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A 'Racist' Strike? | 31.01.2009 19:24 | Anti-racism | Migration | Workers' Movements

Hundreds walk out of their workplace. On the second day the strike spreads, pulling up to a thousand workers out on secondary action across sites in Northern England and Scotland - much of it illegal under the anti-trade union laws Labour has, to its eternal shame, left on the statute books. In short, an outbreak of the very 'spontaneous' actions of our class that would normally excite the left in this country.

Except there appears, at first glance, a racist fly in the militant soup. According to the BBC, on Wednesday the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire awarded a portion of a £300 million construction project to an Italian firm, which, according to reports, will be using Italian and Portuguese workers.

At a time of rising unemployment, you can understand why the local union, Unite, and many of the workers are angry about this development. Quoted on the BBC, Unite's Bernard McAuley says "there are men here whose fathers and uncles... built this refinery from scratch. It's outrageous." But, somewhat surprisingly, it is left to the Daily Star(!) to show this dispute is about class, not race. An anonymous scaffolder tells the soaraway Star “we need to make a stand now. This is not a racist protest. I’m happy to work hand-in-hand with foreign workers, but we are not getting a look in. There are guys at this site who had been banking on that work and then it gets handed to an Italian firm. It’s about fairness.” No doubt some of these workers will have attitudes a lot less enlightened than the chap above. British bosses are past masters at using race, ethnicity and nationality to divide and conquer both at home and abroad in their former colonial possessions.

Drafting in migrant labour from overseas is a tried and tested method of undermining the pay and conditions of workers. Turning on the workers who come in to take advantage of employment opportunities opening up plays directly into the bosses' hands - it obscures the fact it is they who are attacking and driving down wages, and therefore the responsibility lies with them.

Unsurprisingly, the mainstream of the labour movement has a less then spotless record when it comes to this. For example, while in the North West the T&G arm of Unite have done some good work amongst Polish workers, trade unions as a whole have done little to combat knee-jerk xenophobia of this type. When the bosses divide our class along the lines of race and nation, we are weaker. Instead of capitulating to the anti-immigrant sentiment fanned by the gutter press, unions must demand legislation that prevents employers from taking on workers at below the basic rates of its workforce. Unfortunately, as this appears to be beyond the political imagination of many a trade union leader, it falls to the small and scattered forces of the left to make this case at the refinery gates.

It's very simple, at least in our minds.

If you see the foreign workers as the appropriate target for your anger, you are at best nationalist and misguided. At worst you might be racist, but without knowing people in person how are we to judge?

If you see the exploitative bosses as the appropriate target for your anger, then get the fuck on with opposing them and organising workers to campaign for better pay and conditions, and don't talk about the 'problem of foreign workers'. The foreign workers are not the problem.

As for the people striking, we imagine they hold a wide range of different views. Labelling the strike itself as racist is absurd and insulting.

When the strikers campaign against the bosses, they should be encouraged and helped, when they campaign against foreign workers they should be engaged with and challenged, and with any luck pulled into a debate about who is really fucking them over.

Is this really so difficult for everyone? Fuck us.

The fact is, there is nothing the government can do. The Italians have a legal right to work in the UK as members of the EU.It is globalisation. we don't like it, but that is how shit is.

The truth and we are not afraid multi cultural societies only work well in good economic times. The shit is hitting the fan, and when people lose their jobs, and see foreigners working, when they are not, their reactions are not very pc. We don't think a bunch of lefties appearing on the picket lines will help. Being told how they are getting it wrong, by a 20 year old middle class SWP member, would not go down well.
Telling them their racists, is likely to get you a smack in the mouth.(and good on them if they do)

The far left are useless, they have not got a clue about the working classes. People care more about their jobs than events in Gaza. In fact we would go as far to say, most workers could not give a flying shit what is happening in Gaza. The far left meanwhile still carry on in their own little world. They should stick to protesting about Israel, or Iraq, and stay away from the real world.

There is no doubt the far right are highjacking this action, it is a Bourgios Anarchist wet dream come true, and the left we know what scum the Middle Class are, here is a very real direct consequence of their internationalism, read action-against-classism it comes as no suprise to us here at underclass rising, now move along there is nothing to see, of course we hope the march on Tuesday ends up in a riot and that The working class confront the real enemy of our class The Middle Class, now would'nt that be a grand thing to see happen. The Lackeys of the state (The Police) and who they are employed to protect The Middle Class get a good kicking from an angry working class, this is where we need to turn our anger and not on to fellow workers, no matter the fact of whome they are they are workers living under The Ocupation of The Middle Class and until we make them history we shall never be free living in unity.
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Display the following 7 comments

  1. Global 2 Local — Lothian Anarchists
  2. Democratic Anarcho Communism — Avocada
  3. to the lads and lasses at underclassrising — A Passmore Sister
  4. Strike not racist? — insidejob
  5. Corporations and unions and me — LAX
  6. Forgot this — Dodderje
  7. SWP turning "antideutsch"? (THE MONTAGDEMOS) — German