Austrian History – The Second Republic Part I

Origin and structure (1945-55)

In the “Moscow Declaration of the Four Nations” of November 1, 1943, the USA, Great Britain, the USSR and China proclaimed the restoration of the Republic of Austria as one of their war aims. In the areas of eastern Austria conquered by Soviet troops since the end of March 1945 (capture of Vienna on April 13), the Social Democrat formed Renner on April 27, 1945 a provisional government, which on the same day announced the restoration of the Republic of Austria. This government made up of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ), the newly founded Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ) reintroduced and annulled the 1920 constitution (in the 1929 version) with effect from May 1, 1945 all national socialist laws. On October 20, 1945, the provisional government was also recognized by the Western occupying powers.

After American, according to, British and French troops had moved into western Austria at the beginning of May 1945, the USA, the USSR, Great Britain and France took over the supreme government in Austria with the First Control Agreement (July 4, 1945; London Agreement) and bordered their zones of occupation against each other. The Soviet zone included Burgenland, Lower Austria and Upper Austria north of the Danube, the American zone Salzburg and Upper Austria south of the Danube, the British zone Styria, Carinthia and East Tyrol and the French zone North Tyrol and Vorarlberg. At the head of the zones of occupation were commanders-in-chief who, as military commissioners, formed the Allied Council; the Austrian legislative bodies were responsible to him. The Viennese districts 2–21 were divided into four sectors under the occupying powers, the first district of Vienna (inner city) was alternately occupied by all four powers. In the form of the Allied Command, a joint administration separate from the occupation zones was created for Vienna. In the Second Control Agreement (June 28, 1946) the victorious powers gave the legislative organs greater scope for decision-making.

In the first elections to the National Council (November 25, 1945), in which former members of the banned NSDAP, SA and SS were not allowed to participate, the ÖVP became the strongest party (85 members), followed by the SPÖ (76) and KPÖ (4). On December 20, 1945 the National Council elected L. Figl (ÖVP) as Federal Chancellor, Renner (SPÖ) as Federal President. Figl formed an all-party government in which the SPÖ, A. Schärf, was the vice-chancellor. In November 1947 the communists left the government coalition; They took the occasion of the adoption of the Marshall Plan Aid (1948–51: 1.6 billion US $) and the passage of a currency protection law to combat inflation.

On the basis of fixed coalition agreements, the ÖVP and SPÖ formed a grand coalition in 1947-66, with the ÖVP providing the Federal Chancellor and the SPÖ the Vice Chancellor. Since the 1949 elections, the restrictions on participation for former members of the NSDAP have gradually been relaxed and later lifted. The ÖVP was able to maintain its position as the strongest party in the National Council (until 1970). In 1949 an association of independents (VdU) emerged for the first time, that of the Freedom Party of Austria in 1955/56 (FPÖ) gave way. Since 1947, the communists have increasingly lost the strong political weight they had based on the Soviet occupying power. With a strike movement in October 1950 they tried in vain to revolutionize the existing social order on the popular democratic model (prevented, among other things, by construction workers under F. Olah). Under the Federal Presidents Renner (until 1950) and T. Körner (1951–57) as well as the Federal Chancellors Figl (until 1953) and J. Raab (1953–61) the building of the Second Republic took place on a parliamentary-democratic basis. The new economic start was particularly difficult in the Soviet occupation zone, as the USSR confiscated former German property with reference to the Potsdam Agreement (August 2, 1945) (USIA), insisted on dismantling plans and claimed rights of use in oil production (establishment of an AG for Austro-Russian petroleum products). The western allies handed over the “German property” to the Austrian state. While socialist ideas were initially introduced in 1946/47 (nationalization of basic industries and the electricity industry), market economy ideas prevailed in the 1950s. With the help of the Marshall Plan, inter alia industrial production can be increased. A strict budget policy and the stabilization of the currency (under Finance Minister R. Kamitz, ÖVP, 1952–60) ushered in an economic upswing.

When reorganizing its foreign policy, the occupying powers allowed Austria to establish diplomatic relations with member countries of the UN. In the agreement between the Italian Prime Minister A. de Gasperi and the Foreign Minister K. Gruber, Italy assured South Tyrol autonomy in 1946 (dispute settlement notified by the UN on June 19, 1992). After lengthy negotiations (since January 1947) made difficult by the East-West conflict, the Raab government (Foreign Minister Figl 1953-59) obtained the approval of the USSR (Moscow Memorandum) and the Western Powers (Vienna Memorandums) to an Austrian State Treaty (May 15, 1955), who granted Austria independence under the consensus formula of “perpetual neutrality”. With a resolution of October 26, 1955, the National Council fulfilled this condition.

Austrian History - The Second Republic 1

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