unbekannter Gast


Labour Movement: Simultaneously with the development of bourgeois society, the transition from small-scale manufacturing to the factory system at the beginning of the 19th century gave rise to a new impoverished lower class which was referred to as "working class" and which consisted of day-labourers, handymen etc. The concentration of production in factories deprived many rural cottage workers of their livelihood and forced them to move into the emerging industrial centres. This enabled factory owners to reduce wages and caused widespread poverty. This in turn incited resistance on the part of the victims of such policies, which led to rioting on the one hand and to the emergence of solidarity schemes on the other. Assistance funds sprang from the tradition of journeymen's Gesellenladen (for instance at Linz in 1842), which ultimately developed into sickness and unemployment assistance funds as well as consumer and lending associations. Workers first became organised during the Revolution of 1848, when a "workers' committee" constituted itself in Vienna and successfully pressed for wage rises and a ten-hour workday. On April 24, 1848 the shoemaker's journeyman, F. Sander, organised the "Erster Oesterreichischer Arbeiterverein" (First Austrian Workers' Society), which recruited its members predominantly from among journeymen in the small-scale crafts and trades. Some time thereafter a "Radical liberal Association" ("Radikaler liberaler Verein") saw the light of day. On August 23, 1848 workers and the National Guard clashed in Vienna on Jaegerzeile (currently Praterstrasse). After 1848 the government forbade all such associations with the exception of Catholic Journeymen's Associations modelled on the ideas of A. Kolping Gesellenbetreuung, which were established from 1852 onwards.

In the period of Neoabsolutism, industrialisation and urbanisation increased rapidly, and more and more workers were employed in large-scale enterprises where it was easier to organise workers and, in particular, to resort to strikes as a measure to assert their claims. At the same time, workers formed craft associations (Fachvereine), which not only aimed at higher wages but also stressed work ethics and qualifications. It was on account of these latter characteristics that the fachvereine became influential, mostly in such trades as printing.

From 1861 onward a series of new workers' associations were founded, mostly on the basis of individual crafts. The Wiener Arbeiterverein, founded in 1867, on the other hand, was interdisciplinary in nature. In addition, workers' educational societies ( Arbeiterbildungsvereine) were founded in Vienna and in some smaller towns. In 1872 there were 59 such workers' educational societies and 78 union-type craft associations with a total of 80,000 members. The Arbeiterbildungsverein of Vienna boasted 35.000 members in 1879. Ideologically, these associations took their orientation from the ideas of the German Social Democrats, they sympathised with the First Workers' International of 1864 and thus furnished the authorities with a pretence for prohibiting such associations. In 1870 leading personalities of the Vienna association were tried for treason, which led to massive street protests. In the same year, however, the Reichsrat adopted an association law which allowed workers to form political associations.

Since that time, the workers' movement has maintained close links with the Social-Democratic Party. The years from 1871 to 1888 were characterised by internal struggles between the moderates (H. Oberwinder) and radicals (A. Scheu). On the basis of the Socialism Act of 1886 a state of emergency was declared in various regions, there were 13 trials and 379 persons were forced into exile. It was at this time that V. Adler came to the fore, advocating better working conditions for the workers of the Wienerberger brickworks in his capacity as works inspector; he also founded the newspaper "Gleichheit" ("Equality") in 1886. He achieved consensus among the different groups at the Hainfelder Parteitag of 1888/89 and founded the Sozialdemokratische Partei Oesterreichs (Austrian Social Democratic Party). On July 12, 1889 the first number of the Arbeiterzeitung newspaper was issued. In the period that followed the party gave itself an organisational structure, and from 1890 onwards the first May Manifestations May Day Mai were held in all parts of the monarchy. A series of associations were founded which aimed at achieving universal suffrage ( electoral law). The Social Democrats successfully canvassed the support of workers in certain industries, such as factory and railway workers. Under the influence of these developments, far-reaching social and workers' protection legislation was passed (works inspectors, 1883; Accident Insurance, 1887; Health Insurance, 1888). In the struggle for these achievements the Trade Unions assumed increasing importance as the second pillar of the workers' movement.

The social encyclical "Rerum novarum" promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 inspired the creation of a Christian workers' movement Christian Socialist Movement. Christian workers' associations were later founded, and in 1902 they united to form a "Reichsverband" of non-political associations of Christian workers under L. Kunschak. They held their first conference in Vienna in 1907 but remained much weaker than the Social-Democratic organisations.

After massive demonstrations the Social-Democratic workers' movement achieved a major political success when universal suffrage (for men) was introduced, under which the members of the Abgeordnetenhaus were elected for the first time in 1907. The Social Democrats obtained 87 out of a total of 516 seats. In 1911, increases in food prices resulted in major demonstrations.

In the last years of the First World War the workers' movement reorganised, and in January 1918 workers were given a share in efforts to ensure the supply of vitally needed goods to the population. In October/November 1918 the social democratic workers' movement played an important role in the foundation of the First Republic. It shared governmental powers up to 1920 and successfully pressed for major legislation in the fields of education and social affairs. When they left the government, the Social Democrats implemented their programme in Vienna and several other cities in which they had a majority. In this context, particular importance attached to the "free Unions". However, the Social-Democratic workers' movement was confronted with competition from the emerging Austrian Communist Party, though the latter failed to rise to a politically important position in Austria. Throughout the First Republic the Social-Democratic workers' movement was fully committed to the ideas of Austromarxism, it tried to develop new forms of cultural life and living ("New Man"), and promoted sports, education and a new attitude to the home, but in so doing it remained strictly aloof from the bourgeois groups. In the field of sports, the Workers' Olympics of 1931 constituted a particular highlight. The Christian workers' movement, which relied on the support of the Christian trade unions, remained comparatively weak, and it was only when the Corporate State proscribed Social-Democratic organisations that their protagonists rose to leading positions. While they tried to organise a unitary trade union federation, they failed to reconcile the Social Democrats. Similarly, the National Socialist state tried to influence the workers; it passed a number of far-reaching social laws and introduced such organisations as the "Deutsche Arbeitsfront" ("German Labour Front") and the "Kraft durch Freude" ("Strength through Joy") movement.

In line with the social changes that had come about, the workers' movement re-emerged after 1945 in a modified form. The overwhelming majority of Austrians opted for a democratic system and rejected all forms of dictatorship (fascism, communism). While all the political parties tried to organise the workers ( Arbeiter- und Angestelltenbund), the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions was founded as an organisation that embraced all political parties. As the social conditions of the workers improved, the workers' movement also enjoyed a new standing, in particular since social rights were secured and further developed by a wealth of new laws. Access to social betterment was easier and social decline as a group phenomenon was rare. The number of blue-collar workers declined relative to that of white-collar workers. New kinds of social problems arose in the 1960s on account of the influx of foreign workers ( Employment of Aliens) and seasonal Unemployment, although, in comparison to many other European countries, unemployment continued to remain relatively low in Austria.

The "Verein zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung" (Association for the Study of the History of the Labour Movement), which was founded in 1959, holds regular meetings and issues publications.


H. Steiner, Bibliographie zur Geschichte der oesterrichischen Arbeiterbewegung, 3 vols., 1962-1970; H. Hautmann and R. Kropf, Die oesterreichische Arbeiterbewegung vom Vormaerz bis 1945, 1977; W. Haeusler, Von der Massenarmut zur Arbeiterbewegung, 1979; E. Bruckmueller, Sozialgeschichte Oesterreichs, 1985; W. Maderthaner, Die Arbeiterbewegung in Oesterreich und Ungarn bis 1914, 1986.