The European Union is experiencing a deep crisis and is reaping the bitter harvest of its austerity policies. It has become a bureaucratic machine that imposes rules and directives, without any democratic mandate.

Throughout the continent, many see it as an institution that props up the wealthy. The European Central Bank has printed billions of euros to ‘reflate’ banks and financial markets. But it has told people in Ireland (and in other countries) that they must cut back on public spending and increase their retirement age.

This attack on living standards has paved the way for the far right. Just like Donald Trump, parties like La Lega in Italy, the AfD in Germany, the Freedom Party in Austria and the National Front in France have grown through sowing divisions between working people and using a fake rhetoric about a ‘corrupt elite’ – even when they are bank-rolled by elements of big business.

Some of these parties are now in government, but they don’t make life better for working people. For example, the far-right Fidesz party in Hungary have passed a law to force workers to do up to 400 hours of overtime annually with payment held back for up to three years.

The EU’s only response to all of this is to seal its borders and let thousands die in the Mediterranean each year.

Instead of addressing the real problems, the EU is adopting strong arm tactics. Its latest project is to use the departure of Britain to build up an EU army and an arms industry. These represent a direct threat to Irish neutrality.

Another threat comes in the form of a hard border between North and South. People Before Profit is utterly opposed to any move that would see customs posts, immigration officials, police and army on the Irish border. People have every right to cross back and forth freely without any hindrance, but more fundamentally, a hard border will strengthen partition for decades to come and crush the aspiration for Irish unity.

People Before Profit is standing in the European election to raise these issues. We will be a strong left, EU-critical voice. By this we mean that we will stand with the people of Europe against the institutions from which they are under attack.

We demand more democracy, an end to corporate rule and respect for Irish neutrality, and we oppose moves to build up an EU military machine. We are a voice for workers’ rights; a critic of the deadening influence of big business, lobbyists and bankers; we are vigorous opponents of all forms of racism and of the far right. We will use the platform of the EU parliament to press for serious moves to stop our planet being destroyed by climate change.

In this manifesto, we spell out the policies that we will advocate in the European Parliament. But we are under no illusions that bringing democracy is an easy or even a possible task.

We see the election of genuine socialists as part of a wider process to create the conditions for a left government in Ireland. Such a government will have to take control of our banking system, end the privatisation of public services, build social housing on a vast scale and invest in our health and education sectors. No EU directive or threat should stand in its way because a left government will be democratically accountable to its own people rather than any EU elite.

Therefore, we say in advance: We are for the peoples of Europe – and we are opposed to the present corporate, elitist, unaccountable and military structure of the EU. We will act as a voice for workers, for women on low pay, for migrants because we know what it is to be an emigrant. We support far greater accountability in the EU and back every democratic reform.

But the road to real change will come from people power from below and the creation of left governments across Europe that are willing to uproot capitalism – and defy Brussels to do so.