The Transformation of Austrian Socialism

The Transformation of Austrian Socialism

The Transformation of Austrian Socialism

The Transformation of Austrian Socialism

Excerpt

Today the democratic socialist parties of Western and Central Europe are in a state of crisis. This crisis is, in some instances only, reflected by the inability of these parties to move closer toward conquest of political power and achievement of their socialist goals. For in some countries (e.g., England, Austria, Sweden, etc.) they either have in the recent past governed and may do so again or occupy today the seat of government at least as partners in a ruling coalition. The nature of their crisis is more profound. It shows itself in a loss of direction, in an increasing inability to define clearly the meaning of "socialist" goals, thus in a loss of distinction and specific mission. What we are observing is a transformation by which the traditional labels and some of the traditional terminology and mystique are retained while a transmutation of content--of ideology and policies--is taking place. Observers of the French political scene never fail to point out that the French Radical Socialist Party is neither radical nor socialist-- a much abused witticism. I am suggesting that a similar observation is becoming appropriate with regard to the socialist parties this side of the "iron curtain."

The Austrian Socialist Party, the subject of this study, exhibits most clearly the transformation indicated. In the Twenties it was full of the sound and fury of Marxist class-war slogans, courting ideas of violence and "dictatorship of the proletariat," and conceived for itself the function of a bridge between Soviet communism and Western European "laborism" and "reformism." When it fell victim to persecution and suppression by the Austrian Fascist regime, the subterranean cadres making up the "il-

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