Saturday, September 03, 2016

Citizens of the world

Some 120 Syrians arrived in Scotland in the past week, taking the country to a 1,000-refugee landmark. Scotland has so far settled one-third of all refugees arriving in the U.K.

Development economist, Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and the head of its Migration and Development initiative, explains “The inequality of opportunity is driving the current migration crisis. It means that economic opportunity and personal security are handed out mostly by lottery: a lottery of birthplace.” He continues “People born into settings of poverty and violence are moving, refusing to simply accept a grim fate ordained for them. The migration crisis thus makes it easy to see some of the enormous costs of global inequality – including the thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean each year, and the security problems inherent to poorly regulated mass movement.” We do not have to live in a world where the country you are born into becomes the number one determinant of your economic prospects. One of the most effective ways to reduce global inequality is to build new systems for human mobility so that fewer and fewer people must accept the circumstances of their birth as their fate. . History shows that broadly sharing this responsibility pays off. When 200,000 people poured into Austria during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, responsibility to assist and resettle them was shared among 37 countries. Rather than becoming a crippling burden to Austria, they became an economic and cultural asset to the world

According to the economist Thomas Piketty, author of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” and associate chair at the Paris School of Economics, a professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and centennial professor at the London School of Economics, the combination of an aging European population, global warming and a demographic explosion makes it imperative for Europe to open its borders to migrants and refugees. Piketty points to the years before the financial crisis hit as an example of how Europe accommodated newcomers and reduced unemployment at the same time. He told the BBC that the current slow pace of growth on the continent has been exacerbated by austerity policies and a lack of immigration. "The European Union has the capacity to absorb a large flow of migrants, one million per year in terms of inflow net of outflow," he said."This is exactly what we had between 2000 and 2010 and this was working in the sense that unemployment was being reduced.” Piketty argues that, with a population of 510 million, the European Union is well able to cope with more immigrants. The population of the EU has only risen by 0.2% a year since 1995, he argues, compared to 1.2% for the world's population over the same period.

It is easy to stir up fears of “the other.” Reducing the number of people who can enter the country is presented as the be-all and end-all on how to protect a sense of belonging and community. By being part of a nation people can feel empowered simply by being British. This form of empowerment is both exclusive and futile. Those grabbing for the nation in an attempt to escape the powerlessness of their own lives in the face of austerity are doing themselves a disfavor. It is not immigration that has caused the great economic divide in Britain, any more than it is in the rest of the E.U.

The World Socialist Movement’s message is that world socialism is the only solution to the problems of wage-slaves in whatever country you come from, problems which are basically the same—unemployment, struggles to keep wages up with prices, bad housing, schools and hospitals, racism, insecurity and so on — precisely because they have a common cause — the capitalist system of class monopoly of the means of existence and consequently production for profit. Capitalism is international. Economically, it operates as a single system dominating the whole world, but, politically, it is divided into a hundred or so artificial “nation-states”. Each of these states seeks to ensure the loyalty of its subjects by inculcating into them, from the cradle to the grave, the idea that they are members of a “nation” with a common interest against those of other “nations”. Socialists reject this mistaken and dangerous idea, regarding themselves not as British, Irish, French, American or whatever but as members of the human race, as citizens of the world.

The real division in the world is not between people of supposedly different “nationalities” but between two social classes both of which are international: a class of capitalists and state capitalists who own and control all that is in and on the Earth and a class of people who, excluded from such ownership and control, are obliged to work for an employer (private or state) in order to live. Wage and salary earners everywhere, whatever their language, legal nationality, skin colour, have a common interest.

The world capitalist class are continually competing against each other to sell their goods profitably on world markets, to obtain cheap and secure sources of essential raw materials; to find fields in which to invest their capital more profitably. They also compete for strategic areas in order to protect the markets, trade routes, raw material sources and investment fields they have got or want. The various armed states into which the world is divided are used by rival groups of capitalists to protect and further their interests in these clashes. They represent, in other words, not the interest of the majority of their subjects, but that of the dominant section of the capitalist class established within their borders.

Socialism will see the abolition of frontiers and the dismantling of the various armed states into which the world is now divided. As classes will have been abolished, people really will become citizens of a united world.