Mihajlo Acimovic on Mon, 01 Nov 1999 22:26:12 +0100

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Syndicate: antimili actions Vienna

In Austria, October 26th is the national holiday. It is the day when the last allied soldier left Austria in 1955 and an Austrian government was established. Since then, neutrality has been very important in Austrian tradition and many had sworn that Austria would never join a military alliance, again.
On October 26th, the Austrian army (Bundesheer) organises a parade and a big weapons and soldiers exibition on Heldenplatz in Vienna. Heldenplatz is also the place where thousands of Vienners, young and old, went out to welcome the German army, in 1938.
This year, there was no parade, but some soldiers took the army oath and then there was a folksfest, a weapons exibition and a concert of a mainstream dj.
We had 5000 leaflets printed out, demanding the disbanding of the military, an active neutrality policy, no to NATO, etc.
Around noon, there were about 25 people at the meeting and the 5000 leaflets on the table. Aaaargh! The result of the day was yours truly having pain in his legs tomorrow. But we distributed almost all of the leaflets. :) There were also some other people putting "Soldiers are murderers" stickers wherever they could. 
Paul's "Austria without an army" stickers were all distributed, but the biggest problem were the ones with a picture of a dinosaur and the text "Extinct. Too much armor. Too little brain. Disarmament". The kids loved those. :)))) I was sorry I didn't have enough... :)
Some of those distributing the leaflets were dressed in uniforms with advertisements of Shell, Billa, Daimler-Benz aerospace, etc. and they wore paper ribbons saying European Security. 
They interviewed a lot of people too. It was a good place for interviews. A lot of fascists and a lot of anti-militarists, all at the same place. It was interesting to hear how many excuses people can invent to defend Their Army.
The action was legally registered as an artist performance, on the subject "art and freedom of expression". Even so, we had to use the Green party as the legal carrier. The police wouldn4t had allowed a group like No One Is Illegal to hold it. 
I had no problems with the police, although they did question some of the action participants who they were, what they were doing and so on. I mean, they were like standing, 8 policemen, at three meters distance, observing four people distribute the leaflets. I hid the propaganda under my jacket when there were uniformed police around, at first. Later the uniformed police got tired and since we were there legally, they stopped monitoring.
The reactions of people were really unexpected for me. I mean, there were policemen reading the leaflets with interest and the soldiers from the military infostand asked me for leaflets to read. One time, a military jeep was driving by me and I passed the leaflet to the driver. He took it and I could see his face changing into a grimase of stunned amasement, as the jeep drove away. 
And there were children with rambo-style painted faces, climbing the military excercise things. 
And there was an 8-year-old girl testing a machine gun, which was specially placed, so that children can aim it and pretend they are shooting at someone. 
And there were people standing in long lines to get a chance to sit in a tank or a helicopter for a minute or two and get the feeling. I could remember people in Belgrade, standing in lines for bread, milk, sugar, cooking oil, meat, cigaretes, gasoline, salaries, pensions, micropieces of their own bank deposits... I couldn4t help wishing that all these people get a chance to stand in line for bread, between two air alerts, while those same choppers are shooting at refugee collumns of Austrians. I shook off the thought and distributed the leaflets to them. Some were reading with interest. 
And there were children (Also some of those climbing the military instalations), grabbing for the "Too much armor, too little brain. Disarmament" stickers. 
It was much better for me than for the other activists, because my German is rather poor, so everyone could had insulted me for all I know, but I didn4t understand them. 
There was a young guy who squashed a leaflet and droped it in front of me, saying something in an agitated voice, eyeing me like his enemy number one and then he left. 
There was another, a middle aged guy, who put his face almost into mine, while he was telling me, with miraculous speed and expressiveness, how there is a war in Slovenia and that if we allow asylum for deserters, all of Austria would be full of Yugoslav deserters, comming in from the Slovenian border. Then he left. 
I wondered for a moment if I had missed the news on ORF or something. Then I thought about how great Austria would look like, with so many deserters in it. The man had gotten me into an exellent trip. Imagine an Austria full of deserters. :))))
A young man asked me if we want the Russian and Yugoslav armies to come and conquer Austria and if that is why we want the army to be disbanded. 
I managed to give the leaflets to some high officers, but those who did take them, had expressionless faces and read them without expression and they went about their unexpressionless buisiness.
And there were a whole lot of people, young, intelligent-looking people, who gave me words of support and said the action was great and they were all for it and bla bla...
and there was A LOT of people who wouldn4t even take the leaflets until they saw the broken rifle sign on them...
And there were tourist excursions from Czechia and Russian speaking ones. Their german language teachers were trying to make them say 'danke', but we were already speaking well in Russian...
And there was an old woman who came to me, quite sure of herself, saying that we must be foreigners, because a real austrian would never support the disbandment of His Army. I said "Ja, Ich bin auslander" and she said "Go to your own country and disband the army there".
And there was an old man, looking similar to my grandfather, who kept explaining to me how the army is necessary to protect our democracy from people like Milosevic and how Austria was a bastion of freedom...
When I mentioned I was from Belgrade, he spent the next 10 minutes persuading me that Milosevic is a dictator and that the NATO bombing was justified. 
I could remember my grandfather convincing me that those who organise demos against Milosevic are all american people and that I, by doing the antiwar campaign in Serbia, was working for the Americans. 
The language was a little different, but even the way they formed sentences was the same. That is probably why I understood him so well. The gesticulation was enough to understand his beliefs. 
The sound of the sentences was enough to understand his talk, even without listening. 
When I mentioned political prisoners, he went over to a tirade about how Austria is democratic, that there are no political prisoners, how it is all propaganda from Milosevic or whoever, etc. 
I could hear my grandfather saying that the police didn4t beat anybody without a reason and that nobody was imprisoned, that it was all propaganda from The Americans, etc. And then, this old guy, who seems to be a big university professor came in and the two of them continued the discussion between each other. I had no more strenght to convince anybody.
So, the people were really mixed and I am sorry that the opportunity for anti-militarist advertising, so nicely provided to us by the army, wasn4t used to it4s fullest extent. We needed a lot more people for it and if he had more people, we would need more leaflets and more of those "too much armor, too little brain" stickers. 
Donations and especially yourselves will be more than welcome for the next October 26th action in Vienna.

Mihajlo Acimovic

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