Austria: Fascist attack on Socialist Left Party spokesperson’s home

Far-right and establishment parties stir up racist mood

On 23 February evening, fascists targeted the home of the Socialist Left Party (CWI-Austria) spokesperson, Sonja Grusch, and sprayed racist slogans and a swastika inside her house. They also sprayed “Heil Hitler” nearby. This is an attempt by fascists to threaten the SLP and to intimidate the party from conducting anti-racist and anti-fascist activities. The background to this is a dispute in the local area around the question of the rebuilding of an Islamic centre.

Anti-Muslim work of neo-Nazis made easy by established parties

Over the last few years, fascist organisations in Austria have changed tactics. Previously they targeted immigrants, in general, but now they concentrate on Muslims. The Establishment parties make this even easier, as they also use anti-Muslim propaganda and whip up an anti-Muslim mood. Therefore, fascists can easily exploit this mood that is created by the Establishment and even government parties.

In the 20th district of Vienna there is the plan to rebuild and make bigger an Islamic centre. This project led to a debate ostensibly over noise and car parking spaces. A local tenants’ initiative quickly expressed racist and anti-Muslim sentiments. The website of the “tenants” initiative is paid for by the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the regional Peoples Party (ÖVP – the main pro-capitalist party) supported it. They are against “further Islamisation” and called for a protest march, in September 2007. The whole far-right and neo-Nazi-scene, as well as the FPÖ, supported the march. Amongst the 800 demonstrators were 120 organised fascists from all over Austria. They distributed their papers, leaflets and stickers, verbally abused women wearing headscarves, and shouted fascist slogans. Neither the organisers nor the demonstrators had a problem with this. Since this, for the fascists, ‘successful’ intervention, different fascist organisations have increased their activities in the area.

SLP organised protest against racist march

The Socialist Left Party (SLP), the Austrian section of the CWI, called for a protest against last September’s demonstration. We made it clear that the problems facing local tenants have to be taken seriously, but that there can be no tolerance for racist and fascist propaganda. Actually the “tenants” initiative made it more difficult to deal with questions of noise and traffic as they, de-facto, invited racists and fascists into the area. The protest organised by the SLP was smaller then the right wing-led demo (as there where only three days to organise our protest and no press coverage, whereas the “tenants’ protest march” was advertised in a free district paper, the paper freely distributed on the Vienna underground and by the FPÖ) but got a good response from people living in the area.

New quality of neo-Nazi attacks

After the September demonstration, the SLP organised a number of discussions in the area and went public about who really participated on the march. Sonja Grusch, the public spokesperson of the SLP, was and is to the forefront of the activities against racism and fascism in this area. Therefore, it is no accident that fascists tried to attack her directly. But it is a new departure for fascists to come to the homes of anti-fascists to threaten them and this has to be taken serious. Especially so, as it was followed by the visit of a well-known activist from the neo-Nazi scene to our picket, who tried to provoke us by saying, “You know what happened to Trotsky [meaning that he was murdered with an ice pick] – the same will happen to you”.

The SLP immediately reacted and organised a picket against the fascist slogan-spraying. We got wide solidarity from trade unionists, the district mayor and the vice-mayor, as well as from different left and anti-fascist organisations. Where the Nazis sprayed “Heil Hitler” and “Turks out” on walls, a new slogan appeared in big red letters – “Nazis out!”

SLP is a leading organisation in antifascist work

The Socialist Left Party (SLP) is a leading organisation in anti-fascist campaigning in Austria. In the Upper-Austria region, the SLP successfully blocked a number of fascist activities and forced the fascists to do most of their work ‘underground’. One of the results of the SLP campaigning is that the state feels under pressure to take action against the fascists, by bringing three of their leaders to court for fascist activities. In Vienna, the SLP led a successful campaign against the most important meeting place for fascists and far-right activists. And the SLP replied to racist propaganda against Muslims in the 20th district.

The attacks of the Nazis have to be taken seriously. But their actions also show our campaigning work frightens them. The SLP makes public who the fascists are, making it more difficult for them to present themselves as “ordinary worried” people. We make clear that there is no acceptance for their ideas and their activities. The events show how important that work is and the SLP will continue with it.

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March 2008