In Name only: “Socialist” Party of Austria

We have received the following letter from a sympathiser in Vienna, which gives a critical look at the 1961 Annual Conference of the Socialist Party of Austria.

With an impressive show, as befits a government party, the annual conference of the S.P.A was held in Vienna from June 6 to 9, 1961. Among others, the British Labour Party had also sent a delegate. From the reports of the proceedings and speeches published in the Arbeiter Zeitung, the central organ of the S.P.A. one could gather how much Socialism there is left in the “Socialist” Party of Austria.
“Democracy’s big chance,” said the chairman and vice-chancellor Dr Bruno Pittermann. “Would be in the further progress on the road to securing for the workers a voice in the management of industry, and of participation in the government, corresponding to the election result. Because, for the working people of our times, the ownership of the means of production is no longer the only question which is decisive. To this must he added the right of a voice in the planning of industry and in the distribution of the proceeds! This right of participation, which raises man to a factor of equality, side by side with dead capital, is being refused by both reactionary capitalism, and by the communists.”
Thus, Pittermann is satisfied if the workers become “a factor” with equal rights beside “dead capital.” He is no longer concerned with the abolition of capital (private ownership). Pittermann seems to be quite oblivious of the fact that capital is not a thing, not some dead object, but a peculiar social relationship between man and man. Did not a certain Karl Marx once scientifically analyse and explain it all?
“Besides the factor capital, the factor labour must at last find recognition” a delegate urged. Thus, despite the S.P.A.’s boasted many decades of activity, the “factor labour” has so far not yet found recognition. This delegate was moreover of remarkable modesty. He demanded for labour no more than a place beside capital. The latter can safely keep its hitherto held position. It would seem that this representative of “Socialism” too had never heard of capitalist conditions and of the capitalist mode of production.
“I should like to once more emphasize,” said another leading light, the Sozialminister Proksch, “that over the present questions of the day our social policy must not relegate to a back seat our big fundamental tasks, to which belongs the fresh formulation of the old obsolete labour charter.” Proksch distinguishes between the present questions of the day and the fundamental issue, i.e., the essential aim of Socialism. No person of common sense will quarrel with this. Strange it is, however, that a Socialist—and Proksch claims to be one—sees in the new formulation of labour rights a fundamental task of Socialism. Is not the “right of labour” the “right” of those dependent on, and exploited by, capital? Is it not by its very nature committed to perpetuate the existing relationship between wage labour and capital? Even if it be admitted that reforms have brought to labour some alleviation of hardships, it stands in question whether the benefit to the workers outweighs the harm done to the working class movement by this day-to-day reform policy. After all, the “fundamental task” of a Socialist Party consists not in perpetuating, but in abolishing the exploitation of the workers by capital. The watchword must ever be revolution —not reform. But apparently such is no longer Pittermann, Proksch and consorts’ concept, if ever it has been.
It will be understood that at a party conference questions of the day, and measures for dealing with them, are discussed. It may be argued that one cannot always and exclusively concentrate on the all-important supreme aim. But in dealing with pressing temporary problems, as well as with proposals and plans in cases of emergencies, the genuine great Socialist principle must ever he all-present and all-transcending. It must never be lost sight of. This, however, was sadly missing in the speeches and discussions at the said party conference. Rather had one the impression that any allusion to the real aim being the abolition of the exploitation of man by man through the wages and money system, was designedly shunned in order not to give offence in any quarter. This, however, means nothing less than abandoning the supreme principle, which cannot but please its adversaries.
All demands and decisions made at the S.P.A.’s conference will only serve to consolidate the present constitution of society and, if possible, perpetuate it. The “Socialist Party of Austria” is therefore not entitled to call itself Socialist, if the word is to keep its true meaning.
Dr. Johannes Kleinhappl