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.

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