Austria, Position of the Party of Labour of Austria

Positions of the Party of Labour of Austria (PdA) on the situation of the working class and the work of communists in the labour movement

  1. The new government of capital

The results of the last national elections in Austria and the formation of a new government coalition consisting of the conservative “People’s Party” (ÖVP) and the far-right anti-immigrant “Freedom Party” (FPÖ) are a product as well as a trigger of some important shifts in the bourgeois political system. The new governments program envisages a harshening of the anti-workers’ and anti-people’s policy of the bourgeois state in many areas. On the other side, the social-democratic party (SPÖ), which since the constitution of the 2nd Republic has been almost continuously part of bourgeois governments, attempts to portray itself as a workers- and people-friendly opposition and put under its control and influence any mass protest against the government’s policies.

From the first moment after the new government’s formation, the Party of Labour of Austria took a clear stance and position concerning the developments. On the one side it affirmed a harshening of the anti-workers’ and anti-people’s policy and highlighted certain aspects of the government’s program, which constitute a direct attack on certain trade union and democratic rights and on the immediate interests of some of the weakest parts of the working class and the people. On the other side our party indicated the continuity of the anti-workers’ and anti-people’s policy of the bourgeois state and the EU and demarcated itself from social-democracy and other opportunist, reformist forces, which are also responsible for the reactionary policies and the degeneration of the labour movement in the last decades, and retained, that the struggle can have only one form and orientation, namely the form of a class movement “from below” and an anti-monopolist and anti-capitalist orientation, against capitalism and imperialism, against the rule of capital and monopolies itself. By this, the Party of Labour didn’t lose sight of the actual developments and at the same time didn’t line up with the bourgeois opposition and the opportunist “antifascism”, but kept following its distinct and independent path and upholding the banner of the self-acting working class movement and of socialism-communism.

On this path and in this direction the Party of Labour will have to define its duties in the period ahead and mobilize the working class and the people against the measures that threaten their rights and living. In this respect, the work of the communists in the working class towards the regroupment of the workers movement will be of course central. As stated in our party’s first declaration on the formation of the new government and in the political declaration of our 3rd Party Congress concerning the resistance and struggle against the upcoming measures: “Especially the working class must play a leading role in this struggle. For this, it must deprive the employer-friendly forces of “social partnership” of its confidence in trade unions, the workers’ chamber and all mass organisations and take up the struggle together with the forces of class struggle. It takes strong class-oriented trade unions and mass organisations. It takes an alliance with all popular strata in town and country affected by the policies of the governments of capital and monopoly capital, with the working, student and school youth, with a militant women’s movement and a consistent movement against any participation of Austria in imperialist alliances.”

  1. The situation of the communist movement in Austria

At first, we would like to highlight certain aspects of the situation of the communist movement in Austria. The basis on which we act today is determined by following important steps made during the last decade:

  • The founding of the Party of Labour of Austria in 2013 as the revolutionary vanguard of the working class and its organisation on a national scale
  • The political and organisational strengthening of the Communist Youth of Austria after its rupture from the opportunistic, degenerated Communist Party of Austria and its orientation to the Party of Labour of Austria
  • The formation of the Communist Trade Union Initiative-International holding seats at the Workers’ Chamber in Vienna and Lower Austria and organising several militant members of “works councils” and trade unions

However, our work still suffers under severe shortcomings concerning the general political and organisational tasks of the party, as well as the work in the trade unions and the labour movement, determined by the longstanding weaknesses of the communist movement in Austria, among them:

  • The absence of parliamentary representation, which would contribute to the recognisability of the party. The party was not able to participate at general elections so far, because of its weakness and the high administrative obstacles hindering smaller parties to participate
  • Problems and delays in the party building process in many regions of the country
  • The weak representation and influence in the national trade unions, which are dominated by social-democratic and employee-friendly forces as our forces still lack the status of a recognised faction, which is a prerequisite for representation in central organs and participation at central procedures in the trade unions
  • Weak and unstable ties with the working class
  • Lack of organised forces in strategic sectors of the economy

Our 3rd Party Congress held on the 17th February 2018 has discussed such weaknesses and elaborated measures in the direction of strengthening the party and intensifying its efforts. Among others, the Congress adopted a political resolution on the current situation, the duties of the party in the period ahead and the perspectives of the working class movement in Austria. Based on our analysis and our plans, we are confident that we will improve our work and expand our influence in the period ahead.

  1. The situation of the working class in Austria and the framework of class struggle

Despite the recovery of capitalist economy in recent years, the capitalist crisis and the policies of the past governments and the EU have intensified the problems of the working class in Austria. The program of the new government will even sharpen those as new attacks are being planned. The implementation of the intended measures and reforms would lead to an immediate deterioration of the working and living conditions of the wide majority of the population.

At the same time, the working class in Austria is much differentiated. The differentiation and even stratification within the working class based on differences in wages, working relations, living conditions, education, age, sex, nationality etc. is a general phenomenon in the most developed capitalist countries and concerns Austria as well. This development implies great challenges for our work as it often hinders the perception of common interests and the formation of class consciousness even on a basic level. It is also something which all bourgeois political forces try to exploit in order to divide the working class. It is our duty as communists, to decisively oppose and condemn any attempt of segregation, especially based on nationality and religion, which is a major weapon of reactionary forces in order to impede the unity of the working class against the capitalist barbarity. This is why we think that the issue of class solidarity with refugees and migrant workers and the effort to organise them in the workers’ movement of our country is an indispensible and non-negotiable part of communist politics.

There are certain areas concerning the most urgent of the contemporary needs of the working class and the poor popular strata, which we think will have to play a central role in our party’s intervention in the working class movement and trade unions. Among those problems we could highlight the following:

  • Decline of real wages and pensions
  • Expansion of flexible forms of employment and extension of the working day and week
  • Poor housing policies and rising house rents
  • Restrictions in the free access to public education
  • Underfunding of public healthcare and other social services
  • Rise of unemployment and cuts in unemployment benefits
  • Situation and status of refugees and migrant workers

Setting the satisfaction of immediate needs in the centre of discussion and struggle will be important in order to reveal the class character of the government’s policies as well as the role of other political forces. Of course, these problems cannot be treated “economistically” and detached from the overall political framework of the class struggle. They are linked with the strategic offensive of capital and monopolies carried out by the Austrian governments and the EU. In order the struggles of the labour movement to be effective it is necessary that they receive a wider anti-monopolist and anti-capitalist orientation, targeting at the country’s participation in the EU and the bourgeois class power itself. That’s why our party will have to put effort to link them to the following aspects:

  • The need for the weakening of social-democracy and opportunism within the labour and trade union movement
  • The need for a total rupture with imperialist alliances and organisations such as the EU and NATO
  • The necessity of the formation of a wider social movement and social alliance between the working class and other popular strata of society suffering under the strategic offensive of capital and monopolies on their rights and needs
  • The issue of class power and the state

These aspects must form the basis of our intervention as a party. The work of communists in the trade unions and the labour movement must contribute to the strengthening of class consciousness in its actual meaning, which involves a political stance towards the problems and contradictions in society under capitalist relations of production as a whole.

  1. Work in the trade unions and other forms of organisation of the labour movement

Concerning the trade unions we think we have to intensify our efforts in order that the class-oriented forces gain influence and obtain representation at all levels. The current situation of social-democratic dominance is an obstacle for any further development of workers struggles. Especially important will be the work on the basis. A central aspect in Austria is the importance of the “works councils” in the trade unions. It is thus important to organise the most militant members of “works councils” and trade unions on a class-oriented basis in the Communist Trade Union Initiative. It should be noticed, that Austria is lacking any sort of base trade unions, despite the formal recognition of such structures in the trade unions’ statutes. The trade unions and their federation are working exclusively on the basis of the “works councils”, which are in fact not part of the trade union structure as such, so-called “interest groups” and the recognised union factions without any real involvement of the large mass of trade union members. There are no functioning processes or structures of direct representation of the employees and trade union members and their involvement in decision-making. This severely restricts the possibilities of intervention by communists and we must find ways to overcome such obstacles.

There are of course differences between different sectors and we can positively evaluate the formation of militant base initiatives in some of them in recent years. For example, there have been certainly some positive steps towards a wider mobilisation among social workers, where our forces play a decisive role in organising initiatives and protests. During the last negotiations on the collective contracts social workers were mobilised and for the first time after a long time even hourly-strikes took place in several working places. The further development of such forms of struggle and organisation is something we will watch and study closely. Our party is recently also trying to organise party groups on the basis of the working branch in order to coordinate its intervention and concentrate its forces on specific sectors of relevance.

Another immediate task of our party forces in the next period will be the elections for the Workers’ Chamber in order to hold and even increase the seats of the Communist Trade Union Initiative. The representation in the chamber is an important instrument to promote the positions of the class-oriented forces in the labour movement and to not let the forces of “social partnership” spreading lies and defeatism undisturbed. The importance of these elections was also highlighted in the resolutions of our 3rd Party Congress.

It is obvious, that the work in the trade unions will be central for our further development as a party, as well as for the general situation in the country, as shifting the relations of power within the labour movement is a prerequisite for our struggle against capitalism and imperialism to be effective. However, taking into account the current very negative correlation of power and the domination of social-democratic and other employer-friendly forces, we also have to work on creating alternative forms of organisation and struggle. This could be done through initiatives and committees throughout the country concerning urgent needs and problems of the working class and the people in a certain area which of course will have to be accorded to the work in the trade unions. Under conditions of a general offensive of capital on workers’ and people’s rights such a process could help gathering wider forces and create conditions of mass mobilisation.

We would also like to notice, that despite the existence of some affiliated forces there are no actual trade unions in Austria affiliated to the WFTU, which is of course negative regarding the possibilities of international coordination of the struggles and the participation at international campaigns. The communist forces must work in the direction of strengthening proletarian internationalism and the ties with the class-oriented labour movement in other countries.

  1. The revolutionary party of the working class

Concluding, we would like to highlight another important aspect which gets more and more important in face of the reactionary, repressive restructuring of the state apparatus and the imperialist aggression. Our work in the labour movement cannot be seen separately from the need to strengthen the revolutionary characteristics of the party and the communist youth. This does not concern only the strategic goals of our party, but the whole scope of our daily activity and organisation. The Party of Labour was founded on the ground that the working class in Austria needs it. What it needs is a revolutionary party; a party capable of functioning and organising the struggle of the working and popular masses under all conditions. That’s why we must be concerned with all forms of struggle. We know from our history, from the 100 years old history of the communist movement in Austria that under the conditions of the most intensified and violent forms of class struggle a revolutionary party must be able to survive, gain influence, prevail and lead workers in their confrontation with the repressive apparatuses of the bourgeois state. It was through its vanguard role in the struggle against fascism and imperialist aggression, as well as in major strike movements that the communist movement in Austria got massive and leading. That is why we will dedicate this year to the 100 years old history of the communist movement in Austria, which starts with the founding of the Communist Party and the Communist Youth in 1918. In order to fulfil our role we have to resume and carry on the best traditions of the communist and militant labour movement in our country and internationally. But this process won’t take part in closed circles. It is important that the working class gets accustomed with the struggles of past generations and the role communists played in every major struggle. We will have to unmask the anti-communist propaganda of the whole bourgeois political spectrum and the lies of social-democracy being the force behind major achievements in the past century. We will have to highlight the role of the working masses, the class-oriented trade union forces, the socialist countries and the national and international communist movement.