Build unions, not borders

Submitted by AWL on 4 March, 2020 - 12:20 Author: Editorial
Build unions not borders

The Tories have threatened to abandon talks with the European Union in June and spend the second half of the year preparing for a No Deal Brexit.

No expert thought it would be easy to get a UK-EU trade agreement even by the end of the year, when the transition period is due to end and Brexit really kicks in. Getting an agreement largely sorted by June will be that much more difficult. It looks like the Tories are trying to bluff the EU into concessions by a game of brinkmanship which could easily end in No Deal anyway.

The Tories have abandoned their earlier promises to maintain a “level playing field” on workers’ rights, environmental standards, state aid and other issues, and are justifying themselves by noisily demanding full “sovereignty”, i.e. the right to diverge from EU-mandated standards as they see fit.

Overwhelmingly, of course, the divergences will be in the direction of an even more neoliberal, anti-working class regime than exists at present.

It's all part of the same package as the Tories' plans to stop all immigration of so-called "unskilled" labour.

Against the nationalist drive of the Tories and their counterparts in other countries, the left must insist that economic and cultural flourishing, meaningful political democracy and social progress depend on the lowering of borders between countries and increased international links and solidarity.

Free movement of people is an essential part of all that, and of left-wing, pro-working class politics. Hostility to migrants is an essential part of the nationalist project and its hostility to the left and workers’ interests.

At Labour Party conference 2019, after years of campaigning on the issues, socialists won strong policy to defend and extend free movement and migrants’ rights. In the Labour leadership election, Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy have said they support maintaining existing free movement, and Rebecca Long-Bailey has made positive noises about it.

As the general election result showed, adopting a left-wing policy does not automatically win wide support for it in society. Pro-migrant and pro-free-movement policies need to be systematically argued and campaigned for, particularly after years and decades when the vast bulk of campaigning has been on the other side.

Free movement should not just be defended, but extended. The increasing closedness and hostility of Europe to migration from outside has been the culture medium in which far-right nationalist politics have grown so spectacularly.

The Turkish government has threatened to open its borders with the EU and allow masses of migrants from Syria to cross. Those migrants face being held as prisoners in concentration camps on Greek islands or in limbo while Turkey tries to extract more money from the EU.

Migrants should be welcomed and integrated into society. The most important mechanism to welcome and integrate migrants, and to make society capable of welcoming and integrating, is a strong working-class movement.

On 21 March, Workers’ Liberty is co-sponsoring the “No borders” / “Free movement” bloc on the UN Antiracism Day march in London, organised by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement and others: Join us there to say “Build unions, not borders!”

• The 21 March Free Movement/ No Borders bloc, sponsored by Labour Campaign for Free Movement, Labour for a Socialist Europe, Mutiny, Red Flag, Socialist Resistance, and Workers' Liberty, assembles 12 noon at Riding House Street/ Langham Place, London W1B 2QS. Facebook event.

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