An MP has accused some employment agencies of scouring Eastern Europe for cheap labour at the expense of the poorest Welsh communities.
That MP is Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price who serves Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, and is a socialist and supporter of national self-determination.
Adam is right to raise this issue – what he says is correct and we can’t allow the public discourse on migration to be devoid of a class perspective. That is to say, the question of class must not be left out of the debate.
Obviously, migrant workers in any country are disadvantaged because they are not in their settled environment. The labour movement is right to assist migrant workers, but there’s no point in being uncritical about why the ruling class wants to move workers from one part of the world to another.
The reason migrant workers matter so much to the capitalist economy in the UK is because they can be more profitably expoited than settled workers. Those migrants of the recent wave who stay and become settled may find themselves in a similar position to today’s settled workers. So it goes, and it goes for a reason – profits. In this situation, migrant workers are often blamed for being victims of circumstance; if any one group of people is to blame it is not migrant workers. The blame lies with the capitalist class which exists at the expense of workers, both settled and migrant; it is the capitalist system, which subordinates the needs of humanity to the accumulation of surplus value.
I wrote as much in an essay “On migration, racism, and identity” which I wrote in July of this year:
Sudden demographic changes can lead working people to believe that migrant workers are their enemy, and the bourgeoisie is keen to promote this rationale. I am not suggesting that this was planned, rather that, for the capitalists, it is an added bonus that mass migration disorients settled workers.
Working conditions for migrant workers are often worse than those of settled workers: cases of bonded labour have been exposed. Despite the subjective differences, the objective fact is that workers of all nationalities must struggle together against their common enemy if they are to improve their living conditions.
The piece is worth reading, as it compliments what I have to say here an is of a higher quality – certainly, it’s more polished than this hurried post!
As Adam says, we a seeing a return to nineteenth (and twentieth!) century working practices with bosses pitting one group of workers against another. Another example of this Islamophobia, which divides the working class on grounds of religion and race; in the current climate, Islamophobia legitimises discriminatory practices and fuel racist abuse against people of colour, thus allowing the ruling class to bring in police state measures and send the armed forces to fight wars of occupation in the Middle East.
I get the feeling that if Adam Price was an MP for an English constituency, he’d have gotten some stick from the three Brit parties. As it stands, Adam is a keen supporter of devolution for England but were he was English, his comments on migration would would have been misrepresented in the mainstream media, and politicians would again make a false connection between supporters of a devolved parliament for England and assorted far-right tendencies.
The problem is that aside from the patriotism of sports like cricket, rugby, and football, there is no reflection in the mass media of the inclusive Englishness with which most people in England now identify. Mainstream media outlets in the UK – both state and corporate – regurgitate the muddled British “national” identity pushed by the ruling elite. The ostensible purpose is inclusion, the real reason is to undermine the civic English conciousness which threatens the future of the British state.
So I was upset for more than one reasonn when England were beaten by Croatia last week – it was bad enough that the Croatian team ran rings around England, with our national team out of next years European tournament, there would be no opportunity to discuss enclusive Englishness and articulate the case for a devolved national parliament for England.
As there are no English polticians making a forceful case for devolution, it is left to Welsh nationalists like Adam Price and Scottish nationalists like Alex Salmond. Of course, there is a reason for their support of an English parliament – it would end the Union, result in Scotland and Wales becoming independent nation states.
Perhaps it won’t be too long before there prominent MPs who stridently make the case and highlight the civic national identity that already exists without state sponsorship – merely complaining about the Barnet Formula and the underfunding of English regions is not good enough. But until that time, the work of Price and Salmond in raising the English Question is to be welcomed.