National Liberal Heirs of the Old Austria:
“Deviations” in Liberal Party Traditions, 1867-1918

Abstract: This paper provides a historical sketch of the developments of national liberal party traditions among Czechs, Germans, and Slovenes in the Cisleithanian half of the Habsburg Monarchy. It points out certain far-reaching transformations – structural as well as ideological – that these traditions underwent during the last quarter of the 19 th century and at the beginning of the 20 th century. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the complex interplay between ideologies, organized political movements, and political languages within the context of a rapidly changing political culture was the changing relationship between the national and liberal components within national liberalism. By 1900 the national came to visibly prevail over the liberal: nationalism was gaining in strength and intensity and was adopting new, more aggressive and integralist forms. The political parties stemming from the national liberal traditions were undergoing a process of fragmentation and their attempts to adjust to the unfolding political realities were mostly unsuccessful. The result was ideological diffusion, continuous loss of liberal identity, as well as adoption of new labels, employed either to mask liberalism or do away with it. From the turn of the century onwards it is therefore more proper to talk about “heirs of liberalism” in terms of party politics rather than simply “liberals”.

Introduction

This paper offers a broad historical sketch of the development of national liberal political traditions of the old Austria (the Cisleithanian half of the Dual Monarchy). It covers the years between 1867 and the First World War and focuses specifically on the German, Czech, and Slovene speaking lands. My main aim is to demonstrate how the discussed traditions underwent certain far-reaching transformations – structural as well as ideological – in the course of the last quarter of the 19th century and further. These transformations included, among others, shifts that might be considered illiberal or, in certain cases, even outright anti-liberal – particularly from the normative points of view of history of ideas, let alone political philosophy. This general historical overview will allow me to illustrate the quite complex interplay between ideologies, organized political movements, and political languages within the context of a rapidly changing political culture, as was certainly the case of the late Habsburg Empire and its individual nationalities. Moreover, this paper shall also help me illuminate the term “national liberal heirs” and explain the reasons for employing it in my scholarly work.

National Liberalism: A Central European Peculiarity

In terms of both ideologies and political party traditions it may be argued that in Central European lands in general, not only in Austria, a distinct type of liberalism, peculiar to this region evolved through the 19th century. For much of this period “the word ’national’ acted as more or less synonymous with ’liberal’” and “the term ’national’ alone was sufficient to arouse suspicions of liberal associations” (Janowski 80). To some extent this applies to Southeast European countries as well, in many of which national liberals also played visible if not central roles, but with rather different, region-specific characteristics, which to a considerable extent distinguished them from their Central European counterparts.[1]

In Central Europe the national “revivals” and unifications of the long 19 th century were projects pursued primarily by liberals. Liberty as the liberals’ core political ideal was perceived also – and sometimes even primarily – as “liberty for the nation,” that is national emancipation and unification, nations being sometimes perceived as “collective individuals” (Janowski 79). Similar could also be said of other ideas and principles related to liberalism such as citizenship, limited government, free trade, self-determination, reason, progress, individualism, civilization, civil society, with which “nationalism occasionally coalesced (…) or nested within,” while at some other points it might also have been resisting at least some of them (Freeden x). The struggle for constitutional order, civil liberties and equality before law went hand in hand with projects of nation building, based on notions of cultural or ethnic nation (often at the same time joined by arguments based on historical rights). Different socio-cultural contexts and absence of nation states (until 1867 in Hungary, until 1871 in Germany and until 1918 elsewhere) also impacted the emergence of political configurations and landscapes, different from those in Western Europe.[2]

It is therefore possible to speak about traditions of national liberalism as a common designation for a number of related ideologies and movements that arose in the time of the 1848 uprisings and later came to represent an increasingly important political factor in Central European lands. The German National Liberal Party (Nationalliberale Partei) may serve as a prime example of this phenomenon. A close relationship between liberalism and nationalism thus evolved,[3] albeit also an uneasy one, as proven, for instance, by the case of National Liberals becoming the government party in the German Empire, thereby having to “sacrifice” many of their earlier liberal demands for the sake of the German unification under the Prussian leadership.

National liberals perceived themselves as the main driving force of modernization, which strongly coincided with their nation-building projects. Being “the national party constructing modern national culture and identity” (Denes 1), they also strove to create a modern middle-class civil society and to reach the western (primarily British) levels of economic development within their own national contexts. As nationalists and modernizers, national liberals were often statists, centralists, opponents of free trade and therefore proponents of economic protectionism. Indeed, as Maciej Janowski has argued, a general impression one may get is that for Central European national liberals the category of “state” occupied at least an equally if not a more central place as “liberty” (Janowski 70).

Strengthening of the national economy was perceived as a very important and necessary step towards consolidation of the nation and general modernizing efforts. The aim of catching up with the more developed economies such as Britain could lead to adoption of neo-mercantilist economic doctrines, such as those of Friedrich List.[4] Even more importantly, the traditions of enlightened absolutism of Joseph II and of Frederick the Great were commonly “invoked by the liberals as their own” (Janowski 71). In the case of Catholic lands such as the Austrian ones, another distinct feature of national liberalism was a strong secularist orientation. The powerful, supranational, universalist church was namely perceived as endangering the primacy of the national idea and acting as an obstacle to social modernization.[5]

Particularly in a multi-national state such as the Habsburg monarchy, the evolution of liberal politics went hand in hand with national movements. One could therefore speak of a number of national liberal traditions, of which the German one was the first to appear and, due to the economically and culturally stronger position of Deutschtum (Germandom) at that time, initially also the strongest one. Czech liberals swiftly followed German liberals although it may be argued that their evolution reached its peak when Austro-German liberalism was already in decline (Lemberg 76). The Slovenes, however, residing in economically less developed areas and having a less diversified society, dominated by peasants and lower-middle classes (Cohen 248), entered the political stage a bit later. Initially, their national movement acted as unified with the more conservative wing dominating over those sections that were more liberally minded and those that were more vocal about national demands. A completely independent liberal party backed by a narrow but growing stratum of nationally minded entrepreneurial class appeared only in the 1890s (Vodopivec 14-15).

The Austro-German liberals, for instance, were not simply die Liberalen, but Deutschliberale, whereas the Czech and Slovene liberals initially adopted the name “the National Party.” Nationalism and liberalism were thus connected intrinsically whereby the nationalism in question was of a relatively inclusive and tolerant character – especially if contrasted with the integralist, exclusivist and chauvinist types that developed from the last decades of the 19 th century onwards and shall be discussed later in this paper. During larger part of the 19th century, the essentially national(-ist) orientation of the liberals did not imply hostile attitudes towards other nationalities and could be seen as compatible with the main liberal ideas. Particularly, the 1860s nationality politics of the Austrian German liberals – who after the December constitution of 1867 referred to themselves as Verfassungstreue – was largely distinguished by a position of an educated, “enlightened,” forward-looking elite who did not keep its door closed (at least in theory) to anyone. To a large extent, being liberal meant to them being German. And vice versa – it was the culture and Bildung that one possessed and not ethnic roots which enabled membership in the German liberal “community”.

It is important to point out here that the German-speaking Jews were not only acknowledged as belonging to the German nation, but were represented in quite high numbers in the national liberal movement. A very good example was Adolf Fischhof, an Austrian German Liberal politician, publicist, and writer of Jewish origin. He was a German nationalist, an Austrian Patriot, and a determined advocate of cultural and language rights for all the nationalities of the Habsburg Empire (Reifowitz 441-444). Unlike many of his liberal contemporaries from the Verfassungspartei (Constitutional Party of which he himself was never a member), he also spoke against merger with the German Empire, defending the idea of Austria as a Nationalitätenstaat (nationalities state or multinational state, as opposed to a Nationalstaat, or a nation state), founded and guided by a higher ethical ideal of justice and securing all of its nationalities with same rights and dignity (Fischhof 7-8, 51-52).

Following the 1848 call of František Palacky, the Czech National Party (Národní strana), despite being displeased with the Austro-Hungarian settlement, remained loyal to the united constitutional Austria as a guarantee of a free cultural and political development of its Slavic nations. And it is important to stress already at this point that none of the Austrian national liberal movements advocated full-blown separatism or complete abandonment of the Habsburg framework. As it will be demonstrated later, even their fin-de-siecle heirs, being far more pronouncedly and exclusively nationalist did not – with the exception of a few most radical factions – aim at destroying Austria. The generally valid distinction between national movements as such and aspirations for independent nation states (Janowski 78) thus deserves an especially careful consideration in the case of old Austria.

The national liberalisms of other Austrian ethnic groups modeled themselves partly on the German example while being in an increasing conflict with it. The German liberal Weltanschauung, however universalistic, inclusive, or cosmopolitan it may have been, could, when observed from a different angle – the one of aspiring national movements of Austrian Slavs, for instance – give an impression of paternalist if not outright hegemonic attitudes. Moreover, the national movements of Austrian Slavs, including those that may without much hesitation be labeled as national liberal (e.g., both the “Old” and the “Young Czechs,” “Young Slovenes”), commonly avoided or even rejected the “liberal” label, because of what they perceived to be a strong “German” connotation (Lemberg 62).

This conflict also had a very practical significance since the Austrian post-Ausgleich electoral order was formed in a manner in which German liberals had a majority in the Imperial Council although the German speakers represented only roughly one third of the Cisleithanian population. The ruling German liberals of the Constitutional Party were therefore clinging to centralism, which enabled them to stay in power for the time being. Generally speaking, they perceived the national aspirations of Austrian Slavs as backward-looking and conflicting with the principles of liberalism therefore representing a danger for the German urban liberal culture. Already in the 1860s, a joint front began forming in opposition to the German liberals, composed of representatives of Slavic nationalities, including liberals and German conservatives. A decade later these forces united themselves in Eduard Taafe’s “Iron Ring” coalition.[6]

Despite the ostensibly conflicting inner logic of national liberalism, that is the sometimes uneasy relationship between the national and the liberal components, the ideas and political culture espoused by the discussed national liberal movements still possessed a considerable degree of unity. Albeit differing from one another – especially in regard to the social power and status of their proponents – and perhaps not disposing with a fully coherent ideological complex, they possessed a general character that could be deemed as a fairly liberal one. Liberal in terms of the universalistic nature of their national ideals (Janowski 71, 78), the relatively cosmopolitan character of the culture they represented and fostered, their modernizing aims and belief in cultural and economic progress by means of education and gradual social reform, the relatively high degree of cultural, religious and national tolerance they espoused, their secularist orientation, and – last but not least – their strict adherence to the principles of constitutionalism, Rechtsstaat, and equality before law. Moreover, until the 1870’s the particular national liberal groupings of the Austrian peoples were united also in terms of organization. Not only were the liberal movements of particular nationalities not yet splintered, but also the Verfassungspartei was still open to non-Germans without demanding from them to completely denounce their heritage, especially if it was framed in terms of regional (crownland) culture and not nation . Particulary in the cases such as the Slovene one, where the unified national movement was dominated by conservatives, identifying as “liberal” could often mean identifying with the “German party” as well.[7]

The 1867 constitution , which was not merely a success for the centralist German liberals but may – in view of the civic as well as national rights that it instituted – in a certain sense be regarded as a step forward for liberals of all the national variants, made liberalism in Austria victorious. At the same time, however, it soon began its slow decline, undergoing numerous processes in the decades to follow, that made it become both less united and less liberal. These processes may be summed up as follows: a) Diminishing trust in liberal economic ideas, due to the long economic crisis following the 1873 Börsenkrach, as well as general reaction against individualism (Hoffmann 77); b) Disorientation connected primarily with the inability to cope with the ongoing political developments moving towards mass politics (resulting also in higher representation of non-German nationalities, as well as strata of population that “did not share the liberal Weltanschauung” (Fuchs 10); c) Ideological diffusion and transformation, connected with competition, influence, and eventual takeover by radical currents within the movement and resulting in continuous loss of liberal identity, usually in favor of a more pronouncedly nationalist one; d) Disintegration and a series of splits within the liberal movements; e) Mostly unsuccessful attempts to transform (in terms of organization) from Honoratiorenparteien[8] to modern, mass political parties.

Late 19 th century reconfigurations: The heirs of national liberalism

During the last quarter of the 19 th century the evolution of national liberal political traditions was increasingly influenced by ever more powerful radical democratic, nationalist, and socialist ideological currents, as well as general political and social developments leading, on one hand to a society increasingly marked by class divisions and, on the other, towards mass politics. Organized liberalism had to adapt to changing conditions of political life and unfolding political realities, slowly but persistently moving into the direction of mass democracy. Although full democratization occurred only in 1918, political participation increased and mobilization intensified enormously in the two decades leading up to the introduction of universal suffrage for men in 1907. At first, liberals tried to resist the change, as, for instance, the leaders of Verfassungspartei, aware of the dangers “from below” coming from the nationalist masses that were threatening the continuation of their power. They thus saw their “best defense” in “the maintenance of the restricted suffrage system” (Schorske 125), based on separate curiae, electoral census, and partly indirect representation.

The first visible division that emerged during 1870’s could, roughly speaking, be labelled as the one between the “left” and “right” liberalisms, with “right” denoting a moderately conservative (Gottas 66) and rather elitist approach to politics and the “left” implying more democratic and – within the context of Austria – more sharply nationalist tendencies and demands (Brandt 154). Such splits took place in 1871 in the Austrian German case when a more pronouncedly nationally oriented (Berchtold 73) “progressive” club (Fortschrittsklub) formed itself on the left wing of Verfassungspartei, and 1874 in the Czech one, as the Young Czechs fully seceded from the Old Czech National Party (Národní strana), forming their own “National Free-minded Party” ( Národní strana svobodomyslná) . The actual reasons for the formal separation into two parties were mostly of practical political nature though with both parties continuing to represent “complementary parts” of the same movement (Garver 79-80, 82).

Particularly in Austria – and most significantly among its Germans – the conservative and elitist political stance of the Altliberalen (old liberals)was facing increased criticism by the more radical, younger generations, which trigerred a gradual but persistent “nationalist turn” that would reach its peak by fin-de-siecle and pro foundly change the character of Austrian (post)liberalism. T he relationship between the liberal and national components of national liberalism, as well as their actual types, began to change from the 1870s onwards, with the national component coming to visibly prevail over the liberal by 1900. Nationalism was gaining in strength and intensity and was also adopting new forms.

The “old liberalism” and the “new nationalism” may also be treated as representing two ideal types. The majority of the actual cases in Cisleithanian politics were of a mixed nature, the tendency indeed moving from inclusiveness towards exclusiveness, from modernist towards anti-modernist perspectives, from universalism towards particularism, from a gentlemanly towards a street discourse, and from elitism towards mass politics. Especially regarding the last point, the new nationalists did not succeed in “breaking” with the “old liberal heritage” with the “metamorphosis” being “gradual” and “the new national ideology” taking “much from the old” (Janowski 83). The new nationalists mostly retained the basic liberal mottos (such as freedom and progress), but less of a liberal spirit The most visible result on the level of party politics was that the national liberal spectrum became very fragmented, a development that (particularly in the Austrian German case) preceded the major electoral reforms of 1897 and 1907 (Höbelt, “ Die deutschfreiheitlichen ” 166).

The space between the “old liberal” Verfassungstreuer Großgrundbesitz (Constitutionalist Big Landowners)and the racially nationalist Pan-Germans was wide, nuanced, and included various factions, whereby it is hardly possible to draw a clear line where the liberalism would end and the anti-liberal nationalism began. One possible dividing line, if we follow the argument proposed by Janowski (84) marking the end to the “old consensus of liberal and national ideas” could be the “attitude towards the Jewish question,”[9] namely the absence or presence of anti-Semitic stances and rhetoric. The famous Linz Program of 1882, expressing radical democratic, nationalist, and (semi)socialist (Pulzer 145) leanings of the younger generation of liberals, some of which later became Social Democrats, other radical nationalists, originally did not contain anti-Semitic principles. The threshold was passed only in 1885 when the twelfth point was added by Schönerer.[10]

Georg von Schönerer, with his fervent racially based anti-Semitism and violent political style, can hardly be considered a liberal in any possible sense of this word. With moderate, although already more integralist nationalists such as Julius Derschatta or Otto Steinwender[11] though, the case is more complex. Similar considerations may be also valid for Karel Kramář in the Czech case or Ivan Hribar in the Slovene case. What is clear is that in all the discussed national cases a persistent tendency towards integral nationalism may be observed. It also impacted the national liberals such as the Young Czechs who were trying “ to retain old constituencies, capture new support, and compete with radical nationalists, agrarians, and social democrats for votes from within their own language groups ” (Cohen 267).

Pieter Judson made a claim that the radical nationalist turn, taken by a considerable part of Austrian German (post-)liberals, represented application of the German liberal principles to the fullest degree and not their betrayal. Regardless of whether one agrees with such a position or not, it is undeniable that the last quarter of the 19th century brought radical concussions to social and political life which led to weakening of liberal ideology, transformation of liberal politics and its partial disintegration. Moreover, within the scope, relevant to this paper, concussions of this kind did not affect merely the German liberal movement but others as well. The Czechs or the Slovenes may not have had a Schönerer or a Dmowski[12] within their ranks, which did not mean, however, that Volksgemeinschaft type ideals of social organization of a Slavic brand[13] or exclusionary and aggressive stances towards the national other (most often the German or the Jew)[14] were absent among them. Last but not least, the new style of politics, marked by mass mobilization and rhetoric that aimed primarily at emotions rather than reason became increasingly popular in Cisleithanian politics regardless of nationality.

Another indicator of transforming liberal (and postliberal) politics was the emergence of new notions, which in the last third of the 19 th century began to partly replace the “liberal” label. Especially on the left side of the liberal spectrum labels such as “progressive” (fortschrittlich) and “free-minded” (freisinnig) appeared (Vierhaus 182). Both of these – napreden and svobodomiseln – were adopted by Slovene liberals who in 1894 founded their own political organization, the National Party for Carniola (Narodna stranka za Kranjsko), renamed in 1905 to the National-Progressive Party (Narodno-napredna stranka). The same was distinctive for the Czech lands as the label of “free-minded” was also in the official name of the Young Czech Party ( Národní strana svobodomyslná ). The “progressive” label was adopted by the Radical Progressive Party (Strana radikalněpokroková) and later by Tomas Masaryk’s Czech Progressive Party (Česká strana pokroková). In the Austrian German context, in addition to the latter (fortschrittlich) designations such as ”German freedom” (deutschfreiheitlich) and “German national” (deutschnational) were most prevalent.

The ideological transformations, as well as the emergence of the new partisan labels coincided with splits in organized liberalism, as well as adoption of certain originally liberal principles by parties, stemming from other traditions. Broadening of the franchise after the electoral reforms of 1882 and 1897 (not to mention the one of 1907) and diversification of political life in the last decades of the 19th century introduced new types of parties whose characterization no longer corresponded to the simple dichotomy between conservative and liberal. Moreover, the national liberals encountered ever growing problems with their central claim of representing the entire “nation” (Malíř 19). They were very reluctant to abandon the idea of national unity and renounce their status of the national party, despite their claims getting ever more constantly refuted by the political reality increasingly marked by class-based and other types of interest politics.

It could be argued, on the one hand, that by the end of the 19 th century the notion of liberalism within the realm of real politics got “reduced to the party of modernity” (Denes 1). As they found themselves in changing political environments, the parties and factions stemming from national liberal traditions started adopting various courses. Some of them adopted conservative positions thus clinging to the selected liberal ideals that were assumed to have been already achieved. On the other hand, the old opposition between “liberal” and “radical”[15] also began to lose its early and mid-19 th century meaning, especially in regard to the left or, generally speaking, younger liberalism, which had been leaning in a “Jacobin” direction. Proponents of that wing, particularly those claiming to represent the newly enfranchised lower middle strata, would often begin to flirt with socialist or radical nationalist ideological currents (sometimes turning hostile towards modernity), which contributed to the already ongoing fragmentation of liberalism as a political force. From the turn of the century onwards, in terms of party politics, it is therefore perhaps more feasible to talk about “heirs of liberalism” distinguished by a fuzzy ideological mix combining (or at least allowing for coexistence of) elements of petty bourgeois radicalism, non-Marxist socialism, and integral nationalism with some remaining liberal residue. The German People’s Party in the Austrian Alpine lands, the State Rights Radicals in the Czech lands, or the National Radical Youth as the inner opposition to the Slovene liberal leadership, are some good examples of this trend.

From a normative ideological point of view it could perhaps be legitimate to say that the liberals ceased to be national by the end of the 19 th century (Denes 2). From the perspective of party traditions, however, it is equally true that parties continued to exist, inheriting the tradition of national liberalism in terms of organization, social base, their rootedness in specific milieus, as well as a form of diluted ideology. They also continued to be labeled as such by the broader public and their political opponents, although some of them might have retained even less of a liberal spirit and culture than parties founded on a different ideological basis. When discussing the Austrian German case, it may, of course, be perfectly legitimate to treat all the mass movements that arose during the 1880s – the Christian Socials, the Social Democrats, and the “new” German nationalists (the so-called “three groups of the German democratic movement”[16]) – as the inheritors of the national liberal traditions. However, the former two movements adopted a profoundly new and well-defined ideological basis (Catholic social teaching, Marxism) and connected themselves with the already existing non-liberal political currents (Catholic conservatism, labor movement). The German nationalists, on the other hand, mostly retained the basic liberal mottos (freedom, progress), thereby putting more stress on the national component, radicalizing it, and changing their political style. In 1908 most of these factions, except for the two extreme poles of remaining few Viennese liberals of Jewish heritage and the Schönererians, allied themselves in the Nationalverband der Deutschfreiheitlichen Abgeordneten (National Association of German Freedom Deputies) (Höbelt, “Die deutschnationalen ” 86; Pulzer 142).[17]

The discussed relationship of “genealogical ascendancy” between national liberals and their heirs can be treated as closely connected to a novel structural feature that, by fin-de-siecle, came to mark the political landscapes of the Austrian lands. The latter became sharply divided into so-called political camps (Lager, tabori) which united political parties and their increasingly mobilized broader following, together with field organizations, as well as various officially non-partisan associations. They could be also closely tied to specific social and cultural milieus. The three principal camps would usually include the Catholic conservatives (i.e., the camp of political Catholicism), the Marxists (i.e., the Social Democratic), and an ideologically less defined group, usually falling under such labels as “liberal,” “progressive,” or “free-minded” (though often reduced to simply “national”). A distinctive feature of the latter camp was a division into a number of parties and factions based on ideological and professional or social grounds. The appeal to the national idea served as the sole strong unifying link, central ideological concept, and main point of identification. Additionally, anticlericalism and usually also some aversion towards Marxist ideas of class struggle represented important common denominators for this camp. By 1918, the liberal camp was defined largely not by what it was (ideologically committed to liberal political philosophy), but by what it was not (non-Catholic, non-Marxist, etc.). Genealogically, the parties of the camp of national liberal heirs were liberal; ideologically, however, they had already been departing for decades from the traditions in which they rooted. Their remaining liberality or illiberality thereby varied between the nations, lands, local contexts, and particular parties, depending on the particular political circumstances, as did the degree and nature of their nationalism.

Further social diversification and continuous development of interest politics gave way to yet another division taking place at the turn of the century, as the agrarian and the national socialist or national labor currents emerged within the broader national liberal spectrum (Brandes; Judson, Guardians 69) and afterwards attempted to emancipate themselves from the national liberal heirs. At least in the Czech case they succeeded completely, making the discussed tri-partite division into camps obsolete by forming their own independent movements. The German agrarians, on the other hand, remained connected with other “national” parties, whereas in the Slovene politics the discussed process commenced only after 1918 and never reached its conclusion.

Conclusion

Throughout the second half of the 19 th century, political conditions and institutional arrangements were undergoing a gradual but steady process of transformation towards a system distinguished by participation of broad popular masses. The exact dynamics, course and pace of this process varied from country to country, but the direction was nevertheless the same so that by the end of the century “politics in a new key” (Schorske) was already a matter of fact and an ever more determining factor in Central European political life. Gradual transformation of party systems from those based on notables to modern ones based on bureaucratic organization posed a problem to traditional liberal – as well as conservative – parties striving to transform into mass or popular parties in order to survive in the new circumstances. Such attempts could also coincide with, as well as contribute to considerable ideological changes and mutations, sometimes bringing about major digressions from the 19th century liberalism. The discussed “nationalist turn” of the Central European national liberals and their political heirs reached its peak by the turn of the century and continued to develop further into the interwar period. New ideological currents, as well as structural transformations on the levels of political institutional arrangements and conditions had far-reaching consequences and could, in turn, impact the transformations of very meanings and functions of the political term “liberal”. Moreover this could as well often coincide with the emergence of new labels used either to mask or do away with liberalism. Whether we should treat this more as a transformation of (national) liberalism or as actual vanishing of the tradition depends on the perspective and approach we take in using that term and also varies from one specific case to another.


Oskar Mulej graduated in history and philosophy from the University of Ljubljana i n 2009 and in 2010 earned a master’s degree in comparative history from the Central European University in Budapest. He is currently at a doctoral candidate at the CEU. Mulej’s primary field of scholarship is the late 19th and early 20th century political and intellectual history of Central Europe.


Works Cited

Berchtold, Klaus. “Grundlinien der Entwicklung der politischen Parteien in Österreich seit 1867.“ Österreichische Parteiprogramme 1868-1966. Ed. Klaus Berchtold. Vienna: Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, 1967. 11-108.

Bosl, Karl. Die Erste Tschechoslowakische Republik als multinationaler Parteienstaat. Munich: Oldenbourg, 1979.

Cohen, Gary B. “Nationalist Politics and the Dynamics of State and Civil Society in the Habsburg Monarchy, 1867-1914.” Central European History 40.2 (2007): 241-278.

Denes, Ivan Zoltan. “Liberalism and Nationalism: An Ambiguous Relationship.” Liberty and the Search for Identity. Ed. Ivan Zoltan Denes. Budapest: CEU, 2006. 1-17.

Fischhof, Adolf. Oesterreich und die Bürgschaften seines Bestandes. Wien: Wallishausser’sche Buchhandlung, 1870.

Freeden, Michael. “Foreword.” Liberty and the Search for Identity. Ed. Ivan Zoltan Denes. Budapest: CEU, 2006. ix-xi.

Fuchs, Albert. Geistige Strömungen in Österreich 1867-1918. Vienna: Löcker, 1984.

Garver, Bruce M. The Young Czech Party 1874-1901 and the Emergence of a Multi-party System . New Haven: Yale, 1978.

Gottas, Friedrich. “Liberale in Österreich und Ungarn – Versuch einer Gegenüberstellung.“ Das Parteienwesen Österreich-Ungarns. Ed. Gábor Erdődy. Budapest: Akadémiai kiadó, 1987. 47-70.

Höbelt, Lothar. “Die deutschnationalen und liberalen Gruppierungen in Cisleithanien: von den Vereinigten Linken zum Nationalverband.“ Das Parteienwesen Österreich-Ungarns. Ed. Gábor Erdődy. Budapest: Akadémiai kiadó, 1987. 77-90.

—. “ Die deutschfreiheitlichen Österreichs. Bürgerliche Politik unter den Bedingungen eines katholischen Vielvölkerstaats.” Liberalismus im 19. Jahrhundert, Deutschland im europäischen Vergleich . Ed. Dieter Langewiesche. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1988. 161-171.

Hoffmann, Robert. “ Gab es schönerianisches Milieu? Versuch einer Kollektivbiographie von Mitgliedern des ’Vereins der Salzburger Studenten in Wien’.“ Bürgertum in der Habsburgermonarchie. Ed. Ernst Bruckmüller. Vienna: Böhlau 1990. 275-298.

Janowski, Maciej.   ” Wavering Friendship: liberal and national ideas in nineteenth century East-Central Europe.” Ab Imperio, 3-4 (2000): 69-90.

Judson, Pieter M. Exclusive revolutionaries: liberal politics, social experience, and national identity in the Austrian Empire, 1848-1914. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1996.

—. Guardians of the nation: activists on the language frontiers of imperial Austria. Cambridge: Harvard, 2006.

Malíř, Jiří. Politické strany: vývoj politických stran a hnutí v českých zemích a Československu 1861 – 2004. 1. Období 1861 – 1938. Brno: Doplněk, 2005.

Mishkova, Diana. “The Interesting Anomaly of Balkan Liberalism.” Liberty and the Search for Identity. Ed. Ivan Zoltan Denes. Budapest: CEU, 2006. 399-456.

Mommsen, Wolfgang J.. The Political and Social Theory of Max Weber. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Perovšek, Jurij. “Vprašanje idejnega, političnega, socialnega in narodnega sobivanja v liberalni politični misli in praksi med leti 1891-1941.” Prispevki za novejšo zgodovino . 51.1 (2011): 93-126.

Pulzer, Peter. The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany & Austria. London: Peter Halban, 1988.

Reifowitz, Ian. “Threads Intertwined: German National Egoism and Liberalism in Adolf Fischhof’s Vision for Austria.” Nationalities Papers. 29.3 (2001): 441-458.

Schorske, Carl E.. Fin de Siecle Vienna, Politics and Culture. New York: Vintage Book, 1981.

Vierhaus, Rudolf. “Liberalismus.” Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland. Ed. Otto Brunner, Werner Conze and Reinhart Koselleck. Vol. 3. 4th ed. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1992.

Vodopivec, Peter. “ Ruski ’mir’, južnoslovanska zadruga in slovenski liberalci.” Prispevki za novejšo zgodovino. 46.1 (2006): 65-78.

—. O gospodarskih in socialnih nazorih na Slovenskem v 19. Stoletju . Ljubljana: INZ, 2006.

Wende, Peter. “Radikalismus.” Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland. Ed. Otto Brunner, Werner Conze and Reinhart Koselleck. Vol.5. 4th ed. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1992.


1. Stemming from different political cultures, liberalisms of Southeast European lands had different ideological foundations, often – as was the case in Serbia and Bulgaria – sharing many traits with what in Western and Central Europe would be more commonly referred to as “radicalism”. Perhaps the most striking difference was the high degree of “socially constructivistic” outlooks, which were characteristic both for the profoundly “elitist,” anti-democratic brand of Romanian national liberalism and for the rather “populist” and democratic Bulgarian and Serbian liberals (see Mishkova 2006) .

2. This also affected relations between liberals and conservatives (Denes 6-7).

3. “In the greater part of nineteenth century, liberalism and nationalism, constitutionalism and national tradition, progress and identity were inter-referential, inseparable and often interchangeable concepts in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe ” (Denes 6).

4. Though they disagreed on the issues of nationalism and class conflict, Karl Marx and Friedrich List were both opponents of laissez-faire capitalism. During the “seven fat years” ( die sieben fetten Jahre ) between 1866 and 1873 the Austrian German Constitutional Party pursued a free trade policy. After the stock market crash of 1873, however, they swiftly turned to various protectionist measures and did so without much hesitation ( Gottas 58-60).

5. “Primäres Kriterium für den österreichischen Liberalismus war immer schon mehr der Antiklerikalismus französischer Prägung als der vielgeschmähte Manchesterliberalismus englischer Provenienz gewesen ” (Höbelt, “ Die deutschnationalen” 87).

6. Iron Ring coalition, which ruled Austria between 1879 and 1893, was composed of the German feudal conservatives and representatives of Slavic nationalities.

7. This could sometimes bring forward grave personal dilemmas. Very illustrative of this is for instance the case of Dragotin Dežman (Karl Deschmann), who initially acted as one of the protagonists of the Slovene national “revival” but due to his adherence to German high culture and liberal values later ended up in the German camp, condemned by Slovene nationalists as a “renegade”. Vincenc Fereri Klun, another Slovene Patriot, switched to the German Constitutional camp due to his opposition to the 1868 Concordat and what he saw as intertwinement of Slovene politics in Carniola with the Catholic Church (Vodopivec 49).

8. The first to establish the general distinction between Honoratiorenparteien (“parties of notables,” “honorific parties” or elite-based parties) and modern mass parties was Max Weber. The parties of the former type were “distinguished by a particular pattern of restricted representation, limited to socially elevated group, which, on the grounds of exercising important social functions, claims the right to speak for the people as a whole” (Mommsen 125).

9. “At the moment when the new nationalists proclaimed the exclusion of the Jews from the national community, their rivals faced a dilemma in which they had to take sides. Either they imitated the nationalists, turned their backs on the assimilated Jewry that up to this moment had constituted so important a fraction of their supporters – and immediately lost their identity, dissolving themselves in a new, expanding nationalist movement: Or they stood by their old ideals, defended the assimilation and the inclusivist vision of nation, and retained their identity, paying for it with marginalization and isolation in the world of the mass politics. Whatever decision was chosen, it marked the end of the old consensus of liberal and national ideals” (Janowski 84).

10. The twelfth point stated: “The removal of Jewish influence from all sections of public life is indispensable for carrying the reforms aimed at” (Pulzer 147).

11. The stance of Deutschnationale Vereinigung – a radically national faction founded by Steinwender in 1887 after secession from the nationalist Deutscher Klub – on the Jewish question was: “Neither anti-Semitism nor resistance to it will be adopted as parts of the programme; the matter is left to the individual conscience of members”. The party was not “united on the anti-Semitic issue” and “the Jewish question was, in Steinwender’s words, ’by no means the most urgent’” ( Pulzer 150). On the other hand, the program of national liberal United Left from 1885 still explicitly rejected anti-Semitism, whereas the one of the re-united United German Left in 1891 was silent on this issue (Pulzer 151).

12. Roman Dmowski (1864-1939) was the founder and leader of the Polish National Democratic movement (endecja) that developed an ideology known as national egoism.

13. See, e.g., Vodopivec 2006.

14. Similarly as in the Alpine lands, there were virtually no Jews living in Slovene-speaking Austrian lands. Nevertheless did “anti-Semitic attitudes” distinguish the Slovene liberal camp from its beginnings in the 1860’s all the way into the Interwar (Perovšek 2011: 102).

15. The notion “radical” itself started to gradually disappear after 1850 as a special party label only to reappear in a different form after 1900 and especially 1918, carrying more specific meanings like “radical right” (or “left”) and “radical nationalist” (see Wende 131-133).

16. “die in den achtziger Jahren gespaltenen drei Gruppen der Deutschdemokratischen Bewegung” (Bosl 14).

17. The inclination of liberals and nationalists “to split was rivaled only by their desire to coalesce again, and in 1910 they were, as they had been in 1867, once more one party- though the father is unlikely to have known his own child” (Pulzer 142).


What Do Ideas Do?

IWM Junior Visiting Fellows’ Conferences, Vol. XXXIII
© 2014 by the author
Readers may redistribute this article to other individuals for noncommercial use, provided that the text and this note remain intact. This article may not be reprinted or redistributed for commercial use without prior written permission from the author. If you have any questions about permissions, please contact Klaus Nellen at IWM.
Preferred citation: Mulej, Oskar. 2014. National Liberal Heirs of the Old Austria: “Deviations” in Liberal Party Traditions, 1867-1918. In: What Do Ideas Do?, ed. A. Lisiak, N. Smolenski, Vienna: IWM Junior Visiting Fellows’ Conferences, Vol. 33.