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A Spectacular Own Goal?

A new group called the Labour Campaign for Free Movement has been launched. It says that thousands have already signed up to its campaign statement. It is also clearly hoping that the model resolution it has circulated will make it through to annual conference.

An article by Hugh Lanning on Labour List puts the campaign’s case for free movement in five points.

1. Whose rights are we going to take away?

We never honestly define whose rights it is Britain would deny. However it is done, it would be the friends and families of people living in Britain who would no longer have the right to live, work or retire in this country or abroad.

2. Curbing immigration will make us poorer

Economic success means being open to trade and migration – with both the EU and the rest of the world. Research and development, high-tech industries, agriculture, education and public services all need open borders in a modern world.

3. Britain exports old, creaky people and imports young tax-paying ones.

We had roughly four workers for every pensioner in 2005 but by 2025 we will have three and by 2035 just 2.5, according to the ONS. We need more and more migrant workers across industries to support our ageing population.

4. The rich always have freedom of movement

Money always buys your freedom to go where you wish. Restrictions will not harm the rich. When it comes to employment rights or lower rates of pay, however, then the only trend will be downwards. The foot-loose global companies – players in the world market – will win.

5. Law and disorder

Some people believe we can build a virtual wall around this country so that we can sort, sift and stop the good, the bad and the ugly – but it won’t work. However much money is thrown at the border, it will only criminalise migration and drive it underground. The same is true of trade, as it is of people. The vision of Britain as an off-shore, free trade, tax haven is not going to encourage firms to pay their taxes or decent wages; instead it will fill the City with rogue traders.

Consider each point in turn.

(1) The first sentence is clearly false. British nationals have the right to vote in general elections. Other residents do not. The second sentence is a tautology. It says no more than that if we restrict immigration some people will not be able to take up residency here. This is not an argument for anything.

(2) This point assumes that the migration from which the UK has benefited is only possible if we have open borders. This is palpable nonsense. We had large scale immigration before we signed up to the EU’s “four freedoms”. The people in this campaign seem unable to stop themselves equating managed migration with “no migration” and even “anti-migration”.

(3) The argument that our ageing population will not get the treatment they deserve unless we have an inflow of young workers to look after them and to sustain the economy is myopic economics of a very stark variety. First, it implicitly accepts the present distribution of wealth as part of the natural order of things. Do we not have sufficient resources to care for our elderly or do we allow public squalor by the side of massive private wealth? Second, it projects into the future, as the young workers settle here and grow old, the need to import even more young workers from abroad. Thirdly, it completely ignores the impact on the countries from whom we draw these young workers.

(4) The argument that the rich can always move where they want to needs unpicking. The rich follow their money. We have Russian oligarchs in London because they are able to buy up so much of it. This point amounts to saying, therefore, that because we allow Russian oligarchs (and foreign investors) to buy up large parts of London we must also allow anyone who wants to come and settle here whatever the circumstances. It is just not an argument.

(5) The claim is that if we have rules about immigration then some people will fall foul of those rules. True, but again it is a non-argument. If we make rules against theft some people will fall foul of them. Moreover, the rule will tend to discriminate against the poor. Again true, but it is hardly an argument for decriminalising theft.

These arguments strike me as spectacularly poor. But that is not the end of it. If you go to the Campaign website and read the statement which thousands have apparently signed you will not fail to notice one striking point. The arguments are couched in terms of our relationship with “the rest of the world”. The EU is mentioned but none of the arguments refer specifically to it. In other words this statement is a call for absolutely free migration to the UK from any part of the plant. At no point is there any recognition of the fact that for capital “freedom of movement” means “unlimited labour supply” in the context of international wage differences. Just how this removes the obligation to put in place proper training systems we already know to our cost. Even if the Campaign organisers were to say “Well we only meant to refer to the EU” the obvious question would be “Why just the EU, why would you discriminate against the rest of the world?”.

I can only say that I am astonished by the political ineptitude of the people who want Labour to adopt such a position. I understand the generous motives of such people, and I understand their desire not to find themselves saying the same things as racists. But neither of those things is sufficient for a convincing political case to be made. So what we end up with is knee-jerk political liberalism.

The truly astonishing thing is that the people signing the statement would appear to see no connection between this (generously motivated) liberalism and the doctrines of neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalism is only interested in national government insofar as it facilitates the freedom of big capital to operate just as it wants to across national borders and entering into every sphere of social life. That is the basis of the EU’s four freedoms. Behind the free movement of people lies the free movement of capital which is its determinant. There is not the slightest hint of a recognition of this in the Campaign Statement.

Many on the left like to invoke (somewhat against the facts) the ‘Spirit of ’45’. Those who do so and sign up to this statement have clearly forgotten that in the post WWII period Labour was very clear in its opposition to the free movement of capital. And Labour’s position on that now? It would seem to be a racing certainty that those advocating uncontrolled free movement have not come across the idea of a “reserve army of the unemployed”.

Not only Labour but even Maynard Keynes opposed the free movement of capital on the grounds that it would undermine national economic planning. Let me say that word again because it is so important: “planning”. Without overall control of resources the economy and therefore social development cannot be safely planned. How much do we need to argue that after 2008? This is the elephant in the socialist room. Currently many on the left want to oppose racist anti-immigration with its opposite: absolutely free immigration. But just as the proper opposition to white minority rule in South Africa was never properly “black majority rule” (a phrase never used by the ANC) but “majority rule” (a point never understood by many on the left), the proper opposite of uncontrolled immigration is not no immigration but “controlled immigration”. To those on the Labour left attracted by free movement rhetoric I think we should say “Just where do you put national democratic economic planning for social purpose in all this?”. My guess is that the triumph of neo-liberal ideology has meant that many of them have long since ceased to believe in the possibility of such a rationally and democratically organised socialist society. All that remains is managing capitalism and fire-fighting its crises.

The weakness of the arguments for uncontrolled immigration is astonishing. I can hardly believe that leading Labour activists have signed up to it. It would appear that they want to go into the next election saying to the electorate “We got it wrong on free migration in the EU. We should have had free migration from the entire world”. I can hardly believe this. Look at the people signing up to this nonsense. It includes two of the left-slate members of the NEC (Ann Black and Darren Williams) the recently elected member of the Conference Arrangements Committee for next year (Billy Hayes) and numerous Momentum activists.

If this isn’t a drive towards a spectacular own goal then I don’t know what is. That it should be advanced with such astonishingly poor arguments speaks volumes about the current state of debate within the Labour Party. I hope that people who take this issue seriously will acquaint themselves with the case made and will be ready to respond to it wherever comes up e.g. at LP branch and GC meetings.


  1. JohnP says:

    Good article about yet another politically tragic example of the dire state of socialist political understanding on what passes for the Left in the UK currently. Most of the stated and underlying economic assumptions in the dire article by Hugh Lanning are pure neoliberal ideology , ie, the automatic benefit to all of unrestricted trade . Presumably Hugh is fully in favour of the national sovereignty destroying globalising international trade deals like TTIP and its ilk ? This Adam Smith Institute type pro unfettered capitalist competition ideology coming from someone supposedly on the Left, really shows the penetration of neoliberal ideology into the Left over the last 30 years. The centrality of socialist planning to limit the chaotic power of the capitalist market, to all previous socialists, seems to be lost.

    In its place is a total acceptance of the capitalist market, with merely liberal humanitarian hopes to make it nicer. So the issue of Freedom of Movement is simply denuded of its economic context and consequences, ie, unlimited labour supply, and the destruction of worker bargaining power, and replaced with a wishy washy , sentimentality about claimed universal rights for everyone to live and work anywhere !

    That this liberal sentimentality is sweeping the Labour Left now, when the Tories are on the ropes, simply demonstrates both the political juvenility of much of the Left, but its very poor tactical sense. The daft , utterly unworkable idea that the UK can be unique in the world in allowing free access to all the world’s population, is exactly the ideological wedge the Tory press need to demonstrate the airy fairy lack of realism of the Left, and drive millions of potential Labour voters who do not want the UK to be merely a labour supply platform for globalised business into the arms of the Tories or UKIP.

    All promises to restrict immigration from the Right are bogus. Only under a Left planned mixed economy can labour supply be integrated into overall social and economic planning, do that the UK citizens employment needs and related educatiin and training , housing and welfare needs will be prioritised by the government they elect, before extra labour supplies are sourced from abroad. Such an economy would no doubt have considerable immigration , but on a democratically planned basis, acceptable to the voting citizenry. That is what the Left should be campaigning for, not sentimental liberal impossible day dreams which are merely self indulgent exercises in “virtue signalling”.

    1. DonF says:

      Excuse me, but what line of logic allows you to say that an argument in favour of the right of labour to move freely is evidence of a commitment to “national sovereignty destroying globalising international trade deals like TTIP and its ilk ?” Doe it matter in anyway that TTIP and similar international trade deals don’t allow for free movement of labour, but would considerably improve the rights of the working class in the countries affected if they did? Isn’t all that jazz about “planned mixed economy” just the hogwash of our time, with not a scrap of evidence to show that sovereign nations have showed any propensity or interest to step any significant way in achieving this pipedream outcome?

      1. David Pavett says:

        @DonF. It is true that TTIP didn’t provide for free movement of labour but JohnP made no such claim. His claim, which you seem to have missed, is that economic deals that move key decisions about the national economy out of the sphere of government are all of a piece with neoliberal assumptions. He further expressed concern that many on the left, such as those supporting the Labour Campaign for Free Movement fail to question those assumptions.

        1. DonF says:

          What he wants is cake and the eating of it too. Economic decisions which promote free movement are all of a piece with neoliberalism, but hey, even when they don’t they are neoliberal as well! The comprehensive failure of the only alternative to neoliberalism in the second half of the 20th century – the sort of Stalinist regimes that you seem to favour – ought to mean that the left takes seriously the social and economic forces that have been assembled within world markets and as the question if they provide a point of resistance to the rule of capitalism. Today this means looking at the predicament of the 900 million wage workers across the planet – 7 out of every 8 living in low development countries and subsisting in turbulent labour markets that deny them rights – and working out where they stand in relation to the fight against capitalism. Your answer is ‘back of the queue matey. Us Brits have the more important task of building the planned mixed economy on our hands and in the meantime you guys are just going to have to spin on it.’

          1. David Pavett says:

            the sort of Stalinist regimes that you seem to favour

            Very good – in the way of idiotic debating.

  2. C MacMackin says:

    An interesting read. I agree that those five arguments quoted are unbelievably poor. It must be said, though, that there is a stronger one. This starts with the point that “However much money is thrown at the border, it will only criminalise migration and drive it underground”. It takes it further to assert that this creates a class of hyper-exploited illegal immigrants who tend to drive wages down. Their illegality makes it easy for unscrupulous employers to exploit them and makes it difficult for them to organise or seek solidarity from other workers. The experience of the American immigration system would appear to bear this out. Of course, this doesn’t alter the arguments that economic planning requires regulated immigration. I’m curious to know what others think of this. (I have an idea for a solution, but I’ll wait to hear what others have to say.)

    On the question of the “reserve army of the unemployed”, what do people think of all the studies claiming to show immigration has had little to no effect on wages? I admit to not having read them myself, but they always got trotted out as part of these arguments. They do seem to be the consensus among economists.

    I feel like David has, at times, conflated the issue of free movement of people and free movement of capital. Is this just because we’re talking about it in the context of the EU and the Four Freedoms, within which the two can not be separated?

    Finally, I feel like David’s point on the negative consequences for other countries if their younger people all come to Britain is a slight oversimplification. Presumably such migrants would not primarily be coming from countries with the UK’s demographics, but from ones where they tend to have more young people relative to old. It would still represent a loss of labour for those countries, but it still wouldn’t leave them in the situation Britain is in now. Of course, David’s points about the cost of education and what happens when these immigrants age are still valid.

    1. JohnP says:

      On the important issue of the numerous studies , including from the Bank of England, purporting to demonstrate that the essentially unlimited labour supply the UK currently “enjoys” has had no, or little, impact on wages. Firstly , that this could possibly be true simply contradicts the most fundamental demand/supply/price laws of basic capitalist economics. It HAS to be nonsense by the laws of economics .

      So why have so many studies come to an opposite conclusion ? Because , the Bank of England in particular, is not doing this research without a clear agenda, and neither are any of the other researchers. Keeping inflation low is THE key objective of the Bank of England – which is well aware of the failure of wages to keep up with inflation for a decade now. The Bank of England regularly cynically scratches its head as to why in a supposed economy of low unemployment, the average wage earners (below executive earners of course ) have failed to gain any significant wage increases. The Bank of England is actually WELL aware why this is so . It is because there can never be “full employment or even near “full employment” in the UK labour market when it is an integrated part of the essentially unlimited labour supply pool of the EU. So in a situation of unlimited EU-sourced labour supply ,UK workers , despite (largely bogus) claims about “UK employment being at record levels”, have had no enhanced supply-based bargaining power in the capitalist UK labour market to force their wages up.

      The BoE is well aware of this – but is determined NOT to admit unlimited labour supply is central to their inflation containing objective. So its (and other) supposedly objective studies simply doctor the assumptions in their studies to “prove” that, contrary to the most basic capitalist supply/demand/price economics , unlimited labour supply has no impact on UK wages ! It’s an easy thing to do – because there is no actual parallel UK economy, without unlimited labour supply , to study – only computer models – which quite deliberately have all the required assumptions built in to “prove” this completely impossible conclusion .

      When challenged on this, the enthusiasts for unlimited labour supply (ie , the entire capitalist class and their grant funded economist apologists) , will say, “oh but you are assuming there is only a finite number of jobs in the UK, but unlimited labour supply opens up whole new job opportunities “. Ignoring for the moment that cheap unlimited labour supply opens up new job opportunities largely in the low skill, low wage “uberised” precariat job market sectors – this partly accurate claim about new job creation is irrelevant because the labour supply remains essentially UNLIMITED no matter how many new jobs are created. So worker bargaining power on wages never increases no matter how many new jobs neoliberalism creates.

      The tragedy here is not that the capitalist class and their tame economists churn out this economic nonsense , as cover for the core role of unlimited labour supply in the neoliberal gameplan. The tragedy is that so many on the self identifying Left, through an ignorance of basic capitalist economics, a total retreat from any ambition for a very different (Left Keynsian/ reformist socialist) economic model , based on comprehensive state-led PLANNING, and a sentimental moralist liberalism in place of class politics, have embraced unlimited “Freedom of Movement” as a new unthinking Left shibboleth. And to justify this the Left gullibly quote all the bogus BoE and other paid capitalist economist hack nonsense research “proving unlimited labour supply has “no impact” on wages and conditions .

      This section of the self identifying Left are simply acting as the Left cover ideological handmaidens of neoliberalism. And , if they got their way in terms of Labour policy, would destroy our electoral chances overnight. Their sentimental liberalism must be fought resolutely with socialist political, class-based, politics.

      1. DonF says:

        Ho ho ho…. “that this could possibly be true simply contradicts the most fundamental demand/supply/price laws of basic capitalist economics. It HAS to be nonsense by the laws of economics.” So when the reality doesn’t square with the theory then we declare reality invalid and cling fast to our beloved theory?

        1. David Pavett says:

          @DonF. Are you claiming that supply and demand doesn’t operate in the area of wages? People argue about the extent of the impact but not that it has no impact at all. Indeed the Bank of England says that a priori one should expect some impact and that is what JohnP says. You, on the other hand, are prepared to reject the idea of prices being affected by supply and demand. Perhaps you could explain that to us.

          And apart from your attempts at knit-picking, along with some abuse from Jack (below) there is no response to what I wrote in my piece above. It seems that it is virtually impossible to get a response. Why would that be?

          1. DonF says:

            My criticism is that the people who bang on about high migration rates having only one impact of wages – lowering them – is clearly wrong. An increase in the supply of labour in the real world usually takes place under conditions of economic growth – obviously, since migrants tend to avoid going to countries where there is no work for them. Economies undergoing growth experience shortages of supply of production factors and these group together to create bottlenecks that threaten continued expansion. Migrants flow into the these sectors and allow the path of growth to be resumed. If this is sustained the climate of the economy becomes one of growth, low inflation (because there is no scrabble for goods in short supply), full employment and decent wages. This was largely the story of Europe for the three decades after WW2. High volumes of migration underpinned growth in all the major economies right up until the reappearance of recession in the 1970s, when the ‘migration stop’ coincided with the oil crises and the rapid downsizing of manufacturing.

            Europe, and other advanced economies, returned to large-scale migration in the 1990s when the service industries which had replaced manufacturing, began to show signs of labour shortages that could not be met from within the domestic labour market. Migration resumed its usual role of supporting economic growth, including wage growth and expansion of spending on public services, right up until the moment when the credit crunch hit the system.

            There are important things to be said about the type of growth that takes place in high migration economies , but you are not saying them. Your mantra that migration MUST put a strain on wages, even when no sign of that which is remotely proportionate to the scale of newcomers arriving is showing up in the evidence, is blinding you and the people who have been wagging their tails in response to what is really gone on and the actually challenges that exist at the present time.

          2. JohnP says:

            Dearie me, DonF, your understanding of capitalist economics is as poor as your knowledge of UK economic /migration history ! I’m afraid the iron laws of capitalist economics in the relationship between supply, demand and price of any factor of production commodity(and Labour power is just another commodity, like apples or steel, have not been mysteriously set aside within the UK economy since unlimited labour supply was achieved after the 1992 EU Treaty of Maastricht ! So if the Bank of England, and other capitalist institutions claim to be able to detect very little impact of unlimited labour supply on UK wage levels over the last 10 years or so (although the actual BoE report is more slippery and nuanced than that) the sensible socialist might question the motives of the report writers, NOT the iron laws of capitalist supply/demand economics. Unless that socialist is actually just a Left liberal , determined to believe that unlimited labour supply is automatically an unconditional “good thing”.

            You seem to see yourself as “on the Left” yet have bought the entire neoliberal ideology bundle wholesale ! Unlimited labour supply thus is claimed by you to just fill labour shortages in particular sectors . Forcing the populations of the majority of the world to become constantly roving masses of mobile labour supply – to fit in with the dynamics of pure market forces , is apparently a “good thing “ , and more importantly, apparently demonstrates your liberal concern for the working classes of our planet.

            The fundamental basis of socialist thought, that the tyranny of the capitalist market (and the capitalist class ownership of most of the planets productive resources which underlies this market) can and should be replaced by democratic state-led comprehensive planning is dismissed as some sort of “Stalinist hangover “! You have nothing to say about the current gross inequalities of wealth and power between the tiny capitalist classes and the majority working classes, that only a socialist government using nationalisation, high taxation, and comprehensive planning, can change.
            You are therefore simply a liberal who has supped deeply of the neoliberal market ideology , Don.

            Your “virtue signalling” that everyone on our planet should be free to come to the UK to seek work, regardless of current economic activity or housing or health provision, or community impact , because essentially the market controls these flows to the benefit of all, is an ideological belief best left to the Adam Smith Institute.

            Let’s examine the real world migration flows into the UK, to see how, whereas in the 1950’s the “Windrush immigration” from the Caribbean was indeed just to fill sectoral labour shortages, the situation since the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht has been radically different, as unlimited labour supply became a core tenet of the increasingly neoliberal dynamic of the EU – alongside Freedom of movement of capital, goods, and services.

            It should be quite evident from ONS migration stats that it is only since 1992 and the Treaty of Maastricht that net migration to the UK has taken off in a totally historically unprecedented way , into the net addition of hundreds of thousands annually (as a key component of the deliberate, but unstated,New Labour Blair strategy to hobble trades union power and keep potential wage inflation down), UNLIMITED (NOT limited, managed, labour market gap filling) labour supply is intended to suck the low wage expecting masses of mainly eastern Europe , including their skilled workers, trained at the expense of their home nations, into the more developed EU economies, NOT just to fill gaps, but to create an increasingly “uberised” casualised economy, with permanently surplus supply in all but the most high skilled or deliberately internally artificially restricted professions (eg, the law). Which has and will continue to make it impossible for normal collective bargaining, or even a shortage in labour, to drive wages up.

            This is a key reason (alongside our legally and market forces weakened TU movement) for the utter stagnation in real wages for the majority of UK citizens since 2008, DESPITE the claimed “low unemployment” in the UK.

            Unlimited labour supply, alongside the equally important restructuring of the UK economy to destroy the “big battalions of Steel, Coal and engineering” through outsourcing this abroad, and the legal shackling of trade union action/closed shops, etc , is a key driver for the massive decline since the late 1970’s , and peak trade union power, of the share of UK GDP going to wages, as opposed to profits and dividends.

            The problem with your smug liberalism, and its utter acceptance of the power and benevolence of the capitalist market, is that it leads you to align yourselves ideologically with the interests of Big Capital, for whom unlimited Freedom of Movement has nothing to do with generosity to people in making individual choices as to where to work, but everything about reducing the world’s working class to a mobile labour pool, without rights and without power.

          3. DonF says:

            Wow! Someone else in this feed commented on the tendency of some to revert to ‘David Spart’-style jargon in their efforts to get their ideas across. This piece hear reads like a case study of how to twist and turn without ever once anchoring yourself in the facts. My God – if detrimental impacts of migration don’t show themselves up in Bank of England reports it can only be because of their pro-capitalist ideological bias! For heaven’s sake – don’t you ever stop to think that the reasons why these effects are’nt more marked is because migration simply hasn’t shown itself to be the disaster that you seem to be claiming?

            Here’s the nub of the issue: immigration has been net positive every year since 1994 and sharply so since 1997. By 2007 it had brought in around 3 million new people into the labour market – by any measure a huge number of people. Yet despite this evidence of detrimental effects shows up as being at best patchy and tending towards the non-existent. Even the rabidly anti-immigration Migration Watch has conceded that its impact on GDP has, rather than been a startling drop as you believe MUST have happened because your A-level economics says so, but a positive contribution of around 80p per week to every man, woman and child in the country.

            Now 80p is not a lot – around a Mars bar a week as Migration Watch always says – but neither is it a catastrophic collapse in the wages structure or mass unemployment. The stagnation wages that have prevailed over the last decade have their roots in quite another phenomenon, and labour market participation rates across the whole of the UK labour market have greatly expanded.

            For the avoidance of any doubt let me say that this is not the socialist revolution or indeed any real reason to think that all is right with the world. It isn’t and won’t be until we have tackled the problem of capitalism. But what it can certainly be taken from it is a refutation of the idea that large-scale migration is inevitably inimical to the wider interests of the working class. It isn’t. What it has done is bring a cohort of fresh workers to the country who have been exploited in their own lands and who are now fated to be exploited in this. Let’s address ourselves to the problems that are contained in this paradigm and abandon once and for all the junk that migrants are to blame for all the bad stuff which is the essence of your claim.

          4. David Pavett says:

            @DonF, September 20. By claiming that those of us who recognise migration as a necessity but think that it should be managed as those who believe “that migrants are to blame for all the bad stuff” you demonstrate that you are not interested in serious debate. You make some points which merit discussion so it is a pity that you accompany them with such unfounded and objectionable accusations.

            And apart from all that your case comes down to the claim that the free market as opposed to democratic planning is the best way to resolve economic problems. You have also failed to notice that the failure to manage migration has a series of negative consequences of which the impact on wages is only one and not necessarily the most important one.

            What we still don’t have is anyone making a clear argument as to why migration should not be managed.

    2. David Pavett says:

      Thanks for the questions and criticisms.

      There are, of course, negative aspects to trying to regulate anything as basic as the right to residency. If some people are in the country illegally then they will be vulnerable to exploitation with no ability to defend themselves. I don’t see that this is an argument for no regulation. If you think that some sort of regulation is required by national planning, as I think you do, then you need to look at the various ways in which employers and employment rights can be monitored/inspected. There would be other means also. I would be interested to hear your suggestions on this.

      The impact of a reserve army of the unemployed is not only measured by reduction in wages. It can also be a factor contributing to wage stagnation and don’t know of any study that looks at that. But wages are not the only thing. The reserve army has enabled employers to escape from their duty to train the next generation adequately. It also contributes to de-unionisation which rarely, if ever, concerns the compilers of economic statistics and about which the TUC is unhelpfully silent (last time I looked).

      The Bank of England study of the impact of immigration on wages at least has the good sense to say “A priori, it seems unlikely that a substantive rise in immigration in a particular region and occupation has had absolutely no impact on pay in that region and occupation.” would that more people on the left had the good sense to start from such a point.

      The BofE study is also useful in pointing out the methodological difficulties of the problem and pointing out very different approaches to the task leading to very different results.

      The BofE study concluded that “We find that that once the occupational breakdown is incorporated into a regional analysis of immigration, the immigrant-native ratio has a statistically significant, small, negative impact on the average occupational wage rates of the regions.”

      The Bank further found that when the global statistics are broken down to occupational statistics “The static results suggest that the statistically significant negative effects of immigration on wages are concentrated among skilled production workers, and semi/unskilled service workers. In the latter cases, the coefficients indicates that a 10 percentage point rise in the proportion of immigrants working in semi/unskilled services — that is, in care homes, bars, shops, restaurants, cleaning, for example — leads to a 1.88 percent reduction in pay.”

      One would have thought that such findings would be of interest and concern to all on the left. Instead, as we see with the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, all the effort is on “virtue signalling” i.e. “we are the good guys, we don’t hate immigrants, in fact, unlike the racists we welcome them” rather than any examination of the facts.

      Then beyond wages there is the issue of social disruption. This is not a question of blaming the immigrants but rather one of recognising that mass movement of populations, especially if uncontrolled always poses a series of social problems. I can go into this if required but I think that most people who think about it know that it is the case. Failure to recognise this hands political traction to the racists.

      In don’t see that I have conflated free movement of labour and of capital. I think that the two are closely bound together in the neo-liberal view of the world in which the factors of production are not an affair of the state but should be left to the decisions of the global market (i.e. international corporations).

      On the impact of immigration on the countries from whom the immigrants are drawn I want to say that what scandalises me on this is the virtual total absence on the virtue signalling left of any recognition that this might be an issue. The mentality of empire, it seems, is not entirely absent from the mindset of many on the left.

      In his book Exodus Paul Collier points out that emigration from poor countries typically from the ethnic minorities in the countries of origin thereby acting as a subtle form of ethnic cleansing and reducing the ability of those minorities to achieve equal status. Collier also argues that the “brain drain” effect varies according the the country. The effects on stronger players such as China and India (which anyway have low migration rates) is positive whereas the impact on much weaker countries (he quote Haiti) is negative. This is a big issue and I am no expert but I find shocking the total lack of interest in these issues among those on the left promoting the idea of uncontrolled immigration.

      1. C MacMackin says:

        Thanks for the reply. I do agree that economic planning requires some regulation of immigration (unless we somehow manage to get very good at predicting immigration numbers and skill sets). My suggestion for doing this humanely is two-fold. First, the work visa should be largely abolished. Instead, those who come will be given indefinite leave to remain from the start (currently workers must live here for a number of years on a different visa before they can apply). This would place them in a stronger position vis a vis their employers than a work permit. The leave to remain could lapse if the holder doesn’t spend over a certain percentage of her time in the UK, to prevent people just using it as a way to arbitrarily move back and forth between here and their home country whenever they want to change jobs etc. This is (roughly speaking) the system we use in Canada for most migrants and it seems to work quite well. It’s worth noting that immgration justice campaigners there never seem to talk about open borders but instead about giving the temporary foreign workers that do exist a clear path to permanent residency.

        Second, we could change how the punishment regime works. Illegal immigrants are ripe for exploitation because their employers can always threaten to report them, resulting in deportation. Instead we shift the onus onto the employer. Anyone caught employing illegal immigrants would face stiff penalities (perhaps up to and including time in prison) while their employees would be offered indefinite leave to remain. This would effectively destroy any market for illegal immigrant labour while giving incentives for any which does exist to be reported by the victims themselves.

        Thanks for the discussion of the BoE study. I agree that its details should be of more interest to those on the Left. Alas, people are usually happy to accept a headline agreeing with their preconceived notions at face value.

        I felt like free movement of capital and labour were sometimes conflated due to paragraphs like this one:

        Many on the left like to invoke (somewhat against the facts) the ‘Spirit of ’45’. Those who do so and sign up to this statement have clearly forgotten that in the post WWII period Labour was very clear in its opposition to the free movement of capital. And Labour’s position on that now? It would seem to be a racing certainty that those advocating uncontrolled free movement have not come across the idea of a “reserve army of the unemployed”.

        I agree that, in the neoliberal mind, these two “freedoms” are closely linked and that this belies a lot of the arguments we hear today. I’m just not sure that this, in itself, is an argument against free movement of people. I do wish, however, that socialists would face up to the fact that bilateral free movement of people with the EU would also require bilateral free movement of capital. Even if they do consider the former to be positive, what of the latter?

        On social disruption, this can in principle be managed, although doing so may only work when immigration is regulated. I feel like we do quite a good job of this in Canada, where we have an even higher per capital immigration rate than the UK. We offer courses in both official languages, facilitate recent immigrants forming links with established ones who can help them adjust, and our constitutionally enshrined policies of multiculturalism have been fairly successful in allowing immigrants to integrate with Canadian society without being expected to assimilate. However, our approach to multiculturalism works in part because it is so deaply engrained. It has been official policy since the 70s and even then was building on the fact we were settled by immigrants from a variety of European countries. From the start there has been at least some acknowledgement that Canadian identity is a hybrid one which continues to grow and evolve as new people arrive. Creating this sort of attitude in the UK would be considerably more difficult. (And, of course, Canada doesn’t represent a perfect template to follow. The Canadian left loves to point out all of the ways our society is actually terrible and racist etc. Furthermore, aboriginal culture remains completely marginal. Nonetheless, despite the problems which still exist, I would suggest Canada is the most successful example of a multicultural country which we have.)

        1. David Pavett says:

          @Chris M. It is surely not just a matter of prediction of immigration numbers and skill sets but also a question of social planning and need both here and in the countries of origin.

          Comparisons with Canada may not be all that helpful because of the differences in geography immigrants to Canada are most likely (I would have thought) to be intending to become permanent residents and eventually Canadian citizens. The number of immigrants seeking citizenship is much higher than in most other immigrant receiving countries. So that is a different situation to the largely transient workforce that comes to the UK from the EU (to consider only that). So it is not immediately obvious that the Canadian solution would work.

          Of course I agree that the onus should shift from workers to employers. If we had a system of ID cards the whole thing would become much simpler. Everyone, including resident non-nationals could be required to have a card. Then employers could be required to check that card – as opposed to demanding passports and other papers which is probably not a function we should give them.

          Either I did not explain myself clearly enough in the paragraph you quote or perhaps you are misreading it. I think that the free movement of capital and labour are distinct but connected issues. It would be possible to have one without the other. But when you have them both then they are going to operate under capitalism in such a way that the movement of capital will be the determining element. The fact that there are 1.9 million Poles in Germany is based on the higher capital investment there. That at least was what I was thinking.

          I am not sure why you say free movement of people requires free movement of capital. The two are likely to be linked but I am not sure this is a matter of necessity.

          I understand what you say about the Canadian acceptance of immigration along with its multi-cultural policies. I once new someone who was an example of this. He was a Swiss-Italian. He lived in France for a long time and then in the UK. When he emigrated to Canada he said if was the first place where it felt at home because so many others were just like him.

          So, yes, there are cultural issues involved as well and it would seem that Canada is a long way ahead of the UK in this respect. It might also be that Canadian multi-cultural policies have encouraged integration whereas in the UK they have sometimes had the reverse effect (outlined by Kenan Malik in his From Fatwa to Jihad). We could certainly do with some serious discussion about how to change received opinion on such matters.

          There is an aspect of this problem which hasn’t been mentioned. We have discussed the issue in terms of countries like the UK and Canada in terms of what appear to be general principles. I wonder if they really are general and if they aren’t then the terms of the debate need changing. What I have in mind is the position of small countries with big neighbours who might be inclined to use population movement as an instrument of political pressure. The Baltic states are having difficulties with their Russian minorities who went there in Soviet times and never tried to integrate. An open border policy, even of the type you suggest, could potentially lead to great problems for such countries. Similarly so for China’s neighbours (not to speak of hot-spots Kashmir and Israel).

          1. C MacMackin says:

            It is surely not just a matter of prediction of immigration numbers and skill sets but also a question of social planning and need both here and in the countries of origin.

            I was being rather flippant with that comment. I was more saying that predicting numbers (very accurately) would be necessary, but didn’t mean to imply anything about whether it would be sufficient. In any case, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to predict numbers with sufficient accuracy, so the point is moot.

            Fair point about the differences in types of immigrant coming to Canada compared to the UK. I still think Labour should make it easier to seek permanent residency here, however. I would also suggest the immigration system should favour those who wish to actually settle here, as they will be the ones to offer longer-term contributions to the country. Large transient workforces are also much worse for community cohesion.

            Thanks for the clarification of the link between free movement of people and capital. I agree with what you say. My statement that free movement of people with the EU is linked to free movement of capital comes down to the fact that the EU has made it very clear the Four Freedoms are indivisible. The UK could, of course, theoretically unilaterally open its borders without having any free movement for Britons. I said I was refering to bilateral free movement of people being linked to free movement of capital.

            I feel as though there are some basic fundamental principles which should inform our stance on immigration regardless of the context. However, how those principle end up being applied is highly context-dependent. For example, if we had worldwide socialism, relative economic equality between countries, and some degree of global economic planning, then perhaps some form of free movement would be possible; I still hold onto that as an utopian dream. However, in the here and now, there are practical realities which every country has to face.

          2. C MacMackin says:

            I should also say that Kenan Malik does not like the Canadian model of multiculturalism. He did point out some cases, reminiscent of happenings in Europe, which have sparked controversy and where (in some of them) the best decision was not necessarily taken. As I said, I don’t hold us up as a perfect model. However, what isn’t acknowledged is that there seem to be fewer of these cases than in Europe and, overall, there are smoother relations between cultures.

            Malik feels that we have a “public recognition and institutionalisation of cultural differences”. This is obviously a risk with any system of multiculturalism and Canada’s preferred metaphor of the “cultural mosaic” (as opposed to the “melting pot” of the United States) isn’t helpful in this regard. However, I feel in practice that isn’t what we’ve seen. Instead we have more of a pot of “cultural gumbo” with groups allowed to remain culturally distinct but also to mix with each other.

            In pointing out cases where there have been conflicts between groups, he is ignoring cases which go against his point. For example, in Ontario the courts ruled against applying Sharia law in family courts, which incidentally meant that existing Jewish and Catholic family courts were abolished. This is surely the sort of secular universalism of which Malik would approve. Then there was the prime-time sitcom called “Little Mosque on the Prairie” (the earlier series of which were actually pretty watchable, which is saying something for Canadian television). This dealt with relationships between the Muslim and non-Muslim population of a smallish Saskatchewan town, as well as conflicts within the Islamic community between liberal and conservative forces. It was written by a Muslim woman who has been very critical of how conservative imams are often brought in from abroad rather than having more liberal Canadian Muslims play this role. For someone like Malik who is critical of “unelected community leaders [who are] often deeply conservative” surely such dialogue is a good thing. Malik could have noted that Canada has had far less Islamic terrorism than the UK, which would seem to indicate better integration of Muslim communities. Then there was the rather touching story of how, after an anti-Islamic terrorist burnt down a mosque, a local synagogue offered the use of their building until a new mosque could be built, fostering relationships between the two communities.

            On the other hand, I think his criticism of our immigration system as favouring middle class migrants is fair. He is right to call out the temporary foreign workers program. However, it has been the forces of the Left, who tend to be the strongest supporters of multiculturalism, which have been most critical of this policy, rallying to the slogan “if they’re good enough to work, they’re good enough to stay”.

            So, yes, of course Canada has its problems, but we’ve also had plenty of successes and these deserve to be acknowledged. The question is, how can the positive elements be applied to the UK, given this country’s very different history and attitudes? (Bit of a rant there, but I felt like I should make some of the shortcomings and criticisms clear, while also mounting a defense against what I felt were unfair arguments.)

  3. Sue says:

    It seems to me that it is essential, in order to run any country effectively on a more socialist basis, to manage immigration in some way. Presumably a (hopefully socialist) Labour govt will want to plough resources into housing, health and education. Doing that effectively surely demands knowing roughly who the recipients are going to be, how many, and what their needs are? To me managed migration just makes sense. If we need carpenters until our own new apprenticeship schemes start producing them then we can allow that? Or Drs, nurses etc? But sucking what we need from other countries rather than investing the cash to train our own is not an answer. And non political people see this as our people being disadvantaged?

  4. Sue says:

    That sent before I’d finished! I wanted to add that I don’t think I’ve ever heard an argument being pushed within the Labour Party for free movement worldwide? So why the concearn re free movement with EU countries?

    1. JohnP says:

      The proponents of this “Free Movement of people” mantra ( so much more touchy feely a phrase than its actual reality , ie, “Unlimited Labour Supply” in a capitalist neoliberal economy) probably are really only arguing to maintain Freedom of Movement in the EU. BUT, big BUT, they are then vulnerable to the accurate jibe, that such such large, but still globally geographically limited free movement , ie , inside “fortress EU Europe” cuts out most of the world’s population from participation – and hence is Eurocentric and , horror of horrors “racist”. Well they just can’t have that – so these Left Liberals , having utterly abandoned any concept of an alternative socialist planned economy, including labour supply, inevitable have to adopt a much wider, global ” “freedom of Movement” demand !

      It’s “virtue signalling”, empty liberal posturing of the most irresponsible sort – all taking place in the socially isolated political echo chamber of the small sect infested UK Left – competing with each other to be the most “right on”.

      As you say, Sue, the job of any serious Left government is to run an economy which plans, as far as is possible in a still largely capitalist “mixed” economy, overall labour supply alongside housing, health and other social provision, within a wide education and training framework – to maximise the benefit , firstly for its voter citizens. That is what democracy in any state is about. It is not the task of any UK government, even a socialist one, to employ or house the entire global population. That isn’t “racism” or “nationalism” . That is reality. Only a Left confident it would never have to deliver on its liberal , unworkable, posturing could even contemplate the policy of unlimited freedom of movement into the UK.

    2. Danny Nicol says:

      Supporters of the unlimited labour supply are caught between a rock and a hard place. To keep with EU free movement where most nationals of the Member States are white, is thunderously racist. “Europeans Only” amounts to a policy of white privilege. On the other hand to expand to worldwide free movement is a recipe for complete chaos within the entire welfare state and will lead to large numbers of Labour voters shunning the polls.

  5. Bazza says:

    A very good post and very welcome David! I am also a member of Momentum and they have this odd system where 50 members are chosen at random to make a Members Council and I am afraid in my view this unelected group seems to have decided for us all (top down) what should be our priority campaigns and one of them is apparently on Free Movement and on Facebook this was welcomed by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.
    It just shows how you may really need to elect reps based on their written statements.
    And then I got to thinking, “The Labour Campaign for Free Movement and why free market, laissez-faire, Neo-Liberal capitalists may be cracking open the bubbly?”
    An excellent piece in The New Left Review a while back argued that the EC was originally set up to counter the then perceived threat of the USSR, to promote capitalism in Europe, and to give Europe a greater voice on the World stage.
    In fact it is argued De Gaulle of France originally vetoed the UK joining because he felt it would act as a Trojan Horse for US Big Business, which eventually happened and the dollar was soon to dominate (and hence I would argue the desire from some for the Euro).
    In the late 1950’s we also witnessed the emergence of Right Wing Neo-Liberal Think Tanks and they took about 20 years to capture the Tory party in the UK (Thatcher was sat in a room by Keith Joseph and others and taught it) and it then captured the US (Reaganism).
    Then the bonus prize was New Labour, then Scottish Labour, then the EC.
    But with Brexit I would argue some socialists are not asking the right questions; it is perhaps not Leave or Remain but how can we build a left wing democratic socialist society as an example to other countries?
    There were perhaps two difficult potential frameworks for this, firstly via the EC and existing democratic socialist parties and trade unions OR through individual economically independent states but who still could still cooperate.
    The first framework I would argue has now gone so foe me now it is option two. So as we face a Neo-Liberal EC it could be argued the free movement of labour primarily serves the free movement of capital and I believe Labour Campaign For Free Movement are taking the wrong road.
    I would argue Labour has a good position on migrants needing job offers; we are not curbing migration we are MANAGING LABOUR SUPPLY!
    Labour is also committed to bringing back MIGRATION ADJUSTMENT FUNDS for local Councils (capital’s only interest is profit, and it perhaps has little interest in the social consequences of its actions) and I would add that the third element we need is to make great efforts to TRADE UNIONISE MIGRANT WORKERS too.
    Whilst we are in a capitalist society I would further suggest we will need GOOD CAPITAL (good wages, conditions, trade unions) and not BAD CAPITAL (the opposite including the GIG economy and zero hours) and every country should manage its LABOUR SUPPLY AND CAPITAL SUPPLY!
    We should also be arguing for a global living wage (by country).
    So perhaps some may be taking a UK-centric view but as well as caring about working people in the UK as internationalists shouldn’t we also care too about working people in the EC and their poorer countries (and the World) or are they there predominantly to serve the rich in the richer EC countries (UK, Germany, France) as for example a country like Bulgaria will have lost 50% of its population by 2020?
    So perhaps managing labour and capital supply is internationalist.
    We should also recognise that whilst there may be a pull to the richer EC countries with generally much better wages there is also a push with some countries (llike the horrible Right Wing Govt. in Poland) only allowing benefits for 3 months for those out of work.
    With our left wing democratic socialist narrative
    I believe we can still do deals to allow all the current EC migrants to remain on the day of Brexit and UK citizens in Spain etc. to remain too and that we can do future deals.
    We can also do deals on European co-operation on policing, security, R&D, student exchanges, the environment etc.
    The UK I believe also pays the EC £14b so perhaps we may need to pay something like £10b (collectively by Govt.) so individual companies can have tariff free trade with Europe without the Neo-liberal economic straightjacket.
    Perhaps some may need to think more imaginatively and outside of the UK box?
    Yours in international solidarity!

    1. Bazza says:

      Footnote -and now the Right Wing Tory Neo-Liberal UK Govt et al (with a global Neo-Liberal capitalist vision) have been exporting Neo-Liberalism via Overseas Aid to so called ‘less developed countries’ (already robbed by capitalism).
      Haven’t they suffered enough?

  6. JohnP says:

    What I find most peculiar, and highly emblematic of the Left’s apparent inability to justify its positions when challenged FROM THE LEFT on group think shibboleth proposals like unlimited freedom of movement, is the total lack of any posts providing justification for this Free Movement policy any time this issue is raised on Left Futures.

    The liberal Left is apparently OK if it is challenged on unlimited immigration from the bigoted Right – because it can simply simplistically yell “racist” as its response. But argue from the socialist Left that we should be actually challenging the entire basis of the four EU capitalist neoliberal “freedoms” , of labour supply , capital movement , goods and services, with an entirely different social and economic model, ie, that of a planned state-led socialist, or more accurately ,transitional “mixed” economy , of which labour supply is one component of comprehensive planning – and the Left liberal “free movement” advocates suddenly fall silent .

    Come on Free Movementers , have the bottle to actually defend your position . Or is that too hard, and will expose your politics as moralistic liberalism , entirely unrelated to socialist tradition , theory or principles ?

    1. Bazza says:

      I actually agree with everything you have said John.
      I posted on their Facebook page that a very good discussion was taking place on Left Futures.
      We will have to see if they dare leave their comfort zone?

      1. David Pavett says:

        Yes, I really do wish that the supporters of free movement would state their case in something other than the very poor terms of Hugh Lanning and the Labour Campaign for Free Movement. They seem unable to get beyond the sort of comment sent by Jack in this thread. Would someone please step forward and make the case. We know that free movement has a lot of support on the left. So let’s hear the arguments.

  7. Peter Rowlands says:

    A good article and a generally good debate. Thanks to David for giving the B of E findings which gave greater weight to the effect of migration than I had understood to be the case.
    The background is the much steeper fall in real wages suffered by workers in the UK post 2007 than almost anywhere else in the EU. Clearly this was not just due to migration, as this was substantial across the EU. It also reflected the severity of the recession, effective devaluation, a more deregulated labour market, a lack of investment, higher population growth, little trade union strength and other things.
    Since the accession of the largely ex communist states in 2004 a degree of regulation of migration within the EU has clearly been necessary, but too few party members understaand this. It is irresponsible of Cortes and others to have promoted the Labour Campaign for Free Movement as it threatens major division at conference.They must be made to spell out exactly where they stand. If they want free movement within the EU after Brexit, with immigration policy otherwise unchanged, they should explain how they are not advocating a racist policy, which they presumably would not want to do. If they are advocating unlimited worlwide free movement into the UK,they should explain how this can be managed.

  8. Jack says:

    Thank you for declaring your opposition to freedom of movement in such clear terms. It’s useful to know that the worst of humanity’s enemies include not only those who have the self-awareness to recognise themselves as being on the authoritarian right.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Abuse (“worst of humanity’s enemies”) is not an argument. Can you please explain the basis of your disagreement?

      1. JohnP says:

        Is that meaningless abuse the best the unlimited freedom of movement enthusiasts can manage ? Tragic .

        1. David Pavett says:

          It’s quite something when someone who presumably thinks of themselves as acting on a humanitarian impulse is so quick to label those who disagree with him with not only as “enemies of the people” but even as the “worst of humanities enemies”.

          1. JohnP says:

            Sadly, this is the type of response I expected, if any. Without being too “Dave Spartishly Lefty ” about terminology, I think the all encompassing phrase used by “Jack” , ie “humanities enemies” tells us a lot about the neoliberalism-captured ideological mindset of too many of the supporters of unlimited free movement /unlimited labour supply , in a capitalist market-driven world.

            The undifferentiated “whole of”humanities” enemies are those capitalist corporations polluting and destroying our common global ecosystem. But below this common, undifferentiated shared “humanity” the humans on our planet are actually divided into social classes , with very different interests. The globalised ruling capitalist class wants the majority of the rest of humanity, (the declining peasantry are to be proletarianised ASAP) the world’s wage earning proletariat to be reduced to a rightsless mass of ever travelling “free labourers”, traversing the world’s currently dominant capitalist production centres ever searching for work, driven not by “individual freedom” as these liberals seem to think, but by the soul-less dynamics of the neoliberal global capitalist market . This is the “freedom” that a socialist thinker in the 19th century, referred to as “the freedom to sleep under bridges” .

            As socialists , we differ fundamentally from those who have foolishly signed the “Free Movement” document, with its half-truths, unsubstantiated assertions, and total lack of political content/class analysis -( other than an unstated acceptance of the capitalist market economy as a given), in having an alternative, socialist model and objective , for a better society. In this better socialist society, comprehensive democratic planning , at first controls, then replaces, the chaotic power of the capitalist market, with democratic state-directed planning. In this socialist (or transitional mixed) economy ,labour supply is a component of a balanced social plan, encompassing health, education, housing etc. A socialist or social democratic government cannot allow its citizens to simply be the ever-mobile “production units” of a global capitalist marketplace. Nor should socialists support a globalised (or EU-wide) labour supply system which forces workers everywhere to constantly uproot themselves at the whim of market forces. that is not real “freedom” but wage bondage.

            We see our struggle for socialism in the UK as part of a global struggle for socialism. But the internationalism and solidarity action that involves will not be built on the institutions and arrangements of globalised , international neoliberal capitalism.

    2. Bazza says:

      As I stand with oppresed working people.
      In the rich and poor EC.
      Free movement grateful Neo-liberal capitalists.
      Through champers say to Jack, “Thank thee!”

  9. James Martin says:

    The bloke behind this tosh, Hugh Lanning, was (and still is) big on Cuba and Palestine, and in fact before I was made redundant from the civil service by Gordon Brown and was a PCS activist it was Hugh as a senior PCS official that organised the Cuba Solidarity Campaign Havana Club Rum receptions at PCS conference (of which I have very fond, but fuzzy, memories). Now the point of this meander down my fading memory lane is that of course socialist Cuba does not have open borders. Far from it, Cuban residency or even work permits are pretty hard to obtain due to the fact that with limited resources the Cuban state correctly needs to be sure of what population it is providing health and education to, although of course socialist Cuba remains one of the most internationalist states on the planet.

    Somehow I doubt that these right-on liberals posing as socialists have worked out their inconsistency when it comes to open borders, and why Cuban workers should benefit from a manged migration policy but British workers should not, but then that is liberals for you…

    1. Sue says:

      Thank you James. I was going to mention Cuba.

    2. Ted says:

      People aren’t exactly queuing up to get into Cuba are they? The difficulty in getting a visa is more likely due to its being a Stalinist bureaucracy, I suspect.

      1. David Pavett says:

        And your point about unregulated migration is?

        1. Ted says:

          That Cuba is entirely irrelevant to it. There are far more people trying to get out of Cuba than there are trying to get in.

  10. We should not forget that one of the arguments used by Gordon Brown’s Treasury not to delay new East European immigration in the Blair cabinet was to increase labour market flexibility. We know this thanks to John Reid’s later reporting of it.

    ‘Labour market flexibility’ does give the game away regarding how ‘freedom of movement’ is used by believers in neo-liberal economic answers. It really should have no place in the labour movement. It will always be used to attack wages.

  11. Jim Denham says:

    I can agree that the Lanning article isn’t particularly good, and avoids certain key issues. This piece, from the Campaign itself, is much better and takes up the economic and political illiteracy (reminiscent of what Marx called “Reactionary/Tue socialism”) of immigration driving down wages:

    By Raquel Palmeira and Ben Towse, Labour Campaign for Free Movement

    Not long ago, defence of migrants, the right to cross borders to live and work, and the project of lowering, not raising, borders, were common sense for most of the left. Blaming migrants for the problems facing working people, and demanding that borders be tightened – this was the territory of right-wing demagogues. But in the wake of the Brexit referendum, it’s a different story.

    Seemingly left-wing arguments for further restrictions on migration are gaining currency. But do these arguments hold up to scrutiny? Labour and trade union activists are coming together in a new initiative, the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, to make the case that they don’t. We are standing up for an unapologetically left-wing commitment to both defending the limited degree of free movement that exists now, and extending it further, as a matter of workers’ rights.

    Some argue that the Labour Party can implement progressive migration controls that benefit workers by “controlling the supply of labour”. What is missing here is an acknowledgement that the supply of labour is not an inanimate raw material but human beings – other workers. So these calls amount to nothing more than a request for the state to ramp up the machinery of border controls – barbed wire, raids, deportations and precarity – to discriminate against some workers for the supposed benefit of others.

    This is not a new theme. As the newly-elected Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle pointed out, demands to discriminate between workers by nationality echo the male trade unionists who protested against women entering the workplace.

    Those on the right side of history saw an alternative to clinging onto the prevailing hierarchies and prejudices. At its best, our movement strove to organise workers on equal terms, across divides like race and gender, to win a better deal for everyone. The solution is no different today. Labour and trade unions must stand for workers of all backgrounds. We need to build strong trade unions that win in the workplace, and fight elections with policies that promise to raise wages, tackle rents, build homes, secure workers’ rights, and invest in public services – for everyone.

    Going further, we also have to confront the underlying assumption that immigrant workers undermine the wages, conditions and job security of domestic workers – the contention that an increase in the supply of labour drives down the price.

    Intuitively, this makes sense. Unfortunately for proponents of immigration controls, it’s just plain wrong. Before the referendum, researchers at the LSE crunched the numbers. They showed that immigration from the EU has not been significantly linked to wage cuts, unemployment, or deterioration in public services. And it’s not surprising. Migrants don’t just work, they need to eat, drink and live: an increase in population doesn’t just raise the supply of labour, but the demand that creates jobs too.

    It was always a lie that migrant workers are to blame for low wages, unemployment and precarity. Unfortunately, a concerted effort by the racist right has made it a widely believed one. Labour’s role must not be to concede to this lie, but to debunk it and to place the blame where it belongs: with the rich and powerful, and the right-wing government that helps them to cut our wages and services, and concentrate more and more of our society’s wealth in the hands of an unaccountable elite.

    Labour has to explain that it’s not free movement that threatens workers, but anti-migrant policies . Whether by denying them access to the welfare safety net, threatening them with deportation if they lose their job, or rendering their work status outright illegal, measures that push migrant workers into precarity make it easier for employers to turn the screws on their wages and working conditions, undercutting everyone else’s too.

    Pro-worker, pro-migrant socialists have a big task in front of us. Even before the looming threat to European free movement, non-European migrants already face harsh treatment. Xenophobia dominates the media narrative, and sadly these right-wing lies have gained a lot of traction. For some, acknowledging that reality means playing to its tune. Last year, Stephen Kinnock framed his call for Labour to appeal to white working class voters by embracing immigration controls, as opposing “identity politics”. But the real identitarians are those who patronise workers by acting as if xenophobic ideas are particular to working class people and fixed: a fact of nature to be either navigated around or marketed to, rather than debated.

    If the rollercoaster ride of the snap election proved anything, it was this: Labour can win enormous gains, not by conceding to a prevailing right-wing narrative, but seizing the initiative and telling our own story. We painted a vision of a different society, and we went door by door, street by street to win hearts and minds. We convinced people and shifted the political mainstream.

    As socialists, our alternative to the division, disempowerment and rampant exploitation of Tory Britain is an open society based on solidarity, in which bigotries and divisions are swept aside, and wealth and power are taken back from the hoarders to be shared out among working people. If we put it forward unapologetically and do the work to persuade people, this is a vision that can inspire. That’s the basis on which Labour must fight to win, and that’s why the Labour Campaign for Free Movement exists.

    1. David Pavett says:

      I don’t think the argument by Raquel Palmeira and Ben Towse is in any way an advance on the one by Hugh Lanning. It starts from the assumption that to favour any sort of control of large-scale migration is to be anti-immigrant. You might as well say that to favour controls on the application of science (e.g. to genetic modification of animals and plants) is to be anti-science. It is an absurd proposition.

      The second assumption is that controls imply ramping up the use of state violence against migrant workers. This is an equally absurd argument. The vast majority of migrant workers in a controlled migration system would be here by agreement and would therefore have a clear status and a clear reason for being here. This would strengthen their ability to defend themselves and could make it easier to help them by getting them to join a union (an undiscussed problem of migrant labour).

      The argument put by Raquel Palmeira and Ben Towse contains no specific mention of the EU so we must assume that their argument is for completely free movement of labour across the entire planet. Have they stopped for a few minutes to imagine what this could mean? I very much doubt it.

      The focus on the impact on wages is far too narrow. The left should be intrested in how immigrants integrate into social and political life, where they settle, and in their knowledge of English and of the way society functions at the level of everyday life. The fact that none of this is discussed shows what a narrow form of politics the Labour Campaign for Free Movement is. The campaign is not only based on extremely weak arguments but also on the idea that Labour should go into the next election saying “We believe not only that free movement should be possible with the countries with which we have the closest economic ties but also from every where else in the world. The should be no limit in terms of numbers or provenance. The should be no requirements either in terms of knowledge of English or in terms of skills. We will run the country as an open house”. It seems to me that you would have to be politically mad to believe that Labour could succeed with such a policy and you would be extremely misguided to even wish for success on such a basis.

      So, with this contribution by Raquel Palmeira and Ben Towse we have yet another confirmation that the free movement campaign is unable to mount a hakf way decent case for its cause.

      1. Don Flynn says:

        You clearly haven’t got a clue as to what is involved in the business of managing migration. Your statement that “The vast majority of migrant workers in a controlled migration system would be here by agreement and would therefore have a clear status and a clear reason for being here” is breathtakingly naive.

        The essence of being a migrant is that your residence rights are conditional on remaining compliant with the terms of your entry. This means that every migrant has to be kept under surveillance in order to ensure that they haven’t broken any rules. Since the rules themselves are constantly changing – 40,000 changes during T. May’s period in the Home Office – and run into volumes that cover not just the migrant herself but also just everyone who comes into contact with her – then this surveillance operation functions a machine that creates the conditions for breach of the rules and illegality.

        Employers, landlords, university tutors, bank staff, social services departments, housing officials, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries, Jobcentre staff, teaching staff at schooks- the list goes on.

        To justify a policing opelation of this scale politicians have to ramp up public anxiety about the migration system being abased and too many of the ‘wrong’ sort of immigrants are getting into the country. The public is appealed to to be vigilant and use Home Office hotlines to report suspicions about ‘illegal’ immigrants moving into their neighbourhood. To show that officials are taking these anxieties seriously periodic campaigns have to be mounted, with street level ID checks and raids on
        businesses that are run by migrants.

        The outcome of all this action has to show up in government statistics that show more people are being arrested and detained – currently around 30,000 people a year go through detention centres – and more people are deported from the country. To ensure that challenges to this level of state action are kept to the minimum rights to legal aid are taken away and the opportunity to appeal reduced to the barest minimum. Civil society organisations that attempt to stand up for the rights of migrants also get caught in the net- accused of aiding and abetting illegality.

        You think this climate of each treated hostility is one in which migrants can look forward to their eventual integration into British society? Dream on. Look at what managed migration has come to mean in any of the destination countries of the world – state thuggery and the ramping up of racism. Wake up you dozy clucks and check out what is really going on out there!

      2. Don Flynn says:

        You clearly haven’t got a clue as to what is involved in the business of managing migration. Your statement that “The vast majority of migrant workers in a controlled migration system would be here by agreement and would therefore have a clear status and a clear reason for being here” is breathtakingly naive.

        The essence of being a migrant is that your residence rights are conditional on remaining compliant with the terms of your entry. This means that every migrant has to be kept under surveillance in order to ensure that they haven’t broken any rules. Since the rules themselves are constantly changing – 40,000 changes during T. May’s period in the Home Office – and run into volumes that cover not just the migrant herself but also just everyone who comes into contact with her – then this surveillance operation functions a machine that creates the conditions for breach of the rules and illegality.

        Employers, landlords, university tutors, bank staff, social services departments, housing officials, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries, Jobcentre staff, teaching staff at schooks- the list goes on.

        To justify a policing opelation of this scale politicians have to ramp up public anxiety about the migration system being abased and too many of the ‘wrong’ sort of immigrants are getting into the country. The public is appealed to to be vigilant and use Home Office hotlines to report suspicions about ‘illegal’ immigrants moving into their neighbourhood. To show that officials are taking these anxieties seriously periodic campaigns have to be mounted, with street level ID checks and raids on
        businesses that are run by migrants.

        The outcome of all this action has to show up in government statistics that show more people are being arrested and detained – currently around 30,000 people a year go through detention centres – and more people are deported from the country. To ensure that challenges to this level of state action are kept to the minimum rights to legal aid are taken away and the opportunity to appeal reduced to the barest minimum. Civil society organisations that attempt to stand up for the rights of migrants also get caught in the net- accused of aiding and abetting illegality.

        You think this climate of each treated hostility is one in which migrants can look forward to their eventual integration into British society? Dream on. Look at what managed migration has come to mean in any of the destination countries of the world – state thuggery and the ramping up of racism. Wake up and check out what is really going on out there!

        1. David Pavett says:

          In his various responses to me DonF has felt free to refer to “the sort of Stalinist regimes that you seem to favour”. This reminds me of a cartoon in the New Yorker back in the 60s in which a candidate on the hustings tells his audience “And further more I refuse to stoop to the mudslinging tactics of my opponent and his commie pals”. He says that instead of worrying about immigration “Us Brits have the more important task of building the planned mixed economy on our hands” and that if we don’t agree with him “you guys are just going to have to spin on it”. Later on he adds that I “clearly haven’t got a clue as to what is involved in the business of managing migration” and that my view that in a managed system the vast majority of migrant workers would have a clear status “is breathtakingly naive”. This is, he argues, because any sort of managed system would require “that every migrant has to be kept under surveillance in order to ensure that they haven’t broken any rules”. Others may allow that the naivety on this is not mine. Finally, he claims that all managed systems around the world involve “state thuggery and the ramping up of racism” but he doesn’t oblige us with any basis for this claim.

          Despite his aggressive approach to debate I think that it is good that DonF (Don Flynn) has joined this debate since he is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable commentators and activists on the side of free movement. If he can’t make a decent case for allowing mass movement of populations across the globe with no controls then one has to wonder who can. He has been writing about the issue for many years and a glance through some of his output helps to understand the mindset of the the most coherent of those arguing for free movement. It also helps to show why mutual comprehension across the divide over managed immigration is turning out to be so elusive.

          In April 2010 Don had an article in the Guardian with the title Cutting Immigration is not the answer. In it he wrote:

          We really need to acknowledge that the migrants who have arrived in the UK during this past decade and a half did not come uninvited, but rather in response to the demands of an economy which had developed a voracious appetite for low-paid, ultra-flexible labour. Retailing, food processing, hospitality, building maintenance, construction, care and domestic services, though providing jobs, sustained levels of economic activity throughout the 1990s and the noughties, which most of us took to be genuine prosperity. It was entirely predictable that any such sustained period of economic growth based on a credit-fuelled consumer demand for new goods and services delivered at low cost would turn into large-scale demand for migrant labour.

          There you have it. Credit-fuelled consumer demand is leading to a voracious appetite for low-paid, ultra-flexible labour. Who are we to stand against such forces of nature? At least that would seem to be DonF’s position.

          He further addes that “The complaint that this amounts to acquiescing to the business demand for a low-cost workforce is only partially accurate”. Got that? “Only partially accurate”!

          He continued: “The more significant truth is that the bosses themselves were responding to consumer demand for ever expanding ranges of goods and services, but at the modest cost that could be borne by their credit cards. The unrelenting cry for big and grander shops stacked high with shinier but cheaper goods was passed down through the supply chains until it landed on the laps of very vulnerable workers with little power to assert their own interests against those of capital.”

          So, it was the consumers wot done it. Capital was merely servicing its customers. The solution offered in the same article is for “European societies to make the transition from the credit-fuelled bubble economy constructed in the 1980s to a new model in which growth is driven by low-carbon technologies and high-quality public services” And if we do that then “we could well find out that the poor, despised legions of migrant workers are our staunchest allies, rather than worst enemies”.

          Two years latter writing in the Huffington post (Even Tighter Controls Won’t Fix Our Broken Immigration System)

          And still on the theme that it is impossible to control immigration DonF wrote “that control bureaucracies are in a chronic state of flounder from one region to the next and no one has done any better than anyone else in dealing with the situation”. Trying to think of new ways of control leads, he argued, to a situation in which: “an already overstretched and under-resourced agency does its best to meet new targets, such as the current aim of driving net immigration down to the level of tens of thousands even though the political classes who ordain this outcome show little understanding of what is involved in this task”.

          He addded that “Level-headed analysts of the public policy debate, such as Dr Rob Ford of the Institute for Social Change at Manchester University, have long argued that one of the causes for so much anxiety about immigration amongst the public is less to do with the numbers involved, and more about the claims of politicians to have everything under control, when patently they haven’t.”

          The aim of control is doomed, DonF believes, since it flies in the face of the “modern world where so much of our hopes for prosperity are based on moving goods, services, investment and people across national frontiers”.

          It seems then that the solution is nothing less than learning to love neoliberalism.

          DonF can also be found on YouTube arguing the case: winning the debate on immigration where he says Immigration cannot be brought down

          and the reason for that is that immigration is absolutely locked into the modern system of globalised markets, even of liberal democracy. The significance of that is that liberal democracy has generated a whole range of stakeholders in immigration. The whole business of moving people, goods, services, capital across frontiers, and there is no simple way of going back on it. The only way of going back on it would be to strike against liberal markets themselves and probably even liberal democracy.

          It is not necessary to go into a lengthy dissection of the these assertions. Most readers of Left Futures are sufficiently tuned to the nature of neoliberalism to be able to recognise it as the assumed backdrop for DonF’s arguments.

          But at least he makes the case clear: (1) immigration is a natural response to free markets, (2) challenging free markets would involve rolling back democracy, (3) all immigration controls lead to state violence and racism.

          1. C MacMackin says:

            Yes, I’ve found it striking how, just within his posts under this article, DonF accepts neoliberalism. Comments like “Isn’t all that jazz about ‘planned mixed economy’ just the hogwash of our time, with not a scrap of evidence to show that sovereign nations have showed any propensity or interest to step any significant way in achieving this pipedream outcome?” and

            The comprehensive failure of the only alternative to neoliberalism in the second half of the 20th century – the sort of Stalinist regimes that you seem to favour – ought to mean that the left takes seriously the social and economic forces that have been assembled within world markets and as the question if they provide a point of resistance to the rule of capitalism.

            make it clear that he considers socialist, or even left-Keynesian, reforms as out of the question. Given he still expresses some commitment to “the fight against capitalism”, I wonder what strategy he has to offer? I’m assuming it would be something along the lines of building a global labour movement, which he’d see free movement of people as aiding. But while that might be able to win concessions at the bargaining table, how can it fundamentally change society? To do so requires taking power and enacting reforms, which is currently only possible at the level of the nation-state—perhaps at the continental level in Europe. But then we run into the same old problem that reforms towards economic planning in one country will require managing migration if the systems are to be effective.

            I also note that in denouncing all forms of managing immigration as authoritarian, Don has not explained why my proposed reforms to the system would not help. To reiterate, I suggested offering permanent leave to remain to new immigrants that want it (with the provision that it expires if you do not spend over a certain percentage of your time in the country) and giving preference to applications for these visas as opposed to work permits. Permanent leave to remain would mean that workers would not need to worry about being deported if they lose their job, helping combat exploitation by unscrupulous employers. I also suggested a scheme to shift punishment away from migrants working illegally towards those that employ them. The illegally employed migrants would be offered permanent leave to remain while the employer would receive a harsh punishment. The amnesty for the illegally employed migrants would apply even if they reported the illegal employment themselves. This would essentially kill any demand to employ anyone illegally and mean that the government could rely on self-reporting by the migrants of misbehaving employers, eliminating the need for much of the surveillance Don decries.

          2. C MacMackin says:

            Oh, one other thing which I forgot about. In one of the articles David cites, Don says that a solution to the low-paid growth model we currently see is “a new model in which growth is driven by low-carbon technologies and high-quality public services”. It is laughable to think this can be done without economic planning on a scale we haven’t seen since World War II. So, we’ve arrived back at the demand for a “planned mixed economy” which Don dismisses.

          3. JohnP says:

            C.Mack, I think you are being far too generous to the rabidly blatant neoliberal advocate, DonF. He has no more intention of supporting any attack on capitalism in any way than I have in supporting the monarchy.

            His occasional “anti capitalist” throwaway lines are just dropped in to confuse gullible liberal Lefties that he is anything other than a , at best, Blairite neoliberal, at worst a long term, probably paid, purveyor of the neoliberal “the market is king” propaganda identical to the daily output for the likes of the Adam Smith Institute in the mass media, ie, a Troll.

            That DonF and his ilk have , at this particular time in Labour’s electoral recovery, managed to persuade thousands of gullible Left liberals to support the entirely neoliberal, and for Labour, electorally toxic “unlimited immigration, from everywhere” mantra is a testament to a well planned and funded campaign whose real roots will be in Big Business Tory coffers, not on the Left.

            This campaign is just a part of the blitz of black propaganda campaigning of the Tories and their supporters, alongside constant attempts to discredit Labour with Young People, and Women, through lies and fake news.

            DonF, through his own Daily Mail style of anti socialist red-baiting has utterly discredited himself as any sort of voice on the left. I hope those on the Left who have been conned into his and his cronies bogus “freedom of Movement” campaign get to read his entirely pro unfettered neoliberal capitalist statements spelled out by him here , to get a flavour of the dodgy allies they are in bed with.

          1. JohnP says:

            I think the politically useful principle to also apply here is “Occam’s Razor” , ie, that with two competing explanations , the simplest is likely to be correct.

            Here we have DonF, spouting an avalanche of neoliberal ideology (for years) , but occasionally chucking in some reference to being “against capitalism” into the text – disconnected entirely from his overriding “leave the capitalist market entirely to do its neoliberal thing” narrative.

            Does this suggest:

            a) DonF is really a anti capitalist Leftie at heart , but just a tad “bought in” to some neoliberal ideas.
            b) the occasional “anti capitalist” words and references to the development of low carbon alternative economic systems, etc, are just distracting rhetoric to fool Lefties that , despite his overwhelming support for every principle of neoliberalism , he has credible arguments to offer that are sincerely held. But in reality he is a cynical purveyor of neoliberal claptrap ideology , over years, into the public media, and now, on the Left too.

            I go for b).

            Now your “charity principle” of taking the arguments as presented, and debating them entirely on merit or demerit, does indeed have a value too – in exposing the weaknesses of the Left neoliberal argument for unlimited freedom of Movement which would be toxic electorally. I still think it is valid to point out that DonF is NOT in any way on the Left, but is by his own copious words identifiable as a mainstream neoliberal propagandist of long standing, targeting the Guardianista liberal milieu Any debate with him is no different than debating with Michael Gove. Knowing who you ae debating with in terms of their underlying real, rather than claimed persona and agenda, is often quite important too.

          2. C MacMackin says:

            I suspect you are right about Don’s convictions. However, by taking his professed views seriously, his response will allow to judge whether my suspicions are correct or not. My reference to his throwaway anticapitalist comments were to demonstrate inconsistencies (and hence weaknesses) in his arguments rather than an indication that I actually believe he holds such left wing views. By assuming good faith my arguments will be better received by legitimate leftists who support free movement.

          3. C MacMackin says:

            Also, a pedantic point (not meant to devalue your argument): you gave the common, but incorrect, statement of Occam’s Razor. It actually says that the explanation requiring the fewest new assumptions is most likely to be correct. This is often equivalent to the simplest explanation, but not always. For example, consider all of the “evidence” people give for alien visitations: crop circles, reports of abductions, strange lights in the sky, cattle mutilation, etc. There are mundane explanations for each of these, but they are all independent. Having a single explanation (aliens) is simpler. However, it fails Occam’s Razor because it requires a (massive) new assumption whereas the mundane explanations require no new assumptions.

          4. David Pavett says:

            C MacMackin ,September 22, at 9:00 pm. I think that it could be a bit misleading to say that according to Okham’s razor is “the explanation requiring the fewest new assumptions is most likely to be correct”. What he actually claimed was “Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity” (Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem) which is not the same. The issue is not how many entities/assumptions there are but whether they are necessary for an adequate explanation of not.

            But I agree with your insistence on the principle of charity in debate and have said as much many times in these columns. By applying this simple principle a lot of pointless and unhelpful vitriol could be avoided.

      3. Danny Nicol says:

        And if there is to be complete free movement for everyone on the planet, how are they to be HOUSED?

        The authors blithely write that we should fight elections on the basis of housing everyone, but how many people is “everyone”? If there is a free market in immigration we would not know!!!

        How will the resulting difficulties affect the housing crisis in London and Southern England where, outside the realms of the wealthy, adult children are now having to live with their parents year after year because of prices? How many flats and houses would we have to build for rent or sale if we have to accommodate an unknown number of people? How would the deteriorating balance between flats and houses, leasehold-“fleecehold” and freehold be affected? How would waiting lists be composed in an era of unlimited immigration? What knock-on impact would there be on the environment as cities and towns expand and new ones are created and the countryside and green spaces diminish? To what extent would the resulting elimination of agricultural land further compromise Britain’s precarious food security?

        None of these matters can be PLANNED with unplanned immigration. In my North Kent hinterland I can see this policy going down like a bucketload of cold sick in towns Labour needs to win, towns which are alienated and impoverished (more so than Canterbury which we won) but elected Tories – and voted Leave in droves – such as Gravesend, Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham and Sheerness. People thinking of voting Labour reasonably expect a Labour government to look after THEM, not to look after every human being on the entire planet.

        1. JohnP says:

          It is illustrative , as both Danny and David , have pointed out, just how profoundly saturated with the ideology of neoliberalism these naïve defenders of utterly unlimited, entirely market-driven immigation are. I understand that the Labour Party became full of neoliberals during the Blair/Brown era, who had no significant ideological beef with the Tory Thatcherite mainstream, just a few quibbles about resource allocation to public services. But these Left neoliberals (” Left liberal” no longer seems appropriate with the particular rabidly neoliberal posters here) would appear to see themselves, or at least claim to be, on the “Left ” against all the evidence of what they actually preach, ie, that only the unconstrained capitalist market can deliver to maximised advantage, or that any attempt at even state-led Left Keynsian planning and direction to interfere with the operation of the markets is “totalitarian Stalinism” in action. And that it is , by some law of nature” simply impossible to direct or influence the ever greater development of the UK as a financialised, consumer debt bubble-driven, low wage, economy, sucking in unlimited labour supplies from across the EU and world, to feed this “UK as a labour support platform for globalised business” !

          Are these particular Freedom of Movement advocates taking the political piss ? Are they actually undercover Tory Trolls trying their best to sabotage Labour’s electoral chances with major sections of our voter base with this tosh ?

          One would suppose so on the evidence of their posts – but David Pavett has clearly shown that “DonF” has been spouting this neoliberal , “market is king” nonsense , supposedly from a left Liberal “Guardianista” perspective for years ! Extraordinary . How the Big Business exploiters of unlimited labour supply to the UK like Sports Direct, Amazon, and innumerable nasty sweatshops, must love these guys !

          These Left neoliberals are spending much typing time contrasting the touchy feely “freedom” unlimited labour movement provides to the world’s citizens , with their image of a totalitarian state in which labour supply/immigration is subject to management and planning (in concert with training for indigenous citizens, housing supply, etc). Do these airy fairy neoliberals really think the mass migrations of workers from the most impoverished areas of the globe (and the EU), away from community and often families, to live and work very often for appalling wages, in appalling conditions, with appalling housing all too often, is really about “individual free choices” . Tell that to the huge numbers of migrant workers now living in third world type backyard shanties in unregistered garages all across London, both “Legal ” and “illegal” immigrants.

          In reality neoliberal market forces are of course ransacking the world for profit, turning the old industrial heartlands into ghost towns, and forcing millions of workers in states capitalism has no interest (yet) in shifting production units to, into vast mobile labour reserves for the global “reserve army of the unemployed” , always available to compete with any group of workers being paid more than the bosses can get away with paying, in a labour market with unlimited supply. This is a profoundly violent and totalitarian market-driven economic system ,guys. “Freedom” has nothing to do with it.

  12. Jim Denham says:

    In my intro to the article above, “tue socialism” should of course be “True socialism”, as criticised by Marx in the Communist Manifesto

    1. JohnP says:

      Since when was it a “Left Wing commitment” to accept the unfettered free play of capitalist market forces , in labour supply ,any more than capital movements or trade , Jim ? Never is the answer. That is liberalism, not any part of the socialist tradition. The socialist tradition seeks to combat the profit maximising single aim, and huge chaotic depersonalised, amoral, power of the capitalist marketplace through intervention by the democratic state to subject the chaotic forces of the market to legal and institutional controls in the wider public good – within a framework of economic and social PLANNING.

      Without state intervention and planned allocation of goods and services there is only the unfettered power of the globalised capitalist market, against which the individual is a powerless atomised victim. Anyone rejecting the objective of establishing an interventionist government and state which will directly intervene in the capitalist market is simply a liberal, maybe even a Left liberal , no matter how well-meaning, but not a socialist.

      None of us on the socialist Left have any beef with the UK or any other state allowing considerable immigration , for work purposes or refugee support , but this needs to be in the context of overall economic resource planning , in the interests , firstly of the voting citizens of the UK . Otherwise, as has happened since 1992 and total free EU labour movement in particular, employers will not meet the costs of training of UK citizens when they can simply pinch ready trained workers , free, from other less developed states ; they will recruit entire workforces at much reduced wage costs from lower wage economies ( as many, many, firms like Norfolk Turkeys do from Portugal, and Symphony furniture in Barnsley do from Poland, and increasingly Amazon and Sports Direct do from the old Eastern bloc economies).

      That liberal Lefties like you, Jim, simply accept the nonsense from the BoE or neoliberal economists of the LSE that unlimited labour supply has not had a major impact on UK wage rates – particularly in unskilled and semi-skilled sectors, is to ignore the basic laws of capitalist economics , and to accept blatantly partisan pro neoliberal “research” findings just because this suits your feel-good liberal nonsense posture that “everyone in the world should be free to come and live and work in the UK”.

      Since the mid 1970’s the share of wages relative to profits as a percentage of GDP (and even this figure is over-optimistic because so much of the UK wage bill now goes to the hugely inflated executive pay cohort of the total) has declined from nearly 66% in 1975 to around 54% today. There are many interlocking causal structural and legal shackling of Trades union factors behind this decline, but the neoliberal Blair government’s adoption of completely unlimited labour supply after the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht , was a quite deliberate policy to use unlimited labour supply to continue the suppression of trades union power , and wage inflation generally pursued by the former Thatcher/Major governments.

      Deny this all you want, Jim by treating the dodgy self-serving “research” of paid neoliberal academics and the capitalist BoE , as unbiased gospel – against the laws of capitalist economics, and the record of wage stagnation in the UK . But you actually have no argument against the socialist principle that only state-led economic planning can protect UK citizens , and citizens of all other states, against the power of the global capitalist market.

      1. Jim Denham says:

        No, john, as a Marxist I understand that socialism will be built upon the advances of capitalism, and not be regressing to more backward arrangements.

        The crucial issue is politics, rather than economics: that the international working class must create socialism, not a reformist government in one country. Therefore we oppose all immigration controls under capitalism, and advocate international working class solidarity. Unlike miserable reformists, nationalists and and Stalinists, we Marxists believe this is a fundamental principle. Marx wrote well on this subject in a letter on the Irish Question, that I will return to shortly.

        1. David Pavett says:

          If Marx ever said anything to the effect that while capitalism lasts the working class must not try to interfere with the free play of it inherent tendencies then we would have to say that he was wrong. However, he never said anything so daft. Had he had such a view he would not have welcomed the passing of the Ten Hour Bill as a great victory for the working class. Anyone not wanting challenge the natural logic of capitalism would also have to oppose trade union action.

          1. Jim Denham says:

            Read The Communist Manifesto, David.

            And, of course, he *did* welcome the passing of the Ten hour bill, which is why those (not necessarily you) who tried to mock the EU’s legal rights for workers as legalistic irrelevance (etc) are so wrong. The working class, trade union case for the EU remains unassailable.

          2. David Pavett says:

            @Jim Denham, September 23, 2017 at 8:34 pm.

            (1) Please quote the Manifesto passage you have in mind.

            (2) You seem to have missed my point regarding the Ten Hour Bill. Marx did not believe that workers should not try to influence to workings of capitalism.

            Your two points seem to me to contradict each other (we should not try to hold up capitalist development AND we should do so).

            Describing your own case as “unassailable” doesn’t make it so.

  13. Ted says:

    If free movement is a neoliberal trick, surely we should extend restrictions on it to movement within the UK also? Why should we allow people to move from economically depressed regions in the north, to economic centres like London where they will presumably depress wages and increase rents an pressure on public services? It will also cause problems in the north as the best and brightest young people leave. A properly planned socialist economy surely requires an internal passport system and/or residence permits as in Soviet Russia or China?

    If you don’t advocate controls on free movement within the UK you’re actually exposing yourself as someone whose real agenda is to protect the privileges of British workers. Either for cynical electoral purposes or because you actually believe the way to achieve socialism is to construct enclaves of relative privilege. Neither is a particularly good look, and both ignore all the evidence suggesting that free movement does not actually depress wages or conditions.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      The difference between the UK and the EU is that the UK has a national government capable of conducting the economic planning needed for regional rebalancing. People go where there are jobs and the British government could institute an industrial policy which creates jobs in the north. Ideally this would actually result in some people moving back to the north where there is more housing stock available and thus reducing the pressure on London.

      On the other hand, the EU government doesn’t even make an attempt at the sort of planning required for effective free movement. Instead we see a great deal of involuntary migration due to the poor performance of certain member states. Plenty of people on the pro-EU left, such as Yanis Varoufakis, acknowledge this as a problem and see it as something a proper European government would need to fix.

      Obviously, the same argument applies with even more strength to the world as a whole, in which there isn’t even the beginning of a transnational government capable of the necessary economic planning.

      1. Jim Denham says:

        “The difference between the UK and the EU is that the UK has a national government capable of conducting the economic planning needed for regional rebalancing”: do you live in a fantasy world or parallel universe, C. MacMrakin?

        Have you not noticed that we live under a Tory government presided over by one Theresa May?

        Have you not noticed that what’s preventing “economic planning needed for regional rebalancing” isn’t the EU … it’s the Tories!

        1. C MacMackin says:

          I said that the UK government is capable of that sort of economic planning, not that it is actually doing it. Of course the Tories have no interest in such a policy. In principle some sort of European federal government could also exist that would do this on a continental scale. However, getting to such a federal structure would require an almost revolutionary change of the current European institutions and I can’t see that happening in the short or medium term.

          I said nothing in that post about whether the EU prevents the UK from instituting a policy of regional rebalancing. That ties in to broader discussions going on in this site’s comment section about the room for social democracy in the UK. My suspicion is that free movement of capital would prevent even a mildly reformist government from implementing such a policy, but perhaps you disagree?

          1. Jim Denham says:

            “but perhaps you disagree?”

            I most certainly do.

            The idea that EU membership prevents nationalisation or any other kind of state interference in the economy is an urba myth perpetuated by Tories and Stalinists.

            Just ride a train in France or Germany. Check out the Italian steel industry.

          2. David Pavett says:

            @Jim Denham, September 23, 2017 at 8:39 pm.

            Read the Fourth Rail Directive and then tell us if you still think “The idea that EU membership prevents nationalisation or any other kind of state interference in the economy is an urba myth perpetuated by Tories and Stalinists”.

            Which Tories have been complaining that the EU would block nationalisations?

          3. C MacMackin says:

            @Jim Denham, September 23, 2017 at 8:39 pm.

            First of all, I didn’t mention nationalisation in this post. I referred instead to free movement of capital. Capital flight could undermine a Left government even if no nationalisation were attempted, but instead just tax increases to fund public services. If nationalisation were attempted then capital flight becomes even more likely.

            David is quite right to reference the Fourth Rail Directive. I gave an extensive discussion of this in a reply to you previously. In that post I also discuss how the energy directives would inhibit nationalisation of utilities and linked to some of my writing on how this would make decarbonisation much more difficult. It is inaccurate to say “that EU membership prevents nationalisation or any other kind of state interference in the economy”, but it is certainly true to say that it inhibits it. It most certainly does continue to enforce competition and market-based solutions, even if some of the market actors are state owned.

      2. Ted says:

        First of all, the EU does make some attempt at rebalancing the European economy as a whole. This is why countries such as the UK and Germany are net contributors and others such as Ireland and Eastern Europe are net beneficiaries, as EU funded infrastructure projects help boost their economies. Secondly, the answer to the partial and ineffective nature of this is to increase such planning and make it more effective, not for countries to wall themselves off into little enclaves. As Jim says, the Marxist approach is to build on the achievements of capitalism, not to try and turn the clock back. And the economic and social integration of a Europe is most definitely an achievement compared to the preceding situation.

        1. David Pavett says:

          There are good things about the EU. I think that few in this debate would deny that. There are also some clearly negative things, which I hope you recognise too. If that is so then the problem is how to reach an overall evaluation of the possibilities in or out. Simply picking on this or that aspect to illustrate good or bad features doesn’t get us very far. Building on the achievements of capitalism is far to general an idea to be of much use in this. If economic integration is achieved in a way that strengthens capital and weakens democracy then that is something we should oppose rather than “build on”.

        2. C MacMackin says:

          Sure, that would be a perfectly valid way to address the problem. The question is, how do we get there? The EU as it is currently constituted would not be able to create an adequate regional development policy even if it wanted to. What are the prospects of reforming it, then? This is an ongoing debate, but I don’t think they’re very good, for reasons I’ve described previously (also see links therein). I think the odds of the necessary reforms happening on the time-scale of a potential Corbyn government are essentially nil. So, a Corbyn government would be faced with a choice: put off implementing key parts of its manifesto into the indefinite future, while waiting for the EU to reform itself; or, break with the EU (including in terms of free movement) so that a radical left program can be pursued within the UK. The question of whether either of these routes are likely to bring success is still up for debate, but that’s unrelated to the question of whether free movement without a regional development policy is desirable.

          In any case, one of your other comments defends freedom of movement in a general sense, so presumably you’re in favour of it world-wide? If that’s the case, the potential for the EU to adopt an adequate regional development policy is meaningless, as that would only provide for European free movement. If the EU had free movement with the rest of the world, it would face the same problems the UK has with free movement with the rest of the EU.

    2. David Pavett says:

      As C MacMackin points out there is a clear difference between movement within a given jurisdiction and movement between juridictions. It is possible for a party to propose a plan for the predictable population changes of the population within its jurisdiction. It cannot similarly plan for large-scale international population movements if all controls are removed. Besides, there are clearly different resource implications involved when someone moves from London to Manchester than when soeone moves from Lagos to Manchester.

      1. Danny Nicol says:

        Jim Denham seems unaware of the liberalisation directives. By constitutionalising open markets their effect is to ratchet up the degree of privatisation you already have in a Member State, prohibiting public monopoly.

        Thanks to Thatcherism, therefore, they have a completely different impact in Britain than in countries with a durable tradition of domination of a utilities market by a public sector market participant. Sectoral nationalisation of utilities – the only prize worth having – is entirely outlawed.

  14. JohnP says:

    Ted, as C.Mack says, there is a fundamental difference between free movement within a democratic nation state in which a Left government would be trying , through economic / regional/sectoral planning and direction to ensure every area supported a prosperous economy, and the neoliberal EU . Not that this couldn’t also be done on the basis of a federal socialist EU. But for the forseeable future the individual nation states remain the arena for class struggle and the operational political arena for nation states clawing back effective control of their economic development.

    That you immediately relate democratic socialist planning with totalitarian stalinist command economy practice just shows how far left liberals like yourself have imbibed the neoliberal ideological coolade wholesale. Your acceptance of the primacy of the capitalist market is identical to the Daily Mail or Economist.

    And yes , it IS the responsibility of a democratic Left government in the UK , or anywhrre else, to first maximise the economic and social benefits to its own voting citizens, before offering unlimited access to the rest of the world. That you don’t grasp that, and have apparently no concerns about the impact of unlimited, unplanned, immigration to the UK on the wages, conditions and social cohesion of the UK citizenry (of all ethnicities) , shows you are utterly divorced from the political realities of democratic politics, don’t give a damn sbout your fellow citizens, and are just posturing your liberal concern for the entire world without a thought about real world issues. Keep on posturing, if you must, but don’t please bugger up Labour’s electoral chances with your naive pro free market nonsense.

    1. Ted says:

      Yes, well your understanding of economics and argument for ‘managed migration’ is identical to UKIP’s, so I’d not attempt the argument by association tactic if I were you.

      If what you suggest about the impact of migration on wages is correct, pay rates in Eastern Europe should be shooting up as more working age people emigrate. I wonder if that’s the case.

      I mentioned the Stalinist states since they’re the only countries to implement internal controls on freedom of movement. If you have other examples I’d be happy to hear them. Of course there was considerable opposition by working class Californians to the mass migration of “Okies” in the dust bowl years. Did the labour movement accommodate to that or call for solidarity among workers?

      1. David Pavett says:

        Do you really not understand that there is a rather large difference between migration within given jurisdiction and migration between jurisdictions?

  15. JohnP says:

    Those who argue in favour of the free movement of labour in a capitalist society choose to ignore the simple reality that a surplus of workers drives wages down, says COLIN BURGON
    Labour MP until 2010
    WHY is free movement of labour such a difficult issue for the Labour Party? Is it because since the 1980s it has stopped analysing society in economic terms, accepted the neoliberal consensus and concentrated on social issues, thus resulting in the confusion of thinking we are now experiencing?

    The “liberal wing” of the party — stretching from Guardianistas to Corbynistas — along with the residual Blairites, view free movement as primarily a social, not an economic issue.
    The Blairite Progress pressure group was all about opening our society to the global economy in the belief that everyone would benefit. For the Blairites, their quasi-religious support of the EU precluded any criticism of free movement, as it was one of the four fundamental pillars of that institution.

    I well remember an exchange in Parliament in 2005 with a very prominent architect of Labour’s economic policy in which I raised my fears of the impact of free movement on our supporters. I expressed the view that it was politically bad news for us and economically bad news for our supporters.
    He replied: “It’s a good thing, as it helps to keep inflation down” and I responded: “In effect you are using free movement as an incomes policy for working-class people.”
    It is fascinating to see that many of these Blairite MPs, representing seats outside of London, are finally realising how out of touch with their constituents they have been.
    They’re now changing their tune on the issue and this switch, characterised by panic and an ultimate desire to save their seats, fills me with no confidence that they grasp the true reality of the issue.

    Their opportunistic move also fortuitously gives them an additional stick with which to beat Corbyn.
    The Brexit vote highlighted the central fact that those earning below £20,000 a year overwhelmingly voted Leave. A very big section of these people have historically been Labour voters. Our failure to speak for them indicates the disconnect Labour is experiencing in our heartlands. I think that we should, and can, do something about it.

    That can best be achieved by Labour developing a class and economic analysis of our society. Bernie Sanders showed brilliantly that there is a growing audience for this approach. Class does indeed “trump” identity politics.
    When I retired from Parliament in 2010 I did not retire from active politics. For the past six years, I have been fortunate enough to do political education for shop stewards in my union.
    Undertaking these regular sessions enables me to share the concerns of key groups of working men and women in the public and private sectors.
    It soon became clear to me that these groups, mainly Labour but with varying degrees of enthusiasm, were going to vote Leave. The claims from Remain that their economic future would be undermined didn’t strike a chord with them.
    They were aware that their economic position had been deteriorating for decades even when they were in the EU. Since the 1980s and the triumph of neoliberalism, Britain like most other “advanced economies” has become more unequal. The share of the wealth taken by the top 1 per cent has steadily increased at the expense of the rest of us.
    How has this been achieved? The intellectual victory of neoliberalism and increasing inequality has been brought about by undermining the position of labour.
    The means have included the conscious weakening of unions, privatisation, technological and work pattern changes, financialisation of the economy and the outsourcing and export of jobs to cheap labour countries.

    Many who class themselves on the left would have no problem agreeing with this analysis. However, this agreement breaks down on the place of free movement of labour in this process.
    Most of the shop stewards have not read Karl Marx, Maynard Keynes or Milton Friedman but they have grasped the simple truth that a surplus of labour drives wages down. The capitalist class know this. They are not supporters of free movement because they are in favour of people experiencing different cultures. They support it because it benefits them economically.

    The failure by many in the Labour Party to grasp the primacy of economics in relation to this issue has resulted in a complete denial of reality and much muddled thinking. “Who benefits?” should always be the question we ask in relation to economic matters.
    Many working-class Labour supporters see free movement as helping to create an atmosphere of job insecurity and yet another way of holding down wages, terms and conditions.
    In all the discussions I have had, this is the dominant feeling and not one of personally blaming “eastern Europeans” for the problems encountered.
    Labour must deepen and strengthen the understanding that free movement is fundamentally an economic issue. Ukip attempts to simply blame “the foreigners” for the increasing economic insecurity working people are feeling.
    Labour has to argue it is the top 1 per cent, our own rich and powerful class, who are taking advantage of people — both EU migrants and our own workers. As a party, we should want to regulate the large financial institutions.
    We should want to regulate in favour of combating climate change and we should want to regulate all aspects of labour conditions.
    And Labour has to finally say that there is nothing socialist or inherently progressive about the free movement of labour in a capitalist society.

    Coming to terms with this truth will help us to move the debate forward and also help us to reconnect with those of our people whose lives are dominated by insecurity and a lack of hope.
    Labour now has an historic opportunity, under a leader unafraid of challenging stale orthodoxies, to demolish a key tenet of free market capitalism. This opportunity should not be wasted.

    1. Danny Nicol says:

      A sound analysis by Colin Burgon but having been an MP he puts more emphasis on his encounters with Blairite MPs and gives fewer reflections on the Corbynistas.

      Why then are Corbynistas and Momentum-types attracted to this open-borders drivel? The answer is, as David Pavett, John Penney and Colin all imply, because of the decades of political domination of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism’s triumph has been to turn socialists into left-liberals, annihilating the left’s support for the proper role of socialist government in planning. One could say that the decay of the Labour Left into a non-socialist Left has in fact been Margaret Thatcher’s greatest triumph.

      Neoliberalism led to left-liberalism, but also neoliberalism is not very different from left-liberalism. The free movement issue suggests that this is the case, but so too does the contemporary left’s woeful lack of support for replacing the capitalist system with a planned economy based on public ownership as the dominant form of property ownership. If leftists tolerate the capitalist system, it is usually only a matter of time before they end up backing that system against the interests of the underprivileged. Unlike a neoliberal a left-liberal needs to undergo a “Syriza moment”, where they have to make a decisive choice between capitalism and the working class interest. Thereafter, the difference between a left-liberal and a neoliberal is largely a matter of spin.

      1. JohnP says:

        All very true, Danny. I strongly suspect that, as seems increasingly possible, not guaranteed, but possible, the now quite evident collapse of the Tories as a coherent political force, leads to another snap election in 2018, a Corbyn led Labour government will be elected.

        Then the capitalist class and their Labour Right PLP creatures and Labour local council minions will go into sabotage overdrive indeed. That decisive political crossroads “Syriza Moment” of continuing Leftwards to confront the markets and its political and mass media creatures, or like the majority of Syriza, purge the Left, and become another collaborator government of Capital , could arrive surprisingly quickly. Or, equally likely , in the event of a Corbyn victory, the majority of the PLP would decamp to join a “national Government”, and Corbynism would be spared the ignominy that Syriza has experienced.

        One thing is clear, re a current recent Left Futures article atop this page on Bennism – the deeply imbued social democratic belief and understanding of the core role of the state and socialist planning in even modest Left Keynsian reform of the neoliberal status quo, that most Labour Party members in the 1980’s took as basic to being a socialist – is now pretty much replaced by a posturing wooly do-gooder Left liberalism which leaves the Momentumist Left utterly ill-equipped to understand never mind confront the sabotage of the capitalist markets to Left reformism.

  16. Peter Rowlands says:

    Free movement was not a problem until the admission og the mainly ex Eastern Bloc countries in 2005 with significantly lower standards of living.The EU should have been restructured accordingly.
    I have no reason to doubt the B of E report, but it is probably true that the worst examples of falling wages occurred in those spheres about which there are few statistics.
    Chris, the EU does have a regional policy ( in South Wales the areas that benefited from it most were those of the highest leave votes), but it is inadequate and less so since the 2005 enlargement.
    Don thinks David naive for not understanding the realities of control of managed migration, but most UK ( non EU) migration is of this type anyway.
    I do not agree with Don on free movement, and I think that David’s article is broadly right. Don may be somewhat pessimistic about a socialist future, as I admit I am and many that I know on the left. However, that does not excuse the accusation by JohnP that he is a conscious proponent of capitalism, an accusation both offensive and absurd which I hope will be withdrawn.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      I may have overstated my point. I am aware that the EU has a regional policy. However, the fundamental point is that the EU does not, at present, have an adequate system for regional development to go with free movement. This would have required far, far greater investment in Eastern Europe than we have seen. It would have had to be something like what happened after German reunification (although even that was inadequate and more a case of liquidating East German companies than of investing in them). If I’m being honest, I have my doubts that such a policy could even be made to work under neoliberalism.

      On your point about free movement being fine until the accession to the EU of the eastern member states, I suspect you are correct historically. However, let’s say that one of those members had rejected neoliberalism and tried to introduce a Keynesian policy for full employment, etc. I’m not sure if free movement could have been sustained then.

      I agree with you re: those doubting the BoE report. Of course, David’s summary shows that its conclusions are not as straightforward as some would have us believe and that there were significant questions which were overlooked.

      1. JohnP says:

        Those who think the BoE report is credible, ie, that the study is an agenda free analysis, and that it’s conclusion is correct ,ie , that there is little evidence of the important role (alongside trade union weakness and economic restructuring) of unlimited labour supply in the wage stagnation in most employment sectors across the UK, have to explain the massive , and accelerating fall in wage share of national income since the 2008 crisis in particular , and during the longer period of post 1992 Maastricht Treaty development of really massive , historically unprecedented, scale freedom of movement (as part of the dramatic fall in wage share of National Income since the end of the 1970’s – for most of which period of course unlimited labour supply was NOT, I repeat, NOT, an issue).

        If the iron laws of capitalist market supply/demand/price economics do not apply, uniquely, to labour supply, maybe those of you who “buy” the intellectual rigour and agenda free nature of the BoE “findings, can explain how this is so. That Peter is buying the BoE study as credible, is understandable, as he is a staunch Remainer who wants to believe this guff, because he is ideologically unconditionally a believer in the EU as the vehicle for progress to socialism. That you buy the BoE as in any way neutral , C.Mack, when it is a core organ of the capitalist state, determined to keep inflation, particularly wage-led inflation to a minimum, suggests to me a certain level of naivete about so much of this sort of “research” in a capitalist state.

        To repeat a point I have made before, the fall in wage share of national income ever more dramatically since the late 1970’s is simply a fact. Without a parallel actual UK economy without accelerating , and now unlimited labour supply for the last 15 years or so, to study , any assumptions can be built in to “let unlimited labour supply off the causal hook” fr a significant part of this continuing fall in wage share. The role of the BoE is not to produce neutral academic research.

      2. Peter Rowlands says:

        Regional policy could only work within a federal EU with a large central budget, which the four freedoms and the Euro were all directed towards, until the US, supported by us, managed to secure enlargement rather than deepening, thus weakening Russia and forestalling the emergence of a strong EU, althouugh it became clear that there was much less support for a federal EU than its leaders envisaged.
        In 1981 Mitterand became French President and tried, briefly, to promote leftist policies. There was still a SPD government in Germany, and I have thought for a long time that UK should have supported France in going for a left EU, but Labour stuck to its out line, not that it would have made any difference as it lost the 83 election, in which I was a candidate.

    2. JohnP says:

      I repeat the accusation. DonF is quite clearly a propagandist proponent of the unfettered operation of neoliberal Capitalism, by his own words over many years, no different in content from the stuff churned out by the Adam Smith Institute, even though he puts some superficial “Leftish liberal” gloss on the reasoning . What are you going on about, Peter ?

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        What is offensive and absurd is that you paint Don as someone who is deliberately deceiving the left he is addressing by using left terminology that he obviously doesn’t beli.eve. This is true also, presumably, of Manuel Cortes and others who support’Free Movement’, and indeed most members of the Labour Party.This is a paranoid and ludicrous approach. It says that unless you are completely with us you are completely against us. It is the antithesis of politics, which is about building alliances and support, which your approach can never do.

        1. David Pavett says:

          I think John means that people loke DonF are dupes of neo-liberal ideology rather than conscious falsifiers. That at least would be the most generous reading of what he claims. It is a pity that John does not try to read what others say in the most generous light.

          If one is able to demonstrate that someone is using the same argument as that of neoliberal defenders of free markets then that should speak for itself. All the rest e.g. “propagandist proponent of the unfettered operation of neoliberal Capitalism … no different in content from the stuff churned out by the Adam Smith Institute, even though he puts some superficial “Leftish liberal” gloss on the reasoning” is just gratuitous verbiage which adds an unnecessarily hostile edge to the exchanges.

          I am glad that DonF contributed to the debate because it helped, in my view, to confirm the weakness of his position, given that he knows a lot about the subject under discussion. I hope that he will contribute again in other debates. I do not want to chase him away with hostile rhetoric, even if his contribution were not entirely free from that. Doing so is a leftist knee jerk we can well do without.

  17. David Pavett says:

    I would like to emphasise once again that all the advocates of free movement make a completely general argument. It is therefore not just a question of the EU. They are calling for no controls of any sort on migration from any and all countries on the planet. That is not only unfeasible in itself but would be lead to electoral suicide for Labour.

    Once it is understood that it is absolute free movement from anywhere in the world that is being advocated then it will generally also be understood as the reductio ad absurdam of the free movement argument.

  18. David Pavett says:

    And here’s another thing that seems to escape the free movementeers: unionisation. Studies such as this show that there is a significantly lower rate of unionisation among immigrant workers. To continue with the theme that one of the effects of uncontrolled immigration is to hold wages and working conditions down (not necessarily to reduce them) the same people will have to argue that unionisation has no beneficial outcomes for working conditions and wages.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      Interesting reading. I was glad to see that some attention was paid to confounding factors, which was my first thought. In particular I wondered if union membership is down to the sector of employment, with migrants being less likely to be employed in those legacy industries with histories of unionisation. While this may play some part, the numbers shown for public sector workers indicate that regardless of sector migrants really are less likely to be union members.

  19. David Pavett says:

    Just saw this gem from Clive Lewis on Sky TV this morning

    In Europe we have the freedom of movement and when you are talking about managing migration it ultimately always comes back down to – and you are not going to like to hear this but it always come back down to something the left in this country have much difficulty with – but ultimately it is about racism. That’s what it comes down to, it’s about racism.

    Such a shame to see this nonsense from someone who seemed to show some promise. Since his pro-Trident speech to Conference last year he seems to have been on something of a downhill journey.

    1. Danny Nicol says:

      So NATO-loving Comrade Clive is militating for an open door policy towards everyone on the entire planet, I trust, if he is against the white-privilege racism of the EU free movement of persons?

      1. Jim Denham says:

        Danny: we’re for workers’ revolution and workers control; unli,e, it seems rather limited nationalistic reformists and Stalinists like yourself.

        As Marx said, the working men (ie “people”) have no country. Or was he, according to nationalist reformists like your good self, simply wrong?

        1. David Pavett says:

          I think you need the phrase you refer to by Marx in context:

          The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word. (Emphasis added)

          1. JohnP says:

            A very, very, important and timely reminder of the complete statement from Marx, David, rather than the context-removed “working men have no country… ” extract that Jim Denham, and many others are throwing at Leftwingers who do not see the supranational neoliberal EU as a harbinger of socialist internationalism.

            This contextually complete quote is of course the completely orthodox Marxist point that the renowned Marxist academic and ex Syriza MP, Costas Lapavistas , was making in the piece I quoted elsewhere – to be accused by Peter of peddling “Strasserite” terminology ” !

            Your point is well made, Danny – read any of the tracts currently coming from the ultraleft and , like Jim, the message spookily mirrors the “there is no alternative to globalised neoliberalism” of the most rabid Adam Smith Institute propagandist – but then with the added-on ultraLeft declaration that “only world-wide simultaneous socialist revolution can change anything for the better at all “. Meanwhile, while we all await the mysterious “forces of world history” (Hegel’s “world Spirit” ?) to bring about this miracle, we can demotivate people who want to fight capitalism here and now, and retreat into a small sect world of endless re-examination of October 1917. (have a look at online Weekly Worker” for this utraleftism in spades).

        2. Danny Nicol says:

          And will Jesus too be making a Second Coming to coincide with this workers’ revolution, Jim? I’ll be very disappointed with the Lord if he does not put his shoulder to the wheel and lend a hand. Glad to know we do not have to bother to campaign for public ownership because of the impending workers’ revolution.

  20. Jim Denham says:

    The passage in question discusses the attitude of the workers to their country. It reads:

    “The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality.

    “The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must constitute itself the nation, it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word. National differences and antagonisms between peoples are vanishing gradually from day to day, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto. The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster. United action, of the leading civilised countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat.

    “In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another is put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end”.

    And on a preceding page, the Manifesto says:

    “Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie.

    These passages have been cited innumerable times in socialist literature, usually in order to justify the negative attitude of the socialist labour movement towards bourgeois patriotism and chauvinism. Often, however, the attempt has been made to temper the stern language of these passages and to give them a contrary, nationalist meaning: that is a complete misreading and misrepresentation of Marx. It’s clear that when he wrote “the working man has no country” he meant just that with regard to nationalism. When he went on to write “the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle”, that’s no more than a statement of the bleedin’ obvious, for practical purposes. No way does it negate the internationalism of Marx’s main point in this piece.
    You may, of course, disagree with Marx on this. But please don’t claim to be a Marxist if you do.

    1. David Pavett says:

      When Marxism becomes dogma it turns into its opposite and becomes like a religion in which the adherents intone sacred texts but are no longer capable of reading what they actually say because their critical faculties have dulled by purely devotional reading.

      The above quoted passage clearly says, for those able to give the words their due value, (1) working men do not posses any nation so it cannot be that Communists are proposing to take the nations from them, (2) they must rise to the fore in national struggle so as to constitute themselves as the nation.

      You have not understood what Marx clearly understood namely that internationalism is not based on the rejection of nations and national struggle. On the contrary it is based on such struggle. You pose internationalism as hard and fast opposites Marx saw them as dialectically related. Internationalism and national struggle are bound together. The future envisaged by the manifesto in which nations cease to exist would also be one in which there would be no internationalism.

      You roundly dismiss those who disagree with you as non-Marxist but your reading of the passage you quote is clearly at variance with what it says. It is a rather sharp example of Marx reduced to quasi-religious dogma.

  21. Peter Rowlands says:

    JohnP. You do not have to accept David’s interpretation of Marx’s words on this, which I do, to embrace the quite erroneous view that the EU should be allowed to disintegrate and the UK shouldd strive for an independent socialist state. This is where the real ultra leftism lies, in not recognising that either course would inevitably favour the forces of the right, unleashing aggressive nationalism which the left could not control.
    Fortunately this is not the view of the sensible majority of the left, either in the EU or here, who recognise that a radically reformed EU is central to any advance for the socialist cause.

  22. Ted says:

    I think the nub of this is how you regard workers. If you just think of them as a commodity, simply as labour-power, an influx would look like an increase in supply and you’d expect a fall in wages. If you think of them as people, an influx will increase both supply of labour and the demand for it as people need to be clothed, fed, accommodated and entertained. If you regard them as agents of class struggle, an influx might look more like reinforcements.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Unfortunately for the idea that migration reinforces class struggle the union membership of migrant workers is significantly lower than that of UK nationals.

      Do you really believe that there should be no control at all on the scale of migration from any part of the world? And do you believe that Labour should go into the next election with that on its programme? Just asking.

    2. C MacMackin says:

      It’s not as simple as saying that migrants increase demand (which they do, of course). Workers are not paid the full value of their labour, meaning the increase in demand will not be as much as the increase in available labour power. Thus, immigration still leads to an increase in supply relative to demand.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        I think that it’s important not to see migration as the sole or even the main caus e of downward pressure on wages, although it is certainly a factor and justifies controls. Take the contrast between the UK, which saw a large fall in real wages post 2008, and Germany, where there was a rise. Both countries had large immigrant populations from the Eastern EU, suggesting that the fall in the UK was only partly due to this. Other factors could have been the severity of the recession, deflationary government policy, devaluation, less labour protection, poor TU organisation in the areas affected, and other things.Factors affecting real wages and other economic phenomena are rarely limited to one.

        1. C MacMackin says:

          I agree. I was just pointing out how Ted’s simple model that immigration -> increased demand is missing an important complexity. Obviously my model was still absurdly simple and missed numerous important factors such as the ones you listed.

  23. David Pavett says:

    I think these exchanges have probably run their course and this item is about to flip off the “front page”. If this discussion is anything to go by, and I suspect that it is, then the case for generalised free movement would appear to be purely negative. It’s advocates, like Don Flynn, try to justify it on the basis, not of what it would or could be like, but rather on the basis of claimed negative aspects of any sort of controls.

    In addition there have been spurious attempts to justify global free movement in terms of international working class solidarity. Even truncated quotations from Marx were called in to support this view. That was all shown to be without substance.

    The general result has been, and this has been my repeated experience, that no one comes forward to make the case for global free movement.

    No one from the free movement camp has attempted to answer the points made about the need for some sort of control in terms of national economic and social planning.

    I feel therefore that my initial case that there is no solid case for free movement and that it rests on no more than a well-meaning but ill-considered reaction to the plight of people around the globe who feel impelled to seek a new life in another country. There is no case for generalised free movement and were the Labour Party to adopt such a policy it would, with good reason, be deeply damaging electorally. Fortunately the Labour Campaign for Free Movement did not get its motion on to the agenda at the LP Conference.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Good article David and an interesting and informative debate.

      I agree with your position and that of JohnP.

    2. Peter Rowlands says:

      It is not a question of there being ‘no case’ for global free movement, or of it being ‘electorally damaging’. It would just be completely impossible.If all those who currently risk being drowned in the Med having paid their traffickers have to just jump on a plane in Lagos or Mumbai the millions would arrive within months, particularly if the UK was the only state in Europe offering it.

      1. David Pavett says:

        I would have thought that establishing that something proposed would completely impossible is pretty much the same as saying that there is no (convincing) case for it. Similarly adopted proposals that advocate the completely impossible is likely to be electorally damaging.

        1. Peter Rowlands says:

          No, no case implies there might be one, electorally damaging implies we might lose a few seats. What we are talking aboiut is something which no sane person with some knowledge of politics and geography could possibly consider.

          1. David Pavett says:

            I don’t agree but since you and I agree in rejecting free movement it is probably not worth labouring the point. I would not care though to label Don Flynn et al as insane. Misguided certainly, but insane no.

  24. Peter Rowlands says:

    I don’t think that Don or anyone else is, except by implication, but they shoud clarify their position.

  25. mrmeaning says:

    (Blimey! Some of the comments are longer than the article. Is this what Left writing’s like?)

    David’s article is an excellent demolition of Lanning’s and the campaign’s metrocentric, arrogant and illogical argument.

    Many traditional Labour supporters voted Leave to end the ridiculous policy of unrestricted immigration from poor Eastern European countries. Lanning and co. look down on those Leave voters as provincial racists, and seen happy to abandon them.

    Please see my rolling blogpost on the subject, ‘Brexit and the east European elephant’:

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