THE Blair government has only one real use for the EU, and that is as a tool for cutting the wages and increasing the exploitation of the British working class. This policy has been greeted with great enthusiasm by the Bank of England governor, Mervyn King.
He has greeted with acclaim the news that from March 2004 to March 2005 over 120,000 workers entered the UK from the new EU member states of Eastern Europe.
King told business leaders at a dinner last Monday night that the new workers had helped to keep wages down. He rhapsodised: ‘If increased demand for labour is able to generate its own supply in the form of migrant labour, then the link between demand and prices is broken, or at least altered.’
King is saying that the arrival of a mass of migrant labourers from the EU has prevented a shortage of locally available labour power driving the price of labour power upwards. Wages have therefore been cut, helping to hold down the rate of inflation.
King continued that without this influx of workers from eastern Europe, earnings would have risen at a faster rate, adding to the costs of the employer.
The Home Office estimate is that up to 14,000 Eastern European workers are entering Britain every month and signing up for the registration scheme that entitles them to benefits and NHS healthcare after 12 months.
The government and the employers are using these workers to drive wages down and productivity up, to try to give British capitalism a future.
This new migration is different from the migration of workers from the Caribbean that took place in the 1950s and 60s.
This was commissioned by both Tory and Labour governments, and workers came to fill vacancies in mainly the transport system where wages and conditions were already established by the trade unions.
The new migrants are being organised as ‘contract labourers’ by special agencies, to drive down wages and undermine trade unions, and their arrival has more in common with the huge Irish migration to Britain from the 1840s onwards.
Frederick Engels records in his book ‘The Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844’, that most of the English cities were divided up into an English and an Irish quarter. Every city had a ‘little Ireland’.
While the English workers were hostile to the Irish because they undercut them on the wages front, the Irish paid them back, despising them as the ignorant slaves of the British bourgeoisie, only suitable for doing the dirty work of their masters, all over the world, including Ireland.
This division in the working class was very fruitful for the employers, and was only begun to be overcome by the huge mass movements of the 1880s when the unskilled workers got organised and formed the great trade unions, beginning with the dockers’ struggles in East London.
The lessons of this period of history must be quickly re-learnt today. Trade unions must welcome workers from Eastern Europe to Britain. They must demand that they get NHS and other benefits from day one of their arrival, and must organise them into the trade unions and fight aggressively for them to enjoy the same wages and conditions as British workers, thus helping to drive wages up, not down.
The trade unions must fight against the Blair government for a workers’ government in Britain, to end the privatisation campaign, the flexibility drive and long working hours.
The trade unions must oppose the EU and the way that it is using Eastern Europe as a vast pool of super cheap labour, to be super-exploited to make super-profits.
The trade unions must fight and campaign for a Socialist United States of Europe, that will expropriate the bosses and the bankers and create a nationalised and planned economy throughout Europe to satisfy the needs of the entire European working class. This will raise living standards throughout Europe to common levels and end the spectre of the workers of Western and Eastern Europe being turned against each other by the governments of the bosses and the bankers.