A Social-Chauvinist Defence of the Indefensible
Another Reply to the CWG/LCC's Support for "Workers’" Immigration Control
By Michael Pröbsting (International Secretary of the RCIT) and Andrew Walton (RCIT Aotearoa / New Zealand), 14.5.2017, www.thecommunists.net
Recently, the Communist Workers Group in Aotearoa / New Zealand (CWG) published a polemic against the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT). (1) This was a response to our critique of their slogan of "Workers’ Immigration Control" which they raised in contrast to our consistent struggle against all forms of immigration control by rich countries. (2) This slogan reflects the adaption of numerous reformist and centrist groups to the social-chauvinistic pressure in imperialist and other wealthy countries.
In our document, we explained that the slogan for "workers’ control of immigration” is anti-democratic, anti-internationalist and socially-chauvinistic. In a world characterized by imperialist exploitation and increasing inequality between rich and poor nations, socialists in the rich capitalist countries must oppose all forms of immigration control. Such immigration control only serves as a weapon of the ruling class against the poor, semi-colonial countries; as an instrument to limit the freedom of movement of poor people, and as a means to divide the international working class and to rally the domestic working class behind the cause of chauvinism. The slogan of "Workers’ Immigration Control” – raised by the CWG/LCC as well as other centrist groups – is nothing less than adaption to the domestic, white labour aristocracy which supports their ruling class' migration policy in order to defend their national privileges. (3) A more appropriate name for what they propose would be not "Workers’ Immigration Control” but “Labour Aristocratic Immigration Control”!
For these reasons, as we have demonstrated in our documents dealing with this issue, the communist program on migration historically included a consistent opposition against all forms of immigration control in rich countries. Communists today have to defend this key element of working class internationalism and raise, among other programmatic demands, the slogan of "Open Borders" to defend the right of all migrants to enter the richer countries.
Despite the length of their article (5,000 words), the CWG(A/NZ) is unable to contend with any of the numerous facts and figures on immigration to New Zealand and globally which we cited in our document to explain our approach. Nor does their article provide any facts or figures on immigration. Similarly, they remain silent on our reference to the Communist International in the time of Lenin and Trotsky, when it explicitly stated its opposition to all forms of immigration control.
Instead of dealing seriously with our criticism, the polemic of the CWG(A/NZ) desperately tries to defend the indefensible. Towards these ends, they employ a crude combination of ideological diversion, unashamed retreat, and a distortion of the Marxist classics.
They start their defence of "Workers’ Immigration Control” with long references to the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the Balkan Wars in the 1990s, and the reactionary coups in Egypt, Thailand and Brazil in recent years. As the RCIT has dealt extensively with these issues in other places, here we refer readers to the appropriate documents. (4) Suffice it to say at this point that, with their references to these historic issues, the CWG – respectively their whole "Liaison Committee of Communists" (LCC) – demonstrates that they do indeed have a very long tradition of ultra-left ignorance of the importance of democratic issues in the class struggle.
Furthermore, not only do they ignore the document of the Communist International supporting our struggle for "Open Borders," but they also use a method based on bizarrely distorting the classic Marxist writings.
Distortion of the Marxist Classics
The first quote they cite is from a well-known letter from Marx to Sigfrid Meyer and August Vogt (from 9 April 1870) in which Marx describes the terrible exploitation of the Irish workers by Britain and the deep antagonism between the Irish and the British workers. However, the lengthy quote given in the CWG(A/NZ) article doesn’t deal in a single word with the issue of immigration control and, hence, is completely irrelevant to our dispute!
They then quote Trotsky, from 1926, dealing with how a workers’ state – Trotsky at that time was still a leading functionary of the Communist Party and the Soviet government – should deal with Japanese and Korean immigration. Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with the issue under dispute here, as Trotsky was addressing the issue of defending the Soviet workers’ state against possible interference from Japanese imperialism. (Korea, at that time, was part of the Japanese empire.)
The last quote cited by the CWG/LCC in their article is one by Lenin in which the leader of the Bolshevik party opposes a slogan raised by an intra-party opponent after the latter advanced the idea of “Down with frontiers” as a "method of socialist revolution." Here, the CWG assumes that their readers are content to accept this, their own bizarre interpretation, and won’t bother reading Lenin's original speech. As a matter of fact, in this speech Lenin was countering the position of the ultra-left opposition within the party, grouped around Pjatakov and Bukharin, which opposed the right of national self-determination for oppressed peoples, including their right to create their own state. Pjatakov and Bukharin contended that this Marxist position is an illegitimate democratic demand, because the program of international socialist revolution includes the abolition of all frontiers.
This is not the first time – and we fear not the last – that the CWG/LCC completely distorts the Bolshevik program raised by Lenin. The revolutionary Marxist program includes the consistent struggle for the democratic rights of oppressed nations. This is why we defend the right of oppressed nations to create their own states and this is also why we defend their right to move freely to imperialist and rich countries. Lenin polemicised against those ultra-leftists who opposed this democratic program and who advised oppressed peoples to find consolation in the fact that they only need to wait until the socialist revolution will have succeeded around the world. Incredibly, the CWG/LCC distorts Lenin's defence of the oppressed peoples' right of national self-determination and shamelessly presents it as affirmation for their own support for immigration control in white and wealthy countries like New Zealand against oppressed people from semi-colonial countries!
Lenin on Immigration Control in Imperialist and Rich Countries
As a matter of fact, on numerous occasions Lenin made clear that his party opposed all forms of immigration control in the imperialist and rich countries and never raised such reactionary nonsense like "workers control on immigration." This is why the Communist International opposed immigration control – despite its support by white domestic workers – as we have demonstrated in a lengthy quote given in our previous article on the subject to which the CWG/LCC so disingenuously attempted to reply. For the convenience of the readers, let’s briefly re-state here the conclusions of the Comintern:
"This fact has led to workers in the imperialist countries demanding the introduction of laws against immigration and coloured labour, both in America and Australia. These restrictive laws deepen the antagonism between coloured and white workers, which divides and weakens the unity of the workers’ movement. (...) The Communist Parties of America, Canada and Australia must conduct a vigorous campaign against restrictive immigration laws and must explain to the proletarian masses in these countries that such laws, by inflaming racial hatred, will rebound on them in the long run." (5)
This was the position that Lenin defended throughout his entire political life. When, at the Stuttgart congress of 1907, the opportunists in the Second International argued for restrictions on immigration – raising the defence of the interests of the domestic workers as the CWG/LCC does today – all authentic Marxists at the time rallied to defeat their motion. They succeeded in getting the congress to adopt a principled resolution which made crystal clear that all restrictions on immigration are "reactionary by nature" – instead of spreading any stupid illusions about domestic white workers "controlling" the borders against foreign workers.
"The congress does not see a remedy to the potentially impending consequences for the workers from immigration and emigration in any economic or political exclusionary rules, because these are fruitless and reactionary by nature. This is particularly true of a restriction on the movement and the exclusion of foreign nationalities or races." (6)
Lenin, who participated as a delegate of the Bolsheviks at the Congress, explicitly stated his agreement with opposing any form of immigration control:
"Further, on the question of emigration and immigration, a clear difference of opinion arose between the opportunists and the revolutionaries in the Commission of the Stuttgart Congress. The opportunists cherished the idea of limiting the right of migration of backward, undeveloped workers—especially the Japanese and the Chinese. In the minds of these opportunists the spirit of narrow craft isolation, of trade-union exclusiveness, outweighed the consciousness of socialist tasks: the work of educating and organising those strata of the proletariat which have not yet been drawn into the labour movement. The Congress rejected everything that smacked of this spirit. Even in the Commission there were only a few solitary votes in favour of limiting freedom of migration, and recognition of the solidarity of the workers of all countries in the class struggle is the keynote of the resolution adopted by the International Congress." (7)
The Bolsheviks continued such a Marxist approach and expressed it on numerous occasions. In 1915, Lenin again wrote that his party unambiguously opposed any support for restrictions on immigration. He concluded that all socialists "who are not against any restrictions of immigration … are in reality jingoes".
"In our struggle for true internationalism & against “jingo-socialism” we always quote in our press the example of the opportunist leaders of the S.P. in America, who are in favor of restrictions of the immigration of Chinese and Japanese workers (especially after the Congress of Stuttgart, 1907, & against the decisions of Stuttgart). We think that one can not be internationalist & be at the same time in favor of such restrictions. And we assert that Socialists in America, especially English Socialists, belonging to the ruling, and oppressing nation, who are not against any restrictions of immigration, against the possession of colonies (Hawaii) and for the entire freedom of colonies, that such Socialists are in reality jingoes." (8)
Hence, the resolution of the Communist International in 1922, which we quoted in our previous document and which the CWG/LCC prefers to entirely ignore, was no mere accident but rather the logical extension of the Bolshevik tradition.
The Fourth International against "Any Restrictions on Immigration"
This Marxist tradition of international working class opposition against "any restrictions on immigration" was continued by the Trotskyist Fourth International. Its US-American section published a resolution on the "Jewish Question" which, however, also dealt with general issues of immigration. This resolution stated:
"The Fight for Unrestricted Immigration: In view of the awful plight of the Jews, it must be made a special point in the program of the various sections of the Fourth International to fight against restrictions on immigration, particularly Jewish immigration. In the U.S. we must fight against the imposing of barriers such as the necessity to prove by showing money or through affidavits that the immigrant will not become a public charge. Part of our combating of anti-Semitism must take the form of a fight for unrestricted immigration for refugees, especially Jews." (9)
We think these quotes prove sufficiently that the entire Marxist tradition – contrary to the falsifications of the social-chauvinist CWG/LCC – has always opposed any form of immigration control.
A Shameless Tactical Retreat
It seems that there indeed are comrades inside the LCC who are aware of the social-chauvinist significance of the CWG's turn towards "Workers’ Immigration Control." Can it be only by chance that the CWG(US) – also part of the LCC –, until now, has neither published the original CWG(A/NZ) article nor the latter organization’s polemic against the RCIT? We think not, seeing how embarrassing the support for immigration control would be for the CWG(US) in a country which is currently undergoing such a powerful solidarity movement with undocumented immigrants who are facing the terror of the racist Trump administration!
In fact, the CWG/LCC seems to be conducting a shameless tactical retreat from their original slogan. In its latest polemic against the RCIT it writes: "That is why our article included the demand: “Open the borders to political refugees.” We should have been more specific and said 'refugees from imperialist and national oppression'…"
By adding the words "we should have been more specific," the CWG/LCC is essentially changing the entire crux of their position, but without being honest enough to admit this. First they called for "open borders" only for political refugees, i.e., individuals who are targeted by a dictatorship because of their political opposition activity. As is widely known, such people constitute only a small fraction of the total number of migrants, most of whom flee from wars, poverty and hunger. So now, with no shame whatsoever, the CWG/LCC is attempting to save its social-chauvinist skin by "being more specific" and calling for "Open the borders" (remember, they condemned the RCIT precisely for raising the slogan of "Open borders"!) for "refugees from imperialist and national oppression." But as "imperialist and national oppression" is the root cause of the entire phenomena of migration – whether the motivation to flee comes specifically from wars, hunger, or poverty (or all of the above) – by the logic of its embarrassing retreat, the CWG/LCC unwittingly ends up calling for no less than "open borders."
One only has to reread the following paragraphs from the CWG/LCC's original article which very explicitly admits that their entire policy of "Workers’" Immigration Control arose as a result of and is directed against the increasing importation of cheap skilled labour from semi-colonial countries:
"Let’s pull this skilled labour category apart – many workers in this category are seeking a better life for themselves. Internationally the flow of skilled workers is from the colonies to the imperialist countries. This leaves colonies and semi-colonies with shortages of skilled workers, notably in the health sector doctors, nurses and other health workers, but also in the education sectors and engineering etc. So, the semi-colonies are undersupplied with skilled labour, the poor are under supplied with health care and education. (…) The “skilled migrants” scheme is to fill labour shortages. However, this shows how capitalism employs workers who sell their skills for a low wage to get a job. NZ employers are only interested in making profits not paying to train NZ workers. The immigration policy of New Zealand has a class bias running through it. It is made to meet the needs of capitalists. Unions have been fighting for migrant workers but are limited to the struggle for labour rights. Migrants are used by the capitalist class as a reserve army of labour of unemployed (and prisoners) to drive down wages." (10)
Now, like a thief caught in the act, they have made an embarrassing U-turn and claim that they are actually for "Open borders for refugees from imperialist and national oppression." Does this mean that, now, the CWG/LCC opposes any form of immigration control for skilled labour forces from semi-colonial countries and supports "open borders"?! If not, what else could they possibly mean by "refugees from imperialist and national oppression"?! All this zigzagging is like a smoke and mirrors used to hide the tracks of the CWG/LCC adaption’s to social-chauvinism!
Similarly, it is embarrassingly shameful how the CWG/LCC actually attempts to rally the RCIT's support for their position, based on our support for the right of black African states to oppose the intrusion of white or Chinese settlers. As if this were comparable to their defence of white New Zealand's "Workers’ Immigration Control" in reaction to the increasing immigration of refugees from poor Pacific and Asian countries! Does the CWG/LCC seriously want to contend that black African countries should be playing by the same rules as white-dominated New Zealand?!
Caught in Their Own Trap, the Result is Complete Ideological Confusion
As we see, the CWG/LCC has fallen into trap that they themselves set, and is now attempting to grope its way out by a disingenuous combination of ideological diversion, a shameless tactical retreat, and a distortion of the Marxist classics. The result is, and can only be, complete ideological confusion and the defense of the indefensible.
However, the Marxist vanguard needs clarity and not confusion! It needs the tradition of Marxist internationalism and not little-islander social-chauvinism!
This is particularly true in the epoch of imperialism and the current historic period. The issue of immigration and imperialist border control is one of the most important global issues given the growing inequality between the rich and the poor nations and given the spread of wars and hunger. Socialists in the rich countries must take an unambiguous stand of proletarian internationalism fighting against all forms of immigration control and for full equality of migrants as part of a transitional program directed at the socialist revolution.
Without such an approach socialists cannot possibly win the trust of the huge majority of the global working class which is living in the poor countries, not the rich. And without winning the trust of the majority of the international proletariat it will be impossible to build a new Workers’ International as a world party of socialist revolution.
A Step towards the Defence of the Imperialist Fatherland
Such a stand includes unambiguous opposition of authentic socialists to all forms of adaption to their ruling classes and all kinds of social-chauvinism. This is even truer given the fact that the reactionary defence of the imperialist fatherland against immigrants is, in essence, the same as the social-patriotic defence of the imperialist fatherland and wealthy states against other countries.
Those who are not able to break with their fatherland when it comes to immigration, with all the resulting consequences, will be incapable of breaking with their fatherland when it comes to military conflicts and wars, again with all the consequences. Those who call for "workers’ immigration control” will also call for "workers control" of the defence of their imperialist or rich state when it comes to a military conflict with other countries – instead of calling for its defeat and against giving it any support.
It is no accident that these were exactly the same issues which were argued at the Stuttgart congress in 1907: those calling for immigration control also supported adaption to the defence of the imperialist fatherland. As we know, this social-chauvinist wing ended up a few years later in bed with the European ruling classes when World War I began. On the other hand, the left-wing of the Second International, with V.I. Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg at its head, took a position of consistent proletarian internationalism both on the issue of immigration and on the issue of the defence of the imperialist fatherland in 1907 as well as in 1914.
In conclusion, we reiterate that the slogan for "workers’ control of immigration” means in reality labour aristocratic immigration control. It is anti-democratic, anti-internationalist and socially-chauvinistic. The communist program on migration must include the slogan "Open Borders" which defends the right of all migrants to enter the richer countries. This is what the RCIT and authentic revolutionaries are fighting for today!
(1) CWG(A/NZ): Worker or Capitalist control of borders? Reply to RCIT, April 30, 2017, http://redrave.blogspot.co.at/2017/04/worker-or-capitalist-control-of-borders_30.html. The CWG(A/NZ) is part of the "Liaison Committee of Communists" (LCC) which has comrades in the US, Zimbabwe and Brazil.
(2) Michael Pröbsting and Andrew Walton: The Slogan of "Workers’" Immigration Control: A Concession to Social-Chauvinism, 27.3.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/workers-immigration-control/. The original article of the CWG(A/NZ) is here: Aotearoa.NZ: For Workers’ Control of Migration, March 17, 2017, http://redrave.blogspot.co.at/2017/03/aotearoanz-for-workers-control-of.html
(3) For a more detailed elaboration of the RCIT's position on migration and the internationalist program of revolutionary equality we refer readers to various documents which we have published and which are accessible on our website. See e.g., RCIT: Marxism, Migration and Revolutionary Integration, https://www.thecommunists.net/oppressed/revolutionary-integration/; Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South, chapter 8.iv) and 14ii), https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/great-robbery-of-the-south/; Michael Pröbsting: The British Left and the EU-Referendum: The Many Faces of pro-UK or pro-EU Social-Imperialism, August 2015, Chapter II.2, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/british-left-and-eu-referendum/part-5-1/, RCIT-Program, chapter V: https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-manifesto/fight-against-oppression-of-migrants/, RCIT-Manifesto chapter IV: https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-program-2016/chapter-iv/; and various actual statements and articles here: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/articles-on-refugees/. See also Michael Pröbsting: Migration and Super-exploitation: Marxist Theory and the Role of Migration in the present Period of Capitalist Decay, in: Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory (Volume 43, Issue 3-4, 2015), pp. 329-346. We have also published a detailed study on migration and the Marxist program in German. See Michael Pröbsting: Marxismus, Migration und revolutionäre Integration (2010); in: Der Weg des Revolutionären Kommunismus, Nr. 7, pp. 38-41, http://www.thecommunists.net/publications/werk-7
(4) See on this, e.g., RCIT: It is Time to Break with a Wrong Method! Open Letter from the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) to the Members of the Liaison Committee of Communists, July 2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/open-letter-to-lcc/. In this document readers find references to various documents on the relevant issues. On the issues of tactics in the USSR 1991 and the Balkan Wars in the 1990s see e.g. chapter 3ii) of our book Michael Pröbsting: Building the Revolutionary Party in Theory and Practice. Looking Back and Ahead after 25 Years of Organized Struggle for Bolshevism, December 2014, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/rcit-party-building/rcit-party-building-iii/
(5) Communist International: Theses on the Eastern Question, Fourth Congress of the Communist International, December 1922, in: Jane Degras: The Communist International 1919-1943. Documents. Volume I 1919-1922, pp. 391-392, http://marxists.org/history/international/comintern/4th-congress/eastern-question.htm
(6) Resolution zur Ein- und Auswanderung, in: Internationaler Sozialisten-Kongreß, Stuttgart 1907, vom 18 bis 24.August, Buchhandlung Vorwärts, Berlin 1907, p. 58; translation in English: Weekly Worker No. 1004, 4 April 2014, http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/1004/border-controls-reactionary-by-nature (our emphasis)
(7) V.I.Lenin: The International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart (1907), in: LCW Vol.13, p. 89 (Emphasis in the original)
(8) V.I.Lenin: Letter to the Secretary of the Socialist Propaganda League (1915), in: LCW Vol.21, p. 428
(9) SWP: Theses on the Jewish Question (1938), in: The Founding of the Socialist Workers Party: Minutes and resolutions 1938–39, Pathfinder Press, New York 1982, p. 253
(10) CWG(A/NZ): Aotearoa.NZ: For Workers’ Control of Migration, March 17, 2017, http://redrave.blogspot.co.at/2017/03/aotearoanz-for-workers-control-of.html