Friday, August 11, 2006

The Vienna-New York Connection: From Christian Socialism To The New Right

In the last entry on this series, I discussed the rise of Karl Lueger in Vienna comparing it to the rise of Rudy Giuliani in New York one century later. In this entry, I will discard the comparisons and show the contrasts between the two cities. The main theme in this entry is centered around the petit-bourgeoisie and the rise of that class as the motor of fascism and anti-democracy. A theme of the Vienna-New York Connection series is to highlight the origins of contemporary right wing politics.

The roots of modern right wing politics including fascism and national socialism go back to 1889 in the provinces of Austria-Hungary. The first organised manifestation of modern right wing politics was Christian Socialism. With the triumph of Liberal Bourgeois democracy in Austria in the 1860's, the Catholic Church lost all of its power. This made Catholicism naturally conservative and reactionary. As industrial capitalism and democracy over-turned the feudal order, the Church remained attached to the old order. The power base of the Church remained strongly entrenched in the rural provincial states of Austria-Hungary. The Bourgeois Liberals power base was of course in the 3 big cities of Vienna, Budapest and Prague.
Modernity and capitalism shocked and humbled the Church. The Catholic Church over the past 300 years had fought for it's survival ever since the start of the Renaissance. The Protestant Reformation had set the Church back 1000 years. The Catholic Counter-Reformation was most successful in the Austrian Empire. (History books tend to gloss over the grisly details of the true nature of the Counter-Reformation. The Counter-Reformation was a bloody and brutal military operation which included the early manifestations of war crimes and genocide. That is beyond the scope of this investigation.) Just when the Catholic Church had re-established it's political and social hegemony, the Napoleonic Wars had upset the established order all over again. The Congress of Vienna which had tried to re-establish the feudal and clerical structure of Europe became upset once again by the Revolutions of 1848-9. The Hapsburg Monarchy had historically been the protector of Catholicism. The defeat of Austria by the Prussian Protestants in 1864 had seemed to finish off the Catholic Church once and for all.
Though the Catholic Church had since the fall of the Roman Empire been the centres of scholasticism and academia, the invention of the printing press, mass literacy and technological developments had left the Church unprepared for the rise of modern intellectualism and politics. The Church found itself defenseless in the revolutions of new ideas of science, theology and politics that became known as The Enlightenment. No where did the Church face its most humiliating and crushing blow than in Vienna after 1848.
By 1860, Kaiser Franz Josef became a tool of the liberal bourgeoisie. The secular bourgeoisie hated the Church more than they hated the Kaiser. The bourgeoisie attacked the Church most vigorously. School reform was introduced and the beginnings of public and secular education arrived in Vienna.
However, the Church was not wiped out.. It's leaders realised quickly that they had to fight on new terrain. They needed to understand Liberal Democracy. They needed to understand the new language of politics. They were desperate to analyse the new political philosophy and find the tools to combat the new ideology of modern bourgeois capitalist politics.
The strength and power of not only Catholicism, Christianity but Islam and to a lesser extent Judaism has been their ability to employ oraganised mysticism. That is to use and manipulate the emotional and psychological triggers of society. This will be discussed in greater detail when we come to Wilhelm Reich. Reich coined this phenomena as the Emotional Plague.
By the late 1880's an Austrian Catholic Noble by the name of Karl von Vogelsang began a new periodical entitled Das Vaterland. Reading capitalism not unlike Karl Marx, Vorgelsang identified the fatal flaw of capitalism: Social indifference. Voreglesang became Europe's first critic not of capitalism per se but rather Laissez Faire capitalism. Vorgelsang like Marx had recognized the class antagonism of capitalism. However, unlike Marx who saw only the working class or the proletariat as the only class to defeat the Bourgeoisie, Vogelsang identified the middle class or petit-bourgeois as the class to over-throw Laissez Faire capitalism. Though the proletariat class was worst affected, it was the middle classes who expressed their discontent most.
In Austria, this led to the formation of a political alliance between the rural provincial aristocracy and the urban petit-bourgeoisie. Here is where Karl Lueger entered the scene. Though Lueger was on the left, he agreed politically with the right vis-a-vis laissez faire. The Catholic Church and the aristocracy were old bastions of anti-Semitism. However, Lueger was able to organize the petit-bourgeoisie in the city of Vienna. Lueger was able to channel potent anti-capitalism into vicious anti-Semitism. Moreover, he was able to forge pan-German nationalist forces into a mass political organisation that became Christian Socialism.
We now see that early un-organized anti-capitalism in Austria was first articulated by the Church and the aristocracy. However, we see that the over-throw of the bourgeoisie politically was executed not by the working class or the aristocracy or the Church but rather by the petit-bourgeoisie.
The Vienna Municipal election of 1895 swept Lueger into power. Kaiser Franz Joseph had vetoed Lueger's ascension for 2 years until mass political pressure forced him to capitulate. Lueger's election victory occurred for one primary reason. The Bourgeois Liberals had rigged the right to vote only for the classes which owned property. Due to their fear of working class political power, they had effectively de-clawed the Social-Democrats as a electoral force.
However, the Liberals dug their own graves. The election of Lueger was a shock to Europe on both the right and left. The bourgeoisie had found themselves out of political power. They could not understand how they, who created Liberal Democracy could be defeated. The left was shocked that the bourgeoisie was stripped of political power without the intervention of the working class.
Karl Kraus and later Wilhelm Reich analyzed what had occurred. Karl Kraus was the first to identify Marxism's fatal flaw. Basic Marxist political thought posits that there are only two active classes under capitalism: The Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat. The Bourgeoisie own the means of production: ie equity, property, physical plant, etc. They seek to maximize profit by exploiting their workers. The Proletariat are the workers who produce. The workers produce the goods that the capitalists sell for profit. Marxism created a narrow dialectic which created blind spots in the applied practices of politics. The petit-bourgeoisie were not taken into account in Marx's theory of dialectical materialism. Since the petit- bourgeoisie neither owned the means of production nor did they generate profit, they were left out of the political equation.
In 1895, the Bourgeoisie in Vienna were the first of their class in Europe to lose power and influence. By 1905, the Bourgeoisie lost all political power in the Austria-Hungary, To this day the Bourgeoisie have never been able to re-gain power in Austria. As I will argue now, the class that poses the greatest threat to the Bourgeoisie, the working class and to democracy as a whole is the lower middle class. I shall prove that Marxism's claim that only the working class can overturn the Capitalist Class is not only wrong but adhering to Marxist dialectics will only lead to repeats of Fascism that we see replicating itself in contemporary politics.
Charles Schorske calls Karl Lueger a protofascist. What that means is that Lueger was able to organize the lower middle classes into a mass political movement. What made Lueger different from Mussolini and Hitler was that he did not have a para-military organisation to agitate. While Lueger did organise reactionary university students and the middle classes to take to the streets in militant and violent protests, Lueger did not organise brown shirts or black shirts to terrorize the population. Yet, he initiated the use of rowdy violent mass protests and racism to obtain political power. He had planted the seeds of a deadly future.
Adolf Hitler was a small town provincial man who had attempted to study art in Vienna. Like most first time visitors to Vienna, he was impressed by the Ringstrasse. However, coming from a petit-bourgeois background from a small town, he confronted the reality of exclusion of Bourgeois Vienna. Hitler had arrived in Vienna after the rise of Karl Lueger. He was impressed by Lueger's political skills. Hitler had admired Lueger's use of mass politics to effect political change. By Lueger's second term, Vienna had faced a sharp increase in racial tension. Lueger's use of Anti-Semitism had unleashed popular manifestations of Anti-Semitism. Hitler had found a heavy social atmosphere of racism to his liking.
Vienna was also the most diverse city in Europe. Not only were there many Jews but also Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Slovenes, Serbs, Croats, Poles, Russians and Ukrainians. It may not be considered diverse in our contemporary age of multi-culturalism which consists of different racial groups. However, though Vienna may have been an all white city, by European standards at the turn of the 20th century, Vienna was in fact considered to be multi-racial. (In North America this is lost. We tend to see race only in terms of skin colour. Despite over 100 years ago the Irish in the US were not considered white and in Canada 50 years ago French Canadians were not considered white this has changed. It was not until I had moved to Vienna that I discovered that racism has little to do with skin colour but more to do with language, culture and superficial traits deemed inferior by the dominant group. Another essay will explore this in greater detail.)
Vienna in 1904 was the New York and Toronto of Europe for it's ethnic diversity. Inter-marriage between Jews and gentiles was the highest in Europe. Also, inter-marriage between Germans and Slavs was also high. Hitler had a violent aversion to what he called mongrel-Vienna. Though anti-Semitism had increased and the Czech demands for autonomy and separation became louder, Vienna had managed to have relative social peace. Though the Bourgeoisie had been dislodged from political power, they still maintained economic power. Hitler's anti-capitalism and anti-Semitism blurred.
World War One was started and instigated by Austria-Hungary. Perhaps, the Great War was the best thing that could have happened. If the war had not started, Austria-Hungary would have descended into civil-war on the scale of the Yugoslav civil war of the 1990s. The monarchy collapsed. Austria-Hungary had been broken up by The Allies. Many of the provinces became independent countries and the first markings of the 20th century new world order took shape.
With the monarchy gone and the bourgeoisie out of political power for nearly 20 years, the working class had taken over Vienna. The Vienna Socialist party took the most seats and enjoyed 15 years of political hegemony. In another essay, I will highlight what has been, to date, the world's most successful Socialist Society. However, I will focus on how and why it fell.
The workers of Vienna led by the Socialist Party had tasted the bitter pill of war first hand. They had become disgusted with the right wing news media. They had become radicalised by the perpetuation of war by war profiters. It was mostly the working class that had been sent to the Chemical warfare trenches of No Man's Land. The Catholic Church which had resumed its political and social hegemony after Lueger until the end of the war had been placed on the S list again but this time by the working class and the Socialist Party.
With the founding of the First Republic of Austria, universal suffrage was made the law. Austria was declared to be a classless society. The Social Democrats were aware how limited suffrage had allowed Christian Socialism to take power in Vienna. The Socialists were also correct how Christian Socialism restored the power of the Catholic Church and weakened democracy by restoring the absolutism of the Kaiser. Finally, the Socialists knew that they had the numbers in Vienna to eclipse the pesky and reactionary petit-bourgeoisie.
The Bourgeoisie in Vienna had split. The split occurred largely on political and religious lines. The secular liberal Bourgeoisie had realised the failure of liberalism to bring about genuine social equality and human liberation. Many of the educated Bourgeoisie had moved to Socialism. Moreover, many of those that did were secular Jews.
(To this day, many Marxists or those who claim Marxist principles are very dishonest about their class origins. Marx was from the Bourgeoisie class. Engles was a steel factory owner. In North America many of those who label themselves Anarchist or Marxist are overwhelmingly middle class or upper class.)
The Vienna working class went further against the Catholic Church than the Bourgeoisie could've ever dreamt. The Church received 0% funding from the City of Vienna. Catholic Schools were banished except in the formal legal sense. The Catholic Churched were forced to pay taxes to the city of Vienna. The Church Clergy were stripped of all social and political priveldges. In addtion the Cardinals and bishops were not consulted nor invited to give any input into the planning of the city.
The Vienna working class also hit the petit-bourgeoisie very hard. Usually the petit-bourgeois were given contracts in construction. They were denied. Though the petit-bourgeois were also affected by the privations of war, they were not eligible for funding or social assistance from the Socialist authorities.
Finally, the banking and real estate sectors were also squeezed out by the Socialists. The banks were excluded from the financial management of Vienna. The building of the great working class palaces such as Raben Hof and Karl Marx Hof were taken from unclaimed private property. The normal rules governing capitalist economics concerning banking and real estate were ignored. The Rothschilds were snubbed by the Socialist leadership. Vienna was the capital of the working class.
For the Vienna Socialists, there were 2 priorities: Homelessness and Illiteracy. There were 500,000 homeless by 1919. By 1928, homelessness had been abolished. In 1919, only 5% of the working class was literate. By 1934, nearly 85% of the workers in Vienna were literate.
The stock market crash of 1929 produced the conditions for Fascism and National Socialism. Again, the petit-bourgeois felt the pinch first. While the Socialists were able to shield the working class from the ravages of the crash, they were helpless in the face of growing unemployment. Since the petit-bourgeois are the class of personal. politcal and social resentment, they were not happy to see their shops and homes foreclosed by the banks while the workers got assistance from the city.
While the Church had been effectively ousted from Vienna, it had re-doubled its strengths in the rural provinces. Though the Socialists had Red Vienna sewed up, they held a tenuous if not shaky hold over the rest of the country. The Socialists held on to power in national politics for one term. The Christian Socialists enjoyed hegemony over the national politics. The Socialists had built the fortress of Red Vienna while leaving the other cities and rural towns to the Christian Socialists.
Because Capitalism and Socialism had in Austria been based exclusively in Vienna, both the Liberals and Socialists had left a vacuum in the provinces. In the Austria-Hungary Empire, most of the Bourgeoisie had re-located to or set up business in Vienna. The smaller cities such as Salzburg, Linz and Graz had been left to the petit-bourgeoisie and the Catholic Church. Resentment against the national capital ran deep. There were no plans nor any sign that Vienna was going to re-build or develop the rest of the country. Moreover, since the Socialists had no base outside of Vienna, they left themselves open to defeat.
The stock market crash of 1929 pushed the Weimar Republic over the edge. In the 1932 federal elections, Hitler's National Socialist Party received 34% of the vote. Hitler had managed to use the political tactics of Lueger's “sharper key” to obtain power. The political catastrophe had occurred next door deeply scared Austria. In fact, the rise of Hitler had so mortified the Jews of Austria it compelled them to make the greatest political mistake of the 20th Century.
Taking advantage of the turmoil, the Catholic Church sprang into action. In provincial churches where attendance remained high, priests gave inflammatory homilies conjuring up the spectre of Bolshevik godless Jews which had taken over Vienna. Hitler's National Socialists were highlighted as an example of what the godless Socialists in Vienna were preparing. Meanwhile in the provincial seats of government, the political fight between the Christian Socials and Nazi's were heating up. In provincial riding after next, Austrian Nazis were picking up seats.
In 1933, the Christian Socialist Chancellor Dollfuss instituted a fascist dictatorship. He received the support of the Catholic Church and received the financial and political support of Jewish capitalists. In February 1934, the 4 day Civil War was fought. Red Vienna was attacked, surrounded by tanks and Catholic troops The workers and democrats were defeated. The world's most successful Socialist project was left unfinished. Austro-Fascism was entrenched.
Later in 1934, Dollfuss was assassinated by a Nazi. Many Jews who had been Socialist had switched over to Austro-Fascism. As news reports and information gave in from Germany about the Nazi repression of Jews there, Austrian Jews believed that their safety was in the Austro-Fascist lot. Many Zionists had become influential members of the Austro-Fascist regime. The Jews felt that the best way to fight the extreme right was to support the far-right. This of course was a dead end. In 1938, Austria was annexed into the Third Reich. Austro-Fascism was defeated and the Holocaust began to get steam.
So what had happened? How did Liberal Democracy crash in such spectacular fashion? How did Marxism which had found its most successful manifestation get defeated? How did Zionism unleash the Holocaust?
Liberal Democracy in Austria, as in France and Great Britain had failed to live up to its idealistic principles of equality for all people. In Austria, like in France and Britain, Democracy was used primarily to advance the financial interests of the capitalist class to the exclusion of all other classes. By excluding the working class from the ballet as well as exploiting it, the capitalist class was done in by the lower middle class.
Marxism floundered because it failed to take into account the alienation of the lower middle class which capitalism caused in addition to the working class. Russia demonstrated the failure of “socialism in one country”. In Vienna, Socialism in one city left it open to attack from without.
Marxism's contention that the working class and the capitalist class are natural enemies has been proved to be false. The class that has time and time proved deadly to both the capitalists and the workers is the middle class. Fascism is irrational capitalism which comes to power when the middle classes suffer from the emotional plague. The middle class have shown the power to overthrow the capitalist class and the ruthlessness to crush the working class with equal zeal. All strategies to combat fascism must keep the middle class in the cross hairs. Before Marxists and anti-Capitalists seriously talk and plan for the overthrow of capitalism, they had better be ready and able to confront the middle class. In the 21st Century, the key to achieving a classless society is to to eliminate the middle class. Far more than the capitialist class, the middle class has the most interest in perpetuating class differences. If all efforts are aimed squarely at corporate CEO's and members of the board of directors, the middle class will be standing by to fill the vacuum to defend their interests with earnest. History has shown repeatedly over the past 100 years how the middle classes are ready to kill in order to keep their consumerist bubble of comfort in tact.
Zionism which had the numbers and the political clout to fight Fascism failed to stem anti-Semitism for two reasons. First, Zionism encouraged Christian Socialism because increased Anti-Semitism provided the material arguments needed to press the agenda for their own homeland. It is not by coincidence that Karl Lueger and Theodor Herzl were personal friends as well as political allies. Though Herzl's and Lueger's alliance was hidden from public at the turn of the 20th Century, the Dollfuss dictatorship revealed the extent of the Christian Socialist-Zionist alliance. Basically, Zionists supported the anti-Semitic middle class Catholic party to prove that anti-Semtism was an intractable problem and also due to the panic created by the threat of National Socialism. If Zionists had not supported the abolition of Austrian democracy in favour of Catholic Fascism, the world today might have been a different place. The rise of Karl Lueger coincided with the rise of Zionism as a mass political movement. Fascism and Zionism went hand in hand. Without the other, neither movement would have succeeded.
I wish to end this chapter with a brief overview of Austria from 1938 till today. Very little is known about Austro-Fascism. There are many myths perpetuated today within and out of Austria about the reality before Anschluss of 1938. The most popular “historical” account is told in Rodgers and Hammerstein's “The Sound of Music.” It is mostly reported that Austria was a peaceful democratic Republic where all was fine until the bad Nazi's from Germany came to ruin everything. To this day, there is widespread belief that Austria was the first victim of Nazi aggression. This non-sense needs to be sorted once and for all.
Austria was a Fascist dictatorship between 1933-1938. There was no democracy in Austria between 1933-1954. While Austro-Fascism was not the racist and violent hell hole of Nazi Germany, it was nonetheless a repressive state. While Austro-Fascism was economically more backwards than Italian Fascism, this was only because of the weakened state of the capitalist class in Austria. Austrian capitalism never developed into large corporate entities such as those that had developed in Italy, Germany and of course Britain.
Then there was the famous anti-Nazi speech given by Dollfuss. It was nice of him to warn of the dangers of National Socialism. It was generous of Dollfuss to denounce the racism of the Nazi's. It was mighty white of Dollfuss to claim that the Nazi's were barbarians. However, at the end of the day, Dollfuss was a reactionary anti-democrat. Two months ago Joerg Haider (June 2006), the leader of Austria's far-right party denounced Bush as a war criminal. I equate Haider's denouncement of Bush with Dollfuss' denunciation of Hitler. Haider remains a racist xenophobe. He may well be to the left of Bush and Blair, but Haider does not deserve applause.
The main reason why there is little known of Austro-Fascism is because many Austro-Fascists were killed after Anschluss. Why? Most Austro-Fascists were Jews. The effects are still felt today in Austria. What became of Christian Socialism? It morphed into Austro-Fascism and after World War 2 was re-named the Austria People's Party(OeVP). Today, a visitor to the party headquarters of the OeVP will find a huge portrait of Dollfuss in the lobby and in the offices of the party big wigs. Since 1999, the OeVP has been the senior party in the Austrian government. The OeVP went into a coalition with Haider's former party. There was much hysteria in the global media how Nazi's had taken government in Austria. That was non-sense. There was also mis-informed “reports” that Haider had been named Chancellor or was in the national government. This is also incorrect. There are no Nazi's in the government of Austria. Haider has never been in the national ruling government and will never be. What you have in Austria today is an Austro-Fascist government in coalition with a far right xenophobic party. Though both the People's Party and the far-right Freedom Party owe their origins to Lueger and Christian Socialism, they are no where close to being the violent dangerous parties such as the Front National in France or the BNP in Britain.
In the Moscow Declaration of 1942, the Soviet Union cited Austria as both the first victim of Nazism as well as being co-responsible for it. It is a strange document. Today, Austria hides behind the first part of the declaration. At the end of 2nd World War, the Soviet Union occupied Austria. To get the Russians of its back, Austria declared itself neutral. Austria was the only country occupied by the Soviet Union to be left alone until the fall of the Berlin Wall 35 years later. The Soviet Union wrote the constitution of the Second Republic. There are 3 parties that are allowed by the constitution: The Socialist Party, The People's Party and the Communist Party.
The first two parties were included to make sure that Austria did not fall back into Civil War. I cannot think of a country in the Western world where two political parties hate each other as deeply as the Socialists and the People's Party. Though Austro-Fascism remains largely un-discussed, the wounds and resentments are very much alive.
The Socialists remain rightly bitter about the overthrow of Red Vienna even though it was their own undoing as I mentioned above. However, what is not widely discussed is how many bitter and disenfranchised Socialists jumped to the Nazi side during Anschluss to exact revenge against the Austro-Fascists. Many Socialists saw Anschluss and the Nazi's as an opportunity to kill Austro-Fascists. The support of Austro-Fascism by the majority of the Jewish population created anti-Semites out of gentile Socialists. Another dirty secret from that time is how the non-revolutionary Social Democrats who did not join the Nazi's or the anti-fascist Resistance were spared repression. In Austria, not a single Social-Democrat was imprisoned or sent to the death camps. The first President of the Second Republic was Dr. Karl Renner. He had been a Nazi from 1938 until the end of the war. He reverted back to Social Democracy.
Austria remains a polarized society between Socialists and Catholics. Socialists and Catholics have separate trade unions. They have separate Auto clubs and service garages. In the 1970's the Socialists gave Catholics permission to build their own social housing. There are Socialist housing projects and Catholic ousing projects. After 1967, Austria became State Capitalist under Chancellor Bruno Kreisky. All industry and banks were nationalized. Any business that grow large enough to become a corporation is taken over the the state. The current Austro-Fascist government is trying to undue state capitalism.
In Austria, the Bourgeoisie have been finished as a class without any political and economic power since 1897. Today the class struggle in Austria remains between the workers and the petit-bourgeoisie. Haider's politcal use of xenophobia has allowed him to make some inroads to the working class but so far the workers of Vienna remain Red.
Finally, Kreisky was a Jewish Chancellor. He was the first Jewish head of government in post-war Europe. He helped many Russian Jews to leave the Soviet Union by allowing Vienna as a transfer to Israel. Kriesky was a Zionist only as much as he wanted to do his part to help liberate Jews in the Soviet Union. Of course, they were not welcomed to stay in Austria and had little time to make up their minds whether to go to Israel or another country.
Austria has never undergone de-Nazification the way Germany has. This is mostly the fault of the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union restored the political apparatus of Austro-Fascism, it locked shut the prospects of de-Nazificiation. With a Jewish Socialist Chancellor like Kreisky in power, Austrian political discourse never attempted to examine the roles of Christian Socialism and Austro-Fascism's played in setting up National Socialism. It was not until the fiasco of Kurt Waldheim's exposure as a Nazi War criminal in 1986 before Austria began to acknowledged the existence of National Socialism in the country. Austrian Jewish survivors of the Nazi holocaust remain supporters of Austro-Fascism today. In an interview given 4 years ago, the Jewish head of one of Austria's national banks argued that he would today support Austro-Fascism.
Moreover, with statues, streets and plaza's named after Karl Lueger, the City of Vienna continues to refuse to admit guilt or sorrow for anti-Semitism or express regret how this led to Hitler, the Holocaust and the unfortunate success of Zionism vis-a-vis the State of Israel today.
In the next chapter I will explain the fall of liberalism in New York and the rise of the Giuliani Fascism.

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