the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist
“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx
Nov 21, 2022
This article is excerpted and translated from the November 14th workplace bulletin of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
The fate reserved for immigrants by European governments is a disgrace, an insult to what makes us human.
It took more than a week for the French government to deign to allow the Ocean Viking to dock in Toulon. But the troubles of the 234 migrants on board are not over. They were made to disembark in a sorting zone so that the government could deport anyone whose asylum request was denied. Of those who do gain asylum, only about fifty will remain in France and the other two thirds, without them having any say in the matter, will be sent off to other European countries.
Migrants are treated like pariahs and become scorned merchandise for European countries to haggle over. They try to send as many as possible off to their neighbors while taking in as few as possible. This policy is criminal.
It was this policy that led to the death of 27 shipwrecked migrants in the English Channel in November 2021. It now appears that the French Coast Guard refused to help the women and men who were drowning. They responded to the cries for help with “Can’t you hear? You will not be saved.” “I’m in the water” received the reply “Yes, but it’s English water.” How debased can they get?
Closing borders and defending nationality and fantasies of ethnic purity is revolting. And completely outdated! Humanity has never been so mixed. The planet has become one big village where, even if women and men living thousands of miles apart don’t share the same language or the same culture, they share the same hopes and fears. Is now the time to be multiplying borders and making them impossible to cross?
The history of humanity is one of migration. And capitalism has done it on an industrial scale. Hands were needed for the colonial plantations in America. Millions of Africans were dragged into slavery and deported to America. In the 19th century, their numbers were increased by millions of poor peasants leaving Germany, Italy, Poland and Russia to escape extreme poverty.
When the bourgeoisie in France needed hands to work in the mines and in factories, to dig tunnels and construct railroads, they brought in millions of young Italians and Poles. They sent emissaries to recruit in Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian villages.
Proletarians have always been moved around to suit capitalist needs. It’s still the case today. The stadiums for the World Cup in Qatar were built by immigrants from Nepal, India and Pakistan.
In France, there is not one hospital or state-run care home, not one security company, building site or factory that functions without immigrants. And when there is a lack of workers in the sectors where exploitation is the worst, the bosses, even today, demand more immigrant workers.
The exploiters looking to make a profit are the ones who cause and shape migration. But even when they bring in and mix together workers from all over the globe, capitalists always have a policy to divide and set workers against one another.
We must not march to their drum. They are the proven enemies of the workers. They divide the working class. To defend themselves today and to change society tomorrow, those who are exploited must act as a social class.
We can only do this if we understand that immigration is not about skin color, origin or nationality. It’s part of the workers’ condition. It is born from the domination of the rich over the poor. Born from the domination of those who own the means of production over those who do not—those who are turned into proletarians, those who are forced to sell their labor-power wherever they can.
Immigrants are all workers and almost all workers are immigrants. Perhaps not from another continent or another country but from another region, another town. Class fraternity must put us side-by-side with migrants against those who exploit us and those who govern us. It is only together that we will have the strength to sever the chains of exploitation.