But they raise another question: why are there strikes against migrant workers when there have been no such strikes against the damage that bankers have done to the economy? The question gains force from the fact that even the most pessimistic reading of the economic research shows that immigrants have only a small adverse effect upon indigenous workers - orders of magnitude smaller than the effect the banking crisis is having.
Why then are foreign workers getting more blame than bankers?
Marxists will say that this just shows the effectiveness of the ancient principle of “divide and rule”. The capitalist class uses nationalistic antagonisms to split workers and so deflect attention away from the fact that it, rather than foreigners, is to blame for workers’ plight.
But what’s the mechanism through which they can do this? Partly, it’s simple. It’s the salience effect. British workers at Immingham can clearly see Italian and Portuguese workers doing jobs they think they can do, and infer that they are “stealing” their jobs*. By contrast, the mechanisms through which bankers destroy jobs are less obvious. And people mistake what’s obvious for what’s important.
This suggests that Marx might have been more correct than he or many of his followers made out. There are mechanisms through which workers can acquire an ideology which helps sustain injustice, which deflects their anger away from capitalists and towards fellow workers. These mechanisms don’t require workers to be the dupes of capitalist apologists. It’s just that workers - just like everyone else - are prone to cognitive biases.
* This is only part of the story. It doesn’t explain why Immingham workers are angry about Italians getting work when, I guess, they’d be quite tolerant of men from Hull or Grimsby doing the jobs.