Thursday, February 18, 2016

American Socialism and Mass Immigration

It’s surprising how many people have forgotten what the radical American left used to believe about this issue.

At a famous Socialist Congress that occurred in Chicago in 1910, American socialists adopted the following resolution:
“The Socialist party of the United States favors all legislative measures tending to prevent the immigration of strike breakers and contract laborers, and the mass importation of workers from foreign countries, brought about by the employing classes for the purpose of weakening the organization of American labor and of lowering the standard of life of the American workers.” (Carlton 1911: 352).
Amongst these American socialists were many Marxists or reformist Marxists, but these days Marxists seem to be militantly in favour of open borders.

A fundamental point: one of the major reasons why wages are so high in the West is that historically we have enjoyed a high degree of labour market protectionism, certainly after the late 19th century. That is to say, national borders stop immigration of huge quantities of cheap labour, so that Western labour scarcity helps to bid up the price of labour and hence real wages. This is just another example of how pure free trade and completely free movement of people from the Third World to the West are dangerous ideas largely contrary to the real world history of Western capitalism. (On a related point, a recent Bank of England working paper argues that years of mass immigration into Britain has tended to hold down real wages for semi- and unskilled British service workers forced to compete for jobs; see Nickell and Saleheen 2015).

This issue is extremely topical. In Germany (although admittedly the full details are not yet clear) there are plans afoot to create about 100,000 subsidised jobs in which private businesses may be able to pay wages as little as €1 an hour to employ migrants and have the rest of the minimum wage subsidised by the German government (see here). In other words: if you are a domestic unskilled or low-skilled German worker, your chances of getting a job will fall off a cliff as businesses can employ migrants for 1 euro an hour – even while German taxpayers dole out corporate welfare to private employers. Is that not a type of class war on the German working class? Is this not a recipe for driving ordinary German voters to the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party?

So where are all the open borders Marxists on this issue?

Carlton, Frank Tracy. 1911. The History and Problems of Organized Labor. D.C. Heath, Boston.

Nickell, Stephen and Jumana Saleheen. 2015. “The Impact of Immigration on Occupational Wages: Evidence from Britain,” Bank of England Staff Working Paper No. 574, 18 December 2015


  1. LK, "modern" left is a byproduct of soviet sabotaging of the civilized world. According to this line of "thinking", the world is oppressed by evil western nations and corporations and it has right to enter into these nations and destroy them from within. That's it. (And after they've descended into chaos and demilitarized, the red army will come in and restore order).

    1. Oh, god, not this B.S. again.

      The worst elements of the modern left are largely the product and outgrowth of French Poststructuralism and Postmodernism. These were very much anti-communist and weren't created by the Soviet Union. In any case, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, a long time ago.

    2. respond to Anonymous:soviet union suffered from xenophobia homophobia male chauvinism national chauvinism hatered toward ethnic minorities and many other things.

      so doubtfully you can find the foundations of the regressive left there.

      actually its more likely to find its foundations in radical liberterian ideas and post modernism in this case.

    3. I don't think the first sentence -- the part of his comment to which you guys have responded -- is the gravamen of his comment.

    4. Ken B,

      "I don't think the first sentence -- the part of his comment to which you guys have responded -- is the gravamen of his comment. "

      OK. His first sentence:

      ""modern" left is a byproduct of soviet sabotaging of the civilized world"

      I'm well aware the Soviets sometimes secretly funded far left and hard left trade unions and communist parties in Europe (often ones, though, that were unpopular and isolated). But are we really to believe that French Poststructuralism and Postmodernism were the "byproduct" of this?

      Was Michel Foucault or Derrida being secretly funded by the Soviets? Is there even a shred of evidence for this? You know that the French Poststructuralists reacted **against** Marxism and Communism and hated them, right?

      Most of the really offensive rot in the modern left -- extreme identity politics, moral and truth relativism, political correctness, extreme multiculturalism -- comes out of Postmodernism. How was Postmodernism a "byproduct of Soviet sabotaging of the civilized world"? What's the evidence?

    5. Another point: to this day the really hard left Marxists HATE Postmodernism: they see it as a betrayal of Marxist historical materialism and struggle for communism.

    6. E.g., a case in point: the Trotsky loving communists at the World Socialist Web Site hate PoMo with a passion:

    7. LK
      My point is, that whatever the origins that mindset -- oppressed by evil west, right to blow shit up -- exists and is (very) widespread in the modern left.

    8. Example:

      LK, you claim after decades of being feed this shit nothing bad happens?

    9. OK, Anonymous:

      (1) NO, I don't deny a lot of evil comes out of Marxism. I don't deny the sorts of Marxist lunatics you link to are peddling crackpot conspiracy theories driven by a pathological hatred of capitalism and Western civilisation. So stop making up B.S. about what I believe.

      (2) but your explanation of the origin of the worst elements of the modern left is a goddamn conspiracy theory and guilty of straightforward ignorance; Marxists today are a small far left cult. You grossly exaggerate their influence, and even decades ago.

      As I have pointed out the worst elements of the current regressive left come right out of Postmodernism, which was founded by **ex-Marxist** French radicals who hated communism and weren't secret agents of the Soviet Union.

      (3) I also forgot to mention another source of some of the more unhinged elements of the modern left (which you totally neglect): the left anarchist anti-imperialist thought of Noam Chomsky. Chomsky is a home-grown western anti-Marxist left libertarian. He wasn't funded by the Soviets. The more unhinged irrational hatred of Western civilisation from some of his extreme followers is but a home grown trend within the West coming out of the influence of left libertarianism -- Chomsky being the leading and most influential figure, though the man's thought is not all wrong. Sometimes he actually has serious things to say on foreign policy and Western hypocrisy, which -- NOTE VERY CAREFULLY -- **even some populist right-wing and libertarian right-wing people agree with**. So, e.g., Chomsky's take on the Ukraine conflict is very similar to that of the UK UKIP leader Nigel Farage or the conservative anti-Marxist Peter Hitchens, or the American paleoconservative Pat Buchanan.

      We can add to this the deeply anti-imperialist and anti-government strain of American libertarianism, embodied in Ron Paul. Ron Paul's hatred of the US government and its foreign policy is legendary, and it is shared by a minority of American libertarians who have an irrational and pathological hatred of their own government, which is the mirror image of anti-Western Marxist insanity.

      (4) finally, I have very little patience with idiots, no matter who they are.

      Frankly, you sound like a deeply ignorant person to me, obsessing over your own idiosyncratic conspiracy theory views about communism.

    10. And before you post more rants:

      (1) let me state again: I don't deny the pernicious influence of Marxism (which was real) and of Frankfurt school cultural Marxism. But what you have done is focus on the Soviet Union and turn everything into a tin-foil-hat conspiracy theory. The world and the development of the modern left is much more complex than you think.

    11. And another point: do you know who some of the most rapid supporters of insane 9/11 conspiracy theories and haters of the US state are? **American libertarians and paleoconservatives** -- the sort of people who love Alex Jones and get their news straight from

    12. And funnily the evidence you cite only makes my case stronger, but you don't get it. It seems you refuse to think rationally and prefer emotional rant. It's a truly pathetic. I invite readers of this debate to read the evidence you cite in the rational way.

    13. LK, yes i do know Rothbardians and paleoconservatives are the same. Do you understand that this only adds to evidence to my theory that it's a combination of home grown "rebellism" and external (KGB/FSB) funding? or you're too angry to understand?

      P.S: And in the posts you've censored i've cited zerohedge, which is currently the most succesful vehicle for spreading anti americanism "right-wing" conspiracy theories.

    14. And i would like to say: i do NOT think you need to be Marxist to believe in irrational nonsense. You're attacking a straw man as usual. The "core belief" of "modern left" is NOT labor theory of value or Marxist subsistence theory of wages. The core belief is the victim-hood feeling. We're all "poor" because evil "western elites". This is the *only* common element between "far left" and "far right" and even Islamism. Now please explain me how a feeling like this can emerge "naturally" all over the world at around the same time in the 70s. All these people were influenced by Chomsky and French postmodernism?

    15. (1) "And funnily the evidence you cite only makes my case stronger, but you don't get it."

      For christ's sake. Evidence that contradicts your theory only makes it stronger?

      (2) "Do you understand that this only adds to evidence to my theory that it's a combination of home grown "rebellism""

      That wasn't your original theory. Your original theory was: the modern left is simply the outgrowth of Soviet subversion and funding. This is plainly untrue and conspiracy theory.

      (3) "external (KGB/FSB) funding? or you're too angry to understand?"

      Jesus. So Ron Paul and American libertarians have been getting Soviet funding? Do you have evidence for this mad fantasy?

      Even though libertarians have obvious roots in Classical liberalism and nativist American political ideas? And even though the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991?

      I've had enough of this B.S.

    16. " i do NOT think you need to be Marxist to believe in irrational nonsense."

      And I never said people need to be Marxists in order to believe in nonsense. Straw man B.S.

      "The "core belief" of "modern left" is NOT labor theory of value or Marxist subsistence theory of wages. The core belief is the victim-hood feeling."

      And a lot of this comes out of extreme identity politics, which in turn has a lot to with Postmodernist ideas, though admittedly human rights liberalism wedded to Pomo and perverted beyond recognition has a role too.

      Tell us, Anonymous, were the gay rights movements, feminist movements and (real) anti-racist movements of the 20th century all just the result of Soviet funding and subversion? lol

    17. Also, tell us, Anonymous, is Chomsky a Soviet agent? Is he being funded by the Soviets?

    18. LK, on Chomsky receiving money from abroad, we can start here:

      But really, it's so obvious. Do i need to explain how it's possible to receive funding indirectly, while denying it even to your own conscience? This is what happens to most of the "useful idiots". They're in denial to themselves.

      Even Joan Robinson wrote a book praising Mao, have you noticed? But at least she admitted having been very wrong later on.

    19. On Ron Paul, let's just give the first links returned by google:

      Do you think he hasn't noticed that the more he takes an anti-american stance, the more he is supported by the russian disinformation media?

    20. (1) He's listed as a "Senior scholar" of this institute.

      This does not prove

      (1) he has ever been paid by the Soviet Union or

      (2) his work is just some part of Soviet subversion of the West or.

      (3) in fact, it doesn't even prove he's ever had any money from this institute; often people called "scholars" at think tanks are just there as tokens or honorary positions without salary or income (e.g., this happens in academia a lot)

      (4) when did he even start being listed as a "Senior scholar" of this institute? After 1991 or before?
      Even worse, the Soviet Union ended in 1991. The regressive left emerged long after that and the idea that it's all just the fault of the Soviets is barking mad.

      Another point: Chomsky was hated by the Soviets and his books were banned there:

      (2) finally you have been challenged again and again and again to explain how Postmodernism was just some secret Soviet plot or the result of Soviet funding. You can't because you are peddling B.S. conspiracy theories.

    21. "On Ron Paul, let's just give the first links returned by google:"

      No sh*t. But modern Russia is NOT communist, you dumb b*stard. The Soviet Union ended in 1991.

      Is this supposed to prove that Paul is a secret Soviet agent and the whole American libertarian movement is and has always been the creation of Soviet communism? (WTF?!) Is Ron Paul just a dirty commie stooge?


    22. On point 2 I've not answered because it's a idiotic misunderstanding of what I'm saying! What a joke!

      On point 1, well, your defense is very thin. I really don't care enough about him to investigate this issue. It does not really matter if he got money in more or less direct way.

      "Another point: Chomsky was hated by the Soviets and his books were banned there:" <- And this point is totally irrelevant. Again a total misunderstanding of what I've been saying. I'm tired of your misunderstandings.

    23. "No sh*t. But modern Russia is NOT communist, you dumb b*stard. The Soviet Union ended in 1991."

      Ahah, you're funny :)

      Well, on this topic you take me unprepared. I don't know if they started funding right wing crazies only in the last decade or if they were already doing this earlier. Probably the truth is somewhere in the middle, but i haven't investigated this.

      Anyway I remember i've read somewhere that Rothbard praised Pol Pot for destroying the cambogian state. Or something like this. This is the kind of people we're dealing with.

    24. "On point 2 I've not answered because it's a idiotic misunderstanding of what I'm saying! What a joke!"

      So, wait, now Postmodernism (which is at the heart of the worst aspects of the modern left) is NOT an "outgrowth" of Soviet subversion??

      Nevertheless, you maintain the modern left is just the "outgrowth" of Soviet subversion?

      Touché. I bow to your impeccable logic.

    25. I've already expressed my opinion on where Postmodernism comes from and what are its pratical consequences. If you can't remember what i've said yesterday, there is no point in repeating it today.

    26. "Anyway I remember i've read somewhere that Rothbard praised Pol Pot for destroying the cambogian state"

      Oh, nooooo!! Are you saying Murray Rothbard was a dirty communist stooge too??!! That his anarcho-capitalism was a product of Soviet subversion of the West? Was he on the Soviet payroll?!

      Was Ludwig von Mises too? Milton Friedman? Was Eisenhower a dirty communist stooge?

      Was Reagan a filthy commie traitor because he negotiated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with the Soviets? Was he on Moscow's payroll too?

  2. LK, also see this:

    1. I'm perfectly well aware of the regressive left. It's not a creation of the long dead Soviet Union.

  3. Also see this:

  4. Well I do want to make a point, and to get LK's blood boiling.

    Why "Left"? Why choose that particular word as a label?

    Because during the French revolution the most murderous and tyrannical factions of the house of deputies sat on the king's left. The left traces their name proudly back to Robespierre and the rest of "the Mountain". A certain nostalgic fondness for their intolerance and thuggery was baked in from the beginning.

    1. Ken, as long as disagreement is over policy, it can make sense to have a word to capture it. When one side instead wants to simply murder the other side, then it's as you say. And while this tendency has always existed in the left, it has taken a definite turn for the worse during 2nd part of 20th century. Unfortunately for them, the russians managed to transform their Robespierre into the soviet state.

    2. Anyway overall i agree with your judgment. And, hey, keep in mind that according to LK, I'm a Marxist. Haha! :D :D

    3. domenico losurdo completely annihilates the view of the french revolution expressed above in his recent book, "war and revolution," fyi

  5. What do you think of the common refrain, "immigrants do the job that Americans will not do"?

    It seems to imply that there are no unskilled or low skilled workers native to the country or that those people would prefer to get training and move to high skilled jobs.

    1. "Will not do" means "will not do at the offered wage". That's LK's complaint isn't it? that mass immigration lowers low skill wages? And it will be a knock on effect, starting with the lowest end and moving upwards.

  6. Hello LK!

    I think mister anonymous is only trolling you into endless, pointless discussion...

    THE good question your numerous rational arguments against open borders (as well as the keynesian case against Euro)make one wants to ask : how the ordinary people on the left (typically teachers, but even a great deal of blue collars) came to support those policies or at least to tolerate them ?
    I have no clear explanation but I'm pretty sure most voters did not read or even hear of foucault or derrida or any other pomo scholar.

    So the causes must be elsewhere.
    When trying to understand societies I think it's an error to only to focus on the "top" (be it political, financial or intellectual or in this case pseudo intellectual) of it.

    The lesser bad explanation I read is the one of Emmanuel Todd : in his 1997 book "illusion économique" he attempts to explain what he labells the zero thought (a mix of liberalism in the good sense and of antikeynesian, antistatism, antiprotectionnism BS and last but not least the pseudo common sensical idea that government cant do anything to improve people's lives) among the educated classes.
    His conjectures is : with 20% of the population having college degrees and getting almost 50% of national wealth, the upper educated ones can marry and socialise only between themselves, thus getting stranger and stranger to the other people concerns.
    At the same time, the great organisations and "spiritual families" (catholic church and communist party, for France) collapsed since both their material and "spiritual" (psychological) services became less and less needed in an age of relative abundance.
    (Remember they got strong during very hard times : great depression, war, reconstruction. I'm not sure but I would bet it's the same with the TUC and the labor party in UK)

    It's sad and ironic but maybe strong social democratic (broadly construed, no matter the precise political "colour" and doctrine it's embedded in)policies led to an improvement of well being for most of the population, which in turn made solidarity, "class conscious", sense of belonging (be it social or national) much weaker, which in turn undermined the "moral" (and thus electoral!) basis for thoses very policies...

    I'd be glad to have your opinion on that (and may be also that of british sociologists you might know of.)