WW archiveIssue 601
17 November 2005
Open the borders
Respect conference delegate David Isaacson explains why he will be supporting resolution 31, which would committ Respect to "oppose all borders"
"Workers of all countries, unite" - so say the final words of the Communist manifesto. For Marxists the question of working class unity is of central importance, without it we will never achieve socialism. It is therefore incumbent upon us to do all we can to remove barriers to working class unity. The most pernicious of these barriers existing today is the nation. This barrier is expressed both ideologically, through various forms of national chauvinism, and physically by borders and those that police them. The demand for open borders is therefore an elementary one for all revolutionaries. However, the Socialist Workers Party has consistently opposed including the principle of open borders in Respect policy. The argument goes that Respect is not a revolutionary organisation and as such it would be wrong for it to be against all immigration controls. It is worth noting that the policy of the Socialist Alliance, which the SWP did its utmost to ensure was not a revolutionary organisation either, was one of opposition to all immigration controls. What is more, "During the late 1950s the official position of the Labour Party towards immigration controls was apparently still one of principled opposition to any controls" (Ruth Brown, 'Racism and immigration in Britain' International Socialism spring 1968, p19). Labour did very little about this in practice, but it was its official position up until 1962. At present Respect's policy in this area is limited to defending the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees. It does nothing to challenge the bourgeois definitions of these categories, seemingly accepting the bogus distinction between 'genuine' asylum-seekers and economic migrants. For socialists this separation of the political and economic is anathema - the two are inextricably linked. Respect needs a policy which recognises this. If capital can move freely between borders, then so too should workers if they wish. The fact is that economic migration takes place, and is indeed encouraged by capital. Certain sections of capital are reliant on the worst paid labour they receive from illegal immigrants. Immigration controls mean that this section of the workforce is separated off from 'legitimate' workers, have no legal rights and can therefore be used to undercut 'British' workers and undermine trade union action. It is in the interests of both these sections of the workforce that the illegals are legalised. They can then of course be unionised and organised. This in turn can undercut the ideological divisions that currently exist between workers of different national backgrounds. The SWP is right in one sense - under current conditions the demand for open borders is in effect revolutionary. This should not, however, stop people voting for this policy. The logic that we need to accept is that Respect must adopt more and more revolutionary policy because this is what we need if we are to achieve human emancipation.
Around 180 people from across Europe attended the November 12-13 'Assembly for a charter of principles for another Europe' in Florence. This charter, which could potentially be a very useful tool for the struggles of the working class in Europe, will be presented to the next European Social Forum in Athens in May 2006. However, the confusion about the purpose and structure of the charter mirrors the political disarray of much of the European left, says Tina Becker
The Socialist Party in England and Wales is recruiting and in buoyant mood, writes Peter Manson. Its November 12-13 weekend school demonstrated that sectarianism brings short-term advantages
Pete McLaren and Steve Freeman report on a meeting to revive the Socialist Alliance. Both are officers in the new formation
Mark Fischer listened to George Galloway praising the British armed forces in World War II - "our finest hour as a country"
The Socialist Workers Party is still refusing to take responsibility for two of their members who voted for the scandalous pension deal in the PCSU: Martin John has resigned from the party and no action has been taken against Sue Bond. Lee Rock, national secretary of the PCSU Socialist Caucus, reports
Joni Wells reports on the Socialist Party's Campaign for a New Workers Party
Christopher Mitchell G8: can you hear us? Tuesday November 15, BBC4, 9pm
Respect purports to have something for everyone. In terms of programme, argues Jack Conrad, that means the attempt face two ways at the same time
Elisabeth Gauthier is a member of the executive committee of the Parti Communiste Français. She spoke to Tina Becker about the recent riots in France
Peter Manson looks at the role of the Socialist Party in the public service pensions sell-out