National Sections of the L5I:

Austria: Vienna was anti-Bush city!

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The 21st June was not only a day of handshakes between Bush, the Austrian chancellor Schüssel and the rest of the EU’s top politicians. It was also undeniably a day of protest against the Bush visit, against the aggressive, militarist policy of US imperialism but also of the European Union. Both the Austrian and the world press reported extensively about our actions (see below).

>From the beginning the explicit goal of the united front campaign BUSH GO HOME – in which ArbeiterInnenstandpunkt (ASt, the Austrian LFI section) and the youth organisation REVOLUTION played a leading role – was to demonstrate to the public in Austria and internationally that the broad masses of ordinary people totally reject the imperialist policy of the Bush administration. This was what we meant by our slogan: Turn Vienna into an Anti-Bush-City! This goal we have achieved.

In the morning more than 2.000 school students staged a school student strike and marched towards the area where the US-EU-summit took place. This school student strike was mainly organised by REVOLUTION with the Social Democratic youth. Our contingent – more than 400 youth – marched at the head of the demonstration and was by far the most militant and best organised. Pictures of our actions – we burned an US-flag and had a 2-meter high Bush puppet on the gallows – were shown on TV (amongst many, CNN, the Austrian national state television ORF, the Viennese Private-TV station W:24) and in many print media pictures (see below).

In the evening there was a huge mass demonstration for which BUSH GO HOME has mobilised for two months and which at a later point was also supported by the Stop Bush coalition of the Social Democratic youth, the CP and the Green Party. While the police claimed 15.000 participants it was at least 25.000, which is, an enormous success given the small size of Austria (8 million inhabitants) and the fact that this was a normal working day. The demonstration had a very popular character and demonstrated that hatred for Bush’s reactionary war policy goes far beyond the left wing milieu and has deep roots in the working class and amongst youth.

There have been a number of problems with the reformist-led Stop Bush coalition. This social democratic/CP-led coalition (which also included the Austrian sister organisation of the British SWP) split away from the BUSH GO HOME alliance some time ago because we mentioned Palestine and the right of self-determination in our call and because we gave space to organisations and speakers who solidarise with the resistance in Iraq. While we – the BUSH GO HOME coalition – attempted to reach an agreement with them on the basis of the right for both side to name their speakers they refused to do so. The main differences were that they rejected to have al-Kalemji – the speaker of the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance, which represents a number of Iraqi resistance organisations – at the final rally and a speaker of ArbeiterInnenstandpunkt at the opening rally. Both were rejected because they accuse us of being “Anti-American” and “anti-semitic”. So in the end we had two opening and two final rallies which was not such a problem given the huge size of the demonstration. At our rallies all speakers nominated by us spoke.

Among them was also George Galloway who spoke at our rally to show his protest against the exclusion of al-Kalemji by the reformist Stop Bush coalition. This was interesting since Galloway was invited and paid by the Stop Bush coalition but was outraged by the hostile position of the social democratic/CP/Green/IST alliance towards the right to speak of a representative of the Iraqi resistance. Other speakers at our rallies included Tobias Pflüger, a German left-wing member of the European Parliament on the PDS list who recently lost his parliamentary immunity because of alleged violence at a demonstration. Another speaker was Cihan Keskin from Grup Yorum in Turkey and Leo Gabriel from the Austrian Social Forum. For the ArbeiterInnenstandpunkt our comrade Roman Birke spoke who was a leading organiser of the school student strike.

All in all it was a very successful mobilisation, which demonstrated both the popular hatred against the war policy of US imperialism and the rising mobilisation capacity of anti-imperialist organisations including our own organisation.