Report from the Austrian Section of the RCIT, 5 September 2015, www.rkob.net
The Austrian Section of the RCIT (Revolutionary Communist Organization LIBERATION, RKO BEFREIUNG) will be running in the upcoming municipal elections of Vienna, Austria’s capital city, to be held on 11 October. We will be running in Favoriten, the city’s largest district with a population of 187,000 people (making it nearly as big as Linz, the third most populous city of Austria).
Favoriten is a traditional working class district. Its composition (officially, 42% of the population are migrants) reflects the multi-national character of the mass of the working class in Vienna.
In order to be allowed to run in the elections, our comrades had to collect a number of signatures of people who reside in this district. Naturally, there were a number of obstacles. Many migrants do not have Austrian citizenship and hence are not allowed to vote (the disenfranchised constitute nearly 1/3 of the entire population over the age of 16 in Favoriten!). In addition many persons, particularly migrants, fear going to municipal offices and signing in front of bureaucrats (which they must do in order for their signature to be recognized). Nevertheless the comrades of the Austrian RCIT-Section succeeded in collecting a sufficient number of signatures. We just slightly missed getting the necessary number of signatures for Floridsdorf too, the third largest district of the city with a population of 149,000.
The name of our list will be “RKO BEFREIUNG – Equal Rights for Muslims.” As we have reported in the past, Islamophobia has become a central issue in Austrian domestic politics. Anti-Muslim hatred is spread by right-wing populists (the Austrian FPÖ led by Strache, which is currently the leading party in the national polls) as well by fascists. While the latter have been a relatively small force until now, they recently tried to go more on the offensive, as we witnessed in the racist PEGIDA demonstration which was held on 2 February; however at that time they were seriously outnumbered by a massive counter-demonstration in which we played a key role. However Islamophobia is also exploited by the social-democratic/conservative coalition government which pushed through the so-called “Islam Law” in the spring of 2015, a law which discriminates against Islam relative to other religions.
The Austrian section of the RCIT has a long history of campaigning for migrant rights and solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle and the Arab Revolution. (See the numerous reports on our website and various videos on our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/RevolutionCommunism). As a result of our well-known and appreciated record, we were able to gain the support of militants and other groups among the migrant population and to further advance our good relations with these communities. The positive extent of these relations was reflected, for example, by the fact that, in the mass counter-demonstration against PEGIDA on 2 February, our comrade Michael Pröbsting was nominated by the Muslim migrant organizations to be one of their two speakers (See http://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/austria-mass-demo-against-islamophobia/).
Our campaign will be based around three main issues.
1) Equal rights for migrants! Equal rights for Muslims! Open borders for refugees! Equality for migrants in all legal matters! For the right of migrants to use their native language in Vienna’s public educational institutions and in the city’s administrative offices! Equal pay for equal work! Down with the racist “Islam Law”!
2) Solidarity with the Arab Revolution! US & EU: Out of the Middle East and North Africa! Freedom for Palestine! Solidarity with Gaza! No to Apartheid Israel! Victory for the Syrian revolution! Solidarity with the resistance against the military dictatorship in Egypt! No to war against Yemen! Freedom for Chechnya – No to the Russian occupation!
3) Wealth is theft! Expropriate the superrich! Place the banks and wealth in the hands of the working people! Cancel debts! End unemployment – For a program of public works under the control of the workers! Housing for all – Expropriate the housing speculators! For a minimum monthly wage of 1,700 Euro!
Naturally, as communists we have no illusions in the significance of bourgeois “democratic” elections, let alone municipal elections. The main purpose of our running in the electoral campaign is to spread our ideas among the working class migrant communities, to win new supporters for our struggle among them, and to advance and deepen our relations with these communities.
The past weeks of electoral campaigning have already witnessed a number of interesting developments. Migrants have traditionally voted in their majority for the social-democrat party (SPÖ) – social democrats having controlled Vienna’s municipal government since 1918 (except for the years of fascist rule, 1934-45). However, given the support SPÖ gave to the reactionary Islam Law and the entire racist policy of the Austrian state, more and more migrants are now turning away from the reformists. According to recent opinion polls, the SPÖ is about to lose a large chunk of their electoral support (dropping from 44% to 35%).
Consistent with this development has been the formation of a new migrant list called “Together for Vienna.” The initiators of this list are a group of Turkish Muslim forces. They invited the RKO BEFREIUNG to participate in their list. They also invited us to a meeting of 65-70 Muslim community leaders in which comrade Pröbsting was asked to deliver a speech (see http://www.rkob.net/wer-wir-sind-1/rkob-aktiv-bei/vereinstreffen-2015). While the leaders of “Together for Vienna” initially agreed to our conditions and even offered us a prominent place in their list of candidates, the negotiations ultimately broke down because a significant section in this heterogeneous list rejected our demand for freedom of propaganda for our candidates. In addition, this list failed to integrate a number of active migrant organizations. Thus, we decided to run on our own.
We look forward to an intense period of electoral campaigning and hope that this will afford us numerous opportunities to share our ideas with working class and migrant people!