Tragedy in the Mediterranean: Immigration and the Crimes of Capitalism

From In Defense of Marxism

The death of more than 800 people who drowned when a small fishing boat capsized 60 miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa late on Saturday brings the death toll to of people among people attempting to reach Europe by boat in 2015 alone to 1,600. This tragic event highlights the dramatic situation that has developed in Africa and the Middle East after years of imperialist meddling.

lampedusaThis latest “accident” is a direct result of the cut to the funding of the EU search and rescue missions last year. In a clear sign of the “democratic” nature of the often celebrated “British values”, the British government was the first to withdraw from the mission causing it to be abandoned altogether.

Baroness Anelay, Minister of State of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the Cameron government, has openly stated that ,”We do not support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean [and] believe that they create an unintended ‘pull factor,’ encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths.” (Washington Post, April 21, 2015)

What the Baroness is saying is in fact that the EU must not provide a rescue service and leave thousands of people who could easily be rescued, to die in order to scare away immigrants from coming to the EU. The message is clear: “If you try to cross the sea you will die”.

The official Italian sea and rescue operation, known as “Mare Nostrum”, was brought to an end in October of last year and was replaced by the much more limited joint EU Triton “border protection” operation, run by Frontex, the EU’s border agency. The new Triton operation was provided with only a third of the resources available to “Mare Nostrum”.

As a consequence of the closing of the previous rescue service there have been about 17 times as many refugee deaths in the Mediterranean Sea from January to April of this year compared to the same period last year, according to initial estimates from the International Organization for Migration.

If the statements of Baroness Anelay were bad, those in the gutter press, mouthpieces of the ruling class, have been even more blunt about where they stand. Journalist Katie Hopkins, openly stating what the establishment tries to dress in fine language, has said that boats with immigrants should be met by gunships not rescue ships. She then went on to say: “Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984’, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors”.

After the deaths on Saturday she defended her previous statements saying “Why do we take on everyone else’s problems? We can’t afford to take on these problems. We need to push these boats back.”

Here you have the true voice of the Capitalist class. Behind all the talk about democracy and human rights is the most ruthless calculative cynicism. Being completely discredited by their severe attacks on working people and the ongoing scandals about their lavish and disgusting lifestyles – which includes widespread child abuse and murder – the establishment is trying to whip up a racist mood in order to distract attention from the real issues and find a base to lean on. Never mind a few thousand people dying in the meantime.

Why is there mass immigration today?

Last year, around 170,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean to get to Italy and as many as 3,500 died. The International Organisation for Migration in Italy estimates that since 2000 over 22,000 migrants have lost their lives in an attempt to reach Europe in search of a better life.

The question is: why are immigrants willing to go through such a dangerous journey, risking everything, as well as leaving their whole life, family, friends and culture behind in order to come to Europe? The real source of immigration is poverty, misery and the barbarism produced by imperialism and its wars in the Middle East and Africa, and the extreme desperation that flows from all this.

According to a new report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the the Huffington Post, projects funded by the World Bank over the past decade “have physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people, forcing them from their homes, taking their land or damaging their livelihoods.”

The report also finds that “The World Bank and its private-sector lending arm, the International Finance Corp., have financed governments and companies accused of human rights violations such as rape, murder and torture. In some cases the lenders have continued to bankroll these borrowers after evidence of abuses emerged.

“Ethiopian authorities diverted millions of dollars from a World Bank-supported project to fund a violent campaign of mass evictions, according to former officials who carried out the forced resettlement program.

“From 2009 to 2013, World Bank Group lenders pumped $50 billion into projects graded the highest risk for ‘irreversible or unprecedented’ social or environmental impacts — more than twice as much as the previous five-year span.”

At the same time millions of people have been killed and displaced by the wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya Afghanistan and others. A recent report by Physicians for Social Responsibility recently revealed that at least 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of the so called war on terror. The report states:

“This investigation comes to the conclusion that the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million. Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware of and propagated by the media and major NGOs. And this is only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries named above could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely.”

In Iraq alone this has led to 3 million refugees who live in the most desperate conditions. The report says the frequent deaths from the refugee camps are not accounted for and do not occur in the study.

Not only is this situation continuing, but new fronts are being opened at a steady rate. The barbaric bombing of Yemen has already caused thousands to die and more than 150,000 people to flee from their homes. In African countries where the west has been involved in countless civil wars, the situation is not different. This festering wound will continue to exist for many years to come and leave a permanent mark on the lives of all the working people of these countries. These are the conditions which lead to a layer of desperate people fleeing to Europe in the hope of finding some kind of stability and a future for their children.

The hypocrisy of the bourgeois is clearly revealed by these figures. It is a sign of the complete impasse of capitalism which is a threat to humanity in the west as well as in the rest of the world. By whipping up a mood of racism and hatred they are trying divide the workers and poor and play them off against each other while conveniently covering up their own criminal role.

It is not the immigrants who are dismantling the welfare states in the west, it is not immigrants who are laying off workers, it is not immigrants who are avoiding taxes or receiving billions of dollars, pounds and Euros worth of direct or indirect subsidies and bailouts. None of the people involved in the countless corruption scandals, involving billions of pounds, which we witness everyday are in prison. In the meantime, a worker or an unemployed person who bends the rules to get a few pounds or Euros more a month to make ends meet, is treated like the worst scum.

The enemy of the western working class is not immigration, but the ruling classes at home. It is their desperate drive to defend their privileges and increase their profits which is the greatest fetter to humanity. In a society where all the productive capacity exists to eradicate poverty, want, hunger and unemployment, these people are worsening the situation and pulling society backwards – in many places towards barbarism. The only way out of the increasingly desperate situation for all working people, to end austerity, wars and mass displacement, is to end the capitalist system which spawns it. End the rule of the rich.

No to the Murderous Migration Policies of the EU

Joint Statement of the Communist Party of Greece, Communist Party of Italy, Communist Party of Malta, Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain

At the initiative of the KKE, the Communist Parties of 4 European countries of the Mediterranean, which are receiving the largest waves of refugees and immigrants, denounce the political line of the EU and point to the causes of the problem, as well as the direction of the communists’ struggle on this issue. The joint statement is as follows:

The KKE, CPI, PC Malta, PCPE wish to stress the following regarding the unspeakable tragedy unfolding in our countries’ seas in relation to the refugees and immigrants:

The ongoing tragedy has a “name”: it is the political line of the EU and other countries, like the USA, that is responsible for the wars in the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa. This tragedy is rooted in the capitalist system itself, on this terrain we have the manifestation of poverty, the class exploitation and oppression of the working class and peoples by reactionary regimes, the sharpening of the imperialist contradictions, which cause the imperialist wars and interventions.

The imperialist interventions and wars developed in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Mali and other countries of the Middle East and Africa have a deep impact in the people of those countries who are forced to risk their lives by displacing themselves to other areas.

The problem of the waves of immigration cannot be solved without dealing with the causes that create them. The “fences”, Frontex, and the other repressive measures merely increase the number of the dead and the slave traders’ prices.

The governments of the so-called European “South”, “right” and “left”, bear enormous responsibilities because they participate in this crime, they participate in the imperialist plans of NATO and the EU.

We are struggling for relief measures, so that the governments immediately ensure humane temporary reception centres for the refugees as well as the provision of travel documents so that these people can reach the countries that are their real destinations. We must defy the Dublin Regulations and the Schengen Treaty.

In addition, we stress that this issue cannot be dealt with in separation from its causes. Our peoples’ struggle against the imperialist interventions of the EU and NATO, against the rotten capitalist system itself must be strengthened

Victory for Workers’ Rights in Finland

From Building and Wood Worker’s International

Finnish wage regulations and collective agreements should apply equally to everyone who works in Finland. That is the outcome of a new ruling by the European Court of Justice.

”The decision has great importance for both Finland the European Union as a whole”, said Martti Alakoski, chair of the Finnish Electrical Workers Union after the announcement on the 12th of February.

In short, the ruling finds that all employees must be payed basic wages, holiday bonuses and all other benefits in the general collective agreement – regardless of whether the company sending the employee is based in another member state of the EU.

The case concerns 186 Polish electricians who have been working on the construction of the nuclear power plant Olkiluoto 3, but were employed by a sub-contractor based in Poland. After discovering that they earned much less than their Finnish colleagues, they joined the Finnish Electrical Workers’ Union and demanded to be payed according to the pay rates, allowances and other benefits in the collective agreement.

In total the pay claims amounts to more than 6,5 million euros from the Polish company. The employer refused to meet the demands and referred to Polish law, according to which employees are not allowed to assign their pay claims to a union.

The union then turned to the District Court to solve the issue, which in turn asked the European Court of Justice to express an opinion on how to interpret the concept of minimum rates pay in the Posting of Workers Directive, and whether Polish employees were entitled to assign their pay claims to the union for collection.

The new ruling by the European Court of Justice sets aside the ban in the Polish law. According to the ruling, it is irrelevant that the company sending the employee is based in another member state of the EU – which has been a common argument by many employers not only in Finland but also in other parts of Europe.

All employees working in Finland must be paid according to Finnish pay scales, and a business coming from another EU-member state to Finland must comply with the pay regulations of the generally binding collective agreement.

“The judgment settles the issue of the terms and conditions on which European Union businesses may operate in other Member States”, says Jari Hellsten, a lawyer engaged on a European Union collective bargaining project for SAK and the Finnish trade union movement.

Launching ‘New Era of Political Change,’ Tens of Thousands March in Madrid

From CommonDreams

Fed up with conservative economics and fueled by Syriza’s recent victory in Greece, tens of thousands of Spaniards flooded the streets of Madrid on Saturday to say: “No to Austerity and Yes to Change!”

The march, dubbed the “March for Change,” is the first mass demonstration in support of the country’s new leftist party, Podemos, which is Spanish for “We Can.”

According to reports, demonstrators chanted “yes we can” and “tic tac tic tac” suggesting the clock was ticking for the country’s two main political parties. Many waved Greek and republican flags and banners reading “The change is now.”

“This is not about asking for anything from the government or protesting. It’s to say that in 2015 there will be a government of the people,” said party leader Pablo Iglesias when the march was first announced.

“We want a historic mobilization. We want people to be able to tell their children and grandchildren: ‘I was at the march on January 31 that launched a new era of political change in Spain,'” Iglesias said.

“People are fed up with the political class,” Antonia Fernandez, a 69-year-old pensioner from Madrid, told reporters at the demonstration. Fernandez explained that she previously supported the country’s socialist party but reportedly lost faith in it because of its handling of the economic crisis and its austerity policies.

“If we want to have a future, we need jobs,” she added.

Since its inception last year, Podemos’s popularity has surged. Caputuring the momentum of the populist wave currently sweeping Europe, the party surprised many when it won five seats in the European Parliament in the May 2014 elections and a poll published earlier this month found that nearly half of Spain’s population would support Iglesias if he ran for Prime Minister.

Iglesias, a 36-year-old political science academic, is frequently compared to Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras. Like Syriza in Greece, Podemos has captured the country’s attention by running on a slogan that politicians should “serve the people, not private interests,” and promising to write off a portion of Spain’s debt, which has caused soaring unemployment.

AFP reports:

The party has struck a chord with Spaniards enraged by a string of corruption scandals, as well as public spending cuts imposed by the conservative ruling party and previously by the Socialists after the economic crisis erupted in 2008.

Born out of the “Indignant” protest movement that occupied squares across Spain at the height of the economic crisis, Podemos has overtaken the mainstream opposition Socialist Party in several opinion polls, and in some has topped the list ahead of the conservative ruling People’s Party (PP).

Canada’s Choice: Austerity or Prosperity?

From CounterPunch

Imagine for a moment two societies living side by side. One has discovered the wheel and uses it. The wheel makes life easier for workers and boosts the economy for everyone. Prosperity reigns. The society next door is well aware of the wheel and watches as its neighbours move inexorably ahead, becoming wealthier, more efficient and healthier while creating more leisure time for cultural activities.

But the ones who reject the wheel aren’t those who do the work in this society. Those who refuse it are the governing elite, the priests, the official advisors and scribes who have incorporated a moral objection to the wheel into the state religion.

Use of the wheel is thus proscribed by faith, not reason. All practical arguments in its favour are rendered useless.