Austria: A Socialist Campaign to defeat the far-right

MORE THAN 20,000 people took to the streets of Vienna on Saturday 12 February. This demonstration, lasting more than five hours, became the most lively and determined march organised so far against Austria’s new right-wing government.

Per Olsson, reports from Vienna

The demo was called by a bloc of different left organisations, including the newly formed Sozialistische LinksPartei (SLP), [the Socialist Left Party, the Austrian section of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI)].

The march went through Vienna and ended in Dobling, in front of the huge working-class estate still named Karl Marx Hof, famous as the scene of fierce fighting when workers fought police, troops and the fascist Heimwehr during the brief civil war in February 1934. (see last week’s Socialist)

The demonstration was cheered and applauded by the spectators on the pavements or looking out from windows. The air was filled with political slogans, singing of the Internationale, speeches and music. At least 3,000 copies of a special SLP broadsheet were sold.

City of protest

VIENNA HAS been a city of demonstrations and protests since the formation of a “black and blue” government on 2 February, a coalition between the conservative People’s Party (OVP) and Jorg Haider’s extreme-right Freedom Party (FPO).

Each night last week thousands of people assembled at the starting point, outside the Hofburg presidential palace, and walked through the workers’ districts of Vienna. These demonstrations have played a key role in providing an alternative to all that want to take an active stand against

the government. It has also given a radical voice to the discontent and anger that has developed in Austria over recent years.

However, the movement has reached a point where it has to take a further step. It is now obvious that daily demonstrations of thousands alone will not bring down the government. The “Widerstand” (resistance), the main slogan of the movement, has to become broader.

However, there are many obstacles to overcome. The leaders of the OGB (the Austrian TUC), are not prepared, at this stage, to organise a fightback.

The trade union leaders are living in the past. They want to maintain the old “social partnership” between the classes that the bosses are deserting. The ruling class now want to replace “Social Partnership” with a de-regulated and so-called flexible labour market. This is why they were prepared to support the formation of an OVP-FPO coalition and to see how far it can go.

Nevertheless, there are sections of the trade union movement, like the railway workers, that are discussing the possibility of taking strike action against the government. Our call for a “Warnstrike” (warning strike) is getting a good response amongst the demonstrators.

What is needed now is a definite date to be set and committees of action, involving shop stewards, immigrants, school students and students that are prepared to organise such a warning strike, from below if necessary. The SLP is campaigning for such a course of action and this will be the message sent out by the day of action and the school student strike on 18 February.

It will then be followed by a big demonstration the day after. It is almost certain that this demonstration will be bigger than the 70,000-strong demonstration organised on 12 November last year in response to Haider’s election gains.

Next phase

BUT WHAT will happen afterwards? The movement so far has been united in its hatred towards the new government. The next phase in the struggle against the “black-blue” coalition will inevitably bring more to the fore the question of what kind of government we need to replace it.

There can be no trust in the established parties. The Social Democrats (SPO), the trade union bureaucrats and the traditional capitalist parties all are responsible for the rise of Haider. Their pro-capitalist policies of privatisation, welfare cuts and promoting racism, made it possible for the FPO to become the biggest extreme right-wing party in Europe.

The SLP is against every capitalist government. A return to the “old” SPO-OVP coalition is not an alternative to the present one. Haider’s electoral support was built upon the increasing alienation from the old coalition.

The fight against Haider is a fight to build an alternative to all the parties that stand on the basis of capitalism. The struggle against the extreme right and racism is part of the fight against unemployment, cuts, privileges and capitalism. It is a struggle for socialism and a government that acts in the interest of working people – a socialist government.