That loyal mouthpiece of the establishment the BBC has taken to calling the migrant populations languishing in camps and at border posts “refugees and economic migrants”. In any halfway sympathetic pronouncement from the beleaguered political class, all complicit in smashing the infrastructure of five countries, the word refugee is usually prefaced with genuine. Somewhere in the fevered popular imagination lurks the spectre of the economic migrant, a worker from a less affluent country prepared to risk life and limb to reach the UK so they can drive a minicab or deliver pizza, or worse still, eke out a meagre living under the DWP’s brutal benefits regime, or perhaps wait years for an operation on the NHS. Just how desperate would you have to be? Poverty is the worst form of violence, Ghandi once claimed, though I doubt he was the first to articulate that simple truth. Why then is it so despicable to flee this particular form? Swerve bullets and bombs all you like but hunger and disease must simply be endured. The reason is obvious, how else could you accept an economic regime that has a mere eighty individuals, sitting like a boil on the arse of humanity, wielding the same purchasing power as the poorest three and a half billion?
Never mind that if all British citizens living overseas returned, and all non-Britons left, there would be 1.3 million more people on the island, and we would have traded productive workers for retired bankers and bent car dealers. We learn nothing by evaluating these matters in terms of capitalist economics. There is no shortage of anything here, with a million empty homes and fifteen million tons of food thrown away annually. If the borders were torn down and resources allocated according to need, it would just show the politicians have been talking bollocks all along. Pidgin economics are a smokescreen for racism, on which the ruling class relies as much as it ever did to keep us in our separate little boxes. Working class radicals have no use for borders; we recognise they serve only the bosses, maintaining differentials in prices and wages that allow them to increase their mark-up.
So how’s this for economic migration? In 2002, capitalist James Dyson laid off five hundred and sixty workers in Wiltshire and moved his vacuum cleaner factory to Malaysia where he can hire people for £3 per hour. Well if we all work for that rate who’s going to buy his fucking vacuum cleaners at 300 quid a pop? Dyson had free school milk, free healthcare and a grant to further education, all provided by the working class. Developing the product, he was supported by his wife’s salary as an art teacher – try doing that in Malaysia! No liberal economist would oppose the free movement of capital, but if you decline to work for three quid an hour and move from Malaysia to Wiltshire expect to be pilloried for it. The economist knows that globalisation of capital requires globalisation of labour, but the bourgeoisie does not want free movement of labour; they must be able to control it through their tame politicians. Super-exploited groups are used to drive down wages and conditions at the bottom. As a bonus, this creates resentment and division in our class, diverting the blame for economic hardship away from the bosses. So-called ‘quality immigration’ of skilled personnel is nothing but a shameless pillage of the education systems of the poorest countries. The I.T. engineer from Mumbai and the doctor from Manila owe their expertise to the working class of those communities, without whom they would never have reached adulthood, let alone qualified.
“They’re taking our jobs” well they’re fucking welcome to mine; I’d gladly share it with them and have more time for something universally beneficial. Cash-rich corporations are reluctant to employ anyone in the dwindling range of increasingly futile tasks unless they will work for JSA or come heavily subsidised by the taxpayer. It’s hardly surprising; technology makes production ever less labour-intensive so profits – which only come from unpaid labour – fall. As the cost of living, especially accommodation, rises, so does the cost of maintaining the labouring capacity of the worker, and only once this cost has been met, by the capitalist or the state, does the remaining portion of their working day generate profit for the capitalist. So the bourgeoisie are happier investing their ill-gotten in something like Trident, that doesn’t have to compete in the marketplace. The decision to purchase will be made by wealthy politicians and the cost will be borne by taxpayers, the overwhelming bulk of whom will be working class. Any new technology developed on its budget will belong to the corporations, protected by patents. The politicians will subsequently take on directorships. Is it merely coincidence that the first public admission of the use of a British drone for extra-judicial execution coincides with the opening of the biennial DSEI arms fair in London?
Western capitalism was founded on primitive accumulation, the economist’s euphemism for armed robbery: the pillage of Latin America and the Indian sub-continent, the enclosure of indigenous lands, the transatlantic slave trade and a bit of opium-running. For four hundred years, the British Empire did precisely what Islamic state/daesh is doing now, only without the internet. Its state terrorism only ceased when its colonies achieved independence. During the 1950’s Britain maintained its rule in Kenya with concentration camps, summary execution, rape, torture and mutilation.
The Middle Eastern insurgent movements of my youth were aggressively secular and vaguely Marxist-Leninist in character. ‘Political Islam’ in its mediaevalist Wahabi form, was a tiny insignificant sect. This changed with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan; the fundamentalists were cultivated, both by Western capitalism, and its proxy, the Saudi ruling dynasty, who feared the loss of their privileged position as feudal proprietors. On the other hand, Baathist Iraq, in all its secular post-Stalinist despotism, was equally courted to oppose the regime in Iran that emerged from the popular revolution against the one the West installed to replace Mohammad Mosaddeq after he nationalised Anglo-Iranian oil (now BP). Iraq had a million men under arms at the end of that war, the fifth largest standing army in the world. Following the Western invasion they were given a month’s pay and sent home. That, plus Iraqi Sunnis interned during the occupation is now daesh in Syria. In 1930’s Spain a similar totalitarian theocracy was born when British duplicity and incompetence allowed General Franco to opportunistically unite his reactionary officer corps with the fascist Falange party, religious fanatics, greedy landowners and a venal clergy.
Why all the history? Because it’s still being made! These fools brought chaos to the Middle East and terrorism to New York and London; they will deliver us World War Three if we let them.
Nevertheless the politicians have been left in the dust by the popular reaction to events. Without waiting to be asked, working class people have organised to gather and deliver aid to the camps or drive refugees illegally into Europe. Some of the most intrepid have volunteered for the militia of autonomous Rojava at the front line against daesh and their Turkish ally. Back home in our towns and villages, we attack thieving bosses and slum landlords, resist gentrification and austerity, foil workfare, eviction and deportation, and one by one, hound the fascists from our community. Our deeply divided society is steaming purposefully in two opposite directions; the one towards a life based on mutual aid and solidarity; the other perpetuating selfishness, greed, commodity fetishism and alienated wage labour. When the two meet again it will be for a fight to the finish. It’s time to choose your future and pick your side.