FIN-DE-SIECLE VIENNA: LIVING CONDITIONS OF THE WORKING CLASS

Statistical data of the time just before the outbreak of the First World War still show a considerable amount of children below the age of 14 at work in Vienna. This seems proof of a very slow retreat of child labour in Vienna. The phasing out of child labour was more due to a change in work technology than social protest. Another important impetus for the end of child labour in Vienna was the introduction of the “Reichsvolksschulgesetz” of 1869. This law extended compulsory schooling from six to eight years. Although it has to be noted that the law stipulated several exceptions because especially working class families depended on the income of the children and a loss of this income would have jeopardised their existence. Many working class parents considered obligatory school attendance a nuisance and refused to have the state prescribe what they were supposed to do with their children. Most considered three years of schooling as sufficient. In the late 19th century compliance with obligatory school attendance was the exception rather than the rule in Vienna. Before the turn of the century the authorities executed more rigid supervision, so that by 1900 the start of work for Viennese working class children had been postponed to 12 – 14 years of age.…

VIENNA, THE “CAPITAL OF CENTRAL EUROPE”: POLITICAL CLIMATE IN THE LAST DECADES OF THE EMPIRE

Vienna Woods, “Schwarzenbergpark”

The Catholic church fostered several varieties of social thought in Austria. Chief among those was the Christian Socialism disseminated by Karl Baron von Vogelsang (1818-1890). During the 1880s his writings paved the way for Karl Lueger’s founding of the Christian Socialist Party. A converted Prussian protestant, he came to Vienna to edit the Catholic daily “Vaterland”. He wanted Christian ethics to replace capitalist competition and state socialism and Marxism only added to the evils of capitalism and liberalism in his opinion. In contrast with all these systems, Vogelsang sought not to increase productivity or to expand political rights, but to restore the hierarchical structure of medieval society. Vogelsang desired every business to become an industrial “family”, in which workers and owners would share management, each firm would belong to a branch corporation and each of these to the Industrial Chamber, where workers and owners would legislate economic and social policy for each industry. Artisans would be required to join a guild, which would fix the numbers of masters and apprentices. This medieval institution would shield its members from the dangers of individualism. But this sort of Catholic socialism could not stem the rise of anti-clericalism. In the forefront of anti-clericals, Social Democrats and free-thinkers denounced the control that the church retained over marriage and primary education. Catholics who married outside their faith were faced with so many impediments that in 1914 approximately 1 mill common-law marriages existed in the empire. The church further prohibited divorce and forbade former priests to marry, all of which contributed to the popularity of the “Los-von-Rom” movement. Concerning anti-Semitism the clergy was openly divided. Parish clergy, who were recruited from the lower middle class, often scandalised the episcopacy by openly preaching anti-Semitism. In 1898 the Viennese anti-Semite Georg Ritter von Schönerer (1842-1921) initiated the “Los-von-Rom” movement protesting against the power of the state church and offering a rehearsal for an eventual union of Cisleithania(western part of the empire) and the German Empire. In Austria Christian Socialism somehow blunted the “Los-von-Rom” movement. Although it did not perceptibly weaken the church, Schönerer’s success in branding the Roman Catholic Church an enemy of Germans predisposed some Catholics to accept Hitler’s anti-clericalism.…