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Issue #1699      August 26, 2015

Giving blood and a lot more

The decision of Polish migrant workers to register en masse to donate blood to our NHS in protest at negative rhetoric directed against them is a fitting rejoinder to xenophobes.

Poles, in common with immigrants from the rest of the world, have had a positive effect on Britain.

They come here to seek work and higher living standards just as working people from these islands have done for centuries across the globe.

It is a gross slur against Polish workers and those from other countries to claim that they are in Britain to live off benefits rather than make their way in life through the fruits of their labour.

Many Poles came to Britain before and after the second world war, either in response to the partition of their country by Germany and the Soviet Union or because they didn’t want to remain in Poland following its liberation from Nazi tyranny by the Soviet Red Army.

There was another wave of immigration following the turbulent events of the 1980s that culminated in the restoration of capitalism, giving rise to the media phenomenon of the ubiquitous Polish plumber.

Many of these people were curious about societies they had not previously experienced and, having spent time here earning money, chose to return home.

Poles are now as entitled as citizens of any European Union member state to settle wherever they wish in any EU country.

Hostility to migrants coming from other EU states is usually framed in terms of excessive pressure on housing, the NHS, local schools or vague references to “foreigners taking our jobs.”

Membership of the EU means that the very concept of “our jobs” is outdated. The bloc’s free-market dogma is underpinned by the “four freedoms” of unrestricted movement of capital, goods, services and people across all 28 member states.

Britain’s economy has been made more attractive for undocumented migrants by neo-liberal deregulation of the labour market that makes employment prospects rosier than in countries that maintain tighter controls, but this does not apply to Poles.

They have an absolute right to come here, work and settle and should be welcome to do so.

If there are problems over inadequate housing, pressure on the NHS and schools or rising unemployment, these are faults of the economic system.

Long-term residents of Britain who follow employment prospects from one region to another can sometimes present difficulties for social services.

The correct labour movement response to such short-term problems is to demand that government takes steps to provide improvements to services.

The necessary corollary is to ensure that incoming workers are integrated into the organised labour movement, signed up as trade union members in the same way as if they had come from other parts of Wales, Scotland, England or Ireland.

Unorganised workers are a danger to themselves and to fellow workers.

Polish workers who take a day off work today to protest outside Parliament should be met by trade union organisers and encouraged to be part of a unified movement.

All workers should be unionised so that the class is united against right-wing demagogues who misuse working-class slogans to drive a wedge between communities on the basis of when they arrived in Britain or what they look like.

The trade unions must reiterate their basic philosophy of working-class solidarity, reassuring Poles and other national minorities that there is no category of second-class workers in Britain’s labour movement.

Morning Star

Next article – Greece for sale

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