Thursday, 28 April 2011

Ant-immigration rhetoric -- the quintessential divide and rule tactic

“Migration is the oldest action against poverty. It selects those who most want help. It is good for the country to which they go; it helps break the equilibrium of poverty in the country from which they come. What is the perversity in the human soul that causes people to resist so obvious a good?” asked John Kenneth Galbraith. This is a thought-provoking question but it is also a false starting point. Resentment against newcomers is not simply a 'natural' human propensity, some inherent dislike of strangers, as idealist theory claims. On the contrary, it derives from the erroneous belief that if we stopped immigrants entering Britain there would be plenty of housing and jobs for us ‘natives’. This myth is perpetuated by politicians and the mass media in order to maintain the capitalist system. Albert Meltzer made the point well:

“The large scale employer looking at greater profitability or the way to cut costs has several options open, the easiest and laziest being to cut wages. If the workers are well-organised they can resist this so there are two options open to the major capitalist. Either take the factories to where the cheap labour is or take the cheap labour to where the factories are. The first option entails great pollution, as a rule — not that they ever care about that — and in some cases they have to go into areas of political instability. It is cheaper to move the cheap labour.

"Having thus encouraged immigration, wearing the financial hat as it were, the capitalist in the capacity of a right-wing politician, dons the political hat and denounces immigration. This has the advantage of setting worker against worker, fuelled by religious and/or racial antipathies which can persist for generations, and have the added bonus of inducing the worker to support the right wing electorally. It does the capitalist no harm to have a work force hated by those who surround them, Or in fear of deportation if they step out of line. Nor does it harm the capitalist, in a political context, to have issues such as immigration replace the basic issue of the wage and monetary system. It only becomes harmful from that point of view when a fascist force such as Hitler’s gains such armed might that it can ignore the wishes of the capitalists which gave them that power and strives for its own superiority.”

David Cameron and his collaborators understand this divide and rule tactic very well. Why do we continue to fall for their lies? We must address the root causes of the social and economic problems we care about without bringing race and immigration into the equation.