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Appealing to the ‘angry middle’ at the EP elections

2.11.2018Elections

In this lead-up to next year’s European Parliamentary elections the ETUC held a seminar titled: ‘Europe’s new political landscape: Open vs Closed, us versus them and the angry middle’. The event explored the growing electoral success of right-wing and populist parties.

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Why are these populist parties or movements securing growing support among trade unionists?
Eurocadres, like the European trade union movement as a whole is gearing up for the forthcoming European Parliament elections in 2019. Our election positions on strong economy with a strong knowledge-base have been in the public domain for some time. And a detailed EP election resolution will go forward to our General Assembly, which takes place next week.

Eurocadres, like the European trade union movement as a whole is gearing up for the forthcoming European Parliament elections

Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the ETUC opened proceedings. He acknowledged that in recent Member State elections up to 30 per cent of trade unions has voted for populist or right-wing parties. However, he believes that, ‘workers have not become more racist and xenophobic. They fear not having a future, they fear the precariousness of the labour market. And they are concerned about receiving decent wages and adequate social protection. According to the head of the ETUC trade unions must focus on core trade union values, in order to shift workers votes away from the far-right populists.
Interestingly, the consultants More in Common, who presented research on the growing phenomena of populism, suggested that trade unions and parties of the left have to go beyond economic issues and engage votes on cultural and identity issues. Tim Dixon, of More in Common noted, that we cannot leave the ‘them and us’ field to the Far Right.

trade unions and parties of the left have to go beyond economic issues and engage votes on cultural and identity issues

The left has to recast the ‘them’ as big businesses, who refuse to pay their fair share in taxes for example. And create a bigger us, which does not scapegoat migrants and refugees, but sees them as also suffering from rich corporations refusing to pay decent wages and playing one part of the working class off against the other. By noting that the economy is fixed for the rich and the them is the small number of individuals, who own massive amounts of capital and resources. Political messages need to be created which will resonate with the angry middle, i.e. offering change, not status quo

There is a need to build ‘open, inclusive and resilient societies by addressing profound threats to democracy from social fracturing

The consultants believe there is a need to build ‘open, inclusive and resilient societies by addressing profound threats to democracy from social fracturing’. Hence the need to emphasis solidarity and group belonging, as well as ‘tapping into the themes of inequality, corruption and the rigged system’, as part of a narrative to improve workers overall economic situation, once again appealing to a ‘bigger us’.
The seminar proved extremely useful in providing trade unions with a different perspective on how to approach next May’s European Parliament elections, especially in terms of dealing with the populist surge.