German-Austria is a democratic republic. All public powers are put into force by the people.
German-Austria is a constituent part of the German Republic. Special laws regulate the participation of German-Austria in the legislation and administration of the German Republic as well as the extension of the area of validity of the laws and institutions of the German Republic to German-Austria.
(Articles 1 and 2 of the new constitution of German-Austria)
‘… and then Fritz Adler will proclaim the Soviet Republic of Austria. What was shameful about the affair was not so much the childishness of this arrangement as the names which were to be found in connection with it: Rothziegel, Frey, Weihrauch, Ganser, Kisch, Waller etc., all of them Jews.’ (From the diary of Franz Brandl, a senior police official)
On 30 November 1918 the first, still provisional government of the First Republic took office. It first met in the building of the Lower Austria Provincial Assembly and then from 12 November in the Parliament building on the Ringstrasse boulevard.
The new constitution already laid down the union with Germany, which could be interpreted as contradicting Article 1, since the question of the basis of the state – Austrian sovereignty or union with Germany – could also have been put to the people.
Following an appeal made by the Social Democrats on the afternoon when the Republic of German-Austria was proclaimed from the ramp in front of Parliament by Franz Dinghofer, the Pan-German President of the Council of State, together with Karl Seitz, a Social Democrat, a crowd of people assembled around the building.
Members of the Red Guard, who belonged to the Communist Party of German-Austria, which had been founded on 3 November, tried to storm the Parliament during the proclamation. According to a number of reports they tore the white middle stripe out of a red-white-red flag and tried to hoist a completely red flag. This is how the senior police official, who later became the head of the Vienna police, describes what happened next:
Shots were fired towards the building from the street. One bullet hit the head of the press department, a Social Democrat, in one eye, which he lost, thirty other persons, including two from the people’s militia were more or less seriously injured, other shots hit the marble gods on the frieze. And suddenly there was the Red Guard, standing on the ramp, and a general quarrel broke out: Frey, Kisch, Waller started shouting at one another, inside the building Seitz, Deutsch and Rothziegl were debating the question of who bore the guilt. ‘It was from the Parliament that the first shots were fired at us,’ Rothziegl said, ‘even coming from a machine gun’. ‘But it was only shutters being pulled down that made such a noise.’ ‘They were shots.’ ‘No, shutters’. Finally it was the comrade who accepted the shutters as a form of apology. And then they all went home. ‘Our time has not yet come,’ the Communists said.
The simultaneous occupation of the editorial offices the Neue Freie Presse newspaper by the Red Guards was also a failure. All they succeeded in doing was to print a flyer which is supposed to have reported the successful proclamation of the ‘Social Republic’ – at least according to the account given by Johann Schober, at the time head of the Vienna police force.
Those who participated in this unsuccessful attempt by the Communist Party to establish a soviet republic as had been done with at least partial success in Germany included not only Egon Erwin Kisch but also a number of prominent men of letters and intellectuals. Among these were Albert Paris Gütersloh, Albert Ehrenstein and also Franz Werfel, who later, as a disillusioned Socialist, underwent a political ‘conversion’ to conservative Catholicism. Some days before 12 November Werfel had given an impassioned speech at a protest demonstration held by the Red Guard in front of the headquarters of the Vienna Bankverein, in which he argued that at present the forces of revolution were still too weak to risk storming the bank. But the right time would come and ‘then we will also occupy these palaces of money.’
One lasting result of the events of 12 November was the accusation that it had been precisely the newly founded Communist Party which had carried out the first attempt at a putsch in the new republic.
Translation: Leigh Bailey
Hanisch, Ernst: Der lange Schatten des Staates. Österreichische Gesellschaftsgeschichte im 20. Jahrhundert (= Österreichische Geschichte 1890–1990, hrsg. von Herwig Wolfram), Wien 2005
Neck, Rudolf: Österreich im Jahre 1918. Berichte und Dokumente. Wien 1968
Pfoser, Alfred: Was nun? Was tun? Zehn Blitzlichter zur literarischen Szene der Jahre 1918 bis 1920, in: Konrad, Helmut/Maderthaner, Wolfgang: Das Werden der Ersten Republik. ... der Rest ist Österreich, Bd. I, Wien 2008, 173-196
Stadler, Karl R.: Die Gründung der Republik, in: Skalnik, Kurt: Auf der Suche nach der Identität, in: Weinzierl, Erika/Skalnik, Kurt: Österreich 1918-1938. Geschichte der Ersten Republik, Graz/Wien/Köln 1983, 55-84
„... and then Fritz Adler will proclaim ...": zitiert nach: Neck, Rudolf: Österreich im Jahre 1918. Berichte und Dokumente. Wien 1968, 135 (Translation)
„Shots were fired towards the building ...": zitiert nach: Neck, Rudolf: Österreich im Jahre 1918. Berichte und Dokumente. Wien 1968, 136 (Translation)
„then we will also occupy ...": zitiert nach: Jungk, Peter Stephan: Franz Werfel. Eine Lebensgeschichte, Frankfurt 1987, 109 (Translation)
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