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(en) Organise #58 - An attack on one is an attack on all?

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 13 May 2003 11:41:34 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

Organise Editors' note:
This text was distributed at a
recent demonstration in
London by people who have
been meeting under the
banner `No War But The Class War'.

If there is one issue that is taxing the
minds of states worldwide, it is the
question of asylum seekers and
refugees. The unprecedented levels of
movement of people from Africa, Asia
and the Middle East into the
economically advanced western
countries has lead to intense debate
between those modernising sectors of
the ruling class that see the benefits of
this development, but who fear the
long-term consequences and the
traditional small-minded nationalists
who wish to see `their' countries
remain pure, but still want to take
advantage of the ultra-cheap labour
that undocumented workers provide.
Millions of words have been written in
the capitalist press, and the liberal left
has energetically debated the matter at
their dinner parties ­ how to take
advantage of people whilst appearing
to treat them fairly and in a manner
consistent with the mythology of
bourgeois democracy.
The various approaches that
individual states and blocs have come
up with are the practical expression of
the compromise that the competing
tendencies have settled on. In short, a
plan is being put in place to regularise
the movements of people in order to
provide a reserve of cheap labour
power, which is to be put at the
service of capital without any of the
social costs that `legitimate' workers
expect as a right (health care,
pensions, minimum wage etc). The
first step of this plan entails gaining
control of the actual points of entry
(Channel tunnel, etc), or points of
departure (refugee camps, etc) then
establishing formal procedures for
processing the refugees as `potential
workers'. This will be a long, drawn-
out process and the contours of it are
only just emerging, but the intention
to make use of these developments is
clear. `Fortress Europe' is not an
attempt to stop immigration, but to
turn it to capitalism's benefit.
This process differs from past
immigration control plans in that it is
not dealing with a legal movement of
people who already have ties with the
`host' country through past colonial
relations and who are `invited' in to
work, instead it is facing mass illegal
entry from people who've been
displaced by wars or disasters caused
by capital, and who often have no tie
to their final destination.
The recent events in Sicily, where
thousands of immigrants have been
arriving on boats, highlights this ­ the
majority of them have originated from
Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka or the
Kurdish areas of Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
Similarly, many south east Asians and
Africans are trying to get to North
Africa to cross the Mediterranean to
Europe. These desperate actions often
end in tragedy ­ hundreds of people
are swept away every year trying to
swim or raft across the Straits of
Gibraltar between Morocco and Spain;
thousands drown in the Mediterranean
when their rotten boats sink (as
recently happened just off Italy with
over 50 dead); 58 Chinese people were
found suffocated to death at Dover,
and a smaller number at Dublin docks;
350 Iraqis drowned off the coast of
Indonesia, whilst trying to reach
Australia in October 2001, and every
day individuals are electrocuted or hit
by trains whilst trying to cross through
the Channel Tunnel from the Red Cross
camp at Sangatte in France. The sheer
recklessness of these actions speaks
volumes about the conditions they are
trying to escape.
The reaction of the EU (comparable
changes have occurred elsewhere) has
been to implement a whole raft of
measures ­ more restrictive visa
provisions, carrier sanctions (fining
individual hauliers or companies who
`allow' people to enter in their
vehicles), pre-inspection at points of
departure, detention of those who do
manage to enter in harsh and
unwelcoming conditions, return of
undocumented people to their point of
departure (which carries an added
threat as it puts the refugee in the
position of possibly being sent back
branded as a failed applicant for
asylum, and therefore a dissident),
dumping of people in border camps.
Immigration's Big Brother
The key to the EU's plan is the
Schengen Information system (SIS), "a
technical deportation device" that
carries information on nearly 10
million people and which is open to all
member states ­ the overwhelming
majority of data entered is on
immigrants and those who are
suspected of planning to overstay
visas etc ­ this allows the police in any
EU state to effectively carry out `sus'
stop and searches on any one they
suspect may be on the database,
which amounts to practically a
Europe-wide pass law, such as
operated in apartheid South Africa.
This is demonstrated by the fact that:
"Out of the 65 million SIS inquiries
made by German authorities, 52%
were requested by frontier officials
and mobile patrols near the border.
The remaining 47.5% of requests were
made by police in the inland, therefore
related to non-suspect-related stop
and search operations that were
carried out in inner cities, on country
roads and in trains, and that are first
and foremost directed against
migrants." (http://noborder.org/
Immigrant labour is
always welcomed by
the bosses
All these new measures are being
introduced despite the fact that 75%
of all movement is still between poor,
non-western countries ­ these are
designed as controlling measures for
those who are eventually allowed to
enter the EU to work. The new
strategy doesn't entail the permanent
settlement of these people, rather it
hopes to make use of their labour then
return them to their point of departure
in order to be taken up again by some
other corporation. This is handy
because it means the worker will be
contributing to the tax coffers of
different countries (as well as helping
the local capitalisms) but will be
entitled to social security in none.
(Incidentally, SIS2 is in the pipeline
and will contain data on `politicals', a
clear step towards the criminalisation
of dissent ­ see also reporting on
`Europol' in Statewatch. The
`noborders' 2002 camp is to be held in
June at the Strasburg home of SIS.)
A hidden underclass
All this might give the impression that
the EU and European capital is seeking
to put a stop to illegal immigration,
but this is far from the truth. The fact
is that (illegal) immigration is a key
plank of the attack on the living
standards of the working classes, and
is a handy weapon in the hands of the
bosses in their battle to impose
flexibilisation and the acceptance of
the loss of previously guaranteed
standards and rights (health
provisions, pensions etc) ­ a certain
amount of illegal immigration is part
of the plan ­ it helps to maintain false
divisions in the working class, and in
the future could possibly be used to
foster legal worker/temporary new
`legal' worker/illegal worker job
competition, benefiting no one but the
Immigrant labour, especially
undocumented or illegal, is always
welcomed by the bosses. The
precarious nature of the immigrant's
conditions, and the responsibilities
they often have to family in their
countries of origin, means that they
are compelled to accept conditions
that a `legitimate' worker would not.
They can be made to work harder, for
longer, at lower rates and in worse
conditions (with little or no guarantee
of finally seeing their wages) than a
worker who is protected by minimum
wage legislation, or maximum working
time rights.
This clearly benefits the capitalist
as they have to pay less in production
costs, but it also contributes to
internal divisions in the working class
with immigrants being portrayed as
bringing down the level of wages
through their `willingness' to work in
such appalling conditions. This is not a
new tactic and has been around since
the dawn of capitalism, but what is
different about this particular use of it
is that it is being applied on a (nearly)
continent-wide basis, by a supra-
national body which effectively
demonstrates that this is a policy that
they have decided will become
permanent over the coming decades.
It is a key part of the ongoing attempt
by capital to restructure itself.
The profits secured from this
precarious labour is being redirected
into updating technology and
manufacturing stock for the
`legitimate' sector, which in turn is
used to try and force greater
productivity and output from the legal
workers, through new surveillance
techniques and new forms of
workplace organisation (just-in-time,
toyotism) that have been made
possible through the exploitation of
illegal workers. This absolutely
fundamental connection between the
two sections of the working class is
easily obscured, yet it is the key to
understanding the shared conditions of
these two sections of the working class
­ the fact that they are both exploited
by capitalism, and that the recognition
of this bond is a step in the direction
of overcoming these conditions by
overthrowing capitalism itself.
This practical resistance is
happening already: the recent attempts
to storm Woomera detention centre in
Australia, which led to a mass
breakout with an unknown number
still on the run; the hunger strikes at
Dungavel in Scotland; the burning of
Yarls Wood at the cost of £38 million;
the continual demonstrations in
solidarity with refugees in Italian
cities, usually numbering in the tens of
thousands; the Curtin (remote
northern Western Australia) detainees
who have been in a constant state of
rebellion for the last few months; and
not to forget the practical critique of
capital and its borders that the
refugees have made by simply ignoring
them. The struggle is bound to be a
long one, and will take on many
different forms, but we surely must try
and at least match the levels of
militancy and fiercely-determined
resistance that those who are currently
incarcerated have shown. The supra-
national bodies have shown how
they're willing to make this struggle a
central part of their plans for the
foreseeable future ­ we must accord it
the same importance or condemn
ourselves to irrelevance.

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