Saturday 23 May 2015

Tories on immigration

The Tory position on immigration is at first glance puzzling. Clearly, some people in the Tory party have attitudes to Britain, race, Empire etc which are rooted in a hierarchical view about race and nation. In a way, it's actually quite hard to be someone of my age (and being white, English and living in southern England) and to have not been affected by the vast slew of propaganda that was thrown at us from the time we were young - poems, stories, comics, ways of presenting news, history books all promoted a view of Britain, whiteness, blackness, otherness which, in their different ways, suggested that 'we' (being jewish I wasn't certain that I was part of the 'we') were superior, great, good, special etc etc and though 'we' don't hate others, 'we' are better than them. In fact, one of the reasons why 'we' are better is because 'we' are nice to the good 'others' and stern with the 'bad' ones.

The Tories are also ruthless modernisers. That's to say, if it's good for capitalism , it's good for the country and it's good for the Tories. Capitalism is of course a rampaging system, that tears up what's there and promotes stuff simply because it sells. If it sells, it enables owners to recoup their outgoings with profit on top. But rampaging raises cultural problems - it means knocking down stuff that is already there, promoting stuff that some traditionalists might think problematic (stuff that appears to cause stress to the social order) and it means demanding the right to employ who you want, how you want, from where you want. In some circumstances that means you want or need migrant labour.

So, Cameron et al say that their absolute bottom line is to reduce immigration to the 'tens of thousands' i.e. under 100 thousand. In truth, they have no idea how to do this, nor is it clear that they want to or need to - according to their own criteria of what's good for business is good for the country is good for the Tories. So, it really does appear as if they are playing a two-faced game: sounding as if they are 'anti-immigration' (these people taking our benefits etc) whilst supporting their colleagues who want it.

I suspect that this is manna for UKIPpers and racists. They can 'prove' that the Tories are 'two-faced' as indeed, they say, are the whole 'metropolitan elite'.

Just to be clear, my own position is that it's employers (including governments) who lower and freeze wages. They declare that's what they're doing. Governments are kind enough to tell us why they are doing it: to 'balance the books', to 'pay off last year's deficit', to help the 'balance of payments' etc etc. I see that people are wheeling out the old canard, 'supply and demand' as being the determiner of wages. This is like saying that wage levels are determined by sympathetic magic. No matter what the labour supply is, it's the employing class which decides whether it will pay or not. The only check on this is trade union bargaining.

What is clear in this debate, in particular from UKIP is that they do not consider a policy, say, of mass unionisation and organisation, a good way to respond to employers cutting wages. Of course not. Their only 'solution' is anti-migrant. What is awful and sad, is that the only mainstream party that has links with unions, the Labour party, is not at the very least, carrying out a campaign with the unions to organise and expand trade unionism. Instead, they creep about fearful of mass media typifying unions as the dangerous fifth column within society. This has the perfect (for the employers ) consequence of helping to keep wages down.