The British government and media demonisation of refugees and their whipping up of other forms of racism is a key ideological component of capital’s austerity offensive. The aim is to distract attention from the cause of declining living standards and divide the population so it fights amongst itself.
British imperialism no longer has the resources to expand its own profits and simultaneously improve the situation of the working class, so it has ended the latter. Since the 2007-8 financial crisis living standards have been under sustained attack, real income has declined and public services slashed.
Resources are being transferred from the bottom and middle layers of the population to the top. For the first time since the 1870s the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor in Britain has been widening, having been progressively narrowing for over a century.
Capital aims to intensity its economic assault and the accompanying racist offensive.
The refugee crisis, alongside Islamophobia, is a key focus of racist propaganda in Europe. As the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights pointed out last year, current rhetoric is comparable to the language used in the 1930s when countries refused to take in Jews fleeing Hitler’s Germany.
Tory ministers grandstand against immigration and asylum with dehumanising language, calling the people camped at Calais a ‘swarm ‘ and blaming migrants for undermining social cohesion.
The chaos imperialism has spread with its recent military ventures has forced the numbers of people fleeing their homes to reach levels unseen since World War II. According to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) there were 59.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide in 2014, a 40% increase on 2011. The indications are that when 2015 figures are published forced displacement will have exceeded 60 million for the first time. In the global context that will mean last year more than one person in every 122 had been forced to flee their home.
The overwhelming majority of these people are hosted in developing countries, with a very small portion migrating to the developed world.
In 2015 only 1.8 million arrived in Europe according to Frontex (the EU’s external border force), or the IOM’s (International Organization for Migration) estimate is 1.5 million. Even the higher (Frontex) figure is less than three per cent of the world’s displaced people. It also is also tiny compared to the EU’s population, being less than 0.4 per cent of the EU’s 500 million, not remotely numbers of people that could overwhelm the EU. The EU coordinated response can easily accommodate these refugees, if the will exists.
Britain steadfastly refuses to participate in any EU agreement sharing responsibility for resettling the asylum seekers arrived in Europe. It has also been at the forefront of changing the EU’s Mediterranean naval operations from ‘search and rescue’ to more militarised ‘anti-trafficking’ patrols, resulting in increasing numbers perishing in the sea. Britain will not even take any of the 9,000 refugees camped in the north of France.
Labour’s new leadership strongly opposes the Tories’ policies and rhetoric on refugees.
Progressive people should mobilise for this Saturday’s Stand Up To Racism march in London to demonstrate their support for refugees and opposition to racism.
The grand coalition partners in Germany, the CDU and the SPD suffered significant losses at the hands of the racist AfD (Alternative for Germany) in three state elections.
Mainstream coverage focused on the losses by Chancellor Merkel’s party. But the losses suffered by the SPD from propping up an unpopular right-wing government were even greater.
The average vote for all the main parties across the three elections is shown below, along with the change from the previous elections.
Average State Elections Results (and change from prior elections), %
The gains made by AfD were against a backdrop of the very large numbers so refugees entering Germany, initially welcomed by Merkel. The German-born population has been declining for a number of years and labour force growth requires immigration. But the refugee crisis has been seized on by the racists, and found a reception in a background of minimal real average income growth and the increase in ‘mini-jobs’, casual work paying less than €450 per month.
But there is nothing inevitable about the growth of the racist party. In one state (Baden-Wuertemburg) the Green vote rose strongly (+6.1%) and in another (Rhineland-Palatinate) the SPD vote made small gains to remain the leading party. In both cases the local party leadership offered strong support for refugees and welcomed them. Rather than a dramatic shift to the right, these results show that a strong anti-racist and pro-refugee stance will yield positive results.
This is an important lesson for lesson in Germany, which the SPD and Die Linke in particular should heed. It also applies across Europe.