in acts of provocation against the Dual Monarchy at intervals which were becoming more and more frequent. This persistent line of conduct would not have been relaxed until the arrival of the opportune moment for the destruction of the Empire. In Austria there was good reason to fear that, at the latest, this moment would come with the death of the old Emperor. Once that had taken place, it was quite possible that the Monarchy would not be able to offer any serious resistance. For some years past the State had been so completely identified with the personality of Francis Joseph that, in the eyes of the great mass of the people, the death of this venerable personification of the Empire would be tantamount to the death of the Empire itself. Indeed it was one of the clever artifices of Slav policy to foster the impression that the Austrian State owed its very existence exclusively to the prodigies and rare talents of that monarch. This kind of flattery was particularly welcomed at the Hofburg, all the more because it had no relation whatsoever to the services actually rendered by the Emperor. No effort whatsoever was made to locate the carefully prepared sting which lay hidden in this glorifying praise. One fact which was entirely overlooked, perhaps intentionally, was that the more the Empire remained dependent on the so-called administrative talents of 'the wisest Monarch of all times', the more catastrophic would be the situation when Fate came to knock at the door and demand its tribute.
Was it possible even to imagine the Austrian Empire without its venerable ruler? Would not the tragedy which befell Maria Theresa be repeated at once?
It is really unjust to the Vienna governmental circles to reproach them with having instigated a war which might have been prevented. The war was bound to come. Perhaps it might have been postponed for a year or two at the most. But it had always been the misfortune of German, as well as Austrian, diplomats that they endeavoured to put off the inevitable day of reckoning, with the result that they were finally compelled to deliver their blow at a most inopportune moment.
No. Those who did not wish this war ought to have had the courage to take the consequences of the refusal upon themselves. Those consequences must necessarily have meant the sacrifice of Austria. And even then war would have come, not as a war in which all the nations would have been banded against us but in the form of a dismemberment of the Habsburg Monarchy. In that case we should have had to decide whether we should come to the assistance of the Habsburg or stand aside as spectators, with our arms folded, and thus allow Fate to run its course.
Just those who are loudest in their imprecations to-day and make a great parade of wisdom in judging the causes of the war are the very same people whose collaboration was the most fatal factor in steering towards the war.
For several decades previously the German Social-Democrats had been agitating in an underhand and knavish way for war against Russia; whereas the German Centre Party, with religious ends in view, had worked to make the Austrian State the chief centre and turning-point of German policy. The consequences of this folly had now to be borne. What came was bound to come and under no circumstances could it have been avoided. The fault of the German Government lay in the fact that, merely for the sake of preserving peace at all costs, it continued to miss the occasions that were favourable for action, got entangled in an alliance for the purpose of preserving the peace of the world, and thus finally became the victim of a world coalition which opposed the German effort for the maintenance of peace and was determined to bring about the world war.
Had the Vienna Government of that time formulated its ultimatum in less drastic terms, that would not have altered the situation at all: but such a course might have aroused public indignation. For, in the eyes of the great masses, the ultimatum was too moderate and certainly not excessive or brutal. Those who would deny this to-day are either simpletons with feeble memories or else deliberate falsehood-mongers.
The War of 1914 was certainly not forced on the masses; it was even desired by the whole people.
There was a desire to bring the general feeling of uncertainty to an end once