Rally of the European Trade Union Confederation

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A successful mobilisation and a message that does justice to the crucial issues at hand
On 4th April, no fewer than 50,000 people, mostly trade unionists from all over Europe. responded to the summons of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) to denounce austerity policies and demand that Europe travel a new route.

It was an impressive mobilisation that should help generate the ratio of forces needed to attain the socially oriented Europe that employers and the European Union fear. Nonetheless, this mobilisation, although massive, may be an inadequate response in view of the crucial issues at stake.

A changing Europe

Since the economic crisis exploded, the labour movement has faced unprecedented assaults in all Europe: brutal encroachments on our bitterly won social benefits (pensions, unemployment benefits), calling social dialogue into question, pay cuts and so forth.

Neither the labour movement nor any other movement seems capable of halting this relentless deterioration. Time flies: at this rate of social retreat, very soon Europe´s economic, social and political structure will have been radically transformed. Job insecurity, pauperism and mass unemployment; progressive amputation of social, economic and political rights; growing repression of social movements, strikes and resistance, while grim authoritarianism grows by leaps and bounds.

Member organisations of the Alter Summit must become aware of Europe´s swift degeneration, forecast its advance and study its implications for future struggles, for the labour movement´s prospects and more broadly those of the social movement, and ultimately for our planet´s future.

Prospects of the trade unions movement

The movement faces a huge challenge. Throughout Europe trade unions confront issues such as financing their organisations, internal democracy and participation, and deciding which measures and strategies they should choose.

The workers’ struggle will be driven by their active participation and their collective intelligence. Union leaders must propose specific goals, new methods of struggle, an unmistakeable strategy and a vision for the future. We at the Alter Summit are convinced that we must focus on acting in concert with other social groups, since the enemies of workers’ rights in Europe likewise menace the freedom of youth, women’s and migrants’ rights and food security.

The “violence” committed by some demonstrators (the Antwerp dock workers fought the police) brings out the labour movement’s growing anger. In view of social retreat and the EU’s denial of democracy, this is rightful rage and may even prove our salvation if labour organisations manage to channel it by giving it meaning and perspective.

The workers seek solutions. Virtually everywhere, so-called left-wing political parties have betrayed the working class, which thus often feels unheard in parliament. The growth of the extreme right is symptomatic and worrying (read the story about the Budapest meeting). Our duty is to turn this situation around!

Creating a frame of reference

At the Athens Alter-Summit, its members approved a proclamation establishing a political framework for our struggle in the midst of this crisis. It contains analysis but, more importantly, it contains proposals, watchwords and demands designed to cut short the lingering social decay.

Sebastian Franco, Alter Summit
Translated by Alexia Deleligne and Carl Stoll, Coorditrad