Restrictions on the ability of Romanians and Bulgarians to work and settle in other European Union (EU) countries are lifted on 1 January 2014. From the reaction of politicians and the media you would think the world was about to end.
Politicians of all mainstream parties see opposition to immigration as a potential vote winner. David Cameron has floated setting a limit of 75,000 migrants a year, even though it breaks EU rules that he supports.
Lib Dem deputy prime minister Nick Clegg came out against the cap, saying it would be illegal. He was concerned that it might damage trade and lead to reprisals from other EU countries—not that it would be racist.
Other politicians claim we don’t have enough resources. Yet new migrants coming to Britain work and create wealth. They buy products and pay taxes. There is a shortage of housing, schools and hospitals because of cuts put through by Cameron and Clegg. It is nothing to do with immigrants.
A new survey found that 80 percent of British people back tougher measures to stop new immigrants claiming benefits. But it also reported that 77 percent welcome migrants who “work hard” and become part of the community.
The experience of migrants who arrive has always been that they work and in fact claim fewer benefits than the existing population. It is anti-migrant campaigns by the government and the press that convince people that immigrants cause social problems.
Again and again we are told that the only way to defend workers is to block immigration and look after a mythical national interest. Even supposed left wingers come out with these arguments, arguing that migration is a bosses’ trick to undermine wages.
Some go further. Academic Paul Collier’s new book Exodus was lionised in the “left wing” New Statesman. It talks about how brave he is to raise the issue of migration. He didn’t talk of any benefits capitalists might gain and only saw immigrants as a drain.
“Poor countries are poor because their social models are dysfunctional,” he wrote. “Prosperous societies would therefore have reason to be wary of such settlers.” This kind of argument is nonsense. Blaming migrants for social problems does nothing to help working people.
Workers’ interests are best defended by uniting with other workers. Marxists have said this since the revolutionary Karl Marx called for unity between British and Irish workers in the mid 19th century. And it will be true as long as capitalism exists.