Friday, 22 July 2016

The self-employed and 'migrants'.

I have been self-employed since 1973.
This means that I've been out and about actually or metaphorically looking for fees, or short-term contracts to earn a living.
This is a highly individualised activity.
In some of the work situations, I might find myself in intense co-operation with small groups of people over relatively short periods of time but the actual point of contract is very individual.
No matter how analogous this kind of self-employment is to waged or salaried labour, it isn't the same. It's not inferior or superior. It's just different in this crucial matter of the point of contract.
I've noticed that several times (possibly more) when people are interviewed on TV or radio about 'immigrants' and they ask the person to identify what work they do, it is clear that such people are sometimes (note 'sometimes') self-employed e.g. people on market stalls, or people in the building trade who are often paid on a job by job basis, sometimes cash in hand. 
1. The government is doing all it can to get people out of waged labour (with accompanying state benefits) and on to self-employed status. This is one the ways in which the government 'reduces unemployment'! It's nothing of the sort. It's just juggling categorisations so that it looks this way.
2. The most extreme view of self-employment is that it brings you into 'competition' with everyone else! Everyone is potentially your enemy! That's to say, anyone or everyone could in theory do what you do and possibly go to the person who pays your fees or arranges your contract and say that he or she could do the same as you for less money. It is only through some effort of mind that a person can overcome this view of the world as your competitor. it requires a counter-ideology.
3. In the situation of migrants from anywhere (another side of town, another region, another part of the UK, Europe, the world) who are prepared to negotiate a fee or contract for less than you, then it's true they 'undercut' you. Elsewhere in the waged and salaried sectors I've been at great pains to point out that I believe a) workers can't undercut wage rates because they don't fix them b) governments have made enormous efforts for decades and in particular since 2008 to freeze wages, as evidenced by what e.g. Nick Clegg stated the Coalition had done up until 2015 c) the destruction of jobs is done by the movement of capital about the world (e.g. destruction of Ford's Dagenham) not by migrants.
4. With the self-employed sector expanding (see above) there is great potential for racist groups and parties to absorb self-employed people into their ranks, who appear to be 'workers' (in the sense of waged and salaried people) who say they are being 'undercut' or even that 'immigrants depress wages' (when they mean 'fees' and 'contracts') and who have absorbed the 'compete with everyone' ethos and direct it exclusively at the particular kind of migrant they don't like (as opposed to a 'migrant' from the next street, the other side of town or another part of the UK.
5. This is a re-run of pre-fascist situations in Germany and France where fascist organisations were able to draw on support from what the French left have called 'les garagistes' - the little self-employed garage owner who sees both organised workers (who might make the one or two guys he's employing demand more wages) and bosses of big factories (who fix the prices of the goods and plant he needs) as a threat.