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Editorial From Hungary to France, the working class strikes back

YET another fruitless trip to Brussels and Theresa May’s most notable gripe is to complain that European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker called her “nebulous.”

Nebulous is too kind for a leader who has negotiated a binding deal with the EU and yet has spent all available time since then seeking to agree a form of words with the EU27 so she can return to Westminster to schmooze MPs into believing that this afterthought supersedes a legal document.

If May didn’t want the so-called backstop in her dodgy deal, she shouldn’t have have accepted it.

May was a strident Remain advocate in the referendum campaign and, for all her Brexit means Brexit rhetoric as Prime Minister, would prefer as close a relationship as possible with the EU.

Her disagreement with Juncker and his colleagues is that they prefer nailed-on legal documents over her nod and a wink approach.

But on one policy they are united — a one-size-fits-all capitalist austerity agenda that is arousing opposition, in a variety of forms, across the continent.

The gilets jaunes (yellow jackets) movement in France is most visible, having started off as a drivers’ protest — mobilising on the basis of the yellow jackets all drivers, whether in cars, vans and lorries, have to carry — in protest at increased fuel tax, but has developed into a more widespread revolt.

The demand for tax justice — from both right and left — has been met by President Emmanuel Macron with measures on the minimum wage, overtime payments and paid work for state pensioners, but the head of state has refused to consider reversal of substantial tax breaks for the wealthy elite.

Macron was very firm in lecturing the right-wing government in Italy that it could not make more money available for state pensions and investments to boost employment because of EU-wide deflationary policies explicit in the EU Stability and Growth Pact.

But he has flouted its provisions in a bid to demobilise the yellow jackets, augmented by the red jackets of the CGT militant trade union federation.

Protests are growing in Hungary over the so-called Slave Labour Bill that would force workers to concede having to put in long hours when told to, after the Budapest government was told by German car manufacturers this was required.

Yet workers in this country are often lectured that the EU is a haven of workers’ rights and the source of such benefits as paid holidays, sick leave and maternity leave.

The working class in this country, as in other states, will get nothing without fighting for it, as the French workers are demonstrating.

The Tories lie when they claim that the era of austerity is over, announcing that spending curbs on local authorities will be lifted but only as a result of raising council tax — not through higher government grants.

North West TUC regional secretary Lynn Collins laid bare the effect that austerity has had on her region yesterday, with areas such as Fylde earning 23 per cent less in real terms than a decade ago, with Blackburn and Darwen and Ribble Valley seeing a 15 per cent fall.

Similar wage losses can be seen right across Britain — the bitter fruits of governments led by New Labour, Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition, Tories alone and now a Tory-DUP lash-up as well.

The working class should give no solace to May’s bogus Brexit or the “people’s vote” stitch-up by pro-EU liberals in various parties.

Press home the attack against May’s splintered coalition and make the demand for a general election irresistible.

 

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