Friday, 15 April 2011

Quote of the day...

The new rules show that, after a period of great uncertainty, the government is listening harder to business concerns.

The changes to the 'tier two' arrangements mean that companies will have a better chance of getting much-needed international talent, and growing their business. This in turn will benefit UK plc.

However, we will continue to monitor whether the latest immigration rules hamper businesses seeking to recruit the skilled personnel they need. If problems do surface, the government must remain flexible, and make changes once again.
In part, there can be little doubt that David Cameron's latest pronouncements on immigration, and the recent immigration cap, serve as a diversion. As millions of people face attacks on their livelihoods and services, he is playing the race card to avert our attention elsewhere.

At the same time, the supposed "split" between him and Vince Cable over this issue is just wide enough for local elections to fit through. Afterwards, there can be little doubt that they will be working hand-in-glove to continue delivering their onslaught against the working class. In other words, as ever, the immigration issue is convenient political capital for those in parliament.

However, we shouldn't doubt the purpose that this also serves for capital. As immigration minister Damien Green put it, "we have worked closely with businesses while designing this system."

In elite circles, the question on immigration is an economic one. It is about striking a balance between exploiting migrants which, in Vince Cable's words, "is crucial to British recovery and growth" and implementing controls which create a multi-tier workforce. This allows various groups - illegal migrants, legal migrants, natives - to be played off against one another, driving down wages, undercutting conditions, and as a consequence increasing the profit of the bosses to the detriment of everyone else.

This is, of course, the basis for the far-right's "they're taking our jobs" argument. However, by focusing on migrants - rather than the broader tendency of capital to pit different sections of labour against one another - they are also playing the divide-and-conquer game. Not least because they claim to speak for one section of labour (the white working class) and place it on a pedestal above the others, which must be expelled.

But, contrary to the fascists and to Cameron, this is not an issue of race and nation but of class. For proof, we need look no further than the exemption from the migrant cap for high earners. It is working class migrants who must be regulated and filtered, because it is they who will be played off against the local working class for the benefit of business.

This is not a new tactic. We have seen it before, perhaps most notoriously when Margaret Thatcher stole the thunder of the National Front. But it is an insidious and divisive tactic, and one that demonstrates perfectly why opposition to racism and fascism is inextricable from the politics of class struggle.