Been a while since I’ve done any sonic squirrelling but as I’m laid up with a cold today I took a random nose dive into the ‘newest’ section of Bandcamp. It’s always a joy once you spend the time to do it and there’s inevitably something good to be found if you poke around enough, like Dry Land by Baydog. Very cool Jazz/Electronic stuff, smooth as silk too – a good immersive listen on a miserable day. Grab it here.
Politics, at the moment, is defined by division. In the US Trump and Clinton are coming to represent to antagonistic portions of a polarised society, with Sanders as a theoretically retired figurehead for a third faction which is in opposition to the other two, even if some of them have begrudgingly endorse the Democratic candidate. In the UK Labour is battling it’s own internal identity crisis as self-proclaimed ‘moderates’ rally, ineffectually, against the party’s Socialist conscience and history. The Tories too are delicately treading around their own alter-ego, as if Theresa May’s unity act is a cure rather than a bandage for the divisions wrought by the Brexit vote. All around everyone hates everyone and the usual vague sense of consensus – be it legitimate or imposed – is fading away as sides form. In the media too loyalties are being declared along predictable lines, highlighting the joke that is journalistic impartiality when ratings and owners both demand echo-chambers, a protection of personal interests and a neat story line to keep 24 hour news rolling.
None of this is news, really. Anyone can see the divisions manifesting and most people realise that they didn’t appear out of nothing. Nor did they appear out of a Brexit vote or Trump’s candidacy, they’re reflections of societal issues that have been brewing for decades now. And there’s plenty written on which side could, would and should win any one of the factional struggles which have recently clawed their way into the public perception.
The only thought I have to add is one of concern to be honest. The problem with political polarisation isn’t so much that someone will win, although there’s definitely plenty to fear there given some of the challengers. That’s a given though, that’s an observable battle where we can each choose our logical and moral ground and stand on it. What’s more worrying is that other people will lose and, in losing, look for ways to strike back. A mild example is the internal Labour struggle where, by the looks of things, Iron Corbyn will crush the opposition under his brutal Stalinist boot – well, I’ll be voting for him at least. What follows that is the issue though, as the right of the party either leave as they split the party and attempt to drag support away and towards some SDP reboot or stay and repeat the tedious process of challenges, coups and undermining. Embittering their own backers and alienating their opposition as they go, making their own defeat an act of self-sabotage against the Left wing as a whole. That’s a mild example though if you compare current UK politics to what’s surrounding the US election. There defeat for one side or another isn’t going to be a blow against a fairly small political elite who have the power to wreck on a day to day level. There the losing side is going to contain a huge number of voters who’re going to be angry, scared and bitter about the potential results of their candidate missing out. Perhaps rightly so, depending on how fatalistic you want to be. Either way though the illusion of a looming apocalypse is enough to make people act as if the stakes are high and react to them to whatever degree they imagine to be reasonable.
In both countries it seems that those in the media and those in politics are confident in the capacity for the structures of state and society to absorb all this dissent. People will be pissed off, sure, but they’ll accept it and carry on. Most probably will, although some undoubtedly won’t – and even for the vast majority who prefer to live their lives as best they can rather than hand it over to political anger it’ll be another layer of resentment and of disdain for those structures which they’ll feel have misled and cheated them, be it in the media or at the ballot boxes. It’s another sawing away of the support struts of the established structure of state and given the unlikeliness of any real unity or consensus being found whoever wins in these sort of disjointed struggles it’s hard to see anyone moving to repair the damage. And sooner or later that damage undermines the whole thing.
There’s an upside to it all too I suppose. The breaking of the two party system in US politics, the reclaiming of the Labour Party as a Left Wing entity, even seeing the Tories confront their own inner demons regarding neoliberalism and Thatcherist ideals, they could all bring about healthier and more representative landscapes. But the nudging game of hoping for destruction as a precursor to rebuilding is a dangerous one. Again, with the immediate political wranglings you can see the sides, see the issues and see the potential end results. But when it comes to society as a whole and large swathes of the population? There’s no telling how things will fall. And some analysis of that would, for me, be far more interesting than the partisan sniping that surrounds those loudest in their commentaries.
Byron burgers gets dozens of its own employees deported. On the 4th of July, workers across 15 Byron restaurants were called in for a training at 9.30. 5 minutes after start, 2 immigration enforcement officers for the Home Office arrived, carrying lists of names and photos. They started calling people into a room one by one. A manager in Byron unashamedly explained ‘We know what’s going on here. We prepared this.’
Dozens of workers were arrested, and deported that same name. Most of them were Latin American.
Here’s what Byron said when contacted by El Iberico:
“Byron confirms that several of our London restaurants were visited by representatives of the Interior Ministry earlier this week . The Interior Ministry recognizes that Byron, as an employer, meets the requirements of immigration law in their procedure for hiring workers. In Byron we are proud of the diversity in the staff of our restaurants built around people of all backgrounds. We have a long and close collaboration with the Ministry of Interior , to cooperate fully with them throughout the course of the investigations currently carried out and that will be in the future. “
A quick search on the internet tells me that no other media outlet is talking about that. Let’s change that.
The above is one of the few write ups I could find of a recent immigration bust on Byron Burgers. There’s a Spanish language report over at El Iberico too. I know this is a bit out of the usual and I’m not planning to make too much of a habit of posting random news items but this seems to have been ignored in most places so I figured I’d throw it out there.
Why does it matter? Because in working with a business that illegally employed undocumented workers the Immigration authorities have thrown the weight of guilt directly onto workers. It tells business that they can get away with breaking immigration law as long as they’re willing to throw up a few scapegoats if they get caught out. And it tells workers that their bosses are willing and now able to barter them away to avoid any repercussions they should be facing. It does nothing to stop dodgy practices, but it does make those workers even more easily exploitable. At the same time it gives politicians and the authorities an easy way to look ‘tough’ on illegal immigration without undermining the cheap labour market that their peers in business increasingly rely on.
It’s an example which extends beyond employment too – landlords for example have been known to use the threat of deportation to coerce or force poor conditions on tenants. Again, shifting all responsibility to the individuals who’re just living their lives while removing all responsibility from those profiting from it.
Sadly there’s no doubt going to be more stuff like this coming out as Theresa May looks for stories to re-enforce her ‘tough’ position on immigration.
Update: Full translation of the El Iberico piece below, not done by me but credit to whoever did it. Drop me a line with your name and I’ll add it.
British immigration police deported dozens of Latin American Byron Hamburgers workers
Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Unimaginable situations in real life, can lead to shattered dreams and broken families, all due to the interests of a few to fatten their pockets. Something like this was experienced last July 4th in the hamburger chain Byron.
One of the workers of this company wanted to tell us what happened with the sole purpose of exposing the occurrence of this type of situations, that usually do not transcend public opinion. Out of respect for his privacy, because today they still work for Byron Hamburgers, the anonymity of the person interviewed will be maintained.
It was 9:30 in the morning, the staff were at one of the chain’s restaurants, following a call a few days earlier to attend a training. After only five minutes, two immigration policemen arrived and began to call some of the people present, into a separate room.
“They took some papers out where I could see some pictures and they started reading names. On their backs it said immigration police. They started calling one by one. In my restaurant they called six people, although two of them were not there at that time”, explains our witness.
The events happened in at least 15 restaurants of the chain in London
After minutes of uncertainty and unrest, the person in charge, who had in theory come to conduct a training for the staff, came clean: “I’ll be honest with you. We know what’s going on and this was all prepared. This is not a training. It is because we know we have people working illegally so we called the police.”
Byron hamburgers has a total of 56 restaurants across the UK, the vast majority of them based in the British capital. “I’d bet my life on it, there are at least 100 illegal people working in the company only in London. The exact number can only be known by the police and the chain itself, “says the Byron worker.
Although official data has not been released, our witness tells us that tens of people were deported, most of them from Latin America: “The raid took place, to my knowledge, in 15 Byron Hamburgers restaurants, all at the same time. Colleagues are saying 50 employees have been deported and another 150 have been able to evade controls and are currently in hiding”.
People who are in the UK in an irregular situation are playing it daily, and are aware that a police raid of this kind can happen at any time. Our protagonist, who today has their documents in order in the country, relates how little tact the bosses have with people without papers: “I myself have worked in Spain in this situation and I know we were gambling it. We run the risk that in the street or at home they can catch us. ”
“You can have five, ten people working irregularly in your company without you realising it, but not 200. There are people who had worked four years in Byron. They know it and even so they call the police and sell them out”, says this Byron employee with tears in their eyes.
The deportations took place that same evening on the July 4
In solidarity with the affected colleagues, the workers decided not to work on the day the events occurred. “That same night of July 4 they were deported to their countries with what they had on them. The bosses know the situation of these people. We work hard and say nothing. If we have to do 60 hours a week, we keep quiet and do it. People at the top of the company know this and thats why they hire these people, “the witness argues.
The employee states he has never seen anything like this in the four years he has been working for Byron Hamburgers: “People are really upset and scared about this situation. In the years that I have been in this company I have never seen anything like this. I don’t know if this is a normal procedure. After what happened, the witness tried to ask for an explanation to the manager about why they betrayed the employees that had been working with them for years. The answer was that, if they had to pay a fine for each person in an irregular situation, the company would go bankrupt.
The day after the police raid, a human resources employee went to the restaurant to speak to the staff. The objective was to hire new staff to substitute the deported and that everything goes back to normal ASAP.
Response from Byron Hamburgers
After hearing the version of the facts stated by this staff member, we got in touch with the company so they could explain what happened from their point of view. Byron Burgers referred us to an e-mail address where to send our questions. The answer was this brief press release that revealed very little information (basically nothing) of the police intervention that was held in the burger chain:
“Byron confirm that several of our restaurants in London were visited by representatives of the Home Office early this week. The Home Office recognises that Byron, as an employer, meets the requirements of the immigration law in its procedure to employ staff. At Byron we are proud of the diversity that exists in the staff of our restaurants, built around people of all origins. We have a long and tight relationship of collaboration with the Home Office, cooperating fully with them throughout the course of the investigations that they are currently carrying out and that the will carry out in the future”.
It’s a dramatic experience supporting Jeremy Corbyn. One day you’re a Stalinist thug, the next a near-fascist misogynist, the next a naive idealist, then you’re backing an ineffectual old man, or a sinister dictator, or a street fighting gangster – every day is a lucky dip of contradictory images. Sure, let this run long enough and there’ll be stories leaking out about Corbyn supporters being the secret descendants of an ancient alien race. Here to purge the Earth in advance of an invasion by our own species of giant Revolutionary Socialist ants – but I’m sure they won’t figure that one out for a while yet.
There is one consistent theme though, one axiomatic truth that those supporting the coup seem to cling to like a life boat on the Titanic they’ve created for themselves – even if their words contradict their belief. It’s that we don’t want to win. We don’t know how to win, we wouldn’t know what winning looked like if it kicked us up the arse whilst singing ‘Things Can Only Get Better’. Granted, they acknowledge, we do want to terrify, brutalise, intimidate and text them into submission in our blind fervor to keep Corbyn as leader – but we don’t really want to win do we? Not properly, not really, not like they do. We don’t want to win over The Sun, or win over pro-austerity Conservatives, or win friends in the House of Commons bars and if you don’t want those sort of victories then you may as well just give up now.
As media lines go it’s a slightly confused one, as they try to make their opposition seem at once both ruthlessly opportunistic, Machiavellian and nearly nihilistically defeatist in the face of a challenge. It’s understandable though, I think. For a lot of those on the Labour Right (Progress, Maquis, Continuity, Provisional Labour, Blairites – whatever you want to call them) ‘winning’ is a very small thing. It’s the outcome of a closed door competition, where the only valid measures of victory are rarefied and defined by a sealed circle within the political class. ‘Winning’ is to wrestle power away from the honorable member opposite even if you do nothing more or less with it than they do. It makes sense, in a certain light, because it’s a system of victories which radiates from a monopolised source of power – everyone who participates knows the rules, knows the tactics and knows the firm limitations of the outcomes. If you’re a participant why would you ever contemplate bigger goals? It’s a world of competition more than big enough to consume your attentions after all and if you’re in it there’s nothing immoral about it, you can play the game with full certainty that you’re the good guy and as long as you stick with the players you’ll never hear otherwise.
The problem that way of thinking faces, at the moment, is that there’s been a huge influx of attention, energy and desire from a whole load of people who’ve never been part of that closed world and who never will be. It’s like a strangely inverted form of gentrification – those in parliament and around the political class are seeing their comfortable little dramas and conflicts being overwhelmed by a huge influx of outsiders who want to knock it all down and open up a string of Socialist coffee shops and artisan Workers’ cake shops. It’s a new population who have scaled up the entire notion of ‘winning’ from a parochial, insular affair into something far bigger and – as far as I’m concerned – far more important concept.
The established rules of recent decades don’t mean much to these new neighbours. They don’t want to compromise on NHS privatisation, they don’t want to compromise on attacks on social services or benefits – they don’t want to ‘get along’ with the pro-austerity lot next door. And you can see why that would be disconcerting if you’ve been sitting near to the source of power long enough to feel comfortably at home with those sort of compromises.
We’ve had their reaction now, after a false start or two. It’s a refusal to pay attention, more or less. It’s Owen Smith. Without a trace of awareness their Great Hope comes in the form of more of the same, albeit with added protestations of being ‘Left Wing’, lip service to a new presence in the political world which can’t be convincing even to those putting him forward. He can win though, that’s the line, maybe they even believe it, narrow as their definition of victory is. As I said though, it’s a small, mediocre notion of victory, one that challenges and gains nothing beyond a warm glow of satisfaction in a small quarter. But it is one which Smith is a perfect model for. A former Pfizer lobbyist, open to privatisation within the NHS, eager to maintain the rules of political movement within the status quo, open to reciting the mantras of a Socialist party without ever needing to act on or fight for them. He’s a reflection of the halcyon days the Labour Right long for, the days of Blair, the days of management where the community of power was small and all too often unnoticed by too many of us. He represents politics as they feel it should be, sensible and codified in a way they can understand and control.
Unfortunately he won’t win. He won’t win in the Party and he wouldn’t win with the general electorate. The times have changed, people have remembered that they should, in theory, have some say in the political landscape of this country. Brexit was just the tip of that particular iceberg and it’s not going to melt away any time soon. People no longer care about the Parliamentary traditions of closed door conflict, they want to know that winning actually means something, they want to know that things can actually get better for people, that they can actually bring about positive change and resist the negative – not just play through the motions of success as if it ended at the boundaries of Westminster. They even, shock of shocks, want to see politics take place outside of the halls of power – they want to see opposition, and government, manifested in the daily struggles of life, drawing power down and out to where they can see, feel and use it to protect and improve their own lives.
So they’re going to fight. They’re going to fight until they do win because within Labour, within the electorate and within the political world as a whole people are realising what victory should be – and they’re wondering why the politicians they have are so reluctant to try to attain it.