Austria and Pan-Germanism

THE Pan-German synthetic annexation scheme, as it is now defined by prominent advocates and adherents of the movement, embraces not only the German-speaking populations of Austria, but includes in its political orbit Bohemia with its admixture of Czech and Slovak, and the Slavonic and Latin elements of Carniola and Istria, while it aims at the assimilation of the Teutonic cantons of Switzerland.

The state thus formed will number some 70,000,000 of inhabitants, of which 62,000,000 are of German race and speech, 6,000,000 of Czech and Slovak stock, and scant 2,000,000 (on the Adriatic seaboard) of pure Latin or mixed Slavonic origin. This percentage of alien blood, admitted reluctantly and by force of geographical and commercial conditions, is by reason of its density — especially in Bohemia — a source of considerable perturbation to those Pan-Germanists who view the synthetic movement from the ethnological standpoint alone. To the vast majority of practical PanGermanists the unavoidable and, in reality, insignificant admixture of races is lost sight of in the splendid opportunity offered by the geographical acquisitions in the Mediterranean basin. Not only do the ports of the German Ocean and the Baltic obtain direct railway connection with those of the Adriatic, but by means of the Danube, and the proposed system of canals uniting that river with the Rhine and other German waterways, a cheap and facile access is secured to the Black Sea and the “ Hinterland ” of Asia Minor, while over railways built and controlled by German capital the industrial output of the Fatherland can (within a few years) be advantageously distributed along the shores of the Persian Gulf.

It will be readily understood that such an amalgamation of political, industrial, and commercial interests must entail not only the destruction of the existing political equilibrium of Europe, but radically revolutionize the economic factors regulating the trade channels of the world. The object of the present study is, therefore, to establish, as comprehensively as is feasible in the limited space at my disposal, an appreciation of the national and political solidarity of the Pan-Germanic movement; together with the probable economic results, in so far as they are likely to affect international relations, not excluding those with the United States ; and to examine the probabilities of the formation of a European coalition to safeguard the integrity of Austrian territory.

The entrance of the United States as an active participant in international affairs, as well as a competitor in the world’s industrial centres, assigns to her diplomacy no vague and sentimental rôle in European politics. President Roosevelt, in his recent message to Congress, expressed the conviction that “ whether we desire it or not, we must henceforth recognize that we have international duties no less than international rights.” Nor would it be correct to infer that such responsibilities can be limited to the protection of our interests in the far Orient.

While the present financial crisis in Germany would appear to disprove the arguments of those who contend that the United States is menaced by a dangerous industrial competitor, it would be unwise to underestimate the inevitable and very considerable development which is likely to follow closely upon the materialization of the schemes for a “Greater Germany,” so ardently and so pertinaciously advanced by the adherents of Pan-Germanism. The economic struggle will be a fierce and protracted one. It is, moreover, inconceivable that with the declaration of a war of tariffs, and the contest for supremacy in the world’s markets, political friendship should coexist. This aspect of the situation is fully understood in Germany, and the realization of the Pan-Germanic principle will undoubtedly find our Teutonic rivals adequately prepared.

The attitude of the United States toward militant Pan-Germanism, together with its schemes for the disruption of the Austrian Empire, cannot therefore be one of indifference.

The commercial aspect of the question is significant, although the nature of our principal exports to Germany to-day precludes any adequate appreciation of the essentially industrial competition which is feared. Statistics show that during the last decade exportations from the United States to Germany increased from 405,000,000 marks in 1890 to 907,000,000 marks in 1899, while the same period registers a shrinkage in German exports to the United States of nearly 40,000,000 marks (416,000,000 in 1890 against 377,000,000 in 1899). Overconfident enthusiasts in the United States will see in these figures reason to snap their fingers at the spectre of German competition, and accuse the writer, perhaps, of “ reckless assertion based on groundless assumption.” It is probable, however, that triumphant Pan-Germanism would entail the loss of the major portion of this trade, while it would indubitably mean the total exclusion of American manufactures from the markets of the amalgamated Teutonic states. And such exclusion of American manufactured products would as inevitably follow should triumphant Pan-Germanism take the form of territorial annexation, or assume the temporary disguise of a Zollverein extending to the furthermost limits of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as it is now constituted. German manufactures have reached a high degree of technical perfection, counterbalanced in the present instance, it is true, by certain economic disadvantages ; but these, it is claimed, the practical application of Pan-Germanic theories would speedily overcome. Nor is the expenditure of any considerable rhetorical effort necessary to demonstrate that the partial loss of the raw material at present drawn from the United States need not cripple, or prove unrenmneratively onerous to, the industrial manufactures of a commercial nation practically controlling the carrying trade of the eastern Mediterranean and the Orient, which has both sources of supply and markets so readily and cheaply accessible from national emporiums at Trieste and adjacent Adriatic ports, or by means of fluvial communication with the grain and petroleum depositories of Russia.

Mr. Williams in his Made in Germany has opened English eyes to a true appreciation of the peril to which British manufactures are exposed. The conditions governing the American output are, of course, very different; yet, given the industrial and political coalition referred to above, and the ability of the American manufacturer to oust his Teuton competitor from the markets of Europe and the near East is at least debatable. The political, industrial, and financial amalgamation — the pooling of the combined interests of 70,000,000 Germans, possessing in a major or minor degree characteristics and aptitudes which have made Germans commercially preëminent the world over, and their competition in many instances irresistible — suggests a problem which Americans, in spite of the vast natural resources at their command, and an apparent unassailable financial preponderance, would be ill advised to ignore.

It is, consequently, this pooling of international interests, not the individual industrial competition of German or Austrian manufactures, which concerns us. Nor need we stop to examine those most intangible of financial wraiths — the “ invisible trade balances ” — which supposedly regulate the swing of the pendulum in our commercial and social intercourse with Europe, and which some experts assert are not so overwhelmingly in our favor as official figures would indicate.

In one form or another, and through a dozen crises of German history, the Pan - Germanic principle has made itself felt in Central Europe for centuries. Previous to the Congress of Vienna the rulers of Austria had maintained a crushing supremacy in the hierarchy of German princes. After 1815, however, Metternich, and his successors in office, had reason to view with increasing apprehension the unobtrusive growth of the prestige of the House of Hohenzollern, and the gradual obfuscation of the star of the Hapsburgs as a luminary in the darkness of European politics. The cleverly dissimulated policy by means of which Bismarck led Austria to association in the outrage perpetrated in the Duchies of Schleswig-Holstein suddenly and rudely opened the eyes of European diplomacy to the magnitude of the peril, and to the realization that the rivalry between the ruling houses had entered upon a phase which must eventually culminate in the supreme struggle for mastery. To a less astute and far-seeing political mind than that of Bismarck it might have appeared that the humiliations of Austria in 1866 marked the opportune moment for the material triumph of Pan-Germanism together with the apotheosis of the Hohenzollern. An offensive and defensive alliance had been concluded between Prussia and Italy, and Italians were in a mood to be disproportionately grateful for the part played by Prussia in securing the incorporation of the coveted Venetian provinces with the Kingdom of Italy, and already inclined to belittle the importance of French assistance in 1859. A satisfactory arrangement for the disposition of the Trentine — the Italian - speaking Tyrol — would undoubtedly have overcome the scruples of Italian politicians had the victor of Sadowa formulated demands for territorial concessions. Bismarck had, however, too vivid a consciousness of the inevitability of the coming struggle with France to risk the complete alienation of a crippled but still formidable rival, or to excite by a too apparent show of Prussian arrogance the jealous susceptibilities of the rulers of southern Germany, whose sodality formed the corner-stone of the ambitious edifice of United Germany. Nor even after 1870 could the condition of European politics or the internal affairs of the empire have warranted an attempt to coerce the dynastic sympathies of the German-speaking subjects of Francis Joseph.

Those who presaged the foundation of the German Empire as the beginning and not the end of national development looked to Pan-Germanism for the fulfillment of their ambition. Notwithstanding his prudent reserve, or his public opposition to militant international PanGermanism, there is ample proof that Bismarck recognized the rational connection between the ambitions of the movement and the commercial requirements of the empire. While, for reasons already given, he discountenanced his royal master’s covetousness in 1866, he ceaselessly labored to guide the forces he could not control. He disclaimed any ambition for the possession of territories the heterogeneous composition of whose populations and the disquieting increase of the Catholic element in national representation would, he judged, prove more detrimental than beneficial. The guiding spirits of to-day belong to a different school, or are perhaps impelled by forces which inexorably constrain a modification of the theories held by a former generation. The value of a sentimental basis in popular action when dealing with adjacent linguistic territories has not been lost sight of; yet, as has been evinced by the policy relentlessly pursued in the French districts of Alsace and Lorraine, official Pan-Germanism is determined to eliminate where it cannot assimilate. “ Salus Germaniæ suprema lex ! ” The Slavonic and Latin elements in Carniola and Istria will be counted but infinitesimal obstructions in the broad swath to be cut for Teuton feet to tread from the shores of the Baltic and the German Ocean to the headwaters of the Adriatic.

Meanwhile prudent conservative PanGermanism relies on the numerous international associations founded for the propaganda of its tenets. A host of such societies, political, religious, or economic, all more or less openly and avowedly connected with the movement, exert unmolested their seditious influence within Austrian territory. Mindful of Bismarck’s warnings, and with the memories of the “ Kulturkampf ” still so fresh, the workers in Austria strive to combine the religious with the political Protestantism of the Pan-Germanic principle. Seeking to minimize the inconveniences of a disproportionate Catholic parliamentary representation, the “ Gustav-Adolf Verein ” alone distributed in 1894 nearly 6,000,000 marks in its propaganda in about 600 evangelistic communes of Cisleithania. “ Los von Rom ” is the battle cry of the Pan-Germanists of the Fatherland ; and the Austrian society of that name is generously subsidized from the coffers of the associations beyond the Danube. “ Be free ; be Germans, and therewith also Protestants ! ” is the consecrated formula accompanying the printed exhortations scattered broadcast within Austrian dominions by the numerous emulators of the “ Alldeutscher Verband ” in their eagerness for religious and political proselytism.

With Austrian Catholics the principle of “ nationalism,” exalted by the alluring potentialities of the “ Weltpolitik,” while it may not destroy the devotional attitude toward Rome, goes far to counterbalance secular influences emanating from the Vatican. While the necessity for a “Greater Germany ” is perhaps less universally felt in Austria, it would be a mistake to suppose that the industrial and commercial classes alone anticipate a beneficent revival as the result of the political and economic broadening of the national horizon. Official, parliamentary, and private life alike contain and disseminate the germs of the principle — at once destructive and constructive— of Pan-Germanism. The industrial depression, or more correctly stagnation, from which Austria is now suffering would explain in a measure the attitude toward Pan-Germanism of those who discern amongst its benefits a remedy for overproduction, did not, indeed, a more careful scrutiny of the existing crisis lead to the conviction that the Austrian manufacturer, in the competition of the open markets of a “ Greater Germany ” with northern rivals immeasurably his financial superiors, must inevitably succumb. On the other hand the motives which sway the official and aristocratic sympathizers with the movement, while more complex and elusive, are probably also more disinterestedly “ nationalist,” and prompted by racial affinities. However this may be the subserviency of the political to the economic importance attached to Pan-Germanism in Austria affects but imperceptibly the significance of the movement in its entity, and is the result of individual surroundings rather than of divergence of opinion on fundamental principles.

The suppression of political and economic barriers between the Teuton nations must of necessity be of vast import to the whole of continental Europe ; but to no country would the triumph of PanGermanism constitute a more direct menace than to Italy.

The policy followed by the AustroHungarian government on the coast and in the hinterland of the lower Adriatic is construed by Italians as a moral preparation for territorial compensation in that direction for losses in another. A note of warning was recently sounded in the Italian Parliament by Signor Guicciardini, who significantly protested that Italy could never permit the absorption of Albania “by a first-rate power, or by a second - rate power which belongs to the political system of a first-rate power.” And he specifically insisted that the occupation of the ports of Valona and Durazzo, both magnificent natural harbors capable of development as military strongholds, must constitute a serious menace to the preëmptive rights and privileges of Italy in the land-locked waters of the Adriatic. Nevertheless the international character of the intrigues fomented in the Adriatic and lower Balkan peninsula is but imperfectly discerned. Abuse is freely heaped by Italian politicians and the press upon the Vatican, which is popularly credited with the instigation and secret advancement of Austro-Hungarian covetousness. So eager are the anti-clericals to detect evidences of the baneful influences of the Vatican and its efforts to attain the disintegration of Italian national unity, that the true purport of Pan-Germanism is overlooked, and the essential principles which guide the colossal movement are missed.

Italy’s commercial decadence in the Adriatic is unfortunately only too apparent. The condition of affairs at Venice, Ancona, Bari, and Brindisi is most unsatisfactory. The Queen of the Adriatic, fallen from her high estate, now ranks sixteenth in the order of importance of Italian seaports. But although the ascendency of Genoa is accountable for a corresponding wane of Venetian prosperity, owing to the partial deflection of her former trade, many are found who aver that cause and effect must be sought outside the limitations of commerce.

No refinement of hypercriticism, however, can neutralize the significance of the situation when comparison is drawn between Venice and Trieste. Here the geographical conditions demanded by modern trade requirements are practically similar, what slight advantage exists pointing rather toward Venice, which possesses more direct and shorter railway connection with important Central European emporiums. Yet while Trieste registers a steadily increasing gross tonnage, which in 1899 had attained a total of 4,354,000, Venice varied between an annual register of 2,407,000 in 1895 and 2,773,000 in 1899. The latter figure has, however, dwindled, according to statistics for 1900, to 1,260,000.

Gradually the fine fleets of the Austrian Lloyd and the Adria have driven competitors from the Adriatic, and with them the smaller Hungarian-Croatians and Ragusa now practically monopolize the coasting trade, and maintain international communication with the eastern fringe of those inland waters formerly termed comprehensively the “Gulf of Venice.” Numerically their combined fleets outnumber the Italians four to one, while in the case of the Austrian Lloyd the larger vessels which ply between Trieste, Brindisi, and the far East compare favorably with those of the great European lines.

Nor is this exodus from the waters of the Adriatic confined to Italian shipping alone. Venice, Ancona, and Brindisi have recently been abandoned by the vessels of the great British “ Peninsula and Oriental” Company, notwithstanding the subsidies accorded by the Italian government.

Austrian commercial supremacy in the Adriatic has been acquired by the investment of large capital, attracted and encouraged by generous subsidies ungrudgingly granted by the state to enterprises calculated to develop not only commercial resources, but political influences. With this object constantly in view the national expenditure of vast sums on steamship lines of doubtful commercial value, and the construction of strategical as well as industrial railways through the Adriatic hinterland, has been deemed sound political investment. In the near future direct railway communication will be opened between the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Gulf of Salonika, isolating Albania from the rest of the Turkish continental dominions. A branch line now connects the Dalmatian coast with Serajevo and Buda-Pest, and others calculated to afford ready access to the sea are being pushed forward.

Although excessive apprehension leads some critics to conclusions which cannot be substantiated by an analysis of the facts as at present known, there would seem small reason to question the activity of Pan-Germanism in shaping the policy adopted in the Adriatic basin. Moreover, it may be asserted with tolerable certitude that this influence will continue to be exerted with a view to the eviction of such vestiges of Italian commercial autonomy as still survive, together with the gradual absorption of international, political, and economic interests.

Turning to the field of political and social forces, it will be seen that the peril which threatens the realm of the Hapsburgs, although primarily founded on racial affinities, is to-day complicated with problems quite beside the original scope of Pan-Germanism. Undoubtedly a certain number still cling to the fundamental principles of their doctrine ; but the large majority lend their individual support to the propaganda with motives of an essentially material nature. This is proved, as we have seen, by the fact that the Pan-Germanist of to-day — very generally, if not universally — subordinates the synthetic and ethnological profession of his creed to the geographically advantageous commercial aspect.

In Austria the disaffection of an influential minority of the subjects of Francis Joseph does not in itself necessarily presage the disruption of that heterogeneous empire; yet it would be fallacious to suppose that the prevalent PanSlav agitation is without significance, although its aims and aspirations are not disloyal to the reigning house. In the words of an English critic1 the Slav population may have lax notions of subordination, and be disposed to “ treat their Emperor as a Neapolitan treats the image of his favorite saint; ” but at most they only wish to control him, not to part from him. Nor are the Czechs antidynastic ; neither do they aspire to make Austria a Czech empire. The Polish elements in Galicia, constituting nearly one half of the population of that province, or about 4,000,000 souls, sympathize more closely with their Austrian masters than with either their German or Russian neighbors. With these PanGermanism has no sentimental significance ; yet to them an economic federation of Central Europe might mean much.

The crisis which will precipitate the solution of this great political, social, and economic problem cannot long be deferred. It is hardly conceivable that — although sacred as a doctrine of government — the voice of the Pan-Germanic people will be passively accepted by diplomacy as the voice of God.

The shifting sands of European politics make it unprofitable to speculate on the alliances or coalitions which may be called into existence within the next three or four years. In a recent article, entitled Will Italy renew the Triple Alliance,2 I endeavored to outline the advantages and disadvantages to Italy as a partner in this compact, and hinted that its renewal was already compromised by the ambiguous policy adopted by the Austro - Hungarian government in the eastern Adriatic. France, Italy, Russia, England, and presumably the United States, will make their voices heard, singly or collectively. Pan-Germanists are fully aware that they will be called upon to vindicate any attempt at the practical application of their theories by force of arms. Three years hence (1905) Germany will be in a position to assert herself at sea as well as on land. Until that date, and as long after as circumstances necessitate, the Pan - Germanic propaganda will be unceasingly carried forward, for the issue is one of vital importance to the very existence of the state, and admits of no drawing back.

A word in conclusion. It would be a grave error for Americans to suppose that the focus of human energy has been displaced from the Old World to the New, and that the manufactures of continental Europe are doomed to speedy decay. The present economic crisis in Germany is due to local conditions which even limited expansion would obviate. Foreign manufacturers are becoming more universally convinced of the superiority and economy of American methods, and their adoption is spreading rapidly. Flattering as this may be as a tribute to American ingenuity, it constitutes fresh cause for apprehension when the difference in the scale of wages and living is considered.

With the formation of an economic federation of Central Europe the United States is powerless to interfere ; but the geographical and political disruption of Austria for the glorification of PanGermanism, and the opportunities for the exercise of the “ Weltpolitik ” of the “ Greater Germany ” thus formed, is an issue which must call for the active intervention of the world powers, amongst which the United States has assumed so important a place, and corresponding responsibilities.

Remsen Whitehous.

  1. The Spectator, December 14, 1901.
  2. The Atlantic Monthly, December, 1901.