acknowledge that I am unable to specify, even in principle, the boundary
line beyond which I think liberals ought not go in their endeavor to be open
to those unlike themselves.
society theorists argue that through a combination of statecraft and
international and humanitarian responsibilities, the world will begin to
slowly approximate an ideal order wherein the rule of law will bestow
universal human rights to all.
In an even more idealistic clarification of international society
logic, Betty A. Rearden answers the question of “what is peace?” by
arguing that it is not simply peace between nations, respect for borders,
and the traditional realist gambit of state centered international relations
theory. She argues that:
“peace means as well a set of relationships among peoples and nations
based on trust, cooperation, and recognition of the interdependence and
importance of the common good and mutual interests of all peoples.”
Advocates of an international society, like Rearden, primarily
concern themselves with issues of social justice and usually make their
arguments in the form of appeals to conscience.
These appeals also tend to be couched in a language of Left versus
Right with internationalists on the Left.
However, while simultaneously critiquing the traditional or rightist
international relations stance, James Mayall offers a devastating critique
of the enforcement of universal liberal values: “it is a terrible
indictment of the democratic world order that its belief in a technological
solution to human problems persuaded NATO that it could bomb Yugoslavia into
respect for fundamental human rights.”
Further, Mayall’s criticism of the contradiction between the
theoretical ideals of liberalism and the costs associated with their
implementation forces liberals to reassess the lengths they are willing to
go to ensure that democratic regimes will remain in power.
example of Yugoslavia begs the question, “what does it mean to be liberal
and/or democratic?” Political
distinctions are not ideological distinctions.
Yet, ideology constitutes the political lens through which we view
and interpret the world of ideas and political practice.
In the early 1990s, Norberto Bobbio responded to the criticisms that
ideological distinctions had become passé with the end of the Cold War by
arguing that “equality” is the only stable concept throughout the
spectrum between left and right.
In particular, he argues that the Left seeks to reduce the amount of
suffering in the world, that the Left tends towards egalitarian values and
that the Right tends towards inegalitarian values.
Bobbio defines equality specifically in the following manner: “an
egalitarian doctrine or movement which tends to reduce social inequality and
make natural inequalities less painful is completely different from
egalitarianism, understood as ‘equality for everyone in everything’.”
Bobbio’s distinctions will provide this paper with a just measure
for liberal democratic action and remove the fuzzy edges surrounding the
terms “liberal,” “democracy,” “right,” and “left.”
and advocates of democracy have often argued that democratic states tend to
cooperate best with other democracies.
Thus the answer to the question of what lengths liberals ought to go
to enforce democratic values
may in fact be best answered within the context of already established
democratic states. After all,
if democracy cannot be enforced within democracies how can liberals expect
to enforce it upon “undemocratic” regimes?
The recent rise of the Freiheitliche Partei (Freedom Party) in
Austria offers an excellent test case for the theory that interactions
between democratic regimes will necessarily be peaceful. Austria’s Freedom Party and its telegenic leader Jörg
Haider have increasingly been accused of advocating political methods that
are “outside the pale” of democracy.
Yet, in February of 2000 the FPÖ formed a coalition government with
the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), via a democratic election.
This move recalled to many Western observers’ minds the rise of
Hitler in 1932 as well as the Austrian people’s complacency and outright
support of Hitler for the incorporation of Austria under the German Reich in
However, the issue is more complicated than the current media allows.
Prima facie, the issue reduces to numerous comments made by the
party’s leader, Jörg Haider, that attempt to glorify National Socialist
policies and language, xenophobic policies concerning guest workers, and the
leader’s vision of a “third republic” and a “cultural revolution”
Much of the international news focused on these apparently gross
disregards for the atrocities committed by Nazis during the Holocaust.
The international press focuses on the party’s policy proposals
that would deny rights to all immigrants, increase the power of the
president, and forgo all possibility of a vergangenheitsbewaeltigung
in the German vein.
However, little attention has been paid to the FPÖ except to
demonize it; for example, few have given credence to the legitimate concerns
that the machine style politics (know as proportz in Austria) has led
to corruption in government or that Austria needs to redefine itself after
the end of the Cold War.
Instead, the mass media has cultivated an image of Austria in its
entirety as a country that is slipping outside the pale of democracy by
turning Haider into a Nazi.
international community framed the debate so rigidly that little room for
compromise exists—after all, no one wants to be seen compromising with
evil. Liberal politicians know
what their actions should be if Haider looks like Hitler and so they dress
him as such. With this
framework in mind, it is no wonder that the February 4, 2000 creation of an
ÖVP-FPÖ coalition lead government has unleashed a flood of international
outcry. The EU has boycotted
Austria, the United States is “watching closely,” Israel has recalled
its foreign diplomats, and the World Jewish Congress has condemned Haider
and the Freedom Party as anti-Semitic.
The narrative told by the international media makes it clear that
this seemingly inegalitarian, anti-democratic, and xenophobic party threaten
visions of an international society of peace and harmony.
Thus, the protection of democracy and liberal values demands that the
international community take decisive steps to ensure the eminence of the
so-called universal values of life, liberty, health, and property.
In its language, the international community has conflated “human
rights” with the traditional theories of John Locke’s “life, liberty,
health, and property.” However,
once the main actors reduce the narrative to its ideological components
(human rights and democracy) the debate stops.
It is precisely at this juncture that the sender nations must ask
themselves, what lengths ought we go to ensure democracy?
What is the
role of the international community in addressing an apparently undemocratic
party’s rise to power in Europe, especially a party that has distressing
similarities with National Socialism? This
essay is deeply concerned with the underlying and troubling question: to
what lengths ought liberal democrats go to ensure the supremacy of democracy
around the world? This
paper argues one that the international community has a responsibility to
act, based upon the rule of law, to prevent undemocratic governments from
rising to power, even if they have arisen by democratic means.
And, two, that the problem of the FPÖ’s rise to power indicates
the failure of the traditional power structures to respond to legitimate
concerns of the Austrian people.
Ultimately, the international community would like to frame the
debate over the Freedom Party’s inclusion into the ruling coalition as an
example of the failure of democracy in Austria.
As such, the central problematic for Austria and for the
international community is to find the best solution for revitalizing
democracy in Austria. A corollary problematic is to determine whether those means
should be themselves democratic or undemocratic in nature.
Although the European Union nations et al are not bombing Austria
into respect for human rights, the EU nations are employing means that are
themselves “outside the pale” of democracy.
For, although sanctions carry a certain moral legitimacy over war the
intentions are unmistakably the same: to bend one party to another party’s
will. However, many believe
that we must pay this price in order to ensure the eminence of democracy.
Socialist Roots and the Historikerstreit in Österreich.
a statist or realist perspective there was much that the international
community could have done to prevent Austria’s annexation by Germany. In 1934 the Austrian Chancellor Dolfuss was assassinated by
Austrian Nazis. It was at this
time that many began to doubt the longevity of the republic.
Yet, hope was not lost. Dolfuss’
replacement was a staunch proponent of the republic even if he was
autocratic. No one will
idealize the first republic for it was clearly not based upon liberal values
or human rights. However, it
was not Nazi. But this pre-war
period was not cauterized by the Nazi flames the way the later world leaders
would be. Later, every evil
would be measured against Hitler. Thus,
when Schuschnigg came to power he immediately began to lobby the
international community to support an independent Austria.
By 1934 Germany had already assumed that the anschluss
(annexation) was a foregone conclusion; that it was merely a matter of time
before it would occur. Schuschnigg
disagreed and in 1935 went first to Britain, then to France, and to Italy.
In all cases Schuschnigg’s pleas were ignored or rejected.
In the British parliament, the idea of even expressing token support
for an Austria free from foreign influence was shouted down.
France and Italy were both either unable or unwilling to help prevent
an annexation by Germany. It is in this light that Richard Bassett states that,
“[i]solated abroad, undermined at home, Schuschnigg’s Austria now moved
swiftly towards extinction.”
Had England or France been able to make a clear stand in favor of an
independent Austria it is likely that a German take-over of Austria would
have had to be a military one. Nevertheless,
with the lack of outside support for an independent Austria, Schuschnigg
abdicated to the Nazis.
Austrian Self Image: First Victim of the Nazis
little indication that the international community, with regards to Haider
and the FPO, is trying to make up for its missed opportunities before 1938.
Regardless of the possible realist/state centered opportunities that
were missed, the international community is now concerned with Austria’s
history after the anschluss.
In fact, the international community’s response to the recent
coalition government of the ÖVP and the FPÖ consists primarily of
references to Austria’s Nazi past. Thus, this section will discuss Austria’s “brown
stains.” The Austrian
self-image is one based upon the October 1943 Moscow Conference joint
four-nation declaration which states that Austria was “the first free
country to fall a victim to Hitlerite aggression.” The fact that each of the
three main parties (SPÖ, ÖVP, and FPÖ) in Austria contain members as well
as leaders who were Nazis is an indication that the perceived victim status
has helped Austrians “forget” Austria’s role in the War.
However, the roots of National Socialism in Austria trace back to and
beyond the Austrian people’s celebration in 1938 of the German anschluss.
National Socialism and racism were strong in Austria prior to its
annexation by Germany.
Uhl estimates that up to 8 % of the population were members of the NSDAP.
By 1942, if one includes families, “25 percent of the population
can be said to have been sympathizers of the Nazi party.”
Thus, few in the older generation can claim to be free from
association or guilt. In spite
of Austria’s participation in the Third Reich, Austria claims victim
status. The popular image is as
follows, “in March of 1938 Austria was occupied and annexed by Germany
against its will; it was liberated in April/May 1945 by Austrian resistance
fighters and the Allies. The
years between 1938 and 1945 were described as a period of foreign rule and,
as far as Austria’s role and participation in the war was concerned, these
were portrayed as a period of resistance and persecution, of the nation’s
fight for its liberation.”
Thus it is no wonder that while Germans were having open debates in
the press over their history and their guilt, Austrians were teaching the
younger generation that “the Second World War belongs to world history,
but not to Austrian history. It
was not an Austrian war. Austria
did not participate in it.”
Simon Wiesenthal, the famous Nazi hunter, has noted that even though Austria
made up only a small portion (8.5%) of the German Reich, “80% of
Eichmann’s staff were Austrian, and three quarters of the commanders of
the extermination camps were also Austrian.
Globotschnig, for example, was the chief of Jewish extermination in
the General-Gouvernement (Poland), and with a staff of sixty-five people
from Carinthia (the region in Southern Austria around Klagenfurt) they were
responsible for over two million dead.
They were Nazis from Austria.”
it is empirically difficult to substantiate the claim that the time from
1938 to 1945 was a time of “foreign rule” unless you were a victim of
the Nazis. The rest of what was
the Third Reich was forced to deal with its past.
Although denazification did not effectively root out all the major
criminals in Germany, it was substantial enough that modern day German
politicians can claim to be members of the group of Germans who state that
it was better to lose the war than to win it under Hitler.
This is not to say that Germany has truly come to grips with its
past, but that some “airing out” has occurred.
Although the reality of Austria’s wartime involvement is much different
from this self-image, the image is nonetheless attributable to the
international community’s (in this case the Allies make up the
international community) failure to fully address Austria’s willing
participation in Hitler’s war aims. Austria’s
past is inextricably tied to the international community’s willingness to
accept the 1943 Moscow declaration to be upheld in international law courts.
Further, it served as an excuse to cloak Austria’s past from the
Austrian population. For, the
declaration clearly states that “Austria is reminded, however that she has a
responsibility, which she cannot evade, for participation in the war at the
side of Hitlerite Germany, and that in the final settlement account will
inevitably be taken of her own contribution to her liberation.”
Thus, it is no wonder that
given the choice between being held responsible for its participation in the
war at the side of Hitlerite Germany or promoting a self-image of resistance
to Hitlerite aggression that Austrians prefer the later.
to grips with Austria’s past: Hitler’s welcome home party
should not be too surprising that Austria wishes to forget about the past.
Current historical interpretation and revelation of the events
leading up to 1938 as well as the period between 1938 and 1945 indicate that
there was strong Nazi sentiment within Austria.
There is much to be said about the notion that not all Austrians were
Nazis, yet they were clearly ineffective at preventing the more active Nazi
groups from stealing the show. Evan
Burr Bukey has recently described the Anschluss as a reflex action by Hitler
as opposed to an organized seizure of power.
The overwhelming demonstrations of mass support for National
Socialism so fully surprised Hitler that he had to call an emergency meeting
with his advisors to determine the appropriate course of action.
The extent to which Hitler underestimated the support for the Nazi
Party within Austria is summed up by noting that even Vienna, described as
the “last bastion to fall,” witnessed “more than a quarter of a
million people” demonstrating for the “prodigal son”
of Austria returned. Further,
the overwhelming impression of the demonstrations that raged throughout
Austria was that it was the will of the people, not some kind of fringe
element of the society. Bukey
notes that one British observer at the time said that “for once workers
and bourgeois stood side by side with undivided enthusiasm”
for the new Nazi regime. It is
possible to conclude that this show of mass support was partly due to the
fact that the Schussnig regime or the First Austrian Republic was not
strongly supported, that many Austrians did not believe that Austria
constituted a nation, and that in the end, Shussnig himself told those who
supported the First Republic not to fight a fratricidal war.
It would be
false to say that all were happy about the take over or that all were
enthusiastic Hitler supporters. Some
cried in their apartments,
others later described the events as if the hordes of hell had been
unleashed upon Austria, and still others were
merely sick of the old regime.
But, the prevailing anti-Jewish sentiment of Austria, the April 1938
plebiscite of which 99.93 percent
of the population voted in favor of the anschluss, and the general
outpouring of nationalist sentiment indicates that it would be even more
false to say that Austria was the victim of Nazi aggression.
As Bukey notes: “Although Hitler’s foreign policy goals remained
open, scarcely anyone objected to his authoritarian system or to his
intention of ridding Austria of undesirable minorities and social
It is no wonder that Austria remained loyal to Hitler’s war aims to
the end and that once defeated Austria’s leaders clearly understood that
the only way to escape the Allies’ recriminations was to agree publicly
that Austria was the first victim of Nazi aggression.
The Moscow Declaration allowed Austrians to forget that they had held
a welcome home party for their prodigal son, Adolf Hitler.
In fact it
was not until the ex-Secretary General of the United Nations, Kurt Waldheim,
ran for President of Austria that a real coming to grips with the past began
to evolve in Austria. With the
publication of his autobiography, many people began to wonder about the lack
of information on his wartime duties, reported to have been spent in the
Balkans. It was slowly revealed
over the course of his presidential campaign that he was likely involved in
the final solution as well as “Operation Black” “a huge German-Italian
offensive in Montenegro against Yugslav partisans.”
The revelations elicited a barrage of criticisms of Waldheim’s
amnesia as convenient omissions or lapses of memory.
International responses from America, Israel and Germany were full of
wrath and invective. It seemed
impossible for the various debaters to determine what was worse:
Waldheim’s lies or his crimes. Within
Austria proper, the effects were increasingly divisive, to the point that
people felt bitter. Anti-Semitism
actually rose and became almost justifiable in the minds of many Austrians.
Jörg Haider would argue that the United States had been happy with
Waldheim’s performance as Secretary General of the United Nations.
The sudden change in opinion was a clear representation of the
hypocrisy of the accusers not to mention another case of Austria’s
victimization at the hands of international forces.
Nonetheless, the Waldheim affair served to draw attention to
Austria’s past and to force open discussions of Austria’s brown stains.
Sadly, the immediate repercussions were increased hostility towards
Jews, “guest workers,” and other perceived minorities.
Although, at the very least, the Waldheim affair demonstrated that
even though Austria had been hiding from its past, it was capable of
producing an environment that created some scholars and citizens who wanted
to learn more and to discuss the past.
as scapegoat for the ÖVP and SPÖ
politicians of all parties have capitalized on Austria’s coming to grips
with the past by labeling opponents as Nazi or authoritarian.
However, the FPÖ in particular has born the brunt of these
criticisms. Inside and outside
of Austria the FPÖ and especially Jörg Haider have been repeatedly accused
of legitimizing National Socialist policies, using rhetoric that is
reminiscent of Nazism, and perpetuating the myth of Austrian innocence in
the crimes of World War II. Mellanie
Sully, the British born Viennese resident and scholar who has detailed the
FPÖ and Jörg Haider, argues that “throughout its history the FPÖ was
haunted by the shadow of Nazism.”
The roots of the Freedom Party can easily be traced to the NSDAP.
As the descendent of the VdU (Verband der Unabhängigen—Association
of the Independent) the FPÖ also inherited a history of party programs of
“integrating former Nazis as well as those more generally dissatisfied
with the power holders.”
Max Riedlsperger points out that, “virtually all of its members,
who later emerged as the “neo-liberal” leaders of the FPÖ, came from
families that at the very least were grossdeutsche if not outright
Practically speaking there is little doubt that the FPÖ has
similarities with the xenophobic, nationalistic, and racist elements of
Nazism. I find it particularly
troubling that the intense scrutiny of the FPÖ serves to bury the Nazi past
of the other parties as well as their own xenophobic and racist policies.
himself quickly points out that at the end of the war, and the banning of
the nationalist parties, most ex-Nazis joined the Socialists or the
People’s parties. In an
interview with Melanie Sully, Haider explains that, “[a]fter the war they [Haider’s parents] were classified as small Nazis, whilst
the really big ones sought their careers with the ÖVP and the SPÖ.
They became mayors and ministers and politicians for the province
whilst the little people were penalized including my parents.”
As sully notes in her book The Haider Phenomenon, “not all
former Nazis had ended up with the Third Lager [political camp].
Some had even moved up the ranks of the SPÖ and became cabinet
ministers in Kreisky’s first government.
During the Waldheim affair, members of the ÖVP were accused of
appealing to anti-Semitic prejudice.”
Further, while the Nazi past is certainly a valid issue and criticism
of the FPÖ and Haider, it is important to note that Haider himself was born
in 1950. Yes, he did have
Nazi’s for parents and yes he was raised in a very anti-Semitic province
but he was not himself a Nazi.
I seek to
problematize the FPÖ as scapegoat because it changes the real issue: that
Haider is a threat to democracy not because of his tactics or his past but
because of his ideas. Following
Norberto Bobbio’s distinction between left and right, I argue that
Haider’s politics derive from politically right ideologies because he is
not concerned with equality.
Haider’s beliefs are exclusionary and inegalitarian and therefore
place him and his party on the right. The
critics who attack Haider on the bases of his demagoguery, his style of
rhetoric, and his desire to strengthen the role of the president fail to
recognize that any party can be found guilty on most counts.
And, most damning of the other parties in relation to Haider is the
fact that his ideas, which have been so hotly debated, have actually been
dominating Austrian politics. In
fact, Haider has prided himself upon being able to set the tone of politics
in Austria: “Haider always liked to think that his party set things in
motion in Austria and that on many questions the other parties acted in
response to and not in advance of the Freedom Party.”
In particular, Haider’s party contested the seemingly large amounts
of immigrants who entered Austria beginning with the fall of Communism in
the East. Sully further notes
that, “the attempt to box the FPÖ into an extreme brown corner proved a
strategy tried by the socialists and the conservatives was to overtake
Haider on the right; immigration, however, proved equally futile and served
only to “prove” or legitimate Haider’s politics--as the elections of
1994 showed. It was difficult
to see where the two main parties really stood.
The ÖVP sporadically opted for the “politics of the Centre”
while the SPÖ toyed with the idea of liberalism.”
Further, Haider problematized the system of party privileges whereby
party affiliation and rank might determine one’s ability to get a job or
an apartment [the system known as proportz is similar to the US
notion of “machine” politics]. Thus in many ways, Haider’s assertion that he and his party
are really trying to strengthen democracy in Austria does have some truth in
it. However, a closer look at
his politics may reveal the truth in the criticisms.
and the FPÖ
In order to
understand many of the criticisms that have been leveled against Haider and
the FPÖ this next section will discuss the Freedom Party’s structure in
three parts: 1) The Leadership principle; 2) The Party platform; and, 3) The
FPÖ and Haider. Jörg
Haider has been criticized for advocating the strengthening of the role of
the President of Austria which although not just a figurehead position is
considerably less powerful than the United State’s president.
Many fear that this is a representation of Haider’s desire to be
the leader of Austria. The
leader principle is analogous with Hitler and the Führer.
The implication of the accusation is that Haider may appeal to the
“authoritarian personality” within the Austrian people.
The notion of the authoritarian personality stems largely from the
Frankfurt School’s attempts to understand why the Nazi’s were so
successful; their research lead to the conclusion that the authoritarian
personality is represented by a person who “seems to combine the ideas and
skills which are typical of a highly industrialized society with irrational
or antirational beliefs. He is
at the same time enlightened and superstitious, proud to be an individualist
and in constant fear of not being like all the others, jealous of his
independence and inclined to submit blindly to power and authority.”
Many Europeans believe that the Germans and the Austrians have a more
heightened authoritarian tendency than most and conclude that these
countries should be paid closer attention to.
Haider’s desire for a strong president can in many ways be linked
to his own style of leadership; thus it can be argued that he wanted to
remodel the Austrian political system based upon his own political practice.
On the other hand it might be just as easy to argue that Haider was
merely responding to the international uproar over the Waldheim affair, thus
in keeping with his politics of opposition argued against the dominant
order. However, Austria favored
the limited role of the president; as Melanie Sully explains: “in the
1990s, Austria needed no crisis manager or Führer figure.
It had come of age; the days of paternalism were over.”
Whether Sully’s analysis is correct or not has yet to be seen.
The recent rise of the FPÖ may in fact be an indication that the
desire for a strong leader has resurfaced in Austria.
Austria’s existence as a nation state has historically been called
into question by its own citizens as well as by the rest of the world. The eminence of the Freedom Party and Haider may just be an
indication that Austria is looking for a sense of vision and national
spite of the party’s call for more power for the president, as well as
more power for the provinces (read “state’s rights” in United States
parlance), it has also called for more participation from the people in the
political process. To this end
Haider has qualified his definition of the FPÖ as a movement instead of a
Because of the FPO’s far-right platform, one is easily reminded of
the Nazi party strategy—but it can also be compared to any “movement”
such as the Green Party (for example Petra Kelly’s notion of
“anti-politics”) or populism in the United States. However, this is a clear example of why the party should not
be criticized as much on tactics so much as on ideas. In a democracy, increased participation in the political
process should be encouraged, but inegalitarian values and principles should
be criticized actively.
One important question for the FPO and democracy in Austria is who
according to Haider and the FPO will be treated equally?
An examination of the party’s racist platform will reveal the
problematic issues that the international community has been responding so
harshly to over the last few months. It
will also reveal areas that the international community ought to pay
a recent World Policy Journal article, Jacob Heilbrunn has reviewed
the situation in Austria from both an optimist’s and a pessimist’s
perspective. Heilbrunn rails
against Haider’s xenophobia and his “disdain for the past” while
admitting that Austria’s influx of over 400,000 immigrants since 1988 has
not been dealt with adequately by the previous ruling coalition.
However, it is quite evident from Heilbrunn’s account that the
distinction between the FPO as a political party and Jörg Haider as the
party leader is sometimes indistinguishable; Heilbrunn’s article includes
little mention of the Party, focusing solely on Haider.
Is the problem in Austria Haider, the FPO, the failure of the
traditional power elite to satisfy the needs of the people, or the mass
migration of Eastern European refugees?
Heilbrunn’s own answer is clear, Austria is the problem.
It would be easy to dismiss Heilbrunn’s superficial denunciation of
Austria as inherently right-wing due to his lack of evidence and argument by
assertion and yet he carries with him the weight of the entire European
Union and the international media. Therefore,
the burden of proof lies with Austria even though it ought to lie with the
slightly dated defense of Austria written by John Fitzmourice, and endorsed
by Bruno Kreisky, indicates that for many years the Austrian way was the
ideal way of balancing power within a nation, something other countries
should look to for guidance.
The Austrian way, based on consensual governance helped Austria deal
with many international crisis throughout the Cold War years.
For example, Austria suffered very little during the energy crisis
during the 1970s. Further, it
has a substantial welfare system that provides care for the majority of the
population. In spite of these
advantages there are also problems. The
consensual politics model of Austria, which brings together political
parties to divide the spoils evenly between the leading parties, tends to
avoid conflict and therefore shelves issues that become intractable.
Issues that, in a “first past the post” or “winner take all”
democracy, would become open for public debate and decided by majority rule,
therefore, never see the light of day.
is precisely this model that Haider takes offense with.
He portrays the issues that are shelved as examples of the
inefficiency of the government. Because
those issues are, by their very nature of being the issues that are shelved,
the most divisive, he personally takes advantage of any political situation
that arises and exploits it to his favor.
One may conclude that he is just acting the part of the
opposition—he himself claims that his party is there to strengthen
democracy and not to weaken it.
the issue is not really one of opposition politics.
There is little doubt that opposition parties will, by the very
nature, find the flaws in the status quo and bring them to the light.
The heart of the issue is the distinction between left and right.
What Haider chooses to do with those flaws, the answers that he
provides, and the fears that he manipulates and feeds is the most
frightening aspect of his politics. Therefore,
when the immigration from the ex-Soviet republics into Austria began to
increase, Haider’s honed tactics of opposition were employed for
right-wing ends when he argued for political solutions that discriminated
against the new arrivals. For
example, it is difficult to accept that his politics is merely a politics of
opposition when he makes comments that unashamedly equate foreigners with
Instead of pursuing a course of inclusion, Haider and the FPO have
been fanatical about excluding those who have migrated to Austria.
Haider has fostered a sense that Austria’s problems are caused by
outside forces. One merely has to note the Waldheim affair, argues Haider, to
see that outsiders have abused Austria.
If Austria can be an Austria for the Austrians, then life will be
better. He continues by noting
that the ruling parties have not been able to deal with the situation and as
a result Austrian children attend schools where eighty percent of the
students cannot even speak German. Because
of this logic, many Austrian workers and students support the Freedom Party
and especially Haider. He
claims that he says the things that most people want to say but are afraid
to because of the ideological strangle hold that the liberals have on
society. The result of this
political climate has been more restrictive immigration measures as well as
attempts to get immigrants to leave via difficult application processes and
even revoking residency permits from foreigners who reside in living spaces
of less than ten square meters.
It should also be noted that Haider’s definition of “foreigner”
has a tendency to mean more than just those people who have recently
migrated. Austria still retains
the racial/blood requirement for citizenship (which is ironic considering
that most Austrians can trace their roots back to Slavic or Jewish
ancestors. Kurt Waldheim’s
parents changed their last name to Waldheim from the Czech, Waclavek in the
hopes of becoming more accepted during the monarchical period).
Nevertheless, Haider’s policies have the potential to affect all
those who do not fit into the accepted conception of what it means to be
international community blames Haider for these measures because he helped
create the political climate suitable for the passage of such laws.
However, the ruling coalitions at the time were responsible for
passing the bills. The
interaction between Haider’s party and the ruling coalition is one of
action and reaction: Haider acts and the SPO-OVP leaders react.
The strategy employed by the opponents of Haider has been to ignore
him, hoping that he would just go away if he did not get attention.
In the mean time Haider’s party continued to gain votes (the FPO
has consistently increased its electorate since Haiders ascendancy to party
leader in 1986). The Socialists
and Conservatives, in response to Haider’s increasingly popular (not to
mention populist) politics, passed legislation that was in line with
Haider’s. One can only deduce from this that the socialists and
conservatives thought it better to remain in power even at the price of
their political and ethical values.
However, in this scenario, Haider and the FPO can only win because
the OVP and the SPO are both shown to be hypocritical on the one hand and
power hungry on the other (not to mention that racist and xenophobic
legislation becomes law). Observers
of the Austrian situation must ask themselves whether the greater evil is
the party that espouses xenophobia but has no power to legislate those
values or the party that espouses freedom and liberal values but legislates
xenophobic policy? Again, it is
important to reflect upon the distinction between left and right.
The FPO advocated, propagandized, and wrote legislation that excluded
“foreigners.” Yet, it was
the parties in power who signed it all into law.
Are the socialists on the left or on the right if they enact
right-wing policy? Are actions
less important than words?
one is tempted to think that the problem is just Haider, that without him
the party itself would be “defanged” so to speak, then a close
examination of the actual Declaration of the Freedom Party will put this
suspicion to rest. Although
there are many examples of racism and xenophobia mixed into the FPÖ’s
official party platform it is important to note that “fundamentalist
Islam” (what ever that is…) is seen to be more of a threat than Judaism
(which is admitted in the party platform as at least influencing Western
values of democracy and human rights)—in spite of the fact that Israel and
the World Jewish congress have dubbed Haider and the FPÖ anti-Semitic.
In chapter V, article 2 of the FPÖ’s party platform, radical Islam
is singled out as a threat to Western values: “But these foundations
[Western and/or Christian values of democracy and human rights] are
endangered by different streams of thought. The increasing fundamentalism of
radical Islam which is penetrating Europe, as well as hedonistic
consumption, aggressive capitalism, increasing occultism, pseudo-religious
sects and an omnipresent nihilism threaten the consensus of values which is
in danger of getting lost.”
This passage is rich for interpretation.
For example, what does “consensus of values” mean?
Certainly Haider does not want a consensus that is dominated by the
socialists? He wants a
consensus that will allow the FPO to gain power and that would place him in
the Chancellery. Consider for
example a statement from the FPO’s 20 Points for the “Contract
with Austria:” point four: “We promise to safeguard freedom of
opinion….The state opinion monopoly which violates human rights should be
Now, compare the above declared position of the FPO with the
situation in Austria after the FPO’s entry into government, “Journalists
on the public service television channel ORF have been threatened with
dismissal for being too critical of the government and some coalition
politicians have called for weekly demonstrations in the centre of Vienna to
One must also wonder what he means by “aggressive capitalism.”
Is this a bone to old socialist voters?
How does anti-capitalism fit into Haider’s reported desire to turn
his home state into the “Silicon Alps?”
Silicon Valley, after all, represents extensive ethnic diversity
rather than anti-capitalist forces.
interesting for our discussion of the enforcement of democratic values via
undemocratic means is the FPÖ’s own position on this topic: “The
preservation of the intellectual foundations of the West necessitates a
Christianity that defends its values.”
The Freedom Party’s platform reads very similar to John Locke’s
classical liberal treatise where he states that, “every man…has a power
to kill a murderer…and also to secure men from the attempts of a criminal,
who having renounced reason, hath…declared war against all mankind, and
therefore may be destroyed as a lion or a tyger, one of those wild savage
beasts, with whom men can have no society nor security.”
Thus in classical liberal terms, the party clearly makes a
distinction between rational forces (read democratic states and Christian
which will act peacefully with other rational forces, and irrational forces
(read non democratic states and non-Christian nations) which have
necessarily put themselves at war with the liberal forces of reason.
Both passages indicate that the use of coercive means to universalize
and defend its values is both permissible and even necessary.
Both Christianity and liberalism go together with missionary work and
the crusades. Thus the problem
of sanctions against Austria for the sake of an ideal, even when those
sanctions seem to go against the ideal itself are both justified from the
perspective of classical liberalism as well as from the perspective of the
may be, however, that the Leader of the FPÖ is the real issue.
The international community has largely responded to Haider as opposed to
the FPÖ. In 1991 Haider was
criticized and punished for his comments made while governor of
Corinthia when he argued that, “an
orderly employment policy was carried out in the Third Reich, which the
government in Vienna cannot manage.”
This comment gave his opponents enough ammunition to have him removed
from the Governor’s seat. In
1990 he argued that Austria needs to find “a final solution to the farm
question.” And, in 1995 after
not attending the ceremonies for the 50th anniversary of the
liberation of the Mauthausen death camp, Haider referred to it as a
“punishment camp.” All of
these altered uses of Nazi terms and slogans do more to signal the extreme
right and racist elements of Austria that Haider is their man than they do
to justify the atrocities of the Holocaust. The famous Nazi hunter, Simon
Wiesenthal, has argued that in spite of Haider’s rhetoric, “he is not a
neo-Nazi; he’s a radical—he could be a radical left or radical right.”
However he also points out that he is politically astute as well as eager to
gain political power.
Considering Austria’s past, it is understandable that the
international community has narrowed in on these particular comments, as
well as his party’s platform.
is interesting to note that some view Haider’s rhetoric of opposition
politics, wherein he consistently attacks the government, the majority
politicians, and every other flaw in the system that crops up along the way,
as the cause of the problems in Austria.
A 1998 study of public opinion of politicians in Austria concluded
that “Perhaps our most interesting finding is that the one party whose
supporters are the most scathing in their view of politicians—FPO
supporters—is also the party that the public and politicians blame for the
negative image of politicians.”
Haider’s tactics do seem to have contradictory results.
On the one hand his opposition politics has fostered a lack of trust
in government while simultaneously garnering an increasing share of the
electorate. In a country that
commands a near total eligible voter turnout for elections, Haider’s party
won an astonishing 27 percent of the total vote—the same as the OVP.
Thus, I find it difficult to understand the claim that Haider
Society Response to the February 4th Coalition
European Union Response
paper has been leading up to a discussion of the international community’s
response to te February 4 coalition via a history of Austria and a
description of the FPÖ and Haider because it is impossible to understand
the intense responses to the FPÖ shared government without understanding
the historical forces at play. Nor
is it possible to understand the response without an understanding of Jörg
Haider and the FPÖ. Further,
this paper is premised on the interpretation of the international
community’s latent fear of the rise of a Germanic far right party because
of the lingering shadow of Nazism. Although
the criticisms of the possibility of a far right party coalition government
have been raging for quite some time, the fears did not materialize into
reality until February 4, 2000.
The responses from the international community were immediate.
Portugal’s Prime Minister, Antonio Guterres, stated that the new
government was a threat to liberal values: "A whole range of values
that underpin our civilization are at stake."
Belgian foreign minister, Louis Michel, stated that “Europe can very well
do without Austria. We don't need it.”
The European Parliament fears that the inclusion of the far-right
party into the Austrian government will legitimize right extremism
As the London Times overseas correspondent Martin Fletcher
notes, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy and Portugal are the strongest
supporters of sanctions. According to the Financial Times, “A resolution
condemning ‘all the insulting, xenophobic and racist statements’ issued
by Mr Haider in recent years was approved by 405 to 53 votes with 60
The parallel between the Freedom party’s notion of a Christianity
that must defend itself, the Portuguese Prime Minister’s statement of
values, and the classical liberal notion that the forces of reason must root
out the forces of irrationality that have placed themselves at war with
reason should not be missed. These repercussions are an alternative to
outright banishment of Austria from the European Union and are the result of
many debates among parliamentarians.
European parliamentary debates consist largely of issues of democratic
theory: what is the role of democratic nations in enforcing democracy, even
in democratically elected governments?
It is a positive sign that political leaders of Europe validate the
underlying question of this paper because it indicates that beyond the
headlines their lies a seriously critical and conscious European leadership.
The London Times summed up the problem immediately following
the swearing in ceremony of the new government: “To abhor Herr Haider's
xenophobia, and to deplore the outcome of Austria's parliamentary election
last October in which the FPO won 52 of the 183 seats and became the second
largest party, is one thing. Effectively to deny the legitimacy of the
Austrian ballot is quite another.”
The leaders of Europe unequivocally support the criticism of
Haider’s politics but worry that to further isolate Austria may in fact
strengthen his voter base. However,
there are also a number of central European leaders who are questioning the
role of sanctions not on liberal principles but on traditional realist
notions of national sovereignty based upon the Westphalian system: “Vaclav
Klaus, the head of the Czech senior opposition Civic Democrats (ODS),
expressed solidarity with the OeVP's decision to form a coalition with
Haider's party. He wrote in the letter that the reaction from the EU
amounted to ‘an unseen attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of a
sovereign democratic country’.” Vaclav Klaus’ criticism
indicates an interesting realist defense of liberal views.
Democracy should be protected not because of its modern connection
with liberalism but rather based upon a state-centered notion of
sovereignty. As of this
writing, the European Union is still maintaining bilateral sanctions against
Austria in spite of Austrian leaders’ continued protests and threats to
veto EU decisions as well as to hold an Austrian referendum to condemn the
Further, Denmark has issued statements of protest against the
sanctions because its electorate sees the EU response to Austria as an
example of the Goliath of the EU trampling the rights of the smaller
indicated by the comments made by the foreign ministers of France and
Belgium, the responses have been scathing if superficial.
Many Europeans believe that the reason for a boycott of Austria is a
“no brainer.” Many still remember World War II, Hitler, and the
devastation which in many places is still visible.
A telling example of the ideological stance of many Europeans who
oppose the rise of the Freedom party to government level is a comment made
by a French woman about the larger, moral position of Europe to prevent the
rise of the extreme right. She
states forcefully that, “Austria is le ventre de la bete," literally,
the womb of the beast.”
This comment resonates well with the notion that before 1938 Europe
missed an opportunity to prevent the rise of Hitler due to the great
powers’ policy of appeasement. The
European foreign ministers and many European voters have made the same
conclusion that Jacob Heilbrunn made when he said recently that, “[t]he
fundamental problem isn’t Haider. It’s
The argument is that because Austria is the birth place of Hitler,
because Austrians represented an overwhelming percentage of high ranking
Nazis during the anschluss and before (when comparing the size of
Austria to that of Germany), and, although more implicitly than explicitly,
because Austrians have never owned up to their guilt Austria should be
boycotted as long as there is a far right party in power.
Even if this logic lacks a certain theoretical cogency, it should be
convincing enough to resonate with Europeans on an emotive level if not on a
purely rational level. Further,
those who experienced Nazi terror as victims will have an understandable gut
level reaction to the rise of a party that refuses to apologize or recognize
the horrors of the past. However,
one must wonder about the reasons for the international outcry beyond the
the gut level reactions to the new government in Austria do not completely
justify sanctions, then maybe a discussion of the legal framework within
which the EU supposedly works. Until now, this essay has not discussed the foundations of
European Union. In order to
determine the legality of the sanctions, this paper now turns towards a
discussion of the founding documents of the European Union.
In principle, the framers of the union premised their work on several
essential concepts. The
principle document of the European Union, the Maastricht Treaty, stands or
falls on the principle of democracy. The
following passage is of particular relevance:
The Union shall respect the national identities of its Member States, whose
systems of government are founded on the principles of democracy.
The Union shall respect fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 and as they result from the constitutional
traditions common to the Member States, as general principles of Community
The Union shall provide itself with the means necessary to attain its
objectives and carry through its policies.
is possible to interpret this passage in many ways.
It appears that the EU has interpreted Article F with regards the
Austrian case in the following manner.
The EU does not need to respect Austria’s national identity (i.g.
which is now determined by the February 4 government) because the new
government is completely divorced from the founding principles of Austria
(which were decreed by the occupying powers after 1945).
By including the FPO, Austria necessarily put itself at “war”
with the rest of the community. Although
the EU has chosen not to actually go to war with Austria militarily, it has
gone to war economically. This
is perfectly consistent with Article F item number three which all but
states that the EU may use any means necessary to maintain community law.
By definition, community law is subject to change based upon majority
rule in spite of the fact that decrees from the EU must be made on a
consensual basis. In the case
of Austria the vote was 14-1 and Austria lost.
Maastricht Treaty may provide the theoretical and legal framework to justify
sanctions against Austria, but it does not demonstrate that the EU’s
actions are just. In fact it
can be reduced to the adage, “united we stand, divided we fall.”
The commitment to solidarity among member states is dependent upon
the somewhat arbitrary application of community law. In this case, community law decrees that Haider and his party
not enter government in Europe. A
more enlightened approach would be to provide incentives for action
consistent with the values of human rights instead of isolation and
condemnation. After all, a
little over a decade ago the EU, the United States, and Israel played a
similar game with Austria during the Waldheim Affair.
As Gordon Brook-Shepherd indicates, Austria became more anti-Semitic
and more enclosed.
It is a common truism that isolation causes a “bunker” or
“rally ‘round the flag” mentality within the minds of those who are
isolated. It also does little
to promote enlightened, least of all liberal, thought. Perhaps Europeans are too close to the problem though.
Maybe the responses outside of the EU will prove to be more
Responses to Austria
outside of the EU
EU is not alone in its condemnation of the government in Austria.
Other nations’ responses have been equally serious.
Then United States’ President Bill Clinton, in a February 14
interview with CNN.com, voiced similar concerns as the EU: “I think we've
made it quite clear that we do not support any expression of either sympathy
with the Nazis in the past or ultra-nationalist race-based politics,
anti-immigrant politics in the future.”
The implication in Clinton’s comment is clear: Nazism is synonymous
with anti-immigrant and race-based politics.
This reduction or conflation of Nazism with racism while certainly
based in reality serves to deflect discussion of the underlying tensions in
Austrian society. Thus,
problematically, such condemnatory rhetoric from Clinton and others, serves
to silence some of the voices opposed to the right-wing party.
Further, it does little or nothing to actually check human rights
violations. To wit: Clinton’s
statement about not supporting or condoning anti-immigrant or race based
politics flies in the face of the US’s own stance on immigration,
especially against immigrants who are not white.
of State Madeleine K. Albright has also made it clear that the U.S. response
is more of a right to react than it is a reasoned response based upon
effective use of power. Although her statements are couched in a moral language in
kind with the president’s, there is little indication that she believes
that the international response is going to help reduce the potential
human rights problems that might occur in Austria due to the new government.
In response to a Senate panel question that asked whether or not
sanctions would merely strengthen the extremists power base in Austria
Albright replied that, “There are those who say that that is possible. But
I think that Americans who believe that making statements about Hitler's
employment policies and immigration policies that don't welcome anybody or
treating your minorities as if they don't count, Americans have a right to
react to that. The Europeans did also. I think we just need to watch this on
a day-to-day basis.”
Albright’s response is in most regards a regurgitation of the
platitudes issued by the European leaders. Her statement indicates that the US stance may in fact be
based solely upon European political opinion.
However, the US has never supported Austria’s consistent pro-Arab
stance and therefore may support sanctions based upon this political
interest. Of course, from a
human rights perspective, the international community should not wait around
for the Austrian government to violate Human Rights.
Therefore, it is important that the international community acts. Admittedly both President Clinton and Secretary Albright’s
comments are positive steps, ones that Americans ought to be proud of, it
does seem however, to be merely rhetorical at best and reactionary at worst.
The United States is the last country to claim to have eliminated
racism and any observant Austrian will easily point this out.
Ex-Governor of California Pete Wilson is but one example of US
xenophobia and hate that far outstrips Haider.
If the US response seems problematic, then let us turn to the Israeli
addition to the US response, Israeli foreign officials announced that Haider
would not be allowed to enter Israel.
The Israeli sentiment is another example of the international
community’s comparison of Haider with Hitler and the Nazi era:
“‘Israel cannot remain silent in the face of the rise of extremist
right- wing parties, in particular in those countries which played a role in
the events which brought about the eradication of a third of the Jewish
people in the Holocaust,’ it said. ‘This is especially true when parties
such as the one led by Jorg Haider become partners in government.’”
The Israeli sentiment is comprehensible only if one forgets that the
Israeli government is currently acting as an authoritarian dictatorship over
Palestinians who refuse to forget that they were forcibly removed from their
own land following the creation of an Israeli state after the Second World
Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party’s desire to reduce immigration from
the ex-Soviet republics into Austria compared to Israeli treatment of
Palestinians would seem to de-legitimate any Israeli claim to human rights.
World Jewish Congress (WJC) has been up in arms about the Freedom Party’s
inclusion into government. The international community has couched its outrage in
moralistic language but do not assume that there are not political benefits
in mind. In May the WJC delayed
sanctions against Austria because government officials agreed to negotiate
Holocaust property demands.
Reparations have been long on the negotiating table and yet it is
ironic that it might occur during a time when the conservatives and
extremists hold power. One is
forced to recall that Richard Nixon, himself a rabid anti-communist, was
largely responsible for initiating détente and beginning the process of
opening up relations with China and the USSR.
The example of the WJC’s willingness to forego sanctions
(supposedly based upon a moral repugnance with the FPO) in order to
negotiate reparations is a sign that some of the international forces at
play are willing to compromise.
at the total “international” outcry, it is interesting to note that the
outrage over Haider’s party is limited primarily to Europe, North America,
and Israel. According to most
academics the term “Semite” actually refers to all peoples of the Middle
East—in other words, Israelis are just a portion of a greater body of
Semites. However, the Israeli
spokespeople have effectively conflated anti-Semite with anti-Jew.
This is most problematic in light of the FPÖ party platform’s
discussion of “radical Islam” as a threat to Western values and
Christian society. In spite of
this more overarching “anti-Semitism” as portrayed in the party
platform, no one has really criticized the FPÖ for its anti-Islamic stance.
This may be an indication of the greater Western perception of Islam
as a force of disintegration and particularism whilst the West portrays
itself as a force of universalism. Unfortunately,
this topic has been ignored.
Nation’s Response to Austria’s New Government
society theorists and advocates of a world government might take heart from
the reaction by the United Nations officials who are most concerned about
world governance and peace. In
reference to a list of cases of human rights violations, racism, and
xenophobia which included mention of Haider and Austria, Mary Robinson, the
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, argued that “[t]his
incomplete list of sad and horrible incidents is a clear warning that
fanaticism and prejudice are alive and well.”
Even more courageous, while acting against UN charter guidelines,
Secretary General Kofi Annan stated that, “anyone with a sense of history
would be concerned about recent political developments in Austria."
The secretary general and the High Commissioner for Human Rights both
indicate a strong connection between right-extremism with fascism.
However, few politicians and academics have voiced the implicit
concern that the rise of the Freedom Party may cause the rise of right
extremism throughout the rest of Europe.
Although the liberals remain in power in most western nations, there
is no guarantee that this will always be the case.
Mary Robinson astutely makes the connection and yet it is highly
problematic that she compares Haider with fascistic elements in Africa
instead of throughout Europe or the United States.
This may be due to fear of repercussions from member nations.
As noted, Annan’s comments are highly uncharacteristic for a UN
secretary general. He may
already be overstepping his bounds. His
recent comments concerning the unfairness of Globalization indicate that the
United States did not pick a Secretary General who is overwhelmingly
enthusiastic about kowtowing to the United States.
What ever the case may be, the United Nations, embodied in the
Secretary-General, has clearly announced its position in favor of human
rights and opposed to racism and xenophobia with regards to Austria.
paper has provided a critical description of Austria and the current
response to its new government. The
implication of the international condemnation of, and the sanctions against,
the FPÖ and of Jörg Haider as laid out in the forgoing discussion is
two-fold. First, the liberal
based international community is theoretically consistent with classical
liberal values when it applies coercive means to ensure the primacy of
democracy, so long as those coercive means are applied against
non-democratic regimes or ones that are not consolidated. Second, the
Austrian case is not really what the international press is making it out to
be. The European Union is
certainly framing it as a failure of democracy.
However, if it is an internal political power play by the ruling
parties then it is not a failure of democracy so much as it is a failure of
the ruling elite and the electorate. Democracy
is by no means a perfect form of government since it is dependent upon
faithful implementation by human beings.
Most of the literature on sanctions states unequivocally that
sanctions do not work unless there are groups within the target country who
support the sanctions. For
example, David Cortright and George Lopez et al argue that “When credible
civil society groups and human rights organizations in the targeted country
support international sanctions, the moral legitimacy and likely political
effectiveness of those measures are enhanced.” Further, uncompromising
sanctions generally fail.
Finally, rhetoric aside, there is little indication that the EU goal
of getting the FPO out of government is a moral one based upon the
preservation of democracy as opposed to merely a political goal.
As Joshua Leinsdorf of the Institute for Election Analysis avers,
“[t]he sanctions against Austria are illegal. Austria was never given a
chance to respond to the charges before the sanctions were imposed. So, the
explanation that Austria is in danger of violating democratic principles is
all the more hypocritical.”
The purpose of any sanctions ought to be positive not retributive.
However, as Joshua Leinsdorf implies, the hypocrisy lies in the fact
that the EU is talking the talk while failing to walk the walk: sanctions
are illegal so long as Austria has not broken the law.
level of analysis of the EU remains on the level of the state and therefore
does nothing for those who may suffer from human rights violations.
The majority of the research within this study shows that there is
little actual public support of sanctions and that the debate is centered on
who is in power with a hearty bantering of democratic values.
The goal ought be to ensure that minority rights, human rights, and
equality are ensured in spite of who is in power.
If Austria has not broken the law, then the only group guilty of
breaking the Rule of law is the sender states organizing sanctions against
Austria. This paper should
instill a sense of doubt about the particular manner in which sanctions are
being employed against Austria. The
target should be human rights not the usual business of maintaining the
status quo. After all, if the
FPO is in power then it is subject to the same criticism that it has leveled
against the other parties for the past 14 years since Haider took over the
contradiction between the EU’s sanction against Austria for racist
politics while itself maintaining xenophobic policies is also important.
This does not mean that Europeans cannot and should not protest and
criticize. It in fact sets an
international precedent to oppose anti-liberal tendencies in Western
countries. Due to this
paper’s interpretation of the FPÖ’s own party platform, the
international response is not only consistent with liberalism but it is also
consistent with the FPÖ itself. As
noted above, the FPÖ believes that “The preservation of the intellectual
foundations of the West necessitates a Christianity that defends its
In the same light, liberal democracy necessitates an international
society that enforces liberal and democratic values.
Of course, international society must transcend national boundaries
and notions of state sovereignty in order to actualize the universal ideal
of equality. As Andrew Linklater notes, “Justice requires efforts to
project democratic commitments beyond national frontiers so that those who
have been incorporated within global social and economic relations have
increased possibilities of representation and voice.”
The FPÖ’s insistence upon the enforcement of Christian values is
little different than Linklater’s claim that justice must be enforced
beyond borders, with one difference.
difference relates to this paper’s earlier focus upon the distinction
between “left” and “right” political thought: left tends to be
egalitarian and right tends to be inegalitarian.
On the topic of left and right applied to immigration, Bobbio argues
that “in period of increased migration between rich and poor countries,
and therefore of meetings and clashes between peoples of different customs,
languages, religions and cultures, the difference between egalitarians and
inegalitarians is manifested in the degree of importance assigned to these
differences in the recognition of certain fundamental human rights.” Thus, while the FPÖ
wishes to enforce Christian values based upon a particular group’s right
to self-determination within national boundaries, Linklater wishes to
enforce justice based upon a notion of equality that transcends national
borders. Therefore, the first
implication for the international response to the rise of the FPÖ is that
it indicates that there is a willingness on the part of the “squishy”
liberals to act to create a better world.
On the other hand, it also indicates that there is some similarity
between the FPÖ platform and international society values.
Although the distinction between them may be small, it makes a world
the international community has responded so strongly is also an indication
that there is a potential shift in Richard Falk’s notion of a “global
Austria, a nation in the Global North, is being economically and socially
shunned for its government’s racist party platform. Further, that the UN has publicly condemned the xenophobic
and anti-immigrant tendencies indicates that the Global South may actually
have an effective voice in the UN. This
is by no means an indication that international society has won out over
state centered international relations, merely that there is an indication
that there is a real change in politics.
Just as the genocidal past of Austria needs airing out, so to should
the genocidal past of the North be brought to the light.
international relations theorists may be frustrated by the situation in
Austria. James Mayall notes
that, “sanctions might be expected to work best against democratic
wrongdoers, since in this case it would be reasonable to assume a link
between the electorate and its representatives.”
Mayall’s assumption flies in the face of Austria where sanctions
are working to galvanize the electorate more than to force them into
changing their government.
The fundamental flaw in the logic of sanctions is that it is coercive
in nature and does little to appeal to the conscience or to the reasonable
side of human nature. It assumes that humans will react in a manner that is in line
with the goals of international society even while it assumes that humans
are self-interested. It must be
understood that sanctions are much preferable than bombing as a method of
solving problems. However,
sanctions are an appropriate first step but they fall short if used as a
purely instrumental response because they serve to exclude instead of engage
rise of Jörg Haider and the FPÖ should be taken as a sign that he has
addressed real concerns of the Austrian people.
The degree to which he has manipulated those fears in order to create
political capital must be the focus of political responses to Haider and his
party; that he wishes to take real fears and latent frustrations and inflate
them to such an extent that they result in a desire for further inequality
(as is the case with his immigration policy) is the real issue.
The politics of exclusion practiced by the dominant parties in
Austria is little different than the international community’s politics of
isolation. They both fail to engage the real issues; perhaps because the
real issues (racism, xenophobia, and hate) are themselves universal and the
confrontation of them would open too many closets full of skeletons?
The New Republic ran an article in February 2000 that
questioned, among other things, why the EU did not enact sanctions when Kurt
Waldheim was president, himself an actual Nazi.
In defense of the EU, it is important to note that the Waldheim
affair did produce a severe response from the international community and
led to the political isolation of Austria.
It is likely that the EU leaders learned that the merely symbolic
action taken against Austria during the Waldheim Affair were not enough and
therefore felt that this time Austria had gone too far.
Further, in response to The New Republic, past inaction
does not justify future inaction; precedent should not be an excuse for
political leaders to continually “wink” in the face of injustice merely
because they are unwilling to make hard decisions.
classical political theory has shown that politics is not about good answers
but about good questions. Because
even the best theories are flawed, it is the responsibility of the social
and political critic to continue to refine the process through which ideas
are formulated. Those who study
politics because they want answers are bound to be frustrated and
unfulfilled in their endeavors. However,
hope lies not in the possibility of finding the one perfect answer to the
problem of human suffering but rather in the possibility to reduce
the amount of human suffering in the world.
This of course brings the liberal dangerously close to an analysis
that reduces suffering to a quantitative level.
To say that the United States and Israel have caused more or less
suffering than Austria in recent history ought not determine their right to
criticize. The danger lies not
so much in the abuse that Austria faces at the hands of the EU but that by
the constant attention paid to Austria’s past crimes, the accusing nations
are able to close their eyes to the crimes they are committing at the
implications for democracy are severe.
Democracy is prima facie a form of government wherein the people
elect officials on a regular basis via free elections.
In modern times, democracy has become associated with liberal values,
specifically a notion of rights that are inherent regardless of birth,
gender, race, or religion. However,
on a far deeper level, democracy is the way a society conducts itself.
For example, many people around the world consider the United States
a democracy. It is the symbol
of freedom and opportunity for many poor people.
A better test of democracy is to evaluate the lives of those who are
at the bottom of the social hierarchy.
If democratic regimes enforce democratic values on other nations, it
behooves them to enforce them on themselves as well.
Austrians are justified in crying foul when told to follow principles
that no other nation on the planet follows.
February 4, 2000 the ÖVP and the FPÖ formed a coalition government. The Freedom party, although acquiring parity in votes with
the People’s Party, agreed to be junior partner and ceded the position of
chancellor to the conservatives. Citing
mainly the FPÖ party’s leader, Haider, the international community
interpreted this regime change as a failure of democracy.
Because the response to the new government happened before it could
do anything, the international community acted based upon the assumption
that an FPÖ-ÖVP government would necessarily lead to an authoritarian
regime. The implicit assumption
was that if this occurred, Austria would be in direct violation of the
Maastricht Treaty and the Amsterdam Treaty.
Whereas the EU acted illegally according to its own precepts and the
rule of law, it did so for two reasons: first, Hitler was born in Austria.
As noted, Austria never fully owned up to its past.
Second, I believe that Thomas Klestil and other socialists (ÖVP)
harangued their colleagues in the EU to put up an outcry in the hopes of
forcing the ÖVP into a “Grand Coalition” with the SPÖ.
Regardless of whether the reasons for the EU sanctions against
Austria are ideologically based or politically motivated, the smaller
European nations, especially Denmark, and some eastern and middle European
nations interpret the recent events as an abuse of power by the EU.
a deeper level, I conclude by answering the title question of this essay.
In light of the evidence provided herein, Jörg Haider and/or the
Freedom Party do not represent a threat to international security.
The case of Austria represents an issue of saving face.
Many Austrians feel that they have been wronged by the EU and by the
United States. The
international community is pointing the finger at Austria, telling Austrians
that they are wrong for voting for a right-wing party (remember though that
it was only 27 percent who voted for the FPÖ).
The international community did not provide Austria with incentives
to comply nor did they give a coherent rational for sanctions. The major threat to international security will come from the
mismanagement of this situation. If
Denmark, other small nations, middle-European, and eastern European nations
decided that the European Union is unjust in its use of power, then the once
seemingly smooth path to full European union may be irrevocably derailed.
This would truly be a missed opportunity for the consolidation of
democracy and would certainly make short shrift of the lauded “end of
history” in the Western sense. Of
course there is always a positive spin. After all, even the Cold War had the benefit of giving voice
to the unemployed and workers and seemed to guarantee the success of the
Keynesian welfare state. If the
UE is derailed because of this latest fiasco in European politics, based
upon a sense of a lack of justice employed by the leaders of Europe, then it
might be possible for another group of nations to organize based upon a more
just interpretation of democracy. Another
common truism of sanctions scholarship is that intervention always has
unintended consequences. Negative
consequences are not the only possible outcomes.
unsupported within the country, and inspired more by a desire to keep the
socialists in power than by a desire to ensure human rights for minorities,
the international community should have enacted means more consistent with
their professed democratic ends. As
a world community we must imagine and implement positive sanctions motivated
by the desire to increase democracy and protect human rights.
Western society, with the creation of the judge and jury system of
justice, decries retributive justice. Thus,
we must vigilantly monitor our actions through reflection and critique.
As the Waldheim affair clearly demonstrated, retributive forms of
justice only serve to intensify a group’s xenophobic and nationalistic
tendencies. In the language of
the sanctions literature, “sticks” appear as quick solutions but rarely
repair deep cracks in the democratic edifice.
We must, therefore, strive to create “carrots” that encourage