Outbreak of the war
End of the war

Commitment to the Monarchy

The Christian Social Party from the beginning of the First World War to the end of the Habsburg Monarchy

After the outbreak of the First World War, which the Christian Socials regarded as an unavoidable "war of atonement", there were high hopes of a rapid victory of the Central Powers and the preservation of the status quo.


While the Christian Socials also believed in a rapid and victorious end to the war, it had reservations about Austria Hungary's relationship with its German ally. Always making every effort to avoid conflict with the population, it, too, adopted a peace policy in 1917. For the entire duration of the war, however the Christian Social Party primarily concentrated on domestic issues, its main concern being the preservation of its own electorate for fear of voters switching to the Social Democrats. For this reason, the party attempted to improve the conditions and food supply of its electors by influencing the authorities and the government.

The rise of nationalism amongst the various groups of the population forced the Christian Socials to adopt a nationality-based policy, amove that, however, was regarded amongst its own ranks as a weakening of the party's profile. It tended to be reticent on the question of concepts for the future form of the state, which was interpreted as an indication of a schism within the party. In its three-point programme, which contained the most important foreign and domestic policy positions, it set out its commitments to the Dual Monarchy and the Austro-Hungarian confederation. It adopted the 'moderate' peace policy of the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Ottokar Czernin, and for this reason it supported neither an unconditional peace nor extensive territorial annexations.

After the end of the war and the collapse of the Empire, the Christian Social Party, which had banked on the re-establishment of the monarchy, was plunged into an ideological and organisational crisis, and was unable to reach a unitary party line on the question of the new form of government. In October 1918, the Christian Social parliamentary party was still resolved to support the preservation of the monarchy, and the leaders of the Viennese Christian Socials also spoke out in favour of the traditional form of government or a plebiscite on the matter. On the other hand, the deputies from the provinces, mainly of agricultural background, became more and more committed to the Republic. The differences between the Viennese Christian Socials and the representatives of the provinces dominated the further development of the party, and even after the Republic was proclaimed on 12 November 1918, there was still no agreement amongst the party members on the question of a monarchy or a republic.


Translation: David Wright


Berchtold, Klaus: Österreichische Parteiprogramme 1868-1966, Wien 1967

Ehrenpreis, Petronilla: Kriegs- und Friedensziele im Diskurs. Regierung und deutschsprachige Öffentlichkeit Österreich-Ungarns während des Ersten Weltkriegs, Innsbruck/Wien/Bozen 2005

Wandruszka, Adam: Österreichs politische Struktur. Die Entwicklung der Parteien und politischen Bewegungen, in: Benedikt, Heinrich (Hrsg.): Geschichte der Republik Österreich, Wien 1977, 289-486

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    On the eve of war

    The last decade of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth were a time of modernisation, mechanisation and speed. In 1910, Vienna, capital of the Habsburg empire, had 2.1 million inhabitants and had grown to become an international metropolis. New technologies changed working life and leisure. Railways increased mobility, as did the bicycle, motor vehicle and aeroplane. How did this development manifest itself and what other trends emerged in the last years before the outbreak of the First World War?