The Historical and the Emerging Class (Die Historischen und die Vordringenden)

Die Fackel

A Word to the Aristocracy

In the Hungarian parliament, someone drew attention to the connections between the magnates and the banks, to protect the so-called bank magnates from attack. And they had to accept that their coats of arms, once they have been sold for royalties, served not only as the shield of the bank, they also shielded the banker. Count Tisza, however, was once again of the opinion that the peace between the classes in the company should not be disturbed by referring to the differences resulting from nature and upbringing. They should rather get along together, and learn from each other, because, „The historical classes have a great deal to learn from the new, emerging classes in Hungarian society. They have to acquire a lot of characteristics and virtues from them, and cast off a lot of old faults. On the other hand, however, it is not meant to be offensive to anyone if we add that the new classes in Hungarian society must also make the effort to absorb all the great characteristics that the old factors of society have inherited from their ancestors…”

There’s no mistaking that Count Tisza is categorically calling upon his peers to get better at making money, and, while making polite excuses, the finance Jews to finally acquire the manners of polite society. However, the educational result, if this world carries on in the same way for a few decades, and progress continues to determine the direction of development, will not correspond with the expectations of a liberalism, which aims at a good blend, because in all probability society will eventually be represented by the historical classes with bad manners but no earthly goods, and the emerging classes with twice as much property. And what could make this evolution more apparent than the hopeless mix-up which is the state of war? That the aristocracy seems to be determined to resist every mental obligation towards the intellectuals by whom they are so impressed, and every responsibility towards the masses besieging them; that an unsuspecting race has started for the right to be thrown out; that the charitable activity of the nobles is revived by the repulsive mix-up and fraternity in the committee, augments the equality in the trenches; that people are happy to find a place at the table of people who they would not previously have offered a place at their people’s table, and that the lord behaves today in a way which his valet would reject, out of noble pride, that everything in these great times and in the little chronicle is eye-catching, every day. This tendency to switch roles was expressed symbolically in the posture of Count Karolyi, who subsequently spoiled his own rash, and most amateurish, statement that Mr Nordau was just showing off with his visit to the concentration camp, by acknowledging that he couldn’t believe his luck in finally meeting Nordau, and had to calm his own astonishment with the assurance that it will get even better, and the class distinctions would disappear completely, now that one has shared the trenches as well as just an internment camp. One has been meeting for some time in editorial offices, in meetings, in charities, and wherever a crowd gathers, and perhaps the time will come in which the aristocracy will even cast off the most ignoble attitude of finding people whom they court and then drop, even more horrible behind their backs than to their faces. Because that is a prejudice. Anyway, they won’t have to be ashamed much longer of mixing with the commoners, because the aristocracy of the future is already so dominant that there will soon be more ancestors in the Kärntnerstraße[1] than such as have already buried their ancestors. There are a lot of them who don’t want to have made a fortune from canned food or woollen blankets for nothing, namely without the prospect that in a hundred years a proud dynasty of uncertain origin, although certainly from the time of war profiteering, will flourish, averse to intermingling, more unapproachable than the spent society of those days, which didn’t even kick the ancestor. Mixed marriages will make their contribution to overcome the separation at table, which was a social obstacle for so long. It is already quite common that well-born gentlemen don’t just marry the cream of the Ischl[2] promenade, they even take them out to dinner. Jupiter regarded his erotic inclinations so much as a private matter that he only had relations even with a princess disguised as a bull: and was still unable to prevent it becoming part of the mythology. He fathered two high court judges with her. But what will the next generation be like, when the fathers had even less idea than the mothers? The world has proven, in a desperate way, that it still has blood. Now the point is no longer to mix it, and we’ll see that the emerging class, whose fresh impact no defense has been able to resist for thousands of years, were the victors of this short war. But were they handed the keys to the social strongholds, or only those to the ghettos? Is there a pit out of whose depths they have not been raised? A rope ladder of social connections which one did not let down to them? Screenplay scribblers, operetta favourites, agents, no longer need to force themselves on their betters, they are in demand; and the parvenu no longer needs to exert himself when his Highness meets him half way. It is dangerous to be received by a duchess, because you can be sure to find a tabloid journalist with her; fantastic combinations are all the rage, and the poor dignitary, who gasps under the load, is the exploited servant of the industrialist, who occasionally compensates him for the bad treatment with an invitation to dinner. Is it still justified to talk about emerging classes, when the historical classes are already behind them? They have never made life as easy for themselves as their deadly enemy does for them, and the last obstacle which the historical world wanted to lay in their path, was disposed of by the will of their God, which is unfathomable, but has been actively in pursuit of victory for millenia. How should a race have an appetite, whose aspirations one offends when one only accuses it of an inclination towards material goods, not moral ones, which are, after all the cheap ornament of the others in such a transformed life? If the day comes, and it will, in which values have been converted completely into goods, there may still be a chance to withdraw them from the market, to spoil the chances of the eternal traders: the aristocrat gives proof of himself by rejecting them, and leaves society as a ghetto of nobles behind himself!


[1] The most fashionable shopping street in Vienna

[2] Fashionable Austrian spa resort

Author: Karl Kraus

Published in: Die Fackel Die Fackel KrausWeltgericht1 Kraus Judgement Day I

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