Austria: Whose street? Ours! - Balance sheet of the anti-fascist demo in Vorarlberg

Some 800 anti-fascists responded to the appeal of the Marxist-led Sozialistische Jugend (SJ, Young Socialists) Vorarlberg to demonstrate in Bludenz, a traditional working-class town in the conservative region of Vorarlberg, next to the Swiss and German border. With this demo the anti-fascist movement has again gone onto the offensive.

Some 800 anti-fascists responded to the appeal of the Marxist-led Sozialistische Jugend (SJ, Young Socialists) Vorarlberg to demonstrate in Bludenz, a traditional working-class town in the conservative region of Vorarlberg, next to the Swiss and German border. With this demo the anti-fascist movement has again gone onto the offensive.

Over the last few years Vorarlberg has seen the development of a relatively strong and violent scene of Nazi skins. The backbone of the extreme right is the international Nazi organisation “Blood & Honour”. Their aim is to politicise the skinhead subculture through racist, anti-Semitic and openly Nazi-fascist music and lyrics. Their concerts are fertile ground for the spreading of Nazi ideology. Because of increasing state repression against the far right in Germany this organisation has been searching for a new region where they can organise their concerts and meetings in the German speaking countries. In their attempt to escape from open state repression they shifted part of their activities (like big concerts with well-known international Nazi bands) to Vorarlberg. Vorarlberg is traditionally a very conservative region, politically dominated by the Popular Party. However, even in this small alpine region known for its ski resorts and marvellous landscape in the West of Austria the crisis of capitalism is knocking on the door. With this support from Germany the Nazis were able to regroup in Vorarlberg and build their forces over the last years. In the last months there have been more and more aggressions and attacks against left-wing youth and immigrants. Nearly every weekend one hears of fascist violence. What really made them strong was the reaction of the state apparatus and the bourgeois media. The regional director for domestic security, Elmar Marent, allowed the Nazis act. Even when the police knew about Nazi concerts and meetings they did not intervene. This has obviously made the Nazis strong. The conservative media monopoly in this region also attempted to reduce the problem to a question of “youth culture”, equating the Nazis with left-wing subcultures like punks. The fascist violence was simply explained as the aggressive behaviour of some drunken kids.

For these reasons the comrades of the SJ Vorarlberg and the Marxist tendency Der Funke took the decision to mobilise against the fascists. The demonstration was strong signal that the Nazis cannot behave however they want and that they cannot do whatever they want. Several weeks ago the SJ initiated the organisation of anti-fascist committees where dozens of youth became active. Their campaign for a “Nazi-free Vorarlberg” was well received not only in Vorarlberg itself but also in other regions of Austria as well as in Switzerland and Germany. The trade union left around FSG Zorn (www.fsg-zorn.at) also responded and organised the initiative “trade unionists against the right wing”. These comrades also mobilised for the demo and collected and donated money in order to finance busses from Vienna and Linz for the mobilisation. Within the SJ the Marxists organised a big campaign in support of this demo. Days of action were organised in schools and SJ branches. The Social Democratic Party (SP) of Vorarlberg also gave their official support to the demo. The mobilisation became stronger day by day. The Nazis also understood that the day of the demo would bring some sort of decisive battle. They claimed they were going to mobilise some 1000 Nazis from Austria and Germany to break the anti-fascist demo. We could not allow this threat to stop our mobilisation.

The political support of the SP and trade unionists also led to a change in the political climate. There was enough pressure from the left to force the police to take the side of the anti-fascists. On the day of the demo the police prevented the Nazis from attacking the demo and arrested some 50 Nazi skins. All in all the Nazis were not able to bring together more than 100-150 Nazis (including people from Germany and other regions of Austria).

However, the demonstration was not only a success in terms of the number of participants. The whole appearance (stewards, banners, slogans) and mood of the demonstration was very loud and militant. This demo could have defended itself against Nazi aggression without support from the police. This was very important for the self-confidence of the activists in Vorarlberg. The mood on the demonstration was such that ordinary people joined it spontaneously. The demonstration was the number one topic of discussion in the pubs afterwards and a lot of people expressed their sympathy. From street to street the demo became larger and more militant. This demo made it impossible for bourgeois journalists to denounce the anti-fascists as they did in the past.

This demo was a big success for the anti-fascist movement. The Nazis were not able to break the demo. We have shown that we are strong enough to reclaim the streets. However, this was only the beginning. We now have to build and strengthen the anti-fascist network with the comrades in Switzerland and Germany. After this demo we have enough swing and momentum to fulfil this task. Now we have to build the forces of the Marxist-led SJ in Vorarlberg and root anti-fascism in the schools and workplaces. The struggle against the Nazis must be combined with the struggle against cuts and unemployment and the capitalist system itself.

This demo was also a big step forward for the whole leftwing. It demonstrates the correctness of Marxist methods to mobilise and organise the anti-fascist struggle. The struggle goes on. With a strong Marxist SJ we can win!

See photos of the demo here!
View a video of the demo here!
Indymedia video 1
Indymedia video 2

Der Funke
February 28, 2005