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<nettime> australia : For a Joint Unemployed and Illegal Labour Union
dr.woooo on Fri, 23 Jan 2004 08:10:17 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> australia : For a Joint Unemployed and Illegal Labour Union


by Kat Klinkenstein Wednesday January 21, 2004 at 11:03 AM

A Draft Manifesto for a Joint Illegal and Unemployed Worker's Union




For a Joint Unemployed and Illegal Labour Union



Nothing in the current industrial landscape is as shocking as the alignment of 
major unions with the nationalist project of strengthened border and 
immigration controls.  This marks the abdication of solidarity by these 
organizations, for in persecuting so-called ‘illegal labour’ they pit worker 
against fellow worker. A worker living in fear of deportation by the police and 
denunciation by the trade-union is a worker with no bargaining power who must 
accept whatever conditions are available and who must live with the bosses’ 
tolerance hovering above like the Sword of Damocles. Such a worker has been 
forced into the condition of a scab by the prejudice of the unions themselves! 
As such, her struggle is also the unemployed worker’s struggle. When unions 
persecute workers because they are unblessed by the state, they have turned 
their back on the universal right to work, not just of the paperless but of 
everybody.  They have resorted to scape-goats with which to hide their lack of 
courage and their own inability to win work for all workers. To the unemployed 
they smile and point a finger towards the undocumented worker, saying: “there 
is the reason you haven’t got a job!” To the employed they wink and 
mutter: “there is your reason why we can’t get you a break!” All the while, 
they wheel and deal with the bosses and debase themselves before the ALP. In 
this way, their desire to justify their own powerlessness erodes the power of 
both sets of workers, and we are left with nothing except a dire media 
spectacle with which to re-elect the brainless. 


Our society should not be a detention camp. We should not live by a system of 
rewards administered by a state playing us off against each other. Work is not 
a privilege, and neither is the provision of a tenable life out of work a 
disposable luxury. If we allow the state to determine who amongst us may be 
allowed to work and who amongst us will be allowed to live outside work, we 
surrender to political parties our right to productive life itself. In their 
hands, this right becomes so many vouchers and nationalist delusions with which 
to buy workers for the lowest price and ensure their placidity. Once we 
surrender the demands of universal solidarity, that is to say – once we accept 
that some of us, by the mere location of their birth cannot be allowed a 
productive life in or out of work amongst us – we forfeit our own freedom. We 
can live by the delusion that persecuting the defenceless will bring back jobs 
lost to profit-seeking bosses, but this decision not only condemns us to chase 
our own shadows, it also makes sure that we will ourselves be vulnerable. Each 
deported illegal worker weakens the position of all illegal workers, and 
thereby weakens the position of all workers. We can chose to dream nationalist 
fantasies that barricaded inside our island we will be safe from the hordes 
outside, and we can chose to ignore the fact that the threat to our livelihood 
comes rather from those who would have us so barricaded. Throwing people out of 
the country won’t create jobs. You cannot create jobs by firing people, either 
from a factory or from a country. Neither will deportations make casual work 
permanent. You cannot improve work conditions by persecuting workers. 


We can choose to cast our lot with these harmful delusions, or we can embrace 
the historic task of labour, of universal fellowship and contempt for national 
divisions, and forge a true international of workingmen and women, and of 
workless men and women also. So long as our brothers and sisters overseas live 
in abject misery, turning them away from our land is a crime of the highest 
order. How can we kid ourselves that an illegal worker at low pay here is any 
worse than a teeming population on no pay over there? The same week Mark Latham 
announced he would persecute illegal labour, that he will wage war on labour’s 
freedom of movement, he announced that he supported the freedom of movement of 
capital. This is not half-baked nationalism on his part: this is what 
nationalism entails.  Our land is not blessed: it is fortified. The effect of 
this is devastating for those outside, but it is also very harmful for us. 
Every dweller of castles must worry about what goes on outside the gates and 
must live stalked by the thought that one day the walls shall crumble under the 
combined weight of his privilege and the shouts of the outsiders. Dinner 
parties taken on a distinctive feel when the neighbours are starving. Nobody 
wants to live like this, and we don’t have to, if we work together for the 
advancement of all – inside and outside our country, or better yet, with no 
concern for boundaries.


Nobody will win freedom for us on our behalf. The unemployed must stand up for 
their right to a livelihood in and out of work, for if the government can avoid 
giving them their rights, it will.  Casual labour cannot hope to win rights by 
denying them to other people, for it is worse than pointless to give the bosses 
another stick with which to beat us. Illegal labour cannot hope to succeed by 
hiding. Only together can we be strong enough to win. Only by disobedience and 
furious solidarity can we forge a network that provides security for all. Such 
is our struggle. 


Kat Klinkenstein

* - / \ | ^ ^^^^ 

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