4. The continuity of the political camps
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 continuity of political groupings in Carinthia is remarkable. When one compares the state elections of 1930 with those of 2004, similar power distributions between the political camps are apparent. The social democrats were unable to draw on their traditional strength after 1945. The ÖVP – Austrian People’s Party – ,a common foundation for both the former Christian social party and the earlier German national parties, achieved for many years a vote share of over 30 per cent. Only the appearance of Jörg Haider in the 1980’s removed the strong German nationalistic section from the ÖVP and led to the „new“ FPO (Freedom Party of Austria). The people’s party kept its Christian social vote share of a little more than 10 per cent. The social democrats stabilised at low numbers following the turn of the century.
After the voting out of the state governor Gröger in 1923, German national politicians stood at the forefront of the country until 1934.The construction of the dictatorial regime in Austria, with its catholic-clerical character instilled by the federal chancellor Engelbert Dollfuß from 1933 onwards, was widely spurned by the Carinthian population. Then February 1934 showed Carinthia up as a „special case“, as the Carinthian party did not take part in the rebellion which cornered the Austrian social democrats. Furthermore, leading Carinthian social democrats such as the provincial government member Matthias Zeinitzer and Klagenfurt’s mayor Franz Pichler-Mandorf publicly distanced themselves from their comrades fighting in Vienna and other towns against the government’s authority. They demonstrated their solidarity with Chancellor Dollfuß who was intent on crushing „the reds“ once and for all.
Under the Carinthian social democrats confusion prevailed in the light of irritating conduct of a section of the party leadership. The mobilised „Schutzbündler“ (members of the paramilitary organisation of the socialist party) waited in vain for their orders. Following the ban on social democracy and as a vessel for former party followers, Zinitzer and Pichler-Mandorf founded the „Arbeiterbund“ - federation of free workers – which was loyal to the regime but not destined to live long. Over the course of the end of the Nazi coup attempt at the end of July 1934 there was heavy fighting in Carinthia between National Socialists and government troops. The most southerly federal state was viewed Austria-wide as a hub of combat operations. The federal chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg commented later with bitter irony, that one could simply have put up a barbed wire fence along the Carinthian border in order to establish a Nazi concentration camp.