Schonerer won his first post to parliament as a liberal before Hitler was born. The liberals, who were closely allied with big industry and business, were looking for "reform." The reform they sought was personal--economic freedom, accompanied by freedom of speech and press to promote their ideals. Their leaders were normally recruited from the legal graduates of Austrian Universities and these would-be intellectuals (with their dogmatic assertiveness and sanctimonious airs) steadily widened the gap between themselves and the workers, the religious, and the population outside the large cities. As in all nations and generations they saw themselves as superior and thought that they knew better than their less liberally educated brethren. Schonerer turned against them.
Schonerer believed that the Liberals had completely deserted the "little people," as he saw it, and he became a champion of the workers. Because the masses in large cities can riot, while the thinly spread population living on farms or in small towns are easily ignored or silenced, Schonerer also took up the cause of the "rural" people. He saw these groups as a depressed population under the grip of cold-blooded financiers and unresponsive big city Liberal politicians. He spent his early years fighting for wage and labor reform, universal suffrage, and the right to strike. He also fought for more rural schools and for the conservation of forests and streams. His ideas along with his avowed contempt for the liberals love of "untrammeled individualism" (which they called "democracy") earned him their undying hatred.
Schonerer believed that uncontrolled individualism benefited the rich more than any other group. He saw liberalism and democracy deteriorating into republicanism (which stresses the rights of minorities) with eventual domination of the most powerful of all minorities--the rich. He understood that the wealthy and their money and newspapers had the power to silence most opposing values and he was soon arguing for legislation to curb the special favors which benefited the rich in not only capital but "opinion."
Schonerer went on to argue for a balanced budget and proposed reforms in income tax and increases in luxury taxes to shift a more proportional burden onto the rich. He demanded that transactions on the stock exchange be regulated to eliminate "moral and economic dangers." He opposed measures to help troubled banks which he termed "swindle enterprises." He also had the nerve to attack the legal profession (where most liberal politicians have their roots) demanding lawyer fees be fixed. His demands for a more equitable distribution of wealth and his "aggressive anticapitalism" were, however, always subordinated to a passionate German nationalism.1
Because of the unsettled conditions that existed throughout the Empire, many of the minority groups sought avenues to further their ambitions. Many influential Jews, consequently, had joined the liberal fold and "liberalism ... had strengthened the grip of educated Viennese Jews upon the press and literary production."2 The Jews also had highly visible positions in banking, law, industry, and retailing. Schonerer, therefore, accepted the argument from many of his supporters that mass support against liberalism was impossible without a simultaneous campaign against wealthy and influential Jews.
He began to see powerful "Jewish businessmen .... Jewish coal barons," and other "Jewish speculators" (with their close connections in the financial affairs of Europe) as the chief proponent behind liberalism. Because the Jews controlled nearly all the major banks in Vienna, Schonerer believed that they--with their large scale loans to government, railroad companies, and other large enterprises--had an excessive amount of influence on German life and opinion. He believed that most politicians and even (referring to the royal family) "higher factors," bowed to these rich Jews. He came to believe that the Jews, because of their "liberal and materialistic tendencies," were responsible for much of the economic gloom of the rural and working classes. Seeking "reform," his attacks against wealthy Jews became constant. He railed against "Jewish-liberalism," "Jewish influence," "Jewish individualism," and their "immoral and injurious" dealings.3 In 1885 he added another point to his nationalist program which read: "The removal of the Jewish influence from all sections of public life is indispensable for carrying out the reforms aimed at."4
Like the students of Vienna a few years before, Schonerer made it clear that his attacks were not directed against the religion of the Jews, but against their "racial peculiarities"5 in favoring individual liberty over law and order, and liberalism over traditional German morals, values, and beliefs.
Many eminent individuals and political parties (of both the Left and Right) throughout Europe shared Schonerer's beliefs and there had been subdued attacks against the Jews in Germany, France and Great Britain. In Russia, Romania, and Poland, however, the attacks were straightforward and often brutal. The large-scale immigration of Jewish refugees fleeing the eastern nations, and other "states" of the Austrian empire, for the more liberal Austrian zone, provoked Schonerer to demand a bill prohibiting Jewish immigration into Austria.
What Schonerer was attempting to accomplish was not much different than what the "white supremacist and Anglo-Saxon" groups in the U. S. wanted.6 Between 1880 and 1884 the US Congress passed a series of laws, known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, which bared Chinese from entering America. Two years before Hitler was born, Schonerer took America's Chinese Exclusion Act, changed the word "Chinese" to "Jew" and submitted the Act to the Austrian parliament for approval. No doubt looking to the United States (and other European countries) for more inspiration, the following year, Schonerer opposed Jewish assimilation and wanted Jewish school students to be segregated from other students just as blacks were in the United States. To emphasize further that race was the issue and not religion,7 he also proposed that Jews, even if they had converted to Christianity, be barred from teaching school. Whereas, the Czech, Pole, and Hungarian states of the Empire had shut down Jewish schools, he proposed that the schools remain open but the teachers be "Aryan."
Because Hitler admired him, Schonerer would later become known as the "most violent exponent of anti-Semitism" by some authors. His attacks, however, against the internationalism of the Roman Catholic Church., the Hapsburg Monarchy, Slavs and other "races" entering Austria were just as "violent." His "anticapitalistic anti-Semitism"8 was mild compared to other political groups outside or within the Empire. The Osterreichische Reformverein, for example, wore and sold silver effigies which they hoped would become the symbol of the anti-Semitic movement--a hanged Jew. One of their members went so far as to propose in the Austrian parliament that a reward be paid to anyone who murdered a rich Jew and a portion of the "victim's property be awarded to the murderer."9 Schonerer, in reality, was echoing many of the beliefs of German (and European) intellectual thought that stretched back to the days of Martin Luther.
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1 Bracher 44
2 Mein Kampf Reynal & Hitchcock fn 67
3 Jenks 84-9
4 Dawidowicz 52
5 Bracher 44
6 Smith 87
7 Bracher 44
8 EB Vol 17 183
9 Jenks 91, Also Bracher 44