Wednesday, November 02, 2005
HC Strache - Vienna's Blue Eye
In German, one doesn't walk away from a fistfight with a black eye, rather with a blue one -- a blaue Auge. At least one Vienna newspaper calls Heinz Christian (HC) Strache "Vienna's Blue Eye", a clever triple wordplay on Strache's steel blue eyes, his political party's chosen color, and his unexpected (to his rivals, embarrassing and bruising) success in the October 23 Vienna city government elections.
His supporters fondly call him HC (pronounced ha-tseh and sometimes written "Haze"). Many call him the new Jörg Haider. One journalist asked him directly in a recent interview whether he is a Nazi. Whatever one chooses to call him, there's no denying that HC Strache is the political man of the moment in Vienna, and perhaps in all of Austria.
Although Strache's FPÖ (Freiheitliche Partei Österreich / Freedom Party Austria) came in third in the October 23 election with just under 15% of the vote, the party's performance tripled pre-election predictions.
I was at the FPÖ's post-election celebration at Adam's Gasthaus and Restaurant on the 23rd (strictly as a photographer) and managed to get a few good pictures of him at the event. Pictures and commentary follow:
Heinz Christian Strache is a 36-year-old trained dental technician and born politician.
The FPÖ is a right wing, nationalist party, and according to some Austrian newspapers (and a few Austrians with whom I've spoken), its membership includes avowed Nazis, retro and neo. (Note: I'm not accusing anyone in any of these pictures of being a Nazi. On the other hand, a recent print version of Falter claims that some of the people in attendance at this post election party are known to Austrian police as having Nazi backgrounds).
Strache ran a divisive campaign in Vienna, with placards and radio advertisements that have been characterized by many as "Ausländer feindlich" (anti foreigner).
Strache has an electrifying presence, a boyish smile and an excellent speaking ability.
He spoke continuously and coherently for at least 20 minutes, with no notes or cue cards anywhere to be seen.
The troops were roused.
I felt pretty uncomfortable at this event.
Although the FPÖ's anti-foreigner sentiments are directed primarily toward darker-skinned foreigners and Eastern Europeans, I'm still a foreigner, and I attended this celebration without an invitation (my camera got me in).
I was right at the front - in front of the few professional photographers and right up there with the TV cameras.
The evening's successes were just starting to sink in when I took this picture.
At the time, however, I didn't realize that Strache's performance was a success. I thought 14.9% of the vote and third place were pretty dismal.
Everything's relative, though, and 14.9% is a real Sieg (triumph) when your party wasn't expected to get much more than 5%.
I believe HC is embracing his wife here, while an ominous looking supporter eyes me suspiciously in the background. I have read that Strache's wife is a member of the Plachutta restaurant family. I don't know about the Plachuttas' political views, but I do know that their restaurants serve excellent, high quality food.
Outside, supporters were sporting blue balloons. In Austria, each political party is associated with a specific color. The FPÖ is the blue party. Another supporter outside begged me to delete a picture that I had taken of her. She explained that she could lose her government job if she was publically associated with the FPÖ. (I did delete her picture).
Politics can make you sweat.
There were a few closely-shaven heads at the celebration.
I showed up at exactly the right time, just as Strache arrived. I was able to follow directly behind him into the celebration, otherwise, I might have been stuck outside.
Lots of hugs...
...and a few kisses. There was a wide range of ages in attendance, from college-aged supporters to a few people who probably still remember the days of Hitler's Third Reich.
I've tried to leave my own opinions out of this piece and just report the facts. Is Strache a right wing extremist -- even a Nazi? Or did he simply pick his positions and party out of a shrewd sense of political expediency? Either way, the recent election shows that there's still a place for right wing nationalism in Austria's political scene, and with a talented figurehead like HC at the top, it will be interesting to see how things develop. The next national elections are scheduled for 2006, and while no one thinks the FPÖ has a chance of winning them outright, the party could (again) be in a position to form part of a coalition government. Either way, I'll let you know, and hopefully bring you some more up-close and personal pictures.
And I still have a few pictures from this election to get online, this time of the SPÖ's celebration, and Vienna's mayor, Michael Häupl.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference HC Strache - Vienna's Blue Eye:
oh man - i dont wonna see this blue-eyed wimp anymore
Posted by: Stippppp | Mar 3, 2006 2:28:18 PM
I know man... I'll try to get some new stuff online soon...
Posted by: kurt | Mar 12, 2006 7:29:21 PM
Austrians are not sincere to themselves. They should think about how a foreign country(USA)invested a lot(after the world war) to make the present day Austria..(see the Chancellor´s speech with US president Bush...21.6.2006)
Strache is a man of yesterday...We need today´s leaders who is able to read the present world situation and build our(Austria) tomorrow with it.
Posted by: Axel | Aug 4, 2006 8:08:43 PM
the Americans didnt build up Austrians economy, because they are that nice. We shouldnt forget, that the States supported a lot of former Nazis after WW2, just because they were anti-communists.
Posted by: os84 | Dec 22, 2006 12:48:51 PM
Wow, this is a great site and very interesting to see all the pictures. I would definitely feel uncomfortable in that room. I felt uncomfortable just seeing his picture all around, with those creepy blue eyes always seeming like they were watching me. Thank you for putting up these pictures with your commentary.
Posted by: Kelly | Mar 26, 2007 7:46:23 AM
standing on platforms in the backs of bars and holding hurried little meetings, showing off out blue eyes and blaming all the problems on the influx of ethnic minorities of an opposing religion
hasn't this all been done before? it didn't end well as I recall!
this is backward thinking, come on HC
Posted by: SickRik | Mar 31, 2007 4:17:41 PM
He may be a great speaker, but he cannot speak English.
Posted by: Anonymous | May 13, 2007 7:26:36 PM
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am Austrian and I work for FPÖ and it´s all nonsense that he is a Nazi I know him personally and I can say this is absolutely trash!
He is a very sympathic man who only cares about us Austrians who are disappointed and frustrated about Asylum Seekers and the problems they make!!
Posted by: Austrian | Jul 25, 2007 5:01:56 PM
my friends, HC Strache is probably not a nazi himself, but fact is that there are a lot of people in the FPOE, who are members of radical BURSCHENSCHAFTEN..but the problem is that almost every party in austria has those people. what most people, especially americans forget, is that austria is currently led by the SPOE, a socialist party. they are strict opponents of capitalism and the free market system. the political system needs right counterparts to get in balance, otherwise we wouldn't be far from modern communism. it is easy to follow stereotypes and say that the members of the FPOE are all nazis, which is complete bogus. immigration in austria is ridiculously easy. american immigration is 100 times as strict. they are trying to restrict the immigration process..convert it to a more selective process.
it is really getting a problem in austria and germany. the islamic immigrants are all poor, and they do not respect austria. imagine immigrants in the united states behaving rudely, forming groups and beating up americans..and so on.what would happen in america? that's pretty clear..they would be thrown out instantly probably..in austria the story is a little bit different.
Posted by: oliver | Nov 10, 2009 3:00:55 AM
I don't see anyone claiming that all members of the FPOE are nazis, but I do see you claiming that "the islamic immigrants are all poor, and they do not respect austria".
So you're asking me and others not to generalize about the FPOE (something, again, which no one is doing here), but you're willing to generalize about all Islamic immigrants to Austria?
You need to work on your ideas a little more and bring some logical consistency to your arguments.
Posted by: Kurt Milam | Nov 10, 2009 9:59:14 AM
yes u are very right. i did generalize about the islamic immigrants. first of all i have to ask u if u are austrian, do you live in austria, do you know what happens in the big cities in the nights, do you know about that?
islamic immigrants is an awkward description anyways, but i just wanted to get to the point.
the 'islamic immigrants' are most of the time economic refugees attracted by the social market system in Austria. actually turkey for example or any other country that has a significat portion of emigrants to austria, are all legit countries anyway. they are gonna be in the EU. why would they want to come to austria and not even learn the god damn language. why would they come to austria and not even conform to the norms that austrians have? why do they seperate them from the austrians if they like us so much :D it is a very difficult topic to address because one has to be careful what to say not being called a racist or even a nazi.
well i dont want to say i am an expert on the immigration problems in austria but i have some insight because i live in america and i have seen what it takes or how it is when being in a foreign country..and believe me i didnt come to america in my LEDERHOSE and with a mass beer in my hand, and neither did i just talk to austrians in america but i conformed and tried to integrate myself.
do u know how difficult it is to come to america, even for wealthy europeans? do you know what it takes just to be able to enroll in american universities? do you know what it takes to come to austria as an economic refugee??(in comparison)
if you can answer all these questions..well then ..u know what the problem is..
i see europeans in america driving huge cars and paying taxes and the whole dance and not even getting any benefits neither a greencard etc., but i dont see immigrants from those "countries" in austria being that wealthy, but those get austrian "green cards" and the social benefits..so maybe we austrians should alter our immigration service to the american. why should a country like austria which is so terribly small in the first place take so many islamic immigrants ? there were always differences between europeans and the people who come from islamic countries and these differences will always exist. austria has just about 8000000 people, why should we take so many immigrants. and why should we mix up with those immigrants...do u know the american immigration acts like for example in 1924? much more restrictive.
austria is a wealthy country from the macro perspective..but we bear the economic costs of a social market system as well. we cannot bear an unlimited amout of immigrants, that the european union divides among its countries..and in certain perspective HC strache is very right what he is saying. the only problem is that he lacks consistency and maybe economic knowlegde. he is too extreme too, but on the other hand he has to be as an "oppositions partei"....
Posted by: oliver | Nov 20, 2009 7:01:44 PM
Posted by: Blackman in Austria | Nov 26, 2009 2:36:52 PM
I disagree with you on a plethora of points, but I don't have the time to argue every single one. I am a US citizen who's lived in Vienna for almost a decade, so I know quite a bit about the US and about Austria.
You seem to be misinformed on so many topics that I don't really know where to start. First off, the US may have strict standards for legal immigration, but there are more ILLEGAL immigrants living in the US than the entire population of Austria. In your first post you state:
"imagine immigrants in the united states behaving rudely, forming groups and beating up americans..and so on.what would happen in america?"
Are you kidding? Have you heard of Mara Salvatrucha or the other numerous gangs in the US whose members are primarily immigrants (legal and illegal)? These people shoot and murder on a regular basis, which makes your "immigrants behaving rudely, forming groups and beating up" Austrians sound pretty laughable.
Most importantly and back on topic, Mr. Strache does not have to be "too extreme" in order to lead an effective opposition party. Sorry, but that's no excuse for his party's extremism. It's possible to be smart and effective in the opposition without resorting to dangerous extremism.
Posted by: Kurt Milam | Nov 26, 2009 2:56:14 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.