Labour should be a pro-immigration party….
John Harris has a piece in the Guardian roundly condemning the rather disturbing noises made by all of the contenders in the leadership race regarding immigration. Harris is right to call this ‘strategy’, if indeed it constitutes one, ‘daft’ and also like Harris says, ‘kicking down the dispossesed’ does not seem like a bright and shiny future for the centre-left. One thing you notice about immigration is the vast majority of the candidates do half the math (honourable exception made for Diane Abbott here); solemnly intoning it is a ‘class issue’ then failing to realise the inbuilt inequities of a class-based capitalist society, not the presence of the immigrants themselves, are the real problem.
One of the victims of Labour’s abandonment of socialism has been the replacement of internationalist solidarity with the dispossessed with the heinous concept of ‘liberal interventionism’. In other words, the notion that the way we show solidarity is to invade these peoples countries and generally trample all over them and proclaim this is a victory for democracy. A radically different approach is required; one that doesn’t focus on immigration as the problem but looks to solve the underlying social problems that produce hostility to immigration. Of course, part of the problem for the candidates in changing the approach to this would be that they would have no logical choice other than to return to a radical and structuralist critique of capitalism. However, if the likes of Ed Miliband are serious about making Labour ‘radical’ in politics and ‘value-driven’ they have no other choice but to take this course; any other course will render their words hot-air.
Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t as bothersome to Labour in the past when its existence was predicated on such a critique. In its past incarnations Labour has seen clearly that the way to solve problems connected to immigration was to provide. For example, our 1970 manifesto incorporated planning for high rates of immigration into broader policy:
The Urban Programme includes help to areas of high immigrant population, where special social needs exist.
The contrast in emphasis could not be more marked. Far from a dog-whistle inspired myopia chucking good money after bad in a desperate scramble to control immigration though tighter and ever more impracticable border controls this shows a clear emphasis on spending the money and effort ensuring that immigration rates were supported by a sufficiently robust social structure. I think all decently minded Labour members can agree this is a much better use of the Party’s time and efforts than thinking of inventive new ways to detain and exclude some of the worlds most vulnerable people. It’s time our leadership candidates did more than half the equation and made Labour truly radical, a party that unashamedly stands-up for immigration; argues for it and is prepared to support it in word and deed.