The Austrian election in October showed the dangerous growth of racism and the far right in Europe.
The conservative People’s Party headed by Sebastian Kurz will form a coalition government with the fascist Freedom Party, which gained 26 per cent of the vote. Kurz won by embracing the racism of the fascists.
Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache summed it up, saying, “almost 60 per cent voted for the FPÖ’s platform.”
The Freedom Party was founded by a former Nazi cabinet member and SS officer. While it has tried to distance itself publicly from fascism there have been over 60 Nazi-related incidents involving Freedom Party members, as documented by the anti-fascist Mauthausen Komitee this year.
The Freedom Party’s deputy leader Norbert Hofer even wore a blue cornflower, used by Austrian fascists in the 1930s, in parliament.
The result shows how racism can feed off political disillusionment and anger at austerity. It follows a decade of a Labor-type Social Democratic Party governments, in a “grand coalition” with conservatives, that slashed social services and saw the economy stagnate.
Incoming Chancellor Sebastian Kurz positioned himself as a new, 31-year-old outsider. But his economic manifesto is no break from the past.
While Austria welcomed a large number of refugees from Syria during the 2015 crisis, Kurz embraced and led the backlash as foreign minister.
He promoted his closure of the so-called Balkans route for refugees coming into Europe last year and his efforts to drive through a burqa ban. Kurz also called for the closure of kindergartens run by Muslim groups saying they were being used to promote “political Islam”.
Kurz tried to position himself as supportive of globalisation through support for the European Union. But it was the European Court of Justice that supported Austria sending refugees back to their point of entry in the EU.
The Social Democratic Party failed to stand against the racism of the Freedom Party, dropping a ban on working in coalition government with them just before the election.
This makes a fighting anti-racist movement more important than ever.
But the Greens party suffered a catastrophic collapse, with their vote falling by two thirds, losing all of their seats. In a warning for the Australian Greens, they backed down on principles to try and win conservative rural votes, avoiding environmental issues during the campaign. The Greens also expelled their youth wing in March.
The Freedom Party’s entry into government in 2000 provoked mass protests. Anti-racists have again begun to take to the streets. Both the fascists and the racism of the Kurz Government need to be confronted. From Fortress Europe to Fortress Australia, we need to challenge racist scapegoating and demand the borders be opened to refugees and migrants.
By Feiyi Zhang