Kommunistische Partei Österreichs, KPÖ
Kommunistische Partei Österreichs, KPÖ (Communist Party, Austrian): Founded on November 3, 1918, emerged from the left wing of the Social Democratic Labour Party, took the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as a model, did not gain a seat in parliament or government during the First Republic (1918-1938), number of voters in 1930: 20,921; member of the Communist International from 1913-1943. From 1924 onwards (formally from 1927) its leader was J. Koplenig. The KPÖ was forbidden on May 26, 1933 but continued operating illegally. It advocated the continued existence of Austria and was the main force of resistance against the Nazi regime from 1938 to 1945, with about 2,000 communists falling victim to the National Socialists. Leading personalities emigrated into the USSR, later some fought as partisans in Yugoslavia. In April 1945 the KPÖ became one of the 3 recognised political parties and participated in the Provisional Government. In the elections on November 25, 1945 it was returned as a small party with 4 seats and formed part of the government until 1947. Later it did not gain more than 5 seats as an opposition party, even when cooperating with the socialists, and its number of seats eventually fell to 3 (highest number of voters in 1953: 228,159, i.e. 5,3%). Since 1959 it has not been represented in the Nationalrat and has also lost its seats in the provincial governments of Vienna, Lower Austria, Styria, Carinthia and Burgenland as well as in several local governments.
Under the leadership of J. Koplenig (until 1965) and F. Muhri (until 1990) the KPÖ advocated Marxist-Leninism. For a long time it defended the policies of Stalin and championed the introduction of a people's democracy in Austria after 1945 (strikes in October and November 1950). Around 1950 it made an effort to increase its influence with the help of party-affiliated organisations like the "Gewerkschaftliche Einheit" group in the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions, the Freie Österreichische Jugend youth organisation, the Kinderland children's organisation, the Bund demokratischer Frauen women's organisation, the KZ-Verband (society of concentration camp inmates), Friedensrat (Peace Council), Demokratische Union (Democratic Union), but without success. After the Prague Spring, around 1968-1971, an ideological schism occurred within the party. When "perestroika" started in the Soviet Union, younger members took over the leadership in 1985. At the party convention in 1990 Susanne Sohn and Walter Silbermayr were elected leaders. Despite the opposition of some party factions they tried to give the party a new profile and consequently lost one third of their members. Since the 28th party convention of 1991 the directing body of the party has consisted of 3 spokespersons and one federal secretary (Walter Baier).
During the allied occupation of Austria (1945-1955) the KPÖ relied on the USIA companies in the Soviet zone and established an economic network of about 50 companies, which later dominated trade with Eastern Europe until 1989. This enabled the party to maintain a strong apparatus and publish newspapers (daily "Volksstimme", published until March 3rd /4th , 1991) in spite of the continuing decrease in voters and members (1962: 135,520, 1971: 61,762, 1983: 31,912, 1990: 25,685, 1995: 13,939 voters). At the same time the number of members also declined rapidly due to the fact that many members were senior citizens. (1945: 25,000, 1949: 150,000, 1990: 9,000). 40% of the members come from Vienna, women make up 42%.
The KPÖ is a centrally governed organisation; its major forum is the Party Convention, which elects the Central Committee; members of the latter are elected into the Political Bureau.
Literature: H. Steiner, Die KPÖ 1918-38, 1965; Die KPÖ, Beiträge zu ihrer Geschichte und Politik, ed. by the history committee of the KPÖ Central Committee, 21989; J. Ehmer, Die KPÖ, in: H. Dachs et al., Handbuch des politischen Systems Österreichs, 1991.