Class solidarity the only answer to the race card

IT’S PLAIN we are again in the run-up to a general election, as the issue of immigration and the thinly- veiled race card are emerging across the spectrum, from the unashamed racists and xenophobes of UKIP and the neo-Nazis of the Traditional Britain Group to the infighting around the Labour leadership. It is amazing how they all seem to think it will make them more electable in spite of plenty of evidence. What sort of people do they think their voters are?

The Con-Dem Coalition is split over the use of the notorious propaganda vans that call on illegal immigrants to “go home or face arrest” — a message to the general public that Britain has a huge problem with illegal immigration — which it does not — and that the Government is doing “something decisive” about it. It will inspire racists to more violence.

Last weekend Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham called on his party’s own leadership to come up with some attention grabbing policies by next spring or risk losing the 2015 election. Soon Labour MP Graham Stringer was making the same demands.

The Labour leadership seem to have responded by getting Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant to launch a poorly researched attack on the companies Tesco and Next, accusing them of recruiting workers from eastern Europe and effectively trafficking them into Britain to undercut the wages of the local workforce. He was obliged to withdraw his remarks about these two companies but continued with the theme in general that he wants to stop companies employing so many foreign workers and force them to prioritise giving jobs to British workers.

He thinks this will win the support of unemployed British workers but without any understanding of the class nature of the struggle he is in grave danger of advocating racist discrimination in employment.

Fortunately the organised working class has a better grasp — or they did a few years ago when there was a successful fight in the oil refinery construction industry over cheap labour being trafficked into Britain, housed in appalling conditions and exploited in every way possible while being held separate from the local workforce.

The union demands were straightforward and just, encouraging unity between the local workforce and the immigrants. They demanded an end to separation and the same wages and conditions for all. At the same time they set out to recruit the immigrants into the unions to give them support in standing up for themselves against gross exploitation. And they demanded that the employers recruit from among all applicants without bias or favour, regardless of where they came from.

These were demands that were true to international working class solidarity and benefited all workers. And they made it totally unprofitable for unscrupulous bosses to traffic cheap labour into Britain if they had to pay them the same wages as local workers.

The campaign had a lot of success and, with union pressure, led to the creation of new laws to control and register “gangmasters”. Alas the Con-Dem Coalition has recently seriously weakened these laws — in the name of cutting red tape.

Bryant would have done far better to reassert these demands — equal pay and conditions for all, no discrimination in recruitment and stronger labour laws to defend workers.