Monday, November 24, 2008

Dutch advance socialist case against large-scale immigration

This article of mine appears in The First Post

Anyone who argues that, as a political force, socialism is dead, ought to visit the Netherlands. The Socialist Party of the Netherlands (SP) is the fastest growing political group in the country.

They won 25 seats in the last general election - an increase of 16 seats - and made huge gains in last year's local elections. They are now the third largest party in Holland in terms of members and could well replace the Dutch Labour Party as the main alternative to the Christian Democrats.

Why are they so successful? I would suggest that it is because they are a socialist party that actually has socialist policies. They oppose the privatisation of public services, advocate higher taxes on the very wealthy and have condemned the "the culture of greed" caused by "a capitalism based on inflated bonuses and easy money". They oppose war and Nato and the nascent European superstate. They were the only left-wing Dutch party in Parliament to oppose the new EU Constitution in the 2005 referendum.

Of course the fact that they have one of the most charismatic - and photogenic - of all of European political leaders in the 41-year-old epidemiologist Agnes Kant (pictured above) does them no harm.

Part of its popularity with the voters lies in one particular policy which differentiates it from British or other European parties of the left: they oppose large scale immigration. The SP see the 'free movement of labour' as part of the neoliberal globalist package - something which benefits big business but not ordinary people. Their opposition to immigration is not based on racism - as tends to be the case with the BNP and other far-right parties in Europe - but on their socialist ideology.

A recent publication by the SP asserted that labour migration in the EU was making "more acute the contrasts between rich and poor and competition between different groups of workers within the EU". Instead of lauding the free movement of labour as other parties on the left do, the SP calls for policies "to make migration unnecessary" and for the EU funds to be used to enable poorer regions of the continent to be self-supporting.

The SP's opposition to large-scale immigration is not a recent development. In the 1980s, the party's booklet Gastarbeid en Kapitaal (Migrant Labour and Capital), denounced the migration of foreign workers into the Netherlands as a capitalist ploy to drive down wages and destroy working class solidarity.

This is a far cry from the traditional position of the British left - which despite overwhelming evidence that large-scale immigration does reduce wages - still clings to an the ideology of open borders. In doing so, they are not only complying with the wishes of big business, who for obvious reasons welcome the influx of large numbers of people from low-wage economies onto their labour market; they are also espousing a policy which is unpopular with large swathes of the electorate and which is likely to become even more unpopular as unemployment grows.

The success of the Socialist Party of the Netherlands shows that there are lots of votes to be won by an unequivocally left-wing party which has the courage and sense to oppose large-scale immigration on non-racist, anti-capitalist grounds.


Anonymous said...

Well said. Check out the Independent Working Class Association, if you don't know about them - they're the only 'left' organisation in the UK. It used to be that the minimum position for being considered 'left' was to support organised labour; now it's reversed - the minimum, and often the only, position for acceptance by the self-styled left is that you believe that mass immigration is an unalloyed good. It patently isn't, most working people can plainly see that, and they can plainly see that the so-called 'institutions of the working class' no longer seem to have any real interest in the working class - when did the unions last (really, seriously) fight for anything? New Labour is the unions in power; it's what they pay for; it's what they can go along with. They're a waste of time, as are the labour left and the CPGB ( though the Morning Star is still better than nothing). As for the Trots and anarchists - they're worse than useless; they're an obstacle to working class organisation. Sad to say the most left-wing manifesto of any sizable political party is the BNP's (and I'm not joking - read it)- of course I don't believe they're sincere, but it's still 'sad to say'.

Mass immigration undermines labour organisation - it is scab labour! We must get out of the EU. Check out the Independent Working Class Association - they're the only 'glint at the kindling' in the UK. We need genuine effective citizens representative democracy, not simultaneous worldwide revolution ( co-ordinated by magic)to a system of workplace councils run by Trots - pie in the sky! Why would workplace councils be an improvement on representative democracy anyway.

That Dutch left party are simply talking 'sense'. Why is that so alien to the UK? Listen to the UK's leading leftist, George Galloway, weekly on his radio show, explain that immigration is what has made the US so successful, while everyone else on the left, even in the mainstream, points out the massive decline in US workers' living standards over the last 3 decades. Galloway himself (bless his socks) of course regularly points out the difference between the Cuban and US healthcare arrangements, but when it comes to mass immigration, there's a complete psychic disconnect. Unopposed immigration trumps everything. Did you ever hear a more gormless slogan than ' capital is free to move, so why not workers'? I needn't spell out the weaknesses in that, just note that we elect a government to look after the interests of the electorate, not the rest of the world. Charity begins at home. If we let the elites use scab labour to undermine us, then there's even less chance of getting a government that will stop exploiting the rest of the world, and creating the conditions that drive so many to relocate. And at the moment, the traditional 'left' are a big obstacle to getting a genuine representative government.

Anonymous said...

This is marvelous news, neil. Were it something like this get off the ground here, right across europe before the the corporates attack dogs (lobbies/media) moved in to destroy them.

Social Living said...

Look, I think there's a bit of a problem with the "migration-drives-down-wages" line of thinking.

The labour movement has been sucsessful due to an uncompromising solidarity. The sucsess of a given labour movement in any time or place has been directly proportionate to how willing workers and working class organizations have been willing to consistantly stick together.
If its the role of working-class organisatiosn to restrict the number of workers, why not force women back into the kitchen? What makes the nation state a more valid divider between workers? What happened to internationalism?

I'm not argueing FOR immigration as such, but lets bear in mind that it is virtually impossible for workers from outside the EU to move to europe in search of work. Schengen prevents that. The majority of non-europeans in our countries are refugees in some shape, way, or form. The working class faces enormous challenges in the form of EU-mandated deregulations, capital flight, and half-assed social democrats, as well as the radical right. I fail to see why interning refugees to scare off the others should be our priority.

The demise of the initial labour movement in the US came when instead of organizing newly arrived immigrants, they told them to fuck off back home, the same way they did to emancipated blacks, and women. THAT ctreated an army of scab labour. As I see it, the world being the way it is, people are going to fight tooth and nail to get into Europe. We can either argue for stricter regulations (firing live rounds at the boat people is the next step, regulations are really tight as it is) or we can find a way to resist capital together, and make sure that the immigration happens on our terms, not the capitalist's.

I'm from Norway, and our first labour movement got started by people returning from the US in the 1850's, where they had learned about organizing and class consciousness. Maybe some of the refugees will go back to their own countries eventually with some useful experiences and memories of solidarity, and fight their own struggles more effectively, thus eventually rendering migration unnecesarry. Although, as a second generation migrant myself, I hope there'll still be room for us.