Currently, the UK has less than 20 per cent of its workforce covered by collective bargaining arrangements, against an EU average of 62 per cent, with countries in western and northern Europe mostly above 80 per cent coverage.
British workers have on average the longest working hours in Europe, and since 2010 the number of people working in excess of 48 hours per week has risen by 15 per cent to 3.4 million. Yet productivity is 31 per cent lower than in France, and for the first time, there are now more people in working poverty (6.7 million) than out-of-work poverty (6.3 million).
Executives earn 183 times average workers’ earnings. The UK is the most unequal country in the European Union.
The rise of populism across the world has become a major concern. In 2008, the world – already part of a single mode of production, distribution and consumption as a result of globalisation – experienced a seismic economic recession of inordinate magnitude. The rise in unemployment and job insecurity, the growth in inequality, the rolling back of the welfare state and the progressive withdrawal of public investment coincided with the exposure of countless political and financial scandals involving the ruling classes in virtually all developed countries. The feeling and conviction that the crisis had its winners and its losers grew exponentially with the passing of time. These are the seeds of the populism we are seeing today.
In countries with high rates of unemployment reminiscent of the Great Depression in the 1920s, there has not been a rise in populism with anti-democratic roots or racist and xenophobic traits. Many of followers of far-right populism are not globalisation’s losers. Rather, they are citizens who fear losing or having to share their “privileges” with others they do not consider to be equal by birth such as immigrants or refugees.
The method of appeasement the so-called conventional mainstream parties are using consists of adopting populist rallying cries, and even turning them into government policy. This, they believe, will stop its growth. But the result is quite the opposite. Both conservatives and “socialists” have ended up taking on the proposals of those who do not believe in equality and both have shifted further to the right.
It’s quite telling that amongst the first politicians to congratulate Trump on his election were Marine Le Pen of the Front National in France (who is running for president in the country’s elections next May) and anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders (who is also facing elections in March). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the American white nationalist and former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke similarly praised Trump’s victory.
Workers in the abandoned industrial heartlands should not expect any major improvement of their situation. The Right are no ally of the working-class.