File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-01-29.113, message 48

Date: Tue, 28 Jan 1997 09:36:01 -0500 (EST)
Subject: M-I: Adam Rose on Doug's Comments (Fwd from moderator)

> >However,
> >what I find fascinating is that much of new social movement literature ( I
> >mean go look at those three I discuss, Melucci, Eder, and Laclau and
> >Mouffe) largely talk like the welfare state that was so able to, or that
> >is seemed so able to soothe class conflict is still able to to buy off the
> >majority of working people today, be they located in the traditional
> >manufacturing or service sectors.

> This may be one of the dangers of importing so much European social theory

Certainly one of the dangers of importing bad European social theory.
I don't think the welfare state ever bought off workers in Europe. The
welfare state should be seen as a sort of barometer of class struggle,
a part of the social wage which is fought over in the context of the
overall economy and the general political circumstances. When
the economy was generally booming, bosses could afford high money
wages at the point of production and a high social wage in various
forms of welfare. Now they're attacking both.

The question of the welfare state is very much tied in with a lot of
the arguments over racism in particular. First of all, many of the
right wing arguments against immigration centre on the welfare
state ( this is true in California, isn't it ? ). You know the sort
of thing : "I'm not racist, I'm just sick of these Blacks/Arabs/
Mexicans coming over here and living in luxury on our benefit
system". Now in opposition to this racist argument I would put
what I would describe as class arguments and I would propose
working class methods to oppose the racist attack on benefits.
My argument is that these arguments and methods, which I regard
as the most effective, may well put off middle and ruling class
members of whatever group of people we're talking about.

I would begin by pointing out that the people who are taking away
benefits from immigrants ( this is precisely what the British Tories
have done with their recent asylum bill ) are the same people
who are taking away benefits from everyone else. They are not
against benefits for immigrants in particular, they are against
benefits per se. This attack on poor immigrants is part and parcel
of an attack on the poor in general - whether it be single parents, the
general level of benefits, the young ( withdrawing housing benefit,
forcing young people onto pointless "training" ( ie slave labour )
schemes ). I would point out that the immigrants are quite often
fleeing low wages and appalling conditions imposed on them by
the same companies that are attacking wages and conditions
in the US/Britain wherever - that capital can go round the world
looking for the best conditions for capital, so why shouldn't labour ?

Not allowing people to migrate, and not allowing them decent
conditions if they do migrate, perpetuates sweat shop conditions
in both the less developed countries and the advanced one, and this
brings the overall level of wages and conditions for everyone down.
This benefits bosses in both countries who can take advantage of
these conditions ( in the "advanced" country, the sweat shops tend
to be run by bosses of the same nationality ) , and works against the
interest of workers in both countries.

Not only is this an attack on the poor in general, it is an attack on
those workers who give out the benefits. They will have to act
as immigration officials. Instead of making people's lives marginally
better, they are going to be the ones telling people they can't have
benefits because of the colour of their skin or where they happened
to be born. Every cut in benefit, every additional hurdle the poor have
to jump, means more work for the same pay, and, because claimants
vent their frustrations on the nearest target, which is usually the 
who has as little control of proceedings as the claimant, more dangerous
and stressful working conditions. And finally, of course, the low paid
workforce in these sectors often consists of a high proportion of
immigrants precisely because it is low paid work.

For all these reasons, the most effective way of stopping these sorts
of attacks is if the workers involved simply refuse to implement it, and
threaten to strike if anyone is victimised for not implementing it.

However, they're only going to have the confidence to do this if there
is a large scale campaign outside this particular workforce. This means
socialists need to push forward any campaign as hard as they can,
particularly amongst other workers who can pledge their support to the
campaign as a whole but also in defence of victimised workers. And of
course one obvious place to go to to get this type of support are
precisely those where immigrants are employed for low wages in
appalling conditions, more often than not by bosses of the same

The other thing which needs saying about this sort of campaign is
that it is against the law, obviously. Workers are refusing to
implement a racist law. So inevitably workers taking this sort
of action will come into conflict with the respectable elements in
"the community" and in the workers movement who seek to
work within the system.


Adam Rose

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