WeeklyWorker

23.02.2020
Dustbowl migrants 1935: heading to California

Crooked formulations

No human is illegal, says the Morning Star. But, notes Eddie Ford, the paper goes on to argue that not all humans should be legal.

Having promised a “points-based” immigration system in its election manifesto, this week the government announced that low-skilled workers would not get visas, when free movement with the European Union ends - notably urging employers to “move away” from relying on “cheap labour” from Europe. After December 31, EU and non-EU citizens coming to the UK will be “treated equally”, with home secretary Priti Patel declaring that the new system would mean “the brightest and the best” will be able to come to Britain. As for your poor and huddled masses, they can bugger off.

Business is not enthusiastic about the new system, it goes without saying - how they will be able to recruit the workers needed to run their businesses? Those workers now designated low-skilled or unwanted by the government include waiting staff, carpenters, plasterers, bricklayers, groundworkers, child-minders, cleaners, fishery workers, and so on. The economy in the south-east and London could grind to a halt. And who will build big infrastructure projects like HS2?

Laughably, Priti Patel, says that business should train Britain’s 8.45 million “economically inactive” adults to do those jobs. The fact that many of these people are students (2.3 million), incapacitated (2.1 million), looking after a family (1.9 million) or early retirees (1.1 million) does not seem to occur to her. The main question is singing the anti-migrant tune to that section of the electorate that puts down overcrowded schools, long queues in the NHS, poor housing and low wages to workers coming from southern and eastern Europe.

Transparently, a points-based system of migration will do nothing to improve the position of worst-paid labour in Britain. Conceivably, matters could be made worse. Not only is the government allowing waivers - ie, quadrupling the number of seasonal workers allowed into the UK. The fact of the matter is that outlawing the legal movement of low-skilled workers, will only add to the number of illegal workers. They are prepared to accept long, long hours and appalling levels of pay. Competition between workers will not be reduced and will possibly increase.

Given all this, it sad to read a recent editorial in the Morning Star (February 3). We discover that the paper welcomes the ending of the free movement of people in Europe. Thankfully, Brexit means that “our nation-state is no longer bound by the free and often forced movement of labour that accompanies the EU’s free movement of capital” (my italics). That is, workers from Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Albania, etc were “forced” to move to the UK. Of course, there is a kernel of truth in this statement - poorer European workers come here looking for work. Then again, you could say the same about the very large number of workers from Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham or Devon who have also been ‘forced’ to relocate to London and the south-east for the same reason.

Anyway, the Star reminds us that Britain “has responsibilities that arise from its colonial role”, when the “drive for plunder and profit” took millions of Britons to “colonise a substantial part of the globe” - feel the guilt. We are also correctly told that “no human being is illegal” - something that is in complete contradiction to what follows.

The editorial concludes that Britain needs a “non-racist” immigration policy that both serves “our economic needs” and “meets our humanitarian obligations”. So the human beings who illegally seek work in Britain will be ... illegal human beings then. And, of course, Boris Johnson is quite capable of dressing up his points-based system precisely in that sort of language - he and Patel can happily look you in the eye and say their new immigration system is totally “non-racist”, as it treats EU and non-EU citizens “equally” - what more do you want? What the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain actually advocates as “non-racist” immigration controls is discrimination against the vast majority of people across the planet - not because they are brown or black, but for the crime of being poor.

Anyone who calls themselves a Marxist will recall that the First International proclaimed that “each member of the International Association, on removing his domicile from one country to another, will receive the fraternal support of the Associated Working Men” - no ifs or buts. Both Britain and the US started to import workers on a substantial scale in the 19th century, in order to meet the “economic needs” of capital. Unfortunately, more than once the ‘native’ labour movement responded in the same shameful spirit as the Morning Star. In America there were demands to stop the influx of “yellow labour”. In Britain the TUC passed a resolution against any further migration of Jewish workers from Russia and eastern Europe.

However, let us not forget that the Second International aimed to organise workers everywhere against scabbing - ie, prevent Irish workers coming to Britain to break a strike. It also wanted to organise workers in a way that prevents migrants being used by the bosses to undermine wages and conditions, which requires powerful trade unions - the aim being to recruit migrants as soon as they arrive in the country. The Second International did not try to keep them out, or form exclusive ‘British trade unions for British workers’ - which would have been pandering to chauvinism. Rather, it argued vociferously that unions should accept and organise all workers, regardless of nationality or background - assimilation in the very best proletarian sense.

But, crucially, it specifically came out against all immigration controls - whether anti-Jewish in Britain or anti-Chinese in the US. Sadly, the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain appears to have forgotten what it claims is its own history l

eddie.ford@weeklyworker.co.uk