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Scabbing on racist strikes?

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madashell
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Feb 16 2007 12:27
Scabbing on racist strikes?
ftony wrote:
a more complex issue would be if they ever get big enough to have strikes - do we cross their picket lines if we agree with why the strike is taking place (e.g. wages, layoffs, etc with no race issue involved, which would often happen in the day-to-day running of any union, fascist or otherwise)?

I'm not seeing anything complex there. You don't scab, whether you agree with the strike or not.

If there is a race issue, you can always show up and counter-leaflet explaining why you disagree with the strike but won't cross the picket line.

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madashell
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Feb 16 2007 12:30
revol68 wrote:
Things aren't that simple though, what if it is a race issue and funny enough non whites aren't out on strike over it, do you still refuse to cross the picket line? To my mind refusing to "scab" on racist scum is infact scabbing on the whole of the working class. Just because someone throws up a "picket line" does not itself make it worth defending or uncrossable.

By crossing the picket line, you're siding with your boss against other workers. It's up there with fuckwit trots championing laws against "incitement to religious hatred" because it'll make things difficult for the BNP.

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Steven.
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Feb 16 2007 12:37
madashell wrote:
By crossing the picket line, you're siding with your boss against other workers. It's up there with fuckwit trots championing laws against "incitement to religious hatred" because it'll make things difficult for the BNP.

But look at the potential example revol gave. Are you working right now? If your white co-workers went on strike against your firm having black employees, and your black co-workers were inside, working, would you stay out?

This is an issue which could come up, especially in the building trade with migrant workers.

That said I'm against scabbing in principle because it does undermine workers' strength in favour of the bosses. But what if you weren't white yourself? I suppose if that were the case crossing the line with cause further division between yourself and the white workers.

I think if it were possible I'd not cross the line but I'd argue for making class demands instead - for example higher wages in themselves rather than no migrant workers. I recognise this would probably not be possible for some things.

I'm guessing revol is thinking about Northern Irish sectarian strikes, in which pickets weren't up for political discussion...

jack white
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Feb 16 2007 12:44
revol68 wrote:
And don't fucking patronise me with comparisons to liberal trots, it's based on experiancing sectarian strikes in northern ireland.

What sectarian strikes?

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Feb 16 2007 12:44
revol68 wrote:
no, if the picket line is racist, if it is not a workers dispute but a racist one then you aren't scabbing, rather the ones picketing are the scabs as they have put their race above their class. And don't fucking patronise me with comparisons to liberal trots, it's based on experiancing sectarian strikes in northern ireland.

It might not be the class acting for itself, but the people in the dispute are still workers.

Surely it's better to refuse to cross the picket line but (as John. suggests) argue for class demands, instead of alienating yourself from other workers?

ticking_fool
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Feb 16 2007 12:46
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Things aren't that simple though, what if it is a race issue and funny enough non whites aren't out on strike over it, do you still refuse to cross the picket line?

The ideal solution, I suppose, would be for the non-whites to come out against the union (who would almost certainly be collaborating with management in that kind of situation) and physically break the fascist picket lines or something like that - but I don't know how that would work out in practice. Any situation when there are openly racist pickets is going to be highly confrontational anyway, so I'm not sure crossing a picket line would even come up - it'd be a fucking war zone.

The issue where a BNP union strikes over something unobjectionable is more pertinant, and definitely more likely to be their strategy, and that really is difficult to call. Again, I guess an alternative organisation within the workplace would be the way to do it - break the BNP picket with your own picket, refuse to cooperate with any BNP negotiated settlements and continue to strike until management deals with you instead of them. That, however, would be incredibly difficult to pull off, especially if the fascist union was softpeddaling its far right connections - they could end up appearing as the real radicals and you as a management stooge if you weren't careful.

I suppose what I'm saying is that if it comes to the point where the BNP have a picket line which is broadly accepted as legitimate by most workers, then you've already lost and the choice of whether to scab or not to scab is just a choice between how you accept defeat.

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Feb 16 2007 12:48
revol68 wrote:
If workers walked out in opposition to the hiring of black workers then they are scabbing on the class, they have refuted their identity as a prole and have instead embraced race, that is scabbing and it's even worse because it's not fuelled by poverty, desperation, a breakdown in will. If the reactionary cunts don't want to work with blacks then fuck'em, and if they are sacked then tough shit, i'd not back them.

It's all very well (and pretty tempting) to say "fuck'em", but it's never literally going to be a case these days of white workers striking to keep black workers out, rather it's likely to be British-born workers striking to keep migrant workers out, which is pretty likely to be driven by poverty, as it happens.

We need to be arguing with other workers, however "reactionary" they might be, not telling everybody who's a bit racist (and a fair chunk of the population are) to fuck off.

ticking_fool
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Feb 16 2007 12:55
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Think for a second how it would look to those black workers walking a gauntlet of abuse

Are they going to do that though? It seems to me that it's got to end up far more confrontational than that, and there's no way that broader communities outside the workplace wouldn't get involved. What was the experience of sectarian strikes in NI (I know fuck all about them)?

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Feb 16 2007 12:57
revol68 wrote:
Not they are nationalists and racists in dispute, they are in pitting themselves against other workers not against the bosses.

Think for a second how it would look to those black workers walking a gauntlet of abuse and hatred that suppoused socialists and anti racists turn up not to have a wee cup of tea and a chat with racist scum whilst not crossing the picket line. Furtermore what if your black yourself? Do you not join the picket line? Do you strengthen a dispute aimed at getting you sacked, a campaign aimed against your family and friends, a campaign of hatred on the basis of your very being?

Again, the situation you're putting forward here seems pretty fucking unlikely in 21st century Britain. A racist workplace dispute is not going to be foaming at the mouth fascists spitting at black workers walking into work, it's ordinary people who have swallowed the racist rhetoric of the BNP, that we have something to gain from keeping migrant workers out, and that's something that has to be engaged with directly and argued out.

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Feb 16 2007 13:05
revol68 wrote:
stop twisted shit, it's not a matter of people being a bit racist ffs. You think there weren't people on the Posties Wildcat who held vaguely sectarian views? It's a matter of the issue, is it in itself racist and the like. For example workers walking out because the Union Flag is not being displayed, do you support that? Do you fuck!

It's not a question of supporting their demands, but not alienating them. And as ticking_fool already said, once people are out on a racist picket, it's a question of the best way to admit defeat.

john
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Feb 16 2007 13:08

Of course, the day-to-day turning up at work is a process of exploitation, that should be resisted whenever possible.

But if you turn up most days and strike on the racist-strike day then clearly your expressing support for the racist-strike.

I half agree with John. - that you need to try and argue for a class, rather than race, interpretation of the industrial dispute.

But you also need to scab in this (hypothetical) instance.

ticking_fool
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Feb 16 2007 13:10
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It's not a question of supporting their demands, but not alienating them.

Yeah, but as revol's pointed out not standing in unambiguous solidarity with the group under attack (which would mean crossing the line if they're crossing the line), is far more alienating to that group than telling your racist workmates that they're talking shit.

Jason Cortez
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Feb 16 2007 13:27

i'm with revol here,it's basic princples. If your in a situation, say building workers striking to stop the employment of mirgant workers because they are undermining pay and conditions if you join the picket line and arguement that the bosses are at fault, you are still de facto supporting class divisions and sanctioning the indigenous workers organising against vulerable migrant workers. The only choice that is consistant with libertarian communism is to cross the picket line after arguing your point of view.

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Feb 16 2007 13:40
Jason Cortez wrote:
The only choice that is consistant with libertarian communism is to cross the picket line after arguing your point of view.

I think if you cross it you'll have a harder time arguing in a potential later strike over class demands if you say "never cross a picket line."

Also would you cross if it's a militant line trying to physically hold you out? What if police are needed to get you through?

john
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Feb 16 2007 14:08
John. wrote:
if you cross it you'll have a harder time arguing in a potential later strike over class demands if you say "never cross a picket line."

then doesn't this illustrate the unhelpful nature of universal mantras?

posi
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Feb 16 2007 14:14

Revol is totally right. There is a massive difference between a strike on a class demand, with a bit of racist rhetoric around it, and an out and out racist strike. One which pursues a racist objective. You want the objective to fail. All things being equal, crossing the picket line will help it fail. So you should be prepared to cross.

Of course use the opportunity to talk to those on strike if you can. Of course, and don't demonise them. But it's not OK to out and out support them just in order to get the opportunity to chat! Quite surprised that anything else is even being contemplated.

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Feb 16 2007 14:16
posi wrote:
But it's not OK to out and out support them just in order to get the opportunity to chat!

Good thing nobody said that then.

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Feb 16 2007 14:22
revol68 wrote:
Sorry standing on the picket line or rather going on strike with them is for all intents and purposes supporting them.

I'm not suggesting that we stand shoulder to shoulder with people on racist pickets, just that crossing the picket line would be a mistake. I'd consider standing away from the main pickets and leafletting if it wasn't just me, but there's an obvious difference.

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Feb 16 2007 14:32
revol68 wrote:
WASP centric...whitey shoes...supposed anti-racists...etc.

If you've got something to say, come out and fucking say it.

ticking_fool
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Feb 16 2007 15:01
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If you've got something to say, come out and fucking say it.

Sorry mate, but you really are arguing as if there's only two points of view - 'racist worker' and 'anti-racist worker'. 'Victim of racism' really doesn't seem to come into your argument, which is a white perspective.

Not racism, but I think knee-jerk rejection of identity politics shading into ethno-centric workerism would fit it. (only half a wink , but the wink 's there nonetheless).

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Feb 16 2007 15:09

Point taken, maybe I was being a bit simplistic, but it's certainly not as simple as cross the picket line or support racism.

You can't just dismiss workers who are genuinely afraid of losing their jobs because of immigration as a bunch of biggotted nutters, and responding to their being sacked by saying (in revol's own words) "Fuck 'em", wouldn't exactly help matters.

ticking_fool
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Feb 16 2007 15:20
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You can't just dismiss workers who are genuinely afraid of losing their jobs because of immigration as a bunch of biggotted nutters

But once the picket lines are in place you've got to choose sides. Strikes don't just happen, they build slowly and that's when you engage with the racists and pseudo-racists. Once they've set the lines up, there's only one way you can jump and still be acting in real solidarity - you've got to cross the line.

posi
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Feb 16 2007 15:22

even not crossing on principle (as opposed to for reaons of laziness or whatever) is practically supporting them, surely?

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Feb 16 2007 16:02
revol68 wrote:
Quote:
You can't just dismiss workers who are genuinely afraid of losing their jobs because of immigration as a bunch of biggotted nutters, and responding to their being sacked by saying (in revol's own words) "Fuck 'em", wouldn't exactly help matters.

No you don't but if said workers move from talking shite reading the paper on a lunch break to actually going on strike against immigrants then they've crossed aline and can expect no solidarity from me.

The most realistic scenario I can think of for this maybe occuring would be on a construction site of mostly British workers. Then the boss brings in a couple of Polish workers, maybe to replace some sacked Brits, and possibly pays them lower wages - or they work harder for the same money. If there's no strike, they're not scabs (I don't think immigrant workers have been used as scabs against British strikes in recent history). It would be understandable for workers on the site to strike against their employment to stop them undermining wages.

I think instead of crossing the picket line and working - which would help your boss and distance you from the other nationalist workers it might be best to not cross the picket line, but instead to argue with the workers for a class demand - no low wages/increase in work rate, say and point out the flaws in nationalism. And also talk to the immigrant workers and explain what you're doing and why, possibly try to get the immigrant workers together with the pickets and say they don't want to undermine their wages, they want the same ones, etc.

Ironically this is reminding me a lot of the arguments with the WSM posters here about national liberation; where they seem incapable of separating class and nationalist demands, but I bet they can here...

ticking_fool
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Feb 16 2007 16:25
Quote:
I think instead of crossing the picket line and working - which would help your boss and distance you from the other nationalist workers it might be best to not cross the picket line, but instead to argue with the workers for a class demand - no low wages/increase in work rate, say and point out the flaws in nationalism. And also talk to the immigrant workers and explain what you're doing and why, possibly try to get the immigrant workers together with the pickets and say they don't want to undermine their wages, they want the same ones, etc.

All of this can be done before the strike comes to head though. Even a wildcat's going to be preceded by several days of muttering and at least one meeting of some kind. If you've made your arguments for a class line (everyone out and demand equal wages) within that then it would be entirely consistent to cross a picket line that's insisting on striking to get some people sacked. In that case either action in going to help the boss in some way, there's no consistent class line, so you side with the people who aren't actively splitting the class. If the strike suceeded in getting immigrant workers sacked then that would be a blow for the working class not a victory of any kind. The only thing you can do to try and stop that would be to defend the immigrant workers - which means crossing the line.

Caiman del Barrio
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Feb 16 2007 17:53

Well presumably, if Solidarity get representation in your workplace, then you'd hope workers would already be out on strike against that. And again once they start talking about industrial action in support of racist demands. In that situation, I'd say going to work isn't an option.

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Feb 16 2007 20:04

Great thread.

To throw something else into the mix, or else following up on what Revol said about desegregation... Here in Boston we had race riots in the 70s when many whites tried to directly block the implementation of forced school desegregation (aka "Busing") as mandated by the US federal government. It's an issue that people argue about to this day, as on one level it was a pure class issue, a matter of a loss of community control (especially loss of parent participation in decisionmaking over children's education) within white working-class neighborhoods; but on another level the social conflict was a clearly racial, and racist, one.

I've read about some efforts at the time to break through the rock-and-a-hard-place situation by organizing small, racially integrated circles of parents to meet about the crisis and push for greater parent control over the schools on the basis of unity. So unity among the class first, and then addressing the material problems together. The other view is more in line with a "circulation of struggles" view, where various actors might confront their separate situations in ways that might be mutually antagonistic in the short run but could come into harmony down the line as each faction wins gains and the "real" underlying struggle against capital becomes more obvious. I see both arguments being made here. It's a tough call.

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Feb 16 2007 20:09

Here's another variation: What if leftists were elected to office in your country and in protest of how new government policies favored poorer and mostly darker-skinned workers your racist employer held a lockout that they disingenuously called a strike? And your racist union leadership colluded? And if a rank-and-file workers' movement within and against your union made up of workers who favored (even if critically) the social policies of the new government tried to get in and keep things running?

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Feb 16 2007 20:39

I'd be proud to cross the picket line of any racist strike.

I remember the days of Powellite dockers marching in their thousands. In response to this movement, anti-racist/anti-fascist dockers fought hard against this tendency until Powellism on the docks disappeared into the dustbin of history. But the defeat of this far right workers' movement didn't happen by workers colluding with it, it was a bitter struggle that had to happen.

Anyone who can't grasp the fucking wrongness of this is fetishising strike action - favouring form over content.

tony
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Feb 16 2007 21:37

When the dockers did strike in support of Powell, militant anti-racist dockers did not cross the picket lines, but gave out leaflets stating why they opposed the strike and racism on class grounds.

It was the later struggles against the jailing of the Pentonville 5 that undermined the racist organisation in the Docks, as the dockers were supported by trade unionists, regardless of colour.

Having said that I could not support any racist strike today.

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Feb 16 2007 22:09
tony wrote:
When the dockers did strike in support of Powell, militant anti-racist dockers did not cross the picket lines, but gave out leaflets stating why they opposed the strike and racism on class grounds.

Right that's interesting. Thanks.