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Vol 3, No 10
12 March 2001
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The Rise of
the Freedom Party

A guide to recent literature
Magali Perrault

Jörg Haider is undoubtedly one of Europe's most controversial politicians and a lot of works have recently been published on the Freedom Party (FPÖ), in English and French, as well as German.

The Haider Phenomenon
(Columbia University Press, 1997)

Melanie Sully's The Haider Phenomenon was one of the first books to provide the English-speaking reader with an account of the emergence of Haider. It is an extremely well-documented book which analyses the rise of Haider as a consequence of the sclerosis of the Austrian political system in the 1980s and 1990s.

Sully sees Haider as a clever politician and an "entertainer" who has been able to exploit the dissatisfaction provoked by the clientelism of a political life dominated since 1945 by the Social Democrats and the conservatives of the People's Party.

She rightly, I think, demonstrates that Haider's success is also due to the identity crisis that Austria has faced since 1989 and the fall of Communism, when the "Island of the Blessed" (as a Pope once called Austria) has had to redefine its position in Europe. Haider exploited the uncertainties of the part of the population who, for instance, saw (and still sees) the entrance into the European Union in January 1995 as a threat to the country's prosperity and sovereignty.

Many will contest Sully's rather sympathetic approach to Haider, but her book remains a reference and an objective attempt to "explain" Haider within Austria's political landscape.

Haider: Licht und Schatten einer Karriere
(Molden Verlag, Wien, 1999)

Haider: Licht und Schatten einer Karriere Christa Zöchling's Haider: Licht und Schatten einer Karriere, the first edition of which was published before the 1999 parliamentary elections, is, to my knowledge, the first biography of the governor of Carinthia and former chairman of the Freedom Party.

It is full of fascinating anecdotes and Zöchling, a journalist for Profil, the most influential Austrian news magazine, has been able to draw on many sources and interviews (despite her description of her difficulties in interviewing the man himself).

Zöchling, no friend of Haider, seeks to discover who he really is and what his "political mission" is. She gives us some interesting psychological insights into the politician's personality, but leaves the reader to draw his or her own conclusions regarding the man: is Haider a harmless entertainer in politics or a gifted politician intent on destroying Austria's democratic political system?

Republik der Courage: Wider die Verhaiderung
(Aufbau Taschenbuch Verlag, Berlin, 2000)
Haider: Österreich und die rechte Versuchung
(Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Hamburg, 2000)

To this question, two edited works (Republik der Courage: Wider die Verhaiderung, Robert Misik and Doron Rabinovici, eds, and Haider: Österreich und die rechte Versuchung, Hans-Henning Scharsach, ed) give an unambiguous answer: Haider constitutes a danger to democracy in Austria and in Europe.

These two collections of essays by some of the most famous names of Austria's academic, media and cultural world (and some prominent foes of Haider) offer wide-ranging perspectives on Austrian society and denounce the "Haiderisation" of the Alpine republic. They also analyse and document the awakening of Austria's civil society since 1999.

L'Europe de Haider
(Limes, No 4, Autumn 2000, Editions Golias)

L'Europe de Haider (a special issue of the French journal Limes) is also a collection of interesting essays, which focuses on the international reactions to the Freedom Party's electoral success. It provides the reader with a European perspective on Haider and the FPÖ and looks at similar political movements in Western Europe (Switzerland, Germany, Belgium) and, perhaps even more interestingly, in Central Europe (with two chapters on Hungary and the Czech Republic).

Österreichische Politik: Grundlagen, Strukturen, Trends
(WUV, Wien, 2000)

Anton Pelinka and Sieglinde Rosenberger's Österreichische Politik: Grundlagen, Strukturen, Trends is a textbook that aims to present a concise and clear introduction to the workings of Austrian democracy. Successive chapters about political institutions, parties, elections, trade unions, media, foreign policy and the role of the Church form a comprehensive, if necessarily cursory, picture of Austrian politics and society.

Guilty Victim: Austria from the Holocaust to Haider
(IB Tauris, 2000)

Guilty Victim: Austria from the Holocaust to Haider Hella Pick's Guilty Victim: Austria from the Holocaust to Haider, is a wide-ranging and highly readable account of Austria's political development since 1945. It emphasises Austria's ambiguities with its Nazi past—and its incapacity to deal with its complicity in the Holocaust—and will be especially useful to those keen to understand the paradoxes of Austrian identity.

Österreichs Kanzler: von Leopold Figl bis Wolfgang Schüssel (Ueberreuter, Wien, 2000)

Osterreichs KanzlerPeter Pelinka's Österreichs Kanzler deliberately analyses Austrian politics through the much narrower scope of the political biographies of the nine chancellors who have ruled the country since 1945.

Pelinka convincingly demonstrates how each chancellor contributed to shaping and creating a viable Austrian national identity after the failure of the first republic and the trauma of the Anschluss. The book shows why the generation of politicians who experienced the Second World War saw consensus as a prerequisite to the success and prosperity of Austria (and hence perhaps contributed to the amnesia towards the Nazi past and the rise of Haider?).

Wehrloses Österreich? Neutralität oder Nato: Alternativen in der Sicherheitspolitik
(Molden Verlag, Wien, 2000)

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Finally, Peter Michael Lingens Wehrloses Österreich?: Neutralität oder Nato addresses the issue of Austria's security policy—a debate which has become even more crucial since the establishment of the People's Party-Freedom Party coalition. Neutrality is at the heart of Austria's political divide between the Social Democrats and the Greens (the two opposition parties who emphasise the continuing value of the neutrality status of 1955) and the conservatives and the FPÖ, who see neutrality as increasingly irrelevant in the post-Cold War world and openly see an adhesion to NATO as the only possible way to ensure the country's security.

Magali Perrault, 12 March 2001

Moving on:


Marius Dragomir
Romanian Nationalism

Joe Price
Gotov je, again?

Sam Vaknin
Transition Ain't Easy

Elke de Wit
Panel Games

Focus: Haider
Kazi Stastna
The Dragon Slayer

Magali Perrault
Explaining Haider

Magali Perrault

István Stumpf

Štěpán Kotrba
Sow and Reap

Brian J Požun
Shedding the Balkan Skin

Martin D Brown
Czech Historical Amnesia

Dejan Anastasijević (ed)
Out of Time

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Hungarian Oil Scandal

Sam Vaknin
After the Rain

Press Reviews:
Oliver Craske
Not Macedonia, Too

Andrea Mrozek
No News?


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