Prices are exploding: for daily shopping, electricity and energy, petrol or starting school. For many, daily life is no longer affordable, or only with difficulty. In view of the upcoming elections, politicians are making many promises and are "discussing" a lot. Even the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) is calling for nationwide demonstrations after months of inflation. What is it that the working class and the people need to struggle for now?
The official inflation rate rose to 9.3 percent in August, the highest value in 50 years. However, the majority knows and feels that the official inflation does not correspond to the actual inflation in everyday life. The average weekly purchase (the so-called "small market basket") has even increased by 20 percent. Butter, for example, increased in price by more than 70 percent and now costs up to three euros per piece! These are the actual prices that are taking money out of the people‘s pockets, well before the end of the month.
"Everything is getting more expensive", is a phrase you can hear almost in every conversation today. Yes, it is true, everything is getting more expensive, but not labor - only wages have remained the same! With the enormous price increases, workers and employees in reality experienced a wage loss that is unparalleled. The federal government promised one-time payments (of which the majority has not seen anything yet anyway) and has now decided on a so-called "electricity price brake" as of December this year. Apart from the fact that the concessionary electricity prices have to be paid by the people themselves from their taxes, this is only a fraction of the loss of wages of the workers that has been going on for months. No parliamentary party is calling for wages to be raised above the rate of inflation, which shows that the system-parties are representatives of capital. Whether they say it or not, they mean the same thing that Federal President Van der Bellen (who himself earns 25,000 a month) has pronounced as advice to the people: "Grit your teeth, it will work out somehow". It is clear that the struggling sections of the population will not simply "grit their teeth", but will defend themselves against the enormous price increases.
Now nationwide demonstrations of the Austrian Trade Union Federation are scheduled for September 17th. Under the slogan "Down with the prices. Demonstration against the cost-explosion!“ the union is mobilising in all state capitals. It is undoubtedly very important that the demonstrations take place and that mobilizations are made from the workplaces against the price increases. However, in the call for demonstrations, the ÖGB only demands lower prices, there is no mention of wage increases, although the most important collective bargaining negotiations are just around the corner. For the workers and employees, the wage question is the lever to struggle against wage fraud through inflation, because lower prices usually have to be paid by the taxpayers themselves. The fact that the ÖGB, despite its relatively strong bargaining base through the collective labor agreement negotiations, is leaving the wage question aside, suggests that the demonstrations were chosen more as a tactic to appease the workers. Therefore, it is important to be vigilant here and learn from past experiences. When the government introduced the 12-hours-working-day, there was a demonstration by the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) with over 100,000 participants, only for them to wipe their hands afterwards and say they had done something. Workers and employees must put pressure: the demonstrations can only be the beginning. If they remain a one-time affair, it will not change anything. After September 17th, things must continue, it must be used to unite the workers and set next actions to organize the struggle for higher wages. Only then there can be results.
According to a survey by the free newspaper "Heute", only 22 percent of the population believe that there will be a salary increase above inflation. This is the result of decades of the so called “social partnership”, which tried to make the workers believe that there is a common interest between capitalists and the workers. They tried to convince the workers that they no longer had to fight for their interests. Today, the bill is presented and many workers and employees do not believe that they can fight for anything. However, the majority also no longer believes in the "old lies". What is needed is a class-conscious organization of workers, that can give perspective and orientation in these stormy times. Then there is also enormous potential for a leap in the development of the workers' movement.
Many pen pushers of the monopoly media pretend that inflation has fallen from the sky. Inflation, however, is nothing new, but comes from within the capitalist system itself. An important reason for the currently very high inflation is the competition between the imperialist powers, which is particularly evident in the Ukraine war. Part of the war are the sanctions against Russia, which are meant to serve the "western" imperialists, above all the USA and Germany, in their goal of encircling Russia. The sanctions are part of the war economy and one consequence is the big leap in prices of energy and other goods. The sanctions are not an instrument of "peace", but of war and, moreover, they have a devastating impact on the people. Small businesses and the self-employed are also feeling the effects hard.
The majority of the population has no interest in the war economy and rearmament. Obviously, however, it is not the parties and institutions of the ruling class that will oppose this course. It needs a unification of the oppressed and exploited to resist the price increases: for wages above the inflation rate, against the sanctions policy and for a revolutionary movement against the capitalist system. Otherwise, the price increases will massively lower the living standards of broad sections of the population, even in the longer term.