Clearing up a Confusion around Immigration

There are several elements to the confusion surrounding immigration.

One element is this: that we in the ‘developed’ world have systematically stolen the resources, crippled the economies and destroyed the infrastructure of the ‘developing’ world, and so of course people will be drawn to where that wealth has ended up. This element has been covered quite well by other writers so I won’t cover it here.

However there is another element that many progressive writers seem not to understand fully – I want to look at that element.

Why are a significant fraction of the British working class very worried about immigration? It could be put down to their racism or xenophobia, and that’s certainly a part of it. Racism, and notions of English superiority, were systematically installed on White English people in order to build the British Empire. Similarly the Scots, Welsh and Cornish, were encouraged to take on a White British identity, though with a slightly lower status than the English. A layered structure of wealth and status is an essential part of all systems of divide and rule.

Racism as we know it (‘white racism’) didn’t exist before the British Empire (and similar European empires). Something had to be invented to break the natural human connection between the British working class and the people they were being asked to kill and steal from. The British had light skins and all the people we were colonising at that time had darker skins, so a racism based on skin colour was the obvious choice for that particular project.

However, separate from any racism and xenophobia, British working class people are worried about reduced wages and unemployment due to immigration. These worries may be accurate or not, but it is wrong to treat these concerns as if they are just part of their racism.

Many immigrants are poor and desperate. Because of this they are often willing to work for lower wages and conditions than British workers. The section of people who own large businesses generally want and need immigration. This is partly so they can use immigrants as cheap labour, but the much bigger reason is that the presence (or even simply the idea) of immigrants willing to work for low pay tends to make the much larger group of British workers to accept less too. For this reason the real target of the scapegoating of immigrants in the mainstream media is the British working class.

In order for this particular system of divide and rule to work, British workers must be kept in opposition to immigrants. Thus the intense and divisive focus on immigration by the mainstream media and by the political parties that represent the interests of the owning class (including some of the Labour Party).

So, even though the owning class want and need the immigration of poor people, at the same time they also need their representatives in the media and politics to appear to take a strong stance against it.

(As always, when I say the owning class ‘want and need immigration’, I am referring to their narrow and short-sighted economic self interest, not their real human interest, which would be a human society that works for everyone.)

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