by franz schaefer email@example.com / February 2001
Intention: Originally I wanted to write a document about the political situation here in Austria, since it was my impression that few people inside and even less outside here understand what is going on in this country. On the other hand: while a lot of the things that happen here are somehow special (mostly because of our history) I think the whole problem is not limited to Austria and can only be understood when looked at in a global context. So I decided for the title of this text. But this document is not intended as a scientific analysis but as an easy to read and self-contained text that you could show to your grandma'. Most of the problems that we have gotten into are because a lot of common people do not have an understanding about what is going on in the world of today. Not that they would be stupid, it is maybe just because TV or their newspaper does not tell them about these things. Or maybe they never had any incentive to look at things from a new point of view. Maybe this is all an old hat for some people but hopefully it will be a refreshing view for others.
To understand the world of today let us divide our society into a few easy to recognize sectors (of course it is not that easy since most people do not only belong to one sector and of course there is a lot of interaction between the sectors which makes it hard to draw a line. Also note that any partitioning is somehow arbitrary. In this case we only want the look at the major influences on our society, and especially concerning the influence of money (which unfortunatly is the major influence...)
Sector 1: "The People". In most western countries we have some form of democracy where in principle the people could express their will to some degree with a vote in a free election. So we could also call this sector the "voters" or better: "the potential voters". Yet everyone will agree with me that in reality it is not only the voters who decide about our destiny. There are other sectors.
Sector 2: "Politics". or "The Politicians". Here I mean both active politicians who, by election (or bribery) have received some sort of public position and those person who want to influence politics with personal work but have not been elected (yet). e.g.: members of an oppositional party. Of course the most important part are the active politicians. Those in power. Those in the government. In a democracy they should be elected by the people. But of course there are some other forces who have interest in deciding about who runs a country:
Sector 3: "The Capital" or "The Money" or "The People who own the Money". While we all have a bit of money most wealth is in the hands of very few people. Big corporations and their shareholders. Very few people today decide how money is spent but how this money is spent has a large impact on our society. Yet this is not controlled in a democratic way. To some degree it is not controlled at all. It is somehow running on its own. Some lowly broker in some bank buys some stocks and sells them with the sole purpose of maximizing some profit. He gets payed for this "job". He does not know or understand about most ethical implications of most of what he does. Then of course the head officer of that big corporation and maybe the majority shareholder know what they are doing but all they are interested in, is to maximize profit as well. So the main problem with this sectors it the lack of democratic control and the power to control our society to a large degree on its own. Persons with 100 or 1000 times the money you need for living will not be 100 or 1000 times as happy but they will have that much more power to control our world. And naturally they like to control it in a way that gives them even more power and consequently more money. Thus, without democratic control things will get out of hand. Some people now will argue that this cooporations simply try to get as much money as possible from consumers and by the way we give preference to a certain product we all have some control over this corporations. While this is true and this is how capitalism works and it is not that bad it certainly fails to control all aspects. It ignores labor condition or the pollution of the environment to name just 2 examples. So it needs politics to control the boundary conditions where within capitalism is allowed to operate. e.g.: setting progressively high taxes for the rich and super-rich so that they are stopped from getting even more rich.
Sector 4: "Media". Newspapers, TV-station, the Internet. An extremely important sector. It forms the opinions that people hold and on which they base their voting decisions. So in order to have a well functioning democracy free media are an absolute necessity. Unfortunately running media costs money and thus this sector is inherently dependent on Capital...
Sector 5: "Academia and Education". While this sector does not have much direct power it is still a rather important one. The intelligence there should provide the following things:
Sector 7: "NGOs". Disappointed with traditional politics people start to take matters in some important areas in their own hand. A good government should provide some support for such initiatives since they broaden the political spectrum and help to produce a diverse and robust society. On the other hand: without public support for NGOs these organizations are in danger of becoming dependent solely on capital again. (Even though, that determined people can do a lot without the need for a lot of money). A special case of NGO is:
Sector 8: "Religion". The importance of this sector in our secular society is easily underestimated. But for a large number of people (even those who claim to be atheist) religion is the source for the basic values. And this influences their votes of course. Unfortunately most of the people never challenge these values nor do the spend much time thinking if their religious leaders really represent the original values of their believe or just something else. On the other hand religion can help people see good ideals and values. Because of the fundamental importance of those values a lot of sectors try to get a hold on religion.
Now we have those 8 sectors. Of course the selection is somehow arbitrary. We could add other sectors or split some sectors into different sub-sectors, etc.. but we do not want to confuse the big picture with too many small details and so we will stick with those 8.
Now if we want to describe some changes in society we can do this by describing how the power between those sectors are shifted. Naturally we would want most power in the hand of the people but somehow any sector wants to increase their power, probably with the help of other sectors. Picture 1 shows just some of the most important relationships within these sectors. Of course there are many more influence-relationships to consider. When revolutions happen there is a sudden change in the distribution of power within our society. e.g. communism took away the power of money and shifted it towards politics again. Unfortunately communism, as it existed, did not provide enough possibilities for voting and so finally, the people has not much right neither. Fascism was a reaction against communism but not with the aim to provide power for the people but with the aim to provide power for the capital it did this, particularly with the help of religion and by controlling media. The voting power for people was also cut off.
Nowadays in the western world we have some rather stable democracies where the power to vote can not be easily cut off. Revolutionary changes do not really happen anymore, even though the rapid development of Technologie provides some challenges for our system. But even without revolutionary changes there can be some slight shifts in power. And those slight shifts in power might cause some other shifts..and so the whole system is drifting towards some direction. So maybe within a few years we have a totally different society and maybe it is a society we do not like. But maybe then it is too late to change anything. Or maybe it is too late even today, and we already are on a one-way track to some land we never wanted to go.....
Today the big corporations, the big money they do not spend much money on violent political parties in order to overthrow the government and build some totalitarian regime rather they spend their money and influence for political parties which support their interest. (low taxes for the rich, etc..) One good example here is the situation in the unites states of America. Other than in most European countries, political parties there get most of their financial resources they need for their work and campaigns from private sponsors. This explains why the USA has so much environmental pollution and always argues against international attempts to reduce emissions. Or: Microsoft, a corporation who tries to enslave the world mostly with the use of Technologie, pays huge amounts of money to the republican party, which, you would not have guessed is very Microsoft friendly.
A movement with a throughout struggle to increase the influence of big money and to reduce the power of the people in our society will be called "Neofascism-2000" within this document. We will later show the similarities of the new fascism with the old one.
To learn more about the FPOEVP regime that reigns in Austria now I think it is most useful to take a short look at their first year of government work:
In Austria the military service is obligatory for all young men, but those, who for ethical reasons, do not want to learn the profession of killing they could choose to do a civil service. The civil service was a few month longer then the military service in order to prevent too many people from doing something useful. One of the first actions of the new regime was to make the civil service even more unattractive by reducing the money the young men got for buying food and furthermore to take away civil servants from many social and NGO organizations and taking more money from these organizations for the civil servants they want. So this action serves the following purposes:
In Austria, newspapers had specially low fees for postage. This was an advantage for small, potentially critical, newspapers, magazines from NGOs, etc.. Without this special reduced fee many small papers can not survive or have to get more money from sponsors and advertisement. Thus this regulation makes the media sector more dependent on money and potentially helps the big players, because they can afford their own distribution channels anyway. (BTW: Most of the big newspapers in Austria range from slightly right wing to very right wing). One can of course argue that print media are not that important anymore in the age of the Internet, still the aim of this action is clear: To hurt small, critical and independent media. Where this does not hurt enough the regime does not hesitate to take more direct action:
e.g.: A small (circulation: 200 pieces) left wing, student paper was threatened with a lawsuit because they printed a letter from a reader who labeled the FPOEVP regime with the term: "rechtskonservative scheissregierung" (translates as: "right-wing conservative shit-government"). The threat came from an advocate office which belongs to the current FPOE (haider party) minister of justice: Mister Boehmdorfer. It should be noted that Mister Boehmdorfer also thinks it is worth to think about if politicians who do not agree with the government should be liable of criminal charges. (After a public outcry about the seriousness of this statement later the regime demented that they are planing something like this. But as we can see from the lawsuit against the student paper the regime is serious about using legal action against critical voices.)
Even thought this regime is very eager to save money everywhere and reduce the volume tax for the stock market. Now, isn't it interesting that all sectors get some cutoffs but the big money gets the benefits?
In Austria we have kind of a semi-NGO the "AK" (Arbeiterkammer - workers lobby). The funding was via an obligatory fee on all wages. This fee has been reduced. The AK provided a lobby for interests of works and thus mostly against corporations and here especially big corporations. Clearly the reduction of these fees is another strike against a formerly independent sector of society.
In Austria, until now, access to the universities was free of charge. The new right wing regime has changed that. This is a clear strike against another sector of society that was not under direct control of big corporations until now. The effects of this are manifold but all in the interest of the Neofascism regime:
Even though the regime claimed that the university would benefit from the study-fee they also cut down the spending on research in some sectors dramatically which is further evidence that the real goal is to tear down yet another free bastion of the people within our society.
As I said before: Technology plays an increasingly important role in our society. Development in the science/Technology field runs at an ever increasing pace with no precedent in history. The new technologies both represent both enormous chances but also enormous risks to the development of our society. Big corporations have long ago realized this and try to stake their claim in the realms of information Technologie, genetic engineering, etc.. The tools they use for this task is IP ("intellectual property") law: copyright, patents, trademarks, trade-secrets, non-disclosure agreements, etc.. IP is a particularly evil invention making a good that was naturally free to be spread and copied (information) artificially scarce so it can be "possessed" as "property". To give the reader who is not yet familiar with the implications of this topic here are 2 (out of countless) examples:
With the continual increasing importance of information Technologie the importance of these matters can only increase. (Where they are important enough to produce the world's richest man with a wealth that surpasses the GNP of a large number of smaller countries). Extrapolating Moor's law, a lot of people think that it is not unreasonable that man will be able to produce computers with more intelligence than himself within some 30 or 40 years. Those people or companies who own this Technologie and the data that gets feed into these machines might rule the world. So it might be that with some small changes in the political boundary conditions for Information Technology today, we shape a very important part of mankind future and influencing society for generations to come....
I will leave the task of thinking about possible consequences of IP law in the fields of biotech, medicine, economy, etc.. up to the reader.
Now back to the Austrian right wing regime. In the U.S. and in Japan, software patents and patents on mathematical formula are already reality. In Europe we do not have them yet. The EU is not sure and postponed the decision about this topic for one year. Of course the Austrian regime voted for immediate implementation of software patents. Hopefully, within the next year, the public will learn about the significance of this question and the EU will take a position against the abuse of IP. In any case: with this position the Austrian regime has ultimately shown where it stands. Not for the ordinary workers and not for the farmers and even for small or medium sized business. What they want is total, unrestricted, bare bone, capitalism until our world is totally dominated by money and money alone.
Unlike in the U.S., in most European democracies, political parties receive some public funding according to the results they had at their last election. With this money they can finance campaigns and other political work and it makes them to some degree independent of private funding. The FPOEVP regime has reduced this funding. The populist propaganda explanation of course was that the government is also saving in their own ranks and not only cutting the poor. Sadly enough a large amount of the public did not realize that this was another strike against the power of the people. In the future only very rich people will be able to afford to start a political career and those will be more dependent on private financing. This Americanization of our society reduces the freedom of people and further increases the influence of big corporations...
Summary: In our introduction we have learned the definition of Neofascism-2000 as a policy with a throughout struggle to increase the influence of big corporations and big money on our society at the expense of every other sector and ultimately the people. Looking at all the political actions of this government we can see that the Austrian regime perfectly meets this definition. While the new fascism, at first glance, may not seem as dangerous as the old one since, until now it still operates within the bounds of democracy, but if the policy is allowed to be continued for long enough it might reduce democracy to a farce because it constantly tries to undermine the power of the people. Some people might object that the definition of Neofascism-2000 was especially crafted to fit the case of Austria but that is not true: until now, most of what we learned was not specific to Austria in any way. I am afraid it could happen in any country. So in the next chapter we want to investigate a little bit in the history of Austria. Showing the connections between the new fascism and the old one and we try to find an answer to the question on why all this had to happen especially here in Austria.
Unlike most countries Austria did not have just one fascist regime in its past but 2: First the Austrofascist regime under chancellor "Dollfuss" and later the NAZI regime. Austrian writer Robert Menasse introduced the theory that because the first fascist regime was a victim of the NAZIS this has caused the problem that, while there was to some degree a critical analysis of the NAZI government, the former fascism was never really criticized and lives on in the Austrian society.
Let's take a short view at the political parties in Austria:
SPOE - Social-democratic Party. Austria's biggest party. Most of the time in Austria's history the SPOE was in the government. At some periods they reigned alone but most of the time they had a coalition with the OEVP. During a short period they even had a coalition with the FPOE, but this was before Haider turned the FPOE into the Ultra-rightwing-populist organization it is today. Since then the SPOE always consequently rejected to make any coalition with this party. But during the last legislation period the SPOE together with the OEVP implemented a lot of anti-immigration laws. They hoped by playing the same evil politic that the FPOE proposed they could take away the reason why people voted for this party in the first place. As it turned out this was a fatal mistake. Today the SPOE is really weak. They where used to be a party with power and are not used to be an opposition party. They are failing to explain the evils of the politics of the FPOEVP regime to the public, even though this should not be to hard.
OEVP - Peoples-party. (German "Volkspartei"). This party is the reincarnation of the Austrofascist "Christian-social" party. Given the behavior that is clearly directed against the people the name "Peoples-party" is rather cynical as is the "Christian" and "social" in their former name. But many people believed the lie about the "Christian" thing and the party had many voters, especially in rural areas where the people believed in the fairy tale about the "Christian party". The upper ranks of the party where typically recruited out of members of extremely right wing student fraternities (CV) or people with no particular political interest but the intention to have a good and fast carrier. We have already noted that the roots of the OEVP date back to the Austrofascist regime. To some people it came as a surprise that this party would turn so far right again like it did not with the coalition with the Haider-Party. On the other hand, they never ruled out a coalition with this party so the principal position did not change. It should also be noted that the party had some ugly right wing outburst in the recent history as well. e.g.: when they nominated Kurt Waldheim to become Austrian President. Waldheim served in the NAZI army as an officer. (Even thought it could never be proven that he was an actual war criminal it is sure that he lied about his role there. It is likely he was just one of those who helped to keep the system running. People who do not care or are not brave enough to speak up when they see some evil. Those dangerous type of people who are necessary for every kind of totalitarian regime.) In the campaign to promote their candidate many ugly sides of the OEVP turned up. e.g. former OEVP chief-of-club Michael Graff explained that someone should be called a "war-criminal" only if it could be proven that "he had strangled at least 6 Jews with his own hand". Typical for the OEVP politician is the lack of sensibility when dealing with questions of ethics and moral, but this should not come as a surprise since most of them are there for their own career only. For a long period of time the party was second strongest party in Austria and in coalition with the SPOE.
FPOE - "Freedom-party". Again an incredible ironic name, since we have shown that this party works for the limitation of freedom of the people. Maybe they mean "Freedom for Capital" or "Unlimited Freedom for Big Corporations" but certainly not freedom for people. After WWII all political parties included some ex-nazis in their ranks but most of them went into the FPOE. During most years the FPOE was in the hand of ex-NAZI and/or SS members. Only during the period between 1980 and 1986 they had a somewhat liberal chief named "Norbert Steger". In 1986 Joerg Haider became chief of the FPOE and the party turned to the extreme right side again. In a lot statements Haider and other politicians of his party revealed connections with NAZI ideology. One of countless examples: FPOE politician Ernest Windholz, recently used the motto "Unsere Ehre Heisst Treue" which is borrowed from SS. The party also spreads nationalism and fosters xenophobia and hate against immigrants in its propaganda.
LIF - Liberal Forum. A few liberal thinking people left the party and formed their own political party, the "LIF - Liberal Forum" with Heide Schmidt as chief. They had some very sane political ideas and where extremely opposed to Haider's FPOE but they could not gain much support from voters at the elections.
Green Party - With about 7% of votes it is a rather small party, but given the weakness of the SPOE, this party is currently Austria's only hope.
So we can see that the Neofascism 2000 in Austria has its roots in the old fascism. A question that arises here is: "Is it necessary to have old fascist roots to build new fascism?". Well, I do not think so. Of course where there are roots of old fascism in a country then the new fascism, the big corporations, etc.. they try to make use of it. But in theory what has happened in Austria can happen in any country. There even is some kind of danger if there was no old fascism in a country. Then people say: "This can not happen to us..." or "We fought a war against the Nazis back then...so how could we be Neofascism..." etc...
I think it is important to understand the Neofascism as a modern phenomenon. In the case of Austria it is rooted in the old fascism but that is not a necessity. Big corporations try to extend their power everywhere. In some countries they have even succeeded to a much larger degree than here:
America and Japan are dominated by corporatism. Second and third world countries are not much hope neither since they are likely to adopted the culture that is imported to them. So the only hope for a social and human world is Europe. Most European countries have a socialist background to some degree. As long as those countries where not political united they where not strong. Big corporations could easily blackmail them: "Oh.. we would like to build this new factory in your country... but the taxes there are a bit too high..and the laws for environmental protections are a bit too expensive for us...and so are the social standards..if you do not give compromise here a bit then... we are already in negotiations with your neighbour company..". So with a united Europe there finally exists an entity that has enough power to be a threat to international corporations and unrestricted global capitalism. So it should not come as a surprise that this last bastion of freedom is under heavy attack:
When the European Union tried to include small countries like Austria they promised that small countries would be over-represented there. This seemed like a good idea at first, to give small countries more voice to bring some diversity into the whole thing. But now it seems this could be an Achilles heel: It seems rather likely that neofascism now concentrates on small countries because it is much cheaper to buy a regime in a small country than in a big one. And with a few.. (e.g. 3) small countries in the hand of corporatism the European Union would be doomed to fail or even worse: fall entirely into the hand of unrestricted capitalism.
Austria might have been their first target because of the easy conditions (old fascism and a dangerous media concentration..etc..) there.
The original fascism was a reaction against the new ideas of the enlightenment and the French revolution (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity). Politically the goal was to keep the power in the hands of rich people. To those people the new ideas about socialism and democracy etc.. all seemed like a threat to their power. The same thing can be said about the Neofascism 2000. The new fascism has different methods and (at least until now) lacks some of the radicality of the old fascism but the goal is the same. Now let's look at the methods that old and new fascism used to reach their goal:
anti-egalitarian: Where originally fascism had the ideology about racial superiority, the in-equality in the new fascism is more or less reduced to give power to the rich. (Or as it is called in the right wing propaganda "the diligent" as compared to the "lazy social-parasites"). I write "more or less" here because in Haider's "freedom"-party the racial superiority idea still has many supporters. e.g.: the chief of the freedom party in the city of Vienna, Dr. Partik-Pable said that she thinks that "Black people are extremely aggressive by their nature")
Where the nationalism and racism serves the purpose of dividing people and breaking international solidarity so that people will not get organized on this level to break power of international corporations and fascism there. On the other hand the anti-egalitarian propaganda serves the purpose of dividing different groups in society.
Liberty and freedom are also a matter that is critical to fascism. Where the old fascism had censorship and book burnings etc.., the new fascism pretends to be rather liberal in most matters but for most part it is the freedom that money can buy. Note that this is a slightly different concept than "the freedom to make money". Of course the Neofascism also tries censorship on freedom of arts and press. (e.g. the law suits that Haider's party is running against critical journalists, artists and scientists) but worse than that are the structural changes where arts and media are made more dependent on money. This is by far more effective than direct censorship and it is not recognized as "bad" as direct censorship by most people.
Anti-democracy. Where the old fascism was openly anti-democratic the Neofascism just tries to make democracy more and more hollow and replace it by a system where society is ruled by money alone.
In order to stop the uprising fascism it is necessary to strengthen all sectors of society and limit the influence of money and big corporations. Of course the goal is not to completely destroy capitalism, but just to limit its influence. Like a flame burning in the stove is useful to us as long as it is kept inside its bounds there.
Most of the measures could easily be performed by politics and in countries where Neofascism has not taken over yet it should be. In a state where there is already a Neofascism regime the people have to take matters in their own hand and to strengthen democracy so it can stand on its own feet again.
First we want to take a look at what countries with a working democracy can do to prevent developments like we have them in Austria now.
To directly increase the independence of politics from money, public funding of political parties should be increased and not reduced. Also sufficient payment for people in political positions is necessary.
To strengthen independent media laws should support small media at the cost of big media. Also important in this context is a protection against possible law suits. Usual right wing parties try to make censorship laws popular here in the name of "protecting" the public from pornography and the protection of copyright etc... Small media and web-sites usually can not afford the costs of law suits.
To strengthen the possibilities of academia a reduction of copyright and patent laws is also desirable. Knowledge should be public property. Without the possibility to protect "intellectual property" the necessity for publicly funded science also increases which strengthens the position of public universities.
In the case of Technologie the public sector should use and fund the use of free and open Technologie. Require the adherence to open standards. An example would be to use free software wherever possible.
NGOs are a bit of a different case. In a well working democracy the state should cover most needs of people. e.g.: Good public welfare should make the need for non-government welfare obsolete. On the other hand NGOs can help to increase some diversity within society and the state should support them. Especially reducing the dependence on private capital. e.g.: personal work for such organizations and small amount of money should be encouraged with reduced taxes, but this should not be the case for extremely large monetary donations.
The same ideas could also be supplied to religious organizations. A society with good intention really has no need to be at odds with religion, at least not with honest ones. So the state should carefully watch organizations that are merely an excuse to make money or spread fascist ideology (Scientology, Opus Dei, etc..)..
An other important step would be to increase transparency by requiring that large corporations have to reveal most of their business information. Especially interesting is who is paying how much to media, NGOs etc.. A lot of people today are aware of privacy issues. But for normal people there is not much privacy anymore anyway. However it would be important to give small people the same right: to know all details about big corporation. So law's should require as much transparency as possible here. This information should also be available on the Internet. So this way it would be possible to e.g. find out who is sponsoring right wing media..etc.. every donation or payment above a certain limit towards media organizations should be visible to everyone.
Of course it might be dangerous to push all this measurements too aggressively because it would cause intensive opposition from the groups who could loose influence in the process. So a cautious but steady politics is necessary here.
One last point: Since the big corporations are acting on an international level, the support of resistance movements in other countries should be a no-brainer. Your country might be next.
Once everything has gone wrong and a neofascist regime has taken over things are much more complicated. Infrastructure improvements like described above are not possible. Most important is to expose the agenda of the neofascist regimes to the public.
Usually this also means fighting against right-wing media. Here it could be useful to expose the connections between money and media. e.g.: To publish statistics of which companies spend the most money for advertisement in this kind of papers. Some business are extremely sensitive to negative publicity and here a lot of effective work can be done with little money. Groups like green peace have shown to be effective against extremely big corporation. Even if a majority of people do not care for politics or do not understand it, an extremely negative PR among about 25% of people will be a threat to those companies. Methods of guerilla marketing could be effective here.
In any case it makes sense to focus every effort at this point, because once a neofascist regime was in power for too long then it might be too late.
As we have found out before it is very likely that corporations have Austria as a target for their neofascist agenda because this way they can get some influence on the EU in a cheap way. So it should be in the interest of the EU to fight the neofascist tendencies here. At first it seemed they wanted to do that when 14 EU countries started sanctions against the Austrian regime.
Unfortunately these sanctions where completely removed after the report of the "3 wise men". The EU should have at least kept some kind of observation status. In any case EU countries should try to help to fight against the Neofascism in Austria in every possible way. (Some of the measures in the above chapter could be used or at least supported by the EU).
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The original location of this document was http://mond.at/neofascism2000/
last update: 29-jun-2001