Anarchism and migration: Lessons in getting a social struggle wrong

Anarchism and migration: Lessons in getting a social struggle wrong

A review of No Borders: The Politics if Immigration Control and Resistance by Natasha King, Zed Books, 2016

This book is quite some way off the account of the dynamics of migrant resistance to border control that I thought it would be. It is built around reflections on struggles taking place in Athens and Calais in which the author participated, but migrants only figure in this as rather vague sketches intended to illustrate some point about anarchist theory. We get no sense of the reasons why the people in these situations are on the move and why they seem to be willing to risk everything to get to some final destination. Instead we are offered a high-blown theory about ‘the autonomy of migration’, as though those on the move are motivated by an existential desire for freedom for its own sake.

In my view if you get the reason why people migrate wrong then everything else you say about the issue is likely to be a bunch of hooey. Making the search for ‘autonomy’ the critical issue generates the delusion that the activist and the migrant are some sort of soulmates on the same road to absolute freedom, King goes on to spin a theory of solidarity which binds people together with the tenuous threads of mutual regard for each other’s projects. Some anthropological notions about equality are prayed in aid for this argument and the strategic problems which the book seems to think are central are how it is possible to live out the experience of non-hierarchical, mutually-reinforcing action without doing deals with the state.

This ranks high amongst all the examples of privileged activists imposing their agendas on the struggles of people who exist many rungs lower down the social ladder than themselves. The dilemmas of being an anarchist and the opportunities that might exist for creating non-hierarchical spaces displaces the actual essential task of reducing the power of the capitalist state in determining the lives of people whose very existence requires forcing a break with its processes and controls. The world of the anarchist activist is one of a constant flurry of social experiments in communality and efforts at the pre-figuration of a social order in which external coercion has ceased to exist. But in the case of the type of egoistical anarchism which King seems to favour, even this takes place in a Foucauldian universe where repression is a permanent condition for the human soul and where the state itself is raised a bleak authority in which its capitalist features are only a peripheral issue.

This is a current which lost any connection with the profound critique of capitalism that brought other versions of the anarchist creed to a point of influence amongst a swathe of the European and American subaltern classes a few generations back. There is a world of difference between a starting point which says that the state takes the form that it does because of the capitalism interests that lie at its heart, and one that assumes that it is merely another manifestation of authority and its desire to oppress. This book makes no more than a few scattered references to capitalism as such, and when they occur they subsume the notion to just one of several different species of deplorable activity that anarchists tend to be against.

The result is an account of collaborations between ‘activists’ and migrants which are always disappointing. The disappointment is all the greater because the anarchist invests so much hope in the migrant being the hero of her fantasy of a group of human beings who are intent on living ‘autonomous’ lives. They are ‘refusing the state’ and the challenge for the activist is to make sure that they do not backslide into compromises that might bring about only partial gains. King makes it clear that she appreciates that a conundrum exists here and she calls on her comrades to be more understanding that ‘engagement’ with the forces that are denying you the right to cross a border is pretty well the inevitable consequence of fighting them in the first place. The thing to strive for from this perspective is a set of institutions – safe houses, communal kitchens, community centres and the like – which embody anarchist ethics and which might be the basis for an investment in a future, alternative, way of existence.

Unfortunately the examples she offers from her experiences in working with migrants in Athens and Calais show just how vulnerable these experiments are to be washed away by a turbulent political and economic environment. If what we want from our activism is lessons well learnt about the nature of the power we are up against that haven’t come from this experience. Despondency, if not outright despair, seems to be the legacy of jungle camps that are raided by police, migrant personal belongings wrecked, and people scattered to the wind. The brief experience of communal living ends up as not much more than a wistful memory after the evictions have taken place and the authorities cease control of the property.

Yet there is a rock which is capable of breaking the force of the current that would sweep people on the move on to defeat. It is a type of organisation which, maybe existing as nothing much more than an ephemeral network of collaborating organisations and individuals, nevertheless has learning about the ways in which the enemy can be taken on and defeated at its core. The task that lies at the heart of this collaboration is understanding how capitalism structures the state and the ways that this configures the controls that exist at borders. This process brings us face-to-face with a vast range of tensions as the interests of different stakeholders within the system of power clash and begin to reveal the extent of the contradictions that exist at every level of the social system. A strategy which aims to maximise opportunities for escape from the control of the state when it comes to exercising a right to move freely needs to be more cognisant of what the nature of these conflicts are and how they can be used to the advantage of the subject group.

When the various collectives and networks whose work King reviews are really doing a useful job (and, if this review seems rather negative in assessing their role, let me say that I think they do a lot of really important work) then they will be alongside migrants in accomplishing this task of probing and pushing back at the structures of power. This, after all, is what migrants who are on the move do all the time in any event. Grandiose ideas about exercising an autonomous right to migrant seldom figure in the plans of a Filipina social care worker looking to evade the onerous obligations of being ‘self-sufficient’ as she pursues her profession, or the Eritrean refugee stopped by border controls from reaching the networks that would provide support and a degree of security.

What they want are tactics which will push back and paralyse the efforts of immigration controllers to harass, imprison and deport them. A movement which builds on the capacity of the working class to resist the oppression and exploitation endemic to the capitalist system ought to be able to play a role in helping migrants in achieving that end. What a shame that anarchist theory, which once helped workers and peasants organise a practical fightback against capitalism has, in the egoistical version presented in this book, got so little to say about how those battles might be resumed..

Trump’s USA: Global capitalism is in retreat and migrant workers’ rights are on the line

Trump’s USA: Global capitalism is in retreat and migrant workers’ rights are on the line

President Trump’s cabinet looks pretty much as many predicted at a time when it seemed unlikely that the billionaire reality host would ever make it to be the Republican Party candidate for the post, let alone the nation’s chief executive. Packed with business types rather than politicians, and with a good smattering of generals prominent on the most hawkish side of the military elite, the US executive looks like the sort of place that billionaires and their pals go to when their dreams of world domination by other means crumble into dust. Crumble into dust is the appropriate way to talk about the economic side of capitalism as the failure to restart growth after the Great Recession of 2007/9.

As The Economist reported in its January 28th edition, the engines of the global economy – great transnational companies (TNCs) – have been afflicted with a grievous crisis of stagnant and falling profits for most of the last decade. The retreat of the global company over this period has been marked by a staggering decline in the rates of return on equity invested in international business, with 40% of the world’s biggest firms now failing to make even 10% profits on the stocks under their control – as The Economist puts it, a yardstick for underperformance.

Loss of confidence

The loss of confidence and belief in the idea that the future was global on a mega scale is a big part of the reasons why the business practices of the TNCs have fallen so sharply out of favour with the wing of capitalism that Trump and his allies represent. The long-marginalised advocates of such dusty and unfashionable sectors as coal and steel manufacturing, based in ‘the homeland’ and vying for a place in markets that are decidedly national, are once again finding their place in the sun, and President Trump’s inner-circles. This explains the enthusiasm for scrapping the rules and dispensations which had favoured international business, which have included complex regulatory regimes designed to track the movements of flows of capital and protect property rights across the globe, and tax regimes which are most efficient for those with the mobility to bank their profits in remote island havens.

Trump-Ban

Under Trump there will be a penalty inflicted on those who move assets across frontiers – excepting of course, businesses which want to repatriate the one trillion US dollars they have accumulated outside the country during the heyday of their offshore and outsourced operations. Trump’s ultra-hard line on immigration policy, which has so scandalised liberals in recent weeks, is part of the very same process which is seeing protectionist measures being brought in across the board to replace the regime which had favoured the TNCs in the recent past. Much of the discussion – and the public protests – has concentrated on the ban on admission to the US for citizens of seven mainly Muslim countries, introduced by presidential executive order at the end of January. Harsh as this has proved to be it is only one aspect of a raft of immigration control measures which will have a drastic effect on the country’s large population of settled foreign nationals. The extension of the categories of undocumented migrants who are to be considered priorities for deportation includes anyone who has broken the law by either entering or staying on in the country without permission. According to the independent Pew Research Centre, this lines up around 11 million people for removal.

Major threat

Other measures will allow the federal authorities to go after the so-called ‘sanctuary cities’, where local government has pledged a degree of support and protection to people who seek to regularise their residence status in the US. Taken together, the travel bans and the pumped up deportation measures, not to mention the claims being made for a ‘great wall’ along the southern border with Mexico, represent a major threat to the USA’s historical status as a major destination for migration. Despite what is claimed by the ‘America First’ nationalists who are the dominant influence in Trump’s administration, immigration cannot be branded as a feature of the globalisation of the TNCs which they so revile. The success they have had in confabulating the movement of people with the flows of capital around the world in the search for profits is one of the reasons why Trump’s eccentric brand of politics has made inroads into the country’s working class communities.

But the United States – a country so fundamentally forged by migration over the course of its history since the days of European colonialism – cannot so easily dismiss the movement of people as a mistaken policy pursued in recent times by a now discredited section of its ruling elite.

US working class divided

It is far more accurate to describe the anti-immigrantism which Trump is now promoting as a determined effort to drive forward a policy that will keep the US working class divided during a period of capital restructuring; a period that will require the levels of exploitation of workers in the homeland which is currently required from the people labouring in Asia and elsewhere in its outsourced business supply chains. The world watches the brave protests which have erupted across the whole of the US in the past weeks in solidarity with the excluded citizens of the seven Muslim countries, and hopes that this is just the starting point for a militant defence of the rights of all migrants in the country, including the 11 million now threatened by their inclusion in the priority categories for deportation.

This is republished from the March/April 2017 edition of Chartist

 

If we want to campaign for free movement we must break out of our comfort zones

If we want to campaign for free movement we must break out of our comfort zones

The launch of the Alliance for Free Movement (AFM) last month provided the opportunity for people involved in post-referendum initiatives to explain their campaigning work so far.

The Alliance itself has come about on the initiative of people with a lengthy history of trade union activity. They were frustrated with the fact that so much of the political establishment – both left and right – has given up on arguments about the positive role free movement of people in the EU has played over forty years.

Chairing, former deputy general secretary of the PCS, Hugh Lanning[i] opened the session by setting out how people who favour internationalism can be rallied to try to win the argument in favour of open borders while the UK negotiates Brexit in the next few years.

Experience

Green MP Caroline Lucas best summed up the challenges when she pointed out that, from the standpoint of the mass of public opinion, we have spent the last few years losing most of the crucial arguments in favour of the free movement of people. Unless we get a better sense of why this is, we will continue to be on the losing side.

For some in the audience the reason we are on the back foot is because the EU referendum mobilised nationalist and racist sentiment and this was reflected in the vote in favour of Brexit. Winning the argument on free movement was therefore completely bound up with a campaign to thwart the Article 50 process and keep Britain in the EU.

Subordinate?

Whatever the merits of doing it this way, it also poses the danger that the arguments the newly-founded AFM wants to push about the importance of free movement will be stuck as a subordinate element in a re-run referendum campaign in which the dominate issues hinge on whether or not membership of the EU means rule by an anti-democratic, spendthrift clique of Brussels-based bureaucrats.

Many on the progressive wing will feel entirely comfortable about this, seeing that, when all is said and done 48% voted to stay in the EU in the referendum. And, they might say, it is not entirely impossible that next time round this might grow by the few extra percentage points needed.

But is difficult to feel confident that another campaign that centres on the ‘in’ or ‘out’ question will really give the AFM the space that it needed to make a radical and thoroughly progressive case for free movement. Efforts to engineer a reversal of last year’s vote will give supporters of the rights of migrants a secondary role in a new Bremain campaign at best. The likelihood is even then the leaders of such a movement would be prepared to back scrapping free movement in its current form in order to keep a toe-hold in the single market.

In or Out

This task ought to be framed as ‘In or Out the EU, we call for the right of free movement.’ Winning that argument would require the AFM to break out of the comfort zone of pro-EU politics, which is currently dominated by mainstream politicians who have been quite happy to chip away at the rights of migrants of all types for years.

It would mean getting out to all the regions where dismay about migration contributed to the Brexit vote, but whose economically depressed situation has nothing to do with the arrival of new workers.

This argument needs to find allies amongst trade unionists, the people running our public services, schools and universities, and even employers who are prepared to go public and say that the most valuable asset their businesses have are its workers.

It must be developed by campaigns that have their roots in the towns and cities across the UK. And it must aim to win arguments that centre on jobs and working conditions locally, and what needs to be done to defend the NHS and other public services. The aim would be to bring together migrant community groups with representatives of all these other interests and start to make the case for an approach to migration that really benefits everyone.

Starting to win these arguments will need a willingness to move out of our comfort zones which have limited the appeal of open borders and free movement, and which has still shown little progress in breaking through to the wider population.

[i] The other platform speakers were Colin Yeo, the lawyer who runs the Free Movement legal website, the co-leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, MP, Matt Carr, journalist and One Day Without Us campaigner, Christina McAnea, head of health service workers at the trade union UNISON, Roger Casale of New Europeans, and Jo Pons Laplana, an NHS trade unionist and migrant activist.

(The original version of this blog appeared on the website of the Migrants’ Rights Network)

The working class case for freedom of movement

(This first appeared in the Morning Star, January 17th 2017)

THE idea of a right to free movement is cursed by its association with the European treaties which have as their objective the creation of an unfettered market in which all goods, services and persons circulate as commodities.

As the crisis of the free market system has become more obvious, and as its impact is felt more sharply by working-class people, a head of steam is building up which wants to end what many see as the thing most symbolising the failings of global capitalism.

The clamour to end the right to freedom of movement is reaching fever point and is drawing in a swathe of the Labour Party, like its Brexit spokesperson Sir Keir Starmer and its candidate for mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham.

However, party leader Jeremy Corbyn and others in his team are still standing out to resist pressure from that direction.

Who is right in this argument? The answer boils down to whether you think the wider interest of working-class people really are best served by doubling and reinforcing the checks on the movement of people who have been pushed into this by the need for employment.

With all the forecasts of renewed economic turbulence the question becomes ever more urgent, given the likelihood of even higher levels of unemployment in the period ahead. There are myths that need to be confronted in this discussion.

One of these is that migration is driven exclusively by the desire of bosses to access supplies of cheap labour. This bald statement has to be tempered by the fact that everything to do with government policy from the late-1970s onwards has concerned itself with driving down the proportion of GDP — national wealth — which is distributed in the form of wages.

Figures from the OECD show that this declined from a high of 64 per cent in the mid- 1970s to a low of 52 per cent in 1998, when a slight recovery began.
The vast bulk of this huge squeeze on the amount of the national wealth that goes to wage earners took place between 1978 and 1998, during years of either low or actual zero net migration.

The point is that whatever people think about the impact of the movement of workers on wages and conditions of employment, it plays a subordinate role to the greater effects that have come from the war on trade unions and the deregulation of labour markets.
Historically, migration has been important as a means to compensate wages earners for the effect that the mobility of capital has on their lives.

When profit-driven investment leaves regions behind in a state of underdevelopment, or when it abandons once prosperous towns and cities in processes of deindustrialisation, the ability to move becomes important as a means to escape the worst effect of collapsed living standards.

If concern about the labour market effects of migration, bringing downward pressure on wages and employment security is to be dealt with, the answer lies in bringing trade union organisation and equal social protection to the newcomers at the quickest rate possible.

The encouraging sign that migrants do see the value of workplace organisation — seen in the advances made in the recruitment of people to unions in areas like hospitality and social care, and also the campaigns against the “Uberisation” of the service sector — ought to encourage us that more can be done in this direction.

In the debate within the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn is right to resist the demands to fall back from his principled support for the right of people to move freely across borders.

The alternative, as we are seeing in the tentative plans being drawn up for post-Brexit controls, is a bureaucratic drive towards visa controls and identity checks for all people.

Under this, access to the jobs market and even rented accommodation will depend on employers and landlords agreeing that you can safely be regarded as “British” enough to merit the job or the tenancy.

Discrimination will flourish in this atmosphere and trade unions will find that migrant workers are pushed even further beyond the solidarity that will be needed to fight the effects of an ever deepening crisis of capitalism.

The right to move freely across borders needs to be claimed as a right that belongs to all working people and should be defended with all the energy we can muster.

Time to Unite all Workers – Migrants as well as Citizens

(This was first published in the Morning Star, December 24th 2016)

THE traditional season of goodwill to all men and women is the right time to remind ourselves that the cause of the working class is international and extends to all who sell their labour across the planet.

Among the ranks of this international working class we need to count the 244 million people who earn their living outside the countries they were born in.
It is amongst this group that we find some of the most grievously exploited of wage earners, labouring for a pittance a day in conditions where their most basic human rights are routinely denied.

Many people think that the accounts of employer abuse of migrant workers concern places far away, like the Gulf state of Qatar, where the conditions of south Asian construction workers building the amenities for the 2022 World Cup are the stuff of scandal.

Or perhaps in Thailand, where Burmese migrants suffer situations akin to slavery in the country’s vast poultry industry and as operatives in its fishing fleets.

The disturbing truth is that people concerned with labour exploitation and specifically migrant labour exploitation can be found a lot closer to home, and in some cases in sectors where they work alongside trade unionists.

Reports from Germany, seen by many as a country where the regulation of workplaces still ensures decent conditions, tell us of sectors like construction where the imposition of abusive conditions on migrants is rife.

In one well-reported instance, Romanian workers employed on the construction of a prestigious shopping mall in the centre of Berlin were being paid as little as €6 an hour — far below the minimum wage rate which required an hourly rate of over €10 at the time.
Other European countries provide evidence of migrant labour exploitation.

Across the continent migrants make up a large proportion of the agricultural labour force, imposing conditions on people employed in farm work that are often brutal.

In Spain the predominance of Africans in this sector arises from the racialised, inferior social status of black people, condemning them to unskilled work, on poor pay, and with short periods of employment in jobs that are rarely part of a promotion ladder.

The influence of race and a past history of colonialism is also evident in France, where discrimination works to deprive people of access to the rights which the law appears to extend to them.

The percentage of people of north African nationalities engaged in semi- or unskilled occupations is in the region of 70-80 per cent.

At this level of concentration in jobs which provide the least compensation the disadvantage experienced by migrants tends to become inter-generational — being passed from parents to their French-born children.

In Britain the drive to push back against labour market regulation has been under way since the days of the Thatcher government in the 1980s.

The vast expansion of a low-wage service sector with variable demand for workers according to season or the state of the firm’s order books has created the need for the “just-in-time” employee — the individual who will turn up when their labour is needed, and when it isn’t, impose no costs on the business.

The availability of this group to the needs of capital is secured through mechanisms like “zero-hours” employment contracts and the use of intermediaries working as gangmasters and private-sector employment agencies.

All of these work to transfer a larger share of the risk of running a business from the employer to employee.

The burden of having to provide paid holidays, sick leave or maternity rights is shifted to what is represented as a temporary labour force to which the owners owe nothing in the way of social protection.

Unsurprisingly, anyone who has the opportunity to avoid employment in sectors where rights have been reduced to such a low level will do so.

Citizen workers who have some capacity to negotiate more favourable terms of employment will tend to shun the low-skill jobs offered in areas like construction, hospitality, farm work and food processing, domestic work and social care.

In their place migrants become available to take on jobs which, though necessary for the overall functioning of the economy, offer minimal rewards to workers.

In recent times a myth has emerged that migrants are “happy” to take on jobs of this sort because the wages they can earn in low-skilled work in an economically developed country are generally higher than what they would get even in skilled, professional work in the regions they come from.

This encourages the view that migrants effectively collaborate with employers to keep wages in certain sectors low so they do not have to compete with locals for what would otherwise be seen as desirable jobs.

This would be an unreasonable conclusion to draw.

Right across the world neoliberal ideology has been using market forces to restructure great swathes of manufacturing and service sector jobs in ways that bring a maximum of downward pressure on wage levels and conditions of employment.

Reversing these deeply entrenched trends will require more than simply closing jobs to migrants: it will require a fundamental challenge to the entire logic of a global capitalist system that has been unfolding since the 1970s and beyond.

Renewed efforts are required from the labour movement to counter the gross exploitation of migrants, across the rest of the world as much as in Britain.

However this will not be achieved by the current favourite policy of tighter controls over immigration with the aim of admitting only “the brightest and the best” on terms that will depend on them proving their “value” to British capitalism.

Tighter controls nowadays means the sort of police state measures enacted in the two recent Immigration Acts, which redouble the drive towards passport and identity checks by employers and workplace raids by Border Force enforcement officers.

These are conditions that are designed to snuff out the emergence of workplace activism among migrant workers as surely as the anti-trade union legislation of recent decades has aimed to end working-class militancy.

The deep indignation that ripped across migrant communities during the incident when Byron Burger collaborated with the Home Office produced a real stirring class awareness that has been followed up in the drive by Unite to recruit hotel workers, the GMB to bring care workers into the union, and Unison to deepen its work amongst the hundreds of thousands of migrants who work in the healthcare sector.

Then there are the bold experiments by the so-called independent unions — such as United Voices of the World and the International Workers of the World — who are even pushing the idea of workplace organisation into such ultra-casualised areas as the Deliveroo operation, contract cleaning and bicycle couriers.

With these developments the mood is being set for a revival of grassroots activism which will extend across the working class.

The call for the workers of the world to unite has long been the inspiration for labour in the days when it could pit itself against the forces of capitalism.

Applied to today’s world it means action in solidarity with migrant workers, and a repudiation of all efforts to divide us.

Continuing in May’s inhumane footsteps

(This first appeared in ‘Morning Star’, 15 Oct 2016)

AMBER RUDD went out of her way to present herself as a home secretary very much in the mould of her predecessor when she spoke at the Tory Party conference last week.
“I succeed one of the most successful home secretaries of modern times,” which was her description of Theresa May, who of course has gone on to achieve the giddy heights of Prime Minister.

Many would take issue with this claim. Theresa May will be remembered by many as the home secretary who was responsible for ensuring that Britain remained opted out of any positive role in resolving a crisis of refugee policy that has blighted the reputation of Europe as a humane and compassionate region and has allowed the Mediterranean to become a grave for 3,610 people in this year alone.

Then there is the deplorable situation at Calais. Possibly as many as 10,000 people are languishing in the makeshift refugee camp known as the Jungle — including 1,000 children of whom some 400 are believed to have compelling grounds for resettlement in Britain.

During the six years of May’s stewardship as head of the Home Office, she has been obdurate in her refusal to consider any other role for Britain in tackling this deplorable situation other than pay a share of the hefty bill to cover ever larger areas of the Channel port in barbed wire-topped fencing.

More charges could be levelled which illustrate her failure at the Home Office to support the necessary humanitarian dimension to her government’s immigration policies, including measures on family reunification which massively discriminate against households subsisting on modest incomes; a refusal to permit overseas teachers to settle in the country after five years of work in British classrooms because they receive wages of less than £35,000 a year and a record of wrongfully deporting up to 48,000 international students who were innocently associated with a scam carried out by an English language testing company.

Yet despite the harshness of all these policies, May still failed to by a massive margin to achieve her government’s target of pushing net migration below the 100,000 figure.
At the time she shuffled off to her stint at No 10, statistics showed a surplus of incoming over outgoing migrants of over 330,000 people.

Judging by her speech to the Tory faithful, Rudd seems to have embraced May’s record of severity and failure and is working to add to it with policies which promise even more hardship for people of migrant background.

She outlined measures that continue the recent trend in immigration policies to push controls well beyond the border areas of air and seaports and into workplaces and local communities.

The controversial laws which require landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants are to be ramped up by making prison sentences the penalty for making mistakes about the meaning of someone’s visa conditions.
Campaigners against this measure, led by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, have pointed to evidence that immigration controls of this type produce adverse effects for sections of communities which go far beyond the irregular migrants which the government tells us are the target group.

Very few landlords have the expertise needed to distinguish between an “illegal” and “legal” immigrant and many believe that they are courting the risk of breaking laws whenever they have dealings with people with non-British accents or black and other ethnic minorities.

The result is a large ripple effect across communities which sees obstacles being raised to large numbers of people who landlords feel just might — if not now perhaps some time in the future — fall into the category of an immigrant who has broken rules.
We already know that there are tendencies towards discrimination on grounds of race in the private-rented sector — the policies Rudd is advancing will reinforce this.

Rudd went on to outline plans she has for cutting back on the numbers of international students entering the country each year.

The expansion of higher education in recent times is usually considered to be one of the great success stories of British economic and social policy.

The Oxford University-based Migration Observatory calculates that the contribution that non-EU students make to the sector is in excess of £7 billion a year. Contributing around 13 per cent of the revenue earned by colleges and universities, the fees paid by these young people have supported the expansion of higher education which has benefited British students as well as themselves.

Rudd proposes to jeopardise these significant achievements by cutting back on the numbers of young people coming from abroad to study in Britain. In her speech she sketched out ideas that suggested that universities not considered to be “the best” would not be permitted to admit international students.

While the Oxbridge and elite Russell Group universities would be exempt from this restriction, scores of establishments outside the privileged few would be at risk of losing the proven benefits which come from having a diverse, international student community on campus.

This punitive approach to dealing with organisations and bodies which accept migrants is also to be extended, more deeply than ever, into the workplace. Migrants make up 11 per cent of the UK workforce. Many are employed as the highest levels of the skills spectrum, as doctors, engineers, scientists and technicians.

Others work in sectors like hospitality, food production and processing, and social care, which have operated for decades with business plans that require ultra-flexible working at generally low pay rates.

In the days that followed Rudd’s speech, rumours flowed suggesting that the Home Office would push back against the employment of migrants by requiring employers to report the number of foreign nationals they had on their staff.

The idea was even floated that firms employing a higher than average number of migrants would be “named and shamed” in a drive to force them to change hiring practices.
The subsequent uproar against this suggestion — which extended from trade unions to the Confederation of British Industry — seems to have led to a retreat on this most extreme version of the policy.

What will apparently remain is a requirement on the part of firms to report this data to the Home Office for, it is claimed, confidential use.

Few are convinced that the system will operate in this apparently benign way. The act of reporting staff data itself is likely to generate discriminatory outcomes as employers are obliged to sort their workforces out into categories of “foreigners” and “citizens.” Current work practices which tend to put migrants on agency contracts and while retaining natives on regular work contracts are likely to be reinforced by measures of this kind.

The combined effect of all the measures which Rudd hinted at in her speech will be to reinforce the already worrying divisions which exist in many working-class communities.
The upsurge in xenophobic hate crimes illustrates all the dangers that lie ahead if the government is allowed to continue its manipulation of the policy agenda by dividing people into “us” and “them.”

Working-class communities need unity if they are to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
Repudiating Rudd’s divisive intentions will be an essential start to this achieving this solidarity across communities.