Letter: Why so weak?

Submitted by Matthew on 8 June, 2016 - 11:11

Why is Solidarity making the weak social democratic argument that migrants are an “economic and cultural boon” (Solidarity 407)?

Socialists oppose immigration controls because they mean more prison camps, barbed wire and people drowning at sea — not because migrants bring “us” boons.

The advocates of immigration controls want a world where movement is micromanaged in the interests of capital — a fine balance of achieving just right level of unemployment, racist tension and super-exploited “illegal” labour.

Around the world people are on the move. We either respond by trying to halt that movement with ever-escalating state violence or we fight for freedom of movement and a redistribution of wealth that ensures adequate housing, jobs and public services for all regardless of where we were born.

Stuart Jordan, Cornwall

Martin Thomas replies:

The working class must become a world class, and is weakened whenever one national section sets up barriers against another. That is our baseline “abstract” stance against immigration bans.

To explain that migrants are an economic and cultural boon is surely part of explaining that they are (everywhere) part of the same productive, creative class as local-born workers, not an extraneous burden. It is also part of countering media lies.

I don’t see how it is more “weak social-democratic” than the argument that immigration bans can be implemented only with “barbed wire and people drowning”. On the contrary, the latter argument implies that we might support the bans if only they could be implemented gently, or that immigration bans are otherwise desirable but the overhead costs of implementation outweigh the benefits.

Nor is it particularly revolutionary to oppose immigration bans on the grounds that they are a capitalist plot to micromanage labour supply. The “White Australia” bans, from 1901, were imposed by a strong (but chauvinist) labour movement against the wishes of the majority of Australian capitalists.

That didn’t make them right.

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