Buchanan on Trump


While my politics are a million miles from Pat Buchanan on most issues, this extract from an article in American Conservative written before the election result, is a perceptive evaluation of Trumpism, and the appeal of Trump to the working class. It is the revolt against the establishment, but also against the liberalism which the centre wraps itself in.

Trump has made history and has forever changed American politics.

Though a novice in politics, he captured the Party of Lincoln with the largest turnout of primary voters ever, and he has inflicted wounds on the nation’s ruling class from which it may not soon recover.

Bush I and II, Mitt Romney, the neocons, and the GOP commentariat all denounced Trump as morally and temperamentally unfit. Yet, seven of eight Republicans are voting for Trump, and he drew the largest and most enthusiastic crowds of any GOP nominee.

Not only did he rout the Republican elites, he ash-canned their agenda and repudiated the wars into which they plunged the country.

Trump did not create the forces that propelled his candidacy. But he recognized them, tapped into them, and unleashed a gusher of nationalism and populism that will not soon dissipate.

[… ]How could the Republican establishment advance anew the trade and immigration policies that their base has so thunderously rejected?

How can the GOP establishment credibly claim to speak for a party that spent the last year cheering a candidate who repudiated the last two Republican presidents and the last two Republican nominees?

Do mainstream Republicans think that should Trump lose a Bush Restoration lies ahead? The dynasty is as dead as the Romanovs.

The media, whose reputation has sunk to Congressional depths, has also suffered a blow to its credibility.

Its hatred of Trump has been almost manic, and WikiLeaks revelations of the collusion between major media and Clintonites have convinced skeptics that the system is rigged and the referees of democracy are in the tank.

But it is the national establishment that has suffered most.

The Trump candidacy exposed what seems an unbridgeable gulf between this political class and the nation in whose name it purports to speak.

Consider the litany of horrors it has charged Trump with.

He said John McCain was no hero, that some Mexican illegals are “rapists.” He mocked a handicapped reporter. He called some women “pigs.” He wants a temporary ban to Muslim immigration. He fought with a Gold Star mother and father. He once engaged in “fat-shaming” a Miss Universe, calling her “Miss Piggy,” and telling her to stay out of Burger King. He allegedly made crude advances on a dozen women and starred in the “Access Hollywood” tape with Billy Bush.

While such “gaffes” are normally fatal for candidates, Trump’s followers stood by him through them all.

Why? asks an alarmed establishment. Why, in spite of all this, did Trump’s support endure? Why did the American people not react as they once would have? Why do these accusations not have the bite they once did?

Answer. We are another country now, an us-or-them country.

Middle America believes the establishment is not looking out for the nation but for retention of its power. And in attacking Trump it is not upholding some objective moral standard but seeking to destroy a leader who represents a grave threat to that power.

Trump’s followers see an American Spring as crucial, and they are not going to let past boorish behavior cause them to abandon the last best chance to preserve the country they grew up in.

These are the Middle American Radicals, the MARs of whom my late friend Sam Francis wrote.

They recoil from the future the elites have mapped out for them and, realizing the stakes, will overlook the faults and failings of a candidate who holds out the real promise of avoiding that future.

They believe Trump alone will secure the borders and rid us of a trade regime that has led to the loss of 70,000 factories and 5 million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA. They believe Trump is the best hope for keeping us out of the wars the Beltway think tanks are already planning for the sons of the “deplorables” to fight.

The unions and migration

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey’s speech at the CLASS conference in London, on November 5.

Unite is proud of the part it played in establishing the movement’s very own think-tank [CLASS], and it is wonderful to see it now advancing its work by leaps and bounds.

Of course, it is hard when you are as adrift in the opinion polls as Labour is today. Most of what CLASS is advocating – the policies it is developing across a range of issues – will require a Labour government to put them into practice.

There are many reasons for this present poll deficit, one of them of course the summer wasted on an unnecessary bout of internal warfare triggered by some in the PLP.

But another is the subject I want to say a few words about today – immigration, the free movement of labour or however you want to describe it. What I would like to do is open up a debate on how our movement should respond, rather than pretend to say the last word on it.

There is no doubt that concerns about the impact of the free movement of Labour in Europe played a large part in the referendum result, particularly in working-class communities.

It is those same communities – traditionally Labour-supporting – where our Party is now struggling.

It would be easy to simply say – let’s pull up the drawbridge. However, that would be entirely impractical in today’s world and it would also alienate many of those whose support the Labour Party needs to retain as part of its 2020 electoral coalition.

But we are well past the point where the issue can be ignored. Indeed, I can reveal that as long ago as 2009 Unite private surveys of membership opinion were showing that even then our members were more concerned about immigration than any other political issue.

And we are also, I would argue, past the point where working people can be convinced that the free movement of labour has worked for them, their families, their industries and their communities.

It is fine to argue values and perspectives for the middle distance, but if it comes up against the reality of people’s daily experience, these arguments will fail.

Let’s have no doubt – the free movement of labour is a class question. Karl Marx identified that fact a long time ago. “A study of the struggle waged by the British working class,” he wrote in 1867, “reveals that in order to oppose their workers, the employers either bring in workers from abroad or else transfer manufacture to countries where there is a cheap labour force.”

So it is today. Anyone who has had to negotiate for workers, in manufacturing in particular, knows the huge difficulties that have been caused by the ability of capital to move production around the world – often to China and the Far East or Eastern Europe – in search of far lower labour costs and higher profits.

Likewise, the elite’s use of immigration to this country is not motivated by a love of diversity or a devotion to multi-culturalism. It is instead all part of the flexible labour market model, ensuring a plentiful supply of cheap labour here for those jobs that can’t be exported elsewhere.

The benefits of this are for sure easier to see in Muswell Hill than they are in Middlesbrough. Of course, all socialists must ultimately look forward to a day when people can move freely across the world and live or work where they will.

But that is a utopia removed from the world of today, and would require international economic planning and public ownership to make a reality.

Argument that wage rates are not affected does not stand up to scrutiny either. Put simply, if all you have to sell is your capacity to work, then its value is going to be affected by an influx of people willing to work for less money and put up with a lower standard of living because it nevertheless improves their own lives. Supply and demand affects the sale of labour too, pitting worker against worker.

Of course, there is a straightforward trade union response – we need to do everything necessary to organise all workers here into trade unions, wherever they may have been born and whatever their history, and fight for decent pay, proper working conditions and full rights at work.

And we should join Labour in demanding that this country – the sixth richest in the world – provides every worker, wherever they are from, with a decent job and every family with a decent home.

And unions here need to unite with trade unions in other countries to end to the playing off of workers in one part of the world against each other, to oppose the power of global capital with the power of a renewed international labour movement.

The problem is not cheap labour in Britain – it’s cheap labour anywhere. And let’s not pretend that free movement is a straightforward benefit to the countries workers are leaving behind, being denuded of young people and skilled labour. We need to work with Socialists across Europe and indeed the world to create a system that works for everyone, wherever they are born.

There is another more immediate argument for free movement of Labour – it is the price for keeping access to the single market, which is essential for so many British jobs. That problem needs to be frankly acknowledged – fixed barriers to free movement will hardly be acceptable to the European Union if access to the single market is to be retained.

So we need a new approach. I believe it is time to change the language around this issue and move away from talk of “freedom of movement” on the one hand and “controls” on the other and instead to speak of safeguards. Safeguards for communities, safeguards for workers, and safeguards for industries needing labour. At the core of this must be the reassertion of collective bargaining and trade union strength.

My proposal is that any employer wishing to recruit labour abroad can only do so if they are either covered by a proper trade union agreement, or by sectoral collective bargaining.

Put together with trade unions own organising efforts this would change the race-to-the-bottom culture into a rate- for-the- job society. It would end the fatal attraction of ever cheaper workers for employers, and slash demand for immigrant labour, without the requirement for formal quotas or restrictions.

Add to this proposal Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to fair rules and reasonable management of migration, as well as Labour’s pledge to restore the Migrant Impact Fund for communities suddenly affected by large—scale migration, and there is the basis for giving real reassurance to working people in towns and cities abandoned by globalisation.

And let’s not forget what unites all of us: anger at the government’s disgraceful treatment of refugees, who deserve safety and protection; shame at the Tory attempts to use EU citizens already living and working here as a sort of negotiating card – they must have the right to remain; and a determination to resist the rise in racist attacks and invective which has blighted our society past-referendum.

But we can no longer sit like the three wise monkeys, seeing no problem, hearing no problem and speaking of no problem. We must listen and respond to working people’s concerns – because that is the only way to earn their support. That way we can consign today’s opinion polls to the dustbin and convince working people that the labour movement is their best protection in an uncertain present and their best hope for a prosperous future.

This article first appeared in LabourList (November 6)

Todd Snider – Conservative Christian

On Facebook recently, there was a discussion about how the entertainment industry in the US has almost become a one party state for the Democrats, with the sole exception of the Country Music scene, where although there are some Democrats like Emmylou Harris, these tend to be artists outside the mainstream, and the prominent voices of Music Row Democrats tend to be record label executives not performers. This reveals a huge racial, social and class divide in US popular culture.

Paradoxically, among Nashville A-listers the only high profile Democrat is the flag waving Toby Keith. (worth watching Toby Keith’s “courtesy of the Red White and Blue“, to understand the mindset, if you are unfamiliar with it).

But from the fringes of East Nashville, enjoy Todd Snider

BA’s abuse of the visa system to push down wages

The recent protest by British Airways IT workers sought to draw attention to the abuse of Tier 2 visas. GMB is currently in dispute with British Airways about plans to outsource 800 UK IT jobs to the Indian firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). A number of British Airways IT functions are already run by TCS and GMB has previously called on the Home Affairs Select Committee to investigate TCS’s use of the UK visa system to replace UK workers.

There are around 800 skilled IT jobs at issue, with BA colleagues based at various locations in the UK, at BA Headquarters at Waterside in Harmondsworth, West London, BA’s call centre in Newcastle, and at other locations in Manchester, Cardiff and Scotland.

The IT support jobs are well paid and highly skilled, and the ploy by BA is to outsource to India, where people will do the same job for a fraction of the money. Offshoring of skilled jobs is of course a habitual problem across a number of employers and sectors, however, what is distinctive about this case is that the IT support work requires the physical presence of the support workers at the customer premises in the UK.

What is happening therefore, is that the Indian staff are being brought to the UK on Tier 2 visas to do the jobs of the workers who they have displaced.

Because India is not part of the European Economic Area (EEA) it is covered by a complex range of tiered visa arrangements. Tier 2 applies to migrants who have been offered a skilled job in the UK with a prospective employer prepared to sponsor them, and it includes a Resident Labour Market Test, which is a process that an employer must follow before employing a person who is not a resident of the UK to show that no resident worker could be found to do the job.

Following the advent of the Coalition government in 2010, the conditions for Tier 2 were ostensibly tightened, however, the nature of those affected by Tier 2 visas means that generally they are used by companies experiencing what economists would describe as “demand shock”, where key skills are unavailable. It is clearly both economically and socially advisable that key skill shortages can be filled. This means that even with tightened Tier 2 rules, the number of skilled workers coming to the UK has increased since 2010, and this should be generally welcomed as this involves filling roles that are necessary and for which no one local could be found, and it typically does not lead to any wage reductions.

The difference in this case is that there are UK workers who not only are available to do the work, they have already been doing it! The Resident Labour Market Test is specifically designed to prevent this situation, and it raises the question of whether TCS are breaking the law, and whether the Home Office are turning a blind eye. Where migrant workers substitute for native workers with the same skills but for lower wages, then this is clearly more profitable for the companies involved, but it is deskilling the UK economy, and means that the opportunities for well paid, skilled jobs are not available for people already resident in the UK in the future.

This is obviously a bit of a minefield for unions and the left, with the danger of being perceived as anti-immigrant. However, the issue here is of a company abusing the law to disadvantage working people in the pursuit of greater profits, and they should be stopped.

The left must work with trade unions not against them


There is an unfortunate tendency for articles nowadays to have sensationalist “click-bait” headlines, but by any standards the aggressive spin put on Michael Chessum’s latest piece in the New Statesman is highly unfortunate.

The headline screams “It’s time for Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters to take on the trade union leadership”. Nothing could be more counterproductive than seeking to mobilize supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party to intervene in internal union politics.

Trade unions are organizations that have their own rule books, decision making structures and autonomous interests. The lay activists who participate in the decision making processes, and who are elected and delegated to conferences and to sit on committees, are the same lay activists who represent their work colleagues in disciplinary and grievance hearings, who negotiate with management, who recruit to the union on a daily basis, who hold the participatory branch, sectional and regional structures together, and campaign on industrial and political issues.

Many thousands of these lay member activist in trade unions also support Jeremy Corbyn, and it is highly mischievous and irresponsible for Michael to misrepresent such activists as potential agents of disruption within their own unions.

From my experience the deliberations on policy issues within trade unions are serious and well informed, based upon the expert opinions of those with experience in the industries or sectors whose interests are at stake, and informed by other expert opinion commissioned by or researched by the unions themselves.

Michael Cheesum seems to be suggesting that pressure should be applied to unions from outside to subvert the outcomes of such democratic decision making. This is a fundamental breach of the well established protocols whereby the political and industrial wings of the party operate in a spirit of mutual restraint. As Lewis Minkin describes in his magnum opus “The Contentious Alliance – Trade Unions and the Labour Party” the development of unwritten “rules” governing the relationship between the unions and the party have arisen over many years, and effectively derived “from fundamental values of trade unionism”

Trade unionism is inherently based upon collectivism, and preserving the autonomy of collective organisation from constraint. It is collective organisation which counterbalances the disparity of wealth and power between employers and individual workers. As Minkin describes

“Through their collective capacity, the liberty of the individual worker was enhanced via-a-vis the employer. Through the collective, workers increased their control over the work environment. Through the collective, workers advanced living standards without which a simple “absence of restraint” was often the freedom to go without, to grow sick or starve. This view of collective capacity involved minimizing impediments to the operation of the industrial collective, whether they were external or internal to the organisation. By its nature, this involved restricting individual rights in relation to the collective (albeit a democratic collective). Whatever libertarian views trade unionists might hold about individual rights in a wide social and political sphere, they recognized the necessity in industrial life to accept some diminution of choice in one relationship in order to enhance it in another”

This concept of liberty as being a mediated one through respect for the collective is one that dovetails with the moral underpinnings of labourism as associated with thinkers as diverse as R H Tawney and Tony Benn. For example, the astute observation of RH Tawney is that liberty is related to equality. If freedom is defined as absence of restraint, then liberty promotes inequality, because the more powerful in our society have less constraints upon them, and the majority of the population will always be unfree.

For Tawney, true liberty is the freedom to act positively for the benefit of the community, and being empowered to resist the tyrannical demands of the rich and powerful. Trade unionism is therefore inherently virtuous through being founded upon collectivity and mutual support, rather than individualism and personal acquisitiveness.

It is worth looking at Michael’s views in more detail. He writes

The logic that drives unions to support projects like Heathrow expansion – and which drives the GMB union to support fracking and Trident renewal – is grounded in a model of trade unionism which focuses not on transforming the workplace, but on the narrowly-defined interests of workers – job creation, economic growth and a larger share of the pie. It views the trade union movement not as merely antagonistic to employers, but as a responsible lobbying partner for business and industry, and as a means of mediating workers’ demands in a way that is steady and acceptable to the state and the economic system. This model, and the politics that accompanied it, is why, historically, trade unions were a conservative influence on Labour’s internal politics.

The description of the unions as a “conservative influence” is spookily close to that of Tony Blair, who used to rail against unions as the forces of conservatism because unions resolutely advocated economic growth and good, well paid, high skilled jobs, and resisted his deregulation and privatization. Of course Michael Chessum has different objectives to Blair, but in his case he considers unions to be conservative because they advocate economic growth and good, well paid, high skilled jobs in the face of sometimes ill-considered and knee-jerk policies from parts of the fashionable left.

It is hard to know what Michael means by “transforming the workplace”, which he thinks trade unions don’t currently do. Let us look at the premium that workers in organized workplaces enjoy. According to a 2014 booklet by the TUC.

In the public sector, for every £10,000 that a non-member earns, a union member on average earns around £1,690 more; in the private sector it’s around £580 more.
Over the period 2001–2013 union members were on average a third more likely to have received training than nonunionised employees.
Union membership brings the greatest financial benefits for young workers: 16- to 24-year-old union members earn 38 per cent more than their non-union counterparts.
Union members also have more paid holidays, with 3.8 days more paid holiday than non-members (25.5 days compared with 21.7 days).
Workplaces with unions have far fewer accidents, according to a 2007 study.

To take two examples over the last couple of weeks, the solicitors Leigh Day won the first stage of a legal campaign to force ASDA to give equal pay to the mainly female retail workforce compared to mainly male workers doing similar work in distribution.

With the same employer, GMB national negotiators recently gained agreement from ASDA that they would cease the individual monitoring of scanning rates in stores, which colleagues were finding oppressive and demeaning.

These are both examples of trade union organization making a real difference. The workplace is transformed when workers have a strong independent organization which allows employees to redress injustice, and gain greater respect.

Michael seems to believe that unions are failing their members if we are not involved in ceaseless class warfare. However, while recognizing that in the final analysis employers may have potentially antagonistic interests to their workforce, it is also true that employees do have a material interest in their employer’s business prospering: there is no point is advocating higher wages if employers don’t have the means to pay them. Where an employer treats their workforce with respect and dignity, then trade unions do have a legitimate interest in advancing the business prospects of such good employers, thus benefiting their members.

Currently, with perhaps the exceptions of Community and USDAW, every British trade union has a leadership that historically could be regarded on the centre left; and the claim by Michael that trade unions mediate “workers’ demands in a way that is steady and acceptable to the state and the economic system” is nonsense. The constraint on militant industrial trade unionism in the modern world is due not to timid nor bureaucratic leadership, but deep seated difficulties of organizing workers in workplaces blighted by casualization, bogus self employment, low union densities and not enough experienced lay activists.

Indeed it is worth reflecting, as Gregor Gall did in his recent Huffington Post article, that far from being unimaginative, unions – especially Unite and GMB – have been very innovative in combining political, legal and media pressure on employers, such as Uber, Asos and Sports Direct.

The challenge for such campaigning tactics is ensuring that they are financially sustainable for the unions in the longer terms by both recruiting and maintaining paid membership. Ultimately, however innovative trade unions may be at using our political and campaigning leverage, the foundation of union power is industrial strength.

This is why Michael Chessum’s article is so disappointing. Whereas the locus of purely political campaigning is constantly pulled towards Westminster, and a schedule of elections that is dis-empowering for activists, trade unionism is geographically dispersed and workplace injustice happens every day, giving activists an opportunity to make real change for the better. The biggest opportunity for building a powerful campaigning left is not to encourage Corbyn’s supporters to challenge the leadership of the unions, as Michael rather foolishly does, it is to encourage activists to join and recruit to the unions where they live and work, and to help us all together to build the strong industrial organization that can empower working people to improve their own lives.


Meet the new boss, same as the old boss


For those of you who haven’t followed developments in the comments, there is a significant change here at SU. John Wight will be publishing his writings elsewhere, and we wish him luck, and every success for the future.

John has relinquished his editing and admin rights at SU, and if you were banned by John, then welcome back. I have asked Tony, who brilliantly assists with technical support behind the scenes, to “unban” people (it is quite beyond me). This may take a while to percolate through, so please be patient.

Trade Unions and the fight for civil liberties


Last Saturday, the White Horse TUC hosted a fantastic day of talks around the broad topic of civil liberties. Around 30 people came to the event in Chippenham, most of them staying all day, and several participating in the discussion.

I think that it is no disrespect to the other speakers to acknowledge that the stand out highlight was the session addressed by Phil Chamberlain about the scandal of blacklisting. Phil lives locally in Colerne, and has stood as the Green Party candidate for the last two general elections, but he is better known for being the co-author, alongside Dave Smith, of the book about blacklisting, published by New Internationalist: Blacklisted : The Secret War between Big Business and Union Activists

I first came across Dave Smith when involved in the industrial action at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital in 2012, of cleaners who worked for Carillion. In February of that year, there was a meeting between the union and, amongst others, Carillion’s HR director, Liz Keates, which failed to resolve the issues and suggested that Carillion were adopting a hard nosed approach. It transpired that Liz Keates was the main contact for Carillion with the Consulting Association, the shadowy but rather ramshackle organisation which operated a blacklist on behalf of major construction companies. Keates had been involved in the blacklisting of Dave Smith, for no more than carrying out normal trade union activities, thus denying him the opportunity to earn a living for several years, despite him being a skilled engineer.

Phil’s involvement with blacklisting was through a different route, having been commissioned by the Guardian back in 2008 to research and write an article about it. Although I have had some peripheral involvement myself with the campaign, I found learned a great deal from Phil’s talk, which was completely fascinating. He showed slides of the shoddy green door that led to the Consulting Association’s office in a small town high street; and of the file cards, and manila folders full of tittle tattle, which were used as the basis for blighting the lives of thousands of blameless victims.

As Phil talked through the content of the index cards, it became obvious that the “tradecraft” of the Consulting Association was modeled on Special Branch and security services protocols, partly due to the cross over between their work, but also because the rather sad individuals involved in this shabby snooping had sought to invest themselves with a crusading purpose, the vigilance against what they saw as communist subversion, but which was in truth nothing more remarkable than day to day exercise of trade unionism and diversity of opinion in a liberal democracy. Far from a Moscow led plot, all the Consulting Association documented was the everyday struggle of working people to ensure a safe workplace, and to be treated with decency and respect.

The extraordinary lengths that these powerful companies, household names like MacAlpines, Kier and Skanska, were prepared to go to to protect and preserve their wealth and privilege was echoed by another speaker, Paul Dobson, who originally comes from Trowbridge, but currently resides in Caracas, where he works as a journalist. We were lucky to catch Paul on a visit to the UK. He described the process of destabilization and misinformation by which the rich in Venezuela seek to undermine the current socialist government. The opposition manage to dominate the foreign perceptions of Venezuela as they not only control most newspapers and TV channels, but are more likely to speak English, and more likely to be socially amenable to the expectations of commentators from Europe and North America. Among the poor and disadvantaged the government remains popular, but few foreign journalists listen to their voices.

Ray Packham gave a very informative talk about his experience living in Hebron, in the West Bank. Ray explained very well the culture shock for anyone who has visits Palestine, where whatever you have read, the oppression is worse than you were expecting, and the resilience and social solidarity of the Palestinians more inspiring.

Steve Gilbert, the author of the excellent book about Jeremy Corbyn – Accidental Hero, described the events of the last few months, where a sustained and malicious campaign of intimidation, misrepresentation and bureaucratic obstruction has been unleashed to seek to thwart the democratic expression of radical opinion through the Labour Party, which has included absurdly concocted allegations of violence at meetings, vandalism, and anti-Semitism.

The thread running through all these sessions was that the rich and powerful will stop at almost nothing to defend their position. Indeed, the day of talks was organized to commemorate the memory of Thomas Helliker, the Trowbridge Martyr, who was framed for a crime he did not commit, and executed in 1803 on his 19th birthday. His execution was aimed at thwarting the fight by shearmen to prevent the introduction of machinery. Helliker refused to save his own life by incriminating the real arsonist, believed to be his older brother.

However powerful and ruthless our enemies may be, the talks gave examples of how ordinary working people have proven that we have the power to overcome.

Finally, there was good interest and sales of both Phil Chamberlain’s book on Blacklisting, Steve Gilbert’s book on Corbyn, and the book by the White Horse TUC’s chair, Rosie MacGregor about Angela Gradwell Tuckett, Remembering Angela. There were also good sales of cards and candles from Scarlet Banner

Who holds companies to account for false claims about corporate ethics?

GMB at M&S 2

The report from BBC’s Panorama about the use of Syrian child refugees to manufacture garments for the UK retail industry is shocking.

The youngest worker was 15 years old and he was working more than 12 hours a day ironing clothes before they were shipped to the UK.
A spokesperson for Marks and Spencer said … “Ethical trading is fundamental to M&S. All of our suppliers are contractually required to comply with our Global Sourcing Principles, which cover what we expect and require of them and their treatment of workers.

GMB has previously exposed how Marks and Spencer’s Global Sourcing Guidelines are not worth the paper they are written on. At their distribution centre in Swindon, M&S have hidden behind a convoluted supply chain and staff costs have been reduced by use of so-called “Swedish Derogation” contracts which had unethically evaded the equal pay provisions of the Agency Workers Directive. The GMB union has been campaigning on this issue for over two years now, and as a consequence of that campaign the agency who directly employs hundreds of staff working at the Distribution Centre recently replaced the Swedish Derogation (also known as Regulation 10) contracts. The result has been pay rises of between 11% and 44% for GMB members, depending upon shift payments and numbers of hours worked.

However, it is worth noting that M&S took no responsibility for conditions in its own Distribution Centre in Swindon, and did not consider the abuse and exploitation of the agency workers thereto be a breach of their Global Sourcing Guidelines.

This is why we are justified in being sceptical over M&S’s claim, quoted by BBC that:

Marks and Spencer says its inspections have not found a single Syrian refugee working in its supply chain in Turkey.

Indeed the BBC says:

But Panorama found seven Syrians working in one of the British retailer’s main factories. The refugees often earned little more than a pound an hour – well below the Turkish minimum wage. They were employed through a middleman who paid them in cash on the street.

Companies like Marks and Spencer invest in their brand image, and it is highly unfortunate that the corporate spin is effectively rubber stamped by the Ethical Trading Initiative, which includes trade union endorsement.

M&S are not the only company to boast of their ethical credentials, which actually behaving like exploitative sharks. In February the GMB called for Fyfes to be expelled from ETI

14 women workers in Honduras were hospitalised in December after being poisoned by the noxious chemicals they were forced to handle without any personal protective equipment says GMB.

GMB is calling for Fyffes, the Irish multinational fruit company, to be expelled from the Ethical Trade Initiative because of sustained and repeated violations of human rights on its plantations in the Central American republics of Honduras and Costa Rica.

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer, said “If the Ethical Trading Initiative fails to take action against Fyffes given this appalling record, it will confirm suspicions that it is little more than a talking shop which does not merit UK taxpayers’ support. Fyffes should immediately be expelled.”

It is excellent work from BBC in exposing the exploitation of child labour in the M&S supply chain. The company can claim they did not know, but they ought to have known, and the clues would be in the prices submitted to them by their suppliers, and the clearly visible conditions that the workers were enduring, that would surely have been apparent to any genuinely rigorous audit programme.

But the TUC, and trade unions, need to look hard at how they effectively allow rogue companies to parade an endorsement from the Ethical trading Initiative without sanction when they are actually behaving unethically.

Scottish independence is now a necessary antidote to the reactionary beast of Brexit

by John Wight

scottish-independenceIt was already the case that the Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon was the only political leader to emerge from the Brexit debacle with any credibility. During her initial public statement after the result of the EU referendum was confirmed on June 24, she extended the hand of friendship to EU migrants and other immigrants living and working in Scotland, assuring them they were welcome and would remain so. It was a powerful statement of solidarity with people who’d found themselves reduced to the status of ‘the other’ during the course of a political campaign over Britain’s membership of the EU that plumbed new depths of indecency and mendacity. Strip away the embroidery and Brexit was driven by a tidal wave of xenophobic and British/English nativist hysteria, whipped by the the right wing of the Tory Party and UKIP.

Now, four months on, Sturgeon has placed the prospect of a second referendum on Scottish independence back on the table, at the very point at which Brexit starts to make its presence felt economically and politically. In this the SNP leader’s hand has been forced by a Prime Minister, Theresa May, who is no mood to compromise when it comes to wrenching Scotland out of the single market, regardless of the fact she has no mandate to do so.

As someone who opposed Scottish independence in 2014, writing numerous articles and appearing in public debates to put the case for unity across the UK on the basis of class, rather than division on the basis of nationality, I now believe that independence for Scotland is not only desirable but necessary. Not only is it necessary in the interests of people in Scotland, but even more significantly it is necessary in order to lift the banner of progressive politics out of the mud, where it currently lies, and raise it as a beacon of hope across a European continent engulfed by the ugly politics of racial and national exceptionalism to an extent not seen since the 1930s.

It is now inarguable that the dominant political culture in Scotland is at odds with its counterpart in England. Even while opposing independence in 2014, I did so while acknowledging the progressive character of a Yes campaign that was a tribute to political engagement, progessive ideas, and discourse. It was inclusive, idealistic, and driven by hope and the expectation of something better, more humane and just than the Westminster status quo. Compare this with the ugliness of Brexit and how it unleashed a poisonous anti-immigrant and triumphalist white British nationalism, legitimising xenophobia as a political current.

If anybody had allowed themselves to believe that this explosion of right wing reaction was merely an aberration, the Tory Party conference in Birmingham confirmed it is the new normal. With their verbal broadside against immigration, Theresa May and the Tories have aligned themselves with the working class rump that constitutes the British jobs for British workers crew — a demographic won to the fallacious argument that dwindling public services and the assault on jobs, wages, and conditions of the past six years is due to immigration and free movement rather than Tory austerity. The Tory Party conference confirmed that Brexit Britain has set sail for the 19th century, back to a time when Britain ruled the waves and Johnny Foreigner knew his rightful place as a lesser breed of a lesser culture.

Whether we care to admit it or not, the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence raised and awoke a national consciousness that is not going back to sleep anytime soon. It dictates that politics in Scotland is now viewed through this national prism, with Brexit likewise raising its British and English counterpart. The result is that politics across Scotland and the UK has been distilled into a choice between two competing nationalisms.

Who in their right mind, either north or south of the border, could possibly argue which of the two is the more progressive? When the late Jimmy Reid said, “Nationalism is like electricity; it can kill a man in the electric chair or keep a baby alive in an incubator,” he could have been describing the fundamental difference between the nationalist current that has taken root north of the border and its counterpart south of the border.

As for Jeremy Corbyn, his attempt to return the Labour Party to something approximating to its founding values has only served to confirm that it is a party doomed to disunity and internecine war for years to come.

But even if that were not the case, it is too late for Corbyn to have any serious impact on politics in Scotland. The test of political leadership is one he failed during the EU referendum, fighting a dispassionate and lacklustre campaign of a type consistent with allegations that he wilfully sought to sabotage Remain and in truth supported Brexit. And even if he did not sabotage Labour’s campaign to remain, he inarguably failed to understand the true character of this Brexit beast, which is unforgiveable for someone widely considered the most progressive leader Labour has ever had.

The question now, then, is not if there will be another referendum on Scottish independence, but when. The case made in the 2014 White Paper was nowhere near strong enough and will have to be reconfigured in light of the proven volatility of oil prices and the need to rethink the issue of a national currency. Overall, the vision needs to be more radical and bold, signifying a clear break with the status quo politically, economically, constitutionally, and, not to be underestimated, also morally and ethically. Key, too,will be the role of the EU in supporting the prospect of an independent Scotland as a member of an EU that is long overdue for reform. If the Scottish government receives a pre-guarantee in this regard it will be game on.

Scottish independence is now the last redoubt behind which everyone across the UK who believes in human solidarity, internationalism, and a multicultural society must gather to stem the rising tide of Brexit poison that threatens to drown us all.

This article originally appeared at the Huffington Post