Saturday, December 28, 2013

For World Socialism and Global Solidarity

“What they do, they escape from some warlord in Somalia, walk across Africa, row in a bath to Spain, sneak through Europe in a crate of pigs, slip into England by clinging to the side of a hovercraft, then we’re expected to look after these people who aren’t prepared to make an effort.” Mark Steel in The Independent 

People do not lightly uproot themselves and move across the globe. They will have good reason. They could be refugees fleeing persecution at home like the Jewish people early this century escaping pogroms in eastern Europe. The first legal regulation of immigration into the UK this century, the Aliens Act 1905, was aimed at such Jewish refugees and even back then the justification was that they might be a burden on the state.

While Labour continues to pose as the softer alternative to the more explicit anti-immigration voices on the right, be they UKIP or Tory, deep down  Labour is just as much illiberal and suspicious of foreigners. The Labour Party, true to its capitalist masters, supported, and when in government, introduced many exclusionary immigration controls against foreign-born workers. In 1968 the Wilson Labour government brought in an Act which banned Kenyan Asians, who held UK passports, from entering Britain. After 1974 Labour home secretary Merlyn Rees introduced ‘virginity tests’ on Asian women arriving to marry their fiancees.

The legal system has always reflected the class interests of the ruling class, and indeed the need for laws reflects the tensions between the classes. Immigration law has always been determined by the requirements of the capitalist economy.  The capitalists oppose free entry into the UK of peoples because they are poor, and if they don’t require the extra labour see them only as a drain on their economy. Immigration policies under capitalism serve not only the economic but also the political interests of the ruling class.

Initially the needs of the British capitalists for extra labour in their expanding industries was supplied by dragging the rural poor to the growing towns. After the Second World War the British economy needed rebuilding, and expanded again in the post-war boom, and was once again short of labour. The British capitalists looked to their colonies for more labour. They actively recruited in the West Indies and on the Indian sub-continent for cheap labour to fill up the jobs British workers could now afford to turn down. These immigrant workers filled vacant jobs in transport, the health service, factories and mills.

In its attempts to maximise profits, the capitalist class shifts production to low-wage Asian countries while seeking out the cheapest sources of labour at home: foreign-born workers, women and young workers.  Anti-immigrant racism is a time-worn method of the capitalist rulers to divide the working class and paralyse it in the face of the capitalists’ attacks.

When migrant workers enter the work force...that is, if there are any jobs available, they learn that it is seniority that counts and it is “last hired, first fired", that native co-workers are generally afraid of them as "competition", and that management is watching them even more closely than other workers, while at the same time fueling petty squabbles and competition between native-born and foreign-born workers. In addition, many workers are supportive of racist right-wing politicians who promises to protect their jobs at the expense of immigrants.

Capitalism leads to national chauvinism, but socialism is different. Socialists do not advise the capitalist class in Britain how best to keep foreign-born workers out. Until socialism eliminates economic scarcity it is impossible to abolish the state. The capitalist state apparatus cannot be wielded in the interests of the working class. So it would be impossible for the ruling class to abolish or open the borders.

Workers of the world unite in the fight for global socialism!


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