A new row erupted over immigration this week, after the government admitted that 300,000 more immigrants were working in Britain than had previously been announced.
David Cameron forced the government onto the defensive as he leapt on the opportunity to attack immigrants, with talk of an annual “cap” on the number entering Britain and a border police force to tackle “illegals”.
Whipping up panics over immigration and pandering to racism has long been the last resort of desperate politicians. But the fact that capitalism has an economic need for immigrants means that the ruling class is divided over how to approach the question.
Some bosses insist that immigrant labour provides a cheaper and more flexible workforce that is less likely to demand its rights – one that they think can be used to threaten others into accepting lower wages.
But other sections of the ruling class prioritise the promotion of racism among British workers to divide the working class as a whole.
We need to oppose the scapegoating of immigrants for problems like the overstretched health service, lack of decent housing and job insecurity. These are all problems that have got worse under New Labour’s neoliberal policies – problems we can only begin to solve with united working class action.
The British state pulled out all the stops for the visit of one of its favourite dictators this week – King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi regime uses torture, secret police, imprisonment of political prisoners and the death penalty to control its population. Yet there is no talk of military intervention or sanctions, and instead of criticism there is a tea with the queen, a state procession and talks with Gordon Brown.
Pandering to the king is the tip of the iceberg. A Serious Fraud Office bribery investigation into the sale of fighter planes to Saudi Arabia was dropped under Tony Blair’s government.
Kim Howells, the foreign office minister, said that Britain and Saudi Arabia “shared values and interests”. The reasons for all this are simple – big profits and the need for “friendly regimes” .
Brown’s government is following the same line as its predecessors in the Middle East over the last 90 years – backing dictators against the people.
Trident is trash
Alex Salmond and the minority SNP executive have forced New Labour onto the back foot in its one time Scottish fortress.
The SNP administration has delivered on issues like scrapping graduate fees for students and NHS prescriptions. The Holyrood parliament also passed a motion condemning the replacement of Trident nuclear missiles.
Most people in Scotland feel revulsion at the presence of these weapons of mass destruction at the Faslane base. This Saturday’s Scotland for Peace protest outside the parliament will press exactly that point.
But Alex Salmond can do more than issue a verbal denunciation of Trident’s replacement. He has powers that can hinder the servicing of the missiles and block further necessary building work at the base. Salmond has the mandate, now he must use it.