Where Were the Masses?


Austria’s government and political establishment called for a mass rally in support of their COVID policy. It resulted in a major political defeat.


By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 20 December 2021, www.thecommunists.net




The 19 December saw an important test of popular support for the official pandemic policy of Austria’s ruling class. As readers will be aware, this country has been shaken since more than one month by huge mass protests against the COVID Counterrevolution – a policy which is characterized by general Lockdowns, Lockdowns for unvaccinated people, Health Pass and mass or even compulsory vaccination of the whole population. [1]


Every weekend, tens of thousands of people march in Vienna as well as in many other smaller cities and towns. On 20 November about 100,000 people demonstrated in Vienna, a few days later 30,000 people – according to the police, in reality many more – demonstrated in Graz (a city with less than 300,000 citizens). [2] On 12 December, 9,000 people demonstrated in Bregenz – a town with less than 30,000 citizens! We could go on with many more examples. There are even demonstrations in very small Austrian towns of which the author of these line had not heard before!


This gigantic wave of mostly spontaneous mass mobilizations happened only once in this country since World War II and this was in spring 2000 when a right-wing government took power. It reflects the widespread rejection of the reactionary and anti-democratic COVID policy of the government led by the conservative ÖVP – the main party of Austria’s bourgeoisie. (This party has been in power since 1986 without interruption.)


These mass protests go hand in hand with the fragile state of this scandal-ridden government, resulting in the fact that the country had three different chancellors in the last three months! In short, Austria goes though a period of deep political crisis.


Reacting to this crisis and the discrediting of its COVID policy, the ruling elite launched an initiative last week. Under the slogan “#YesWeCare“, a very broad alliance called for a mass rally – a “sea of lights” on Sunday 19 December. This rally was supposed to “commemorate” the COVID deaths and to “take a stand” against the “hate-mongering” in the past weeks. In short, this has been the attempt of a pro-regime counter-mobilization against the current mass protests.


Each and everyone of Austria’s political establishment supported this rally. The President, the Chancellor, all parliamentary parties (except the right-wing populist FPÖ), the church, the trade unions, the official representation of the doctors, and many other organizations called people to participate in this event. The media reported very prominently and very supportive about this initiative. Vienna’s public transport officially carried the slogan of the rally (“#YesWeCare“) on that day. The police of Vienna published an entry on Twitter thanking the participants of the rally “for the great atmosphere. [3] In short, this was a comprehensive mobilization of resources and support by Austria’s capitalist republic!


However, the result was a major defeat for the ruling class. The police – naturally very friendly-minded – said after the event that “it was very difficult to make an assessment, but they think more than 30,000 people participated in the rally. [4]


This is certainly an exaggeration, and the real figure is closer to 10-20,000 people. In fact, it was relatively easy for the police to account the number of participants with the help of its helicopters given the fact that it was evening and every participant held a light.


Anyway, even if we accept the official police figure of 30,000, it is much less than the official police figure for the last mass protests in Vienna against the COVID policy (44,000 while, in reality, it was many more).


A telling comparison can be made if we look at demonstrations for resp. against the official pandemic policy in one and the same city on last weekend. For example, according to the police, 1,500 people demonstrated on 19 December in Bregenz against Lockdowns and compulsory vaccination. A few hours later, “a few hundred people” participated in the same city in the pro-government’s “sea of lights”. (The media did not wish to give a more precise accounting of this not particularly huge or uncountable crowd!) In Gmünd, another small town with 5,238 citizens, 1,600 demonstrated according to the police, on Saturday against the COVID policy. The next day, only 300 people joined the local “sea of lights”.


These figures reveal a clear and uniform picture. Despite the support of the whole capitalist establishment with all institutions and media and of nearly all parliamentary parties, substantially less people participated in demonstrations in support of the official COVID policy compared with the protest mobilizations. And this, despite the fact, that the later are largely spontaneous.


Only a new party – the petty-bourgeois democratic populist MFG which has been created this year in protest against the official COVID policy – gives regular support to the protest demonstrations. The right-wing populist FPÖ also lends some support to these demonstrations. But the later did not do so last weekend “in order not to harm retail businesses on the last weekend before Christmas”. In any case, the protest demonstrations against the reactionary COVID policy have a largely spontaneous character and are not controlled by any force.


The RCIT, all authentic socialists and democrats can only draw encouragement from the huge political and moral defeat which the government and its COVID Counterrevolution suffered on 19 December!


[1] The RCIT has analyzed the COVID-19 counterrevolution extensively since its beginning. Starting from 2 February 2020 we have published about 100 pamphlets, essays, articles and statements plus a book which are all compiled at a special sub-page on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/collection-of-articles-on-the-2019-corona-virus/. In particular we refer readers to two RCIT Manifestos: COVID-19: A Cover for a Major Global Counterrevolutionary Offensive. We are at a turning point in the world situation as the ruling classes provoke a war-like atmosphere in order to legitimize the build-up of chauvinist state-bonapartist regimes, 21 March 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-a-cover-for-a-major-global-counterrevolutionary-offensive/; “Green Pass” & Compulsory Vaccinations: A New Stage in the COVID Counterrevolution. Down with the chauvinist-bonapartist police & surveillance state – defend democratic rights! No to health policy in the service of the capitalist monopolies – expand the public health sector under workers and popular control! 29 July 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/green-pass-compulsory-vaccinations-a-new-stage-in-the-covid-counterrevolution/; In addition, we draw attention to our book by Michael Pröbsting: The COVID-19 Global Counterrevolution: What It Is and How to Fight It. A Marxist analysis and strategy for the revolutionary struggle, RCIT Books, April 2020, Chapter V, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-covid-19-global-counterrevolution/. See also our very first article on this issue by Almedina Gunić: Coronavirus: "I am not a Virus"... but WE will be the Cure! The chauvinist campaign behind the “Wuhan Coronavirus” hysteria and the revolutionary answer, 2 February 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/wuhan-virus/. Almedina Gunić and Michael Pröbsting: On Some Ideological Features of the COVID Counterrevolution. Comments on an interesting interview with a German liberal historian, 14 November 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/on-some-ideological-features-of-the-covid-counterrevolution/; See also a number of Spanish-language articles of our Argentinean comrades: Juan Giglio: La izquierda de la "Big Pharma", dejó de defender las libertades, 1.10.2021, https://convergenciadecombate.blogspot.com/2021/10/la-izquierda-de-la-big-pharma-dejo-de.html; Juan Giglio: ¿Por qué la izquierda no cuestiona las políticas de la OMS? 8.9.2021, https://convergenciadecombate.blogspot.com/2021/09/por-que-la-izquierda-no-cuestiona-las.html

[2] See on this e.g. our report by Almedina Gunić: Vienna: Gigantic Mass Mobilization against Compulsory COVID-Vaccinations and Lockdowns, Huge Mass Protests took the Streets while the Left stayed at Home, 22 November 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/home/deutsch/oesterreich-massendemonstration-gegen-lockdown-impfzwang-20-11-2021/#anker_2

[4] All reports of this rally are taken from the state news channel ORF resp. the daily paper Die Presse – a key publication of Austria’s monopoly bourgeoisie. See https://wien.orf.at/stories/3135091/; https://noe.orf.at/stories/3135198/; https://salzburg.orf.at/stories/3135220/; https://vorarlberg.orf.at/stories/3135216/;  https://noe.orf.at/stories/3135189/; https://www.diepresse.com/6076177/lichtermeer-als-antwort-auf-ausschreitungen