Far Right Success in Austria

THE BEST electoral result for the European Far-Right since the war would, it could be guaranteed, be greeted with a mixture of sanguine complacency along side panicky warnings of dictatorship.

Thus liberals contrive to be wrong on either side of the debate. For instance, on the grounds that Haider does not call for a new Third Reich, or have a tattoo of a swallow on his neck, The Times concludes that 'Haider is no Nazi'. A verdict shared by some of his political opponents in Austria who insist that he is a mere 'populist'; his prominence 'transitory' and his 27 % plus of the national vote dismissed as a 'protest'. This ignores the fact that Haider's 'overnight success' has been flagged up for more than a decade and no one has been able to stop him. Making something of a mockery of the SWP position for instance that 'fascism is only a threat when it involves large numbers of people'. Well, one in three of the population must satisfy that criteria, so what now?

'Waving banners', jeers of 'Nazis out', 'defacing election posters with Hitler moustache's' has rather surprisingly not proved a deterrent so we look with interest at what will pass for Plan B. It is not inconceivable that in the face of further defeat, and as an alternative to a total collapse in morale the Left will in time begin to take comfort in the Times prognosis. While not conforming to a stereotype 'Hollywood Nazi' Haider nonetheless lacks for nothing in the credentials department. Both parents were involved with the SS. The Freedom Party has been a home for unreconstructed fascists since the war. Little surprise then, when he describes Hitler's unemployment polices as "orderly"; SS veterans as "men of character" or brands concentration camps as "punishment centres".

Some nine months before the recent election, when asked to comment on new medical legislation, Haider remarked that it meant in future "Any bush nigger will have the possibility to treat his colleagues in Austria". An outburst that has led to incitement charges under the penal code. In all an inconvenient curriculum vitae for the 'Haider - not so Nazi' school. Others, like the Guardian, who reluctantly admit he might indeed be the 'genuine article', instead seek refuge in the myth of 'special conditions'. For them the "low poll" (ie. the election was somehow unrepresentative of a more decent Austria) is presented as sufficient reason not to take the Far-Right "very" seriously; retaining just sufficient objectivity to acknowledge that the statistic of "one in two workers" voting Far-Right is "startling".

Not however to Red Action readers. Nor Fighting Talk either. Instead Austria merely confirms a pattern long identified and evidenced in every country where the Far-Right are in the ascendant. To be able to confidently claim as Haider's does that "We're more socialist than the socialists" shows they have absolutely outflanked the conservative Left and won the 'battle for position'. With the result that in Austria as well as France, Italy and Germany and elsewhere, the Far-Right are perceived (quite rightly) to be the radical alternative.

So despite Haider's need to 'touch base' occasionally, with for instance the deliberate use of the word 'Uberfremdung' (coined by Goebbels to suggest a country over run by foreigners) far from the strident calamities the defacing of his electoral posters portend, his real strategy is, in the words of the newly elected BNP leader, 'to put politics before principles in order to acquire the power to put principles into practice'.

By comparison for socialist/anarchist sects 'let the class perish but let my principles remain immaculate' remains the watchword. Politically marginalised when fascists seek to set the agenda, they have little option but to hug the sidelines shouting instructions, or throw in their lot with the establishment parties. Compounding a fatal lack of ambition and confirming their innate conservatism in the eyes of those who most seek change.

Big Issue Prediction: More to come.

Reproduced from RA vol 4, Issue 3, Oct/Nov '99