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THE AUSTRIAN LEFT, consisting of the Austrian Social Democratic Party (SDAP until 1934, SPO since 1945) and a fringe communist party (KPO), is intriguing because it calls into question the facile polarities of political terminology such as left versus right, working class versus middle class, and revolutionary versus reformist. In many ways, the Austrian left is somewhat of a paradox.

Rooted in the working-class movement of the 19th century, the SDAP/SPO has produced prominent leaders primarily from middle-class and often Jewish origin. Influenced by revolutionary Marxism, the SDAP/SPO has always been inspired by a strong ethical, democratic, and humanitarian spirit. At various junctures in its past, the Austrian left has found itself as a reformist movement with revolutionary pretensions (SDAP from 1889–1918), an establishment force defending ...

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