These events produced a great change on the character of the New German parties. German opposition. It became more and more avowedly racial; the defence of German nationality was put in the front of their programme. The growing national animosity added bitterness to political life, and destroyed the possibility of a strong homogeneous party on which a government might depend. The beginning of this movement can be traced back to the year 1870. About that time a party of young Germans had arisen who professed to care little for constitutionalism and other "legal mummies," but made the preservation and extension of their own nationality their sole object. As is so often the case in Austria, the movement began in the university of Vienna, where a Leseverein (reading club) of German students was formed as a point of cohesion for Germans, which had eventually to be suppressed. The first representative of the movement in parliament was Herr von Schönerer, who did not scruple to declare that the Germans looked forward to union with the German empire.
They were strongly influenced by men outside Austria. Bismarck was their national hero, the anniversary of Sedan their political festival, and approximation to Germany was dearer to them than the maintenance of Austria. After 1878 a heightening of racial feeling began among the Radicals, and in 1881 all the German parties in opposition joined together in a club called the United Left, and in their programme put in a prominent place the defence of the position of the Germans as the condition for the existence of the state, and demanded that German should be expressly recognized as the official language. The younger and more ardent spirits, however, found it difficult to work in harmony with the older constitutional leaders. They complained that the party leaders were not sufficiently decisive in the measures for self-defence. In 1885 great festivities in honour of Bismarck's eightieth birthday, which had been arranged in Graz, were forbidden by the government, and the Germans of Styria were very indignant that the party did not take up the matter with sufficient energy. After the elections of 1885 the Left, therefore, broke up again into two clubs, the "German Austrian," which included the more moderate, and the "German," which wished to use sharper language.
The German Club, e.g., congratulated Bismarck on his measures against the Poles; the German Austrians refused to take cognizance of events outside Austria with which they had nothing to do. Even the German Club was not sufficiently decided for Herr von Schönerer and his friends, who broke off from it and founded a "National German Union." They spoke much of Germanentum and Unverfälschtes Deutschtum, and they advocated a political union with the German empire, and were strongly anti-Hungarian and wished to resign all control over Galicia, if by a closer union with Germany they could secure German supremacy in Bohemia and the south Slav countries. They play the same part in Austria as does the "pan-Germanic Union" in Germany. When in 1888 the two clubs, the German Austrians and the Germans, joined once more under the name of the "United German Left" into a new club with eighty-seven members, so as the better to guard against the common danger and to defeat the educational demands of the Clericals, the National Germans remained apart with seventeen members.
They were also infected by the growing spirit of anti-Semitism. The German parties had originally been the party of the capitalists, and comprised a large number of Jews; this new German party committed itself to violent attacks upon the Jews, and for this reason alone any real harmony between the different branches would have been impossible.
Notwithstanding the concessions about language the Czechs had, however, made no advance towards their real object - the recognition of the Bohemian kingdom. Perhaps the leaders of the party, who were now growing old, would have been content with the influence they had already attained, but they were The agreement with Bohemia. hard pressed at home by the Young Czechs, who were more impatient. When Count Thun was appointed governor of Bohemia their hopes ran high, for he was supposed to favour the coronation of the emperor at Prague. In 1890, however, instead of proceeding to the coronation as was expected, Taaffe attempted to bring about a reconciliation between the opposing parties. The influence by which his policy was directed is not quite clear, but the Czechs had been of recent years less easy to deal with, and Taaffe had never really shown any wish to alter the constitution; his policy always was to destroy the influence of parliament by playing off one party against the other, and so to win a clear field for the government. During the month of January conferences were held at Vienna, with Taaffe in the chair, to which were invited representatives of the three groups into which the Bohemian representatives were divided, the German party, the Czechs, and the Feudal party.
After a fortnight's discussion an agreement was made on the basis of a separation between the German and the Czech districts, and a revision of the electoral law. A protocol enumerating the points agreed on was signed by all who had taken part in the conference, and in May bills were laid before the diet incorporating the chief points in the agreement. But they were not carried; the chief reason being that the Young Czechs had not been asked to take part in the conference, and did not consider themselves bound by its decisions; they opposed the measures and had recourse to obstruction, and a certain number of the Old Czechs gradually came over to them. Their chief ground of criticizing the proposed measures was that they would threaten the unity of the Bohemian country. At the elections in 1891 a great struggle took place between the Old and the Young Czechs. The latter were completely victorious; Rieger, who had led the party for thirty years, disappeared from the Reichsrath. The first result was that the proposed agreement with Bohemia came to an end. But the disappearance of the Old Czechs made the parliamentary situation very insecure.