Demonized and Deported, Both Parties Blame Immigrants
“There are an estimated 232 million international migrants and 740 million internal migrants in the world.” — World Migration Report, 2015
Unprecedented numbers of unemployed are forced to migrate from the countryside into their country’s festering slums, or across borders and oceans into other countries, hoping to survive or maybe prosper, as some immigrants have. But today they face a globalized capitalist class, which runs factories with more robots and fewer people, pushing millions of workers worldwide out of production and into the growing class of the permanently jobless and impoverished. Until this new global proletariat sees itself as the mighty class force it can become, it won’t defeat its enemy’s strategy of dividing it by color, immigration status, language or religion.
“Globalization,” capitalism in the age of electronics, is destroying the foundations of capitalism itself, generating the tidal wave of migration, which has become a central issue in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Every politician tells voters he or she will get back their disappearing jobs by improving the economy and cracking down on “illegal immigration.” But leaks of government documents show that both Republican and Democratic officials are preparing for repression against the inevitable struggles of this new class for the basic necessities of life, whatever their citizenship. The immigration debates reflect the reality that migration is a huge, growing phenomenon, which is changing the patterns of ethnicity, language, and culture in many societies around the world. The debates are also a tool of the ruling class to deflect blame for the way they are reorganizing economies and governments in the interests of globalization.
Immigration and the Elections
A major aspect of the presidential campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is linking immigration to two great fears many Americans have: fear of unemployment and terrorism. Trump employs the more classic fascist approach made familiar in the Depression era, turning economic fears about joblessness into political fear of specific groups such as Muslim and Mexican immigrants. Since racism and religious discrimination have deep roots in our nation’s history, this agitation has inevitably ignited some acts of violence, shocking many people into supporting Hillary Clinton, because they perceive her as the anti-fascist candidate. But that is a serious mistake – Clinton’s politics are really a form of a new 21st century fascism that is no less dangerous than Trump. We’ve already seen how the NAFTA trade treaty proposed under George H. W. Bush was passed under Bill Clinton, and how wars initiated by Republican presidents were continued by Obama, with the support of his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
There is no reason to believe that the debate over immigration will turn out differently. In fact, Trump has already adjusted some of his positions to move closer to Clinton’s. Democrats insist that a vote for Trump is a vote to uphold anti-immigrant racism. But the Democratic leadership’s strategy for the struggle against racism also undermines that struggle, by keeping it separated from the struggle against the class exploitation and impoverishment of Americans of all colors. It’s true that without unity against racism, the poorest workers cannot end poverty. It’s also true that without unity against working class impoverishment across color lines, the class will never be strong enough to end racist immigration policies. When the only response to right-wing Republican populism is identity politics and the left-wing populism of the Democrats, workers end up confused and divided. Trump’s attacks will misdirect some white workers into fighting their conditions by supporting anti-immigrant discrimination. Meanwhile Clinton loudly opposes anti-immigrant and anti-Latino discrimination, without exposing the causes of the growing poverty among white workers that Trump is falsely tapping into.
Washington Post reporter Jeff Guo studied primary election voting patterns and found that “economic distress in many parts of the country is driving voters toward Donald Trump” and that he was more likely to have won votes in “the places that lost a lot of manufacturing jobs since 1999.” He also found that Trump got the most votes in areas where whites have begun to die at an earlier age than they used to. Princeton social scientists Anne Case and Angus Deaton found areas where death rates for middle-aged white Americans were increasing, while death rates for middle-aged African Americans and Latinos were improving and getting closer to the rates for whites. Guo reported that Trump performed the best in exactly those areas. This indicates that many white workers, who are suffering under capitalism, vote for Trump because they see that the Democrats are not dealing with their suffering and not because they are racial “haters.” But that’s exactly what they might become, if the only political analysis of their own plight comes from fascists, while so-called progressives only talk to them about someone else’s suffering.
An Objective Basis for Class Unity
Unlike during the period of 20th century fascism, working class unity today is more than just a dream or a demand; it is the only way to actually ensure survival for millions of people. High-tech capitalism has produced a global ruling class, including billionaires of color like Mexico’s Carlos Slim Helú, fourth richest person on earth. As they utilize robotics to make workers unnecessary, they add to the already terrible poverty in the poorest countries, while also creating a growing “equality of poverty,” amongst millions of workers of all colors in the wealthier countries. In the U.S., millions of workers have lost the standard of living given them as a social bribe for supporting the system’s wars and inequality. Workers of all colors are now part of a class whose conditions provide the material foundation for understanding themselves as an objectively communist class, whose needs will not be met under capitalism.
But class unity won’t happen automatically. It requires that revolutionaries play their role of bringing political education and clarity to the people who make up the new proletarian class, but who don’t yet realize it. Fascists like Trump are focusing on sections of this class, mobilizing them to obtain better lives by turning against their immigrant class brothers and sisters. New-style, Democratic Party fascists like Clinton respond by posing as defenders of migrants, while they turn the question away from global capitalism, to merely immigration, that is to competition between the incoming migrants and those already here (usually due to past migration). Instead of organizing against the ways the government helps corporations create unemployment and migration, these Democratic populists actually contribute to dividing workers into pro-versus-anti-immigrant and therefore worker-versus-worker.
Anti-immigrant: Building a Mass Base for Fascism
Trump and other Republicans divide workers by posing as champions of documented workers, who “deserve” the jobs and services they promise to take away from immigrants. Their vicious calls to control the Latinos and Muslims, disguise the fact that the others they control are the white workers, for whom capitalism no longer has any use, and who must be prevented from understanding that truth. The national leaders of the Democratic Party divide workers by posing every struggle as fundamentally a racial/ethnic or gender issue and by narrowly criticizing individual corporations, or individual conservatives like “the evil Koch brothers,” but never the corporate ruling class as a whole. Of course, the spontaneous movement of the working class first arises in forms fighting against specific attacks and not against the system in general. But Democratic leaders go beyond tactical necessities and implement a strategy of preventing class unity. For example, the Democratic Party fails to fight to defend the rights of Latino immigrants and to combat poverty among white workers, even in areas where both are suffering.
Another way Democratic politicians mislead the workers, is in their role as the “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” promising some concessions to win the workers’ trust, before launching new political attacks on them. In the immigrant rights movement, the Obama Administration played this role by first proposing a national Dream Act, issuing the DACA executive order permitting thousands of undocumented youth to work, and by reducing the number of ICE raids in workplaces and communities. This convinced many activists to reduce their mobilizations, trusting that Obama would reform immigration policy. Then, as immigration reform bills got stuck in Congress, the Administration increased deportations, until they totaled over 2 million people – more in Obama’s first five years as president – than under George W. Bush’s full eight years.
How did they reduce raids, yet still increase deportations? First, they greatly increased border patrols and enforcement. Second, they shifted away from informal “Returns,” which simply sent people they arrested back across the Mexican border and instead started processing more arrested migrants into formal “Removals” (Deportations), which carry a risk of prison for those arrested again. In 2011, this change resulted in more Removals than Returns for the first time ever. By 2014, the numbers of Removals/Deportations were nearly three times as high as the old informal Returns. It is clear that by taking this harsher approach on the border, the Obama Administration laid the political foundation upon which Donald Trump would later call for his infamous Wall and for increased deportation raids.
Thus, Democratic Party immigration policies, as well as those of the Republicans, have actually facilitated the growth of a mass base for fascism. Leaders of these two parties do not differ on whether to restructure government to more directly serve globalization’s corporate masters, or whether to build up the repressive powers of State machinery. Their contention is only over how to do it, without awakening the millions who are being pushed out of the economy and even out of the countries they call home. By shining a light onto globalization and its millions of migrant victims, revolutionaries can help rouse their class to unite, overcome its vicious class enemy and utilize the wonders of technology for the common good.
September/October 2016 Vol26.Ed5
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011