Communist Party, Austria

   / Kommunistische Partei Österreichs
   (KPÖ)
   Founded in 1918 from the left wing of the Social Democratic Party of Austria, the Austrian Communist Party had a precarious beginning. Heavily oriented toward their mother party in the new Soviet Union, the Austrian Communists only had around 21,000 voters by 1930 and had elected none of their members to the various representative bodies in the First Republic. Declared illegal in 1933, they maintained a shadowy underground existence. Nevertheless, communists were prominent in the anti-Nazi resistance of the pre–World War II era.
   In April 1945, the KPÖ was recognized as one of the three legal political parties in newly occupied Austria. Until 1947, it was one of the three political organizations represented in the provisional Austrian government. The high point of its appeal at the polls came during 1953, when party candidates received between 5 and 6 percent of the vote. After 1959, the KPÖ had no seat in the federal National Assembly (Nationalrat) and also lost votes in the provincial parliaments. The party remained true to the Stalinist line coming from the Soviet Union, even when its efforts during the 1950s to increase its influence in Austria through labor, youth, and women’s groups largely fell flat. The party’s failure seemed even greater in light of the advantages it had in operating industries and trading companies chartered in the Soviet-occupied areas of Austria, which received special consideration in commerce with the Soviet bloc. The suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968 and the direct Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia that followed gave rise to an ideological split within the KPÖ. The new directions of the Mikhail Gorbachev regime in the Soviet Union after 1985 had the same effect. The latter spurred efforts from younger members of the party to reconfigure the organization as a more democratic party of the left. However, these changes led to a stark drop in traditional Communist membership, which sank by about one-third.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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