Victories Without Violence number 5 at the Progress Report
|January 9, 2007||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Victories Without Violence
The Hungarian Strike
The Austrian Empire was trying to keep Hungary subordinate, in violation of the terms of a treaty. The Hungarian moderates felt helpless, as they were too weak to fight. But Francis Deak, a resident in Hungary, protested to them — “Your laws are violated, yet your mouths remain closed! Woe to the nation that raises no protest when its rights are outraged! It contributes to its own slavery by its silence. That nation that submits to injustice and oppression without protest is doomed.”
Deak proceeded to organize a scheme for independent Hungarian education, agriculture and industry, a refusal to recognize the Austrian government in any way, and a boycott against Austrian goods. He admonished the people not to be betrayed into acts of violence, nor to abandon the ground of legality. “This is the safe ground,” he said, “on which unarmed ourselves, we can hold our own against armed force. If suffering must be necessary, suffer with dignity.”
This advice was obeyed throughout Hungary.
When the Austrian Empire’s tax collector came around, the people did not beat him nor even hoot at him — they merely declined to pay. The Austrian police then seized their goods, but no Hungarian auctioneer would sell them. When an Austrian auctioneer was brought in, he found no bidders — these too would have to be brought in from Austria to buy the goods. The government soon found that it was costing more to distrain the property than the tax was worth.
The Austrians attempted to billet (quarter) their soldiers among the Hungarians. The Hungarians did not actively resist the order, but the Austrian soldiers, after trying to live in houses where everyone despised them, protested strongly against it. The Austrian government declared the boycott of Austrian goods to be illegal, but the Hungarians defied the decree. The jails were filled to overflowing. No representatives from Hungary would sit in the Imperial Parliament.
The Austrians then tried conciliation. The prisoners were released and partial self-government granted. But Hungary insisted upon full claims. In reply, Emperor Franz Joseph decreed compulsory military service. The Hungarians answered that they would refuse to obey it. Finally, on February 18, 1867, the emperor capitulated and gave Hungary her Constitution. .
- — from “The Power of Non-Violence,” by Richard Gregg.