Red star over Salzburg?

21 April 2024

By KD Tait

The Austrian Communist Party (KPO) is experiencing a remarkable turnaround in its electoral fortunes.
After winning municipal elections in the country’s second largest city, Graz, in 2021, the KPO came second in the fourth-largest city, Salzburg, with 23.1% of the vote, narrowly losing out to the Socialist Party (SPO).

The KPO’s success reflects a nationwide trend for the party, which saw its national share of the vote rise from 0.4% to 11.66%. The success is largely the fruit of increasing dissatisfaction with the main parties in the face of a cost of living crisis, which the KPO has exploited with a focus on campaigns highlighting the stratospheric cost of housing.

Salzburg’s new Communist deputy mayor, Kay-Michael Dankl campaigned for 10,000 subsidised rental apartments and the purchase of land for new council housing. But the limitations of the KPO’s reformist programme rapidly became clear, when she pointed out that only the national government has the right to impose rent caps, and that expropriations of the big real estate companies are ruled out, because Austrian law provides for mandatory compensation.

While the KPO’s success reflects the real support that vigorous campaigning on bread and butter issues can garner from workers, it is necessary to make clear that this does not represent an endorsement of genuine communist politics.

The KPO does not pursue a revolutionary policy, but a form of municipalism. The goal of the communists, as laid out by Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto, is the abolition of capitalism and the transition to a classless society through socialist planning.

Adept electioneering can deliver meaningful reforms in the interests of working class people, which we support. But capitalism is intrinsically a system of crisis, rooted in the exploitation of labour by capital. Sooner or later, the capitalists and their agents in the labour movement will regroup and claw back these gains.

If the Austrian Communist Party does not alert its supporters to this inevitable danger, and the need for expropriation under workers’ control to deprive the capitalists of their power over the economy, the working class will be defenceless faced with the bosses’ counter-offensive.

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