“Trade unions can defeat Europe’s far right”

30.05.24

EU Affairs

Fighting the far right means empowering workers and strengthening the trade unions that represent them, Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig writes in an op-ed for Project Syndicate.

“Trade unions can defeat Europe’s far right”

BRUSSELS – In early June, European citizens will elect a new European Parliament. Polls predict that pro-European Union centrists will still prevail, albeit with a slim majority. Most worryingly, far-right parties are projected to make significant gains in many European countries, including Germany, France, and Italy.

Political leaders from across the spectrum recognize the danger and are lining up to renounce any coalition with these parties. Nicolas Schmit, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats’ Spitzenkandidat (lead candidate for president of the European Commission), promised “no cooperation with the far right.” The European Commission’s current president, Ursula von der Leyen, the candidate of the center-right European People’s Party, made a similar pledge. She vowed to work only with “clear supporters of our democratic values,” though she is ambiguous about cooperating with the far-right European Conservatives and Reformists Group, which includes Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s party. The European Left’s Spitzenkandidat, Walter Baier, said that “fighting the far right is a moral and a cultural obligation,” while the European Greens’ lead candidates, Terry Reintke and Bas Eickhout, also pledged to “fight the fascists.”

It is not particularly surprising that EU leaders agree on the far right’s threat to democracy, the rule of law, and the European social model. One need only look at Finland, where a coalition government featuring the populist Finns Party has launched an assault on workers’ rights and the welfare state, to see the damage it can cause.

Trade unions hold the key to preventing Europe’s extremists from gaining a greater foothold. Research has shown a solid correlation between right-wing extremist attitudes and feelings of powerlessness in the workplace. The inverse is also true: people who feel more empowered at work are less likely to agree with far-right arguments. Fighting the far right thus calls for empowering workers and strengthening the trade unions that represent them.

Read the full op-ed here.

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