The rise of right-wing extremism is the single biggest threat we face in Europe – and trade unions must resist together.
At this week’s ETF Congress, Europe’s transport workers reaffirmed their commitment – both as trade unionists and as democrats – to defeat far-right extremism across the continent.
The congress was held, pointedly, in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, where far-right prime minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party was recently re-elected. This act of solidarity with Hungary’s trade union movement was intended as a signal to the anti-democratic and far-right forces across Europe that workers stand united against them.
In a Fringe session focused specifically on the fight against the far-right, delegates heard from a range of speakers about the struggle against the fascism in countries across the EU.
The fringe was opened by newly re-elected ETF President, Frank Moreels, who recalled the sacrifices and struggles of the workers’ movement during the Second World War. He made a passionate plea for Europe never to forget the carnage and horrors of Nazism and Fascism and proposed for the 8th of May to become a public holiday in Europe
Stefano Malorgio, General Secretary of Italy’s FILT CGIL, spoke of the violent attacks on trade union offices that have been carried out by far-right right groups. He warned of the danger the far-right represents even in student unions’ elections and he called on trade unions to fill the gaps that the far-right are trying to plug, describing Trade Unions as the only response to workers’ problems that has real answers.
Martin Burkert, of Germany’s EVG, told the conference that German authorities have attributed over 100 deaths in the country to far-right violence in recent years, and described the rise of right wing extremism as the ‘single biggest threat we face in Europe’. Moreover, he proudly reported on EVG’s workshops and seminars for members on strategies to counter the far-right narratives in the workplace.
Esther Lynch, Deputy General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation re-affirmed the contribution of the trade unions federations at the European level, such as the ETF is fundamental to to confront – and defeat – the far-right at a European level. The ETUC is committed to develop knowledge and capacity building for trade unionists through dedicated training and strategies against the far-right in the European Parliament especially ahead of the next European Elections.
Livia Spera, newly re-elected General Secretary of the ETF, said she was honoured for this to be her first public intervention after being elected and outlined the steps that the ETF, in partnership with other unions across Europe, is already taking to challenge the far-right. She also alerted on the potential threats of conservative public discourse within the trade union movement. “We will fight the fear and lies of the far-right with our most powerful ammunition: “international solidarity!”