Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party – a mirror of imperialist racism


a mirror of imperialist racism

Following the Austrian general election last year, Jörg Haider’s far right Freedom Party, which increased its share of the vote from 5% in 1986 to 27%, joined with the centre-right People’s Party to form a coalition government in which each of these two parties has an equal number of ministers. Haider, who is currently the governor of Carinthia in distant Klagunfort, is himself not in the ministry but undoubtedly controls the ministers belonging to his party. The accession of Haider’s Freedom Party to the government has caused apparent consternation among the 14 other countries of the European Union, as well as in the US and Israel. The loud, and unconvincing, denunciation of Haider’s party by the other EU governments has had the effect so far of merely increasing the support, if the latest opinion polls are to be believed, for the Freedom Party to an unprecedented 33% of the electorate. The row over the inclusion of the Freedom Party in the Austrian coalition is bound to prove to be a storm in a teacup. But it does provide us with an opportunity to deal with some important matters and to expose the hypocrisy of the leaders of the other 14 EU countries, US imperialism and its tool in the Middle East, Zionist colonialism.

Haider’s political platform

It is worthwhile looking at the platform of the Freedom Party, as well as examining the reasons put forward, at least for public consumption, by the EU’s 14 governments, and by the US and Israel, for their chorus of disapproval following the formation of the Austrian coalition government. The Freedom party’s platform is a vague, populist mix, which commits it to the promotion of ‘Christian values’, stiffer sentences for crime, lower taxes, chasing out the old power-brokers and getting rid of the duopoly, and with it the

“grubby system known as ‘proporz’, under which Austria’s main parties – the socialists and the centre-right People’s Party – have shared out power and patronage between them since the second world war.”

(The

Economist,

12 February 2000).

In foreign policy Haider’s party, while in favour of joining NATO, is cool towards EU integration. Haider has also suggested that there should be bigger welfare benefits for Austrian children than for non-Austrian children. Further, he rejects the idea that Austrians, in particular of his generation, should accept collective guilt for their country’s part in the crimes of the Hitlerite German regime, especially in the area of ethnic cleansing. Haider is also accused of having made insensitive statements in the recent past trivialising Nazi crimes. In addition he has made some ugly generalisations about immigrants from Eastern Europe.

Lastly, he hails from a family with Nazi connections. The bourgeois media, which had remained silent on the subject for over half a century, has suddenly dug up the information that Bärental, Haider’s sumptuous alpine-style house, a splendid estate with 35,000 acres of land, replete with lodges, lakes, pine forests and a saw mill, was acquired by his forebears from the widow of Giorgio Roifer, an Italian Jew, who was forced to sell by the Nazis. Haider’s great uncle, Joseph Webhofer, it is alleged, was able to buy the estate in January 1941 because of his Nazi connections. In 1986 he bequeathed the estate to Haider.

Hypocrisy of the EU and the US.

The governments of the other 14 EU countries have charged Haider and his Freedom Party with xenophobia, belittling the monstrosity of Nazi crimes and not coming to grips with the Nazi period in Austrian history. Following their governments, the media and the bourgeois journalist fraternity have worked themselves into a lather. The

Financial Times

expressed its bewilderment at a

“ruthless populist who has blatantly exploited anti-immigrant sentiments to gain support.” “Mr Haider’s brand of hate has no place in the Councils of Europe,”

thundered the ‘liberal’

Guardian.

Far from it! Not without justification did Mr Haider make the obvious, and correct, retort:

“If you compare our programme with the government of Tony Blair, you will find a lot of similarities.”

(Quoted in the

Guardian

of 8 February 2000).

In fact xenophobia is characteristic of all the immigration and asylum legislation passed by British (and other western European) parliaments during Conservative as well as Social-Democratic governments. The underlying assumption, which underpins the plethora of legislation of this question, is that the arrival of a single foreigner, especially one with a dark skin, is a positive misfortune to be avoided at all costs. Haider is a rather late arrival on the scene. Instead of being the innovator he is represented as, he is merely the latest in a long line of immigrant-bashing racist fraternity, who have been piling more and more anti-immigrant legislation on to the statute books ever since the early 1960s when the post-war boom began to falter and full employment began to make way for increasing unemployment.

There is nothing in the Freedom Party’s programme which has not already been the established practice in the hallowed (not to say hollow) British democracy. Mrs Thatcher secured her 1979 election victory by xenophobic statements to the effect that the British people were quite correctly alarmed at the prospect of being swamped by people with an alien culture. One of the main reasons for the electoral decline of the National Front, and the failure of its successor, the British National Party, to make any significant electoral impact, has been the fact that the anti-immigrant programme of the National Front and the British National Party has been by and large adopted by the ‘respectable’ bourgeois parties – Conservative and Labour. The racist immigration and asylum laws have in fact legitimised the openly racist platform of the fascist outfits.

The British government and the British media’s hypocritical fulminations against the inclusion of Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party in the Austrian coalition happened to coincide with the arrival at Stanstead of a hijacked Afghan plane. No sooner had the craft, with its 200 victims, touched down than there sprang up a myth, in the creation of which the Home Office, the House of Commons, the ‘respectable’ bourgeois parties, the print and electronic media, played an equally despicable role, that the newly arrived merely represented the first instalment of a wave of ‘bogus asylum seekers’ and ‘benefit snatchers’, who, regarding Britain as a ‘soft touch’, had engineered the whole episode to gain entry into Britain, instead of being treated, as they deserve to be, the hapless victims of a long and cruel imperialist-inspired strife thrust upon their unfortunate country. When the anti-Haider chorus of the leaders of the British government was reaching a crescendo, at that precise moment, Home Secretary Jack Straw, who presides over one of the most racist departments of state in the western world, the British Home Office, was busy telling the House of Commons that the Afghans must leave Britain. Only two weeks prior to this, the Home Office had announced its planned racist regulations requiring visa bonds of £10,000 from black visitors to Britain (see details elsewhere in this issue).

Gulf between word and deed

The contrast between the British government’s statements on the Austrian situation and their own practice on questions of immigration and asylum, and the breathtaking hypocrisy involved in its dual standards, was so glaring as to force a tiny minority of even the imperialist media and bourgeois intelligentsia to characterise European bourgeois leaders as what they really are – the racist defenders of privilege. In an article entitled ‘

Racists and hypocrites’

, which appeared in the

Guardian

of 8 February, 2000, Jeremy Seabrook highlights the contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed nations with remarkable clarity. Of course he does not use Marxist-Leninist terminology, for that would be the height of bad manners in a well-brought up bourgeois intellectual. That is only of secondary importance. What, however, he has to say is devastatingly accurate and to the point. Having stated that in the

“rich

[imperialist]

countries”,

the appearance of Haider represents

“the open face”

of the

“inadmissible, and until now unarticulated”,

politics of globalisation, he goes on to add:

“The leaders of Europe issue ultimatums, stand on their dignity, deny the legitimacy of this neo-Nazi, this xenophobic, anti-Semite chauvinist. They have to do so, because Haider has a far wider constituency than they wish to acknowledge. He represents the beneficiaries of modest privilege against the masses of the poor, the wretched, the outcast of the earth.

“The migrant – or in a more recent incarnation, the asylum seeker – has been the spectre on whose wretched fate the triumphal progress of the right in Europe has been founded. How swiftly the words ‘asylum seeker’ become invaded by all the negative associations formerly evoked by immigrant. How quickly the attribute ‘bogus’ attaches itself to the idea of the persecuted and marginalised.”

The

Financial Times

states the facts:

‘At the start of the 19th century the ratio of real incomes per head between the world’s richest and poorest countries was three to one. By 1900 it was 10 to one. By 2000 it had risen to nearly 60 to one.’

What could be more natural than that those impoverished by this process should seek to follow to its source the mysterious agent of their dispossession? And what could be more predictable than that those who have gained from these events should seek to prevent them from doing so?”

Castigating western politicians as the defenders of the gains of the imperialist countries, while at the same time making hollow declarations of their abhorrence for xenophobia and racism, Mr Seabrook says that this gentry is too cowardly to state whose side they really are on.

“They fret and fume”, he says,

“seeking to stop people at the frontiers of Europe under the pretence of ‘the maintenance of good race relations’. What this really means is that the fragile and always threatened privilege of Europe

[imperialism would be a much better expression]

must be defended against the poor; the overwhelmingly black poor” -

the majority of human beings, the three billion who live on less than two dollars a day, of whom one billion live on less than one dollar a day. This being so, why is Haider being attacked so violently? Here is Mr Seabrook’s answer to this question:

“Jörg Haider has articulated the issue. This is his real crime. The only thing that distinguishes him from his colleagues in Europe is a lack of tact, a refusal to genuflect to pieties in which few of the leaders of Europe exhibit the remotest belief. How does his response to the ‘threat’ from the poor differ from that of those now talking of ‘sanctions’ against Austria? The wondering peoples of Asia and Africa can be forgiven if they cannot detect the distinction.”

He adds that the exaggerated statements emanating from the politicians of Western Europe are to be explained by the fact that:

” … in the smiling face of Haider they may read the lineaments of their own policies. And they do not like it.”

One presumes it must be facts such as these which caused Simon Wiesenthal, the celebrated Nazi-hunter who is the head of the Vienna-based Jewish Archive Centre, to say that Haider

“represents no threat to democracy in Austria. He is not a pro-Nazi, but a right-wing populist.”

(Reported in the

Economist

, 12 February 2000).

Alfred Gerstl, another Austrian Jew and a senior figure in the centre right People’s Party, who are now coalition partners with the Freedom Party,

“insists that Haider is no anti-Semite” (ibid).

And in Austria itself, the treatment of refugees under the previous administrations was nothing short of horrendous.

“… the refugees,”

reported Neal Ascherson in the

Observer

of 13 February 2000,

“I met at a Catholic hostel felt that things can hardly get worse.”

‘Democratic’ press’s racist campaign

On the very day that Europe was denouncing Austria’s new coalition government, one of the popular dailies of the gutter press, the

Sun,

with a circulation of 10 million copies a day, devoted half a page to letters under the headline

‘Labour lunatics have lost control of asylum’

. Mr Seabrook invites

“our own leaders”

to pay attention to the following few phrases taken from the above-mentioned letters in the

Sun.

:

How on earth do we know who we are letting in anyway? We could be welcoming murderers and rapists”. “Whatever government is in power seems to have no answer to the mass immigration of people into this country.” “Far from fleeing tyranny, most come here for the better life.” “If they are so hard done by here they should consider returning to their own country.” “Now from April all asylum seekers will be housed and fed. New Labour? Or Monster Raving Loony Party?” “Surely they should not receive any benefits or money for five years until they have put something into the country.” “Our benefits system is the attraction. Other countries are not the soft touch we are.” “When is Jack Straw going to say no to more asylum seekers?” “The cure for this is to announce to the world that there is no free money or housing in this country.” “When the late Enoch Powell spoke against Britain’s immigration policy most of us called him racist. But comparing the situation now, with asylum seekers costing us zillions of pounds to keep, and the vast majority of them bogus, it makes you think he had a point.” “When is the Labour government going to stop giving money hand over fist to asylum seekers.”

The above choicest racist phrases were not uttered by Haider’s lips, nor taken from his Freedom Party’s literature. They are taken from the pages of one of the ‘guardians’ of our freedom of speech in a country presented as a model democracy and a haven of tolerance free from all bigotry. Jörg Haider and his party would feel absolutely at home in the company of ‘our’ ruling class, its media and its political representatives.

Mr Seabrook concludes his article thus:

“The world is the site of a civil war in which all humanity is caught up, the war of the rich against the poor, against which conscience objects in vain. Haider knows whose side he is on. The other politicians of Europe know also. But they don’t say.”

Inbuilt imperialist racism

For its part, the liberal imperialist organ, the

Observer,

in its editorial of 13 February, referring to the plight of the Afghan hijack victims, was constrained to observe that despite the dismissal by the Blair government of the claim by Jörg Haider that his party’s programme and attitudes resembled closely those of the Labour Party, Mr Haider will not have failed to note:

“… the British attitude towards … Afghan asylum seekers on the hijacked plane at Stanstead airport. The immediate assumption, shared only in the Right-of-Centre press but implicitly by the BBC, was that the affair was an elaborate deception aimed at securing illegal immigration into Britain.”

(‘The racism that belittles Britain’).

The

Observer

adds that, far from the widespread perception of Britain being a soft target for asylum seekers, her laws and asylum rules have been tightened to such a degree as to have made the country

“effectively impenetrable, with among the lowest rates of asylum seekers in the West.”

Not only is the financial support offered to asylum seekers minuscule, the welfare state is in such a parlous condition as hardly to be able to offer protection to the local population, let alone the unfortunate asylum seekers. And then:

” … there is an inbuilt racism in our system, so that even those few asylum seekers who clear the obstacles to entry find that winning work is almost impossible. Qualified scientists and teachers tagged with the odium of being asylum seekers find British employers will simply not hire them. The Government connives in this quiet and unreported racism.”

The

Observer

concludes its editorial with these words:

“The implicit racism expressed last week from the floor of the House of Commons to the

Nine o’clock news

disgraced and belittled us.”

Xenophobic Fortress Europe

Thus it can be seen that if Haider and his Freedom Party are racist and xenophobic, so are the bourgeois parties, including Labour, in Britain. Indeed, similarly racist are all the bourgeois parties in the 15 member countries of the European Union. If Austria is to be ostracised for the inclusion in the present Austrian coalition of Haider’s party, so must all the other 14 countries of the EU, who are racist and xenophobic to the core and who have implemented policies which have created a Fortress Europe to keep out the unfortunate victims of imperialist plunder and imperialist-inspired strife, from Africa to Latin-America, and from the Middle East to the Balkans. It is nothing short of the most nauseating hypocrisy to assert, as do the government of the other 14 EU countries, that by allowing Haider’s party to joint the coalition Austria has violated

“the fundamental principles which underpin the EU”.

That is just glib talk, characteristic of venal bourgeois politicians and hacks alike. In fact, the fundamental principle which underpins the European Union is the creation, the welding together, of a European imperialist bloc for the joint exploitation of the oppressed countries abroad, the joint suppression of socialism at home, and getting ready to fight against its rival imperialist blocks for the control of resources, markets and avenues of investment. The gigantic export of capital, which is characteristic of the imperialist (monopoly) stage of capitalism, is at the same time export of jobs, with resultant unemployment in the heartlands of capitalism. Faced with the anger of the unemployed and those whose jobs are threatened, all imperialist governments have brought in the most draconian legislation aimed not only at keeping out immigrants and asylum seekers – all victims of imperialist brigandage and robbery – but also creating a diversion to direct the anger of the poor, the disadvantaged, the unemployed in imperialist countries against fellow victims of this filthy system of exploitation of one human being by another and one nation by another, rather than against the very system which is responsible for their misery and degradation as well as that of those trying desperately to seek admission into the rich imperialist parts of the world.

US imperialism – heir to Nazi Germany

As to Haider’s sympathies with the Nazi regime, the two governments most guilty of that crime are the US and the British. They were responsible for giving every assistance to, and strengthening, Hitlerite Germany, for the sole purpose of instigating her to invade the Soviet Union. During the war they knew of the death camps run by the Nazis but kept quiet. And, after the war they frustrated every attempt by the Soviet Union to de-Nazify Germany. Consumed by a hatred of communism and the progress of humanity along the road of emancipation from exploitation, they enlisted top-ranking former Nazis into the state administration and political set up of their zone of occupation, which subsequently became the Federal Republic of Germany.

Anglo-American imperialism has over the last eight years supervised ethnic cleansing on a grand scale in the former provinces of Yugoslavia – Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo – and with the help of Turkey, whose successive regimes have been guilty of genocide against Armenian and Kurdish people. It has just been waging a murderous war from the air against Yugoslavia, in comparison with which the Nazi

blitzkrieg

of this unhappy land pales into insignificance. In 1994 the US in particular was complicit in the murder of 800,000 Tutsis of Rwanda at the hands of the Hutu army and the interahamwe militia.

As to Austria in general, and Haider and his party in particular, not coming to terms with the Nazi past of that country, it is once again a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Vast areas of the world – the entire American continent and Australasia – are founded on a gigantic successful exercise in genocide. The victims are not alive to even demand an apology. Tens of millions were transported by the civilised world as slaves from Africa to the Americas. The capitalist era began its life with precisely such genocidal activity, for, in the words of Marx,

“the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in the mines of the aboriginal population, the beginnings of the conquest of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black skins”

were the

“idyllic proceedings”

which signalled

“the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production”

and which constituted

“the chief mementa of primitive accumulation.”

If capitalism began its life with murder, slavery, conquest and loot, it is ending its life with murderous activity on an even grander scale. In its imperialist stage it has become even more reactionary. In order artificially to retard its inevitable demise, it has spawned two world wars, fascism, and nearly a hundred other wars, which together have claimed the lives of 120 million people in the 20th century. In its war of aggression against the people of Korea and Vietnam, US imperialism killed 6 million innocent Koreans and Vietnamese. The US imperialist-led coalition killed a quarter of a million Iraqis during the Gulf War against Iraq. The cruel US- and British-sponsored sanctions against that country have claimed the lives of another quarter of a million Iraqis, especially children. And the US and British continue to attack Iraq from the air nearly a decade after the end of the Gulf War.

Writing in

The Times

recently, Mr Simon Jenkins captured the cynical disregard of all humane considerations by US and British imperialism in their campaign against Iraq in the following terms:

“As I write, British and American bombs are still falling on Iraq in what purports to be the cause of ‘humanitarianism’. Was a word ever more abused? Each bombing run costs more than any country’s aid to Orissa. We bomb Iraq because nobody in London or Washington can think of anything better to do. To stop might be mildly embarrassing. Like an imperial rajah out hunting, so-called ‘Centre-Left’ governments kill a few darkies each week to show they are not wimps”

(26 November 1999).

Not only is the wealth of the imperialist countries based on the past genocide, enslavement, plunder and colonial suppression of hundreds of millions of people around the world, but also this plunder continues unabated today. And to keep this plunder intact, imperialism is engaged in a ceaseless war against humanity at large. While asking relatively minor figures like Haider, and relatively less powerful countries like Austria, to purge themselves of their Nazi sympathies and Nazi past, the really powerful imperialist countries are cheerily carrying on along the traditions of German fascism. The truth is that at the end of the Second World War, US imperialism started where Hitlerite Germany left off. The former took over the role of Nazi Germany with the mission of world domination, fighting communism and prolonging artificially, at the cost of tens of millions of lives, the life of a system long outmoded historically.

If Haider is living on an estate whose previous Jewish owners were forced to sell at a price well below market price, the present rulers of the entire American continent, Australia, and, most sickening of all, Israel, are sitting on stolen land. Israel, while allowing every Jew in the world, with absolutely no connection with Palestine, the right to automatic entry, refuses to allow the return of the 3 million Palestinians expelled at gunpoint from their homes, villages and towns. It continues to occupy large parts of the West Bank and construct Zionist settlements there. It has been in occupation of the southern fifth of Lebanon for nearly two decades in flagrant violation of UN resolutions. It is forever subjecting Lebanese citizens to barbaric bombardment. It has failed to vacate the Syrian Golan Heights. It treats the one million Arab citizens of Israel with humiliating discrimination. It practises torture and collective punishment on its subjugated victims. In a nutshell it sits on stolen land and a stolen country and maintains its grip by terroristic means. Neither its ideology of a ‘chosen people’ nor its methods, are dissimilar to those of the Nazis. Its actions are abetted, incited and supported – politically, diplomatically and materially – by the ‘democratic’ imperialism of the United States. And yet these countries have had the shameless audacity of recalling their ambassadors from Vienna! If Haider is to be asked to apologise and to purge himself of these sins, so must these even bigger thieves.

Overthrow of imperialism – only way to liberation

The purpose of this article has not been to exonerate Haider and his Freedom Party of their xenophobia, their anti-Semitic chauvinism and neo-Nazi views. Not has its purpose been to ignore, let alone exonerate, Austia’s past during the dark days of Nazi rule. Our main object has been to expose the hypocrisy of the 14 other countries of the EU and the US, as well as to emphasise that the real danger to humanity comes from imperialism as such, not just from one form of its rule, namely, a fascist dictatorship. ‘Democratic’ US imperialism is just as capable of engineering the massacre of one million Indonesians, six million Koreans and Vietnamese, as was fascist Germany capable of murdering in cold blood six million Jews and several million other people during the Second World War. Those who wish to rid humanity of xenophobia, genocide, fascism and war, are duty bound to take up in earnest the fight to overthrow capitalist imperialism, failing which humanity will have to wade through blood and filth in an endless series of genocides and imperialist wars.

 

POSTSCRIPT

As these lines are being finished, news has come in that Haider has resigned his leadership of the Freedom Party. That makes no difference and we are therefore not inclined to change any part of the above article.