Summary: Republikanischer Schutzbund and the preparations for Civil War
The armed conflicts of the First Republic were the result of interior politics as well as of the mental readiness of the society to apply force, derived from war front thinking in combination with the conviction that the respective ideology was the single right one. Since 1927, when the Justizpalast was set ablaze, there was an atmosphere resembling that of civil war, coupled with general unemployment, poverty, and lack of perspectives. In 1934, the year of the civil war, the Dollfuß government activated the military twice - in February, against the banned Republikanischer Schutzbund and in July against the illegal forces of the Austrian National Socialists.
With the creation of the Republikanischer Schutzbund in April 1923, the Social Democratic Labor Party of Austria (SDAPÖ) had, at least until 1927, a defense formation that not only guaranteed street fight superiority but was to some extent a military instrument in the event of a civil war.
When the politically right stratum started to get armed, the Schutzbund’s monopoly got under pressure, though neither the Heimwehr or the SA were in a position to challenge its status as the strongest defense movement. The advantages of the Schutzbund were its political unity as well as its superiority in equipment and organizational structure that had a strategic/military-strategic, operational, and tactical level. Its shortcomings were the limited availability of its members, which primarily affected training - a problem that all defense organizations faced, with the exception of the National-Socialist Austrian Legion that took quarters in 1933/34 and received military training.
The Schutzbund’s biggest deficit was the party leadership’s disinterest in its condition and further development. It simply ordered "discipline", "militarization", and the elaboration of an operational plan in fall 1927, and that was that. Under the impression of the Pfriemer putsch in September 1931 field exercises were stepped up in 1932. At the same time the Schutzbund succeeded in consolidating some state positions that had come under pressure, due to the political "repainting" of the armed forces.
Nonetheless, neither the new operational concept nor the good equipment could make up for the deficits in intelligence, key personnel and firing training, which was criticized at the so-called Technikerkonferenz in February 1933. The political events did, however, not leave enough time for the Schutzbund to make up for these shortcomings. Pushed into the sphere of illegality in March 1933, this defense formation fulfilled its fate by being defeated in the civil war of 1934.
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