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Daniel Wisser

Vienna, March 27, 2021

The role of social democracy in Austria is again being lively discussed. On the one hand, that is a good thing, because there will be no change in the political situation in this country without social democracy. But she can't do it on her own either. On the other hand, the contradicting ideas and expectations of social democracy are causing them more trouble than they can need now. The flattering thing about it is that obviously a lot of people are of the opinion that only the SPÖ Austria can navigate through crises in a state-supporting and sensible manner and govern with compromises.

This is not surprising if you look at the success story of the party, which from 1970 to 2017 only had no parliamentary majority for four years and did not appoint the chancellor for only six years. She can't buy anything from that today, however, and her recovery factor in the opposition is minimal due to permanent shocks to the right-wing governments and constant new elections.

Ice cream parlor

There are these recurring tweets that repeat recurring Twitter phrases over and over: Does social democracy still exist? I ask for a friend. Or something like that. In addition, there are suggestions, advice and all kinds of suggestions. So demands are made; Namely to a party that was trampled underfoot in 2017, when it had, by the way, undergone a restructuring and rejuvenation that was just as vehemently demanded at the time.

I have - I frankly admit - never thought much of alternate voters. Politics is not an ice cream parlor. And yet many voters today seem like people who order strawberry ice cream in the ice cream parlor. When they taste it, one of them says: "It doesn't taste like vanilla." The other: "It doesn't taste like pistachio." The third: "It doesn't taste like chocolate." ? No, because then it doesn't taste the way you want it.

Two degrees

It is similar with the argument that social democracy is no longer social democratic. Everyone should find out for themselves whether this sentence is correct. I have no problem with people who do not vote for the SPÖ. There are many reasons for that. And election advertising is far from me; I consider it an insult to intelligence. But there is one thing you should forbid yourself: to measure with two standards. How Christian and Social are the Christian Social? How liberal are the Freedom Party? And how green are the greens?

To put it in a nutshell: many are calling for social democracy to be a mass movement that they themselves do not want to belong to. This is a comfortable and, above all, absurd posture. Of course, when there was a three absolute majority, it was easy to be a leftist who criticized the SPÖ. And of course there was justifiably criticism of her. One just didn't have to fear that responsible social and economic policies would disappear from the government. But that is the case today.

Intra-party pluralism

But even at the time of SPÖ-led governments, there was not always a consensus within the party. There were those who demanded consistent left politics. Others were of the opinion that in the age of liberalization and privatization the SPÖ had to go with the zeitgeist, but implement these measures in a balanced way. So it came about that, with Vranitzky, a paradigm shift actually took place within the party. Today it seems to be more difficult for people to accept pluralism within the party. But shouldn't a party that stands for democracy and open discourse also live this within the party?

I know that democracy is exhausting and the tendency towards authoritarian party leadership is seductive. However, when you look at the political results of authoritarian parties, one wonders what the value of the one-man show has? The film The Dohnal, which recently ran on ORF, has made it clear to many again what real politics is and in what timeframe it moves. It took twenty-six years from Kreisky's family reform in 1971, which abolished the man as head of the family, to expulsion (Federal Law on Protection against Violence in the Family in 1997). And, as the film shows, this effort was also associated with a struggle within the party. I dare say that no other party in Austria could have made this effort.

Disaster in the regions

In my opinion, the real problems of the SPÖ lie elsewhere. It seems to have given up the states of Salzburg, Styria and Upper Austria, where it was able to overtake the ÖVP or come close to it twenty years ago. In Graz the party is pulverized. The KPÖ is rightly ahead of her there. Because she cares about people. And that is my second point of criticism: The party completely neglects support for regions in which the infrastructure is eroding. And finally one point that will meet with as much resistance as Johanna Dohnal's combative ideas found in the seventies: newly created precarious workers must find their representation in the SPÖ. There are refugees, asylum seekers and homeless people and, in the economy, sole proprietorships and low-wage workers.

In politics, it does not matter who decides and implements the necessary measures. But the tabloidization and commercialization of the media has progressed so far that personal debates outshine the content-related discussions. Austria is probably not ready for a woman to lead a big party. Despite everything, it must be said that Pamela Rendi-Wagner did not make it easy for herself, especially when it comes to Covid. It has renounced fundamental opposition and supported the government where it saw fit, because it thinks about the well-being of the people. However, it has always issued warnings for measures that were ultimately adopted by the government with a delay. There is no question that Austria would now be in a much better position with her as the health minister with full authority in the pandemic.

The screw down

I believe that here, as in social policy, it is right to see the big picture. Of course, everyone wants to consume goods, deliveries and travel that are cheaper and cheaper. In doing so, however, they are depressing wages and forcing outsourcing and precarious working conditions. If they are affected by savings, outsourcing and increasingly poor working conditions at their workplace, they call for social justice. People have to become aware that they are turning the screw that is pressing them down. It's similar in the pandemic. Who is not for quick openings? Who wouldn't want back the life we ​​had until early March 2020? But with the health of the population you are also putting the health of customers and consumers at risk. No business person can seriously want that.

There is no alternative to Rendi-Wagner's Covid policy. Screamers without a mask also end up in intensive care units, and screamers without a mask also push their way during vaccination. They are not suitable as representatives of the people. Everyone decides for himself how he feels about social democracy. Without them, however, there will be no way out of the serious political crisis in which our country is stuck; Not to mention the better (central) processing of vaccinations, fairer economic aid and more effective fight against record unemployment. Now only solidarity brings us forward.