This article first appeared in The Anvil Vol 11 No 3, published 30 June 2022.
Everywhere, people are negotiating hostile state borders. Most of these people are poor workers, searching for safety and a better life. They have suffered economic exploitation, political marginalisation and personal despair. They are escaping war, or devastation caused by climate change to their villages and territories, or all of these.
They are economic migrants, or refugees, or asylum seekers. They know there’s a crisis going on and they’re not the only ones affected. The climate is changing. Wars are raging. Indigenous people are losing their rights and their land to extractive industries. Sinister right-wing movements are on the attack. Governments are becoming more reactionary.
Capitalist elites aren’t worried. There have been disasters before, and everyone with enough wealth has been just fine. There will be a place just for them, they believe, safe from the gathering storm, where they will be protected from the millions of desperate poor. It happened after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The capitalist class did just fine, and they’re rebuilding better. The ruling class see no urgency in developing a response to the disasters that force people to become migrants and refugees.
Not only that, but there is money to be made. Multinational corporations are the winners from the vulnerability of migrants and refugees. They can shift production and jobs around so they can make use of the cheapest labour and friendliest governments. They play governments and workers off against each other so they can make the most profit.
Capitalists use strategies like racism, sexism and religious sectarianism to divide workers and victimise migrants. Our disunity and confusion gives power to capitalists. A strike or other disturbance in one workplace quickly affects many others. To prevent this, capitalists need to divide workers into groups who are separated from each other and who see each other as rivals. Divided workers cannot fight back. So they divide us by feeding racism. They divide us with hate-filled myths and nationalism. But stronger borders will not bring back better jobs. The corporate profiteers will just scam us some more, transferring more and more jobs to vulnerable overseas or migrant workers whose labour is made cheaper by those very borders.
Migrant workers and refugees are demonised. In the popular press they are described in offensive terms that stoke suspicion and fear. And yet if we allow borders to divide us from fellow workers in other countries, corporations will use the borders to control labour power.
The only way to protect jobs at home is to fight for decent pay and conditions for all workers everywhere. Now that the economy is globalised, production processes are integrated very tightly. The flow of profits to the corporations is vulnerable.
Through unity with all workers within and without borders, we can turn the tables. If we unite despite corporate strategies, capitalists must give way. Together, workers can confront the urgent difficulties that face us all, and we can win.
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