Friday, October 21, 2011

But we arer the same the world over

It is all too easy to blame immigrants for causing problems such as unemployment, bad housing or crime. Whether it is Eastern Europeans or Asians, a finger can always be pointed at ‘them’ for making things worse for ‘us’. It is often objected that immigrants come in order to claim benefits and live off the backs of ‘locals'. But there is no reason to think this is true in the vast majority of cases since benefits are low, and most migrants are not entitled to them anyway plus the migration journey can be expensive and arduous, sometimes fatal, with many dying suffocating in containers. Many 'natives' cannot contain their indignation that immigrants should try to come here at all and talk about immigration undermining 'indigenous' culture is so much hogwash. A nation is not something natural but an artificial idea that has been constructed over the centuries, based on accidents of geography and history. From fish and chips to curry and pizza, food in Britain is a mixture just as much as the inhabitants of these islands are. Without the constant propaganda against "foreigners", where would "nationalist" feeling come from? Such feelings are not inborn. Small children are not hostile to other children with different-coloured skin, any more than they are to those with different-coloured hair, or different-coloured shoes. Why should they be? Those travelling long distances through fear or desperation are people no different to ourselves.

Migrants are rarely well off in the country they move to, forming an underclass with little if any security of employment or housing. Immigrants often receive low paying work in the service industry ( the 3-D jobs, dirty dangerous and difficult), once they enter the developed capitalist system and they can never afford the education to gain higher paying jobs. As a result they stay in the service industry their entire lives, being some of the most lowly-paid members of the working class of wage and salary earners.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. Likely to be of more importance is the perception (rightly or wrongly) that Britain is a fair and open society and the desire to be with family and friends already in the UK. Such primary reasons stem largely from the foreign policy of the UK government, in presenting itself as a bastion of the free world whilst simultaneously exerting links over far-flung lands. It is taught in school that capitalist countries are mosaic countries, small units of various cultures existing within a larger schema or government. 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. Yet only those who assimilate into the capitalist system are able to experience the "freedoms" it promises, often at the cost to their own culture.

While it is true that the decision to economically migrate is not taken solely on labour market factors, and the nature of the political regime and the historic links may well have a strong determining role, nevertheless the demand for labour to be attracted to concentrated areas is a structural feature of capitalism. Since its inception, capitalism has drawn workers into highly concentrated areas of development in order to satisfy its labour needs. All those people seeking migration are simply obeying the imperative that they must try to find a place to work; and no amount of government restrictions will change that fact. Hence, migrants with even a smattering of English, and a desire to work for a bearable living standard or to pay off debts to people-traffickers, choose countries like Britain.

No ruling class is ever completely unanimous. Capitalism creates conflicts within each ruling class; no two capitalists have interests which are exactly the same. The question of immigration causes disputes within the British ruling class. Some want to establish the principle that when a particular industry or trade is short of workers, its owners have the right to bring in workers from any other country, and thus help to counteract the danger of having to raise wages and salaries. Some other members of the capitalist class feel it would be a mistake to let in too many workers from other countries. Some members of the capitalist class take advantage of any "foreign" immigration to whip up nationalist feeling, using the perception among workers (who have the votes) that there is some threat to themselves from competitors from overseas. Those who are in possession of little are easily frightened by the threat of some other coming to take it away. The appearance of jobs going to these “foreigners” whilst their “own” go without work reinforces the illusion that migration causes unemployment. World socialists have argued that racism is usually fuelled and ignited by poverty and fear, and therefore cannot be removed until the cause is.

So while many of those seeking to enter the UK might be well-qualified machine operators, engineers, builders, doctors etc (as they are), if the capitalist economy is going through yet another of its inevitable cyclical crises, there'll be no employers or money to pay for these much-needed workers. Such economic crises make migrants unwanted. They put politicians under maximum pressure to keep them out to minimise state expenditure, spending which reduces the nation's profitability the bigger it gets, and is especially disliked when making profits is then as difficult as it gets. Increased racism and nationalism also become more likely as high unemployment and poverty produce considerable social suffering, provoking the pained to find and lash out at those they think responsible, and politicians in need of scapegoats, chauvinistic bigots and money-mad tabloids all eager to point some out.

The problems we face are not caused by workers from other parts of the world migrating to this part, but by the capitalist system of class ownership and production for profit instead of the common ownership and production geared to satisfying people's needs which will be the case in socialism. The socialist response is simply to point out that poverty and social disruption are caused by capitalism, a social system which requires the vast majority of the population to rely on selling their labour power to survive. With or without immigration there will be unemployment, homelessness, crime. What an extraordinary notion it is that so many members of the human race should be forced to remain on that small section of the earth's surface in which they happened to be born. Who gave the world's rulers the right to tell us which bit of land we should live on? How much longer are we willing to sit around and let a tiny minority divide us? Socialists understand that the thing which makes workers leave behind their communities, and go to a place where their language is not spoken, is the wages system itself, which swats humans around the globe like a kitten playing with its toys. This underlies the need for us to recognise our identical position with regards to the wages system, and work together, as workers across the world, across boundaries, to create a commonly owned planet where all can live in security.What socialists envisage is that when the resources of the Earth have become the common heritage of all the human race then the world would no longer be divided into separate states, and people would be free to travel anyway in the world without needing a passport or visa and whether to live or to work or simply for pleasure.

Unique amongst all political parties, left or right, the Socialist Party has no national axe to grind. We side with no particular state or government. We have no time for border controls. The world over, workers must do what they can individually and collectively to survive and resist capitalism. In many parts of the world that means escaping political tyranny or economic poverty. Workers should try and resist taking sides. We must not blame another worker for our poverty.

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