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​Scapegoating immigrants: The global strategy of Wall Street

Caleb Maupin is a political analyst from New York City and is an activist with the International Action Center and Workers World Party. He has worked against police brutality and mass incarceration.

Published time: August 07, 2014 12:45
AFP Photo / John Moore

The US Congress is locked in a battle over immigration policy. The current phase of the discussion began with a mob of ‘Tea Party’ activists in California, who blocked a bus containing migrant youth from Guatemala and Honduras.

In Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Israel supporters have pelted Middle Eastern immigrants with eggs as they went to pray during Ramadan.

Meanwhile, in Britain, the English Defense League, ‘Britain First’, and the British National Party are waging a campaign demonizing immigrants, especially those of Islamic faith. Some of the adherents of this anti-immigrant campaign have been staging Mosque invasions; in paramilitary uniforms, they charge in to harass those gathered to worship.

In Greece, a man was just acquitted, despite overwhelming evidence that he shot 28 people. The man was a human trafficker and a group of Bangladeshi immigrant workers had come to him demanding that he pay them the wages they were owed. He shot and injured 28 people, and for that he faces no penalty.

Greece is becoming a hotbed of anti-immigrant hate. A large number of the police officers in Greece are already members of Golden Dawn, an open Nazi organization. Golden Dawn engages in street violence against immigrants and leftists on an almost daily basis, preaching against “cultural Marxism” and calling for Greece to be rebuilt in the image of Hitler’s Third Reich.

Right-wing anti-immigrant bigotry is rising in France, and other European countries. These movements present themselves as ‘populist’, representing the common people who are supposedly tired of ‘foreigners’. These movements do not just contain political speech, but are accompanied by acts of violence and terrorism. What is this really about?

Global rise in migration

There is a global rise in migration. The rise began over the last few decades, and escalated dramatically in the last few years. The rise in migration is directly linked to the global economic crisis, and the military aggression of the United States.

The rise in immigration to the United States from Latin America is a direct result of neo-liberalism. The privatizations of the early 1990s, in which Wall Street extracted almost everything possible from Latin America, drove millions of farmers from their land, and created an economic state of emergency. The International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) devastated Latin America for the benefit of Wall Street. Almost everything, from schools to water resources, was privatized. All protections for workers, or measures to benefit the local economy, were stripped away.

When the ideology of Milton Friedman was violently imposed, the result was mass poverty, unemployment, and starvation. In response, workers fled to the US, where they could find employment to feed themselves and their families.

The Middle East and North Africa are also economically impoverished as a result of colonialism and neo-liberalism. In addition, they are now the site of violence and turmoil. Millions of Syrians are currently refugees as a result of the US-backed terrorist insurgency.

With Iraq torn to bits from US invasion and civil war, millions have also fled. Libya and Tunisia are sites of extreme unrest and instability. It should be no surprise that millions of people in the Middle East and Northern Africa are fleeing to Europe. The economic conditions of poverty and the legacy of colonialism are now accompanied by US and NATO wars.

Border Patrol agents detain a suspected smuggler after he allegedly transported undocumented immigrants who crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States on July 24, 2014 in Mission, Texas.(AFP Photo / John Moore)

In Latin America, the Middle East, and North Africa, any attempt to build a better life at home is suppressed.

The Syrian government, led by the Baath Socialist Party, provides free education and healthcare, and has structured the economy to serve the domestic population. The US and its allies in Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan have drowned the country in a civil war. The Syrian Arab Republic is fighting against forces that seek its absolute destruction.

Libya once had the highest life expectancy on the African continent, with universal housing and education provided to the population. This was destroyed with US backed terrorists and NATO bombs.

The people of Honduras elected Manuel Zelaya, a popular reformer, in the hopes he would lead them out of poverty. A US-backed coup overthrew the elected government and now Honduras sets international records for poverty and suffering. Right-wing assassinations of left-wing activists who would seek to change this situation are common occurrences.

With an economic crisis, a rise in violence, and the West actively preventing measures to improve life at home, it should be no surprise that there is a mass migration elsewhere. People are fleeing Latin America, North Africa, and the Middle East in order to survive.

Contrary to what the demagogues of the ‘anti-immigrant’ movement would preach, undocumented workers are not ‘freeloaders’ and ‘moochers’. For many, immigration is an act of basic self-preservation. Migrating to the United States involves extreme risk and difficulty. The US border has been described as a war zone, with armed troops, huge fences, and drones.

In Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California, the corpses of people who died in the process of crossing the border are discovered on a daily basis. In the desert areas of the US Mexico border, thousands have already perished from dehydration and exhaustion.

Global economic crisis

While the Third World is being devastated by neo-liberalism, so is the ‘First World’.

The wages of workers in Western Europe and the United States are in drastic decline, as is the living standard. Cities throughout the US are filled with vacant, foreclosed homes. Government workers in Britain are being fired. Pensions are being cut off. ‘Austerity’ is the undisputed policy, as life gets worse and worse for many in the formerly prosperous ‘middle classes’ of the West.

For a time, workers in the Western countries enjoyed a higher standard of living in comparison to those of the Third World. This is drastically changing. There is a global attack on working people. The economic crisis has made it far more difficult for the billionaires to turn their hoards of gold into profits. In their desperation, they are cutting costs and livelihoods wherever possible.

People in the Third World are rising up against imperialism and its liberal policies. The Bolivarian movement in Latin America is a popular revolt against the bankers in Wall Street and London. Millions of Syrians are rallying around President Assad and forming community militias to defeat the foreign backed insurgents. In response to Israel’s latest campaign of violence in Gaza, millions around the world are standing with Palestine.

The people of the Western countries are also starting to move. The year of 2011 was a turning point in the United States, with the occupation of the Wisconsin State capitol building and Occupy Wall Street events. Europe has experienced a number of general strikes, student rebellions, square occupations, and other militant responses to austerity and impoverishment.

What the billionaires fear more than anything is the unity of these two movements. If people in Detroit who are having their water shut off, entered an alliance with people in Honduras who are being driven into poverty, this could have explosive results. If African-American people in New York fighting against fascist police state repression could join in alliance with people in eastern Ukraine, who are also facing a fascist campaign of terror, this could have explosive results.

A united global working class, pushing back the bankers program of fascism and war, is something the war making profiteers fear more than ever.

AFP Photo / John Moore

Hate to divide the workers

In response to the rise of organized labor, US railroad tycoon Jay Gould once remarked that he “could hire one half of the working class to shoot the other half.” The strategy of dividing the working class and inciting hatred for one group against another is an old tactic. When the wealthy fear an uprising they look to turn the growing rage elsewhere, into ‘movements’ and ‘protests’ that do not challenge their power.

When the Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialist Party were rising into prominence in the United States in 1915, the billionaires sought to create a mass movement of their own. The first full length film ever made, D.W. Griffiths’ ‘Birth of a Nation’ was screened across the country. The film preached extreme hated for African-Americans and portrayed the Ku Klux Klan as heroes.

Shortly after the film was screened across the country, the Ku Klux Klan was refounded in a mass hate rally in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The Klan was used to counter the rising anti-capitalist sentiments of the time. With its hate for African-Americans, immigrants, and Jews, the Klan pushed many white workers away from joining unions and demanding social equality. It instead engaged them in acts of racist terrorism and violence.

In Britain, when workers were organizing, demanding their rights, and forming industrial unions in the 1930s, the British bankers created the British Union of Fascists. Led by Sir Oswald Mosley, the BUF told the British working class to hate feminists, Africans, Jews and immigrants. It held mass rallies, not demanding higher wages or jobs, but calling for mass deportations of Caribbean and Indian workers.

In the United States during this period, the Silver Legion of America, the Black Legion and the followers of Radio Priest Charles E. Coughlin played the same role. They preached “America for Americans!” and urged the workers, many starving and unemployed during the great depression, to engage in acts of racism and violence.

The creation of ultra-right-wing, anti-immigrant political movements is not a new tactic. It has been used many times before, in many parts of the world, to preserve the power of Wall Street.

In Ukraine, Wall Street and London are supporting Hitler worshipping ‘ultra-Nationalists’ who burn people alive. In Libya, racist riots against African guest workers were the basis of the ‘revolution’, later finished with NATO bombs. In Syria, the rallying cry of the anti-Assad terrorists is hatred for Christians, Alawites, and others considered inferior because of their religious beliefs.

Old trick not working

When the billionaires promoted anti-immigrant bigotry in the 1930s, it was in response to a real a threat of revolution. On March 6, 1930, there were protests all over the world for ‘Unemployment Day’. The protests were coordinated by the Communist International, which met in Moscow. On International Unemployment Day in 1930 there were protests in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, and Berlin. With guidance from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, workers were rejecting national chauvinism and division, and rallying for social justice. In the US, the slogan of rallies on International Unemployment Day was “Don’t Starve, FIGHT!”

The threat of a similar uprising hangs over the heads of Wall Street. Each day they fear that workers in the United States and Western Europe will wake up, and stand with their brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. They fear the growing unity against the old order of western bankers and empire.

The ‘Hands Off Syria’ protests of 2013, the Pan-European General Strike, the Global Fast Food Strike of May 15, all point toward the possibility of workers solidarity. The attempts to stir hatred for immigrant workers is a desperate attempt to save imperialist capitalism, from the inevitable coming insurrection.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.