Socialist Worker

Crisis hits Nazi Haider

Issue No. 1723

International round-up

Crisis hits Nazi Haider

Austria

A DEEPENING political crisis is engulfing the far right Freedom Party in Austria. It became the most successful far right party in Europe in October last year, gaining over 27 percent of the vote, and formed a coalition government with the Tory People's Party in February. Now it has suffered a catastrophic drop in support. It got just 12 percent of the vote in regional elections in Styria last month, down from the 29 percent it won at the general election.

Polls put its support nationally at 20 percent. The Freedom Party faced intense opposition when it joined the government in February. Some 300,000 people took to the streets in Vienna. That opposition has continued, with thousands of people attending weekly demonstrations.

The Tories wanted the Freedom Party in the government to launch a free market offensive against Austria's welfare state. Fear of strikes by Austria's powerful trade unions forced the government to slow down its assault earlier this year. But it has introduced higher tuition fees for students, cuts to unemployment pay and moves to reduce pensions.

That has not yet led to a wave of mass workers' protests, but it has led to bitter disillusionment with the government. The other factor undermining the Freedom Party is an unfolding scandal surrounding its use of police contacts to obtain confidential official files on political opponents.

Last week the third Freedom Party minister out of six resigned. The Freedom Party's justice minister, Dieter B�hmdorfer, is also threatened by the crisis. He and other party officials stand accused by a former policeman (and former Freedom Party member) of bribing police contacts to get state files on other politicians and journalists. Hilmar Kabas-the Freedom Party's leader in the capital, Vienna-is under investigation.

The Social Democratic Party of Austria, similar to the Labour Party in Britain, is hoping that falling support for J�rg Haider, the leader of the Freedom Party, will lead to a return to "politics as usual", collaboration between the Social Democrats and the Tories. But it was precisely such a consensus which created the disillusionment that Haider built from.

It would be a betrayal of everyone who has fought Haider if his weakness now led only to that.


Germany

OVER 200,000 people joined a staggeringly successful march in the German capital, Berlin, against racism and the far right on Thursday of last week. German leader Gerhard Schr�der, of the Social Democratic Party, led the march along with Holocaust survivors.

Nazis have been responsible for the murder of 100 people over the last decade. Now there is overwhelming support for banning the Nazi NPD and similar parties such as the DVU and Republikaner. Mainstream politicians would like to see the anti-Nazi mood confined along official channels.

But increasing numbers of people want to stop the Nazis organising. Many people are beginning to question the anti-immigrant policies of the mainstream parties which encourage the growth of the far right. The Tory CDU is split between those such as its leader Andrea Merkel who want to present themselves as anti-racist, and those centred on Friedrich Merz who want to play the immigration card in the run-up to the general election. Meanwhile disillusionment with the Social Democrat/Green government coalition is leading workers to look to the left.

The leader of the �TV union, Herbert Mai, resigned last week after he failed to win the support of delegates at a conference for his pro-government stance. Some 40,000 teachers and students marched against education cuts in Berlin on Saturday of last week.

The German government is now divided over how far to press its policy of forcing workers to take out private pensions.


Palestine

THE DEATH toll in Palestine was at least 206 at the beginning of this week. Thirteen people were killed over the weekend. Two were Israeli soldiers, and 11 were Palestinian civilians. Over 90 percent of all those who have died are Palestinian.

That alone shows this is no struggle between equal forces. Israel used a helicopter gunship to assassinate Palestinian militia leader Hussein Abayat last week. It murdered two Palestinian women passers-by in the process. Palestinian youth fought back with stones.

Israel is armed by the West and built on land stolen from the Palestinians. Calls from Western leaders for "both sides to show restraint" are sickeningly hypocritical. Israel is the aggressor-the Palestinian masses are the victims.


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News
Sat 18 Nov 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1723
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