Only the young can save Europe
Over the past few months, Nigel Farage has been allowed, and more lately encouraged, to proudly parade his agenda for more austerity and less immigrants.
The media establishment has laid out the purple carpet for UKIP’s bigot-in-chief to broadcast his crude manifesto and handed him ownership of the political agenda.
In the end, it wasn’t a top Tory or a high-profile journalist who broke this cosy consensus, but an irreverant group of Edinburgh students who challenged Farage at the Scottish leg of his hate tour last week.
It was a direct but overdue intervention and demonstrates just how important young people will be in stopping a populist slide out of the EU.
The latest YouGov poll on EU referendum voting intentions reveals that the 19 to 24 age group is alone in possessing a pro-EU majority.
That support is not surprising given my peers and I have grown up with the EU and enjoyed benefits like open borders, education exchanges, employment schemes and most importantly, peace.
These are the building blocks of a social Europe and these are the things that make my generation more European than any other before us.
In the short-term that means, when or if the referendum arrives, pro-EU campaign strategists must devise and deliver much more than the usual tokenistic youth voter drive.
But even among under 30s, support for the European Union is waning and I believe that’s because European leaders are abandoning the principles of a social Europe and marching, without consensus, towards economic centralisation that entrenches austerity.
Young people across Europe have felt the effects of rising unemployment, education cuts and a housing crisis more than anyone else.
While the UK is suffering, it has avoided the harshest austerity measures handed down to states in the Euro currency zone, such as Spain and Greece*.
And research by the Pew Centre reveals the sharpest drop in support for the EU is found in those countries being made to pay the most in this crisis of capitalism.
There’s a straightforward trajectory emerging. Austerity is eroding trust among the peoples of Europe, even between those of us who have grown up living, studying and working with each other like never before.
So, in the mid to long-term, socialist political parties and young people in them must take action to rebuild a social Europe.
That means ensuring the EU cannot stop sovereign governments borrowing to invest in their people and economies.
Rejecting right-wing competition rules which enshrine the rights of big business and prohibit public ownership.
And resisting efforts to increase spending on joint EU military ventures.
But it also means continuing and increasingly the re-distribution of wealth according to need.
Protecting and expanding education and employment schemes which offer unparalleled opportunities to experience life from another perspective.
Keeping borders open and snatching the EU’s reigns from unelected bureaucrats.
The task for young people on the left is clear. We need to keep challenging the cynicism of Farage and his cronies and build our own alternative that puts sovereignty AND solidarity back at the heart of the European project.
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* Click here for my previous post about young Syriza activists who want real independence for Greece in Europe.