For decades organisations such as No One is Illegal have been trying to take the argument against immigration controls into the socialist and trades unions. We have met with resistance, not only from people who disagree with the principles, but by those who claim to agree but argue that it is a position which is ‘too advanced’ to take to people an idea that which can be included in the programme of revolutionaries but not for the wider ‘masses’. So, for example, we got very little support when we tried to get the Socialist Alliance in the and later RESPECT, to adopt this position in the first decade of this century.
But the climate on the left has begun to change and last year at its conference, Left Unity adopted almost the entirety of the No One is Illegal programme, by an overwhelming majority.
So what about TUSC? The Socialist Party has never itself opposed immigration controls in their totality and the RMT have actually called for the strengthening of controls in certain aspects. The TUSC committee did agree to put opposition to ‘all racist immigration controls’ into its election programme and the repeal of the 2014 Immigration Act. This was certainly a step forward from simply trying to ignore the issue. The Independent Socialist Network decided to try and push the issue further forward by proposing an amendment to the election platform by deleting the word ‘racist’ so that it was against all immigration controls and adding ‘No deportations! No detention centres!’
Below is my speech proposing the amendment at the TUSC Election Conference on 24th January. Conference did not adopt the amendment but we got a good third of the vote.
Comrades. Immigration is going to be, indeed is already, a central issue in this election. Those who try and run away from it, avoid it, will suffer as a result. The far-right, UKIP and the mainstream parties will all be competing with each other to be seen to be tougher against migrants. It will be a carnival of reaction and it will be forces such as TUSC who need to take a stand against the toxic filth.
So we welcome the inclusion of a clause on immigration in the TUSC programme. But as it stands it needs some clarification because at the moment it could be read in two very different ways:
1. That we regard all immigration controls as racist and oppose them all.
2. That we believe that there can be non-racist immigration controls.
Which is it? How can we explain our position if we do not know exactly what it means?
Our amendment, by deleting the word ‘racist’ makes it clear that we are against all immigration controls and immediate consequence of this is that we are opposed to all deportations and the detention of migrants.
Immigration controls are an attack on the working class, disguised as a defence of working class interests.
The reality is that if you deem a group of people as ‘illegal immigrants’ they will be extremely vulnerable to super-exploitation for fear of deportation, which will impact negatively on the wages and conditions of ALL WORKERS. It doesn’t make sense to demand a £10 minimum wage if you have a group of workers forced underground by immigration controls getting £2 a week or kept as slaves.
People worry that migrants are putting a strain on our public services and benefits. But for generations migrants have been central to building and providing these services and do today. The majority of migrants come here to work. If you take away their rights to benefits they may be forced accept work on rates and conditions which are wholly unacceptable.
The very idea of “illegal immigrants” is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that people are illegal because of who they are – where they are born, where their parents are born, the language they speak, the colour of their skin. Immigration controls create a global apartheid and it opens the door to fascism.
People take enormous risks evading immigration controls to get to Europe. Thousands die in the Mediterranean every year. Terms like ‘benefit tourism’ are hugely offensive.
Comrades have expressed concerned that people might be put off by a bald statement which is so radical. But people will want to know what our policy is on this question which is so central to the election. So we will have to be clear what it is and be prepared to explain and defend it.
Our class is an international class. We should be able to have freedom of movement and the right to settle throughout the globe. This is tied to our overall fight for a just world, an equal world, a world without exploitation. No One is Illegal!