Although it was pouring with rain, October 9th saw more than 500 antifascists (mainly youth) marched through Linz, an industrial city of over 200,000 people in Austria.
The demonstration was a climax in the campaign "together against right-wing violence – stop the BFJ". This was concentrated against the activities of the extreme right-wing "Association of Free Youth" (BFJ), which was originally the youth wing of an organisation which was banned in 1975 for its sympathy towards Hitler and the Third Reich.
The campaign was initiated by SWI (the Austrian section of the ISR) and the SLP (the Austrian section of the CWI) some months ago. The BFJ is attempting to build a cadre organisation, not just a broad movement, and last spring organised a meeting with about 100 participants. It publishes a paper with pan-German nationalist and aggressive racist content, leaflets against homosexuality, foreigners and "left violence", and has close links to the German NPD, the neo-nazi party that received 9,2 % in the recent regional elections in Saxony. At the same time there has been an increase in right-wing violence by fascist thugs. While there are connections between the BFJ and the openly violent fascists, so far they have yet worked together.
Our campaign brought together youth from Linz, and the surrounding regions, who want to do something against racism and fascism. A whole number of new people began activity, giving out over 20.000 leaflets altogether. Over months we organised weekly street-rallies with an increasing number of participants, followed by meetings of activists to discuss both the next steps as well as the reasons for racism and fascism and how to fight it. Alongside many school students from more than 10 different schools, some young workers joined the campaign.
On the demo activists of the campaign had the front-banner and formed an extremely lively bloc that politically linked together the question of social cuts, capitalist crisis and the growth of right-wing organisations. On our red shirts and bags we had placards with the slogans "together against right-wing violence" and "for homes, jobs and education".
The BFJ tried to intimidate the anti-fascists spreading rumours that "Combat 18" and "Blood-and-Honour" Nazis would come to Linz from Britain and Germany. Some far-right activists did try to attack the demonstration but were stopped by our stewards, the police only coming later.
Following the initiative of SWI and the SLP, a joint-left committee called for the demonstration. Our approach was proved to be correct. The scepticism of the social democratic youth organisation, including the left "Funke" grouping within it, that at the beginning saw no need and no potential for the demonstration, was shown to be wrong. The SWI and SLP also mobilised youth from different parts of Austria, including Salzburg, Vienna and Lower Austria, to come to the demonstration.
New members were won to the SLP both on the demonstration and during the campaign. Lots of youth are interested in the ideas and activities of the ISR as well as the SLP. Over 100 papers (wet but socialist) where sold and hundreds of leaflets where distributed explaining the way how to fight the nazis, calling for the formation of school- and local groups and inviting people to a seminar to go deeper into these topics.
This shows that in a region where the forces of socialism are currently weak, it is possible with a consequent campaign and a clear program not only to organise an extremely successful demonstration but also to win youth for the ideas of socialism. The next steps for both the SLP and the ISR-campaign are to deepen the political understanding of the need for socialist policies and to organise more activists in a longer campaign not just to drive the nazis out and but to build a real alternative for working people and youth.