The far-right movement continues to undermine the future of Europe
Long before the latest elections in Europe, our complacency began to cost us.
The European Union is, at its simplest, one of the most successful peace projects in world history.
“United in diversity” has been the cornerstone for a European community that has grown to be the third largest global economy, a leading figure in the protection of human rights and a hub for research, development and progress. The EU is a guarantor of our fundamental rights, with the development and protection of our personal, civic, political, economic and social rights all stemming from union principles and law. Despite its shortcomings, the EU gives us the opportunity to improve our community as it develops, and has provided us with more than any of its founders could have ever anticipated at the signing of the Schuman declaration. Yet, the EU and its core values are continuously challenged.
Over the past number of years, we have focused on singular issues that threaten the EU, but not sufficiently viewed them as a symptom of a wider political concern. This is not about Brexit and the promotion of lies with Russian money. This is not about the rise of Giorgia Meloni’s poison politics in the country that gave us Bella Ciao. This is not about Orban or Law and Justice. This is about our opposition to the far-right and our complacency in fighting them. This, coupled with climate change, is one of the biggest threats to the collective protection of European citizens.
The fundamental rights that the labour movement have fought for throughout history have been a place in the core of the EU. Far-right movements threaten these values and the cross-generational work carried out by defenders of human rights.
In multiple Member States we have seen politics that seeks to pit us against one another gain traction in the polls. Aside from the recent results in Sweden and Italy, every five years we wait with collective anxiety to see if France have staved off the populists for another term. It has almost become an accepted reality that European politics must resist the far-right at each election.
This shift in the politics of European citizens can be attributed to many things; the cost of living and energy crisis, misinformation, the remnants of COVID-19, politics that protect profits over people etc. All of these are contributing factors, but the trade union movement needs to evaluate where we have failed to convince others in our politics. Our inclusive and equitable vision for European life must be seen as the better outcome than pitting us against one another, as the far-right would and continue to look to do.
Trade unions have long been the leading voice in calls for improved pay and working conditions, achieving equality between all workers, implementing fair and just taxation of companies and the redistribution of wealth to those in need, public investment in health, education and housing, non-discrimination and the advancement of the rights of all workers. Despite this, the toxic ideology that immigrants, not businesses, are somehow to blame for our problems (a hallmark dog-whistle of the far-right) has somehow resonated with European voters. We have been too slow to act, with a windfall tax and cap on energy prices needed much earlier across Europe being one example where complacency has cost us. Aside from not putting our policies forward in a better light, we have been slow to call out the hate-filled rhetoric of far-right politicians.
But there is cause for optimism. More and more workers are seeing the need for unionisation, with some of the landmark breakthroughs in American bolstering our international ranks. Our various crises have shown that the system we have built is not equitable, sustainable or beneficially to us or our planet, and many trade union calls to crackdown on business malpractice, environmental damage and soaring profits have been met. Workers have begun to find their voice, while progressive politics have started to become mainstream globally.
Trade unions will continue to fight for the citizens of Europe. We will continue to support progressive politics, and look to turn the tide against those who promote hate. A better economy and society is possible, but only through politics and policies that protect us all.
This call to action must be extended to all across the spectrum of European politics. You must have a zero-tolerance approach to the far-right, no matter the time, policy issue or place. As trade unions, we must continue in this approach, while putting forward our alternative for a better Europe.
Our national borders will not protect us from this fight. It is for all Europeans, trade unionists and believers in a fair and just society to rally against the far-right, no matter where they operate.
Our union has been rocked by countless crises over its existence, but this is one we, together, must overcome.