Socialist Worker

International round up: Protest at Austria's far right ‘Academics Ball’

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2589

Outside the Academics Ball

Outside the Academics Ball (Pic: Isabelle Ouvard/Linkswende jetzt)


Around 15,000 anti-fascists protested outside the far right “Academics Ball” in Vienna, Austria, last Friday.

The Nazi FPO party was on heightened security ahead of the annual gathering of “nationalist” fraternities, made up of students and graduates.

Since the Tory/Nazi coalition was sworn in last December, the fascists have faced mass protests on the streets.

The FPO came under fire after the Falter newspaper published lyrics from the Germania fraternity’s song book that mocked the Holocaust. Udo Landbauer, an FPO MP in Lower Austria’s regional parliament, is its deputy co-chairman.

Eighteen of the party’s 51 MPs are members of such fraternities.

Pressures

Inside the ball, FPO leader and deputy prime minister Heinz-Christian Strache said antisemitism had no place on the right. This is a sign of pressures on the FPO to appear “respectable”—and has been part of its strategy to break into the mainstream.

It remains a deeply antisemitic organisation, one founded by a former SS officer after the Second World War. The leaders of Jewish organisations in Vienna had said they wouldn’t take part in official Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations if Strache was involved.

Prominent concentration camp survivor Rudolf Gelbard discharged himself from hospital to join the protest. “It is an obligation to be here since 19 people from my family were murdered,” he said.

It will take more mass opposition to beat back the Nazis—and the wider racism that fuelled their rise.


German manufacturing workers on strike

Thousands of manufacturing workers downed tools across Germany last Saturday in their fight for higher pay and a shorter working week.

Nearly a million IG Metall union members, who work in steel mills, car factories and other manufacturing plants, have been holding short walkouts since January. They were already hitting bosses’ profits—but their latest action marked an important escalation.

A BMW car manufacturer spokesperson said, “Twenty-four hour strikes would indeed be painful.” A previous three-hour stoppage at its plant in Munich meant 250 cars weren’t assembled. And similar stoppages at rival Audi left 700 cars unassembled. IG Metall chair Jorg Hofmann said, “We have to step up the pressure on employers so they show some willingness to compromise.”

If bosses don’t make concessions, the unions has threatened to ballot workers for prolonged strikes.

The workers are in a powerful position. German capitalism’s growth is underpinned by an export boom in manufacturing, which is already suffering severe labour shortages.


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