As the capitalists' historical means of controlling the native born U.S. working class unravels, they must destroy the nascent working class movement before it becomes conscious of itself and unites to fight for its own interests. To do this, the capitalist class utilizes historically evolved forms to divide and conquer the emerging movement and to mold it toward their own interests.
The immigration question has historically been a powerful weapon in the capitalists' arsenal of this country. In today’s arena, their stated aim is to stem the tide of illegal immigration and prevent terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland. The actual goal, however, is to control the overall U.S. working class for the capitalists’ own purposes. The challenge for immigrant workers, both documented and undocumented, and the larger U.S. working class, of which they are a part, is to recognize that the basis of their unity is in their mutual struggle for daily bread.
Strategy for control unraveling
Today the capitalists are in a life and death struggle for their survival and their historical means of control is threatened.
The stably employed workers in heavy industry concentrated in the Rust Belt – Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Great Lakes region – have historically been the pillars of strength of capitalism. Workers and their unions from this area have exerted tremendous social and political influence on workers in the rest of the country. U.S. capitalists’ control over this strategic sector was crucial to profits and expansion nationally and internationally. Social bribery and a higher standard of living secured their loyalty to the capitalist class. Now, the capitalist class is discarding these workers.
The implementation of privately owned labor-replacing technology in all industry is creating untold poverty and misery throughout the country, including the Rust Belt. From this destruction is emerging a new class whose common economic plight cuts across all previous lines of division, including color and national origin, and is the basis for their unity as a class.
With the rise of this class – although still scattered and unaware of its common interests – has come a weakening of the capitalists’ control, particularly within their former political stronghold among the industrial working class of the Rust Belt.
The capitalists must find the means to discipline and control the U.S. workers in a world where labor is no longer needed and privation is the norm. The capitalists must find the means to make the workers accept their role in a new world order that preserves private property for the capitalists, and supports the U.S. state as it vies for supremacy as sole superpower in an increasingly dangerous and unstable geopolitical world.
Sharing a common economic plight
Whether they are aware of it or not, immigrants — both documented and undocumented — and native U.S. workers are united as victims of the capitalist system. They suffer from the effects of labor-replacing technology as it is implemented worldwide, and from the same international trade policies and agreements of an increasingly integrated world economy.
The capitalists promote free trade. Protective trade tariffs and farm subsidies of countries such as Mexico are removed, fostering the free flow of capital investment and cheap labor, while bankrupting small producers and landowners who cannot compete with cheap U.S. corn from Midwest megafarms. Trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are destroying economies, and millions are losing their means of making a living. Workers are forced to migrate for their own survival and that of the family members they leave behind. These displaced workers are vilified when they come to the U.S., while their illegal status allows for their exploitation as a cheap and readily deportable source of labor.
These policies have served to weaken and demonize the social welfare state in the U.S. and the sending countries, while uprooting workers and intensifying the competition for survival among them.
Even native born U.S. workers, displaced by layoffs and plant closings, are forced to wander the country as internal migrants, reminiscent of the hobos of the Great Depression and of the displaced Southern sharecroppers who, forced off the land due to the mechanization of agriculture following World War II, moved North.
Native born U.S. workers are now facing the kind of governmental indifference and harsh treatment more often reserved for immigrant workers. California Republican State Assembly member Chuck DeVore brought this out in the open in a statement to the Orange County Progressive in May of this year. “When you have an unemployment rate as high as it is in this state, it should be a signal to people to look for jobs in other states with more jobs and a lower cost of living…. We have had policies subsidizing poverty in this state for years, and we can’t keep doing that.”
Whether they are aware of it or not, the reality is that all workers – regardless of color, gender or national origin – are increasingly being thrown down to the same economic level and, as such, share common class interests. The capitalists are already proving they will spare no measures to prevent this developing class from recognizing those common interests.
The capitalists have always been quick to seize on the weapon of anti-immigrant hysteria during times of economic crisis. Immigrants, particularly the undocumented, are once again being made convenient scapegoats to divide the class.
The undocumented immigrant has been labeled terrorist, drug pusher, freeloader on social services, and now swine flu disease bearer, in rapid succession, as if probing to see which label works best to demonize the immigrant. Deportations, humiliations, and deaths in the desert and on the border are now common place. The undocumented are denied health care in California as counties, citing huge state budget deficits, drop coverage one by one.
In a carefully orchestrated maneuver, the nation’s outrage and despair over the September 11, 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center was converted into perpetual war abroad and increased domestic surveillance and suppression under such measures as the Patriot Act. Part of this was the intentional association in the American psyche of undocumented persons with terrorism, although all of the 9/11 bombers had valid visas to be in the U.S. and no one accused of terrorism to date has crossed the border illegally from Mexico.
This helped create a climate where the militarization of immigration policy is being accepted. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) – previously under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice – was abolished and immigration matters were tied more closely to anti-terrorism and transferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The primary arm of this policy is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It is the largest investigative arm of DHS, with sweeping powers to investigate, arrest and deport or prosecute anyone considered even a potential threat, with little or no restrictions on ICE’s activities or conduct.
This is no accident. What is being instituted is the basis for controlling all Americans when the times call for it. The privately run prisons that now hold the undocumented can quickly become prisons for U.S. citizens as the scattered opposition to the capitalists' plans develops into domestic unrest. Americans are being taught to surrender their rights in the interests of national security.
The drug war in Mexico heightens this dynamic. On the one hand, the drug war demonizes undocumented immigrants as drug pushers or dealers, alienating them even further. On the other, it allows the Mexican government to squelch domestic unrest within its own borders, either directly through its own military as it is now doing, or with the aid of U.S. troops. Unlike the 1930s, deported immigrants do not have a farm plot to fall back on. The pressure cooker of social unrest will be dealt with harshly.
The U.S. state has a long history of intervention in Mexico and Latin America – the Mexican American War of the 1840s, the intervention in the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the support of the Mexican government repression of the 1994 Chiapas Rebellion, the intervention against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, and the U.S. role in the Salvadoran and Guatemalan civil wars to name a few. The U.S. will not hesitate to do so again if revolution threatens to spill across its borders from Mexico.
Unity of all workers is only path
It is unlikely that the demands of the immigration movement will be dealt with fairly in the current environment. Immigration advocates were hopeful that the new administration would stop the raids and prepare the path towards legalization for those that are currently in the U.S. The President's appointment of Janet Napolitano as director of the Department of Homeland Security, however, leaves no doubt that the raids will continue.
In the dark and tumultuous times to come, native born and immigrant workers regardless of their residency status will be confronted with difficult decisions. Will they turn their back on those with whom they share common interests? Or will they look to the class interests that unite them – the demand that they share in the basic necessities of life and a dignified future for their children, which at one time was the American Dream.
This demand – this necessity – knows no color and no national boundary. The modern means of producing have now made a world of abundance possible. Only maintaining this abundance as private property keeps it from benefiting society at large. In fact, the modern means of producing have eliminated all past barriers, except for the artificial ones of private property.
The course the capitalists propose is unnatural. Immigrants have long been an integral part of the U.S. working class. Wave upon wave of immigrants from every country in the world built this country, and continue to contribute to it, laboring in the mines, mills and factories of America. Irish and German immigrants fought and died in the Civil War. Immigrants were in the leadership of the fight for the eight hour day in the Chicago labor struggle of 1886. Today, immigrants are an integral part of U.S. society and family structure, as well as some of the most determined fighters in the labor movement.
In order to ensure their own survival, the capitalist class is prepared to destroy all that has made this country a beacon of light to the world.
The times demand a choice. Either we allow the capitalists and their corporations to achieve a police state that keeps them in the money and in control, and us at each other's throats – or we find the ways to unite as a class across borders and appropriate what is produced for the good of all.
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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