1 Day Without Us

Open Borders Scotland are supporting the 1 Day Without Us: National Day of Action on 20th of February. We are actively working with the Dumfries (South West Scotland) campaign. We reproduce their working statement below.

————–

Working Statement – 1 Day Without Us: Dumfries

Politicians like Theresa May and Nigel Farage say that immigrants are foreigners. We say that immigrants are real people. They are living human beings who have hopes and dreams. They are neighbours and friends. They are parents and children. They are doctors and teachers, carers and carpenters.

Immigrants from outside the UK are a tiny proportion of the population of Dumfries and Galloway (less than 2%). Many of these immigrants help to make the region a better place to live in. Fifteen years ago it was almost impossible to register with an NHS dentist in Dumfries and Galloway. Today, everyone can have an NHS dentist, thanks to immigrants. Do we really want to return to the days when NHS dentists were as rare as hen’s teeth?

Immigrants enrich the life of Dumfries and Galloway. You might prefer Chinese noodles to Indian curry, or Italian pizza to Turkish kebab. But, whichever you prefer, its good to have a wider variety to choose from.

Without immigrants we would have fewer doctors, nurses or consultants. Without immigrants we would have fewer care workers or barbers. Without immigrants we’d have less variety in our schools. Immigrants open up windows to other parts of the world and help us to see our common humanity, within our our enormous diversity.

May, Farage and other anti-immigrant public figures blame immigrants for taking money away from the NHS. Across the UK the NHS is in crisis, but it is not in crisis because of immigrants. It is in crisis because of the policies of successive governments. Junior doctors did not go on strike because of immigrants, they went on strike because of the work conditions that the government was trying to impose. We have immigrant doctors and nurses because successive governments have failed to invest in training more, not because immigrants are coming here to steal jobs. Farage and his fellow Leave campaigners told us to vote for Brexit and we could spend the money that currently goes to Brussels on the NHS instead. When a majority voted for Brexit they back-pedalled. They said the NHS was just an example. They didn’t actually mean that the money would go to the NHS. Politicians play politics with our health, while immigrant doctors and nurses take care of the elderly, help us when we are ill and save our lives. We should not let politicians scapegoat immigrants as the problem. We should hold them to account for the problems that they create.

The UK is in a mess. Public services, and those who work in them, are being squeezed. Many of us are feeling the pain of austerity. Immigrants are not to blame for this pain. Immigrants played no part in the Financial Crash of 2007-08. Immigrants did not spend billions, yes billions!!!, of taxpayers money bailing out the banks that caused the Crash. Immigrants did not create the Great Recession that followed. When the Crash happened it wasn’t immigrants who said that we need to tighten our belts, it was politicians and employers. It was the same politicians who awarded themselves pay rises. It was the same politicians who defended multi-million pound bonuses for big financiers in the City of London. These people live in a different world to us, a world that is foreign to us. We have far more in common with the average immigrant than we do with the average politician or wealthy businessman (and yes, they are usually men). Don’t let them scapegoat the immigrants who live on our streets, who work in our towns, who rub shoulders with us every day of the week.

On the 20th of February we have an opportunity to say “immigrants are part of our lives, we want them to stay”. We have a chance to spread hope and love, not fear and hate. Together, immigrants and locals, we can say no to scapegoating and yes to a world that puts human-beings before profit

Advertisements

Immigration and wages

Interesting article by Don Flynn (formerly director of Migrant Rights Network) arguing that immigration does not suppress wages. He cites OECD data on GDP and wages since the 1970s (but he doesn’t provide any links to the source; and doesn’t make it clear if he is referring specifically to the UK; or what year the dataset ends on – OBS will ask him for this info).

According to Don, the OECD data shows that as a proportion of overall wealth created (he uses GDP as his measure) wages have been declining – from a high of 64 per cent in the mid- 1970s to a low of 52 per cent in 1998, when a slight recovery began.

If true, this is very significant. It means that the decline in proportion of GDP going to wages actually began AFTER tighter immigration controls were enacted (in the 1960s and 1970s). If true, this is a powerful argument against the idea that immigrants are suppressing wages, and points to employers and government policies as responsible for suppressing wages. If true, it suggests – as Don Flynn puts it – a working-class case for freedom of movement. It is employers and politicians, not immigrants, who are driving down the wages of ordinary working people. Immigrants and ordinary working people have a common interest in combining to resist wage restrictions. (And there are groups – like the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain – organising in this way).

This is worth investigating further. Some initial questions I have.

If wages have been declining as a proportion of GDP, what has been increasing? Has there been, for example, an increase in proportion going to pensions, or capital investment, or national debt payments? If the decrease is entirely accounted for by the increase in proportion going to pensions, then this may reflect an aging population, rather than an attack on the living standards of the working-class.

Wages overall as a proportion of GDP have not been evenly distributed across the workforce. There is significant income inequality in the UK. Has the decline in wages been concentrated in sectors where immigrants are concentrated, rather than in sectors where they have not (as some academic research suggests)? If this academic research is correct that does not mean that there cannot be a working-class argument in favour of free movement, but it does appear to invalidate Don Flynn’s argument.

On the US election

The election of Donald Trump, an unpredictable demagogue who has run an openly racist anti-immigrant election campaign, is shocking. Trump himself has drawn parallels between the Presidential election campaign and Brexit in the UK. No doubt some on the Right in the UK and throughout Europe will feel emboldened by Trump’s election. This is a dangerous period in history that we are now in. We must, however, face it ‘with sober senses’, not with kneejerk reactions. The Brexit vote and the Trump vote were not straightforward anti-immigrant votes (see e.g.: http://www.thecanary.co/…/now-finally-know-real-reason-bre…/ ).

Already we can see parallels between the anti-working-class reaction to the election of Trump and the reaction to the Brexit vote. Those ‘cosmopolitans’ who blame ordinary working people as ‘stupid’, or ‘deplorables’ or ‘racists’ are elitist (see e.g.: http://www.newstatesman.com/world/north-america/2016/11/voting-trump-and-brexit-what-working-class-revolt-really-about ). This kind of contempt for ordinary working people is one of the reasons why many ordinary working people voted Brexit/Trump. It should be condemned.

Anyone who is interested in human freedom needs to work hard to drive a wedge between the Right and ordinary working-class people. Blaming ordinary working people is a barrier to that.

Ordinary working people are sick of austerity. They are sick of a remote political class who cares nothing for the reality of most ordinary people’s existence. Trump, Teresa May and other political leaders in the West will not be able to reverse austerity without attacking the living standards of ordinary working people. Instead of looking to the lesser evil (the EU/Hilary Clinton or whatever), elites who present themselves as voices of the oppressed (Trump in the USA, Podemos in Spain, the SNP in Scotland) or reheated state socialism (Corbyn in the UK, Sanders in the USA) we need to build an independent alternative that puts human freedom centre stage (see e.g. http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/…/the-extraordinar…).

One way we can start to make the case for human freedom is to make the case for working-class support for open borders. As that old German poltical exile in London once put it ‘workers of all countries unite’.

Byron Burgers and open borders

Useful article by Don Flynn (former Migrant Rights Network director) on the Byron Burgers shopping of their employees. Flynn makes three key points against those who say that Byron are a victim of UK immigration policy:

Firstly, employers have generally been beneficiaries of deregulated labour markets that have been a major driver of immigration:

employers have benefitted enormously from the deregulation of labour markets over the years which have been one of the main driving forces of large-scale migration.  Across whole sectors of the economy – from food production and processing, hotels and restaurants, construction and health and care services, retailing and more – there is scarcely a company in the UK which has not factored in the ready availability of hundreds of thousands of workers with minimal rights to job security into its business plans.  The rise of the ‘gig’ economy is the big story of recent years, and its birth has been nursed along by successive governments which have demanded the maximum of flexibility from its workforce.

Secondly, businesses that have benefitted from deregulated labour markets have been silent on the issue of immigrant worker welfare:

Tens of thousands of businesses across the UK are, like Byron Hamburgers, massively dependent on a migrant labour force as the source of their profits.  But whilst they form part of a powerful pressure group on government policy on matters concerning other areas of regulation business has remained silent when it comes to issues that concern the security and welfare of the workers who are responsible for making their profits.

Thirdly, Byron were not legally obligated to set up their workers:

It is not true to say that Byron’s management were obliged by law to provide this level of cooperation [by setting up the entrapment meetings].  By the accounts they had provided to the media they say that they had discharged all their obligations under immigration law to check documents and keep them on file.  Furnished with this defence they were quite entitled to tell immigration officers that they had done what was required of them and any further action would have to be taken on the sole initiative of the Home Office itself.

Online at: http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/blog/2016/08/byron-hamburgers-when-employers-fail-do-right-migrant-employees

 

Open borders and the left

This is an interesting article by Peter Ramsay in favour of open borders. He is critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on immigration on the grounds that compassion is a problematic basis on which to argue in favour of free movement:

Corbyn is right that the uniting of compassion and social justice, on the one hand, with solidarity and internationalism, on the other, lies at the heart of the old left’s politics that have been revived in the Labour Party. The old left’s list of ‘values’ is superficially attractive but it contains a fatal flaw. By representing solidarity and internationalism as matters of compassion and social justice, the old left has played down the central aspect of internationalism – the common interests of wage earners in one country with the wage earners of other countries.

Ramsey draws out one of the problems with the focus on compassion when he says that:

This creates a tension between the old left and its potential supporters. When working classs voters express hostility to immigration, they appear to suffer a compassion failure and it is tempting to explain that as an expression of ingrained popular racism. As a result, the left often finds itself either bemoaning the supposedly racist attitudes of ordinary citizens or adapting to those citizens’ fear of immigration by promoting ‘firm but fair’ immigration controls, as the last Labour government did.

Ramsey then contrasts the old Labour Left view with that of Slajov Zizek. 

Zizek is right to argue that to demand ‘tolerance’ and ‘compassion’ from ordinary people in these circumstances is an inadequate response to the issues posed by mass migration. Instead, as Zizek puts it:

‘The only way to break this deadlock is to move beyond mere tolerance: we should offer others [refugees and migrants] not just our respect, but the prospect of joining them in a common struggle, since our problems today are problems we share.’

Zizek is surely correct that the only realistic long-term solution is for citizens and migrants to recognize their shared interests. 

Ramsey then goes on to point out that Zizek’s approach is also problematic. Zizek’s (Stalinist-influenced) support for states, (rather than ordinary working people), as the medium for social change leads him to advocate intergovernmental fora as a means to tackle the ‘migration crisis’. The idea of ‘common struggle ‘ is completely lost in the process:

Zizek proposes to enlarge, extend and reorganize the intergovernmental institutions that are currently relied on to shore up the existing global order. These are the very institutions that have evolved a fake version of internationalism in order to frustrate the democratic accountability of European governments to their citizens – as the recent Greek crisis dramatically demonstrated. They are the same institutions relied upon by the very Western states that have, over decades of imperialist and humanitarian meddling, reduced the Middle East, Afghanistan and North Africa to the chaos that has engendered the current refugee crisis. All this, Zizek proposes in the name of a ‘common struggle’ between those disenfranchised citizens and migrants. And he claims to be the realist!

Ramsay then advocates open borders as the only realistic solution (against Corbyn & Zizek). 

The political demand for open borders, by contrast, poses a realistic political way of life as opposed to tired Europe’s fantasising; a way of life based upon taking collective responsibility for our existence as human beings rather than trying to evade it; a way of life that is well adjusted to global reality. Open borders is not a political demand that will immediately appeal to a majority of people, and it will not save the Labour Party’s bacon at the next election. It is not ‘realistic’, if by ‘realistic’ you mean what will allow you to get your hands on the levers of the existing state apparatus at the next opportunity. But it is the only real basis upon which the ordinary citizens of Europe could make common cause with the rest of humanity and begin to take control of our societies from our corrupt and exhausted elites.

You can read the full article at:

https://thecurrentmoment.wordpress.com/2015/09/23/open-borders-the-only-realistic-policy/

Open Borders and the EU referendum

An article by Chris Gilligan (Open Borders Scotland) on the issue of sovereignty. The article points out that in liberal political theory sovereignty is concieved as a social contract in which rights are guaranteed to citizens – but in doing so this contract also divides humanity along national lines:

In the tradition of liberal political thought sovereignty is conceived as a social contract. We, as citizens, give up our power to the state. We allow the state to be the supreme authority (the sovereign) within the territorial borders of the nation-state. In return, the state promises to act in the best interests of its citizens. In liberal democratic states both parties, the state on the one side and its citizens on the other, are bound to this bargain. In return for giving up our power to the state we are conferred rights, which prevent states from abusing this power that we have given them. This contract, then, involves two parties – citizens and the state…

This contract also, however, involves demarcating citizens from non-citizens; those who are party to the contract and those who are not. In a world of nation-states, sovereignty is always national sovereignty. Consequently… one of the fundamental problems with sovereignty is that it necessarily divides humanity on national lines.

The article argues that the issue of immigratin is so contentious in Europe today because large numbers of ordinary working people feel that this social contract has broken down.

The issue of migration has become one of the most contentious issues in Europe today because many citizens feel that the social contract–– government of the people, for the people, by the people––has been broken. Few citizens in Europe today think that their government acts for the people. There is widespread political disaffection…

Many… ordinary people… feel distant from the political elite. They complain that ‘No one listens to us’ and ‘If you haven’t got money, no one cares’.

For many ordinary working people immigration policy is an index of their government’s distance from them and their everyday concerns.

The article argues, against the prevailing perception, that those who feel disaffected from political elites (large numbers of them in favour of Brexit, and avowedly anti-immigrant) have a lot in common with immigrants. They are the disadvantaged and marginalised, and they share a common desire for greater freedom to control their own lives. The article argues that a major problem with the anti-EU/anti-immigrant viewpoint is that it accepts a national framework:

One of the problems with this anti-immigrant sentiment is that it accepts the idea that ‘we’ as citizens have common interests. The interests of elites and the mass of ordinary working people, however, are not the same…

We should not chain ourselves to the nation-state; we should view our political elites as they view us. They are foreign to us.

As long as political demands are framed in national terms they will favour the interests of elites, not the mass of ordinary people.

The article argues that, whatever the outcome of the referendum, those who desire human freedom should not dismiss the concerns of ordinary working people, but should continue to develop and make the case for open borders:

A Brexit will not put power in the hands of ordinary working people. Remain will keep us in the same mess we already inhabit. The issue of immigration, however, will not go away. Instead of dismissing the mass of ordinary working people as stupid, gullible racists we should recognise that they have a lot in common with immigrants. Whatever way the vote goes, we, immigrants and ordinary working people, should work hard to promote the idea that political elites are the real foreigners. Front and centre of that discussion should be the question of what kind of world do we want to live in and how do we combine to achieve our common interest in freedom.

The article is available online at:

http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/international-news/on-brexitthe-sovereignty-trap.html

 

 

Arguing for open borders

This article (by Chris Gilligan of Open Borders Scotland) makes a plea to develop human-centred arguments for open borders.

We need a human-centred approach to migration. We need to develop, make and win arguments that put humanity first. Arguments that put people before profit. Arguments that prioritise free movement over free markets. Arguments that prioritise humanity over humanitarianism. Arguments that prioritise human freedom over human resource management. Arguments that put freedom before finance. If the way that we currently organise human society makes it impossible to provide human freedom, then there is a problem with the way that society is organised. This is a problem for humanity, not a problem of humanity.

The article outlines some of the common fears expressed about immigrantion (and, even amongst people who are sympathetic to immigrants, about open borders).

The idea of open borders frightens many people in Europe (and in other affluent parts of the world). They see a world in which war and conflict is commonplace. They see a world in which billions live on less than two dollars a day. They see a world of financial chaos, job insecurity, homelessness, rising poverty. They see a world in which they live in fear of terrorist attack. They see a world in which old certainties are being swept aside in the winds of global change…

Restricting human movement, however, won’t eradicate poverty or homelessness, it won’t end war and violence. It will, at best, maintain the current inequitable distribution of misery and opportunity between the west and the rest…

The article also argues that we can discern some elements of a future human-centred society in the present. In the human-centred response of many to the plight of immigrants in Europe today.

At the borders of Europe, in the treacherous seas, on the roads, in the camps, in the detention centres and in the tortuous limbo of waiting to hear the outcome of asylum claims, hundreds of thousands of people are asking, ‘are we not human?’ And, in response, hundreds of thousands of citizens in Europe are saying ‘we recognise your humanity’. They are organising rescue boats. They are providing lifts to weary migrants. They are organising soup kitchens and other food outlets. They are organising clothes collections and toy collections. They are travelling across the continent to help deliver to those in need. They are helping to comfort the grieving. They are helping to bury the dead with dignity. They are befriending people in detention. They are organising legal advice. They are helping with accommodation. And, they are helping to bring laugher, to brighten up the darkest corners of our souls, to help people to laugh and cry at the joy of being human.

And the article argues that we should not view immigrants as victims or as a threat, but as potential allies in making a better world for all human beings.

The full article is available online at:

https://opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/chris-gilligan/is-it-utopian-to-argue-for-open-borders

Also available at:

http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/international-news/is-it-utopian-to-argue-for-open-borders.html