Marxism, Migration and revolutionary Integration


The following is a translation of the summary of long document which was written by Michael Pröbsting in autumn 2010. It was published in October 2010 as a special edition of the theoretical journal “Under the Banner of Revolution” of the Austrian section of the League for the Fifth International. However it was later rejected by the League for the Fifth International (Workers Power in Britain) as a result of their opportunist adoption to labour aristocratic prejudices. It was one of the important issues the comrades of the today’s Revolutionary Communist Organisation for Liberation (RKOB) argued for and were expelled in April 2011. The RKOB stands on these positions.

The theses have a focus on the situation of migrants in Austria. However in its analytical and programmatic aspects they are of international relevance.

The main elements of the analysis and the program of the Revolutionary Communist Organisation for Liberation (RKOB) against racism and national oppression of the migrants are as follows:

1. Migration in the age of capitalism is a "natural", i.e. for this social formation essential phenomenon.

2. In modern capitalism - the era of imperialism since the beginning of the 20th Century - migration takes the form of emigration from poor, colonial, semi-colonial or weak imperialist States towards the rich imperialist countries.

3. Especially in recent decades - since the beginning of the crisis-ridden development of capitalism in the early 1970s and then particularly with the onset of globalization - migration has increased substantially.

4. Migration is an essential part of super-exploitation of the semi-colonial world by imperialist monopoly capital. Just as the monopoly capital extracts surplus profits from the semi-colonial world (through the export of capital and unequal exchange), there is also an appropriation of super profits through migration. Imperialist capital draws profit from the fact that it can exploit migrants due to smaller or no cost for their education, smaller or no cost for their pension, by the possibility way to exploit migrants as a cheaper (compared to domestic) labour force because of their social position which is characterised by less rights and national oppression etc. The super-exploitation of migrant labor is an important source of imperialist super-profits. Thus it is also an important source for strengthening the power of the imperialist ruling class and the corruption of the upper layers of the working class - the aristocracy of labor.

5. Immigrants are a nationally oppressed layer of super-exploited labour force. Migrants do not belong to the dominant state nation and therefore experience discrimination concerning the language in all public areas such as public authorities, the media and schools, have less democratic rights as foreign citizens, including their dependency of a work permit, the so-called "Foreigners Employment Act", etc. On this basis a specific position in the social hierarchy of the capitalist system is the consequence for the vast majority of migrants: in its large majority migrants belong to the lower layers of the working class and that small part of them, which belongs to the petty bourgeoisie, is usually part of the poorest sectors of the petty bourgeoisie.

6. Of course the forms of national oppression and super-exploitation are not the same for all migrants. Second generation migrants do not experience the same conditions as those of the first generation, foreign citizens do not experience the same conditions as immigrants with citizenship, highly skilled migrant workers do not experience the same conditions as those who are employed as unskilled workers, etc. What is more, the separation of the migrants into groups according to their different national origins, which is why we can not speak of a common national identity. We rather speak of a joint negative national identity (namely, that they are 'Non-Austrians ", “Non-British” etc. with roots in - in relation to the country of immigration - poorer countries). But ultimately all these different parts of the migrants have much more in common than what divides them - namely, the social position as a layer, who in their vast majority experience in one form or another national oppression and super-exploitation.

7. It is only partly true that any person with foreign roots automatically shares the fate of the majority of the migrants, who determine the essence of being immigrants (national oppression, super-exploitation). Immigrants from rich, imperialist countries are on average not super exploited and often take a relatively high place in the social hierarchy of the capitalist order. Concerning German immigrants it has to added that they don’t face language discrimination. We consider this group of immigrants from rich, imperialist countries, therefore only as a secondary group of migrants or as a layer that is less exposed to the typical ways of discrimination and exploitation. By far the largest group of immigrants are those with roots in the poorer, semi-colonial countries.

8. About 2 to 2.2 million immigrants live in Austria, making up a quarter of the population. (Most official statistics underestimate the number of migrants and recognize only 1.4 to 1.5 million of them). In Vienna migrants represent even 44% of the population. Two thirds of them come from the former Yugoslavia, Turkey or the Eastern European EU-States. One fifth of immigrants come from rich, imperialist countries.

9. Migrants from the semi-colonial countries earn significantly less than their domestic colleagues (only 40% to 65% of the income of workers who are Austrian citizens of the same sex). Their jobs are less secure and therefore they are often affected by unemployment, their homes are poorer and smaller and generally their standard of living is of lower quality. In addition to this comes the language discrimination due to the non-recognition of their mother language in all public areas, which leads to enormous problems with public authorities and a less favourable position in education.

10. Migrant women and youth experience an additional suppression. Migrant women are even more than their male colleagues employed as a very low-paid unskilled work force. Because of oppression as migrants the patriarchal structures are more pronounced and migrant women are employed to a lesser extent than their domestic colleagues. Also, immigrant youth are oppressed in the patriarchal family and due to the social and language discrimination their education level is significantly worse than that of their domestic colleagues.

11. The ideology of racism plays an important and necessary role for the maintenance and justification of national oppression of the migrants. There are different forms of racism, seeking to justify the suppression of the migrants with various lies: i) biological and genetic inferiority, ii) other, with the nation-state incompatible cultural values (the "clash of civilizations"), iii) so-called backward, aggressive religion (e.g. different forms of Islamophobia). These reactionary justifications can and will in practice of course often be mixed together. Also racism operates at different levels - laws, populist politics, confrontations on the street, etc.

12. Racist policies therefore are not only pursued by the right-wing parties, although they promote the most aggressive anti-immigrant policy. All the bourgeois parties (including the conservatives, social democracy and the Greens) are supporting and justifing, in one form or another, the oppression of immigrants.

13. The widespread racism in the working class has its objective basis in several factors: i) the real causes of rising unemployment and poverty are spontaneously not recognized and can therefore the ruling class can put the responsibility for it to the migrants, ii) the enormous super profits that are partly caused by the super-exploitation of migrants and from which specific, more privileged parts of the domestic working class benefit.

14. The revolutionary workers' movement - from the First International of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to the internationalist policies of the Left by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Rosa Luxembourg in the II, III. and Fourth International - has a long tradition of struggle against racism and for full equality of migrants. They fought from the beginning against the social-chauvinist tendencies within the labor movement.

15. This fight against the social chauvinism is now of paramount importance. The leading reformist forces (social democracy) support the discrimination of migrants. The most centrist organizations such as CWI, IMT etc. make substantial concessions to the social-chauvinism. (as the support as for the racist strikes in Great Britain 2009 against the employment of migrant workers under the reactionary slogan "British jobs for British workers"; not support the policy of the right to mother tongue in public areas, etc.)

16. The resistance against racism and for full equality of migrants can be successful only on the basis of consistent internationalism and the orientation of the joint fight and organization of the entire multinational working class.

17. This strategy is the concept of revolutionary integration. It is based on the following principles:

i) Our goal is the achievement of the international unity of the working class of all countries and the internationalist unity of the multinational working class in each country. This unity can never be achieved by force, but solely on the basis of voluntariness and equality. Ultimately, we want to overcome national differences and create a new, socialist – a truely – human culture.

ii) This unity requires both persistent propaganda for internationalism and against racism and the consistent struggle for complete equality and full democratic rights for all migrants.

iii) This unit can only be achieved in common class struggle and through the common class struggle, and through the joint organization. It must be understood as a process, as a long-term goal.

18. Revolutionary integration is not assimilation, forced adaptation with the help of the state’s coercive methods. It also does not mean the multicultural, mutually separated co-existence of different nations. It means the struggle for full equality of national groups, languages, etc., and on the basis of this struggle, a voluntary, long-term convergence from below.

19. Because racism and the national oppression of migrants is a necessary component of capitalism, they cannot be eliminated as long as capitalism is not overthrown by a socialist revolution by the – in its character multi-national – working class and any remaining elements of all forms of oppression continuously die/disappear with the construction of a new socialist system. This in turn requires the building of a revolutionary party and the Fifth International rooted in the working class.

20. The RKOB therefore fights for a socialist program against the oppression of the migrants, which includes the following demands:

* Full citizenship rights for all immigrants - regardless of what passport they hold and whether they are EU citizens or not. (this includes active and passive right to vote at all - local, regional and national - level)

* Abolition of all special laws for immigrants! Migrants should have equal access to the claims for all benefits.

* Immediate legalization of all who are living illegal in the host country and the immediate release of all detainees! Immediate removal of all legal sections for right to stay!

* For the complete legalization of migrant workers! The unions must run a vigorous campaign to organize the illegal workers and of migrants in general. For equal pay for equal work and equality in the workplace! Abolition of all special laws for migrants (e.g. the Settlement and Residence Act, Employment of Foreigners Act)!

* Joint struggle of the national Trade Union Federation with the unions in Western and Eastern Europe and Turkey for an increase in the working and living conditions!

* Migrants must have the right to their own meetings in the union and the company. Likewise, migrants should have a quota among the shop stewards and in the councils of the trade union bodies according to their proportion amongst the members.

* We are fighting against the spreading propaganda against Muslim immigrants. We support the right to a free exercise of religion. Therefore, we defend the right of Muslims to build mosques. We defend the right of Muslim women to wear at their workplace and every public space a veil (be it a veil or a burqa)! At the same time we say: No one shall be compelled to bow to religious rules against his or her will (such as wearing a headscarf)!

* Smash the fascist organizations! Prevent any public appearance by fascists! For the construction of collective self-defense units of both the national citizens and the migrants to protect against fascist and racist attacks!

* Removal of the official language! Equal recognition of at least the more commonly used languages of migrants in all public institutions (government, teaching in schools and universities, etc.)! Massive recruitment of migrants in public services, etc. as teachers in schools! Free offers for language courses (including within the working hours) for each language (at least of those languages spoken by at least a relevant minority on a voluntary basis)!

* Get rid of the new Iron Curtain for migrants at the borders of imperialist national state and the EU! Open borders for all!

21. The high proportion of migrants in the working class and its unique situation on the basis of their oppression give them an important place in the class struggle and thus in the struggle for socialist revolution. The building of the revolutionary party must therefore necessarily put a special emphasis on the organization of migrants.