Friday, 30 January 2015

Labour's Immigration Policy Is A Mess - Part 6

Labour's Immigration Policy, since WWII, has rested on this inadequate basis set out on Part 5. As a parliamentarist party, whose main concern is to garner votes, so as to get MP's elected, it is necessarily opportunist, because the advocacy of principle, the idea that it is more important to fight for ideas, and to change the nature of the working-class by so doing, must always be secondary to the need to win votes in the here and now, for such a party.

If a large number of workers, and so potential voters, hold racist, bigoted views, such a party cannot confront those views, because, in the here and now, that would mean to risk losing potential votes. That, in fact is what was behind the party leadership's alarm over the Emily Thornberry tweet.  In fact, not only does it mean it is impossible to adequately confront those views, but it means that they must essentially be denied to exist, other than for a small minority. They must be apologised for, and excused as being based really on other factors, such as a fear of losing jobs, a lack of housing and other social services that have absolutely nothing to do with immigration, and everything to do with the inadequacy of capitalism to be able to provide a decent stable standard of living for workers, and the deliberate policies of austerity imposed by conservative governments, and accepted as inevitable by Labour.

The answer to workers very real fears about a lack of decent jobs, houses, schools, hospitals and so on, is not to pander to racist prejudices over immigration, as its current announcements have done, but to stop trying to out-austerity the Liberal-Tories, and to start engaging in a real struggle against those policies of austerity, and to start proposing to build schools, houses, hospitals and so on taking advantage of the historically low interest rates that exist to be able to do so.

If its good enough for George Osborne to encourage more and more people to go into more and more debt, simply to buy massively overpriced houses, using these low interest rates, and the bribes he is offering them, if it is good enough for Apple, and other huge corporations, to borrow at these low interest rates, when they already have tens of billions of dollars of cash, simply in order to speculate, it is idiotic for any government not to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to borrow at these rates, to be able to build and invest in the social capital required to develop a modern, efficient, competitive economy that also provides the mass of the people with a decent standard of living!

Yet Labour's timidity in tackling racism in relation to immigration is only outdone by its timidity in proposing such a rational economic policy in the face of conservative opposition. It is the same timidity that prevents social-democracy from tackling the bigotry of religion in the face of conservative opposition, and which again leads to apologism for that religion, once again describing those that act consistently according to its nature as merely a few extremists, acting aberrantly.

The failure to wage an all-out ideological war against conservatism, for fear of losing votes, from those workers who themselves remain dominated by these conservative ideas, is what causes social-democracy instead to pander to them, and to try to establish a bureaucratic compromise. In fact, the Conservative Government that ran from 1951 to 1964, itself necessarily closer to social-democracy than conservatism, given the environment in which it operated, had been itself opposed to immigration controls, saying they were “unnecessary and divisive.”.

The Tories, during the 1950's period of “Buttskillism” had to adopt social-democratic positions, both in order to get elected, and under pressure from the needs of the dominant sections of British capital at the time. But, this same requirement to win working-class votes imposed on it also a requirement itself to respond to the growing opposition to immigration within sections of the working-class. The Tories went from a policy of open immigration, and a belief that controls were unnecessary to the introduction of the 1962 Immigration Laws.

When Labour came into office in 1964, facing a similar growing level of racist opposition to immigration amongst workers, rather than tackle that racism, it again accommodated to it. Instead of repealing the 1962 Act, it introduced amendments to it, which

“...reduced the numbers of employment vouchers, erasing the unskilled category and cutting the numbers of skilled vouchers to 8,500. It also tightened up the regulations on students, dependants and visitors, brought in health checks for new migrants, gave the Home Secretary the power to repatriate migrants, and introduced police powers over the registration process.”

It started a process, whereby a series of further immigration laws were introduced by Labour during the 1960's that accommodated to racist prejudices, and which quite contrary to the ideas of Curran and others upon which the Party had been founded, sought to associate the interests of British workers with British capital, and accepted the idea that the problems of British workers could be placed at the feet of foreign workers rather than British capital. 

The reason that Labour can never tackle racism, and develop an adequate policy in relation to immigration is, therefore, quite clear. It is the same reason that it has not been able to tackle other manifestations of nationalism, for example in relation to conservative opposition to the EU. That is that in order to develop such an adequate position, it would both have to tackle, head on, the racist conservative views held by a large section of the working-class, and thereby risk, in the short-term, losing large numbers of those working-class votes, and because such an approach would require a confrontation with large sections of capital itself, on the basis of the argument that the problem lies with capital, not with foreign workers.

As I will explore next, the consequence of this, in relation to immigration, as with other aspects of nationalism, is that in place of such an ideological struggle, what we get is a bureaucratic manoeuvre.

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