Socialists defend refugees’ rights and argue for open borders in principle. Therefore it is often accepted as obvious that we support the freedom of movement inside the European Union (EU).
But there is a clear distinction between those two things.
The fight for a world without borders will be long and difficult.
By contrast, the freedom of movement inside the EU is an existing workers’ right, enjoyed not only by migrants in Britain, but by British-born workers too.
Millions of Britons use it to live and work on the continent. The Tories are hell bent on taking away that right.
If we don’t resist, soon that vital freedom will be gone for ever.
The question of immigration and freedom of movement is the most burning issue in Britain right now. Worryingly, some people have accepted the lie that immigration lowers wages and have rejected the principle.
The Tories’ attack on freedom of movement is an assault on workers’ rights. We need to be clear that abandoning that freedom is a betrayal of the whole working class.
Our fight against racism has to be translated into a number of specific questions. One of them has to be a resolute defence of freedom of movement.
Jacek Szymanski, North London
Winning the argument at work
Socialist Worker pointed out that the RMT union is opposed to free movement of labour (Socialist Worker, 18 January). But earlier this month two London branches—Finsbury Park and Bakerloo—passed motions supporting it.
The motion said that migrants and immigration are not to blame for stagnating wages and squeezed services. It said, “If and when employers do use one group of workers to undercut another, our answer is strong workplace organisation and united struggle.
“We will not accept one group of workers being turned against another.”
The motion also pointed out that migrant workers have always played a central role in the union movement. It added, “We should support freedom of movement.
“The wealth workers produce is free to travel uninhibited across borders. The workers who produce it should have the same freedom.”
The motion resolved to “campaign against increased border controls being part of the Brexit deal”. It also pledged to support campaigns for migrants’ and refugees’ rights.
It is possible to argue for free movement, even within a union where many oppose it, and win.
Phil Rowan, South London
Why we backed Ian Allinson
My Unite union branch decided to back Ian Allinson for general secretary. We nominated Ian by five votes to four.
We should not be pessimistic about how we can shape the argument and relate to the best members in our meetings—particularly around the key question of freedom of movement.
I made the case that trade unionism is founded on solidarity and that defending free movement was an integral part of this.Conceding this means blaming others rather than organising resistance to the Tories.
Therefore there should be a candidate on the ballot who unequivocally backs free movement and Ian is the only prospective candidate offering this. This was important in winning over people who were on the fence.
A show of hands was taken for incumbent Len McCluskey and Ian.
The vote went in favour of Ian and it was markedly young members of the branch that voted for him. The arguments around freedom of movement seemed to have a stronger resonance with these members.
Mark Dunk, South London
Use the right language on mental health
We need to respond to Theresa May’s statement about taking mental health more seriously on a cultural level, as well as to pointing to the chronic underfunding.
The abuse that people with mental health illness suffer is quite staggering.
Labelling irrational situations as “crazy” or “mad” shows a breathtaking lack of awareness.
Just as we wouldn’t dismiss a physically disabled person as a “cripple”, neither should we use terms that mental health sufferers find offensive.
John Curtis, Ipswich
Election is an opportunity
The election for the Northern Ireland Assembly is a great opportunity for left wing People Before Profit (PBP) party to improve on their two Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA).
For once the key election issue is not a sectarian one.
The governing DUP’s republican opponents in Sinn Fein were slow to realise how outraged people would be at the heating subsidy scandal.
They were pushed into triggering the election by their angry supporters.
But the election will be for a reduced number of MLAs. This could make it difficult for those, such as PBP MLA Eamonn McCann, who got in last time on the final count of transferred votes.
John Shemeld, Nottingham
March for health
The Tories are out to destroy the NHS along with other public services.
Workers are being drowned in paperwork and services are being run down to such a poor quality.
This is to soften them up for privatisation.
That makes the Saturday 4 March national demonstration in London so important in the fight to save the NHS.
Fran Manning, South London