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The recession has brought industrial action that we haven’t seen since the 1970s as union members blame foreign workers for taking British jobs. The flashpoint has been at Lindsey refinery operated by Total. Lindsey sits at the mouth of the Humber river. The inciting incident involved an Italian subcontractor doing maintenance on the refinery who brought in Italian and Portuguese workers, which there was high unemployment in the area. The underlying nationalism is the populist dark side of the globalisation boom.
My parents came to the UK when my Dad came over to work in the shipbuilding industry in the mid-1960s. Most of my friends have worked abroad: engineering in the Middle East, construction in Germany, web development and PR in North America and Asia Pacific.
Newsnight highlighted two things of interest to me in the strike.
First of all is the conflicted politics around the strike. Traditional left-wing allies of the strikers like the Socialist Workers Party are between a rock and a hard place as they can’t allign themselves with worker solidarity and a doctrine of protectionism that smacks of racism. Secondly this gives the far right yet another opportunity to get a hook into the angry disenfranchised white working-class. There is a large amount of government money already going into community engagement programmes to try and deal with this problem and other organisations have ongoing efforts to deal with the BNP head on, however the industrial action is like putting petrol on a fire. I could see this feeding into a broader anti-globalisation right wing populist fuelled reactionary politics focused on Euro-skepticism.
The second thing is the way worker politics has been extended and expanded via web 2.0 platforms. British Wildcats is a WordPress-based blog which seems to have far-right sympathies. It presents a professional looking face (even if the copy is hackneyed) to the movement using Google Maps integration, downloadable leaflets and blog posts to spread its message.
Over on Facebook I found 487 groups relating to British jobs for British workers. The top-ranked group: British Jobs for British Workers has 27,094 members. It used to be that the printing press and the xerox machine were tools of subversives. The CIA used to smuggle photocopiers into the Soviet Union for that very reason. Now it’s blogs and social networks.
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