Socialist Party | Print
THE ANGRY scenes in Austria this past week have shown that the entry of Jorg Haider's Freedom Party into the Austrian government will not go unchallenged.
Day after day, sometimes up to 14 hours a day, workers and young people mobilised the huge and growing opposition to Haider's racist and anti-working class party.
Haider's party today is not a fascist party in the sense that the Nazis were in Germany. But Haider's repetition of Nazi propaganda and the racism of his far-right views have alarmed workers and youth worldwide.
Protests are ebing held in major cities throughout the world and huge demonstrations are being planned in the Austrian capital Vienna.
Haider has been downplaying his praise of Nazi policies and Hitler's SS and trying to appear more 'respectable'. He even says how much he admires Tony Blair - not only because Britain is not joining the EU boycott of Austria but also because he admires Blair's policies!
Haider also claims he is a moderate because he realises there is limited potential for his far-right views to gain mass support at this stage. During the recent elections, 63% of voters said they voted for the Freedom Party because they wanted to show the ruling parties that change was needed.
Haider's party has got this far because he has not been challenged by the workers' movement in Austria. Decades of rule by social democratic and coalition governments have ended in privatisation, cuts and carrying out attacks on the working which have nurtured the discontent in which Haider's far right have grown.
But although Haider doesn't currently represent a return to the fascism of the 1930s, his party's rise must serve as a warning to the workers' movement and socialists everywhere.
Hitler made the not entirely true boast that he came to power without a pane of glass being broken in opposition. Even if Haider does not at this stage represent the same threat as Hitler, our generation must not allow this to happen again.
"WE'RE NOT going to let Blunkett divide and demoralise schools". That will be the message from hundreds of teachers rallying against performance-related pay (PRP) this Saturday.
The Tories did enough damage by setting school against school through performance league tables. Now New Labour want to take market forces even further and set teacher against teacher. They want teachers' pay to be measured by pupils' exam results and OFSTED inspectors' gradings.
But the laws of the market have no place in schools. How do you fairly compare different teachers from different schools? Teachers will opt for classes and schools where it's easier to "perform". PRP is a devastating attack on comprehensive education.
"PRP isn't going to work," says Southampton primary teacher Liz Filer "It doesn't take into account how children learn. We're already being asked to set up booster classes for six-year-olds. This will put children under even more pressure.
"Teamwork will go out of the window. Who is going to want to teach children with special needs if you're paid by results?"
New Labour want parents to question teacher competence instead of the government's failure to fund schools properly and tackle poverty. They want teachers to take on even more unbearable workload and compete with colleagues for pay.
"They claim 'good' teachers will be rewarded but we all deserve a £2,000 pay rise," says Merseyside secondary teacher Robin Pye. "PRP is all about trying to make us choose which few of us get a decent wage. Most of us will only receive a below average 3.3% increase."
Even the Review Body warns the government that they have failed to win the arguments in schools over PRP. Blunkett is pressing on regardless. Now we've no choice but to turn anger into action.
School Teachers Opposed to Performance Pay (STOPP) has had to take the initiative to organise Saturday's demonstration but it's time the national unions gave a lead. Several local associations of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) have already organised indicative strike ballots.
Results from Liverpool to Lewisham, Bristol to St Helens show that teachers would vote for action to stop performance pay damaging schools.
On 17 February the NUT national executive are voting on a motion to ballot for the one-day strike action agreed by NUT conference. Teachers must rush in demands that the executive supports that call.
The government's spin doctors are losing their touch. A bold campaign combining action and publicity can defeat performance pay and unite parents and teachers in demanding proper investment in comprehensive education.
LAST OCTOBER'S election success, followed this week by the entry into the Austrian government of Haider's far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), has shocked millions of people internationally.
Many are aware of Haider's long record as an apologist for Nazism, and his frequent use of Nazi-style language. His family too has a well-known Nazi past, dating back to 1929, which saw them gain immense wealth as a result of Nazi rule.
Despite Haider's frequent formal apologies, the FPÖ continuously dips into the Nazi gutter. In last year's election the FPÖ made much use of the slogan 'Stop der Überfremdung' (stop foreign overpopulation), a phrase almost directly lifted from a 1933 speech of Goebbels attacking Jewish 'infiltration of German intellectual life'.
The FPÖ's gains have raised the spectre of Nazism across Europe, provoking an angry response. Throughout Europe protests have taken place. There is a growing determination that FPÖ cannot be accepted as a 'normal' party. The fact that these events are taking place in Austria, Hitler's birthplace, only adds to the fear.
IN THIS situation the other 14 countries in the European Union (EU) have threatened sanctions against the new Austrian government. In Britain even Socialist Workers Party leaders' are quoted as saying "we are supporting the European Union's position" (London Times, February 3).
But this is not what the Committee for a Workers International, which the Socialist Party is part of, is saying. We support international protest, but we give no support to either the EU or individual capitalist governments.
There should be no illusions about what the EU is doing. Its position against Haider and the FPÖ is not one of principled opposition to oppression. Just look at its complete inactivity as, during the past few weeks, Russian imperialism bombed Groszny back into the stone-age. Within the EU every government is taking harsher and harsher messages against immigrants and asylum seekers.
Yet the EU leaders are very aware of the widespread fear and opposition to the far right, and particularly to the spectre of Nazism. The EU leaders are concerned that the FPÖ in government will deepen the polarisation in Austria and produce a radicalisation. They want to try to head off such developments and also to refurbish their own 'democratic' credentials at home and abroad.
DESPITE THE existence of fascist elements inside the party, and its racist propaganda, the FPÖ is not at the head of a mass fascist movement threatening to crush the workers' movement and all democratic rights. Much of the FPÖ's votes have been won in protest at the policies of the previous 'grand coalition' government of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP). In a country with very little recent experience of class struggle, the FPÖ has been able to win the votes of many workers and youth who have been alienated by the Social Democrats pro-big business policies. But any attempt by the fascist element within the FPÖ to now implement their real policies would provoke a collapse in the party's support.
However, while not fascist, the FPÖ in government will mean even harsher attacks on immigrants and foreigners. And they will not be the only targets. The new government has already declared its intention to introduce spending cuts, carry out large scale privatisation, and cut public sector jobs. All these measures will, sooner or later, provoke a wide scale resistance from below.
ALREADY IN Austria many workers and youth see Haider's successes as a defeat and a warning. The historical example of how the Austrian (and pro-Mussolini) fascists achieved victory in the brief civil war of 1934 (see article below), followed four years later by Hitler's take-over, have left a powerful legacy. This is the reason for the widespread protests which have erupted within Austria.
Haider, since downplaying his previous pan-German nationalism, has adopted the mantle of being the patriotic defender of Austrian independence. This has been his answer to the criticism of the EU governments. But in so doing Haider has also been easily able to point to the EU's hypocrisy, quoting for example the rottenness and corruption at the heart of Belgium's political elite.
While some sections of Austrian big business are concerned at the economic effect of anti-Haider protests, the FPÖ's support has been able to rise temporarily in the polls in a reaction against the EU's intervention.
The movement against Haider in Austria has to be supported, but this can only be done by the workers' and youth movements. There can be no trust in the EU or any other capitalist governments. Even on the very rare occasions when capitalist governments take sanctions against repressive regimes, they only do so for their own motives. Certainly they will not support measures which threaten their system. Socialists have to counterpoise independent action by the labour movement, as the Australian workers did last year in defence of East Timor.
In Europe Haider's success is correctly seen as a warning. The call of the Austrian section of Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) for international solidarity action on February 18, when there will be a 'Day of Action' in Austria itself, must be widely publicised. It will be an opportunity to show the genuine international solidarity of youth and workers and challenge the racist policies being pursued throughout Europe. For socialists it will provide the chance to reach a wider audience in explaining the roots of racism and fascism within capitalism, and the need to rebuild the workers' movement as a fighting force against capitalism and for socialism.
DURING THE first half of the twentieth century Europe was convulsed by wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions.
Inspired by the socialist revolution in tsarist Russia, on 29 October 1918 the Austrian working class brought down the old reactionary Hapsburg monarchy. Democratic workers' councils - soviets - were formed and armed workers' militias established. The army collapsed and a situation of 'dual power' developed in which the ruling class were paralysed, while effective power lay in the hands of the working class.
Only one thing stood in the way of the working class - their own Social Democratic leaders. These 'leaders', who were tied to capitalism, did everything to confuse, demoralise and derail the revolution. This allowed the ruling capitalists to rebuild its forces which included fashioning the Heimwehr (Home Guard) - led by monarchist officers and financed by the capitalists, the bankers, and the Catholic church - into a fascist auxiliary force.
However, the Social Democratic Party (SDAP) remained potentially more powerful. They had a mass membership (800,000 members, accounting for 25% of the male and 10% of the female population) and they controlled municipal Vienna and many other councils. Furthermore, they had a military organisation - the Schutzbund - which at its peak numbered 70,000 armed workers.
In the last pre-war parliamentary election to be held in Austria in 1930, the fascist Heimwehr gained only eight seats out of 165 and the pan-German Nazis, who stood separately, failed to win one. The SDAP on the other hand won 72 seats.
Even in the 1932 council elections, where the fascists gained ground, this was largely at the expense of capitalist parties.
However, the fascists were determined to achieve power whereas the leaders of the SDAP, despite their radical rhetoric, had no clear understanding of the nature of fascism and were terrified of taking power into their own hands.
IN JULY 1927 fascists attacked a peaceful SDAP demonstration, killing a child and a war invalid. The killers were acquitted leading to mass protests which were brutally attacked by police who fired into the crowds.
Street fighting raged and a general strike was called. Austria was gripped by a revolutionary crisis.
Once again leadership proved decisive. Without the arming of the workers and mobilising for power the general strike became a 'demonstration with folded arms'. Within three days it was defeated.
In May 1931, the developing world economic crisis was deepened by the collapse of the main Austrian bank - Credit Anstalt. With the economy in ruins, with mass unemployment and increasing poverty, the social basis of the capitalists began to evaporate.
The government was led by the Christian Social Party, forerunners of today's People's Party, which sought to prevent absorption into Germany by leaning on Mussolini's Italian fascist regime and repressing the pro-German Nazis.
As the capitalist crisis intensified the ruling class, increasingly, used their military/police apparatus against the workers' organisations and prepared to drown the workers movement in blood.
Yet, the SDAP leaders clung to the argument that they couldn't assume power until they won 51% of the vote. While they waited the fascists attempted two abortive coups.
In March 1933, the 'bonapartist' Austrian chancellor Dollfuss dissolved parliament and command of the army and police was placed in the hands of Fey - the Heimwehr leader.
The inaction of the SDAP leaders only emboldened the fascists. In January 1934 the Heimwehr occupied four regional government buildings, demanding the SADP's suppression.
Fearing a repeat of Hitler's victory in Germany the workers, starting in Linz and against the opposition of the SADP leaders, took up armed resistance.
The army, police and fascists surrounded the workers' districts. The Times correspondent in Vienna described the scenes: "Outside the Larer Hill, the Schutzbund erected a formidable defence system with barricades and proper bunkers... These 'graves' held 2,000 armed Schutzbund scantily clothed, in bad shoes and almost completely without nutrition or drinking water. These 2,000 lasted three ice-cold February days and nights."
An estimated 2,000 were slaughtered and 5,000 wounded. Tens of thousands were rounded up and put into concentration camps.
The socialist revolutionary Leon Trotsky summarised the lessons of the Austrian defeat when he wrote in 1934: "Only a leadership that recognises in advance that the revolution is unavoidable, that makes this the fundamental principle guiding its actions and draws all the practical conclusions flowing from this can measure up to the situation at the critical hour."
The above article is based on an article that appeared in the Militant International Review (forerunner of Socialism Today) in Autumn 1985.
Back copies are available. Send £1 (includes postage) to Socialism Today, PO Box 24697, London E9 5FP.
WHY HAS this monster Haider been allowed even a sniff of power in Austria? Does his party's participation in the government mean a return of Nazism?
Haider's Freedom Party has extreme right-wing views, which bear similarities to the Little Englander nationalism of the Tories and Hague's 'common sense revolution'. They do still pose a threat to the workers' movement, to ethnic minorities, to asylum seekers and all those who oppose racism.
Specifically, Haider never misses an opportunity to attack socialism.
But the Freedom Party, despite its use of fascistic propaganda and symbolism, is not a fascist party in the sense that Hitler and Mussolini's parties were.
Mussolini came to power after a period of revolution and counter-revolution in the early 1920s after the working class movement was defeated. In Germany the repeated failure of the leaders of the workers' parties to carry out a socialist transformation in the 1920s allowed disillusion to set in.
Despite the failures of the workers' parties leadership, German workers did attempt to mobilise to stop the fascists coming to power. Hitler eventually gained a mass base because of the desperation of large sections of society when the late 1920s bubble economy collapsed. Large sections of the middle class and even some sections of workers looked desperately for any solution to the prevailing capitalist crisis.
Hitler, like Haider, never achieved majority support in elections, but was handed power by German big business who were desperate to smash the militant German working class. The German and Italian capitalists looked to the fascists' paramilitary groupings to liquidate working-class resistance.
Once in power the Nazis literally wiped out a whole generation of communists, socialist and working-class militants before they embarked on their racist genocide against the Jews.
Austria today, by contrast, has not got at this stage a deep capitalist crisis. Nor has the working class suffered major defeats at the hands of the capitalists. Also, Haider's party does not have a paramilitary wing that can be used to smash working-class opposition.
HAIDER'S PARTY have capitalised on the fact that the former workers' parties - Labour and social democratic - long ago abandoned offering any alternative to capitalism. In fact these parties are now the most ardent advocates of capitalism's free market.
In many cases workers see no distinction between the main parties, where cronyism and patronage permeate every level. William Keegan of the Observer commented "one factor behind the rise of the Nazi apologist Jorg Haider is the political paralysis resulting from the Austrian economic miracle."
Whilst Austria's economic 'stability' is an exception and will not last indefinitely, its political climate is not much different to many other European and capitalist countries. In all cases there is this political paralysis and corruption that has produced alienation and disaffection.
This disillusion has allowed the scum like the Freedom Party, the Front National in France, Vlaams Blok in Belgium and other far-right parties to rise to the surface.
In all these countries, whenever the far right have raised their head workers and youth have reacted in opposition and driven the racists back. In Sweden it's member of the Socialist Party's sister organisation that have led the resistance against racist murders. In Austria our sister party has been prominent in the anti-Haider protests.
Haider's tentative steps towards power do not at this stage constitute a return of 1930s' fascism. But they nevertheless represent a threat that the socialist and workers' movement has to challenge.
As capitalism's economic crisis becomes more intense and class antagonisms much sharper then the capitalist class could turn to embrace a new variant of fascism, possibly from the likes of Haider's party, to try and smash the working-class movement.
At this stage socialists must mobilise the workers' movement to oppose the small fascist splinter groups and the larger racist right-wing parties like the Freedom Party, wherever they raise their head. But in the longer term the task remains to build new mass parties of the working class and fight for a socialist transformation of society.
FOR A few brief months local government had returned to Northern Ireland. After 25 years of bloodshed, and negotiations that seemed to go on forever, 'agreement' was achieved a few weeks before Christmas. The vast majority of working-class people were relieved though weary and a little cynical.
It is difficult to predict exactly how events will play out between now and the 22 May decommissioning deadline. It remains the case that the momentum is still towards accommodation, even if in reality that means an agreement to differ.
This does not mean that the process can survive every crisis. We have pointed out before in The Socialist that a settlement that cements division is ultimately bound to fail.
It is most likely that the 'peace process' train will remain on track, not least because of the complete lack of any alternative strategy for the Republican movement.
Reliance on the armalite has been replaced by reliance on the millionaires.
Winning the war has now become a question of out-breeding the Protestants, ensuring maximum unity of Catholics and enlisting the support of US big business for good measure.
THE DECOMMISSIONING issue has most definitely not gone away, despite the fact that it is in reality not of key importance. Everyone is aware guns can be destroyed one day and replaced the next. What is key is that the main combatants have decided that the war is over.
The Republican movement have surrendered nearly all of their previously held principles. Holding on to their guns makes little sense now.
The symbolism of handing over even a few guns however, is immense and the task facing the Adams leadership in persuading Republican ranks should not be underestimated.
For unionists the key change of the last few years is that almost everyone now accepts that they will not be forced into a united Ireland against their will. Given their gains it makes no sense to risk everything over silent guns. Trimble's strategists are aware of this but face the same difficulties as Adams - delivering a majority of their constituency on this emotive issue.
Despite Sinn Fein's protestations Trimble is not bluffing when he states that he has taken his party as far as they will go.
The Republican Movement have also painted themselves into a corner. There was a widespread expectation that they had agreed to deliver on arms last November. They did little to disabuse people of that notion.
A token move on decommissioning would have sufficed to take the Agreement past the 12 February deadline.
The Republican leadership may have calculated that they could escape this poisoned chalice. If so they got it wrong. Alternatively they may have planned to deliver but met strong resistance from the ranks and were unable to do so.
Now the stakes are raised and the pressure on republicanism has increased, their options are few indeed. There is little appetite for a return to an unwinnable war.
Stumbling on under direct rule is not very attractive given that this scenario much more favours unionism. The only real option is to give something on arms.
This could take many forms and could be minimised if accompanied by an IRA statement which effectively admitted that the war was over. The Republican leadership are eager to hold onto their electoral gains north and south of the border and to make further progress.
They calculate that decommissioning is necessary to do so. Against it must be balanced the risk of a significant split in their ranks.
It is unlikely now that dissident republicans will find their ranks swollen by large numbers of IRA defections. Why go on this issue if you bit the bullet on every other u-turn? And why go back to war if you have already accepted the legitimacy of the state by entering its institutions?
As we go to press behind the scenes talks continue. Suspension may be avoided though this is unlikely. Something will probably come together to allow the process to continue. If so this poses the question of just what the new regime can achieve and what it has to offer working people.
FOR THE first time in a generation the political parties have lost the luxury of criticising from the sidelines without proposing an alternative.
Now they must put up or shut up. They have largely chosen the latter path. They have nothing to offer working people, no vision for the future.
It has not escaped public attention that the MLA's found time to vote themselves a major pay rise, to arrange a long Christmas break after only days in the new job, to grant themselves generous pensions and redundancy arrangements and to appoint junior ministers, special advisors and various family members to help them out.
They only abandoned plans to award the Assembly parties £1.2 million in public grants after a public outcry.
The controversy over Sinn Fein executive member de Bruin's decision to close the Jubilee maternity unit at the City Hospital in favour of the Royal Maternity illustrates the difficulties in making the new institutions work.
On what basis did the Assembly health committee, the MLAs and de Bruin make their decisions? There are reasonable grounds for suspicion that some voted on the basis of protecting their personal vote, some on sectarian grounds for either the hospital based in a mainly Catholic area or in a mainly Protestant area, and some voted on both criteria.
No one appears to have raised the possibility that both units could stay open.
The Socialist Party proposes a moratorium on all cuts and a determined campaign to force Westminster to increase Northern Ireland's budget allocation significantly.
This is entirely achievable. In Dungannon, Downpatrick and elsewhere tens of thousands have come onto the streets in recent years to defend their local hospitals.
If it is explained that the money is there, that it has been stolen, that it can be wrested back, the support of working-class communities will be overwhelming. Such an approach is highly unlikely from the present MLAs.
THE ATTITUTES of the traditional parties to the economy further serves to illustrate how little they have to offer working people. There is little sign of the predicted "economic dividend" expected to flow from peace. 300 jobs a week are disappearing in traditional industries such as textiles.
New jobs are being created but these are low paid, part-time and temporary. Thousands more are exploited on New Deal schemes.
The declared strategy of the two dominant Executive parties, the UUP and the SDLP, is to play to Northern Ireland's 'strengths', i.e. low wages and industrial peace. None of the other parties have challenged this strategy.
THE SOCIALIST Party is small but not insignificant. We have one TD in the Dail, three councillors (including Johnnie McLaughlin in Omagh) and a growing membership.
The Socialist Party will do what it can to provide an opposition to the prevailing consensus on economic and social issues.
To really make a difference however it is necessary to take political action. This is why the advent of local government in the North will sooner or later put the idea of an independent mass workers' party back on the agenda.
ROGER BANNISTER'S campaign in the UNISON general secretary election is rocking the confidence of the national full-time officials and the establishment candidate Dave Prentis.
This week's Sunday Times commented, referring to Kilfoyle's resignation as a junior minister and Roger's chances of winning the UNISON leadership that: "To lose a minister may be a misfortune, but to lose an entire union would be carelessness indeed. This morning, however, the prime minister is in such a position."
The Independent reported in a similar vein: "Roger Bannister, expelled from the Labour Party in 1986 for his support of the Militant Tendency [Militant was The Socialist's predecessor], could become general secretary of UNISON, the public service union with 1.3 million members, Labour's biggest single financial backer."
The Socialist has been contacted by others who confirm that the right-wing feel Roger is ahead and they are desperate to provoke a last-minute 'red scare'.
Roger has never hidden his socialist policies, or his record in fighting for the rights and living standards of ordinary UNISON members.
It is these policies and his pledge to forego the £74,000 general secretary's salary and live on the average wage of a UNISON member which has attracted votes. This is particularly so where UNISON members have seen the Campaign for a Fighting Democratic UNISON (CFDU) election material or heard Roger speak.
The predicted low turnout is likely because of the cynicism ordinary members feel about the existing national leadership.
The ballot closes on 18 February. All local government, health, utility and education workplaces where there are UNISON members should be contacted and leafleted in the next few days. Only a minority have voted so far, many more will support the idea of a fighting general secretary on a worker's wage.