Blogger and scum watcher Left Outside has written a very interesting piece on how immigration is discussed in the modern British political sphere, and with less than optimistic conclusions.
With Tory MEP Daniel Hannan’s recent praise for Enoch ‘Rivers of Blood’ Powell as his backdrop, LO briefs us on the stark similarities in sentiment with which the current popular press share with the racism that appealed to Powell’s speech; a racism that was blunt, explicit and erroneous in its ’swamping’ conclusions.
The conclusions are shockingly correct, as can be found in this entry written by Stirring up Apathy recently, and the hat-tips that inspired that entry. But what interested me most about LO’s entry was the point about discussing immigration. His words;
Discussing immigration is difficult in this country, often it descends into one side calling the other racists. Or more commonly, a writer beginning a piece by stating that it is no longer possible to discuss immigration in this country, without being accused of being a racist. I don’t think that this is a particularly healthy way to conduct debate.
Not healthy indeed. But who is lagging behind? The answer is anyone who ducks out of the question on immigration. This gap in leftist discussion has two effects; it opens up a free space for the far right who pride themselves on speaking up for the silent majority, and it leaves the assumption untouched that the left consensus on immigration is an open border policy. As such there are real problems here.
Do the European left have this same problem with talking about immigration? Of course there are many examples, one being the Dutch Socialist Party who oppose mass economic migration on the grounds that it is the logic of free-market capitalism, exporting workers from abroad to do the jobs that natives don’t need/want to do.
Another example can be taken from the words of Oskar Lafontaine, a German politician and co-chairman of Die Linke, a coalition leftwing group set to be a real challenge to Merkel’s Christian democrats in the next election. Known as a maverick to some, and not one to mince his words, in 1996 said “We have taken in 3.5 million immigrants,” … “In the last few years we have taken in 1 million extra people of working age, and they are walking straight into unemployment – into unemployment benefit or to draw a pension or to get welfare support.” These comments soon turned into an argument in Germany about race, since it concerned many of Eastern Europe’s German diaspora to migrate back “to the Fatherland”. It was, however, revealed soon after that many of the Aussiedler – or settlers – were not really German at all.
The main point here is that for bringing up numbers of migrants, Lafontaine was accused of “populist demagoguery” due to there being an oncoming election, but looked at carefully, Lafontaine’s main focus was not ethnicity or the claim that migrants steal jobs, but rather that migrants are sold the idea that the “Fatherland” is where they will be free, when in fact a lot of those migrants were walking straight into unemployment.
There is a great deal of benefit from migrant communities to any country, but it seems to cross the border of fairness when economic migrants are exposed only to exploitation and poverty in rich countries, which is what the above leftist sentiment seems to demonstrate.
But this is not without its own problems, for example exploitation in the rich west may not have the same character as exploitation elsewhere which is why this life is still preferable to migrant workers. Of course, though this may be the case, exploitation should not be tolerated in any form, and should be curbed by any who can do so.
A reason why the left has to get their case right on immigration is because when immigration turns into a charter for exploitation, when free travel permits workers of poorer countries to become fodder for richer, then a left voice needs to be heard, for the left is the traditional wing against exploitation of all kinds.
Another reason why the left needs its voice heard on immigration is because who a country accepts or denies as being legitimately in need of political asylum may be wrong.
Take homosexuals for example. Diane Taylor reported for The Guardian in August 2004 that following the murder of gay activist Brian Williamson a letter published in the Jamaica Observer the next day read, “To be gay in Jamaica is to be dead.” The article by Taylor further announced that Jamaica was on the British Home Office’s “safe country list” and applications of homosexuals were often dismissed unsympathetically – which paints a different picture than that the far right would have us believe about Britain’s so-called “open-door policy”.
Another example is the case of Pegah Emambakhsh, an Iranian lesbian who escaped Iranian prosecution against homosexuality, after her partner was arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death by stoning. At first in 2007, her asylum demand was refused by the UK government, but after a concerted campaign she has now been granted asylum (the decision was made on the 11th of February 2009) and will be allowed to remain in the UK.
Dialogue on asylum, immigration, migration is very important, but little is said by the left on the subject other than to denigrate the position taken by the BNP, which is as good a reason as any, but to leave a gap in valid ideas of its own, realistically leaves the far right to dominate the argument, and does nothing to counter the argument that the entire left supports a borderless country.
There can only be one thing worse than a policy where all immigration and asylum is curbed (more or less in line with how the BNP stand) and that is an open door policy, for this is the sort of argument sympathised by libertarians and hardcore free marketers (such as Dan Hannan) who embrace a pick of the workforce for as little payment as possible, and a constant wave of unemployment just in case that cheap worker gets silly.
Illegal immigration, too, leaves wide open the opportunity for trafficking and exploitation of the type that occured in Morcombe with the cockle pickers. This is not the reason why the BNP oppose illegal immigration, theirs is a whole host of nonsense such as preserving white identity, racial segregation and “flooding”. A leftist opposition to a borderless country – against leftists who do support such a thing - seeks to disuade the opportunities for the unpalatable forces in the world to hijack and exploit people who are either escaping tyranny or seeking a better chance.
The notion that the left can pursue these opinions are lost, and should be found. Understandably it takes a brave contingent to start of such a debate, but hopefully such a day will present itself, it might even put the politics of immigration into a perspective that not only disects the nonsense peddled by the right and far right wing press, but also draws the dominance of the issue away from the far right, thereby disuading white working class voters away from the lies and race hate produced in the ranks of the BNP.
This entry is in response to Left Outside’s article Dan Hannan, Enoch Powell, Volcanoes and the Daily Mail as part of the Bloggers Circle experiment