860F.00/3–148: Telegram

The Minister in Austria (Erhardt) to the Secretary of State


259. First effect of Czech developments1 on Austria has been sobering and deeply disturbing. Feeling of isolation and little security arising from Austrian geographical position has been sharply increased and first expressions of doubt concerning desirability of state treaty at this time are being heard.

Socialist leaders have hastened in public statements to draw sharp distinction between Austria and Czechoslovakia to point out that Czechoslovak Communists had 38 percent of vote and Austrian only 5 percent, that Austrian Socialists are unanimously anti-Communist and have no Fierlinger among leadership, that Socialists not Communists control trade unions, and that all strategic positions in government are held by two major parties. Schaerf and Helmer in speeches over week-end have stated Socialist determination to resist totalitarian pressure and even leader of weak Socialist left-wing has publicly declared his conviction that collaboration with Communists would be fatal. Interesting to note, however, that Austrian Socialist leaders have long nourished illusions about Czechoslovak Socialist party and Only very recently did they finally admit Fierlinger is Communist stooge and that they welcomed Lausman triumph at party congress in November as demonstrating Czechoslovak Social Democrats would play resolutely anti-Communist role.

People’s party leaders have reacted with equal vigor against Czechoslovak coup but have shown unfortunate tendency to seek electoral advantage by highlighting role of Czechoslovak Social Democrats in Communist victory and emphasizing that only sure bulwark against Communists in Austria is People’s party. This attitude has caused considerable apprehension among Socialists who appear more keenly aware of importance of maintaining coalition unity under present circumstances.

Communists are, of course, jubilant, and Fischer in Volkstimme editorial states that now is time for Socialists to proclaim their colors, that there is no longer a “third way”, but only way of Italian, Hungarian, and Polish Socialists, or way of Bevin and Blum that Austrian Socialist leaders have chosen to ally with most reactionary wing of European Socialism but that Austrian working class will sooner or later create unified front of progressive forces.

While leaders of non-Communist parties in press are striving to give impression that Czechoslovak coup is not materially affecting Austrian situation and that prompt conclusion of state treaty remains primary [Page 1383] Austrian goal, note of doubt and confusion is, nevertheless, apparent in private conversations. It would appear that leaders may be reexamining all factors which might conceivably cause them to modify attitude toward treaty and withdrawal of occupation forces.

Sent Department 259; repeated to London for USDel 42, Praha 9.

  1. For documentation on the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia see volume iv .