146 comrades attended our "Pfingstseminar", a socialist youth camp organised by the Marxist tendency of "Der Funke" in co-operation with several branches of the Young Socialists (Sozialistische Jugend, SJ) and other left wing youth organisations.
Over the last nine years this seminar has developed into one of the biggest meetings within the Austrian left. This year the political programme of the camp was dominated by the debate around the movement against pensions ‘reform’. In recent weeks we have seen the biggest strikes for decades. The trade union leadership was forced to mobilise against the plans of the right wing government. However, when we left to attend the seminar the president of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) declared in a press conference that now it is up to parliament to decide over the pensions reform and that the trade unions will not call for further strikes. And this just after the successful strike on June 3 where 1 million workers demonstrated their willingness to defend their pensions.
However, with hindsight the very day of the strike was the day when the demobilisation started. The trade unions were not prepared to organise mass demos. In most cases they kept the workers inside the workplaces. It seems that this struggle has reached a point where the trade union bureaucracy was afraid of further mobilisations. The next step could have only been the call for a general strike with mass demos as had been demanded by lots of leading shop stewards and trade union activists.
At the seminar we had several workshops and plenary discussions where we tried to analyse the new situation but also more general questions related to our trade union work (Marxist theory of strikes, the working class, trade unions in the 21st century, privatisation, etc...).
In the plenary debate on the last evening Jordi Martorell from In Defence of Marxism explained that these attacks on our rights are clearly an international phenomenon. In every European country we see the same process. The whole economic situation forces the ruling class to attack the welfare state. Austria only stands in the same line with France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Germany etc. The brutal way in which the bourgeois attacks the working class leads to social polarisation and an upsurge of the class struggle. The strike movements in lots of European countries proves this. Andreas Kollross, the chairman of the SJ, stressed the point that the labour movement has to develop a political alternative to the programme of the ruling class. We have to tax the rich to defend the welfare state. He also said that these strikes, even if they ended in a defeat, have been very important because they changed the consciousness of the Austrian working class.
Peter Haumer, a longstanding Marxist trade union activist representing "Der Funke", explained the need for a broad debate within the whole labour movement to discuss the lessons of this struggle. The young socialists have a big responsibility in initiating this debate and putting forward a Marxist point of view within the unions and the working class youth. The comrades of "Der Funke" will spread these ideas in the next weeks and months within the unions and workplaces. From our point of view this debate could be the starting point for the formation of a militant left wing within the Austrian labour movement.
All in all we had 21 workshops: Marxism and women, what is Trotskyism, what is Stalinism, individual terrorism, what programme for the young socialists, revolution in Latin America, Venezuela, war and peace on the Indian subcontinent, and many more.
One of the highlights of the seminar was a report on the work of the Marxists in Pakistan by comrade Sadaf from the PTUDC. Her speech was very impressive. After the meeting the comrades donated some 300 euros to the PTUDC.
Following this event Gix Buchinger, a longstanding activist of the socialist movement and wellknown singer, gave a concert with traditional workers songs. The mood was really excellent and reached its high point when MisterIskra started to rap.
At this seminar we also welcomed two comrades from Slovenia who are going to build a Marxist tendency also in their country.Because of the high quality of the political debates it was definitely the best seminar we have ever had. This reflects the experiences of many comrades in the last months by intervening and building the antiwar movement, the strikes against the pensions reform and many other events. This weekend was an important step forward in the building of the forces of Marxist in Austria.