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The Propaganda of Construction: On Red Vienna


At Jacobin, Jannon Stein details the history of "Red Vienna," a period from roughly 1923 to 1934 when socialists controlled the city council of Vienna and realized an ambitious and radical social housing plan. An excerpt:

During the fifteen years of “Red Vienna” — and ever since — the apartment buildings built by the SDAP were and have been a synecdoche for the entire project of Austromarxist municipal socialism. In the theory of Austromarxism, strategic interventions, even outside periods of full-scale revolution, could go beyond mere reformism and positively restructure social dynamics.

Johan F. Hartle, whose work focuses on the problematic visibility of the proletariat — an absent people, a people to come — in Red Vienna, has referred to the SDAP’s method as a “propaganda of construction,” in which newly erected buildings not only advertised and demonstrated an ideological program, but also addressed social needs and were intended to shift conditions on the ground in preparation for future socialist development. The inscriptions vividly capture this attempt to turn Vienna from a collapsed imperial capital into a socialist city.

Image: Working-class housing complexes of Red Vienna. Via