Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Failure of the Nazi Cudgel


This time last year the board of the Wiener Akademikerbund — the Academic Society of Vienna — was shut down by its parent organization for its independent thinking and political incorrectness.

The national Akademikerbund had no legal right to take such actions, and the Viennese free-thinkers fought back. After a long legal battle, they won their case.

Our Austrian correspondent AMT introduces two translated articles about the WAB’s victory:

A Victory for the Wiener Akademikerbund
by AMT

Regular Gates of Vienna readers will remember the Wiener Akademikerbund, a genuine think tank which in 2010 was lambasted by the ruling PC MC political elite in Austria for daring to think.

The reason for this outrage was a so-called position paper which included many different ideas, but it was the WAB’s ideas about freedom of speech and thought regarding the “Verbotsgesetz” that enraged the Austrian Akademikerbund and the ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party).

Within a matter of hours, the entire WAB board was relieved of its duties and board members Professor Müller — a survivor of Nazi terror — and Christian Zeitz were stripped of their ÖVP party membership. No one from the ÖVP — in a very EU, non-democratic fashion — ever asked for their opinions or explanations.

It was clear from the start that the actions taken by the Austrian Akademikerbund were illegal and against the by-laws: the Austrian Akademikerbund cannot legally interfere with the WAB.

And after one year of fighting for rehabilitation, WAB has emerged victorious.

Our thanks go out to JLH for his translations.

The first of two articles translated by JLH was written by Christian Zeitz, one of the principal victims of the national Akademikerbund’s purge. He has some choice words to say about the ÖVP:

The Tale of the “Evil Viennese Akademikerbund”

How the ÖVP is Trying to Divert Attention from its Incompetence

by Christian Zeitz

The dealings of the ÖVP with the Viennese Akademikerbund reflect the inner structure of the “people’s party.” For many years, the ÖVP has not known what to do with the numerous (offered exclusively unremunerated) analyses, concepts and strategy papers of the Viennese Akademikerbund. Out of caution, Schüssel (former chancellor) mostly did not react, Plassnik (pro-EU “Alliance of Civilizations” advocate, former foreign minister) had her office send form letters (“the EU is listening”), Khol (former parliament president, now member of board of ATIB, the Turkish government in action in Austria) stigmatized the Akademikerbund’s dispute with Islam as an expression of rightist radicalism. And Spindelegger (currrent vice chancellor and foreign minister) left the Akademikerbund because he did not want to put up with the EU-critical comments.

Anyone who knows the Viennese Akademikerbund knows that it is the home of identifiable causes, solid research, and values-based, clearly presented arguments — propositions that can and should be discussed; positions that do not fit in the prescribed mainstream, uncomfortable prognoses, which have proven to be all too accurate. Not even trace elements of “rightist extremist thought.” But the VP bigwigs have discovered that they can most easily suppress the capacity for criticism and thought with the ritual use of the “Nazi cudgel.” In a political culture in which “political correctness” is the prime virtue and unthinking preservation of power and the system is the best qualification for securing political survival, the unimaginative folklore about “rightist extremism” obviates the necessity of having to deal with political content.

The ÖVP has eliminated the necessity of thinking and talking about its political context in the most basic way — it no longer has a context: not academic, nor sectarian, nor civic, nor artistic, nor any other kind. It has condensed its official nomenclature to the point that it has been reduced to alternating dependencies on economic radicalism and a blind obedience to the EU.

It must be seen as tragic that the ÖVP has lost any vestige of problem-solving ability through prohibitions decreed on speech and discussion. For a long time now, their amateurish offerings in all political fields have strained the public’s tolerance. After educational policy had stultified for years under Gehrer, the army under Platter had been systematically dismantled, and family policy was pursued at best as an adjunct of economic interests, they are now limping aimlessly after the initiatives of their political opponents. Speaking of the economy: can anyone discern something like economic policy in the ÖVP, which was once so proud of its economic competence?

The lack of any problem-solving ability is so unforgivable, because over the years the ÖVP would have administered heavily staffed bureaucratic operations and millions in ministerial budgets and other resources, so they could have produced serious studies in all problem areas, undisturbed and beyond any campaign uproar, specifying truths, types of action and their consequences and, finally, developing comprehensive concepts and presenting them to the public for a decision. This is especially true of the sensitive subject area which is decisive in the to-be-or-not-to-be future of our culture — immigration/integration/Islam. No “right extremist” or “populist” has ever prevented the ÖVP from demonstrating qualities that go beyond the stereotypical repetition that immigrants should learn German. The fact is that the ÖVP vigorously supported the clichés of “xenophobia,” “Islamophobia,” as well as “enrichment” and “diversity” for so long that in the end not even the slightest room was left for a factual, unemotional discussion on the topic. The responsible ÖVP ministers have not even managed a more objective development of the data bases. Still worse, no one in the ÖVP has ever given even a qualified answer to the relevant questions: Who should be allowed to come to Austria and who should not? What problems are solved by immigration and what problems arise because of it? What is the net economic effect of immigration — who enjoys the benefits and who bears the costs? How is it determined whether Austrians are prepared to share their well-being, while allegedly certain problems are solved that way, and other problems occur?

Attempting to camouflage their lack of answers by insulting the Viennese Akademikerbund as "swamp rats" or the political opponents as "rightist populists" does not disguise the fact that, compared to the leadership conferences of various ÖVP committees, so many "street-corner" discussions take on a virtually academic level.

The hope that practical competence will return to the ÖVP is hard to support. That is especially true of integration policy. Sebastian Kurz may be raring to go (one hopes, at his age…). But his appointment as state secretary for integration questions (probably the most difficult of all governmental offices) shows not only the miniscule reach of ÖVP personnel, but also the level of irresponsibility with which the ÖVP head will use up a youngster just to send a "signal" of strong pleasure in politics.

The ÖVP has been beyond reform for a long time. And sooner or later, it will go the way of Italy’s Democrazia Cristiana.

In future, the Viennese Akademikerbund will concern itself even more with solving the basic future questions of our society and in the process seek a refined, equidistant dialogue with all democratic forces in Austria.

Below is an article from last week’s Die Presse reporting on the resolution of the controversy over WAB. Many thanks to JLH for the translation:

Uproar Over Prohibitive Law: Organization of Academics Splits

by Martin Fritzl
May 4, 2011

The Viennese regional group of the organization closely allied with the ÖVP is becoming independent. The federal organization retracts the expulsion of leading members. Schnider confirms the Akademikerbund’s differences in political direction.

The disagreements within the ÖVP-related organization, the Akademikerbund, have reached a mutually agreed solution: the national organization has retracted the expulsion of leading heads of the Viennese Akademikerbund. Simultaneously, the regional organization is separating from the national and is becoming independent.

Last year, the Viennese Akademikerbund caused an uproar with a “position paper.”
It contained the demand for rescinding the “prohibition law,” a “fundamental correction” of the time limits on abortion, a cancellation of the sex discrimination law and a general end to immigration. A woman’s place is “at the stove.”

Positions with which the Volkspartei could not make any friends in the run-up to the municipal elections and therefore expelled from the party the head of the Akademikerbund, Josef M. Müller and board member Christian Zeitz — former regional secretary of the ÖVP. The Austrian Akademikerbund, led at that time by Franz Fiedler, former president of the auditors’ court, struggled with the consequences. Because the regional organizations are legally autonomous groups, an intervention in the local by the national is legally impossible. Nonetheless, the attempt was made: The entire Viennese leadership was removed, and Müller and Zeitz expelled from the organization.

Resolution without a War of the Roses

The Viennese called for arbitration and eventually prevailed. The new president of the Akademikerbund — Andreas Schnider, former regional secretary of the Styrian ÖVP — realized that the expulsions were contrary to statute, and therefore tried for a solution “without a War of the Roses.”

In his explanation, he decided that the removal from office as well as the expulsions were “contrary to statute” and also, absent authority, substantially “contrary to law.” He publicly regrets that the Viennese functionaries had, through accusations and “unjust expulsion,” sustained considerable injury to their public reputation.

By contrast, the Viennese organization as a whole leaves the Austrian Akademikerbund. Zeitz bases this on different concepts: while the national organization has a strong, close relationship to the ÖVP and wishes to establish itself as an allied organization, the Viennese branch want to keep equidistant from all parties. Even before last year’s conflict, there was disagreement with many of the party’s positions. Since then, the relationship has deteriorated further. Thus, Zeitz called the ÖVP unelectable in the Vienna elections. In the future, the Viennese Akademikerbund will concentrate on activities with themes like Islam, family policy and financial policy.

No Regional Branch in Vienna

Schnider confirms the differences in political direction. He intends to establish the Akademikerbund more strongly as an ÖVP ally and introduce expertise in areas like education policy. For now, the organization has no Viennese section. Schnider says he would be happy if one formed.