Released: 03 Dec 2020

Building solidarity and workers’ power

1. Throughout history trade unions have been at the forefront of the struggle against the far right and its attempts to divide working people using narratives of hate and blame. Drawing on our core values of unity, equality and solidarity, we will strengthen existing links and build new networks, rooted in workplaces. International solidarity between working people has led to concrete wins. 

  • It is crucial that as the economic crisis hits our members, we don’t retreat to looking inward only within national borders and that we continue to build strong global relationships and build workers’ power where unions face repression and authoritarian practices. This needs to be the foundation on which we build our work to jointly combat the far right.

2. We must identify strategies to leverage our industrial power and engage employers in tackling the influence of the far right in the workplace: 

  • The TUC, Unite, the DGB and IG Metall are developing a programme for working with companies that have sites in the UK and Germany, aimed at developing a model for practical workplace-based action to counter the far right. We will ensure the learning from this pilot is shared widely. 

3. Unions recognise that, while the workplace is our starting point, we must connect our struggles to the wider community and build solidarity and develop a collective narrative to counter the far right: 

  • Unions need to explore a range of strategies including: supporting online community organising where ideas can be shared; developing industrial campaigns to overcome division and exploitation in workplaces; and producing and sharing content.

4. Unions recognise that the far right targets its hate at specific groups including LGBT+, ethnic and religious minorities, migrants and refugees, women and trade unionists. In order to effectively combat this, we need to be clear as a movement that, in line with our core value of equality, we stand with all workers and oppose all forms of hate without exception: 

  • Trade union organisations should actively encourage members to stand in solidarity with all working people against the far right and ensure there are relevant rules on domestic and international affiliations that reject sympathising with far-right groups and any organisations that promote discriminatory narratives.

5. The TUC has recognised that the rise of the far right is an international phenomenon and consequently the urgent need to further strengthen international links and the sharing of learning across international borders, and this should include building networks with the broader anti-racist and anti-fascist movement internationally. 

Building a narrative, raising awareness

6. Raising political awareness among workers and communities must be a priority for the union movement in building a compelling narrative to counter the far right. Sustained political education among representatives, activists, members and communities should continue to: 

  • address the history of our movement and our fundamental values
  • connect our daily struggles to the structural problems created by neoliberalism, which have systematically undermined institutions that support workers’ rights 
  • challenge far-right narratives for example on migration, through constructive and challenging debate 
  • link history and theory to the practice of our concrete struggles in workplaces and communities in building a more equal and democratic society.

7. Combatting the far right is a political question that requires a political answer. Just as the far right has grown in the absence of a progressive alternative to neoliberalism, as the case studies show, it has been successfully pushed back where anti-racist and anti-fascist efforts have been closely linked to the struggle against neoliberalism and austerity. In practical terms this has involved building solidarity networks on the ground to connect the disparate social forces engaged in the struggle against racism, the far right and around various material concerns: 

  • We must continue to articulate a hopeful political narrative that shows how workers’ lives can be improved in key aspects such as better jobs, pay, public services and housing. Given the pandemic and economic crisis that impact on members’ jobs and lives, it is a key moment for the union movement to outline an inspiring vision for recovery.

Building our evidence base for action 

8. There is limited information about the penetration of far-right organisations and narratives in UK workplaces and trade union membership. The programme of research currently being pursued by the DGB offers a methodological template and useful lessons for undertaking a similar exercise in the UK, which can subsequently inform trade union strategies.

9. It was beyond the scope of this report to undertake a comprehensive examination of trade union responses to the far right internationally. However, this is an important piece of work that would be useful in identifying the most effective strategies currently being employed and innovative responses to the constantly evolving threat of the far right. 

10. It could be useful to undertake a wider analysis of the growth of the far right internationally and highlight other important case studies, for example in Asia, Africa and other regions. 

Tackling the far right online

11. The role of social media and ‘big tech’ companies in amplifying far-right narratives demands closer attention from trade unions, both to understand this phenomenon and to formulate an effective response including lobbying for stronger regulation.

12. We need to build upon work that is mapping the influence of far-right narratives and networks online. By analysing key influencers, recurring narratives, geographic and demographic data, we can identify strategies designed to pull people away from the influence of the right. 

13. The UK lacks the type of progressive media that can match the capacity of the far right. Trade unions should consider their strategy to challenge far-right narratives and corporate power and promote a vision of a different world.