Migrants are our brothers and sisters in the class struggle

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
July 1, 2019

According to Matteo Salvini, the Italian interior minister and leader of the far-right party The League, his country’s navy was attacked by a humanitarian rescue ship under the command of a 31-year-old German captain.

After navigating back and forth along Italian territorial waters while waiting for an official authorization to dock, the captain of the humanitarian ship Sea Watch decided to take destiny into her own hands and break the Italian naval blockade. She entered the port of Lampedusa on Saturday, June 29 in the middle of the night to allow the forty migrants on board to disembark. They had been rescued at sea two weeks earlier as they were at risk of dying in their drifting inflatable boats.

The young captain faces ten years in prison for what Salvini calls “an act of war”.

For far-right politicians like Salvini, migrants should be left to die at sea or taken back to where they came from, which is basically the same thing because migrants fleeing war and misery will continue for however long it takes to try and cross over to Europe until they finally get there or end up dying along the way.

The Mediterranean Sea has become a cemetery. Since 2014, more than 15,000 people from the African continent have died trying to reach Europe. The causes of that tragedy are well known: it is the anti-migrant policies of all European governments, from those led by far-right politicians like Salvini to those led by so-called progressives like Macron. All of them agreed to tighten Europe’s borders and to create Frontex, a mini army which prevents migrants from reaching the European coast.

Capitalist society is now so rotten that men and women seeking refuge are considered threats to society. If the 15,000 human beings at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea had managed to reach Europe instead of dying at sea, what threat would they have been to society?

The world is being covered by more and more borders and barbed-wire fences that prevent the poorest from moving from one place to another. Last week, the newspapers published a picture of a 25-year-old father and his 23-month-old daughter who had both drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande, the river that separates the United States from Mexico. The young cook had left El Salvador with his 21-year-old wife - now the sole survivor - in the hope of having a better life in the world’s richest country.

Millions of men and women are forced to emigrate, sometimes risking their lives, because of the devastating wars and of the poverty caused by capitalism, and because major Western industrial and financial companies continue to plunder the planet’s riches.

In France, for years, politicians have been telling workers that it is “impossible to take in all the world’s poor” and that borders must be closed.

Yes, poverty has increased here in France, but it’s not because migrants have brought it in. It’s because capitalists have cut millions of jobs, closed hundreds of factories just like they’ve done at General Electric in Belfort. It’s because they crush wages to maintain and increase their profits. It’s because governments one after the other have attacked workers’ rights, reducing their pensions, reforming labor legislation in favor of the bosses and letting hospitals, retirement homes and basic vital public services for the working class deteriorate.

Politicians who cater to big business use and feed on anti-migrant prejudices to hide and protect those who are truly responsible for worsening living conditions. For us workers, prejudice against migrants is an extremely dangerous poison that divides us.

The only way we can avoid being dragged further into poverty is by sticking together to defend our right to live in dignity and to fight against those who exploit us. Standing for the right of migrants to move freely and settle wherever they want is a basic act of humanity. It’s also a way of expressing our class-consciousness and showing we are part of the same social class. French and immigrant workers, we share the same fate and our fate is in our hands.