Around 70,000 anti-fascists took to the streets in Vienna against the Austrian Tory/Nazi coalition government on Saturday.
The demonstration was a mass show of defiance less than a month after the Tory OVP and fascist FPO coalition was inaugurated. About 10,000 protested then, so this is a big increase.
Protesters came from across Austria to show their opposition.
Coaches streamed in from Gaz in the south west and Linz in the north. Johanna, who had come from Linz with a group of refugees, said, "It was impressive, it was mixed and diverse.”
Underground stations were clogged into the evening by people from the protest.
A bloc of Afghan and Syrian refugees led the demonstration, and the biggest cheers at the rally went to a Muslim woman speaker.
David Albrich, a member of Austrian revolutionary socialist group Left Turn Now, was one of the organisers of the demonstration. "A big step forward was getting the trade unions and anti-racists together" he told Socialist Worker.
"There were contingents of trade unions from the private sector, lots of students and a bloc of Muslims.”
The “black-blue” coalition is pushing through free market reforms and racism against refugees and Muslims.
The FPO’s rise was spurred by the OVP running one of Austria’s most racist campaigns that normalised fascist policies.
Tensions in the coalition—and within the FPO—are coming to the fore. David explained, "They tried 'shock politics' like Donald Trump by announcing a lot of attacks against different groups.
"They hoped that it would frighten the movement, but there are conflicts within in the government and 70,000 people protesting.”
The fascists have been putting out signals to their supporters. FPO interior minister Herbert Kickl sparked outraged last week when he said that asylum seekers should be “concentrated” in one place.
“If that's not Nazi rhetoric, then I do not know what is,” said one protester.
Planned unemployment benefit attacks have caused a backlash among the FPO’s supporters. David said, “The fascist social affairs minister had to go on TV to say that they’re not going ahead with the reforms.
“Then the FPO leader had to come out and say it’s still happening.”
The FPO being in government doesn’t mean that Austria has become fascist. It has previously been in coalition in the 1980s with the Labour-type SPO and in the 2000s with the OVP.
And being in government has meant that they have focused on their more “respectable" face. David said, “We thought that the FPO and other Nazi groups could go on the streets, but we’re not facing that—yet.”
This doesn't mean that the FPO will unravel because of tensions within it.
The FPO’s aim remains to build a mass movement that can smash working class organisation and democratic rights. It is emboldened by entering government.
That’s why anti-fascists are planning another mass protest on 26 January when the FPO hosts its annual ball.