We often hear of immigrants supposedly taking jobs from native-born workers, or that they steal medical and educational services at taxpayers’ expense. These are preposterous notions, for why should any person be denied the right to be able to work, be educated, or have access to medical services?
The liberal left demands to create legal processes that treat migrants more humanely and calls for the sacking of right-wing governments can only scratch the surface. The fundamental problem is capitalism itself. In its drive for profits and division of the world into competing nation-states, it creates the conditions that give rise to the wars, climate disasters and poverty that compel workers to leave their homes and seek sanctuary in safer places. What the world working class needs to do is combine democratically to obtain political power on a world scale to abolish capitalism and replace it with world socialism. National frontiers will be abolished and there will be one world community where everyone will be able to participate equally.
Competition under capitalism leads to false ideas about the burden of newcomers to native-born workers, who claim the first pick on ‘our’ hospitals, ‘our’ housing, ‘our’ social security benefits. In fact, bad housing, hospital waiting lists, low pay and bad working conditions are universal problems. They are a consequence of the essential poverty of all people who depend on being employed in order to live. There was never a time when life was easy. Migrants did not create problems. They arrive here with the false hope of escaping the same misery in their home countries but find when they arrive here they have to share it and take the blame for it.
Since its inception, capitalism has drawn workers from poorer parts of the country and from abroad to more developed regions in order to satisfy its labour needs. And, as Marx said, capitalists require to also build up an industrial reserve army for the bosses to maintain their dominance in the job market and to control wage levels. All those people migrating are simply obeying the imperative that they must try to find a place to work. No amount of restrictions will change that fact.
The resentment against migrants is a class matter and such prejudice is inflamed by the many sections of the ruling class. Capitalism has sometimes been against immigration restrictions by promoting the free movement and availability of wage labour. But, at the same time, the capitalist social system is a fertile breeding ground for anti-foreigner policies. This may seem like a contradiction, but that is how it is, for capitalism is riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies. It cannot be a system of human harmony – division and conflict are in their very nature. Capitalism is a ‘dog eat dog’ world and will remain so until it is abolished.
The solution to the immigration crisis lies not with building fences, but with creating conditions that do not necessitate people leaving their homes, their families, their friends and neighbours. The reality is that the solution is socialism. In the meantime, instead of undermining the ability of migrant workers to cross borders in search of work, migrants need to be unionised, uniting migrant workers alongside local workers in a collective struggle to maintain and improve wages and conditions. As long as workers are viewing migrants as the cause of their problems, they leave themselves divided and distracted.
The anti-migrant feeling is running high in many countries. The anti-foreigner nationalists are having a feeding frenzy of xenophobia. The right-wing media publish headlines provoking panic. It is all too easy to blame immigrants for causing problems such as unemployment, bad housing or crime. An accusing finger can always be pointed at ‘them’ for making things worse for ‘us’. It is often alleged that ‘newcomers’ live off the backs of ‘locals’. If migration has led to the rise of the far-right ― it is only through the racist tactic of blaming economic woes on the new arrivals. Many ‘natives’ cannot contain their indignation that their ‘indigenous’ culture is being undermined. But what happens when those migrants are your ‘own folk’ from another part of the nation?
The concern of working people over wages, unemployment, welfare and public services is totally legitimate. However, placing the blame on migrants does not address the causes of these problems or bring improvements to the situation. The problem is the capitalist system itself. The path to beginning to solve these problems is workers’ unity across ethnic, religious and national lines. It is vital that trade unions make the recruitment of migrant labour a top priority.
No worker, solely by birthright, has a guarantee to a secure, decent life under capitalism. It is wishful, utopian thinking to believe otherwise. Capitalism is the cause of working-class problems. Under capitalism, how we live is restricted by the size of our wage packet. And the economic laws of capitalism ensure that we don’t get much more as the price of our energies than enough to keep us in efficient working order. This will be our lot as long as capitalism lasts. We will have to put up with, not the best that is available in housing, education, food and clothing, but with the cheap and second-rate.
These are problems that affect all workers, irrespective of so-called race or colour or nationality, whether they live in America, Britain, South Africa or India. They are problems which can only be solved by the joint action of workers everywhere to convert the means of production from the class property of a few into the common property of the whole community, through the establishment of socialism with production solely for use, not profit.
Black Lives Matter protests brought up the question of the attitude between people of a different colour; as if there must always be a fundamental difference in outlook and conduct between people with different coloured skin. Although on the surface the feeling associated with the recent demonstrations is anti-white and anti-colour, the origin of the feeling has a deeper cause than just anti-colour. The origin of the conflicting attitudes is fundamentally economic. Out of economic relationships arise emotions that take many forms which do not appear to have any connection with the relationships and are transformed into a variety of beliefs; for example, the false belief in the mental and moral superiority of people with white skin. The conditions of capitalism produce a mental, or intellectual, atmosphere in which many conflicting attitudes flourish and older attitudes are modified. For instance, pro-war and anti-war, pro-religious and anti-religious, pro-nationalist and anti-nationalist, and so on. However, if the economy is in crisis and jobs become scarce or lower paid, if demands for housing rise, victims look around for something to blame for their troubles and newcomers, as always, appear to them to be an obvious part cause of their sufferings. In these circumstances, the general attitude towards coloured people began to change and they became scapegoats for the failure of capitalism to meet society’s needs.
It is in the interest of all workers whatever their colour, nationality, or sex to recognize the root of their problems lies in capitalism itself. The problems cannot be cured without their abolition. All workers must unite to bring to an end a system that sentences them to a lifetime of poverty, insecurity, conflict and hardship. Then, worldwide, all will work together, cooperating in producing everything that the human race requires to satisfy its needs. All humanity will live in harmony.