Sunday, 21 December 2014

Labour's Immigration Policy Is A Mess - Part 2

In the 19th century, the main political forces were those of the landlord class, represented by the Tories, entrenched in the House of Lords, but still largely dominant in the Commons, until male workers obtained the vote, and those of the industrial capitalists represented by the Liberals. It was manifest in many conflicts, such as over the Abolition of the Corn Laws. The Tories supported the Corn Laws, controls over the import of cheaper foreign Corn, because they saw it as reducing agricultural prices, and thereby rents paid to landlords. The Liberals opposed the Corn Laws for the opposite reason. They wanted to reduce the rents paid by capitalist farmers to landlords, and thereby also to reduce all rents. Moreover, they wanted lower corn prices, because it meant lower food prices, a sizeable component of the time of workers expenditure. Reduce the cost of food, and you thereby reduce the value of labour-power, which means that wages can be cut, and so profits rise.

In addition, the flour was not just used for food production. Marx sets out in Capital that it was used extensively in the textile industry as size, to give weight to yarn. He sets out how the reduction in the price of corn, thereby saved textile firms thousands of pounds each year in size, and by reducing the value of its constant capital, thereby raised the rate of profit.

The workers lined up in this class battle behind the industrial capitalists, and made up a sizeable contingent of the Liberal Party. A large part of the propaganda of Marxists at the time had to be to set out that whilst, the policy of free trade was progressive compared to the policy of protection, neither were socialist solutions. Marx, for example, in his Speech On The Issue of Free Trade, set out the way both protection and free trade were utilised by capital against the workers, but concluded that he was in favour of Free Trade, because it was the more rational capitalist solution, the more revolutionary solution, precisely because it drove the contradictions of capital to a higher level.

This rejection of nationalism, and the recognition that the interests of British workers could only be furthered, and could not be separated from the furtherance of the interests of workers in general, no matter in what country they lived, is central to developing a response to the kinds of nationalistic and racist policies propounded by UKIP, and the Tory right. Yet it is absent from current Labour thinking. Instead we have the Labour front bench telling us that we should embrace nationalism and patriotism – once described as the last refuge of the scoundrel – and its emblem, even though its clear what reactionary views many of those who drape themselves in that emblem espouse.

When it comes to responding to the reactionary views over Europe, instead of confidently promoting the kind of internationalist views put forward by Pete Curran above, instead they again frame their responses in nationalistic terms, only able to justify pro-EU positions on the basis that they are “good for Britain”, or at best good for British workers, as though, in the end, there can be any policies that are good for British workers that are not good for all workers, or worse that Labour should only support policies that are good for British workers, even if that is at the expense of workers in general!

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