Andreas Unterberger is a popular Austrian opinion writer. JLH has translated two essays from Mr. Unterberger’s blog, the longer one being an analysis by Christian Zeitz of the social and political context of Austria’s recent presidential election.
The translator includes this explanatory note:
The essay by Christian Zeitz was written before the run-off for president, which is now over. For Unterberger’s report and comment on this, see the translation after the main article. It offers a very different analysis of the dynamics of the election as a meta-political part of a larger picture.
Considering Zeitz’s analysis, it is close to miraculous that Norbert Hofer came so close, and I would say, perhaps ominous for the ruling parties, that their machinations had limited effect.
Those who had read the earlier article by Streeck previewing the run-off will recall that he urged the old parties to take on dynamic new leadership. The SPÖ (Social Democrats), at least, seems to have heard him and placed the younger, more energetic Kern at its head. With his leadership team, however, is Muna Duzdar, a young woman of Palestinian extraction, who has been seen to be suspiciously close to extremist circles. Ho hum! (Cf. Mena-Watch)
First, the guest-essay by Christian Zeitz:
The not quite unpolitical daily journal
Austria is Morphing Into a Syndicalistic Dictatorship
by Christian Zeitz, guest commentator
May 21, 2016
This Sunday, after a long election process, Austria will choose a new president. There have been several analytical pronouncements about this election over the months, which touch upon the fundamental principles of our country’s political system. It is said to be a decision on direction — multicultural “welcoming culture” versus indigenous connection to homeland. Or a venting of a mood of protest boiling over in the populace. Or the milestone of a political change in eras, or a substantial system alteration. There is a certain measure of truth to all of them, and they have been exhaustively discussed. However, largely absent is any attempt to use the circumstances of the election and its manifestations as a way of visualizing Austria’s actual constitutional structure. In fact, several characteristics of everyday politics have come to light which should be seen as elementary principals of our land’s actual political system. Indeed, much of this has occasionally found theoretical reflection in recent years. But this election was a visual learning experience which provides the empirical confirmation of the actual structure and condition of the so-called Republic of Austria. The result of the “social fieldwork” offered by this election as a — so to speak — gratis by-product, will be summarized below in four parts. The first two are concerned with meta-politics and the political culture. The other two will deal with the actual constitutional structures of the state of Austria.
1. Esoteric Language in an Age of Irrationality
The election was characterized by use of a quite esoteric language with which the Left targeted the Austrian Freedom Party [FPÖ] candidate, Norbert Hofer. This is part of a tradition in previous elections (remember “breaking a taboo” in regard to the candidacy of Kurt Waldheim), but took an unexpected form. Hofer was criticized, not for his positions, not for what he said or expressed explicitly, but was reviled for what he was suspected of on some amorphous level of “feeling”. He represented — it was said — “authoritarian officialdom”, he was “inhuman”, an “enemy of Europa” (not, for instance, a Europa critic), he wanted to “paint the whole republic blue”, he was somehow close to National Socialism. And he wanted to conceal everything through a rehearsed NLP lingo — which proved his deviousness. “I am afraid!” “Of what?” “The cornflower and the Hitlerian burps in Styrian guesthouses.” “All foreign countries” would despise Austria if Hofer were elected. “I would not like to belong to the pariahs of the world.”
This esoteric language serves a politics of hints and hidden “knowledge”. Proof is superfluous. “We understand each other.” Arguments are not necessary to create a community of feeling. Fear, insinuation, pretended or actual outrage, gestures of one’s own moral superiority, “rage and grief” and finally pure hatred have become the basic categories of political confrontations. The “decent people” of this country are absolutely sure that it is justified and requisite to defend their “politics of humanity” with hatred and really all means of confrontation. “Just don’t become criminal — not very.”
In the climate made communal by esoteric speech, there is no possibility to discuss factual arguments or objectivize factual content. Every so-called conversation does not lead to coming together but to moving apart. Facts and dates serve only to confirm the opponent’s capacity to manipulate and therefore his evil intentions. In an age of “dialogue”, there is no discourse. It sounds pathetic, but it is bitter reality. The age of Enlightenment has given way, in our latitudes, to an epoch of irrationality. The “true believers” know better. And they are dictating the social climate.
2. Society Splits Along Ideological Lines
The unbridgeable gaps resulting from this “change in atmosphere” characterize Austria’s political culture. A division that has not existed since the end of WWII marks the social condition. The aim of those who are driving European cultural transformation and population replacement is to divide society in order to permanently secure their own dominance. They are prepared to accept the collateral damage of a considerable portion of the population to satisfy their own, ideologically locked-and-loaded clientele.
The occupation of Europe through culturally alien mass immigration was originally a minor project of the “no borders” faction. It became a government project when large groups of people with originally sincere motivation (“help the poorest of the poor”) were made into, first, combatants and, ultimately, accomplices of the asylum and aid industry. This led to a lasting split between the misguided, deceived helpers and those who had from the beginning warned against the problems of culturally alien, welfare-expanding mass immigration. The latter proved to be correct, the former could not admit that they were wrong.
Fanatic adherents and opponents of the project now face off as affected persons, and not merely representatives of an opinion. In the election, their fronts were firm and their confrontational energy was exploited. This procedure is not new, but has taken on a new quality. The strategists of the cultural revolution have known how — time after time — to turn interested parties into concerned parties, concerned parties into accomplices and accomplices into ideological partners, so as to increase the maneuverable personnel for the project of cultural socialism. This is typically what has happened in cases such as the abortion question and other questions touching upon sexual hedonism.
The process of splitting the populace along new lines of conflict furthers the replacement of [existing] socioeconomic groups (“classes”) by creating and entrenching sociocultural groups. The great communities of interest were the substratum of the classical parties, whose irreversible dissolution is now in its last phase. And the concept of partisan democracy will disappear with them. Apparently, it is to be replaced by the domination of cultural socialist elites, which in turn will require a new friend-enemy formula. This formulation will be driven by a division of society along the lines of “humane/decent” versus “inhumane/indecent”.
The presidential election has become the starting point of this undertaking. The resulting division will prove to be deeper than the old hostility of the former parties and the classes they represented.
3. Freedom of Expression Disappears in Favor of an Open Dictatorship
One of the most significant features of this electoral contest was the powerful asymmetry in the mobilization of disseminators and civic influences. On Van der Bellen’s side as supporters were persons constantly in the light of publicity — creative people, successful people, rich people, powerful people and beautiful people, and people who recognized themselves as such. No such testimonials on Hofer’s side. Gathered around Van der Bellen was apparently the entire cultural/artistic elite of the land — prosperous entrepreneurs and business people, MEPs of all imaginable parties. scientists and freelancers, as well as various intellectual types. Prominent representatives of the former great parties, SPÖ (Social Democratic Party of Austria) and ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party), have offered — trumpeted — electoral support for the Green Party Oldie. Even Church functionaries, members of religious orders, teachers and representatives of organizations have publicly moved to Van der Bellen’s side — ultimately even the high clergy in the person of Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna, who felt obliged to stand against one of the very few prominent supporters of Hofer — Andreas Laun, suffragan bishop of Salzburg. Finally, at the choreographically perfect moment , Irmgard Griss delivered her respectable 18.9% of voters from the first round to the servo-mechanism of Van der Bellen support.
As is traditional, the in-crowd of top media and entertainment people played a special supportive and defensive role. For decades, they have been the public face of leftist activism; they set up seas of light. light chains, protest marches against the right, commemorations and other formats which have proven to work as companion measures in securing the neo-socialist cultural transformation. A permanent task of this closed society is the “stopping of the Right”, i.e., the securing of the power and influence of the ruling elite. And once the Greens are established as a make-believe element of the opposition to the dominating system, Van der Bellen will then have to be defended against and protected from the attacks of the blue, system-hostile candidate, Hofer.
Krassnitzer, Neuhauser, Resetarits, Vitasek, Stemberger, Mendt, Hader, Obonya, Stojka and whoever else the minions of the state or state-funded/encouraged entertainment sector may be named: They have all fulfilled their obligation to make Hofer contemptible. Andre Heller — likewise a master of using public media — acts like a seasoned campaign orator. The election of Hofer would endanger jobs and foreign investments, reduce international tourism in Austria and even endanger peace. Anyone who seeks to qualify such statements as dangerous threats is a rabble-rouser…
The aim of this massive offering of “significant personalities” from public and civic life is naturally the unmistakable communication of a simple, but effective message: Everyone with standing and reputation in the areas of culture, the economy and the intellectual world is supporting and voting for Van der Bellen. The successful, the fashionable and the popular of this world have nothing to do with Hofer and are battling against him as a risk factor and threat to the sacred order. Anyone who votes for Hofer is joining the failed, the enemies of progress, the chewed up and spat out of society. So anyone who does to want to be “out” must join the elites, to become one of them.
The message is blatantly obvious. Whoever does not go with the flow is an enemy of the system and is endangering his own existence. This is not mere posturing. The complete absence of prominent Hofer supporters is a reality. And yet precisely this allows for substantial conclusions about the state of the Austrian political system. The vote for Hofer on Sunday will — regardless of win or loss — be abut one-half of the voters. Absent the absurd assumption that this half of Austrians are part of a plebeian project, the assumption must be that the social levels of this group are not dramatically different from those of the Van der Bellen voters. The fact that no conservative, Christian or classical-liberal chief physician, university professor, general manager, top diplomat, sports figure, artist, police official, military general, etc. has announced as voting for or supporting Hofer is the result of the intense fear of the consequences. And this fear is by no means the result of a pathological phobia, but of a realistic assessment of the personal consequences for any potential supporter.
Hofer supporters should reckon not only with being called populists, rightist radicals or even Nazis, and being shamed in their field. They know or have good cause to suspect that they would be hindered in their careers, curtailed in their professional or business progress, or otherwise materially or personally damaged. This assumption is based on experience and on the knowledge of the control over many of the relevant resources by public, semi-public and syndicalist sectors.
So the formally documented right of freedom of expression is, for all practical purposes, no longer guaranteed in broad swathes of Austrian society. People who criticize the ruling system or the use of power by individual office-holders must expect to be existentially threatened, or even liquidated.
A political system which systematically and pointedly works against the exercise of the freedom of expression for the purpose of individual preference cannot be called a liberal democracy. At the very least, Austria has assumed pronounced characteristics of an open dictatorship. The one-sided, even exclusive, engagement of allies and celebrities for the election of Van der Bellen is more than just an indication of that. Quod erat demonstrandum.
4. A Neo-Syndicalist Order is Leveraging Democracy Out
The previous point referred to the one-sided support of Van der Bellen by representatives of the most diverse civic and public sub-systems of Austrian society. It is worth taking a closer look at the obvious sympathy expressed by functionaries and people of influence from political parties, national and supranational representative bodies, as well as interest groups.
As is known, top socialists like Häupl and Kern announced their intent to vote for Van der Bellen. This is also true of high-ranking socialist union people. The older party leaders from the ÖVP and several other well-known representatives announced their voting recommendation. This is also true for the former boss of bosses of the Raiffeisen concern, who is now the government’s “Refugee Official”, as well as several of his co-workers. National Bank President Claus Raidl as well as several influential members of the commercial banking sector have also taken this position, as have several respected representatives of well-known industrial concerns. The NEOS expressly and sympathetically greeted Van der Bellen’s candidacy. The EU contingent was not slow to respond: VP Othmar Karas praised “the professor” extravagantly and expressly recommended his election. And Commission President Juncker lauded the Green candidate’s exemplary Europa state-of-mind and acceptance internationally, whereupon that gentleman expressed his thanks to the “Christian democratic” man of honor from Luxemburg.
At first, it is difficult for knowledgeable observers to understand how it is possible that parties and politicians perceived as representing such divergent directions can come together in mutual support of a candidate who seems to have little or nothing in common with them. That is not really true for the SPÖ. Both Greens and reds are leftist and have overlapping concepts. But the ÖVP, business reps and “Christian-democratic” EU politicos? What commonalities are so powerful that they overstep these apparently unbridgeable ideological barriers and ignore all their divergences? At any rate, Van der Bellen is an enthusiastic advocate of abortion “with a health insurance certificate”, of homosexual marriage, of excessive anti-discrimination legislation, of all-day school and integrated schools, and rejects an inalienable primary parental right in the upbringing of children, as well as increased funds for the military — all positions one would expect (or at least hope) to see vehemently rejected by the ÖVP.
Inversely, Van der Bellen was for years chair of a party which identifies as “anti-capitalist” and advocates for radical-confiscatory ideas, re-distribution and emphatic, political intervention in the economy. How can there be a mutual hug-in here with big earners and top representatives of the banking and speculation economy?
The major ideological and programmatic divergences seem to have no part in the goal of preventing Norbert Hofer from playing a role as federal president. The inevitable conclusion is that there is a meta-political plane on which Greens, leftists, ÖVP strategists, economic leaders, those concerned with central banks and the euro as well as EU politicians and functionaries are pursuing common goals which make alleged philosophical divergences meaningless. In this respect, Alexander Van der Bellen, Christian Konrad, Erhard Busek, Othmar Kraus, Claus Raidl and Claude Juncker are in the same boat and defending it from a common enemy.
Wolfgang Schüssel und Alexander van der Bellen, together with like-minded people, head up the “Austrian Society for Foreign Policy and the United Nations” — an organization which is pronouncedly globalist, with a one-world vision. In the campaign, Schüssel described Van der Bellen as a devoted anti-nationalist. Van der Bellen is a fanatical proponent of the “United States of Europe” and would not care for an EU-critical government. He identifies with the great projects of the solidifying EU superstate — from discarding national cultural identities, through the multicultural society and the unified currency of the euro, to the EU-moderated population replacement aided by the welcome “refugee occupation”.
The inner lining of this transcontinental cultural transformation, including the genderizing of society and abandonment of the classical family, is a tightly woven net of international economic institutions. These are formally private economic enterprises, which — through reciprocal interfaces and staffing — are completely under the influence of national and, even more, supranational politics. They are tracked and made dependent, politically brought into line as necessary, by sweeping research and economic projects, border-crossing big orders and the blessings of structural and convergence funds. Banks, infrastructure concerns, energy companies, telecommunication concerns, media groups and giants of construction can in many — probably most — cases not be characterized as private enterprises, and are in many respects the material basis of resources for a targeted transformation of culture and society.
These enterprises are not elements of a classical market economy order. They do not earn their income in the market, but from political decisions. The order that arises from this is a particular form of international socialism, for which I some years ago suggested the name, “neo-syndicalism”. In neo-syndicalism, profit and purchasing interests combine with power and ruling interests, and with ideological or socio-political major projects.
The system of neo-syndicalism comprises today’s social reality on the national and EU level. This system is the organism in which the ÖVP and SPÖ politicians, Greens (NEOS [New Austria and Liberal Forum] too), many bank heads and industry bosses, Eurocrats along with their court jesters and fellow travelers are bound together. They all support Alexander Van der Bellen, because he is one of them — he identifies with the architecture of this system and defends it against critics. Norbert Hofer is perceived as an enemy, because — probably more instinctively than analytically — he is working toward the defeat of this system, and thus brings the whole syndicate down on himself.
The system of neo-syndicalism — according to point 3 of this article — is the second reason why Austria can no longer be called a free and democratic commonwealth. Never before have its totalitarian features come to light as clearly as in the presidential election.
Evaluation of the object lesson offered by the presidential election campaign of 2016 yields a deplorable picture of the Austrian state and Austrian society. With the quality of an empirical study, this campaign provided in concentrated form insights into the progress and status of a historical development which can only be designated as the final qualitative disintegration of the political system. Meta-politics and the political culture have deformed the political consciousness and make grassroots consensus impossible at this time. A policy-specific esoteric language corresponds to the age of growing irrationality. Following the old principle of divide-and-conquer, a division of society along ideological lines is being accomplished. This is the basis for the replacement of the formal constitution of the democratic republic of Austria — which is now only a facade — by the real constitution of a new totalitarianism. Freedom of expression gives way to an open dictatorship. And a neo-syndicalist order is levering the rule of law, the separation of powers and democracy out.
The events and developments catalytically accelerated and made visible by the election of 2016 are a certain signal of the often invoked, imminent end of the Second Republic, and with it the 20th century model of partisan democracy. But major crises are also known to be forks in the road. Who will supply the fundamentals for a comprehensive renewal?
Mag. Christian Zeitz is research director of the Institute for Applied Political Economy
|1.||Syndicalism: Proposed economic system to replace capitalism — industries are organized into syndicates and are owned by the workers.|
|2.||Unlike the US, this denotes a right-winger.|
|4.||Most extensive and powerful banking group in Austria.|
|5.||Austria’s most recent political party, “renewing” liberal politics in Austria. Color = pink.
A Slight Edge as a Contract
by Andreas Unterberger
May 23, 2016
31,026 votes made the difference. Alexander Van der Bellen is the next federal president.
0.6% is so little that it is really like a contract. Van der Bellen can be happy, but there are no grounds for triumph. There were as many voters behind the FPÖ candidate as behind him. And that even though the independent Irmgard Griss, the old and the new chancellor, the SPÖ and ÖVP politicians (even if retired), the NEOS, artists and those considered as such, lined up behind him. That should bring him to recognize that not everything that is not red-green must be fascist (which is the current thinking).
Now he will have to honor his election slogan.
Derogatory gestures and cynical laughter directed at opposing opinion will have to be things of the past. The other half of the population must be taken seriously, be just as respected, as his own voters.
There will be no problem for the office-holders. Foreign media are working away at the “lurch to the Right” by the 50% of Hofer voters. The faithful servants of their own pre-judgments will not be convinced to the contrary.
For the country, it means that the grandfatherly style of the president will be extended for six years. The government need not shift. Business as usual. No one will press them or mix in. Whether the rest will do them any good is yet to be seen.