Monday 16 October 2017

Anti fascist anger in Austria as fascist FPO may be brought into government

Anti fascists in Austria reacted with anger and defiance, last night , at the news that the fascist Freedom Party (FPO) had taken it’s highest share of the vote in an election.


Those who campaigned against the FPO, marched in Vienna, for instance.  They said that the FPO would still be resisted. One remarked, “It is clear that the FPO’s vicious, Islamophobia, has been taken up by those in the mainstream, such as the victorious, conservative, People’s Party, OVP”. They chanted that fascists should not be offered any influence or seats in government.


The OVP campaigned on attacking “political Islam”, lowering tax rates for the wealthy and reducing benefits for refugees and migrants. The FPO, echoing former fascist, Front National leader, Jean Marie Le Pen’s  remarks in French elections, said voters would ‘prefer the original to a copy’, and accused the OVP of stealing some of their policies.


The office of Chancellor, the central position in Austrian politics, will be taken by the OVP’s Sebastian Kurz.  At the time of writing, the large voter turnout of over 80% looks like ensuring the centre left, SPO, has just managed to hold off the FPO from coming second. Kurz, through taking the OPV to the right, has also boosted the FPO.



A former minister for foreign affairs, Kurz helped facilitate a burka ban in Austria,  curtailed sales of unofficial versions of the Koran, and argues for a full headscarf ban for civil servants, including teachers. Kurz also thought that refugees rescued in the Mediterranean should be sent back to Africa.


The record of Heinz-Christian Strache’s Freedom party is chilling: the FPO was first formed in the 1930s by former Nazis. It came to fruition  in 1956 through a merger of old Nazi and German nationalist groups. Its first leader was former Nazi minister and SS officer Anton Reinthaller. Until the 1980s it veered between its Nazi roots and bids to join the neo liberal right.


In 1999’s  general election, the FPO won 27 percent. The Tory VPO invited it to form a coalition. The European Union  briefly imposed mild diplomatic sanctions, but quickly lifted them. Yet the FPO hadn’t dropped its Nazi roots.


Then FPO leader, Haider himself symbolised its fascist core. He’d become rich on inheriting land that had belonged to a Jewish family until the Nazis drove them out in 1941. The second coalition provoked mass anti-fascist protests.  Hundreds of thousands of anti fascists protested in Vienna in February, in 2000 and there were other demonstrations across Europe. It also ended in a crisis for the FPO.


                                                        FPO’s Nazism


In parliament, ex FPO leader, Hofer once wore a blue cornflower, an identification mark for Austrian fascists in the 1930s.  Current FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache wants to build a fence around Austria to keep out migrants.

FPO members have said that refugees should should stay in Muslim countries like Turkey to “live with their fellow believers”, and called on them to be deported with military aircraft. Strache, in keeping with other European fascist leaders, has tried to ‘modernise’ the FPO. However, only last month, over 60 incidents of anti Semitic and racist offences which involved FPO supporters, were recorded by an anti fascist organisation.

Last December, the Austrian Presidential election saw Norbert Hofer, candidate of the far-right nationalist Freedom Party lose to an independent candidate. However, the FPO still won over 40% of the vote.  The FPO have gained from the likes of the OVP aping their fascist politics.

Most likely there will be now a coalition between the victorious OVP and the FPO. The fact that the SPO only recently dropped  the principle of sharing office with the FPO has helped the OVP entertain the idea of a pact with the FPO.


The formerly strong Green Party, also suffered in the elections. Their previous vote of over 12% in 2013 currently looks like less than 4%. This means they may not cross the line for political representation.


Anti fascists have a rich history of organising and mobilising in Austria; Unite Against Fascism sends our solidarity in these challenging times.

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