File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-01-29.113, message 66

Date: Tue, 28 Jan 1997 20:56:11 -0500
Subject: Re: M-I: Adam Rose on Doug's Comments (Fwd from moderator)

Adam wrote:
>The question of the welfare state is very much tied in with a lot of
>the arguments over racism in particular. First of all, many of the
>right wing arguments against immigration centre on the welfare
>state ( this is true in California, isn't it ? ). You know the sort
>of thing : "I'm not racist, I'm just sick of these Blacks/Arabs/
>Mexicans coming over here and living in luxury on our benefit
>system". Now in opposition to this racist argument I would put
>what I would describe as class arguments and I would propose
>working class methods to oppose the racist attack on benefits.
>My argument is that these arguments and methods, which I regard
>as the most effective, may well put off middle and ruling class
>members of whatever group of people we're talking about.
>I would begin by pointing out that the people who are taking away
>benefits from immigrants ( this is precisely what the British Tories
>have done with their recent asylum bill ) are the same people
>who are taking away benefits from everyone else. They are not
>against benefits for immigrants in particular, they are against
>benefits per se. This attack on poor immigrants is part and parcel
>of an attack on the poor in general - whether it be single parents, the
>general level of benefits, the young ( withdrawing housing benefit,
>forcing young people onto pointless "training" ( ie slave labour )
>schemes ). I would point out that the immigrants are quite often
>fleeing low wages and appalling conditions imposed on them by
>the same companies that are attacking wages and conditions
>in the US/Britain wherever - that capital can go round the world
>looking for the best conditions for capital, so why shouldn't labour ?
>Not allowing people to migrate, and not allowing them decent
>conditions if they do migrate, perpetuates sweat shop conditions
>in both the less developed countries and the advanced one, and this
>brings the overall level of wages and conditions for everyone down.
>This benefits bosses in both countries who can take advantage of
>these conditions ( in the "advanced" country, the sweat shops tend
>to be run by bosses of the same nationality ) , and works against the
>interest of workers in both countries.
>Not only is this an attack on the poor in general, it is an attack on
>those workers who give out the benefits. They will have to act
>as immigration officials. Instead of making people's lives marginally
>better, they are going to be the ones telling people they can't have
>benefits because of the colour of their skin or where they happened
>to be born. Every cut in benefit, every additional hurdle the poor have
>to jump, means more work for the same pay, and, because claimants
>vent their frustrations on the nearest target, which is usually the
>who has as little control of proceedings as the claimant, more dangerous
>and stressful working conditions. And finally, of course, the low paid
>workforce in these sectors often consists of a high proportion of
>immigrants precisely because it is low paid work.
>For all these reasons, the most effective way of stopping these sorts
>of attacks is if the workers involved simply refuse to implement it, and
>threaten to strike if anyone is victimised for not implementing it.
>However, they're only going to have the confidence to do this if there
>is a large scale campaign outside this particular workforce. This means
>socialists need to push forward any campaign as hard as they can,
>particularly amongst other workers who can pledge their support to the
>campaign as a whole but also in defence of victimised workers. And of
>course one obvious place to go to to get this type of support are
>precisely those where immigrants are employed for low wages in
>appalling conditions, more often than not by bosses of the same
>The other thing which needs saying about this sort of campaign is
>that it is against the law, obviously. Workers are refusing to
>implement a racist law. So inevitably workers taking this sort
>of action will come into conflict with the respectable elements in
>"the community" and in the workers movement who seek to
>work within the system.

Have the British workers, esp. social workers who act as gatekeepers of the
welfare state, bought Adam's argument? If so, it's all well and good. If
not, shouldn't we begin to address the difficult question of working-class
racism, nationalism, etc.? And then we can more effectively work on how to
make Adam's strategy work in reality.

yoshie furuhashi (

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