It really does take a certain form of blindness to complain about the very process which solves your identified problem. Yet this is what Felicity Lawrence manages with her bemoaning of the effects of Brexit upon food supply and the labour force in it. Brexit is going to mean, unless something is done, that the foreign and low paid pickers won’t be coming over here. OK, that’s certainly a possible outcome. She also mentions that in order to get Honest Brits out into the fields they have to be treated better. Better paid, offered more certain hours and so on. OK. Therefore something has to be done to make conditions in the fields better. But then that’s exactly what Brexit is going to do, isn’t it?
To miss this is odd because it’s an entirely Marxist point to make:
The Mackeys have the equivalent of nine full-time staff, made up of 13 to 14 people who work varying patterns that suit them. They are paid the London living wage like Brown’s packers. In good years, workers are also paid a share of the profits in bonuses. Unlike many agency workers supplied to industrial farms to harvest and pack, the workers on Ripple Farm receive holiday pay, sick pay and good protective clothing to keep them warm and dry.
Absolutely super, who doesn’t want the workers to have good lives?
This is not how most food businesses work today. Large numbers of them have depended on EU migrants – around 98% of seasonal workers in primary agriculture are foreign-born and 33% of workers in food manufacturing are migrants.
OK, it’s that second part that will be solved by the Brexit being so decried. Because, as any good Marxists should know, we’ll be getting rid of that reserve army of the unemployed. As Marx did point out, where there’s a shortage of labour the employer – the capitalist – has to share rising productivity with the workers. For he’s in competition with the other capitalists for the profits that can be made from the exploitation. This does not happen where there are the unemployed. Why bother to improve the conditions of the workforce when you can just hire more starvelings at will?
That is, cutting off that access to the starvelings of Europe means that farmers will all have to improve labour conditions in order to get the labour whose faces they can grind into the dust.
Now, we don’t think that’s all that good an idea, we’re just fine with labour coming over here to do the labour we don’t want to do. But within Felicity’s world of concerns it is still true that she’s complaining about the very thing which solves her concern. Which is pretty good really, when you think about it. It’s also Very Guardian.