Austria: Report of the Pfingstseminar 2002

This event was organised by Der Funke and the Young Socialists from May 17-20. The thirst for ideas amongst the activists was demonstrated in 28 workshops held over the three days.

In September the representatives of the world's biggest and most powerful multinationals will come to Salzburg (Austria) to the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit. Also this year this summit will be followed by protests from different left-wing organisations, NGOs and trade unionists from Austria and other European countries.

From May 17-20 Der Funke, the Austrian Marxist tendency, was organising together with branches from the Young Socialists (YS) from all over the country for the 6th time its "Pfingstseminar". This year we concentrated mainly on the question of how to prepare theoretically for this political intervention and how to mobilise for the demos in Salzburg.

180 young people from Vorarlberg, Lower and Upper Austria, the Tyrol, Styria, Vienna and for the first time from Carinthia participated in the seminar. This is the biggest seminar we have ever organised in Austria. This year not only comrades from the YS but also activists from the AKS (socialist school-students organisation), the Communist Youth and the Communist Students were present. Especially on the question of the Anti-WEF protests we will try to cooperate with these organisations in the coming months.

In 28 workshops we dealt with topics relevant to the so-called "anti-globalisation movement", like what is globalisation, imperialism, Marxist theory of the state, social movements in Latin America, war against terrorism, racism and anti-racism, Marxist economics, the revolution in Argentina, the colonial revolution, Marxism and women, etc.

Walter Baier (general secretary of the CP) reported on the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. Jordi Martorell from In Defence of Marxism spoke about the student protests in Spain, and Francesco Merli (member of Rifondazione Comunista and member of the Editorial Board of FalceMartello) spoke on the mass movement against Berlusconi in Italy.

Especially the guests from Italy and Spain enriched the seminar enormously and gave all the young comrades the feeling that they were part of an international anti-capitalist movement.

The most important feature of the seminar was the thirst for theory and political discussions among the young activists. The workshops were overcrowded, lots of comrades intervened and posed questions, but also in the breaks and after the official programme the comrades continued to discuss. One young comrade from Lower Austria said that it was the first time he was at a seminar where he could talk to anybody and it was possible to have political discussions. After the presentation of a documentary on the anti-G8 protests in Genoa last summer there was lively discussion on the question of violence and state repression. Most of the comrades rejected a pacifist point of view and called for a militant behaviour at demos. The YS should be prepared to fight against state repression and for our right to demonstrate.

At the book stall we presented for the first time our new documents on women, on fascism and on the Cuban revolution, as well as the new book by Ted Grant on the History of British Trotskyism. The comrades bought political material worth more than €1,000!

But there were not only discussions on perspectives, international developments and Marxist theory but also workshops where we planned the most important political campaigns for the next months - first of all the mobilisation in Salzburg as well as our role in the protests there. In the centre of this campaign will be the struggle against cuts in the education system, against the menace of the extreme right wing in Europe and Austria, and against the attacks on the rights of young workers. Next to school and university students we also want to concentrate on mobilising apprentices and young workers to the anti-WEF protests. In this context it was very positive that more then 30 young workers were present at the seminar. In of the workshops it was decided to launch a national paper for apprentices extending the project of the JUHA (derived from Junge Hackler - a slang word for young worker).

Comrades from different regions presented their plans to organise anti-fascist campaigns. In Voralberg and Vienna these will be concrete answers to brutal attacks by nazis and skinheads on our comrades in the last months. In Voralberg they even attacked our comrades on May Day. These anti-fascist activities should be coordinated by the Marxist tendency in the next period.

In the workshop on "Marxism and war" it was decided to organise anti-war demos on day X when the imperialists start a new military attack in the "war on terror". In this way we want to follow the example of the comrades in Linz who had organised a spontaneous students strike last autumn when the US army was attacking Afghanistan.

The seminar was also very much characterized by the debates between the supporters of the Marxist tendency and the representative of the YS, Torsten Engelage. Starting with the discussion on the new national campaign of the YS against youth unemployment. Most of the young workers present criticised the contents of the campaign because of the lack of any socialist perspective as well as the undemocratic way that the campaign was planned by the leadership of the YS without a discussion with all the militants and the branches.

The most heated debate was on the intervention of the YS in Salzburg. Especially because of the refusal of the YS leadership to participate in the anti-fascist demo on May 8 after having been warned by the police that the fascists would attack the demo, we proposed the following demands:

  • No special negotiations and agreements with the police by the YS;
  • The YS has to fight for the right of demonstration, even if this would lead to state repression;
  • The YS has to take responsibility for the whole demo participating in a common, democratically elected system of stewards to defend the demo;
  • The leadership of the YS bloc has to be elected democratically by all the comrades taking part in the demo.

In the final plenary discussion on the future of the YS which will hold its congress next autumn the political differences between the Marxist tendency and the YS leadership became obvious. A comrade from Vienna stated: "For us there is no difference between neo-liberalism and capitalism and consequently there cannot be a return to any better, more regulated capitalism. This is excluded in the epoch of imperialist decay we live in on a global scale. And for us it is clear that the bourgeois state will also defend the interests of the capitalists when it is led by a social-democratic government."

Several comrades reported undemocratic measures in the regional organisations of the YS where the bureaucracy tries to prevent our political activity. In Innsbruck a group of 25 young socialists has not been allowed to form a branch of the YS for over a year. In Linz the YS does not recognise our second branch and the comrades have to finance their office themselves although the YS gets huge sums of money from the party bureaucracy. In the last congress the leader of the SPÖ Linz even attacked us openly stating that "the Trotskyists" should not be allowed to stay in the YS.

However, the mood in this meeting was clear to everyone: We will not surrender to such methods. They cannot stop us with bureaucratic tricks. Der Funke supporter Josef Falkinger made it clear in his final remarks: "If the leadership of the YS is not prepared politically to play the role it should play in this period of crisis, war, revolution, and counter-revolution then we have to organise ourselves as a Marxist tendency within the YS."

Also in the future we will try to build a strong, revolutionary YS. This seminar has shown how socialist policies could look like nowadays. In the workshops and plenary discussions it was shown that the capitalist system has nothing to offer for ordinary working class youth and that another world is necessary. Der Funke will continue its struggle for another world also in the future on the basis of Marxist theory and a socialist programme. Viva la revolución!