Adapted and Abridged from Angela Nagle’s article “The Left Case Against Open Borders,” published in American Affairs, Winter 2018 / Volume 2, Number 4)
The transformation of open borders into a position of the “left” is a very new phenomenon and goes against the history of the organized left in a fundamental way. Open borders have long been a rallying cry of market and free market law. From neoclassical economists, these groups have advocated the liberalization of migration on the basis of market rationality and economic freedom. They oppose the limits on migration for the same reasons that they oppose restrictions on the movement of capital. The Adam Smith Institute has argued that “immigration restrictions make us poorer”.
Trade unions have often opposed mass migration. They considered that the deliberate importation of illegal workers and low wages weakened the bargaining power of workers and constituted a form of exploitation. The fact that the power of unions is, by definition, based on their ability to restrict and withdraw labor supply can not be avoided, which becomes impossible if a complete labor force can be replaced easily and economically. Open borders and massive immigration are a victory for the bosses.
The bosses support it almost universally. The group of experts and pressure groups of Mark Zuckerberg, Forward, which advocates the liberalization of migration policies, lists among its “founders and funders” Eric Schmidt and Bill Gates, as well as YouTube’s executive directors and senior executives, Dropbox, Airbnb, Netflix, Groupon, Walmart, Yahoo, Lyft, Instagram, and many others. The accumulated personal wealth represented on this list is enough to greatly influence most of the institutions and parliaments that govern, if not directly buy them. Although they are often celebrated by progressives, the motivations of these “liberal” billionaires are clear. .
During the neoliberal revolution, union power received a blow from which it never recovered and wages have stagnated for decades. Under this pressure, the left itself has undergone a transformation. In the absence of a powerful labor movement, it has remained radical in the field of culture and individual freedom, but it can offer little more than edentulous protests and appeals to the nobility in the field of economics.
With obscene images of low-wage migrants persecuted as criminals, drowned in the Mediterranean and the worrying growth of anti-immigrant sentiment around the world, it is easy to see why the left wants to defend illegal immigrants against the human being. And I should. But acting on the right moral impulse to defend the human dignity of migrants, the Left has ended up drawing the front line too far back, effectively defending the exploitative system of migration itself.
Today’s well-meaning activists have become the useful idiots of big business. With its adoption of “open borders,” and a fierce moral absolutism that considers any limit to migration as an unspeakable evil, any criticism of the exploitative system of mass migration is effectively dismissed as blasphemy. Even the strongly leftist are accused of “nativism” by critics if they recognize the legitimacy of the borders or the immigration restriction at any time. This radicalism of open borders ultimately benefits the elites in the most powerful countries in the world, further discourages organized labor, robs the developing world of desperately needed professionals, and turns the workers against the workers. workers. But the left does not have to accept my word. Just ask Karl Marx, whose position on immigration would expel him from the modern left. Although migration to today’s speed and scale would have been unthinkable at the time of Marx, he expressed a highly critical view of the effects of migration that occurred in the nineteenth century. In a letter to two of his American traveling companions, Marx argued that the importation of poorly paid Irish immigrants to England forced them to compete hostilely with the English workers. He saw it as part of a system of exploitation, which divided the working class and represented an extension of the colonial system.
Cost of globalization: Defenders of open borders often overlook the costs of mass migration for developing countries. In fact, globalization often creates a vicious circle: liberalized trade policies destroy the economy of a region, which in turn leads to massive emigration from that area, further eroding the potential of the country of origin while reducing the wages of the lowest-paid workers in the country of destination. And what about the important skilled migrant and white-collar workforce? The cost of brain drain from migration in developing economies has been enormous. Developing countries struggle to retain their qualified and professional citizens, often trained at great public cost. The largest and richest economies that dominate the global market have the wealth to realize their aspirations. It is not hard to see why the political and economic elites of the richest countries in the world would want the rest of the world to “send the best”, regardless of the consequences for the rest of the world. But why is the moralizing left and open pro-borders lending itself as the humanitarian face for this brazen personal interest of the elites? According to the best analysis of current capital flows and global wealth, globalization is enriching the richest people of the richest countries at the expense of the poorest, not the other way around. Some have called it “reverse help”. Billions in debt interest payments move from Africa to the big banks in London and New York. The great private wealth is generated in the industries of extractive basic products and through labor arbitration every year, and is repatriated to the rich nations where the multinational corporations are based. Trillions of dollars in capital flight occur because international corporations take advantage of tax havens and secret jurisdictions, thanks to the liberalization of billing regulations and other policies of the World Trade Organization. The inequality of global wealth is the main factor that drives mass migration. and the globalization of capital can not be separated from this matter. Now it has become a common slogan between the defenders of open borders, and many leading commentators, that “there is no immigration crisis.” . “But like it or not, levels of mass migration and radical transformation are unpopular in all sectors of society and throughout the world. And the people among whom it is unpopular, citizenship, have the right to vote. Thus, migration increasingly presents a crisis that is fundamental for democracy. Any political party that wishes to govern will have to accept the will of the people or must repress dissent to impose the agenda of open borders. Many on the libertarian left are among the most aggressive defenders of the latter. And for what? Provide moral coverage for exploitation? To ensure that the left parties that could really address any of these problems at a deeper international level remain out of power. The immigration expansionists have two key weapons. One is the big business and the financial interests that work on their side, but an equally powerful weapon, handled more skillfully by left immigration expansionists, is moral blackmail and public shame. People are right to see the mistreatment of migrants as morally wrong. Many people are concerned about the growth of racism and the insensitivity towards minorities that often accompany anti-immigrant sentiment. But the position of open borders is not even up to its own moral code. There are many economic pros and cons in relation to high immigration, but it is more likely to have a negative impact on low-skilled and low-paid native workers, while benefiting the richest native workers. When austerity and unemployment affected Spain, after billions were used in public money to bail out the financial sector in 2008, I watched several generations think about leaving and never coming back. This is not just a technical issue. Touch the heart and soul of a nation, like a war. It means the constant hemorrhaging of idealistic and energetic young generations, who usually rejuvenate and reimagine a society. In Spain, as in all countries with high emigration, there have always been campaigns and movements against emigration, led by the left, which demand full employment in times of recession. But they are rarely strong enough to withstand the forces of the global market. Meanwhile, the guilty and nervous elites in office during a period of popular anger are very happy to see a potentially radical generation dispersed throughout the world. I am always surprised by the arrogance and the strange imperial mentality of the progressive liberal Frontiers that believe they are performing an act of enlightened charity when they “welcome” the doctors of Eastern Europe or Central America who take them and serve them food or take care of their children or elders. In the richer nations, the defense of open borders seems to function as a fanatical cult among true believers, a product of big business and lobbying in the free market is carried by a larger group of the creative urban class, technology , media and knowledge economy, which are serving their own objective class interests while maintaining their transient lifestyles and careers intact as they repeat the institutional ideology of their industries. The truth is that mass migration is a tragedy, and the moralization of the upper middle class is a farce. Maybe the ultra rich can afford to live in the borderless world that they defend aggressively. Defending immigrants, opposing the systemic exploitation of all workers at the root should be the goal of all.