The Spark

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

Native born or immigrants:
We are the same class of workers

Jun 30, 2008

The following is a translation of the editorial from the June 27 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France, discussing recent attacks on undocumented workers there. The situation has many similarities to that in the U.S. The Bush Administration has stepped up workplace raids here and is increasingly tossing undocumented people into prison for long periods, like the 260 packinghouse workers in Iowa who were sentenced to five months on identity theft charges. As in France, detention centers for undocumented persons are growing, with 32,000 locked up in the U.S. on a typical day.

The Vincennes detention center was completely destroyed by a fire on Sunday, June 23. The fire was obviously lit by detainees who wanted to protest against the death of one of them under suspicious circumstances. The police say he died from a heart attack, but the detainees question the conditions of detention, the absence of medical supervision as well as the delay in getting help to him.

This tragic event occurred at a time when workers without papers employed in rehabbing, construction and for cleaning companies had been on strike for several weeks demanding legalization.

This government knows perfectly well that the so-called "undocumented" workers whom they try to criminalize both work and pay Social Security deductions and taxes, whether it's sales taxes or other indirect taxes. A number of them have been in France for years, some of them even used to have residence permits before the new more and more reactionary laws transformed them into "undocumented" people.

This government knows that the existence of a category of workers who can be taxed and worked without mercy suits the bosses' needs, particularly in sectors where wages are lousy and working conditions are difficult.

But precisely all these reactionary laws and the chase after immigrants without papers aim to make their situation shakier. In the same way, it weakens the situation of all immigrant workers. Making family immigration more difficult is aimed directly at immigrant workers who are legal.

The rounding up of the undocumented and, more generally, the succession of measures against immigrant workers, constitutes an inhumane and reactionary policy. Moreover, contrary to the boasts of the government, it doesn't prevent immigration. As long as there is the continuation of poverty where they come from and the hope of finding work here, no matter how badly paid or difficult, those deported will do everything to return.

Laws against immigrants don't stop immigration but only make their lives still harder. These laws are part of all the attacks aimed at the working class. When they weaken one group of workers, they weaken the entire working class.

It's necessary to support the fight of the undocumented for their legalization. This is more than a simple question of solidarity. Workers with a French ID card and immigrant workers with or without papers, we are one and the same social class, which produces the goods we all need, which makes the economy function and also whose exploitation provides business its profits and enriches the bourgeoisie.

When the big social struggles will come to make the big bosses back off their attacks on wages and jobs, forcing the government to back off from its anti-worker measures, we will find ourselves side by side in the same combat.