Friday, February 04, 2011


Britons are more fearful about immigration than many other nations.

Almost one in four (23%) said immigration was the most important issue facing the country. The other countries, including the US (9%), Canada (5%), France (8%), Germany (9%), Italy (10%), Holland (4%) and Spain (3%), appeared far less concerned. The survey also found 59% of Britons agreed there were "too many" people living in the country who were not born here, also a much higher figure than the other nations. 47% believed legal immigrants were a burden on social services like schools and hospitals, and 33% said legal immigrants increase crime. About one in four (22%) said only British citizens should have access to UK schools and 25% said only British citizens should have access to healthcare.

However, the survey also showed that 77% of people agreed legal immigrants were hard workers, and 43% said they were integrating well or very well into society - a higher figure than several of the other nations.

Whether Polish plumbers or Chinese cockle-pickers, migrant labour in the UK is undoubtedly higher profile now than it has been for many decades. Should we be surprised by such findings when politicians ever ready to seek the votes of Little-Englanders often speak about the problem of immigrants from abroad coming to this country and causing problems such as housing, medical care and education. The problems facing working people and their families are not caused by immigration or immigrants and will not be solved by the Fortress Britain or a policy of "British Jobs for British Workers". They are caused by capitalism. We face manipulations, lies and exaggerations from the media accounts of immigration and asylum seekers, e.g. in the Thatcher era, with immigrants making up 4 percent of the population, she gave her vision of what made Britain 'Great' – 9 percent felt there were too many immigrants before she expounded compared with 21 percent who admitted to being worried afterwards. The actual state of monetary and housing benefits to immigrants are wildly different from the stories abounding in the media. The estimate of a £200m expense for so-called “health tourism” turned out to be unsupportable, and the real cost is probably far less. Most desperately poor and sick people capable of scraping together the cost of reaching Britain would spend this trying to get well close to home. And with a NHS budget of almost £70bn, the true cost of transnational healthcare pay-avoidance must be comparatively trivial.

The capitalist system is marketed on its promises of equality and freedoms through purchasing power. Prospective immigrants are given rhetoric about how capitalism makes anything possible – if one has money. It is taught in school that capitalist countries are mosaic countries, small units of various cultures co-existing alongside. This view is marketed so that potential immigrants will not have to leave their customs behind and still be able to reap the so-called rewards of capitalist society. In reality, what exists is a melting pot where these cultures are eventually assimilated. The opposite of a mosaic, melting pot, a term with a negative connotation, is often used to describe societies experiencing large-scale immigration from many different countries that seem to “melt” into the existing society. For example, Muslims are being assimilated into Western culture by way of developed capitalism. Only those who assimilate into the capitalist system are able to experience the "freedoms" it promises, but at often cost to their culture. It follows that people who come to developed capitalist countries work to serve the needs of the majority, who are of a different culture, often by forgoing their own so that they might fit in the prevailing market-driven norms. The immigrants who now try to settle in Britain come at the bottom of the social scale, taking the worst houses, accepting the worst conditions. Yet many publicists cannot contain their indignation that they should try to come here at all.

Capitalism needs a reserve army of unemployed, to exert a downward pressure on wages as well as a source of readily-available extra labour-power that can be called upon during the expansion phase of the capitalist economic cycle. The problem for the capitalist class is a potential labour shortage threatens the growth of the economy. However, a labour shortage puts the working class in a strong position and clearly the employers wish to counteract this. All things being equal, a labour shortage causes wages to rise and thus puts workers in a comparatively stronger bargaining position vis à vis overall working conditions. Naturally, our masters will always seek to counteract such a situation by importing (often cheaper, more compliant) workers, which in turn intensifies competition among workers, potentially fermenting xenophobia and racism. This can lead to the government actively recruiting labour from overseas to bridge the gap. Some economists have pointed out that such a policy is likely to put intolerable pressure on public and private housing in terms of provision and surging house prices . In some parts of the UK the influx may well have resulted in increased unemployment for existing workers and appears to be putting a downward pressure on wages in some sectors. For workers fighting over crumbs in lower wage unskilled jobs, the temptation to blame your unemployment or wage level on foreign labour may be strong. But nevertheless such views are false. The blame lies elsewhere. In order to stay profitable, UK employers are demanding cheap labour. In the nineteenth century, capitalists in Britain welcomed many thousands of Irish immigrants, in the belief that they would keep wages down. So some English or Scottish workers may have felt that their pay was less than it might have been, without the competition from these Irish newcomers. From this point of view, then, immigration might be a minus for British workers.

Now the capitalist economy is going through yet another of its inevitable cyclical crises and such economic crises make migrants unwanted. They put politicians under maximum pressure to keep them out to minimise state expenditure

We must not blame another worker for our poverty, whether migrant or not, whether illegal or legal.Those travelling long distances through fear or desperation are people no different to ourselves. Instead of falling for the divide and rule tactics which weaken us all, workers should recognise who their real enemy is and work together to defeat the system that enslaves us all.

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