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The number of asylum seekers in Europe has soared over the past 10 years. In that time claims have increased fivefold to more than 1.2m last year, unleashing a populist backlash that could yet affect the outcome of elections in France and Germany this year.
The Guardian newspaper has analysed the experience of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy – and found the conditions in Britain do not compare well. Only Italy, on the front-line of hundreds of thousands of people crossing the Mediterranean, fares worse. Its analysis found that Britain takes fewer refugees, offers less generous financial support, provides housing that is often substandard, does not give asylum seekers the right to work, has been known to punish those that volunteer and routinely forces people into destitution and even homelessness when they are granted refugee status due to bureaucratic delays.
 Alex Fraser, director of refugee support at the British Red Cross explained, “Roughly 3% of asylum applications in Europe were lodged in the UK. I don’t think we will see a reduction ... by making the experience tougher. All it will do is make the experience of people in the system more difficult.”
Britain consistently has the lowest approval rates for asylum seeker claims of the five countries. “The average grant rate in Europe is 63 to 65%,” said Fraser, which compares with a grant rate of roughly a third in the UK, dropping to 28% in the third quarter of 2016, which Fraser called “really low”.
Britain has been rebuked for not taking its “fair share” of refugees. In 2016, Britain received 38,517 applications for asylum (1 per 1,664 people in the population). This compares with 722,370 claims in Germany (1 per 112), 123,432 in Italy (1 per 485), and 85,244 in France (1 in 775). The only western European country home to fewer asylum seekers is Spain, which had 15,500 applications in 2016 (1 per 2,971).
On top of this, most of these countries are involved in refugee resettlement programmes with more ambitious aims than the UK’s commitment to taking 20,000 Syrian refugees from refugee camps by 2020.France, which has a similar population to Britain, will take 30,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2017. Germany will begin a new humanitarian programme in 2017 to resettle 13,700 of the Syrians living in Turkey, despite the fact that an estimated 600,000 Syrians have arrived in Germany since the outbreak of war in 2011.
The British government also provides less in the way of financial support for asylum seekers than Spain, France and Germany (though not Italy). While people wait to hear if they have been granted asylum in Britain they are provided accommodation and £36.95 a week to cover food, clothing, toiletries, transport and all other costs. In France, asylum seekers are given almost double this amount – €11 (£9.40) a day, or £65.59 a week – as well as accommodation. In December 2016, the French Council of State found that this rate was “manifestly insufficient” and ordered the French government to increase it in early 2017.In Spain, asylum seekers are either housed in refugee reception centres where they are provided with food, clothing and other essentials and a small cash allowance, or in apartments, where they receive up to €300 (£256) a month to cover expenses and food. Germany gives asylum seekers €31.15 (£26.50) a week on top of accommodation, but this does not have to cover their food, as it does in Britain.
The condition of the accommodation provided for asylum seekers in Britain has also been condemned. A recent home affairs select committee report into asylum housing said the quality of accommodation provided to asylum seekers was “disgraceful” and cited cases of mice, rats and bed bugs.
Britain is also the only country out of the five examined that does not set a maximum time limit for holding asylum seekers in detention facilities and the only country that does not allow unaccompanied children who arrive and claim asylum the right to apply to be reunited with their parents.
Judith Dennis, policy manager for the Refugee Council, said a major concern was the high rate of destitution and homelessness experienced by refugees in Britain.After being granted refugee status, people stop receiving the support they have been getting as an asylum seeker and must apply to receive mainstream benefits and have 28 days to leave the accommodation provided to them by the Home Office. Because of the difficulties involved in applying for benefits, very few refugees are able to register for benefits in this 28-day period, forcing them to go to food banks and charities for food and meaning many find themselves homeless. “What we do is force refugees into homelessness and destitution almost routinely,” said Dennis. “It’s hard to see how someone without an advocate or a special need that makes them a priority for council housing will be able to move on within 28 days. We’d expect the majority of those who have to source private sector housing will become homeless.”
Britain also has the strictest restrictions on asylum seekers working. They are not allowed into paid employment unless they have been waiting to hear about their asylum claim for 12 months. Then they are only allowed to work in occupations featured on the government’s “shortage occupations” list, a limited set of professions including classical ballet dancers, orchestral musicians, , medical practitioners and engineers.Fraser said that while on paper asylum seekers are allowed to work, he has never met an asylum seeker who has been able to. “It doesn’t seem to be a reality,” he said.This contrasts with Spain where asylum seekers can work from the day they apply for asylum and are given their “red card” identification document. Vocational and language training classes are organised at Spanish reception centres in which asylum seekers first live to help them find work. In Italy, asylum seekers can work after six months. In Germany, asylum seekers can apply for work three months after submitting their asylum claim, with certain vetting conditions.. In France asylum seekers can work nine months after applying for asylum in limited occupations.
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In Capital Marx examines the working of capitalism in detail. He takes as the basic unit of the capitalist economy the commodity, an item of wealth produced for sale. Where goods are produced for sale then, and only then, do they have a value. The law of value operates only where there is commodity-production. For thousands of years goods, produced for sale under pre-capitalist conditions, exchanged more or less at their values. Capitalism, which is a system of production for profit as well as for sale, is more complex and commodities only accidentally exchange at their values. Nevertheless the law of value still operates. In fact, under capitalism all the paraphernalia of exchange—money, prices, trade, banks, bills, bonds, credit—are developed to a high degree.
For Marx the classless society that would replace capitalism—which he called either Socialism or Communism— would not be an exchange economy. Wealth would be produced for social use and not for profit or for sale. Hence the law of value would not operate in Socialist society. There would be no commodities, no money, no prices, no trade, no banks and the like.
This was also how all the Social Democratic writers on Marxian economics, people like Kautsky and Luxemburg, saw it. The standard textbook on Marxian economics used by all sections of Russian Social Democracy, including the Bolsheviks, was A Short Course of Economic Science by A. Bogdanov first published in 1897
“The new society will be based not on exchange but on natural self-sufficing economy. Between production and consumption of products there will not be the market, buying and selling, but consciously and systematically organised distribution.”
Bukharin and Proebrazhensky's  The A.B.C. of Communism, wrote of Socialism (which he, for political reasons, calls Communism):
“The communist method of production presupposes in addition that production is not for the market, but for use. Under communism, it is no longer the individual manufacturer or the individual peasant who produces; the work of production is effected by the gigantic co-operative as a whole. In consequence of this change, we no longer have commodities, but only products. These products are not exchanged one for another; they are neither bought nor sold. They are simply stored in the communal warehouses, and are subsequently delivered to those who need them. In such conditions, money will no longer be required”
The question no reformer ever face is, if society’s ideas are “bad”, what makes them so? Why are they not “good” ideas? Why is society so “unreasonable” that it accepts an arrangement which allows a few people to enjoy almost boundless wealth while the condition of the vast majority is never better than insistent poverty and can sink as low as outright starvation? Why is society so “foolish” as to waste so much of its resources on destruction? Such questions are endless but had we known, or cared, the one logical and consistent answer to them had already been found, by that man whose beard caused us so much amusement. The Materialist Conception of History which, among other things, sees ideas in their place as the products of material conditions and not as the makers of those conditions:
“. . . economic production and the structure of society of every historical epoch necessarily arising therefrom constitute the foundation for the political and intellectual history of that epoch . . . “ (Engels — Preface to the German edition of the Communist Manifesto, 1883).
From this viewpoint, history is not the jumble of accidents, personal misdeeds and romantic mysteries which was served to us as the staple diet of our schooldays. History is a continuous process of social development, passing from one system to another, marking its way with periods of social revolution and with each system giving rise to its own class antagonisms. Man’s history, in other words, has been a process of class struggles which have brought him now to capitalism, a system with only two classes and therefore with only one class to struggle for its emancipation. Capitalism has done many things. It has broken the customs and taboos of earlier society, it has massed its people into great productive units. It has entirely separated one of its classes from the means of production and by so doing has brought into existence the most explicit of class divisions in human society. Capitalism has developed—and continues to develop—the process of extracting a surplus product, from the unprivileged class for the privileged class, into an unprecedented science.This, then, is capitalism. But how do we examine the system, how explain its workings, its class relations, its method of exploitation? How do we come to an understanding of capitalism’s tendencies and the process by which it nourishes the seeds of its own destruction? This analysis was the work of Marx’s Capital.
The first question Marx had to ask was—what is the mode of production in capitalist society? The answer was commodity production, that the mass of wealth under capitalism was produced as commodities. “Our investigation” said Marx, “must therefore begin with the analysis of a commodity.” 
Marx’s method is to isolate the commodity, as ". . . in the first place, an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another.” From this simple statement he goes on to examine the commodity in detail; the limits within which one will exchange with another, the implications of the social relationship of value, the way in which commodities perform their function of exchanging so as to realise a surplus value for the capitalist class.
Marx examined the nature of the commodity which all workers possess—human labour power—and he revealed the process by which the working class are exploited, he revealed the reasons for their alienation from the means of production and he charted the course of their ever-deepening misery and degradation:
.. . within the capitalist system all methods for raising the social productiveness of labour are brought about at the cost of the individual labourer; all means for the development of production transform themselves into means of domination over, and exploitation of, the producers; they mutilate the labourer into a fragment of a man, degrade him to the level of an appendage of a machine, destroy every remnant of charm in his work, and turn it into a hated toil . . . (Capital).
This passage, which ends with the famous statement that “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole, i.e. on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital,” has come in for much criticism from those who argue that the opposite tendency has taken place, that capitalism has solved its problems and makes its people ever happier in a flood of washing machines, cars and television sets.
But is what Marx said true? Misery? Agony? Join the rush-hour, take your place on a fast assembly line with everyone trying to keep up the bonus, have a go at finding somewhere to live which is bearable and within the pay packet of an average worker. Look into the figures of families who are suffering extremes of poverty amid the so-called Welfare State, which was another of those things which were supposed to have proved Marx wrong.
Brutality? Look up the recent crime statistics, with their evidence that we live in times of almost unprecedented violence. Consider the fact that men now earn their living by making the things which have the power almost to wipe out settled life on the earth. Mental degradation? This is the age when capital accumulation usually means the use of computers and automated techniques of production, when human beings are reduced to simply numbers, when exploitation is constantly being refined and intensified.
Capital probes the entire mechanism of capitalist society. While the “orthodox” economists grapple with their feeble expedients—their selective employments taxes, their import restrictions, their manipulations of Bank Rate—the Marxist analysis explains it all. And not at all in the popularly supposed manner of the unsmiling “Red Prussian.” Although he deals with a difficult and intricate subject, Marx never leaves his readers in doubt that he is a human being. His writing not only has power, but wit and movement as well:
Our capitalist, who is at home in his vulgar economy, exclaims: “Oh! but I advanced my money for the express purpose of making more money." The way to Hell is paved with good intentions, and he might just as easily have intended to make money, without producing at all. He threatens all sorts of things. He won't be caught napping again. In future he will buy the commodities in the market, instead of manufacturing them himself. But if all his brother capitalists were to do the same, where would he find his commodities in the market? And his money he cannot eat, (Capital, p.172).
Marx shows how capitalism develops and how and why it will end. He shows that there is now only one subject class, and that it is their historical function to abolish private property and build the new society of Socialism. All this is in his works, in Capital and others. But at the same time Marx was clear that none of this was inevitable; he knew that men make their own history and that, working within the society they find, they must carry out their historical task.
What this means is that capitalism is not a matter of mankind, in some blindingly tragic mistake, getting onto the wrong path. It is not a matter of incorrect or anti-social ideas. In the same way, socialism will not happen simply because we think it is a "right” idea. Both systems are part of man’s social evolution, both have their own super-structure of institutions and ideas springing from a basis which can be scientifically examined and classified.
Socialists are distinguishable for their grasp of all this. Non-Socialists, however sincere they may be, however pressing the problems they protest against, can be identified by their failure to appreciate the scientific case for socialism. The reformers:
:They all want the impossible, namely, the conditions of bourgeois life without the necessary consequences of those conditions.” (Letter to Paul V. Annenkov, December 28, 1846)
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