Renner, Karl

Renner, Karl
   Born in Moravia, Renner was a leading socialist politician and political theorist whose activities spanned the latter years of the Habsburg Empire, the First Austrian Republic, and the Allied occupation of Austria after World War II. As a delegate of the Social Democratic Worker’s Party, Renner became a member of the Reichsrat, the legislature of the Austrian half of Austria–Hungary, in 1907. There, he was a prominent advocate of a federal solution to the national unrest within the Habsburg Empire, a position he continued to argue throughout World War I. His economic program followed the mainstream of Austro-Marxist thinking. It called for an ongoing state takeover of property and capital and an elaborate network of state-financed social services. Renner was also eager to expand educational opportunities for the socially and economically disadvantaged, a concern that became a hallmark of Austrian socialism.
   From the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy toward the end of October 1918 to June 1920, Renner was the chancellor of what was at first called the Provisional Republic of German Austria, then the First Austrian Republic. In 1919 and 1920, he also served as Austrian foreign minister; it was in this position that he led the Austrian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference and signed the Treaty of St. Germain. With a succession of conservative governments dominating Austria after 1922, Renner devoted himself to party affairs. From 1931 to 1933, he was president of the parliament; in 1934 he was briefly imprisoned by the authoritarian regime of Engelbert Dollfuss during the civil unrest that accompanied the collapse of Austrian parliamentary government. In 1938, he supported the Anschluss with Nazi Germany.
   It was in good part through Renner’s initiative that a provisional government was formed in Austria as World War II drew to a close. Although the Soviets, whose army participated in the occupation of the country, had never liked his reformist outlook and his support of the Anschluss, Renner was a known quantity for them, and they believed that they could work with him. He served as the head of the three-party coalition that would govern the country provisionally until elections could be held. These took place in November 1945. A month later, Renner was elected Austrian president.
   See also Economy; Education.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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