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John Simkin

Immigration and the Economy

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Interesting article by David Goodhart that looks at the economic benefits of immigration. It includes the following:

Supporters of large-scale immigration now focus on the quantifiable economic benefits, appealing to the self-interest rather than the idealism of the host population. While it is true that some immigration is beneficial - neither the NHS nor the building industry could survive without it - many of the claimed benefits of mass immigration are challenged by economists such as Adair Turner and Richard Layard. It is clear, for example, that immigration is no long-term solution to an ageing population for the simple reason that immigrants grow old, too. Keeping the current age structure constant over the next 50 years, and assuming today's birth rate, would require 60m immigrants. Managing an ageing society requires a package of later retirement, rising productivity and limited immigration. Large-scale immigration of unskilled workers does allow native workers to bypass the dirtiest and least rewarding jobs but it also increases inequality, does little for per capita growth, and skews benefits in the host population to employers and the better-off.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1154693,00.html

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If ppl do not come to the UK to take up jobs, the jobs can just as easily migrate. Free movement of capital is part of globalisation. The import of people is visible and exercises the far right, the export of capital is less visible but the jobs vanish.

Neither immigration nor immigration controls provide an economic solution to anything. The political consequences of immigration controls on the other hand are quite clear. The government have been panicked by the tabloid hysteria into introducing controls. The right wing can say the government "are not doing enough" because the government has taken its own steps on the road of racism it emboldens the Conservatives and in turn the BNP who are the biggest beneficiaries of this policy.

For example, David Blunkett talks hysterically about services being "swamped" by asylum-seekers (ignoring of course the fact that half of the nurses and a a quarter of the doctors were born overseas - so who is swamping whom?). The BNP sieze enthusiastically on Blunkett's statements and denounce him for being "soft on asylum" for his pains. Blair and Blunkett have legitimated arguments which used to be confined to the extreme right.

Derek McMillan

socialist

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If ppl do not come to the UK to take up jobs, the jobs can just as easily migrate.  Free movement of capital is part of globalisation.  The import of people is visible and exercises the far right, the export of capital is less visible but the jobs vanish.

Neither immigration nor immigration controls provide an economic solution to anything.  The political consequences of immigration controls on the other hand are quite clear. The government have been panicked by the tabloid hysteria into introducing controls.  The right wing can say the government "are not doing enough" because the government has taken its own steps on the road of racism it emboldens the Conservatives and in turn the BNP who are the biggest beneficiaries of this policy.

Derek McMillan

socialist

It is true that the far right and the tabloid press are trying to exploit the issues of immigration and asylum seekers. However, I am not convinced by the economics arguments put forward by the left. The sort of jobs that are being done by this people cannot be exported. If they could, they would be. Capitalists know this is impossible so that is why they are currently advocating a system that allows them to import cheap labour.

I was a printer in the 1960s. Our union always controlled the number of printers that could be trained. This enabled the union to control the number of people seeking work and in this way obtained high wages and full employment for its members. The decline in the power and status of print workers dates back to when the union gave away these rights in exchange for a big pay increase.

I am surprised that the left are not concerned by the impact that the importation of foreign labour is having on British low-paid workers. While employers are allowed to import cheap labour unskilled workers will be unable to force up their wages. This is a strategy that capitalists have always adopted to reduce the power of trade unions. This is why the left in America has been traditionally in favour of immigration controls. It might not be very socialistic but it is a policy that favours the working class.

People in skilled jobs, on good wages, living in privately owned houses in middle class areas with very few immigrants might not be too concerned about the numbers entering the country. However, the poor living in run down areas of Britain, have every reason to be concerned by these developments. My fear is that unless the major political parties address their legitimate concerns they will be tempted to vote for the Conservatives/BNP in future elections.

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People in skilled jobs, on good wages, living in privately owned houses in middle class areas with very few immigrants might not be too concerned about the numbers entering the country. However, the poor living in run down areas of Britain, have every reason to be concerned by these developments. My fear is that unless the major political parties address their legitimate concerns they will be tempted to vote for the Conservatives/BNP in future elections.

On the contrary, the poor living in run down areas are being encouraged to vent their anger on racial minorities in lieu of the real culprits. When a corporation exports jobs or imports cheap labour it is the corporation's drive for profit which is causing the problem. To attack or victimise the ppl they are exploiting is adding insult to injury.

Secondly if the working class is divided on racial lines, the employers can guarantee a docile workforce.

An alternative strategy to attacking immigrants is to seek to unionise the immigrant workforce. In the North Irish labour was brought in to undercut the wages of the indigenous workers. Within a generation the Irish workers became the backbone of the trade union movement and the Labour Party (when there was a party of Labour in this country!) In Gateshead the Labour colours (traditionally red) were green as a recognition of this.

Migrant labour is notoriously difficult to organise. But not impossible. The example of the IWW in the united states in the early 20th century shows what is possible....and it is only possible if trade unions are not contaminated with racism.

I was a printer in the 1970s and the craft unions were ultimately defeated by a combination of factors including divisions between trade unions and the blatant intervention of the state to ensure Murdoch's anti-labour policies were enforced. The narrow craft outlook of the printing union leaders contributed to the problem.

The pursuit of sectional interests blinds trade unions to the greater good and as St Augustine said that is the genesis of evil!

Derek McMillan

socialist

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An alternative strategy to attacking immigrants is to seek to unionise the immigrant workforce.  In the North Irish labour was brought in to undercut the wages of the indigenous workers. Within a generation the Irish workers became the backbone of the trade union movement and the Labour Party (when there was a party of Labour in this country!) In Gateshead the Labour colours (traditionally red) were green as a recognition of this.

Migrant labour is notoriously difficult to organise. But not impossible. The example of the IWW in the united states in the early 20th century shows what is possible....and it is only possible if trade unions are not contaminated with racism.

You are right to suggest that socialists in America at the beginning of the 20th century made strenuous efforts to unionise immigrants working in low paid jobs. This was not actually very difficult to do as these workers came from countries with a long tradition of trade unionism. The main problem for organizations like the Industrial Workers of the World was the persecution they suffered (including the lynching of union organizers). All the early left-wing political parties in America were dominated by European immigrants (Socialist Labor Party, Social Democratic Party, Socialist Party of America, Communist Party of America etc). In fact, the left in America would have hardly existed without immigrants from Russia, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Ireland, etc. (it is interesting that immigrants from England and France played only a very small role in this).

The situation of Britain today is very different. These low-paid workers are often temporary workers and not immigrants as such. Even the immigrants rarely come from countries that have a tradition of trade unionism or democratic institutions. Many come from former communist countries where unions were controlled by the state. They are unlikely to see unions as a means of improving their standard of living. Anyway, if they joined unions they would just price themselves out of a job. They will also be under considerable pressure from their employers not to join unions. This is one of the reasons these employers prefer to employ illegal immigrants than local workers.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAiww.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAsocialistL.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAsocialistD.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAsocialismP.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAiww.htm

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I was also able to give a home-grown example of the unionisation of irish labour brought over as cheap labour but ending up being the backbone of the unions. They certainly did not migrate from a highly unionised environment.

However the precedent is not the real issue. The issue is how the trade unions can tackle the problem. If they adopt immigration controls as a policy there are several problems:

1) They wouldn't do it.

2) Far from pacifying the far right it would just add to the credibility of their racist argument ("look your union leaders agree with us now.")

3) It would militate against recruiting immigrant or migrant labour into the unions.

4) The real reason - it is wrong. It is contrary to the principle of solidarity without which there can be no trade unionism.

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