More people cross borders today than ever before. Historians, archaeologists, biologists, and the tales that people tell all point to the fact that around the world human beings have always moved and that they have done so for reasons not dissimilar to the reasons people move today. To be human is to be mobile. For us, to be alive is to move. We are not plants, rooted to a single place from which we grow and expand in more or less constrained or restricted ways. Our defining capacity as a species to creatively and purposefully transform our surroundings and productively and consciously modify our circumstances -- our existential vocation for labor, if you will -- is inseparable from our fundamental freedom of movement. This likewise means that our inherently social character as a species is also contingent upon our mobility. Hence, the freedom of movement of the human species is an absolutely basic and non-negotiable aspect of our most general mode of life. This is not merely a philosophical predilection or a theoretical conceit, much less a dogmatic political position -- it is an indisputable and immutable objective fact. To be human and alive, under any semblance of natural or normal or healthy circumstances, is to be mobile. Hence, our freedom of movement as a species has ultimately manifested itself as a freedom to move around the entire globe, (and even beyond). The free movement of people around the world therefore would not be utopian; it is already a proven fact. What is utopian is the statist delusion of border policing. The development of capitalism creates the conditions for the solidarity and contact between workers to overcome the national boundaries established by capital.
Borders are one of the great contradictions in the era of capitalist globalisation. The world has become a much smaller place because of advances in technology and transportation, global production chains and the lightning-fast movement of capital around the planet. In this regard, the globalized economy is borderless to those with billions of dollars or euros or yen to invest. But borders are still there to keep the vast majority of us apart. While borders are permeable to some privileged people, they are impermeable to most others. Migrants who cross national borders without permission are often criminalised and de-humanised, frequently lose their social, economic and political rights and, as a consequence, experience disproportionate exploitation and abuse. Capitalism has always needed workers to migrate across borders. For example, tens of thousands of Irish workers were central to England's Industrial Revolution. Once in England, the Irish got the worst-paid jobs, lived in slums and were caricatured as slothful drunks. Borders are designed to control workers in the interest of capitalist accumulation. The most successful way to defeat low pay and conditions is to unite and organise against exploitative employers. The demand for undocumented migrant workers is greater as long as employers can get a higher return on investment through the exploitation of a cheap labour force. If migrant workers are allowed to flow freely between borders, with the same rights as indigenous workers, they would be entitled to the same pay and conditions. As a result, we could strengthen our organisations and unions, united in our struggle for just and fair conditions in employment and education. It is easier for employers to undercut wages if they have access to a cheap labour force, but equipped with the same rights as the indigenous workforce, a migrant worker would no longer be susceptible to exploitation because of their status. In Istanbul, employers are already taking advantage of an educated Syrian working class, to provide high standards of service in hospitality during the tourist season, whilst paying them less than indigenous workers.
When workers unite for fair pay and conditions, it strengthens the position of all workers.
There are no such matters as ‘national interests’ only the interests of different classes. Borders are never natural, never a product of nature. They are political. Capitalism views workers both as units of production and as a market. Socialism, on the other hand sees us all as human beings. A world without borders, without states, would clearly require a global revolution. Abolition of immigration controls and the opening of present borders even within one country such as the UK would also require a revolution. The long-standing socialist slogan ‘Workers of the world unite’ means what it says. It does not mean ‘Only workers with the correct immigration status unite.’ Immigration controls are inherently racist as they are premised on the grossest of all nationalisms – the claim that one group of people has a franchise on a particular piece of the world. All immigration controls however they are defined and to whoever they ‘allow’ free movement, inevitably result in the restriction of movement for others. This is why they must be opposed in principle. Every struggle against deportation is at its very basics a denial of the state to determine who can cross borders.
A huge number of the world’s population are on the move and are voting with their feet for no controls. Across the world, national states, especially in the so-called “rich world,” are imposing ever more restrictive immigration policies. Such state efforts are being enacted at precisely the time when migration has become an increasingly important part of people’s strategies for survival. These may be a new livelihood or escape from untenable, even murderous, situations, such as persecution and war, as well as the opportunity to experience new people, places, and situations.
Throughout the world those designated as ‘illegal’ – the unwanted, the undocumented – are literally scaling fences in assertion of their right of freedom of movement. More restrictions will never stop migration--the economic imperative for workers struggling to feed themselves and their families will force them to cross borders, no matter what the risks. But the restrictions can make this much more dangerous and oppressive, by forcing the most vulnerable people in society into relying on smugglers and human traffickers, not to mention the exploitative businesses where they end up working. There can be no question of socialists supporting anything that would make it impossible for Polish, Romanian or any other workers to migrate to and remain in the UK. Nor can we ignore the deployment of security forces, the use of courts and detention centres to enforce immigration policies.
The idea that the acceptance of foreign workers would threaten native workers' jobs is one dimensional. Of course, it can't be denied that even in times of non-recession, the low wages of foreign workers appear to Japanese workers as competitors. However, the position which opposes the acceptance of low wage foreign workers based on the idea that they steal jobs and cause the worsening of working conditions, dazzles the eyes with apparent interests, but cannot understand the essence of things, and spreads xenophobia and divisions among the workers. Capital introduces all sorts of discrimination among the workers: main company and subcontractors, temporary and part time workers, etc. Capital uses "disposable" part time and temporary workers as a control valve for business fluctuations. When the business climate worsens, the first ones to get the sack are these low level workers, and those working for small subcontracting companies. It is the rule of capital that makes the workers' lives unstable. This instability will not end if the rule of capital continues, regardless of whether or not foreign workers are prevented entry.
The same thing is true for the problem of increased crime or the creation of slums or increased competition for social security and welfare. The greatest responsibility for the occurrence of these problems lies with the discriminative low wages and horrible working conditions capital imposes, and is not the fault of foreign workers. The results of research by the French researcher Gaspard clearly show the groundlessness of bourgeois "public opinion" which scapegoats foreign workers by saying that they are a hotbed of crime. According to her research, French people are the ones who commit the vast majority of serious social crimes, whereas the overwhelming number of crimes by foreign workers are petty crimes which come from unavoidable poverty related to their terrible treatment by capital. ("The France of Foreigners"). The xenophobic position deflects attention away from the rule of capital as if the responsibility lies with the foreign workers, is a reactionary stance which propagates prejudice against foreign workers.
Those on the left who call for "orderly” admittance understand that these conditions of establishing presuppose a return to the home country. This position is essentially the same as the capitalist’s which denies foreign workers the right to permanent stay, and attempts to "use" foreign workers for the convenience of capital, and avoid social problems from the permanent residence of foreign workers. They want to thoroughly squeeze these foreign workers and then send them back to their home country. In other words, they aim to introduce freely disposable "labor power". The left nationalist standpoint is the same as that of the ruling class. This regulated immigration policy reflects the interests of medium and small capital which is suffering from a labour shortage.
One of the things Lenin did get right was when he explained:
"Capitalism creates the particular form of national migration. Countries in which industry is rapidly developing introduce more machinery, drive other countries out of the market, and attract wage workers from foreign countries through their above average wages.
In this way hundreds of thousands of workers move far away from their hometowns. Against their will they are drawn into the orbit of advanced capitalism. They are drawn out of their remote villages to become participants in the movement of world history, and come face to face with a powerfully united, international industrial class.
Certainly, only extreme poverty causes people to abandon their homeland, and capitalism exploits migrant workers in a completely shameless way. But only reactionaries can shut their eyes to the progressive meaning of the modern national migration. Emancipation from the heavy pressure of capital cannot occur apart from the increasing development of capitalism, and the class struggles based on this development.
The bourgeoisie tries to incite the workers of one nation against the workers of another nation, and cause splits between them. Class conscious workers understand that it is inevitable and progressive to knock down all of the capitalist walls between nations, and work in order to help the organization and enlightenment of comrades from other countries." ("Capitalism and the Migration of Workers")
Workers must recognise the progressive meaning of the movement of workers, and strive for solidarity with the workers of other countries from an internationalist standpoint.
The government spreads the anti-migrant ideas that the admission of "unskilled workers" would widen discriminatory consciousness, and lead to the breakdown of the social order. But the evidence is that it is the government and capital who are inciting discrimination and prejudice against foreign workers, with fears that the entrance of unskilled foreign workers will enlarge the slums and increase crime.
Workers support the freedom of foreign workers' employment. The illegal conditions of the employment of foreign workers means that capital can impose horrendous working conditions, brokers are active and in-between exploitation takes place. Of course, as long as the rule of capital continues this would not end even with the legal employment. But the legality of employment would at least ease these conditions somewhat. Furthermore, workers must oppose all discrimination, and demand equality for foreign workers and their rights as workers. Only supporting the legality of employment, is no different from the bourgeois desire for cheap labour. For foreign workers to defend their own lives, they must secure their rights as workers. Workers as workers must oppose discrimination by capital against foreign workers, and struggle in solidarity to support their rights and lives.
However, the international solidarity of workers is not merely limited to supporting the demands for their rights. Above all, workers must develop the class struggle against the system of capital, and overthrow this system. What must be sought is the overthrow of the rule of capital and the realisation of socialism established on the power of the workers.
|THE EARTH FLAG|
Our solidarity recognises no borders. We must do everything we can to support the right of workers to live and work where they so wish. Socialists want world where borders have become a relic of the past. The world that the Socialist Party envision is one in which national boundaries no longer exist, in which you can move from one country to another with the same ease in which we can move from Newcastle to Newquay, a world without passports or visas or immigration quotas. True globalisation in the human sense, in which we recognise that the world is one and that human beings everywhere are the same. It would be a world in which the boundaries of race and religion and nation would not become causes for antagonism. Even though there would still be cultural differences and still be language differences, there would not be causes for violent action of one against the other. In a world like that you could not make war because it is your family. It would be a world in which the riches of the planet would be according to human need. True community can only be established with the abolition of classes and the state. If we are to fight world capitalism, then we cannot resort to nationalism. The only way forward for working people is the struggle for class solidarity and world socialism. Class unity is about solidarity, which recognises no borders. The workers' cause and the Revolution knows no borders.