Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Us and Them

How the right is already winning the argument in the crisis

They're already at it. Last week, from the columns of the Observer, Nick Cohen showed he hasn't totally lost it and warned us of the lesson of history. In times of crisis and rising unemployment, it's the far-right that benefits the most: "As the hard times start to bite, the obsession with identity politics will certainly lead to communal groups competing for scarce resources and shouting 'racist' every time a grant application is rejected".

Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail is, along with the Daily Express (who else), wasting no time. Look how the Express is already banging on about "IMMIGRANT JOBS SHOCK". According to their "EXCLUSIVE" revelations: "The figures produced by the Office for National Statistics reveal that the number of British-born adults in work here fell by 365,000 in the past two years. During the same period the number of foreign-born adults working in Britain has soared by 865,000".

And here's were the simple, tribal, right-wing analysis stops. But this is why it is so popular, precisely because it's so monodimensional. "There's too many non-white faces around". Period.

But they don't tell you the reality of what exactly has been happening for the past fifteen years. They don't tell you the story of how a country was ransacked, not by the "immigrants", but by the City and the Corporations successive governments have been sucking up to in the name of blind faith and a certain ideology.
There are three crucial aspects that need exploring.

One. How manifacturing was allowed to kick the bucket. Read: the way the economy has been managed with Thatcherist (monetarist) policies and a total bias towards the City for the past thirty years. A sector dedicated to producing something tangible and generating real, not virtual, wealth was actively made to practically disappear, which is exactly how hundreds of thousands of British (whatever that means) jobs went and entire communities remained crippled. A small example: when Rover was going bust in 2000, Tony Blair went on record as saying that it is not for the state to step in. A rescue package was refused, nevermind thousands of families and the local economy were in for disaster. That is only one example but that's been the undisputed drive since 1979.

Two. The way the much trumpeted '21st century service economy' was allowed to outsource tens of thousands of jobs to other countries. Again, more British (whatever that means) jobs going and nothing there to replace them. You name one big corporation, whether a bank, an insurance or a utility company, that didn't transfer entire departments and call centres to India. They were already making trillions in profit, as they were, in Britain. But this way they thought they could make quazillions. Obligation to the territory? Customer service? UK jobs? Come on, you commie fool! It's the free market! And if you really, really, want to keep us a call center down in Luton, then you have to accept even lower wages and even crappier working conditions. If not, off we go to Bangalore.

Three. The way small business has been crippled by the rise of Clonetown Britain. Now the Daily Mail is wailing that small business is choking, but wasn't their idol, Margaret Thatcher, who in 1989 paved the way for Sunday shopping and massive retail de-regulation? Isn't this how one Tesco megabox after the other was allowed to trample over 'small business' in the name of unregulated free market? Aside from the question of who was more likely to accept whatever anti-social shift was required, when you get a humongous supermarket with their enormous financial means to stay open whenever they can, how on earth are small businesses supposed to hack it? But why should we care? Weren't we told that there's no such thing as society?

So the Thatcherite chicken is coming home full circle and SHOCK HORROR MASSIVE IMMIGRATION is just the inevitable by-product of greed. So who are those 865,000 IMMIGRANTS the Daily Express is ranting on about? The poor souls that you see taking the underground or the bus first thing in the morning to go and clean that office (I wonder how many scrub the floor away at the Express). Or those who serve that extortionate espresso at "costa fortune" for the same wage 'British' people were doing it in 1982. Or a good chunk of the staff fulfilling the rota demands of 24-7 hypermarkets. These are the only people who have accepted some amongst the worst working conditions in Europe (think working hours, casualisation, low wages, non-unionisation).

The Dailies of this world, Express and Mail, need to clarify what they stand for.

No comments: