No. 476

763.001/1–251: Telegram

The United States High Commissioner for Austria ( Donnelly) to the Secretary of State


1643. I called on Figl and Schaerf today to obtain their views on current conditions in Austria. I found Vice Chancellor Schaerf in very serious frame of mind, and greatly concerned over possibility new Communist disorders in late February–early March and in May on occasion of Communist Youth Congress.

Indication of trouble in February seen in continuous training of Communist strongarm squads in the Soviet Zone for forcible seizure of industrial installations and public utilities, and Communist inspired demand for 20 percent wage boost which is presently gaining ground. Communists would use unemployment, high cost of living and shortage raw materials as other propaganda devices to stir up agitation for disorder and anti-US sentiment. Disorders according to Schaerf would start simultaneously in Vienna, Linz and in other industrial areas in the provinces, with similar means employed as during October uprisings.1 Danger seen greater, however, owing to high unemployment which might prevent effective control of workers by Socialist Party. Full employment would insure firm Socialist grip on 70 percent of labor force, thus reducing eventual uprising to scale where it could easily be coped with. Schaerf therefore recommended speedy release of substantial amount of counterpart funds to combat unemployment and requested waiver of condition that detailed 1951 program must be submitted prior to releases. Complaining about slowness of Austrian ERP Bureau in developing program, Schaerf thought pressure should be applied there. Called early counterpart releases only significant contribution we could make toward moral support of Austrian people.

Schaerf’s Communist drive for wage boosts aided by weak attitude certain provincial governors. Thus, Governor of Vorarlberg recently granted 10 percent wage boost to provincial employees. [Page 1022] Schaerf indicated this action might force federal government to grant like increase in salaries to federal employees which would cost government 600,000,000 schillings.

To my question as to ultimate purpose of Communist uprising Schaerf replied intention was to overthrow Austrian Government.

Chancellor Figl, although admitting likelihood of Communist inspired riots in February or March, took more sanguine view. Referring to recent establishment of four special riot squads of company size within Vienna police, and noting improvement of police weapons owing to recent US issues, Figl considered security force is capable of controlling situation. He agreed, however, that reduction of unemployment was essential to minimize effect of Communist inspired disturbances. He said government was fully aware of problem and that it would act next week.

I suggested to Figl and Schaerf that there has been a lot of loose talking and planning about this problem and that it seemed to me that what is now needed is positive action. They agreed and said the government would move fast from now on.2

  1. For documentation concerning the disturbances in Austria during September and October of 1950, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. iv, pp. 404 ff.
  2. In telegram 1832 from Vienna, February 23, Donnelly informed the Department that the Austrian Government’s fear of serious Communist disorders was greatly reduced because of increased employment and the government’s new policy which permitted bargaining for higher wages on an individual factory level rather than a national level. (763.001/2–2351)