It is astonishing that after the elections on October 15 we will harvest what the black-blue government sowed in 2000-2006. Not diametrically but head on. We are witnessing the demise of the social democratic ideal, something which the great German liberal thinker Ralf Dahrendorf already foresaw in the eighties of the last century. Paradoxically this is taking place in their struggle against the “right”, aka the party decision against a coalition with blue.
We can see how the “left” has disappeared from the centre so much so that foreign newspapers now describe the Liste Pilz and the NEOS as being “left of centre” – completely incomprehensible.
The “right of centre” FPÖ, which is rejected by sections of the Social Democrats, calls itself a socially oriented national party and has taken up the issues of concern to the man and woman in the street. It presents itself as a new socialist party. This is similar to the way the Socialist Party started out because initially it also had strong nationalist traits and drew on a German nationalist tradition. Just recall the attempts of Renner & Co in 1918 to unite Austria with Germany to create Great Germany out of fear of its own insignificance after centuries of the multinational Habsburg Empire.
The Greens, a political ecological movement, has repeatedly struggled along a ludicrous path in Austria as a legacy of communism and radical left-wing ideas has meant they have left their middle-class liberal origins by the wayside instead of continuing to develop their policy successes of recent years. These include the eco-social market economy, COP 21, climate policy, sustainability, the circular economy, and being a party that focuses on human and fundamental rights. They could have aspired to claim a functioning social and economic policy, energy and environmental policy, as well as judicial policy as their own, and at the same time guaranteed the fundamental rights of each individual.
Now to the OVP. A very critical article in the German FAZ deals with the fact that in recent years the CDU has departed from its adherence to Ludwig Erhard’s social market economic approach. The same can also be said to be true of the OVP or the so-called Liste Kurz. Josef Riegler was the last VP leader known for his support for the eco-social market economy, which as I said is also something that can be attributed to the Greens. Sebastian Kurz, the new OVP-Chairman and possible future Chancellor of the Republic of Austria, is far removed from these principles. One has the impression that the staging, the dressing-up and the so-called “framing” are decisive factors for his policy. For example, there is his emphasis on being pro-European. What exactly does this statement mean for a member of the EU and doesn’t this apply to all Europeans who are members of the EU? At the same time he pushes important projects that are largely unknown amongst the population and therefore unpopular, such as the development and deepening of the economic and monetary union, to one side. This is despite the fact that these very issues are at the top of Merkel and Macron’s list of priorities. This is the reason why the Austrian Presidency of the EU will be devoted to Kurz’ favourite topics of asylum and migration and why Austria will take the initiative on these issues during this period. This could prove to be especially interesting if the responsible minister at that time is a member of the FPÖ – this is currently a condition set by the FPÖ.
Finally, there is the Liste Pliz. For me this is a kind of Five Star Movement, basking in the reflected glory of Peter Pilz’ investigations and revelations, but otherwise with no real program apart from the pithy sayings of Peter Pilz himself. This could be a new form of political entertainment.
That just leaves the NEOS. A “thorn in the side” as they are often called by their chairman Matthias Strolz. The interesting thing is that the decline of the Social Democrats has been accompanied by a slight increase in the liberals in Austria and an impressive increase in the liberals in Germany and the Netherlands. One could also say that the policy of the Social Democrats to emancipate the labourer has fallen on fertile ground. And now, in their new independence, they want to and feel they must live a life of maximum freedom and self-determination. This also can be seen in the ordoliberal notion of the social market economy, which the NEOS stressed less in their electoral campaign and “sold” less forcefully than their German sister party the FDP. The latter see many of Ludwig’s disciples as guardians of the “Bingen” idea. This will be exciting for the negotiations to form a government in Germany.
The independent citizen, responsible for their own destiny, is the personification of liberal democracy. As a positive example. As a necessary example.
The next few years will be very challenging for the European values of enlightenment, freedom and fraternity. You could see it as a breakout line. Only you have to make sure you calculate it from the correct side.
You are raising very important questions. The parties which have governed in the Trans-Atlantic region since the end of World War II are collapsing. They are not just dysfunctional, but, as you point out, they became dysfunctional because their leaders have rejected those very principles which were responsible for their previous success — for example Hollande and Schultz. I include parties in the U.S. and U.K. among them, as Blair destroyed Labour and the Bushes and Clintons wrecked the two parties in the U.S. Perhaps Corbyn’s relative success is pointing in a “new” direction, i.e., going back to core principles, such as defending living standards, etc.