First, we would like to thank the Communist Party of Turkey for organizing and hosting the 23rd International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties.
Like the 22nd International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties, this meeting is taking place in the context of the intensifying intra-imperialist contradictions. The Austrian capital is trying to increasingly integrate our country into the imperialist bloc of NATO and the EU.
This year, in March, Volodymyr Selenskyj was invited to address the Austrian parliament live via video message. The first president of the parliament, Wolfgang Sobotka, invited him to spread his war propaganda. While some Social Democratic Party MPs were still absent at the speech in March, the new leader of the Social Democratic Party is already announcing that if Selenskyj addresses the Austrian Parliament again, no Social Democratic MP will be absent. The newly elected leader of the SPÖ has run as a candidate of the so-called left within Austrian social democracy, and has been attacked in the bourgeois press as an alleged Marxist and as an opponent of the EU. His statements on a possible further speech by Selenskyj to the Austrian parliament shows once again that none of this propaganda is true. Social democracy has rather been firmly integrated into the administration of capitalism under bourgeois-democratic conditions since 1918 at the latest.
In mid-June, the Austrian government of conservatives and Greens decided to participate in the NATO military training and advisory mission in Iraq (NMI) in Iraq. The decision was made within the framework of Austria's membership in the so-called "NATO Partnership for Peace". Ten soldiers of the Austrian Military are now serving in Iraq under NATO high command.
Less than a month later, the government signed a declaration of intent to join "Sky Shield". "Sky Shield was founded on the initiative of Germany, and the declaration of interest was signed by 15 NATO members at NATO headquarters in Brussels in October 2022. Thus, the Austrian government took another step towards integrating Austria into the imperialist bloc of NATO and the EU. While the federal government repeatedly stressed that all these measures are consistent with Austrian neutrality, disagreement was expressed by some bourgeois parties. Namely, by those who prefer and wish to abolish the neutrality, they use every opportunity to attack it. The undermining of the constitutional neutrality, as it is pursued by social democrats and conservatives, does not go far enough for them.
In the case of increasing armament and militarization of the Austrian military, the situation is similar. Between 2012 and 2022, the military spendings were increased by roughly one billion euros to around 3.5 billion. In 2023, with the backing of the imperialist war in Ukraine, increasing intra-imperialist conflicts and the global discourses of escalation around the defenses of bourgeois democracy and Western values, the bourgeois government decided to increase the budget again to 4.7 billion euros by 2026.
The Party of Labour of Austria rejects the continuing integration of Austria into imperialist alliances. Such imperialist alliances and rearmament initiatives increase the danger of war also for the Austrian people. They are the basis of increasingly aggressive intra-imperialist conflicts, under which the working class suffers and for which the people pays. Thus, the mobilizations of the Party of Labour of Austria were entirely under the auspices of the struggle against militarization and imperialism, against NATO and the EU.
The Austrian working class is confronted with an extraordinarily high inflation rate continuing in 2023r. In August alone, prices in Austria rose by 7.4 percent, the prices for everyday needs even rose by 9.5 percent. The sharpest increases were registered in the prices for the cheapest products, which in turn hit those sections of the working class and the people who are the poorest the hardest.
In the bourgeois ideology production, by economic institutes and their so-called experts for the media and the bourgeois parties, it has been claimed for months that the exorbitant wage increases in last autumn's wage negotiations were to blame for the high prices. At the same time, the attacks on social and political rights of the working class are intensified. Unemployment benefits are planned to be cut, legitimated by the phrase that work has to be worthwhile again, as the ideologists claim. However, Austrian unemployment benefits are already relatively low compared to Scandinavia or Germany.
Again and again people in part-time employment are attacked, especially women are the target of the government regarding this issue. Women in Austria often only work part-time because of the unpaid reproductive work they often do in the traditional family context. At the same time, the government does not take any measures to create sufficient childcare infrastructure. Under the pretext of equality between men and women, the government, together with the opposition, has lately also cut the two-year parental leave after the birth of a child. In the future, the full two years of parental leave can only be consumed if the fathers go on leave for at least two months. These measures do not fit the reality of family models in Austria and can only be seen as a cut in social benefits.
The Austrian working class is largely defenceless against these intensified attacks on its social and political rights. The Austrian Trade Union Federation is controlled by the labor aristocracy. The latter does everything to secure its own position in its partnership with capital. For decades, this system has been sold to the workers as a social partnership that would be in the best interest of all Austrians. In reality, it is the basis, a system to destroy the social and political rights of the working class, which avoids and prevents the emergence of social and political struggles. An impressive example of how this works can be seen in the case of journalism at this very moment.
A few weeks ago, the newspaper association cancelled its collective agreement with the union.The collective agreement regulated working hours, overtime, minimum wage, 13th and 14th salary and much more. The newspaper association justified its measures with the bad economic situation and the increased prices for paper and printing. At the same time, it offered the union to keep the old collective agreement in power until June 2024, until a new one is negotiated. In the end, there will be a new collective agreement, but with massive deterioration for editors and freelance journalists. Depending on the mood among the workers, the labor aristocracy will also organize a smaller strike, but under no circumstances will they permit a serious struggle by the workers for their social rights. The trade union leadership and its workers’ councils commonly even strive to isolate strikes from the public in order to be able to control any communication with the outside.
The Party of Labour of Austria nevertheless intervenes at workplaces and in the trade union wherever it is possible. The party participates in the struggles of the working class and exposes the treacherous role of the labor aristocracy and social democracy in the trade union and workers’ councils. The party strives to build groups at workplaces, even beyond the circle of party members. These are to be the basis for the party intervening at workplaces in a coordinated way in the future. The groups are the basis to create the conditions for a class-orientated front in the workplaces and in the trade unions.
It is the task of communists to oppose the bourgeois ideology that we are facing every day in all spheres, be it in the question of the imperialist war in Ukraine and the imperialist alliances NATO and EU or in the struggles for the social and political rights of the working class, youth, women and intellectuals. It affects the sphere of science, as the past pandemic has impressively shown, as well as questions of everyday life. Communists can only successfully oppose to the bourgeois ideology and propaganda if they combine the struggle against it with the struggle for the social political rights of the working class, youth, women and intellectuals.
The communists cannot accomplish anything for the people in this, they must educate them to organize themselves and to stand up for their interests themselves. The hidden strength of the working class lies in its self-organization and self-reliance. That strength which is needed to finally leave the history of the exploitation of man by man behind us and to build socialism and communism.