Tuesday, June 09, 2009


"The fight started here at Lindsey: the fight against discrimination, the fight against victimisation and the fight to put bread on your table for your children. Gordon Brown said it is indefensible. If the prime minister will not defend the working man, if parliament will not defend the working man, then the union will defend the working man."

"discrimination"? "bread"?

I wrote some notes about the "British Jobs/British Workers" protests back in January. I didn't see the point at the time of "virtually" and meaninglessly upbraiding the "British Workers" via the internet, but I think these events might be sociologically important. Firstly, as far as can be ascertained the local construction workers formerly received fairly good wages,

the basis of relatively decent wages in the construction industry depended on:

1. level of activity in the industry

2. number of industry workers unemployed: so called "reserve army"

3. state of competition in the industry

4. time/money trade offs for employers

hence the workers' wages was based on an underlying "mechanism" that was relatively stable for a while, during the growth phase, but changed markedly once the recession kicked in.

The conflict over Italian contractors brought in to work at the refinery was probably related to altered conditions insofar as:

1. the ongoing practice of cheaper foreign labour being brought in, coextensive as it is with the effects of market forces, could be targeted as an aspect of the working of market forces amenable to political intervention

2. or, maybe the local workers erroneously blamed the use of foreign workers for their problems

3. perhaps the altered circumstances in the market allowed the company to deliberately confront local workers

I think for the local workers to take action against their worsened circumstances they probably had to have a credible programme by which the former distributive "mechanism" could be restored, or where something like it could be created, which wasn't really possible. This is what I imagine underlay the "British Jobs/British Workers" aspect: a strange outburst of right radicalism, untidily recuperated by Unite the union, once it already had nowhere else to go.

If the workers had really been on the breadline in the first place, it would have made more sense to fight for council housing indexed to wages, rather than against immigration, once the fight had been extended to a general political struggle. I think the dream of "grabbing the immigration lever" somehow seemed more credible than the dream of "grabbing the social housing lever". Neither was immediately on the cards. Also, the local workers might have pressed the injustice of the deterioration in industry wages/conditions effected by housing workers of any nationality in special "hulks", presumably council approved, without having to "go nationalist" at all. Again, I think the reasons they didn't do this lay in the structure of the industry and the abruptness of recession.

the neoliberal Battleship Potemkin

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