To­mor­row Be­longs to Me

Newsweek - - Contents - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH SCHU­MACHER

Young Aus­tri­ans see them­selves in Se­bas­tian Kurz, a con­ser­va­tive with big am­bi­tions. But they are also flirt­ing with a dan­ger­ous past.

Young Aus­tri­ans see them­selves in their 32-year-old chan­cel­lor, SE­BAS­TIAN KURZ, A con­ser­va­tive pop­ulist with big am­bi­tions. In cham­pi­oning him, they also flirt with the coun­try’s dan­ger­ous past.

IN­may 2017, when se­bas­tian kurz took con­trol of the cen­ter-right Aus­trian Peo­ple’s Party (OVP), he re­made it in his im­age. Lest the world un­der­es­ti­mate the sig­nif­i­cance of this, the 32-year-old re­branded the OVP as the Se­bas­tian Kurz List–new Peo­ple’s Party. Seven months later the con­ser­va­tive pop­ulist be­came Aus­tria’s youngest-ever chan­cel­lor, in ad­di­tion to the world’s first mil­len­nial head of state and, ac­cord­ing to some an­a­lysts, the fu­ture of Europe.

Like other right-wing pop­ulists as­cend­ing to power in the Euro­pean Union, the am­bi­tious Kurz has pushed a hard-line im­mi­gra­tion agenda in re­sponse to eco­nomic stag­na­tion and the Syr­ian refugee cri­sis. But his youth­ful per­sona and po­lit­i­cal hap­pen­stance have el­e­vated his sta­tus and his ideas far be­yond Aus­tria’s borders. His rise co­in­cided with the tran­si­tion of the EU pres­i­dency to Aus­tria, a six-month term, end­ing in De­cem­ber, that has given him a plat­form to chal­lenge the lib­eral or­der of Europe and its cher­ished tra­di­tion of open borders.

His ten­ure as EU pres­i­dent is not with­out con­tro­versy. Kurz’s of­fi­cial motto, “A Europe that pro­tects,” is an­other way of say­ing “se­cure the con­ti­nent’s borders.” He has the sup­port of the openly xeno­pho­bic Free­dom Party of Aus­tria (FPO), as well as far-right lead­ers Vik­tor Or­bán, Hun­gary’s prime min­is­ter, and Mat­teo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime min­is­ter. To­gether, the three have pro­posed mea­sures to con­trol Europe’s borders, in­clud­ing es­tab­lish­ing screen­ing fa­cil­i­ties for mi­grants out­side the con­ti­nent and re­turn­ing those in­ter­cepted at sea to the coun­try from which they came.

For the first time in 100 years, since the end of the Hab­s­burg Em­pire—when Aus­tria ruled much of Europe for close to 500 years—the coun­try finds it­self in a po­si­tion of power. The econ­omy is grow­ing, and un­em­ploy­ment is down. In Septem­ber, the ne­olib­eral daily Die Presse praised Kurz’s ap­pear­ance at the United Nations as a show of strength “from the new small su­per­power.” The news­pa­per lauded what it de­scribed as Kurz’s “speed dat­ing”: meet­ing with Amer­i­can, Turk­ish and Is­raeli lead­ers and mak­ing “ma­jor diplo­matic suc­cesses” in just two days. The most no­table achieve­ment was bro­ker­ing a meet­ing with Is­rael for Aus­tria’s right-wing for­eign min­is­ter, Karin Kneissl, who had an­gered Jews both at home and abroad when she wrote in her 2014 mem­oir, My Mid­dle East, that Zion­ism was a vi­o­lent ide­ol­ogy based in 19th-cen­tury Ger­man na­tion­al­ism.

Young Aus­tri­ans, who don’t re­mem­ber a time when the coun­try was on top, are lov­ing this mo­ment. To many in their 20s and 30s, Kurz’s coali­tion with the Fpo—founded by neo-nazis after World War Ii—is the price of shak­ing off the po­lit­i­cal sta­tus quo, as well as decades of cen­trist grand coali­tion gov­ern­ments with the OVP and So­cial Democrats (SPO). In their view, so much po­lit­i­cal com­pro­mise was re­quired that lit­tle got done. “A new po­lit­i­cal style was needed in Aus­tria,” says one of Kurz’s fans, a 28-yearold in­ter­preter named Ju­lia. “Fi­nally, some­one dared to break up

out­dated party struc­tures. He is not a yes-man, as he showed [to Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela] Merkel dur­ing the refugee cri­sis.”

As for­eign min­is­ter in 2015, when Syr­ian refugees be­gan stream­ing into Europe, Kurz sug­gested clos­ing Aus­tria’s border with Italy—even as then–aus­trian Chan­cel­lor Chris­tian Kern ac­cepted tens of thou­sands of mi­grants. Since tak­ing power, Kurz’s gov­ern­ment has shown it does not feel be­holden to Euro­pean norms; in early Oc­to­ber, Vice Chan­cel­lor Heinz-chris­tian Stra­che said at a func­tion in Vi­enna that he would like to fol­low the lead of Or­bán and U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump by with­draw­ing Aus­tria from the U.N. Global Com­pact for Mi­gra­tion, which aims to set stan­dards for or­derly mi­gra­tion.

But the chan­cel­lor’s pop­u­lar­ity with Aus­tria’s youth goes be­yond ide­ol­ogy. The selfie-post­ing, par­tyre­brand­ing Kurz—of­ten re­ferred to sim­ply as Se­bas­tian by mil­len­ni­als— is one of them. This master mar­keter un­der­stands, per­haps bet­ter than any other EU leader, the power of per­son­al­ity-driven pol­i­tics, so­cial mesas sag­ing and bul­let-point ide­ol­ogy. Trump’s am­bas­sador to Ber­lin, Richard Grenell, put it in an in­ter­view with Breitbart News, Kurz is “a rock star.”

Kurz has long been a wun­derkind. He grew up an only child in Mei­dling, a gen­tri­fy­ing neigh­bor­hood on the edge of Vi­enna, and en­tered pol­i­tics as a teenager in the OVP’S youth or­ga­ni­za­tion. He dropped out of law school and in 2010 won a seat on the Vi­enna City Coun­cil. Within a year, he was ap­pointed to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment as state sec­re­tary for in­te­gra­tion of new im­mi­grants. After win­ning the most di­rect votes of any candidate in Aus­tria’s 2013 leg­isla­tive elec­tion, Kurz was made the world’s youngest-ever for­eign min­is­ter, be­com­ing an in­te­gral ne­go­tia­tor in the 2015 nu­clear deal with Iran.

In a hip café in Vi­enna’s up­scale Leopold­stadt dis­trict, a group of eco­nom­ics stu­dents clus­tered around new sil­ver lap­tops gushed over their slick-haired, baby-faced leader. Among other things, they ex­tolled his abil­ity to speak to them in ways that are in­clu­sive, anti-in­tel­lec­tual and un­pa­tron­iz­ing. “He tells peo­ple what he’s go­ing to do, and then he im­ple­ments it,” says gov­ern­ment spokesman Peter Laun­sky-tief­fen­thal. “He takes the pub­lic along through the steps, ex­plain­ing things in terms peo­ple can un­der­stand.”

For ex­am­ple, along­side his 2017 cam­paign pro­pos­als on his web­site, such as tax cuts for fam­i­lies, he in­cluded a pro­jected time­line for im­ple­men­ta­tion and a “pro­gram gen­er­a­tor” so each ci­ti­zen can find gov­ern­ment ser­vices.

While the move is seem­ingly sim­ple, Kurz’s ad­mir­ers point out

In an in­ter­view with BREITBART NEWS, Don­ald Trump’s am­bas­sador to Ber­lin en­thu­si­as­ti­cally re­ferred to Kurz as “A ROCK STAR.”

the stark con­trast to the EU’S re­main­ing pro­gres­sive van­guards, Merkel and France’s Em­manuel Macron, who have adopted a more opaque ap­proach to gov­ern­ment—one that, along with the mi­gra­tion cri­sis, is in­creas­ingly un­der­min­ing their pop­u­lar­ity. After win­ning the French elec­tion with 66 per­cent of the vote a year ago, Macron had a 29 per­cent ap­proval rat­ing in Oc­to­ber. That and the de­par­ture of seven top min­is­ters in the past few months—many of whom ex­pressed dis­may over Macron’s in­ac­ces­si­bil­ity—have left his ad­min­is­tra­tion in cri­sis.

In Ger­many, months of em­bar­rass­ing spats be­tween Merkel and her Cabi­net have dam­aged her hold on power, lead­ing to a lame-duck fourth term as chan­cel­lor; in polls, her con­ser­va­tive party, the Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union (CDU), is now just 10 points ahead of the rad­i­cally right-wing AFD. Formed just six years ago, Afd’s growth has been ex­plo­sive; the party had the third-strong­est show­ing in the Septem­ber 27 elec­tions, with 92 law­mak­ers in par­lia­ment. (Co-leader Frauke Petry once claimed there were sit­u­a­tions where Ger­man border guards could le­git­i­mately shoot refugees try­ing to get over the border.)

With Macron and Merkel in jeop­ardy, Kurz sees a chance to fill the void on the world stage. And notably, Aus­tria seems united be­hind him, re­gard­less of age. “It doesn’t make sense to speak of a gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ence in sup­port for the gov­ern­ment,” says pro­fes­sor Peter Filz­maier, a lead­ing po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Aus­tria’s Graz and Krems uni­ver­si­ties. Ad­di­tion­ally, he says, arch­con­ser­vatism and tra­di­tional val­ues aren’t the purview of baby boomers or the el­derly; both score well with young vot­ers here.

The Fpo—once con­sid­ered a ju­nior party—is cur­rently at 24 per­cent pub­lic sup­port, down roughly 2 points since last year’s elec­tion. That’s a strong show­ing for a coun­try with six ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties. The party has de­cried the “Is­lamiza­tion” of the West and made head­lines for anti-semitism scan­dals. (Many FPO law­mak­ers are for­mer mem­bers of the coun­try’s tra­di­tional na­tion­al­ist fra­ter­ni­ties; ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude “drink­ing songs” pro­mot­ing a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Holo­caust.)

Laun­sky-tief­fen­thal main­tains “the FPO has dis­tanced it­self from the anti-semitic past.” As proof, he cited Kurz’s num­ber two, Stra­che, the leader of the FPO, ex­press­ing sym­pa­thy for Is­rael’s push for the EU to rec­og­nize Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Is­rael (bit­terly con­tested by Pales­tini­ans, who con­sider it their cap­i­tal as well). “This,” said Laun­sky-tief­fen­thal, “showed lead­er­ship.”

Kurz’s sup­port­ers re­fer to him as a bridge builder. But he might just be the con­sum­mate poker player, adept at flip­ping back and forth be­tween ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive and con­ser­va­tive opin­ions, with­out alien­at­ing the FPO. As the web­site For­eign Pol­icy ex­plained it, “Aus­tria’s chan­cel­lor thinks he’s cracked the code for neu­tral­iz­ing pop­ulists—by co­op­er­at­ing with them.”

But lib­er­als like Mat­tias Strolz, leader of the New Aus­tria and Lib­eral Fo­rum (NEOS) party, fear the worst, ac­cus­ing Kurz of “ex­pertly us­ing a putsch to come to power” and erod­ing par­lia­men­tary democ­racy. “He cut the hair off the old-lady OVP, and ev­ery­one was ex­cited.”

“This en­tire repub­lic is drunk on this per­for­mance,” he said in a speech. “Peo­ple will wake up with a han­gover.”

Past Is Pro­logue

deep in the aus­trian coun­try­side, on church-owned land, Europe’s largest an­nual neo-nazi con­ven­tion takes place in the small town of Bleiburg. Here, ev­ery May, roughly 10,000 par­tic­i­pants from all over the EU swap Hitler salutes. Ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude in­flam­ing ten­sions with Italy over South Ty­rol (formerly an Aus­trian province and home to thou­sands of eth­nic Aus­tri­ans) by sug­gest­ing Aus­tria take it back and pay­ing ho­mage to Croa­tia’s Us­tase army, best known for the only Nazi ex­ter­mi­na­tion camp built vol­un­tar­ily, with­out Ger­man par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Aus­tria is also home to the in­creas­ingly vis­i­ble Euro­pean far-right

group Gen­er­a­tion Iden­tity, which pro­motes acts of vi­o­lence against left­ists and refugees, in­clud­ing a 2016 in­ci­dent at the Univer­sity of Vi­enna; mem­bers screamed and threw fake blood at refugees per­form­ing in a play. GI’S ide­ol­ogy—a bizarre web of na­tion­al­ism, anti-semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries and Is­lam­o­pho­bia—is of­ten spread us­ing hip­ster aes­thet­ics and left-lean­ing tac­tics; for ex­am­ple, they want to fol­low Greenpeace’s lead and take to the sea—only in­stead of sav­ing refugees, they would stop res­cuers from help­ing. Their leader, Martin Sell­ner (whose fi­ancée is Amer­i­can alt-right Youtu­ber Brit­tany Pet­ti­bone), scored a ma­jor le­gal vic­tory in July when he was cleared of hate speech charges, prompt­ing the gov­ern­ment to re­think rel­e­vant statutes: After the ver­dict, the pres­i­dent of the leg­is­la­ture an­nounced a need to strengthen hate speech laws.

The rise in far-right ex­trem­ism has ef­fec­tively fu­eled Kurz’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. One of his im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, for ex­am­ple— forc­ing mi­grants to hand over valu­ables and cell­phones—has un­com­fort­able echoes of Nazism. Kurz has also joined Hun­gary’s Or­bán in re­ject­ing Ger­many’s pro­posal of dis­tribut­ing refugees across the EU. Refugee re­lo­ca­tion, he has said, “isn’t work­ing,” and Europe must pro­tect its “Chris­tian cul­ture.”

Merkel and Macron are de­ter­mined to stem the tide of ris­ing pop­ulism and come up with a lib­eral so­lu­tion to prob­lems of mi­gra­tion pol­icy. Their suc­cess will be de­ter­mined by the Euro­pean elec­tions in 2019. While the EU may have osten­si­bly agreed to a bloc-wide im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy at a sum­mit at the end of June, con­crete de­tails of a fu­ture plan were scant, and lead­ers have shown lit­tle sign of im­ple­ment­ing any new strat­egy.

But Kurz has picked his side. Just a few days be­fore the sum­mit in June, he staged provoca­tive army ex­er­cises at the border of Slove­nia to show he was ready for any mi­grant-re­lated ac­tiv­ity. It was a highly ir­reg­u­lar move for a coun­try osten­si­bly aligned with Ger­many, a cham­pion of open borders and averse to mil­i­tary ac­tion. But Aus­tria’s chan­cel­lor has hinted at a will­ing­ness to break with Ber­lin. Al­though his party has strong ties with Merkel’s CDU, Kurz has shown a readi­ness to pivot to­ward the great­est thorn in the Ger­man chan­cel­lor’s side—her arch­con­ser­va­tive in­te­rior min­is­ter, Horst See­hofer.

See­hofer is the for­mer gov­er­nor of Bavaria, the Ger­man state bor­der­ing Aus­tria. He prompted the first ma­jor cri­sis of Merkel’s new gov­ern­ment in June, when he threat­ened to re­move his Chris­tian So­cial Union (CSU) party, the Bavar­ian sis­ter of the CDU, from the rul­ing coali­tion over im­mi­gra­tion. While Kurz was care­ful not to take sides, his sym­pa­thies were clear. He said he was happy that Ger­many was hav­ing a de­bate about its lib­eral im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

Laun­sky-tief­fen­thal, the Aus­tria spokesman, down­plays both the im­por­tance of the mil­i­tary ma­neu­vers and Kurz’s ties with Or­bán. “There is no one the chan­cel­lor is in con­tact with more than Merkel. Yes, we have some com­mon ground with Hun­gary…but the re­la­tion­ship with Or­bán isn’t so spe­cial,” he tells Newsweek. “We sim­ply want to be bridge builders” be­tween Eastern and Western Europe.

He says Merkel’s han­dling of the refugee cri­sis in 2015 “prob­a­bly en­cour­aged more peo­ple to come and made mat­ters more dif­fi­cult. But Aus­tria has kept 80,000 refugees. That’s larger per capita than any other Euro­pean coun­try after Swe­den. France took only 500. After that, we felt a bit aban­doned by the oth­ers, and that’s what pro­voked the de­bate about mi­gra­tion we’re hav­ing now.”

Some sug­gest that Kurz saw Bavaria’s key re­gional elec­tions in Oc­to­ber as an op­por­tu­nity to align Ger­man pol­icy with Aus­tria; his re­cent ap­pear­ances with of­fi­cials from See­hofer’s con­ser­va­tive CSU were seen by some as tacit en­dorse­ments. “He may use the EU pres­i­dency and his chan­cel­lor­ship to more strongly align him­self with See­hofer and the CSU over Merkel,” says Filz­maier.

FOR THE FIRST TIME in 100 years, since the end of the Hab­s­burg em­pire—when Aus­tria ruled Europe for close to 500 years—the coun­try finds it­self in a PO­SI­TION OF POWER.

Wald­heim’s Shadow

ger­many has a key ad­van­tage for coun­ter­ing the rise of pop­ulism: It has ac­knowl­edged and made amends for its Nazi past, and there is an or­ga­nized and mo­ti­vated left-wing move­ment to keep the far right in check. AFD can’t hold a po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tion with­out meet­ing tens of thou­sands of coun­ter­demon­stra­tors, who fre­quently out­num­ber far-right marchers. In one mem­o­rable event in Munich last year, roughly 100 ex­trem­ists were boxed into a cen­tral square by thou­sands of op­po­nents.

In Aus­tria, how­ever, only a smat­ter­ing of pro­test­ers make their way to Bleiburg to demon­strate against the an­nual neo-nazi meet­ings. The rea­son for this ex­tends to the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of World War II. There was no equiv­a­lent of the Nurem­berg tri­als in Aus­tria. Vi­enna did not be­gin to ques­tion the Nazi lead­ers re­main­ing in power un­til 1986, when it was dis­cov­ered that for­mer U.N. Sec­re­tary-gen­eral and Aus­trian Pres­i­dent Kurt Wald­heim had been an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer for Nazi Ger­many’s armed forces, the Wehrma­cht.

In­stead of reck­on­ing with be­ing the birth­place of Adolf Hitler or wel­com­ing the ar­rival of his troops in Vi­enna, Aus­tria em­braced the opin­ion of the Al­lied pow­ers in the late 1940s. “The Al­lied pow­ers called Aus­tria a vic­tim, and the coun­try ob­vi­ously ac­cepted that be­cause no one wants to be one of the per­pe­trat­ing coun­tries,” says Filz­maier, who be­lieves the truth is some­where in the mid­dle. “Ger­many was forced to ac­cept its vi­o­lent past and new po­lit­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in a way that Aus­tria wasn’t.” As a re­sult, he adds, “it is his­tor­i­cally and ge­o­graph­i­cally un­sur­pris­ing” that Aus­tria has been home to old and neo-nazis. “The prob­lem is the lack of sen­si­tiv­ity for this fact.”

Laun­sky-tief­fen­thal in­sists, how­ever, that things are chang­ing in Aus­tria. “It’s true that we didn’t talk about the Holo­caust when I was in school,” says the 60-year-old gov­ern­ment spokesman, “but after the Wald­heim years it be­came present and since then has been sub­ject of a broad pub­lic de­bate. As part of our cur­ricu­lum, stu­dents visit con­cen­tra­tion camps, and, in ad­di­tion to that, the gov­ern­ment sup­ports build­ing a me­mo­rial wall of names and plans to of­fer ci­ti­zen­ship to the de­scen­dants of Holo­caust vic­tims.”

Re­cently, on top of Stra­che’s stated be­lief that Jerusalem should be the cap­i­tal of Is­rael, Kurz has been mak­ing over­tures to Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, who, ac­cord­ing to The Jerusalem Post, met Kurz in a pri­vate art gallery re­plete with Aus­trian mas­ters like Gus­tav Klimt and Egon Schiele. There, Ne­tanyahu re­port­edly praised Kurz’s new im­mi­gra­tion curbs, and the Aus­trian leader hinted at his de­sire to hold a con­fer­ence on Is­lamic anti-semitism.

One of those new im­mi­gra­tion curbs was in­tro­duced by In­te­rior Min­is­ter Herbert Kickl of the FPO, along­side his Ital­ian coun­ter­part Salvini, a re­la­tion­ship that has grown no­tice­ably tighter. To­gether, the pair an­nounced in Septem­ber a plan to stop ships car­ry­ing im­mi­grants be­fore they land in Europe.

“They will be well looked after on the ships,” Kickl said of the ves­sels, no­to­ri­ous for filthy con­di­tions and lack of food and wa­ter. Im­me­di­ately after the meet­ing, Salvini made it clear that the aim is to stop im­mi­gra­tion from Africa and the Mid­dle East at all costs.

New Agenda, Po­ten­tial Back­lash

all signs sug­gest the kurz ad­min­is­tra­tion is just get­ting started. The gov­ern­ment re­cently un­veiled the du­bi­ously ti­tled ini­tia­tive “new fair­ness,” a pol­icy that en­sures Aus­trian cit­i­zens are “treated fairly.” Sim­ply put, na­tives will be first in line for gov­ern­ment ben­e­fits, while refugees and mi­grants may see cuts

in sup­port. In ad­di­tion, in­te­gra­tion pro­grams for new mi­grants, such as work­place ap­pren­tice­ships, have been scrapped, and ac­cess to Ger­man lessons has been re­duced.

The new sys­tem will also dis­tin­guish be­tween eco­nomic im­mi­grants and those seek­ing asy­lum, with a preference for the lat­ter. And there are, ap­par­ently, lim­its: In one case in Septem­ber, a gay Iraqi refugee had his asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tion re­jected be­cause he was “so girl­ish.” The au­thor­i­ties ap­par­ently de­cided he was just pre­tend­ing to be gay.

Along­side im­mi­gra­tion re­form are ma­jor plans for eco­nomic in­cen­tives, in­clud­ing re­ward­ing fam­i­lies for hav­ing chil­dren, as the na­tive-born pop­u­la­tion is dwin­dling, and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to start busi­nesses. Ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment, th­ese are the same pri­or­i­ties they want to fo­cus on for the re­main­der of Aus­tria’s EU pres­i­dency.

Amid the changes, left-lean­ing Aus­tri­ans, rep­re­sented po­lit­i­cally by the SPO and the Green party, feel out­num­bered and par­a­lyzed. A few protests against the FPO last fall quickly dis­si­pated, and many self-iden­ti­fied left­ists in Vi­enna tell Newsweek they “can’t think about pol­i­tics any­more.”

“I voted for Se­bas­tian Kurz be­cause of his youth and ear­lier ex­pe­ri­ence as the youngest for­eign min­is­ter in the world,” says Jo­hannes, a 29-year-old den­tist. “Un­for­tu­nately, then his party en­tered into a coali­tion with the FPO, caus­ing a right­ward shift for the chan­cel­lor’s party and me to re­gret my vote.… We need a more global way of think­ing that goes be­yond our border.”

For­mer Aus­trian Chan­cel­lor Kern, whose SPO party was a ma­jor sup­porter of Merkel’s open-door refugee pol­icy, has been openly crit­i­cal of Kurz and his po­lit­i­cal al­liances. He told Ger­man daily news­pa­per Die Welt in Au­gust that the FPO “dis­sem­i­nates anti-semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries about Ge­orge Soros. Ev­ery week there is a racist, right-wing ex­trem­ist rally that in a civ­i­lized democ­racy would have led to res­ig­na­tions.”

Kern also ac­cused the FPO of “play­ing Kurz like a fid­dle” and con­demned the al­liances with the ethno-na­tion­al­ist gov­ern­ments of Italy and Hun­gary. But those crit­i­cisms seem un­likely to trans­late to po­lit­i­cal gains; Kern was poised to spear­head a left­wing coun­ter­move­ment to Kurz in next year’s elec­tions, but then, to the sur­prise of his own party, abruptly re­tired from pol­i­tics in early Oc­to­ber.

Like many in Bri­tain who op­pose the loom­ing Brexit, or Amer­i­cans en­raged by the pop­ulism of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, the feel­ing among anti-pop­ulist Aus­tri­ans is one of help­less con­ster­na­tion. “I am op­posed to the cur­rent gov­ern­ment be­cause of the FPO’S long his­tory of hate speech and in­com­pe­tence,” says Thomas, a young ex­pat liv­ing in New York who is dis­heart­ened by FPO racism. “Kurz should not en­able them but ob­vi­ously be­lieves he needs to and has at least dab­bled in dem­a­goguery him­self.”

It’s been 18 years since the left last staged de­mon­stra­tions. In 2000, groups would host weekly “Thursday protests” in Vi­enna to tar­get the FPO’S re­la­tion­ship with Nazism. But there are signs that the op­po­si­tion may be stir­ring again. On Oc­to­ber 4, sev­eral left-wing and so­cial ac­tivist groups held a rally in front of Kurz’s of­fice. Ac­cord­ing to or­ga­niz­ers, some 20,000 peo­ple were in at­ten­dance. It had the air of an out­door pic­nic, but the sen­ti­ment was stri­dent. “Bye, Basti!” read one sign, us­ing a nick­name for Se­bas­tian. The crowd chanted “Re­sis­tance! Re­sis­tance!”

“Ger­many was FORCED to ac­cept its vi­o­lent past and new po­lit­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in a way that Aus­tria wasn’t.” As a re­sult, it’s “UN­SUR­PRIS­ING” that it has been a home to old and neo-nazis.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.