Trade unions key to countering threat of racism
The outpouring of global solidarity for Black Lives Matter (BLM) in 2020, as well key electoral defeats for the far right in countries such as Greece and Austria, demonstrate the effectiveness of the international anti-racist and social justice movement.
Many of these campaigns have been spearheaded by a new generation of activists showing the ongoing vitality of the anti-racist movement. Unfortunately, the pandemic has also provided opportunities for those who seek to spread racism and other divisive agendas.
In Ireland, hundreds of people have attended rallies organised by far right and racist groups such as the Irish Freedom Party (IFP) and National Party in Dublin with smaller events elsewhere around the country.
Across Europe, authorities have warned of the dangers posed by similar extremist groups with the pandemic and opposition to public health measures being used as an opportunity to recruit new followers and push their racist ideas to a wider audience.
While some have cynically exploited the pandemic to further racist and discriminatory rhetoric, they are not being left alone to dominate the public discourse.
The revival of the BLM movement in the wake of the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others at the hands of police or far-right vigilantes in the US ensures that racial justice is a central focus for trade unionists and other progressive people. It must remain so during the current crisis and beyond.
For trade unions, the fight against racism and xenophobia in all its forms is not new and the dismantling of racist systems must be part of a New Social Contract for building an inclusive, socially just and resilient future for all.
In Ireland and internationally trade unions have played a leading role in organising against the spread of the far-right. ICTU is absolutely clear and forthright in our opposition to such racist campaigns and in challenging the shadowy groupings behind them.
As part of this work, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) recently agreed a strategy with affiliates to battle the far right and right-wing extremism. The priority is to develop trade union capacity to combat the far-right and to support trade unions to resist all attempts to divide working people whether in the workplace or in politics through building solidarity and worker’s power.
This article was first published in the SIPTU Global Solidarity Newsletter Summer 2021 edition. More here.