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During the last decade, research on WWI in Slovakia examined, among others, the issues of everyday life of the civilian population and the process of loyalty changes in this time period. Conclusions of this research disrupted the conventional idea of German and Hungarian war enthusiasm on one side, and resistance towards the war among Slovaks and Czechs on the other.
Social position and the level of existential threat during the war had a significantly larger impact on general population attitudes and on the process of changing loyalties than ethnicity.
However, the evaluation of loyalty levels based on ethnicity was a core concept in tracking loyalty of soldiers and civilians in the Habsburg Monarchy. This has spurred deeper study on loyalty changes during the war, and the issue of war enthusiasm at the outset of WWI was re-opened. Regional research and a new detailed study of contemporary press and private sources mainly diaries and correspondence have questioned previous conclusions about war enthusiasm in the early days of the conflict amongst people not only in Germany and Austria-Hungary, but also in the opposite camp—in France, Great Britain, Russia and other warring countries.
During the past two decades, historians have revised their conclusions about universal war euphoria in Germany and Austria-Hungary and designated it the myth of war enthusiasm. They have shown that expressions of militaristic nationalism took place exclusively in large cities where they mostly concerned the nationalist bourgeois strata, while social democrats and inhabitants of rural regions expressed concern rather than enthusiasm towards the War.
New research has shown that war euphoria in Germany was in fact not so intense as previously claimed and did not reach all of the population, and enthusiasm for the war concerned mostly the urban middle class. Initially, social democrats organized the anti-war demonstrations.
People in the countryside and in small towns showed mostly fear and anxiety. While patriotism significantly influenced their decision to enlist, other reasons and expectations i.
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Indeed, shortly before and after the declaration of war the people of Germany showed very different feelings and at public gatherings expressed various viewpoints, depending on their social class, gender, age and region of origin. The state authorities successfully manipulated public opinion, strengthening the feeling of threat so that eventually, even social democrats agreed with the war. Recent publications released with regard to the centennial of WWI explain war euphoria in Germany in the same way.
Historians analyzing war attitudes in the Tyrol region, for example, have proven that attitudes were strongly differentiated according to social strata, gender, age and nationality. Although middle classes publicly showed war euphoria in Tyrol immediately upon declaration of war, expressions of concern and skepticism multiplied.
Building the national state idea of the Czechoslovak Republic influenced the interpretation of loyalties towards Austria-Hungary during WWI.
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On the other hand, historians have often mentioned the loyalty and bravery of Slovak soldiers, praised by the army commanders in the first phase of the war. Since the s, historians have started to point to a strong discrepancy between loyal behaviors of Slovak soldiers early in the war 11 and their rebellions during late summer and fall , with some calling for deeper study of the topic.
An important conclusion is that ethnic identity was not the most important factor in determining loyalty towards the war and the state regime. However, the majority of the population remained loyal to the state and was influenced by war propaganda. Some conservative Russophile Slovak politicians hoped for cooperation with the Russians during the Carpathian operation, but this had no influence on the majority of the Slovak population.
I will focus on several main issues: 1.
Attitudes of the civilian population at the beginning of the war and the phenomenon of mass hysteria manifested at public gatherings; 2. Factors causing radicalization of attitudes during the war regime. The sources for my analysis are testimonies of the non-elite, mainly unpublished oral memoirs of Slovak veterans and some civilians, recorded by ethnologists between the s and the s. As for the issue of war enthusiasm, I have supplemented these sources with published and unpublished war memoirs by members of the Slovak political and cultural elites, both men and women.
Slovak historiography has so far focused on the situation of the Slovak elite, i. After the fall of the communist regime, which strongly deformed the memory of WWI, especially the issue of legionaries, new sources have been published or made accessible for research. The focus is now more on the non-elite and non-prominent veterans and civilians. When discussing pro-war enthusiasm at the beginning of the war, it is essential to consider the attitudes of this segment of the population.
Not all of the population shared in the war craze, nor can generalizations be made about the attitudes of members of entire nations as in a simplified schema that Germans and Hungarians were for war, but that Czechs, Slovaks and other Slavic nations were against. The majority of the population with Slovak ethnicity belonged to the lower rural class, only partly to the lower middle strata and to workers living in small towns. Slovak national activists mostly came from the lower-middle class, a fact that influenced their political orientation.
When analyzing changes in attitudes to war declarations, we should distinguish between periods:. August general enlistment ; IV. At the time, war was not mentioned in public media, or remained a farfetched solution to the crisis. However, grief was gradually replaced by anxiety and anticipation of whether war was coming.
German and Hungarian nationalist newspapers advocated war as a solution, but the majority of the press did not support the idea. Leftist periodicals especially expressed their disagreement with pursuing war. Starting from July 25, based on the newly established emergency law, 30 the public was not informed objectively. News became biased due to tightened censorship and war propaganda, fostering a feeling of insecurity and presenting war as the necessary defensive response of the monarchy. These would assign strict punishments for treason, prompting unrest and insulting the emperor and the monarchy.
On July 28, Emperor Franz Joseph declared war on Serbia and, three days later, universal mobilization of the army. Soldiers were required to join the army on August 4. These assemblies became later the basis for belief in universal war euphoria. But in Austria-Hungary, the first public assemblies took place as early as July 25, when Serbia was supposed to deliver the response to the ultimatum of Austria-Hungary.
When they discovered the decision of partial mobilization of the army, some groups expressed willingness to start a war. The next day, military music ensembles paraded the city and civilians spontaneously began to accompany them. On the other hand, leftist newspapers emphasized that those most passionate for war were inexperienced youngsters.
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In addition, reports from local government offices in Hungary show that policemen accompanied public gatherings and processions to prevent possible acts of opposition. The police acted preventively against potential resistance, especially from national minorities. Examples of abuse of power by the police are documented in memoirs of Slovak national activists as well as reports by security forces. Analysis of newspaper articles from the time period shows a hierarchy of different loyalties in the Austrian and Hungarian parts of the Monarchy.
In Austria, symbols of the Habsburg monarchy and German national symbols dominated: Black and yellow flags and tributes to Franz Joseph as an emperor of the whole monarchy were associated with the singing of German national songs as Wacht am Rhein and expressed German nationalism and superiority. They used vocabulary mixing nationalist, militarist and propagandist rhetoric. Public gatherings and the smooth process of conscription were declared clear expressions of patriotism and proof of loyalty to the state and dynasty, as well as agreement with the declaration of war. Most local newspapers repeated this rhetoric, while reporting on the situation in small cities more objectively.
For example, conservative and leftist media in Pressburg wrote of processions through the city center from July 27 to July 30 with a sober distance. They commented:. All talk is about the war and every evening there is a military procession with music and torches, which aims to promote enthusiasm for war.
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Due to censorship, no criticism towards the war or war regime could be published. Photographs depicting people waving scarves and throwing their hats above their head during a military procession were chosen to depict large cities between July and August. These pictures became famous and were used as proof of the attitude of the whole population.
Although they represented only a small part of the population, personal observers remembered them vividly.
In their diaries and memoirs, people described the atmosphere from various perspectives and with different evaluations: their interpretation depends mostly on social status, political affiliation, ethnicity and time distance. Some of the most cited sources of the kind are memoirs of Austrian intellectuals who, in the spirit of German nationalism, wrote about uplifting feelings at the outbreak of the war, which they saw as a way to gain more independence in the monarchy. Some Hungarian nationally oriented townsmen shared this view, but Slovak historiography assigned the viewpoint to all Germans and Hungarians.
However, even many non-prominent Hungarians who gave in to the nationalist rhetoric were not enthusiastic about the war. He wrote in his diary:. The city [Budapest] overwhelmed with war enthusiasm. We fall, even more of these, and those who remain will yell for peace exactly the same as they yell for war now. He watched the reactions of people on the streets in the Hungarian capital on the day of partial mobilization.
Sunday, July Oh, indeed. Very well is the Magyar soul known, how it can be prompted, and now they blindly chase towards their destruction— because it is my impression that this will become a world war. July In memoirs of Slovaks from this time period, women writers depict the atmosphere of crowd behavior most eloquently. They write of a mix of conflicting opinions and attitudes, and of inflated emotions including fear and despair.
On July 29 there was a great demonstration for the war in the town. A procession organized by the military and political ruling body walks through the town. Torches and lanterns glow, swinging on poles in the crowd. Crowd, drunk on the catchphrases, shoutings and outcries — what is always able to inflame the mass — marches throug town. Windows are illuminated; woe betide those who did not illuminated their windows!
The atmosphere was seen as a big enlistment farewell. Great events were organized for soldiers leaving for the front, which normally included alcohol and self-representation of masculinity.
In his oral memoirs, he told of the period when the war was declared:. They sat on their suitcases, well, those who had to go to the war It is exactly at that political center where the policy similarities and electoral challenges of the Democratic left in the U. The same, apparently, goes for Australia. The exception is , when Republicans focused on immigration instead of tax cuts, jobs and wages to their own detriment. There are some Democrats who understand the frustrations of working- and middle-class voters today and what that resentment of elites portends for both parties.