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March 2000

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Beast of the Month - March 2000

Joerg Haider, Austrian Fascist Politician

 

"I yam an anti-Christ..."

John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"

 

Sometimes, the worst thing for a social movement is a bad ally, not a worthy enemy. And so it goes in Austria, where the ultra-right doublespeak-named Freedom Party (led by Joerg Haider, The Konformist Beast of the Month) announced on February 1 that they were joining the governing coalition. The announcement was very much an inevitability, as the party (which Haider had run since 1986) is now the second largest in the country, with 27% of the popular vote in the last election.

Haider is often called a "yuppie fascist" and the "Austrian David Duke," two labels which fit him and his politics perfectly. As the World Socialist Website (WSWS) describes him, "He is one of the richest men in Austria, but always puts himself forwards as the 'representative of the little man', inveighs against corruption, presents himself as a man with clean hands and does not hesitate to promise social improvements. Like all right-wing demagogues, he appeals to the most backward prejudices and instincts, directs social fears into chauvinist channels, thunders against 'criminal foreigners' and grumbles about Europe." In particular, his slurs of immigrants have been outrageous, with his 1999 election campaign poster slogans including the xenophobic phrase "Stop the foreign infiltration." Another shows him and his prime ministerial candidate Thomas Prinzhorn boasting "Two real Austrians." Other Haider statements on immigrants include the following:

* "The Africans who come here are drug dealers and they seduce our youth."

* "We've got the Poles who concentrate on car theft. We've got the people from the former Yugoslavia who are burglary experts. We've got the Turks who are superbly organized in the heroin trade. And we've got the Russians who are experts in blackmail and mugging."

* "When Turkish children demand protection money from our children at the playground, it's time to say, this is our state."

* "We take the right stand at the right time to save Austria against the dangers coming from outside."

Of course, waging a campaign against immigrants, welfare cheats, and criminals is hardly a unique strategy. Pete Wilson won a second term as Governor of sunny California on such a scheme, and yet still was labeled a "moderate" Republican when contemplating a run for president. Why then the international rush to condemn Haider and his party as a demagogic pariah? Certainly part of the reason is the hint of anti-Semitism in some of his public pronouncements, which has an ugly bit of recent history in Austria. At a time when the revisionist Nazi Holocaust historian David Irving is in British court claiming he has been libeled by Deborah Lipstadt (a frivolous lawsuit that is ultimately more foolish than a threat to free speech) the already charged atmosphere surrounding claims of anti-Semitism are perhaps even greater. And yet, even the Anti-Defamation League, hardly a neutral or objective source on the subject, was unable in a biography on Haider to attach the "anti-Semite" label to Haider, though they did point out that "there is evidence that some of his followers are demonstrated anti-Semites." Perhaps the flippant Haider has thrown out his share of unwise statements involving the Nazis, the SS, and Jews, but ultimately, he is too wise of a salesman to overtly court anti-Semitism, even if he was one himself.

Not that he has to court it: his family history certainly caters to the mentality. As the ADL notes: "He was born in 1950 to parents with direct links to the Nazis. His father joined Hitler Youth in 1929 and the Nazi SA storm troops a year later. The senior Haider reportedly traveled to Munich with Adolf Eichmann and Alois Brunner in 1933 as a member of the Austrian legion. Haider's mother belonged to the Nazi Party's League of German Girls." At age sixteen, he won a speech contest with a talk entitled, "Are We Austrians German?" In any case, he has an inherited 38,000 acre estate once owned by Jews forced to sell it at firesale rates after the 1939 German annexation.

Still, there is more to the opposition of Haider than labels of anti-Semitism. It seems Haider's real problem is not that he is a fascist, but rather that he is a fascist of a different brand than the international economic community wants right now. As cliched as it sounds, there is a program for a New World Order right now, and it's being implemented by organizations such as the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank. It is a program of promoting international korporate interests, and in order to implement it, all road blocks must be eliminated. As the WSWS points out:

 

It is not so much Haider's hatred of foreigners that disturbs the European governments - the European Union (EU) long transformed itself into a fortress, in which foreigners are without rights. They are more afraid that his attacks on the Eastern European states could disturb their plans to extend the EU to the East, which requires unanimity of all member states, including Austria. Therefore (People's Party Chairman Wolfgang) Schussel protested publicly that he would only enter a coalition with the FP if they gave a written commitment to a "Yes to Europe".

 

Though Haider supposedly celebrates nationalism and the battle against global economic control, he celebrates it for all the worst reasons. His is the politics of scapegoating, blaming undesirables for social problems and offering solutions that attack the already marginalized. The more he is promoted as an "option" to the NWO, the more attractive the NWO becomes.

Perhaps on second look, the comparison to David Duke is unfair. Duke, after all, can't even get elected, much less become a major player in national politics. A better comparison would be to Pat Buchanan, who has managed to market his mouth-foaming reactionary politics as "populism" to progressives merely because he condemns the effects of the global economy. Because he's the most influential politician discussing these issues, many have bent over backwards to overlook his dangerous ideology (which includes admiration of fascist leaders such as Spain's Francisco Franco and Chile's Augusto Pinochet), despite the fact (as Christopher Hitchens pointed out in a recent Salon article) that it "is a loopy and inconsistent piece of Catholic fundamentalism that betrays a weird and self-destructive sympathy for the fascist cause."

Then again, an even better comparison may be to Bill Clinton. As the WSWS notes, Haider's value "is his ability to link a neo-liberal economic programme with social and chauvinist demagogy, and thereby provide a certain support for pro-business policies. Haider and the FP serve as levers to rip up the welfare state, which in Austria has always been connected to a network of public posts under party control, nepotism, haggling over positions and corruption. Both the welfare state and the profusion of public posts under party control have become an obstacle for the international corporations and financial markets that dominate economic life today... From what is thus far known, the coalition program of the People's Party and FP could have been drafted by Bill Clinton, Tony Blair or Gerhard Schroeder."

Perhaps that is the real threat to the international community that Haider represents. Not that he is so different, but he is so similar. Perhaps he is a reminder of an ugly truth: behind the charm and the "I feel your pain" mantras, the "liberal" economics of Klinton and his ilk is really just fascism with a smile. Haider's fault (which climaxed with him resigning at the end of the month as Freedom Party leader) may be that, unlike Slick Willie, he's just too scary to convince people that he's harmless.

Haider may be too scary, but his politics will live on, giving people a false option, like Buchanan and Duke do in the USA. In the process, his politics will merely weaken true opposition to global fascism by increasing the number of flavors it comes in.

In any case, we salute Joerg Haider as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Joerg!!!

 

Sources:

 

Joerg Haider: The Rise of an Austrian Extreme Rightist

Anti-Defamation League ( http://www.adl.org )

 

Ultra-rightist Haider Close to Entering Austrian Government, Max Rodenberg and Peter Schwarz

World Socialist Website ( http://www.wsws.org ) 2-1-2000

 

An Empire After All, Christopher Hitchens

Salon Magazine ( http://www.salon.com ) October 16, 1999

 

 

The Konformist

http://www.konformist.com

Robert Sterling

Post Office Box 24825

Los Angeles, California 90024-0825

Robalini@aol.com

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