Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Mainstream Bloggers on the Strikes

When significant events unfold there is a tendency for the left online to become a seething intense bubble of debate. I say bubble because we tend to be too busy discussing strategy and outcomes among ourselves than arguing outside the left, and pay scant attention to the views circulating outside of it. The two pieces for this blog on the wildcat strikes were certainly written with a left audience in mind. But what have the blogging commentariat at the other end of the political spectrum got to say on the matter?

The AVPS 'establishment' blog roll is a pretty representative cross section of mainstream blogging (i.e. Brownite Labour, Tories, LibDems and assorted madcap splinters), so this is a good place to start.

The new Labour List super blog, which has 54 (count 'em!) contributors has only now been able to muster a post on the strikes, and what thin gruel it is. Keith Vaz has this to say:
Traditional trade union values support the right to work of all workers equally. We should take great care when we try and create a right to work that is dependant on whether or not you have a British passport. Seeking to create opportunities to work that are based on the concept of citizenship that excludes those who are EU citizens or have indefinite right to remain in the UK is dangerous and wrong. It is an unnecessary political gift to the far right.
And that's it! Less a blog and more a press release, don't you think? Poor old Keith can't even bring himself to mention the 's' word - strike. We shouldn't be too surprised. It's been many a year since he uttered the other 's' word too.

What about other mainstream Labour bloggers? Recess Monkey? No. Luke Akehurst? No. Labour of Love? No. Hopi Sen? Nope. Sadie's Tavern? Not a sausage. At least Harry's Place mentions the strikes, albeit only as a (useful) expose of a BNP front group professing to support the workers.

What passes for comment and analysis barely improves on Vaz's piece. Mars Hill thinks the strike has an unpleasant atmosphere, and is not justified anyway. John Gray as a trade unionist has something a bit more substantial to say but doesn't even address the idea of supporting the strike. It's simply left up in the air. Kevin Maguire is much worse, putting all his hopes in Ed Miliband to sort it out(!) Lastly, blogging Labour MP, Tom Harris has a bit of fun ribbing the Tories because it raises the spectre of EU-related divisions. But once more, nothing on the strikes themselves - but any old foil will do to attack the Tories, eh?

The LibDems, well, what do they think? It's pretty difficult finding a LibDem blog that's been updated in the last few days - presumably they're all busy in the LibDem HQ basement churning out their celebrated 'we're winning here' and 'it's a two-horse race!' leaflets. Well I'm not complaining if there's less twaddle to wade through. First is LibDem superstar blogger, Alix Mortimer who suggests hiring British workers is in no real sense different from preferring to buy local. In fact, she says there's a business case for doing so. Wow, what an inspiring political message. Meanwhile, over at Liberal England, Jon Calder takes a trip to planet contradiction. Clearly he has sympathies for the workers' grievances (which is more than what the above Labour bloggers have managed), who he sees as globalisation's losers. And yet, he's convinced there's benefits for them too. As smart Compassite blogger Tom Miller notes in the comment box, "Well done. You have passed the initial module in 'becoming a socialist'. Next week we'll examine 'what can be done to solve these problems'."

Given the flag-waving and BJ4BW slogans, and the alleged support of the right-wing press, is it not reasonable to expect the Tories and their semi-detached "libertarian" ilk to be all over this story? Anyone looking for guidance from the Big Boys will find themselves titillated with snow puns, stat porn, unfunny cartoons and Twitter tweets. Such hubris will be their downfall, I tell you. But anyway, at least some Tories have had a stab. John Redwood supplies the analytical style he's known for, but prefers to use it as a means of showing off his anti-EU hobbyhorse. Yawn! Thoughtful Tory blog, Letters from a Tory worries about the political fall out of the strikes. New blog, Events Dear Boy, Events has been running wild with the strikes - but only as a means of popping Mandelson's pompous balloon. It falls to the "opinionated arrogance" of Dizzy Thinks to come to the rescue. He brings some clarity to the issue: "I certainly could never support secondary action ... those taking secondary action should be fired in my view, and the law on this matter should certainly be enforced. It is illegal to strike in sympathy at other strikers elsewhere, and quite right too." He goes on to blame welfare dependency and the "lazy Brit" addiction to it, and his solution would be cutting welfare even further. Well, at least we know where "Dizzy" stands, even if his outpourings owe more to opinionated ignorance than anything else.

I suppose when this typifies the sum total of mainstream blogging wisdom, you can understand why lefts prefer to debate among themselves.

In the mean time, the Socialist Party website will be running regular updates from Lindsey oil refinery.


Denzil said...

Amazingly the CPGB (Weekly Worker) and In Defence of Marxism websites are silent on this issue. I suppose it shows how small and insignificant they really are.

Andy said...

Had a brief look at the BNP website early this morning. They are positively creaming themselves over all this. Talking of leafletting pickets and strikers calling in BNP councillors to represent their views in preference to their unions etc.

I have some doubt whether any of its true but still, worrying none the less.

Phil BC said...

Let them cream all they like, I say. They were turned away from the Lindsey oil refinery yesterday - video of it on Infantile and Disorderly.

Chris S said...

Denzil, the CPGB does have a position on the strikes and it will be in this week's issue of the paper. We also have a new site in the pipeline at the moment, which will be updated frequently. If we are so insignificant, why are you looking at our site for our position?

Anyway, you could always see my blog in the mean time.

Good work by SPEW over the strike, especially keeping the fash out.

ian said...

'Amazingly the CPGB (Weekly Worker) and In Defence of Marxism websites are silent on this issue'

Socialist Appeal have put something on their site today. A bit late but the position seems sound-

ModernityBlog said...

all of that nonsense about "indigenous population" at SU blog just shows how far there has been a decline in the British Left , http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=3513


has any one thought to ask the Italian and Portuguese workers about their conditions?

I appreciate that SP is doing a lot around this issue, I'd welcome some facts directly from those international workers, if you get the chance could you pass that on to your comrades ?

sb said...

The presence of the BNP in this situation is indicative of the free lane provided by the mainstream left's veering to the centre. I'm glad to see them getting the heave-ho (at around 2:20 in that video), although I wish the news would stop referring to the workers as "foreign labour" and use "cheap labour" instead.

The workers are as much pawns in this as the strikers: free-labour tools pushed around, divided, left to bear the brunt of misdirected strike animosity, and all so that they can be paid less than local workers would get. "Business case". I mean, what? Is that the globalized equivalent of "basket case"?

The Sentinel said...


I'd worry if I were you.

Your whole union scam is starting to coming off the tracks.


That video does not show the BNP being "turned away from the Lindsey oil refinery" - it shows, as you well know, one Marxist whining to the police like a pathetic little schoolkid.

modern unity,

If you are so concerned to find out about the Italian and Portuguese workers conditions, why don't you just pop down to the picket line with a placard asking?

I am sure everyone would appreciate it.

You might just get a one finger salute back from your foreign comrades or the British men on the picket line might inform you that the foreigners condition is much better then their own, but at least you are showing everyone what a great, politically correct person you are.

Phil BC said...

Hundreds of Polish workers come out in solidarity in Plymouth. Undercuts the idea this is just about nationalism does it not, Sentinel?

Mod, as far as I know it's been difficult to make contact with the Italian and Portuguese workers because of their isolation. Nevertheless the SP will be having a stab.

Mark P said...

It's rather interesting to compare the SWP's approach to this strike with the rather different approach they took during a dispute three years ago in Ireland. Some local trade unionists in a suburb of Dublin put a picket on a site where they claimed an employer was only hiring non-union and non-local labour.

The SWP, to its credit, played quite a prominent role in supporting the men involved. However the approach they took on that occasion was rather different to the one they are taking now. In fact they distributed leaflets calling for denouncing a building firm for refusing to employ trade unionists and local workers and, amongst other things, arguing that: “On previous developments in the area, there were agreements with the local community that a certain proportion of the workforce on the site would be local labour.The same should happen here”


The local branch of the People Before Profit Alliance, the SWP led electoral coalition, according to its own report of one of its own meetings “voted unanimously to support their campaign for a proportion of local labour to be employed on the site”

Richard Boyd Barrett, the public face of the Irish SWP pointed out that this was a fight against the greed of firms “who want to use bogus sub-contractors to undermine union rights and slash wages and conditions for workers. This isn’t just a fight for local employment this is a fight for jobs with decent pay and conditions for all”.


Now there is a very strong case for the approach that they took in that instance. But some people might suggest that it’s hardly the same approach that they are taking in the present case.

The Sentinel said...

"Hundreds of Polish workers come out in solidarity in Plymouth"

Have you seen / got any independent reports of this Phil? I've heard rumours, but all from very unreliable sources.

"Undercuts the idea this is just about nationalism does it not, Sentinel?"

Even if it were true, it makes no difference to the motivations of the British strikers. And as I said a few times, protectionism is the more accurate term.

But again, as times get worse and worse, the veil will fall from the sham of the unions: It has nothing to do with protecting its members - British due payers - and everything to do with its international comrade Marxist political fantasy.

Pretty much every other country (government and unions) actively attempts to protect thier own workers - the French and Italians notably- the UK unions are predominately a mockery of that principle, instead working against them in their attempts to import, enable and support every foreigner they can into the UK market.

That game is coming to a head.

Phil BC said...

Read it and weep, Sentinel. Are they motivated by British nationalist sentiment?

The thing is, my friend, if you had bothered to read my posts on the strike instead of skimming them and dumping your opinion on us, you would see that this blog noted the contradictory mix of ideas in play. Because of this I argued it was quite clear that socialists needed to intervene, which is what my party has rather successfully done. If we hadn't, then things might have gone your way. But if there were no contradictions, if it was solely about BJ4BW then we'd have been wasting our time on the picket lines. But as things turned out, it's not socialists who are being told to clear off - it's your lot.

Roger Thornhill said...

To be called madcap by a militant-tinged socialist is a compliment.

In respect to the mealy-mouthed comments of Vaz*, the "right to work" does not exist and should not ever exist. The "right" is the right to offer one's labour and for that offer to be accepted without outside interference or coercion one way or the other. In that, the Unions, with their tendency - currently suppressed - towards enforced, involuntary collectivisation undermines the rights of us all.

* does he ever speak in any other way?

Phil BC said...

Any time you and your ilk need an insult, feel free to ask.

I don't know if this will come as a shock to you, but we live in a class divided society, and world views differ roughly according to whether they support that system or not. What the right to "offer" one's labour is to us the freedom of business to freely choose whose labour is to be exploited (i.e. exploited = workers not receiving the full value of their labour power).

The trade unions - you know, the people that helped bring about the end to child labour, the weekend, over time pay and things like that - are primarily the self-defence organisations of working class people. They exist to but limits on the right to exploit and in doing so advance the interests of working class people in this system. By doing so they enhance the lives and well-being of all.

You may not concur, and that's fine. But at least we can agree about Keith Vaz ;)

The Sentinel said...

Read it and weep?!!

You do make me laugh Phil.

I asked for an independent report and instead you give me this:

"Jerry Pickford, South West regional officer for UNITE, said the workers had walked out in “general sympathy with what’s happening in the construction industry”. He said Polish workers were among the 600-strong group.
Mr Pickford said: “All the Polish workers have walked out as well, because this is not an issue against foreign workers"

The word of a biased Marxist. Just a self-perpetuated loaded rumour.

And you cannot even agree upon the content of your rumour. A couple of posts back you boasted that "Hundreds of Polish workers come out in solidarity in Plymouth" whereas your Marxist friend who started the story says it was only "around 35 foreign workers, most originally from Poland."

But then it gets better: "They boarded a coach which had been laid on by their employers to take them home." - not the picket line.

Why? "Members of the group said they had been told by bosses that they were unable to work under the circumstances, amid health and safety fears over a lack of manpower on site."

You really do make me laugh. They were sent home - they didn't walk out in sympathy and they didn't join the picket line - they boarded coaches laid on to take them home.

And yet you boast of hundreds of Polish strikers?!

Based upon what exactly?

Your lack of integrity is astounding Phil, but then, you are in excellent company.

I can understand why you were trying to perpetuate the rumour though, my friend, given that the unions are completely opposed to the British workers interests. Something you clearly do not like being pointed out (I read your posts Phil, but they do lack a lot detail I am more then willing to provide / or "dump" as you put it.)

And the dishonesty continues with your other rumour that the BNP were asked to leave by strikers - they asked to leave by the police after threats from one Marxist - and even your little support video shows this.

So I know that you know the truth.

As for the "deal" your inil- traitors have come up with - its no deal for British workers at all. And it will not take long before that becomes apparent to even the most politically blind or apathetic.

The likelihood of more and major crisis of this type emerging in the not too distant future are almost certain.

And then, finally, the ordinarily worker will realise that they have been played and lied to and fleeced all of these years - that while they are struggling to compete with the mass of immigrants already here, their own supposed protectors have been trying to open the flood gates for all - efffectively trying to screw them into the ground.

Lying, devious treasonous hypocrites.

Phil BC said...

Egg on your face now, Sentinel. You will see when you finally take a look at the other thread.

Once again, and I have to ask it again seeing as you have a habit of ducking tough questions, if these are completely 100% nationalist strikes then how has my party managed to intervene successfully at Lindsey refinery? How was it the workers voted an open class struggle militant onto their strike committee? And why did they adopt a series of demands that included the full unionisation of migrant labour?

Richard said...

"..a BNP front group professing to support the workers"

What makes you think the group does not support the workers? The BNP are typical nationalist socialists, and while I doubt many of the srikers would support the BNP very far, this issue is right in the heart of the BNP's beliefs.

Left-wing extremists have always had a streak of nationalism, even when they were in the Labour Party, before Kinnock did the only worthwhile thing he ever managed. It is a natural extension of left-wing ideology, albeit one most on the left deny.

Phil BC said...

As I'm a member of the Socialist Party, the organisation on the receiving end of Kinnock's witchhunt in the 80s (when it was Militant), would you care to expand on this further:

"Left-wing extremists have always had a streak of nationalism"

Robert said...

I've been doing what the Italians are doing since 1966, I worked on large scale contracts mainly with people I knew or had worked for the company for years, we had 80 men and worked on contracts all over the UK, we also did contracts in France and Germany, we hardly ever employed anyone local, but if we did then we make sure they were good at the job we did not have time to train them.

The problem is this has come out in a recession and like it or not the company giving out the contracts blew it.

The Sentinel said...

Well, as I pointed out in that thread - no egg on my face at all Phil - you were, at a minimum, wrong.

As for me 'ducking tough questions' - I have answered them repeatedly.

I have said several time that 'protectionism' is the more apt description here.

As for "how your party intervened / How was it the workers voted an open class struggle militant onto their strike committee" I have already said:

"Do you really think the mass of these demonstrators / strikers have bothered to acquaint themselves with the political agenda of these people trying desperately to lead them? Because if they had they would have realised that these people are working to achieve the exact opposite to the strikers: mass foreign movement in the UK and the UK job market, in many cases actively promoting foreign interests over the British.

What the ordinary striker will see is people that purportedly know union procedures and will rely on that knowledge to resolve the stance they have taken: British Jobs for British Workers. But it will became apparent over time that is not the stance that the self appointed leaders have negotiated for. What do you think will happen then?

And what do you think will happen when a major bump in the road comes with tens of thousands of jobs lost, instead of the relatively mild hiccups so far?"

Finally, the strikers have not accpted the 'deal' put forward at all. They vote tommorow.

The reports I watched of the 'deal' put forward graphically (and tragically) illustrated everything I have said:

The strikers, covered in Union flags and still with their 'British Jobs for British workers' placards were overwhelming bemused and confused as to the so-called 'deal' and had many, many questions. One demanded to know why they had been left for hours in the dark after being everyone had been promised a full rundown of the behind-closed-doors meeting and all the union guy could shout was "50% is better then no per cent."

You could see the unhappiness and uneasiness on most of the strikers faces - this is not what they striked for and this not what they wanted.

Phil BC said...

You must have a very low opinion of working class people. For the umpteenth time, Keith Gibson has openly identified himself as a member of our party. Our comrades have been on the picket line dishing out leaflets and selling copies of our paper. You would think in all that time of standing around with very little to do the workers might just have taken a look at some of the material.

The strike committee put out a set of demands that were agreed at a mass meeting, which included no nationalist demands at all.

A deal has been hammered out and now been accepted by the strikers, which sees none of the migrant workers lose their jobs and a number of places made open for applications from local workers.

In the meantime the BNP are shewed away from the protest and have not been back since. If this was the work of a few "Marxists" and the strike was fundamentally nationalist in character, don't you think the men would have told the Marxists to piss off and welcomed the BNP with open arms?

Like I've said before, the strikes are contradictory in character and could have swung either in a progressive or regressive direction. You believe they are fundamentally nationalist. But your thesis doesn't hold out - at Lindsey at least it has been disproven by the course of events.

The Sentinel said...

I think it is you and yours who have the low opinion of the working-class, trying to patronise them by telling them they didn't really mean or want 'British Jobs for British workers' and this so-called deal is essentially a sell out.

I watched the reports of the workers being told that the so-called deal and their confused reaction, because, once more for you Phil: "What the ordinary striker will see is people that purportedly know union procedures and will rely on that knowledge to resolve the stance they have taken: British Jobs for British Workers. But it will became apparent over time that is not the stance that the self appointed leaders have negotiated for. What do you think will happen then?"

I think I know.

And Union flags were flying everywhere too Phil. Even draped over people. Why do you think that was?

Have you seen this video you think proves the BNP being asked to leave? Did it show one man whining to the police or a mass of demonstrators / strikers Phil?

The demonstrators / strikers had little to no choice but to accept the sell out half-baked 'deal' that was hammered out by those who desperately pushed their way to lead the strike - a few sops chucked in but business as usual - and it will not take too long for the implications to emerge.

The fact that the unions do not represent British workers interests is out now Phil, and as things get worse, this will become more and more apparent.

The wheels are falling of that scam.

Phil BC said...

What you cannot explain, and won't despite repeatedly being asked, is if this was in all essentials a nationalist protest, then why was it none of the strikers stood up for the BNP when they were rightfully ejected from the picket line, why was it the workers welcomed socialists onto the picket line and allowed them to distribute literature, sell papers, and spend hours talking to the workers, why they voted a Socialist Party member onto their strike committee, why they were at pains to explain they had no beef with the foreign workers on site, why they voted for a deal in a mass open democratic meeting that included the demand for the unionisation of migrant labour, and why they have accepted the deal.

What amuses me and the others who are reading this thread is how you cling like a limpet to the bearing of flags and BJ4BW placards. It's as if how the dispute developed is incidental to your analysis. Well, that's because it is. Your position is the equivalent to someone observing the thousands of Socialist Worker placards on a demo and concluding they're all SWP members. Or seeing a couple of swallows outside and concluding it's spring.

What you can't handle is that socialists successfully intervened in a strike you thought vindicated your politics and won it around a set of internationalist demands.

But if you want to continue digging, feel free. I won't stop you.

The Sentinel said...

What you cannot understand - and wont after being repeatedly told is that I have said the more apt term was protectionism.

The BNP, as you well know, were not ejected by the crowd by were asked to leave by police after one Marxist complained - the crowd never saw the BNP.

I doubt the validity of any strike committee vote largely organised by people who rig their own leadership ballot, and the subsequent demands were not the demonstrators / strikers demands but the Marxist union demands.

I am fully aware why you would be so 'bemused' as the reason Union flags were awash with the slogan of 'British Jobs for British workers' on placards of ordinary working class people- and that is the reason that your union scam is finally starting to come off the tracks.

And this was a relatively small protest and no-one had actually lost their jobs due to foreign workers - wait until real hard times come and they do.

What you cant handle that anti-British Marxist's successfully infiltrated and hijacked this protest and transformed it into something it was not about - but how many times do you think that will work?

The workers blind faith in the unions ability to represent its members without extreme left political ideology is gone.

Face it, if people really wanted to buy into your fantasy they would vote for it. How many elected officials do the SWP have?

Phil BC said...

One word - lol!

The Sentinel said...

Like I said, the more you feel burned the more insults and silly little childish jibes emanate from you.

And also like I said, I'm just surprised you haven't accused me of shoving shit through my working class neighbours letterbox yet - as you felt you had too when you lost your little Islam debate.

I'm also surprised you haven't just made up some more quotes to back up whatever you say, whilst clinging desperately to self perpetuated rumours.

The Sentinel said...

And LOL isn't a word in any case! It's an acronym for three words!