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October 05, 2003

Why the Left Supports Amnesty

Greg Yardley over at commiewatch is perplexed that leftists support undocumented immigrants:

immigrants' desire to come to America, even illegally, is a vote with their feet - a vote in favor of the capitalism and democracy that communists oppose. Next, if the communist thesis that America is an imperialist country that does so well by exploiting the third world is true, then immigrants who travel from the third world to America are coming because they want a piece of that exploitation action - in other words, not content to let Americans rip off the third world, they want a piece of the action themselves!
Greg makes a few odd assumptions here.

One Global System: First, his statement assumes that Mexico and developing nations are outside the global capitalist system, something multinationals making fat profits in Mexico, China and other countries would beg to differ with him on. Voting to flee the most exploited regions of capitalism is hardly an endorsement of the system-- and it's as reasonable to argue that they are endorsing the (sadly) stronger welfare state and labor rights in the United States than in their own nations.

But the key reality is that the United States and developing nations are part of the same economic system, tied by capital flows, trade and labor markets. To move anywhere is neither an endorsement or non-endorsement, since wherever you go in the global capitalist system, there you are-- still in it.

Exploitation on Both Sides of the Border: Greg's second fallacy is the idea that all Americans benefit from exploitation of the developing world-- an odd conservative endorsement of the most leftwing sectarian position (see obscure sects like the Maoist International Movement for this view).

Most left activists believe that in fact corporate exploitation of developing nations harms people both there and in the United States. For example, union busting in such countries drives down wages overseas, thereby accelerating job loss for Americans overseas. This was the reason that labor leaders from Malaysia to South Africa to Brazil united with US labor leaders in Seattle in protesting global economic policies. See this report from Seattle 1999:

The problem, as ICFTU head Bill Jordan notes, is that they have "no class analysis of the Third World" — where the elites represented in government profit from trade deals no matter how grotesque are the sweatshops they create. While support for labor standards is nowhere to be heard from the trade delegates of the developing nations, it was sounded repeatedly by the South African, Caribbean, Malaysian, Mexican and Chinese union activists (some of whom had spent years in prison for their efforts) who addressed Tuesday’s AFL rally. "What’s good for Ford workers in Detroit is good for Ford workers in Mexico and South Africa," said Glen Mpufane, a South African mine worker who called for a global minimum wage. (Following McEntee’s Marxian lead, he concluded, "Workers of the world, unite — against the WTO!")
Erasing Borders Builds Unity: This unity of worker interests between developing nations and the US explains the drive for rights for immigrants. No one thinks labor rights would be better off in the US if workers were barred from leaving a job in New Jersey if a better one existed in New York. (Southern blacks experienced some of their most dramatic liberation by fleeing exploitation in the South for better industrial jobs in the North in the early part of this century.)

The worst thing for labor rights is for workers to be chained to exploiting employers by the inability to look for better employment opportunities. Anti-immigrant policies are a tool to trap workers in developing nations, drive down wages further in those countries and globally.

Capitalists are united across the world-- capital crosses borders freely. So of course the left has to fight for the right of labor to cross those borders as easily as capital-- how else can workers create the similar international unity to challenge corporate power?

BTW I am seriously disappointed by the general indifference of most progressive bloggers to the nationwide mobilization of civil rights, civil liberties, church organizations and labor unions in support of the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides. Conservative Catholic Cardinals came out to speak at the rallies but only a handful of bloggers like Talk Left, Body and Soul, Kevin Hayden, Politics in the Zeros, LatinoPundit, Al-Muhajabah, and the Dean Blogs discussed this event-- the largest mass mobilization of unions and civil rights groups in 2003. (Let me know if I missed someone) The absence of discussion - even critical - from most of the major progressive bloggers is discouraging.

Posted by Nathan at October 5, 2003 06:05 PM