Nationalism and right-wing populism are on the rise in Austria and throughout Europe. The Progressive strategy to counter them: upholding Progressive values and showing how the European idea is linked to them. At the same time, we need a Union that improves people’s daily lives: a social European Union.
In order to counter populism – in its conservative as well as in its pure form – Social Democracy relies on a progressive strategy consisting essentially of two strands: on the one hand, we uphold progressive values and show how the European idea is linked to them. The focus here is the defence of European ideas against the nationalist power games and destructive attempts. At the same time, we demand a union that improves people’s daily lives: a social European Union. Hereby we focus on concrete proposals against tax avoidance, tax fraud, social dumping or privatisation and liberalisation of public services.
The fragmented Europe of the right- wing populists cannot oppose tax evasion and social dumping because the big corporations are way too strong for single countries.
The decisive point for a progressive policy is to bring the two strands together. Without a social policy strategy, the European idea becomes superficial. The simple appeal to European values can quickly deteriorate into empty catchwords if you ignore the everyday problems of people. Many of those problems are social problems: stagnant wages, rising rents, working pressure, etc. And those problems are real. We should not make the mistake of glorifying the European Union while ignoring what matters to the people. Europe made the cake bigger – it is time to fight for sharing it equally.
We should not underestimate how much the right-wing populists – and recently more and more conservatives too – want to change the European culture at its heart. The incitement against refugees and migrants is not the height of their policy, but only the beginning. They want to turn back achievements of the last decades and they dream of a world in which women’s rights are again curtailed, the European states again become rivals and the pressure on the free press is enormous. To understand how the right-wing- conserva- tive alliance attacks European values under the pretext of fighting migration must be an essential component of progressive politics.
A progressive strategy must tie the two strands together and show that a strong EU is important to citizens. The fragmented Europe of the right-wing populists cannot oppose tax evasion and social dumping because the big corporations are way too strong for single countries. And at the same time, over and over again, we must show that defending the European idea is the defence of an open society.