2. An extraordinary distribution of power

by Dr. Hellwig Valentin. From the book: "Der Sonderfall. Kärntner Zeitgeschichte 1918-2004/08", 2009, 2nd edition, Klagenfurt/Laibach-Ljubljana/Wien (Hermagoras-Verlag).

Translation by Liz Finney

The extraordinary distribution of power between the political camps in Carinthia is exceptional. As early as 1900 social democracy in Carinthia enjoyed a dominance unrivaled elsewhere in the Bohemian-Moravian industrial areas. At the elections of the Austrian national assembly of 1919 the social democrats achieved more than 49 per cent of votes. They were by far the strongest party. The different nationalist German groups were the second strongest with 40 per cent altogether. The conservative-catholic groups fluctuated in the inter-war years with between 12 and 18 per cent of votes. The Christian Social party in Carinthia were at this time even weaker than their sister party in „red Vienna“. There are historical, cultural and socio-economic reasons for this.

The catholic counter-reformation in the almost entirely protestant country was continuing to exercise its influence. Most of the people living there returned only reluctantly to the „old“ faith. This spiritually coercive measure had the result that a certain distance between religion and church lived on. The social democrats and German nationalist movements benefited from this, at the expense of the catholic-conservative parties. So it was that Carinthia was traditionally a country of peasant farmers. The small farmyards enjoyed a high number of menial servants and maids, well above average.This rural proletariat shaped the political foundation of social democracy. There were few employed factory workers in the industrially poor country, for at the end of the nineteenth century the once distinguished mining industry had for economic reasons largely been abandoned. The liberated miners flooded back to their villages and shored up the army of landworkers – and hence the surge towards social democracy.  All these circumstances were borne at the expense of the catholic-conservative camps, who converged around vicarage courtyards. The Christian Social party supporters relied on the support of the weak but pronounced peasant farming group, or at least those who did not tend towards the German nationalists.

3. „German" Social Democracy