The media this week is full of politicians and commentators expressing what they call “reasonable” doubts about immigration and immigrants.
So in the run-up to Labour’s conference Ed Miliband said, “We’re going to say to any firm who wants to bring in a foreign worker that they also have to train up someone who’s a local worker.” He describes this as a policy to create new jobs. But he is setting up the argument that the employment of “foreign” workers is responsible for unemployment and lack of training among “local workers”.
This is based on untrue and racist assumptions. Bosses will always try and cut corners and pay or train one group less than another. If Labour really wanted to improve training it could pledge to put more money into funding courses.
It could pledge to restore the Education Maintenance Allowance so that young people could afford to. But this isn’t about practical policies.
Former Labour spin doctor and right winger Peter Mandelson expressed Labour’s thinking in Monday’s Financial Times. He said that Miliband has “recalibrated Labour’s position on public spending, welfare and immigration, aligning his approach with economic reality and popular opinion”.
The economic reality is that Labour won’t make radical changes, so it relies on encouraging prejudice in public opinion.
As Ed Balls told the Labour Party conference on Monday, “We won’t be able to reverse all the spending cuts and tax rises the Tories have pushed through”.
This is not an attack from the rabid right but from those who see themselves as on the left.
Nick Pearce wrote a piece called What Should Social Democrats Believe? in the New Statesman. Pearce argues, “Strong conservative impulses exist in contemporary electorates to cherish and preserve things of value”.
And one of the most important of these impulses is apparently “hostility to immigration” and the development of an “English identity”.
The only way for the left to relate to this, he claims, is to start a “critical engagement” with “politically marginalised sections of the working class”.
Labour refuses to make any radical changes that could improve life for working class people.Rather than looking to solve the problems we face, Labour looks for scapegoats to blame for them.
That is why it is vital for socialists to reject the overt racism of the Tories and the bigoted assumptions behind Labour’s position.