Memorandum by the Acting Special Assistant, Office of German and Austrian Affairs (Beam) to the Secretary of State


The British Minister has presented a note to the Department1 requesting that the United States reconsider its position with respect to the recognition of new political parties in Austria. The U.S. High Commissioner to date has insisted upon upholding the Allied Council decision of September, 1945, which establishes conditions making it impossible for new political parties to be created. Considerable pressure has been brought not only by the British Government, but also by the Austrian Socialist Party to obtain a change in the U.S. position. The leader of the Austrian Socialist Party has informed the United States Deputy on the Austrian Treaty in London that the Socialist Party may find it necessary to challenge the elections which will be held on October 9 unless provision can be made to permit various groups of electors in Austria to function as political parties in the elections.

This question has long presented a problem in the Allied Council, and at present the United States element is supported only by the French who have expressed a willingness to change their position at an appropriate time to repeal the 1945 decision. The British and Soviet elements have informed the Austrians that they will not enforce the decision in their zones. A recommendation was sent by the Department to General Keyes that the Allied Council decision must either be upheld uniformly in all four zones or be repealed.2 He chose to insist that the Allied Council decision be upheld and in the attached telegram P 3579 of July 113 has forcibly stated his view that no new political parties should be created. General Keyes further requests that he be consulted prior to a change in policy in this matter.

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The United States position on this question is no longer tenable and our policy should be changed to permit the unhampered activity by political groups in Austria. The attached telegram from the Secretary to General Keyes comments on the need for such action and asks him to concur in the recommendations. No reply should be made to the British memorandum until General Keyes’ recommendations have been received.

Recommendations: It is recommended that the attached telegram be signed.


Draft Telegram by the Secretary of State to the United States High Commissioner for Austria (Keyes)4

us urgent

Personal for Gen Keyes from the Secretary. Pls transmit fol message to Gen Keyes:

I have considered at length the problem raised by your P 3579 July 11 and various messages from our Legation with respect to the situation affecting new political parties in Austria. This question has now become acute not only in terms of various pressures but also by reason of the approaching elections and the possibility that the first draft of the Treaty may be completed by the deadline of Sept 1 as set by the Ministers at Paris.

I consider that our general approach to all questions in Austria should take into account the possibility of Treaty settlement and should be based on the objective that the maximum number of functions now exercised by the Allied Council be transferred progressively to the Austrian Government.5 Such action is necessary in order to create in Austria as soon as possible the situation which will exist after the completion of the Treaty and the subsequent liquidation of Allied controls.

With specific reference to the forthcoming elections we should allow maximum opportunity for the expression of the democratic will of the Austrian people and permit political activity to take place without interference in order that the election may reflect the Austrian [Page 1217]popular will and take into account all shades of difference existing within the present major parties. We should neither favor nor hinder any particular party in the present coalition but should make it abundantly clear to the leaders of both parties that their complete cooperation and coalition is even more necessary after the elections than it was under military occupation in order to meet and to deal effectively with the Communist threat and to fulfill the terms of the Treaty.

It seems to me that the situation which gave rise to the decision of the Allied Council in 1945 concerning the formation of new political parties no longer prevails in Austria and that we need not fear the consequences of unlimited political activity which were taken into account at that time. I recommend, therefore, that you inform the leaders of the People’s Party and the Socialist Party that the United States is prepared to agree to the repeal of this particular decision for the reasons which have been stated. I would appreciate receiving your recommendations for the repeal of any other decisions of the Allied Council still in force which limit the activities and responsibilities of the Austrian Government.

I consider that the repeal of the 1945 decision is necessary if we are to avoid charges of discrimination by either political party or by other occupation powers. I do not believe that we can effectively stop the Austrians from engaging in political party activity under the present election law. Such action would in itself destroy the Allied Council decision of 1945 and would seriously weaken the authority of the Allied Council within Austria.

Finally, I consider that the repeal of this decision would demonstrate our confidence in the Austrian people and our belief that the forthcoming elections will choose a government which is dedicated to the maintenance of democratic institutions.

I hope you will reconsider our position in the light of my comments. If you concur with my recommendations I will request our Ambassadors in Paris and London to transmit the foregoing recommendations to the British and French Governments for their information.

  1. Not printed.
  2. See telegram 508, May 25, p. 1211.
  3. Supra.
  4. On the source text Williamson had written: “This telegram was sent to General Keyes by the Department of the Army—July 15, 1949 WAR 91539.”
  5. In the source text at this point the following sentence had been deleted: “Consequently, steps should properly be taken at this time to repeal Allied Council legislation limiting the activities of the Austrian Government or placing restrictions on its sovereign rights.”