Defiant Populist

Defiant Populist: Jörg Haider and the Politics of Austria

Lothar Höbelt
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Purdue University Press
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  • Book Info
    Defiant Populist
    Book Description:

    Whether or not Haider has followed the ideological path of his compatriot Adolf Hitler, says Austrian political historian Höbelt, he has certainly followed his route to publicity around the world. He explores the politics of modern Austria, and debunks the myth that Haider is driven by passion rather than self-interest.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-065-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface: Debunking the Haider Myth
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    Charles W. Ingrao

    A great deal has been said and written about Jörg Haider, the charismatic but controversial leader of Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ). Clearly the most sensational images have been drawn by the American media, which have portrayed him as a telegenic neo-Nazi. In the months after the FPÖ’s triumph in the October 1999 elections, veteran anchorman Dan Rather solemnly advised the CBS Evening News’ national television audience that Haider was “an admirer of Adolph Hitler.” Two years later the screenplay for the popular thrillerThe Sum of All Fearsborrowed liberally from Haider’s personal biography in portraying a Nazi fanatic who...

  6. 1 Austria: ODD MAN OUT OR ISLAND OF THE BLESSED? (1945–1986)
    (pp. 1-24)

    Austria is a small country—this much seems obvious. It isn’t really so obvious, though, at least not to Austrians. For one thing Austria has not always been a small country The Casa d’Austria, the Habsburg dynasty, once ruled an empire “where the sun never set,” as Charles V is supposed to have claimed five hundred years ago. In fact, the global extent of this empire was ruled from Spain, and present-day Austria had little to do with it. But the branch of the Habsburg dynasty that settled in Vienna, the descendants of Charles V’s brother Ferdinand, still claimed to...

  7. 2 A Young Man on the Move (1950–1986)
    (pp. 25-52)

    If Steger’s “change of base” was about to fail, a change of generations had certainly come about. Steger, Friedhelm Frischenschlager (his minister of defense), Rainer Pawkowicz (the coming man in Vienna), or MPs such as Norbert Gugerbauer and Jörg Haider all belonged to a younger generation that had been born after the war. Gugerbauer and Haider had been born in 1950. There was a real generation gap of almost thirty years between them and the war generation. In politics, generations usually move in smaller leaps. But the generation in between, the one symbolized by Götz and his followers, had been...

    (pp. 53-70)

    The first few days after the 1986 election were to set the stage of Austrian politics for more than a dozen years. TheWende,the thoroughgoing change after fifteen years of Socialist leadership, had not quite come about. Mock admitted he could have fought either Haider or Vranitzky but not both at the same time. True, the Socialists lost, but so did the Christian Democrats. If they entered a Great Coalition now, it would not mean reverting to the days of Figl and Raab; instead they would be locked into a combination with the Socialists in the driver’s seat.


  9. 4 The Years in the Wilderness, Part I: ROBIN HOOD AND THE BLUE-COLLAR VOTE (1991–1993)
    (pp. 71-94)

    We live in an era of sound bites. Haider, as the leader of a small party in danger of being overlooked, has always kept that in mind. Generally, those rules of the media game have helped him—despite, or maybe even because of, the hostility of most journalists. But every now and then he has been guilty of seriously overshooting his target. Some of his sound bites have gained a life of their own, none more so than his notorious “praise” of Nazi employment policies, which led one U.S. anchorman to describe Haider as an “admirer of Adolph Hitler.”


    (pp. None)
  11. 5 The Years in the Wilderness, Part II: EXILED FROM EUROPE? (1994–1996)
    (pp. 95-116)

    In terms of party politics, Haider’s attempt to roll up the government parties with his “Austria first” campaign had backfired. Or, rather, with hindsight, everybody’s moves backfired. Just as the referendum closed, five of his MPs, led by Heide Schmidt, broke away from the FPÖ on February 4 to form a party of their own, the Liberal Forum (LIF). There had been idle musings about such a secessionist movement for a long time, but planning had started in earnest only in December 1992. Apart from Schmidt, the planning group consisted of her long-time confidant, Gerhard Kratky, once a collaborator of...

    (pp. 117-142)

    Europe is awash these days with post-something parties. Every Italian government is supported by either the post-Communist “Party of Democratic Socialists” (PDS) or the post-(neo-)fascist “Alleanza Nazionale” (AN). In the Eastern part of Europe, many parties, including the ones governing Hungary and Poland, are directly descended from movements that not just embraced totalitarian ideals but also actually put them into practice for a number of decades. Obviously there were differences between the historic legacies of these governments. Italian fascists were fairly immune to anti-Semitic policies until about 1938, when Mussolini fell under Hitler’s spell; Hungarian communists cannot be held responsible...

  13. 7 The First American-Style Austrian Politician: POPULISM VERSUS “SMOKE-FILLED ROOMS”
    (pp. 143-164)

    Many of the reasons that Haider is regarded as such a strange animal have their roots in Austrian peculiarities. One such reason rests on the fact that Austria is the odd man out, yet the FPÖ is very normal, seen in a European context. That paradox concerns membership and organization. As mentioned earlier, the rate of “card carrying” memberships in political parties in Austria had no parallel on either side of the Iron Curtain, with Italy being a runner-up. Until recently, Austria also had an admirably high rate of voter turnout. Both statistics were rooted in the same phenomenon: machine...

  14. 8 Balance or Breakthrough? (1997–1999)
    (pp. 165-186)

    For five years, from 1986 to 1991, Jörg Haider had been an up and coming star on the Right. For a further five years, from 1991 to 1996, the star still shone brightly but seemed to have veered off course. It was still capable of winning tactical victories but seemed to have lost its strategic direction. Haider counted as a maverick populist rebel destined to get nowhere. From 1997 onward, the FPÖ moved back into the political mainstream. Within three years, it was part of the Austrian government on equal terms with the ÖVP. If there was one event that...

    (pp. None)
  16. 9 Dal Ghetto al Palazzo (2000–2002)
    (pp. 187-210)

    The dynamics of the events that followed the collapse of Austria’s Great Coalition are still being hotly debated. Haider’s election triumph had sparked a brief flurry of media excitement and mostly unfavorable comment abroad. Haider had tried to combat that impression by a blitz of press conferences in European capitals, which produced mixed results, at best. But the media’s attention span was none too long. The tortuous negotiations in the weeks following the election held no fascination for a wider public. The topic vanished from the television screens and editorial columns. True, there had been murmurs of discontent and voices...

    (pp. 211-226)

    What is Jörg Haider? First and foremost a “star.” If anything was still needed to propel him from stardom into superstardom, the reaction of Jacques Chirac and his cronies in 2000 certainly did the trick. Stars are known for their good looks and their media sex appeal, not for their sweet nature or the constancy of their affections. On the contrary, if they want to stay in the limelight, they have to try to constantly reinvent themselves. Consistency, as Oscar Wilde has reminded us, is the last refuge of the unimaginative.¹ One critic (or by that time, exasperated ally) has...

  18. Postscript, September 2002 “Worse than a Crime …”
    (pp. 227-230)

    At the last minute, our hero has chosen to provide a closing chapter to this book. His “second-rate temperament” has surfaced with a vengeance. In a puzzling series of maneuvers in late August and early September of 2002, he has borne out the gleeful prophecies of his enemies and self-destructed.

    Fatalists might note that it was the great floods of August that washed away the hopes of conservatives in the German-speaking world. In Germany, the coverage given to Gerhard Schroeder’s crisis management turned the tables in favor of the Social Democrat incumbent, who went on to win re-election on 22...

  19. Appendix
    (pp. 231-232)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 233-264)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-276)
  22. Index
    (pp. 277-286)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-287)