Archive for the ‘Open Borders/Immigration Controls’ Category

global_perspectiverThe following interview was first published in English on leftwingbooks.net, see here.

This is the English version of an interview with Torkil Lauesen that Gabriel Kuhn conducted for the German daily junge Welt. Torkil Lauesen is a Danish anti-imperialist whose book The Global Perspective: Reflections on Imperialism and Resistance has recently been published by Kersplebedeb. In 1991, Lauesen was sentenced to ten years in prison for his involvement in the so-called Blekingegade Group whose activities have been featured in the PM/Kersplebedeb release Turning Money into Rebellion: The Unlikely Story of Denmark’s Revolutionary Bank Robbers. (The book can be bought here)

In 1991, you were sentenced to ten years in prison because of your antiimperialist activities. Now, 25 years later, you have written a book titled The Global Perspective: Reflections on Imperialism and Resistance. Has nothing changed?

Everything has changed in order to stay the same: The industrialization of the Global South and the global chains of production have intensified imperialism. Superprofits for capital have increased, while the prices for consumer goods in the Global North have decreased. U.S. hegemony has declined. We now live in a multipolar world with new powers emerging. So-called real socialism no longer exists, and national liberation movements have all but disappeared.

At the end of the 1980s, antiimperialism pretty much vanished from the left’s radar. Why?

National liberation struggles in the Global South subsided and neoliberalism ushered in a golden capitalist era. Furthermore, the talk about globalization concealed the ongoing reality of imperialism.

Was there no globalization?

Of course there have been drastic changes in capitalism in the last thirty years: innovations in transport and communications have altered the entire system of production and distribution. But very few have people have analyzed this in the context of the imperialist order. This is particularly odd considering the fact that globalization has made the imperialist system stronger, not weaker.

Did the so-called anti-globalization movement lack an understanding of imperialism?

The term “anti-globalization movement” is misleading. People were against a globalization from above. They had a global perspective, challenged dominant power structures, and brought socialist ideas back into political debate. But it is true that imperialism was largely absent from their analysis. This also meant that the movement wasn’t particularly radical. In the worst cases, it fueled reactionary tendencies: demands for strong nation states, an affinity with conservative factions of capital, and so on.

Is there an antiimperialist comeback today?

There is certainly renewed interest in antiimperialism. One only has to look at recent book releases, or at the articles published by Marxist journals such as Monthly Review.

Would your book have received less attention ten years ago?

It would not have been published.

How so?

There was no interest.

What has changed?

The transformations in capitalism have made global injustice blatantly obvious. In the Global North, we have become reliant on goods from the Global South: the electronics we use, the clothes we wear, the fruits we eat, the furniture we buy at IKEA – everything is produced under conditions that no one here would condone yet everyone is aware of. So it is not surprising that people take more interest in these matters again, also at an analytical level.

What are the biggest differences between the “old” and the “new” antiimperialism?

National liberation is no longer at the center. The new antiimperialism is primarily anticapitalist. Global production has strengthened the productive forces in the Global South. There are millions of new proletarians. This opens up new possibilities.

The Marxist groups you were organized in during the 1970s and 80s talked much about the First World’s “labor aristocracy,” and about how the working classes of the imperialist nations could not be considered revolutionary. Do you hold on to this perspective?

Yes, and I think the developments of the last 50 years have proven us right. Look at housing and the pension system, for example. The wage levels in the Global North in connection with neoliberal taxation, finance capitalism, and the development of the real estate market meant that substantial sections of the working classes have invested their incomes into buying homes. They have sometimes made more money from owning real estate than from their wages. Meanwhile, their pensions have become linked to financial capital by pension funds, which are invested in stocks and bonds. In other words, the well-being of workers in the Global North is directly linked to the well-being of capitalism. They have much more to lose than their chains.

The differences in wages and living standards between the Global North and the Global South remain staggering. The low prices we pay for our smartphones, sneakers, and chocolate bars are directly related to the low wages paid to the people producing them. If labor aristocracy sounds outdated, let’s speak of a consumer aristocracy.

Don’t people in the Global South profit from this development? There are more jobs – and wages are rising, too, if slowly. Everyone talks about the “new middle classes.”

The world is no longer divided into rich countries that produce and poor countries that provide raw materials. There have been shifts, no doubt, and certain classes in the Global South have profited as well. But make no mistake: we are not witnessing the former colonies finally catching up with the industrialized countries,as some suggest.

Why not?

Because imperialism requires a periphery. Someone needs to be exploited. The boundaries between the exploiters and the exploited may shift, but not everyone can belong to the exploiters. The system doesn’t work that way.

But if the boundaries between rich and poor countries have become less clear, does it still make sense to focus on the divide between the Global North and the Global South? Don’t we instead need a global class analysis in order to understand the dynamics between the exploiters and the exploited?

There is nothing wrong with a global class analysis. But we must not exaggerate the blurring of boundaries. The boundaries are still there. In most countries of the Global South, the so-called new middle class makes up less than ten percent of the population – in many countries, far less. In the Global North, more than ninety percent of the population belong to the consumer aristocracy. There is a new underclass in the Global North, yes, but it remains relatively small. Someone living off welfare in Denmark remains in many ways privileged over industrial workers in the Global South. The modern welfare state has institutionalized the consumer aristocracy, providing education, health care, and pensions. There is no equivalent in the Global South.

A 1983 book published by a Marxist group you belonged to included a chapter with the title “What Can Communists in the Imperialist Countries Do?”. What’s your answer today?

We are a minority, but an important minority. The priority must be to support antiimperialist forces in the Global South; forces that have a radical anticapitalist profile and a popular base. These can be revolutionary political organizations, labor movements, or the remnants of the national liberation struggles in Palestine, Kurdistan, Western Sahara, and elsewhere. We must support these forces materially, practically, and politically. Solidarity means action and must be concrete. But it must also include analysis and the development of strategy.

Another important aspect is to make the imperialist hinterland less safe. We must oppose political and military interventions in the Global South. We must also fight racism and demand citizenship for refugees and migrants. We must support the free movement of people across borders. Solidarity is not based on citizenship but on class.

Finally, we need to develop viable forms of organization, practical skills, knowledge, and tactics for the struggles that lie ahead. We must think strategically: this means to think several years ahead, not just until the next election. This implies, of course, that we must be prepared for the repression we will face by an increasingly authoritarian state.

What role does the state play in the coming struggles?

Antiimperialist politics cannot be advanced without engaging with the state in some way. The state defines the political reality we live in. But seizing state power should not be the focus of our activities. Socialism in one country is impossible. The nation state is the champion of the political right, which ties in with its nationalist, racist, and chauvinist orientation.

It is also wrong to portray the welfare state as a bulwark against capitalism. The European welfare state cannot exist without imperialism; anyone who believes so denies the realities of the global accumulation of capital. What, for example, would an independent economy of a country in the Global North look like? Who would produce all the things that people have become dependent on? How many people in the Global North are still involved in industrial production? Most work in the service industry, in design, in advertising – in jobs that are dependent on other people producing what they consume.

There is nothing wrong with welfare. The problem is that the capitalist welfare state rests on imperialism, and that a global capitalist welfare state is impossible. Welfare for all requires a fundamental change of the system.

Can strong nation states in the Global South not help undermine the imperialist system?

This idea relates to the notion of delinking. There are reasons why China has given up such policies. The economic options of countries in the Global South are determined by global capitalism, whether their governments like it or not. Attempts to delink as an individual country can be very costly, economically and politically. This does not make the concept false, but it must not be reduced to the independence of an individual nation state. Globalization has made new forms of delinking possible, first and foremost in the form of South-South collaboration.

What are the most important struggles in the Global South today?

If we consider the long term, the workers’ and peasants’ struggles in China are of vital importance. For the first time in the history of capitalism, a peripheral state has moved to the center of global production, which makes the future very uncertain. And we must always keep an eye on the Middle East. It is no coincidence that the region has been highly contested for fifty years. It is very important for imperialism; not only because of the oil, but also because of its strategic position: this is where the West meets the East and the North meets the South.

Which are the political forces we need to support?

In China, it is the political left, that means both the left factions of the Communist Party, left-wing intellectuals, and the workers’ movement. In the Middle East, it is more difficult to say, since everything is so chaotic, and left-wing forces have become very weak.

What about Kurdistan?

The Kurds fighting in Turkey and Syria are certainly progressive forces. But they are not a major player in the region. They rely on allies, which implies great dangers. The big players in the region remain the imperialist powers, and they can easily turn their allies into pawns. To follow the logic that my enemy’s enemy is my friend might be inevitable under certain circumstances, but it never delivers longterm results. At the same time, it is easy to insist on a correct political line from a safe distance; if you are active on the ground, things can look very different.

The PKK and its affiliates now pursue an antiimperialism that is no longer based on an independent nation state. Does this set an example?

It’s tricky. What is the state? Don’t even progressive Kurds build state-like structures in the territories they control? But, yes, they are pursuing a new strategy, and this is interesting. It puts particular pressure on the governments controlling Kurdish territories, as they can no longer simply go after “separatists,” which has always been an excuse for repression. The situation in Chiapas is similar: the Zapatistas do not define self-determination by demanding an independent nation state but by exercising power differently. There are important lessons to be learned here.

Is it realistic to expect the demise of imperialism?

We tend to forget that capitalism is a historical system. Like other historical systems, it has a beginning and an end. To solve its internal contradictions, it must expand, that means that it must destroy pre-capitalist and non-capitalist modes of production, recruit new proletarians, and open up new markets. All of this requires a periphery. But the periphery cannot expand without end. Countries like China, India, and Brazil have no periphery substantial enough to support welfare capitalism. Therefore, the system is reaching an impasse.

How troubled are the ruling classes?

Capital is divided in its response to the current crisis. Some factions want to continue on the path of neoliberal globalization. Others want to return to a nation-based accumulation of capital with authoritarian rule and warfare to secure imperialist exploitation. And some focus exclusively on financial speculation. Capitalism will not survive this century, maybe not even the year 2050.

That’s 30 years from now…

The coming years will be nothing short of dramatic. There will be uprisings in response to severe economic depression. There will be widespread unrest because of ecological devastation. And there might be revolutionary struggles as a consequence of inter-imperialist wars.

We are at a historical threshold. A new world order will emerge from brutal conflicts between progressive and reactionary forces. The stakes are high. Will the system self-destruct and take the whole world down with it? Will it revamp itself in the form of a global apartheid system? Or will it be replaced by socialism?

The development of the productive forces in the Global South provides them with much power. If they throw a monkey wrench in the global chains of production the imperialist countries will get hurt. The industrialization of the Global South has created a much more promising base for the development of socialism than the national liberation struggles did. There is no reason to be pessimistic. We need to start to organize and prepare for the changes to come.

(July 2018)

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Lutte Ouvriere’s 2018 fete

The piece below is the July 2 editorial from the national network of workplace bulletins produced all over France every week by the revolutionary workers’ current Lutte Ouvriere.The bulletins are read by hundreds of thousands of workers. On one side of the leaflet is an editorial – the same for all leaflets – presenting Lutte Ouvrière’s position on current political issues. The other side has short articles – they change from company to company – written by members of Lutte Ouvrière workplace groups and that focus on working and living conditions inside the company. The leaflets are free but collections are regularly organized to help finance them.

European heads of state and government recently gathered in Brussels with a view to finding a solution to the so-called “migrant crisis”. An agreement was reached, but it only confirmed the measures that have already brought shame on the Europe of the rich. This agreement is designed to force migrants to stay in the poorest countries of the world and to ensure that women, children and men who try to escape misery and war continue to be treated like criminals.

Governments hosting far-right ministers went home triumphant from the summit. But what about the political leaders who, like Macron, claim to defend a European ideal? Their hypocrisy is despicable! They make resounding speeches exposing the dangers of nationalism and xenophobia but the words they use to justify their rejection of migrants are the words of the far right.

For instance, Macron refuses to open French harbors to NGO-sponsored rescue ships. He claims that the NGOs which look after migrants are (more…)

Every week the French revolutionary organisation Lutte Ouvriere produces workplace bulletins at hundreds of workplaces all over France where they have members and supporters.  The bulletins deal with issues in those particular workplaces along with an editorial that goes into all the bulletins and deals with national or international issues.  Below is the editorial from the bulletins of June 25.

The Lifeline is a refugee rescue ship, like the Aquarius. Outfitted by a German non-governmental organization, it is stranded at sea off the coast of Libya with 230 migrants on board because the Italian and Maltese governments deny them the right to dock. France, which is so used to lecturing other governments, is refusing them too. Once more we are witnessing the terrible predicament of women, men and children hopelessly knocking on Europe’s doors, after having been through hell.

In Italy, the far-right Minister of Internal Affairs, Salvini, is using this affair to make a show of his intransigence. He has already made proposals worthy of the racist laws adopted under Mussolini, for example a law that would oblige all Roma people to be registered.

In France, Minister of Internal Affairs Collomb speaks the same language as far-right politicians. He claims that France is under the threat of “being submerged”. And he boasts of his recent decisions making it harder for refugees to be eligible for asylum status and increasing the number of expulsions.

Asylum seekers wander from one (more…)

A number of participants in the Imperialism study/discussion group initiated by Redline have been involved in debating David Harvey’s view of imperialism recently through the Review of African Political Economy.

Thanks to Walter Daum for sending us the links.  We have very much valued discussing imperialism with him, John Smith and Andy Higginbottom as well as Tony Norfield and other folks involved in the study/discussion group.

So much of the left in the imperialist world downplays the question of imperialism or reduces it to military invasions such as the Gulf Wars, Afghanistan etc.  The political economy of imperialism, including the role it plays in shaping the material position, experience and political consciousness of workers in the First World often tends to be overlooked or even denied.

David Harvey Denies Imperialism
by John Smith
January 10, 2018
 
Realities on the Ground: David Harvey replies to John Smith
by David Harvey
February 5, 2018
 
Imperialist Realities vs. the Myths of David Harvey
by John Smith
March 19, 2018
 
Dissolving Empire: David Harvey, John Smith, and the Migrant
by Adam Mayer
April 10, 2018
 
Towards a Broader Theory of Imperialism
by Patrick Bond
April 18, 2018
 
Is Imperialism Still Imperialist? A Response to Patrick Bond 
by Walter Daum 
May 16, 2018
 
A Self-Enriching Pact: Imperialism and the Global South
by Andy Higginbottom
June 19, 2018

German Social-Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz. Like the Labour Party in NZ, the German Labourite SDP is a capitalist, anti-immigrant party.

The following piece appeared several days ago on the Cedar Lounge Revolution, one of the most-read political blogs in Ireland.  The author looks at the parllous situation of the German Labourites, the SPD (Social-Democratic Party of Germany).  In France and Ireland, the Labourites also lost hugely in the most recent elections and are now very much minor players.  (In this country, after nine years of National in power, Labour still came second in the elections with 36.89% of the vote, about 7.5% behind National.)  The article refers to several other parties.  The AfD is the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party; the CDU is the Christian Democratic Union and the CSU is the Christian Social Union which is based in only Bavaria.  The CDU/CSU is the dominant parliamentary force, led by Angela Merkel. Die Linke is the main left-wing party.  We don’t necessarily agree with everything in the article – for instance, we wouldn’t offer advice to a capitalist party like the SPD – but it does present interesting information about the further disintegration and bourgeoisification of so-called “mass social democratic workers’ parties”.

by Citizen of Nowhere

The German SPD, the oldest political party in Europe, has just opted for its own slow strangulation. A delegate conference voted by 56% to go into coalition talks. During talks on a framework agreement as a basis for a coalition the SPD gave everything and got next to nothing.

The framework agreement is in essence: more of the same plus much of the AfD’s anti-immigrant agenda. All that’s new is that the anti-immigrants have got an effective stop on refugees’ families joining them. With predictable effects.

The way in which the framework agreement was announced at a press conference is indicative of the current relationship between the Union (CDU/CSU) and the SPD. First Schulz gave a little talk where he thanked everyone involved, and mentioned no substance. Then Merkel spoke and unscripted said something to the effect that Schulz was ‘a great man for a vote of thanks.’ And then the head of the CSU, with his usual sharkish smirk, listed off the two or three minute gains of the SPD as a collective achievement.

The contempt of the Union for the SPD is (more…)

The piece below appeared as one of the editorials in the latest round of workplace bulletins produced and distributed by The Spark organisation in the United States; we’ve slightly changed the title but left the American-English spelling of the original.

by The Spark

The words are bad enough, but they are symbols of something much worse: the vicious ideas that Trump and others like him try to peddle.

The countries Trump denigrated are all poor. So let’s talk about why they are poor – the truth which demagogues like Trump trample on.

U.S., Spanish and French capitalists stole the wealth produced by labor in Haiti and El Salvador. That’s what impoverishes them.

Let’s talk about the European and American slave traders who stole 20 million human beings and their labor power from Africa. Let’s talk about the colonial system which drained Africa’s mineral wealth to enrich European industry. Let’s talk about (more…)

Among other activities, the revolutionary working class organisation Lutte Ouvriere produces weekly bulletins in hundreds of workplaces across the country.  Tne bulletins relate to specific experiences and issues faced by the workers in these workplaces, but also contain an editorial on big political questions, national or international issues.  The editorial in the November 27 edition of these bulletins was on France and Africa.

Last week, during his visit to Africa, French President Macron cynically declared that France no longer had a specific “African policy”.

The truth is that, since 2014, thousands of French soldiers have been deployed in Mali where, under the pretext of combating terrorism, they wage a war which regularly kills civilians. The French army is present on a permanent basis in many African countries, including Burkina Faso where Macron made his declaration. France has always intervened in the country, supporting the authors of military coups and dictators aspiring to obediently defend the interests of French imperialists.

Macron also declared that he belonged to a generation who considers that “the crimes of European colonization are undeniable and are part of our history”. Macron is indeed too young to have known first-hand the “colonial times”. But he belongs to the long list of political leaders who helped the French bourgeoisie get rich thanks to its colonial empire.

Africa’s dire poverty and the miserable conditions of most Africans are neither natural nor inevitable. They are due to the century-old plundering of Africa by colonial powers, with France playing a leading role in the continent’s colonization.

Many French bourgeois families built their fortune on (more…)