Austria

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.

The celebrations of May Day this year was another show of strength of the working-class in Austria. In Vienna more than 100.000 militants of the Social-Democratic Party and the unions joined the march. In other industrial centres thousands more joined the rallies, often in their work clothes, like the Fire Brigades in Vienna or the steelworkers of the Voest in Linz.

The Austrian crisis is a particular manifestation of the crisis of democracy as the main form of bourgeois rule. The excessively high tension of the international struggle and the class struggle results in the short circuit of the dictatorship, blowing out the fuses of democracy one after the other. The process began on the periphery of Europe, in the most backward countries, the weakest links in the capitalist chain. But it is advancing steadily. What is called the crisis of parliamentarism is the political expression of the crisis in the entire system of bourgeois society. Democracy stands or falls with capitalism. By defending a democracy, which has outlived itself,

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70 years ago the Austrian workers were the first in Europe to undertake an armed struggle against a rising fascist regime. The events in Austria 1934 show quite clearly that there is no “peaceful” and “democratic” way to socialism on the basis of a bourgeois parliament.

After the pension reform in spring 2003, the conservative black-blue government (Peoples Party and Freedom Party) wasted no time in launching a new attack on the Austrian labour movement. The Austrian Railways (OeBB) were to be split up similar to the fragmentation of British Rail 10 years ago into 10 different companies. This would make downsizing the workforce much easier and would also have tremendous effects on one of the most highly organised sectors of the labour movement.

Today the railworkers' union, GdE organised a 12-hour strike against the plans of the right-wing government to split the Austrian Railways into different units which has to be seen as a major step towards the privatisation of the railways.

Earlier this year we witnessed the reawakening of the Austrian working class in a series of huge mass mobilisations. The bureaucratic leadership of the unions called off the movement without having gained any major concessions. If they think that was the end of it then they have surprises coming their way.

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.

Today Austria is going on strike. It is the biggest strike movement the country has seen for decades. All sections of the Austrian working class will participate in this mobilisation against the pensions reform planned by the right wing government.

On April 23 the National Executive of the ÖGB, the umbrella organisation of 13 trade unions (the equivalent of the British TUC), took a historic step in its unanimous decision to call for strike action. This comes after five decades of class-collaboration and so-called "consensus" democracy.

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