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Wave of protest against Haider
THE AUSTRIAN capital, Vienna, should see its biggest demonstration for decades this Saturday. Leaders of the trade unions and the Social Democratic Party (similar to the Labour Party in Britain) have called on their members to march against the new coalition government, which includes the far right Freedom Party. Half of Austria's workers are in trade unions. The Social Democratic Party claims 8 percent of the Austrian population as members. Thousands of mainly young protesters have taken to the streets of Vienna every night in protest at Jrg Haider's Freedom Party since it entered government two weeks ago.
Over 15,000 people marched last Saturday, the anniversary of the 1934 uprising against the fascist coup in Austria. There have also been regular protests in Graz, Linz and other cities. Activists in schools across Vienna were building for a school students' strike for Friday of this week. The coalition government has announced it will table a programme of cuts without the usual consultation with trade unions.
There is enormous anger at the closure of the ministry for women. The ministry implemented equal pay laws and other regulations that improved women's lives. Threatened cuts to the early retirement budget mean many workers could face having to work five years longer than they had planned for. Such Thatcherite measures are producing opposition even among those workers who fell for Haider's scapegoating of immigrants. "The government is wobbling," one socialist in Vienna told Socialist Worker. "It has held back the full details of the austerity programme and softened some elements already. It is playing for time. It wants the protests to die down before it goes for an assault on workers' conditions. Some workers clearly want strike action now. Two post office workers told us that their office was unanimously for a strike. But they said, 'Everyone is waiting for the word from above'." Protests are planned elsewhere in Europe to coincide with the Vienna demonstration. They include:
- Anti-fascists in Greece besieging the Austrian embassy in Athens.
- Members of the youth wing of the Socialist Party in France and others protesting in Paris.
There will also be a series of protests in Britain, in London, Newcastle, Birmingham and Edinburgh (see page three).
- What is fascism and how can we stop it? See page ten
Cook says he'll 'wait and see'
HAIDER WAS forced to sign up to a declaration denouncing racism last week. But no one should imagine that he has abandoned his goal of trying to make racism and fascist ideas respectable. The day after signing the statement he made a speech attacking dual citizenship for Turkish immigrants in Austria. That is why it is criminal for Britain's New Labour foreign secretary, Robin Cook, to say we should judge the Austrian government by its deeds over time. It is extremely dangerous to argue that people like Haider should be given a breathing space. Mass demonstrations and strikes need to happen now before the Freedom Party is able to turn Haider's words into deeds.