I usually try to write (slightly) funnier posts than this, but yesterday I read this article and I’ve been thinking about it, y’know, seriously. So I’m not going to do a funny post about how the English Defence League couldn’t organise a piss-up in a British brewery because they all drink shit foreign lagers. Instead there is just one point to make. I think it is the most important response to this line of argument. It’s not an argument that we be nicer to foreigners. It’s not a plea for us all to get along. It’s not a request for a society that looks like a Benetton advert because that will ‘make life more colourful’.
Here it is: The level of wages and the level of public services depends on who has the power in society. As a society we have the resources to pay better wages. We have the resources for better public services. We are, collectively, wealthier than most other societies around today and wealthier than any society at any time in history you care to name.
Better wages and better public services don’t happen because those people and institutions who hold most of the money don’t want to share it around. And they pay our politicians in order to stop it being spread around. Some of them are our politicians. And they are very happy for people to carry right on blaming immigrants.
If your wages are shit, if your hospital is shit, if your street lights don’t work, it’s because you don’t have the power to claim the resources that are available to solve all those problems. So take more power for yourself, and when you do, you’ll find it doesn’t make a bit of difference how much immigration there is, except in one sense: if you can join with immigrants to claim better wages or better public services your numbers will be boosted and you’ll find you have even more power.
The level of wages and the level of public services are not about the number of people in a country (otherwise the quality of life would be better in Belgium than in Spain and if you’ve been to Belgium you’ll know it isn’t) but about who has the power and who has the money. The liberal opponents of racism are uncomfortable talking about naked power and economics, partly because many of them are at the higher powered, more moneyed end of the spectrum. They respond to anti-immigrant rhetoric with descriptions of the economic benefits of immigration, or a plea for valuing difference. Bollocks to valuing difference – no-one who didn’t value it was ever convinced to start valuing it because a well-meaning person asked them to. Instead let’s value our own power. Rather than fighting over scraps against people who have less than us we should ensure we have control of the resources we all collectively create.
How to get to that position? There are no easy solutions, and it’s not going to fit into a blog post. But blaming immigrants is only playing the game of the people you really need to fight.