The remarks that follow are the outgrowth of an essay I wrote
as a contribution to a forum about "The Right in Austrian
Politics" that will appear in the 1996 edition of Contemporary
Austrian Affairs. My work on the FPÖ began in the spring
of 1986 in response to an invitation by Fred Parkinson to write
the chapter "The FPÖ: liberal or Nazi?" for his
book Conquering the Past: Austrian Nazism Yesterday & Today.
Accordingly, I spent the last part of a European summer vacation
that year in the Historical Institute of the University of Salzburg
doing some reading preparatory to writing the piece. While I was
there I ran into my old mentor, Prof. Fritz Fellner, who asked
what I was doing? When I told him I was studying the FPÖ,
his response was "You should hurry, because it looks like
it is going to tear itself apart." I left Salzburg for home
on the weekend of the FPÖ convention in Innsbruck, unaware
of the movement to overthrow the Liberal Norbert Steger as Party
Chairman by the supporters of Jörg Haider and of the portent
that this would have for the party and the political landscape
of Austria. I wrote my contribution parallel to the election campaign
of that fall. When I finished in January, 1987, I took a position
contrary to what the reviewer for Standard called the drastic
implication of the editor's title, arguing that the FPÖ had,
over the past two decades, become what could be called a Right-liberal
party. Considering the results of the just-completed parliamentary
election, I accepted the general assumption that there would be
a return to coalition government by the major parties, and concluded:
If however, an SPÖ-ÖVP coalition is not
able to bring significant successes, and in times of serious economic,
resource and environmental problems the chances are remote, the
FPÖ can continue to thrive. As a party of protest against
the "Red-Black Unity Party" or as a balance on the political
scale in an open parliament, the FPÖ can prosper and perhaps
even outgrow the tradition that after forty years still permits
the question: FPÖ: liberal or Nazi?
I was correct about the prospering of the FPÖ, although that has been much greater than I expected, but I was overly optimistic that the "lingering shadow of Nazism" that I had described in my earlier book on the FPÖ's predecessor, the VdU, would be dispelled. Only one of the many examples that my hope has proven seriously naive was the recent attempt of Documentationsarchive of the Austrian Resistance to visually portray its position on the FPÖ by using a picture of Chairman Haider against a background of the neo-Nazi symbol of the World War I Reichskriegsflagge on the cover of its Handbuch des Österreichischen Rechtsextremismus. The unsubtle title of Hans-Henning Scharsach's book Haiders Kampf only underscores this point.
At the time I received the invitation to write the essay for Contemporary Austrian Studies, I was coincidentally reading a contribution to a similar forum in the American Historical Review by the American intellectual historian Alan Brinkley on the American conservatism. Because most historians have been part of the tradition that praised American history as "... the triumph of the progressive-liberal state and of the cosmopolitan sensibility that has accompanied and to a large degree supported it," Brinkley observed that the Right has remained "...particularly baffling to many of those historians who (as most do) stand outside it and try to make sense of it." The problem, for Brinkley, is to find "... a suitable place for the Right -- for its intellectual traditions and its social and political movements -- within our historiographical concerns."
As in the U.S., most currently active Austrian scholars stand outside the Right, but unlike their American counterparts they have no trouble finding a place for the parties of the third or German-national camp, or Lager, from which the FPÖ emerged -- and that is on the extreme Right. To accept this view is to believe that the continuing string of FPÖ electoral successes since the election of Haider as Chairman, which at this writing extends to sixteen state and three federal elections, is due to the growing neo-Nazi and Right-extremist sentiment that is often attributed to it. To be sure, Right-extremism, German-nationalist nostalgia and even neo-Nazism have been part of the political scene in Austria and at the fringes of the third-party movement since its resurrection in 1949, but have been at the most, marginal factors in electoral behavior. Indeed, I believe the virtual consensus in the scholarly community and its reflection in the popular media, particularly in the influential news-magazine profil, that Haider is a lineal descendant of the German-nationalist movement that led to National Socialism, has produced a backlash effect in the electorate. One of characteristics that has marked Haider's rise to prominence has been his capacity for provocative statements, which journalists and politicians have frequently labeled Right-extremist, fascist or even neo-Nazi. Journalists, however, are only slightly more trusted by the public (21%) than politicians (16%), and while they may have waxed indignant at Haider's politically incorrect "slips," public opinion shows that it is the FPÖ that is regarded as the party, "... whose politicians say, what most Austrians think."
Rather than a recrudescence of Nazi sentiment, I would argue that
the emergence of the FPÖ as a middle-sized party of considerable
political influence under Haider's leadership has been the consequence
of the maturation in Austria of the same kinds of conditions that
were providing the background for the growth of a generic Right-populism
across the western democracies. Political scientists Fritz Plasser
and Peter Ulram summarize these as:
erosion of the traditional social milieu, an increase
in social fragmentation, the increasing individualization of economic
and social risk, the splintering of the labor market, massive
immigration, conflict between multiculturalism and ethnocentrism,
dissolution of traditional party ties and the weakening of the
ability of the traditional political figures to maintain party
In the specific cases of Austria and Italy they see
... a disgust with parties and politics that is significantly
above average. This is evidently connected to excessive manipulation
of the political system by the parties, to the penetration of
the bureaucracy into society and to the pervasive patronage in
each case. In addition, there are factors such as structural calcification
... oppositional reactions against an "excessively powerful"
government coalition (as in Austria since 1986), the existence
of ethnic (Belgium) or regional conflicts (Italy), etc.
Hans-Georg Betz has established a typology for the kinds of parties that have flourished under these conditions which he terms Right-radical populist. Plasser/Ulram have accepted this designation for the FPÖ and I do as well, because it avoids the more typically used Right-extremist label which I feel should be reserved for those who act outside the democratic system and who either incite or resort to terror to promote their ends. The Betz definition reads in part a follows:
Generally, the majority of radical right-wing populists parties are radical in their rejection of the established socio-cultural and socio-political system and their advocacy of individual achievement, a free market, and a drastic reduction of the role of the state without, however, openly questioning the legitimacy of democracy in general. They are right-wing first in their rejection of individual and social equality and of political projects that seek to achieve it; second in their opposition to the social integration of marginalized groups; and third in their appeal to xenophobia, if not overt racism and anti-Semitism. They are populist in their unscrupulous use and instrumentalization of diffuse public sentiments of anxiety and disenchantment and their appeal to the common man and his allegedly superior common sense. In short, the majority of radical right-wing populist parties tend to blend a classical liberal position on the individual and the economy with some elements of the socio-political agenda of the extreme and intellectual New Right and deliver it in a concentrated and simplified form to those voters who are disenchanted with their individual life chances, with the direction of societal developments, and the political system in general.
The FPÖ definitely meets the socio-cultural, -political and -economic criteria of the Betz definition. It is radical because it wants to replace the strong, central state of the Second Republic, which embodies both Christian-Social corporate and Social Democratic institutions, with a "Third Republic." This does not, however, mean the elimination of representative democracy, as has been widely reported, but rather its expansion through the techniques of direct democracy, which also makes it populistic. It is also populistic, because for years the FPÖ was the only, and is now the largest and most aggressive opposition party which criticizes the "Establishment" and expresses the fears, anger and frustration of the "little man." This is, however, a constituency that is closer to the "Libertarians," "Moralists" and "Enterprisers" of the "Divided Right" and the "Embittered" of the "Detached Center" as identified in a new and definitive typology of The New Political Landscape in the United States by the Times Mirror polling group, than it is to the traditional, Christian-conservative Right or the National Socialists extreme-Right of the Austrian past. As in the U.S., the dominant political trend over the past decade has been the growth of a mood that is anti-politics-as-usual and anti-government. Unlike the U.S., where this sentiment has been expressed by non-voting, in Austria the existence of a long, if weak third party tradition has permitted the FPÖ to become the main vehicle of protest. It is therefore the thesis of this essay, that the upsurge of the FPÖ since 1986 has much more to do with the growth of political protest and with the collapse of the traditional political Lager that has made many more people susceptible to its populist appeal, than with linkages between a Nazi past and a putatively Right-extremist drift in the electorate today.
The "Establishment" which FPÖ has committed itself to overthrow was established in 1945. Then, what Adam Wandruszka described as the "naturally, or divinely ordained" division of the Austrian political structure into three Lager seemed at an end. When the Second Republic was founded, it was based on a partnership between the elites of the Peoples' Party (ÖVP) and the Socialist Party (SPÖ) devised to overcome the differences between their predecessor parties that had undermined democracy in the First Republic. They were, however, only the contemporary iterations of the Christian-conservative and Socialist Lager, which in the nineteenth century, had vertically integrated the still pre-modern elements of Austrian society into discrete and mutually hostile pillars. After the Second World War, despite their commitment to cooperate, neither major party trusted the other sufficiently to risk allowing it sole responsibility for governing. Thus they devised a unique kind of coalition government based on Proporz, in which each received counter-balancing positions in the government, the bureaucracy, public and semi-public industries and corporate bodies in proportion to its representation in parliament. Watching over each other at every level of public service, the elites of the two parties learned to cooperate horizontally across the cleavages between their two pillars while continuing to mobilize party loyalty downward within their respective Lager by appealing to traditional ideological values and exploiting historic prejudices. One of the consequences of this consociational approach to building democracy was the development of what amounted to a new, bi-Lager ideology. Founded by men and women of both coalition parties who had been persecuted during the Third Reich, one thing they were agreed upon was anti-fascism. German nationalism, even the idea of a nonpolitical, Kulturnation was equated with Nazism and the concept of an Austrian nation was made a sine qua non of loyalty to the state.
While the consociational approach of the ÖVP-SPÖ coalition succeeded in stabilizing the Second Republic in the difficult period following the war, the traditional tri-furcation of the Austrian political structure soon reasserted itself. Initially, the ideas which had animated the constituents of national-liberal Lager no longer had appeal. Nevertheless, a protest movement soon began to form based on the anger of former Nazis guilty of no crimes other than their party membership and who felt themselves too severely punished by the de-Nazification laws of the coalition. They were joined by non-Catholic bourgeoisie and farmers and non-Marxist workers whose continuing hostility towards the ideological legacies of the coalition parties made them susceptible to a new, third party movement. Herbert Kraus, whose Research Institute polls showed as much as 30 per cent of the electorate uncommitted to either of the Lager parties, thus decided in 1949 to launch the League of Independents (VdU) to create a centrist, liberal, third party alternative to the Demokratur of the ÖVP-SPÖ coalition.
There is no need here to trace in detail the history of the third party movement since 1949, other than to note that at various times throughout the years each major party toyed with the possibility of forming a small coalition with the VdU or its successor, the FPÖ. Always however, the anxiety among the founders of the Second Republic over having a major party in the opposition and their lack of confidence in the strength of the democracy they were building, forced them back to consociationalism. The bitterness of their class struggle propaganda vis-à-vis each other was mitigated by the reality of their cooperation and both defined themselves and the Second Republic against the ideology of the national-liberal Lager. Even after negotiating with the VdU and later the FPÖ about possible cooperation in secret, both parties continued to impute Right-extremism to them in public. Seen objectively, the programs of the VdU and later the FPÖ with regard to individual rights, laissez faire capitalism, and their regionalist, anti-statist hostility towards Vienna are in fact reminiscent of classic liberalism and can hardly be seen as Right in the traditional sense. Furthermore, their rejection of private monopolies as well as socialized industry, support for a market economy and European integration were modernizing by today's standards. But the insistence of the VdU and the FPÖ that Austria was a part of the German "ethnic and cultural community" and their support for unjustly, or excessively punished former Nazis was enough to stigmatize them as Nazi parties reincarnate.
The pillars of pre-modern Austrian society became skyscrapers of power of the Socialist Left and the Christian-conservative Right between which the tactics of consociationalism had built so many bridges that no light could penetrate to make the ground between them fertile for a liberal, centrist alternative. The VdU disintegrated with many of its supporters making their peace with one of the major parties which, after all, could provide them with the patronage necessary to find housing and jobs. Remaining was a hard core of German-nationals and others who, for various reasons, were unable to stomach that alternative and who then joined in the formation of the FPÖ under ex-National Socialist and Anschluß-cabinet minister Anton Reinthaller in 1956.
Reinthaller, however died less than two years later and was succeeded by the ex-Waffen-SS officer Friedrich Peter. Because he automatically had credibility with the German-nationalist Right and war veterans, Peter was able, as he explained to me in an interview, "... to try something that in Austria had foundered at the end of the last century, namely the further development of Liberalism." This process was accelerated in the 1970s under the pressure of a group of Peter's young proteges who ultimately won acceptance into the Liberal International in 1979, the election of their own Norbert Steger as chairman in 1980, and finally, governmental responsibility in coalition with the Socialists in 1983.
This escape from the right-wing ghetto could not have occurred without a significant change in the Austrian political landscape. Although the major parties continued to practice the politics of ideological and class division, the Austrian electorate had come to accept the basic democratic principle that a change of government from one party to another would not throw the country into civil war. This had become evident already in 1966 when the ÖVP captured enough of the block of uncommitted voters that Herbert Kraus had identified as a potential constituency for the VdU, to govern alone. In 1970, enough of these voters shifted to the SPÖ to permit Bruno Kreisky to build a minority government based on a quid pro quo with the liberalizing FPÖ. Had the FPÖ not made the crucial error of rejecting the possibility of a coalition with the Socialists before the election, perhaps, in partnership with "Sun King" Kreisky, it might have finally received the light, so long blocked by the bridges of consociationalism, necessary to permit the growth of a strong, liberal party. Ironically, despite Kreisky's support and encouragement for Peter, his successful refashioning of the SPÖ as a "catchall" party captured the very block of uncommitted voters that the FPÖ needed to become a significant political force. At the same time that the FPÖ was attempting to cultivate an image of itself as a modern, liberal party, the ÖVP also sought to shed its Christian-conservative image and move towards the Left in order to become a Peoples' Party, not just in name. By the mid-1980s there was such a crowding of the political Center that adherents of all parties were increasingly unable to define themselves as either Right or Left. Ideology as a factor in voting behavior dramatically declined as did identification with a Lager and therefore party loyalty.
Although not anticipated, the parliamentary election of November 23, 1986 has turned out to be a watershed in the political history of the Second Republic. Four months before, the only change that seemed likely was the transformation of Austria from a two-and-a-half party system to a two-party system. As a very much junior partner in the social-liberal coalition, the FPÖ had gained no "government bonus" among centrist, middle class voters for permitting the continuation of Socialist rule and profil turned its Chairman, Vice Chancellor Steger, into somewhat of a laughing-stock by derisively making him into "der Umfaller," or "accident prone." Polls in the summer showed the party's potential vote at between 1 and 2 per cent. Increasingly its right-nationalist voters were, as the party's liberals quipped, to be found "in the central cemetery" and only one in three of the younger generation raised in German-nationalist families indicated a preference for the FPÖ.
It was in this pitiful circumstance that German-nationalist and socially very conservative party functionaries from Carinthia formed the "Lorenzener Circle" to find a way to save the FPÖ from extinction. They saw their Carinthian Party Chairman, Jörg Haider, as the only salvation and joined with other party dissidents, principally from Upper Austria, Styria and Salzburg to overthrow Steger and his liberal Viennese establishment. When they were successful at the September party convention in Innsbruck, Chancellor Vranitzky seized upon the opportunity to declare an end to the Social-Liberal coalition and called for new elections.
Although the Austrian political landscape had been described for years as among the most stable in the world, the incremental changes accompanying the end of consociationalism, the erosion of the Lager and the rise of post-modern political alienation had caused enormous energy to build up in the tectonic plates that underlay it. Thus when Haider defiantly led his party into opposition he found a reservoir of voters to whom his aggressive, oppositional stance automatically appealed. As Pelinka has explained, in a stable democracy in which opposition no longer threatened the system, a new "bonus" had emerged for those who could express the frustration and anger of the voters. This was confirmed in the results of the parliamentary election, which gave the new, protest-oriented FPÖ a 9.7 per cent voter share. Pollsters Plasser, Ulram and Grausgruber found negative voting, the candidates and above all the personality of Haider to have been the overwhelming determinants in the choice of voters for the FPÖ. Ties to or identification with party were of no significance and issues even had a negative correlation. The total absence of German-nationalist tones from the FPÖ campaign, the high degree of voter mobility, the relative youth of FPÖ voters and the fact that 27 per cent of the FPÖ voters had switched over from the ÖVP and 23 per cent from SPÖ are evidence that the FPÖ victory was not due to the recrudesence of Right-extremism as typically identified with Haider. In the nine years since, the FPÖ has parlayed this victory as the party of protest with the opportunity offered by the surrender of the right side of the political spectrum by the ÖVP into an unbroken string of election victories and in three states, the status of the second largest party. This period can be seen as divided into two parts with 1990 as the dividing line when the consequences of the "change" in Eastern Europe introduced new and even more emotional issues into the ferment of political protest.
In the period from 1987 to 1990, the FPÖ added victories in seven consecutive state parliamentary elections to its 1986 success. A survey of the party literature and the coverage of these elections in the major print media reveals that the FPÖ campaigns primarily focused on problems that could be laid at the door of the federal government, e.g. unemployment, waste of tax monies, corruption and excessive political patronage, scandals, the need to privatize state-owned enterprises, lower taxes, reduce regulations on business and individuals and only in select cases on state issues. These have been familiar themes of the FPÖ throughout its history. They gained currency through the successful exploitation on the international scene by such prominent "Rightists" as Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl and Ronald Reagan in the 1980's. Austria, which by this time had come to share most of the problems of these other Western democracies, became susceptible to this kind of conservatism. However, with the ÖVP as the traditional conservative party in coalition with the Socialists and seeking to establish itself as a party of the Center, this mood was left to the FPÖ to exploit. Jörg Haider seized on his banishment by the Socialists with relish and launched what has turned out to be an extraordinarily successful campaign against what it called the SPÖVP "Unity Party." This appellation not only suggested policies parallel to those of the monolithic East German Socialist Unity Party (SED), but also drew upon the kind of sentiment that motivated the Ross Perot presidential campaign of 1992 in the U.S., namely that there was no real difference between either of the two major parties. To this conservatism, Jörg Haider brought his youth and a pugnacious style and came to personify the anger and frustration of the electorate against the political Establishment. This new, populist assault on the resurrected large-Coalition found resonance among middle class public workers and service sector employees who could no longer express their opposition to government by voting for the ÖVP which was now part of the problem; there were also defections of skilled workers and employees in the public and private sector who had previously been won over by the Kreisky "catch-all" strategy of the 1970's. Above all, the new FPÖ voters were young and therefore less likely to be influenced by lingering Lager loyalty. Since the FPÖ growth in popularity parallels its shift away from its previous, liberal stance, one might assume that there had been a corresponding shift to the Right in the electorate. Surprisingly, the increased support for the FPÖ has paralleled a drop in the percentage of voters who identify themselves as Right, from 52 per cent in 1976 to 30 per cent in 1992. Furthermore, among FPÖ-supporters, despite repeated charges of Right-extremism by the Left and much of the media since Haider assumed leadership, "only a quarter ... see themselves as Right, and hardly any as very Right." Indeed, while more FPÖ-supporters identified the party as Right, fewer of its voters see themselves as Right than in 1976 in the middle of the party's liberalization phase. The explanation for this contradiction I believe lies in the fact that FPÖ voters consistently express motives that can be summarized as protest, disgust with the coalition parties and politics-as-usual and the desire to "send them a message" that are clearly populist in nature. Right, on the other hand, connotes an ideological position on a traditional political spectrum to most people and has little relevance to the post-modern electorate that Haider has successfully attracted over the past nine years.
Born 26. January, 1950, Jörg Haider is a child of the Second Republic and began his political career with the FPÖ associated with the young, liberal reformers of the 1970's which makes questionable the pro-Nazi label his critics try to pin on him. Much of his support comes from his own generation and younger, who know little of the past and have even less interest in conquering it. This is not to suggest that these younger voters are uneducated. This is illustrated by a 1993 poll by Fritz Plasser which showed that among voters under 30 who hold a Matura and students in institutions of higher education, the FPÖ, along with the other two opposition parties, enjoyed support only slightly lower than that for each of the two coalition parties. Support of this age cohort has run sightly ahead of the overall averages in the parliamentary elections since the election of Haider as Chairman. In 1986, 12 per cent of the age group 19-29 voted for the FPÖ and in 1990 18 per cent. In 1994, the SPÖ remained the most popular party among the young with 31 per cent, but FPÖ rose to second place with 25 per cent, well ahead of the ÖVP at 19 per cent, the Green/Alternative List (GAL) at 12 per cent and the new Liberal Forum at 11 per cent. The percentage decline of this age cohort in the overall FPÖ electorate may well be a consequence of the increased radicalism of the FPÖ since 1990 as inferred by Plasser/Ulram. There has been, nevertheless, an absolute increase in the number of young voters for the FPÖ, which I suspect may be the consequence of a back-fire response among many Generation X-ers who perceive the constant drumbeat of pro-Nazi charges against Haider as an exaggerated obsession of the "Old Parties," i.e. the SPÖ and ÖVP, with the past.
An example of this may be seen in the response to what was widely
reported as a Haider's praise for the employment policy of the
Third Reich. The incident occurred in June of 1991 when Haider,
as Governor of Carinthia, was addressing the matter of welfare
reform in a speech before the state parliament and proposed
... that in the case of someone who is capable, but
is unwilling to accept employment in a similar or related area,
he should be brought to reconsider accepting work by a sanction
that would appropriately reduce his unemployment money.
This is less severe than the proposal favored by 91 per cent of Americans according to a Los Angeles Times poll in 1993, which would require recipients to work two after years on the welfare rolls, but would provide them with public service jobs if non-private sector work is available. It is significantly less drastic than the "workfare" program that Governor Wilson has put in place in California that requires that able-bodied welfare recipients either accept work assigned to them or be cut off from benefits. Nevertheless, Carinthian SPÖ-Representative Hausenblas perceived Haider's proposal as suggestive of National Socialism and shouted: "That is forced labor.... We have already had what you are demanding --- in the Third Reich!" Haider responded: "No, that wasn't the case in the Third Reich, because in the Third Reich there was a decent employment policy (ordentliche Beschäftigungspolitik), which is more than can be said for what your government can manage in Vienna." A charitable interpretation of Haider's retort might be to see it as a "Freudian slip" by the son of a man who as an Austrian Legionnaire had seen the apparent successes of the Labor Service and the Labor Front in the mid-1930's and had supported Anschluß to Nazi Germany as a means of bringing prosperity to Austria. Haider later expressed his regrets for the remark and stated that he had not intended any positive comparison of the labor policy of the Third Reich relative to that of the Austrian Republic. The matter might have gone no further had not the SPÖ not seen the incident as a means of providing the ÖVP a justification for supporting a vote of no confidence against Haider in return for Socialist support of its Chairman as Governor. The media was delighted with new evidence with which to again tar Haider with the brush of Nazism; the Chancellor threatened legal action and even within the FPÖ, Heide Schmidt, Norbert Guggerbauer and others strongly criticized their Chairman. Haider's popularity in profil's "Politicians' Hit Parade" went from 47 per cent to 33 per cent. Nevertheless, in a state election in Burgenland only two weeks after the incident, the FPÖ improved by 30 per cent its first ever election success of 1987, winning over voters in approximately equal numbers from both major parties, even though its share of the overall vote fell 2 to 4 per cent below expectations. Although the Haider "slip" was one of the major themes in the campaign, and although only 16 per cent in a poll saw the FPÖ as having been successful since first entering the state parliament four years before, 40 percent considered its representation there as an advantage. Before and after polls illustrate that the Haider "remark" had a negative effect on the FPÖ results; nevertheless, the primary motives for voting for the FPÖ continued to be protest against the two major parties and their candidates. In a country-wide poll on Haider's "comment," 42 per cent regarded the media's reaction as exaggerated, 44 per cent did not see it as damaging to the reputation of Austria and a full one-third even felt that it was an acceptable statement of the facts, which seems to sustain my argument about the back-fire effect of the charges of Right-extremism.
Although avoiding the label Right-extremism, Plasser/Ulram do find evidence in their public opinion research to suggest that 1990 does mark the beginning "... of a new political reorientation of the FPÖ under Jörg Haider, which - as distinguished from the phase 1986-1990- is characterized by a more defined content and increasingly as new -- in several political areas even ideologically radicalized -- and positioned to the Right. In stating their judgment that this development "... is contrary to the traditional lines of conflict of Austrian politics...," Plasser/Ulram confirm a position I have taken in earlier articles and have reiterated at the beginning of these remarks, namely that the success of the FPÖ today has little to do with linkages to a national-liberal Lager that was swallowed virtually whole by National Socialism. On the contrary, the FPÖ success has been made possible by the collapse of the traditional Lager and a volatility in the electorate which opposition parties that position themselves against the "Establishment" can effectively exploit.
To this point, my remarks have been confined to the domestic reasons for the emergence of the FPÖ as a major political force since 1986. The emergence of right-radical populism however, has not been confined to Austria and is currently having a profound effect on my country as well. Although the histories and political systems of Austria and the United States are quite different, I believe that a comparison of the contemporary politics of the two countries I know best, will serve to support the thesis advanced above. Despite the disparity in the origins and duration of democracy in the United States and Austria, it seems that since 1990 there has recently been a convergence in the nature of their politics. The disintegration of the power and credibility of political parties and a corresponding rise in non-voting that have been underway in the US since the 1960's have more recently become evident in Austria. The disgust with party politics and protest that has shown up in Austrian public opinion research since the late 70's was, however, masked in the US by the enormous personal popularity of Ronald Reagan and the need for solidarity behind the anti-Communist crusade which was, in no small measure, bound up in his persona. Since 1990 however, no other superordinate threat has taken the place of the "Red Menace," a fact that George Bush discovered when he went from 80 per cent popularity in the polls following the Gulf War to a loser in the presidential election of 1992. Bill Clinton won the presidency from a centrist-populist position, campaigning as a "outsider" from Arkansas against the "aristocratic," Washington "insider," George Bush. As a "New Democrat" he proposed an active role for government in shaping a national, industrial policy and promised to look carefully at scaling back the "liberal, big-government" remnants of New Deal. Republicans have long profited from attacking the Democrats as "tax and spend liberals," but had lost credibility on this bundle of issues by virtue of their own failure to do much to reduce the size of government and the explosion of national debt under Republican Presidents Reagan and Bush. Skeptics rallied to the standards of the non-party candidate Ross Perot, giving him over 19 per cent of the total vote. Like the "new Right" in Austria where 58 per cent of the general population and 77 per cent of FPÖ supporters express "little or no trust in the political parties, Perot supporters registered a high degree of mistrust in government; only 55 per cent are willing to trust the government "some of the time" and 40 percent "hardly ever." As in Austria and elsewhere in Europe where attacks on the EU and its "the Bureaucrats in Brussels" attract the support of a new Right-radical populist electorate, Perot supporters embraced his condemnation of the consolidation of NAFTA. Like the FPÖ, young voters constituted an important part of Perot's constituency. 27 per cent of Perot's vote came from 18-29 year olds, and the next older cohort was the second largest at 21 per cent. High School graduates (23%) were Perot's biggest supporters as were Austrians "who had completed their compulsory schooling " Haider's most numerous group of supporters classified by education (54%). 19 per cent of those with "some college" 13 per cent of those with "college degrees" for Perot compare to the 24 per cent in the category Matura/University for Haider. Men dominated in the Perot constituency with 56 per cent as they did Haider's with 60 per cent. Similarly, Perot's support was strongest among voters earning from $20,000-29,999 (22 %) and $30,000-49,999 (23%), which would parallel the strength of the FPÖ among Public Employees (Beamten) (14%), White-collar workers (Angestellten) (22%) und workers (29%).
very conservative (sehr rechts) 7 2
conservative (eher rechts) 32 13
Moderate (Mitte) 39 50
Liberal (eher links) 15 12
Very liberal (sehr links) 4 2
Don't know or refused to answer 3 22
The following issues, which are among those which Betz cites as characteristic of radical, Right-populism, are addressed by both the Plasser/Ulram and Times-Mirror studies and permit comparison of the contemporary political landscape in Austria and the United States:
Throughout most of its history, the FPÖ had been raising these issues, but had found little public support until the collapse of the traditional political Lager combined with the restoration of the major party coalition gave it a new audience. Although the FPÖ undoubtedly captured some of the protest vote in 1986 because of the widespread assumption that the new government would include both major parties, it was not until 1990 that the FPÖ became the clear alternative for most people who wanted to vote against the "Establishment." In the Nationalrat campaign of that year, polls showed the "fight against corruption and patronage (Kampf gegen Korruption und Privilegienwirtschaft)" as the fourth most important goal of the public and the FPÖ as the most competent party to carry this out. It was considered second most competent in the category "stopping the waste of public funds (Verhinderung der Verschwendung öffentlicher Mittel)," which ranked third on the list of concerns. The "Foreigner Problem" was only tenth on the list of concerns and the FPÖ ranked ahead only of the GAL in competency. However, with the flood of immigration that was unleashed by "the Change" in 1990, the "Foreigner Problem" became the "hot button" issue of Austrian politics. It surfaced as an issue in the October 1990 Nationalratswahl campaign when the FPÖ drew a correlation between the accelerating crime rate since 1988 and the increase in immigration from eastern Europe and accused the SPÖ-led Ministry of Interior of being soft on crime and the ÖVP-led Foreign Ministry for having been too lax on the refugee problem. Haider, as Governor of Carinthia, rejected an SPÖ plan agreed to by the other eight Governors for disbursing the 18,000 refugees temporarily in and around Vienna proportionally among the states, and the FPÖ campaign exploited the fears of "being over run by foreigners (Überfremdung)," demanding "no importation of crime, immigration only in cases of need on the labor market and where adequate housing exists, introduction of seasonal status for foreign labor." Although leftist critics tried to paint this as more evidence of FPÖ Right-extremism, the new global wave of immigration had made such appeals part of the political mainstream in most of the prosperous communities of Europe and the United States as well. In Austria, these issues were particularly potent in Vienna where legal and illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers were the most numerous. There the local FPÖ's exhortation, "Vienna must not become Chicago," played not very subtly on anxieties, but if anything in a less racist manner than the ÖVP's "Vienna for the Viennese." The tactics succeeded and the FPÖ passed the ÖVP as the second largest party in 5 of 23 Viennese working-class precincts. The Left again warned of a tilt to the Right and implied a recrudesence of National Socialism. But the results in the remainder of the country, which increased the FPÖ voter share to 16.6 per cent, were actually in keeping with the trend in the state elections since 1986 suggesting an on-going process of change in the political landscape, rather than any sudden radical-rightist reaction to the immigration problem as inferred from the Vienna results. In a post-election survey of the seven most significant electoral motives in the country as a whole, protest dominated, with the FPÖ's stance on foreigners ranked at number four, the only one remotely Right-extremist in nature.
It was the Vienna elections of 1991 which illustrate the addition of radical, right-populist elements to the FPÖ's successful protest appeal of the past five years. There were three burning issues: transportation, housing and foreigners. On the first two, the essentially permanent rule of the SPÖ was open to traditional FPÖ criticisms of waste, scandal and corruption. The waiting list for public housing had stood at 20,000 for years despite increased budgets for construction and anger at the allocation of finished units according to party membership had grown increasingly strong. Critical attention was also focused on the SPÖ-led municipal government for the subway construction program which had just been cited by the General Accounting Office for mismanagement and cost overruns. But the issue that had radicalized the public mood was the influx of over 240,000 legal immigrants and probably 100,000 illegal immigrants into Vienna in just the past two years. The FPÖ emphasized the pressure this put on housing, but in particular focused on the schools where in some districts it claimed 75-80 per cent of the children were non-German-speaking and demanded that special classes be established for them so as to not inhibit the instruction of native-speakers. Not very obliquely, the opponents of the FPÖ warned of the return of "racist tones" of yesteryear, but almost 40 per cent of the population identified immigration as a serious, contemporary problem. The FPÖ came to be seen as the most competent party to deal with the foreigner issue, a factor that was cited as decisive for every third FPÖ voter, particularly among defectors from the SPÖ. Motives that can be summarized as protest remained the dominant factor behind the FPÖ success, with nothing to indicate nostalgic sympathy for German-national, fascist or National Socialist themes. Even Haider, who is so often portrayed as a "brown shirt" in modern guise, was among the least cited reasons for switching to the FPÖ. The consequences of the election were stunning for Vienna. For the first time during the Second Republic, the SPÖ slipped below the 50 per cent mark and the FPÖ climbed from 9.7 per cent in 1987 to 22.5 per cent, tripling its number of seats in the city council making it the second largest party represented. Particularly striking was the fact that over 26 per cent of the working class and 35 per cent of all skilled workers voted for the FPÖ. In the meantime, the FPÖ had also won two additional state elections in Syria and Upper Austria. In Styria, the FPÖ more than tripled its vote relative to the last state parliament election and the polling data show 51 per cent of its increase coming from the ÖVP, 36 per cent from the SPÖ and 22 per cent from former non-voters. In Upper Austria, the FPÖ more than doubled its voter share from 1985, winning significant gains in the strong-holds of both major parties. Particularly striking was what pollsters Hiesl/Trauner described as a "... massive breach in the SPÖ core constituencies." This paralleled the successes in Vienna and established a trend that Plasser and Ulram have described as a transformation of the FPÖ "from a party of elites to a worker party." The motives identified by Hiesl/Trauner for this shift were the Foreigner Question and the welfare-cheater debate (Sozialschmarotzerdebatte.)
Late in 1992, the FPÖ attempted to parlay the credibility it had gained on the immigration issue into mass political support with its people's initiative, "Austria first." The first of its twelve points proposed to add a statement to the Federal Constitution declaring that Austria was not a classic country of immigration. Other points demanded legislation to deal with problems in the schools posed by the need to educate the children of immigrants, to require identity cards to document the legitimacy of foreigners for employment, public health and welfare services, the restriction of public housing to Austrian citizens and increased funding to combat crime and secure the borders against illegal immigration. A Gallup Poll showed 1.68 million in agreement with the principles of the initiative, 1.34 million who "would happily sign," and .84 million who were certain they would sign. When however, a high-profile immigrants' rights group called SOS-Mitmensch (SOS-Fellow Human Being) formed, the SPÖ seized upon its campaign as a way to discredit the FPÖ that was shaking its own previously dominant position among the working class.
It is ironic that another SOS-campaign (Save Our State) was conducted in California less than two years later by supporters, including Governor Wilson, who have proposed virtually all of the measures foreseen in "Austria first" and which would specifically remove illegal immigrants from the schools, deny them public health and welfare benefits and require reporting of those without documentation. Despite efforts similar to those of SOS-Mitmensch by mainstream media and by public education and health professionals to portray the initiative as immoral and implicitly racist, it passed with an enormous 59 + per cent majority. This sentiment is not confined to California as was revealed by a Times-Mirror poll that was conducted at the same time as the SOS-initiative. In response to the statement: "Immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care," 49 per cent agreed strongly and another 14 per cent agreed. 41 per cent strongly favored and 28 per cent favored making illegal immigrants ineligible for welfare, Medicare and other government benefits. Additionally, 81 per cent of the sample supported the statement "We should restrict and control people coming into our country to live more than we do now." Following this right-populist sentiment, the new Republican majority elected to Congress in November 1994 is considering radical measures to eliminate benefits to all immigrants and to end the status of the US as a classic country of immigration.
In late 1992-93 however, the climate in Austria was different. At precisely this time, anti-foreigner demonstrations and murders in Germany were causing the world to question whether its Nazi past had really be conquered. Against this background, the SOS-Mitmensch campaign skillfully turned attention from the immigration issues actually addressed by "Austria first" and portrayed it a racist, anti-foreigner crusade against industrious and indispensable guest workers, and helpless refugees fleeing poverty, political repression and civil war by a party that "everyone knew" was tinged with brown. When confronted with having to openly attach their names to such an initiative, less then half of those who felt they would "certainly sign" actually did. As the media was declaring the FPÖ initiative a flop, the SPÖ cynically began to try and outmaneuver the FPÖ for the future by formulating a highly restrictive residency law for foreigners to the outrage of its erstwhile SOS-Mitmensch allies. Additionally, Heide Schmidt, an attractive and articulate leading member of the FPÖ who had been the party's presidential candidate the year before and who had recently been at odds with Haider on a number of issues, used the opportunity to defect, forming the Liberal Forum with a handful of other dissidents. The media congratulated Austria for having exonerated itself from the shame of its recent tilt to the Right and declared Haider politically dead -- like Mark Twain, he might have retorted: "the report of my death was an exaggeration."
In March, 1994, just over a year later, the FPÖ again extended its record of election victories since 1986 in three state parliament elections. In Carinthia it hurdled to 33.28 per cent and to within one seat of parity with the SPÖ whose status as the largest party was threatened by a loss of 8.54 per cent. In Salzburg, both major parties lost, while the FPÖ gained another 3.14 per cent and 2 more seats with almost 20 per cent of the vote. Only in Tyrol, where the ÖVP distanced itself from the federal leadership in Vienna and ran an FPÖ-style populist campaign, was the improvement only marginal, with a .61 per cent gain to 16.17 per cent and a one more seat in the state parliament. Post-election polls again showed protest to be the dominant factor: 79 per cent said they voted for the FPÖ because it expressed their grievances and because the SPÖ/ÖVP was in control; 57 per cent said they wanted to send the SPÖ/ÖVP a message and 54 per cent agreed with the FPÖ's critical stance against the recently negotiated treaty for entry into the European Union (EU). 63 per cent were motivated by Haider and the party's other lead candidates, some certainly because of his defense of the German-national tradition, but others just as certainly for his aggressive personification of protest. The fear of a flood of immigration that motivated 63 per cent of FPÖ voters is certainly indicative of the attitudes of the radical, populist New Right, but to attribute this success to an unconquered past seems a fabrication that fails to recognize that racism and xenophobia are modern phenomena that need not be and probably are not linked to National Socialism.
That this new Austrian political landscape was highly unstable was however illustrated by a referendum only three months after the FPÖ euphoria following the March election victories. In this referendum, the FPÖ's opposition to the treaty negotiated for Austria's entry into the EU was rejected by a massive 66.34 per cent approval of membership. This time, profil editorialized, it was Haider who had been "sent the message." The FPÖ, which had been accused of right-extremist, Anschluß sentiment for having supported membership in the EEC and later the EC since the late 1950's, was now accused of anti-democratic, Right-extremism for opposing entry into its successor, the EU. Again, as after the "Austria first" campaign, Haider dropped into the cellar of the "Politicians' Hit Parade" with only a 17 per cent favorable rating and the FPÖ in general hit its lowest level since the 1986. But what those who saw Haider and his party as having been maneuvered into a Right-extremist corner by the unsuccessful anti-EU campaign failed to understand was that the FPÖ successes of the past eight years had not been built on any kind of nostalgic right-extremist ideology, but rather on protest against the established order and upon a radical, but vague promise of change. A yes vote for the EU did not in any way temper the alienation of the electorate from the existing government. Accordingly, "Europhoria" did not last long and in a poll two months later at the beginning of the 1994 parliamentary election campaign, Haider, although still the lowest in the "Politicians' Hit Parade," had nevertheless recovered seven points and the FPÖ was projected to at least match its 1990 vote of 16.6 per cent.
These match almost precisely the motives cited most frequently
by FPÖ-voters in the Fessel exit poll:
Of the remaining motives, 1) the personality of Haider, 2) to send the large parties a message and 3) to vote for the lesser evil may be ascribed to diffuse protest and disgust with politics as usual (Politik- und Parteiverdrossenheit). Of the seven motives tested, only the response, "because the FPÖ most clearly represents my interests, or my tradition" can be seen as reflecting a sense of ideology. This choice may reflect approbation for the party's stance on behalf of Austria as a part of the "German ethnic and cultural community" and its more differentiated stance on National Socialism, nevertheless, it ranked only sixth out of seven issues in the frequency of mention.
The fourth category of issues identified above (see above, pp.
18-19, for a comparative study of contemporary Austrian and US
politics) -- anti-statism, protest, disgust with party politics,
support of the "Achievement Principle" (Leistungsprinzip)
-- mirrors those on which the FPÖ was believed to be the
most competent and which proved to be decisive in mobilizing its
voters. To stake his claim to these issues, Haider had written
Die Freiheit die ich meine ("The freedom that I mean")
in 1993, citing the domination of patronage (Privilegienwirtschaft),
the social-welfare state and moral-free materialism as the source
of the waste of public monies, scandal and corruption, in short
the malaise of modern society. A comparison of the responses to
comparable questions posed by the Plasser/Ulram and the Times-Mirror
studies will serve to further illustrate my thesis that the appeal
of the FPÖ is not a unique Austrian phenomenon, the result
of an "unconquered past," but is rather a thoroughly
modern response to contemporary issues that has much in common
with mainstream politics in the United States today.
Complete (a) Agreement or Agreement (b)
in Per Cent Austria FPÖ US
Austrian questions translated and bold italicized)
1) a) Members of Parliament lose touch with the people 46 60
Generally speaking, elected officials in Washington
lose touch with the people pretty quickly 83
2) a) The parties only want the votes of the people, their
views don't interest them. 41 75
Most elected official don't care what people like me think 64
3) a) What politicians now-a-days say and do has less and less
to do with the concerns and the desires of the citizens 38 57
The government is not really run for the benefit of the people
4) b) Politicians are corrupt and take bribes 52 75
When something is run by the government it is usually
inefficient and wasteful 69
5) b) In the next election I will send the parties in power
a message. 28 60
It is time for Washington politicians to step aside and make
room for new leaders 79
We need new people in Washington even if they are not effective
as experienced politicians 60
DISAGREEMENT in Percent
The political parties take care that the interests of Austria FPÖ US
various groups in the population are equitably
addressed. 50 63
We should make every possible effort to improve the
position of blacks and other minorities, even if it
means giving them preferential treatment 69
Additional data from the Times-Mirror survey will illustrate the
popularity of the FPÖ populist agenda in the United States.
Government regulation of business usually
does more harm than good. 54 39 15 Poor people have it easy because they can get
government benefits without doing anything
in return 53 37 16
Many people think they can get ahead without
working hard and making sacrifices 66
Poor people have become too dependent on
government assistance programs 85 46 39
The federal government should run ONLY
those things that cannot be run at the local level 78 38 40
The federal government controls too much
of our daily lives 69 37 32
On the matter of the credibility of political parties, 58 per
cent of all Austrians and 77 per cent of FPÖ voters said
they had "no or little trust." Americans did not have
much confidence either, although the Republicans, whose current
political agenda resembles that of the FPÖ, fared better
than the Democrats.
Rep. Dem. Both Neither Don't Know
Well organized 48 27 7 13 5
Selects good candidates 40 36 6 13 5
Able to manage the Federal
Government well 43 31 4 17 5
Unlike Austria, in the US there has been no viable third party
to exploit the prevailing disgust with party politics as the FPÖ
has so successfully done. In the 1994 elections however, the Republican
success was built on a largely radical Right-populist campaign
against President Clinton and the Democratic Congress. Newt Gingrich
and the Republican candidates for the House of Representatives
who signed his "Contract with America" promised a "new
American revolution." Now in power they are in the process
of trying to carry out their promise to dismantle the social-welfare
state. Their Right-populism was successful as an attack on the
establishment, but they, and perhaps die Freiheitlichen
as well, might do well to note that not all populist sentiment
is rightist. Two items from the Times-Mirror poll indicate that
parties that are perceived as being too favorable to the special
interests of big business might find themselves the victims of
a populist shift to the left:
Agree Mostly Agree.
in the hands of a few 31 42
While the Republicans benefited in 1994 from the same dynamics that have fueled the rise of the FPÖ, in power, they may lose this advantage and there is further populist sentiment (53%) that supports the establishment of a viable third party.
Another category of issues that Haider has defined as part of what is wrong with modern society is the decline in family values. He contends that this has happened largely because Socialist theory and policies and the general decadence of modern materialism have driven mothers to work. Taking on the feminists, Haider proposed tax incentives to permit mothers to remain home and raise their children and for those who must or want to work, he proposed more day-care centers unrestricted by class or party membership. The inevitable parallels to the Kinder, Kirche, Küche (children, Church, kitchen) role of women in the Nazi society were drawn and he was, in addition, accused of anti-foreigner racism for wanting to increase the birthrate of Austrians. These ideological waters were however considerably muddied in the summer of 1994 by the wife of the Social Democratic Federal Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, who, in an interview with profil, touted "family values" and criticized "... women have children and then give them up (to day-care centers or baby-sitters) at 7 o'clock in the morning in order to then earn maybe four- or five thousand Schillings." The SPÖ was embarrassed and feminists exploded in rage, but a poll showed the public split virtually evenly on her views. By extension then, it can be inferred that the 47 per cent of the public that agreed with Mrs. Vranitzky, also does not see the views of Haider and the FPÖ on this issue as reminiscent of National Socialism, nor would the 75 per cent of the Americans who agreed with the Times-Mirror poll statement: "Too many children are being raised in day-care centers these days." In Austria, as in the U.S., the moral values movement appears to becoming mainstream, thereby seeming to repudiate the charge that the FPÖ's interpretation of these views is extreme, relative to contemporary public opinion.
Related to the criticism of the decline of traditional values
is the demand for "Law and Order" and criticism of the
Left/Liberal "Establishment" for "softness on crime."
In Austria, according to Plasser/Ulram:
Precisely in the "Foreigner Question" the
adherents of the new Right show a high degree of emotionalized
anxieties, fears and resentments. 59 per cent of this group profess
that they feel strongly affected by "criminality by Eastern
Europeans in the West.
In the United States, at the outset of the 1994 gubernatorial and congressional campaigns, concern about crime can no longer be seen as peculiar to the Right. Since 1987, when crime was found to have been among the least important issues, it has now come to head list of "important problems facing the country." Lifetime prison sentences without the possibility of parole for third-time offenders were favored by 85 per cent of those polled, and an initiative to add such a measure to the state constitution was passed in California with a 71 per cent margin. In the California gubernatorial election, exit polls showed that by far the motives most important motives in the reelection of Pete Wilson were his vigorous support of the illegal immigration initiative, the related issue of crime and his successful charge that his opponent lacked conviction in support of the death penalty. In Texas, Governor Ann Richards was attacked for not having applied the death penalty vigorously enough and lost to George Bush Jr. In New York, liberal icon and long-time Governor, Mario Cuomo, lost his bid for reelection to the unknown George Pataki who campaigned on behalf the death penalty and has now signed legislation to make his state the thirty-eight in the Union to have capital punishment.
By comparison the FPÖ use of the crime issue in the 1994 campaign was almost benign. It was personified by Haider's surprise selection of former ÖVP member Liane Höbinger-Lehrer to occupy the position immediately behind him on the candidate list. It was a shrewd choice. As a mature and sophisticated woman, she countered the image of the FPÖ as Haider's "Büberlpartei" (party of little boys). As a jurist who openly expressed her concern about crime and immigration and who implied her personal support for the death penalty, she bolstered the FPÖ image of competency in this area. Predictably, profil, which wrote that as a judge she had been known for her competence, objectivity, credibility, openness and freedom from cynicism, unsubtly characterized her crime position as concern about "Blut und Banden" (blood and gangs) and suggested that her statement "life sentences should mean life" was simplistic. However, with the ÖVP committed, "without any ifs, ands or buts" (ohne wenn und aber), to continuing in coalition with the SPÖ, the moral Right had no other place to go than to the FPÖ.
For purposes of this summary, a final populist proposal that aroused condemnation of Haider as an extremist in the Nationalrat campaign of 1994 was his provocative statement that the representative democracy of the Second Republic was obsolete and needed to replaced by a plebicitary democracy. Outraged, ÖVP-General Secretary Willi Molterer responded "... that Haider wants to shatter the foundations of the Republic." The SPÖ-Managing Director said "... Haider would replace the current political system by a movement of the people in rebellion with himself as a Führer figure" and characterized his proposal for the inclusion of the competencies of the Federal President in the person of the Federal Chancellor who, along with governors and mayors would then be directly elected by the people as an attempt "... to implant the Führer principle." These allusions to the Third Reich to the contrary, it is a Third Republic that Haider was urging. Like Newt Gingrich who has now made the substance of House of Representative committees available over the Internet, Haider proposed, not to eliminate representative bodies, but rather to make them more accessible to the people via electronic communication. These are computer-age proposals to implement the ideas that motivated the populists of the US Progressive Era at the beginning of this century. Some elements of this populist agenda were implemented in the United States and scrutiny of the results of this experiment in plebicitary democracy is of value in evaluating the reaction to Haider's proposals.
Nowhere in the United States did populism have more of an impact
than in California where Hiram Johnson rode public protest about
the corrupt control of government by big business into the Governor's
Office in 1911. The initiative process that he had advocated was
immediately adopted enabling citizens to qualify measures for
the ballot which legislate and can even amend the constitution
by a vote of the people, without submission to the legislature.
Similarly, referendum requires public approval of constitutional
changes and can even be used to repeal laws passed by the legislature.
The goal of these measures was to weaken the political power of
big business and the parties that were widely seen as their pawns
and place power directly in the hands of the electorate, a mood
that is not substantially different from that of today. The revolt
against the power of big business was successful, but, ironically,
was also responsible for the centralization of regulatory power
in the hands of government against which modern populism is now
in revolt. The initiative process, which in California had fallen
into relative disuse after about 1940, was reinvigorated in 1977
by the self-proclaimed citizen-politician Howard Jarvis, who,
in the words of political observer Peter Schrag, was a "populist
hustler" like Hiram Johnson, "who could parlay a grievance
into a cause large enough to change the political landscape."
The stunning success of his Proposition 13, the revolutionary
measure to slash property taxes and require a 2/3 majority vote
of the people for any new taxation, fundamentally changed the
operation of government in California by making politicians distinctly
less willing to pass controversial legislation without a vote
of the people. The consequence was an increase in the number of
petitions circulated from about five a year over the six decades
since the provision was adopted to an average of thirty a year
in the 1980's. Still the number of measures qualifying for the
ballot remained about five a year until 1990, when in each of
two elections, the number of initiatives facing the voters was
eighteen. This proliferation of ballot measures has caused some
second thoughts about the process. Whereas in 1979, 83 per cent
of the people thought that the initiative process was a good way
to "teach the politicians a lesson," (in Austria Denkzettelwähler
number 28 per cent in the general population and 60 per cent among
the FPÖ electorate), today only 66 per cent of Californians
view the initiative as a "good thing." Not only the
number of initiatives, but also the complexity of the issues upon
which voters are being asked to pass judgment is alienating. In
1990, one Ballot "Pamphlet" explaining the initiatives
ran to 221 pages of complex legal argument, which virtually no
one read. Another reason for the growing skepticism about the
initiative process is that the average $1 million cost to mount
a successful signature campaign has put the process out of the
reach of the people it was intended to empower and has made it
the tool of special interests. The enormous popularity of Proposition
13 was due to the fact that the interests of its sponsors, apartment
building owners, was masked by the general interests of all homeowners
whose taxes were soaring due to the exploding cost of California
real estate. In 1994 however, the public saw through an attempt
by heavy-spending tobacco interests to negate local laws regulating
smoking by an initiative that purported to regularize all anti-smoking
restrictions and defeated it resoundingly. Another disturbing
trend is that there has been an inverse relationship between the
number of initiatives on the ballot and the voter turnout. This
has prompted California political observer Peter Schrag to write:
For those who dream about some form of high-tech
direct democracy or fantasize about the citizen legislators that
term limits will produce, that low turnout ought to be warning
enough; the more people try to take representative government
into their own hands, the more incapable they become as citizens....
This not only turns democracy into some fun-house contortion of
the ideal but makes it nearly impossible to govern at all.
Clearly there are problems with the initiative process in California. But even the critical Schrag sees paralysis, not a Führerstaat as the consequence of the current state of the initiative process. No one however, is proposing that plebicitary democracy be eliminated, only reformed so as to restore it to the role originally intended by the populists who created it.
In conclusion, there seems to be much in the emergence of the FPÖ in establishing itself as successful radical-populist party of the Right to compare with the contemporary mood in the U.S. As one observer has written, "... there has been a disconnect between the political elite and the rank-and file .... The dam has broken and people feel they can express these feelings that are kind of pent up." While political scientist Peter Skerry made this observation about the U.S., it is even more applicable to Austria where the elites of the ruling parties can no longer rule consociationally, dividing the spoils of power proportionally among themselves while mobilizing their respective masses by appeals to Lager mentality. The disillusionment with party politics and government that was already apparent in public opinion polls by the beginning of the 1980s, reduced the ruling SPÖ from solid, absolute majorities after 1971 to a historic low of 35.2 per cent in the parliamentary election of 1994, almost 8 points below its previous historic low in 1990. The ÖVP, which was able to maintain itself as a respectable major party with over 40 per cent of the vote in federal elections throughout its twenty years out of government, dropped to 32.1 per cent in 1990 after four years as junior partner to the SPÖ and its promise in 1994 to continue the coalition for the next legislative period cast even more of its erstwhile supporters into the opposition, leaving it with a scant 27.7 per cent. The FPÖ, on the other hand, added six points to its already historic high in 1990 to win 22.6 per cent of the vote and, with forty-two seats in Parliament, at least a mathematical possibility of forming a governing coalition with the ÖVP, within which pressure to end the coalition with the "Reds" is significant and the hunger for the Chancellorship perhaps compelling.
The voter protest that produced this debacle for the incumbent SPÖ-ÖVP coalition, parallels the surliness in the U.S. electorate that was responsible for the success of the Perot presidential campaign in 1992 and which is evidenced in the strong, anti-incumbent mood in mid-term elections one month after the latest FPÖ victory. In the U.S., the new Right-populism has been difficult for the primarily liberal scholarly community to fathom, because, as Brinkley notes, scholars of the Left have equated the masses with ideals that are democratic and progressive and have so marginalized the Right that they "... found it difficult to acknowledge that they [mass movements] could emerge from the Right." Austrian scholars know about mass movements from the Right, but find it difficult to understand that such a movement is not, somehow linked to National Socialism or aimed at achieving similarly totalitarian goals.
If the criterion for defining the FPÖ as a radical party
of the Right is opposition to the modern Austrian state that was
built on Christian-conservative corporatism and Social Democracy
and maintained by the "Social Partnership" based on
a proportional sharing of power between them, the designation
is accurate. Its goals are radical because Haider dreams of expanding
what he regards as the obsolete representative democracy of the
Second Republic to include the tools of plebicitary democracy.
In this "Third Republic," Haider would have mayors,
governors and even the Federal Chancellor elected by the people
as they are in the United States, and, like Ross Perot and Newt
Gingrich, would empower the people, armed with the tools of modern
telecommunications, to direct a government elected by citizens'
movements, not parties, to recover the traditional values of the
community that have been ignored or eroded by the social-liberalism
of the establishment. On his demands for a radical reduction of
the size and scope of government, Newt Gingrich and presidential
candidate Phil Gramm could not agree more, as would they second
the closing sentence of Die Freiheit die ich meine: "...
for only in an order of freedom can peace thrive and the value
of the individual be ensured." As an American liberal I can
share the sentiments of the Austrian critics of Haider who despair
at their failure to retain the loyalty of the masses for an activist
state as the means of achieving a more socially just society.
When, however, they see the seeds of a "Forth Reich"
instead of a "Third Republic" in Haider's ideas for
"... the expansion of representative democracy by plebicitary
democracy," as a resident of California where Haider's dreams
are a reality and support for the death penalty a political necessity,
I can only sardonically laugh.
Unfortunately HTML does not support annotations; consequently the passages to which the following notes refer are not numbered in the text above.
1Max Riedlsperger, "FPÖ: liberal or Nazi," in F. Parkinson, Conquering the Past. Austrian Nazism Yesterday & Today, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989, 275.
2Alan Brinkley, "The Problem of American Conservatism," American Historical Review, vol. 99, no. 2 (April 1994), 409-410.
3Fritz Plasser und Peter Ulram, Rechtspopulismus in Österreich. Die FPÖ unter Jörg Haider: Forschungsbericht (Wien: Fessel + GFK Institut für Markforschung, 1994), 11.
4Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 23.
5Ibid., 3. The author is responsible for this and all other translations from the original German.
7Hans-Georg Betz, Radical Right-Wing Populism in Western Europe, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994, 4.
8Fax-letter of 21. November 1994 from NR.-Univ.-Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Brauneder, a constitutional scholar and participant in the development of the concept.
9The New Political Landscape, Washington: Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press, October, 1994, 11-21.
10A combination of the German words for democracy and dictatorship.
11Personal Interview with Friedrich Peter, Preßbaum, 6. April 1988.
12Fritz Plasser, Peter A. Ulram, "Überdehnung, Erosion und rechts-populistische Reation," Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, Bd. 22, Nr. 2, Wien: Europaverlag, 1991, 154-156. See also Fritz Plasser, Peter A. Ulram and Alfred Grausgruber, "The Decline of 'Lager Mentality' and the New Model of Electoral Competition in Austria," in Kurt Richard Luther and Wolfgang C. Müller, Politics in Austria. Still a Case of Consociationalism? London: Frank Cass & Co., 1992, 24-25.
13Kurt Traar and Franz Birk, "Der durchleuchtete Wähler in den achtziger Jahren," Nr. 1 Journal für Sozialforschung: Sonderheft-Wahlforschung, (1987), 20.
14Willi Lasek, "'Der Lorenzener Kreis' - 'Das Gewissen der FPÖ,'" in Jahrbuch 1990 des Dokumentationsarchives des Östereichischen Widerstandes, Vienna, 1990, "Lorenzener Erklärung: 12 Thesen zur politischen Erneuerung- Ein Diskussionspapier," Aula, Folge 10 (1989), 21-26, Andreas Mölzer, Der Einsbrecher. Jörg Haider und die Freiheitlichen - Perspektiven der politischen Erneuerung, Vienna: Suxxes GmbhH, 1990, 79-99, GR-Dr. Gerhard Kurzmann, "Der Lorenzener Kreis," unpublished und personal letter of 8. September 1994 and personal interview in Graz, 1. May 1995.
15Wiener Zeitung (24. September 1986), 1.
16Anton Pelinka, 'Zur Entwicklung einer Oppositionskultur in Österreich. Bedingungen politischen Erfolges in den achtziger Jahren', Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, 2 (1989), 141-142.
17Wiener Zeitung (September 24, 1986), 1.
18Fritz Plasser, Peter A. Ulram and Alfred Grausgruber, 'Vom Ende der Lagerparteien. Perspektivenwechsel in der österreichischen Parteien- und Wahlforschung', Österreichische Zeitscrift für Politikwissenschaft, 3 (1987), 246-247.
19Fritz Plasser, Peter A. Ulram and Alfred Grausgruber, 'Vom Ende der Lagerparteien. Perspektivenwechsel in der österreichischen Parteien- und Wahlforschung', Österreichische Zeitscrift für Politikwissenschaft, 3 (1987), 246-247.
2034 per cent of FPÖ voters decided only in the last two weeks and 17 per cent only in the final days of the campaign. 'Haider nützt Newcomer Effekt', Wiener Zeitung, 25. November 1986, 2.
2134 per cent of FPÖ voters decided only in the last two weeks and 17 per cent only in the final days of the campaign. 'Haider nützt Newcomer Effekt', Wiener Zeitung, 25. November 1986, 2.
22'IFES-Wählerstromanalyze NRW 1983/1986', in Ernst Gehmacher, Franz Birk and Günther Ogris, '1986: Das Wahljahr der Überraschungen--Aus dem Blickpunkt der Wahlverhaltenstheorie', in Das österreichische Parteiensystem, edited by Anton Pelinka and Fritz Plasser, Vienna: Böhlau, 1988, 119.
23Confirmed by the polling data cited in Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 18-19.
24See my analysis of these FPÖ Landtag election victories in "Heil Haider! The Revitalization of the Freiheitlichen Partei Österreichs since 1986," Politics and Society in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, vol. 4, No. 3, (1992), 18-58, also as "Heil Haider! Der Wiedersufschwung der Freiheitlichen Partei Österreichs seit 1986," in Freie Argumente, 18. Jg. Folge 4 (1991), 5-25.
25Plasser/Ulram, "Überdehnung, Erosion und rechtspopulistische Reaction," 154-155.
26Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 24-26.
27Siehe zum Bespiel, Fritz Plasser, Franz Sommer und Peter A. Ulram, "Eine Kanzler- und Protestwahl, Wählerverhalten und Wahlmotive bei der Nationalratswahl 1990,: Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik, 1990 (1991), 133, und Fritz Plasser, Peter Ulram, Erich Neuwirth und Franz Sommer "Tab.: Motive für die Wahl der FPÖ," und "Tabelle: Wahlmotive Pro FPÖ (1986-1994- I & II," in Analyse der Nationalratswahl vom 9. Oktober 1994 (Wien: Fessel + GFK, 10 Oktober 1994), S. 18, 54-55.
28A diploma certifying passage of the rigorous examinations administered at the end of secondary education, roughly equivalent to two years of college in the United States.
29Anzenberger, Andreas, "Opposition modern, SPÖ, ÖVP veraltet?" Kurier, reprinted in Der Österreich Bericht, 28. Dezember 1993, 1.
30Fritz Plasser, Peter Ulram, Erich Neuwirth and Franz Sommer, "Tab.: Veränderung im Wahlverhalten ausgewählter Wählergruppen: 18-29-jährige (Jungwähler), Analyse der Nationalratswahl vom 9. Oktober 1994, Wien: Fessel + GFK Institut für Marktforschung, 10. Oktober, 1994, S. 32.
31Stenographisches Protokoll, 32. Sitzung des Kärntner Landtages - 26. Gesetzgebungsperiode, Donnerstag, 13. Juni 1991, 2561.
32Ronald Brownstein, "Despite Rhetoric, GOP Reluctant to Break the Cycle of Unlimited Terms," Los Angeles Times, 13. March 1995, A5.
33Stenographisches Protokoll, 2561.
34The results of OGM-polls conducted in March and July reproduced by Josef Votzi, 'Die Krisen-Riesen', profil, 8 July 1991, 12-13.
35'Landtagswahl im Burgenland', Wiener Zeitung reprinted in Österreich Bericht, 25 June 1991, 1.
36Franz Sommer, Analyse der Landtagswahl Burgenland, 1991," Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik, 1992, Bd. 33 (1992), 43-63.
37Herbert Lackner, '"Diffuser Protest, öffentlicher Zynismus"', profil, 26 August 1991, 22-23.
38Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 10.
39Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 11.
40"America's Vanishing Majority," Los Angeles Times, 30. June 1993, A1, A22-23 and "Voters Soured on the System," Los Angeles Times, 1. July 1993, A1, A18.
43Compare "Presidential Vote Preference," in The New Political Landscape, 89 with "Tab.: Veränderungen im Wahlverhalten ausgewählter Wählergruppen: Beamte, öffentlicher Dienst, Angsestellte, Arbeiter," in Plasser/Ulram/ Neuwirth/Sommer, Analyse der Nationalratswahl vom 9. Oktober 1994, 32-33 und "Tabelle: Soziales Srukturprofil der FPÖ-Wählerschaft (1986-1994), Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspoplismus, 35.
44Plasser/Ulram, "Überdehnung, Erosion und rechtspopulistische Reaction," 154 and The New Political Landscape, 159.
45"Tabelle: Thematische Kompetenz der FPÖ im Zeitverlauf (Schwerpunktthemen) 1990-1994," in Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 22.
46"Die Ausländerfrage," Kapitel 6 in Blaue Markierung für den Weg der Erneuerung, 46-47.
47E.g. Peter Pelinka, 'Kärntner Schach', AZ, reprinted in Österreich Bericht, 18. May 1990, 2.
48Blaue Markierung: Schwerbunke freiheitlicher Erneuerungspolitik für Österreich (Wien: Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, Bundesgeschäftsstelle, 1990.)
49E.g. Peter Pelinka, "Kärntner Schach."
50Herbert Lackner,'"Es stellt dir die Haare auf"', profil, 15 October 1990, 28-29.
51Günther Ogris, 'Ebenbild oder Kontrastprogram: Eine Analyse des Wahlkampfs und des Wahlvrhaltens bei der Nationalratswahl im Oktober 1990', and Fritz Plasser, Franz Sommer and Peter Ulram, 'Eine Kanzler- und Protestwahl, Wählerverhalten und Wahlmotive bei der Nationalratswahl 1990', both in Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik, 1990 (1991), 117-118, 167
52Fritz Plaser und Peter A. Ulram, "Analyse der Wiener Gemeinderatswahlen 1991," Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik, 1992, Bd. 33 (1993).
53Peter Bermann, "Die Steirischen Landtagswahlen vom 22. September 1991," Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik, 1991, Bd. 33 (1992), 79.
54Franz Hiesl and Rudolf Trauner, "Analyse der Landtagswahlen in Oberösterreich," Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik, 1991, Bd. 33 (1992), 88.
55Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 34.
56"Das Volksbegehren im Wortlaut," Neue Freie Zeitung, 25. November 1992, 7.
57"Demokratie in Österreich," Neue Freie Zeitung, 3. Februar 1993, 8-9.
58Zöchling, Christa, "Ungebetene Gäste," profil, 21. Dezember 1992, 28.
59"Election-Time California Election Returns," Los Angeles Times, 9. November 1994, A20.
60The New Political Landscape, 40,129, 143.
61Election data in Herbert Lackner and Andreas Weber, "Auf zum nächsten Gefecht," profil, 15. März 1994, 16-20.
62Hubertus Czernin, "Ein historischer Tag," profil, 14. June 1994, 15.
63Andy Kaltenbrunner, "Sieg der Sternsinger," profil, 20. Juni 1994, 28-29
64ZB. Christa Zöchling, "Wolf im Schafspelz," profil, 14. Juni 1994, 24-26.
65The Fessel+GFK, Exit Poll (1994 shows that personality and protest are the motivating factors for almost 75 per cent of FPÖ voters. Plasser/Ulram/Neuwirth/Sommer, Analyse der Nationalratswahl vom 9. Oktober 1994, 43.
66Andy Kaltenbrunner, :Schwarzes Loch," profil, 29. August 1994, 18-19.
67Approximately $20,000 at the current rate of exchange.
68"Tabelle: Themenkarrieren im NRW-Wahlkampf 1994, Plasser/Ulram/Neuwirth/Sommer, Analyse der Nationalratswahl vom 9. Oktober 1994, 5.
69"Tabelle: Wichtigkeit politischer Ziele und FPÖ-Kompetenz (1994), Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 21.
70"Tab.: "Motive für die Wahl der FPÖ," Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 19.
71"Tabelle: Einstellung zum Nationalsozialismus und antidemokratische Orientierung," Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 48.
72"Tab.: Motive für die Wahl der FPÖ," Plasser/Ulram, Neuwirth/Sommer, Analyse der Nationalratswahl vom 9. Oktober 1994, 19.
73Drawn from "Tabelle: Einstellung zu Politikern und Parteien," Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 44 and The New Political Landscape, 132-136.
74The issue here is opposition to what the FPÖ criticizes in Austria as Gleichmacherei. In contrast, when questioned about promoting equal opportunity, 52 per cent of Americans polled completely agree and 39 per cent agree. A campaign is developing to qualify an initiative for the 1996 California ballot that would prohibit the use of race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin as criteria for preferential treatment with the goal of promoting equality. Public opinion is currently 66 per cent in favor of the initiative according to a Los Angeles Times poll, 4-9. March 1994, Los Angeles Times, 12, March, 1995, A18.
75Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 45.
76The New Political Landscape, 134-135.
77Die Freiheit die ich meine, 211-214.
78E.g., Hans-Henning Scharsach, Haiders Kampf, München: Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, 1992, 148.
79"Wehrhafte Mama," profil, 25. Juli 1994, 14.
80"Die strenge Mama," profil, 29. August 1994, 19.
81Los Angeles Times, 28. July 1994.
82Plasser/Ulram, Radikaler Rechtspopulismus, 14.
83The New Political Landscape, 121.
85"California Election Returns," Los Angeles Times, 9. November 1994, A20.
86"Why They Voted," Los Angeles Times, A22.
87Paul Yvon, "Jörg statt Görg," profil, 29. August 1994, 22-23.
88"Haider zertrümmert Grundlagen der Republik," Standard, reprinted in Der Österreich Bericht, 1. September 1994.
89Personal Fax-Letter from NRAbg.-Univ.Prof-Dr. Wilhelm Brauneder, 21. November 1994. "Dritte Republik als echter demokratrischer Bürgerstaat, Neue Freie Zeitung, 21. December 1994, 19.
90The number of signatures required to qualify a measure for the ballot is 5 per cent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election for a statutory initiative and 8 per cent for a constitutional initiative.
91Peter Schrag, "California's Elected Anarchy: A government destroyed by popular referendum," Harber's Magazine, November, 1994, 52.
92Charles Price and Robert Waste, "Initiatives: too much of a good thing?" California Journal, March 1991, 117-120.
94Schrag, "California's Elected Anarchy,", 55.
96Jörg Haider, Die Freiheit die
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