Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Post-European Council: Statements
That is true. They share the time and the wealth.
I want to start by paying tribute to the protestors in Hungary against the sister part of Fine Gael and the Taoiseach which is in government, that of the right wing Prime Minister, Viktor Orban. It is a party whose actions to which the European People's Party and Fine Gael have turned a blind eye. They are a right-wing, racist, anti-migrant and anti-Semitic regime. Their actions are anti-democratic in terms of their repression of protest and crackdown on the independence of the media. Workers in Hungary have been provoked into mass protests of tens of thousands of people over the past week against the so-called slave law, from which Fine Gael might draw some inspiration. It is a law which incredibly states that workers can be forced to work up to 400 hours overtime in a year, which is about eight hours per week. It also states, incredibly, that they do not have to be paid for that overtime for up to three years after they have worked it. The result is mass protests on the streets, people wearing yellow vests in solidarity with the protestors in France, which has spread to Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, the involvement of trade unions, young people and students and the occupation by opposition MPs of the state broadcaster in protest against the non-coverage of the protest movement.
It is excellent to see the protest movement. It shows the power that exists not within the EU or the likes of the European People's Party but for ordinary working class people to stand up to right-wing regimes such as those that exist in Hungary. It has the potential to force the Orban government back, and what is needed is the emergence of a genuinely left socialist and democratic force to give consistent voice to the opposition to the right-wing anti-democratic and anti-worker policies of the Orban government. Such a movement is well within the proud traditions of the Hungarian working class going back, for example, to the revolt against Stalinism in 1956.
I want to move on to the latest developments in Britain. Hopefully, what we are watching is the death agony of a Tory Government. A pyrrhic victory is defined as a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a pyrrhic victory has also taken a heavy toll that negates any true sense of achievement. That sums up the victory of Theresa May in the no-confidence vote in her own Tory party, a Tory party which voted only by a margin of 83 votes to maintain her as leader. One day before the planned vote in Westminster on the deal, she was forced to cancel it, not simply because she faced losing that vote, which everybody expected, but because the scale of the loss of that vote would be immense.
The Tory party is riven with division. On the one hand, we have the ultra right Brexiteer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, writing that May's approach to Brexit was like a "Carry On" film and absurd and, on the other wing, we have Philip Hammond describing his own party colleagues as extremists trying to advance a particular agenda which would not be in the interest of the British people.
There is a vital opportunity now, which is in the interest of ordinary people in this country, for Jeremy Corbyn to act decisively and help bring down the hated and discredited Tory Government. What is needed is not simply parliamentary action but backed up by action outside by the trade union and Labour movement for mass action and mass protests to kick out the Tories. Such action would mobilise the millions who have suffered a decade of austerity.
The war on the 99% means that according to a recent TUC report, the average worker has lost more than £10,000 in real earnings since 2008, and the UK experienced a wage slump that was worse than many other leading economies. In one particular borough, workers lost 34% in real terms over the course of the past ten years. In approximately 75% of local authority areas, real wages are still lower than those a decade ago.
Hypocrisy has been on display from the British Tories, as it has been around this Brexit debate since the very start, but not just from the British. It has been on display also from the right wing EU politicians who all of a sudden like to pretend they care for ordinary working class people. Guy Verhofstadt, the right wing Brexit co-ordinator in the European Parliament, tweeted at the Tories saying, "It is not the job of politicians to make the people they lead poorer, remove opportunities, rights & make lives more uncertain." Where is the concern of Verhofstadt and the European right wing when the lists of refugees killed in the Mediterranean as a result of fortress Europe are seen?