Borders protect the rich: Workers should demand freedom of movment

Last year, the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union delivered a  victory to the Leave Camp. The result may have been clear but the effects are still uncertain; the relationship between the UK and the EU’s free trade zone, the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, and the whole immigration policy of the British state are open questions. These are discussed behind the closed doors of government offices in all member states and board rooms of international capitalism.

The EU vote is one symptom of a growing nationalism, world wide, which has seen the rapid growth of far-right. There is a increasing number of populist anti-immigration parties that seem to stand on the precipices of power: Austria’s Freedom Party only narrowly lost the presidential election last year, Marie La Pen and Gert Wilders are now among the most prominent faces of European politics. On top of this, ‘strong men’ presidents have come to power in India in the form of the Hindu Nationalist Narendra Modi; and last but not least, Donald Trump will ride into the white house at the end of January. In the UK alone, we have seen a nearly 50% rise in racist hate crimes in the aftermath of the vote last June.

While most of the established media and political elite saw this and other votes last year as bolts from the blue, the political, social and economic situation has really been driving these forces forward for years.

The politics of chauvinism and xenophobia had been whipped up by all main parties in the UK. Gordon Brown took up the British National Party’s slogan of “British Jobs for British Workers“, while David Cameron referred to refuges, often fleeing from his government’s bombs as a “swarm“. The establishments racism hasn’t just stopped at rhetoric, with tens of thousands of deportations every year since records began and the Home Office’s immigration enforcement vans becoming a regular site in some communities. The immigration detention centres are nightmare for those trapped inside, where suicides and hunger strikes are a regular occurrence.

Even those who the left have championed as radical have changed tone. Jeremy Corbyn who said in a speech earlier this week:

Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle… Labour supports fair rules and the reasonable management of migration as part of the post-Brexit relationship with the EU, while putting jobs and living standards first in the negotiations.

While couched in terms of protecting living standards, it is a climb down from his previous defence of immigration. He offers the rights of a section of workers as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Europe. His speech lays the basis for further betrayals and strengthens those inside and outside of the Labour Party who want to use the whip of the state against foreign workers.

This is the pattern of reformist parties coming to power. In Greece, Syriza promised to close the detention centres that imprisoned those refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean. Years latter, the government of Tsipras are expanding their detention program.

No defence against the undercutting of wages can be achieved by a capitalist government restricting immigration.  Any such measures would simply allow bosses to drive down the conditions of immigrants already working in the UK. Immigration controls are an attack on workers on both sides of the border.

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A refugee forced to survive without shelter in Belgrade

What drives anti-immigrant feeling and actions?

Real term wages have fallen by over 10.4%, the joint lowest in OECD countries since 2007. Casualisation of vast swaths of the economy has been in full force. With Social care, education and the service sector leading the way in short term contracts and sham self employment. We’ve seen a return of the ‘company store’, with delivery drivers renting the vans they drive and carers buying the uniforms they work in. Not only are workers forced to sell their labour power, but be forced to buy the tools of the job. A massive increase in self employment has meant bosses dodging inconvenient employment laws like the minimum wage and contracts of employment.

The worsening conditions of British workers has coincided with the collapse of the traditional trade union movement. Not only has this meant workers being next to powerless in defending their working conditions, and even the idea of struggling to improve conditions seems alien to many. Social solidarity, something formally inherent in many working class communities has been eroded. This is at a time of massive cuts in public spending which has left many without the safety net of benefits and welfare, or even the support of fellow workers and their community.

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Class struggle in decline

People have turned against immigrants in response to a working class crisis in confidence, while at the same time, traditional routes of struggle are being lost. The ossifying of the workers parties and unions, has meant rather than a struggle against capitalism, we struggle amongst ourselves.

Why do capitalists lean on racism?

As Marxists, the divisions in society are clear. We live in a system geared towards profit; workers sell their labour power to bosses to survive. Bosses thrive from exploitation: a commodity produced by an immigrant will be sold at the same price on the market. Race doesn’t appear on a balance sheet.

So why have capitalists states turned to racism? The capitalist class, including the politicians, Judges, Police etc., are numerically small. To increase the social basis of capitalism lines of demarcation must be used to cut across class lines. Racism, and other oppressive ideologies employed by the capitalist state are political expediency. While not directly increasing profits, these policies create social ‘peace’ and distract workers from the real divisions in society.

“Your boss isn’t the problem, the polish worker who’ll replace you if you complain is.” “Austerity ain’t the problem, the Somali family getting a home before you are.” “The problem isn’t capitalism, it is the foreigner.”

The nation state is a construction of capitalism, built to defend its ruling class. Any defence of border controls places you firmly on the ramparts of capital’s walls. And by dividing ourselves along lines of race and nationality we play the capitalist game.

United working class action is the only solution!

Super exploited immigrant workers make up a significant proportion of our class. In 2014 non-British born workers made nearly 50% of unskilled factory work and over a third of cleaning and housekeeping jobs.

They’ve also proved to be some of the most combative elements in the trade union movement. Cleaners at SOAS won the living wage despite the university and cleaning company using tactics that included UKBA raids at meetings with management. New unions like United Voices of the World Union and the Independent Workers of Great Britain have lead militant strikes in predominantly immigrant workplaces. Demanding restrictions on immigration only strengthens the bosses hand.

But how we go from a situation of record low industrial action and huge alienation and isolation amongst workers to a mass and militant workers movement is an open question. But the answer to that question is unequivocal on the questions of defending every member of our class, to see that all of our struggles are ultimately against the same enemy.

A revolutionary tradition of defending migrants

Those on the left who bemoan the “Neo-Liberal” demand of freedom of movement should pay attention to the history of the workers movements response to immigration. If immigrants are used to drive down wages as a weapon against other workers, then that weapon must be snatched out of there hands. During the 2nd International’s Stuttgart Congress of 1907 the congress adopted the following motion:

The congress does not seek a remedy to the potentially impending consequences for the workers from immigration and emigration in any economic or political exclusionary rules, because these are fruitless and reactionary by nature. This is particularly true of a restriction on the movement and the exclusion of foreign nationalities or races.

Instead, the congress declares it to be the duty of organised labour to resist the depression of its living standards that often occurs in the wake of the mass import of unorganised labour. In addition the congress declares it to be the duty of organised labour to prevent the import and export of strike-breakers. The congress recognises the difficulties which in many cases fall upon the proletariat in a country that is at a higher stage of capitalist development, as a result of the mass immigration of unorganised workers accustomed to lower living standards and from countries with a predominantly agrarian and agricultural culture, as well as the dangers that arise for it as a result of a specific form of immigration. However, congress does not believe that preventing particular nations or races from immigrating – something that is also reprehensible from the point of view of proletarian solidarity – is a suitable means of fighting these problems.”

Lenin fully supported the motion and saw it in a context of a battle between the social democratic right, who went on to support their own narrow national interests in WW1 while the left of the social democratic movement defended the principle of internationalism.

Eugene Debbs, a revolutionary member of the US Socialist party, made clear that no compromise could be made for short term gains.

Let those desert us who will because we refuse to shut the international door in the faces of their own brethren; we will be none the weaker but all the stronger for their going, for they evidently have no clear conception of the international solidarity, are wholly lacking in the revolutionary spirit, and have no proper place in the Socialist movement while they entertain such aristocratic notions of their own assumed superiority.”

There can be no question that being a revolutionary socialist means defending the rights of workers crossing borders to better their existence. The same way that there would be no question of defending and supporting strike action. But the struggle cannot be limited to defending and extending rights under capitalism.

Freedoms under capitalism are not free; most migrants will flee poverty, war and repression. The only true freedoms can come from the abolition of class, the dissolution of borders and the establishment of a society free of want and deprivation; a Communist society.

Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

EU or GB? A plague on both your houses!

 

I will be abstaining in the EU referendum taking place this month. A vote for EU Austerity and Capital versus Great British Austerity and Capital is not a choice I want any part of. The entire basis of the referendum is based around a factional struggle between capitalists grounded in appeals to nationalist populism. Neither option will provide any kind of victory to the working class, in fact one way or the other, we’ll lose.

Most on the left seem completely split over the issue with various arguments called up in favour of leave, remain and abstain. All have some good arguments as well as bad.

Those arguing to leave highlight the reactionary nature of the EU as an institution, that it is in no  way shape or form a friend of workers (the fact that the TUC argues it is, is testament to their pathetic capitulations). It is responsible for deposing democratically elected governments in Greece and Italy, it enforces extreme degrees of austerity, it acts as an Imperialist mechanism to extract wealth from its own periphery as well as further afield into the pockets of bankers in the core countries. Its fortress nature and hostility to immigration and asylum seekers further afield is well documented. The EU also has the illegality of public ownership enshrined in law; it is a ‘neo-liberal’ free trading union, absolutely hostile to the working class. Nobody can deny that this is true.

Framed in this way, it would seem to suggest the right thing to do is to vote to leave. I don’t think that is in fact the case. A leave vote would be perfectly justified if there was a genuine militancy, a real workers movement in the ascent who could in fact take advantage of the political and economic crisis it would lead to – without such a movement it becomes a political bluff; knowing your own hand is weak, yet hoping your opponent doesn’t realise that. However terrible the EU is (and it is!) the alternate option is no better.

What would this alternative look like? Even if the EU demanded it or not, Austerity has been the main economic doctrine of all the main parties in this country. Whether inside or outside of the EU, no break from this is likely to take place. Certain rights of movement are provided, which the entire (right dominated) out campaign is based upon scrapping i.e. it could very well ruin thousands of peoples lives. Just here in Wales turning this into a principled question means some workers would be voting for their own redundancies. These are genuine concerns for many people. Glibly dismissing them as ‘project fear’ just denies the facts.

Further to this point, for these with utopian illusions in a Corbyn led “anti-austerity” government (whatever that is…), sweeping into power as the Tory party crumbles after an out vote: they need to heed the lessons of Syriza in Greece. On the basis of Capitalism and the current state of the global economy there is no possibility that sustained large scale welfare and jobs projects can be implemented. Politicians can make as many promises as they like, it is only the working class as a movement who have the real potential to change anything. Once a militant mass movement is under way, no law, whether EU or British could get in its way. Appeals to abolish the legal restrictions the EU imposes misses the point entirely and to a certain extent goes to show the limited ambitions of the Left arguing these things i.e. what kind of rubbish knock off Socialism is compatible with legal restrictions of the UK constitutional monarchy?!

The EU is a reactionary capitalist institution, but outside of it we’re still in a reactionary capitalist institution – the UK. I oppose both. There is no benefit to working class people in terms of their living standards, development of their political strength or further development of productive forces by leaving on a Capitalist basis. In fact I suspect the opposite, that living conditions will get much worse. I don’t believe our class has the strength to take advantage of the political crisis an out vote will likely lead to. If we had real strength I’d favour provoking such a crisis.

In spite of the revival of social democracy and the doctors strike, I see a workers movement on life support which will take decades to rebuild whereas many seem to see a workers movement in real ascendancy with potential seismic shifts in militancy and consciousness potentially around the corner of each new political-crisis.

What does it say about how theoretically inept and strategically delusional the Left is that they’re goading us into a situation where everything by every measure could get much worse for working class people – not only will it lead to job losses, deportations and more austerity here, it could lead to the break up of the EU on far right nationalist terms.

‘Trotskyist’ dogmatists constantly see militant mass movements arising from every new political crisis, which will then set the ground for socialist revolution. After 70 odd years in the wilderness, with little to no success, no mass bases, no rising tide of militancy you’d think they would actually start taking that materialist analysis of the balance of class forces seriously. Yet these concerns are just flippantly disregarded as “middle class squeamishness” and quickly replace by some fantasy that “there should be a general strike”. Well of course there should be a general strike, but are our forces going into battle strong, well rested and with better numbers or are we wandering into the abattoir blindfolded!

Most people I’ve spoken to about the referendum, who aren’t socialists and are considering a leave vote, don’t usually say anything about Austerity or EU Public ownership law. What they do say is something along the lines of ‘the Turks are coming’. Which isn’t exactly grounds for faith in some immediate post-election proletarian mass movement. In fact, I suspect that fears that a leave vote will exacerbate nationalist currents are perfectly well grounded.

I have concentrated on the leave campaign as most of the remain camp is split over two positions one is either that the EU is a friend of workers or it could be if reformed it; this is so obviously false that I will not waste my time arguing against it. The other position amounts to many of the arguments I have made above regarding the balance of class forces and the rise of nationalism except rather than abstaining they, in disgust, will vote to remain. I cannot bring myself to play their game, to put my name to the status quo; I will abstain. People should vote how they please but they should do it with the sure knowledge that this referendum is about a factional struggle by the ruling class and that either way we lose.

As Communists we should counterpose the nationalistic character of this referendum with the idea of working towards organising and coordinating a European wide militant workers movement. Our slogan should be for a European general strike to bring Capitalism down. The workers struggles taking place in France at the moment is an inspiration to us all and must be generalised across the continent towards the goal of overthrowing those who would impose Capitalist austerity upon us, whilst introducing international socialism back on the agenda.  This is the real proletarian alternative to such a base and venal referendum.

Allan

What is ISIS?

ISIS have survived into 2016, they show little sign of the complete collapse that many anticipated. Despite reams of paper and hours of news real many have little idea of what the Islamic State is and how it operates. Beyond there own wildly publicised executions and terror acts there lies a complex and organised state able to acquire resources and land like no other rebel group in the Middle East. They have risen out of the ashes of civil war and decades of imperialist intervention.  Along with there affiliates they have taken control of territory in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. They recruit by exploiting anger at Islamphobia and and chauvinism of states like the UK, USA, and Russia, but at the same time whip up and encourage air-strikes and racism.

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An IS flag flies over the Roman theatre in Palmyra, now used as a place of execution

They keep a grip on our collective consciousness by almost continuous violence and terror. The slaughter of Yazidies and Shia, bombing attacks across the Middle East, Turkey, and now France, the brutal treatment of captured women, and the execution of aid workers and journalists have shocked a world used to atrocities in the region. And yet they have stayed in power since 2013, collecting taxes exporting oil, and co-opting the remnants of the Iraqi state.

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A Wahhabist militia, known as Ikhwan, used by The House of Saud to conquer the Arabian Penisula

ISIS are a group bound to Wahhabism, that claims to be fighting a Holy War as a prologue to the end of the world. A holy army that uses the rementas of a secular Ba’athist army and state.

Are ISIS a death cult or a state? Will they be wiped out by a coalition western powers dropping bombs? How long will they last?

Have a watch of the illuminating documentary Bitter lake, by Adam Curtis:

And if that’s sparked your interest check out some of the texts from the reading list:

All Welcome:

Wednesday, 6th January, 6:30pm in the Owain Glyndwr.

 

Syria & Iraq Capitalism’s Crisis

The Middle East is ablaze. Millions have fled the bombings and invasions of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya and thousands more risk death fleeing the chaos. Reactionary and murderous groups like ISIS have filled a vacuum, shocking the world by targeting people least responsible for the struggles of people in Syria, and Iraq.

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Iraqi military helmets discarded during the defeat from Mosul

They have filled a vacuum left by the collapse of the secular left, exploited the chaos of intervention and fury at Imperialism. Often these ideas have gained support and d funding from the tyrannical Saudi regime, and been tacitly supported by the corrupt undemocratic Erdogan of Turkey, both states which are backed to the hilt by the West’s governments. The Bombs that will fall will kill Syrians, and be a propaganda coup for ISIS, Driving desperate people into there arms. Missiles will be accompanied by crocodile tears from our leaders. Whether it’s Paris or Raqqua all Cameron and Co will be thinking about is an opportunity to strengthen Their hands in a game of class war. Increase his security state and divide the working class with racism against refugees and Muslims. The situation is dire the entering of Russia into the conflict on a larger scale has cemented this as a proxy war. The world is being divided into separate opposing blocs of capitalist countries, on one side the USA, NATO and their allies face, China and Russia, both playing a game of posturing, increasingly ramping up tensions and actual conflicts like in the east of Ukraine. This is a high stakes game, not for Putin and Obama but for us, the working class. It’ll be us sent to die in wars for profit; it’s us who are killed in the terrorist attacks that spew out of the anarchy. It’s them who escape all blame. The real divide in society isn’t between us and Mulsims, or the Chinese. It’s us and the rich, the politicians the war mongers and profiteers. Only a society that breaks down artificial barriers like the Sykes–Picot border, that puts food education and shelter above profit will deliver us from the hell in the middle east that is a socialist world.