Remembering Red Vienna


Veronica Duma and Hanna Lichtenberger in Jacobin:

The combination of social forces in Vienna at the end of and just after World War I created the necessary conditions for the project. Strong labor, feminist, and council movements emerged from the widespread hunger, unemployment, and homelessness that characterized the war years. These culminated in a wave of demonstrations and strikes toward the war’s end. Throughout Vienna, workers and residents organized councils modeled on the Russian Revolution and the Council Republics in Germany and Hungary.

After the Austro-Hungarian monarchy collapsed, space for social transformation opened. In November 1918, the newly formed Austrian republic extended the vote to both women and men. This allowed the Social Democratic Worker’s Party (SDAPÖ) to win the most votes in the first elections. The coalition government, consisting of the Social Democrats and the Christian Social Party (CS), which governed until 1920, introduced a series of progressive reforms that immediately improved workers’ living conditions, such as the eight-hour day, paid vacation, the Works Council Act, the establishment of the Chamber of Labor, and rent-control legislation.

The nature of the SDAPÖ — which rested on the organizational integration of various radical and revolutionary currents — facilitated these programs. While some sections of the party negotiated with the opposition, they were able to use the pressure imposed by social movements to win additional concessions. This history helps explain why the party still emphasizes unity. Unlike in Germany, Austria’s SDAPÖ witnessed few major splits, and the Communist Party never — except during periods of illegality under the Austrofascists and the Nazis — established itself as a serious rival.

More here.