Opinionista Patrick Craven 17 September 2015

Capitalism is to blame for Europe’s refugee crisis

While Fortress Europe has become the media’s focal point of the world migration crisis, every other continent is witnessing varying degrees of human suffering caused by people’s need to migrate to a place where it is hoped life will be better. Ivo Vegter deliberately tries to shift responsibility for the crisis from the world capitalist system which must take 100% of the blame for poverty, social chaos and mass migration, and the rise of racist and xenophobic right-wing parties.

It had to take 71 dead bodies on a lorry in Austria and a three-year-old drowned toddler to finally convince the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) to call an emergency meeting on the immigration crisis.

In July this year, 107,500 migrants reached EU borders – the highest number ever. The UN estimates that so far this year more than 300,000 have risked crossing the Mediterranean. Of these, at least 2,500 have died.

The immense suffering of these human beings is a gruesome spectacle we see on television – men, women, children, babies and very old people fleeing wars, extreme poverty and political, social and economic chaos.

They are so determined to flee from their backgrounds that any risk is worth taking – drowning at sea, starving to death in deserts, rape, and attacks by hostile right-wing citizens in their countries of destination.

While Fortress Europe has become the media’s focal point of the world migration crisis, every other continent is witnessing varying degrees of human suffering caused by people’s need to migrate to a place where it is hoped life will be better.

More migrants are flocking into the US, legally and illegally, and the point will be reached when an explosion is inevitable. The coming 2016 elections will be dominated by the position candidates take on the number of undocumented immigrants into the US, with political arguments between two extremes – arrest them and kick them, out or regularise their stay in the country.

We also read harrowing stories about the problems many Africans face in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Racism, police negative-profiling, and social exclusion are some of the ways by which these Africans are made aware of the fact that they are not welcome.

Africa too is home to a huge number of refugees. The political, social and economic chaos endemic to the African continent guarantees that this will be true for a long time to come. Civil wars are simply the end result of the impossibility of securing a decent life for the majority of the people.

This mass movement of people demands a serious debate on its cause and solutions. We therefore welcome the opportunity to reply to an article by Ivo Vegter in the Daily Maverick on 8 September 2015 – Migration and the rise of white consciousness while strongly disagreeing with most of his conclusions.

On the positive side, Vegter demolishes some of the myths propagated by the racist and xenophobic right-wingers, who are gaining support in Europe, America and other developed countries, including that: “There is also no evidence that immigration is a systematic threat to the economies of destination countries. On the contrary, immigrants are generally hard-working and ambitious, and bring in more tax revenue than they consume in social services. This is true for the US, where social services are fewer, the population is younger, and the productivity rate is higher than across the pond, but it is also true for European countries.”

The facts in support of this view from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development could have laid the basis for a good analysis of the problem and an answer to the arguments of the racist right wing.

But Vegter then takes a dramatically wrong turn, when he tries to argue: “Ironically, however, the political left may be in part to blame for the reactionary rise of white racism on the right.” And: “Like with racists on the right and race-conscious social justice campaigners on the left, the irony is that in the long run, both sides are wrong.” And: “Those who care about social justice on the left would do well to placate their opponents on the right, if only as an effort in realpolitik intended to allay xenophobic fears and soften their attitudes towards immigrant.”

This attempt to attribute equal blame to the left and the right reveals an astonishing lack of knowledge about the ‘left’ and even greater ignorance about ‘socialism’.

This is further reinforced when, after saying that half of the refugees come from Syria, he says: “Most of the other half comes from other hotspots of war, corruption, and socialism, such as Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Yemen, and Somalia.”

War and corruption indeed, but not one of those countries can be remotely regarded as ‘socialist’ and Vegter does not define which countries he is referring to or what policies he regards as ‘socialist’.

Then, talking of the developed European nations, he claims that “Europe is notoriously unproductive compared to the large sovereign debt burden run up by costly socialist policies” and “the rich world is already paying dearly for its extravagant socialist utopias”.

What is he talking about? These are all 100% capitalist countries, governed by right-wing parties, who are systematically ending even the limited social welfare reforms which were implemented in more prosperous times. They were certainly not ‘socialist’, given that the countries’ underlying capitalist basis remained solid.

Yet Vegter argues that ‘the left’ and ‘socialists’ in the countries at both ends of the migration routes share equal responsibility for the current crisis, despite the fact that not one of these countries can by any standards can be regarded as ‘socialist’ and Vegter can produce no evidence to back up his bizarre argument.

The only explanation is that he hasn’t the faintest idea what ‘socialism’ is! A good clue to this bizarre view is contained in The Daily Maverick’s mini biography of Vegter: “He writes on this and many other matters, from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets. He is seldom wrong.” Well I’m afraid he is grotesquely wrong about the policies of the left and socialists, which is not surprising from someone who writes from this capitalist perspective.

This staunch defender of capitalism is deliberately trying to shift responsibility for the crisis from the world capitalist system which must take 100% of the blame for poverty, social chaos and mass migration, and the rise of racist and xenophobic right-wing parties.

One hundred and sixty-seven years ago, in 1848, two gentlemen who today would be citizens of the EU perfectly described the globalised economy which capitalism was creating even then and even more so today: “The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood … In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations … National one-sidedness and narrow- mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.”

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels had the answer to the questions the EU ministers will be asking: You cannot create fenced fortresses in the age of global production and consumption of both goods and ideas. You cannot win the fight against migrants! Having replaced old wants with new wants, you should not be surprised that all human beings want the same things, and will get them!

The world migrant crisis is a symptom of the inevitably uneven and combined development of the capitalist system. It condemns billions of people to perpetual grinding misery while lavishing a tiny minority with untold wealth. It is this inequality that fuels migration to ‘better’ parts of the world.

The crisis is a product of consciously created poverty – the dispossession, oppression and exploitation of the greater part of humanity by a few, which simultaneously creates mass human poverty and enclosed havens of wealth – which is essential to capitalism, as is unemployment which helps to keep down the price of labour and increase profits.

There is a solution to this problem. The world must get rid of the tiny capitalist class who are forcing humanity into the cattle kraals, which the modern state has become. The first step is for the working and middle classes of the richer countries to recognise that their billionaire enslavers are preventing them from being fully human by keeping them separate from their fellow human beings in all parts of the Earth.

In the poor areas of the world we need to unite against the collaborators with the world capitalist class – the unproductive parasites who keep us locked up in our prisons of hell in our so-called ‘countries’ where we are not assured of a meal a day.

Without this unity of the peoples of the world, the unity of global money will continue to churn out the misery and suffering of migrants.

We expect nothing more than further efforts to separate the world’s peoples, deploy more police, more electric fences and more repatriations to come from the interior ministers of the EU in their meeting on 14 September. DM

Patrick Craven is a former Congress of South African Trade Unions spokesperson and a supporter of the Movement for Socialism.

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