What We Think: Haider’s Threat

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.