Joint statement of the Hungarian Workers’ Party (Magyar Munkáspárt) and the Party of Labour of Austria (Partei der Arbeit Österreichs), Budapest-Vienna, July 28, 2014
1. Hundred years ago on this very day, July 28, 1914, marks the beginning of World War I that started with Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war against Serbia. Supported by Germany and Turkey the Austro-Hungarian army began an imperialist war of aggression trying to secure its dominion and expand its territory. Furthermore, Austria-Hungary aimed at weakening Russia, Britain, France and Italy – the main imperialist competitors of the “Central Powers”.
2. Besides political interests economic objectives played a major role for the governments in Vienna, Budapest, Berlin and Istanbul in the war to come. Capitalism had evolved as world system and the great powers thus competed for the access to commodities, market shares, invest possibilities and cheap labour force according to the patterns of imperialism.
3. Against this background it is safe to say that none of the imperialist great powers conducted a “just war”. For all of them it was only a matter of gaining spheres of influence, power, colonies, military and economic strongholds, resources and financial assets. The interests, goals, deeds and role of Austria-Hungary will be the focus of our attention.
4. The Austro-Hungarian Compromise and the creation of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1867 gave the two founding nations a privileged position within the empire. The others – among them Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians, Poles, Ukrainians, Italians, Slovenes, Croatians, Bosniaks and Serbs – were oppressed nations, nationalities or ethnicities who were denied their right of self-determination. It were especially the Slavic peoples who resisted against the Austrian and Hungarian supremacy.
5. There were only insufficient steps toward democratization under the continuing rule of the House of Habsburg – as Emperors of Austria and Apostolic Kings of Hungary. In Austria universal suffrage was granted to male citizens in 1906/07, whereas Hungary sustained privilege and census suffrage, which meant continuing supremacy of the nobility, the large landowners and the capitalists. The working-class movement in Austria-Hungary not only fought for democracy, but also for socialism.
6. Thus internal conflicts of Austria-Hungary also played a role in World War I. In the course of the war the democratic and national movement could be further suppressed. The consolidation of the Austrian and Hungarian supremacy together with the forces of capitalism and large estate ownership was an indirect objective of the war.
7. In the course of the war around eight million Austro-Hungarian soldiers were under arms; approximately 1,5 million soldiers fell in the battles, two million were injured, 1,7 million became prisoners of war. Austria-Hungary waged an unrelenting war: The army made itself guilty of severe war crimes committed against opposing soldiers and against civilians, especially in Serbia and the rest of the Balkans, but also on the Austrian-Italian front, for example, by using weaponized toxic gas.
8. For Austro-Hungarian imperialism and its allies the war ended in defeat; the objectives of war were not achieved: The leading imperialist powers – Britain, France and the US – proved to be superior. The loss of the war had grave ramifications for the Austro-Hungarian realms.
9. The multiethnic state of the Habsburgs shattered into pieces. The previously oppressed nations and ethnicities formed their own national states or joined existing ones in accordance with the right of self-determination. The House of Habsburg gave up any stakes in the government affairs in Austria and Hungary. The Treaties of Saint Germain (for Austria) and Trianon (for Hungary) also included clauses – if nothing else regarding territory – which served as the basis for further conflicts of the 20th century and partly still exist today.
10. The aftermath of the war and continuing social injustice lead to revolutionary efforts within the working class in Hungary and Austria in the years 1918 and 1919. While the Social Democratic Party suffocated the revolutionary movement in Austria by leading it astray with false promises, a socialist Soviet republic was established in Hungary. The Red Army of the Hungarian Soviet Republic – which included Austrians volunteers – was defeated by the counterrevolutionary “National Army” and foreign intervention groups. The revolution was crushed and the revolutionary forces were hunted down by White Guard terror.
11. Subsequently, politics in Austria and Hungary more and more turned towards an authoritarian direction. In both countries fascist dictatorships were established (in Austria only after the suppression of the armed resistance in 1934). Hungary became an ally of the German fascism even before World War II; Austria was annexed by Nazi-Germany in 1938. In this way Austrian and Hungarian soldiers participated side by side as well as inside the German Wehrmacht in the criminal war of extermination and genocide lead by the Hitler regime.
12. With the experiences of the two World Wars in mind we say that imperialism as a system is incapable of peace. The imperialist states permanently wage “small wars” and unleash again and again big ones. The reason for this is imperialist competition. The imperialist great powers are most responsible of the threat of war with USA, Britain and France leading the way including their alliances like NATO and EU. Germany that is regaining strength uses its dominance in Europe to be a global power once again. Therefore we conclude that imperialism as a world system has to be overcome to make imperialist wars impossible in the future. We reject imperialist instruments of power like NATO, EU, IMF and World Bank. We confide in anti-imperialism and antimilitarism.
13. Imperialism not only is a methode of military great power politics; it is the highest stage of capitalism. It is the banks, the corporations and the military that rule imperialist capitalism. There is a constant battle by way of capital export, interventions and occupation of spheres of influence that enslaves and exploits whole peoples, and there is only one reason for that: the capitalist strive for maximal profit. We are full cognizant of the fact that only overcoming capitalism and the establishment of a classless society will lead to world in which not only war, but also exploitation and oppression, unemployment and poverty will be unknown. We acknowledge that the attempt of establishing a socialist society in Hungary failed in 1989 for different reasons. We honestly draw a lesson from this fact to avoid future mistakes. The developments since 1989, however, have shown that capitalism and imperialism have nothing to offer for humanity except systematically deteriorating living conditions in the spheres of labour, social affairs, education, healthcare, habitation and so on. Today – hundred years after the beginning of World War I – we see that the world once more is faced with being dragged into a new global war by the forces of capitalism, imperialism and fascism. We therefore confide in anti-capitalism and antifascism.
14. The Hungarian Workers’ Party and the Party of Labour Austria hereby declare that they will concentrate their efforts in the joint struggle for democratic and social progress, for the rights of the working class and oppressed peoples, for a just society beyond capitalism and last but not least for peace. Therefore we look to internationalism and cooperation, to the revolutionary traditions of our people, to the strength that has to be regained, and the will of freedom of the Austrian and Hungarian working class and the oppressed popular strata.