February Uprising

   / Februarkämpfe
   Armed skirmishing among the paramilitary Heimwehr, the Christian Social Party government, local police, and the illegal Socialist-oriented Republican Guard broke out in Linz, the capital of Upper Austria, on 12 February 1934. Spreading erratically to provincial industrial centers and Vienna, the fighting lasted for three days. Under pressure from Benito Mussolini in Italy to curb the influence of Marxism in Austria, the government of Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, local police, and branches of the Heimwehr had been raiding Socialist centers to root out caches of weapons allegedly hidden there. It was just such a strike by the Heimwehr, uniformed as auxiliary police, against a Social Democratic Workers’ Party (SDAP) hospice in Linz, that provoked a group of the Republican Guard to respond with gunfire. The conflict in Vienna was especially intense. Military artillery was deployed against public and communal housing projects inhabited by industrial workers and their families. The most notorious of these attacks was on the cavernous Karl-Marx-Hof, built between 1927 and 1930.
   The Socialists were both disorganized and poorly led. Some of their leadership was already imprisoned. A general strike called by the party temporarily shut down electricity and streetcar lines, but the mail, telegraphic and telephone networks, and railroads continued to operate. When the resistance ended, the Social Democratic side had suffered around 200 dead and more than 300 wounded. Some of its leaders were captured and executed. Others, most prominently the ideologue Otto Bauer, took refuge abroad.
   The failure of the uprising cost the SDAP dearly. The Dollfuss government banned the party, its trade unions, and the organizations that it sponsored for workers. The bodies that represented the party’s constituents in the various provincial and communal administrations were also dissolved. The government side counted 128 fatalities and 409 casualties. The episode pushed Austria ever further along the road toward authoritarian government.
   See also Austro-Fascism.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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