Saturday 31 January 2009

British Jobs for British Workers?

Unsurprisingly the spreading wildcat strikes have sparked off wide-ranging debate on the left. The flurry of commentary from left-wing party websites, blogs, forums and so on represents a serious attempt to come to grips with a spontaneous outbreak of militancy unseen in Britain for many years. Well, at least it does for some. Pathetically, on Socialist Unity, some have interpreted the SWP's statement through the sectarian prism of it distancing itself from George Galloway's and Jerry Hicks's positions. According to its monomaniacal critics, we are to believe a settling of scores with Respect is the primary concern of the SWP as it seeks to make sense of an important workers' mobilisation.

The flip-side position has been an ultra-left denunciation of the strikes as the actions of "racist morons". Galloway and Hicks, the
Socialist Party, SSP, the Morning Star and everyone else who - correctly in my view - have realised the importance of the class dynamic behind the nationalist slogans, are denounced for "pandering to reaction". Safe to say we won't see any of their ilk going anywhere near the picket lines and protests, which is just as well seeing as they're more likely to do the socialist cause more harm than good.

If the debate is not to become a sectarian slugfest we need to bring out the points that are not under dispute.

* Everyone agrees the adopted slogan, 'British Jobs for British Workers', is chauvinist and divisive. No socialist can raise such a slogan and remain a socialist.

* The trade unions concerned (
Unite-Amicus and the GMB) have not combated the nationalist sentiment. Indeed, footage and photos of mass meetings show that among the home made placards are union-branded boards and signs with BJ4BW slogans on them.

* That the BNP see it as an opportunity to spread their poison.

* When socialists visit the picket lines, regardless of affiliation, all will be united in arguing more or less the same thing. That is the Italian and Portuguese workers are not to blame for the situation; that Total are attempting to undermine the agreements it has with the recognised trade unions by contracting out the work to firms whose staff are not covered by these arrangements, that management's "right" to manage has to be challenged, that links should be forged with the IREM work force, and are will be agitating for unity among workers of different nationalities.

The main point of contention is whether the left can support these strikes.

The SWP and those close to it say no. The comrades argue, rightly, that a divided work force is a weakened work force. The only beneficiaries of division are the bosses, which is why 'BJ4BW' is wrong-headed and potentially dangerous. But they go on, "Those who urge on these strikes are playing with fire ... We all know what will happen if the idea spreads that it’s foreigners, or immigrants or black or Asian people who are to blame for the crisis. It will be a disaster for the whole working class, will encourage every racist and fascist and make it easier for the bosses to ram through pay and job cuts."

This is a principled position, but is also a mistaken position. The SWP statement, in my opinion, gives too much weight to the nationalist slogans being advanced and pays insufficient attention to the contradictions of the protests. As much as the left would wish it wasn't so, we should not be too surprised that the first significant spontaneous class mobilisation after the collapse of the "boom" years is of a nationalist character.

Since the titanic class battles of the 1980s capital has held the whip hand over the working class. Our organisations - the trade unions, the
Labour party, the far left - still bear the scars of these defeats. The unions and the far left carry much less social weight, and Labour has capitulated almost completely to capital to the extent that there is little qualitative difference between it and the Tories and Lib Dems. Meanwhile successive governments and capital have restructured the British economy without any real significant opposition. The service industries that have grown as manufacturing has declined are much less secure, lower paid and atomising. The idea the working class has separate material and political interests to the bosses has little purchase any more.

Because our class has been unable to cast much of a shadow over mainstream politics, in its weakened state it has been more prey to reactionary ideas. Day after day the bulk of the press have churned out the most disgusting lies - that immigrants take the lion share of the jobs, that asylum seekers are living luxurious lifestyles on benefits, that Muslims conspire to make Britain an Islamic state, that British sovereignty has been usurped by the Germans and French, and that ZaNuLabore want to dismantle the nation. Even worse the main parties have fallen over themselves, to varying degrees, to accommodate these views. This has created a favourable climate for backward views in our class. A tiny minority have turned to support the BNP at election time (in fact, given the political climate, it's a sign of their incompetence that the fascists aren't doing better) but mostly it has fed back into the atomisation of the class, resulting in apathy, fatalism, and the further decomposition of working class organisation.

The BJ4BW slogan raised by the unions is dangerous, but it tapped into a commonplace sentiment among workers. The unions thought they could ride the nationalist tiger in pursuit of commonplace trade union objectives, but ended up sparking off wildcat actions they could not have foreseen. This is where the main contradiction in the mobilisation is located - the majority of workers are motivated by British chauvinism, but their protest has seen them take up the traditional weapons of working class militancy. The two, nationalism and independent working class activity, cannot coexist indefinitely. If the strikes resume and spread at the start of next week, it is the job of socialists to intervene with our arguments and bring the contradiction to a head to try and resolve it in a positive direction.

But because these are strikes, they can be won or lost. Socialists cannot be indifferent to the outcome. If we turn up on the picket line and at best appear equivocal, or at worst, opposed to the strike, we will have a hard time getting the ear of workers (in the SP's case, this is at least aided by having a member on the Lindsey refinery strike committee). We cannot fudge this. In my opinion socialists should favour the strikers' victory. Aside from defeating the union-busting issues underlying the dispute, it will demonstrate to millions that militancy works, that workers can take action and win. Yes, assuming hundreds of workers aren't converted to internationalism overnight, nationalist attitudes will persist and might be strengthened, but the impact on working class confidence will be an order of magnitude greater.


Jim Jepps said...

Phil, once again well up to your usual high standard and good to see someone not playing the "if you disagree with me then you're a moron" game.

I've given this a lot of thought over the last few days and have decided I don't agree with you on this - but I still appreciate the thoughtful and articulate manner in which you've laid out your position.

For me BJ4BW is more than just a slogan it's in the DNA of this dispute. If that puts me in a difficult position to argue with these particular workers, well, that's by the by - to give anything that looked like uncritical support would put me in a much harder position when talking to the workers I actually work with - who are much more important to me personally.

Chris S said...

Good post comrade. I think the SPEW statement has been the best to come out so far. Clearly the SPEW has a better idea of what is going because of members actually involved in the strikes and on the strike committee.

This whole saga has caused massive confusion on the Left, as Jim demonstrates.

Keith Gibbons statement does clear up so much shit that people have been saying against the strikers.

Anonymous said...

I think those that are having problems with this dispute are being too ideological.
Perhaps an analogy would be if a car manufacturer tried to move a production line abroad and mass sit-in strikes erupted through-out the U.K. car industry to stop it. Would Socialists say that this was rascist or nationalistic because the workers abroad need that production line as well? At the end of the day, the employer is doing it to cuts costs and increase profit. The employer isn't thinking about giving employment to workers abroad.
I'm utterly convinced that these protests, in their current form, are correct.

Robert said...

Anyone see Mandy this morning, we can confirm nobody is being paid less. Nope you still do not get it Mandy it's about an employer telling British workers your not having a job, now then I'll bet because the employer is providing a hostel these workers are not being paid allowances for traveling or boarding.

The fact is this is the UK and if a firm did the same in Italy all hell would break lose. as for the nice Italians I watched them putting two fingers up to strikers.

Does that mean we are all BNP no of course not, but unless Labour wakes up it might mean nobody bloody voting for them.

Phil said...

That's no problem, Jim. As I've said in the post, if you and I were down on the picket lines we would be arguing much the same thing. Socialists can have differences on this without accusing each other of betraying the class or pandering to nationalism.

Robert - mainstream Labour do not get it because their relationship to the aspirations of working class people were dumped many moons ago.

There is a danger of over-emphasising the role of the BNP - images of their lie lorry (with the crap slogan, 'Bail out Britain, not the banksters') on C4 news on Friday night driving around the empty refinery car park in the dark does not mean they have a hand in this dispute.

Phil said...

Latest Socialist Party article:

What's really behind the Lindsey Oil Refinery strike
Keith Gibson, Personal Capacity, G.M.B. - elected onto unofficial LOR Strike Committee.
Note: At the time of writing there are plans to lobby Alstom Head Offices on 5th February in London.

A ninety day redundancy notice had been issued around mid November 2008 at Lindsey Oil Refinery (LOR) for Shaws' workforce.

This meant that by February 17th 2009 a number of Shaws' construction workers (LOR) would be made redundant.

The day before the Christmas holiday Shaws' shop-stewards reported to the men that a part of the contract on LOR's HDS3 plant had been awarded to IREM, an Italian company.

The Stewards explained that Shaws had lost a third of the job to IREM who would be employing their own core Portuguese and Italian workforce numbering 200-300.

Stewards and Union Officials asked to meet with IREM a.s.a.p. after Christmas to clarify the proposal i.e. would IREM employ British labour? Shaws' workforce were told that the IREM workforce would be housed in floating barges in Grimsby docks for the duration of the job, they would be bussed to work in the morning, bussed to and from the barge for lunch.

IREM workers would work from 7.30am - 11.30am and 13.00 - 1700. On Saturdays they would work 4 hours to make up a working week of 44 hours. The normal working week is 44 hours divided by 5 days, from 7.30 -1600 finishing at 1400 on Fridays (most workers work overtime).

Normal breaks include 10 minutes in a morning and a 30 minute dinner break. Stewards were told that IREM workers would be paid the national rate for the job; to date this has not been confirmed.

After Christmas the nominated Shop Stewards entered into negotiations with IREM. Meanwhile, a National Shop Stewards Forum for the construction Industry held a meeting in London to discuss Staythorpe Power Station where the company Alstom were refusing to hire British labour relying on non-union Polish and Spanish workers instead.

It was decided that all Blue Book sites covered by the National Agreement for the Engineering and Construction Industry (NAECI) should send delegations down to Staythorpe to protest against Alstoms' actions.

The workforce on the LOR site sent delegations. Then, on Wednesday 28th January 2009 Shaws' workforce were told by the Stewards that IREM had stated they would not be employing British labour.

The entire LOR workforce, from all subcontracting companies, met and voted unanimously to take immediate unofficial strike action.

The following day over a thousand construction workers from LOR, Conoco and Easington sites descended outside LOR's gate to picket and protest.

This was the spark that ignited the spontaneous unofficial walk outs of our brother construction workers across the length and breadth of Britain.

This worker solidarity is against the 'conscious blacking' of British construction workers by company bosses who refuse to recruit skilled British labour in the U.K.

The workers of LOR, Conoco and Easington did not take strike action against immigrant workers. Our action is rightly aimed against company bosses who attempt to play off one nationality of worker against the other and undermine the NAECI agreement.

Demands for Construction Industry:

* No victimisation of workers taking solidarity action.
* All workers in UK to be covered by NAECI Agreement
* Union controlled registering of unemployed and locally skilled union members
* Government and employer investment in proper training / apprenticeships for new generation of construction workers
* All Immigrant labour to be unionised.
* Trade Union assistance for immigrant workers - via interpreters - to give right of access to Trade Union advice - to promote active integrated Trade Union Members

Anonymous said...

Update on the spreading strikes by construction engineers in the refinery and power industry
Report by phone from Alistair Tice (Yorkshire Socialist Party) on the mass picket at the Lindsey total refinery North Lincolnshire. Monday 2 February 2009

"The strike committee accepted the main demands of Keith Gibson and John Mckewan to put to the mass meeting today.

Keith is a Socialist Party member and on the strike committee and John is a Socialist Party supporter and victimised worker from the refinery.

The strike committee added an extra demand, calling for John to be reinstated into his job.

The demands were

* No victimisation of workers taking solidarity action.
* All workers in UK to be covered by NAECI Agreement.
* Union controlled registering of unemployed and locally skilled union members, with nominating rights as work becomes available.
* Government and employer investment in proper training / apprenticeships for new generation of construction workers - fight for a future for young people.
* All Immigrant labour to be unionised.
* Trade Union assistance for immigrant workers - including interpreters - and access to Trade Union advice - to promote active integrated Trade Union Members.
* Build links with construction trade unions on the continent.

The mass meeting overwhelmingly voted for the demands put to them by the strike committee.

Prior to the meeting Keith and John (and their wives who had came to support the strikers) had seen some BNP members in the car park and told them that they were not welcome, with that the BNP cleared off.

Socialist Party members gave out over 700 leaflets putting our position (which was now the position of the strike committee) and the leaflet was welcomed. One worker (before he read the leaflet) thought that were giving out BNP leaflets and protested that he was not a racist and didn't support the BNP and was relieved when it was explained to him that they were Socialist Party leaflets and supported workers unity.

Keith is part of the negotiating committee that is now in discussions with the management at the refinery. The strike is continuing and looks as if it is spreading throughout the country at the time of writing with Sellafield and Heysham nuclear plants out. Workers at other plants, according to the BBC, have also decided to stay out, these include Grangemouth and Longannon in Scotland. Warrington and Staythope in Newark are also out as well.

The strikes are spreading from fiddlers ferry in Warrington to the Drax power station in Yorkshire."

Phil said...

Excellent news - it proves why socialists were correct to support this strike. I hope there's enough egg to go around all those faces that were dead set against them!

Anonymous said...

On the 'pathetic' point - as I was one of those who made that particular connection - I don't think the SWP has come down on one side of this dispute *because* Hicks and Galloway are on the other: as I said in my comment, I think this is a very difficult & complex situation, on which socialists can reasonably disagree (although I personally think the SP position is correct).

What did ring alarm bells for me was how quickly the SWP moved to adopt a line of non-support (unlike some, they're not exactly *opposing* the strike). It may be an unworthy or even pathetic thought, but I do think that the choice between lining up alongside GG and JH, and moving to (what could be made to appear as) their Left, was a factor in the speed with which the SWP adopted its position & their unbudgeability since they did so. I think sectarian factors made it an easier decision to make, in other words, & a harder one to change. But we shall see - with Sellafield and Heysham out today, it's clearly not over yet.

Phil said...

I would hope the SWP and the rest of the left who've developed a similar analysis will pay heed to the success of the SP in getting its demands adopted by the strikers.

I also hope the SWP didn't adopt the line they did because it differed from Galloway and Hicks. I like to think better of them.

What has been astonishing has been the nuttiness seen out at the fringes. The AWL, ever sensitive to the need of striking a distinctive pose in the leftwing market place, have completely lost it and started picketing Unite's offices in London. What a bloody disgrace they are.

Anonymous said...

According to the Sunday Express (a second-hand copy - I didn't pay for it!) 'Senior civil servants held an emergency briefing session about the dispute on Friday and MI5 has been put on full alert. Yesterday mediators were contacting unions and employers.' I would say, that if the strikers don't blink, they have won this one.

Ms Chief said...

As much as I hate to say it - well done the Socialist Party.

The Sentinel said...

I think few statements better sum up why your movement and politics will always remain a minute cult within these isles then this one: "Everyone agrees the adopted slogan, 'British Jobs for British Workers', is chauvinist and divisive..."

It is so far removed from the thinking of ordinary Britons it couldn't be more adrift.

What most Britons really find chauvinistic and divisive is the unwarranted and enforced mass-immigration that has been imposed upon them without mandate and the massive divergence and mostly mutually exclusive outlooks, ideas and cultures that it has brought, dividing up entire cities into little more then ethnic ghettos and the disgusting 'positive discrimination' that actively discriminates against Britons. All enthusiastically advocated by your movement.

But, people being people, took little to notice as long as the money poured in and the effects were hidden.

But now that that bubble has burst, and people are forced to face reality, the overwhelming and intrinsically natural emotion is one of protectionism and unity - national unity.

You will never convince the average Briton that his placard should really read "British jobs for foreign workers" because it is an incomparably ludicrous notion; just astounding nonsense, completely devoid of any foundation in reality.

Times are hard and people want- and are entitled to jobs - in industries that are resident in the UK and they are rightly entitled to these jobs over the demand of other nationalities first.

It is simply not the problem of the British worker if these Italian and Portuguese workers and the like are having hard time at home - their employment here is causing British workers to have a hard time in their own nation and the priorities need to change.

That is something that all but a very tiny minority in Britain will see, think and feel about this and that is because it is not only common sense and logic but also because it is a very human instinct.

And that is why you will never see elected power in this country.

Whereas the nationalists will go from strength to strength through this econimc blackhole as people slowly discover the true cost of caring for, catering for, paying for, and pandering to everyone but themselves

Phil said...

Well Sentinel, my party, the Socialist Party, has put forward a series of demands, which have been adopted by the Lindsey Oil Refinery workers at a mass meeting. If you examine them you will find the BJ4BW was not adopted.

And your party, well, they turned up and were told they weren't welcome.

If this is nationalism going from strength to strength, we'd like to see more of it please.

The Sentinel said...

Well firstly Phil, the strikes may have originated at Lindsey Oil Refinery, but have spread far and wide since then in any case; and as for the BNP being asked to leave, the only evidence is that one or two Marxist's from Unite predictably complained to police, not a mass of protesters - just a Marxist union infil- traitor or two.

The proposals to the so-called 'strike committee' (a wildcat strike committee?!) were drafted by the professional Marxists agitators within the so-called 'strike committee' - who were not elected by the mass of demonstrators - and consequently no surprise that they accepted their own political aim of defusing nationalist sentiment, and not furthering the whole point of the strikes in the first place.

Which is no surprise, because, as I have said these union types are only interested in furthering their own political aims, not the rights of ordinary workers.

And no surprise as only a few weeks ago they held an event to:

"give information, advice and guidance to migrant workers working in the UK.
Workers and their families will be able to take advantage of free information about employment rights, family issues and local community benefits. Unite members and migrant workers will have access to translators, employment law solicitors and local college staff. The Employment law solicitors will provide the migrant workers with any legal advice they may need and can offer them the time and assistance that our members would not usually be able to receive."

As I have said, many times - amazing hypocrisy

The fact that they even had the front to turn up at these strikes after spending God knows how much cash in due fees to fund exactly the opposite aim of the strike only a month previous, let alone try to direct the strikes as leaders is astounding. But then they clearly couldn't give a shit about the people they represent.

These strikes will continue despite your parties as always devious and duplicitous machinations, and despite any shallow gloss you may think you have applied to reality; the strikes remain about what they were always about: British Jobs for British workers.

And as times get much harder- much much harder- and people are struggling to keep their head above water the obvious will emerge more and more - that the unions of this type don't care about British workers and their rights or plights - they care only for their perverse international dream (and some serious pocket lining too) and that they have lied, fleeced and mislead them for years.

The walls will fall down Phil as the situation worsens and the establishment parties know this and are terrified.

You have won absolute nothing with your smoke and mirrors 'strike committee' stunt - not even in the short term -but have planted the seed of awakening from treachery and betrayal: Not only do the unions like Unite not represent the interest of British workers, they have actively worked against them and, to some measure, facilitated the circumstances which led to the first strike.

That is the plain and simple truth.

Anonymous said...

Those demands are great. Is there a postal address for the strike fund we can put about?

Phil said...

I don't know if you've ever been involved in an industrial dispute, Sentinel, but strike committees are usually elected by the strikers themselves. In this case Keith Gibson, a man open about his politics, has been elected by the men on to the committee. Not because he hoodwinked them but because he does the business where trade union militancy is concerned.

The strike committee then discuss what demands to put forward, which the workers then vote on. There are no machinations or manipulation involved. You can read the detailed report from Keith on the Socialist Party's website if you like, but I suspect it's so much propaganda for you.

Instead of having a tit-for-tat exchange though, I would be interested in hearing why you think trade unions generally favour an internationalist outlook AND why trade unions are involved in politics. As far as you're concerned is it really down to "infiltrators", as you put it?

Phil said...

I'm not aware of a strike fund yet, Tim. Just avoid the British Wildcats support group, which is a BNP front.

The Sentinel said...

Its not really a tit-for-tat Phil as I am pointing out facts that either you overlook or choose not to see.

(And incidentally, the strikers are out their again today with the same placards: British jobs for British workers, unsurprisingly, because that is why the overwhelming majority are on strike.)

Both of the major unions unofficially trying to lead and direct these strikes, the GMB and Unite have programmes aimed at encouraging and assisting the importation of foreign labour into the UK market and have spent considerable due fee's in pursuit of this and both have held events recently, certainly since the recession has hit home in order to do just that, fully aware of the impact not only on British jobs as a whole, but on their members.

But they dont care about that. Its the political agenda that counts.

Both unions, unofficially, then purport to be the vanguard of these strikes which is fundamentally about opposing the stance they have consistently taken.

This strike is technically illegal and any union involvement in it would constitute a criminal offence, Keith Gibson of the GMB is supposedly acting 'on a personal capacity' and freely admits that this 'strike committee' is unofficial and therefore not even the usual shady ballot practice has been adopted here. I would treat any such claim of election was extreme caution.

As I mentioned before Phil, I was involved with the CWU years ago and I know that most people didn't care for, or even understand any political fervour the union adopted, they only wanted a union rep when they had disciplinary meetings or in the event of a legitimate pay / practice dispute.

Consequently, very few ordinary members ever attended any meetings or involved themselves in the union business preferring to live their lives; all of that was left to the radicalised Marxists with more time then friends that pushed motion after motion through due to lack of attendance.

It was only ever when it become apparent that the union were picking and choosing which members to represent based on political ideology that any of the behind the scenes machinations ever reached the ordinary members. And I witnessed several ugly scenes as a result of this.

And the same applies here. 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?

And to answer your questions (again) the unions Marxist stealth leadership favour an 'international outlook' (not the ordinary members) purely because of the 'one race, one world / workers paradise' nightmarish ideal they wish to impose upon everyone and they politicise the unions because they know as an overt political party stating their aims, no one would ever vote them into office.

Is this all really down to infil- traitors? Largely yes.

As I have said, I know from experience (and common sense) that most people just want to get on with work and only see the union for what it is meant be: A workplace representation scheme. They have no real interest in giving up their time to attend endless committee meetings, conferences, motions and ballots, especially when their seem to be others more then willingly to do it. And so the whole agenda gets set by those who are most interested in using the union as a political vehicle for the furtherance of their political goals, not the workplace representation scheme that the ordinary members pay for and want.

Anonymous said...

The trouble is, Phil, that the evidence is on the side of the Sentinel.

This is a strike about giving first pick to jobs at a British site to British workers. That's why the slogan BJ4BW sums it up so well.

The strike committee demands do mask this, but the key one is the one that calls for 'nominating rights. If the strikers win this one then the Italians get to be sent home, simple as that.

The SP are making a brave attempt to divert this dispute in a less nasty direction, the trouble is that racism/nationalism is at its very heart.

Pretty much everyone understands that, its not rocket science.

As for me, I'm for the workers, the IREM workers that is, Italian, Portuguese and British (22 of them btw), for their right to work in the face of nationalist bigotry.

Phil said...

It seems some people are in a state of denial about this. If this was a reactionary mobilisation similar to the dockers' walkout in sympathy with Enoch Powell's rivers of blood speech, why is it that a) interviewed workers consistently argue this is not a question of nationality, but one of fair employment practices, b) a mass meeting of the Lindsey workers voted overwhelmingly for a statement that, among other things, calls for full rights for migrant labour, and c) a couple of hundred Polish workers have walked out in solidarity in Plymouth? If the Powellite thesis is correct, this is the equivalent of Afro-Caribbean workers coming out in sympathy with the dockers!

What some of the left and the far right have in common is their underestimation of the complexity of the strikes. Trade union values mixing with nationalist sentiment make for a heady mix, which means it could have moved in one direction or another. Because the SP has intervened at Lindsey and the rest of the socialist movement have been visiting wildcat actions all over the country, it is slowly but surely being pulled in a progressive direction.

If they were reactionary mobilisations full stop, some of the left would be feeling smug in their ideological purity while the BNP's laughable "union", Solidarity, would be recruiting hand over fist.

Phil said...

Sentinel, you really haven't got a clue about workers' struggles have you? In this case the strike committee is 'unofficial' because the action the workers are taking is illegal. It exists outside the formal structure of the union because, for very obvious reasons, Unite and the GMB cannot give it their official backing.

The strike committee in this case was elected from the striking workers themselves at a mass meeting. It went away and formulated a series of demands which were then voted on by the workers. This is called workers' democracy - a concept which seems alien to you.

Regards your other points, I have a couple more questions:

1) What proof do you have that Derek Simpson, Tony Woodley, and Paul Kenny are "Marxists"?

2) Do you believe "workplace issues" are not political? Let's turn your objection to unions' relationship to politics on its head - by this logic business should only concern themselves with making money. So then why do they spend so much time trying to influence government policy?

3) When was there a time trade unions didn't take an interest in politics?

Phil said...

Ooops! Looks like you were right to be sceptical about the Polish workers in Plymouth. (Me admitting the Sentinel was right? Whatever next?)

Nevertheless, as a class mobilisation it remains a series of strikes of a contradictory character, and it doesn't change the fact that socialists need to and are intervening in them.

Anonymous said...

Phil BC, 'Some people are in a state of denial'...

Looks that way.

Taking up your three points, the fact is that 1969 was a long time ago, social attitudes have changed. So, a) Openly racist comments would not make the strikers look good, and in any case I am sure there are plenty of strikers too would not be comfortable with such statements. b) Such calls can be thrown into the mix because they are irrelevant to the substance of the strike, which is about sending IREM workers home. and c) well, you've conceded that one.

As for the BNP's union, isn't it a fact that right now there is no political space for it as UNITE is doing everything it can to advance 'national solidarity', just look at Derek Simpson's statements.

The latest negotiating position is for half the IREM workers, about 100, to be sent home. That would satisfy UNITE and the strikers. Some more jobs for British workers then, and some of those nasty foreigners sent back to where they belong

Phil said...

Actually, looking at the article on the Polish workers again it seems it's referencing two different groups of workers who work on the same site. So yes, after all, Polish workers have walked out.

As for the union's demands, they're not the same thing as the demands the SP put forward and were adopted by the strike committee. Even if it will satisfy the workers it won't satisfy my comrades and SP supporters, and will continue to argue against them.

But returning to the main thrust of this post, much sectarian hay has been thrown on the left but I'm pretty sure that on the ground, socialists of all stripes would be arguing the same thing. Or am I being hopelessly idealistic?

The Sentinel said...

It is beyond laughable that you try to tell me I know nothing of workers struggles mate. I am as working class as it gets. I was brought up in an area that relied upon the docks for everything just as the docks were closing down. I know all about workers struggles, poverty and the effects of such a meltdown.

I went into the army because there was little to no work and to stay away from the trouble that poverty can so easily lead to if you let it. I served in some the most bloody and poverty stricken regions in the world. I have worked pretty much every buckshee job (globally too) since from building and demolition to factories, HGV and RM CIT to farm work and picking. I am only a professional now through sheer hard work and determination - and all self-finaced.

I am better placed then most to talk about working class issues and at least as qualified as anyone.

As for this strike commitee, I already pointed out the failings with it and the extrme caution I would place upon its claim of election, and as an interesting side note to that, one of the union guys you mention, Kenny had been defeated heavily by Kevin Curran in the 2003 GMB General Secretary Election to replace John Edmonds. However, he was appointed Acting General Secretary on 24 March 2005 following Curran's resignation after alleged election rigging - so even at the highest level in offical union business the election process is, again as I have said, very dubious.

As for:

1) It is pretty obvious the political bent of these men given the organisation and policies they have in place, but even a cursory examination of one (Simpson) reveals:

"The 57-year-old is a former Communist who has been a Labour Party member for the past 10 years{..}He describes himself as a "lieutenant of the Left"

2) Workplace issues are about exactly that: Workplace represenation i.e a Trade Union. Not a Marxist / Socialist agenda encompassing everything. As I have said, most, the overwhelming majority of people just want Workplace representation. If they wanted a political party to do the things that unions do they could form one or vote for one. Why do businesses try to influence the government? To make more money. Its a facile analogy

3) Yes.

As for the 'hundreds of Polish workers' on strike - yes you were wrong. That article only describes 35 foreign workers being sent home. Then miraculously some Polish strikers on the picket somehow (number unspecified) all form the mouth of Jerry Pickford of Unite, a union that works against British workers and thier chances of employment in thier own country.

There has been no other source for this other then this Jerry Pickford; no independent confirmation or report of any kind.

No egg on my face at all Phil.

Phil said...

You've lectured me on your background before. But I wasn't questioning your working class "creds", I was wondering if you'd had direct experience of a workers' dispute, because, going by your comments, it looks as though you haven't. Anyone who has can see from your take on how strike committees are formed shows you haven't a clue. It looks like some very desperate arse-covering to try and salvage your idea that this strike is about nationalism and nothing else.

But anyway, cheers for answering my questions.

1) So, in your world view, anyone who's a former communist but remains on the left is a Marxist. So, Derek Simpson is one. By extension, Tony Woodley, as a left winger, is also a Marxist. Because of the relationship they have with Labour, does that make that party a Marxist organisation? Are Peter Mandelson (a former YCL member) and Alistair Darling (former Trot) Marxists? Is Gordon Brown a Marxist? If they are, why are they? Is anyone who disagrees with the BNP from the left a Marxist?

2) The trade union/business analogy is not facile at all. The latter try to influence legislation to aid their businesses. Trade unions seek political influence to make sure their members get a better deal. Workplace health and safety legislation is the result of political campaigning. The minimum wage is a result of trade union political campaigning. Maternity and paternity leaves are the result of political campaigning. I think you can see where I'm running with this - workplace issues do not exist in a bubble, they are exceedingly political.

But this politics depends on the collective bargaining strength of the union. The more members unions have, the more political weight they carry. This is why unions have been in the vanguard of anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic campaigning - because those attitudes, which your party cherishes, weaken the bargaining power of the working class and therefore work against its political interests. It's small wonder your organisation is anti-union, except, of course, for your simon-pure Solidarity set up.

3) I assume the Plymouth Herald is insufficiently independent for you. I'm glad you've grown sceptical towards information sources, perhaps you ought to exercise it next time you cite Wikipedia or The March of the Titans as the final word on a subject.

But anyway, looking at the report more closely there still appears to be two groups of workers that are being talked about. Here's the quote:

"600 workers, including hundreds of Polish workers, have walked out from Langage Power Station near Plymouth in solidarity with the wildcat actions sweeping across Britain.

When five hundred site staff had failed to arrive by 10am, the small minority of other foreign labourers (themselves also mostly Polish) who had been bussed in were sent home by management, deciding it was unsafe for them to work by themselves."

I've highlighted the 'other' for you, Sentinel.

Want help removing that egg? ;)

The Sentinel said...

Phil, I'm not sure if your are being deliberately obtuse or just asking the same questions making the statements for some sort of political effect.

Having told you a) I was brought up in an area where the docks were everything and at a time the docks were being closed down and b) I have been involved with the CWU it is pretty obvious that, yes, I have been involved in workers disputes. Add the other jobs in and it would be apparent to anyone it would be unavoidable at some point in any case.

The 'strike committee' jibe is just another childish insult - I dispute the legitimacy of the ballot and having experience of this and having pointed out a prime example of high level election rigging my reason is clear.

1) Strangely, the ' New Labour' party is full of former reformed Marxists / Trots (Bronstein's) / Communists, though you only mentioned a few- Jack Straw, John Reid, Alan Johnson to mention a few more. Strange isn't it?

But then the clue is in the gimmicky name: New Labour.

Why New Labour? Because the old one was unelectable with its overt extreme left bluster and poisons and so it had to be swept under the carpet.

While not card-carrying members, many others are overtly extreme left in nature. Just as an indication of Browns leaning 'Brown’s choice of subject for his PhD at Glasgow University gives some clues as to his true political leanings. Brown wrote his thesis, and later a biography of James Maxton, an Independent Labour Party MP, a man Brown has admitted to being “fascinated” by. As well as being a conscientious objector who was sent to prison during WWI, Maxton was an extreme-left winger who even went as far as to pen a glowing biography of the man who had provided the inspiration and influence for Maxton’s own political viewpoints; Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. Better known to posterity as Lenin.'

The acquisition of power (and the money it brings) may have tempered their enthusiasm for the (white) working class, but they still rule with what most in Britain see as an extreme left anti-British agenda.

Who was it who said "In the end, the Labour party could cease to represent labour..."?

But tell me why do you think that one party has so many 'former' communists / Marxists / Trots (Bronstein's)?

2) Maternity and paternity leaves are workplace issues that could have been dealt with by workplace union methods.

Tell me, do you agree with- lets just pick out Unite - actively encouraging and assisting foreign workers into the UK, particular in a recession where British jobs will be hit, but more to the point their own members? And how would you justify it to a union members?

Do you think that the recent demonstrators / strikers would agree with it or want their due fee's spent on this?

What business is it of a union to encourage and assist immigration into this country?

3) As I suspected, after a couple more childish insults, you have nothing but the word of one man - Jerry Pickford - who has a vested interest in propagating such rubbish that there even on Pole on the picket line.

Interestingly though, this rumour swept through your movement and was blindly accepted as fact.

But you and the truth seem to part company on a regular basis Phil as nowhere in the article you linked to can I see your quote of:

"600 workers, including hundreds of Polish workers, have walked out from Langage Power Station near Plymouth in solidarity with the wildcat actions sweeping across Britain."

The closest quote is:

"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."

No mention of hundreds of Polish workers.

Nor can I find your quote of:

"When five hundred site staff had failed to arrive by 10am, the small minority of other foreign labourers (themselves also mostly Polish) who had been bussed in were sent home by management, deciding it was unsafe for them to work by themselves."

The closest being:

"A steady stream of around 35 foreign workers, most originally from Poland, left the site just before 11am. They boarded a coach which had been laid on by their employers to take them home."

So did you just make these quotes up? Because anyone can see that they are not present in the link you provided.

Egg on my face??!!

I think not.

Phil said...

I'm sorry Sentinel, but until I have, in your phrase, "independent evidence" that you have taken part in trade union struggles I refuse to believe you. Why? Because you write as if you don't know what you're talking about - it's obvious to everyone reading your contributions that you don't know what an unofficial strike committee is.

The rest of your discussion is just gold and demonstrates why some times it's better to allow our BNP friends a platform just so they can show themselves up. Already you've given me loads of material I can and will be using to demonstrate the anti-working class nature of your organisation, and for that I suppose I ought be grateful.

Regards your points, well, they're pretty ludicrous aren't they?

1) To say Gordon Brown is a closet Marxist because he wrote a thesis on James Maxton a few decades ago is one of the most politically illiterate things I've ever read. By your logic if I was "fascinated" by Hitler and kept up on the popular works and scholarship on him, that would make me a Nazi. Honestly, do you think your arguments through before you make them?

2) So you're against unions using members fees to take political action to further the interests of their members. That means you're against legislation that guarantees parental rights, dinner breaks, time off and things like that. You are naive enough to think workplace issues are not political. Lol, what an absolute shower you are. Talk about turning the clock back to the early 19th century!

Small wonder you passed over my explanation of why trade unions do what they do. Because you know they're right, but your politics has no room for them, so best ignore them.

I'd also like to see any evidence that unions in this country are encouraging workers into Britain. But you know, as well as I, they don't. But what they do do - consistent with trade unionist principles - is to try and integrate them into the movement because, as I explained yesterday, the power of the working class rests in the strength of its collective organisation. You might find this horrifying, but it happens to be the case. Deal with it.

3) No, I do not have the word of Jerry Pickford, I have the word of an "independent" report, which is *backed up* by an interview with a trade unionist. But keep clutching as straws - it just shows you and your kind have no appreciation of the complexity of working class politics.

I don't think we've got anything else to say to each other really. So, as always, I'll leave the last word to you, to allow you to think you've won some kind of victory - despite having your arguments demonstrated as wishful thinking and simplistic absurdities.

The Sentinel said...

Well, Phil, I really couldn't care less what you believe. I really couldn't. You are not a truthful man and such suspicions are the natural product of that trait.

I strongly suspect you are just another of those armchair socialists; a professional student type born with a privileged background and no experience of working class realities.

I have noticed over the course of time that the more insults you produce in your comments the more obvious it is that you have been burnt. I'm just surprised you haven't accused me of shoving shit through my working class neighbours letterbox yet.

To say the BNP is anti-working class is a complete stretch - even from you (and anyhow I have told you many times before, I do not represent the BNP.)

Everything at the heart of the party is working class - from its political advocation of the restoration of full citizenship rights to the majority of the working class and the economic polices designed to promote and alleviate British workers financial burdens, through to the overwhelming working class majority of its many elected councillors (how many do the SWP have?) through to its financing - free from any commercial influence.

I answered your questions but you cannot answer mine (hence the "I don't think we've got anything else to say to each other really")

1) Why is the labour (especially the leadership) riddled with former communist / Marxists / Trots (Bronstein's)?

Unable to answer you select what you think is the weakest link, Brown and his thesis and formulate ridiculous analogies. That Brown choose such a subject for his thesis is interesting. I said no more then that.

2) Again, no answer.

But you want some evidence of unions encouraging / fighting for foreign worker into the UK - well how about this:

"Trade Union and Community Conference against Immigration Controls"

Called by the RMT.

"The well-known slogan “Workers of the world unite” means what it says. It does not mean “Only workers with the correct immigration status unite”

"{...}the trade union movement has not yet seen the necessity of fighting immigration controls as a whole. But controls are deliberately calculated to weaken the labour movement itself{...}

We aim for a conference that is undogmatic and which allows for open debate. Themes identified:

* how trade unions can initiate a campaign of recruitment and organisation of migrants and refugees

* Defiance not Compliance – How can unions support and encourage their members in refusing to implement immigration controls in their services - social work, education, pilots and air cabin crew, ticket inspectors...

Current Sponsors:

Finsbury Park RMT, Ilford & Romford Amicus/UNITE, Central London GMB, Bolivian Solidarity Campaign, Equadorian Movement in the UK

So there you have just one example Phil, a conference to scrap all immigration controls and "initiate a campaign of recruitment and organisation of migrants and refugees" and its supported by the RMT and, surprise, surprise UNITE and GMB - the vanguard of the 'British Workers for British Jobs' campaign!

3) Again no answer. Did you make those quotes up? Because it is not from the article you linked to Phil.

I will post the article you linked to below this and you tell, if you can, which paragraph your quotes are in.

Your integrity is truly shocking.

"AROUND 600 workers walked out in a wildcat strike at Langage Power Station yesterday, protesting over the use of foreign labour.
Trade union officials said the workers were staging the protest in support of similar action across the UK.

The UNITE union, which said it does not condone the wildcat industrial action, told The Herald the entire workforce had walked out.

With dozens of workers failing to turn up for their shifts, virtually all work at the Plympton site ground to a halt by around 10am.

A steady stream of around 35 foreign workers, most originally from Poland, left the site just before 11am. They boarded a coach which had been laid on by their employers to take them home.

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.

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.

“This is an issue against foreign employers using foreign workers to stop British workers getting jobs.

“Once they do that they will try and undermine the terms and conditions of employment in this country.”

Unofficial copycat strikes have been staged across the country in support of workers at the Lindsey Oil Refinery in Killingholme, North Lincolnshire.

A dispute at the refinery flared last week after a contract was awarded to Italian sub-contractor IREM, which hired its own workforce from Italy and Portugal.

About 3,000 workers at 11 refineries walked out on Friday and the action has continued to spread, taking in nuclear power stations including Sellafield in Cumbria.

Along with Langage, 500 workers at a Shell refinery in Cheshire and 250 at a Hartlepool engineering company joined the national protest yesterday.

Sympathy strikes are illegal and the wave of industrial action can therefore not be supported by trade unions, although Mr Pickford said UNITE was powerless to stop its members joining in.

He said two plants run by the same company that is behind Langage, French firm Alstom, had faced similar issues to those in Lincolnshire.

Foreign subcontractors excluding British workers was already an issue at Alstom’s Nottinghamshire and Kent plants, he said.

The fear is that British workers could be left out in the cold if there is a jobs boom in the building of a new generation of nuclear power plants in the UK.

Mr Pickford said that in many of the affected areas skilled British workers capable of doing the jobs were available and out of work.

A spokesman for Alstom said it was aware of the strike at Langage, but said only 200 workers had taken part. The spokesman said: “We can confirm that unofficial strike action took place at the Langage power station construction site. We understand that this unofficial action was taken in sympathy with the recent demonstrations at the Lindsey oil refinery.

“Around 200 out of approximately 900 workers who are normally employed at the site were involved, based on our assessments of who turned up to work.”

In August last year around 200 workers went on strike at Langage after 16 employees lost their jobs, some strikers saying they were protesting about the replacement of British workers.

Yesterday, talks aimed at resolving the dispute in Lincolnshire continued, while Business Secretary Lord Mandelson urged striking workers to go back to work. He said: “We should keep our sights set firmly not on the politics of xenophobia but on the economics of this recession.”

Phil said...

Give it up, my friend. You've been found out as a political pygmy.

One thing, for someone who "couldn't care less what I [as in, me] thinks", spending so much time on my blog replying to my posts is a funny way of showing it!

The Sentinel said...

Like I said, the more you feel burned the more the insults.

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 Islam debate

What exactly is your working class background Phil? How do you have know so much about the workers plight?

You have some evidence you asked for of unions organising, not only for foreign workers, but completely uncontrolled immigration in the is country and, so, caught out yet again , just more silly little jibes. As I said Phil, do you really think the ordinary members want their due fee's spent this way?

And lastly, of course, you are unable to substantiate your quotes - because they do not exist in that article, your source.

Give it up my friend, you've ben caught out as a liar and some who doesn't have any real clue as to what they are saying, or even what the unions are doing - despite claims of expertise.