Paul Lincoln, the outgoing head of the UK Border Force, quoted Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, saying: ‘People are talking about immigration, emigration and the rest of the bloody thing. It’s all bloody crap.’ Lincoln concluded his speech with ‘We’re all human beings, we’re all mammals, we’re all rocks, plants, rivers. Bloody borders are just such a pain in the bloody arse’
Much of the Left today have abandoned Marx’s Capital. Many people are against certain aspects of capitalism and snatch pieces of Marxism to give themselves the soundbites of legitimacy.
Being anti-capitalist does not say much. It only begs the question: how do we describe capitalism and from what angle are we criticising it?
Much of the Left chooses to divide capitalism between good and bad ones. They replaced Marx’s criticism of capitalism with a host of reformist and even reactionary demands peddled under this name.
Marxism stands for the abolition of wage labour. Academics have tried to convert it into scientific sociology or an alternative economic science for the left-wing of the bourgeoisie. Pseudo-socialist presented workers with repulsive examples of despotic societies in the name of socialism, like the Soviet Union, China and Albania. The result was to alienate workers from socialism and cut the connection between workers and socialism.
Growth is one of the defining characteristics of capitalism. It is about the owners of capital constantly looking for investment outlets for their ever-increasing volumes of capital. They have no choice about this; it is grow or die. If a capitalist doesn’t try to take or generate more sales opportunities then his rivals will do it and drive him bankrupt. Corporations are trapped in capitalism like the rest of us. Capitalism is about competing in the marketplace. Markets never develop never distribute resources to the needs of people.
Unique amongst all political organisations, left or right, the World Socialist Movement has no national axe to grind. We side with no particular state or government. We have no time for border controls.
The First International announced that “the emancipation of labour is neither a local nor a national, but a social problem, embracing all countries…It is one of the great purposes of the Association to make the workmen of different countries not only feel but act as brethren and comrades in the army of emancipation.”
The First International thus addressed fellow workers: “Help us, then, in the noble enterprise, help us to bring about a common understanding between the peoples of all countries, so that in the struggles of labour with unprincipled capitalists they may not be able to execute the threat which they so often indulge in, of using the working men of one country as instruments to defeat the just demands of the workmen in another. This has been done in the past, and seeds of discord and national antipathies have been thereby created and perpetuated. A part of our mission is to prevent the recurrence of such evils, and you can help us to achieve our aims.”
Borders are a means by which capitalists protect their assets, which include ourselves, their wage-slaves. Nationalism is a barrier to developing class-consciousness. Borders cause workers in countries to care less about the other workers in the world. Across the world, national states are imposing ever more restrictive immigration policies. Nevertheless, people have become more internationalised and are acquiring a cosmopolitan identity.
Making the demand, ‘No borders’, reveals the importance of border controls to capitalist social relations – relationships dependent on the practices of expropriation and exploitation. The rights of property consist of the right to exclude others, while anti-nationalism is a part of a global reshaping of societies in a way that is not compatible with capitalism or of the state. Socialists must reject the concept of borders that are used as control devices over labour. By opposing the idea of borders we begin to perceive nation-states as ‘theirs’ and not part of ‘our world’.
As the First International stated: “The poor have no country; in all lands, they suffer from the same evils; and they, therefore, realise that the barriers put up by the powers that be, the more thoroughly to enslave the people, must fall.”
For thousands of years, the borders between cultures traditions, customs, languages were much more fluid than today. Cultures flowed into each other. People did not feel French, German, Italian, whatever, because people felt allegiance to their family and their village, not to larger cultural units.
There were countries, but the countries did not equate to cultures. They were either small kingdoms or large multi-ethnic empires whose monarchs usually acquired territory through inheritance, conquest or marriage, without thought to the culture or language of the people whose rulers they became. There was no patriotic resistance to this practice until the 18th century. For the most part, it wasn’t a problem, because the administration was local, in the hands of feudal lords who did speak the local language and knew the local practices.
When the advent of socialism it is likely that the organisation of world cooperation would need to take place through a world council. Because the things we need now are produced and distributed through a world structure of production, and because its present capitalist nature has brought about immense problems, action to solve them would be required on a world scale.
For example, it would be a priority to set up an ecologically benign world energy system as soon as possible. Similarly, the countless millions of people suffering from hunger and desperate poverty would need a considerable increase in food production. For this work the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations would at last he able to use its expertise and knowledge of world conditions to help with solving the problems of malnutrition. Again, to begin with, people in socialism would face a huge task in providing every person with secure and comfortable housing. This would call upon the efforts of communities throughout the world, especially in those regions where means of production were well developed. Such world projects could be coordinated through appropriate departments of a world administration.
When we propose different scales of collaboration such as local, regional, continental and world levels, this is not a question of there being a hierarchy with power located at any central point. What we anticipate is both an integrated and flexible system of democratic organisation which could be adapted for action to solve any problem in any of these scales.