Racism is an odious concept based upon the supposed superiority of persons of one race or skin colour over another, or of one place of birth over another. It infests the working class in thousands of ways, building barriers between us. It is a tool in the hands of the ruling class to blunt our resistance to their exploitation of us, and they (or more precisely their lackeys within the working class) are very skilful in the use of this tool.
An excellent ploy for the bourgeoisie when the inevitable periodic crisis of overproduction (the gaps between are growing shorter and the period of actual crisis is getting longer and more destructive with every cycle) rears its ugly head is to blame increased unemployment and all the horrors that come with it on immigrants or overseas workers.
This has two obvious advantages to the bourgeoisie: First, the destruction of possible unity of workers as the usual competition between them is suddenly lifted to new heights to counter the common-sense lessons of the crisis, ie, that capitalism does not work for the vast majority.
Second, in this atmosphere of heightened intolerance towards ‘foreign’ workers, the government of the day, formed from whichever bourgeois party or parties (they are all loyal representatives of the ruling class), can make a show of ‘succumbing’ to the ‘demand’ for tighter, stiffer immigration controls that they themselves have spent decades fostering amongst ‘British’ workers.
This does not, nor is it intended to, stop immigration. It does, however, mean that many immigrants find that the only way to work in the centres of imperialism, often the difference between survival or not, is to become ‘illegal’. The ‘illegal’ worker can be exploited to a far greater degree than a worker with rights, and even if s/he is caught (some have to be caught and expelled to keep the threat real for the others), it is the ‘illegal’ immigrant who pays the price. The employer, who has made all the decisions about who works and in what conditions, faces only a minimal fine.
That racism is only for the consumption and stupefaction of the working classes can be seen from the latest government plans regarding immigration rules for the very rich. On 6 February 2011, the Financial Times published an article on its internet edition, according to which, “The Home Office will shortly propose changes to ‘investor visas’ to encourage more rich people to live and invest in the UK.” (‘UK entry rules set to be relaxed for the super-rich’ by by Alice Ross and Elizabeth Rigby)
The worth of anyone for the bourgeoisie depends on the colour of their money rather than the colour of their skin. There are, of course, contradictions between all capitalists as they all seek monopoly, but they would certainly never let petty differences like race or colour get in the way of what was in their class interest.
The Financial Times article contrasted this policy with the slashing of numbers of foreign students being allowed into the country, much to the horror of universities, which now depend almost solely on tuition fees and business partnerships for income (foreign students pay up to three times as much in fees). It also pointed to the cutting of “the number of skilled workers British business can import from outside the European Union by one-fifth compared with last year. In addition, only 1,000 highly skilled workers without a job offer will be allowed to migrate to the UK, compared with 14,000 a year ago. ”
This is compared with the proposals, which are expected to be endorsed by Parliament, whereby “wealthy migrants will from April only have to spend half a year in the country – against nine months under current rules – to qualify for a visa, and the wait for permanent residency will be dramatically cut for the wealthiest entrants”.
Ms Ross and Rigby continued by pointing out that “The government, which has already exempted ‘high net worth individuals’ and entrepreneurs from the new cap on non-European migration, is determined to increase the flow of wealthy immigrants.”
And further, that “under the proposals, investors bringing in £10m would qualify for permanent residency within two years. Individuals with at least £5m would qualify in three and those with £1m would qualify after five years. At present, anyone on an investor visa has to stay at least five years before being eligible. ”
Of course, just attracting rich people to live here does not mean that they will invest their money here. The article quoted a Whitehall insider as saying that “The incentives represented an obvious effort to bolster the economy, although those granted permanent residency would then be free to take their money out of the UK.”
There are no easy routes through the current crisis for the bourgeoisie, but the information in the Financial Times article shows definitively that our rulers really do have nothing against immigration so long as it suits their needs.
We must learn the lesson that immigrants do not pose a threat to workers, either. That, on the contrary, they constitute a battle-hardened reserve for us in the fight against imperialism. This fight is one we will share with all workers, whether in Britain or abroad, and the quicker we realise that our future is tied up with them and not with the exploiters who claim the same land of birth as us, or who might share a skin colour or language, the sooner the British working class can start playing a useful role in that fight against imperialism and the greater will be its chances of success.