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Decision-Making Amid Public Violence; The Vienna Riots, July 15, 1927

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 February 2009

Douglas D. Alder
Utah State University


Prevention of public violence is a primary task of an ordered state. If rioting occurs, it is usually a serious setback for the government in power, a sign of weakness or even forthcoming collapse, an injury to the citizens' commitment. During a riot, governmental leaders are often taxed to the ultimate because they may lose control of the society in the uncharted waters of the mob; their policy-decisions can sink while awaiting enforcement. The rioters who participate in collective public violence lose their restraint, their individuality that previously caused them to respect authority, and turn to irresponsible acts they would not normally commit. For these reasons established political leaders place a high priority on preventing violence. Should it break out, their automatic inclination is to contain it. Some revolutionaries, on the other hand, see creativity in violence, are even willing to stimulate it, hoping that it will sweep traditional institutions away.

Vienna Between the Wars
Copyright © Center for Austrian Studies, University of Minnesota 1983

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1 Several scholars have proposed theories to explain mob-behavior. See Smelsor, Neil J., Theory of Collective behavior (New York: Free Press, 1962)Google Scholar, and Neiburg, H. L., “The Threat of Violence and Social Change,” From Mobilization to Revolution (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1978).Google Scholar

2 Gemeinderat der Stadt Wien, “Bericht der Kommission zu Untersuchung der Ereignisse von 15 July 1927” (hereafter “City Investigation,”) S. D. Parliaments Klub. Karton 105 and Karton 43, pp. 35–37. Österreichisches Staatsarchiv, Verwaltungsarchiv (hereafter “Verwaltungsarchiv”). See also Botz, Gerhard, “Beiträge zur Geschichte der politischen Gewalttaten in Österreich von 1918–1923” (unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Vienna, 1966), p. 424 (hereafter “Beiträge).Google Scholar

3 Otto Bauer Werkausgabe, Pepper, Hugo, ed. (Vienna: Europaverlag, 19751980), 9 volsGoogle Scholar, (hereafter “Werkausgabe”), is a monumental collection for Austrian history. See reviews, Austrian History Yearbook, XV–XVI, 420–423, and XVII–XVIII, 532–536. Another important new work is Rennhofer, Frederick, Ignaz Seipel, Mensch und Staatsmann. Eine biographische Dokumentation (Vienna: Böhlau, 1978).Google Scholar

4 Botz, Gerhard, Gewalt in der Politik (Munich: Fink Verlag, 1976), p. 141Google Scholar (hereafter “Gewalt”). Botz maintains that the participants in the July 15 events were largely workers.

5 Bauer, Otto, “Welt Revolution” (1919), Werkausgabe (Vienna: Europaverlag, 1976), II, 182183.Google Scholar This theme can be found widely throughout his works. For example, see his speech at the 1918 Parteitag, ibid., V, 128.

6 This term designates the socialists who rejected bolshevism on one side as too radical, too leftist, and revisionism on the other side as too moderate, too close to the right. In Germany the leader of the Orthodox Marxists was Karl Kautsky, in Austria, Otto Bauer. (The Austrian equivalent of a revisionist was Karl Renner.)

7 Seipel, Ignaz, Österreich wie es wirklich ist (Vienna: Braumüller, 1953), pp. 8, 15 ff.Google Scholar

8 Oellerer, Franz, “Seipel, der 15. Juli 1927 und die Wiener Presse,” unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Vienna, 1952.Google Scholar This is a substantial work on the press and the July 15 riot though it is partial to the conservative side.

9 Edmondson, C. Earl, The Heimwehr and Austrian Politics, 1918–1936 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1978).Google Scholar Also, Pauley, Bruce F., Hahnenschwanz und Hakenkreuz. Der Steirische Heimatschutz u. d. Österreichische Nationalsozialismus, 1919–1934 (Vienna: Europaverlag, 1972).Google Scholar For the Schutzbund see Vleck, Christine, “Der Republikanische Schutzbund in Österreich” (unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Vienna, 1971).Google Scholar

10 Austrian State Archives, Haus- Hof- und Staatsarchiv, XI, 110/pol., June 19, 1924, from Prague.

11 See trial documents, Präsidium des Landesgerichts für Strafsachen, VrIII 411/27 Hr. 300–27, particularly beginning p. 533 ff. The description of the trial here is based on these court records as well as the accounts in the Wiener Zeitung, the Arbeiter Zeitung, the Reichspost, and the Neue Freie Presse.

12 Section 87 of the Austrian Criminal Code.

13 Arbeiter Zeitung, January 31, 1927, p. 1; Reichspost, January 31, 1927, p. 1.

14 Protokoll des Nationalrats, 178th Session, February 3, 1927, pp. 4, 496.

15 Neue Freie Presse, July 15, 1927, p. 12.

16 Botz, Gerhard, “Die Juli Demonstranten, ihre Motive und die quantifizierbaren Ursachen des 15. Juli, 1927,” Die Ereignisse des 15 Juli 1927 (Vienna: Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, 1979), p. 34.Google Scholar See also Goldinger, Walter, Geschichte der Republic Österreich (Vienna: Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, 1962), pp. 128129.Google Scholar

17 Bauer, Otto, “Rede vom 26. Juli 1927,” Werkausgabe, V, 899 ff.Google Scholar

18 Karl Seitz was titular chairman by right of seniority, but his duties as mayor of Vienna occupied him full-time. Otto Bauer's impact on all decisions of policy made him the virtual party leader.

19 The description of the evening decision at S. D. Headquarters can be found in several memoirs: Leichter, Otto, Glanz und Ende der Ersten Republik (Vienna: Europaverlag, 1964), p. 51 ff.Google ScholarFischer, Ernst, Erinnerungen und Reflexionen (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1969), p. 168Google Scholar; also in Botz, Gewalt, pp. 143–145.

20 Leser, Norbert, Zwischen Reformismus und Bolschewismus (Vienna: Europaverlag, 1968), p. 400.Google Scholar Leser questions this story which is based on Ernst Fischer's memoir. The Fischer memoir is admittedly subjective, but Leser does not offer a counter-explanation. The fact remains that Bauer was not there when the workers arrived.

21 Arbeiter Zeitung, July 15, 1927, p. 1.

22 Bauer, Werkausgabe, V, 903.

23 Karl Haas, “Die österreichische Sozialdemokratie in der Konfliktsituation des Juli 1927,” Botz, Die Ereignisse des 15. Juli, 1927, p. 137.

24 Fischer, Erinnerungen, p. 171; Deutsch, Julius, Ein weiter Weg (Zürich: Amalthea Verlag, 1960), p. 166.Google Scholar

25 Polizeidirektion Wien, Pr2 IV–1–766. Wien, 2 August 1927, pp. 1–2 (hereafter Police Investigation). File copy in S. D. Parlamentsklub, Karton 6, File 181: 15 July 1927. Verwaltungsarchiv. This is a copy of the 113-page police investigation, much of which later appeared as a white book. See also Charaska, Wilhelm, “Der 15. Juli 1927 und seine Folgen,” (unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Vienna, 1963), p. 25 ff.Google Scholar

26 Goldinger, Geschichte der Republik Österreich, p. 153.

27 Gerhard Botz says that Otto Bauer, Karl Seitz, and Otto Glockel negotiated with Tauss. “Beiträge,” p. 379. Bauer also records the encounter. See Bauer, Otto, “Der blutige 15. JuliWerkausgabe, III p. 541.Google Scholar See also Police Investigation, p. 12.

28 Police Investigation, p. 16.

29 Deutsch, Weiter Weg, p. 166 ff.

30 Bauer, Werkausgabe, III, 538.

31 Botz, Gewalt, p. 148.

32 Goldinger, Geschichte der Republik Österreich, p. 130.

33 Karl Hartleb, taped interview in Botz, “Beiträge,” III, 129 ff.

34 Vlcek, Der Republikanische Schutzbund, p. 152.

35 Botz, “Beiträge,” p. 401. See also Police Investigation, p. 38 ff.

36 Deutsch, Weiter Weg, pp. 166–168; Botz, Gewalt, p. 151, Botz, “Beiträge,” p. 405.

37 Die Rote Fahne, July 16, 1927, p. 1: Bauer, , “Der blutige 15. Juli,” Werkausgabe, III, 541Google Scholar; Botz, “Beiträge,” pp. 408, 415, 434.

38 Rennhofer, Friedrich, Der 15. Juli 1927 im Rahmen seiner innenpolitischen Ursachen und Folgen (Vienna: Bundesministerium für Unterricht, 1968), p. 343.Google Scholar

39 The two strongest studies of Seipel are von Klemperer, Klemens, Ignaz Seipel, Christian Statesman in a Time of Crisis (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972)Google Scholar, and Rennhofer, Friedrich, Ignaz Seipel, Mensch und Staatsmann (Vienna: Böhlau, 1978).Google Scholar

40 Protokoll des 1926 Parteitages, p. 5. See also Gerhard Botz, “Die Juli Demonstranten,” pp. 53–54. Published Bauer studies have not reached full maturity. Two journalistic accounts are available: Reiman, Viktor, Zu Groβ für Österreich (Vienna: Moldenverlag, 1968)Google Scholar, and Leichter, Otto, Otto Bauer, Tragödie oder Triumph (Vienna: Europaverlag, 1970).Google Scholar A hundred-page essay by Julius Braunthal, one of Bauer's disciples, introduces the book, Otto Bauer. Eine Auswahl aus seinem Lebenswerk (Vienna: Volksbuchhandlung, 1961).

41 Fischer, Erinnerungen, p. 178.

42 Protokoll des 1927 Parteitages, pp. 116–117.

43 Bauer, , “Der blutige 15. Juli,” Werkausgabe, III, 550.Google Scholar

44 Bauer, Otto, “Die russische Revolution” (1917), Werkausgabe, II, 3839Google Scholar; “Rätediktatur oder Demokratie,” Werkausgabe, II, 133–156; “Weltrevolution” (1919), Werkausgabe, II, 157–184; “Bolschewismus oder Sozialdemokratie” (1920), Werkausgabe, II, 223–358; “Der neue Kurs in Sowietrußland” (1921), Werkausgabe, II, 427–458. See also Low, Raimund, “Otto Bauer und die russische Revolution,” (unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Vienna, 1976), three volumes.Google Scholar

45 Bauer, , “Rätediktatur oder Demokratie” (1919), Werkausgabe, II, 138 ff.Google Scholar

46 Leser, Zwischen Reformismus und Bolschewismus, p. 407; Leichter, Glanz und Ende, p. 55.

47 Bauer, , “Die politische und wirtschaftliche Lage Österreichs” (1927), Werkausgabe, III, 572573.Google Scholar

48 Police Investigation, pp. 36, 76, and Police Investigation, pp. 19, 27 ff. See also Botz, Gewalt, p. 152; Charaska, Der 15. Juli 1927, 73; and Oellerer, Seipel, pp. 203–204.

49 Botz, “Beiträge,” p. 415; Charaska Der 75. Juli 1927, p. 117. See also Hartleb letter to his wife in Botz, “Beiträge,” vol. III, p. 137.

50 Leser, Zwischen Reformismus und Bolschewismus, p. 406, says Wilhelm Ellenbogen and Johann Schorsch were for arms. See also Deutsch, Weiter Weg, p. 169.

51 Braunthal, Julius, Die Wiener Juli Tage, 1927 (Vienna: Amalthea Verlag, 1927), p. 41.Google Scholar

52 Mitteilungsblatt der Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschösterreichs, 16. Juli 1927.

53 Haas, Die österreichische Sozialdemokratie, pp. 145–148.

54 Bauer, Werkausgabe, V, 904.

55 About fourteen hundred people were arrested, but many were released immediately. Of those eventually brought to trial, none were convicted.

56 Bauer, , “Bolschewismus oder Sozialdemokratie,” Werkausgabe, II, 350.Google Scholar This is an example of his rationale for accepting a coalition though he is known more for promoting opposition. See also Leser, Zwischen Reformismus und Bolschewismus, pp. 154–155, and Braunthal, Julius, Otto Bauer, Eine Auswahl aus seinem Lebenswerk (Vienna: Wiener Volksbuchhandlung, 1961), p. 72.Google Scholar

57 Bernard Birk, Seipel's first biographer, portrayed him as a champion against Marxism, who on July 15, 1927, saved Austria from falling into a bolshevik revolution. See Birk, Bernard, Ein österreichisches und europäisches Schicksal (Regensburg: Manz, 1932).Google Scholar

58 Leichter, Otto Bauer, p. 65. After the issue was settled, the Social Democratic Party was still torn. At the Party Convention in August, the party took the unusual stand of having two keynoters—both Renner and Bauer. The majority sided with Bauer, but Renner had founded the tradition which later he took with him successfully into the Second Republic.

59 Protokoll des Nationalrats, 7th Session, July 26, 1927, p. 129 ff.

60 Botz, “Die Ereignisse,” p. 132. See also Seipel, Ignaz, Der Kampf um die österreichische Verfassung (Vienna: Braumüller, 1930), p. 138.Google Scholar

61 Smelsor, Theory of Collective Behavior, ch. 7, “The Hostile Outburst.”

62 Schorske, Carl E., Fin-de-Siècle Vienna (New York: Knopf, 1980), ch. 3.Google Scholar

63 Schorske, Fin-de-Siède Vienna, ch. 2.

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