740.00119 Control (Austria)/3–1949: Telegram

The United States High Commissioner for Austria (Keyes) to the Department of the Army

secret
priority

P 3156. From USFA signed Keyes, cite PADC for action to Department of Army for JCS and to State. British High Commissioner has presented United States and French High Commissioners and United States and French Ministers with identical aide-mémoires 2 setting forth proposal of British Government to instruct British High Commissioner to modify his attitude toward admission of new political (Austrian) parties. Reasons set forth are that present control (based on quadripartite decision of September 19453) is interference in Austrian internal affairs and no longer justified; the danger from splinter parties is not considered serious risk to coalition; “that purpose of proposal which they have in mind would simply be to free the occupying powers from the embarrassment of continued interference in Austrian internal affairs. Their proposal would have the additional merit that, if the Soviet Government rejected it, the Western powers would at least have shown the Austrians that they had tried to secure for them a greater measure of independence from allied control”. Before so instructing British representative, full agreement of United States and French elements was desired.

After careful and thorough consideration and review, I am advising General Galloway that I am unable to give the agreement sought and propose to adhere to my current position.

[Page 1207]

The 3 Western powers have maintained Austria would best be served by restricting political activity to the 3 existing major parties.

Nothing has been presented as proof that the proposed action will result in any accrued benefit for Austria as a whole from the point of view of the mission of the occupying powers.

While the proposed change of policy may outwardly appear as a removal of interference in the internal political life of Austria, it will, in effect, constitute subtle intervention in behalf of the Socialist Party. As this controversy is purely one between the People’s Party and the Socialist Party it must be apparent that the stand taken by the occupying powers, individually or collectively, must favor one party or the other. Consequently, the proposal of the British, regardless of how it is dressed up, is merely the transfer of the advantage which the People’s Party, the present party in power, now enjoys to the Socialist Party, which has sought aid and encouragement from the British Labor Party. I cannot recommend changing horses in the middle of the stream.

I feel that any embarrassment in retaining control over the admission of new political parties at this critical time must surely be less than that accruing from imposition of occupation costs, the renouncing of which would have a much better long-range beneficial value to Austria than the relinquishment of control over a multitude of splinter parties just prior to a national election.

Our policy has been to strive for and support national political stabilization within Austria—in other words, the status quo. It must be recognized that there will be certain conflicts between our declaration supporting the sovereignty and independence of Austria and the practical implementation in the face of Soviet participation. Our control over political parties for the purpose of maintaining political stability and avoiding political disturbances in this critical period is certainly as easily defeated [defended] as the control and veto of Austrian laws, the imposition of immunities, the relinquisitioning [requisitioning] of dwellings and services, etc.

[
Keyes
]
  1. Not found in Department of State files.
  2. The reference here is to the proclamation of September 11, 1945, of the Allied Council which, inter alia, required all political parties in Austria to be approved by the Council. For the text of the proclamation, see Gazette of the Allied Commission for Austria, No. 1 (December 1945–January 1946), p. 26; a summary of the proclamation is printed in Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. iii, p. 683.