"Illegals,’ Migrants and Refugees
The humanitarian crisis in Europe over refugees from the American and European wars in the Middle East is a part of blow-back. Hillary Clinton’s ‘clean’ war in Libya has resulted in boat people trying to reach Spain and Italy. Haven’t things become so much better in Libya since Khadafy was shot in the head (some say by French intelligence) thrown in a ditch, then publicly displayed? Actually not. In Syria the same might be said. The statist dictator Assad throws barrel bombs, the criminal Daesh of the Iraqi prisons destroys cities and kills anyone they don’t like in bulk, the U.S. and its allies drop bombs that are not so precise. I won’t mention Afghanistan and the 15+ year U.S. occupation or the U.S. years-long destruction of Iraq starting in 1990 - both more 'success' stories. To date things are so bad in Yemen, where U.S. reactionary ally Saudi Arabia is indiscriminately bombing cities and town, that no one can even leave! You can say the same thing for Palestine and especially Gaza.
This is all well-known, at least on the left. The U.S. has its our own reflection in this situation - Haitian boat people, desperate Central American children, Mexican laborers – the orphan children of our empire. Not quite the same, as economics here plays a more direct role, but still many fleeing from warfare or dictatorships supported by us. This is also not news on the left.
The U.S. has offered to take all of 10,000 Syrian refugees. To put that in perspective, here in Minneapolis there are 65,000 Somalis alone, along with some Ethiopians and Eritreans. Somalia is another country we helped destroy, with help from the Ethiopian army, although the forces of petit-bourgeois Islamic politics played their role too. 10,000 is probably the number of innocent people American coalition bombs have killed or injured in Syria by now.
What does capital want though? In Minneapolis male Somalis are the taxi drivers of the city and some now work in temporary-tier post-office jobs or in factories. The females work in parking garages and as bank tellers or retail clerks. A few start small businesses and dominate the community, along with the inmans who are numerous. As you can see, most Somalis are taking working class, low-end jobs. The woman are allowed to drive at least, unlike Saudi Arabia, the ‘home’ of Islam, so they are able to get around town more easily.
Mexican green-card holders and migrants work as cooks, waiters, janitors, roofers, construction helpers, factory, warehouse and slaughterhouse workers – just about any working-class job they can get. Nearly all of these people do not have union protection and are paid the least a businessmen can get away with – and sometimes nothing at all! Wage theft and failure to pay overtime are common. Illegality helps because it further intimidates immigrant workers to demand anything. Illegality is really ideal for capital.
So capital in the U.S. is very happy to have immigrants – better illegal than legal. And Europe? France’s colonial occupation of Algeria has resulted in many Algerians living in France doing the same kind of working class/low-skilled jobs we see here in the States. In Germany the Turks fill the same role. In the UK, almost everyone - central Europeans, Africans, Pakistanis and Indians – are all doing that work. That was one of the reasons behind the hostility to the former workers’ states – their labor was off-limits. Not any more. Now London is one of the largest Polish cities in the world and is the second most populous Hungarian city. Today there was even a story in Bloomberg about how Denmark needs more skilled labor and more consumers. The story credits their slowing growth rate to their tight immigration policies. So really, what are more Syrians, more Afghans, more Libyans? More cheap or skilled labor! The benefit of many Syrians is that they are already very educated, so Europe can freely poach their talents – a real plus. The U.S. and other countries did that to central Europe as well. It’s called ‘the brain drain’ in the common parlance, but it is really the appropriation of other countries' educational investments.
The argument over population started with Malthus but it has not finished with him. At the time Malthus wrote in 1798, the world population was smaller – a bit less than a billion. Now 200 years later it is 7.3 billion and growing exponentially. Leftists who cite Malthus as reason not to be concerned with population should instead look at what has changed since he wrote his reactionary script. First, the finite and failing environment. Second, the objective development of world capital. Third, the women’s question. Remember someone named ‘Margaret Sanger?’ Family planning and economic planning but no ,,, population planning? Really?
As Piketty pointed out in “Capital,” low birth rates in Europe (and places like Russia) lead to lower revenues for capital, as there are fewer people to buy products and fewer people in the reserve army of labor, thus bidding up the price for the remaining labor. Growing populations are one key to capitalist ‘growth’ in a stagnant economy. Which is why no capitalist country has legal controls on population anywhere in the world. Only China does, which I do not consider a capitalist country. Which is why the Catholic Church and other religions and governments even oppose birth control or abortion in many places, as do the most retrograde elements in the U.S. This attitude is also partly behind the hostility to gay rights.
Which is why immigration is essential to low-birth rate economies. You know, those places where every woman isn’t having 4 babies. Is this why capital is destroying so many countries in the Middle East? Hmmm.
On the question of culture, there is something else going on too. It has not escaped the Republican Party in the U.S. that their supposed ‘ace in the hole’ was to appeal to the Catholicism of Latin American immigrants, whom they could enlist in the culture wars on the side of conservatism Even though the Republicans are making a hash of that with their virulent nativism, religion is something the more sane right-wing and governments rely on. Religion makes the majority of people more docile and more conformist and many times more conservative. They sometimes follow their religious leaders and mostly stay away from radicalism of ANY kind, as it is an ideology opposed to real change. Europe has the same problem, as Christianity and religion, not to mention marriage, are dying there too. Bringing in many Muslims can revitalize religion in Europe and increase the birth rate. Maybe it doesn't prop up Christianity, but it all basically boils down to the same thing.
The right-wing populists across Europe are attempting to take advantage of this situation by demonizing immigrants as a way to pretend they care for workers. However that is a transparent sham, as they never care for workers anywhere else. Sort of like the Christian fundies who appreciate ‘life’ in the womb, then forget about the kids once they are born. Opposing immigration is like opposing sex – good luck with that.
So what is the left to do? At one time in the 1980s under more conservative union leaderships, U.S. unions avoided organizing unorganized immigrant workers. However, eventually the unions realized capital relies on the portability of the labor commodity across national lines. Now they and everyone else in the labor movement understand that this is a ‘one-world economy’ and the best course is to organize Latinos and other immigrants, no matter what. This will improve wages for everyone and put the pressure where it belongs – on the capitalists. The same is true in Europe.
But there is even a higher logic here that the left has yet to grasp on the immigration issue. Mexican, Honduran, Guatemalan and Salvadorean people do not want to leave their homes and come to the U.S. Really! We’re not that great! Nor do Syrians or Libyans. However the U.S., through its policies, has made their homelands into something they almost have to leave. For Mexico, the U.S. ‘war on drugs,’ NAFTA, support for a long string of conservative Mexican PAN and PRI governments, privatization plans pushed by international lenders like the World Bank and IMF, GMO seeds and the ‘free-labor’ maquiladora zones have all decimated the Mexican economy. Mexican immigration is the result. Slowing Mexican immigration would benefit Mexicans the most because they do not want to be forced from their homes. The first step would be to change these policies and work to remove the corrupt and criminal Mexican government and state. But will the U.S. change its imperialist spots? Will it refuse hegemony? Doubt it. Bloody events in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador still echo to the present – all because of our past and present support to the military and fascist right in those countries. Same perspective needs to be applied there.
Do we even have to mention the European and U.S. role in what has happened in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Palestine? No doubt the criminals in Daesh are also responsible – but would they exist without the Iraq war? I don’t think so.
Capital is counter-revolutionary in a violent, abrupt and basic way. Their ‘creative destruction’ and corporatist enthusiasm for ‘disruption’ and disaster is guaranteed to continue and worsen. And it will affect us all sooner or later.
September 22, 2015