Statement issued by the Campaign Against Immigration Controls
Today, the Campaign against Immigration Controls is picketing the Unite offices in Holborn, London, to protest against nationalism in our movement and to argue for working-class internationalism, freedom of movement and equal rights and jobs – for all. The Italian workers should be welcomed here.
We want strikers to adopt a programme to fight the job losses, the union breaking and the benefit cutting – the general strategy of the bosses and New Labour during this economic recession of their making.
But we want a fight that can unite all workers and win. In Italy and France and Greece the unions have held local and general strikes against the economic crises. Look at what’s happened in Iceland. In England and Scotland, the first big display of resistance has ended up targeting foreign workers. We oppose this direction. We need a different politics and a united class struggle.
Strikers have our full support and solidarity for a struggle along the lines of the workers and students in Italy who have organized national general strikes promising
We will not pay for their crisis. At the same time, the Italian working-class needs to combat anti-migrant and anti-minority bigotry in its ranks. Ironically, news of the UK strikes have caused pause for thought for many Italian workers who had taken racist and xenophobic positions.
We support the strikers’ resolve to self-organise and fight unemployment militantly, with or without the trade union leaders who should have begun a proper fight, years back – who in other places are putting down workers’ action.
But we believe the slogans of the strikers as they stand are an offense to migrants, to all those who welcome and solidarise with migrant workers around the world (including British migrants), and to fellow trade unionists and activists who stand against bigotry and borders in our movement. The current slogans are divisive and feed the poisonous nationalism that Gordon Brown’s budget speech gave legitimacy to and fostered. It is no surprise that the BNP see this dispute as a rallying point. But neither is it a surprise to see Gordon Brown squirming.
Workers are referring to the solutions he offered. His solutions were wrong; we opposed his rhetoric then, as we oppose it being adopted by workers now.
We see the problems with tendering, self-employment, agency work, the eroding of individual and collective rights, union breaking, under-cutting of wages; these are general attacks, facing most workers in the world today, but get associated and blamed on migration. Migrant workers are often the most precarious and exploited. We need solidarity.
Bosses exploit divisions. Why are the right-wing media so behind these strikes? Why, in contrast, did they denounce the postal-workers’ wild cat action? It is the same media that has been whipping up support for workplace immigration checks and raids, forced deportations and detentions, and a general climate in which the BNP have grown significantly.
We do not put it past corporations to deploy even whole battalions of foreign labour to break up union strength in a locality. Or even to whip up race riots and anti-migrant actions which happens frequently in Italy.
There is also a parallel in what the strikers say is happening now, in off-shoring. It simultaneously undermines organized work-places and sometimes the workforce of whole countries, exploits generally cheaper and less organized labour, and creates a sense of resentment in the way it is done.
Workers in the UK are paying again for the breaking up of the manufacturing unions and industries – and the reshaping of the UK economy around the rule of the banks and the arms, security and energy multi-nationals.
Is it new for the bosses and governments to divide and rule? What is the real strategy to fight this?
We campaign for working-class unity across borders, and against immigration controls and nationalism, because we believe that we need a united struggle across the world against a capitalist system that is global in its reach. We have no desire to turn the clock back, and retreat to imagined nations and races. Or even to press pause. Neither is wanted or possible.
We support both the right to work locally and the right to migrate within existing national boundaries and across them.
Bosses want non-unionised, dispensable workers. New Labour wants this too. Bosses want profits and New Labour makes sure they get it.
People are fearful and anxious of what is to come. The idea of further job losses, which in this case the workers are arguing are a calculated attack on the British workforce and unions, demands a response and a solution. The Viking and Laval test cases which ruled against the unions need to be fought. It is the kind of action that is being taken now that can secure workers’ demands, but for now the demands are at best unclear, and seem to suggest that British workers must first in the queue. This may seem reasonable to some in this warped world of ours, but it a logic that leads to division and defeat.
The tactics for fighting will be decided by the workers themselves. There are significant voices within the union who are rejecting the nationalism and trying to put this dispute on better footing.
There are positive alternative demands that can be made. Many of the activists and organizations that have participated in the activity of the Campaign against Immigration Controls have put forward broad alternative programmes and slogans, many of which seem viable and necessary. It should also be said that there have been long discussions and arguments among trade unionists and activists across the country about this strike wave.
There is widespread dissatisfaction with the slogans. There is total support for militant action to fight for jobs. There is starkly differing reading about what this strike represents. We say it hangs in the balance. Everyone would surely agree that the fight for our times is, and must be, the fight for jobs for all.
The year began with the flaring up of historic struggles where working-classes and born again nations have been turned against each other. In Palestine, Sri Lanka, the Congo, Kashmir. These struggles need to transform in to reconciliation among workers, on the basis of mutual respect and equal rights for all – and united class war against the people who profit from human misery.
This dispute, coming in the wake of these existing tragedies, is another (for now smaller) blow to class unity.
With all these situations reality can change, and change they must urgently. Peace is needed across the world between workers. Struggle is needed against this system of global exploitation, of plunder and war, of displacement, forced migration, unemployment, poverty, ecological crisis, starvation: the whole catalogue of the crimes of capitalism.
We want to be supporting, taking parting in, spreading strike action and protests that secure jobs for all, not fearing the nationalist, racist and fascist turn that is evident throughout Europe. The bosses’ European Union – of coordinated attack upon attack against workers – is coming apart at the seams, and so it must. A workers’ Europe, based on coordinated and unified grass-roots struggle is the only way to fight this recession. Workers’ of the world unite.