Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Union man, my ass.


In one of the greatest movies ever made about union struggles and strikes, Matewan, a socialist union organiser by the name of Joe Kenehan listens to a branch meeting of striking white workers being led down a racist path by the company spy. When he hears the outpouring of nationalist and xenophobic filth, Joe takes the stage, stares them all in the eye, and says "Union men, my ass". He wins the argument with the rank and file by passionately explaining that there are only two kinds of people in the world "Them that work, and them that don't. You work. They don't." He convinces the men to take in both black and immigrant workers to the union, explaining that "anything else ain't a union, it's a club".

The leader of New Zealand's largest trade union, who is also the President of the NZ Labour Party, Andrew Little, has just urged Kiwi bosses to sack migrant workers ahead of Kiwi workers. Just how far Andrew defines a migrant is not clear- Socialist Aotearoa would argue that we are all immigrants to this archipelago that is the home of our Tangata Whenua, the Maori people. But now we see the outcome of the politics of economic nationalism, evident when the union leaders sucked up to their Capitalist betters at John Key's Job Summit- union leaders urging employers to make sure the immigrants are the first ones to the slaughter as the Depression rolls in from the Pacific.

There is a better union tradition than this. A union tradition that unites native and immigrant workers together to fight the cutbacks, not accept them. A union tradition that Kiwi socialist and teacher Blair Peach embodied, when he was murdered by the British police, standing up to racist attacks on immigrant workers in London 30 years ago.

Socialist Aotearoa was thus heartened to see a powerful turnout to a left union led forum in Auckland Trades Hall on Tuesday April 7th, where Dennis Maga from Migrante Aotearoa, John Minto from Unite, Laile Harre from the NDU and Syd Keepa from the CTU Runanga (representing Maori trade unionists) pledged the utmost of solidarity to the many immigrant groups and delegates who turned out, under the time honoured principles of "An Injury to One is an Injury to all", and "Jobs not Profits".

We won't pay for their crisis, be we Pakeha or Maori, immigrant or indigenous, brown, yellow or white. We won't let the bosses or the right wing union leaders split us, and we'll fight them politically. The last time the world saw a Depression this bad, the Left lost the argument to the forces of nationalism and racism, culminating in the Dark Midnight of Fascism. That's what Blair Peach lost his life fighting against.

Workers of the world, unite.

Oh yeah, and if you're reading, Andrew Little-
Union man, my ass.

No comments: