The United States High Commissioner for Austria (Keyes) to the Department of the Army
P 3531. From USFA signed Keyes action to JCS and State.
- Subject is Austrian fourth party question. Reply to War 91539 dated 16  July.1 Reference my P 3579 dated 11 July.2
- My carefully considered position remains based upon the
following reasoning and convictions:
- That a further sub-division of Austrian political elements is not conducive to political stability nor social equilibrium.
- That a weakening in this respect would offer opportunities for Communist penetration not now present, through “divide-and-conquer” tactics which the Soviets have never before failed to exploit. By diversification of its political forces, Austria’s will to resist would inevitably be softened. [Page 1220]
- In the long range interests of the Austrians themselves and in fulfilling the spirit of our international commitments towards Austria’s destiny, it is the duty of the US element to provide the political stability and cohesion now discarded by the coalition in the struggle for advantage in the coming elections.
- That in practical reality, none of the new parties aspiring to participation offer any significant and genuinely beneficial choices to the voter which cannot be found in the platforms of one of the three existing parties.
- That the apparent inconsistency between US ideology and restriction of political expression here will be forgotten with other campaign charges immediately following the election, while the damage done by further dispersion of anti-Communist forces may be permanent.
- The present turmoil over the fourth party question was initially precipitated by the direct intervention of the British Labor Party, at the instigation of its Austrian counterpart. However, it is primarily a local election campaign issue, and would have been settled here except for the unexpected success of the Vice Chancellor’s tactics in aligning the support of the British Foreign Office. Therefore, the Socialist maneuver has disrupted a three year solidarity of the Western powers on the question of political parties. Viewing the Socialist success in dictating to the British High Commissioner and, through the same channels apparently gaining headway to some extent with the US, the People’s Party is now trying to demonstrate that it too can wield similar influence. Actually, the issue of allied control over political parties has now given way to a struggle over control of the US, British and French elements of the Allied Council. The political party question will be kept alive as a campaign issue only so long as the Austrian politicians are able to obtain advantages through intercession via indirect channels. There can be no doubt that the Soviet element profits from such a situation. Prolonging exploration inevitably draws the US element here more deeply into inter-party political disputes, and weakens the position and authority of the US High Commissioner.
- A US proposal to rescind the Allied Council decision of 11
September 1945 on control of political parties would enjoy
neither success nor support at the present time, i.e.:
- The British Deputy Commissioner called upon me on 18 July to state that his element no longer advocated nor desired to rescind this decision nor did it wish to consider additional political parties and hoped to avoid raising these questions in the Allied Council. The British element is embarrassed at its present position. While recognizing the possibility of concerted Nazi participation under the 100 voter clause, he hoped that this particular provision of the election law would serve to reconcile criticism of the Allied Council restriction [Page 1221]and provide dissident voters with ample choice in the exercise of their franchise.
- At an interview earlier on the same day, the French High Commissioner expressed his continued opposition to repeal of this Allied Council decision. He prefers that no additional parties be given quadripartite approval, but if it should become necessary recommends that such action be delayed as long as possible to minimize or eliminate their influence in the elections. He is even more disturbed than the British element at the possibility of Nazi groups utilizing the 100 voter clause to obtain representation.
- It is generally agreed that there is little likelihood of Soviet approval to alter the 1945 decision. Figl reported that in an interview on 14 July with the Soviet Deputy Commissioner, the latter emphasized his view that the decision of 11 September 1945 is still fully in force.
- On 15 July Chancellor Figl and Foreign Minister Gruber called on me and, rather than advocating recision of the 1945 decision, urged that I invoke it in the US Zone to suppress the political campaign being waged by Nazi groups, including the Association of Independents led by Herbert Kraus. While recognizing the responsibility of the Austrian Government in this matter, they professed the inability to intervene inasmuch as (a) it would appear as an election maneuver, and (b) the Socialist Minister of the Interior would have to be replaced in order to accomplish this, with a certain break-up of the coalition as a result. The Chancellor was reminded of his recent urgent arguments against additional parties on the grounds that the coalition should be maintained and Soviet tactics combatted. Gruber insisted that they were still of the same opinion, but believed the admission of new parties to be now unavoidable.
- The Socialist Party has evolved its interpretation that “election parties”, as opposed to “political parties”, are free to participate in the forthcoming elections without Allied Council approval and is no longer pressing for abolition of the 1945 decision.
- The Austrian Government has yet to make formal request to the Allied Council for recision.
- In Cable No. 859, 15 July,3 the Legation here does not recommend the elimination of the 1945 decision.
- If the Western elements unsuccessfully advocate abolition of allied controls over political parties, we shall henceforth have no bases for rejecting the application of new parties, no matter how objectionable including Nazis. This will result in surrender to the Soviet element of sole discretion as to which additional parties should or should not be permitted to exist.
- Although the election activity of the 100 voter groups is to a certain extent contrary to the AC decision, their apparent evasion is a nuisance that must be borne, while they still conform to Austrian law. Their existence will be insurance against fears of later challenge to the validity of the elections, and will provide an alternative to those dissatisfied with the present parties. The uncertain footing upon which [Page 1222]the fourth parties are now established serves to weaken their operation and discourage adherents. Certainly unilateral practical measures, i.e., use of force, to halt “illegal campaigning” are out of the question. Allied Council agreement to prohibit activity of unauthorized parties is unlikely—particularly since the Soviets regard the Kraus group as a source of embarrassment to the US element worth perpetuating. The visit of Figl and Gruber seemed to constitute principally a plea for US assistance to the People’ Party in order to offset the damage done in the recent exposure of their negotiations with ex-Nazis at Oberweiss. Due to the professed inability of the Austrian Government to undertake suppression of fourth party campaigning, they were requesting the US element to take this action. In separate interviews with me today (21 July) Figl and Gruber confirmed their views expressed on 15 July and again urged action against the Nazi-dominated groups in the US Zone.
- In further comment on WAR 91539, with the exception of the formation of an adequate Austrian Army, there is no Allied Council control still in force that cannot be assumed by the Austrian Government within a period of 90 days. The reasons which in 1945 gave rise to the establishment of allied controls over political parties still prevail today; the situation has changed only in the alignment of the great powers. Within a year the battle line between the East and West began to be drawn and defined and it is now clearly on this basis that parties which are unimportant or harmless in themselves today assume potential importance in serving Soviet purposes, particularly if obligated to the Soviet element for support of their recognition. Existing Austrian legislation cannot adequately guarantee the perpetuation of the safeguards established in Paragraph 1 of the Allied Council decision of 11 September 1945,4 either in the case of existing parties or in regard to possible future parties. To any Austrian, it must be obvious that our stand is against Communist penetration and not against Austrian democracy; as was acknowledged by Gruber in his subsequent interview on 21 July. Charges of suppressing democracy [Page 1223]will never be too impassioned so long as all political and other interested parties look to the US to pay the $150,000,000 treaty ransom. I must emphasize that unilateral US concessions are graciously applauded by the Austrians, but likewise satisfy the Communists and serve to establish more firmly than ever the initiative with the Soviets. We are moving toward a point when the making of concessions merely to laud democracy places one in the position of dying definitely yet gloriously defending his right-of-way on a hair-pin turn in the Alps.
- I fully appreciate the sincere recommendations of the State Department, but in the genuine interests of the future of Austria and of the US stake in the east-west struggle, cannot concur in the proposal to introduce into the Allied Council the recision of the 1945 decision.
- Printed as an annex to Beam’s memorandum, July 12, p. 1217.↩
- Ante, p. 1213.↩
“Effective this date democratic political parties are hereby allowed maximum freedom to develop their political activities throughout Austria, on condition that:
- They pledge themselves to the strengthening and maintenance of a free and independent Austria;
- They maintain democratic principles and the resolute fight against Nazi ideology in all its aspects and forms in political, social, cultural and economic life;
- They do not disturb public order as established by the rules and regulations of the occupying authorities;
- They do not carry on any activities against the Occupying Powers or any one of them, or against their troops in Austria.” (Gazette of the Allied Commission for Austria, No. 1 (December 1945–January 1946) p. 26.)