Sunday, 19 June 2016
An Ecosocialist Approach to Immigration
As campaigning resumes today after a brief interval brought about by the brutal murder of Jo Cox MP and Remain campaigner, the European Union referendum is back on centre stage. With only four days to go until voting begins on Thursday, the opinion polls put the result too close to call, and barring a late swing to the status quo, which is still possible, we have entered what Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager use to call ‘squeaky bum time.’
I confess to being surprised that at this stage the remain side haven’t got a comfortable lead in the polls, but I also didn’t expect the anti-immigrant argument to gain so much popularity amongst my fellow UK citizens.
I got to thinking, if immigration is such an important issue for people, how will this be dealt with by a future ecosocialist ‘government’, if one should come to power in the UK?
I can’t find any ecosocialist writers that have addressed the subject at all. Maybe the imagining of an ecosocialist world is just so abstract at this time, that to think of every minute policy area is a waste of energy until the basic fundamentals of ecosocialism is accepted? But on the other hand, since ecosocialists stress the importance of ‘taking the people with us’ this is an area in which we need to spell out what an ecosocialist approach will be.
The first thing to say, is that ecosocialism will be international, if it is to be anything, and so to try and imagine ecosocialism in a single country is difficult to say the least. In states that have so far made some moves towards ecosocialism, they are mainly in the developing world, like Venezuela or Bolivia, and immigration may not be so much of an issue, or at least in the same way.
People that leave their home countries and emigrate usually come from poorer countries, as they try to make a better life for themselves in richer countries. Of course, people also emigrate from one rich nation to another as well, but this isn’t the type of immigration that seems to cause much anxiety. It is immigration from poor, often brown skinned people into the rich Western nations which is the cause of the discontent.
In a world run along ecosocialist principles, there would be a more equal distribution of wealth, which would in turn alleviate the need for economic migration, certainly in big numbers. I would imagine that there still would be some migration, and I think that would be a good thing, but the impetus that poverty plays in this for migrants, would cease to exist.
The fact that capital as we know it today, will have completely disappeared in an ecosocialist society, will reduce the need for labour to chase it around the globe. In short, I don’t think migration will be much of an issue.
Long distance trade would also be much reduced to what we see today, with more localised production of what is needed, but there would be some international trade, where this is beneficial and ecologically sustainable. Long distance foreign travel will also be less than we see today, but I do not envisage it disappearing altogether. Travel and learning from other cultures is an important part of people’s education, which promotes understanding and cooperation.
This is all after ecosocialism has firmly established itself, in at least most of the world, if not all. But we are a long way from this situation, and in the revolutionary period prior to this, I don’t think ecosocialists can just point the way to this future with great confidence that the people will have blind faith in things turning out this way.
Especially when we think of the likely effects of climate change on immigration to the rich northern countries, from the poorer more vulnerable global south. There is already strong evidence to show that climate change was one of the driving forces of the conflict in Syria today, although this gets scant attention from the main stream media. We can expect more immigration pressures once climate change advances, and this will certainly be from the poorer countries to the richer ones.
The danger in this case will be that fascist politics including wall building around richer nations, will be accepted more easily, and the fascists realise this themselves. The BNP, before their recent implosion was putting these arguments about, they know it will be an opening for them.
So, what would be a sensible approach to immigration, in one country, in the transition stage to ecosocialism?
The first thing to do, would be to impose capital controls, stop wealth leaching out of the country, and to focus on localised production, and perhaps withdrawal from international trade treaties, or renegotiation where possible and desirable. Resources then can be directed to where they are required, to serve the people.
When we are clear about the needs of all in the country are being met sufficiently, we can look at where population increases would be desirable, but we need to do this in an ecocentric way. Britain is a relatively small island, so everyone in the world can’t live here. I think that it is important too, that in areas that do want to increase immigration, the decision should be made as locally as possible, with due regard to local services.
In parallel to this we should encourage the development of ecocentric practices in poorer nations, with financial help, but not in the rather corrupt way that foreign aid is distributed now. We would encourage self-sufficiency for these countries, not be encouraging the growing of cash crops for the north.
I take it that we will be compassionate with refugees and those seeking asylum, but the rest will need to be managed in the short term.
I think that would be as much as we could achieve in the early stages of ecosocialist transition, and yes, it would have to have border controls I think, which is not entirely desirable. But the alternative of fascism will be by far worse.