On Sunday, 1st of July, the World Economic Forum (WEF) started its European Summit in Salzburg, Austria. The list of the 1000 members of the WEF is something like the "who's who" of the biggest and most powerful corporations like McDonald's, Monsanto, Nike, Shell, Coca Cola or Microsoft.
This year the WEF wants to discuss mainly the question of the further enlargement of the European Union towards the east of the continent and the process of capitalist transformation in Eastern Europe. Together with the Austrian government the WEF invited the political elite of nearly all the countries of Eastern Europe. The idea of the WEF lies exactly in building and deepening channels of communication between the capitalist corporations and governments and state officials to solve political and economic problems in the interest of these corporations.
After the protests in Seattle, Prague, Davos or Gothenburg this WEF summit in Salzburg was a unique occasion to build the anticapitalist movement also in Austria. Salzburg will become part of the anticapitalist Summer, following on from the protests in Gothenburg and Barcelona and in anticipation of the G8-demonstration in Genoa, Italy.
The police had been preparing for months. Since April it had been clear that the police would bring some 4000 policemen to Salzburg to protect the WEF. In the media there has been an unprecedented virulent campaign against the planned protests presenting everybody who wanted to go to Salzburg to protest as "anarchist terrorists". After the bloody events in Gothenburg this campaign reached hysterical levels, totally out of proportion from the real situation on the ground. The anarchist groups in Austria are very small and do not even have the forces to challenge the police. And it was extremely unlikely that there would be bigger and more experienced groups coming from Germany or Italy who would be prepared for an open street battle with the police.
Although it was clear to everybody that there would not be more than some 2000 people on the demonstration against the WEF, the police had forbidden all the planned demonstrations except for a rally in front of the station. Initially, they had even proposed to the Communist Party to hold the rally in the stadium!
The balance of forces was absolutely in favour of the police. The media campaign led many people to stay at home. The OGB (Austrian Trade Union Council) refused to mobilise against the WEF. The trade unions only agreed to support the counter summit organised by ATTAC. All attempts to organise special trains paid by the unions failed. The lack of mobilisation on the part of the OGB left the radical left-wing groups isolated. However, this did not stop them from going ahead with their strategy of seeking clashes with the police. Their main aim was to prevent the WEF summit by all means necessary and without taking into account the numerical superiority of the police - not to mention that the police was well equipped and prepared for an open street battle.
Already on the train our delegation from the Young Socialists was checked by the police. Arriving at the station it was full of policemen. The whole town was like a militarised zone. The police carried out several acts of provocation several times. One journalist from Germany was arrested and his material destroyed.
Nevertheless on Saturday evening we decided to occupy a McDonald's restaurant to show our symbolic protest against corporate greed and exploitation. Of course it wasn't only the journalists that came, but also lots of police. When we left the restaurant the police prevented us from going back to the station to join a demonstration which had come to show their solidarity with us. The police surrounded our demonstration and forced us then to leave under their directions.
On Sunday we participated in the demonstration with our own bloc with some 150 comrades. There was a very militant mood in our delegation singing revolutionary songs, putting forward slogans against the WEF, against capitalism and for our democratic rights. We were very well organised with affinity groups formed of six comrades who knew each other very well, walking in chains and who elected one comrade as their steward; when we were marching all the stewards formed another cordon around the whole bloc.
When we arrived at the station where the demonstration should have been held the police opened up and some 1000 people started an unauthorised demonstration which was accepted by the police. Later on it was clear that this was part of the strategy of the police to repress the protests in the small streets in the inner city where it was easier for them to control the whole situation. The police were afraid of provoking an open battle in the big square in front of the station.
The anarchists and the "Linkswende" (the Austrian equivalent of the British SWP) tried to split our bloc with the aim of forcing our people to join the spontaneous demonstration as individuals. This was stopped by our stewards. Afterwards when we managed to reorganise our bloc we decided to follow the demonstration. First we were stopped by the police, but then we found a way of leaving the square. After some two km (without seeing any police) we found the other demonstration and we joined them. However, then the police started to control the demonstration and tried to close all the streets so that nobody could leave the demonstration anymore.
Then there was an escalation when the anarchists and "Linkswende" made an attempt to smash through the police lines. From this point on the police stopped the demonstration with extreme brutality. Finally they had an excuse to smash the demonstration. Although we were marching without using any violence at all, we were attacked by policemen with riot batons and shields. One of our comrades got injured. Only the fact that we had a very well organised bloc made it possible to avoid more injuries and panic, which was very important because many of our comrade had never been in such a difficult situation of being confronted with open police repression.
After some minutes the police managed to stop the demonstration and to form a pocket around us. To stop them from closing the pocket even more and to show that we did not want to provoke further violence our whole bloc sat down on the street linked up in chains.
The demonstration had clearly been defeated. Within the demonstration there was no co-ordination at all, and no leadership. In this situation we took the decision to come to an agreement with the police in order to leave the demonstration with the whole YS delegation, taking with us some unorganised people. This was accepted by the police.
Back at the station we held a solidarity demonstration with those still surrounded by the police and sent a small delegation to talk to the police to free the whole demonstration (some 400 people from the Communist Party, anarchists, "trotskyists",...). These talks collapsed after two hours. The police didn't let them go before 11.30pm. People had no water, and could not go to the toilet for 6 hours (!). The police brought a group of dogs, and attacked the demonstration several times and operated with all sorts of psycho-terror.
Around midnight everybody was brought to the station where a special train for Vienna was waiting. Even people from Germany had to use this train to leave Salzburg.
Around 30 of our comrades remained in Salzburg to await the rest of the demo and to show our solidarity.
As we mentioned above, for months the media and the police have been talking of violent protests in Salzburg, criminalising the anticapitalist movement right from the beginning. All the reports we have together with our own experience have shown that the police were just waiting for a possibility to repress the demonstration. The media (not only the yellow press but also the liberal papers!) had prepared the ground for this state repression with lies and slander.
The spontaneous character of the demonstration (which corresponds to the political ideas of the anarchists and the "Linkswende" who want to show everybody the ugly face of the state apparatus, but without taking into account the real balance of forces) made it very easy for them to "justify" their repression of the demonstration. By the manner in which this demonstration was organised and led by the above mentioned groups it was clear to everybody that sooner or later it would all end up in disaster. This brutal repression was a heavy blow for many activists. Lacking any alternative this will strengthen so-called "radical" ideas within the movement. The "Linkswende" is the best example of how a group with, supposedly, "trotskyist" traditions can end up in the blind alley of "semi-anarchism". They tried to build the anticapitalist movement in a purely empirical fashion, expressing themselves in a completely opportunistic manner towards the "greens" or some "left-wing" trade union bureaucrat one day, and in a completely sectarian way the next.
The events in Salzburg have proved the correctness of the Marxist analysis we put forward in our paper and on our web site: without a clear orientation towards the labour movement this movement will have no future. The police is too strong and too well equipped for us to be able to win an open battle in the attempt to prevent these institutions from holding their summits.
Let's turn to the labour movement. Let's build the struggle against cuts in the education system, against the dismantling of the social security system, against privatisation and against all the bosses' attacks on our living standards. Let's build a strong anticapitalist force in the factories, in the schools and the universities. Let's build a strong Marxist tendency in the labour movement and within the youth.