Anger and rebellion have turned into despair in Europe as more bad news poured-in about recession, job cuts and austerity measures which was reflected in low turnouts on May Day.
Unions are divided on how best to carry out labour reforms, stem unemployment and stimulate growth and this loss of direction and feeling of drift has worked to the advantage of far-right parties — be it in France, Spain, Britain or debt-ridden Greece.
In Greece, where a 24-hour strike severely curtailed transport and other public services, scuffles broke out between striking workers and the police. However, the numbers fell far short of those registered last year.
In Spain, workers demanded the government forge a pact with unions to create more jobs. Fifty seven per cent of Spain’s young people have no jobs while the overall unemployment figures for this country of 39 million is 27 per cent.
In France, unions held separate rallies in a show of both despair and disunity. Francois Hollande’s first May Day as French President was not a happy one. Opinion polls indicated that were a presidential election to be held now, he would be knocked-off in the very first round by the extreme-right leader Marine Le Pen. In Paris, the traditional left wing rally was upstaged by that of the xenophobic and anti-Europe National Front. “What we are seeing is a legitimate anger coupled with a sentiment of being abandoned and betrayed. This is going to feed radical actions, but also more worryingly, a sentiment of fatalism and despair,” said Agnes Nton, a leader of the hardline CGT trade union. Across Europe, populist, right-wing parties purveying hate messages towards Europe and foreign workers have made substantial inroads increasing their share of the popular vote. “Dangerous times lie ahead,” Ms. Naton said.