Socialist Party of Austria

Socialist Party of Austria

 

(SPA; Sozialistische Partei Osterreichs), a party founded in April 1945 by the merger of Social Democrats and members of the Revolutionary Socialists, an illegal organization that formed after the Social Democratic Party of Austria was banned in 1934. The SPA largely adopted the reformist tradition and ideology of the Social Democratic Party. During the period April-November 1945, the SPA, together with the Austrian People’s Party and the Communist Party of Austria (CPA), formed the provisional Government of the Austrian Republic. The government was headed by the SPA leader K. Renner.

From 1945 to 1966 the SPA, with the bourgeois Austrian People’s Party, was part of a coalition government. Beginning in 1966, it was in the opposition, and in April 1970 it formed a single-party government, with B. Kreisky as chancellor. Members of the SPA have held the post of president of Austria since 1945.

In 1947 a group of prominent party members, led by E. Scharf, secretary of the Administrative Board, spoke out against the reformist policies of the party. Dismissed from the SPA, these party members in 1948 founded the Socialist Workers’ Party of Austria, which in 1956 united with the CPA. In May 1958, at a special congress in Vienna, the SPA adopted a party program, in which it abandoned Marxism and the principles of class struggle.

Declaring reform to be the only means of establishing socialism, the program is aimed toward the preservation of the capitalist system that prevails in Austria. It asserts that in the future private enterprise will be maintained in broad sectors of the economy and that individual initiative and competition will attain great significance. At the same time, the program includes a number of specific points that serve the interests of broad sectors of the population, for example, demands for an end to women’s inequality and for the establishment of a national public health care system. Subsequent congresses have made no fundamental changes in the program. Seeking “harmony among social classes,” leaders of the SPA maintain a policy of “social partnership,” which hinders the working class in initiating a struggle in its own interests. The SPA leaders oppose any contacts with the CPA.

In foreign policy the SPA has frequently voiced support for Austria’s independence and permanent neutrality and for the strengthening of European security. The Twenty-third Congress of the SPA, held in March 1976, expressed support for detente. The SPA exerts a significant influence on several mass organizations, including the Austrian Trade Union Association, which has more than 1.6 million members. Many party members belong to the administrative boards and supervising councils in factories and firms, primarily those in the nationalized sector of the economy. The SPA is built predominantly on the territorial principle. The highest body of the party is the congress. Between congresses its work is directed by the Administrative Board, which elects the Presidium. In 1975 the party had approximately 700,000 members. B. Kreisky is the party chairman. The central organ of the SPA is the daily newspaper Arbeiter-Zeitung. The party also publishes Die Zukunft, a monthly theoretical journal.

D. NIKOLAEV

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