Christian Social Party

   / Christlichsoziale Partei
   (CP)
   From the late 19th century until 1938, the CP was the political party of preference among the Viennese petty bourgeoisie. Though it was established only in 1893 under the leadership of Karl Lueger, the charismatic mayor of the Habsburg Austrian capital of Vienna from 1897 until his death in 1910, the historical genesis of the movement was long and complex. Its philosophical father, Karl Freiherr von Vogelsang (1818–1890), from Mecklenburg in Germany, was a Catholic convert who deplored the secularization of both political and material conditions in the modern world. He was a critic of both Marxism and capitalism, with which he identified Jews and liberals. Vogelsang aired these views in the conservative publication Vaterland, which he edited after 1879. He wished to reestablish what he termed Christian society, by which he meant reviving economic protections, once provided by such institutions as guilds, which he believed made life more secure for many classes of people in medieval Europe.
   Although utopian, such ideas had considerable support among the classes most affected by the displacement of industrialization, particularly those in the traditional handicrafts. Vogelsang’s thinking also found a receptive audience among the lower Catholic clergy, who were dismayed at the materialism of the industrial workers in the parishes of Vienna and Lower Austria generally. Another significant figure was Prince Alois von Liechtenstein (1846–1920). Influenced by the Catholic Reform movement then underway in France, he was active in the Austrian imperial parliament on behalf of the artisans. He was particularly eager to expand the franchise to the lower middle classes.
   It was Lueger, however, who forged a practical social and political program from these ideas. Coupling an appeal to ethnic resentment with massive changes in public amenities in the city of Vienna, he led a party that dominated the city from the last years of the 19th century until the end of World War I. The CP also won the support of the substantial Catholic and conservative elements among the Austrian peasantry. The latter became increasingly important to the political survival of the Christian Social movement, when the Social Democratic Workers Party (SDAP) began its long domination of Viennese municipal politics soon after Lueger’s death. The more prosperous Austrian bourgeoisie, once liberal in their politics, also became more sympathetic to CP positions when Marxism became a major alternative at the polls.
   At the end of World War I, the CP supported both the establishment of the First Austrian Republic and Anschluss with Germany. A national coalition government between the party and the SDAP lasted from 1918 to 1920. From then until 1938 the party, in one form or another, governed Austria. Though it drew the single largest number of votes, it would never have a majority. Therefore it was faced with the problem of maintaining coalitions with the Greater German People’s Party (Grossdeutsche Volkspartei) (1920–1932) and the Agrarian League (Landbund) (1932–1934), which supported Christian Social positions on many matters. The German national movement could not wholly accept the close connection of the CP with Austrian Catholicism.
   With the end of parliamentary government in Austria in 1933–1934, the CP folded itself into the Fatherland Front of Engelbert Dollfuss. Following World War II, several functionaries of the CP participated in the founding of the Austrian People’s Party and played leading roles in it.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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