Austrian extreme right in government?


This 2015 German language video from Austria accuses the far right FPÖ party of being a neonazi party.

By Peter Schwarz in Germany:

Far-right poised to enter government following Austrian election

16 October 2017

Sunday’s election in Austria has produced a sharp shift to the right. It is expected that a right-wing government of a kind not seen since the fall of Hitler and the restoration of Austrian independence will be installed.

The consensus view is that the election campaign was the filthiest in the country’s history. Incapable of addressing the devastating social consequences of the global capitalist crisis, the major parties sought to outdo one another with attacks on refugees and mutual mud-slinging. One commentator spoke of a “hysterical Austria-First atmosphere” dominating official politics.

As of this writing, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), with 31.4 percent of the vote, has emerged from the balloting with a clear lead. It gained 7.4 percent over its result in the last national election, in 2013. The final result will not been known until Monday, when the postal vote is counted.

Thirty-one-year-old Sebastian Kurz, who is currently foreign minister in the grand coalition with the Social Democrats (SPÖ), is likely to become the new prime minister. Kurz assumed the leadership of the ÖVP in May in what amounted to an internal party coup. He centered his campaign around his personality. Its sole political focus was hostility to immigrants, refugees and Muslims. Kurz attempted to outflank the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) from the right.

Kurz boasted that he secured the closure of the Balkan route used by refugees fleeing the catastrophic conditions in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa resulting from the US-led and NATO-backed wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. He touted his close ties to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn and promised a range of discriminatory measures against refugees. He vowed to restrict the number of immigrants, reduce social benefits for asylum seekers and close Islamic kindergartens. He also pledged to massively strengthen the police and security apparatus.

In second place is the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ). It has increased its vote by 6.9 percent to 27.4 percent and overtaken the Social Democrats (26.7 percent), who received the same vote as four years ago. Since neither the Conservatives nor the Social Democrats want to continue the grand coalition, which has governed the country for ten years, it is likely that the right-wing extremists will be part of the next government.

The FPÖ entered the government in Vienna once before, from 2000 to 2007, when the party was led by Jörg Haider. At the time, its acceptance into government triggered Europe-wide protests and the European Union imposed sanctions. Since then, the party has moved significantly further to the right.

Forty-eight-year-old Heinz-Christian Strache, who broke with Haider in 2005 and took over as party leader, was, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, part of the militant neo-Nazi scene when he began his career in the FPÖ.

As a 17-year-old, Strache joined the German nationalist student fraternity Vandalia in Vienna. He maintained close contact with well known right-wing extremist Norbert Burger and was the partner of his daughter for seven years. He had ties to the neo-Nazi Viking Youth, which was banned in Germany in 1994, and participated in paramilitary exercises with well known neo-Nazis. Since photos exist of him in uniform, Strache later tried to dismiss his paramilitary activities as harmless paintball play-acting.

Strache joined the FPÖ in 1989, but the FPÖ’s youth organization, Youth Circle of Freedom (RFJ), turned him away. “At that time, Strache was too right-wing for us and blustered too much,” future Defence Minister Herbert Scheibner said of the decision.

A government alliance between Kurz and Strache—the most likely outcome of the election—would be roughly equivalent to a coalition between the Christian Social Union’s Markus Söder and the Alternative for Germany’s Björn Höcke in Germany; or between Nicolas Sarkozy and Marine le Pen in France. In a country that was annexed by Hitler in 1938, all inhibitions about the crimes of the past are being dropped.

This development can be understood only in the context of the bankruptcy of the organisations that once described themselves as “left” or representative of the working class.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Austrian Social Democracy was among the most powerful sections of the Second International. Even after the First World War, which the Austrian Social Democracy supported, the party dominated “red Vienna,” where one in four residents was a member. In the 1970s, by which time the party had declared its unconditional defence of the bourgeois order but still carried through limited social reforms, SPÖ leader Bruno Kreisky was one of the most well known figures in international Social Democracy.

Now the SPÖ has paved the way for the rise of the right-wing extremists by abandoning even the pretense of defending workers’ rights. Instead, it has adopted xenophobic slogans, pledging prior to the election its readiness to form a coalition with the FPÖ.

Like the other parties, the Social Democrats called in the election campaign for the strengthening of borders against refugees. They supported the closure of the Balkan route by the region’s right-wing governments and pushed for a tougher stance against refugees in the Mediterranean, claiming that they were engaged in “economic migration.”

In June, Chancellor and SPÖ leader Christian Kern, a former rail industry executive, abandoned the more than 30-year-old “Vranitzky doctrine,” according to which the Social Democrats would not cooperate with the FPÖ. Leading SPÖ officials openly called for an alliance with the right-wing extremists. This was particularly the case among representatives of the influential trade union wing, such as construction union chief Josef Muchitsch and the leader of the metalworkers union, Rainer Wimmer. At the state level, the SPÖ already formed a coalition with the FPÖ in Burgenland in 2015. Both parties have hailed their close cooperation.

In the election, the SPÖ resorted to a filthy campaign that blew up in its face after it was exposed. In August, Tal Silberstein, a highly-paid SPÖ campaign consultant, was arrested in Israel on corruption charges and it was revealed that he operated anonymous Facebook pages that spread lies about ÖVP candidate Kurz, painting him as an anti-Semite.

There is no possibility of forming a majority in the new parliament by aligning one of the three major parties with one or more of the smaller parties, because the votes recorded by the latter were too low.

The neo-liberal Neos, a protest party made up of well-off middle-class elements, which adapted itself to the anti-refugee campaign, will reenter parliament with 5.0 percent of the vote, the same result as in the last election.

The Greens, whose former chairman Alexander Van der Bellen was elected Austrian president in December of 2016, lost 9.1 percent. With a total of 3.3 percent, they have fallen short of the 4 percent needed to enter parliament. The list of Peter Pilz, a former member of the Pabloite Revolutionary Marxist Group, who split from the Greens because their policies on refugees and Turkey were sufficiently right-wing, received 4.1 percent.

The Team Stronach, set up by a right-wing businessman, which received 5.7 percent in the last election, did not stand in Sunday’s election.

The rightward shift in Austria is symptomatic of Europe as a whole. In the Alpine republic, with its close to 9 million residents, the full extent of the rot of bourgeois politics is on display. In the face of deepening international and social tensions, all of the parties defending capitalism are turning to policies of nationalism, xenophobia, militarism and the strengthening of the repressive state apparatus.

The dissatisfaction and social needs of the masses find no expression in the traditional ruling parties, allowing them to be exploited by far-right demagogues. This is true not only in Austria, where the FPÖ is winning support in former SPÖ strongholds, but also in France, where the National Front won votes in run-down industrial areas, and in Germany, where the AfD’s strongholds are in impoverished parts of eastern Germany.

In latest victory for the far right, neo-fascists gain in Austrian election: here.

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Bearded vulture on Texel island


This 26 May 2017 video from Dutch nature reserve Solleveld shows the young male bearded vulture Lucky from the High Tauern mountains in Austria, which had flown to the Netherlands.

According to Dutch Vroege Vogels TV, in the last week of May 2017 Lucky flew over the Netherlands, including spending time on Texel island.

Christopher Sands explains why vultures are so misunderstood. This article is the editorial of the June edition of the BirdLife Europe & Central Asia newsletter. Read it here in full.

Austrian mercenary suspect of war crimes in Ukraine


This video says about itself:

Nazis Glorified in Ukraine: SS uniforms on display at reburial service for Ukrainian WWII veterans

12 August 2013

In the former Soviet republic Ukraine a controversial video has surfaced showing the reburial of Ukrainians who fought for an SS division during World War Two, and the reburial was sanctioned by church officials and overseen by officials dressed in Nazi uniforms.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Austrian arrested for war crimes in Ukraine

Today, 19:40

Polish border guards have arrested an Austrian who is said to have fought in the armed struggle in Ukraine. He is said to have fought on the Ukrainian side against pro-Russian [eastern Ukrainian] rebels.

The public prosecutor in Austria suspects the 25-year-old man of war crimes. He is said to have killed rebels who had already surrendered. …

The man was arrested on the border between Ukraine and Poland, at the request of Austria. An international arrest warrant had been issued against him. It is unknown when he will be extradited to Austria.

Maybe the inspiration for this mercenary suspect were the Austrians who in Hitler’s ‘great German’ Wehrmacht and SS, along with nazis from the Netherlands and elsewhere, committed war crimes in the nazi Operation Barbarossa in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet republic.

This Austrian is suspect of having killed civilians as well.

AFP news agency at first reported wrongly that the suspect had fought on the side of the east Ukrainian rebel republics.

Sea lily fossils discovery in World War I trenches


This 2015 video from the USA is called Everything About Crinoids

From Ohio State University in the USA:

Rock exposed in World War I trenches offers new fossil find

Sea lily ancestors spent youth hitchhiking around ancient oceans, discovery suggests

April 3, 2017

Summary: An unusual fossil find is giving scientists new ideas about how some of the earliest animals on Earth came to dominate the world’s oceans.

An international research team found 425-million-year-old fossilized remnants of juvenile crinoids, a distant ancestor of today’s sea lilies, encased in iron oxide and limestone in the Austrian Alps.

Researchers collected the rock from a formation on the border between Italy and Austria known as the Cardiola Formation, which was exposed in trenches dug during World War I.

Crinoids were abundant long ago, when they carpeted the sea floor. Most stalked crinoid fossils depict spindly, plantlike animals anchored to sea floor rocks, explained William Ausich, professor of earth sciences at The Ohio State University and co-author of the study in the open-access journal Geologica Acta.

Fossils of juvenile crinoids are rare, he said.

Rarer still is that these newly uncovered crinoids weren’t attached to rocks when they died. Whatever they were attached to during their young lives didn’t survive fossilization.

“The fossils indicate that they were either attached to objects floating in the water at the time, or attached to another bottom dweller that lacked preservable hard parts,” said Ausich said.

They might have clung to free-floating algae beds or swimming cephalopods, either of which could have carried them far away from where they formed as larvae.

Modern sea lilies reproduce by ejecting sperm and eggs into the water. Larvae grow into free-floating juvenile animals and eventually attach to the ocean bottom, where they grow to adulthood within 18 months.

At least, that’s what sea lilies do today. This fossil find suggests that their distant ancestors sometimes settled on objects that carried them far from home before they reached reproductive age.

“We now have important information about the behavior of these ancient organisms, and a clue as to why they had such a wide geographic distribution,” Ausich said.

With long, stem-like bodies topped with feathery fronds, crinoids resembled flowers, though the center of the “flower” was a mouth, and the “petals” were arms that captured plankton for food. At the other end of the creature was star-shaped organ called a holdfast, which gripped the seafloor.

While some of today’s sea lilies are able to detach their holdfasts from the seafloor and walk short distances on their arms, they don’t do it often. If their crinoid ancestors spent their entire adult lives similarly anchored to one spot, they couldn’t have spread worldwide without help.

Fossilized holdfasts are all that remain of the young crinoids uncovered in the Alps, and that’s not unusual, Ausich said.

“The hard part about studying the fossils that I study is that they need to be buried alive in order to be completely preserved,” he explained. “Crinoids and other echinoderms have a skeleton comprised of innumerable individual calcite plates held together by various connective soft tissues. These tissues begin to decompose within a day of an organism’s death.

“So, having only parts [of crinoids] rather than whole organisms is actually the norm — as frustrating as that may be.”

The sediment that eventually covered these young crinoids must have been rich in iron, because the holdfasts were preserved as minerals of iron oxide — and that detail is unusual, he added.

Today, the fossil holdfasts look like rusty star-shaped rings. The stars measure only 1 to 4 millimeters across, meaning they came from very young, post-larval juveniles.

The tiny fossils might have been hard to isolate from the surrounding rock, but researchers were able to take advantage of the presence of iron oxide to dissolve the limestone and pull the fossils from the resulting slurry with a magnet.

Researchers had actually collected rock samples from the Cardiola Formation long ago, Ausich said. The area contains abundant fossils, including ancient corals and trilobites. But only recently did anyone discover that these particular rock samples also contained the crinoid holdfasts.

Researchers are interested in crinoids not just because they’re part of Earth’s history, but because the various crinoid species were able to survive millions of years of climate changes to become the sea lilies we know today.

Trump nominees’ contact with Austrian racists


This video is called The Rise Of Austria’s Jörg Haider. Haider, the son of Adolf Hitler supporters, was the leader of the Austrian FPÖ (‘Freedom Party’).

By Nick Baumann in the USA:

Trump National Security Adviser Met With Leader Of Party Founded By Nazis

“This is not just any opposition party: It is one with Nazi sympathies,” a former state department official said.

12/20/2016 12:09 pm ET

General Mike Flynn, Donald Trump’s pick to serve as his national security adviser, met several weeks ago with Heinz-Christian Strache, the head of Austria’s anti-immigrant Freedom Party, which was founded after World War II by former Nazis. …

“This is not just any opposition party: It is one with Nazi sympathies,” said Daniel Serwer, a former state department official who’s now a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. “Nor is Flynn any national security adviser. He is a documented conspiracy propagator. His long-term strategy colleague, Steve Bannon, is an ethnic nationalist and anti-Semite. The president-elect is an anti-Muslim and anti-immigration bigot.”

There’s no doubt that Strache, who worries about “inverse racism, “Austrian youths” being “beaten up in discos” and the “risk of Islamization,” has a lot in common with Flynn, who has also warned of the dangers of Islam and called the religion a “cancer”, and Trump, who called for banning all Muslims from visiting the U.S. …

The Freedom Party’s first leader was Anton Reinthaller, who supported the Nazi party as early as 1928 and later served as a Nazi government official. Reinthaller was a member of the SS, the Nazi paramilitary organization-turned-secret police that executed much of the Holocaust. Although there’s no clear evidence that Reinthaller was directly involved in the shooting, gassing and torture of millions of Jews, Roma, communists, gay people and others, he served in the government that carried it out and did nothing to stop it.

Here’s a photo of him with Hitler during the Reichstag meeting about Germany’s annexation of Austria:

Hitler addresses the Reichstag in Berlin in 1938. Anton Reinthaller is in the first row, fifth from left, according to a caption provided by Getty

“Readers have a hard time distinguishing between ex-Nazis and neo-Nazis,” warned Swanee Hunt, a former U.S. ambassador to Austria who’s now a lecturer at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. In Austria, “there was always this struggle with how do you deal with people who were Nazis,” she said. “Austria had lots and lots of people who were Nazis and sympathizers. It’s not like they just disappear into thin air.”

When Hunt served in Austria in the 1990s, the Freedom Party “had that strain that’s echoed here more in the alt-right,” she said, referring to white nationalist Richard Spencer’s term for American white nationalism and its associated movements. “It’s building on this anti-foreigner and anti-Muslim sentiment that you see, frankly, all over.” …

In 2012, Austria’s then-president canceled plans to give Strache an award after the Freedom Party leader was overheard claiming that he and his allies were the “new Jews” and that the fearsome heckling they received on their way into a gala at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace was “like Kristallnacht,” the night in 1938 when Austrian and German civilians, with the aid of Nazi paramilitaries, murdered Jews, destroyed Jewish-owned stores, burned hundreds of synagogues and sent tens of thousands of Jews to concentration camps to die.

“Strache mocked the victims of the Holocaust by comparing himself and his fellow extremists to Jews and invoking Kristallnacht to complain about the anti-fascist protests,” Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a Holocaust survivor, said at the time. “This trivialization is outrageous, but not surprising from Strache and his ilk.”

Now Strache carries Reinthaller’s party’s mantle ― and the president-elect’s national security adviser is meeting with him.

Trump used anti-Semitic tropes and received support from anti-Semites during his campaign for president. In July, Flynn retweeted and endorsed an anti-Semitic tweet, but later claimed it was a mistake.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

“At risk of appearing to be a conspiracy theorist myself, I think we are seeing an effort to build an international coalition of like-minded anti-Muslim, anti-immigration ethnic nationalists who can be depended upon to undermine the liberal democratic order of the West, in particular its international norms regarding peace and security … and its human rights standards,” Serwer said.

Austrian Auschwitz survivor says don’t vote racist


This video from Austria says about itself:

My last vote – about the Austrian Presidential elections December 2016 Hofer / Van der Bellen

27 November 2016

“This is probably the last election for me.“ Gertrude, 89, pensioner from Vienna asked us to publish this video statement.

In this video Gertrude, a 89 year old pensioner, talks about her fear of the future. Her daughter tells the ‘Kurier‘ that it is her desire to speak up before her last election: “In the last weeks and months she kept telling us that it feels like back in the 1930s“. Gertrude is 16 years old when she, along with her parents and two younger brothers, is being deported to Auschwitz. Her whole family is being killed – she is the sole survivor.

Translation: Jörg Walther.

From CNN:

Holocaust survivor pleads with Austrian voters: Don’t let far right win

By Elizabeth Roberts

December 1, 2016

An 89-year-old woman who was the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust sent a heartfelt plea to young people not to let the far-right candidate win Austria’s presidential election.

A video of Gertrude — she didn’t give her last name — has gone viral with more than 3 million views since it was posted online last Friday, a little more than a week ahead of the December 4 re-run vote.

“It’s probably my last election,” said the retiree from Vienna.

“There’s not much future for me. But the young have all their lives ahead of them and it’s up to them to see that they continue to do well. They can only do that if they vote wisely.”

The left-leaning Alexander Van der Bellen,

rather: centrist

an independent candidate backed by the Green Party, posted the video on Facebook at Gertrude’s request. He is challenging Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party in the election. …

‘Shiver ran down my spine’

Gertrude says she is disturbed by the anti-migrant sentiment — “the insult towards others. The denigration. The badmouthing” — that she has heard during the campaign by the Freedom Party.

She reminds viewers of a comment made in October by the leader of the Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, who warned of possible civil war if the influx of migrants to the EU is not stopped.

“When Strache used the word ‘civil war,’ a cold shiver ran down my spine and I thought that shouldn’t even be mentioned, not even be thought of,” she says.

“I experienced a civil war as a seven-year-old and I’ve never forgotten it. It was the first time I saw dead bodies. Regrettably not the last.

“I’ve never forgotten it. It buried itself so deep in me that I’m still aware of it.”

She did not specify what happened when she was seven, but the four-day February uprising in Austria in 1934, also known as the Austrian civil war, marked the first mass European working class resistance to fascism. Clashes between socialists and fascists left hundreds dead.

Gertrude also recalled how the Nazis forced Jews to clean the streets of Vienna while people stood there and laughed. She says that today, there is again an impulse to “bring out the lowest in people” in Austria.

Van der Bellen was elected the nation’s first left-wing president since World War II in a vote in May, winning 50.3% of the vote. Hofer took 49.7%.

But the Freedom Party successfully challenged the outcome in Austria’s high court, which found there had been irregularities in postal voting, and the election is being re-run on Sunday.

If Hofer wins, he will be the European Union’s first far-right head of state. …

In a message posted by Van der Bellen on Facebook two days after the video, Gertrude said: “I am pleasantly surprised that the words of an old woman are being taken seriously.

“I want to thank Austrians for that. I am overwhelmed by this feedback.”

CNN requested an interview with Gertrude, but a spokeswoman for Van der Bellen said she did not wish to speak further “due to security reasons.”

Wildlife in Austria, video


This summer 2016 video shows butterflies and other wildlife in the Kaunertal valley in Austria.