May Constitution

   / Mai Verfassung
   Promulgated on 1 May 1934 by the coalition government led by Engelbert Dollfuss of the Christian Social Party (CP), the May Constitution provided for an Austrian federal state based on principles of Roman Catholicism, occupational corporatism, and German ethnic identity. Its chief author was Otto Ender (1875–1960), who had served briefly as chancellor in 1931. It had been approved a month earlier by a vote of 74 to 2 by a rump of the Austrian parliament. It embodied many ideas put forth in a 1931 anti-Marxist encyclical of Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, which urged more cooperation between labor and management.
   Seven occupational groupings, or corporations, were to have advisory powers in the formulation of legislation. These seven were agriculture and forestry, industry, public service, manufacture, commerce and transportation, the financial industries, and the professions. The scheme was to promote a sense of mutual interest rather than hostility within obviously related economic endeavors. The May Constitution called for bewilderingly complex legislative machinery. A five-chamber legislature embodying corporate principles was central to the entire structure. Its competence was largely consultative. It could review acts of the government but could not vote on them. These councils chose from their membership a federal diet of 59 members, who could vote yes or no on laws put before them, but could not propose any measures. Chancellor Dollfuss and his government were given dictatorial power; political parties were displaced by his generally conservative and right-wing Fatherland Front. Fundamental civil rights had little place in the document. Despite the support it received from CP members, the authoritarian branch of the Heimwehr, and the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who had been interested in having Austria take such a turn, the May Constitution was never fully operative. The only corporations to be formed were those representing agriculture and forestry and civil servants.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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