Friday, October 28, 2011

EXCLUSIVE: THE EPIZENTRUM, LEHMAN BROTHERS, CORRUPTION, TOTALITARIAN CAPITALISM



It was too good to be true. Vienna was leading the revolutionary trends over the past two weeks with the occupation and opening of Epizentrum. The owner of the property, BUWOG was at first indifferent to the presence and setting up of the occupation. BUWOG implied that since they had planned to demolish the building within a year and rebuild a new structure on the property altogether, they really didn't care about the occupation. More than one week into the occupation, BUWOG stated that the squatters could stay until January. At the beginning of this week, BUWOG wanted the occupiers to pay for the cost of utilities. They seemed very reasonable. Then today, BUWOG announced that everyone must vacate the property at Lindengasse 60 by Monday. Bearing their sharp fangs, they warned that they would use the full force of the police to ensure the departure.



The story of BUWOG itself is rather interesting. Founded at the dawn of the Second Republic, it is a state owned housing enterprise specialising in building housing for the masses in Austria. Based largely on Vienna's famous Gemeinde Wohnen, BUWOG was the national housing corporation which built social housing in other Austrian cities which had yet set up their own municipal housing authorities. 

In 2002, BUWOG was involved in what has become possibly of the biggest political scandal of the Second Republic. Far right wing Finance Minister Karl Heinz Grasser, seen as the most incompetent and unsophisticated politician to ever hold a cabinet position, remains at the centre of a corruption scandal involving BUWOG. The BUWOG Affair, as it's called in Austria, is seen as the most serious breach of the law ever commited by a politician. It's been alleged that Grasser provided inside information to one of his closest associates, regarding the partial privatisation of BUWOG. Newly disclosed information has detailed illegal activity involving Grasser, BUWOG and most notoriously, the now defunct Lehman Brothers.
It turns out that Grasser worked with Jörg Haider and two other members of the far-right wing FPÖ (Austria Freedom Party) acting as middle men with Lehman Brothers. They provided Lehman Brothers with insider information about the privatisation of BUWOG. They called themselves "consultants". Lehman Brothers was well aware of the illegality of the deal. That didn't stop them in their ruthless pursuit of profit. Lehman set out to become the single largest investor of BUWOG. The "consultants" received a nice payment of 9.6 Million Euros for being errand boys for the oligarchy.
Six years later, Lehman went bankrupt. BUWOG turned out to be the final investment which broke Lehman.
The revolutionaries of Vienna, unlike their colleagues on Wall Street, Boston, and Australia, have stepped on a main and extremely sensitive nerve of totalitarian finance capitalism. The name Epizentrum is quite apt. The occupation and establishment of this autonomous space happens to be at the epicentre of the criminal activity of finance capital and fascist politics. This is the most serious challenge to capitalist rule in the West to date this year.
The entire Austrian (petit)Bourgeoisie have closed ranks against Epizentrum. It is not only the FPÖ and ÖVP (Austria Peoples Party) that are implicated. So too is the Social Democrat Party. The extreme far right BZÖ is directly implicated in the BUWOG case. The Greens, simply by virtue of not ever being a ruling party prior to 2010 , are not associated or guilty. However, the Greens as the party of the petit-bourgeois intelligentsia, are terrified of any direct challenge to capitalism and even more terrified of the breakdown of the capitalist state. This explains the delayed political reaction. The neighbourhood FPÖ leader, as customary, made a nasty reactionary attack. However, all the other parties were mute. There was a reason for it.

Epizentrum is located next to the headquarters of the Green Party of Austria. The 7th District of Vienna, Neubau is the heart of the mass political support for the Greens not only in Vienna but all of Austria. Since Neubau is represented by the Greens both municipally and nationally, the district is truly Austria's Green Zone. Due to the particularities of the political structure of the Austrian state, the Greens are in charge of Neubau politically. All the other parties looked and wondered what the Greens were going to do. No doubt there were testy and rude calls and conferences between the Green party politicians with the police, along with their Social Democrat municipal coalition partners and from the Federal ÖVP. Feeling intense pressure by the Austrian ruling class, the Greens decided to oppose.

There is a story between some of the participants of Epizentrum with the Green Party. Over the summer, the squatters at Lob-Meyer Hof, had occupied Green Party HQ on Lindengasse 40 which is just a hop skip and jump away from Epizentrum, within an hour of getting forcibly evicted by the police. For 3 days, the squatters and protesters occupied the Green Party. Party officials tried to communicate with the collective but as the former were trapped within the intellectual orbit of capitalism, they could not understand the latter. There was no understanding between the anti-capitalist revolutionaries and the petit-bourgeois intelligentsia.

To their credit, the Greens were too nice to have the radicals removed by the elite Special Unit police squad. On the other hand, to their dismay, the movement is back three months later and right on their doorstep. The Greens are terrified. Moreover, they're quite aware of the significant support that their mass base have for Epizentrum. The Greens are cringing and withering caught between the totalitarian (petit)Bourgeoisie on one hand and their middle class reformist membership. Most likely, the Greens have made an arrangement that the decision to evict Epizentrum is not their business and that the owner is ultimately responsible. The cowardice of the their position is obvious. The Greens are dreading the coming Monday deadline. They fear the potential angry and revolutionary response in the wake of the eviction.

Monday, October 31 is the deadline given for Epizentrum to close and vacate. A mass mobilisation is being organised. Epizentrum is packed with more people with news of impending eviction. It appears that there will be many masked people looking as ghoulish and sinister. Epizentrum has the potential to be an autonomous revolutionary fortress. The ruling class is well aware of this. The establishment of Epizentrum in the heart of Vienna has taken the ruling class by surprise. Most significantly, Vienna has seen the establishment of a powerful anti-fascist and anti capitalist presence. After years of the social atmosphere dominated by reactionary tendencies, a sudden surge of counter-reactionary and revolutionary presence has taken hold of Vienna.

Halloween will be the showdown. The battle of the Epizentrum is the first head to head confrontation between the masses and the totalitarian capitalist state to erupt in the West. This is not a protest movement. This is not a middle class reformist movement based on single issue politics. This is a revolutionary social uprising against totalitarian capitalism. The horror of the present system will only get worse if the masses don't fight. However, the Epizentrum collective must understand that they are in a deadly serious conflict for human liberation. Most likely, there will be an extreme show of force by the state. How the masses will deal with it is uncertain. 

What is certain is that Vienna is about to have a serious social and political disruption next week. Regardless of what prevails, none of the parties involved will never be the same again.
-Der Kosmonaut

Vienna, Austria
28 Oct 2011

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