863.00/5–549: Telegram

The Chargé in Austria (Yost) to the Secretary of State


495. Reference Legtel 477, May 2.1 Helmer’s rash statement on [Page 1210]fourth party question has created considerable confusion in People’s Party but seems to have strengthened opposition of western occupation powers to Socialist stand.

During call on Vice Chancellor May 3 to introduce Dowling2 Schaerf raised question on his own initiative and made quite clear Helmer statement represents official position Socialist Party and that party has no intention of withdrawing from this position. In reply to query as to attitude of People’s Party, he said no Austrian could contest legal position based on Austrian constitution and that only unanimous action Allied Council could prevent new parties from appearing on ballot. He repeated this statement several times and it was obvious he did not expect any such unanimous action. As to previous action of AC he took position that it forbade parties to campaign but not to appear on ballot. He maintained that it would be impossible for any Austrian official to refuse to inscribe on ballot any party not excluded by Austrian law. Schaerf was most friendly but it was quite obvious he was determined by hook or by crook to thwart our efforts to prevent new parties from participating in elections.

Matter has been discussed with both Figl and Gruber, who of course insist that Helmer’s statement does not represent Austrian Government position, that it is not justified legally and that it is most unfortunate. They seem, however, somewhat at a loss to know what position their party should take and avoided discussion of the issue at this week’s cabinet meeting. Gruber reiterated to us at length arguments against the fourth party with which Department is fully familiar but seemed to hope that action by Allied Council would relieve People’s Party of necessity of taking public stand on this issue. Fact is of course that Socialist emphasis on “sovereign democratic rights of Austria” is naturally popular with Austrian opinion and People’s Party does not wish to appear publicly as champion of overriding authority of Allied Council.

We feel that prompt action must be taken to reassert authority of Allied Council on this issue. British element here, which has always favored our point of view on this issue, also desires to take quick action, presumably to forestall further manoeuvers in London by Labor Party supporters of Austrian Socialists. We understand Bevin had intended to reply May 2 to question in Parliament on this subject by indicating that British were prepared to abandon AC control over formation new Austrian parties if other occupation powers would agree. Helmer’s statement, however, caused him to put off reply until next week.

Our present intention is to raise question in regular meeting of AC Political Directorate taking place today and endeavor to obtain agreement immediate despatch of letter to Minister of Interior from US [Page 1211]chairman of Directorate inviting attention to AC decision of September 11, 1945, and stating that this decision remains in full effect and that no new Austrian parties may campaign or participate in elections without prior notification to and approval by AC. If Soviets will not agree to despatch of such letter by Directorate, matter will probably have to be referred to Executive Committee.

Sent Department; repeated London for USDel 131.

  1. Not printed; it summarized Helmer’s speech to Socialist Party functionaries in which the Minister of the Interior stated that the formation of new Austrian political parties could not be prevented under Austrian law and that they would therefore have to be recognized and allowed to function. Helmer claimed the Allied Council decision of 1945 pertained to the 1945 election alone and the 1946 Control Agreement did not include approval of political parties among the prerogatives of the Allied Council. (863.00/5–249)
  2. Walter C. Dowling had been appointed Counselor of the Legation in Austria on May 1.