Socialist Worker

Anti-Haider mood deepens

Issue No. 1689

Austria

Anti-Haider mood deepens

RESISTANCE TO the far right/Tory coalition government in Austria is deepening. About 1,000 students voted at a mass meeting on Thursday of last week to occupy Vienna University. The meeting showed not only the depth of opposition to the government, and particularly to J�rg Haider's Freedom Party, but also the fighting spirit which has the potential to bring it down.

The students were still occupying at the beginning of this week. "They are demanding the government drops plans to cut the student grant and replace it with fees or students having to go cap in hand to private industry for backing," says Paul from Linkswende, Socialist Worker's sister paper in Austria. "But the demands go far wider. People are calling for the toppling of the government."

The students were also due to launch a strike, to last at least a week, from Wednesday of this week. The occupation and strike come in the wake of last month's mighty 300,000-strong demonstration against the Freedom Party. Weekly demonstrations have continued since then. The confidence the huge demonstration brought is now being felt in workplaces and colleges. People are drawing the conclusion that demonstrations alone will not kick the Freedom Party out of government, and that mass occupations and strikes are needed.

Workers in the still considerable public sector took important steps in that direction last week. Three-hour long mass meetings took place in the Girobank and telecom industries. Previous governments partially privatised these companies, but the state owns the majority of shares. The new government has now announced it wants to sell its stake as part of a sweeping programme of privatisation and austerity measures.

This is even pushing workers who may have gone along with some of the Freedom Party's anti-immigrant rhetoric to fight the government. Trade union leaders are also under pressure to call strikes against privatisation and cuts. But the by �GB, the equivalent of the TUC in Britain, is hoping that action short of strikes will be enough to defeat the government.

Trade union leaders stopped a delegation of students from the university occupation from addressing a mass meeting of Girobank workers last week. The protests so far have weakened support for the Tory People's Party and for the Freedom Party. An opinion poll two weeks ago found a further boost in support for the Social Democrats, the largest party (similar to the Labour Party in Britain) and the Greens.

The polls suggest that if a new election was called it would result in a "Red/Green" coalition. A coalition of anti-Haider forces, the Democratic Offensive, has launched a petition calling for a new general election. It aims to get 900,000 signatures. That is 15 percent of those eligible to vote. This is the figure the government says is needed to trigger a referendum on whether there should be a new general election. The mass petition can provide a focus. But direct action will be needed to fatally weaken the government.


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Sat 25 Mar 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1689
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