Thursday, October 20, 2016

Lenin on Open Borders

Here is Lenin speaking about mass immigration in 1913:
“Capitalism has given rise to a special form of migration of nations. The rapidly developing industrial countries, introducing machinery on a large scale and ousting the backward countries from the world market, raise wages at home above the average rate and thus attract workers from the backward countries.

Hundreds of thousands of workers thus wander hundreds and thousands of versts. Advanced capitalism drags them forcibly into its orbit, tears them out of the backwoods in which they live, makes them participants in the world-historical movement and brings them face to face with the powerful, united, international class of factory owners.

There can be no doubt that dire poverty alone compels people to abandon their native land, and that the capitalists exploit the immigrant workers in the most shameless manner. But only reactionaries can shut their eyes to the progressive significance of this modern migration of nations. Emancipation from the yoke of capital is impossible without the further development of capitalism, and without the class struggle that is based on it. And it is into this struggle that capitalism is drawing the masses of the working people of the whole world, breaking down the musty, fusty habits of local life, breaking down national barriers and prejudices, uniting workers from all countries in huge factories and mines in America, Germany, and so forth.

America heads the list of countries which import workers. ….

The bourgeoisie incites the workers of one nation against those of another in the endeavour to keep them disunited. Class-conscious workers, realising that the break-down of all the national barriers by capitalism is inevitable and progressive, are trying to help to enlighten and organise their fellow-workers from the backward countries.”
V. I. Lenin, “Capitalism and Workers’ Immigration,” Za Pravdu No. 22, October 29, 1913.
I think this passage is the key to understanding why so many Marxists and Communists love open borders.

It is quite clear from this passage: they see mass immigration and the destruction of national differences as “progressive” and think that once people have been mixed up into multicultural or multi-ethnic states, this will create a huge class-conscious proletarian movement, which will then overthrow capitalism.

Notably, this was also the vision of Engels in The Principles of Communism (written in 1847) for the Communist world he envisaged:
“What will be the attitude of communism to existing nationalities?

The nationalities of the peoples associating themselves in accordance with the principle of community will be compelled to mingle with each other as a result of this association and thereby to dissolve themselves, just as the various estate and class distinctions must disappear through the abolition of their basis, private property.”
History shows us that this is a dangerous and unhinged Marxist fantasy.

The vast majority of people have an in-group preference: generally speaking, people of the same culture, same nationality, same religion or same ethnic group prefer to live together. This explains why many people, generally speaking, when left alone, prefer to self-segregate.

As has been shown in Robert D. Putnam’s paper “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty‐First Century” (2007), when diversity is increased in a community, this has devastating consequences by tending to destroy that community’s internal social cohesion, trust and social capital. (One of the few exceptions in the West is the collapse of endogamy between people of the same denominations of Christianity; see Putnam 2007: 160).

For ordinary people, the cultural, national, religious and ethnic differences between human beings are often far more important than the economic or class interests that they share in common.

This is the reality that Marxists and the regressive left fail to understand, and precisely why their vision is collapsing all over the Western world.

Paradoxically, this may be less true of the Western multicultural neoliberal elite of the modern world, who love the vision of open borders and free trade, which they see as good things per se, but it is surely true of the broad mass of normal people, more and more of whom desire an end to open borders.

And, paradoxically, neoliberals and many Marxists/Communists have the same vision of a world with no borders and nationalities dissolved and destroyed.

But the Marxist internationalist vision of open borders is doomed to abject failure, just as the neoliberal vision of the same thing is. In the Western world, the neoliberal world of mass immigration is falling apart, and all the evidence suggests that socialism or social democracy as beloved by the left works best in highly homogeneous societies, not in multicultural societies.

A world with open borders and unending mass immigration will not result in a Marxist proletarian revolution, but – on the contrary – is more likely to unleash a nationalist and nativist backlash, and, in extreme cases, might even provoke fascism.

This is the trajectory of the modern world, and the mainstream left is simply committing political suicide by its adherence to the combined neoliberal and Marxist internationalist cult of open borders and diversity.

It’s time for the left to ditch this ridiculous cult and, instead, adopt a realistic and pragmatic policy of restricting mass immigration and ending open borders.

Putnam, Robert D. 2007. “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty‐First Century. The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture,” Scandinavian Political Studies 30.2: 137–174.

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  1. Lenin might have been right about his own time, early 20-th century, but not modern capitalism.

    People have argued that during the coal and steam-engine era industrial production required huge concentrations of labor in a relatively small number of key locations (railroad hubs,large mines, steel plants), which gave workers a lot of bargaining power and ability to easily self-organize. Industrial centers with 100s of thousands of workers were not uncommon, so it was easy to incite a major strike that would paralyze the entire economy by cutting coal supply of blocking the railroads. Because of that, it was easy for early Marxists to imagine how migrant workers would participate in labor movement - they would have no choice, and with a 10-12 hour work day, extremely low wages, and surrounded by thousands of workers just like them migrants would just merge with the proletariat. This was clearly a simplistic picture, but it seemed intuitively right, even despite many cases where migrant workers served as strike breakers.

    In the age of oil, automatized manufacturing, , service economy, and neoliberal policy working class might have lost its ability to fight as effectively, and to be a melting pot of peoples. Therefore, class struggle arguments from 100 years ago do not apply anymore.

    Reference: Mitchell, Timothy. Carbon democracy: Political power in the age of oil. Verso Books, 2011.

    1. Interesting. It makes sense given how "spread out" most industrial workers are nowadays. Through in non-union professional workers with high incomes and little connection to the working class and it makes sense why the modern era doesn't see the mass shutdowns that were once possible.

  2. I like how Lenin talks about class consciousness in working people from different countries would be brought by mass immigration, and that it would encourage communism to prosper.

    And yet, he says America leads in open borders.

    Then by his own logic, America - with its multiculturalism - should have ended up the most communist country in the world. By lord, it did not!

    Moreover, where is the movement in America of working class whites, working class Mexicans, and working class African Americans marching together? There isn't.

  3. LK, check out this lunatic from Vox.

  4. Insightful post.

    By the way LK, I have been remiss in asking about your safety. I believe you live in England, and I assume the island is, post-Brexit, sinking.

  5. Thoughts on Sweden

    One leftist on a site I participate in said that if the West doesn't like the muslim attitude to women and gays that's just tough, the west will have to learn.