How the Austrian Social Democrats can re-establish themselves once again as the real people’s party.
Despite some modest growth in popularity during the pandemic and a big faöll for 48% to 35% from the ÖVP, the SPÖ is still a long way short of being where it and Austria need it to be. Once the dominant force in Austrian politics claiming 3 outright majorities under Kreisky in the 1970s the modern SPÖ like much of the traditional European Left parties has seen a steady decline. Its traditional base has splintered, losing some to the far-right FPÖ and others more urban and young to the CN trust Neos and the Greens. Also like most traditional European left parties, the SPÖ is caught in that internal struggle between left and right which further divides the party and alienates potential voters.
With a potential voting base that should include all but the very wealthy who will support the ÖVP, the fact that the SPÖ could only claim 21% of the vote in 2019 is a sad indictment of how far it’s fallen. Right now in Austria, they have allowed Kurz and his New ÖVP to continuously frame the narrative. they are the party of the economy, they are the party of Austrian Patriotism, they are the party of strict immigration and they are the party of opportunity. These narratives are completely false and the SPÖ needs to both expose these false narratives while at the same time creating a simple popular economic progressive vision that can unite Austrians from all social classes, rural and city, religious and ethnic backgrounds. It can only achieve this by changing the narrative, it must frame the argument as progressive social democracy is the reason Austria is great and can be even better, that it and not the ÖVP is the true representation of the people and a possible patriotism based on creating a society that can be the envy of the world’s top live in. it must also be crystal clear whose side the ÖVP is on and there can be no ambiguity. Their movement is to represent the elite and extremely wealthy and by doing so aim to dismantle everything that makes Australia great.
Breaking the rural hegemony
Much like in other countries the conservatives in Austria dominate in rural areas. The SPÖ needs to start to wear down this stranglehold as there is a huge amount of potential untapped support in rural areas. They need to become a party that süpeaks to all Austrians regardless of where they are from and does this by respecting the values and traditions of rural Austria while at the same time promoting an economic message of massive investment and joint creation throughout the country. Many in rural areas vote ÖVP because of its association with the catholic church and traditional Austrian values. The SPÖ need to be clear they respect these values and welcome all people who want to support and better fairer Austria which puts people first over corporations into the fold. A socially conservative rural Austrian for example, who wants to increase corporation tax to invest more in healthcare for example needs to be seen as a potential ally and people of all different backgrounds need to feel welcome. Most importantly real economic plans for rural areas need to be campaigned on with opportunities for investment in local infrastructure and jobs put front and centre.
an extremely divisive topic that has torn the party apart especially post the migrant crisis in 2015. Unfortunately, this is an area that simply must be addressed openly and honestly. clarity is important and although it shouldn’t be the central theme of the SPÖ campaign it will be used by the opposition so any evasion of the topic will not help. The SPÖ needs to embrace a very clear position on this one way or another. I believe a pro sensible restrained immigration policy that embraces compassion up to the point Austria can afford to. It must ensure people there won’t be floods of new immigration but a steady and sustainable amount with compassion for example taking children from Moria or not deporting 12-year-olds for example, fair and prudent. Crucially however this pro-sustainable immigration policy must be matched with a progressive economic message and plan to raise the standard of living for all asuras and it must be made clear that new immigrants will not result in any downward pressure on wages and standards. An introduction of a high minimum wage, a shortening of the workweek, and a pledge to increase the power of the trade unions and to work with and not against the social partnership is an absolute must if the population is going to be willing to accept any further immigration. It must also acknowledge the combination of neoliberal economic policy with high immigration was the öprpoblem and not the immigrants themselves. mOre immigration does not and will not mean lower wages and conditions, bad government policy is what allowed that to happen.
The economic plan SpÖ needs to put forward and is currently to agree under Rendi Wagner must be very simple. Return to and a modern improved version of what made Austria great in the first üplace. An Austro Kenysnian plan for growth, an expansion, and improvement of the welfare state, supports a European green new deal with massive investment in the green economy, a commitment to no unemployment with a guarantee that if the private sector cannot provide enough employment the public sector will. This plan should be very easy to sell as it combines a positive patriotism about what Austria was and how an even better version can emerge. No unemployment, great public services, and infrastructure, and a more equitaböle economy isn’t just a message everyone can get behind because it makes sense, but also because it is the Austrian way.
Frame the Narrative
One of the biggest failings of the modern European left in general and certainly in the neoliberal era is the ambiguity they have allowed to spread in the political narratives. Most people simply don’t know which party represents who anymore and that is the fault of the left for allowing that ambiguity to emerge. The SPÖ needs to make it crystal clear whose side they are on and who they represent and whose side the FPÖ und ÖVP are on. Especially in the aftermath of the cons grants corruption scandals both parties in the right have been involved in the SPÖ must seize this opportunity to make it clear to everyone that right doesn’t exist to represent the Austrian people, but rather an ever increasingly smaller collection of big companies and millionaires. The New People’s party needs to be reframed as the New Rich üpeoples party and this message must be hammered home. Th eSPÖ reepensts the 99% and the ÖVP and FPÖ reepenrt the 1%. it needs to be made as clear and simple as that without any room for ambiguity. I believe if this case is made and it is combined with a new positive vision of a progressive bold economic plan then the door is open for the SPÖ to re-emerge as the dominant force in Austrian policies once again and create a new coalition government with the Greens or the Neos. Certainly, under Rendi Wagner there are some very positive steps in that direction being taken with the denouncement of neoliberalism and a positive plan to shorten the workweek and increase jobs and wages. but they must go father and most of all make it clear and simple.