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Austria: Terrorist attack in Vienna

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On November 2, the last day before the introduction of an anti-Covid-19 curfew, the first major terrorist attack in decades occurred in Vienna. In the evening, a follower of the so-called Islamic State (IS) murdered four people in the first district, in the area of Schwedenplatz, injuring many more and leaving the city in terror. The attack revealed once again the reactionary character of jihadism, which provokes a cultural and religious division and hit innocent workers that night.

As is now known, the 20-year-old assailant, who was shot by the police, was a young person who grew up in Austria. Not an "imported terrorist" as the picture the media and the right-wing parties always wanted to paint, at least since the so-called "refugee crisis", would suggest. He had both Austrian and Macedonian citizenship.

The fact that the perpetrator grew up in Austria and has Austrian citizenship seems to offend most of the established parties – the reaction to this is that people who join terrorist organizations are supposed to be made "foreigners" by being deprived of Austrian citizenship. In the current situation this demand is brought forward by the SPÖ (the Social Democracy) – last year the FPÖ (far-right populist party) suggested the same thing, at that time, the SPÖ rejected it.

The exact background to the crime is not yet entirely clear. It seems to be one of a series of international attacks. What they all had in common was that they were probably not centrally planned and carried out by the Islamic State, like the terrorist attacks a few years ago (Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, Nice, etc.), which is probably primarily due to the fact that the Islamic State has lost its power base in Syria and Iraq.

Racism and Anti-Racism
The reactions to the terrorist attack in Vienna were very mixed. On the one hand, there was the expected anti-Muslim racism of the FPÖ. The Identitarian Movement, or rather its front organisation, also tried to use the attack for its own ends and organized a small march on November 5th, which was partially blocked and delayed by active anti-fascists.

On the other hand, the government tried to conjure up a mood of national unity and cohesion. While we stand against any division of society by religion or origin, we cannot have unity with capital and its government, which perpetuates capitalist exploitation and imperialist dependence and is daily responsible for the deaths of people in the Mediterranean.

Particularly in the wake of the devastating (mis-)management of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent tightening of restrictions, the attack was presumably convenient to divert attention from the government's failure. At the same time, it is likely that the government, especially the Interior Minister, Karl Nehammer, will use the situation to implement further attacks on democratic freedoms.

The EU has recently announced that encrypted communication will be made impossible in the future by forcing platform providers such as WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram to provide so-called master keys to ensure access to encrypted communication for the secret services.

In Austria, the issue of preventive detention, that is, to imprison "dangerous asylum seekers" without due process, has been raised again. This has so far failed because of a contradiction with the constitution, where the right to personal freedom has a relatively high priority.

As left-wing forces, we must resolutely oppose both proposals. Apart from the fact that it is doubtful whether such measures would really prove effective in preventing attacks, what is certain is that they could be used against opponents of this system - thus also against us.

Besides these reactionary, legislative proposals, however, there was also a wave of solidarity, anti-racism and positive emphasis on the migrant and Muslim helpers of the wounded in Vienna. This clear positioning of large parts of the population, who do not relate the majority of Muslims in Vienna and Austria to the crime, is important and right. Not only is it simply wrong to automatically link Muslims with terror, but it is also exactly the wish of the IS to strengthen racism against Muslims through its terrorist attacks in order to gain more followers who radicalise because of marginalisation in society.

Regulatory failure
Shortly after the attack, the story of the government and especially of Minister of the Interior Nehammer, that the authorities had acted so brilliantly and that the attacker had perfidiously deceived the deradicalisation programme, had to be called into question.

The IS sympathiser had tried to enter Syria via Turkey in 2018 but was arrested in Turkey and returned to Austria. In Austria, he was sentenced to 22 months in prison for membership of a criminal and terrorist organisation. He was released from prison at the end of 2019. The voices that are now becoming louder and suggest that early release was the central mistake, fail to recognise that even without this he would have been released from prison in July of this year.

Very soon after the attack it became known that Slovakia had warned Austria in October that the perpetrator wanted to buy ammunition there. However, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counter-Terrorism (BVT) had obviously done nothing with this information and had not informed the responsible persons from the deradicalisation programme or the judiciary.

In addition, the Vienna State Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counter-Terrorism (LVT) had already been warned in July by German authorities, that the Vienna IS supporter had been visited by people known to them. Minister of the Interior Nehammer attributes the whole thing to communication problems, but the exact reasons for this are not yet known.

The answer to the terror in Vienna cannot be an all-powerful repressive apparatus of the capitalist state, which will ultimately be directed against the revolutionary workers' movement. The answers are anti-racist class struggle, international solidarity and anti-imperialism.