Austrian Labour and Anti-Fascist Activists React to New Xenophobic and Anti-Social Coalition Government

Karel Ludenhoff

On Saturday, January 13, about 70,000 people took part in a mass demonstration in Vienna against the new coalition government consisting of the ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party) and the FPÖ (Austrian Freedom Party). Whilst the ÖVP is centre-right neoliberal, the FPÖ represents “freedom” in name only: in reality, it is a hothouse of xenophobic, neo-fascist and neo-Nazi politics. Thus, their coalition forms a government that is a paragon of xenophobia and anti-social measures against working people, the unemployed, and recipients of social welfare.

The ÖVP-FPÖ government was officially constituted on December 18. Its plans for Austria in the coming years is spelled out The Austria Government Program 2017- 2022, as quoted by Marcus Schwarzbach in a report published by the ISW-München (Munich Institute for Social-Ecological Research in Economics) on December 17:

“We want to support entrepreneurial engagement at all levels, and therefore reduce administration and bureaucracy, but also make work-time arrangements for companies and employees practice-oriented. Plant ownership legislation should be made more attractive and efficient so that approval processes can be carried out faster and more easily.” (p132)

“We will generally explore the provisions for employee protection and check their usefulness and effectiveness” (p147).

“Increasing the daily limit of working time to 12 hours and the weekly limit of working time to 60 hours.” (p139).

Schwarzbach further refers to the enthusiasm of the new government for the German labour market policy known as “Agenda 2010”:

“In the past, Germany has reformed the labour market and has made labour time more flexible with the result today: the lowest unemployment rate in the EU.” (p138).

It is no surprise that, in the context of these passages of the ÖVP-FPÖ Program, Schwarzbach speaks of a Program in the sense of “Companies First”.

The business lobby has had a strong influence on the constitution of this government. This is indicated by the appointment of former Telekom Austria boss Margarete Schramböck (ÖVP) as Minister for Economics and Digitalization.

The FPÖ, by its hounding of minorities, is trying to prevent any united action of the workers in order to strengthen profits for the owners of capital. Furthermore, it is significant that the FPÖ is the only party that does not say a word in its program about tax evasion and tax havens. Thus, we see that the right-wing populists and neo- fascists of the FPÖ are practising demagogy in their defence of “Western Christian values” and in their shouting against the “elites”.

That is why such a mass demonstration in Vienna last Saturday is so important. It helps to expose the demagogy of the FPÖ, to create self-confidence among the masses, and raises new sources of opposition to the new right-wing government. An illustration of this is the presence at this demonstration — alongside students, workers and political activists — of “Omas gegen Rechts” (“Grannies Opposed to the Right). As oneof the latter explained: “The motivation of the grandmothers is that with the demise of the last witnesses to National Socialismit has become the duty of the next generation that the lessons of history not be forgotten.”

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