The Left and Migration

Blogger and scum watcher Left Outside has written a very interesting piece on how immigration is discussed in the modern British political sphere, and with less than optimistic conclusions.

With Tory MEP Daniel Hannan’s recent praise for Enoch ‘Rivers of Blood’ Powell as his backdrop,  LO briefs us on the stark similarities in sentiment with which the current popular press share with the racism that appealed to Powell’s speech; a racism that was blunt, explicit and erroneous in its ‘swamping’ conclusions.

The conclusions are shockingly correct, as can be found in this entry written by Stirring up Apathy recently, and the hat-tips that inspired that entry. But what interested me most about LO‘s entry was the point about discussing immigration. His words;

Discussing immigration is difficult in this country, often it descends into one side calling the other racists. Or more commonly, a writer beginning a piece by stating that it is no longer possible to discuss immigration in this country, without being accused of being a racist. I don’t think that this is a particularly healthy way to conduct debate.

Not healthy indeed. But who is lagging behind? The answer is anyone who ducks out of the question on immigration. This gap in leftist discussion has two effects; it opens up a free space for the far right who pride themselves on speaking up for the silent majority, and it leaves the assumption untouched that the left consensus on immigration is an open border policy. As such there are real problems here.

Do the European left have this same problem with talking about immigration? Of course there are many examples, one being the Dutch Socialist Party who oppose mass economic migration on the grounds that it is the logic of free-market capitalism, exporting workers from abroad to do the jobs that natives don’t need/want to do.

Another example can be taken from the words of Oskar Lafontaine, a German politician and co-chairman of Die Linke, a coalition leftwing group set to be a real challenge to Merkel’s Christian democrats in the next election. Known as a maverick to some, and not one to mince his words, in 1996 said “We have taken in 3.5 million immigrants,” … “In the last few years we have taken in 1 million extra people of working age, and they are walking straight into unemployment – into unemployment benefit or to draw a pension or to get welfare support.” These comments soon turned into an argument in Germany about race, since it concerned many of Eastern Europe’s German diaspora to migrate back “to the Fatherland”. It was, however, revealed soon after that many of the Aussiedler – or settlers – were not really German at all.

The main point here is that for bringing up numbers of migrants, Lafontaine was accused of “populist demagoguery” due to there being an oncoming election, but looked at carefully, Lafontaine’s main focus was not ethnicity or the claim that migrants steal jobs, but rather that migrants are sold the idea that the “Fatherland” is where they will be free, when in fact a lot of those migrants were walking straight into unemployment.

There is a great deal of benefit from migrant communities to any country, but it seems to cross the border of fairness when economic migrants are exposed only to exploitation and poverty in rich countries, which is what the above leftist sentiment seems to demonstrate.

But this is not without its own problems, for example exploitation in the rich west may not have the same character as exploitation elsewhere which is why this life is still preferable to migrant workers. Of course, though this may be the case, exploitation should not be tolerated in any form, and should be curbed by any who can do so.

A reason why the left has to get their case right on immigration is because when immigration turns into a charter for exploitation, when free travel permits workers of poorer countries to become fodder for richer, then a left voice needs to be heard, for the left is the traditional wing against exploitation of all kinds.

Another reason why the left needs its voice heard on immigration is because who a country accepts or denies as being legitimately in need of political asylum may be wrong.

Take homosexuals for example. Diane Taylor reported for The Guardian in August 2004 that following the murder of gay activist Brian Williamson a letter published in the Jamaica Observer the next day read, “To be gay in Jamaica is to be dead.” The article by Taylor further announced that Jamaica was on the British Home Office’s “safe country list” and applications of homosexuals were often dismissed unsympathetically – which paints a different picture than that the far right would have us believe about Britain’s so-called “open-door policy”.

Another example is the case of Pegah Emambakhsh, an Iranian lesbian who escaped Iranian prosecution against homosexuality, after her partner was arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death by stoning. At first in 2007, her asylum demand was refused by the UK government, but after a concerted campaign she has now been granted asylum (the decision was made on the 11th of February 2009) and will be allowed to remain in the UK.

Dialogue on asylum, immigration, migration is very important, but little is said by the left on the subject other than to denigrate the position taken by the BNP, which is as good a reason as any, but to leave a gap in valid ideas of its own, realistically leaves the far right to dominate the argument, and does nothing to counter the argument that the entire left supports a borderless country.

There can only be one thing worse than a policy where all immigration and asylum is curbed (more or less in line with how the BNP stand) and that is an open door policy, for this is the sort of argument sympathised by libertarians and hardcore free marketers (such as Dan Hannan) who embrace a pick of the workforce for as little payment as possible, and a constant wave of unemployment just in case that cheap worker gets silly.

Illegal immigration, too, leaves wide open the opportunity for trafficking and exploitation of the type that occured in Morcombe with the cockle pickers. This is not the reason why the BNP oppose illegal immigration, theirs is a whole host of nonsense such as preserving white identity, racial segregation and “flooding”. A leftist opposition to a borderless country – against leftists who do support such a thing – seeks to disuade the opportunities for the unpalatable forces in the world to hijack and exploit people who are either escaping tyranny or seeking a better chance.

The notion that the left can pursue these opinions are lost, and should be found. Understandably it takes a brave contingent to start of such a debate, but hopefully such a day will present itself, it might even put the politics of immigration into a perspective that not only disects the nonsense peddled by the right and far right wing press, but also draws the dominance of the issue away from the far right, thereby disuading white working class voters away from the lies and race hate produced in the ranks of the BNP.


This entry is in response to Left Outside’s article Dan Hannan, Enoch Powell, Volcanoes and the Daily Mail as part of the Bloggers Circle experiment


With a dismissal of context, we risk missing the real reasons for opposing Hannan

Dan Hannan has tripped over the line in the sand again with his favourable comments on Enoch Powell, again on American television. All the bigger left blogs have spoken about how they feel and they can roughly be divided into Sunny (Hundal, who notes that even the mere implication of Powell’s name is deserved of condemnation) and Sunder (Katwala, who notes that Hannan was in no way alluding to Powell’s immigration views, but rather his euroscepticism, which is in tune with Hannan’s overall project).

Both make good points, with Sunny the notion that mention of Powell can conjour up images of NF banners “Enoch was right” has real weight, but Sunder points out that in 2007 Hannan specifically pointed out in an article written in the Daily Telegraph that Powell was right on the idea of an independent Britain andn specifically erroneous on the subject of immigration.

It is enough to criticise Hannan on the things we can be sure of (all of which can be found in various places on this blog). Firstly there was the issue with Hannan encouraging British ex-pats in Spain to vote for a party with traditionally Francoist roots, then Hannan pledged support for Kaminski when his antisemitic past was revealed, and what’s more is Kaminski soon after pledged his own support for the Lisbon Treaty, which Hannan is vehemently against. Then there is the issue with Hannan pouring scorn on the NHS in the US where healthcare reform is being debated, Hannan using some rather dubious arguments such as Singapore does healthcare better, and that the NHS does not provide, despite this being an out and out obfuscation of truth.

Hannan has plenty to be criticised about, now that he is back from his holiday, but with this latest incident, headlines by the Mirror such as NHS-hating Tory Daniel Hannan at centre of racist storm do run the risk of moving the goalposts and losing the real point of Hannan’s wrongdoings. Certainly this will be an embarrassment for the Tories – already struggling to downplay all the attention Hannan is getting – but will calling Hannan racist put into proper context how deeply wrong this MEP really is?

The US healthcare problem was always cooking

I heard a fantastic lecture recently (and I recommend it if you have a spare 90 minutes you listen here) on the subject of Barack Obama by Professor Mick Cox who is in the department of International Relations at the London School of Economics.

The presentation is not terribly revelatory (it isn’t meant to be), but what Cox does very well is contextualise the events which took place, and this is done with his inimicable wit.

It cannot be stressed enough how severly popular Obama was, and surprising it was given the ticket with which he was running; a black president is one thing, but at a heightened time of US patriotism and war is quite another notion that caught Cox’s eye.

There is one caveat. Remember at the time Obama seemed to signify the saviourhood for every group that felt penialised; for Mexicans, despite usually being Catholic conservative and anti-abortion, voted in force for Obama. The socialist/liberal/left saw in Obama a revolutionary streak that gave appeal to the Democrats rather than wellmeaning fringe parties (such was the problem with Al Gore’s election loss, though, of course, Ralph Nader will tell you different). And also from the right, Wall Street voting trends took to voting Obama, Colin Powell cut ties with his party and that once hardcore Hegelian neo-liberal Francis Fukuyama put the final touches to destroying his illusion that libertarianism would be the final stage in history.

Celebrations all round, but this is all enough to see a problem. Obama running on a broad centre-left ticket with major support (and unbelievable amounts of funding) from those with natural centre-right tendencies. Its hardly surprising that today’s healthcare reform troubles have taken effect in the states.

Cox’ lecture is slightly before the Hannan incident and the complete uproar that took place, but certainly the mood change had registered with him. It was necessary to remember that even with Obama’s majority and initial popularity, the administration had to be prepared to engage in a war of ideas – even if attitudes were not necessarily in their court.

Though not from a naturally sympathetic source, Fred Barnes of Fox News has suggested plausible figures that Democrat popularity has slumped over recent weeks (now down to 49%) while the Republicans – who have gone all out on the issue of healthcare, even at the expense of sanity as with the case of Sarah Palin and her bellowing calls of ‘death panels’ – have stayed put at a consistent 40%.

Encouraging as it is that the Democrats still lead significantly, trends reveal that they might be losing the argument. I can’t help being pessimisstic about the whole situation, but the problem has been cooking since many voters – who usually have their houses on the right – felt that Obama was in debt to them, now they want their political currency back. And since one can find an infinite amount of problems with suggesting that the Singapore style is better for the world than the NHS, or that death panels determining the fate of the American public is the only possible alternative to leaving that decision in the hands of the invisible hand of circumstance, and with the soundness of the pro-reform Democrat argument, I’m sceptical of whether Obama’s efforts will amount to anything in the short-term. Unfortunately, it looks as though the plans will have to be shelved like Hillary Clinton’s plans were during Bill’s attempt at reshaping healthcare.

This is no slur on the Democrat side of the argument – plain to see that there are huge problems that such a huge, rich nation, should deny all its inhabitants free health care – but a large portion of the public have been struck dumb by dumb ideas. Given the landscape of Obama’s vote, a problem was bound to pop up at some point, and this is it.

The Tory showdown in Europe continues

There is a terrifically entertaining showdown, known and acknowledged for some time now, but none the less being added to on a regular basis on the subject of the Tories in Europe.

It started with the Tories breaking with the pro-European conservatives that made up the European Peoples Party detailed here.

It joined ranks with some unsavoury characters, unsavoury to the extent that it figures out that the BNP have not acheived a grouping of their own in Europe.

As a result of unsettled relations in the new anti-federalist grouping to which the Tories are now joined to (the ECR European Conservatives and Reformists), Michel Kaminski, a controversial figure, of Polands Law and Justice Party leads the group, detailed here.

Kaminski’s character is of great interest. He is now unable to deny calls of anti-semitism against him despite the best efforts of right-wing Tories such as Dan Hannan who has also been known to stick up for other unpalatable types in Europe, such as the far-right Spanish group Alternativa Espanola. I’m sure he will not be too fussed over the charges that Kaminski was a fan of General Pinochet for, like Thatcher, Hannan’s free trade support and cosiness with “cranks” knows little in the way of bounds. But surely what is likely to get Hannan’s goat is that Kaminski has recently been won around on the benefits of the Lisbon Treaty. Hannan and William Hague will bend over backwards to show Kaminski as a reformer, but did they think he’d go full circle on the question of Europe?

Jewish groups have questioned Cameron’s future (more here) and Obama might not be too enthusiastic either about sharing an international platform with a leader engaged with such untrusting friends in Europe, despite the attempts to show otherwise.

What will happen next?

Ah ha! I, also, find out from LibCon that (“Straight Talking”) Roger Helmer MEP has denied the existence of homophobia in a blog entry, whilst pictured with Kaminski, inasmuch as nobody he has ever met has actually been physically afraid of homosexuals. That should help the Tories present their case that Kaminski is a moderniser who only opposed same-sex marriage because he is not scared of gay people. Carry on.