Shocking new development: Angela Nagle's Left Case against Open Borders is shithouse

The Hellenic Prince

A criticism of Angela Nagle's recent essay, 'The Left Case against Open Borders'. Touches on globalism, ethics and electoralism.

The current global system of states is unjust. To paraphrase Proudhon, there exists open borders for the rich and ironclad closed ones for the poor. For the bad luck of being born into the wrong country, say, one that is economically destitute, or one regularly bombed by western jets, or one governed by a brutal tyrant, you are condemned to a life of misery. Scorning those who try and improve their lot and their family’s by migrating to a developed nation is abhorrent.

This much has been recognised by the entire anarchist movement and other revolutionary sectors of the left since its inception, and in contemporary times it has caught on with a wide spectrum of people. The recent flows of migrants heading to North America, Europe and Australia have caught the left's attention and driven it to much more openly support freedom of movement; with the prospect of not only more war but also large-scale climate catastrophe hanging over our heads, the question of migrant rights has never been more essential.

All this very much concerns Angela Nagle, who has attempted to give a ‘Left Case against Open Borders’ in the winter 2018 edition of American Affairs.

Globalisation, capitalists and free migration

The article kicks off with a vivid paragraph containing an entirely false claim, emphasis mine:

Quote:
Before “Build the wall!” there was “Tear down this wall!” In his famous 1987 speech, Ronald Reagan demanded that the “scar” of the Berlin Wall be removed and insisted that the offending restriction of movement it represented amounted to nothing less than a “question of freedom for all mankind.” He went on to say that those who “refuse to join the community of freedom” would “become obsolete” as a result of the irresistible force of the global market. And so they did. In celebration, Leonard Bernstein directed a performance of “Ode to Joy” and Roger Waters performed “The Wall.” Barriers to labor and capital came down all over the world; the end of history was declared; and decades of U.S.-dominated globalization followed.

Hang on, “barriers to labor and capital came down”? In 1994, Bill Clinton did two major very major things: one, he signed NAFTA. Two, he launched Operation Gatekeeper, an unprecedented militarisation of the USA-Mexico border. Barriers to capital came down, yes, but labour was hardly any freer. Something similar happened in my country Australia too – our own neoliberal leader, Paul Keating, signed ‘free-market’ trade treaties whilst also introducing the mandatory detention of unauthorised boat arrivals. Conflating neoliberal globalisation and freedom of migration is central to Nagle’s belief that open border advocacy is less like principled progressivism and more like a swindle by elites.

Nagle builds her arguments against left open-borders advocates by ignoring them. She does not cite a single left-wing defender of this position. No leftist groups are mentioned. Instead, she mostly criticises right-wing Koch-style advocates and then asks us how shocking it is that “the moralizing, pro-open borders left” could cosy up with capitalists who only support migration because it gives them more people to exploit. The left only really exists in her article rhetorically, as a strawman, ready to jeer at radicals of old for contradicting the alleged open-borders dogma. This dishonest strategy lets her avoid dealing with the fact that no radical leftist supporter of free migration defends capitalist exploitation, or in any way provides a humanitarian face for neoliberal self-interest.

Contrary to Nagle’s opinion, very, very few elites support open-borders. The Koch-funded Cato advocacy for open-borders is the exception, rather than the norm. Their backing of the idea no more qualifies it as an elite, capitalist position than the Mercer family’s ‘build-the-wall’ advocacy qualifies that idea as elite and capitalist. Nagle refers to the Mark Zuckerberg-led Silicon Valley think thank ‘Forward’ as another example of capitalist support for open borders; she does not mention that the group advocates for no such thing. When Mark Zuckerberg announced the mission of the organisation in a Washington Post op-ed, he clearly outlined that he and his other CEO friends wanted:

Quote:
Comprehensive immigration reform that begins with effective border security, allows a path to citizenship and lets us attract the most talented and hardest-working people, no matter where they were born.

Which is very different to open-borders. Generally speaking, it does not seem like free migration and open-borders have figured very prominently into global neoliberalism; in fact, it seems most apparent that a tight system of migration regulation has been neoliberalism’s bedrock. The militarised borders that exist in Europe, the United States and Australia fulfil a defensive function, insulating wealthy states from the blowback of their actions – the imperial wars, the climate destruction, the corporate robbery.

The other thing to stress is that an idea is not bad merely because some unpleasant people support it. It is true that there is a section of the upper-class that supports genuine open-borders. The Koch brothers are probably the most prominent. But they don’t just support open-borders, they also support prison reform and drug decriminalisation – does that mean leftists should be against these two things also?

Open-borders and the left

Nagle’s other major claim is that opposition to open-borders can and should be left-wing. The first thing to note is that the term ‘left-wing’ is so broad as to render the term near-useless. Nagle uses it to encompass Marx, the American union movement, Bernie Sanders and a whole host of other forces that often have little of substance in common with each other. Strong arguments don’t rely on vague generalisations, and her essay would have been much better had she actually engaged directly with leftist writing.

Nagle uses the historical radicals to try and show that open-borders is not an inherently radical position; an example of this is her claim that ‘figures like Marcus Garvey or Fredrick Douglass’ would not be surprised by study allegedly showing that immigration has negative effects on poor and minority Americans. She drives home the point by claiming that the modern open-borders left would tar and feather them for holding the position she thinks they would hold.

This particular claim about Garvey and Douglass is strange for three reasons. Firstly, Marcus Garvey is not a particularly left-wing figure. He was complex, no doubt, but his central political project was the repatriation of the black diaspora to Africa. He was willing to ally himself with the Ku Klux Klan to try and achieve this goal. He was loathed by black leftists of the era and he loathed them; he believed communism was a white plot against black people whilst black leftists like C.L.R. James described him as ‘reactionary’, a ‘born demagogue’, and a proto-Hitler. We can appreciate his belief in self-determination, and self-pride, but there's not a whole lot of leftism in him.

Secondly, the positions of leftists of yore should not be held up as sacrosanct; many historic radicals held political beliefs and attitudes that most reasonable people would now find repugnant – hostility to homosexuals, racism, misogyny and so on. It may well be that belief in open-borders may be another one of these issues, and it can be considered a sign of progress that leftists no longer see the repression of migrants as a good thing. It is also worth noting that contemporary migration patters are quite different to what they were one or two hundred years ago.

Finally, it is not at all clear that the poor are disproportionately affected by ‘open-borders’, even if you accept Nagel’s evaluation of it. The study deals with the welfare of Americans, not all of the individuals involved in the situation. A fuller analysis of the impacts of immigration would also assess the welfare of the immigrants themselves. This may seem pedantic, but the leftist opposition to borders has always gone hand-in-hand with a radical opposition to nationalism. Privileging the well-being of one national group over the other is not defensible, and it runs contrary to the basic radical principle of egalitarianism. We’re interested in humans, not national categories; the American poor are not worthy of more moral consideration than the Mexican poor, or the Guatemalan poor, and so on.

What Nagle gets right

Nagle’s article isn’t entirely worthless, and she makes some points which radicals should consider. The most important one is that acceptance of the rightness of open-borders entails an acceptance of basic anarchist principles, regardless of whether the person realises it or not. If you believe in the rightness of the protest chant “no human is illegal”, then you implicitly accept “the moral case for no borders or sovereign nations at all”. I have no response to this, other than fuck yes!

In all seriousness, Nagle’s article touches on something relatively new and recent in the western left. Leftists have started winning elections again. Jeremy Corbyn and his allies have essentially taken control of the Labour Party. Bernie Sanders came fairly close to winning the Democratic primary, and potentially the 2016 election. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pipped a Clintonite in the primaries to take a seat in the House of Representatives. This means that significant parts of the left are now playing the cynical PR game essential to successful electoralism; firing up their radical base by flagging and dogwhistling that they’re one of them, whilst also maintaining enough ‘respectability’ to non-radicals to get elected and achieve their (in the grand scheme of things, moderate) aims.

To these people, and the leftists deeply concerned with getting them elected, ‘electable’ policies are paramount. Opening the borders is not one of these, and accordingly they are not going to advocate for it, even if they wanted to. Corbyn, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez all explicitly disavow open-borders. As anarchists, we're in a tough spot, as usual -- the things we advocate for aren't widely popular. So what do we do?

For virtually the entirety of our history, we have been in the minority. It's not new to us. This is obvious, but bears repeating: the fact that our ideas aren't widely held, and are perhaps even violently opposed by an large proportion of the working class should not be cause to abandon our core principles and embrace what we hate. What we are to do is keep fighting, keep spreading our ideas and to try and change things, so that all the good in the world might overcome the bad.

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sherbu-kteer
Nov 22 2018 20:17

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  • The fact that our ideas aren't widely held, and are perhaps even violently opposed by an large proportion of the working class should not be cause to abandon our core principles and embrace what we hate.

    sherbu-kteer

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sherbu-kteer
Nov 22 2018 19:34

Side note - I highly, highly recommend Davide Turcato's discussion of Errico Malatesta's response to worker xenophobia in France and the United Kingdom. It's on page 59 of Turcato's book Making Sense of Anarchism: Errico Malatesta's Experiments with Revolution, 1889-1900. It's a really fantastic book and touches on what differentiates Malatesta's ideas on consciousness-formation, idealism, realism, and revolution from those of Marxist and of opportunists of all stripes. Probably the best single book on anarchism I've read in years.

Uncreative
Nov 22 2018 20:07
sherbu-kteer wrote:
the fact that our ideas aren't widely held, and are perhaps even violently opposed by an large proportion of the working class should be cause to abandon our core principles and embrace what we hate.

Should NOT be cause, surely? Although, tbf, what you've written there does seem to describe the behaviour of quite a lot of the left, so...

sherbu-kteer
Nov 22 2018 20:17

Thank you for pointing out that horrible typo haha

Uncreative
Nov 22 2018 22:08
sherbu-kteer wrote:
Thank you for pointing out that horrible typo haha

No problem. They always crop up in the most inconvenient place. Also, interesting fact, your article has now had over 9000 times more editorial work done on it than anything by Nagle/Zero books.

Reddebrek
Nov 22 2018 22:19

Pretty good post, I've encountered increasing numbers of "anti-globalist" lefty types arguing the same line as Nagle. I wasn't aware how few wealthy types are open supporters of open borders though.

Though it does make sense that the period from say the 80s to now where many nations have been signing more free trade agreements while at the same time borders are increasingly militarised and defended.

sherbu-kteer
Nov 22 2018 22:20
Uncreative wrote:
No problem. They always crop up in the most inconvenient place. Also, interesting fact, your article has now had over 9000 times more editorial work done on it than anything by Nagle/Zero books.

I knew Kill All Normies was going to be a wild read when I opened it up and saw that the ninth of word of the entire book was Barack Obama's name, misspelled.

sherbu-kteer
Nov 22 2018 23:00
Reddebrek wrote:
Pretty good post, I've encountered increasing numbers of "anti-globalist" lefty types arguing the same line as Nagle. I wasn't aware how few wealthy types are open supporters of open borders though.

Though it does make sense that the period from say the 80s to now where many nations have been signing more free trade agreements while at the same time borders are increasingly militarised and defended.

Thanks. I always found it odd how easily people accept the premise that the rich want fully open borders. In my view, most capitalists would favour a system quite like Australia's -- hyper-restrictive on anyone poor and formally unskilled, or on anyone who doesn't 'follow the rules' getting here, whilst keeping an intake of skilled/highly educated people to exploit. A strong state is the best friend of big business.

Khawaga
Nov 23 2018 01:15
Quote:
Marcus Garvey is not a particularly left-wing figure. He was complex, no doubt, but his central political project was the repatriation of the black diaspora to Africa. He was willing to ally himself with the Ku Klux Klan to try and achieve this goal. He was loathed by black leftists of the era and they loathed him;

Seems like another "typo", did you mean "He was loathed by black leftists of the era and he loathed them"?

Good blog post btw.

Comrade Motopu
Nov 23 2018 02:45

It's a terrible article, not least for pointing to the racist Chinese Exclusion Act and the UFW's "Campaign Against Illegals" as highpoints of US labor movement policy, to be emulated by today's left.

Here's an excerpt from a review of Frank Bardacke's _Trampling Out The Vintage_:

If that struggle did significant damage to the union, so, too, did the divide between native-born and immigrant workers, a divide that the UFW not only confronted, but also helped to produce. It was one taken advantage of by growers who sought to counter the increasing power of the UFW by recruiting “illegal” immigrants and green card holders. But rather than trying to build links of solidarity with these workers, Chavez and the UFW struck a U.S. nationalist, restrictionist pose. During a 1967 strike in the Central Valley, for example, Chavez and the UFW demonstrated outside the office of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in Bakersfield, criticizing the agency for not arresting what they called “illegal aliens” and “green carders” (who were prohibited by an injunction from the U.S. Secretary of Labor from working in struck fields). This soon led to the arrests by the INS of hundreds of undocumented agricultural workers. In 1974-75, the union engaged in what it called the “Campaign Against Illegals.” The campaign’s most infamous component was what the union named, in reference to “wetbacks,” the “wet line”: a vigilante group of a few hundred individuals wearing “UFW Border Patrol” armbands who policed a ten-mile or so stretch of the Arizona-Mexico boundary over a three-month period—with the effective approval of local and federal officials—arresting and often brutalizing those they encountered.

Aside from such reactionary premises about the history of the labor movement, she gets a lot of little things wrong too. She says in the article that leftist open border advocates "channel Milton Friedman." Friedman advocated free immigration only if it was illegal, so immigrants couldn't get welfare. Her article is riddled with such false equivalencies.

Here's a video link to Friedman promoting illegal immigration (See 3:15 mark).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=C52TlPCVDio

Is There No Alt...
Nov 23 2018 05:19

Great article

Gregory A. Butler
Nov 24 2018 08:13

Nagel makes some very valid points. Open borders would actually be a terrible thing for workers, especially low wage workers in industry and the service sector, especially Black and Latino workers.

Also, the labor movement here in the states is in a death spiral, and the left here long ago abandoned the workplace and the labor movement for the greener pastures of academia. In this case, that means that instead of concretely talking about fighting for the rights of immigrant workers, we have this abstract moralism about "the right of freedom of movement" - which historically has always been advocated for by the far right and the corporations

When you see liberals and - God help us - leftists quoting the Cato Institute to justify open borders, or echoing the claims of employers associations about the benefits of unlimited supplies of low paid workers for industry, then we are officially doing it wrong

I'm glad somebody is willing to actually say this in public....

sherbu-kteer
Nov 24 2018 14:08
Gregory A. Butler wrote:
Nagel makes some very valid points. Open borders would actually be a terrible thing for workers, especially low wage workers in industry and the service sector, especially Black and Latino workers.

Open borders being terrible for (presumably) American black and Latino workers is not proven, and making such remarks misses the entire point of radical anti-borders sentiment. Radical opposition to borders goes hand-in-hand with radical opposition to nationalism -- the lives of American workers are not worth more than the lives of Mexican or Guatemalan workers. Any claim that 'migration harms workers' without considering the migrant workers themselves to be in the 'workers' category is ludicrous.

Gregory A. Butler wrote:
Also, the labor movement here in the states is in a death spiral, and the left here long ago abandoned the workplace and the labor movement for the greener pastures of academia. In this case, that means that instead of concretely talking about fighting for the rights of immigrant workers, we have this abstract moralism about "the right of freedom of movement" - which historically has always been advocated for by the far right and the corporations

Which far right groups are advocating for "the right of freedom of movement", Greg?

Gregory A. Butler wrote:
When you see liberals and - God help us - leftists quoting the Cato Institute to justify open borders, or echoing the claims of employers associations about the benefits of unlimited supplies of low paid workers for industry, then we are officially doing it wrong

Once again, we shouldn't come to our political positions by disagreeing with the Cato institute as much as possible...

wojtek
Nov 24 2018 16:01

How do anarchists view individual emigration as opposed to immigration? In this podcast, a Moroccan worker in Spain advised his compatriots not to take such drastic measures to cross the Med to Europe.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3cswh0v
It seems to be at least an immediate rejection of national and class solidarity.

Khawaga
Nov 24 2018 16:51
Quote:
Open borders would actually be a terrible thing for workers, especially low wage workers in industry and the service sector, especially Black and Latino workers.

So immigrants aren't workers as well? Yet again you spout splitting the solidarity of the class rather than trying to unify it. The "problem" of immigrants is that you try to organize them, as you would do with any worker, not this right-wing nonsense of closing the borders so that our, good national workers, will have it better. That is kowtowing to the right, that is officially doing it wrong.

So true for form, yet more nonsense from Gregory.

Ed
Nov 26 2018 00:52

I generally really appreciate Greg's contributions here and to an extent I even agree with him regarding "abstract moralism" around freedom of movement, which the 'migrants are also workers' argument is often not that different from. That said, I also happen to subscribe to that 'abstract moralism', though imo it's often a lot more concrete than Greg seems to be making out. If anything, it's Greg who's being abstract: the logic of his argument seems to suggest a labour movement ready to go being undermined by the importation of low-wage foreign scabs. But, if anything, the reality is often the opposite: of militant migrant workers and backstabbing 'native' union leaders.

Gregory A. Butler wrote:
Open borders would actually be a terrible thing for workers, especially low wage workers in industry and the service sector, especially Black and Latino workers.

There are two issues here, the first being that borders aren't just a line in the sand that people aren't allowed to cross; they're also a system for deciding what people are/aren't entitled to once they have crossed. So, given that closed borders don't actually stop migrants from coming in but just regulates what they can do once they're in, the answer to Greg's point is really: how is the situation for low wage workers helped by having a section of their class who aren't even entitled to the minimum wage and can be deported at the drop of a hat if they start organising? If migrants are regularised, they become entitled to the same rights as local workers; the job then is to organise them (as they have been doing in London, largely through the smaller, often immigrant-led UVW and IWGB unions; I'm sure similar has happened in the US).

The second thing is, as has been pointed out elsewhere, this argument is structurally identical to the ones made (even by some American socialists) about the effects of abolishing slavery on the white working class: that the introduction of four million emancipated former slaves would bring down conditions.

So was the abolition of slavery a defeat for the American working class? Or was the opposition from some American socialists a betrayal of class unity?

Gregory A. Butler wrote:
Also, the labor movement here in the states is in a death spiral, and the left here long ago abandoned the workplace and the labor movement for the greener pastures of academia.

So, I was thinking about this, and there are similar tendencies in the UK as well obviously, but then I got to thinking: you know who else "long ago abandoned the workplace"? The trade union bureaucracies. Like, when I think that the TUC's strategy to engage young people in trade unionism was to create an app or how unions just seem to be trying to solve haemorrhaging membership numbers with endless mergers (AUT-NAFTHE into UCU, Amicus-TGWU into Unite, NUT-ATL into NEU etc etc), it seems like it's not just middle-class lefties abandoning the workplace but also complete disinterest on the part of union leadership in developing workplace organisation: I remember my shop steward training (a long time ago now) being mostly about how to 'sell' the union through consumer discounts for members, rather than how to build organisation at work.

Nowhere is this disinterest clearer than with UVW and IWGB's successes with migrant cleaners over the years. These are workers which should have been represented by unions like Unison and Unite who for the most part completely ignored (if not actively trying to sabotage) them. So, again, what we have is migrant workers organising themselves to improve their conditions in the face of absolute disinterest of the bureaucratic layer of the trade union movement.

Gregory A. Butler wrote:
that means that instead of concretely talking about fighting for the rights of immigrant workers, we have this abstract moralism about "the right of freedom of movement"

Again, you're the one being abstract here: how do you talk concretely about "fighting for the rights of immigrant workers" while advocating for border regimes that make it harder for them to access work, services, housing, etc?

Gregory A. Butler wrote:
leftists quoting the Cato Institute to justify open borders

So, I saw this bit in the Nagle article but also noticed that it came with no example. Do you have one, Greg? I'm not saying it never happens, but I can't say I've ever seen it. And without any examples of this actually happening, that makes this just a random slur, like me saying Greg and other left-wingers supporting closed borders support the ongoing siege against the migrant caravan on the US-Mexico border.

fingers malone
Nov 26 2018 08:38

The UK government is talking about introducing 11 month work visas, which would be a disaster, loads of migrant workers have kids, this would make it more difficult to settle with any stability and would make it easier to exploit people. I do a lot of work with migrant workers and their kids and the affect of insecurity caused by poverty on the kids is already terrible. This would make it much worse.

fingers malone
Nov 26 2018 08:40

And migrants including children are getting tear gassed on the US Mexico border. Borders involve violence.

jaycee
Nov 26 2018 13:59

As communists we are all against borders/states but the question is: does the slogan of open borders have any content this side of the revolution?.

The answer to that has to be no.

Immigration is undoubtedly used by the ruling class to lower wages and increase competition among workers.
However the idea of supporting 'protectionism' (the bourgeois state and 'national intetests') is inherently reactionary.

So what is the answer. Quite simply there isn't one.

There is no solution within capitalism. As soon as you get involved in policy questions of the bourgeoisie like this you end up on bourgeois terrain.

Solidarity with immigrants and with 'native worker's is the only solution. Whatever form this takes the fact that 'open borders' within capitalism is pure utopianism and at worst simple liberal ideology should be kept in mind

Mike Harman
Nov 26 2018 17:13
jaycee wrote:
Immigration is undoubtedly used by the ruling class to lower wages and increase competition among workers.
However the idea of supporting 'protectionism' (the bourgeois state and 'national intetests') is inherently reactionary.

This doesn't really get to how these things work though.

Competition between workers is facilitated not by the pure number of workers in relation to jobs (there are never a fixed number of jobs and there are things that affect the number of workers other than immigration) but because border controls themselves creates a two-tier workforce. Nagle's article argues for employers to check the papers of potential and current employees (E-verify). The effect of this is the opposite of 'attacking employees who exploit illegal immigrants' but rather 1. intensifies state surveillance of all workers 2. is most likely to hit those who actually have legal immigrations status and are in regular employment, but where that status is either complex or poorly documented.

Employers who want to bypass this would just do pure cash-in-hand off the books employment anyway.

An obvious example of such a policy in action is the Windrush generation (and others) who were sacked when despite having National Insurance numbers and decades of work history in the UK, they couldn't prove their status. In the UK Right to Work checks are slightly different to E-verify but it's very similar.

Wherever there's a regime that was supposedly in favour of 'open borders' like New Labour from 1997-2008, you can instead find dozens of examples of them restricting status - most notably around asylum seekers and access to benefits.

jaycee wrote:
So what is the answer. Quite simply there isn't one.

There is no solution within capitalism. As soon as you get involved in policy questions of the bourgeoisie like this you end up on bourgeois terrain.

You can debunk 'left' arguments for immigration control without getting involved in policy questions though - as part of a general critique of social democratic and trade unionist nativism. And actual material solidarity with workers (stuff like the anti-raids network and deportation resistance) is possible within capitalism.

jaycee wrote:
Whatever form this takes the fact that 'open borders' within capitalism is pure utopianism and at worst simple liberal ideology should be kept in mind

We're for the abolition of borders (and the capitalist state in general). A lot of articles like Nagle's are not only taking a policy position of protectionism but also a smear against communist and anarchist politics (i.e. equating border abolition with neoliberalism).

fingers malone
Nov 26 2018 17:32
Gregory A. Butler wrote:
Nagel makes some very valid points. Open borders would actually be a terrible thing for workers, especially low wage workers in industry and the service sector, especially Black and Latino workers.

ok firstly. Latino workers in the UK are mostly here as EU citizens, many have children and this 11 month visa thing is going to be a nightmare for them. The situation of black workers is somewhat different as the biggest black communities here are longer established but there are still large numbers of black workers who are here as EU migrants, mostly from France and Portugal. For more established workers who have British citizenship, the new higher levels of immigration control will still cause problems for the many people who have family in EU countries.

fingers malone
Nov 26 2018 17:39
jaycee wrote:
There is no solution within capitalism. As soon as you get involved in policy questions of the bourgeoisie like this you end up on bourgeois terrain.

Solidarity with immigrants and with 'native worker's is the only solution. Whatever form this takes the fact that 'open borders' within capitalism is pure utopianism and at worst simple liberal ideology should be kept in mind

I'm not 'getting involved in policy questions of the bourgeoisie' this is a massive, and pretty horrible, discussion in the trade union movement in both the UK and the US, I'm involved in this discussion on that basis, this isn't a think tank.

The 'open borders' position is in no way hegemonic, it isn't even in the anarchist movement, definitely not on the wider left, and as for most of society, my mate was spat at for wearing a refugees welcome jumper not long ago.

fingers malone
Nov 26 2018 17:52
Gregory A. Butler wrote:

Also, the labor movement here in the states is in a death spiral, and the left here long ago abandoned the workplace and the labor movement for the greener pastures of academia. In this case, that means that instead of concretely talking about fighting for the rights of immigrant workers, we have this abstract moralism about "the right of freedom of movement" - which historically has always been advocated for by the far right and the corporations

Ok lets talk concrete then.
There is absolutely loads of workplace struggle in the UK which involves either a mostly migrant workforce or where the migrants are a minority but are heavily involved. Examples are (mainstream unions) disputes in catering (BFAWU and Unite) hotels (Unite) education (NEU, Unison, GMB and UCU) transport (RMT ASLEF and Unite) healthcare (Unison et al)
(new unions) cleaning (IWGB, UVW, CAIWU) couriers (IWGB, IWW) There are loads of examples of the employers calling in immigration control and getting workers deported for organising. Plus the added stress, time and expense of dealing with immigration problems all the time takes its toll on the workers' health and affects their ability to stay involved in strikes and union organising, as well as the people who never get involved at all through fear. Then there are all the workers who are not able to get involved as they are not able to work legally in the UK and so are only able to work cash in hand.
The existing borders here are making workplace organising more difficult, in my concrete experience.

R Totale
Nov 26 2018 18:46

On concrete workplace struggles, there's also the example of Fawley oil refinery, where the bosses were employing migrant workers on less than half the wage of their British coworkers, and instead of appealing to the state to keep migrant workers out, instead they just threatened to strike and won equal pay for everyone. And the entire long-running "pay the rate" dispute, especially on Teesside, but across the construction sector. There's been quite a few disputes where employers underpaying migrant workers has been an issue, some of them leaning more towards nationalist "British jobs for British workers" rhetoric, others more towards towards a basic class position of demanding decent wages for everyone, so this idea that you have to pick a side between being an ivory tower liberal who ignores the way capital exploits migrants, or else a closed borders protectionist, is nonsense. You can definitely recognise that employers use low-paid migrant workers to try and undercut wages and still respond to that by saying "pay the rate for the job", rather than "close the borders". Like, that's not some theoretical position I just made up in my head, it's what the construction workers who blocked roads for weeks on end in Teesside were demanding.

gram negative
Nov 27 2018 04:38

so, nagle just went on a right wing news show to spread her gospel

anyways, mike harman is right on to point out that most of the left critics of immigration get the chain of causation wrong with regards to enforcement measures creating tiers in the labor market. ironically, the black and latino workers that GAB is so concerned about have been subject to very similar measures by the state and civil society in the US to generate differential fractions amongst the working class, in order to force them to accept worse working conditions and jobs. also, the idea that there is some finite, 'natural' supply of jobs under capitalism being accepted by so-calles marxists is odd, given that the availibility of jobs is not due to some sort of equilibrium state but is instead set by the aggregate social relations of capitalist society.

the US border was many times more porous years ago, at the same time as the heights of labor market participation, like in the 60s-70s, for all of the sallivating social democrats out there, looking to solve the social problem by making sure everyone has access to wage labor. also, it is always surprising that i have to point this out, but the most militant period of the working class in the US (1870s-1940s) coincided with a proportional amount of immigration vastly greater than now, with much more seriously limiting cross-cultural barriers and tensions - if mass immigration means a return to those days, then every leftist should support it. to me, as someone living in the US, it is akin to being a revolutionary defeatist during WWI, and not only for its anti-national, internationalist aspect.

jaycee
Nov 27 2018 14:26

I think once you ask for 'open borders (whatever that means in practice-i would suggest not alot) you are getting involved in policy questions of the bourgeoisie. The direct action and help for immigrants can only be supported and to whatever extent it is possible to encourage autonomy of immigrant and native workers in this regard is the best you can do but I'm just saying the idea of 'open borders is a meaningless slogan.

fingers malone
Nov 27 2018 15:00

Ok but I don't think that we (anarchists and communists) are asking for open borders in this abstract or policy way, are we? What we are doing is subverting and resisting the borders as they currently operate.

Look at the activity of anarchists/communists in relation to borders. Disrupting deportations, by blocking the border force vans in the street. Distributing information about surviving in the UK. Fundraising for people to get citizenship. Going with people when they have to sign, to protect them. Supporting migrants organising at work, by coming to pickets, repping, running English classes, training, translating.Helping people squat places to live. Sharing food and other essentials. Visiting people in detention and trying to get them out of detention. Finding people places to stay.

This is an off the top of my head list of things. There's more I'm sure. For each thing mentioned, I know minimum one anarchist or communist* personally who does this thing. When do anarchists and communists sit down with the bourgeoisie for policy discussions? We are just not really in those circles.

*I know other people who do these things too, non-political, just because they are nice people.

Serge Forward
Nov 27 2018 15:10

Nowt wrong with calling for open borders (as a clear internationalist position) same as there's nowt wrong with saying abolish the police, destroy all prisons, etc... but anyone who thinks any of that's achievable without destroying capitalism is deluded. It's a funny one really, 'no borders' is an anti-capitalist statement but yes, it is used by liberals who quite rightly don't like bad things happening to migrants. Now if we could only take those lovely sentiments held by many people and somehow push them towards a more revolutionary direction. Come on, let's crack on comrades.

Ed
Nov 27 2018 17:53
Quote:
I'm just saying the idea of 'open borders is a meaningless slogan

I mean, only as meaningless as 'Abolish the wages system!' Do you think that's a meaningless slogan? (Also, the slogan I hear more commonly is 'no borders' rather than 'open borders', which think makes a difference)

bolostar1995
Nov 28 2018 12:10

You should also expand upon her bizarre implication that Frederick Douglass would be considered anti-immigrant. Douglass vigorously opposed the Chinese Exclusion Act. A speech he gave in Boston against it is the most pro-immigrant thing I think I've ever read, even by modern standards. Unless someone can dig something up where he changed his mind, I don't see how she write what she did. Seems she is simply making shit up and name dropping an assortment of revolutionary figures. Below is an excerpt from his speech, here's the link to the full thing: https://blackpast.org/1869-frederick-douglass-describes-composite-nation

"I have said that the Chinese will come, and have given some reasons why we may expect them in very large numbers in no very distant future. Do you ask, if I favor such immigration, I answer I would. Would you have them naturalized, and have them invested with all the rights of American citizenship? I would. Would you allow them to vote? I would. Would you allow them to hold office? I would.

But are there not reasons against all this? Is there not such a law or principle as that of self-preservation? Does not every race owe something to itself? Should it not attend to the dictates of common sense? Should not a superior race protect itself from contact with inferior ones? Are not the white people the owners of this continent? Have they not the right to say, what kind of people shall be allowed to come here and settle? Is there not such a thing as being more generous than wise? In the effort to promote civilization may we not corrupt and destroy what we have? Is it best to take on board more passengers than the ship will carry?

To all of this and more I have one among many answers, together satisfactory to me, though I cannot promise that it will be so to you.

I submit that this question of Chinese immigration should be settled upon higher principles than those of a cold and selfish expediency.

There are such things in the world as human rights. They rest upon no conventional foundation, but are external, universal, and indestructible. Among these, is the right of locomotion; the right of migration; the right which belongs to no particular race, but belongs alike to all and to all alike. It is the right you assert by staying here, and your fathers asserted by coming here. It is this great right that I assert for the Chinese and Japanese, and for all other varieties of men equally with yourselves, now and forever. I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity, and when there is a supposed conflict between human and national rights, it is safe to go to the side of humanity. I have great respect for the blue eyed and light haired races of America. They are a mighty people. In any struggle for the good things of this world they need have no fear. They have no need to doubt that they will get their full share.

But I reject the arrogant and scornful theory by which they would limit migratory rights, or any other essential human rights to themselves, and which would make them the owners of this great continent to the exclusion of all other races of men."