Austria

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.

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