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Austrofascism 2018

Photo by Maria Sarakatsiano | CC BY 2.0

Ever since 1934, the term “Austrofascism” has been used to describe Austria’s carbon-copy of Italy’s Fasci of Combat and Germany’s Nazis. Austrofascism describes a particular Austrian version of a fascistic-authoritarian rule that was installed in Austria in 1934. Historically, the brutal destruction of civil society in Austria was less idyllic as portrayed in the “Sound of Music”. It included Austrofascists murdering trade unionists, social-democrats, communists, Jews, etc. Much of this only intensified after Austria’s annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938 under the Nazi motto: “Heim ins Reich!” – fascists returning to the German Empire. With that, Austrofascism became a full-fledged Nazi regime as an Anti-Semitic, mythical, and ethnically cleansed Volksgemeinschaft was to be established. Austrofascism’s new regime was violently formed based on the Fatherland Front, a fascist paramilitary militia strongly believing in key Nazi ideologies such as ethnic cleansing, Anti-Semitism, militarism, and the Aryan Volksgemeinschaft. All this, however, is no longer just history. Elements of Austrofascism are still alive and well in today’s Austria.

In the recent federal elections in Austria, the deeply Catholic and arch-conservative ÖVP reached 31.5% while the even more right-wing and more xenophobic – some say the ideological successor of Austrofascism – FPÖ received 26%. Currently, both parties are in a coalition government and together they are getting dangerously close to holding a two-thirds majority, allowing both to change Austria’s constitution. With that, Austria’s new Austrofascism might join the extremely reactionary, Anti-Semitic, and George Soros obsessed Hungarian premier minister Victor Orban. This would allow for the extension of Orban’s xenophobic “migration-free zone”. What today is called “migration-free zone”, i.e. the removal of all non-Hungarians, non-Austrians, and non-Germans, used to be called “judenfrei”. “Judenfrei!” was the command given back to Nazi headquarters indicating the complete annihilation of Jewish people in a particular area – in which the Nazi dream of the total annihilation of the Jewish people had been achieved.

Beyond that, Austria’s new coalition might also translate Orban’s hallucinations of the existence of an “imperium of shadows secretly governing the European Union” into a real fight against anything foreign. Victor Orban already seeks closer ties to Austria to re-establish the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This right-wing new centre European empire is destined to fight those dark forces that, in Orban’s reactionary phantasms, follow a sinister plan to convert Europe into a multi-cultural state – a true horror for all those dreaming of racially pure people. Orban’s hideous plan might become reality as an extension of the anti-migrant Visegard countries: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. Orban and his Austrofascist counterparts have already started talking about creating a middle-European defence line against refugees – an imaginary flood that is besieging Europe.

The FPÖ’s recent electoral success might signify a re-awakening of Austrofascism that was forced into silence for decades during conservative and social-democratic rule in Austria. Austrofascism was suffering a sort of hibernation inside obscure organisations, fascist paramilitary, right wing student fraternities, and, more recently, murky internet groups. Today, much of their nationalistic and Anti-Semitic ideological repertoire is experiencing a renaissance. As much of Europe is steadily drifting to the extreme right, Anti-Semitic images of the “Eternal Jew” re-emerge. Meanwhile the racist “white-power knights” (another Austrofascist mirage) are called upon to defend Europe’s whiteness.

As in the case of Germany’s AfD, its Austrian sister, the FPÖ is deceptively labelled ‘far right’, ‘right-wing populism’ and ‘radical right’ by mainstream media. This camouflages the wolf in the sheep’s skin. Still, some have seen that the FPÖ has clear Nazi tendencies. Twenty of its thirty-three party executives show strong ‘völkische’ tendencies. Völkisch is a key Nazi term and core ideology of Nazism and Austrofascism. All this, however, never exists independent of real people. Within the FPÖ and in many of its leading party positions one finds many “subterranean-Nazis” [Keller-Nazis]. Ex-Neo-Nazi and now FPÖ boss Strache, for example, has a particular violent Neo-Nazi past.

One of Strache’s old Neo-Nazi friends and militia is Andreas Reichhardt. He is set to become a high ranking civil servant in the ministry of transport. Beyond its leader and his old Neo-Nazi mates, the FPÖ also has a strong internal group associated with extreme right-wing student fraternities dreaming of a Germanic imperium based on an Aryan Volksgemeinschaft, the mythical Nazi community. This is an extremely Anti-Semitic ideology. Many of its believers also believe that the EU is incapable to protect Europe’s borders against hordes of migrants and refugees. Therefore, Austrian solders will have to defend Austrian soil against perceived intruders. As a consequence, Austria’s new ÖVP/FPÖ coalition government seeks to double Austria’s defence budget. This will turn its militaristic and chauvinistic ideology into the reality of military hardware ready to fight men, women, and children on Austria’s borders. FPÖ-front woman Anneliese Kitzmüller agrees while jubilantly announcing, “Heil Moving” – moving into a leading position in Austria’s new coalition government. “Sieg Heil” is one of the most obvious Nazi terminologies. Kitzmüller has merged the Nazi “Heil” with the plan to move into a high-paid position in Austria’s state apparatus. Kitzmüller, who likes to replace Christmas with a mythical Germanic fest, also believes that Austria’s borders need to be protected otherwise refugee kids will flood Austrian childcare centres.

The new ÖVP/FPÖ coalition will find a state apparatus already well covered with its people. Based on an earlier ÖVP/FPÖ coalition government (2000 to 2005), the FPÖ was able to infiltrate the Austrian state with its henchmen and women. During those years, Austria’s civil services were deeply penetrated by FPÖ apparatchiks especially in institutions related to the economic governance of Austria as well as those running health and education. FPÖ subversion also extended deep into Austria’s police and military – the FPÖ’s more traditional playground. Much of this textbook-style takeover occurred with Stalinist precision. FPÖ cadres have not only undermined Austria’s state but they also believe in irrational conspiracy theories – a rather common theme in right wing circles reinforced through right-wing internet echo-chambers such as, for example, www.unzensuriert.at. One of such reinforced self-delusions is the silly belief that their right wing idol and, according to Wikipedia, “leader of a homoerotic men’s club” – Jörg Haider – did not die during a car crash but was murdered by Mossad.

Unlike Germany where Merkel’s well established conservatism is “still”(!) shying away from a coalition government with its new Nazis, the AfD, Austria is already one step ahead. Austria’s establishment sees the FPÖ not as Nazis but as a legitimate political party. Still, just as Germany’s AfD, Austria’s FPÖ has very clear Nazi tendencies. As mainstream-corporate media avoids calling a spate a spate, they might inadvertently or deliberately assist in legitimising Germany’s Nazism and Austria’s Austrofascism. Just as in the 1930s, Austria’s bourgeois-conservative parties today are paving the way for crypto-Nazi parties and the rise of Austrofascism. Nowadays these are not called Nazis but euphemistically FPÖ and AfD.

Austro-German fascism was and is different from any other right-wing group or self-appointed crypto-Nazis. It was Austrofascism and German Nazism that made Auschwitz possible. For years if not decades, the press, right-wing media commentators, and conservative parties have cultivated xenophobia and racism in the heart of Europe, secretly assisting the rise of the FPÖ in Austria and the AfD in Germany. Today, Europe’s new Nazi parties can harvest what has been sown for years, if not decades.

After the recent election in Austria, the country seems to be on a path towards crypto-Austrofascism turbocharged by the FPÖ. With the deliberately engineered demise of Europe’s communists (first) and social-democratic parties (later), the new political landscape seems to offer the infamous “less of two evils” choice. It is an engineered choice between neoliberalism and globalisation represented through traditional conservative parties on the one hand and xenophobic nationalism represented through new Neo-Nazi parties on the other hand. These are the realities in central Europe in 2018.

Chauvinism’s march into Austrian state institutions includes the FPÖ’s classical nationalistic demand to leave international organisations, targeting especially those institutions committed to human rights. It includes not just a plan to leave the European Human Rights Convention but also United Nations human rights conventions. This plan exists despite the fact that the European Human Rights Convention is anchored in Austria’s constitution. Soon the constitutional protection might be removed. Austria’s new FPÖ/ÖVP coalition plans to hook up with Austria’s neoliberals – the “Neos” – currently holding 5.3%. Together with the coalition’s 31.5% and 26%, this would secure a two-thirds majority and the ability to change Austria’s constitution. With that, one of Austrofascism’s core dreams might come true.

For many inside the Austrofascist camp, human rights are alien to a country based on homeland, nationalism, race, blood and soil as well as the always dreamed about racist Volksgemeinschaft. In the Volksgemeinschaft, the fasci decides your place in society based on a völkisch-Aryan belonging to the Austro-Germanic community of pure blood. In sharp contrast, Human Rights are seen as simply irrelevant for those believing their life is shaped by national (soil) and racial (blood) forces. Human Rights remain alien to the völkische homeland and to those who love their homeland, their blood and their soil. Today, Austria’s homeland party is the party FPÖ.

Taking a look at the FPÖ’s party programme, a rather different picture from the fasci-idyllic Volksgemeinschaft emerges. What is served up is a skilful assortment of nationalism and neoliberalism. This includes the traditional ideological programme of Austro-Hungarian demagogue, aristocrat and Pinochet supporter Friedrich August von Hayek (“von” indicates royalty). The programme features well-known elements such as reducing the state, lowering taxes for the rich and corporations, cutting welfare provisions, fighting trade unions, and so on. The FPÖ sells its party programme as an “optimisation” of Austria’s welfare state targeting the poor and the illusive “other”.

Traditionally, Nazism, Fascism, and Austrofascism acted strongly, violently, brutally, and quite often rather sadistically against the “other” – the left, the social-democrats, communists, trade unions and so on. Long and behold, the FPÖ’s Austrofascism includes a fight against collective agreements signed between trade unions and employers. Currently, about 98% of all Austrian workers are covered by collective agreements. Since a long time, Austria’s employers have sought to destroy this. A newly empowered Austrofascist party may well support it. Austrofascism and capitalism may just be reflections of what the philosopher Horkheimer said in 1939, “if you don’t want to talk about capitalism then you had better keep quiet about fascism.” Supporting capitalism, the FPÖ’s party programme does not include minimum wage provisions. Why should it? The Anti-Semitic Volksgemeinschaft will take care of those capitalism does not need. Fascism always includes labour camps.

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Thomas Klikauer is the author of Managerialism (Palgrave, 2013).

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