Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’
Sovereigntism: a Dead End for the Left.
The Independent reports,
Labour plans regional immigration system to tighten controls outside London
The system would likely require some kind of work or housing permit to be introduced.
Labour is planning a regionalised immigration policy that would allow higher immigration to London but tighter restrictions on moving to other parts of the country.
Deputy leader Tom Watson said on Sunday morning that Brexit presented the opportunity to fine-tune the UK’s border controls and that the plan was under discussion by the party.
Asked whether he thought immigration should be higher or lower across the UK, Mr Watson said: “I don’t think you can say that. I think you can actually say London requires more liberal immigration policies but there are other parts of the country where immigration may be putting pressure on public services like schools and hospitals.
“That’s why I think when we come out of the EU we can have an immigration policy that maybe addresses both those issues.
“These are nascent ideas, we’re not ready to make them robust in a manifesto yet but they’re certainly the debate that is going on in the Labour party right now and in wider circles.”
The approach could help resolve Labour’s dilemma of keeping both its metropolitan support and its support in former industrial areas happy on the issue.
The idea would likely require some kind of work or housing permit system to be introduced as the UK has no internal border controls to stop people settling where they want.
A policy tailor made for electoral gain?
We sincerely hope that this policy, – requiring perhaps a line to be drawn around ‘open city’ London for ‘foreigners’ who wish to work and live in the UK – is not going further than these news stories.
Indications are however that this could well be part of “a national popular politics”.
Like many countries, notably France, Britain is now seeing the development of a “sovereigntist” left that seeks to base politics on the Nation, or ‘national renewal”. In France it is said that this strategy is needed to answer the Front National’s appeal to, frankly, racist roots of national populism and “the” people, wrapped in moralistic politics.
In words that could come straight from this current, Jonathan Rutherford wrote in yesterday’s Labour List (Labour can respond to Brexit by leading a popular politics that completes the shift away from Thatcherism)
The first is to define a British sovereignty and restore control of our borders and law making. The nation state, accountable to its population, and working through treaties, partnerships and alliances, remains the best means of managing globalisation in the interests of its own citizens. Britain needs constitutional and political reform of its union and its governance. The Brexit vote was an English vote and so the renovation of self-government in England should be a priority in a more federal UK. The free movement of labour must end and immigration brought under national democratic control. It is a case made by Tom Kibasi and by Chuka Umunna.
It is hard to find a better definition of sovereigntism than these lines: the position that supreme power should be exercised by nation state, that ‘pooled sovereignty’ – that is the European Union – is a weakening of its force, that
The Labour ‘interest’ is apparently redefined,
‘ Labour must recast itself as a party of national renewal and reconstruct a broad national coalition around a sociologically changed labour interest. It is the only means by which it can take on populism, transcend its own cultural divisions, and regain its credibility as an opposition and a government in waiting. A national popular politics speaks for the labour interest within the culture of the nation. It means a Labour Party that represents the diversity of working people in the country defining their own interest and so their own shared common identity.
Since Rutherfod considers that Brexit is a “democratic moment” those who opposed it are cast into the darkness of the “minority, metropolitan interest”, not the “real” People.
“Those who voted to leave the EU are a moderate majority of mainstream England “who will respond to “national popular politics.”
The words about globalisation and so on should not fool us into thinking this is any way ‘anti-capitalist’. Who are the first targets of this critique? As can be seen, a key part of this version of sovereigntism is the assertion of control of the free movement of labour.
Inside London, freedom of movement, outside, restriction, passes, permits.
Not only would this be unworkable but frankly it is an insult to those who prime responsibility is to defend the cause of labour, the cause of all working people.
Internationalism is not the preserve of ” a tiny revanchist Marxism and the dried-up old bones of the hard left. The vacuum is filled by a small minority” with egalitarian identity politics.”
Once you give priority is given to ‘British’ control, “our” border and “our” law making you have to define who this “our” is.
How exactly this relates to ‘English’ power and the idea – floated and not yet sunk – of ‘federalism’ is left in the air.
A federal’ system would, perhaps, also weaken the Nation’s unifying power generating capacity….And what could be a purer example of ‘identity politics’ than tossing the word England into the political game?
Internationalism, that is not just defending universal rights, an injury to one is an injury to all, is the only practical way of standing up for the labour ‘interest’ when Capital weakens our living conditions, our wages and our ability…..to move freely.
We have common interests beyond the ‘national popular’.
But let that detail pass in the lyrical nationalism that is the hallmark of the sovereigntist left.
Amongst ” free nations and democracies.” Britain has a special place in Rutherford’s heart.
We stand, in fact, at the very point of junction, and here in this Island at the centre of the seaways and perhaps of the airways also, we have the opportunity of joining them all together. If we rise to the occasion in the years that are to come it may be found that once again we hold the key to opening a safe and happy future to humanity, and will gain for ourselves gratitude and fame.
Another is a belief in the special place of the nation, coincidentally the home country of those supporting this vision, in History.
The “special relationship” with the US is a sentimental one. In reality it is transactional and rarely reciprocal. So be it. Britain must use the genuine affection of the American people and find its points of leverage and use them profitably.
The third circle was once empire, then it became the commonwealth, and now Britain must reinvent this sphere of influence as a democratic moral leader, social connector, trader, ideas maker, and culture creator, in order to build relationships with other creative powers who know how to project themselves onto the world stage. It is in this sphere that Britain can play a role contributing to rethinking the global order.
Jonathan Rutherford ‘s national Messianism apart, this is populism, not any form of social democracy or democratic socialism.
On the one side are the ‘real’ people, moral, hard working, whose wishes Rutherford had a talent to divine.
On the other, the “dried up” hard left and identity politics, the “minority, metropolitan interest”.
There are more experienced populists out there who are likely to beat Rutherford at his own game, in the growing nationalist right of the Tory party to begin with.
A pluralist democratic left should not go down the same dead end.
Immigration Controls: from pro-Brexit ‘left’ to Rachel Reeves’ Dire Warnings.
Nothing illustrates the often artificial divisions between Left and Right in the labour and socialist movement than the issues of immigration and migration.
On the one side are those like the authors of the recent Fabian publication arguing for a hard-line against immigration,
Three of the MPs – Rachel Reeves, Emma Reynolds, and Stephen Kinnock – explained in articles for the Fabian Society that the party should change tack on migration rights in response to the Brexit vote that won in many of Labour’s English and Welsh heartlands.
Reeves, in quotes reported by The Huffington Post, said: “Immigration controls and ending free movement has to be a red line post-Brext – otherwise we we will be holding the voters in contempt.”
Kinnock added: “The referendum had a clear message: the limitless nature of freedom of movement, despite its proven economic benefits, is not socially and politically sustainable.”
Reynolds said that “no future deal [with the EU] can retain free movement of people in its present form” adding that Leave voters had asked for migration to be cut whatever the economic implications.
They were preceded by the nationalist British Communist Party (CPB) and the Socialist Party (SP),
Robert Griffiths as leader of Britain’s ‘official’ communists in the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain; argued against the “the super-exploitation of migrant workers”. Not, you udnertanad, to create a Europe wide (EU) system of raising standards, but, raising the drawbridges against the said ‘migrant workers’.
The Socialist party has argued for “local jobs for local workers” – sufficiently often to be noticed by the European Press.
Clive Heemskerk is one of the central leaders of the Socialist Party, has argued “The socialist and trade union movement from its earliest days has never supported the ‘free movement of goods, services and capital’ – or labour – as a point of principle, but instead has always striven for the greatest possible degree of workers’ control, the highest form of which, of course, would be a democratic socialist society with a planned economy.It is why, for example, the unions have historically fought for the closed shop, whereby only union members can be employed in a particular workplace, a very concrete form of ‘border control’ not supported by the capitalists.” (Socialism Today September 2016.)
In other words immigration controls- perhaps on the model of the ‘closed shop’?- should form a central part of ‘socialist’ policy.
Far from being a ‘victory’ against ‘Capital’ the principal effect of their ‘Brexit’ on the labour movement has been the rise in calls for ending the freedom of movement of people.
Rachel Reeves has since issued this warning (Independent).
Labour MP Rachel Reeves: Riots could sweep streets of Britain if immigration isn’t curbed after Brexit.
Former Shadow Cabinet minister Rachel Reeves has warned that Britain could “explode” into rioting if immigration is not curbed after Brexit.
The former Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary warned that there were “bubbling tensions” over immigration that could spill over into violence if the deal agreed with the rest of the EU did not include an end to freedom of movement.
Speaking at a fringe event at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool on Tuesday afternoon, the Leeds West MP said the party must listen to voters’ concerns.
She said: “We have got to get this right because there are bubbling tensions in this country that I just think could explode.
You had those riots in 2011… If riots started again in Leeds and bits of my constituency – it’s like a tinderbox.”
Ms Reeves, who left the Shadow Cabinet last year when Jeremy Corbyn was first elected leader, rejected claims that she was “Red Ukip” for calling for an end to mass immigration.
She was one of several moderate Labour MPs who campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU but said it should accept immigration controls now that the public had decided to leave.
One wing of the pro-Brexit and pro-immigration control ‘left’, cited above, is going to have a hard time explaining away their support for tougher immigration controls..
The ‘best friends’ of Jeremy Corbyn from the CPB and the SP, and others, who back these reactionary policies, will have to answer this.
In his speech to the Labour Party Conference this afternoon, Jeremy Corbyn will reiterate his commitment to liberal immigration policy.
‘A Labour government will not offer false promises,’ he will tell delegates. ‘We will not sow division or fan the flames of fear. We will instead tackle the real issues of immigration – and make the real changes that are needed.’
The party has spent most of its conference week attempting to unite after a summer of acrimony, but on immigration the divides are only getting deeper.
Some, like Rachel Reeves, have taken a hard line on stopping European freedom of movement — she has argued that not to do so would mean ‘holding voters in contempt.’
Chuka Umunna, too, has suggested that ending freedom of movement should be a red line in Brexit talks, even if it means losing enhanced access to the single market.
And many more have danced close to the fence, insisting that Labour must be more attentive to voters’ concerns about immigration, but in a progressive, left-wing way.
With today’s speech, Corbyn is making clear that his pro-immigrant stance has not changed and will not change in the aftermath of the referendum.
This is a tough issue.
I must say I am immensely encouraged by Corbyn’s speech.
James Bloodworth writes in his Spectator Blog,
“Formulating policy on the back of what you believe human beings ought to be liker rather than what they tend to be like can have serious consequences. Mass immigration is a case in point.
The paradox of the liberal love affair with immigration is that the progressive’s disdain for borders and the fetishisation of dry economic data risks undermining one of the very aspects of society he professes to cherish: the welfare state. For there is increasing evidence to suggest that declining support for social security among people in Britain may not simply be down to ‘Thatcherism’, but also to unwillingness on the part of the British people to see their hard earned money spent on people from overseas.
As David Goodhart has written:
‘All people are equal but they are not all equal to us. Most people in Britain today accept the idea of human equality, but remain moral particularists and moderate nationalists.’
Recognition of the fact is not necessarily to endorse it. It is, however, to accept that there may be a social democratic cost attached to mass immigration that cannot simply be wished away by utopian promulgations that reek of the seminar.
As 19th century French philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon put it: “If the entire world is my brother, then I have no brother.”
Let us begin by saying that James has taken some extremely dubious sources to back up his argument.
Jonathan Portes in the London Review of Books summarised, before tearing to shreds, Goodhardt’s argument,
There are two major problems with contemporary British society, according to David Goodhart in The British Dream, and both are primarily caused by immigration. The first problem is economic: the plight of the white working class, especially the young, and the decline of social mobility. Goodhart argues that low-skilled immigrants have taken jobs from unskilled natives, leaving them languishing on benefits, while high-skilled immigration reduces both the incentives and opportunities for ambitious and talented natives to move up the ladder. Many find this thesis convincing, and it has been accepted as fact by much of the political elite. There is, however, almost no evidence to support it. The second problem is social: the decline of a shared sense of community, local and national, which Goodhart relates to the failure of at least some immigrants to integrate, either ‘physically’ (where they live, who their kids go to school with, what language they speak and so on) or ‘mentally’ (in terms of the degree to which they identify with Britain, or share a common set of values).
The flaws in Goodhardt’s argument start from their assumptions,
The belief that if immigrants get ‘more’ of something (jobs, education, opportunities, political power), natives (or whites) must get less.
Portes goes into detail about Goodhardt’s book (which I have read), chalenging its statistical correlations and social absis (notably the relative deprivation of the ‘white’ working class).
Clearly this is simply not true,.
But important as this is James’ more fundamental premise is because people ‘lose’ from immigration social solidarity is undermined by it.
He accepts, without serious empirical support, that people no longer back welfare because of immigration’s effects on loosening social bonds. There is a fraying of social reciprocal obligation.
Two points on this spring to mind.
- Opinion against welfare is largely based on dislike for any kind of benefit claimant. The recent BBC show on the lives of low paid workers and the unemployed Ipswich We all Pay Your benefits, showed people from the town divided – from the same social and cultural background. Indeed the show was criticised for setting one group of the less well-off against another – poorer – category of people.
- The decline in backing for the Welfare state may be less than he imagines, as serious studies are now emerging showing that this has not happened. The Guardian recently published an article by David Stuckler and Aaron Reeves “We are told Generation Y is hard-hearted, but it’s a lie.”
This concludes that people’s anti-benefit attitudes are being fuelled by politicians and the media,
Take the case of the BBC. Perhaps eager to be seen to fulfil its mandate to appear balanced, the corporation has reinforced misperceptions of the prevalence of benefit fraud in various programmes, such as Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford’s We All Pay Your Benefits series, and its Future State of Welfare programme. Indeed, the Future State of Welfare was the subject of so many viewer complaints that it was investigated by the BBC Trust’s editorial standards committee, which on Tuesday found that “viewers were left unable to reach an informed opinion and the [BBC’s] accuracy guidelines had been breached”; it was, they said, “a breach of impartiality”.
But the BBC is far from being the only offender. Overall, the number of mainstream news articles in the UK using the term “scrounger” jumped from 173 in 2009 to 572 in 2010, remaining high since. This has an impact: GoogleTrends shows that searches for the term scrounger have rocketed since 2010, a sign that it is entering the public’s vernacular. Within this context, the repeated portrayal of young people as being against social spending risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Attitudes could also harden if public programmes fail to assist young people. The government’s flagship scheme to help 160,000 young people move into employment has so far enabled fewer than 5,000 to do so. Some may rightly begin to ask themselves, why bother to pay taxes into a public system that is not there for them when they need help?
Historically, the British Social Attitudes data shows that support for increasing welfare spending rises under Conservative governments and falls under Labour. There are signs that this trend is repeating itself, as support for such spending among young people has in fact risen 3.5% since 2010. Now is the time to make the case to the next generation for spending on effective social services. We need to challenge the misleading welfare narrative – using evidence is a good place to start.
Bloodworth makes the argument that “If the entire world is my brother, then I have no brother.” This is a quote from French 19th century Joseph Proudhon, “(15 January 1809 – 19 January 1865) a politician, founder of Mutualist philosophy,economist and socialist (of a very individual kind).
In other words universal solidarity has no real force.
This skirts dangerously close to the arguments of the French far-right of the early 20th century against those (like the French socialist Jean Jaurès) who brought together support for ‘abstract’ universal human rights and socialism.
They too would cite Proudhon, as the leader of the Action Française was wont to do.
This indicates one of the reasons why Proudhon was not a very good guide to universal benevolence.
Although he was a writer with great insight into the 19th century labour movement he was capable of anti-Semitic, germanophobic and anglophobic outbursts.
The philosopher Richard Rorty put forward a more reasonable form of this argument and how one might develop away from it.
Rorty conceded that people would spontaneously gravitate towards people they can identify with (see writings such as Philosophy and Social Hope 1999).
Wikipedia summaries how he developed this thought (largely in
Rorty contended that throughout history humans have devised various means of construing certain groups of individuals as inhuman or subhuman. Thinking in rationalist (foundationalist) terms will not solve this problem, he claimed. Rorty advocated the creation of a culture of global human rights in order to stop violations from happening through a sentimental education. He argued that we should create a sense of empathy or teach empathy to others so as to understand others’ suffering.
Rorty believed the US left should adopt “national pride” as part of its ideology.
“The Left, by definition, is the party of hope. It insists our nation remains unachieved.”
Would James Bloodworth be satisfied with a ‘narrative’ that heads in this direction?
Goodhart certainly does.
But that’s the rub.
As Portes concludes,
Goodhart, who holds the ‘liberal elite’ responsible not only for immigration policy in the last twenty years but also for British politics more widely, describes himself as a ‘post-liberal’. By this he appears to mean that he has a less market-oriented economic policy, and ‘greater respect for “flag, faith and family” social conservatism’. Attitudes to immigration are central to both: Goodhart’s social conservatism seems to mean a strong presumption that the impact of ‘outsiders’ on British society is negative, while his rejection of economic liberalism leads to the view that the impacts of immigration on the UK economy are often negative and, where positive, not worth the downsides.
In other words this is a conservative line of thought.
A more genuine and emancipatory way of thinking is to argue for empathy an solidarity not towards a ‘nation’ but towards people, not towards the ‘flag’ but towards real human beings, not to cut and divide but to bring people together through solidarity against oppressions and exploitation.
That is a thought, and it has a name, it’s called socialism.
Most of it’s been said. Gordon Brown, Gillian Duffy, “bigot”, apologies, and a heavy bow to people “immigration concerns”.
The PM is a man of overweening arrogance, a sociopath. The left owes him nothing.
But there remains the issue, immigration.
Let’s be clear. The question for the left is not just the ‘problems’ which migration is said to ’cause’. Competition over housing (alleged), a scramble for jobs, tussles over scarcer public services, are ideal conditions for anyone to end up blaming ‘others’. The most visible being well, ‘other’ – migrants and immigrants. Rich people with plenty of resources tend not to get nasty over these things. They don’t jostle and shove, they just have.
We should be implacable in opposing the whole ‘debate’. A discussion that’s one-sided concession after concession to those who blame foreigners for their woes. From lack of money or poor public services to pub closures. Rtaher than the real culprits – not to be seen on the street -the top-paid managers, CEOs and state decison-makers. Basic socialist stuff.
I’ve had some furious rows about this. Those people always begin, ” I’m not racist, but…”
If this is not ‘racism’ it is clearly its closest ally, xenophobia – fear of foreigners.
But who are the Eastern Europeans Gillian Duffy was moaning about? They are, in the immense majority, migrant workers.
Many seem unable to grasp what this means. The British left has indulged itself for too long in nationalist dreams (Scotland, Wales and now England), and multiculturalism to seize on this point. They’ve put priority for their ‘nations’ (which they claim are ‘oppressed’). Or they’ve translated backing for ethnic equality into support for religious groups, above all Islamists. This section of the left has lost sight of the fact that the rule of money and capital trumps ‘identity’ of any kind.
It ought to be simple good sense that the left offers ideas to bring people together to fight oppression and exploitaiton – a cliché but bleedin’ obvious. On the basis of shared interests. Does this exist? It is happening in the food processing industry, where migrant workers have begun to get unionised and engage in our common struggle.
Anyone in close contact with ordinary people is well aware that ‘immigration’ is a big issue. In Ipswich this focuses on the visible presence of migrant worker and ethnic minorities near the town centre. That is, the area around Norwich Road which people say is ‘no longer England’, or my district.
The answer is not only to ‘understand’ such ‘concerns’ . After all some people dislike change – though others like it. Multicultural tolerance is not the main thing at stake. It is despair and a lack of political vision for the future. A result of the New Labour and Tory market state that throws everyone back on their limited resources. The answer? Well, at least an attempt at one is to offer a way forward. to make all our lives better. For equal rights!
The alternative is to engage in a rush to a Dutch auction (if I may permit myself the term): politicians outbidding each other in demanding stricter and stricter control over immigrantion.
This will not halt the movement of people across countries. It will make our lives more and more ruled by having to prove our nationality, and stigmatise migrant workers.
But then those demanding this are “not racist”.