Railworkers took the initiative in launching demonstrations against the entry of the extreme right wing Freedom Party of Haider in the new government on the third of February. Since that day, students and other young people have not stopped hitting the streets of Vienna and other towns in Austria. This country has definitely broken with its smooth and consensual past. Today class struggle in its different forms is again on the order of the day. We spoke with Herbert Bartik, activist of the Vienna Socialist Youth and of the Marxist paper Der Funke about the sudden upheaval.
"Widerstand! Widerstand!" - "Resistance! Resistance!" - that is the main slogan of the protest wave which has been shaking Austria for more than three weeks. When it became clear that the conservative Peoples Party (ÖVP) was to form a coalition with the extreme right-wing Freedom Party of Jörg Haider, this sharp political turn sparked a spontaneous movement never seen before in Austria.
One year ago a shock wave went through Western Europe with the coming to power of the coalition government of the OVP and FPO in Austria. A lot has happened since then. Herbert Bartik of the Austrian Marxist journal 'Der Funk' was interviewed by Filip Staes of the editorial board of Vonk (Belgian Marxist paper).
After an "interregnum" of five years the Social Democrats regained an absolute majority on the council of "Red Vienna". Vienna has a symbolic value for the Austrian labour movement. Ever since the democratic revolution of 1918 this city has been governed by the Social Democrats, with just two interruptions: the period of Austro-Fascism, followed by the Nazi regime (1934-1945), and the period from 1996 to 2001, when the party lost its absolute majority and collaborated with the weak Conservative party. Now the Social Democracy is back again.
But will they be able to live up to the expectations of the workers who voted for them?
After a wave of protests against the right-wing government at the beginning of last year and the first signs of mobilisation by the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Osterreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, OGB), the coalition government formed by the conservative People's Party and the extreme right-wing Freedom Party was finally able to temporarily stabilise its position, thanks mainly to the policy of the leadership of the OGB which tried to prolong its old "social partnership". Now however things are getting hot in Austria and this Autumn we could see a worker backlash.