Socialist Party documents

British Perspectives 2013: a Socialist Party congress document


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Migration

62. We dealt with the question of migration in more depth in last year's perspectives document. The census results give a picture of the changed makeup of Britain's population.

Seven-and-a-half million people, 13% of the population, were born outside of the UK. Poland, in 2001 not even in the top ten of countries of origin, is now second after India.

As the crisis has developed there has also been an increase in immigration from Ireland, from Greece and other Southern European countries.

Not all those fleeing economic catastrophe are the same - 29% of the residents of Kensington and Chelsea are non-British white people, overwhelmingly the super-wealthy from Russia, Greece and other countries.

The number of migrants entering the UK on special 'millionaire visas' jumped by more than three quarters last year!

63. However, it is a very different story for the majority who come to Britain and who generally form the most super-exploited section of the working class.

In order to maximise their profits, the capitalist class seek to push wages down to their lowest possible level by increasing competition between workers for jobs.

They need a plentiful supply of cheap unorganised labour to achieve this, and have tried in the last decade to use immigration as one means by which they can achieve their aims.

64. When it was in government New Labour fully embraced this strategy, although this did not mean of course making migrant workers or asylum seekers welcome in Britain.

They combined extremely repressive measures against workers from the neo-colonial world with a deliberate, if covert, policy of encouraging increased immigration above all from Eastern Europe.

65. The Tories have posed as being tougher on immigration ever since they were elected. Until recently, however, at each stage pressure from the capitalist class has meant that they had largely continued with New Labour's approach in practise.

But, as the economic crisis has continued and unemployment has risen, the Tories have started to clamp down.

Terrible brutality is being carried out against asylum seekers, including using violence to deport pregnant women and children.

The private companies that have been contracted to carry out deportations, including G4S, even sent thousands of text messages telling the receivers to prepare to be deported, even though many had won the right to stay in the country!

66. Brutal treatment of asylum seekers is not new, but the offensive against visas for foreign students is.

Boris Johnson, mayor of London, speaks for a section of the capitalist class in opposing this policy.

The 'higher education market' is worth 8 billion a year to Britain's economy. The number of students from India has dropped by 23.5% since the new policy was introduced.

Boris Johnson has also attacked home secretary Theresa May's claim that migration is responsible for high house prices.

This reflects a tension between the Tories' desire to win votes by playing on nationalism and anti-immigrant feeling, and their desire to meet the needs of big business. This is another issue over which divisions in the coalition could develop.

67. It is possible a new substantial wave of immigration could develop as the restrictions on the right of Romanians and Bulgarians to enter Britain expire at the end of 2013.

Generally, workers from these countries have more affinity with Southern Europe, but given the depth of the economic crisis in Spain, many may try to seek a better life in Britain.

As the crisis in the Eurozone develops it is possible that free movement across the EU could be threatened.

A nightmare scenario could unfold with workers from other EU countries facing deportation or the loss of their legal status.

The UK government has already had secret discussions on the means by which they could prevent a mass influx of Greek workers, attempting to flee economic meltdown.

Socialists would then have to campaign for the right of workers to continue to be able to stay and work legally in the country they were living in.

68. Ed Miliband has capitulated to the Tories on immigration. On the one hand he has belatedly recognised that the increased immigration that took place under New Labour has affected wages.

He has no solution, however, opposing Gordon Brown's slogan of 'British jobs for British workers', not because it was nationalist but because it is utopian to promise workers in Britain jobs! In fact, Miliband is repeating Brown's attempt to win support on a nationalist basis.

His threat to cut the extremely minimal benefits to which some migrants are entitled reveals this clearly.

Ineligibility for benefits is a major factor in forcing migrant workers to work for slave labour wages.

69. Of course, we have to stand in defence of the most oppressed sections of the working class, including migrant workers and other immigrants.

We staunchly oppose racism. We defend the right to asylum, and argue for the end of repressive measures like detention centres.

At the same time, given the outlook of the majority of the working class, we cannot put forward a bald slogan of 'open borders' or 'no immigration controls', which would be a barrier to convincing workers of a socialist programme, both on immigration and other issues.

Such a demand would alienate the vast majority of the working class, including many more long-standing immigrants, who would see it as a threat to jobs, wages and living conditions.

Nor can we make the mistake of dismissing workers who express concerns about immigration as 'racists'.

While racism and nationalism are clearly elements in anti-immigrant feeling, there are many consciously anti-racist workers who are concerned about the scale of immigration.

We have to put forward a programme which unites the working class in dealing with the consequences of immigration.

Crucially, we argue for the rate for the job for all workers, regardless of what corner of the world they originate from, explaining to workers born in Britain that this is the only effective way to counter 'the race to the bottom'.

The struggle for a real living wage for cleaners on the London Underground is an example of the kind of struggles that are needed.


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