26 DECEMBER 1914, Page 7

THE SITUATION IN HUNGARY. T HE most remarkable and important of

the series of letters which the Morning Post has been publishing from an Hungarian correspondent appeared last Saturday. In a note last week we summarized the situation as described by this correspondent when the bad news from Serbia was only being whispered. The Viennese, quiet and sorrowful, looked to the skies for consolation, while the more fiery population of Budapest held riotous demonstrations and shouted for vengeance on the defeated Austrian General Potiorek. That was as the calm before the storm compared with what has happened since. Hungary is shaken to her depths now that the truth of the great Austro-Hungarian downfall in Serbia is known fora fact, and a movement towards Hungarian independence will follow further defeats or blunderings by the Austrians. Already, indeed, the movement is on foot, and is led appar- ently by—of all people—Count Tisza, the Premier, who has always been regarded as the strongest of Dualists, and who, in the name of the Emperor Francis Joseph, defied the Hun- garian Chamber and daringly risked the pistol shots of his opponents. If all that the correspondent says be true, it is evident that it will be worth while to watch events in Hungary very carefully. They may have a very important influence on the course of the war. If Hungary broke away from Austria, it would follow that she would choose her own moment for making peace. Probably it would not be Austria's moment. It may be, of course, that the corre- spondent of the Morning Post has misjudged or exaggerated what has been happening. We are bound, for example, to note a denial by Count Tisza, that riots have occurred, and a declaration that the Morning Post correspondent has invented his facts. All we can say is that the corre- spondent's narrative is extremely circumstantial, and that we are sure the Morning Post would not have given a wide publicity to such startling news unless it believed the word of its correspondent to be highly credible.

" As we see things now," says the correspondent, " they far surpass any of our forebodings." He has learned that the Austro-Hungarian Army has lost about sixty thousand men dead and wounded during the defeats in Serbia and the subsequent flight, as well as about thirty-five thousand prisoners. The guns, provisions, and ammunition lost are said to be more than Serbia had when the war began. The remnant of General Potiorek's army, not more than one hundred thousand strong, is in Bosnia trying to reform within a few miles of the Serbian and Monte- negrin frontiers. The frontier towns of Hungary are being put into a state of defence against a Serbian invasion, which the Hungarian people had been taught to think of as an unimaginable thing. An account of the Austro-Hungarian rout given to the correspondent by an officer reads like one of the worst collapses in the history of war. The men simply dropped from exhaustion and refused to go further. The officers did not threaten them, and some of the officers even followed the example of the men and lay down to await the pursuing Serbians. There was no artillery to cover the retreat, as the horses had fallen exhausted. The regiments which reached the Bosnian frontier were those which had their supply waggons with them, and could feed their men and animals at least once a day. Another eyewitness told the corre- spondent that the officers did not dare to halt the men, as they knew that those who lay down would never be able to get up again. Therefore the troops marched almost automatically till they fell. The bursting shrapnel which continually followed them did not seem to trouble them after the first day of the retreat, as they had become quite apathetic. It is said that General Potiorek will be tried by Court-Martial at Vienna—pour encourager les autres, as Voltaire said of Byng's execution. The head and front of General Potiorek's offending seems to be that he consented to the withdrawal of three army corps which were wanted in Galicia. No doubt he erred badly in saying that be could do without them, but a general who undertakes to carry on a campaign with fewer troops than he had at first is, on the face of it, no shirker of risks, toil, or responsibility. But when the object is to " encourage the others " the victim need not look for a generous judgment of his misfortunes. Possibly General Potiorek would have been condemned just as vigorously if be had refused to yield his three army corps, and further Austro- Hungarian defeats had then followed in Galicia. His wishes may have been overborne. He may have suffered from " too much Archduke," like Benedek at Koni ggratz.

The alleged attitude of Count Tisza is so important that we must quote the correspondent's exact words. He says On the last day of the session Count Tisza made a statement in Parliament., in answer to a question concerning the Russian invasion, a. statement which had a bewildering effect in Vienna. He said, in brief, that the invasion of Hungary was. par excellence an affair concerning the peoples and armies of both the Allies, but in case its importance was not realized by the combined General Staff, then it would be an affair for Hungary only, and independent Hungary would find a means to concentrate her sons who were fighting abroad in a defence of their own homes from hostile invasion. He emphasized the point that Hungary was an inde- pendent State (in union with Austria), and, if necessary, capable of independent action. I don't believe a verbatim report of this statement ever got abroad, for certain very strong phrases were even left out of the Parliamentary diary next day. The Vienna journals, even the official ones, commented on it very bitterly, and accused Tisza of disloyalty. Viennese journalists in the House could scarcely believe their ears."

Never had applause been so loud, we are told, as when the Premier uttered these sentiments. The Opposition, one of whose members had fired at Count Tisza a year ago, cheered for ten minutes. The Opposition leaders after- wards went further than the Premier ; they signed a manifesto calling upon the people to be ready to defend " the sacred frontiers of our kingdom " in the event of the authorities, " in whose hands we placed our forces," not complying with the wishes of their supreme ruler—the Hungarian nation. Although Count Tisza refused to sign this manifesto, he promised to help its distribution and to have it placarded throughout the eountry.

Only a few words of amplification and caution are required by this extraordinary narrative. To begin with, the movement towards independence is clearly also a movement for better protecting the hearths and homes of Hungary. In other words, the first result of the new enthusiasm may well be a greater energy among the Hungarians in prosecuting the Galician campaign against Russia. The Hungarians feel that they have been trifled with, if not betrayed—in the sense in which the French used the word in 1870—by the Austrians and the Prussians. They mean to protect themselves in their own way, and it will only be if, or when, they are convinced that they have more to lose than to gain by continuing the war that they may be expected to ask for peace without any reference to the wishes of Austria. Then, as to the chances that Hungary would have of surviving as an independent Power, it is necessary to point out that the Magyars (who dominate the country, and are likely to dominate it, for the independence movement is a distinctly Magyar movement) would stand alone in a. very difficult struggle for existence, since they are not allied by sentiment or race to any of their neighbours. A. Mongoloid people, they are opposed to and suspicious of all Slav feeling and aspiration. Having won their own freedom, they—like the typical sectary described by Crom- well—have not known how to let others enjoy freedom. Their ascendancy in Hungary has meant a base and con- tinuous oppression of every section of the Serbo-Croatian, or South Slav, races. Their future, if ever they claim and take their independence, will depend, not upon physical strength, but upon statesmanship. And will they develop this statesmanship of which they have shown little trace of recent years ? We most sincerely trust that if the occasion arises they will, for we are anything but anti- Hungarian in feeling. Otherwise their end will be certain. They cannot hope to keep the reins of government if the South Slays of Hungary are justly disaffected. Three millions of Roumanes in Transylvania alone longing to be joined to Roumania would be almost enough to burst up an independent Hungary. A new nation cannot be founded on bullying. On the other hand, it is certain that at the end of the war there will be great toleration for the idea that nations shall own the allegiance they are inclined to, and shall be governed in accordance with their own wishes, and not in accordance with the ideas of a callous conqueror. An independent Hungary, therefore, would be by no means an impossibility. If failure came, it would come from a bankrupt internal statesmanship in Hungary, and not from any original external intolerance of the wish of the Magyars to be wholly free. It would be within the capacity of the Magyars either to conciliate or to provoke the strong sympathy which Serbia and all the South Slays outside Hungary have for their fellows inside Hungary ; also that the Roumanians outside Hungary feel for their fellows inside.