THE RIGHTS OF IMMIGRANTS -- THE RIGHTS OF ALL
July 16, 2006
During the last few weeks, Michael Thorburn, editor of The Worker, spoke at several meetings on the issue of immigrant rights. Below we summarize of some of the main points discussed.
1) The capitalist class and the government are carrying out a vicious campaign against immigrant workers.
Government officials are openly spewing out racist, anti-immigrant propaganda to try to justify stepped up repression and deportation of immigrants. The government is preparing new laws which criminalize immigrants and will force millions of people deeper into the "underground economy." The goal is to strengthen and legalize a caste system of indentured servants.
These attacks on immigrants cannot be separated from the capitalists' general program of imposing increased exploitation, racism, fascism and war on the American people. For example, it is obvious how the current anti-immigrant campaign is being used to further militarize our country and create a national ID system just as the racist, anti-Arab campaign launched in 2001 was used to pass the Patriot Act.
2) On the surface, it appears as if there are two opposing camps amongst the capitalist politicians. One side claims that the government must "get tough" with "illegal immigrants" by criminalizing them, militarizing the border, and, in general, increasing repression against immigrant workers. The "other" side agrees with the need to "get tough," militarize the border, etc. but also wants to create a "guest worker" program and "an earned path to citizenship" to legalize a pool of immigrant workers who work here for a number of years under fixed contracts and then are sent home.
These two "opposing" camps only represent different sides of the capitalist immigration policy which is to encourage large scale immigration but to keep immigrant labor branded and under the thumb of the state, a caste of superexploited workers deprived of fundamental human rights.
U.S. capitalism, from its earliest days, has relied on immigrant workers to fill its labor force - to overcome the shortage of labor and meet the needs of capitalist expansion and, at the same time, to drive down the wages and maximize the exploitation of the entire working class.
To begin with, the capitalists brought African peoples here as slaves. Europeans were imported as indentured servants. Later, after grabbing, by war, the present-day southwest, the capitalists disenfranchised the Mexican people, stealing their land and turning them into agricultural and industrial workers. So too, successive waves of immigrants from Germany, Ireland, China, Eastern and Southern Europe, etc. were brought to the U.S. in a myriad of legal and illegal ways. Each wave of immigrants was subjected to abuse, racism, repression and confined to the lowest rung of a complicated caste system designed to maximize the exploitation of the workforce.
Thus, while Chinese immigrants were branded "coolies," the capitalists were content to use their labor and their lives to build the railroads. While laws were passed condemning Eastern and Southern European workers as genetically inferior, the capitalists eagerly used their labor to build the stockyards, the steel mills, etc., etc. In the last 50 years, new waves of immigrants - from Mexico and Latin America, from the Philippines, India and Asia, from Africa and Eastern Europe - have continued to be superexploited and oppressed by the capitalists. Today, 11 million undocumented workers and their families are forced to live "underground," deprived of the most basic human rights, and always living with the threat of deportation over their heads.
3) Immigrants are forced to come here largely because of the colonial oppression imposed on their native countries by U.S. imperialism. The U.S. capitalists have stolen the natural resources and taken control over the economic foundations of countries around the world. Thus the working people in Mexico, Haiti, the Philippines and scores of countries have been deprived of any means of a livelihood.
Today, under the signboard of "globalization," U.S. capitalism has extended its worldwide colonial empire. As part of this process, every year, 200 million workers are forced to leave their native lands to seek a livelihood in the U.S. or other imperialist countries. In many countries, such as the Philippines, more than 50% of the peoples' incomes come from remittances sent home by migrant workers.
In effect, U.S. imperialism has turned whole countries into slave nations whose labor force is part of a rotating pool of indentured servants. When the capitalists want to expand their labor force, they bring migrant workers here, only to send them back, penniless, when their labor isn't needed.
4) George Bush and the other capitalist politicians are insisting that a "true American" must speak English and be assimilated by the U.S. "melting pot." The "melting pot" is part of the ideology of Anglo-American chauvinism and national oppression.
The geographical territory which makes up the U.S.A. is inhabited by immigrants from many countries as well as by several nationalities - the indigenous nations, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Hawaiians - which historically have been subjugated and oppressed by the Anglo-American state.
The reality is that the U.S. is a country of many languages and many nationalities.
The oppressed minorities and the immigrants do not have to do anything to "prove" or "become" Americans just as they do not have to "earn" citizenship. They are part and parcel of this country and it is their labor which has helped build our modern economy. The problem is not that immigrants or minorities are "breaking the law" or "refusing to embrace American values," the problem is that the economic and political conditions imposed on the people are designed to deprive immigrants and the oppressed minorities of their fundamental human rights. These rights include the equality of all individuals and the collective rights and equality of all nationalities.
5) While the capitalist system is founded and thrives on the national oppression of the minority peoples and immigrants, the working class and people of this country have always fought to create a society which guarantees equal rights for all.
The struggle against every manifestation of racial or national oppression extends to every sphere of the life of our country; it is an absolute requirement for advancing the working class struggle. It is obvious that the fight for emancipation is held back when sections of the working class are bound by the double yoke of national and racial oppression.
Yet more, we aim at a society in which the development of every individual is the condition for the development of all, a society in which the enlightenment and experience of all the peoples is encouraged and developed.
One of the great strengths of the U.S. working class is that it is composed of peoples from the four corners of the globe, each of whom have added their irreplaceable experience and history to the struggle of the people here. This is the real being, the real identity of the U.S. working class and we cannot realize our aspirations without creating a society which guarantees in practice, the rights of all.