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740.00119 Control (Germany)/10–2048: Airgram

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

secret

A–451. Our despatch no. 390, August 31, 1948.1 The request of the Austrian Democratic Union to form a political party was discussed again by the Allied Council on October 15. Further study of this question in the Political Directorate brought to light no new information. The U.S. and British representatives maintained that it was necessary to determine whether this group actually commands sufficient support to justify recognition, whereas the Soviets claimed that any party should be recognized whose program does not contradict the Allied Council decision of September 11, 1945, that is does not advocate Nazism, hostility to the allies, or other undemocratic doctrine. The French representative in the Political Directorate reversed his previous position and supported the Soviets.

In the Executive Committee all elements supported the positions of their representatives in the Political Directorate, but in the Allied Council the French once again reversed themselves and refused to support the Soviet resolution recommending recognition of the Democratic Union unless more information were obtained about the Nazi background of the party leaders. The British and U.S. representatives said very little, merely maintaining that nothing new had been brought to light by the Political Directorate in the restudy with which it had [Page 1440]been charged and that there was no need to discuss the question further. The Soviet member, after vain attempts to induce the western members to argue the point, closed with a prepared statement denouncing the hypocritical attempt of the Anglo-Saxons to safeguard reaction by denying fundamental liberties. The question was dropped, although the Soviets reserved the right to bring it up again.

Press comment on the Democratic Union October 16 and 17 was marked by a lack of clarity as to the issues involved, as in the comment on the previous Allied Council discussion of the question. The U.S. and British representatives had not been forced in either meeting to affirm their support of the doctrine that small splinter parties should not be recognized; thus the newspapers did not mention this general position. The Socialist Arbeiter Zeitung, whose reaction was most important and which, after the previous AC discussion, carried a lead editorial calling for an end to allied interference with Austrian political parties, had merely a brief notice stating that the three western powers desired more information. The People’s Party in Kleine Volksblatt had a rather ambiguous editorial on the general question of new parties, which argued that they are undesirable and a danger to stable government and at the same time that they can get no support and thus will have no effect. The Soviet Oesterreichische Zeitung made the most of the issue, devoting its main headline and a front page article to it on the 16th and a lead editorial on the 17th. However, the paper missed its best point and took the orthodox line that the U.S. and Britain would have been willing enough to recognize a Nazi or reactionary party, leaving the impression that the Democratic Union is in some way particularly “democratic” in the eastern sense. It is precisely a reactionary and even Nazi party which would endanger the People’s Party and which the Socialists have shown the most inclination to flirt with. The Communist Volksstimme launched the only effective barb with its headline “Americans protect the OeVP from Dissolution in a Breach of the Austrian Constitution.”

Thus public opinion does not seem to have reacted very unfavorably to the first western effort to stop the formation of a, political party. The only consequence of our position which may possibly be unpleasant is the reaction of the Socialist party leaders. After the first AC discussion of the Democratic Union the Socialists protested to the French and British and informally to a member of this Legation. However, they have not since then taken a strong stand on the question, and a representative of the British Legation who spoke to Socialist leaders after the AC meeting of October 15 felt that they did not intend to press their opposition to the western position. On October 16 Minister of the Interior Helmer spoke informally to a member of this Legation and asked him the reason for the U.S. position. He was told of information which this office has received of contacts between the [Page 1441]Democratic Union and the Soviet element. It should be noted here that the U.S. position was not originally taken because of these contacts, which, while considered a possible eventuality, were not at that time definitely known to exist. Minister Helmer was interested in this fact and finally agreed that as long as parties are not completely free in Austria it would not be advisable to recognize this group, which might eventually be used to sell out non-Communist votes to the Communists.

Erhardt
  1. Not printed.