The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

"Workers, we are all immigrants!"

Oct 2, 2006

The following is an editorial from the September 29 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers organization of the same name active in France.

Hundreds of immigrants, men, women and children, were crammed for a month into a gym in Cachan, a Paris suburb. They had been forcibly expelled from student housing where they had found refuge for three years.

The police intervention and the political confrontations around it made Cachan the symbol of the situation of immigrant workers.

Who can believe that a rich country like France is incapable of providing housing for a few hundred people crammed into horrible conditions, whether they have papers or not? The mayor of a nearby town even offered an unused state building to house them. But Interior Minister Sarkozy turned down this offer.

Sarkozy uses police provocations around the gym and the spectacular arrest of undocumented people, followed by deportation, in order to parade on television flaunting his firmness on immigration. Sarkozy is addressing the electorate of Le Pen (a far-right racist politician), "You can see that I have the same program as Le Pen, but I"m already enacting it as a government minister, and unlike him, I have a chance to be elected president of the republic."

Sarkozy engages in this electoral demagogy at the expense of others, primarily those who were arrested and deported, who are here with their families and children. But his campaign against "illegal immigration" makes life harder for all immigrant workers. They face increased demands to display their IDs simply because of how they look, and more humiliation inflicted by the police and the bosses.

Sarkozy speaks about "selected immigration," since he knows that assembly lines and construction sites couldn't operate without immigrant workers. Obviously "selected" by the French government, depending on the needs of the bosses! The expression aroused the reaction of African leaders, especially the leader of Senegal. He rejected the idea that his country be considered a breeding ground, where workers are selected only according to the needs of the French economy, depriving Senegal of people and skills.

So Sarkozy went to Senegal to obtain an agreement on "consulted immigration." In plain words, Senegal will collaborate to prevent its citizens from fleeing misery in exchange for some loans.

These African leaders may be content with a change of words, "consulted" rather than "selected" immigration. But those who are pushed to emigrate have no reason for satisfaction. A growing number of Senegalese youth leave their country for Europe and risk dying to do so. It's not a taste for pleasure or adventure that motivates them. They are driven by misery, by the hope of finding a job and a better life.

Promising "co-development" as an alternative to emigration is a sick joke.

Official institutions recognize that the flow of money going to Africa is quite small compared to the money drained out of it – that is, profits, interest and loan repayments, which go from the poor countries to the rich countries. Not only is there no co-development, but Europe continues to empty Africa of its very substance.

So even if leaders string barbed wire around Europe, immigration will continue. And our interests, as workers of France, is not to claim that immigrant workers cause unemployment. We must receive them as brothers and sisters, in solidarity with their demand for a normal life, without police brutality, without the threat of deportation.