Correspondence

The Populist Challenge to Multiculturalism

Letter From Austria, Part I

What an Austrian news magazine terms the "March on Vienna," Jörg Haider's "Freedom Party" took 23 percent of the November 1991 vole. Remarkably, this had followed a dismal showing four years earlier when his party garnered only 8 percent of the total vole and appeared on the verge of deterioration. Handsome and energetic, the 42-year-old Haider and his party are not only transforming the politics of Austria but personifying a new birth of 19th-century liberal nationalism, which had been banished to the dustbin of European history by the traumatic convulsions that many historians argue National Socialism generated in response to the rise of Marxism.

It evoked descriptions of Andrew Jackson's inaugural festivities. Thousands crowded the sweeping marble entrance ramp, stranger pressing against stranger, enthusiastic and excited in the bright cold of a late October day. It was the 1991 National Day, a celebration of Austrian democracy. The day carried special significance; for the first time in its history, the doors of Vienna's neoclassical parliament were Aung open for an informal open house, enabling the populace to rub elbows with candidates and inspect party exhibits before a key municipal election. No one-police, politicians, media-anticipated the over whelming success of this exercise in direct democracy. It would portend a sea change in Austrian political life. In a matter of...

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