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Monday, 7 February 2011

Marx: Capitalists Importing Foreigners

OF JULY 23, 1867


One of the best means of demonstrating the beneficent influence of
international combination is the assistance rendered by the
International Working Men's Association in the daily occurring trades'
disputes. It used to be a standard threat with British capitalists, not only in London, but also in the provinces,
when their workmen would not tamely submit to their arbitrary
dictation, that they would supplant them by an importation of
foreigners. The possibility of such importations taking place was in
most cases sufficient to deter the British workmen from insisting on
their demands. The action taken by the Council has had the effect of
putting a stop to these threats being made publicly. Where anything of
the kind is contemplated it has to be done in secret, and the
slightest information obtained by the workmen suffices to frustrate
the plans of the capitalists. As a rule, when a strike or a lock-out
occurs concerning any of the affiliated trades, the Continental
correspondents are at once instructed to warn the workmen in their
respective localities not to enter into any engagements with the
agents of the capitalists of the place where the dispute is. However,
this action is not confined to affiliated trades. The same action is
taken on behalf of other trades upon application being received. This
generally leads to the affiliation of the trades that invoke our aid.

Now and then it happens that the capitalists succeed in getting a few
stragglers, but they generally repudiate their engagements upon being
informed of the reason why they were engaged.

During the London basket-makers' dispute last winter information was
received that six Belgians were at work under the railway arches in
Blue Anchor Lane, Bermondsey. They were as strictly guarded against
coming in contact with the outside public as a kidnapped girl in a
nunnery. By some stratagem a Flemish member of the Council succeeded
in obtaining an interview, and upon being informed of the nature of
their engagement the men struck work and returned home. Just as they
were about to embark a steamer arrived with a fresh supply. The new
arrivals were at once communicated with; they too repudiated their
engagements, and returned home, promising that they would exert
themselves to prevent any further supplies, which they accomplished.

In consequence of the appeals made by deputations from the Council to
various British societies, the Paris bronze-workers received very
considerable pecuniary support during their lockout, and the London
tailors on strike have in turn received support from Continental
associations through the intercession of the Council. The good offices
of the Council were also employed on behalf of the excavators, the
wire-workers, the block-cutters, the hairdressers, and others.

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