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Time for a debate on immigration

fairly decent article by Martin Wolf in today’s FT on immigration

Alan Johnson, home secretary, has recently admitted that the government has been “maladroit” in its handling of immigration. This is British understatement. It has been dishonest: it has pursued a radical policy, with profound consequences, on weak grounds, without serious debate. That is why the British National party is on BBC television.

The government has been able to get away with its dishonesty because immigration is the “third rail” of politics. Few wish to discuss the topic openly. But some discussion is essential. Present policies have big implications. These should be evaluated and discussed openly. That is the democratic way.

So let us start with a few facts.

First, on the government’s own figures, the population of the UK is likely to hit 70m by 2030. Immigration would account for 70 per cent of the increase, directly and via births from immigrant parents. The assumption here is that the net inflow would continue at 190,000 a year. It might be higher: government actuaries have, in the past, tended to underestimate the immigration rate.

Second, under the Labour government, net foreign immigration rose from 107,000 in 1997 to 333,000 in 2007. The overall net inflow, if one allows for emigration by British citizens, reached 237,000 in 2007. The total net inflow of foreign citizens over the period has been 3m, or roughly 5 per cent of the population. To this must be added illegal immigrants whose numbers can only be guessed: one such guess is 620,000.

Third, net immigration from outside the European Union, which is, in principle, subject to control, has dominated the net inflow: this has been running at around 200,000 a year since 2000. Asylum seekers have become a small part of the total. Of admissions from outside the EU, the number due to marriage rose from 20,000 to about 40,000 a year and that due to receipt of work permits jumped from 20,000 a year in the early 1990s to about 130,000 a year.

Fourth, roughly 40 per cent of the forecast increase in the number of households will be due to immigration. Already, just over half of inner London school pupils have a first language other than English. Continuing immigration will transform populations in many areas.

Such changes are significant. Are they desirable? Some argue that it is wrong, in principle, to draw arbitrary lines across the globe: people should be allowed to live wherever they wish.

The UK has a real income per head of about five times the world average. One must assume that the inflow, under unrestricted immigration, might be numbered in the tens, if not hundreds, of millions. The impact is not hard to imagine.

I, for one, have no difficulty with arguing that immigration is a privilege, not a right. Most people agree. We are then, inescapably, in the messy world of having to decide how – and on what principles – to control immigration. My view is that the interests of the existing citizens are of decisive weight, though we should also place some weight, too, on the interests of immigrants.

Let us look at three considerations: economic; environmental; and social.

The economic argument is the one the government has resorted to most frequently, backed by business. Yet there is little net economic benefit to the existing population from immigration. After all, some of the world’s richest countries are small and homogeneous. What benefit there is depends on the economic and social characteristics of the migrants. Moreover, the economic impact must include both sides of the ledger, including the costs of new homes and infrastructure.

The bigger the population, the more congested a country becomes. True, even England – the most densely populated country in Europe, after Malta – is not “full up”: on my calculations, the population would be 700m, if its density were that of London. Nevertheless, the impact of accommodating a population increase of 10 million, equal to seven Birminghams, would be substantial. This is particularly true in a country unwilling to expand the housing stock or invest in infrastructure. At a time of public sector stringency, the difficulties will be enormous.

Diversity brings social benefits. But it also brings costs. These costs arise from declining trust and erosion of a sense of shared values. Such costs are likely to be particularly high when immigrants congregate in communities that reject some values of the wider community, not least over the role of women in society. It is not unreasonable to feel concern over such rifts. I certainly do.

In short, the arguments in favour of a continuation of present policies must be made: the government has never attempted to do so. It must, moreover, rest far more on wider social than economic considerations: the intrinsic desirability of a UK with a substantially more heterogeneous and larger population. In the long run, the UK would become more like the US. Whether it can do successfully is very much open to question. But, at least, this would be an honest argument. Let the government make it. If it fails to do so, the argument should turn, instead, to how to slow the inflow

Posted in society.

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$100m a Day Goldmine

In the 3rd quarter of 2009,  the US bank Goldman Sachs made more than $100m profit a day on 36 out of the 65 working days in that period and recorded a loss on only one of those days. Overall it made over $50m profit on 52 of those days. In the previous quarter it made more than $100m profit a day on 46 days in that three month period, recording a loss on only two of those days.

Goldman’s ability to reap large profits….without ramping up risk underlines the changing nature of trading on Wall Street.

After taking large bets with their own capital prior to the crisis, several banks have now taken advantage of reduced competition, higher margins and government-provided liquidity to make money in less risky activities.

One of the few things that quantitative easing and other monetary policy measures has delivered is a substantial, unseen transfer of value from the public to the private sector through these kind of bumper profits at the surviving banks

Posted in economics.

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The Gama Strike – A Victory For All Workers

The GAMA Strike

The video above is a one hour long documentary about the 2005 strike by Turkish construction workers in Ireland. Well worth watching.

Posted in Uncategorized.

sums it up

article at spiked

very few of the protesters thought that they themselves, or anyone they know, would be persuaded by Griffin’s seductive arguments (although one woman said she knew ‘one or two guys who might be’). No, it is always ‘the other’ – the working classes, the underclasses, the uneducated – who are seen as needing protection from Griffin’s words by caring, censorious protesters. The main argument here was that we should ‘learn the lessons of history’, as if the masses are predetermined to act in a certain way and to repeat tragic mistakes of the past unless their awareness is raised

The protesters’ combination of hysterical scaremongering about the return of fascism and disdain for the intellectual capabilities of the electorate (not their mates, of course, but everyone else) means they can see only one solution to the BNP: censorship. Afraid of the public, panicked about the future and clearly unconvinced about their own ability to win an argument, left-wing campaigners instead hope that the authorities, in particular the BBC, will exercise moral judgement on the nation’s behalf and deny Griffin a platform.

the bit in bold pretty much sums up what happens when you have a politics/ideology whose only foundational base is politics and ideology itself, one that’s been steadily emptied of all social/material/class content over the last two and a half decades – Hic Rhodus, hic salta!

Posted in antifascism.

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Guinea Pigs

Today was the second day of a 2 day general strike in Guinea in response to the massacre of 157 protestors by government security forces on 28th September.

Mining operations in Guinea, the world’s largest exporter of bauxite (the ore used to make aluminum), came to a standstill. A company official at Guinea Bauxite Company – a massive joint venture between Mining giants Rio Tinto of Australia/UK and Alcoa of the US – which accounts for over 60% of Guinea’s bauxite exports said:-

They managed to stop CBG activities. We can do no more than assure a minimum service level of the train and the port

UC Rusal of Russia which controls the remaining 40% of bauxite exports said it’s operations had been cut to the bone

There is still the blockade at Friguia. People are not coming to work,” the executive said. “Only the workers needed to provide minimum service to prevent a complete shutdown of the plant are present

Attorney Thierno Balde, president of the Research Institute on Democracy and Rule of Law in Guinea noted that

The strike has been organized by the union in both the private and the public sector. They are asking the population to stay home and not go to work to pray for the people who have been killed on the 28th of September

He also says that youth groups are calling for a five day hunger strike aimed at encouraging an agreement between all parties to resolve Guinea’s crisis

The Guinea contact group, made up of members of the African union, European Union, United Nations and others issued a statement  calling for sanctions against the military leadership and

Strongly condemns the brutal acts, rapes and the massacre perpetrated by armed troops under the authority of the [junta] against women and unarmed civilians

The executive secretary of the Economic Community Of West African States, told the contact group that Guinea was

characterised by arbitrary and irresponsible use of state power by the military to repress the population

On Monday, the first day of the strike, details emerged of a massive $7bn investment package by China currently being negotiated with the military regime – covering infrastructure and mining investments and the right to prospect for crude oil in a region that’s fast becoming a new oil frontier.

While the total value of the overall package at US$ 7bn may not seem much in a time when hundreds of billions are chucked around without the bat of an eyelid, given that the annual GDP of Guinea amounts to no more than US$ 4.5bn, the investment represents over 150% of the country’s annual GDP. To put that into perspective if an equivalent deal was to happen in the UK it would involve an investment of over 4 trillion dollars.

The chinese deal will also set up Guinea as a microcosm of a contemporary version of the late 19th/early 20th century scramble for Africa, pitching chinese interests directly against those of the west at a time of growing competition for resources across the continent.

So there we have it – in a country abundant in natural resources where Islam is demographically, socially, and culturally dominant we have massacres of unarmed democracy activists, mass rapes, opposition figures beaten, victimised, detained in custody or forced to flee the country, general strikes by workers bringing the country to a standstill, kids going on hunger strike to force a settlement, and a resource driven imperialism pitting US, Russian and Chinese interests against each other – but hardly a jot of interest from the usually starry eyed forever exotic hunting islam chasing cobweb left nor much visible interest from the so called UK blogosphere for whom if this was Iran, Palestine or elsewhere in the middle east there would have been an absolute saturation of words lavished on the situation – clearly the Guinean is the wrong type of vibrant.

Posted in international politics, protest.

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Welfare Watch

Another quick plug for a website, this time it’s welfarewatch a forum for “sick/disabled/elderly benefit claimants and their carers to campaign on issues affecting welfare and benefits”.

It’s got a subforum for the No to Welfare Abolition group, which is worth a look, some decent people are involved.

Posted in recession, society, welfare.

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Big Flame, still influential?

Big Flame were a revolutionary socialist group whose members were came from and were influenced by different traditions, including; Trotskyism, Autonomous Marxism, Maoism, and I would add identity politics. They were active throughout the seventies and early eighties, and if you’re active around the far left for any length of time nowadays you can still bump into former members. One ex member has started this blog, looking back at their work. There’s loads of interesting articles, and memories, and he’s scanned up old pamphlets, and journal issues for us to investigate.

The interesting thing for me is, that they are very highly regarded by a fair few decent activists even today, but looking at their material I’m not really sure why, a lot of it seems influenced by some pretty stereotypical “loony left” identity and autonomy stuff – even if they did appear to get some things right, like an open and democratic internal culture, and a willingness to change their mind(s).

Perhaps I’m missing something, the blog is certainly likeable, and readable, and should be of interest to any lefty trainspotter.

Posted in History, the left.

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Nobel Prize Committee: Not Racist

A couple of weeks in advance of sending up to 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan on top of the 20,000 sent earlier in the year, potentially turning it into his Vietnam, and on the same day as the US started bombing the moon – St Barrack of Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
It’s hard to see what or where his short spell as president has brought about, or advanced progress towards, peace/diplomacy – Gaza? Sri Lanka? Iran? Congo? Guinea? Georgia? Sudan? Iraq? Afghanistan? Guantanamo?
The prize committee say he is being rewarded for his:-

extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy

So it’s not even for any achievement of actually strengthening international diplomacy, but merely for effort expended in that aim – like the equivalent of giving school kids prizes for effort in itself and feels along the same lines as the barrage of blind liberal patronising praise lavished upon Obama when he first emerged as a serious presidential contender.
Even more bizarre however is the fact that while Obama took office on 20th January this year, nominations for the award itself closed on 1st February, meaning that he has been awarded the prize on the basis of 11 days work in Office.
As the award itself is named after a man who invented dynamite and made his fortune by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, and counts people such as Henry Kissinger amongst its previous recipients it’s never really been treated that seriously, but surely even Obama himself must be cringing at this latest sycophantic gesture?

Posted in Uncategorized.

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Victory At Kingsnorth..?

Victory At Kingsnorth..?

Today was hailed as a major victory by those engaged in climate change activism here in the UK. The energy company E:ON has shelved plans to build new power stations at the Kingsnorth site in Kent, site of last year’s Camp For Climate Action (known to all as simply ‘Climate Camp’).

E:ON cited the current economic climate, as well as a drop in demand for electricity, as being the decisive factors in their decision to shelve the Kingsnorth builds, a decision that was immediately heralded by environmental campaigners from many groups as a major victory and perhaps the beginning of the end of coal-fired power in this country.

Personally, I’m somewhat more cautious in my optimism that this decision. Optimistic for the future of climate change activism in the UK, definitely, but only cautiously optimistic. And this is why:

  1. E:ON have not stated that they are PERMANENTLY shelving their plans for new coal-fired stations, merely that they are putting the Kingsnorth project on hold for a few years or perhaps until economic conditions and/or demand for electricity has increased enough to make the project profitable.
  2. There is a General Election in the UK not too far away. Who knows what the (more than likely) incoming Conservative government will opt for in terms of its energy policy. (the Tories have never been exactly friendly to activists of a non-right wing persuasion). The honeymoon period after a Conservative election victory would give the Tories freedom to pursue pretty much any energy policies they want, especially if Labour suffer a meltdown at the polls, as could perhaps be expected given Labour’s severe unpopularity at the moment.
  3. It has to be said that, while the climate change activists are growing in numbers and profile (and thus influence), it is the energy companies and big business that have the ear of government to a much greater degree. Unless stopping coal-fired power stations became a make-or-break election issue for the government of the day, then there’s nothing to stop that government from pushing them through, especially in the name of avoiding energy shortages for the voters.

Of course, there can be little doubt that the climate change movement and accompanying protest activities have done E:ON in particular no favours in the PR department. And those protests actions haven’t been solely confined to power stations such as Kingsnorth either. E:ON publicity events have been disrupted. E:ON also sponsors the FA Cup and it’s sponsorship has been marked by actions at various FA Cup ties at matches around the country. Recruitment events have been repeatedly disrupted as well, as at careers fairs and universities and the E:ON corporate annual dinner was also disrupted. How much the protests focused on E:ON have damaged the E:ON brand is debatable, for while I don’t doubt the PR damage has been considerable, no arm of big business is ever going to admit to a flagship project like Kingsnorth being halted by public pressure as that would be a massive shot in the arm to protest groups everywhere. It would also be an admission that people power, and in particular direct action, does get the goods and that would only lead to a proliferation in groups willing to adopt those methods to achieve their aims.

And it isn’t a matter of halting climate change simply by halting the building of new power stations, either, it’s rather more long-term than that. There are no shortage of other places and companies to be targeted in addition to E:ON and Kingsnorth. The fight will have to go on for a long time to come if climate activists are to continue pushing for the necessary changes to be made, so a possible victory over the Kingsnorth project is only one possible victory in a much longer and larger campaign.

Yes, Kingsnorth being shelved is something to celebrate. A major multinational has had to alter its plans and the Labour government’s greenwashing has left it with egg on its face and its plans apparently in tatters. But there will be a new government to engage with, more than likely, and big business won’t be going away any time soon either. Climate activists are entitled to celebrate this news, but not to rest on their laurels.

The fight is a long way from over yet.

Posted in environment, protest.

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