MANIFESTO ON THE EVENTS IN AUSTRIA
[ EXTRACTS ]
ISSUED BY THE ECCI, RILU, AND YCI
3 March 1934 Rundschau, iii, 19, p. 711, 8 March 1934
After the fascist coup in Germany the bourgeoisie in France made an attempt to mobilize the fascist forces, and in Austria set out to deal a decisive blow against the working class. In France the proletariat replied with mass demonstrations and a general strike; in Austria with a general strike and armed insurrection.
Tormented by hunger and unemployment, the Austrian workers lost their belief in democracy; they rose to the only just war, the war against their oppressors. For four days they fought courageously against Austrian fascism. . . .
Thousands of the boldest and most devoted working-class fighters fell, weapon in hand, among them women and children. Thousands fell into the hands of the fascist executioners; many have met their death on the gallows, others await court-martial. But neither the difficulties of the fight nor the immense sacrifices can break the militancy of the Austrian proletarians. The temporary victory of fascism and its atrocities will only draw the working class closer together, increase their hatred of the bourgeoisie and their determination to overthrow the rule of capital, will spur them on in their inexorable struggle against the bourgeoisie.
Responsibility for the shedding of the workers' blood in Austria lies not only on Dollfuss, Fey, and the Austrian bourgeoisie. It rests in equal measure on the German fascists. . . .
German fascism is the pacemaker of reaction throughout Europe, the most rabid executioner of the European working class, the spiritual origin of the bloody sadism which now rages in the capitalist world.
Austrian proletarians! The world working class and the Communist International give full recognition to your heroism, and lower their banners at the bier of the fallen. Betrayed by social-democracy, you fought like lions for the cause of socialism. . . .
You gave the first example in Europe of armed insurrection against fascism. By your insurrection you have strengthened the belief of the working class in its own power, and demonstrated how to fight fascism with deeds, not words. . . .
You did not break fascism, but severely shook its confidence. Inspired by your rising, tens and hundreds of thousands of workers in other capitalist countries are rising against fascist reaction. Your rising marked an extremely important stage in the movement of the social-democratic working masses towards communism. Out of the blood shed by Dollfuss and Fey new and stronger cohorts of proletarian fighters will arise, who will not let themselves be betrayed as before by social-democracy. And that is why your fight and your heavy sacrifice were not in vain. . . .
More than once the social-democratic workers broke out in a storm of indignation against the treacherous policy of their leaders, and in the end they lost patience. In answer to the Dollfuss Government's provocative actions in Linz, the Austrian proletariat called for a general strike and took to arms. Social-democracy later agreed in words to the general strike which was already in operation, but it did not want to fight. It only wanted to intimidate the Dollfuss Government and reach a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The rising flared up against its will, for the Austrian proletariat, having learnt from the bitter experience of the German workers betrayed by social-democracy, did not want to submit to fascism.
But were the Austrian workers as well equipped for this armed struggle as the situation demanded ? No. The social-democratic leaders prevented them from seizing the initiative in the struggle. The Schutzbund did not start by occupying the central bourgeois areas of the city, they did not make them the arena of the fight.
They did not occupy the railway stations or the important strategic buildings. The rebels limited themselves to defence in the working-class apartment houses of Floridsdorf, Simmering, etc. without going over to the offensive against the armed enemy. But to keep to the defensive is fatal to armed insurrection. . . .
The Schutzbund fighters had no central leadership. Some of the Austrian socialdemocratic leaders . . . from the outset went over openly to the fascists, the others shamefully ran away at the height of the struggle or capitulated at the very beginning. They allowed themselves to be arrested by the police in order to evade responsibility for the further course of events. The trade union bosses betrayed the workers on the very first day by failing to call out the railway workers and sending workers who were on strike back to the factories. . . .
But the Austrian proletariat could have been victorious in its insurrection in February 1934, if the rising had taken place under the bolshevik slogan of the seizure of power and the establishment of workers' Soviets. Only the communists, who fought shoulder to shoulder with the social democratic workers, put forward clear and unambiguous fighting slogans. Two days before the events in Linz the Austrian CP called on the Austrian workers to arm and to begin a general strike. It was the misfortune of the Austrian proletariat that the CP was still too weak to place itself independently at the head of the insurrection. . . .
Merely by resorting to arms in the fight against the bourgeoisie, the socialdemocratic workers have broken with the ideology, policy, and tactics of socialdemocracy.
Whoever takes the road of armed insurrection thereby places himself at the side of the world communist party, thereby turns his back on the Second International. . . .
The bolshevik road is the road to victory, the reformist road is the road to defeat....
Proletarians of all countries, the Austrian and French workers who came out on the streets against growing fascist reaction, fought and are fighting for your common cause, for liberation from the yoke of capitalism. By their actions they are destroying everything taught by international social-democracy since the imperialist war of 1914-18. In doing so they are creating the conditions for a real united front from below. This united front can be welded only in ruthless struggle to destroy that treacherous Second International which has brought the workers of the capitalist countries to their present position, has surrendered them to the insolent offensive of capital and the terror of fascist reaction. Today, when millions of proletarians in all countries are ready to support the fight of the Austrian and German workers against fascism, the agents of Hitler and Starhemberg in Spain, the Spanish socialists and anarchists, are breaking the solidarity strike of the Spanish proletariat.
In all capitalist countries the social-democrats frustrate the fight against fascism, the cause for which the revolutionary Austrian workers gave their lives.
Down with the henchmen of Hitler and Dollfuss in the working class.
Otherwise, workers, your victory, success in your fight against capital and fascism, is impossible.