The year 2018 saw a sad new record being reached of women being killed – most of them by their partners or ex-partners. The Austrian government is using this to go onto another racist offensive. For years the picture of single refugee men coming to Europe attacking “our women” has been painted by the media and the far right. In their press conferences on these murders, the government representatives consciously spoke only about those murderers with migrant backgrounds. The conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) state secretary for internal affairs, Karoline Edtstadler, even claimed that violence against women is an imported problem and that Austrian men just “copy” what they learn from migrant men.
So the government is planning a legal reform, increasing minimum prison sentences and making it easier to deport asylum seekers. At the same time, government policy is increasing the economic dependence of women on “their” men, especially through the attacks in the social and health sector. A planned rent reform will lead to a further explosion in rents. The increase in the legal maximum working time to 12h/day and 60h/week will lead to women dropping out of their jobs, as these hours cannot be done given the lack of all-day child care. At the same time as the government is promising 100 new places in women’s shelters by 2020 (too little too late), they are cutting the funding for various women projects dealing with prevention and help in cases of violence.
The socialist-feminist campaign “Nicht mit mir” (Not with me/Not in my name), which is organised by the SLP, the Austrian section of the CWI, has taken up the issue in a completely different style. We’ve brought out a new issue of our campaign paper on the topic of violence against women that is selling like hot cakes. We also organised a street activity with speeches where we demanded the introduction of a minimum wage of 1,700 euro per month, to make an independent life for women possible. One of the public meetings of “Nicht mit mir” dealt with the issue of housing. One of the central demands is the expropriation of those flats and houses that are kept empty for speculative reasons.
In the unions the question of violence against women is not taken up, the same as with other “women’s issues.” Although up to 90,000 members of the Austrian trade union federation will be victims of violence, the women’s structure of the federation doesn’t have a single article about the question online. The idea of a women’s strike or a feminist strike has not even been discussed in the unions.
For March 8th, “Nicht mit mir” aims for a joint activity with the campaign “Social, but not stupid” (a campaign of rank-and-file staff and militant shop stewards in the social sector). The social sector just came out of a strike demanding higher wages and a reduction in working hours. The strike was finished far too early by the trade union leaders that again made a rotten deal. At the same time there is a relatively young and predominately female work force, many of whom have been active in solidarity work with refugees, anti-fascist work and others.
So “Nicht mit mir” and the SLP will go on the streets on March 8th against the politics of the government, demanding a minimum wage, the expropriation of empty flats and calling for working class struggles against government attacks and against the rotten capitalist system behind them.