41 comments on “The ugly face of Brexit

  1. John on said:

    Let us be clear. The free movement of people/labour is a symptom of the free movement of capital, which benefits advanced countries and economies at the expense of their weaker counterparts.

    The focus of the left should be on capital controls, on ending the free migration of capital. Until the free movement of capital is ended, or controlled and regulated, workers have the natural and human right to move from poorer to richer countries in order to secure better wages and prospects.

    Anyone on the left who opposes them doing so is a scab.

  2. jock mctrousers on said:

    John: Until the free movement of capital is ended, or controlled and regulated, workers have the natural and human right to move from poorer to richer countries in order to secure better wages and prospects.

    Anyone on the left who opposes them doing so is a scab.

    Where to start with this? Capital controls fine – how do we get them? What is the source of ‘our’ (we the average joes. aka ‘the people’) POWER? ORGANISED LABOUR! What is the effect of a massive increase in ‘the reserve army of labour’ on our labour power? It diminishes it – I needn’t spell out how. SO: MASS IMMIGRATION REDUCES LABOUR POWER POSTPONES EFFECTIVE REMEDIES LIKE CAPITAL CONTROLS GENERATES EVEN MORE IMMIGRATION, DIMINISHES LABOUR POWER EVEN MORE….

    This is an Orwellian inversion of everything ‘the left’ has ever stood for before; from the centre left to Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, no-one considered mass immigration anything but a tool of the bosses. But lo! Now to oppose scab labour is to be a scab? Why not go the whole hog and call organised labour and trade unionism racist? I mean they discriminate against scabs, right?

    Go on – tell me ” we must demand… [whatever]”! It’s what we can do after the masters have rejected our demands that counts.

  3. Andy Newman on said:

    John: Anyone on the left who opposes them doing so is a scab.

    Well it is a little more complicated than that, because of the phenomenon known by the unlovely term as “social dumping”

    Free movement of labour needs to be constrained by a requirement to ensure that it does not entail a race to the bottom of pay terms and conditions as cheaper, less organised labour is used to depress wages.

    I can assure you that, for example, in manufacturing firms in Wiltshire, migrant labour is used by bosses to depress the costs of employment, and many factories, particularly in food processing have workforces that are almost entirely migrants.

    there is a class aspect to this, as many of those who dispute the fact of wage suppression by migrants are themselves skilled, salaried workers who are not in wage competition.

    Now wearing my trade union hat, I have had some success in organising migrant workers, and trade union pressure is the way for migrant workers to push up their own wages and to prevent themselves being exploited. However, let us not fool ourselves that the different migrant communities are all equally open to the idea of trade union membership.

    While I am usually reluctant to quote old greybeards, Frederick Engels was refreshingly honest about the use that employers made of Irish immigrants to divide and rule the working class in Manchester, and use migrants to disrupt organised labour, and push down wages.

  4. Andy Newman on said:

    John: The focus of the left should be on capital controls, on ending the free migration of capital.

    Actually, there are specific demands that the left shoudl make that allow the free movement of labour, but eliminates the worst aspects of social dumping, which would be the repeal of the Viking and Laval judgements, and change of the implementation of the Posted Worker Directive, that will allow trade unions in higher wage countries to prevent employers from wholesale erosion of their terms and conditions by importing an entire workforce on the pay terms and conditions of a lower wage country.

    This is also a good argument for staying in the EU, as no serious Brexiter is arguing that the Uk should leave the single market, even if we leave the institutions of the EU, and it is the commitment to the single market that includes the requirement for free movement of labour.

    So even if the Uk left the EU, we would still have the same level of immigration, but we would have abandoned participation in the institutions where we might effect the tweaks necessary to eliminate the negative impacts

  5. John on said:

    jock mctrousers: What is the source of ‘our’ (we the average joes. aka ‘the people’) POWER? ORGANISED LABOUR! What is the effect of a massive increase in ‘the reserve army of labour’ on our labour power? It diminishes it – I needn’t spell out how. SO: MASS IMMIGRATION REDUCES LABOUR POWER POSTPONES EFFECTIVE REMEDIES LIKE CAPITAL CONTROLS GENERATES EVEN MORE IMMIGRATION, DIMINISHES LABOUR POWER EVEN MORE….

    From the ramparts of Labour aristocracy, Jock proclaims, ‘Keep them out!’, in service to a complete distortion of everything Marx, Lenin, and any other long departed revolutionary believed in.

    Central to this belief was the role of a conscious proletariat in resisting and overcoming the very laws of motion of capitalism described above. This is nothing more than surrender to right wing anti immigrant and anti labour nostrums, wherein these aliens from a different culture are over stealing the bread from our table. It is manna from heaven for the bosses and the refutation of class unity as the harbinger of a world in which capital serves rather then reigns.

    It is employers and firms that reduce wages, not workers, which is an argument in support of the trade union movement and against austerity. The key word here is ‘agency’, the ability of workers – organised and united – to interdict themselves in that dismal causal chain we are continuously told means that the only solution is denying people living in countries whose economic development has been retarded in the process of occuping the sharp end of neoliberalism in the interests of rich countries and economies such as the UK’s.

    You are pointing your gun at the last link in this causal chain rather than the first. Though that link may sit closest to where you reside, and therefore an easier target to strike, it only ensures that the kind of class solidarity and unity required to challenge the hegemony of capital is guaranteed to remain elusive.

    Migration is as old as humanity. No laws and no amount of legislation can stop it. Whether legally or illegally, people will uproot and seek the better their future whenever their present is unbearable and unsustainable. Denying them the right to do so, on the basis of socialism, is akin to denying a starving man a steak in the cause of vegetarianism.

    The free movement of labour is the foundation of a conscious European working class, a necessary corollary of a conscious European capitalist class. Opposing free movement is to oppose the very social forces required to change the status quo.

  6. John on said:

    Andy Newman: ngels was refreshingly honest about the use that employers made of Irish immigrants to divide and rule the working class in Manchester, and use migrants to disrupt organised labour, and push down wages.

    This was his view in the 1840s, to be sure, but those views evolved concerning the role of Irish migrant labour to mainland Britain.

    For example, in 1870 we see Marx asserting that, “In contrast to the “solid, but slow” conservatism of “the Anglo-Saxon Worker”, Irish immigrant labourers had a “revolutionary fire”.

    As for Engels, he described the Irish as, “Men who have nothing to lose, two-thirds of them not having a shirt to their backs, they are real proletarians and sansculottes, and moreover Irishmen – wild, headstrong, fanatical Gaels. If one has not seen the Irish, one does not know them. Give me two hundred thousand Irishmen and I could overthrow the entire British monarchy.”

  7. John: it only ensures that the kind of class solidarity and unity required to challenge the hegemony of capital is guaranteed to remain elusive.

    well not necessarily, I can think of one egg packing factory near me where there used to be a workforce some 15 years ago that were half British and half migrants, mainly from Portugal.UNITE had a reasonable membership.

    That same factory now has an almost entirely Polish workforce and no union, and the wages there are actually less than they were 15 years ago.

    Don’t underestimate the challenges of organising trade unions in some migrant communities, especially as the agency of who in the real world potentially does that organisation are the far from perfect actually existing trade unions.

    “Class solidarity and unity” are sadly often just words. The difficulty is that there is no possiblity of building real organisation based upon political preconditions that are not reflected in the real world consciousness and ideology of the actually existing working class.

    As an obscure digression I recently came accross, there isn’t always a correlation between welcoming immigrants and progressive politics: the Know Nothing Party, who briefly controlled the State of Massachusetts in the 1850s were fairly unambiguously a left progressive party on economic and some social metters, that was deeply anti-slavery and stopped Massachusetts returning escaped slaves to their owners, and enacted various laws that strengthened the hand of labour and placed constraints on capitalist corporations. One particular law they enacted that favoured the working classes (in its broadest sense), is that they outlawed court bailliffs from taking away the tools necessary for a man to make his living, which was a particular issue at a time when competition with capitalist manufacturers was bankrupting independent craftsmen.

    But they were – in contradiction – the only American state to ever actually deport immigrants back to Europe because they wanted to preserve the protestant identity of the USA.

  8. Vanya on said:

    “The free movement of labour is the foundation of a conscious European working class, a necessary corollary of a conscious European capitalist class. Opposing free movement is to oppose the very social forces required to change the status quo.”

    Free movement if you are in fact European.

    Not so if you come from Nigeria, Jamaica or Pakistan.

    What is this European working class conscious of?

  9. jock mctrousers on said:

    John: From the ramparts of Labour aristocracy, Jock proclaims, ‘Keep them out!

    Sounds very right on, but this sort of stuff usually comes with some difficult positions like the UK NHS couldn’t run without foreign workers, because there’s something wrong with British people, or the Welfare State was only possible because of the exploitation of the colonies so a Welfare state is impossible and must be dismantled… this is just a left veneer for the faux liberal democracy of Clinton, Blair and so on, actually neoliberal oligarchy, globalism and the rest.

    John: Migration is as old as humanity. No laws and no amount of legislation can stop it.

    Are you telling me that the law change that allowed citizens of the the new East European EU members free movement had no effect? Nonsense. There was manageable immigration before that law change, and massive destabilising immigration afterwards. It can be stopped simply by changing the law back.

    It still bemuses me that self-styled ‘leftists’ think that anyone is going to still believe them when they cry wolf (racist!) at every query of immigration, but another classic leftist tome springs to mind: Lenin’s ‘Left-wing communism: an infantile disorder’.

    Thanks Andy for some excellent examples of what I’m talking about (the problem organising constantly fluctuating immigrants).

  10. John on said:

    Andy Newman: That same factory now has an almost entirely Polish workforce and no union, and the wages there are actually less than they were 15 years ago.

    What do you attribute this to though, the union’s deficiency in reaching out to those workers, the company’s ability to resist unionisation of those workers, or the workers themselves?

    I do see the challenge when it comes to migrant workers who view their time here as transitory, and as such are not attracted to the benefits of being organised. However this again is an argument about harmonising wages across the EU, so that migrant workers, particularly unskilled, aren’t drawn here for purely economic reasons.

    But while they are then as conscious socialists we must continue to make the case for unity rather than division or hostility.

    Nobody said it was easy, but the harsh realities of neoliberalism makes it imperative.

    Andy Newman: Don’t underestimate the challenges of organising trade unions in some migrant communities, especially as the agency of who in the real world potentially does that organisation are the far from perfect actually existing trade unions.

    Well, indeed. For every Bill Haywood or Mick McGahey in the trade union movement, there are undoubtely a hundred Paul Kenny’s or Jimmy Reid’s, who end up accepting baubles from Her Majesty or writing columns for the Sun.

    Andy Newman: there isn’t always a correlation between welcoming immigrants and progressive politics: the Know Nothing Party, who briefly controlled the State of Massachusetts in the 1850s were fairly unambiguously a left progressive party on economic and some social metters, that was deeply anti-slavery and stopped Massachusetts returning escaped slaves to their owners, and enacted various laws that strengthened the hand of labour and placed constraints on capitalist corporations.

    Yes, but this contradiction is nothing new. The Kibbutzim were models of communities of solidarity unless you happened to be Arab. Likewise the Histradut labels itself a union, but again nobody would consider it to be progressive just by virtue of the fact.

    We have to treat these matters according to the concrete situation we are dealing with. Anti immigration is a reactionary response to the verities of the free market in our time. It is an attempt to offer a national solution to an international challenge, in as much as national sovereignty in a world dominated by global economic forces is an increasingly redunant concept, though with one caveat – in the case of oppressed nations for whom sovereignty is an essential prerequisite of them having any chance of achieving a semblance of economic development and parity with the West.

    Just on a point of detail, the Know Nothings were split on the issue of the slavery between its members living in northern and southern states. For a spell in the 1850s they enjoyed considerable political support. However, as with our anti immigrant parties today, they were out of kilter with the times.

  11. Andy newman on said:

    John,

    Your example of PK is very misplaced, as Kenny was outstanding in the level of support and personal commitment he showed to campaigns i have been involved with organing migrant workers, and threw the whole weight of the union behind us.

  12. Andy newman on said:

    John,

    The dichotomy you raise of “who is to blame” the workers or the unions has a slight hint of the legacy of our old friend the Trotskyite “crisis of leadership”

    In reality the process of organising migrant workers, particularly in workplaces where they are the majority, is challenging for a huge raft of reasons; not least of which is the general decline of trade union consciousness and changes in the structure of the British working class. Many unions are defensive and busy holding on to what they’ve got without having the capability, even if they had the will.

    But it is also true – from my experience – that whilst individuals do not necessarily conform to national architypes, when you have a workforce overwhelmingly from a particiular country, they will bring with them the industrial relations expectations if that country, and remember many of these workplaces also employ managers who are also migrants.

    It may not be politically acceptable for some on the left to acknowledge it, but my hard won experience – and accepting there are individual exceptions – is that some nationalities of migrants are more timid and deferential to managers, and in some cases more culturally and ideologically resistant to collectivism.

    Engels referred to the Irish being more combative than the indigenous Brits in the nineteenth century; you can take it from me that one of the reasons that some migrants are so welcome by bosses is that they are more defererential, dont stick up for their rights, and respond to the unions with “im only here to work”

    To be fair, there are other groups of migrants, from India/Goa or south America who are injecting new life into unions, when they meet encouragement from.the unions. And i have to stress again how wrong you are about Kenny: Paul was brilliant at encouraging this.

    It is also true that even among migrant communities who are harder to organise, individuals can make a difference, and i am thinking of one particular East European shop steward who has been really brave, organised and resilient, and has succeeded in bringing colleagues behind him

  13. Andy newman on said:

    John,

    Being “out of kilter with the times” is how Blair characterised the trade unions as forces of conservatism.

    There is no doubt that Catholic European immigration from 1830 to 1860 transformed the USA, the impact of which was obviously completely different in the slave south, where the Know Nothings were marginal, or the free labour north, where the Know Nothings were a major force in the working class especially among skilled craftsmen.

    It is important to understand the way immigration in this era played a role analagous to enclosure in Britain of impoverishing the working people and making them wage slaves at the mercy of capitalism. It was also a political defeat as the Democrat Party, particukarly in New York traded fast track citizenship for political patronage and cronyism, on a pro slavery agenda.

    Because history is complex, whereas in Britain we saw General Ludd and Captain Swing as the class war response to impoversihment of the rural poor, and the destruction of the skilled trades; the analagous process in the Yankee states was a battle to ensure Catholic bibles could not be used in schools, temperence canpaigns, and attempts to prolong residency periods before immigrants got the vote.

    I am not drawing an analogy today, but migration is a complex phenomenon, not a matter of absolute principle.

  14. brianthedog on said:

    Andy your post regarding organising migrant workers is nuanced, thoughtful and honest. John appears to have lost the plot on this issue and is sadly for someone I usually hold in high regard indulging in abuse. I will be voting leave and I dislike Farage but according to John I am a scab. So John by voting remain and aligning yourself with Cameron, the IMF, ECB and NATO who cause economic and physical death and destruction on a large scale makes you what?

  15. John on said:

    Andy newman: It is important to understand the way immigration in this era played a role analagous to enclosure in Britain of impoverishing the working people and making them wage slaves at the mercy of capitalism. It was also a political defeat as the Democrat Party, particukarly in New York traded fast track citizenship for political patronage and cronyism, on a pro slavery agenda.

    Yes, primitive accumulation, a prerequisite of capitalist development in its early stages.

    Andy newman: I am not drawing an analogy today, but migration is a complex phenomenon, not a matter of absolute principle.

    Context-free, perhaps. But we are discussing here migration in a specific political and economic climate and context. There is nothing complex about it in this regard. The EU will either move closer towards political integration, which it must given the contradiction of a monetary union without fiscal union, or it will disintegrate. The consequences of it disintegrating are too awful to contemplate. Retreating back into national particularisms would pit workers across Europe against one another in a race to the bottom, and rent asunder any prospect of a Europe-wide counter hegemonic labour movement developing, as it must if the power of neoliberalism is to be seriously resisted.

    What we have now is the worst of both worlds, which has opened to the door and an alarming growth in a national conciousness, reflected in the pro Brexit positions taken on this thread, at the expense of class.

  16. Anon LP on said:

    John: this again is an argument about harmonising wages across the EU, so that migrant workers, particularly unskilled, aren’t drawn here for purely economic reasons.

    Given that wages in Poland are at about 1/3 of UK levels, and in Romania less than 1/5 of UK levels, that argument will unfortunately take rather a long time to have any impact on reality.

  17. John on said:

    Anon LP: Given that wages in Poland are at about 1/3 of UK levels, and in Romania less than 1/5 of UK levels, that argument will unfortunately take rather a long time to have any impact on reality.

    Well clearly harmonisation would be set in relation to variations in prices and the cost of living across member states. I was not suggesting a flat rate of pay.

  18. brianthedog on said:

    John: Retreating back into national particularisms would pit workers across Europe against one another in a race to the bottom,

    Isn’t the EU which is mainly run in the interests of big business and seeks to create a supranational state already doing this by social dumping. From free movement of labour east to west particularly because of huge differentials in minimum wages which is pitting workers (primarily in low paid jobs) against each and also often relocating manufacturing from west to east in search of lower labour costs. Much of the Left has left the playing field when it comes to the EU and its class nature and the vacuum is filled by the right. It shows huge weakness and its then no wonder the far right is on the rise throughout Europe.

  19. John on said:

    brianthedog: Isn’t the EU which is mainly run in the interests of big business and seeks to create a supranational state already doing this by social dumping.

    The dominant economic system shapes the political insitutions of a given state or polity, not the other way round, which requires that we replace or radically reform the economic system in order to reform the institutions responsible for administering it.

    As for social dumping, this is the work of unscrupulous employers not workers who arrive here as victims of a global economic order in which the wealth of strong economies is predicated upon the relative poverty of less advanced and weaker economies. Campaigning for a tightening up of employment regulation, specifically with regard to outsourcing at a lower rate of pay than exists for local or native workers in the same industry, has the benefit of targeting the cause rather than the symptom.

    brianthedog: Much of the Left has left the playing field when it comes to the EU and its class nature and the vacuum is filled by the right. It shows huge weakness and its then no wonder the far right is on the rise throughout Europe.

    The right has been on the rise primarily due to the downward pressure on wages, jobs, and services exerted by austerity. The British government has been the most extreme proponent of austerity within the EU, creating conditions of real hardship and despair that the right has been far more effective in channeling than the left. In fact, the right has been so effective in channeling the anger and disaffection created by austerity that a section of the left is tailing them vis-a-vis the EU.

  20. brianthedog on said:

    John: The dominant economic system shapes the political insitutions of a given state or polity, not the other way round, which requires that we replace or radically reform the economic system in order to reform the institutions responsible for administering it.

    You didn’t answer my question John you have just stated the obvious about an economic system shaping the political establishment. However that is one reason I don’t want to support or shore up a neo-liberal super club of 28 capitalist states and I don’t think another EUrope is possible.

  21. brianthedog on said:

    John: The British government has been the most extreme proponent of austerity within the EU, creating conditions of real hardship and despair that the right has been far more effective in channeling than the left. In fact, the right has been so effective in channeling the anger and disaffection created by austerity that a section of the left is tailing them vis-a-vis the EU.

    Seriously Britain is the most extreme proponent of austerity in the EU? Are you joking? Maybe you have been away lately but Germany comes to mind with Merkel driving the Troika of the ECB, IMF and the EU to shove austerity down the throat of Greece (also Spain, Ireland and Portugal) in a way which makes Cameron and Osborne (who you align yourself with in a vote remain) look like amateurs.

    John: As for social dumping, this is the work of unscrupulous employers not workers who arrive here as victims of a global economic order

    Not just unscrupulous employers John but also knowingly by their EU political friends. Its not just migrants that are the victims but also the local or native working class. The left whether its social democrats or socialists has mainly washed their hands of this and no wonder the far right are growing.

  22. Anon LP on said:

    John: clearly harmonisation would be set in relation to variations in prices and the cost of living across member states.

    How would that be different from the current situation, in which the difference in minimum wages between countries in Eastern and Western Europe is mainly dependent on the (large) differences in nominal GDP?

  23. John on said:

    Anon LP: How would that be different from the current situation, in which the difference in minimum wages between countries in Eastern and Western Europe is mainly dependent on the (large) differences in nominal GDP?

    Where do you get the assertion that minimum wage disparity across the EU is ‘mainly’ dependant on variations in nominal GDP? Political factors also play a role. Where there is a strong trade or labour union presence the minimum wage will be higher and vice versa. Do you really believe that the minimum wage as currently set in the UK is an accurate reflection of the cost of living?

    Then there is the flawed metric of nominal GDP as an economic indicator. It does not take into account the level of infrastructure and public services, welfare system, and social wage. These things are key in determining the overall condition of a particular country’s working class.

    As I said in a previous comment, we have a situation in which the worst of both worlds is the case – not enough political union to ensure stability and cohesion, and not enough independence to be able to implement national solutions to the contradictions of a global economic system.

  24. Anon LP on said:

    John: Where do you get the assertion that minimum wage disparity across the EU is ‘mainly’ dependant on variations in nominal GDP?

    To be precise, my assertion was about the disparity between Western and Eastern Europe. I am definitely not advocating for nominal (or even PPP) GDP per capita to be regarded as the key measure of quality of life for working class people. I would merely point out that it is a measure of value produced, as reckoned in the capitalist market. Obviously some of that value will be paid to labour as wages, and some kept by capital as profit. While that share will vary for reasons including those you have pointed out, the amount paid in wages cannot be higher than the amount of value produced, and there will be a substantial profit share that will to some extent be averaged out by the market, given free movement of capital. Hence relative GDP is the main factor when looking at the big gradient in wages between eastern & western Europe.

    So, if you look at the three countries I gave as examples, the UK, Poland and Romania, the differences in minimum pay closely follow the difference in GDP.

    Using IMF figures for 2015, Poland’s GDP (per capita, nominal) is appx 28% of the UK’s level, and Romania’s is appx 20% of the UK’s level.

    Using current Eurostat figures, the minimum wage in Poland is appx 26% of the UK’s minimum wage level, and in Romania the minimum wage is appx 17% of the UK’s level.

    Btw, it is probably a fluke that in these examples, the relative GDP / minimum wage relationship is so exact. Looking at all the countries in the EU would give you a wider variation. But the overall trend (lower GDP = lower wages) will tend to hold.

  25. R P Dutt on said:

    Harmonising wages across the EU? So wages are determined not by the strength and organisational abilities of the class, but by President Juncker? Is this really what the Another Europe is Possible crowd believe in?

  26. John on said:

    R P Dutt:
    Harmonising wages across the EU? So wages are determined not by the strength and organisational abilities of the class, but by President Juncker? Is this really what the Another Europe is Possible crowd believe in?

    As I write in #23: ‘Where there is a strong trade or labour union presence the minimum wage will be higher and vice versa.’

  27. R P Dutt on said:

    John,

    When capitalism ‘harmonises’ anything, it’s never good for the working class. Even the most Europhile trade-union leader, full to bursting point with Brussels food and booze, would have the sense to see the idiocy of such an idea

  28. John: Where there is a strong trade or labour union presence the minimum wage will be higher and vice versa. Do you really believe that the minimum wage as currently set in the UK is an accurate reflection of the cost of living?

    That doesn’t follow, John.

    A strong labour movement will necessarily lead to wage push among organised workers; which is not necessarily the same as having a minimum wage for other workers. It is no coincidence that during the 1960s and 1970s where strong trade unions pushed up wages through collective bargaining most of the British labour movement was opposed to a minimum wage, and the exceptions who supported a minimum wage were NUPE and GMWU who organised low skilled manual workers in the state sector with limited bargaining power

    The standard of living will also be dependent upon the legacy of economic endowment of that country, whether it has high concentrations of capital investment, access to high technology and a skilled labour force. So in a developing country, or semi-developing country dependent upon industries with lower technology levels, and a less skilled workforce, even a highly combative labour movement will hit a price ceiling of what labour can sell for.

    what we also often see is variegation within countries, so that some sectors are highly organised and other sectors unorganised; whether this leads to a political push for legal protection through a minimum wage or not for the less organised sectors is not simply a factor of the strength of the labour movement.

    Incidentally, the UK has gone from having the 9th highest minimum wage in the EU, to the 4th highest (behind France, Luxembourg, and I think Belgium), the motivations for the government are complex, and not least a desire to reduce the money paid through working tax credit.

    It is also true that a highly organised labour movement does not mean that capitalist corporations are also not highly organised and combative, as we see in Venezuela today.

  29. brianthedog: Not just unscrupulous employers John but also knowingly by their EU political friends. Its not just migrants that are the victims but also the local or native working class. The left whether its social democrats or socialists has mainly washed their hands of this and no wonder the far right are growing.

    This is part of why I think you are wrong to be backing leave.

    I don’t believe that the EU is actually reformable but I do think that it is an arena where the labour movement needs to contest on an organised basis for what we want to change even if the actually decisive motors of change may lie elsewhere.

    Because the EU has such a powerful influence, then even relatively small changes won there, can be important.

    The impact of migration on the labour market, and its knock on effect on organised labour is highly uneven; however, from my experience it has overcome where there would have otherwise been labour shortage bottlenecks in low skilled areas of manufacturing, the care sector and agriculture.

    The argument that this has benefited the wider economy is undoubtedly correct; and crucially, if you are an indigenous British workers who would not have been working in those sectors, then you have probably benefitted from the general economic virtues caused by those bottle necks being overcome; not least through cheaper food, but generally the economic benefits have fed into wage growth in other sectors, where labour has stronger bargaining power.

    In the UK the political left is largely divorced from the low paid and unskilled sectors of the economy, and that has reflected the debate.

    If however, you are a British worker who would otherwise have been looking for a low skilled job, then your bargaining power has been reduced; and indeed the impact of immigration on depressing wage competition in these sectors combined with the loss of benefits entailed in taking the jobs means that the effective marginal rate of taxation affecting those workers means that the work is very unattractive. There are other factors, such as legislation requiring employment agencies to check the passports of people coming onto their books, while ostensibly to stamp out employment of those immigrants working unlawfully, actually prevents some poorer and younger British workers from getting casual work, who are disadvantaged in this regard compared to EU migrants.

    As I have said before, there are certainly challenges for the labour movement here; but we should not jump into bed with the libertarian right in rejoicing at the free movement of labour. There need to be legal and practical constraints to prevent social dumping, and that means not only the difficult job of tackling employers, but also the practical steps to ensure legislative changes at an EU level, for which we need to be in the EU not outside it.

  30. John on said:

    Andy Newman: we should not jump into bed with the libertarian right in rejoicing at the free movement of labour.

    Neither should we be jumping into bed with the xenophobic right in opposing it. Again, this analysis suffers from the failure to engage with the macro economic factor that underpins the free movement of labour – the free movement of capital.

    Unless the left begins to focus on this determinant factor it gives neoliberalism a complete opt out, submitting thereby to the accomplished fact and joining with the racists and xenophobes of UKIP in demonising the other.

  31. John: Neither should we be jumping into bed with the xenophobic right in opposing it. Again, this analysis suffers from the failure to engage with the macro economic factor that underpins the free movement of labour – the free movement of capital.

    Unless the left begins to focus on this determinant factor it gives neoliberalism a complete opt out, submitting thereby to the accomplished fact and joining with the racists and xenophobes of UKIP in demonising the other.

    No. Because a lot of that is hi-falutin theoretical argument largely divorced from the practical tasks for the left at the moment.

    you can’t have ideology without organisation, both political and industrial.

    When you look at the task in practical ways, particularly at the industrial level, then is becomes clearer. It is necessary for the trade unions to organise among workforces that have a high degree of migrant labour to successfully do so requires engagement with migrant workers, and also with their British workmates (who will often themselves be the children and grandchildren of immigrants). The industrial imperatives unite workers over practical day to day issues.

    Migrants are typically already highly organised at a community level, one task for the left is to assist with engaging that existing community level organisation with the existing mechanisms of UK politics, which may be different from their home country.

    On the political level, the impact of EU immigration in many working class communities has been depression of wages in the lowest skill sectors, and perceived resource competition over housing, and other resources. The tasks flow from that for the left is seeking to solve the housing crisis, but also understanding that the unplanned nature of population migration has meant that big swings in population have not been followed by increases in resources and infrastructure.

    There is logically to me no real difference between the left campaigning to stopping jobs being outsourced abroad (which we do without controversy) and stopping working conditions being degraded due to deliberately created destablisation of the existing UK labour market through social dumping (which we also campaign against, but not it seems with your approval)

  32. John on said:

    Andy Newman: Because a lot of that is hi-falutin theoretical argument largely divorced from the practical tasks for the left at the moment.

    The free movement of labour is inextricably linked to the free movement of capital.

    Is this true or is it not? This is the only pertinent question to answer, from which any subsequent action must flow.

    Action must begin at the level of causation, otherwise it is reactionary.

  33. George Hallam on said:

    John: The free movement of labour is inextricably linked to the free movement of capital.

    Is this true or is it not?

    “inextricably linked” as in ‘unalterable’ or ‘not subject to persuasion’?

    Then the answer must be ‘not true’.

    Of course, in a market economy the movements of labour and capital are linked. However, the free movement of labour and capital are policy decisions. It is possible to have one without the other.

  34. John on said:

    George Hallam: the free movement of labour and capital are policy decisions. It is possible to have one without the other.

    Free does not necessarily equate to legally sanctioned. Migration takes place whether ‘legal’ or ‘iilegal’. The pattern of migration from poor to rich countries tells its own story.

  35. John,

    No John. Free movement means free of constraint, including being free from legal constraint.

    Clearly the relatively high number of EU migrants compared to non EU migrants proves that the lawfullness or otherwise of the migration makes a huge difference

  36. John on said:

    Andy Newman: Clearly the relatively high number of EU migrants compared to non EU migrants proves that the lawfullness or otherwise of the migration makes a huge difference

    The relatively high number of EU migrants compared to non EU would remain so due to proximity even if free movement was ended as policy.

    The free movement of capital is not a feature of government policy btw. It is a feature of neoliberalism, a non negotiable condition of neoliberalism, which is the dominant ideological and economic system and which informs all government policy.

  37. John on said:

    Vanya,

    I read the article up to the point where the author writes, ‘Nor does the manner in which this secretive deal has been negotiated, as a lack of democracy lies at the very heart of the union.’

    This is nonsense. Co-consent is a statuory requirement of all EU legislation, which means it must be voted on and passed by the European Parliament, which is elected.

    https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/european-parliament-backs-ttip-rejects-isds/

    Crucially, the European Parliament’s support for TTIP is conditioned on the replacement of the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism.

    We might not like the fact that the European Parliament endorses TTIP but this doesn’t make it undemocratic. Instead, it is further evidence of the hegemony of neoliberal economics and ideology.

  38. jock mctrousers on said:

    John: Co-consent is a statuory requirement of all EU legislation, which means it must be voted on and passed by the European Parliament, which is elected.

    You set a pretty low bar for democracy, John. If you had read on to the next sentence of that Star piece, you’d have read

    ” The unaccountable Commission and European Central Bank call the shots and take precedence over the European Parliament and national sovereignty. ”

    For example this, from the link you gave:

    ” “We have worked hard since last year to make the agreement as transparent as possible. Progress has been considerable,” said Bernd Lange, the German TTIP rapporteur. ”

    What progress has been made in that direction is down to Greenpeace getting a hacked copy of a large chunk of the treaty. Until that point (and still officially) our elected MEPs could only see the treaty in a special room for a very short period of time, attended by minders, no photos, no notes allowed; whilst the reps and lobbyists of international capital have been fully involved in drafting the thing. You know all that. WHO disallows our elected reps?

    And while I’m at it, what makes you so sure that ISDS has been ruled out. Last I heard, ‘they’ were trying to replace it with something similar under a name change – which seems to be hinted at in the piece you linked to.