Austria

Last weekend, the congress of Der Funke, the IMT in Austria, saw 100 people gather to discuss the current world situation and the perspectives of class struggle in Austria – the biggest congress in the history of Der Funke. With guests from the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia, Germany, Switzerland, Scotland and Britain, who shared their experiences with the congress, the international spirit was clearly visible.

Our comrades held a seminar from 7-10 June in the countryside in upper Austria. The motto of the seminar was: “The Internationale unites the human race – 100-year anniversary of the Communist International”. With 108 guests from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Britain, Bosnia and, for the first time, Hungary, the event was true to this motto, and was the Austrian section’s biggest Pfingstseminar in many years.

Last Saturday, the Austrian government, made up of the main bourgeois party, ÖVP and right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), stepped down and announced re-elections. In a spontaneous demonstration, 10,000 people gathered in Vienna to celebrate. This is a setback for the bourgeois bloc, who have been diligently working on attacking the working class to prepare the capitalists for the next crisis.

The aggressive policies of the Austrian bourgeoisie and its government are increasingly forcing different sectors of society, including the working class, into the arena of struggle, while feeding a permanent atmosphere of racism and nationalist hysteria. After half a year of strikes, a mass demonstration and several huge protests, where do we stand now?

Last weekend, the small Austrian town of Bregenz played host to a large gathering of young socialists at the annual Karl-Marx-Seminar. The event was organised by Sozialistische Jugend Vorarlberg and Der Funke, the Austrian section of the IMT.

El sábado 13 de enero, decenas de miles se manifestaron contra el nuevo gobierno austriaco del conservador ÖVP y el nacionalista de derecha FPÖ en lo que se llamó una "bienvenida de año nuevo para el nuevo gobierno".

Last Saturday, tens-of-thousands demonstrated against the new Austrian government of the conservative ÖVP and the right-wing nationalist FPÖ in what was called a “new year reception for the new government”.

Under the heckling of 10,000 demonstrators on the morning of Monday 18 December, a new right-wing government was sworn in at Vienna, Austria. The coalition of the right-wing, Conservative Party (ÖVP) and the right-wing Freedom party (FPÖ) took two months to agree on a 182-page coalition program, which outlines the policy of the bourgeois block government for the next five years and (so they say) for the coming decade.

On Saturday 28 October, as part of a year-long campaign to defend the ideas and memory of the October Revolution, the Marxists of Der Funke invited their supporters and the general public to take part in a major event, under the title “Join the Party”.

“A red-white-red signal of hope and positive change; a red-white-red signal today goes from Austria to all the capitals of the European Union.”

By the tiny margin of 30,853 votes, the Green candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen, won the race for Presidency of the Republic of Austria. But now, the right-wing FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria) candidate, Norbert Hofer, has claimed serious sloppiness in the election process and has asked the constitutional court to revise the electoral process. In order to fix the crisis in Social-Democracy and the government, government and Party leadership changed their personnel. A new political crisis is being prepared.

The first round of elections for President of the Republic shocked both the political caste and larger layers of society. The two candidates for parties of the current government (a social democrat-conservative “grand” coalition) together won just 23%, a huge fall when we consider that previously the combined vote for these parties had always been 80-90%. Politics in Austria is now entering a critical stage.

The discovery of a chicken meat truck containing the bodies of 71 suffocated Syrian refugees on August 27 has shocked the entire country. The lorry, found at the side of the motorway connecting Vienna with Budapest represents the biggest mass killing in Austria since the atrocities of the Nazis during the Second World War. These deaths are directly caused by the border regime of the European Union.

In Austria parties are usually referred to by their colours. The so-called “red-blue coalition” in the Austrian state of Burgenland a coalition of the social democratic SPÖ with the racist, populist, neoliberal FPÖ  has sent shock waves through the political landscape of the country. How could this happen and what can we do about it?

The political conditions in Austria have begun to move. We are witnessing a move towards the right. This is a natural development based on the leadership of the workers movement not resisting the decline of living standards for our class. On the contrary, they are participating in the management of the collapse. But resistance is forming.

On January 24 thousands took to the streets of Vienna to protest and take action against an international dinner-dance organised by right-wing academic fraternities, who are renowned for their extremely reactionary and fascist views. The protests were very successful and indicate a radical mood developing among the youth in Austria.

On December 12th thousands of school students all over Austria went on strike. This is the biggest student movement for years. We publish below a report from Rebellion- the Marxist school student organisation in Austria.

May Day has a long tradition in Austria stretching back to 1890 when the call of the First International to fight for the 8 hour day was eagerly taken up by the then recently unified workers movement. This year too international workers day was celebrated in hundreds of activities across the country.

Jura Soyfer, a political activist, cabaret artist, journalist and author in Vienna in the 1930s, would have turned 100 years of age on 8th December this year. In his poems, articles, and plays, Soyfer spoke up for a better world and encouraged the working class to remember its strength and to stand up against fascism and National Socialism.

While in many countries the call by the ETUC for an European-wide day of action against austerity and in solidarity with the Greek people led to significant protests and even strike action, the Austrian TUC (ÖGB) did not take up this initiative in a serious way. For weeks it has not been clear whether the ÖGB is going to answer this call at all. Eventually, just one week before 14N, the website of the ÖGB published an article where a collection of signatures in Vienna was announced.

As in all other European countries also in Austria the government is trying to make the workers and the youth pay for the capitalist crisis. Austria was severely affected by the crisis. In 2009 it was in deep recession with a sharp decrease in industrial production. And at the beginning of 2009 the government had to intervene with huge sums to prevent the collapse of the shaken bank system.

The left wing of the Austrian SPÖ (Social Democratic Party) is starting to gather strength, as a recent national gathering held in Linz has revealed. Shop stewards, party activists and young socialists who want to see a clear turn to the left within the party met to discuss the way forward and the programme they wish to see adopted by the party. The Marxists of Der Funke intervened and have important positions within this movement.

The crisis of capitalism is shaking every corner of the world. Now Austria, considered in the past as a country of social peace and “dialogue”, has been hit by a massive student protest that is attracting widespread support among the workers, who are also showing signs of radicalisation.

In the provincial elections in Vorarlberg Lukas Riepler, the chairperson of the Young Socialists and also a supporter of the Austrian Marxist tendency Der Funke, is standing as a candidate on the SPÖ list. He is campaigning on a Marxist programme and getting an important echo among workers and youth. Here we provide a report and the interview he recently gave to the German newspaper Junge Welt.

Austria is in recession, and it gets worse as each day passes. More and more workers are being hit hard, with sackings and cuts in hours and wages. On Saturday we had a taste of what is to come, with a successful demonstration which initially the trade union leaders refused to support, but were later forced to back as the pressure from the ranks built up.

75 years ago workers in Austria took up arms in an attempt to stop the fascists from taking power. Unfortunately, although the workers fought valiantly, the reformist leaders who dominated the labour movement refused to move in the direction of revolution and thus the workers suffered a terrible defeat. Today, as similar conditions begin to re-emerge what are the lessons we can draw?

The extreme right has risen again in Austria leaving many shocked. In reality what we have in Austria is growing political instability with swings to the left and the right as successive governments come up against the opposition of ordinary working people. Meanwhile there is ferment in the unions and within the ranks of the Social Democracy, the SPÖ.

The grand coalition in Austria has fallen apart, the two main parties of Austria, the Social Democrats and the Conservatives came under the opposing pressures of the bosses and the working class. In the ranks of the labour movement a militant mood is developing. The long established relative social peace is at an end as the Austrian workers prepare to join their brothers and sisters across Europe in a fightback against the bosses onslaught.

Since the collapse of Stalinism in Eastern Europe the whole region has become a field of investment for western capital. Austria has invested big time in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Now however all the contradictions are mounting up and from a source of stability the region could become a source of instability. Here we provide a brief comment on the economic situation of the CEE region.

On Saturday the "Der Funke" Marxist tendency organised a big event with Trotsky's grandson, Esteban Volkov, as special guest, to commemorate and celebrate the 90th anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Around 200 people came to listen to the speeches in defence of "Red October" and between 400-500 celebrated all night long at the party that was organised after the meeting.

The Socialist Youth of Linz plans to dissolve two of its branches by the end of August. The obvious reason is the political work that the comrades, most of them activists of the Marxist current Der Funke, have developed for almost a decade. We urge all our supporters and readers to sign the solidarity appeal and speak out against bureaucratic manoeuvres against political opponents.

May Day in Austria was a bit different this year. Participation was lower than usual, and the mood was distinctly different. Many came to demonstrate their anger at the behaviour of the Social Democratic Party in the coalition government, and expressed their solidarity with the comrades recently expelled from the Socialist Youth.

After great successes in the Socialist Youth organisation of the Social Democratic Party of Austria, supporters of Der Funke have come under attack inside the youth organisation. The bureaucracy of the party as well as the youth organisation have employed the worst bureaucratic methods to attack the Marxists, in an attempt to stop the spread of Marxist ideas. Please support our campaign against expulsions by sending letters of protest.

The Austrian labour movement and Social Democratic Party have been rocked by a scandal. After months of promises, the SPÖ jettisoned its central election promises in order to join a coalition government with the bourgeois People's Party. The betrayal of the leadership of the party has become the focal point in the formation of a left opposition within the party.

The visit of George W. Bush to Vienna for the EU-US-summit is over. The Austrian police forces were given a great opportunity to test their "emergency procedures" under the guidance of the CIA while thousands of people demonstrated against Bush and the imperialist policies he stands for.

After the historical meeting at the Arena cultural centre in Vienna, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez was once again the main attraction, this time at the closing meeting of the Alternative Forum in Austria. Chavez, who took the opportunity to expand upon some of the ideas he presented at the Arena, was joined on the platform by Carlos Lage, the Vice President of Cuba, and Evo Morales, amongst others.

There is a strong May Day tradition in Austria. This tradition was continued this year as thousands came out to demonstrations across Austria amidst a growing scandal in the trade unions. The movement was determined to show its unity against the attacks of the right wing and there was a thirst for political ideas in the face of great events in Latin America and France.

On Wednesday October 19 the “Action Committees for Free Education” organised successful school student strikes in Vienna, Linz, Wels and Vorarlberg. The strikes were a success and clearly show that the youth movement against the education policy of the government is moving forward.

The Conservative Austrian government has been introducing severe cuts in spending on education, reducing university places, introducing fees and so on. This coming Friday (October 7) the government will get a taste of the students’ anger. Action committees have sprung up and called a day of action.

On Thursday, July 14, a group of Young Socialists and representatives of the Editorial Board of Der Funke organised a picket in front of the Brazilian embassy to protest against the threatened repression of the Cipla and Interfibra workers who have occupied their factories to defend their jobs.

We have just celebrated the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the liberation from fascism. Exactly 60 years ago the leadership of the German Wehrmacht signed the capitulation. Yesterday in the former concentration camp (KZ) of Mauthausen and in Vienna thousands of people showed their opposition to war and to fascism.

Some of our readers will perhaps remember the inauguration of the right-wing coalition government in Austria in February 2000. For the first time since 1970 the Social Democratic Party was not part of the federal government. The new government was formed by Wolfgang Schüssel of the conservative Peoples’ Party and Jörg Haider, the leader of the Freedom Party. This led to a big movement of Austrian “civil society” and a wave of international protests starting with the tops of the EU. Many on the left saw the threat of fascism because of the participation of the Freedom Party in this new bourgeois government.

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.

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