Johann Koplenig, Chairman, Communist Party of Austria The general election in Austria, scheduled for February 22, will take place in circumstances of serious and constantly growing economic difficulties and of growing crisis. The economic difficulties find expression in the growth of unemployment, in the shrinking of the home market as a result of the declining purchasing power of the broad masses of the Austrian population, in curtailment of industry, especially those branches producing for mass consumption, in the critical situation of handicrafts, etc.
In the middle of January the number of officially registered unemployed at the Labour Exchanges amounted to 281,324, that is, nearly 100,000 more than at the end of December 1951. In this connection it should be borne in mind that the official unemployment figures do not include the tens of thousands of young people without work and the many thousands only working part-time. The mass unemployment leaves its impress on the economic and social development of the country. It hits hard not only those who suffer directly from it − the unemployed men and women − it is also the curse of the entire working population, even of those workers still employed in the enterprises; it is the curse of the poor peasants and agricultural labourers who “usually” found work in the towns during the winter months and who are now deprived of this possibility; and, finally, it is the curse of the small owners, handicraftsmen and artisans who suffer particularly from the sharp fall in the purchasing power of their permanent customers, as a result of the unemployment. The mass unemployment and its disastrous effect on the entire economic and social life of the country are the result of the policy of the Marshallised Figl-Schärf-Government and of the Government parties − the “Socialist Party” (S.P.A.) and the clerical, capitalist “Austrian People’s Party” (A.P.P.). The coalition Government of the S.P.A. and A.P.P. subordinated economic, financial, export-import and the foreign policy of Austria to the diktat of the American authorities, the organisers of the “cold war”, the imperialist instigators of war. The Communist Party of Austria right from the very inception of the “Mar-shall plan” waged a persistent struggle against subordinating the country to the control of the American monopolies. Despite all the actions of the enemies, despite the frantic slander campaign of the Government parties and their behind-the-scenes partner − the fascist “Union of Independents” − despite all the vilification, the Communist Party tirelessly explained and explain to the masses that the American millionaires, chasing after maximum profits, instead of being disinterested “benefactors and friends” of the Austrian people, as is continually shouted by the Government parties, seek to bring Austria into the Western aggressive war bloc and are the real enemies of the Austrian people. From their own bitter experience, ever greater masses of people are now, becoming convinced that the Communists are right, that the Austrian people are paying for the “American aid” with a high cost of living, mass unemployment, onerous conditions for pensioners and uncertainty for the morrow. On the basis of agreements with the American imperialists, the Figl-Schärf Government is obliged to ship to the West − to American satellites − for armament purposes iron and steel, aluminium, timber and electric energy, and is obliged to do so at prices considerably lower than those obtaining on the world market. In this way the economy of Austria suffers an annual loss amounting to billions of schillings. The coalition Government of the S.P.A. and A.P.P., which involved the country in the trade war unleashed by the Western powers, has undertaken not to supply the Soviet Union, the countries of people’s democracy and the German Democratic Republic with a considerable number of vital items which the Americans have placed on the black list. Sabotage of trade with the East is having an increasingly disastrous effect on the economic life of Austria and is one of the chief reasons for the growing mass unemployment. In keeping with the anti-peoples policy of American monopoly capital the coalition Government during recent years, by dictating agreements concerning wages and prices, considerably reduced real income of factory and office workers. The fifth agreement alone, concerning wages and prices, decreed in August 1951, signified, by the end of 1952, a 13 per cent reduction in real income for factory and office workers. The Right-wing Socialist leaders, lackeys of the dollar and warmongers had the audacity openly to admit that the lowering of the living standard of the working population of Austria is being effected in the interests of the frantic arming of U.S. satellites. For example, the Right-wing Socialist Eksl, secretary of the Vienna office workers trade union, wrote in the union organ “Der Privatangestellte” on November 12, 1951: “We have established that our real incomes are declining. But why not say that we take due note of the decline since it represents that bit we must contribute to the cause of arming the world (the author “forgot” to add − the Western world. − J. K.). We refuse to participate in the movement for higher, wages...” Pittermann, the leader of the Socialist group in Parliament, expressed himself even more cynically. On December 5, 1951 he said, virtually, the following in the Austrian Parliament: “Anyone in Austria who thinks that the cold war does not concern him, that his private and economic life can continue in peaceful conditions, is a deserter”. It is precisely this cold war policy which is dooming the masses of the Austrian people to unemployment, growing need and privation. The purchasing power of the Austrian population is declining more and more in consequence of the anti-popular taxation policy of the coalition Government and the Government parties. While big capitalists and speculators are freed from tax payments to the tune of billions of schillings, while the Government has not stirred a finger to force businessmen to pay their tax arrears which, according to official data, run into 1.4 billion schillings and does nothing to stop the flow of capital from the country, the tax burden is becoming increasingly more oppressive for the ordinary citizen. The war tax on wages, introduced in Austria by the Hitlerites for financing armaments and war way back in 1938 and which still exists, is a particularly heavy burden. If the ordinary wage tax prior to 1938 constituted, depending on the wage scale, from 1 to 3 per cent of the earnings of factory and office workers, today, seven years after the war, the war tax on wages robs factory and office employees of 8-10 per cent of their already meagre earnings. All the proposals of the Left bloc (Communists and Left Socialists) in the late Parliament for annulment of the war tax on wages and its replacement by a more just system of taxation were rejected by the S.P.A. deputies who acted in contact with the A.P.P. and the fascist “Union of Independents”. On the question of taxation and all other questions concerning the interests of the working masses the Right-wing leaders of the S.P.A. side with capitalist reaction. A number of facts which have come to light recently testify that the leaders of the Socialist and People’s parties stop at nothing in servility before foreign monopoly capital, in sacrificing the vital interests of the Austrian people. In an interview given to the newspaper “Stuttgarter Zeitung” Foreign Minister Gruber assured the Ruhr capitalists that the Austrian Government was ready to return former German “property” in Austria to its old owners. The Government had already adopted a unanimous decision on this point four years ago. “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”, Financial Times” and other organs of finance capital reported that at a conference on the subject of Austria's pre-war debts, held in Rome in November 1952, the Figl-Schärf Government undertook to pay foreign creditors 20 billion schillings. Austria is to pay nearly 1.3 billion schillings per annum in interest and part payment of debts for a term ranging from 1954 to 1980. By this agreement Austria has to pay not only the debts of the First Republic but also those of the times of the Habsburg monarchy (for example, the loan to cover expenditure in connection with the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878 as well as other debts. The Government is plunging the Austrian people into real debt slavery.
At the historic XIX Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Comrade Stalin, the great leader of working people of all countries, in his inspiring speech, said: “Formerly the bourgeoisie was considered the head of the nation, it championed the rights and independence of the nation, placing them ‘above everything’, Now, not a trace remains of the ‘national principle’. Now the bourgeoisie sells the rights and independence of the nation for dollars. The banner of national independence and national sovereignty has been thrown overboard”. These profound words by Comrade Stalin fully characterise also the policy or the Austrian rulers. The leaders of the Government parties are shamelessly bartering Austrian independence. Had the Austrian Government defended the interests of the Austrian people it would have done all in its power to further mutual understanding among the Great Powers and to secure the termination of the “cold war”, thereby helping to create the prerequisites for the signing of a state treaty and for effecting sound and progressive development of Austria. But the coalition Government does the very opposite. It tries by all means in its power to worsen the situation and sabotages the signing of a state treaty. The trump card of the Americanised leaders of the Socialist Party, People’s Party and of the “Union of Independents” in the present election campaign is once again slander against the countries of Socialism. However, thanks to the tireless explanatory work of the Communist Party of Austria, thanks to the sound judgement of the common people the slander conducted by the leaders of the Socialist Party meets with less and less success. One can often hear factory and, office workers, intellectuals, handicraftsmen and working peasants saying: “Slander will not provide work”. Indignation at the policy pursued by the Marshallised Government is growing among all sections of the population and there is also a growing desire for a change for the better in the situation. This indignation and the growing activity of the masses were expressed at a representative conference of factory representatives called in Linz last December on the initiative of the production councils and devoted to questions of the struggle against the hated war tax on wages. The conference was attended by 1,037 members of the production councils and delegates representing 547 of the most important enterprises in the country. The party affiliation of those present at the conference was as follows: 234 members of S.P.A., 40 Left Socialists, 346 Communists and 285 non-party people; 132 delegates did not supply information about their party affiliation. The conference presidium elaborated the draft of a law for the annulment of this tax and for restoration of Austrian tax laws. This draft is now the subject of a nation-wide campaign.
The formation of the electoral bloc − the Austrian People’s Opposition − at a conference in Vienna in November 1952 is the strongest expression of the growing indignation of the masses against the policy of the coalition Government. The People’s Opposition unites all dissatisfied sections of the population irrespective of party affiliation, political views and world outlook; it embraces the Communist Party, Socialist Workers’ Party (Left Socialist), the Democratic Union headed by Dr. Josef Dobretsberger, Catholic professor, mass organisations and local associations of tenants, pensioners, war victims, the Union of Smallholders, the Union of Democratic Women, famous sportsmen, representatives of the intelligentsia, and others. “In Austria things must be different, things must be better”, − such is the slogan of the People’s Opposition. The programme of the People’s Opposition says that for the first time in the history of the Austrian republic all those who disagree with Government policy have the opportunity “while fully retaining their political convictions, world outlook and religious belief to act as a united force and express their will”. The People’s Opposition takes part in the election struggle with a progressive programme which corresponds to the aspirations and the interests of the Austrian people. It puts forward the following demands: 1. Adhering to a policy of strict neutrality, Austria must not participate in the “cold war”, in war preparation of any kind, in pacts and alliances. No slanderous and misanthropic propaganda; to carry out a policy that would facilitate the cause of peace and mutual understanding among the Great Powers and in this way end the occupation and ensure the independence of tile country. 2. Instead of arbitrary rule and corruption − a policy of democracy. Abolition of the system of dictatorial decrees; no arbitrary action in relation to democratic organisations, newspapers, and national minorities: no toleration of, and no connivance in relation to, militarist and fascist actions; inviolability of democratic liberties. 3. An economic policy that would correspond to the needs of Austria and not to alien interests; no obstacles in the way of trade with the East which is of vital importance to Austria; an economic policy ensuring higher real income for factory and office workers; full employment: abolition of the war tax on wages and extension of social maintenance; peasants are ensured revision of the unjust tax system, protection for tenants and the carrying out of land reform; an economic policy corresponding to the interests of pensioners, handicraftsmen, war victims and victims of fascism. The formation of the People’s Opposition was received with profound sympathy by considerable sections of the population and evoked lively interest. This found expression in the fact that hundreds of local district and regional People’s Opposition committees were formed all over the country. By its pro-American policy the coalition Government has created an exceedingly grave situation in Austria. The broad masses are becoming convinced that continuation of this course will lead the country to economic, social and political catastrophe. They are fully determined to fight against those who are ruining Austria. 101
For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy !
No. 7 (223) FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 1953