Earlier this week, Nigel Farage made a splash in Wales with the launch of the Brexit Party’s European election campaign. Labour needs to offer a bold socialist alternative in response.
The inability of Westminster MPs to pass any Brexit deal means there is an increasing likelihood of the UK participating in the European elections later this month. Meanwhile, austerity continues to take its toll on working families across Wales.
In the run up to these EU elections, many Welsh workers aren’t convinced by the promises of ‘remain and reform’ championed by all four Welsh Labour MEP candidates. Instead of this mild pledge, Labour should run a campaign – not just in Wales, but throughout Britain – demanding: no confidence in this Tory government; a general election now; and bold socialist policies.
For the many or the few?
MEP candidates such as Jackie Jones consistently attempt to reassure us that “most [European laws and policies] really are for the many and not the few”. But the truth is that the European Union is a capitalist club for the bankers and bosses. It is inherently incapable of dealing with the issues faced by the working class in Wales and internationally.
The EU was born out of the need to protect the profits of the major monopolies in Europe. Privatisation and austerity are enshrined in its laws and treaties. The big business interests it serves will always be diametrically opposed to workers.
This can be seen clearly, for example, from the privatisations and attacks on workers’ pay and conditions that have been demanded by the EU as part of the bailout packages in Greece over the past decade.
When Welsh workers are told by politicians that “peace and prosperity are best secured inside the EU”, therefore, such words appear only as white noise.
Austerity marches on
Mark Drakeford was elected Welsh Labour Party leader in December, offering vocal support for Jeremy Corbyn. But despite this, Drakeford has disappointingly continued to implement the cuts demanded by the Tory government.
As of March this year, the plans laid out for the upcoming year’s council budgets will further deepen the desperation faced by many working-class communities in Wales. Not one council will see their budget adjusted to meet inflation. Five councils will see budgets cut by 0.3%. This is added to the 18.8% worth of cuts on average faced by Welsh local authorities since 2008.
All of this paints a very grim picture for workers in Wales, especially when added to the years of austerity and de-industrialisation already experienced.
This explains why Wales overall voted to Leave in the 2016 referendum, and why Nigel Farage has been able to gain support in the region – first as UKIP, and now with his Brexit Party.
Farage chose Caerphilly as the location for the launch of his new party’s European election campaign earlier this week. This was followed by a large Brexit Party rally in Newport on Tuesday evening, with over 1,000 in attendance.
The Brexit party turned up in Newport, south Wales last night. A true Labour heartland. Usually. pic.twitter.com/NoBovPxNCv
— Paul Embery (@PaulEmbery) May 1, 2019
Bold socialist policies needed
The Westminster parliament remains deadlocked over Brexit. Meanwhile, the Labour-led Senedd (Welsh Assembly) has been reluctant to confront austerity head on. No wonder then that many workers are disillusioned and are looking for alternatives.
This can be seen from a recent YouGov opinion poll, which showed that Labour’s support in upcoming EU elections has plummeted from 31% to 22% in the space of two weeks. In contrast, Farage’s newly formed Brexit Party rose from 13% to 23%.
Welsh Labour must call for a complete rejection of austerity if it wants to pull workers away from these right-wing parties, which deploy nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric in order to cloak their real reactionary intentions.
At the same time, Labour should mobilise workers and youth in order to force a general election. By offering bold socialist policies, Corbyn’s Labour could unite workers across the Leave-Remain divide, and deliver a landslide victory.
Only in this way can we kick out the Tories, end austerity, and begin making the first steps towards a socialist Europe that acts in the interests of the working class, instead of defending the profits of the bankers and bosses.