In our “A World to Win” series, Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance seeks to give voice to the ideas and demands of radical young people involved in the struggle to make the world a better place.
In this week's article, Stanley Blair argues that the international border system exacerbates the injustice of capitalism and that we need open borders.
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Around the world, political discussion has become increasingly concerned with immigration. The Australian establishment has been a world leader in immigration scaremongering for the past decade.
Recently, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott managed to make a meal out of the long-running issue. Speaking at the Margaret Thatcher Lecture in Britain, he said: “No country or continent can open its borders to all comers without fundamentally weakening itself. This is the risk that the countries of Europe now run through misguided altruism".
Meanwhile, the Australian Labor Party — hardly prone to “misguided altruism” — is worried that the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will allow Chinese corporations to bring in legions of Chinese workers, but is seemingly unconcerned about the other side effects of the treaty, which would allow corporations to romp all over our economy and environment.
With both major parties busily squabbling over narrow interests, here is a much more radical proposal: totally open borders and the right to free passage for all.
Today, the ruling class and their representatives talk glowingly about "trade liberalisation", arguing that money should be free to flow across borders to seek the best investments. Somehow, a lot of this money seems to flow back across borders, out of the countries of investment and into subsidiary companies and tax havens.
Meanwhile, proponents of these policies often adopt anti-immigration policies. In the US, Donald Trump has scored political points by talking about building a wall to keep out immigrants, when he has done business in half a dozen countries.
“Liberalisation” is used to mean "free" or "generous", but in practice it boils down to the stark slogan: freedom for money, not for people.
Workers on both sides of this made-up divide suffer due to this policy of division. The rhetoric of "us and them" is used like a club to beat obedience into the working class. The obvious suffering is borne by workers in the Third World, Global South or Developing Countries, which are just euphemisms for deliberately impoverished factory-states made and kept that way by calculated economic policy.
However, if you think you are safe and comfortable in a developed, Western nation and these issues do not affect you, think again.
Climate change, the direct result of a system that places profit before planet, drives people from their homes and lands, forcing them to become climate refugees. Meanwhile, brutality and warfare, the direct or indirect products of imperialism and colonialism, send millions of people fleeing across borders to escape violence or death.
These realities are hidden by a system of borders and prison camps from populations in the “developed” capitalist countries. This politics of divide and rule, which marginalises migrant workers and encourages fear of those workers in other parts of the world, undermines the struggles of working people everywhere.
It has become convenient to accuse international migrants of being "only" economic migrants. The argument runs that this migration of uprooted humanity to the Western world represents an existential threat to "our way of life", and similar empty phrases. Well, it certainly does from one point of view.
If, as an international capitalist, your livelihood depends upon exploiting the people "out there" and doing the minimum to appease the people "in here", while trying to lower corporate taxes and send money offshore, then you might have cause to be very worried. Immigration threatens to bring people together and show them that common cause can be made in the face of suffering. This undermines the building of a scared and divided voter base who will readily assent to corporate tax cuts and longer working hours.
This is where we, the Western workers, come in. The fragile political gains of earlier struggles, such as universal healthcare and social welfare, have been used by bosses to distract us and keep us happy enough with the current system that we do not ask difficult questions about inequality and profit.
Conservatives are fond of arguing that our overburdened public infrastructure will not be able to keep up with an increased migrant population, and that our social system as it exists will be overwhelmed by new cultures and traditions. This is because our public infrastructure has been largely sold off for private profit and run into the ground.
Taxes on corporate income have been progressively lowered in Australia and around the world, and the Australian Tax Office is pursuing back taxes with the enthusiasm of a sedated snail.
Meanwhile, our social system is not all it is cracked up to be for the mass of working people. If we identify upwards with the rich, on the basis that a family home is the equivalent of a $10 million stock portfolio, this might be scary.
But if we look at our rich history of combined labour struggle, another option emerges. Many of the miners at the Eureka Stockade were refugees, economic or political, from dozens of different nations. They came here seeking a better life in Australia. Many had different religions from the mainstream of the day — the Irish were attacked for being Catholic foreigners — but the miners knew they had to forget their differences if they were to win.
In opening the world's borders, we would only be making people as free as money currently is. Capitalism puts money in tax havens to be forgotten, just as the Australian government puts people in Manus Island and Nauru.
If we end this politics of difference and division, and recognise that all of our borders are purely imaginary, and that they serve neither the Western worker nor the developing world worker, we will take a step into a fairer future.
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