The impact of mass and unrestricted immigration into working class communities was a significant factor in last year’s EU referendum. Yet, despite compelling evidence demonstrating this truth, many left-wingers seem determined to remain with their heads buried firmly in the sand.
EU law provides for free movement of people. It is one of the ‘four freedoms’ enshrined in the rules of the capitalist single market (along with the free movement of goods, services and capital). In other words, workers are categorised not as human beings but explicitly as commodities to be bought and sold like copper and coffee according to the laws of supply and demand.
Naturally, this commodification of workers is very popular with big business, enabling bosses to take advantage of highly-diverse economies by shunting workers across borders and playing them off against each other, thus driving down wages.
This type of social dumping uproots workers and their families, divides communities, and all in the name of greater profits. Social cohesion has been tested like never before along with the increased strain on under funded public services.
Yet, to many on the left, free movement is seen as an advance for working people, to be defended against all comers. For them, it’s a building block to greater class solidarity and another step on the path to their vision of a borderless world. The actual impact on working people, migrant and native, is secondary.
We must of course stand with migrants and challenge any attempt to attach personal blame to them for the failings of government or the actions of unscrupulous employers.
The failure of the left to accept or even discuss the negative aspects to free movement allows the bigotry of right-wingers to take hold in vulnerable communities.
Let’s be clear that refugees fleeing war and persecution should always be welcomed. But we cannot remain in denial on the broader issue of immigration. That’s why we must support an end to free movement for economic migrants. A failure to do so will further damage – and possibly shatter for good – what support still remains for left-wing politics among working class people.
While recognising that the current economic conditions prevent us from having open borders, we must nonetheless move towards a world where all people can one day move freely. A necessary step in that direction will be the replacement of capitalism with a more cooperative economy and the equalisation of conditions across the world (such vast differences in the standard of living between EU member states has been arguably the number one reason for immigration). Under such a system people will move because they want to and not because poverty compels them to. As a result this will reduce worldwide immigration levels to a relative trickle and allow people to remain with their friends and family in the parts of the world they were born.