The working class and the "immigration debate"

The Kaiser Chiefs: you can deport them

A critical response to an article about immigration in the Financial Times quoted favourably on a "pro-working class" website containing anti-immigrant misinformation and scaremongering.

I have been meaning to write more for a while, however often writing something from scratch I find I don't know where to start. Therefore instead I thought I would try to practice by analysing and critiquing other texts. I would appreciate feedback and comments on the article and my writing style.

The text below was one I noticed last year, and I was pointed to see it posted with favourable comment by a socialist (and libcom poster no less) on a socialist/"pro-working class" website, Meanwhile at the bar (which had involvement from people around and supportive of the Independent Working Class Association and Liberty & Solidarity, some of whose members and supporters have espoused similar views).

The article is Time for a debate on immigration by Martin Wolf in the Financial Times from 2009, and it was commented by the poster oisleep that it was "fairly decent", and you can read it online here. I thought about doing a more general post about the irrationality of workers supporting immigration controls overall, but for now I will limit myself to just addressing this set of arguments.

Wolf begins by responding to former Home Secretary Alan Johnson's admission that "the government [had] been “maladroit” in its handling of immigration" by describing this admission as "British understatement" and stating instead that in fact "it [was] dishonest: it … pursued a radical policy, with profound consequences, on weak grounds, without serious debate. That is why the British National Party is on BBC television."

He continues: "The government has been able to get away with its dishonesty because immigration is the “third rail” of politics. Few wish to discuss the topic openly. But some discussion is essential. Present policies have big implications. These should be evaluated and discussed openly. That is the democratic way."

This kind of sentiment often crops up in many of the myriad news articles in mass circulation newspapers, TV news reports, televised debates, etc: that the immigration issue is not discussed openly. This is clearly a contradiction in terms. Discussion of immigration is everywhere, in much greater proportion to its relevance even I would argue. Compare it with much more significant issues which really don't get "discussed openly" in the media, for example the billions of pounds in subsidies given by taxpayers to the pensions of the rich, the 20,000+ people in the UK every year who are killed by their work, etc.

Wolf then states a few initial "facts" about future projected population figures, namely that the UK population is predicted to increase from 60 million to 70 million by 2030 and that immigration is predicted to be a major contributor to this. It appears that the intention of these figures is to make them sound scarily large. However, I can well imagine Wolf's grandfather writing in Ye Olde Financial Times 100 years saying that the population was 30 million and could hit 40 million by 1950. Which of course it did1. But so what? Was the UK of 1950 a much more terrible place to live than 1910? Of course not.

In terms of population density, the UK is nowhere near the top of tables. Current population density is 650 people per square mile: well below Japan (836), Belgium (889), the Netherlands (1259) and utterly dwarfed by places like Hong Kong or Singapore (18,000+)2 - all places without social problems significantly worse than the UK.

Now, moving on we come to one huge assumption which is very significant in Wolf's view, and that of many other people but in fact is completely baseless:

The UK has a real income per head of about five times the world average. One must assume that the inflow, under unrestricted immigration, might be numbered in the tens, if not hundreds, of millions. The impact is not hard to imagine.

Now for a lot of people I think this is why people support immigration controls, because they actually think this would happen.

In fact most people are loath to leave their friends, their families and their whole lives behind to move countries. However, you don't just have to take my word from their concrete historical examples which demonstrate this is untrue.

For starters, for most of history immigration controls haven't existed. And despite the global North being so much richer than the global South, migration from Europe to Africa and the Americas since the 16th century has been double the migration into Europe from Africa.3 In fact, immigrants have been actively sought out and encouraged to come (or forced with slavery) to work in the North.

Another recent example of the abolition of border controls was when the USA allowed open migration from the Caribbean. Between 1950 and 1980, when borders were closed, only 0.6% of the Caribbean population moved to the US and England, despite the obvious economic attractions. If this figure were to be applied world wide now the figure would be about 24 million per year or a growth of about 2.4% in population of the industrialised countries - probably under the anticipated labour demand in several European countries.4

There is more than a whiff of Western arrogance in the idea that everyone would just love to come and live here, with our crappy weather and often even crappier job opportunities.

Wolf then discusses the bourgeois economic arguments around immigration. As communists, these don't interest us, as we recognise that the interests of workers do not coincide with the interests of the economy. So I will leave these and move on to the others.

Wolf now acknowledges that the sheer number of people is not an issue, despite having presented the scaremongering figures earlier, stating that England is not "full up", and that 700 million people could fit here with a population density similar to London. However he is basically arguing against an increase in population - stating that "the impact of accommodating a population increase of 10 million, equal to seven Birminghams, would be substantial". However, when he continues he unveils the real problem: "This is particularly true in a country unwilling to expand the housing stock or invest in infrastructure."

The issue of shortage of housing is completely separate. There is already a housing shortage and widespread homelessness, and there always has been, regardless of the population. This is due to housing being constructed largely for profit than for need. It is not profitable to build housing for people who can't afford it! And of course scarcity of housing is vital for the profitability of house building as it pushes prices up.

Even if there were no immigration, the population will still rise. Of course building housing for 10 million people can't be done overnight, but housing for 60 million people went up okay, and other countries obviously have much higher populations - so this is a complete red herring.

Next we get to a really key point in the article, which actually displays his prejudice more than anything else, and makes it particularly concerning that a socialist would consider this article "fairly decent". He states that "diversity brings social benefits. But it also brings costs. These costs arise from declining trust and erosion of a sense of shared values."

These are just assertions. Wolf does not explain even what he means by "trust", or any evidence that it is "declining" and certainly not any evidence that "diversity" has any effect on it at all. As for a sense of shared values, these don't necessarily have anything to do with nationality. I certainly don't have many shared values with white British Tories or racists, or fans of The Kaiser Chiefs, but that doesn't mean that I think we should change the law so that we can boot them out of the country (apart from The Kaiser Chiefs fans).

Wolf then tries to give this clearly prejudiced view a liberal veneer by stating that "such costs are likely to be particularly high when immigrants congregate in communities that reject some values of the wider community, not least over the role of women in society" and "it is not unreasonable to feel concern over such rifts. I certainly do."

Again, no evidence is presented to back up these assertions. As I said above I know plenty of white English people whom I don't consider I have "shared values" with (and I'm sure they'd feel the same about me), and plenty of white English people have dodgy views on women, gays, etc. But that doesn't mean that I don't think I shouldn't share the same geographical space with them. Because really, what difference does it make what nationality or ethnicity of people you live around? We have the choice to freely associate with whomever we please, so we can surround ourselves (as most of us do) with people with whom we do share values, and it's great that we have the opportunity to do so with people from different backgrounds, from different countries and different ethnicities. Imposing restrictions on migration not only restricts our possibilities of socialising and communicating with people from other areas, but it also risks international backlash against British citizens living elsewhere. Your average British emigrant may not share many values with many people in their new country, but they still have the freedom to live there.

In conclusion, while that article may have been written in reasonable language, really it just presents assertion as fact in order to argue for immigration controls - which pretty much is the mass media approach to migration as a whole. What is a real shame in this instance is that this media bombardment is so overwhelming that a fair few self-declared anarchists and socialists, who would normally be more critical, are falling for it and actively supporting anti-working class policies.

Nationalism of any sort has no place in the workers' movement. By accepting the government and the media's line in any way that other workers are the problem, it sets us against one another and reduces the possibility of us uniting to fight together around the real problems which we face: shortage of housing, low wages, job losses and crumbling public services. The slogan is "workers of the world unite!", not "workers of the world unite! Unless you're a foreigner".

Posted By

Steven.
Apr 13 2011 12:43

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Comments

Ed
Sep 8 2015 12:33

Yeah, I know mate, I'm not saying you blame the immigrants (I think on this front we're saying roughly similar things). What I'm taking issue with is your claim that "You can't build solidarity with immigrant labour" (your words) which I think is demonstrably false (both in history and today, real-life examples above) and, as a result, your three 'logical stances' which are all based on that first false premise.

Benzo89
Sep 8 2015 12:40
Ed wrote:
I mean, watch this documentary on warehouse workers' struggles in Italy since 2008 by mostly migrant workers (though often working with native Italians) and then tell me solidarity can't be built with immigrant labour (also, just watch the documentary coz it's amazing! But also relevant to this discussion..)

Individual workers can indeed unite, immigrant and native, in labour struggles, however in the broader context immigration makes the class as a whole angry at immigrants who are driving down wages, taking jobs and getting resources from government which they are paying for.

This can be seen within formerly immigrant communities who are now expressing opposition to new arrivals. Because the now British immigrant populations are also feeling the economic impact of new immigrants.

This does not mean I advocate hating immigrants, it is merely me accepting the reality of the impact of immigration. Pretending it isn't real and saying that to people who have lost their jobs to immigrants, or can't get a council house in blackburn and are living with their mum at 35 while newly arrived immigrants have been given council housing and benefits makes native people disillusioned.

First they don't respect or get interested in radical solutions, because they feel the left and far left are lying to them and ignoring their plight. If you instead are honest about the situation, offer them solidarity and don't tell them they are lying but rather talk about employers, exploiting both sets of workers etc they will be more receptive to a radical view of the economy as a whole.

As I said earlier I have seen people I love lose jobs to immigrant labour, become broke, become disillusioned and angry and seen them go from decent guys to bitter racists. I have talked to some of them and expressed solidarity with their problems, accepted the reality immigration has had on them, but then put focus on the employers and the exploitation and framed it in a class context. This has I believe stopped a close friend from making that leap to supporting the far right.

You tell the same guy the phenomena he is experiencing isn't real despite him living through it, you might as well send him some UKIP and BNP leaflets, because they won't call him a liar and pretend the reality he is living is made up. They will then poison his mind, fill him with hate. I see this trend running pretty rampant where I live. It isn't very nice to see.

Auld-bod
Sep 8 2015 12:45

This problem is not simple. Where I live we have a lot of migrants doing work that most locals don’t want. I’ve found myself arguing with people over the right of migrants to housing and taking up a fair proportion of the primary school places. In East Anglia many people have close family units and now children are often moving away to get housing. Recently our area has been plagued by fly tipping. Guess who’s getting the blame?!! I tell the people round about that compared with the continent, Britain is a tip, though it’s like water off a duck’s back. These are just normal type people not raving racists. A lot of it I suspect is based on fear.

Noah Fence
Sep 8 2015 13:09

Firstly, I'm not so sure that what you say is true about jobs and accommodation going to immigrants. I've worked at a Crisis at Christmas shelter over the last few years and the majority of attendees were migrants that couldn't get work or a place to live. Most of the British people had mental health or substance abuse problems which would at least in part explain their homelessness. This didn't seem to be the case for the migrants. So why weren't they undercutting the British and taking their jobs?
How about minimum wage? What advantage to an employer is a migrant worker when they have to pay them the same as a British one? It's more likely in this situation that companies can't find British workers to fill the positions.
Maybe I'm wrong Benzo but there seems to be a tone of resentment towards migrant workers seeping out from all of your posts. I realise that I may be misinterpreting you but all the same, the overall vibe is similar to that of my more liberal colleagues that insist that their opposition to migrants is based purely in economics but in fact are giving vent to a prejudice streak.

Ed
Sep 8 2015 13:21
Benzo89 wrote:
Individual workers can indeed unite, immigrant and native, in labour struggles, however in the broader context immigration makes the class as a whole angry at immigrants who are driving down wages, taking jobs and getting resources from government which they are paying for.

This can be seen within formerly immigrant communities who are now expressing opposition to new arrivals.

Well, the fact that these older 'migrant' communities have now settled and created a space for themselves within the class as a whole shows how the struggles I mentioned (as well as an innumerable amount of other ones) changed how the 'class as a whole' came to view them and themselves. So much anti-migrant sentiment amongst black or Asian British people is based on them at least seeing themselves (and being largely accepted) as being native British now but that was only made possible by the struggles of the past (which you say are less important than the 'broader context' of the 'class as a whole' while I would say one feeds into the other). The idea of someone being both 'black' and 'British' is basically accepted now but it's also pretty new and proof of how struggles alongside migrant communities can change the class as a whole.

Benzo89 wrote:
This does not mean I advocate hating immigrants, it is merely me accepting the reality of the impact of immigration. Pretending it isn't real and saying that to people who have lost their jobs to immigrants

Again, I don't think anyone's doing that (at least not that I've noticed on this thread), though I'd say it's also important to highlight that it's not 'immigrants' or even 'immigration' that is the source of the problem but how they're used for the benefit of capitalism against the interests of both native and migrant workers.

Benzo89 wrote:
As I said earlier I have seen people I love lose jobs to immigrant labour, become broke, become disillusioned and angry and seen them go from decent guys to bitter racists. I have talked to some of them and expressed solidarity with their problems, accepted the reality immigration has had on them, but then put focus on the employers and the exploitation and framed it in a class context.

That's cool, but how does that sit with your comment that you can't build solidarity with immigrant labour?

Benzo89
Sep 8 2015 13:26
Webby wrote:
Firstly, I'm not so sure that what you say is true about jobs and accommodation going to immigrants. I've worked at a Crisis at Christmas shelter over the last few years and the majority of attendees were migrants that couldn't get work or a place to live. Most of the British people had mental health or substance abuse problems which would at least in part explain their homelessness. This didn't seem to be the case for the migrants. So why weren't they undercutting the British and taking their jobs?
How about minimum wage? What advantage to an employer is a migrant worker when they have to pay them the same as a British one? It's more likely in this situation that companies can't find British workers to fill the positions.
Maybe I'm wrong Benzo but there seems to be a tone of resentment towards migrant workers seeping out from all of your posts. I realise that I may be misinterpreting you but all the same, the overall vibe is similar to that of my more liberal colleagues that insist that their opposition to migrants is based purely in economics but in fact are giving vent to a prejudice streak.

Just to clarify, my position is open borders. I don't think people should not be free to live wherever they want. I have zero problem with immigration. I had immigrant friends as a kid and that really inoculated me to the fear of the others thing many people do have. When you play football with Pakistanis and all have the same interests and mindset, you really can't then have any stance other than someones birthplaces is of zero importance.

However I do feel like you pointing to immigrants who are homeless and jobless as a way to say immigrants as a whole are not undercutting workers and getting their jobs isn't very realistic. Of course not all immigrants are receiving housing or taking native workers jobs. But pointing out the ones who are not does not dismiss the fact many are. Even the ones who are not want to. That is the whole point of coming here.

And a lot of the the immigrants for example, where i live, are taking local jobs, this includes shops, labouring jobs, the poorest least paying jobs. Immigrants here do take less than minimum wage, employers allow it and make more profit and the workers who used to work there or are jobless and want to work there are not competitive as they demand the minimum wage.

It isn't the immigrants fault, from a marxist perspective they are exploited as are all workers, but that is what is happening, they are undercutting local workers.

As for housing, in the council flats near my Nanas it is almost completely made up of foreigners, meanwhile men who have worked minimum wage jobs for ten years and their partners are forced to live with their parents while quite a significant number of people here a couple years have housing. No matter if you are a communist or not, expecting that to not irk people isn't realistic. I can be glad those new arrivals have housing, be friendly to them, but also understand how that would make people who were born here who can't get housing fucking angry. Some of the anti immigration stuff is certainly coming from a place of hate, but I think for the majority of working class people, it isn't it is coming from real problems immigration heaps upon their already shit life.

Chilli Sauce
Sep 8 2015 13:36

Jumping into this one a bit late, but in my experience people tend to be racist in the abstract. I've got a lot of racists in my family - but they all have black people who they're on really good terms with, often co-workers. And they may make comments about Mexicans taking their jobs or whatever, but once you point out that it's the bosses who hire them and make the choice to pay them less, people tend to agree pretty quickly.

Of course, proving a point to someone and then getting them to act on that information are completely different things. But, the again, getting people to act in active solidarity is pretty damn hard - even between people of the same racial group and nationality.

Point being, I think there are a lot of counter-currents to what you're describing Benzo - and we should build on them. That's certainly a lot better than buying into the rhetoric that immigrants take our jobs.

One final thing, I'm always amazed that proponents of capitalism are so often anti-immigration. I mean, if capitalism worked as they claim, those migrants who come in, they would increase aggregate demand, in turn, creating more jobs - I mean, that's the way the market works, right? It seems to be that if they believe capitalism works, they can't be against immigration. And, if they're against immigration, then that means capitalism doesn't function the way they claim.

Anyway, none of that shit matters anyway. It's about taking a principled, working class stance on the matter.

Benzo89
Sep 8 2015 13:44
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Jumping into this one a bit late, but in my experience people tend to be racist in the abstract. I've got a lot of racists in my family - but they all have black people who they're on really good terms with, often co-workers. And they may make comments about Mexicans taking their jobs or whatever, but once you point out that it's the bosses who hire them and make the choice to pay them less, people tend to agree pretty quickly.

Of course, proving a point to someone and then getting them to act on that information are completely different things. But, the again, getting people to act in active solidarity is pretty damn hard - even between people of the same racial group and nationality.

Point being, I think there are a lot of counter-currents to what you're describing Benzo - and we should build on them. That's certainly a lot better than buying into the rhetoric that immigrants take our jobs.

One final thing, I'm always amazed that proponents of capitalism are so often anti-immigration. I mean, if capitalism worked as they claim, those migrants who come in, they would increase aggregate demand, in turn, creating more jobs - I mean, that's the way the market works, right? It seems to be that if they believe capitalism works, they can't be against immigration. And, if they're against immigration, then that means capitalism doesn't function the way they claim.

Anyway, none of that shit matters anyway. It's about taking a principled, working class stance on the matter.

Free market fundamentalists are all for open borders, they view wages in the west artificially high because of nationalism. Their view is let all workers compete and wages will lower as will the cost of living. If someone really supports unrestricted capitalism they usually have that stance.

Joseph Kay
Sep 8 2015 14:20
Chilli Sauce wrote:
in my experience people tend to be racist in the abstract.

Agreed. There's actually a fair bit of evidence that racial prejudice is negatively associated with more ethnically mixed areas, i.e the more mixed the area, the lower the level of racial prejudice. This is the opposite of what you would expect if racist attitudes were a rational economic calculation based on competition for jobs (or resources more generally). E.g. see this study, summarised in less academic terms in this press release:

Quote:
The researchers found that levels of racial prejudice among white people drop significantly when they live in ethnically mixed communities, even when they do not have direct contact with minorities. Simply seeing white strangers interacting positively with ethnic minorities is enough to reduce racial prejudice.(...) The results, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that even prejudiced people who avoid contact with other groups become less prejudiced when they live in areas where different ethnicities mix.

'Taking our jobs' (while simultaneously 'sponging our benefits') may well be a popular rationalisation for racial prejudice, but it doesn't appear to be the reason for it.

Benzo89
Sep 8 2015 14:24
Joseph Kay wrote:
Chilli Sauce wrote:
in my experience people tend to be racist in the abstract.

There's actually a fair bit of evidence that racial prejudice is negatively associated with more ethnically mixed areas, i.e the more mixed the area, the lower the level of racial prejudice. This is the opposite of what you would expect if racist attitudes were a rational economic calculation based on competition for jobs (or resources more generally). E.g. see this study, summarised in less academic terms in this press release:

Quote:
The researchers found that levels of racial prejudice among white people drop significantly when they live in ethnically mixed communities, even when they do not have direct contact with minorities. Simply seeing white strangers interacting positively with ethnic minorities is enough to reduce racial prejudice.(...) The results, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that even prejudiced people who avoid contact with other groups become less prejudiced when they live in areas where different ethnicities mix.

'Taking our jobs' (while simultaneously 'sponging our benefits') may well be a popular rationalisation for racial prejudice, but it doesn't appear to be the reason for it.

Isn't tower hamlets a stronghold of the BNP? Seems all the breeding grounds of racist groups is in heavily mixed areas where tensions are constantly high.

Joseph Kay
Sep 8 2015 14:31

Apparently...

Quote:
BNP support typically comes from areas affected by a rapid influx of migrants, Ukip is popular in predominantly white areas that have seen little demographic change

Which is consistent with the above research imho - a rapid influx of migrants allows short-term opportunist mobilisation by the far-right, but the experience of living in a more mixed area erodes racial prejudice and undercuts the opportunists. Whereas UKIP's base is scared white people (including some working class ex-Tories) in mostly white areas.

The guy on whose reasearch that report is based blogged about it here: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/positive-contact-or-white-fligh...

Quote:
In England and Wales, we find that White British people in wards with more minorities and immigrants are more open to immigration. In wards that are almost entirely white, 90 per cent of White British people want immigration to be reduced

fingers malone
Sep 8 2015 15:04
Benzo89 wrote:
You can't build solidarity with immigrant labour because their entire reason for migrating is to compete for your low paying job, this means that they won't unite with native workers and vice versa.

Well people do migrate for a variety of other reasons too, but that aside, we have been putting loafs of effort into this at my workplace for several years and we have had some success. I'd say it's hard work, but if you show solidarity to people they are a lot more likely to show it back. And since the seventies at least black workers in the UK have been heavily involved in unions and in all kinds of workplace struggle.

fingers malone
Sep 8 2015 15:09
Benzo89 wrote:

Isn't tower hamlets a stronghold of the BNP? Seems all the breeding grounds of racist groups is in heavily mixed areas where tensions are constantly high.

It was twenty years ago, it isn't now. JK is right, in heavily mixed areas white people are less racist. It's in mostly white areas near mixed areas that you get highest levels of racism, or areas where there are hardly any immigrants at all.

radicalgraffiti
Sep 8 2015 16:10
Benzo89 wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Benzo89 wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Benzo89 wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Quote:
It isn't white working class men making up stories in order to generate hate against foreigners,

no its middle class men who work for national publications making up stories, and members of the bougeose paying them to do it.

The main reasons capitalists will use immigrant workers rather than native workers are that they are in a worse situation and so willing to accept worse conditions and pay, and because they are already trained to do things eg nurses, the logical solution for an native worker who is afraid of there job being taken by an immigrant short of full communism is to improve the condition of immigrates, demand they have the same rights to healthcare benefits etc, then they will not need to accept shit from capitalists and the capitalists will have no incentive to use immigrant workers. and for the second issue then the solution would be to demand better education and free to, so that anyone who wanted can be trained in any kind of work they want.

but i notice that people who are "concerned that immigrants are taking there jobs" do the opposite of this, eg i notice that anti immigration people never oppose work fair, which replaces paid workers with free labour. so we have to conclude that their response is not based on a rational analysis of how they are being harmed by immigration but in fact racism.

racism fueled by propergander from the media, of cause, the cause of the racism is not immigration, people are the most hostile to immigrants where there are the least immigrants, its caused by anti immigration propaganda

So basically you just said immigration does affect indigenous workers. But then said workers should fight for immigrants to be paid higher wages, somethings immigrants are not on board with as the only way capitalists will employ them over native labour is if they will take worse wages and undercut the competition.

This is basically snobbish victim blaming and completely unrealistic. It is basically acknowledging immigration does negatively affect native workers and then blaming those people for not magically having the power to force employers to pay immigrants the same wages as them. If that was possible economic migration wouldn't be a bloody phenomena.

if immigration actually harms native workers, which you have not in any way established, the supporting attacks on immigrant is making the problem worse. Any one who supports the idea that the logical solution for native workers is to attack immigrants is making the situation worse. native workers have at least as much capacity to show solidarity with immigrant workers and undermine the racism of the state and bosses as they do to attack immigrants and support discrimination against them

and actually, saying the immigrants are the cause of the problem, not the bosses would be a classic example of victim blaming.

And i note you ignore the rest of my post

As I said above I can accept the fact (based on all the studies including ones which show net benefits of migration as well as the fact it has cost 95 billion since the 90s) that immigration negatively affects native workers and at the same time support immigrants and not attack them.

Simply lying about the negative affects is simply lying for political expediency. It also pistes off workers and drives them towards the right wing. I personally don't like lying or right wing movements so I don't play that game.

you have provided 0 sources. also costing money doesn't = harms workers, also you have ignored the rest of my post, instead attacking a straw man.

In what fairyland does taking 95 billion not take from workers taxes, from their health service, from their public housing options etc? This is the problem, the inability to be honest about things within the context of capitalism.

you still haven't provided a source for that number and your ignoring that immigrants also pay taxes, and the idea that the nhs would have go the money if no one had claimed the benefits is absurd, as for housing i'm willing to bet most immigrants are in private rented accommodation, they don't get priority for council housing, although homeless people do.

its also the case that paying benefits to people who are out of work reduces the competition for jobs, which benefits people in work (of cause, not all benefits are paid to people out of work, and all people pay taxes, whether they have a job or not)

S. Artesian
Sep 8 2015 16:45

Immigrant labor in the US has hardly taken jobs from "native" (if such a thing can be said to exist in the US) workers. Immigrant workers are overwhelmingly employed in low wage/low benefit jobs that the so-called "native" workers will not accept OR where the jobs were transformed into low pay low benefit jobs by asset liquidation, and union-busting before being then "assigned" more or less to immigrant labor-- for example meat-packing in the US.

As for housing.. sub standard pay means sub standard housing.

Does any of this stop the anti-immigrant mongering in the US? Of course not-- reality does not matter, has no impact on the jingoism. Does anyone believe in reality that Mexico is "exporting" its drug dealers and rapists to the US? Doesn't matter. It appeals to the little petty-bourgeois inside every person who knows things are getting worse but can't do anything about it.

The "remedy" is explicit class-based programs of solidarity-- for example workers opposition to immigration police raids in workplaces (Obama's specialite) , arrest of working parents etc. etc.

And BTW studies done in the US show migrants pay proportionately more in taxes than they "claim" in benefits; migrants are not burdens on the welfare systems, educational systems, etc. etc. etc. but then that's just more of the facts that don't register to those worried about the "hordes" of "foreigners" ready to swamp the good old USA, especially when the foreigners are darker-skinned.

Benzo89
Sep 8 2015 16:45
S. Artesian wrote:
Immigrant labor in the US has hardly taken jobs from "native" (if such a thing can be said to exist in the US workers). Immigrant workers are overwhelmingly employed in low wage/low benefit jobs that the so-called "native" workers will not accept OR where the jobs were transformed into low pay low benefit jobs by asset liquidation, and union-busting before being then "assigned" more or less to immigrant labor-- for example meat-packing in the US.

As for housing.. sub standard pay means sub standard housing.

Does any of this stop the anti-immigrant mongering in the US? Of course not-- reality does not matter, has no impact on the jingoism. Does anyone believe in reality that Mexico is "exporting" its drug dealers and rapists to the US? Doesn't matter. It appeals to the little petty-bourgeois inside every person who knows things are getting worse but can't do anything about it.

The "remedy" is explicit class-based programs of solidarity-- for example workers opposition to immigration police raids in workplaces (Obama's specialite) , arrest of working parents etc. etc.

Where are people getting this idea that working class people don't want low paying jobs, for millions of us that is all we can get. It is a fantasy that everyone in the west has a degree and thus won't do cleaning work, or kitchen work, or manual labour. These jobs are the ones we are losing access to, because employers can easily find Polish or Middle eastern immigrants to take less pay than we will. That does not mean we don't want those jobs, it means we expect minimum wage, which workers of this country fought hard for.

fingers malone
Sep 8 2015 17:10
Benzo89 wrote:
Where are people getting this idea that working class people don't want low paying jobs, for millions of us that is all we can get. It is a fantasy that everyone in the west has a degree and thus won't do cleaning work, or kitchen work, or manual labour. These jobs are the ones we are losing access to, because employers can easily find Polish or Middle eastern immigrants to take less pay than we will. That does not mean we don't want those jobs, it means we expect minimum wage, which workers of this country fought hard for.

I agree that people sometimes overstate the 'English people won't do cleaning work' thing, but I was one of those cleaners that you are angry with, well to be precise there wasn't a minimum wage back then, but I was definitely working for less than the going rate. This idea of English people sticking to the minimum wage and immigrants undercutting it is a bit oversimplified. In a chip shop, or domestic cleaning, or various other small businesses, there probably is a lot of working under the minimum wage, in big companies probably much less, you have large numbers of migrant workers and large numbers of English workers in both and what people are prepared to put up with depends on a great many factors.

In a lot of jobs now there is a two tier workforce, with some on old contracts that are better and some on new contracts that are worse, and who is on what and whose fault that is depends on many factors, age, when you started, even things like self confidence (that rate cutting cleaning I did, they said 'it's one twenty five an hour' and I said 'ok' didn't even think of asking around or questioning it.)

fingers malone
Sep 8 2015 17:14

And don't you think the battles running for several years by the migrant cleaners to bring their wages UP to the London living wage is kind of important? Potentially raising wages across the sector and taking a lot of personal risks to do so?

Terry
Sep 8 2015 17:35

Of course an increase in the supply of labour has a downward effect on wages and working conditions and creates more competition for employment. This is the case however that increase is brought about, whether through migration, or through breaking down systems of apprenticeship that reduce the number of available workers by excluding others from the trade. Individual workers and different groups of workers are always in competition with each other.

On the other hand it is clearly the case that anti-migrant attitudes are shaped by racism, nationalistic/chauvinistic attitudes (much of which seems much more innocuous than blatant racism), urban legends, the right-wing press etc... Moreover there is the context of decades of defeat of the working-class movement.

There is a choice between unite-with-migrants or close-the-borders. Given the cultural/political context, as outlined above, it may seem more reasonable and realistic to go for close-the-borders. However, it could be argued that anti-migrant measures leave migrants in a more vulnerable and precarious position and hence more likely to put up with worse wages and conditions. It is unrealistic to expect migration to just stop. Consequently the best response to the extra-competition and downward pressure on wages and conditions posed by migration is unite-with-migrants. For sure in the current climate this will seem unrealistic to many people but other posters have pointed to examples of migrant-led struggles. Hence within capitalism and just in terms of day-to-day economic interests of indigenous workers there is a case for opposing anti-migrant stances and supporting migrants in opposition to either their employers or the government, media, etc...

Steven.
Sep 8 2015 17:46
Benzo89 wrote:
Isn't tower hamlets a stronghold of the BNP? Seems all the breeding grounds of racist groups is in heavily mixed areas where tensions are constantly high.

lol a stronghold? They didn't even field a candidate in any of this year's elections. Five years ago they got 0.5% of the vote. (This is where I live BTW, which is why I think you thinking that is particularly laughable and a show that maybe you have a bit of a skewed view of the situation.)

No offence meant, but it seems you don't live in London? London is by far the most mixed part of the UK, but it's also just about the least racist. Why do you think that is?

Ed has done a good job of demonstrating what a load of nonsense your claim that migrant workers can't organise is. Personally I've been involved in several campaigns which have won big pay increases for either predominantly migrant very mixed migrant/native workers' struggles.

Benzo89
Sep 8 2015 18:16
Steven. wrote:
Benzo89 wrote:
Isn't tower hamlets a stronghold of the BNP? Seems all the breeding grounds of racist groups is in heavily mixed areas where tensions are constantly high.

lol a stronghold? They didn't even field a candidate in any of this year's elections. Five years ago they got 0.5% of the vote. (This is where I live BTW, which is why I think you thinking that is particularly laughable and a show that maybe you have a bit of a skewed view of the situation.)

No offence meant, but it seems you don't live in London? London is by far the most mixed part of the UK, but it's also just about the least racist. Why do you think that is?

Ed has done a good job of demonstrating what a load of nonsense your claim that migrant workers can't organise is. Personally I've been involved in several campaigns which have won big pay increases for either predominantly migrant very mixed migrant/native workers' struggles.

Nope I am a stark, it is cold where I live and everything is miserable. And Tower Hamlets wasn't a part of my points on immigration, i was just under the impression Bradford and Tower Hamlet were where a lot of the grass roots support for the BNP was. For example weren't many of the Combat18 people from bradford and Hamlets?

Benzo89
Sep 8 2015 18:15
fingers malone wrote:
And don't you think the battles running for several years by the migrant cleaners to bring their wages UP to the London living wage is kind of important? Potentially raising wages across the sector and taking a lot of personal risks to do so?

As a cleaner myself I support all workers and of course other people doing the same shitty job as me. And just to say it again to make sure this is clear, I don't hate immigrants or not want them to organise, I simply think not acknowledging the affects they have on local workers is real.

Pennoid
Sep 8 2015 18:23

I agree with a lot of what you say, but the working class does not, as a rule , have an interest in seeing immigrants trampled. Not even in the short term because as you rightly point out, it undercuts their salaries. Even short-term interests for "native workers" (wages) require uniting with immigrants, which has happened a ton in the labor history of about any country (weighed against jingoism for sure).

But we must determine what the "interests" of workers are, and why. Interests are shaped by the structure of society, as many have pointed out, and are not arbitrary but have to do with the material preservation/reproduction of workers individually and as a class.

Immigrants, who take jobs paid at or above the legal wage are in job competition with the rest of workers. A subset of desperate immigrants take jobs BELOW the minimum age. The only way to certifiably stop this , short of revolution, is to have the workers in an area ORGANIZED along class lines to actively enforce the wage standards they want.

It says a lot about the ideology of "leftists" who cannot even imagine this happening. It is not "natural" for workers to be "conservative" that is, nationalistic and petit bourgeois but is a result of spontaneous experience coinciding with clever-propaganda.

So I think you're right that, yes, more immigrants means more job competition. We should no deny that. We should attack the heart of the problem, and the people responsible however. You say "immigrants come here to take jobs." Do you ever imagine that they are fleeing something? Your statement is not "untrue" but if it ignores a known factor, then it is misleading. Might they be fleeing war? Might they be leaving busted unions and automated jobs in their own country? Might they have been pushed off their land?

You'e right communists ought to present the communist argument, which addresses short and long-term problems, as well as giving an account of what's going on that correspondds with reality, is accurate.

Benzo89
Sep 8 2015 18:30
Pennoid wrote:
I agree with a lot of what you say, but the working class does not, as a rule , have an interest in seeing immigrants trampled. Not even in the short term because as you rightly point out, it undercuts their salaries. Even short-term interests for "native workers" (wages) require uniting with immigrants, which has happened a ton in the labor history of about any country (weighed against jingoism for sure).

But we must determine what the "interests" of workers are, and why. Interests are shaped by the structure of society, as many have pointed out, and are not arbitrary but have to do with the material preservation/reproduction of workers individually and as a class.

Immigrants, who take jobs paid at or above the legal wage are in job competition with the rest of workers. A subset of desperate immigrants take jobs BELOW the minimum age. The only way to certifiably stop this , short of revolution, is to have the workers in an area ORGANIZED along class lines to actively enforce the wage standards they want.

It says a lot about the ideology of "leftists" who cannot even imagine this happening. It is not "natural" for workers to be "conservative" that is, nationalistic and petit bourgeois but is a result of spontaneous experience coinciding with clever-propaganda.

So I think you're right that, yes, more immigrants means more job competition. We should no deny that. We should attack the heart of the problem, and the people responsible however. You say "immigrants come here to take jobs." Do you ever imagine that they are fleeing something? Your statement is not "untrue" but if it ignores a known factor, then it is misleading. Might they be fleeing war? Might they be leaving busted unions and automated jobs in their own country? Might they have been pushed off their land?

You'e right communists ought to present the communist argument, which addresses short and long-term problems, as well as giving an account of what's going on that correspondds with reality, is accurate.

I completely agree with your post, however it seems you are not reading my above responses.

I said:

1. I support and open boder policy
2. I support immigrants
3. I am against anti - immigration rhetoric
4. I say they have valid reasons for coming, escaping poverty, escaping war, if I was in their shoes i would do the exact same thing
5. I don't support attacking immigrants in any way

My only issue was that on the far left, there is a tactic of denying the affect of immigration for political expediency, telling a lie for the greater good. This does not work and just angers workers, especially those affected by immigration.

I have worked with some immigrants, most of them Asians. They had the same slacker shitty job attitude as me, so they are good in my book smile I do wish though you would read my posts because I did state there was legitimate reasons for them to come etc, which you just asked me as if I hadn't thought of that.

fingers malone
Sep 8 2015 18:39

Ok, I'm being straight up, I think immigration has been a really good thing for me. I lived on a mainly white estate for a few years as a kid and I just got beat up all the time.

Benzo89
Sep 8 2015 18:44
fingers malone wrote:
Ok, I'm being straight up, I think immigration has been a really good thing for me. I lived on a mainly white estate for a few years as a kid and I just got beat up all the time.

Bullying is a phenomena in every community, white kids get beat up when they live in majority black areas etc. It sucks. I was a mouthy ginger, everyone kicked fuck out of my goofy ass as a kid. I guess Scottish migration might of helped me but I doubt it. They would just kick my ass for being an English poofta.

Fleur
Sep 8 2015 18:48

Welcome back BJJ. You've been missed.

Pennoid
Sep 8 2015 18:50

Yes, but at numerous points you said it was not in the short-term interests of workers to stand with immigrants. I am disputing this.

I understand a lot of people had sort of knee-jerk reactions to the way a lot of what you said was worded, and disputed some of your facts (how many jobs are "taken" by immigrants. Technically, every job an immigrant has is taken by an immigrant, so when people deploy that, it doesn't much make sense). But I understand what is meant by it, which is that there is an INCREASE in the supply of labor power and that this can work against the wages of workers.

Again, the short term solution, is basic working class solidarity, which has plenty of historical precedent, even in times of extreme jingoism. It takes work, but that's what communists ought to be pressing.

Some also, like S. Artesian poked further holes in your suggestion that immigrants are a "drain" on the total social wage of "native workers" This is false, for reasons he pointed out, but I'm not sure if I can track down the source for that right now, maybe S. Artesian has it on hand?

I agree as well that often liberals/leftists will pretend that problems do not exist, for example that but Exiting the Eurozone Greece could just solve all of it's problems, or that Venezuela or Finland or socialist countries. And you're right that it causes confusion and is misleading.

Benzo89
Sep 8 2015 18:52
Terry wrote:
Of course an increase in the supply of labour has a downward effect on wages and working conditions and creates more competition for employment. This is the case however that increase is brought about, whether through migration, or through breaking down systems of apprenticeship that reduce the number of available workers by excluding others from the trade. Individual workers and different groups of workers are always in competition with each other.

On the other hand it is clearly the case that anti-migrant attitudes are shaped by racism, nationalistic/chauvinistic attitudes (much of which seems much more innocuous than blatant racism), urban legends, the right-wing press etc... Moreover there is the context of decades of defeat of the working-class movement.

There is a choice between unite-with-migrants or close-the-borders. Given the cultural/political context, as outlined above, it may seem more reasonable and realistic to go for close-the-borders. However, it could be argued that anti-migrant measures leave migrants in a more vulnerable and precarious position and hence more likely to put up with worse wages and conditions. It is unrealistic to expect migration to just stop. Consequently the best response to the extra-competition and downward pressure on wages and conditions posed by migration is unite-with-migrants. For sure in the current climate this will seem unrealistic to many people but other posters have pointed to examples of migrant-led struggles. Hence within capitalism and just in terms of day-to-day economic interests of indigenous workers there is a case for opposing anti-migrant stances and supporting migrants in opposition to either their employers or the government, media, etc...

If it wasn't for immigrants England would still be eating fat turkey legs and pork pies exclusively, so there are other benefits to immigration too. Also he foreign ladies are irresistible to a freckle fucked pale guy. One of my first serious love interests was a Jamaican immigrant. Overall immigration has had far more positives than negatives for me.

Most people enjoy aspects of immigration, even the anti-immigration crowd.

Steven.
Sep 8 2015 21:42
Benzo89 wrote:
white kids get beat up when they live in majority black areas etc.

What is your evidence for this, and also what area of the UK do you reckon is "majority black"?

Also do you acknowledge your claim that migrant workers can't organise was wrong?