Thursday, 29 April 2010

Anti-immigrationism is Racism

Gordon Brown has been criticised this week for calling an old lady bigoted. In all fairness to the PM, who normally drives me up the wall, that old lady is bigoted. She questioned Brown on what he is going to do about the eastern european immigrants: 'there's too many people now who aren't vulnerable but they can claim and people who are vulnerable can't get claim [benefits], can't get it.' This sort of argument really angers me. For one, the majority of immigrants are incredibly hard working and do not claim benefits. Most, in fact, do jobs that british people are simply too lazy to do. For example, last summer I went fruit picking in herefordshire. I was the only British person there. The owner said he had spent 100,000 pounds trying to get British people to work there; I was the only success (and that's because my Dad told me about the Job because he works with the owner).
What strikes me as strange is that anti-immigrationstists use, lets call it the 'labour/benefits' argument most often in debates on immigration. Yet they feel that a lazy, benefit thieving, white british person has more of a right to live in this country than a hard working man from somewhere else. Why? If labour/benefits is your argument, kick out the doll scum out. Surely it is racist to want to kick out the foreign workers but keep the domestic lay abouts. What it comes down to at the end of the day is this assumption that because our parents 'happened' to be born here, and they 'happened' to have children here (us) than we have some inalienable right to the earth on this island. what utter rubbish! You do not choose where you are born, you can't claim a monopoly on the benefits of an accident.
People, I would imagine, don't leave their homeland on a whim. Conditions in a home country must be unbearable, politically or economically. It must take great courage to travel to a strange and foreign land where you have to start at the bottom of the ladder, irrelevant of what you did at home, and where a number of the local inhabitants insult your work ethic on a daily basis, accuse you of causing the financial crisis and the surge in crime, in general, make you feel less a human being and more a pest.
Not to mention the fact that these particular immigrants, referred to by Gillian Duffy, are citizens of the EU. They have a codified right to freedom of movement and work in the EU member countries. People seem to want only the benefits from the EU and to give no concessions. Brown rightly responded that 1 million brits have utilised the Shengen treaty, among others, to live and work on the european mainland. Why should the british have freedom of movement but foreigners shouldnt. I doubt that woman has ever left her own town, let alone the UK but if she did want to she would find that once she arrives in france she could travel all the way to the croat boarder without showing her passport, and she could stop anywhere enroute and get a job, I thinks its brilliant, and if you ask me... those that don't need to think about why its ok for US to do it but not for THEM...


  1. Agreed, but she will probably determine the outcome of the election!

    But isn't there a serious question to be put here? Is there an ethical limit to immigration? What if there were a 100 million people in the UK? Would that be 'too many'? Clearly there is a point at which a place/city/country becomes 'overcrowded', but what is that point? And what criteria do we have to apply in order to discern it?

    I am not sure what the answer to these questions is, but I think that they are valid questions. The very issue of 'immigration' is not necessarily 'racist' in my view...

    Neil Turnbull

  2. I'm not sure whether this need necessarily be an ethical question ie when does the country get overcrowded? It could be reduced to practical indicators of when the infrastructure can no longer support a country's inhabitants (whether these be born here or otherwise).
    Granted that such practical indicators tend to be measured in somewhat subjective ways ie are manipulated to support the agenda in question, but surely there does have to be a point when the country can no longer support further immigration? This isn't a matter of racism but of common sense. However, as far as I can tell, this saturation point isn't likely to be reached since people also emigrate from the UK so this seems to balance out alongside the strict regulations which now seem to exist, rightly or wrongly (and yes, racism may be endemic in such regulation, but I haven't looked into this enough to comment)
    Ethically speaking, of course, things are somewhat more complicated, and like Neil I don't know what hte answer is. This is certainly an issue that exercises people, but I find Fred's suggstion that people of working age should only live here when they have earned the right to do so via labour very interesting. I must admit that citizenship rights in my mind do tend to equate with where one is born, or where one has lived for a certain amount of time (or whom one is married to) regardless of the contribution made to the economy. As such, I need to consider this assumption more closely as, when taken to extremes, this admittedly all begins to sound rather nationalistic...

  3. I wasnt necessarily suggesting that citizenship be based on work. I was simply suggesting that i f that is the argument against immigration then surely ridding the country of sloths should be a priority. i do not think so. As for overcrowding... as ruth says, we are a long way from overcrowding because of emigration. Immigration, in fact, aids the country because it brings a young, tax paying workforce that can support the aging population. Obviously there would be a point of overcrowding but in such circumstances there would have to be, i suppose, a points based system based on work, or humanitarian need.
    I may be being quixotic, but i think we are fast approaching the applicablity of national boundaries and racial classification. Hopefully we may one day have an international shengen treaty.
    as an afterthought to my comments on the EU. Zizek makes an interesting point in 'violence' that although intra-european boreders are open, the external borders are being tightened. The greater integration of european police and increasingly reationary policies means it is very difficult for non europeans to enter the zone. This seems to me to be an example of selfishly hoarding welath, freedom and rights to the detriment of those who must sacrifice in order to maintain our way of life. Europe owes the developing world its wealth; perhaps we should be a little less hasty in leaving them out in the cold

  4. Also, I think that we need to evaluate exactly what right we have to claim land and 'ours' and to deny others access to that land. Perhaps in an old testament world, where God gives land to certain peoples, we would have the justification to be exclusive. i myself, am not a subscriber to the notion of 'promised land' and think that we will find many problems in trying to classify 'britishness' and analyse the right that possessors of this quality have to claim land as theirs.

  5. The point isn't about the historical facts of the situation Fred, but the principle...

    In certain cases it is possible to take a principled position against immigration and not be racist. These two terms are really quite separate and it is a mistake to conflate them as you seem to be doing!

    Neil Turnbull

  6. ok, i may be exaggerating. its more for effect than anything else. and my point is directed more against people who use flawed arguments about the 'productive' value of immigrants. I suppose one argument in defense of national 'belonging' might be through virtue of historicity. I was born in aparticular geographical, political and cultural place; I have strived with those born into the same place and we are one through that striving. hmmm... I dont know. it is a tricky subject. it just angers me that some people obviously hide bigotry behind 'rational' and 'pragmatic' arguments.

  7. My suitcase is at the door! Thanks for posting this Fred. It's good to see some stuff up here on the election, and this question is well worth confronting. I have to agree with Neil's point though, as I think it is important. Anti-immigration is not necessarily racism, even as you so eleoquently put it, the rhetoric which surrounds it so often is. What are the reasons for immigration: war, famine, poverty, unemployment and soon climate change. Such migration is not a choice but a necessity. The world would improve if people did not have to face these decisions. Alleviating the material conditions which impose these decisions would allow people not to have be forced to leave their homes. So I think in this sense, one can certainly be anti-immigration and anti-racist. (Although putting it in such stark terms might not be helpful.) One can see immigration as the symptom of wider economic problems and challenge it on that level rather than on the level of race. Global problems are precisely global, and not restricted, at lest wholly, to particular questions of identity, ethnicity, religion or race. Alleviating such conditions would also mean that the transfer of labour between countries would be more fluid, driven not out of economic desparation but economic need. A tall order I know!

  8. Thanks for this thread Fred (My suitcase is at the door too Patrick!). Anti-immigrationism doesn't necessarily have to be racist, however I can see where you're coming to this connection.

    As you guys know, I am an immigrant too, and not an EU citizen, and I had to escape from Greek islands and Turkey because I was literally about to collapse, for those places drove me to psychological breakdown, severe mental illness. There's simply nothing there for me, no friends, no jobs, and a family that I have a long-lasting struggle; not to mention that a nationalistic hate, and a non-aesthetic, wearisome lifestyle that I felt in everyday of my life.

    Now because I do masters here, I can be qualified for highly skilled worker visa according to point based immigration, but the point is, I am lucky that I can afford my degree (even though I don't fully enjoy it). I am really grateful to be here. Nevertheless, in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world, the circumstances are much more grim, and I can't blame those people coming to UK. And just like me, most of them are coming here due to psychological reasons.

    In fact it all comes down to this dirty political game; who gives the right to divide the planet into maps? The God, the so-called holy books which lack of holistic views? Those maps are fictional, in our heads, in our ideals, and because of these sorts of "bubbles", humanity has long closed its eyes to sanity.