Wilson and His Peacemakers: American Diplomacy at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919

By Arthur Walworth | Go to book overview

12

Revolution in Southeastern Europe

The question of the future of the Hapsburg lands was complicated by an ideological challenge from Moscow. A manifesto issued by the Soviet government on November 3, 1918, had saluted the "liberation" of minorities from "oppression."

Wilson had immediately matched the Russian démarche with a counterappeal to those who had "achieved liberation from the yoke," urging them "to restrain every force that may threaten either to delay or to discredit the noble processes of liberty." He was hopeful that the revolutionary movements would result in the emergence of constitutional regimes. 1.

Near the end of March, however, the government of rump Austria, which was committed to social democracy, was menaced by a turn toward bolshevism in neighboring Hungary, the other remnant of the Hapsburg empire that was treated as an enemy by the peacemakers. Hungary was regarded by Lenin as a land ripe for a proletarian revolution. The military establishment of Austria-Hungary had melted away, and French and Serb commanders at Belgrade had signed a military convention with Hungary on November 13 under which Allied armies penetrated Hungarian lands. The American State Department, acting in harmony with the French government, had rebuffed a Hungarian attempt at rapprochement through the old Austro-Hungarian legation in Switzerland. 2.

Count Michael Károlyi, becoming president of Hungary in January, had endeavored to conciliate the victors and salvage something from the debacle. He had visited the United States in 1914 to raise a fund for an independent and democratic Hungary. With the support of moderate Social Democrats, he now asked America for economic aid and for recognition in accord with the principles it proclaimed. Complaining that Hungary had been reduced in population from 20 million to 8 million, and admitting that the social revolution had gone further than he wished, Károlyi said to one of Hoover's men who talked with him, "Why do you go on pretending that you are fighting for the rights of small peoples? Why not ... say frankly: 'We have won and shall now do with you exactly as we please?' Hungary would then know definitely where she stood. " 3. One American observer regarded Károlyi's policy as conciliatory, independent, and reasonable; and another, "tremendously impressed" by him, reported to Wilson that the Allies had broken the armistice agreement and the only way to save Károlyi's government was by inviting

____________________
1.
See Walworth, America's Moment: 1918, p. 174. On the propaganda of the United States and Soviet Russia at the end of 1918, see Peter Pastor, Hungary between Wilson and Lenin, pp. 52-59.
2.
Dispatches of November 19, December 19, 1918, F.R., P.P.C., vol. 2, pp. 193-195, 204-205. A. Coolidge to ACTNP, January 16, 1919, Wilson papers. See Mayer, Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking, pp. 527-528.
3.
Hugh Gibson to "Dearest," January 9 and 11, 1919, Gibson papers, boxes 9 and 10, Hoover Institution Archives.

-221-

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