On Saturday, 20th November 2021 between 40 and 45 000 people took to the streets in Vienna, along with tens of thousands in various capital cities in Austria the next week (27th November 2021) to demonstrate the legal measures put into place due to the Covid-19. That in itself could very much be a good thing, if the focus were on solidarity and a rethinking of the economic system that is in many aspects directly to blame for the devastation caused by the virus. The problem is that it is not. The far right has co-opted this anger a long time ago. Noone is saying that these were marches of tens of thousands of fascists, but what is very much the case is that these are far right wing marches at this point. The march in Vienna last week was organised in part by the far right wing populist party FPÖ and lead by the neo-fascist organisation “Die Identitären”. Again, not everyone in attendance is a fascist, but people who see no problem with the fact that they are adding to a mass of people marching through the inner city of Vienna led by banner calling for the government to “control the borders, not the people”, or are fine to march side by side with people wearing the star of David and comparing the vaccination campaign with the Shoah, then it simply is not the case that these people are entirely blameless for what happens at these demonstrations. The demonstration on Saturday directly led to journalists being attacked on camera by fascists mobs, PoC persons being surrounded intimidated by fascists, the Jewish community warning its members to avoid being in the city centre, and the planned march for trans rights to be cancelled because the safety of the attendees could not be ensured. These people are not being critical of the government. They are falling for conspiracy myths and are part of a development that is making fascism socially acceptable again and they are very much responsible for that. They are the ones providing the cover for the fascist minority.
What makes this even more insidious is how there has been little to no reaction from anyone in Austria beside the radical left wing given this rise in (potential) political violence. Admittedly the left wing was a lot slower to propose a reaction to the pandemic based on solidarity, however this was the case a year ago. Today there absolutely are proposals based on mutual aid that take a sensible stand on how to deal with the pandemic without reverting back to the previous state of untethered capitalism that got us into this mess in the first place. What is important to remember in this case is that the cries from these demonstrations do not in any shape or form have the intention of creating a more just world. They span from returning back to where we were before the virus was declared a pandemic to outright fascism. From esoteric eco-fascism and myths of overpopulation, to conspiracy myths based on shadowy cabals, to flat-out anti-Semitism. This dynamic also very clearly shows that the state itself can absolutely not be trusted to respond to these developments. Not only was the demonstration on Saturday (20.11.21) attended by off-duty police officers who made an appearance as a bloc, but a soldier’s union in Austria also mobilised its members to take part in the march. While the police themselves were few in number and extremely restrained, being very reluctant to engage with the demonstrators when it was more than obvious who these people were and even when they themselves were attacked outright, they retreated. They repeatedly chose to look the other way when people publicly did the Hitler salute (something that is supposedly a crime in Austria), their reaction to journalists being attacked was to tell journalists to leave rather than ensuring that they could do their job, and they flat-out refused to engage anyone in conflict with the mask mandate at mass gatherings. They do this under the guise of wanting to keep everything peaceful, however this then raises the question why they are doing this now and why they are only doing this for these demonstrations. What this results in is that this reluctance communicates to the fascists at the marches is that they can get away with anything they want, and they are consistently getting bolder. For instance, demonstrators in the past have been seen attending the marches armed and wearing neo-fascist emblems without any consequences.
On the other hand, why would a deeply capitalist government ever dream to deal with a rise in fascism? Fascism comes about when the bourgeoisie state is in danger, and if 40 000 people were to march for a systemic change that focusses on a reaction of solidarity in lieu of this health crisis, or highlight the fact that a reaction to the virus that is hellbent on keeping the economy alive no matter the amount of human suffering this causes is suffocating human beings, then the state would have to be very afraid. This means that as long as the state cannot offer a solution that allows for humanity to actually take a front seat there will be anger in the population, however if that anger can be channelled towards anything other than capitalism, that route must be taken out of simple self-preservation of the capitalist classes, because due to its very essence, capitalism could never offer any solution that could endanger its own survival. This is why a response to this virus that is based on solidarity is actively hindered, therefore this means that the battle must be fought not only against the virus, but simultaneously against fascism and capitalism in the form of the state itself.
So besides the disgusting misanthropy of capitalism in the first place, it is exactly this need for profit maximisation that is very much to blame for the fact that we have been in this situation for so long and will mostly likely remain in for a much longer time. All the while, being perfectly content with a rapid rise in (potential) violence from the fringes of the extreme ring wing. Capitalism may not be the cause of the virus, however it is very much the cause of the crisis. The fight must therefore be brought to capitalism itself. Anti-capitalism is the only viable response to this crisis. The enemy is not just the invisible virus, it is the invisible hand of the market, it is a system that values profit over human beings, it is a system that does not shy away from turning towards fascist mobs in order to keep itself alive. The response to Covid-19 must be one of solidarity and must be one that is unequivocally anti-fascist and anti-capitalist. This is no longer a question of ideology. No pasarán!
With this in mind, under the banner of “Never Let the Fascists Have the Streets” there will be an anti-fascist demonstration in Vienna on 4th December 2021. The meeting time and place is at noon on Stephansplatz.