Imperialism’s wars abroad are once more bringing problems into its own back yard, after the displacement of millions from conflict zones worldwide, in combination with draconian immigration laws, has led to mass homelessness and deprivation around the British border control in Calais.
Over a thousand refugees have recently been forced to set up primitive camps around Calais with next to no food, water or shelter. Their presence is a direct result of the turmoil that British and French imperialism have helped to spread across Africa and the Middle East at the barrel of their insatiable guns.
Despite having created this problem through their unquenchable thirst for oil and domination, the governments of both Britain and France have completely failed to deal with the resultant humanitarian crisis. And now that a tiny minority of those displaced by imperialist war are seeking refuge in Britain, the refugees who have managed to reach Calais are being scapegoated and used as a fear-mongering tool by our racist, divisive media and politicians.
Crisis in Calais
As early as the beginning of August, reports began to appear in the corporate media of clashes and disruption between groups of migrants in and around Calais. Less than a month later, bourgeois newspapers and broadcasters erupted in a belligerent frenzy, branding Calais a ‘war zone’ and using this as an excuse to call for even tighter restrictions at British borders.
As a result of the fact that border controls are already impossibly tight, several desperate attempts have been made by migrants to escape the squalor in which they have been forced to find temporary refuge. Known as ‘the Jungle’, even this glorified concentration camp has had to be defended against the attacks of the French far right, the French police force and the last two French governments – particularly the former UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) government under Sarkozy and the current UMP mayor of Calais.
Imperialist media have taken great pleasure in twisting the refugees’ attempts to survive and find peace into their trademark xenophobic narrative, presenting them as desperate criminals that civilised Europeans need to be protected from.
Equally, they have done their all to prevent any outside knowledge of the realities of life for immigrants in Calais, concealing the ongoing campaign of police harassment and violence that serves most inhumanly to extend and exacerbate the suffering of so many exhausted, war-torn families.
On the ground, French border police and riot police are guilty of conducting a war of attrition against the migrants in Calais; a war that is routinely characterised by beatings, tear-gassing, shelter destruction and violent discrimination on grounds of both colour and religion.
Migrants and their supporters demonstrated valiantly against these atrocities at the beginning of September, demanding simple human rights and an end to racist police brutality. Within hours, however, the demonstrators were once again confronted by the combined forces of the barbarous French riot police and right-wing vigilante groups.
Racist war on the working class
In the public eye, the imperialist governments have exchanged the blame for the outcome whilst keeping very tight lipped about the humanitarian crisis that underpins the problem. Instead of looking at the root causes – British and French wars in Africa and the Middle East – British MPs have blamed the problem on France having “lost control of its borders”, whilst French officials have accused Britain of being “too soft on immigration”.
In reality, however, having wreaked havoc on Syria, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Djibouti and Mali (to name only a handful of the states that have been targeted in recent years), both British and French governments bear ultimate responsibility for the crisis at hand.
Over 3 million Syrian refugees have been forced to flee the country following the imperialist-backed attempt to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s government, as well as over 4 million who have been displaced internally. Moreover, the number is only increasing in both Syria and Iraq, with the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) – itself the product of imperialism’s campaign against Syria.
The vast majority of these refugees have been absorbed locally. Syria, for example, was home to several million Iraqi and Palestinian refugees following the last round of imperialist wars in the region, and before it, too, was singled out for attack. Many of these are now being forced to move on again – to a far less friendly welcome in Lebanon or Jordan, for example. Only a tiny proportion of the displaced ever arrive on the shores of the imperialist countries whose rulers have initiated the destruction of their lives, the murder of their relatives, and the looting of their home countries’ wealth.
And yet the hysterical cry set up by imperialist media and politicians alike would give any ordinary worker in Britain the impression that this country is about to be ‘overrun’ by ‘free-loaders’ who will suck our health and education systems dry, while claiming ‘unearned’ benefits and occupying ‘undeserved’ social housing.
The truth is quite the reverse. It is British and other imperialist powers that are sucking the rest of the world dry. And, to add insult to injury, wherever they face any resistance to their looting, they send in their soldiers – whether local mercenaries or ‘official’ armies – backed up by the awesome firepower of their fighter jets, bomber planes, assassinator drones and helicopter gunships, to rain death and destruction while poisoning the land, air and water with depleted uranium, white phosphorus and innumerable other deadly toxins.
No amount of refugees ‘coming over here’ could ever cost the British ruling class what it gains in looting the wealth and stealing the resources of those who are made homeless and poverty-stricken through its crimes. If Britain quietly accepted its ‘share’ of those displaced, most of us would never know the difference.
‘Benefit fraud’ – indeed, the entire benefit bill – pales into insignificance beside the amount of tax avoided and evaded in various ways by our homegrown leeching capitalist class. Council housing is running out because it has been sold off, not because of the need to house immigrants. The welfare state is being scrapped because that has been the deliberate policy of the ruling class ever since the world overproduction crisis set in in the late 1970s. (Hence the Thatcher government’s attacks on the unions, selling off of council homes and privatisation of various services, and the acceleration of all these ‘reforms’ under every subsequent government, whether Labour or Tory.)
Meanwhile, unemployment has been a feature of capitalism from the time that the system came into existence – a very desirable side-effect for the masters of capital, since it keeps wages down by means of a fierce competition among too many workers for not enough jobs. If every ‘immigrant’ (even supposing we could work out where to draw the line) were to be thrown out of Britain tomorrow, all these attacks on our pay, services, pensions and conditions of life would continue, and unemployment would continue to be a never-ending source of worry and insecurity to the masses of British workers.
Instead of recognising the truth of all this, our rulers do everything possible to blind us to the realities. The draconian border controls insisted on by our governments, and the media hysteria surrounding their implementation and consequences, mean that we are regularly brought face-to-face with such artificially-created ‘crises’ as the one at Calais – and overwhelmed and distracted by the fake ‘debate’ surrounding their solution. In the meantime, those who have already suffered so much at the hands of imperialist looting and war are forced to suffer even more, and are, into the bargain, used as fuel for the yet more racist and divisive propaganda.
It is the job of all progressive people to point out one simple fact to workers in Britain: that racism and immigration controls exist merely to divide the working class and weaken its resistance to capitalist rule. The weaker the ruling class feels itself to be; the deeper its crisis bites and the further it is driven into a warmongering frenzy to try to save its collapsing system, the more it is compelled to ramp up its racist propaganda drive to try to convince us to blame each other rather than to turn our united fire on the capitalists and their senile rule.
Communists need to oppose everything that plays to this agenda. Border controls will not save the NHS or any other public services. They will not bring us housing or job security, decent pensions or a civilised and equal future for our children. Only a united and organised movement to overthrow capitalism can do that. And such a movement will embrace every worker in Britain – those who were born here and those who arrived last week. We all have everything to gain in overcoming our differences and working together to end British imperialism’s international reign of terror.