On the 26 November, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, wrote in the Financial Times a piece entitled ” Free movement within Europe needs to be less free.” This was in essence another attack on working people, both those in Britain – whether born here or having come here to work and live – and those within the European Economic Area (EEA) who may wish to work/live in another EU country.
Cameron starts his diatribe with the now compulsory swipe at socialism: ” Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Britain has championed the case for bringing nations which languished behind the Iron Curtain into NATO and the EU. That is important to their prosperity and security – and ours. ” Well the last two words are true anyway if you understand that by ‘ours’ he means the bourgeoisie in imperialist European countries. The prosperity that the Eastern Europeans are promised along with their EU membership is illusory and the security they gain is akin to the secure bonds that the spider wraps the fly in while sucking it dry.
The EU has always been a bosses’ club, a federation of imperialist European countries originally built to give the imperialist powers of Europe a better chance of competing with the world hegemony of the king of the imperialists, the USA as well as the growing Asian economies led by a rejuvenated imperialist Japan. Fear of the examples set by the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China were also a consideration within the original plan for this imperialist alliance. Much has changed since then and with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries the EU members saw the opening up of new avenues for exploitation. Today the worst-ever world crisis of overproduction currently battering the economies of all the capitalist players means that the weak will be devoured to save the strong. Eastern Europe has been the setting for EU/US inspired and funded wars (Yugoslavia) and other forms of destabilisation (colour ‘revolutions’ etc). This campaign of destabilisation to weaken Eastern European countries, pull them away from Russian influence and make them dependent on the West is still ongoing as can be seen from the organised and West-funded gangs of mainly unrepresentative fascists who were recently rampaging through the streets of the Ukraine demanding that that country’s government accept European Union membership.
Cameron continues: ” If it does not pay to work, or if British people lack skills, that creates a huge space in our labour market for people from overseas to fill. You cannot blame people for wanting to come here and work hard; but the real answer lies in training our own people to fill these jobs. That is what this government is doing: providing record numbers of apprenticeships, demanding rigour in schools and building a welfare system that encourages work .” What does “If it does not pay to work” mean? Does it mean if the wages are too low? Or perhaps, if the sick etc can still manage to survive on the ever-dwindling state benefits at the moment and don’t have to wreck the remainder of their health trying to work? More likely it is a reference to a mixture of both. So when you are being told that immigrants are taking your jobs and this, or the next, government is going to get tough and make sure that British workers get those jobs what they mean is they will force you to work in poorer conditions, longer hours and for less money. They mean that benefits will be reduced or taken away to give no option but to work under these dire and inhuman conditions or starve, no matter how ill you might be. If you think this is an overly bleak view just look at the things he is proposing:
” We are changing the rules so that no one can come to this country and expect to get out of work benefits immediately; we will not pay them for the first three months. If after three months an EU national needs benefits – we will no longer pay these indefinitely. They will only be able to claim for a maximum of six months unless they can prove they have a genuine prospect of employment .” Note, this applies to all EU nationals even those who have enjoyed free movement up to now and it must be remembered that for the masses of ordinary people in the imperialist countries of Europe the only positive aspect to the setting up of the EU was the free movement of peoples within it (there are around 1.4 million Britons at the moment living and working in other EU/EEA countries). The chance to work and travel around Europe unhindered was the lure used on us but as the Eastern European countries are being pulled in to be fleeced, the original EU bandits are eager to curtail this right for all and virtually shut it down altogether for the peoples of the ‘newest EU member countries’ such as Romania and Bulgaria. To go back to the quote, someone coming here looking for work will have to survive 3 months with no money if they cannot find work. Three months is a long time but if other European nationals can exist for that length of time without state assistance how long will it be before it is decided that British nationals should also forgo benefits for the first three months if they are careless enough to lose a job? And when they can again claim it will be for 6 months only unless:“they can prove they have a genuine prospect of employment.” Who in this country after 9 months of unemployment can ” prove they have a genuine prospect of employment?” Does anyone think that will only apply to immigrants once we let it happen?
“Newly arrived EU jobseekers will not be able to claim housing benefit.
If people are not here to work – if they are begging or sleeping rough – they will be removed. They will then be barred from re-entry for 12 months, unless they can prove they have a proper reason to be here, such as a job. ” So the EU national, the proud owner of ‘free movement’ around all EU member countries cannot come here without a job; if he has one and loses it he must survive three months without money; but if in that time he loses his home no housing benefit being available, he could very possibly also lose his children as child benefit is also being withdrawn. If the family has to sleep rough, if hunger and privation force them to beg for money, they can be bundled out of the country and barred from re entry for 12 months. Would this also not be applicable to British citizens? It is not so very long ago that vagrancy laws were strictly applied in this country. Will they re-introduce the Victorian workhouse, that hellish establishment specifically designed to ensure that unemployment “does not pay“?
” We are also toughening up the test which migrants who want to claim benefits must undergo. This will include a new minimum earnings threshold. If they don’t pass that test, we will cut off access to benefits such as income support. Newly arrived EU jobseekers will not be able to claim housing benefit .” Once again, if the EU jobseeker is expected to survive this, and the British people show they support it (perhaps through a ‘democratic’ poll in the Sun or Daily Mail), then it is obvious that the British worker can be expected to survive the same. Speaking on 25 March 2013 at the University Campus Suffolk, Ipswich on immigration and welfare reform David Cameron said ” we’re going to give migrants from the EEA – from the European Economic Area – a very clear message. Just like British citizens, there is no absolute right to unemployment benefit .” You have been warned!
” We are not the only country to see free movement as a qualified right: interior ministers from Austria, Germany and the Netherlands have also said this to the European Commission .” Just in case you thought this was just those nasty British Tories (and the Labour and Lib-Dem parties), this is imperialism with its back to the wall. The deaths and suffering caused by milking the Eastern European countries dry, by removing benefits all across the EU thus drastically lowering the social wage and in turn shrinking the wage packets of those lucky enough to have their labour power exploited, is a price more than worth paying if it protects the profits of the wealthy. Both in Germany and ‘socialist’ France the governments are talking of crackdowns on so-called ‘benefit tourism’ but, as with Britain, this is a prelude to further benefit cuts for everyone inside their country and a smokescreen for blocking the movement of Romanian and Bulgarian workers while the EU big boys are setting up their factories etc. inside Romania and Bulgaria to increase their profits from cheaper production costs.
But going right to the heart of the EU strategy towards Eastern European countries and the British Government’s scaremongering, Monica Macovei, a senior Romanian politician and MEP, said on 27 November: ” You cannot have the right to establish your companies in Bucharest or Sofia to benefit from low production costs without accepting workers from Romania and Bulgaria in your country .” The British bourgeoisie, however, feels it has every right to have its cake and eat it.
The media in Britain have been busy trying to work people up into a state of frenzy about the hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians about to descend on us from 1st January. This booming symphony of disinformation and xenophobia has been conducted by leading bourgeois politicians from the three main parties, and their ultra-right shadows of BNP, UKIP et al have eagerly led the choruses (Farage of UKIP has already stated that making people live for 3 months without any income is far too lenient). We are told that immigrants are straining at the borders of Romania and Bulgaria, with begging bowls in hand and one way tickets to the UK in their pockets. What we are not told is that Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants have been able to come here for a while and those who have come have gone seemingly un-noticed by the press. Of course more will now qualify but are they really all coming to Britain? Even the EU employment commissioner, Laszlo Andor, said the British public had ‘not been given all of the truth’ about EU migration by David Cameron, claiming that the UK Government’s efforts to “outlaw so-called benefit tourism are a product of hysteria.” He suggested during a Radio 4 interview that Cameron was misleading the public about the potential scale of immigration from Bulgaria and Romania.
An official spokesman for the Prime Minister has said that the government would press on regardless of any objections or legal action from the EU claiming that, in the words of David Cameron “This is what we have said we will do and this is what we will do!” The Tories partners in Britain’s coalition government, the Liberal Democrats, have agreed to the measures, saying they are reasonable and proportionate while the Labour Party are saying the Government should have acted sooner with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper MP claiming that the prime minister was “playing catch-up” and copying a Labour idea.
However, despite the basic unity of Britain’s bourgeois parties on this issue a report commissioned by the Foreign Office to back up the Government’s claims of “massive waves of immigrants” waiting to pour into Britain on 1 January has delivered a mighty slap in Cameron’s face. The 60-page report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) says that Britain is unlikely to be the preferred destination for Bulgarians and Romanians when labour restrictions are lifted. It also says that of those who do plan to come ” they are unlikely to take advantage of the UK’s social security system.”
A comprehensive analysis of the fiscal consequences of immigration to the UK, published on 6 November by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London found that EEA migrants to the UK contributed about 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits over the period 2001-11. The paper written by Christian Dustmann and Tommaso Frattini provides an in-depth analysis of the net fiscal contribution of EEA immigrants in each fiscal year since 1995.
It is thus glaringly obvious that in actual fact immigration helps the economy. The taxes extracted from immigrants actually put money in the coffers of the Treasury, money that could be used, for instance, to make welfare payments to all those who need them, and to provide more school places and hospital beds, and other extra facilities that might be needed by an expanded population. Restriction on immigration is not at all necessary for economic reasons – quite the contrary. Its purpose is to set up immigrants as a scapegoat for the ills of capitalism, so that workers who have every right to be seething with rage at the assaults on their living standards and dignity that capitalism is mounting turns that rage against innocent workers like themselves rather than against the class enemy. It’s a trick that has proved its efficacy in diverting the working class time after time. Divide and rule is the motto of every ruling class that represents only a tiny fraction of the population. Unite and fight is the motto of the oppressed and exploited masses striving for their emancipation.