Distribution of peoples (PD) talk to Niklas Böck, President of Communist Youth of Austria (KJO), on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on students and young people in Austria and on the KJO’s struggle against war and neo-fascism. The KJO, along with the Association of Communist Students (KSV), opposed Austria’s accession to the European Union and cuts in social protection.
Distribution of peoples (PD): What has been the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on Austria and how effective has the government’s response been?
Niklas Böck (NB): Currently, there are over 520,000 unemployed in Austria and this number is set to increase. COVID-19 has led to the deterioration of the lives and livelihoods of the majority of Austrians and puts their future at risk, especially the youngest who are currently under great pressure. The Austrian government not only acts passively, but further aggravates the condition of the youth. Major financial support goes only to corporations and monopolies and reactionary new laws like neoliberal UG Novel further harm the interests of students.
PD: Could you tell us a little more about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on Austrian students and young people? What were your interventions on this front?
NB: This crisis has created many challenges for young people. School children, for example, are exposed to much harsher learning conditions and have been isolated for months in home schooling with poor supervision. Adding to the problem of an outdated education system which did not meet modern educational standards even before the crisis, many students are now also exposed to psychological stress due to their private living conditions and / or possible hardship. family. University level students are also left to fend for themselves with virtually no support from the government or the Austrian Students’ Association (ÖH).
In our online campaigns and a few rallies and physical mobilizations, we have published and highlighted our demand to tax the richest part of the population (“Let the rich pay for the COVID-19 crisis”). We also demanded the expropriation of key industries in order to fight the pandemic by guaranteeing free and universal vaccination.
PD: How do you see the rise of far-right activities in Austria, including attacks on migrants and other progressive sections in different Austrian cities?
NB: Universities and campuses are currently empty, not only of students but also, therefore, “free” from politics. Sadly, a movement that supports unscientific theories about vaccines and the virus is joined by right-wing activists across Europe. They are already gaining popularity in Austria and right-wing and anti-Semitic rallies are starting to emerge. In addition, the threat of Islamism to the left-wing Kurdish and Turkish population in Austria is another area of conflict in which we struggle against reactionary ideology and fascism.
PD: Can you tell us about KJO’s involvement in the climate movement in Austria?
NB: As in most parts of Europe, the climate movement in Austria is largely bourgeois and does not challenge the capitalist system in any significant way. So, while there were a large number of demonstrations, the KJÖ and KSV did not participate or were actively refused due to our communist orientation. Fortunately, there are factions within climate activism that criticize the system and this is where we invest our resources. We produce our own propaganda that clearly blames capitalism and its mode of production for the devastation of our environment.
PD: How popular do you think left-wing ideology is among young people in Austria today? What have been the KJO’s main campaigns to politicize them?
NB: Austrian youth are identifying with critical politics. Issues like the shocking mistreatment of refugees by the European Union (EU) arouse students’ skepticism of the EU. Young people are also outraged at the way the Austrian government is handling the current pandemic. They join our cause to overthrow a racist and imperialist system marred by incompetence and corruption. To further popularize our Marxist orientation among young people in Austria, our latest campaign aimed to organize young workers and make them aware of their current working conditions and the challenges they face like unemployment and the capitalist crisis.
Courtesy: Distribution of people