Liberalism in Austria
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This article gives an overview of liberalism in Austria. It is limited to liberal parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having had a representation in parliament. The sign ⇒ denotes another party in that scheme. For inclusion in this scheme it isn't necessary so that parties labeled themselves as a liberal party.
History until 1945
In the Austrian Empire a national liberal current evolved in the 19th century. Liberalism in Austria reached its peak at the time of the 1848 revolution, when civil liberty and a written constitution for the Austrian Empire were key demands of the revolutionary movement. For some times after, Liberals gained some influence on the policy of the government; for example, Anton von Schmerling became Minister for Justice. The panic of 1873 and the Long Depression lead to heavily anti-capitalist and anti-liberal sentiments and the liberal movement in Austria began to decline, with pan-German ideas and parties gaining strength at the same time. Later attempts to reorganize liberalism were unsuccessful, with its remnants mostly joining forces with pan-German nationalists. This traditional association with Pan-Germanism was inherited from Austria-Hungary into the Austrian Republic; the Greater German People's Party and the Landbund represented liberal, anti-clerical and pan-German voters. Both parties lost ground with the rise of Nazism in the 1930s and were later dissolved by the regime of Engelbert Dollfuss.
History from 1945
With the foundation of the Federation of Independents in 1949, a predominantly liberal party once again existed in Austria, but it was soon overtaken by nationalist elements and later merged in to the Freedom Party of Austria, which was founded in 1955 by former Nazis. The attraction of the party to some of its voters lay in its opposition to both the catholic clericalism of the Austrian People's Party and to the Marxism of the Social Democratic Party of Austria. Liberal politicians gained control over the Freedom Party during the years from 1980 to 1986, when it was led by Norbert Steger. However, its participation in a coalition under socialist Chancellor Fred Sinowatz brought it to the verge of extinction, which allowed Jörg Haider to take control of the party in 1986. With the support of the remaining Pan-Germans (the appeal of whose own views has an equally small appeal to the Austrian electorate today), he transformed it into a right-wing populist, frequently immigration-sceptic party. The Freedom Party was subsequently expelled from the Liberal International, and the remaining liberals seceded to found the Liberal Forum (Liberales Forum, member LI, ELDR) in 1993. However, when the Liberal Forum lost its seats in parliament in 1999 and became a micro-party, liberalism effectively ceased to exist as a political force in Austria. Since 2012 the social-liberal media especially Der Standard states the Pirate Party Austria could become the new Liberal Forum.
Economic liberalism is now probably best represented by some factions of the conservative Austrian People's Party, which also labels itself the party of open society in its manifesto. The Austrian Green Party, however, holds the most liberal views on social issues. The Alliance for the Future of Austria which was founded in 2005 as a split-off from the Freedom Party, sometimes considered itself right-libertarian("rechtsliberal").
Liberal Political Parties in Austria
- 1861: Liberals from various parliamentary factions united in the Constitutional Party (Verfassungspartei)
- 1873: A radical faction of the Constitutional Party formed the Progressive Club (Fortschrittsklub), while a right-wing faction formed the conservative Constitutionalist Landlordism (Verfassungstreuer Großgrundbesitz) group
- 1881: The Constitutional Party merged with the Progressive Club to form the United Left (Vereinigte Linke)
- 1885: The United Left fractured into a Liberal German Austrian Club (Deutsch-Österreichischer Klub) and a nationalist German Club (Deutscher Klub)
- 1888: The remnants of the United Left merged with the moderate parts of the German Club into the United German Left (Verenigte Deutsche Linke)
- 1891: The Constitutionalist Landlordism merged with the United German Left
- 1897: The merger was dissolved leaving a Constitutionalist Landlordism and the German Progressive Party (Deutsche Fortschrittspartei)
- 1911: These elements merged into the nationalist German National League (Deutscher Nationalverband), and liberal forces ceased to exist in name
- 1918-1934 The Landbund and Greater German People's Party each comprised liberal factions and ideas
- 1949: With the formation of the Federation of Independents, many liberals became active in this party, but were soon marginalized by the nationalist factions. After the merger into the nationalist Freedom Party of Austria (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs) this situation continued.
- 1993: Liberal dissidents inside the Freedom Party of Austria, which was more or less a liberal controlled party from 1980 to 1986, formed the Liberal Forum (Liberales Forum)
In the Contributions to liberal theory the following Austrian thinkers are included:
- Carl Menger (1840–1921)
- Ludwig Edler von Mises (1881–1973)
- Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1950)
- Friedrich von Hayek (1899–1992)
- Karl Raimund Popper (1902–1994)
- History of Austria
- Politics of Austria
- List of political parties in Austria
- Austrian School
- Liberalism in Germany
- Website of Liberal Forum (in German)
- Malachi Haim Hacohen. Karl Popper - The Formative Years, 1902-1945: Politics and Philosophy in Interwar Vienna. Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0521890551, 9780521890557