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(en) DA 26 - Solidarity Federation magazine (http://www.direct-action.org.uk/) - Fortress Freedom

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 13 Apr 2003 11:04:00 +0200 (CEST)


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Is western democracy and the 'free' market
really about maximising everyone's freedoms?
One look at the Government's latest
immigration policies is enough to answer
that one.
Immigration is never far from the tabloid
headlines. It is surrounded by emotive issues,
and is routinely used and abused by the likes of
Blunkett and the Daily (Hate)
Mail. It boils down to control and freedom.
On the one hand, there is capitalism's
control over Third World economies and
political control of the ruling classes within
countries. This control denies even the
most basic political and economic freedom to
millions upon millions. It is also the driving
force behind immigration. On the other hand, in
search of more control over
their own lives, migrants risk everything to
cross borders and whole continents, usually
finding government controls on their freedom of
movement once they reach so-called
'safe' countries.
The level of Third World debt in recent
decades has allowed the IMF and World Bank to
force 'free market' economic policies upon
countries most of whose people were
already living way below an acceptable
standard. Such policies are brought in and
overseen by the rich and powerful, often
exploiting existing ethnic and religious
divisions, or provoking some kind of backlash
leading to civil war. Migration is the only option
left to the many caught in the middle. Whether
this is for economic or
political reasons, or a combination of both, is
irrelevant.
Growing numbers of migrants now make
their way into Europe, North America and other
'developed' countries. Governments, quick to
pander to the xenophobic ranting of
populist tabloids and politicians, have
responded with severe controls on migrants'
freedom of movement, ability to earn a living
and desire to live among their own
communities. Immigration controls are
oppressive, but they will fail nevertheless. They
will fail because they ignore the inequalities
that drive migration; because people
will always find a way to migrate if driven to it.
Media and political circles continue to play
the race card, continue to talk immigration up
into some sort of super-problem, and continue
to warn of various doom-laden
scenarios which, were it not for the threats,
abuse and violence they encourage, could be
dismissed out of hand. Meanwhile, they ignore
the fact that capitalism needs
migration. The original Irish, West Indian and
South Asian immigrants to Britain were all
encouraged to come because of labour
shortages. Today the situation is similar.
While the press and politicians promote the
view that immigrants take 'our' jobs, the reality
is that these jobs are so insecure, poorly paid
and rife with rubbish
conditions, that no one else will take them.
What is more, Britain, and some eighty other
countries, have 'subreplacement fertility rates' -
births are no longer enough to replace deaths. It
is suggested that
levels of immigration into Europe, including
Eastern Europe and Russia, will need to double
to maintain the population at its present level.
The British population has
remained broadly static for about twenty years
for two reasons - people are living longer, and
numbers of immigrants have largely balanced
the numbers of people leaving the
country. Nevertheless, the workforce continues
to shrink, as that part of the population past
retirement age continues to grow. Labour
shortages and immigration are
therefore hard economic facts.
But you won't see or hear much about this in
the mainstream media. Instead, 'mere'
economic migrants, who lack the good grace to
be properly persecuted, are especially
despised by the opinion formers. By contrast,
and with typical double standards, it's just fine
for Brits to work in Saudi, for pensioners to
retire to foreign countries,
for young people to leave for Australia and New
Zealand. Economic migrants? - Nope, not us!
What passes for discussion on immigration is
highly islamophobic and totally colour blind.
The portrayal of the typical immigrant is a
brown-skinned Muslim but, in
fact, there are more white immigrants - Irish,
European and Commonwealth citizens, for
instance. No one thinks of Bob Geldof, Ulrika
Jonsson or Rolf Harris and their ilk as
immigrants, but they are.
Why is then that governments fear
immigration so much? Given that modern states
are built on patriotism, nationalism and
xenophobia, and given the sheer opportunism of
political parties, opposition politicians find it
convenient to manipulate the immigration issue
to gain ground on the government. Fearing their
grasp on political control
to be under threat, governments predictably
respond by rushing through yet more
ill-considered measures to control immigrants.
That question of control again.
Governments love control - the state
constantly seeks ever greater control over more
areas of our lives. Immigrant communities,
however, are often characterised by a
greater social cohesion, greater bonds of
solidarity and less dependence on 'welfare' and
other state-sponsored control mechanisms than
is the case among the population at
large. And doesn't the state just hate that.

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