Urban communist politics of the everyday in Graz, Austria

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2024 Number 86

Urban communist politics of the everyday in Graz, Austria
Rivka Saltiel, Matthias Naumann, Anke Strüver pages 105-118
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.86.06.2024


In September 2021, the Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ) won the municipal elections in Austria’s second-largest city, Graz, and Elke Kahr became the city’s mayor. Kahr has governed in a coalition with the Green Party and the Social Democrats, replacing the former conservative and far-right coalition that had lasted for eighteen years. A different kind of local politics has since then proved possible, even in conservative Austria. Graz local communists practise a politics that is sensitive to class injustice and engaged in the local community. Its slogan for the last thirty years has been ‘A party for everyday life’. The party’s success is based on its focus on everyday concerns such as housing, tenants’ rights, public health, education and mobility issues, as well as its battles against austerity and neoliberal privatisation. Its community-oriented approach, strongly committed to social infrastructure at the scale of people’s everyday experiences is explicitly critical of top-down state solutions - and thus stands in stark contrast both to the previous neoliberal and profit-oriented policies in Graz, and to the centralist ways of governing of the socialist states. KPÖ politicians voluntarily cap their salaries at the level of the average worker, with the surplus going into a social fund for emergency help for those on low incomes. This has been criticised by some as a charity commitment rather structural change, but it can also be read as an attempt at lived solidarity. Drawing from local media coverage as well as interviews with politicians and local residents, the article discusses the everyday politics of Graz communists through the lens of relational care ethics, and discusses the potential international movements that could be built on this approach to communist municipal politics. The focus is on alternative social norms in urban cultures of care: solidarity among all members of society, and a recognition of people’s everyday practices and needs. 

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To cite this article
Rivka Saltiel, Matthias Naumann, Anke Strüver (2024) Urban communist politics of the everyday in Graz, Austria, Soundings, 2024(86), 105-118. https://doi.org/10.3898/SOUN.86.06.2024

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