Friday, December 27, 2013

Guarding the Gates

Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it. –Malcolm X

All inhabitable territory in the world has now been demarcated, and all humanity has been corralled into well-defined regions. Indeed, most people cannot now conceive of a world not divided into national patches. Some capitalists want the free movement of capital, but not the accompanying  free movement of labour that some other employers actively seek. The development of the internal control of nations is the other side of the coin to increased “globalisation”. Whether the economy is expanding or contracting determines the interests of the State and those of the world demand for labour. In boon-times many countries liberalise entry procedures (although essential formal controls are retained), and with the onset of a recession protectionism in trade is matched by a protectionist restriction of foreign labour.  But for the local-born workers the existence of immigration does have negative effects, tending to raise native unemployment rates, forcing natives into poorer paid work. It is an unpalatable fact.

Nevertheless, immigrants face a legislative and bureaucratic structure of quite amazing complexity and there is the delegation of considerable authority to Immigration Officers, a job itself that is defined from the outset as one of control and exclusion. The passport and visa, with the whole complex of subsidiary controls, become an instrument for the control and direction of the worker.

Throughout the history of capitalism, workers have moved in search of work, or been driven to work, in areas other than those where they were raised. This common phenomenon becomes an issue when national boundaries are laid down and become of sufficient importance to impede, block or shape the international movement of workers. That is, political controls are imposed in the attempt to break a movement impelled by the operation of a world labour market. Controls can work provided there is sufficient police power but leaving aside the waste involved in employing a bureaucracy and police force to implement the regulations, regulations drastically reduce just that flexibility which is one of the main advantages of immigrant labour to capitalism, hence again the divide amongst the ruling class, the split between the bosses who benefit and gain and those who do not, yet have to contribute to the costs.

Populism is one of the most loosely used and abused terms in politics, but it has a real substance. Populism caters to a mass anger and anxiety by championing the struggle of the “people” against “Big Brother” government,  yet for all its appeals to the “average”, “ordinary” Briton, populism represents no solution for the plight of the workers. Racism and national chauvinism, beating the drums for patriotism and continually reminding the poorer British worker of their own misfortunes in contrast to the coddling of the in-comers has become its more prominent features. Populist politicians re-channel mass anger through their own nationalist prism, which is ultimately protectionist. Immigrants are the most immediate targets of efforts to divide and conquer the working class by marshaling other sectors of the “people” – worried about being undercut economically – to see “foreigners” as their enemy. Not infrequently immigrants are portrayed as bearers of not only low-paid labour but also of criminality and diseases who are turning the country into a land littered with languages that are not English. However, in the real world populist politicians can promise change, but delivery is incompatible with the system they defend. The argument that immigrants are the cause of the British-born and raised miseries is of the same logic as blaming the poor for their poverty, the unemployed for being jobless.

Indigenous workers who grow up in a particular social environment, tend to absorb the defensive ethics developed by preceding generations to protect themselves from the ravages of capital. There are jobs they will not do,  hours or conditions of work they will not accept, moves from one locality to another that they will not make for the sort of wages and terms on offer. A worker torn out of this environment is much more appropriate to the needs of employers. Migrant workers are is less able to support themselves during unemployment such as by borrowing from local networks of relatives and friends (although that is an important reason for new arrivals living together in particular localities), and less likely to have reserves on which to fall back in hard times, less likely to have possessions that can be sold or pawned. Such workers are likely to be much more responsive to differences in wages – regardless of conditions -and, lacking local social ties, much more geographically mobile in response to changes in the labour market. They are also entitled to less social benefits, despite rumours to the contrary. These – as well as overt discrimination – are the factors in the general picture of immigrants working longer hours, inferior working conditions, with a higher rate of job changing and of geographical mobility than native workers.

One purpose of the governments introduction of new regulations applying to new foreign workers appears to be to appeal to the native population by the continual demonstration of the “disprivilege” of the foreigner. These restrictions and limits on entitlements are more related to the need to secure the loyalty and vote of the natives than actual effectiveness. Controls can work  provided there is sufficient police power. But they do so with paradoxical results. First, they have negative effects for native employment (tending to raise native unemployment rates, and force natives into poorer paid work) and for the economy as a whole, the expense involved in employing a bureaucracy and police force to implement the regulations. But secondly, regulations drastically reduce just that flexibility which is one of the main advantages of immigrant labour to capitalism.

Few issues today so sharply differentiates world socialists and nationalist reformists as that of the cross-border migration of workers. At stake is a challenge to the very existence of the nation-state and its prerogatives in the control of a territory and the inhabitants. Much of the political agenda is concerned with government policy and its power over its inhabitants, not with abolition of the State. Accepting the right of the State to control immigration is accepting its right to exist and the right of the ruling class to exist as a ruling class, and its right to exploit. Deploring the ill treatment of immigrants should be seen as an attack on the State.

 The task of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is to combat nationalism in whatever form it takes. The UK is by no means homogeneous. The biggest and most important difference is that it is made up of just two classes - the wealthy capitalists and the rest of us.

It is the task of all workers regardless of their place of birth to unite and present one front to the common enemy in the common struggle — the fight against the exploitation of those who work by those who own — the fight against capitalist slavery.

The bosses have tried every imaginable remedy for the crisis. To no avail. Now they hope to find a lever to raise their profits by lowering taxes by cutting government spending. They want “cheap government” and the support of the working class to force a curtailment of expenses. As far as the crisis is concerned, the capitalists are constantly shifting the burden (unemployment, wage-cuts) to the workers but their attempt to shift the tax burden to the workers will not succeed. Each section of capitalist robbers in attempting to shift the tax burden to the other sections of their class is endeavoring to line up the workers on their side. All the .capitalists would like to shift it to the workers but are unsuccessful in this task, at least they desire to rally the workers behind them in an attempt to correct their office boys’ “excess spending”. When the capitalist robbers fight each other they want us to help them. We workers would be more than foolish to help one section of the capitalist robbers against another section on the question of war, taxes or any other struggle. The capitalist robbers as a whole rob the workers and the robbers’ division of the spoils is not our problem. Rather, our problem is to expropriate the expropriators.

 The capitalists are cheapening their government and increasing the means of suppression of the working class.  Immigration problems now assume an importance.  Are we to help the capitalists make a cheap government to suppress the workers? Import migrant labour at less cost by denying them benefits that they are rightfully entitled to? Would any class-conscious worker take part in such a game?

The aims of the capitalist drive against the great mass of foreign workers are plain. First, the exploiters want to lower the standard of living and the conditions of employment of millions of our workers who happen to be migrant workers. Then they will blame and attack these worse oppressed and more ruthlessly exploited foreign workers to the native workers for the degrading conditions they themselves have forced upon these labourers. The capitalists are thus hoping to sow dissension in and divide the ranks of the working masses in order to crush more easily all the workers — indigenous or newly-arrived alike. All workers regardless of place of birth have but one enemy, the employing class.

The Free Trade policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have left millions of workers unemployed and wiped out millions of small farmers, turning them into landless refugees. Those forced to leave their homelands and families have every right to seek refuge and jobs wherever they can.

Capitalists here are happy to out-source and  invest in factories in the Third World countries where they can pay rock-bottom wages,  undermining wages at home. They are happy to import workers from those lands, since they can be pressured to work for low wages and little benefits and  dare not file complaints. In turn, the capitalists use these low wages to undercut the living standards of the rest of the working class.  Immigrant workers, no matter what country they come from, must be employed at ruling wage rates and conditions. In no circumstances must they be used by unscrupulous employers to lower wage standards or worsen conditions. There must be no barriers placed in the way of their joining the trade unions or participating in the economic and political activities of the labour movement.

Capitalists try to turn groups of workers against each other, competing ever more fiercely for dwindling jobs and falling wages in a war of all against all; whites against Blacks, native and foreign-born workers. Workers of each country are forced to compete with each other in order to force down wages everywhere. Working people have only two choices: either let the bosses play us off each other until we hit bottom, or to unite and fight for decent wages and benefits for all. Such a struggle threatens profits and can ultimately succeed only by overthrowing their system. When economic decisions are made on the basis of profit, human needs are disregarded. Only a revolutionary society run by the working class can solve the crisis.

One wing of the ruling class calls for vicious repression and whips up racism. They seek to drive wedges between sectors of the working class, telling lower-paid workers that immigrants threaten their jobs.

Divide and conquer has ever been a capitalist weapon against the working class. Nothing could have been more dangerous for the ruling classes than that indigenous and migrant workers should make common cause and instead of fighting each other join forces and fight the employers.

The Socialist Party counters such xenophobic propaganda to convince the workers of the world they will only be able to secure a decent life, free of poverty and discrimination, by the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the building of a classless, socialist society.


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