In allen Wipfeln spurest du
Kaum einen Hauch . . . .
Warte nur. Balde . . . .
It was my original intention to include in this volume a separate account of the political situation in Dalmatia, instead of treating it in close relation with Croatia. But I have decided to leave this task to a more eloquent and competent spokesman than myself. The following speech was delivered in the Austrian Parliament on December 3, 1910.(496) The speaker, Dr. Joseph Smodlaka, the founder of the Croat Democratic Party in Dalmatia, and member of Parliament for Spalato, is one of the ablest and most attractive Southern Slav politicians, and what is still better, "a modern of the moderns" in the midst of medieval conditions. The well-known Austrian novelist, Hermann Bahr, in his Dalmatinische Reise (pp. 109-117), gives an admirable character sketch of Dr. Smodlaka. He tells us how he had learnt of Dr. Smodlaka as
496. Translated from the Stenographische Protokolle of that date.
"the general pride of Dalmatia, the new St. Blaise (497) of the Dalmatian youth," and how he expected to find a kind of miniature Croat Gambetta. "And here in front of me sits a kind of Roosevelt, a lover of fresh air, an engineer, showing in his ideas strong traces of the peasant, one who wastes no words, but sets his hand to the work, one who does not dream but calculate, who cares less for phrases than for real needs, who listens to no programme save distress, a road-builder who begins before his own front door, one who is bent on cutting down and letting in light and air."
Dr. Smodlaka is no lover of panegyrics, and I must apologize to him for thus revealing him to the reader. I value Dr. Smodlaka's friendship too highly to add words of my own, such as would be superfluous to all who know him.
"Vox clamantis in deserto, I am tempted to exclaim, as I look upon the empty benches. If it were a question of my private affairs, I would naturally withdraw; but as my duty as a patriot, and the defence of my country are at stake, I must remain and speak. . . .
I may say at once that I shall vote against the Budget, not from tactical reasons, but on purely practical grounds, irrespective of the Government which may chance to be in power. For just as I feel bound now to vote against this Budget of the Bienerth Cabinet, so I would have to do the same, as representative of Dalmatia, if a similar budget were introduced by Bienerth's bitterest enemy.
My reason . . . is the neglect of Dalmatia, on the part of all Austrian Governments, including the present, the way in which my native land's most vital needs are ignored. . . . The crumbs thrown to Dalmatia are still scantier in this Budget. But even were they larger, and even if Dalmatia received richer alms I should still have to vote against the Budget: for in Dalmatia's present serious condition neither crumbs nor alms can help. Besides, I am firmly convinced, and with me, I believe all Dalmatia, that the policy of Crumbs cannot help us materially, while it kills us morally.
Since the desperate condition of Dalmatia forces me to treat this important matter of State from the standpoint of Dalmatian interests, I can hardly expect to succeed in arousing general interest in this cause.... One request only I make: let me not be reproached with a narrow local patriotism or 'Campanilism.'(498) Let it not be said that we Dalmatians are petty egotists, without comprehension for the general well-being. Apart from the fact that exceptional conditions prevail in our country, unlike those in any Austrian Crown land,(499) Dalmatia occupies, thanks to its geographical, political and strategic position an exceptional place in the State, so that we can fairly say that the Dalmatian question is not local but Imperial, and should be so regarded both by Government and Parliament.
497. The patron saint of the Republic of Ragusa.
498. The Campanile or Church tower is the Southern equivalent of our Avillage pump."
499. Dalmatia is only one of seventeen Austrian provinces or Kronlander.
To return to the Budget, which this year is far more unfavourable and meagre for Dalmatia than last year's. . . . Let me quote a few figures and add comments upon them.
While the total State expenditure shows an increase of over 37,000,000 (1,155,000 [pounds]), Dalmatia not only receives no increase of contribution in favour of its cultural and economic progress, but on the contrary the balance is restored to the Budget largely at the expense of my poor and neglected country. In order to cover the increased demands for police, gendarmerie, reorganization, etc., almost all the items from which Dalmatia might have gained something have been cut down. For instance, for harbour works we are to get 728,000 crowns instead of 856,000 in 1910, or 127,900 less. . . . For the encouragement of fishery we get barely a third of last year's sum, only 25,000 instead of 82,000 crowns. For lighthouses and signalling stations only a quarter, or 75,000 instead of 300,000 crowns. For roads Dalmatia gets a clear ,4,000 less than last year. In short, not to be wearisome, almost all expenses in favour of Dalmatia have been cut down, even the sum for agricultural improvements, for combating phylloxera, for nautical education--and that in a budget which shows an increased grant for all other schools in the country, and in a state which aims at seapower, at least on a small scale.
I may be told that other provinces are also cut down, under Mr. Bilinski's proposals.(500) But I answer: no other province is in such a condition as Dalmatia. The others lack many things, we lack every thing . . . indeed, all the conditions of life. Have you noticed, gentlemen, that at the debate on the increased cost of living, four out of the five Dalmatian deputies present voted for the unlimited import of Argentine meat? And do you know what it means when the representatives of a peasantry vote on this question with the Social Democrats and the town representatives? (Deputy Gostincar: In Carniola we have not even enough potatoes, far less meat!) Potatoes are in Dalmatia a luxury, they are only eaten by the better classes. I invite you to come to Spalato, and you will be able to convince yourself that we have no meat, no potatoes and no bread. If the question of the free importation of corn should be raised in the House, you will find that all Dalmatian deputies will vote in favour of it, and yet Dalmatia is almost exclusively inhabited by peasants and has no industry. But we not only have no bread, but no drinking water; out of 600 Dalmatian villages more than half have none. The people drink what you might call mud.
But we also have no wood. If our peasants are not to die of cold, they have to steal wood in the woods of their own commune, and the townspeople, not only workmen but officials . . . have to shiver with cold in winter, for with us a stove is a luxury.
But we not only have no wood, no water and no bread, we also have no land for agriculture. The whole surface of productive land
500. The Austrian Finance Minister in the late Bienerth Cabinet.
is flooded--the plains of the Narenta, of Vrgorac, Sinj, Imotski, the so-called poljes . . . .We could even export corn, but our only fertile land lies under water.
We have no roads, no communications. The health of the population is being ruined. While the Dalmatians under French rule a century ago were a remarkably healthy and powerful race of men, the population is to-day decaying--especially in the north, where there is malaria--and is dying out.
We also have no education. Over 300 Dalmatian villages have no school at all; in half the country the number of illiterates is not 50 or 60, not 80 or 90 per cent., but 99 and 100 per cent.
I have the honour to represent the central district of Dalmatia, relatively the richest and most progressive of all; and in my constituency, gentlemen, there are forty-eight villages, of which twenty-eight have no school and no teacher, and only twenty a school with one class, and two or three a school with two classes. If that is the case in what is called the richest and most progressive district, you can imagine what it is like on the edge of the mountains, on the Bosnian frontier.
We also have other specialities such as the system of Coloni or Kmets, according to which the peasant, without getting anything from the owner of the land, has to see to all improvements and expenses and yet to pay the proprietor half or a third of his annual income. How can these people live anything but a wretched existence under such circumstances? The year 1848 freed the peasants of Austria, but the Austrian Government of that day forgot that Dalmatia also belongs to Austria. With us medieval conditions have survived to the present day. . . .
Besides all this there is the isolation of Dalmatia, which is not natural, since it is not an island, but part of the Continent of Europe, belonging to a Great Power. And yet we have been artificially made into an island. Not only Dalmatia, but also the neighbouring districts of South Croatia and West Bosnia have no railway connexion with the Monarchy or with the rest of Europe.
It is not a question of a tiny piece of land, but of territories larger than the kingdom of Wurttemberg, with more inhabitants than Istria, Carniola and South Styria. And the communications in this forgotten land are such, that if, for instance, we want to go from Spalato to Banjaluka, which could be reached in a quick train in three or four hours, we require forty-four hours, and can get quicker to St. Petersburg than to the immediate Hinterland on which our poor country depends for nourishment. It is just as if we were to go from Trieste to Laibach and were obliged to go first by steamer to Ancona, in order to reach Laibach via Bologna, Padua and Tarvis.(501) Just look at the map, and you will see that this is so.
501. As if in order to get from Newcastle to Hull, it were necessary to take a steamer to Leith, and then go via Glasgow, Carlisle, Crewe, Rugby across to Hull, but taking twice as long as such a journey would actually take.
Under such circumstances, I ask, is it just, is it human, to save in the way in which this Budget saves? Was this to be expected from the Government which recognized that Austria has great duties towards Dalmatia, and that as it has been neglected by the State for a whole century, something must be done to help it? Will it be helped by reducing still further the crumbs and alms which it receives? In the programme of this Government and of the last, is included the Reconquest of Dalmatia. I must remind the House that one cannot speak of a reconquest, since Dalmatia was never conquered by Austria. After the collapse of the Venetian Republic our fathers voluntarily recognized the Emperor Francis I as their sovereign, and invited him to send his officials and his soldiers. We were not conquered, then. But even if one talks of a reconquest in a good sense, everything remains merely in words; in practice programmes and promises are laid aside. . . . What does the State or Government do to help the country? . . . I must admit that of late years there has been a lively interest for Dalmatia, and ways of helping it have been sought, but the right way is still not found. Committees sit for months and years, but there is no result. They make excursions to Dalmatia at Easter, and the best season of the year. New bureaucratic posts are created, and a few new sinecures, but Dalmatia gains nothing. I will not deny that money has been spent on the country in recent years. It has, but how! The agricultural school at Spalato may serve as an example: it has cost the State 400,000 crowns, but it has no land for agricultural instruction and only twenty pupils. Instead of building it in an agricultural district like Sinj or Knin, it is built in a town. . . .
In years of distress the Government buys hay and sells it to poor people, but not to the poor peasantry, but to the poor moneylenders, who buy at 8 heller, in order to sell to the peasants at 16. . . .
We have agricultural teachers, who, to put it mildly, act as clerks in the Prefectures; we have eight secondary schools, but in over 300 villages not a single elementary school. Every year 200 to 400 more youths from Gymnasia and Realschulen, and 100 per cent. of illiterates in hundreds of villages. Are those not unhealthy conditions? In the little town of Zara, with hardly 18,000 inhabitants, two upper Gymnasia and one Upper Realschule--two Italian and one Croat; and in all Dalmatia, only two industrial schools, and a single lower commercial school. . . .
Not merely is the Diet refused the means for improving the country, but the system is also bad. There is no plan, no organization, the needs of the country are not put first or are not understood.
Here is a classical example. In Spalato a private company has been founded, to build an electric tramway line from Spalato to the little town of Trau. The Government also wants to build a useless railway from Kastel-Sucurac to Trau, which will cost 2,000,000 crowns. The two towns hold together economically as mutatis
mutandis Vienna and Klosterneuburg.(502) . . . This private company applied to the Government for the concession. The railway would, it said, only run twice a day at the most, and this is no use for the people, who want a proper service. . . . Besides, the railway does not run along the shore, where the villages are, but high up on the side of the hill. . . . What happened in Vienna? The company (who do not belong to my party, but are business men in the town) were told they would not get the concession even for prospecting! In astonishment they asked why, and were told, 'because it would compete with the future State railway'! At this rate, gentlemen, all the trams running from Vienna to the suburbs would have to be done away with, because they an compete with the State railways. . . . The real reason is, if we get the tram connexion the railway is superfluous; therefore, they won't grant the concession, because they want to build the railway. It is not a question of State money; we have the money, the commune would join the company, and the small local banks would do so too. We don't ask a farthing from the State, only the concession, but we cannot get even this. . . .
Near Spalato we have a waterfall, which apart from Scandinavia, is the highest in Europe--over 100 meters high, with 75,000 horsepower. Here a company formed mainly of Italian capitalists has built water-works and invested millions. From this not only Spalato but the whole province expects a great future; it might supply tramways, aqueducts and so on, with electricity. What happens? All at once the work is stopped. Spalato, my native town, is greatly embarrassed; for our contract with the Augsburg Gas Company runs out next year, and we don't know what to do. From these water-works we might get the necessary power for lighting the town, but the work is suspended for months. . . . Why? Once more there are reasons of high politics. The capitalists are Italians. I repeat, we do not mind; we are not in love with Italian capital, we would certainly prefer our own capital or help from other Crownlands. But it does not come, and the help of foreign capital has come. And for Dalmatia a question of life and death is at stake. . . .
A further point must be considered. From so great a distance Dalmatia cannot be governed on centralist lines. I do not wish to speak from a constitutional standpoint or to break a lance for Federalism. I merely refer to the administration in its economic aspect. . . . I can understand that Linz and Upper Austria can easily be governed from Vienna on the same principles. But we are too far off. In this Empire there is a complete difference between the North and this little province which has not even a geographical connexion with this state--climate, people, needs, etc. (Deputy Dr. Bartoli: 'Away from Vienna, then?') I shall not draw that conclusion.
502. Cf. Southampton and Portsmouth.