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January 22: Europe’s Most Successful Socialist

Lawrence Bush
January 22, 2017
Bruno Kreisky, chancellor of Austria from 1970 to 1983, was born in Vienna on this date in 1911. Kreisky joined the socialist movement at the age of 15, and when Austria’s Socialist Party was banned by Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in 1934, Kreisky became active in underground political work. He escaped from Austria after the Nazi takeover in 1938 and emigrated to Sweden, where he remained for the war years. Kreisky became a parliamentarian in Austria in 1956 and was elected chair of the Socialist Party in 1967. Three years later he became the first Jewish chancellor of Austria. His accomplishments in office included expansion of workers’ benefits, with health insurance and sick-leave reforms and establishment of a 40-hour work week and four weeks of annual vacation; reform of the country’s family law and prisons; decriminalization of abortion and homosexuality; language rights for the country’s minority groups; legislation to back women’s equality and opportunity; and expansion of the education sector. He also brought Austria into international affairs as a bridge nation in the Cold War, helping to facilitate arms negotiations between the U.S. and the USSR. As a sharp critic of both Israel and Zionism, however, he was a much-criticized international figure, particularly after he admitted to his cabinet several figures with Nazi backgrounds. “The ideas and principles of democracy should not be limited to politics, but must pervade all areas of social life.” --Bruno Kreisky

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.