Friday, 30 January 2009

Refinery strike - class not country

There’s a shit-storm brewing in Lefty inter-web land: Everyone wants to show solidarity with workers in struggle – but what if they’re racist ?

There’s all sorts of spurious analogies being drawn between the refinery workers' action and the Dockers walking out in support of Enoch Powell – or even the Ulster workers’ sectarian strikes and the Chilean truck drivers.

Nonsense. The wildcat refinery strikes against work going to an Italian firm employing cheaper labour is fundamentally a class issue not a racial one:

Recessions promote competition between workers and some will become undercut by others prepared to work for lower wages and conditions. Sadly it’s a scenario as old as the hills – divide and rule - organised workers pitted against brothers and sisters who are worse off, un-unionised, and bussed in from ‘outside.’ The modern angle is that the process is now ideologically enshrined in neo-Liberalism and legally protected by the EU.

Under EU employment law so long as the minimum employment requirements of workers in their home countries are being met, this trumps the minimum requirements of the country in which they are employed. And that didn’t come about because of a commitment to the free movement of labour it’s about a charter for employers to maximise profit wherever they see fit.

There’s no need for the Left to tie itself in circles – certainly not for those of us who never abandoned class politics in the first place. It might pose problems however for New Labour and their fellow travellers who are committed to the EU project and the international solidarity of capital it promotes.

Of course things are never clear cut – some of the British refinery workers may harbour – or even voice – racist attitudes, and doubtless the BNP are rubbing their hands in glee. These attitudes need to be challenged and where necessary confronted if fascists try to intervene on the picket lines.

But there can be no question of not supporting the refinery workers.

1 comment:

Phil BC said...

Another good piece, comrade. We've been bang on with this and I hope that puts us in a good position to make the internationalist case against the bosses hit home.