opened the Second World War, the idea of the national state reached its climax, and, I venture to believe, began its decline as a factor in the making of history. Perhaps we might pause for a moment, at this point, to review this central problem of nationalism in more general terms.
At the opening of the bourgeois period in 1789, Central Europe was covered with a few hundred small absolutist states, arbitrarily isolated from one another. Technology and capitalism had to break down the barriers. The extent to which boundary lines immure the people behind them depends above all else on communications. Societies linked by messengers on horseback or camel, by stage coach, by primitive railroads, or by motor cars and transcontinental rail and air lines will be very different ones. Whether men earn their living in a closed rural community (as, for example, the original Boer settlers in South Africa) or in a small town, whether districts have central markets and commercial centers, and finally whether there is a balance between mountainous areas and arable plains, between coastal regions and the hinterland, can be decisive social factors. Methods of production, trade and communication are great architects of states.
For centuries, the expansion of commerce and the development of what might be called "territorial" states came up against the seemingly insuperable barrier of language differences. When economic life became more intensive in the nineteenth century, the activities of the state became more specialized, and it was compelled to address itself much more closely to the problems of its subjects. The rôle of language was further emphasized, and the development of democracy -- which demands constant meetings, discussions, dissemination of information in the press -- strengthened the tendency. It followed that the most effective state structure was that which compassed the members of a common language group. Unity and liberty of the nations! The paradise of which the nineteenth century dreamed was a group of free sovereign states living peacefully side by side, each satisfied to remain within its own borders and to enjoy its culture.
But political sovereignty was, in fact, precarious if not supplemented by economic self-sufficiency; and economic resources are not neatly divided in the pattern of nationalities. The result was imperialism -- first imperialism in a search by the larger nations for raw materials and food in the sparsely-settled regions of the globe; then, as technology advanced and industrial power became more and more necessary to maintain political sovereignty, imperialism by great nations at the expense of small neighbors on the same continent. The nationalist idea in practice became covetous, expansionist and warlike, and the economic imperialism buried deep within it became another architect of state. The subjection of foreign peoples and the annexation of their territories was described as a civilizing act by the "superior" people. Must not the stronger and more capable overcome the weaker if mankind is to advance? Have not all truly great peoples been conquerors who welded together many foreign peoples? Such was the rationalization. The imperialism of Hitler, Nazism, was the reverse of the early nationalist idea -- the classic nationalism which sought liberty and equality for all peoples -- but it was likewise the flower of it. Imperialism is latent in all great nations, and attacks the small ones as well. Thus the Czech felt called upon to dominate the Slovak, the Pole the Ukrainian, the Serb the Croat and Slovene, on some cultural or historical pretext. And so the "imperialism of the small," as Otto Bauer called it, built up its own international state organisms.
Finally, this claim of an historical mission as a cloak for economic expansion was used to seize and falsify the idea of Socialism. Communism now claims a world mission, by virtue of a superiority to all other systems of society. In such efforts to conquer Lebensraum and to impress other countries and peoples into the service of one's own nation, various ideologies can provide the rationale. It can be a religous creed, as when Islam gave its driving power to the Arabs; it can be Catholicism, which, through Ignatius of Loyola, trained men for hard, martial unity, with absolute supremacy for the doctrine and absolute obedience to its representatives. Or it can be a social creed such as Communism or the National Socialism of Hitler, which threatens to annihilate every man who deviates or resists. Absolute conformity of thought, absolute submission of the will, and obedience without reservation by subordinates -- this is always the ideology of the effort of world conquest.
But the very pace of technological development, which hastened the growth of nationalism, has now begun to undermine the nationalist state. Planes circle the globe in a few hours and force their way into every out-of-the-way place. Radio permits us to speak instantly with the antipodes. The vast improvement in the technique and transmission of speech, and a growth in the linguistic ability of the leaders of economic and political affairs, have greatly weakened the language barriers. The trend is certain to continue. Literature has become world literature. The shrines of nationalist culture are being battered down on all sides. Persecution by Fascists and Communists has driven many of the world's finest intellects from their homes, and, though some of them have become citizens of other countries, they are also citizens of the world. We are profiting from this dispersion now, in Austria, as the refugees are returning from England, France, Sweden, Russia, the United States, from the Latin American countries and from Shanghai, bringing with them an intimate knowledge of other lands and peoples, other languages and cultures. It is a symbol of what is going on all over the world. The age of nationalism is drawing to a close.
The new idea is world-wide organization. It took concrete shape in the League of Nations, and, though this first hesitant effort was not strong enough to overcome the imperialistic challenge, the very defiance of the new order mobilized the strength of the New World. The attempt has been made with renewed energy in the organization of the United Nations, and this effort must succeed. The United Nations limits national sovereignty, but at the same time guarantees a measure of sovereignty even to the smallest peoples. It is designed to preserve the gains of the great revolution of the eighteenth century by safeguarding human and civil rights, and at the same time it preserves the ideal of the nineteenth century -- the national state -- in the degree compatible with the unity of mankind and the peace of the world. This world federation may in the real sense of the word be termed an internationale, and will be the architect, eventually, of the world state.
Will a new military conspiracy like the Axis arise to oppose it? In view of the development of atomic energy and the complete revolution in the means of war, only utter madness can lead to such an uprising, and in the fullness of time nothing but submission is possible for those who launch such an attack. But here again the welfare of Austria is central to the safety of this second world organization. Here is the point of contact of Germanic, Slav and Italo-Romance peoples. Austria's mountains and rivers make this region literally the crossroads between east and west, and between north and south. Its alpine passes command the communications between Germany and Italy. (Without the Brenner, the German-Italian Axis would have been merely a pair of wheels.) From the top of the Kalenberg at Vienna can be seen the juncture of the eastern Alps, the Sudeten range and the Carpathians -- the basin through which flow the Danube and the March. Four gates lead out of this mountain pass: up the Danube to Germany, up the March into Czechoslovakia, down the Danube to Hungary, and south over the lower Karst into Jugoslavia and to the northern Balkans.
It was not caprice, but the facts of geography, which caused the Hapsburgs to shift the center of their realm from Prague to Vienna. From this crossroads they exercised power over large parts of Italy, over Burgundy, the Netherlands, over all of Germany, Bohemia and Hungary, over the Adriatic coastal region and down to Belgrade, which had been taken from the Turks in 1699 by the Hapsburg Field Marshal, Eugene of Savoy. Nor was it accident that made the Viennese known as a light-hearted people. Vienna was favored for centuries, for the military focal point was also the natural market place. The artisans of the alpine regions whose soil was poor, the people from the rich Hungarian plains, the inhabitants of the highly industrial Sudeten region, the people of Galicia and Jugoslavia, rich in forest products and livestock, and those from the Adriatic, blessed with the fruits of the south, all traded their wares in Vienna. From here, Empress Maria Theresa built the road over the spur of the Alps and across the Karst to Trieste, to provide a seaport for the land-locked countries.
It was these facts of geography and economics (and not a nefarious plot to subordinate neighboring territories to Austrian rule) that attracted the great commercial houses and banks to Vienna. In these eastern countries, commerce and banking were largely in Jewish hands -- to mention this will, I trust, not awaken sad memories -- and hence arose the saying that Vienna was the place where men came to perfect their business arrangements by arranging marriages. Indeed, so far as the saying is true, it applies to every race and nationality -- the Greeks, for example, who were engaged in business everywhere in the old empire. The annihilation of the Jews has done untold damage to the city of Vienna and to Austria, for it has severed business relationships which had existed for centuries. And all the Danubian states have suffered correspondingly from anti-Semitism.
Many of these events are long since past, but they explain the happenings of recent years. They explain why Hitler seized Austria as his first move in the conquest of Europe, and how from there he picked up Czechoslovakia in his tongs, gathered in the Slovaks and the Magyars, fell on Poland from the south (flanking the preparations she had made for the attack from the west) and dominated the Balkan countries. St. Germain and geography blazed the path for the Blitz. This explains, too, why the Soviet Union is so intensely interested in the Vienna basin.
From Kalenberg, one now looks out upon the invisible wall of the customs barriers which divide Austria from Czechoslovakia in the north and from Hungary in the east. The tariff walls of the old Serbia have come closer, and, though there are two railway lines to Trieste, one over Italian territory and the other over Jugoslavia, the port is further from the hinterland than ever. And as if the customs barriers to the north and to the east were not enough, the Iron Curtain has descended. Austria increased her production of grain, sugarbeet and livestock astonishingly in the 20 years after St. Germain, and the income from forests, mines, tourist traffic and, above all else, the products of her skilled artisans was more than sufficient to pay for necessary food imports. And there was a stroke of fortune -- the discovery of the oil fields at Zistersdorf. Austria looked forward to a surplus in the balance of payments, and people began to call the Austrian schilling the "Alpine dollar." But will trade with the east be possible in the future? Will the gates open to the west and to the south? Or will the Iron Curtain drop between Austria and the west, so that Austria becomes merely the military outpost of a Power whose interest in her economy consists of a desire to carry off anything of value?
These are the possibilities. But in the face of so uncertain a future Austria is remarkably steady. She has maintained a stable government since the war ended, and her social order has not been seriously disturbed. In the century which has passed since the Revolution of 1848, she has fought her way clear of the remains of absolutism and feudalism and has tapped the wellspring of a new democratic energy; and with this new strength have come balance and self-restraint. The working classes won universal suffrage, fought an exemplary battle against both green and black Fascism, and stood steadfast in their democratic convictions throughout the Hitler annexation. The experience with Mussolini and the Nazis gave the middle class and the peasants a new understanding of the value of democracy. The great majority of the people of Austria are certain that they wish to live under a democratic régime. The differences between the owning classes and the working class, which were once at armed pitch, still exist, but there is no thought of deciding the issue by force. On the day of Austria's liberation, the Conservatives and the Social Democrats swore to remain united in the country's hour of need. They have sought compromise by negotiation, and they are pledged to hold this center-of-the-road course against the attack of Communism or Fascism. Above all, Austria is steady because she has confidence in the final triumph of the United Nations. The League did not protect her against Hitler; but if she has learned from that experience, so have others. Her territory is the key for war and for peace in Europe; she does not believe that she will be left in the lurch again. The forces which make history move toward a world economy and a world state, and in this direction Austria is glad to go.