Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mass Immigration: Why the Left should oppose it


A few weeks ago I was on a anti-war panel with the socialist film director Ken Loach. Ken made the point that the large scale influx of low-wage labour was a key part of the neoliberal/neoconservative globalist agenda, designed to reduce wage rates and boost corporate profits. He's absolutely right. The House of Lords report on the economic impact of mass immigration to Britain finds, surprise, surprise, that immigration has indeed had a negative impact on the wages of the lowest paid (while equally unsurprisingly delivering an increase in the wages of the highest paid). The report concludes that large-scale immigration has had no net economic benefit for the people of Britain. But, it has of course, benefited greatly the rich, big business and global capital. The report is as big a blow to the neo-liberal/neo-con cause as was last autumn's US Joint Security agencies report that there was no evidence that Iran was developing nuclear weapons.

The serial globalists haven't taken long in their attempt to rubbish the House of Lords findings. On the Guardian's Comment is Free website, the fanatically neoliberal Philippe Legrain, while parroting Norman Tebbit's 'on your bike' philosophy' in his arguments about the benefits of an ultra-'flexible' and 'adaptable' labour force, tries to portray the report as the work of old fuddy-duddy Tories. Yet if anyone comes to this debate with an agenda, it's Legrain.

Legrain's Guardian profile informs us that he has worked for The Economist magazine and was a 'special advisor' to the director of the World Trade Organisation. He was also a director of the pro-EU, pro Euro pressure group 'Britain in Europe'. His book, 'Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them' has been shortlisted for that well-known left-wing literary prize, the Financial Times Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award. Legrain like all of his globalist ilk is also a fanatical Russophobe.
On his website he writes:

My old friend Edward Lucas has written an excellent call to arms, The New Cold War, about the dangers to the West and Russia itself of the country's fascist turn under Putin.

In today's news, consider the divisions over whether NATO should grant Ukraine and Georgia "membership action plans" that would open the door to their eventual membership. Russia aggressively objects. While there is a reasonable debate to be had about whether Ukraine and Georgia should be admitted to NATO - personally, I think they should - Russia should not be given a veto over what its neighbours and NATO do. Appeasing Russia for the sake of NATO "unity" would be shameful and unwise.


I've mentioned Legrain's background- and his views on Russia and NATO expansion as I think it's important to highlight the agenda of those who advocate uncontrolled immigration. For too long sections of the left have supported an open door immigration policy, without realising that in doing so they were playing right into the hands of socialism's biggest enemies.

If fanatical, pro-big business globalists like Philippe Legrain want mass immigration- it must by definition, be a bad thing.

UPDATE: Philip Blond has more on New Labour's pro-big business immigration policy here.

14 comments:

Lucas said...

Neil, I think you may have erred here. The Left should not oppose anything that will ultimately weaken capitalism. Whilst the short term benefit of immigration certainly is to the capitalist class, the reality is that in the long term, mass migration reveals the inner contradictions of capitalism, and as such reveals to all races and nationalities where the problem lies. I would strongly reccomend the following lengthy article for consideration on the subject. http://www.lalkar.org/issues/contents/mar2006/immigration.php (part one) and, http://www.lalkar.org/issues/contents/may2006/immigration.php (part 2).
Please put any prejudice aside and actually take the time to print and read this.

David Lindsay said...

Would you believe it? Mass immigration makes the rich richer and the poor poorer, with no net gain to the economy as a whole. You don’t say!

We now have the deliberate importation of a new working class whose members understand no English except commands, know nothing about workers’ rights in this country, can be deported if they step out of line, and (since they have no affinity with any particular part of this country) can be moved around at will, so that the old working class can be told to go hang, taking with it its unions, its minimum wage, its health and safety regulations, and so forth.

In accordance with this new state of affairs, we also have an enforced bilingualism or multilingualism which transfers economic, social, cultural and political power to a bilingual or multilingual elite, so that those who are or will be excluded are or will be the English-speaking working class, black and white.

Far from our having grown richer since 1979, we have in fact grown vastly poorer: only a generation ago, a single manual wage provided the wage-earner, his wife and their several children with a quality of life unimaginable even on two professional salaries today.

This impoverishment has been so rapid and so extreme that most people, including almost all politicians and commentators, simply refuse to acknowledge that it has happened. But it has indeed happened. And it is still going on.

The root of the problem is that this country’s sovereignty, liberty, democracy and identity have all been eroded by a very heavy reliance on imported goods, rather than on a domestic manufacturing base; by a very heavy reliance on imports in order to feed her people, instead of maintaining a thriving agricultural sector, itself characteristically a bastion of strong family ties, and therefore also of strong community spirit; and by the ownership and control of much of her agriculture, industry and commerce by persons who are either not her citizens or not resident within her borders for tax purposes.

Anonymous said...

Another insightful post Neill.

This is a topic I feel pretty strongly about, and I'm routinely rounded on by bleeding hearts for expressing sentiments similar to to your own. Letting market forces dictate the movement of people leads to a raw deal all round (except, of course, for the capitalist class of the host nation).

I abhor the anti-immigration rhetoric of reactionaries, and I'm a little hardened to sentimental arguments about how immigration takes people away from family and friends (I know plenty of foreign nationals only too happy escape their nearest and dearest for a time), but my reasons for opposing mass immigration are:

1. It obviously depresses the wages of low-skilled workers.

2. It deprives poorer countries of much-needed labour .For example, here in Ireland there are a lot of Filipino nurses who do tremendous work, but whose skills I'm sure are missed in the hospitals of Manila. But the market values as greater the health of a European than the health of an Asian.

3.And not least,the powers that be in the host nation feel no obligation to equip the indigenous workforce with certain skills because they can just cherry-pick the best and brightest talents from the third-world.

OPiR

olching said...

I disagree with you on this, Neil. It is possible to be against the forces of globalisation without articulating it in an anti-immigration position. Mass immigration is in part the result of global, economic pressures (of all kind), and therefore I think you are confusing cause and effect. I think in being anti-immigration one targets the wrong issue. It's dealing with the symptom rather than the cause.

All we do by calling for a knee-jerk stop of immigration is to bask in the rich-poor divide and, let's face it, distinguish between people on the grounds of race and ethnicity.

In other words, it's attacking completely the wrong group and issue.

lucas, interesting argument. It's a bit like the anti-fair trade stance, in the sense that by purchasing truly unethical goods the contradictions and inequalities of capitalist, globalised trade will come stronger to the fore. By buying fair trade we give the beast breathing space (and an air of credibility and morality, unlike with the anti-immigration stance).

Neil Clark said...

thanks to all who have commented, and lucas- thanks for the link.
anonymous- agreed. your second point is a particularly strong one that many who claim to believe in global justice seem to have overlooked.
david: your analysis is spot on.
olching: I don't think we're in much disagreement on this. You're right, of course we have to continually focus on the cause of the problem- globalisation. The left should oppose both the free movement of capital and free movement of labour as both only benefit big business. I'm not calling for a 'knee-jerk stop to immigration'- only for an end to mass immigration. And socialists are the best people to make the case against mass immigration, because we have no racist agenda. If we do duck the issue, then racists will exploit the issue as they are already doing.

olching said...

Neil, thanks for your reply.

You say: "The left should oppose both the free movement of capital and free movement of labour as both only benefit big business."

Yes, you are right, they do, but there is a difference between capital and labour, and it's called being human. I take your general point of course, as you know, but I just feel uneasy to target an effect of globalisation in this way, as it involves humans. In the end, with the politics left out, we are distinguishing between individuals on the ground of their passport (and essentially ethnicity).

Besides, I think the issue of immigration will always be exploited by racists and other, despite any efforts by the left to claim the issue.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the moment...cheers.

Jock McTrousers said...

God bless you, Neil (not that I believe in Him)! This is a subject that makes steam comes out of my ears, so this is going to be a bit of a rant.
It used to be the case that the minimum qualification for being considered ' on the left' was that you supported the power of organised labour (justifiable quibbles about 'labour aristocracy notwithstanding), and opposed the use of scab labour; now it's an absolute shibboleth (and practically the only remaining one) for self-styled 'left' groups (universally in Trot groups) that immigration is a good, and anyone who opposes it is a nazi racist. The only place I know of where the question can even be raised is the Morning Star's letters page (and I think you only get letters published there if you're one of their pals). Just try raising the issue on one of the so-called 'left' blogs, Lenin's Tomb for instance, and you'll be deluged with insults, slanders, misrepresentations, sanctimonious self-righteous indignation arising from a challenge to their self-image as intrepid macho nazi-fighters like in 'Saving Private Ryan' .. you know the rest.

At best you'll get a response similar to the one here from Lucas, who I guess is from the CPGB(ML), who are actually one of very few left groups I consider to have any integrity at all; but I strongly disagree with his argument. I read the LALKAR article, Lucas (your links don't work, by the way). Heard it all before. In fact, this stuff is so universal on the left that I wonder if it originates from a think-tank in an office in that big building in Vauxhall. To be blunt, the article is a dishonest, emotionally manipulative tearjerker, with all the usual buttons pushed - racism, xenophobia, the poverty they've fled, the long history of immigration (on the current scale?), descendents of immigrants have no right to oppose immigration - (why not? are they not really British?), work that wouldn't be done otherwise - is it necessary, then? Does the tax from these businesses really make that much difference? Everyone can produce statistics. I'm aware of the shady background of Migration watch, but are their statistics less believable than our government's?.

And next to nothing about the effect on organised labour, except to pretend that immigrant labour will be radicalised by their experience here, and take the experience 'home' to inform their own country's 'class struggle'. Quite the opposite. Maybe there was some case for that point of view in Lenin's day, but current mass immigration is not spreading radicalism, it is helping the rich stamp out radicalism in the few places where it has a toe-hold - the traditional function of scab labour. How are the workers to exert pressure on the ' labour aristocracy', when there are ten people queueing up to do every job for half the price? Would you give everyone that comes here the right to vote here? How can there be lasting solidarity between people who are stuck here, and those who are saving to go back to a country where everything is cheaper? When did the unions last fight for anything anyway? How much harder will it be now to get them to fight?

'Revealing the inner contradictions of capitalism' is not very useful, if it's also massively undermining the power of any working class to do anything about it - This is just a capitulation to the myth of the irresistability of globalisation, and the myth that it will lead to international workers' solidarity. Look at the EU - what it really means is power becoming more and more remote from local, and any, accountability.

George Galloway comes out with this stuff every week. Who couldn't respect Galloway for his opposition to US/UK imperialism, his support for the Palestinians etc. - in certain areas (the USSR, Yugoslavia, Cuba, Afghanistan) he's way to the left of most of 'the left', but on immigration he's even worse. At least the rest of the left (and the liberal left) acknowledge, as Neil did, the decrease in purchasing power and job security, and the lengthening work hours? Not George! We're all better off as a result of immigration; look at America! I doubt that I need to comment on that. But, obviously, if we're all getting better off, then what's so bad about capitalism?

LALKAR - " The truth is that it is capitalism, not foreign workers, that creates unemployment and it alone is the source of inadequate housing, under provision of education and health, derisory pensions for most retired people, a run-down transport system, and so forth. "

Yes, capitalism and imperialism are responsible for the plight of the destitute who try to escape the third world; but the third world cannot fight our imperialism without the support of an organised working class in the imperialist centres, and mass immigration undermines that. And what about depriving developing countries of the skilled workers they so urgently need? We must try to hold on to what gains the working class has made, where they have made them, and try to export that, by using working class power to make our countries behave better, and develop mutually supportive relations with the developing world; not throw away those gains out of a thoughtless adherence to some unproven dogma, or a capitulation to the covert manipulations of the ruling classes.

Charlie Marks said...

Mass immigration has always been a tool of the capitalist class to divide workers, the better to exploit them. Where we would differ with the reactionary opponents of mass migration is that we want to end the system that causes people to be driven to leave home in search of work in the first place - and we're in favour of settled and migrant workers uniting against their common enemy, rather than dividing against each other.

jolies-couleurs said...

As a (temporary) migrant myself (in Moscow), I feel somewhat sheepish in saying that I agree with David Lindsay. We have to be much more serious about asking how each and every community can meet its needs primarily (though not exclusively) from its own resources - not least because the carrying load we impose on the earth is rapidly causing it to fray beyond the edges - and in creating sustainable livelihoods for all addresses the causes of mass immigration (not only between countries but within countries).

Moscow, for examples, sucks people in from Russia and the 'near abroad' in ways that may promote some individuals prosperity but at the cost of fracturing community both in Moscow and 'back home'.

Mick Hall said...

One of the reasons the left fails to debate this subject is we lack confidence in our own position and we are well aware that large scale migration has done damage by increasing the size of the UK underclass and especially by depriving the developing nations of skilled and educated workers.

I would be interested to know what the impact on the Zimbabwean economy the mass migration of skilled workers etc has had. The same must be true of Iraq. OK there are other reasons why people have fled overseas etc from these countries, but this still does not lessen the detrimental impact.

Myself I am for open borders, however that is not what we have today beyond the EU. Thus it is time the left engaged on this subject and if there are to be restrictions we should cease leaving the field clear for capital and its lackeys to set the rules by coming up with a program of are own.

David Lindsay and jock are simply saying what millions of workers believe, by ignoring this fact we are just leaving the field clear for the BNP and the neo conservative suits as represented by NL and the Tories.

One last point, in many ways this is an opportune time to intervene as immigration is less about race today than at any time in the last 40 years.

Douglas said...

I hereby confess to being bewildered by something related to this post.

While I commend President Bush for his vigorous defense of America against Islamic totalitarianism, I, along with many Republicans, am bewildered that he is positively unwilling to fortify the porous US-Mexico border.

You will, no doubt, say something to the effect of "Well, it just goes to show that Bush cares more about capitalism than American sovereignty!" Some people have tried to psychoanalyze President Bush on this subject (without success, in my opinion).

I also confess that the immigration bill proposed last year by Senator McCain, and supported by President Bush, was a bad idea, made all the worse by the fact it was negotiated in secret. It didn't help that it's supporters vigorously resisted any amendments, even if they made sense. Only a talk-radio fueled Republican insurrection killed the bill.

I'm too confused by what people supposedly on my side of the aisle are doing on this issue, to offer any opinion as to what people on your side of the aisle should or shouldn't do.

Jethro Tool said...

Great article; I also read the links from Lucas with interest and I must say that my perception of it was similar to Jock McTrousers.

What could perhaps be true in Lenin's day - taking into account that the type of migration was very, very different from the one today, both in terms of sheer numbers but especially that combined with ethnic and cultural differences - should actually be reviewed taking into account past experience and today's challenges: in a way applying dialectic materialism.

And what past experiences and current challenges show is that:

* The national and ethnic component is much stronger than most people on the left would like to admit; even so Lenin's take on the National Question did speak of ethno-cultural groups.

* Mass immigration is today not a way to expose workers to something new and educate their brethren but quite simply one of the most effective weapons of the capitalists as a whole.

* Multiculturalism in particular has proven to be a great way to create permanent tension and give rise to entire enclaves of easily manipulated contingents of labour that feel nothing but scorn for their supposed nation. Since a certain degree of "racism" is inherent to every society it also serves to completely undermine solidarity between workers.

* In response to my last point the solution is generally given as educating the workers in the ways of class conscience and stamp out any racism. This is all very fine but faced with the complete dissolution of the ethnic character of their surroundings - and in a way their entire country - there is no amount of class conscience that can stop the radicalisation of the workers: they end up quite simply voting for the BNP since they find themselves completely betrayed by the Left.

* There is something to be said about the Left and immigration in terms of votes: there is also the idea that the vast contingents of immigrations will vote "for the left" and thus aid in social transformation. This can be somewhat true in the very short term but completely counter-productive, since it in the medium turn actually imports all sorts of completely reactionary practices to the host country, who are then enshrined by the very same Left since there seems to be a fetish with anything foreigner, regardless of how reactionary it is.


The current problem facing Europe is quite simple: given the number of extra-european immigrants already here and those arriving every month (50 million more are "needed" and are planed to be imported to sustain the over-production within Europe) the very foundation of European nations is about to change. While some of my comrades will find this a secondary concern I must confess that it isn't for me: my respect for ethnic groups means that I respect the right of Europeans to remain Europeans.

Supporting mass immigration - and effectively supporting the path towards the africanisation of Europe in ethnic terms - is one of the most dire errors in the Left, that mistaken International solidarity and anti-racism with the support for the complete population replacement of Europe. I am certain that faced with that prospect Marx and Engels would be appalled by the misuse of their writings to support the ethnic cleansing of such a magnitude.

Solidarity between workers? Of course! Is mass immigration a weapon of capitalists? Surely. That is why one shouldn't be blinded by misplaced internationalism and promote the very same situation they strive for: the creation of a mass of rootless labourers, completely detached from their land and without any sense of belonging. These are the ones that will be the most easily exploited.

IJMO said...

Interestingly when white indigenous Britons lose their majority status, in the 2060's, there will actually be more white indigenous Britons, than there are now. So for that to happen, think how many immigrants and children of immigrants there will be. It will be ironic if the welfare system so cherished by the left, implodes due to their love of mass migration. It is also strange that given the lefts support of green politics, that the elephant in the room, population, is allowed to grow to 80 million in the UK, using up far more of the Earth's resources, than those that live in the developing world. The real joke is, per British person, immigration has not made us any better off financially. It won't solve our pension crisis either, as that would just be a pyramid scheme. The real debate is about settlement and citizenship. If you come here, dig some potatoes, save your money, then go home and start a business, fine. If you get settlement, then citizenship, bring over your family, have kids , use the NHS, send them to school for free, then for cultural reasons marry them off to their first cousins, in a 14th century village and start the whole immigration cycle all over again again, while paying tax from a NMW job, I fail to see exactly how this country has benefited. Especially if you have no interest whatsoever in this country and simply want a western economic lifestyle and benefits. Low level immigration for essential people is not a bad thing. Citizenship could be awarded like new years honours, to those that have done something for the the country, or truly aspire to be British. Sooner or later economic realities will shut down immigration, no matter what people think. Brown spent 20 billion on the NHS, then added 3 million people to the population. People are not commodities, they need services which cost money. The pendulum is swinging right and the neo liberals like Blair & Cable, only have themselves to blame.

Anonymous said...

It was in 1967 that G. Hardin won the Nobel prize for Economics. He proved that along with Adam Smith's invisible hand for good from persuing 'self interest', Capitalism had a 'wicked foot' with the 'Tragedy of the commons'.

This was a situation where a commons (i.e. land) was being farmed and the farmers could add as many sheeps/cows/ (units of production) as they wanted to graze the common pasture. He proved that because it was costless to the farmers to add extra units of production - (they didn't have to consider sustainability of grazing) - the commons would soon be crammed with animals and the living standards of the animals would drop to a degree just above starvation for maximal yield and profits.

This is much the situation with the UK - the commons in this case is the UK workforce, it is costless for employers to add more Labour, and mass immigration is resulting in plunging wages and living standards.