The Brexit vote delivered a splendid blow by workers against British imperialism. Unfortunately, many of those who voted for it were influenced by the cancerous xenophobia that presently affects some sections of the British proletariat.
This nasty and highly-publicised aspect of the Brexit campaign led many decent people to vote to remain in the EU, simply to avoid being tainted by association. In doing so, however, they were associating with an even greater evil – the murderous, warmongering, exploitative, oppressive – and, indeed, xenophobic – interests of imperialism.
The CPGB-ML is as resolutely opposed to the European Union as it is to xenophobia, both of which are bitter enemies of the working class.
Xenophobia severely hampers workers’ struggle for liberation. It is routinely used by imperialism to trick us into giving support to unjust wars of aggression against countries that stand in the way of the maximisation of imperialist profit, as well as for colonial wars to subjugate other countries and control their resources.
If workers have been convinced of the wickedness and/or inferiority of their brothers and sisters abroad, they can be more easily mobilised to risk life and limb on behalf of imperialist interests.
Xenophobia enables the miniscule ruling capitalist class to maintain its class rule in spite of the harm its capitalist economic system inflicts daily on the majority of the population.
Foreigners are constantly blamed for the lack of jobs, low wages and poor social provision that are caused by capitalism, and workers are urged by bourgeois politicians and media alike to swallow the lie that if it wasn’t for ‘all the immigrants’ there would be jobs available at high wages for all native-born Britons, along with readily available housing at affordable rents and a decent level of social provision.
Capitalism is the problem
The truth, however, is that capitalism, in its desperate drive to push down production costs, must inevitably try to push down wages and social provision, too – not only to maximise profits, but also to survive the competition from its rivals and to win the struggle over markets.
If immigration were stopped tomorrow and average wages rose, it would not be long before enterprises presently relying on cheap labour closed down altogether, with their capitalist owners either being driven out of business and/or deciding that their money was better invested abroad and/or investing in new machinery that would lessen the need to hire workers.
That is why, despite the constant increase in productivity (which ought to lead to a shorter working day and higher living standards for all of us), living standards for workers continue to be pushed relentlessly downwards all over the world.
According to Oxfam: “In 2015, just 62 individuals had the same wealth as 3.6 billion people – the bottom half of humanity. The figure is down from 388 individuals as recently as 2010. Since the turn of the century, the poorest half of the world’s population has received just 1 percent of the total increase in global wealth, while half of that increase has gone to the top 1 percent.”
Foreign and native-born workers alike suffer as a result of this downward pressure on wages and benefits, whatever country’s labour force they happen to belong to. Our only possible defence is our ability to fight back – an ability that is lost if the working class is divided against itself, whether on xenophobic lines or any other basis.
Far from exciting hatred, working-class immigrants to this country should be treated with sympathy, since it is clear that the overwhelming majority who leave their countries of origin only do so because they feel they must in order to escape poverty, starvation, persecution or war.
Just like us, they love their families and are simply doing whatever they can to take care of them and secure their futures.
So long as capitalism exists, so long will workers have to fight every inch of the way to maintain reasonable living standards for themselves and their families – and will periodically suffer real deprivation as a result of battles being lost.
So long as capitalism exists, there will always be a reserve army of unemployed – both of local people and of people abroad – who are desperate for work. Competition among workers for jobs is built into the capitalist system, and so the proletariat must not allow itself to be tricked into believing that it is other workers who are the enemy.
The sole and only cause of this desperate situation is the continued survival of the capitalist system, which stands convicted of an utter inability to cater to the even the most basic needs of the overwhelming majority of humanity.
If capitalism was overthrown and replaced by a planned, socialist economy, in which all society’s resources were used to provide for the needs of the working people and their families, there would be no such thing as unemployment and no such thing as competition for jobs.
Every person would be found something essential to do, and all labour would enrich the whole of society.
Although all socialist countries to date have had to face unceasing attempts by powerful internal and external enemies to sabotage their economies – through war, sanctions and terrorism – they have still been able to perform miracles in building up their productive capacity.
In the decade from 1928-38, for example, the Soviet Union was able to turn itself from a backward peasant nation into a superpower, even though a catastrophic economic crisis much like the one we face today was gripping the capitalist world, decimating productive capacity, destroying workers’ lives and leading inexorably to WW2.
Because of the fierce, cruel and ruthless resistance of the exploiters – whose wealth gives them control of the capitalist world’s governments, armies, police forces, judiciary and propaganda media – overthrowing capitalism is never going to be easy. Without doing so, however, the future for the world’s workers looks bleak indeed.
In the words of Joseph Stalin: “Either place yourself at the mercy of capital, eke out a wretched existence as of old and sink lower and lower, or adopt a new weapon – this is the alternative imperialism puts before the vast masses of the proletariat. Imperialism brings the working class to revolution.”
Throughout human history, all minority ruling classes have been experts in the technique of Divide and Rule, since that is the only way for a small class to keep its power over an exploited majority. In the fight of the working class for the new society, the reactionary imperialist bourgeoisie, which reaps all the benefits of the present society, will be greatly assisted in its efforts to hang on to power by all and any divisions it can exploit within the working class.
For its part, the proletariat needs to hold tight to the motto Unity is Strength, and utterly reject the siren songs of racism and xenophobia.
YES to Brexit; NO to xenophobia!