From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (England and Wales)
LAST OCTOBER'S election success, followed this week by the entry into the
Austrian government of Haider1s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), has shocked
millions of people internationally.
Many are aware of Haider's long record as an apologist for Nazism, and his
frequent use of Nazi-style language. His family too has a well-known Nazi
past, dating back to 1929, which saw them gain immense wealth as a result
of Nazi rule.
Despite Haider's frequent formal apologies, the FPÖ continuously dips into
the Nazi gutter. In last year1s election the FPÖ made much use of the
slogan 'Stop der Überfremdung' (stop foreign overpopulation), a phrase
almost directly lifted from a 1933 speech of Goebbels attacking Jewish
"infiltration of German intellectual life."
The FPÖ's gains have raised the spectre of Nazism across Europe, provoking
an angry response. Throughout Europe protests have taken place. There is a
growing determination that FPÖ cannot be accepted as a 'normal' party. The
fact that these events are taking place in Austria, Hitler's birthplace,
only adds to the fear.
EU leaders hypocrisy
IN THIS situation the other 14 countries in the European Union (EU) have
threatened sanctions against the new Austrian government. In Britain even
Socialist Workers Party leaders (the British version of the International
Socialists) are quoted as saying "we are supporting the European Union's
position." (London Times, February 3).
But this is not what the Committee for a Workers International, which the
Socialist Party is part of, is saying. We support international protest,
but we give no support to either the EU or individual capitalist
There should be no illusions about what the EU is doing. Its position
against Haider and the FPÖ is not one of principled opposition to
Just look at its complete inactivity as, during the past few weeks,
Russian imperialism bombed Groszny back into the stone-age. Within the EU
every government is taking harsher and harsher messages against immigrants
and asylum seekers.
Yet the EU leaders are very aware of the widespread fear and opposition to
the far right, and particularly to the spectre of Nazism. The EU leaders
are concerned that the FPÖ in government will deepen the polarisation in
Austria and produce a radicalisation. They want to try to head off such
developments and also to refurbish their own 'democratic' credentials at
home and abroad.
What is the FPÖ?
DESPITE THE existence of fascist elements inside the party, and its racist
propaganda, the FPÖ is not at the head of a mass fascist movement
threatening to crush the workers1 movement and all democratic rights. Much
of the FPÖ1s votes have been won in protest at the policies of the
previous 'grand coalition' government of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ)
and the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP). In a country with very
little recent experience of class struggle, the FPÖ has been able to win
the votes of many workers and youth who have been alienated by the Social
Democrats pro-big business policies. But any attempt by the fascist
element within the FPÖ to now implement their real policies would provoke
a collapse in the party's support.
However, while not fascist, the FPÖ in government will mean even harsher
attacks on immigrants and foreigners. And they will not be the only
targets. The new government has already declared its intention to
introduce spending cuts, carry out large scale privatisation, and cut
public sector jobs. All these measures will, sooner or later, provoke a
wide scale resistance from below.
Resisting the right
ALREADY IN Austria many workers and youth see Haider1s successes as a
defeat and a warning. The historical example of how the Austrian (and
pro-Mussolini) fascists achieved victory in the brief civil war of 1934
(see article below), followed four years later by Hitler1s take-over, have
left a powerful legacy. This is the reason for the widespread protests
which have erupted within Austria.
Haider, since downplaying his previous pan-German nationalism, has adopted
the mantle of being the patriotic defender of Austrian independence. This
has been his answer to the criticism of the EU governments. But in so
doing Haider has also been easily able to point to the EU's hypocrisy,
quoting for example the rottenness and corruption at the heart of
Belgium1s political elite.
While some sections of Austrian big business are concerned at the economic
effect of anti-Haider protests, the FPÖ1s support has been able to rise
temporarily in the polls in a reaction against the EU1s intervention.
The movement against Haider in Austria has to be supported, but this can
only be done by the workers1 and youth movements. There can be no trust in
the EU or any other capitalist governments. Even on the very rare
occasions when capitalist governments take sanctions against repressive
regimes, they only do so for their own motives. Certainly they will not
support measures which threaten their system. Socialists have to
counterpoise independent action by the labour movement, as the Australian
workers did last year in defence of East Timor.
In Europe Haider's success is correctly seen as a warning. The call of the
Austrian section of Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) for international
solidarity action on February 18, when there will be a "Day of Action" in
Austria itself, must be widely publicised. It will be an opportunity to
show the genuine international solidarity of youth and workers and
challenge the racist policies being pursued throughout Europe. For
socialists it will provide the chance to reach a wider audience in
explaining the roots of racism and fascism within capitalism, and the need
to rebuild the workers' movement as a fighting force against capitalism
and for socialism.
How Did Haider Achieve Power?
Youth Against Racism in Europe Oppose Haider
Austrian Workers History of Anti-Fascism
Is the FPO Fascist?
Youth Against Racism in Europe Web Site
Committee for a Workers' International Web Site