Social Conflict, National Strife, or Political Battle? Violence and Strikebreaking in Late Habsburg Austria

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This article analyses the practices of violence during strikes in Habsburg Austria from the 1890s until the outbreak of the First World War. As the number of social conflicts rose at the turn of the century, strikes increasingly became one of the main sites of public violence in Austrian society, alongside demonstrations. Violent confrontations between strikers, strike-breakers, and the state forces protecting them frequently occurred. The first section discusses the state repression used to quell internal unrest and its consequences on the rule of law. The following sections explore the micro-dynamics of strikebreaking within the larger context of the reaction against Social Democracy in the period. Especially after the successful mobilization for suffrage reform in 1905–906, employers and other propertied classes saw strikers as part of a general threat. The Czech and German nationalist workers’ movements can also be reassessed through the lens of these social conflicts, rather than only as manifestations of radical nationalism. Strikes are here analysed as one case study addressing current debates in the historiography on the Habsburg Empire: first on the implementation of the rule of law on the ground in Habsburg Austria, then on the impact of democratization in the decades before 1914.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)650–676
Number of pages28
JournalEuropean History Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2019


  • social conflict
  • elections
  • strikes
  • austria-hungary
  • democratization


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