On 13 May, in the late afternoon, 200,000 people (according to the ÖGB, the Austrian trade union federation) marched through the streets of Vienna against the government’s pension ‘reforms’ (the police said "over 100,000" participated).
Buses and trains brought people from all over Austria to the demonstration. The anger about the plans of the government, that would lead to 30-50% cuts in pensions, is so great that neither the heavy rain that poured down during the whole demo, nor two hailstorms, stopped the workers and young people from taking action.
Banners pointed to the cynical approach of the government. On the very same day that the ministers decided on the pension cuts, they also agreed to buy the most expensive military interceptor aircraft they could get.
At the rally the SLP (the CWI in Austria) participated with a lorry, a loudspeaker system and music. Our contingent used the slogan, "general strike now", and we explained the need for a general strike against the government’s attacks in banners, leaflets, chants and a song. This call for decisive industrial action got a good response.
Round table talks?
It is not clear how the ÖGB will continue from here on. Originally they announced protests for every Tuesday until 4 June, when the pensions law is due to be passed in parliament. That is why the SLP specifically called for a general strike on Tuesday, 20 May.
But it seems the ÖGB leadership prefers to take part in ‘round table talks’, organised by the Austrian President, together with representatives of the government, opposition parties and the bosses’ organisation. But these negotiations can only lead to a rotten compromise and open the door for further attacks against working people. To stop the cuts in the pensions system, but also in the health and education systems, a general strike is the next, necessary step. The strikes on 6 May 6 and the 13 May demonstration showed that workers are prepared to take this action.